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Cellphones Communications

Time For Voice-Mail To Throw In the Towel 393

Posted by kdawson
from the surging-unemployment-among-voice-actors dept.
theodp writes "Slate's Farhad Manjoo feels the end of voice-mail is nigh, and it won't be missed. Since March, he's been using Google Voice to transcribe his voice-mail messages into text that he gets as skimmable e-mail. No more listening to at least a bit of each voice-mail message, hearing the same instructional prompts between each, and worrying about whether it's 9-to-archive and 7-to-skip (or vice versa). Goodbye and good riddance, says Manjoo, to an 'absurdly backward mode of human-computer interaction' that he half-jokes must violate the Geneva Conventions."
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Time For Voice-Mail To Throw In the Towel

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  • by wjh31 (1372867) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @04:41AM (#27894973) Homepage
    it costs me to listen to it, and if it's important enough, they'll call again or leave a text or something
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by linzeal (197905)
      Yeah, I have listened to my voice messages like 10 times since 1996. It is a cumbersome way to try to communicate someone. Since 2006 my current voicemail box has been full since Verizon does not allow you to choose to not have the service.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Sunday May 10, 2009 @07:55AM (#27895661) Homepage Journal

        I'd be careful to think that voice mail is only an 'absurdly backward mode of human-computer interaction'. Since I am hearing a person's voice, it is a 'human-human' interaction and one that's rich in information if you care about details.

        There is more information and meaning in a 15 second voice mail than in any text. Is the caller angry? Sad? Frustrated? What did the environment he was calling from sound like?

        If you think that simply converting all voice mail to text is going to solve the problem, you're missing out. I would think that a jog-wheel to allow me to speed up the voice mails, along with some audio or visual cues to let me know when the message ends would be much more efficient than speech-to-text while maintaining all the meta-information. Just get rid of those stupid menus completely. Since it's trivial to speed up a person's voice without altering the pitch using DSP you'd still be able to understand the message at 10x speed (or more) and still keep the subtler message intact.

        I know some voice mail systems already allow speeding up the message, but it's not very intuitive and you still get those awful menus. Plus, the voice on the menus speaks So. Fucking. Slowly. When. They. Tell. You. What. Time. The. Person. Who. Left. The. Message. Called.

        I would think that information could be imparted to me much more quickly. Yes voice-mail systems suck. Text is not necessarily the answer unless I can get a great novelist to pre-screen the messages and then write me a few paragraphs describing what the person said and how they said it, etc. Even so, I like hearing my wife's voice. She's got an accent that is like music to my ears and never fails to make me smile even after all these years. Happy mothers day from the kid and me, ljubavi.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by frdmfghtr (603968)

          If you think that simply converting all voice mail to text is going to solve the problem, you're missing out. I would think that a jog-wheel to allow me to speed up the voice mails, along with some audio or visual cues to let me know when the message ends would be much more efficient than speech-to-text while maintaining all the meta-information. Just get rid of those stupid menus completely.

          I suggest you find somebody with an iPhone and try visual voicemail. It's like e-mail, except you listen to the m

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Xaoswolf (524554)
            Verizon Wireless has a ton of phones with visual voicemail. Also, if you have a blackberry, you can sign up for youmail (or is it umail) which does the same thing.
        • by bondsbw (888959) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:15AM (#27896043)

          Like you, I seem to be one of the few people who actually likes the concept of "voice" mail. But I also think it is flawed, because voicemail fails to accomplish true delayed voice interaction.

          With email, I can send a message expecting that the receiver will get around to it whenever they want. IM is the opposite; the receiver is expected to respond immediately. Each of these has its place in the world... if not, email would have died many years ago.

          Phone calls mirror IMs in the voice world. But voicemail can only be sent when a person fails to answer a phone call. I think this is a flaw. It might sound nit-picky, but sometimes I want to send someone a voice message without them dropping everything to attend to me. Maybe I want to send it while driving... not that I recommend use of the phone while driving, but it's far better to voice message than to text message.

        • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:40AM (#27896553) Homepage

          Plus, the voice on the menus speaks So. Fucking. Slowly. When. They. Tell. You. What. Time. The. Person. Who. Left. The. Message. Called.

          The "visual voicemail" on the iPhone is really a pretty good solution. Phone-based menu systems suck, but there's nothing wrong with voicemail itself.

        • by timeOday (582209) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:31AM (#27896951)

          There is more information and meaning in a 15 second voice mail than in any text. Is the caller angry? Sad? Frustrated? What did the environment he was calling from sound like?

          We have a whole generation of people who grew up with the textual Internet. I think they are more comfortable communicating by text, either because they're better writers, or because they have a richer set of conventions for conveying emotion that way, or because they are accustomed to the emotional ambiguity.

          The question isn't whether you get more information from a 60 second voicemail than you get from skimming an email in 10 seconds; the contest is between listening to 1 voicemail or skimming 6 emails.

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:23AM (#27895149) Journal

      it costs me to listen to it

      On most networks, if you call your own phone number, you get kicked over to voicemail and it is considered an in-network call (AFAIK) that doesn't cost you anything.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:26AM (#27895157)

      I also ignore my voicemail. Big problem though: Mom.

      Hearing "Hello you have reached 'Mother, please, we've been over this, do NOT leave a message, I'll call you back without checking my voice mail anyway, and voicemail is annoying'..." only makes her leave upset messages on my voice mail. Failure to set up my voice mail so that she can't leave any message only leads to that being the sole topic of conversation every time we actually DO talk on the phone.

      I'm sure I'm not alone in saying "Please, let voice mail die faster so my mother can't leave extremely long rambling messages which I have to listen to or face the penalty."

      • by supernova_hq (1014429) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @06:46AM (#27895407)
        If you move out, she won't have to leave you a message saying dinner is ready.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bhima (46039) *

        I have been going through this with my mother since they invented answer machines. She will call and just carry the same one sided conversation she had on her mind when she dialed. With the exception of putting the most important tidbit at the end (like the fact the family is getting together for dinner or whatever). I have not listened to recorded message start to finish since something like 1989... so I never hear these things.

        I thought that email would help this. But she sends email like they are tel

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Snaller (147050)

        "Failure to set up my voice mail so that she can't leave any message only leads to that being the sole topic of conversation every time we actually DO talk on the phone."

        But that's great! Then you don't have to talk about your skipping school, growing weeds in your bathroom and that you are coming out as gay! Safe topics!

      • by Like2Byte (542992) <Like2Byte.yahoo@com> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:22AM (#27895793) Homepage

        Oh. My. God! I have this same problem with my father.

        Call #1: Short and sweet, "Hey, son, gimme a call."
        Call #2: with an angry tone and bent, "How come you never answer your phone. No one can ever get a hold of you."
              Makes me *really* want to call him back. Not.
        Call #3: Just as angry....same message as #2, now with more filler and far more colorful.
        Call #4: So angry there is about 10 seconds of silence on the phone, then, "Fuck it!" and hangs up.

        Seriously, if they weren't so full of hate because I wasn't able (or unwilling) to answer, they'd be hilarious.

        Recently, and this is a no shitter. I called my parents to get the number to one of my cousins. Got the number and gave the cousin a call. I left a message because he wasn't there. Hours later I'm mountain biking in an area with VERY bad reception (mostly only enough reception for text messages).
        My phone rings a few times. Three messages are left. I imagine it's my cousin trying to return my call. (I dont stop while mountain biking in a bad reception areas because it's usually futile.)
        Here's a transcript of those messages:

        Msg #1, (Cousin): Hey, man, I got your message, just returning your call.
        Msg #2, (Cousin): Ok, just me again, you must be busy.
        Msg #3, (father): (in an angry voice from the *start*!) Carl. Kevin called us and he is *trying* to call you. You called him to get a hold of him because you had specific questions and now you wont answer your god damned phone. No one can..yadda yadda yadda.

        Yeah, I'm thinking that killing voice mail makes a lot of sense. Of course, if that happens I'd have to listen to my father directly. Yeah, that's going to be fun. Not.

