Where Everybody Knows Your Name (and other metadata)

by @edent | , , , | 4 comments | Read ~242 times.

I've made no secret of rather enjoying this enforced period of remote work. Sure, it has had its challenges - but there have been so many fringe benefits. Less commuting! No crappy-canteen lunches! More time to sleep in!

And, today, I was reminded of another benefit. I am terrible at remembering names. Many a time someone has bumbled up to me in a corridor, asked my opinion on something, and I've said "could you email me and I'll send you more detail" because I didn't want the mortifying experience of saying "I know I know you, but I don't really know your name. Is it... Dave...?"

I used to joke that it would be really helpful if everyone I worked with wore a prominent name badge. And now, thanks to endless video calls, they do!

A group of people in a video call waving at their cameras. Each has a name under their video.
Image via @OneTeamGov

Most services - like Zoom, Skype, and Hangouts - let users enter free-text. And the general convention around my peers is to use:

Name (Department)


Name (Organisation)


Name (Pronouns)

So, at a glance, I can see Abdul from Accounting, Barbara from the BBC, and Chris (She/Her) are in the meeting.

Some people put little emoji flags to signify which country they're in, or which languages they speak. I'm sure you've noticed a dozen other little things people are doing in a similar vein.

When people are late to meetings, we don't need to do the usual rigmarole of going round the table again to reintroduce people. The metadata is available for all to see.

I'm sure the novelty will wear off. And I'm sure that it's open to abuse. And that it doesn't work for everyone.

But, for now, I have much less anxiety in meetings. And that's nice.

4 thoughts on “Where Everybody Knows Your Name (and other metadata)

  1. I’ve found exactly the same benefit. I am no longer distracted by the constant voice in my head saying “I know you’re a colleague and I’ve seen you before but I actually have no idea who you are”

  2. Its akward when you have two people in front of you and you've forgotten both their names then one of them says to you 'well, aren't you going to intoduce me'.

  3. Léonie Watson says:

    Not having the ability to see faces or read name badges, I constantly find myself deploying a number of conversational techniques designed to help me remember who the person who just greeted me like an old aquaintance is, without giving away the fact I have absolutely no idea.

    Technology has made a huge difference as you say - being able to find out who is on a call with you, and (thanks to some custom scripts) I can also query who is currently talking.

    Now, if only we could figure out a way to do the same IRL...

  4. Glad I wasn't the only one who longed for people to wear name badges in the 'real' world and now they do in the zoom world!

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