Blog Post

I Just Had a Video Chat With Our CEO. He’s on a Plane

[wpvideo RCo9b3uA]

So I was just sitting here in the home office working when our CEO, Paul Walborsky, pinged me on Google Talk. (Whew, good thing I was working!) I answered the video call, and the first thing he says is: “Dude, do you see where I am?” Now I don’t fly much, but I can recognize the inside of a plane. Yup, Paul called me from 30,000 feet on a Virgin America flight to San Francisco.

At only $12.95 on a three-plus hour flight for Wi-Fi access, Virgin’s GoGo service is definitely accessible for most budgets. It’s even cheaper for shorter flights or if you want to use it on a handheld device. Now there’s definitely the crowd that will say, “Oh no, not for me. I don’t want to be connected all the time.” That’s cool, and I respect that. But think about the implications this type of connectivity brings if you want:

  • Real-time video and chat
  • Instant personal communications
  • The ability to work or play on the web
  • To connect with friends on social networks

During our conversation, Paul made a great observation. In less than 30 minutes, we were able to have a video conversation between a plane and the ground, record it, write up the experience, and share with it with tons of people. That’s the disruptive, real-time nature of today’s connected world.

26 Responses to “I Just Had a Video Chat With Our CEO. He’s on a Plane”

  1. Some airlines, like AirTran (who also uses Gogo), are blocking voice calls, but leaving IM/Chat capabilities. Working for a company that makes virtual call center software, voice, video, and IM on a plane is a really interesting advancement. Now salespeople, C-levels, et. al. don’t have to have downtime if they elect not to. Using Skype and our software, they can field sales calls, customer chats, etc. while flying cross-country. Pretty cool stuff, as long as you don’t bug the person seated next to you.

  2. That is the coolest thing I have seen in a long time. Now you can really live in the cloud, or maybe above the clouds, lol.

    His mic seems to be doing a great job picking up his voice and he doesn’t seem to be speaking all that loud. Really what is the difference talking to someone on the computer versus talking to someone else you are flying with. I mean you are in a public location so you still have to be courteous to others. It didn’t seem like he was being loud or annoying to others though so no problem. I would love to have a flight with wifi. Gotta find that plane tracker website to see where you are on the map, lol.

  3. As long as its RESPECTFUL (wearing headphones, and talking at a moderate to low volume)…I dont see how its much different than a couple sitting next to each other having a conversation. I know not everyone can do this, and it is subjective. If people are getting loud, laughing and being obnoxious on a Skype call…then it is just as obnoxious as two people doing the same in person on a plane. Its a plane, not a Japanese nap shack or a morgue. And, last I checked, you were allowed to carry on a conversation on an aircraft. Although, who knows…TSA may take that away too! ;)

  4. Stephen Feger

    I’m with the “no audio crowd”. I don’t care what the reasoning is. If you’re on a plane, no calls.

    As far as video chat is concerned, learn sign language. It’s more useful.

    Like most everyone that frequents this blog, I love tech and I love expanding the web of interactivity. Except when I (and others) are in a confined place. Then no one can escape. There’s just no way around it. It’s always a bad idea. People in large groups are rude, always, every time. The only reason that these early experiences are not bad is because so few people have the ability to do it. Once everyone on the plane gets into it, it’s a nightmare.

  5. tivoboy

    I thought most airlines were blocking skype and voice call chat? Of course, there are pretty easy work arounds, but using it when it is prohibited, isn’t that like talking on the phone or checking your email on your cell WHILE TAKING OFF?

    • Oliver

      If the CEO of GigaOM doesn’t know how to circumvent it, he should be looking for a new job. And no, it’s not the same as using unapproved electronic devices or approved devices during take-off/landing as the restrictions on VOIP aren’t there for safety reasons. Unless you consider the risk of passengers starting a fight over the use of VOIP a safety risk (I could see that people sitting next to airSkypers might have problems controlling their beverage in case of turbulence).

  6. Eddie, I don’t know how much time you spend on planes, but I am often in last minute middle seats, cheapo airways. That means I have two peoples mouths 18 inches from my ears. Stereo skype? Please. It is a horror show to think of sitting coast to coast or overseas with that. Nothing personal. But there is no excuse for inconsiderate behavior in an enclosed space.

  7. EddieW

    I notice that the noise reduction on his microphone is *very* good, so I think that he wasn’t talking as loudly as people mention. Plus, I’m thinking his voice was probably masked by the ever-present background noise on the plane, which would be quite different from a bus or train.

  8. Fernando

    This is where etiquette rules, such as those that apply in any closed place (coffee shop, more theatres, churches, restaurants, etc) need to apply.

    I for one confess that I have only a bit of tolerance for those that talk like there is no one around. This would be particularly bad in planes.

    However, checking email, and other non-noisy activities are what makes this capability convenient for many.

    • “However, checking email, and other non-noisy activities are what makes this capability convenient for many.” BING! You get it! We originally shot a video of Paul checking his email, but we decided to go for the Academy Award and jazz it up a little. ;)

    • Oliver

      Oh come on, Kevin: this story is all about you and your boss having a video chat, not about quietly checking email on a plane (and how boring would that be, given that I could do that many years ago on Lufthansa flying across the Atlantic).

  9. Please don’t do this to your fellow passengers. A case in point. I travel from NYC to the Hamptons, it is a two to three hours on the train (LIRR) or the bus (Hampton Jitney). People are allowed to use cell phones on the train. It is an absolute zoo. People have no respect at all. On the bus there is a 3 minute emergency call only policy. Nice, calm, respectful. If you put humans into a moving cage without rules of behavior you basically get a monkey house. Next thing you know people will be pissing on on one another. By the way the bus has free wi-fi. People use it all the time but don’t talk into it.


      more people need to get texting then.

      a equivalent situation in japan would be a quiet train with a lot of people thumbing their phones…

  10. Sure, a video or voice chat could be annoying to seat mates. But don’t get stuck on that being the *only* thing you can do here with the access. I don’t think I’ve ever disrupted or annoyed anyone by checking my email or catching up on my RSS feeds. ;)

    • That would be brilliant and hopefully more and more airlines will roll out wifi services. The first thing they should do though is find a way of blocking video conferencing.

  11. I’ve heard a lot of people express the same sentiments, that they don’t want connectivity on planes as they use the time to unplug. Can’t you still unplug even if the WiFi is available? Just say no to WiFi. :)

    • Oliver

      I have no problems with airlines offering WiFi on the plane, and I’d use it if I felt the need and it was priced right.

      What I do have a problem with is others using it to disturb me. Most people would probably consider it inconsiderate if I played music or games on a plane without using headsets (i.e., blasting my neighbors with the noise). I put voice calls/chats in that same category.

  12. As cool as this is, and as necessary as it is for many business travelers (as I’m sure it will be for me on occasion), I’m going to try and pass unless I ABSOLUTELY need to. I look at my time on a plane as sacred – one of the very few times that I’m not either piped into a blazing FIOS connection at my home office or 3G on the road (whether iPhone or my Sprint/Cradlepoint connection). When flying, I love to either nap, read, listen to audiobook or Podcast, or maybe work on something offline (a document, mindmap or plan) where I dont have 200 notifications popping up. I know I can shut them off, but I cant help myself…I’m an addict!!!

  13. Robert J Thiessen

    Disruptive is right. It doesnt look like anyone is next to him but I would not want to hear him talking on phone or chat, especially since most folks seem to have to talk louder during chats and phone calls….boo.