        Prolog
          While I wrote this up expecting Informative I'm sure it's going to get modded Funny.
          Also, save your typing. We all know father has issues.

    • by quenda (644621) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:49AM (#27895225)

      Thats a bit rude!
      Why don't you just turn it off so they don't get prompted to leave a message? Its ##21# to cancel all diverts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frnknstn (663642)

      If you are able to ignore your voicemail, then YOU aren't important enough.

      • by Dogtanian (588974)

        If you are able to ignore your voicemail, then YOU aren't important enough.

        Funny, isn't it normally the other way round?

      • by mopower70 (250015)

        If you are able to ignore your voicemail, then YOU aren't important enough.

        What does that even mean? Are you saying that the more important a person's position is, the less able they are to ignore voice-mail? Do you even know what voice-mail is?

        I still stand by the belief that the symbol of power, the REAL status symbol of the future, will be the ability to be completely unreachable. Feeling the need to have to answer every phone call and respond to every text is what's led to the douchebaggery of bluetooth headsets and simian texting while ordering a coffee.

    • It gives the caller the illusion (maybe it's my message) that the message is Very Important to me and will be returned (right, delete) ASAP!

    • by Kibblet (754565)
      That seems kind of selfish, making people chase you down like that. Why does the other person have to do the work? What if they are calling to do you a favor or something for you? How awful! And leave a text? I have no way to leave a text for someone. I'd much rather get a voicemail, than a text, and I conduct a lot of my life via voicemail.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Tony Hoyle (11698) *

        I've not heard of anyone that actually used voicemail for ages.. voicemail has lots of problems:

        1. It's linear. It takes ages to go through it and you have to listen to some inane woffle whilst they get to the point.
        2. It's expensive - they pay to leave the message *and* you pay to pick it up! no deal.
        3. SMS exists. Free, simple, easy to scan through - and what pretty much everyone is using these days.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cortesoft (1150075)

          All of that is the opposite with my plan and phone (iPhone on AT&T here in the US)...

          1) Voicemail is easy to use (not linear, you can scan through to the end of messages, replay them, skip messages, etc)
          2) It's free... always free to listen to the message, and free to leave if they are on AT&T, call from a landline, or call on evenings.
          3) Texts are certainly NOT free. 10 cents each to send and receive... or $20 bucks a month for unlimited...

          So clearly things aren't always the same.

    • Wouldn't it be better to turn it off?
      All you are doing is making some people who contact you angry. Well he has a voice mail, Ill leave him a message, it is not urgent yet but I want a response back. At least if voice mail is turned off or fill it up so it says voice mail is full. If it is important they will try to call you back again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by oldhack (1037484)
      Jee, that's even more asinine than what I do. I only return calls if they leave a voice mail - i.e., important enough for them to leave a message.
  • by Xenex (97062) * <<xenex> <at> <opinionstick.com>> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @04:41AM (#27894975) Journal

    Visual voicemail [wikipedia.org].

    The concept of voicemail is sound; the technology has been poor. Visual voicemail fixes the technology.

    • As TFA points out, by encouraging you to use the metadata - who called and when - and just delete the actual voicemail.
    • Still means you have to scramble for a keyboard or paper to take down a phone number or whatever important info that you can't quite make out.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_messaging [wikipedia.org] There I fixed it for you.

      Voicemail via most phones does suck (iphone is an exception). Can't you check your voicemails at work via your email client? We have been doing it for years and once you give someone the UM client you better not ever take it away.

      • by Tony Hoyle (11698) *

        No, voicemail on the iphone sucks too. It still has the primary fault - having to listen to someone go on and on about stuff you don't want to hear, read a phone number too fast that you can barely hear, then hang up.

        SMS. If you can't bring yourself to do that because it's what the 'young whippersnappers' do then send an email.

        Even in business, voicemail is dying fast - we get maybe one voicemail a month and hundreds of emails.

