Skype and YouTube

Back in 2011, at Stony Stratford, one of my regrets about that otherwise remarkably successful demonstration of smoker solidarity was that, having held up their protest placards for the TV cameras, and listened to a few speeches, and imbibed a few drinks (and smokes), all concerned simply jumped back into their cars and sped off in all directions back the way they’d come.

I’d hoped that there would be long conversations that would run deep into the night, exchanged phone numbers, planned new meetings, and so on. But in the event I only spoke to the organiser, Dick Puddlecote, for about 60 seconds. And I only spoke to Chris Snowdon for about 5 seconds. And I only exchanged a casual wave of a hand with Pat Nurse as she passed my table. And I said not a word to Nigel Farage, standing three yards away. By late afternoon, more or less everyone had gone.

I suppose that for most people, the job – of protesting against a proposed outdoor smoking ban – was done. Nothing else needed doing. But I thought that there was another implicit purpose in all these people meeting up in one place: to speak to each other. To me it seemed important that like-minded people should build ties between each other, compare notes, argue, dispute, agree, disagree. As it was I felt that, after meeting up briefly, otherwise atomised smokers returned to their atomised, separate lives.

And this was why, when I got an invitation from Emily W to appear on the Smoking Section, and talk to a couple of other smokers, I jumped at it. Because I don’t want to engage in combat with antismokers. It always seems like a futile enterprise. I want, if you like, to help build an army to defeat the antismokers. And to build an army you must bring people together. Smokers need to be brought together all over the world. There are about 1.5 billion of them in the world. And while they’re all living isolated, atomised lives, they are completely powerless. But even if only one tenth of 1% of them could be united, they would form an invincible army.

But how might that be done? Smokers have all been expelled from society, “exiled to the outdoors”, almost everywhere. And they have been excluded from the mainstream media. You never see any smokers on TV. At least not smokers who are actually smoking. Smokers have zero representation. They have no voice. They are completely submerged. And they are atomised into separate, isolated individuals.

But in my brief half hour conversation with Emily, at a distance of some 5,000 kilometres, I began to see a way in which smokers might overcome their exclusion. All they needed was a webcam and a microphone, and Skype or Facebook or Google Hangouts, and they could meet up with anyone, anywhere in the world, for a beer and a cigarette. They might no longer be able to meet up, person to person, in a delightfully smoky little pub or cafe, but – thanks to the astounding power of the internet – they could meet up online. The whole world could become a smoky little online pub.

I did actually try out Skype a few years back, when I met up online with GaryK, Nisakiman, and the late Lysistrata. But I think that having 4 people together at the same time was a bit over-ambitious. It was also plagued by feedback that rendered conversation impossible.

I now think that a simple one-to-one conversation, with earphones to prevent the feedback that loudspeakers cause when the sound from them enters microphones, is likely to be a more successful format. In fact, I know that it is, because since meeting up with Emily on the Smoking Section TV show, we’ve met up on Skype a good half dozen times, and talked animatedly for hours. And it cost us both nothing at all (except the price of the beers we drank)!

So I’m now thinking of meeting up with lots more people. In fact, anyone who’d like to talk to me, face to face. Emily wants to do that too. And maybe if a few smokers get talking to Emily and me, they’ll start meeting up with a few other smokers.

But, quite apart from having people meet up and talk, there was a second purpose. And this was to record some of these conversations (with the consent of all concerned), and publish them on YouTube or Vimeo. And in this manner, voiceless smokers could begin to gain a voice. They could tell their stories. And they could tell their stories to other, sympathetic smokers who had themselves shared many of their experiences. Smokers may not be allowed to appear or speak in highly-controlled mainstream media, but they could do so in the alternative online media. And they could smoke while they did so.

To this end, I’ve been collecting video recording and editing software, and posting up one or two test videos on YouTube. Emily has been doing the same. We are planning to make a video of the two of us talking about how to make such videos. They won’t be slick professional productions, of course. There will be awkward pauses, skewed webcams, noisy microphones, perhaps even cats that walk through the scene.

And then, with luck, we’ll be having regular conversations, of half and hour or so, with all sorts of wonderful people, with all sorts of different points of view, and all sorts of different ideas. There might even be bitter arguments. Strong disagreements. Amazing discoveries. Or that is the hope.

