Adapting the tools of my trade

It's been a while since there was a T-SQL Tuesday about the tools we use, so I figured my response to Mikey Bronowski (@MikeyBronowski)'s T-SQL Tuesday invite should be about things that have become more pertinent in the last twelve months.

I should point out that I rarely need to work from home 2020-style. I'm almost always back at client sites now, because our response to the pandemic here in Australia has been so good and we have no cases in my city. Massive thanks to my compatriots here, who have almost all been very compliant in following the rules so that we can now be back in offices.

But still there were adjustments, and SQL Community activity is still different.

These days I carry an external webcam with me in my bag, because I want one that's better than the one built-in to my laptop and I want to be able to adjust it separately to the angle of my laptop screen. It's a Logitech C615 HD Webcam. My headphones for meetings are Plantronics Focus, which were a speaker gift from one of the big conferences years ago. They're pretty good at not picking up background noise, probably because of the mic arm.

I carry them around these days because more of my meetings are still remote and want my camera on. Back in 2019, if a meeting was remote it didn't tend to involve webcams. That's changed now, perhaps forever.

Without travel being an option, I've found myself thinking more about how I present online. Presenting online used to be just an occasional thing, and typically something that I would only do when needed. But now I find myself talking into my webcam really often. I'm not quite at the stage of buying googly eyes for my webcam (the webcam in that picture is also a Logitech C615) to make it seem more like a person, but I do have my webcam output showing on my laptop screen so that I have at least my own face to talk at. I'm sure talking to yourself is a sign of madness, but I'm really just using my face so that I'm not just looking at my webcam.

I grabbed a whiteboard for home, because I find that writing on a whiteboard helps me work through ideas. I didn't have much wallspace, so it's actually a small whiteboard – similar size to a monitor. But it still helps a bit.

For presenting, I found myself really missing having a large whiteboard or flip chart. These things had become a bit of a staple of my presentation style, and I found they didn't really lend themselves to the online world. I know there are virtual whiteboards available in Teams and Zoom and so on, but I didn't like having to shrink my face down to the bottom corner of the screen when using it – it makes me feel like I'm connecting with the audience less. So I recently worked out a way of using OBS Studio to let me draw on my laptop screen like a glassboard. It also works for displaying PowerPoint bullet points that hover in the air like magic so that people can keep just watching my webcam feed (and all my hand waving), but still see my annotations.

And the idea has caught the imagination of a few people, including Brian Hogan and Scott Hanselman (who promptly made a video about it).

So now I'm still not using slides in my presentations, but I am using PowerPoint, because it responds nicely to drawing with my stylus.

Online presentations are still not really my thing. I'm looking forward to the day when I can safely travel to events and present to rooms of people, and interact with people without a webcam. Being able to draw on the screen doesn't replace being able to draw on a massive piece of paper, and I'm still stuck in one place for the whole thing. But changing the tools of my trade is helping to compensate a bit.

@rob_farley

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