  • Not anytime soon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AuMatar (183847) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @04:44AM (#27894981)

    Text to speech isn't anywhere near 100% yet. Until it is, voicemail isn't going anywhere. Beyond which, human voice can impart additional meaning in tone that text can't. We probably could make better voicemail systems, but I don't see a lot of effort going into that. It isn't really a revenue generator for anyone, and the existing systems aren't that bad to use. 1 button to delete, 1 to save, 1 to repeat. I'd like to see fast forward and rewind like old tape based answering machines had, but that's about all it needs.

    • by ledow (319597) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:00AM (#27895043) Homepage

      I agree. This is like saying that fax is obsolete because we have text/handwriting recognition. You are throwing away *far* too much is you image->text or speech->text, although they could be used for summary/convenience in certain cases. And sometimes you need alternate methods of communication - putting everything into the same basket (i.e. your email account) is just stupid.

      Additionally, the loss of information doesn't necessarily make it more convenient at all. You go on holiday, lose/break your phone and swap the sim card (maybe with a borrowed phone). You don't *necessarily* get the capability to receive that text (e.g. Internet, email, etc.) but you can still listen to your voicemail. It's low-tech, but sometimes that helps.

      Personally, I detest voicemail whether on mobile phones or in the office. It's a pain. But it still exists, gets specified and built-in because it's "free", easy, simple and works. It's for a medium that doesn't have a better alternative for saving messages (voice) and thus it isn't going anywhere. And I don't trust *anything* that claims to be able to do a "human" job... translating, understanding, transcribing, recognising, etc. Why? Because they cause more trouble than they are worth unless you want a quick, casual, inaccurate job. This includes any form of handwriting recognition, OCR, "image recognition" (web filter systems etc.), speech recognition, text-to-speech, computer translation, etc.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is like saying that fax is obsolete because we have text/handwriting recognition.

        I think the fax is obsolete. Many printers have the option to create a PDF of a scanned file. This file can be sent via email or stored. It's much easier for me to send or receive via email than try to hunt down a fax machine.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nine-times (778537)

        This is like saying that fax is obsolete because we have text/handwriting recognition.

        No, fax is obsolete because it's a stupid technology. Scan it to PDF and email it.

        Sorry, I know it's off-topic, but I get annoyed whenever someone asks me to fax something, or wants to fax me something. You may as well be asking me to dial into your BBS system so we can share files.

    • Pfft! (Score:5, Funny)

      by msimm (580077) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:23AM (#27895151) Homepage
      "Beyond which, human voice can impart additional meaning in tone that text can't."

      Bah! I fully expect my transcribed voice mail to include :-D lulz ROFLcopter )-': to impart those more nuanced details.
    • by jabithew (1340853)

      But you have to admire Google's cunning here. To monetarise this service they're going to have to extract useful information to allow more targeted adverts (e.g. you get a voice mail asking you to pick up some flowers and suddenly every AdSense advert is showing Interflora). To do this they would have to transcribe your voice conversations and mail into text. If they're doing it anyway, turn it into a feature and advertise it!

      Google is staffed by geniuses.

    • by krunk4ever (856261) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @06:47AM (#27895411) Homepage

      I agree, especially when Google Voice's text to speech only does English at the moment.

      I may be in the smaller crowd here, but I hate phone calls and use voicemail to screen calls. When I say "screen", I'm also referring to the urgency.

      When someone calls me and either I don't know the number calling in nor I don't feel like talking on the phone at that particular moment (even if it's someone I know), I use voicemail to screen.

      If the call is important enough, they'll leave a voicemail or try calling again later. If they don't leave a voicemail, I don't bother calling back since I deem the call wasn't really urgent/necessary.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

        [quote]If they don't leave a voicemail, I don't bother calling back since I deem the call wasn't really urgent/necessary.[/quote]

        The problem is that there really doesn't seem to be an agreed-upon social convention, and all these differences get to be irritating and reduce productivity or connectivity. Some people don't leave messages under any circumstances, so you're not going to get them from those people. Some people turn off refuse to check their voicemail or turn it off. I've had cases where voicema

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by krunk4ever (856261)

          If it was a urgent call and given that they have no way of confirming that I got the missed call notification, I would say it's upon the caller to call again or try to contact me in some other way.