And for me it would be something welcome. I may write a lot, and read a lot, but I can go entire days – even weeks – without speaking a word to anyone, except the occasional bartender or shop assistant. There are lots of benefits to such an hermitic existence: you get plenty of time in which to think, and I do think a lot. But I don’t really want to be thinking and reading an writing all the time.

Anyway, I give notice of my return to Skype. Readers may begin to ask themselves whether they would like to appear not just in the comments here, but also in occasional Skype encounters and YouTube videos as well.

Of course, nothing may come of it. But, on the other hand, it might stimulate a wave of such online meetings, and a tsunami of YouTube videos, as 1.5 billion people find a way to express themselves.

The only shame is that Harley no longer seems to be around to join in. I’m sure he would have loved to.

About Frank Davis

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58 Responses to Skype and YouTube

  1. An interesting idea, Frank, however my experiences so far with skype lead me to believe that one not only needs to be rocking some major bandwidth but also a fairly new and powerful computer. Although I was impressed by the Facebroke video chat on my Kids’ smartphones last year when we were holiday with them. So maybe Skype has bucked it’s ideas up in the meantime and no longer is installing Skype the fastest way known to break a computer next to using IE!

    • Frank Davis says:

      Well, we managed to do it a few years ago between Britain, Greece, and the USA. And things have got better since then. And right now I’m using a 3-year-old £250 Asus notebook computer with built-in webcam and microphone, which I used to chat with Emily on Skype (and record a few minutes too), It isn’t a any sort of powerful machine. As far as I can see, all these amazing technologies are always getting better.

      Yes, of course, people will need broadband connections. And they’ll need a computer. But more and more people have already got these.

    • nisakiman says:

      Not a bit of it, BD. My computer is getting on for ten years old now (albeit with a few upgrades along the way), and my internet speed usually tests at about 12 – 15 Mbps (in theory I pay for 24 Mbps, but I’ve never attained that speed). When I spoke on Skype with Frank, Gary etc, which was a few years ago, the main problem was with the feedback. I seem to remember the video link was fine. Not perfect, but acceptable. As far as breaking the computer, I haven’t had a problem to date, and I’ve had it installed as long as I’ve had the desktop.

      I’ve just been getting Skype sorted out over the past couple of days, as I hadn’t used it in ages, and it seems not to want to load from my desktop screen anymore, but insists I go via my browser. And my default browser, which is Firefox, doesn’t support Skype, so I had to download the requisite plugins to Chrome, and it seems to be working fine now. I shall see tomorrow, as I have a video chat arranged.

      One thing I really dislike – and it’s not just Skype that does this – they all seem to be at it – is that it keeps trying to take over my Hotmail account and integrate it into the Skype package. I’ve worked out how to avoid this happening, but it seems to be a trend with social media generally.

      Anyway BD, if you have average internet speed and a half-way reasonable computer, Skype is quite possible. If you do decide to install it, drop me a line and we can do as Frank suggests.

      • Nisaki, I see your ‘almost 10 years old’ computer and raise you a 10 year old laptop which came out of a skip with no upgrades! It is apparently something called a ‘Dell Insipid 1545’ which I assume refers to the year of manufacture.

        • nisakiman says:


        • In my never ending quest to clean (LOL!) I recently happened to unearth some C-64s and TI-99s and *possibly* a Z-180 (?). I’m planning to see if I can plug ’em in and if they work sell ’em on EBay: they fetch a decent price over there nowadays!

          Heh, I also found one of the old ashtray holders for the C-64: the 1541 disk drive. :> The Anti got laughed out of the house when they tried that “smoke will kill your computers” back in those days since almost EVERYONE who smoked used their 1541 as a place to perch their ashtray!

          – MJM

        • beobrigitte says:

          “smoke will kill your computers”

          Boy, am I glad my computers don’t know that!!! The best working one is 13 years old…
          (I apologize *giggle* for all that passive *giggle* smoke I sent through *pfff..hahahaha* the phone line!)

  2. nisakiman says:

    I think it’s an excellent idea, Frank. I’m up for it.

    • nisakiman says:

      As an addendum, I think we could probably do quite successful four way chats if we paid a little attention to what’s necessary to make it work. When we did it last time, nobody really had a clue, and we just plunged in and hoped it worked. I’m sure that with a little forethought we could have done a lot better. Headphones for all for a start! All we need is for someone in the group to have a paid Skype subscription. I seem to recollect Gary saying it wasn’t so expensive.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I thought you would be!

      I also thought that, if you had a laptop computer and WiFi, you might be able to do something that most of us can’t do: conduct your end of a conversation inside a smoky Greek taverna, surrounded by lots of other people also behaving normally. Of course that would need tavernas with WiFi, but I imagine some of them will have it.

      That way we could share the experience of being in one of them.

      • nisakiman says:

        Heh! Yes, I hadn’t thought of that! Most places in town have wifi, so I’ll have a think about that one. We’re coming into summer now, so most people will be migrating to the outside tables. Mid-winter is the best time, really.

        I just looked, and we don’t even need paid Skype to do video conferencing – up to 25 people!

        • nisakiman says:

          An afterthought – if I was to download Skype to my phone, I wouldn’t even need to drag the laptop with me. Somewhat limited screen area though.

        • Frank Davis says:

          Very interesting. Certainly something to bear in mind. I think I’ll be wanting to stick to the one-on-one format to start with.

        • Frank Davis says:

          download Skype to my phone,

          Maybe I could do the same. I’ve got an android mobile phone. But the camera faces the wrong way, I think. I also no longer have a mobile phone number.

        • If you do go down the cell phones road then do look at the FB app which I know works a treat over WIFI. I think most of the better smart phones also have a front camera…for the selfie generation de rigeur.

        • Frank Davis says:

          What sort of phone was it, BD?

        • No idea what makes my various kids’ were, mine was a Samsung Phablet. All android though. It impressed me and as you may have noticed it takes a bit for any technologicals to wow me.

        • nisakiman says:

          If yours is a relatively recent model, Frank, you will certainly have cameras both sides, as BD says. I’m not sure that you even need a phone number if you’re hooked up to your wifi at home. Not sure about that one – you’ll have to check. I always use Viber when I talk to my daughters on the phone, as one is in UK and the other is in Malta. Video calls, audio calls, text messages, photos the lot. But I don’t know if you need a valid SIM to use it or not. I would have thought that just having internet would be sufficient.

        • You are right Nisaki, I use my old Samsung android phablet as a digi cam and emergency browser on my wifi with no SIM card in it. I like this virtual pub idea. You in your taverna, Frank in his Beergarden …my huddle outside in the Norfolk liquid sunshine sheltering under the archway from the force 9 Norfolk summer ‘breeze’.

        • beobrigitte says:

          I think Viber would for me be the better option. Will check in a bit if my version still works.

        • beobrigitte says:

          Ok. Viber (on my ancient computer) is worse than skype.

          Email a date and time – looking forward to the virtual (for me) pub and a nice chat.

  3. beobrigitte says:

    What a brilliant idea! Of course I’m up for it! On my linuxed up mac currently I cannot host group calls. I get audio only then. (I guess I’m well past the beauty days, anyway, so it wouldn’t matter to me.)
    Other option is my phone.

  4. Hello, Frank, good idea: a global and virtual pub, at least for those who speak English.
    A fun topic from news like this on BreitBart: the contradiction between a free country that adopts oppressive laws and a totalitarian country that defends its traditions.
    “The law requires shopkeepers in Xinjiang to sell multiple brands of alcohol and cigarettes, items banned by Islamic practice.”

  5. garyk30 says:

    Sounds good to me.
    You can do a video chat with any of your Facebook friends.
    In fact, just tried to call Frank.
    FB has decent quality video, I use it regularly to video chat with my sons.

  6. Bucko says:

    Hi Frank

    That’s a great idea and I would love to be a part of it.
    I was also at Stony Stratford. I spoke to Pat for a few mins, Chris for a few mins, got farage to sign my shirt, but only found out you were there after the fact
    I would have like to have stayed longer but I travelled quite a distance to get there and car shared with two others from my neck of the woods.
    I was really hoping it would become a regular thing, that we would all meet up whenever some idiot proposed a ban and we would all gradually get to know each other.
    When I was blogging, I always thought that bloggers should meet up in a central location and have a few beers, but nothing like that ever really happened. The closes to it was the short lived bacci trips.
    The Skype thing is a great idea and even group Skypes shouldn’t be a problem if everyone sets up their mics and speakers correctly.