    • by mpe (36238)
      Text to speech isn't anywhere near 100% yet.

      This is speech to text, which is actually harder than text to speech. One tricky problem is recognising every possible dialect/accent of every possible language. Even just just in California you will probably come unstuck if you only handle North American versions of English and Spanish.
      • Re:Not anytime soon (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ewrong (1053160) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @07:42AM (#27895613)
        Indeed as an Englishman I've only ever managed to get any speech recognition software to work by putting on a fake American accent. Considering people who leave voicemails for me regularly come from places such as The Netherlands, France or India, so are using a second language, I think it's going to be a long time before something like this is actually useful.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hackstraw (262471)

      Text to speech isn't anywhere near 100% yet.

      Can you here me? Hello? Hello? Oh, sorry, what did you say, the connection broke up a second.

      People have spoken (no pun intended) that they prefer convenience, availability, and portability over service quality. People accept lower quality audio compared to even the 60s, 70s and 80s for the ability to have more variety of music at their disposal, lower quality video (DVD, cable) over high definition (OTH, Blu-ray), and of course the unreliable wireless phone service over reliable wired phone service.

      Beyond which, human voice can impart additional meaning in tone that text can't. We probably could make better voicemail systems, but I don't see a lot of effort going into that. It isn't really a revenue generator for anyone, and the existing systems aren't that bad to use. 1 button to delete, 1 to save, 1 to repeat. I'd like to see fast forward and rewind like old tape based answering machines had, but that's about all it needs.

      More

    • by ockegheim (808089)
      On the rare occasions people leave a voicemail at my home phone it gets emailed to me as a .wav file. It's handy if I'm overseas or something, if only people would use it more...
    • by dzfoo (772245)

      Uh... you mean "speech to text", don't you?

                -dZ.

    • by pcgabe (712924)

      Text to speech isn't anywhere near 100% yet.

      Did you mean speech to text? I dunno, here's an actual Google Voice transcription I got recently:

      well google voice driver back man on the day he how you're doing at all so lee the four on friday i'm at in the review and anyway gimme a call back i'll talk to you later bye

      Seems pretty clear to me. /s

    • by kaladorn (514293)

      Yes, what you said. Very much so. And those nuances are very important in some cases. No system I'm aware of comes even close to handling nuance and none handle the extreme variances in accents you get when you have (for instance) English speakers who have Indian background, Asian background, or French background. Each accent changes how the English words sound and even sentence construction.

      If I get only a text, I might think I'm being called by a person of dubious education (given the grammatical construc

  • That's great... (Score:5, Informative)

    by kirbysuperstar (1198939) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @04:58AM (#27895035) Homepage
    ..if you live in America. I'm pretty sure Google Voice isn't available elsewhere.
    • Re:That's great... (Score:4, Informative)

      by AlexBirch (1137019) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:23AM (#27895147) Homepage
      This isn't available to everyone in the USA, just the Grand Central customers. This has been one of Google's larger failures.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BikeHelmet (1437881)

        Give it time.

        I'm pretty sure they know they have a winner here - which means if they open it up before getting prepared, it'll get clogged and DOS itself.

        With the economy in a slump, and mounting youtube costs, they'll probably also examining ways to make Google Voice self-sufficient.

        • *beeeeep*
          *beeeeep*
          *beeeeep*
          "Hello, you have reached the voicemail of... BIKE HELMET ...to page this user now, press pound, or leave a message after the tone"
          *biiiiip*
          - "Hi honey! Hey, could you tell me what brand hemorrhoid cream you always get? You mentioned you were out and I'll be at the pharmacy later for my allergy medicine." ...

          "You have... ONE ...new voice mail."
          - "Hi honey! Hey, could you tell me what brand hemmorhoid cream... NEED PREPARATION? NOW AT WALGREENS - ONLY $4.95! ...you always get? You

  • as a deaf person (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    this is pretty cool and very useful.