  7. Bucko says:

    My boss just told me you can do multiple video chats with Google hangouts, although I don’t know anything about that

    • Joe L. says:

      If you have a Gmail account, you have access to Google Hangouts, which is pretty much their equivalent to Skype.

  8. Emily Wieja says:

    Wonderful post, Frank! I am looking forward to meeting many of you via video chat. As you say, who knows what may come of it, maybe nothing, but we have to start somewhere with this experiment and technical issues will get worked out eventually, I’m sure. Since I got involved with these issues I have been very fortunate in meeting a small group of people in my community who are like-minded. Even so I have felt very strongly the desire to sit around and talk with other rebellious smokers on a regular basis. I think it’s really important and something that is going missing in the anonymous digital age we live in.

  9. Skype could do a nice “live” chat – like chatting in a pub, but You Tube is like a massive Archive where people can share stuff with the rest of the world. Where stuff is captured for everyone. On You Tube videos, if they were about smoking, you’d need to disable comments, otherwise the comments would blow up into a massive pro and anti catfight. There is a way to capture Skype to You Tube.

  10. See, Frank: neither Shakespeare, nor Scruton, nor Dalrymple, nor Thomas Sowell did not convince me to learn the English language.
    Maybe the reason was the absence of a cigarette, a beer … and a brazilian guitar, right?

    • Frank Davis says:

      The last time I spoke any Portuguese was in 1965. And my Portuguese was nowhere near as good as my rudimentary Spanish. Both my parents were pretty fluent in it.

      But since you can write good English, I would guess that you can speak it fairly well too. Although I once had a delightful ‘conversation’ with a couple of young Japanese women, which was conducted entirely in handwritten English on little scraps of paper which we passed between ourselves in my favourite Fukuoka restaurant. They could read and write English, but not speak it at all.

      If you can’t speak English, you can always serenade me with your Bossa Nova Brazilian guitar. That would make a wonderful YouTube video. I would applaud between songs.

  11. C.F. Apollyon says:

    If I start smoking, can I participate?

    • Frank Davis says:

      I don’t see why not.

      But then, since no-one ever counts as a smoker unless they’ve smoked 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, you may need to get through 5 packs first ;)

  12. News from Brazil
    Joaquin Teixeira, on Twitter, guarantees:
    “I already called for the pub and the whorehouse:
    No will be strike.

  13. Lepercolonist says:

    An excerpt from a book titled : ‘Crises of Character’ by author Gary J. Byrne who was a White House Secret Service officer during the Clinton administration :

    “She hated smokers, even seeing them. In high-stress jobs, even among her own staffers, smoking was popular. One of my UD( Uniformed Division) buddies on the South Lawn always kept a single cigarette, a big long Benson & Hedges, for when Mrs. Clinton walked by. He would step out of his booth and light one up just so she could see him blowing big plumes. Without making eye contact, he would flick it so she saw it.”

  14. Roobeedoo2 says:

    ‘On display in the news reports about the mystery of the opioid epidemic is America’s neurotic reliance on supposedly scientific “studies.” Never before in history has a society studied so much and learned so little — which is what happens when you resort to scientizing things that are essentially matters of conduct. It rests on the fallacy that if you compile enough statistics about something, you can control it.

    • waltc says:

      On both those subjects–opioid addiction and scientizing–at yesterday’s city council hearing on the “8 new ways to sock it to smokers” one of the Experts testified that mere exposure to SHS not only caused the exposed to start smoking (by increasing the nicotine receptors in their brains) but, by that same route “played a key part in the opioid epidemic”. Got it? The reason people start mainlining heroin or eating oxycontin is because they first inhaled a little secondhand smoke.

      In fact, that council meeting was so emblematic of Everything That’s Wrong In The World that I may later give you a fuller report.

      • beobrigitte says:

        Shs causes non-smokers to start smoking? REALLY?
        The Antismokers then are in reality either secret smokers, or physically suffer from the absence of nicotine receptors, or simply lie brazenly yet again.
        I do know quite a few non-smokers who happily visit me. None of them has started smoking.

        Isn’t Oxycontin a very expensive opioid painkiller available only via a prescription from an MD? Didn’t big pharma tell the medics that Oxycontin was a safe pain killer, playing down the high addiction risk?

        And isn’t Heroin much cheaper on the streets than a prescription of Oxycontin?

        Your city council people must be a lot less bright than a children’s room night light.

        • Joe L. says:

          Didn’t big pharma tell the medics that Oxycontin was a safe pain killer, playing down the high addiction risk?

          Absolutely. The opioid abuse “epidemic” is entirely the result of Big Pharma lying about their safety and pushing/bribing doctors to over-prescribe them.

          Notice how they never use their beloved statistics+correlation=causation formula to refute this? Because they can’t. Instead, they’ve turned to the old standby “gateway drug” lies, first blaming it on marijuana, and now (of course) tobacco.

          And isn’t Heroin much cheaper on the streets than a prescription of Oxycontin?

          Yes, and in a few regions here in the U.S., the opioid “epidemic” has morphed into a heroin “epidemic” exactly because of that reason.

          However, if the rumors are true that the U.S. is now in control of most of the poppy fields in Afghanistan post 9/11, I’m sure those in power are laughing all the way to the bank.

  15. I’d like to help in anyway I can, but I also think we need to take coordinated action. Cambridge Citizens for Smokers’ Rights was able to convince our city councilors to significantly modify a public park smoking ban by diligently collecting signatures on a hard copy petition; persuading people to email the council; and most importantly to physically attend the hearings. If we could work together, even a small cohort of us could effect change and perhaps organize smokers.

    • Joe L. says:

      I agree that coordinated action is necessary. However, it’s much easier to coordinate if you have an active, cohesive community. The more we can all communicate with one another, the easier it will be to coordinate.

  16. Joe L. says:

    OT: Another recent report has refuted the pseudoscientific demonization of salt:

    Higher sodium intake associated with lower blood pressure. You read that right.

  17. Dmitri says:

    Frank, what a good idea! I’m a technical idiot, but I’m sure somebody might connect me at the right moment.
    But I’d take that idea a bit further. When we talk to each other, we prop each other up. That’s good for our morale, but how about u-tubing the brainwashed idiots? How to make them listen and look? I know that my columns are binging hope to those who are already on our side. Still, the most challenging task is writing (speaking) to audiences that are assuredly against you. Could we talk to such people, all together in a group, address them in a gentle way and make them interested?

    • Frank Davis says:

      When we talk to each other, we prop each other up. That’s good for our morale

      Most certainly.

      but how about u-tubing the brainwashed idiots? How to make them listen and look?

      That’s part of the point of recording these conversations. In the first place the idea is to have smokers recount their experiences of smoking bans for other smokers to see, and say, “That’s how it was for me too!”

      But the other purpose is for non-smokers to watch these videos, and hear all these awful stories, and say to themselves, “I never knew that smokers were having such a terrible time!” And they will watch them if they are at all interested.

      Could we talk to such people, all together in a group, address them in a gentle way and make them interested?

      I’m not sure how to get people together “in a group”. I think the internet doesn’t really work with groups. It works virally. One person sees something, and tells somebody else about it, and it spreads in a ripple.

      Incidentally, I don’t see why you couldn’t do something like what I’m suggesting in Russia, in the Russian language. You might not be technically competent enough to do it, but I have no doubt that there are plenty of Russians who possess the necessary competence. And then you’d have lots of videos of Russians saying what happened in Novgorod when poor Yuri went out for a smoke when it was 40 degrees below zero, and never came back. And I’ll bet there are plenty such stories!

    • beobrigitte says:

      but how about u-tubing the brainwashed idiots? How to make them listen and look?
      Dmitri, the smoker haters have control. There is very little REAL information long enough on youtube to get the desired 1 million hits. It gets deleted and more tobacco control junk goes up.

      Still, the most challenging task is writing (speaking) to audiences that are assuredly against you.
      The ones against us are tobacco control. And their friends. All you can do is to state that you do NOT accept ANY of their so-called research and therefore will only accept truly INDEPENDENT research links or quotes posted.
      Then you will be met with silence.

  18. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    Great idea as usual Frank. Sign me up for the anti ANTZ army. I am however somewhat discouraged to admit that the self appointed ‘elites’ in Australia have essentially succeeded in brainwashing most of the sheeple into uncritical acceptance of their outright lies and propaganda. The threshold ethical issue of what authority government has to engage in mass scale population behavioural modification is totally ignored, even by well educated individuals, and apathetic smokers who meekly accept their relentless persecution.

  19. Dirk says:


  20. Pingback: The Enemies of Society | Frank Davis

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