  • Ah yes transcription (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blowdart (31458) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:10AM (#27895087) Homepage

    My other half uses a transcription service, SpinVox [spinvox.com] for her mobile phone which takes the messages and sends them via text message and email. Unfortunately I have a rather non-standard accent, what with the elocution lessons my parents made me take during my childhood in Northern Ireland, spending half my life in England and my default ability to try to match the speaking patterns of who I am talking to. It consistently mangles it's transcription of my messages.

    A more interesting (for me anyway) approach for me is that taken by Microsoft's unified communications [microsoft.com] stuff where I've seen your phone number route through to your computer to Office communicator, with voicemails being emailed as attachments. Of course this is very corporate centric, but it strikes me as more useful. Sure you have to listen to the attachment, but there's no risk of misunderstanding because a transcribing service got it horribly wrong.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fprintf (82740)

      I don't know if it exists, but it would be cool to have a combination of both. That is, the email comes through with the attempted transcription *and* the original audio as an attachment. I can then read the email and if it makes sense, that is it isn't too terribly mangled, then I can then decide whether to skip, archive or delete. But if it just doesn't look right or I do want to listen to it either right now or later I can still do so.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by ilo.v (1445373)

        ... it would be cool to have a combination of both. That is, the email comes through with the attempted transcription *and* the original audio as an attachment

        Most of them work that way, although often the email only contains a link to the audio file, not the file itself. If you want the file sent so you can hear it when offline, try Phone Tag http://phonetag.com/ [phonetag.com] I have used them, and Google Voice, for a while. Their accuracy is (obviously) MUCH better than Google Voice, because they are using humans

  • by kclittle (625128) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:11AM (#27895097)
    ... will be a text-to-voice service that will read your Google Voice mail to you...
  • by Graymalkin (13732) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:13AM (#27895101)

    To answer my own rhetorical question he has, he spends a paragraph musing over Visual Voicemail. I don't quite understand what his problem with it is, the iPhone lets you not listen to messages as easily as it lets you listen to them. It also makes sure messages are associated with contacts in your address book so its obvious who the voicemail is from. He could just used the "missing calls" screen or listen to the voicemails or just throw his phone in a lake because he doesn't seem to be a good conversationalist anyways.

    The main complaint of the article isn't a technical one, both Visual Voicemail and Google Voice solve the technical problems with voicemail. His real problem is a social one. His friends are assholes and leave messages consisting of "call me back" knowing they're calling his cell phone and more to the point probably know he has an iPhone or doesn't like checking his voicemail. He's not using the iPhone's ability to ignore useless voicemails and his friends don't seem to register the fact he has caller ID and will be able to see he missed their call.

    This is a vexing situation because these people have probably had cell phones for the past ten years if not longer. They know everyone has caller ID and their phones alert them to missed calls. There's no need to waste the time on "call me back" voicemails for anyone. At the same time voicemail is not without its uses. Voicemail can be left by anyone with a phone including landlines. Your SO can leave a message from their landline work phone saying they'll be late for dinner or your kid's school can tell you to come pick them up because they're sick. Voice also tends to be a bit more information dense than printed words since it can convey emotion as well as information.

    Oh well, we should all ditch voicemail because a Slate writer has dumbass friends.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AlexBirch (1137019)
      I have a few friends like you, who assumed I would see all missed calls. This assumption is dangerous, especially if you have AT&T. If you are going to call someone, for the love of all that's good and holy, at least have one sentence summary about why you're doing it.

      ~~
      The most exquisite folly is made of wisdom too fine spun.
      ~ Benjamin Franklin
      • by jabithew (1340853) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:52AM (#27895237)

        Over here in the UK most providers even send you a text if you missed a call while your phone was out of signal.

    • I just want a way to easily turn it off, or at least make it harder for them to leave a message. The only voicemail I want are emergencies. Anything else is so much easier if it's sent as a txt or email. No amount of emotion is going to make the phone number or address they've just left any easier to understand if they're speaking too fast, or have a poor mic, they mumble or get distracted part way through, a bus passes by... Caller ID also doesn't work in many places, such as calling from a phone with no d

  • by religious freak (1005821) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:34AM (#27895173)
    I disagree. Voice mail will not go away. It will eventually converge with email.

    Sometimes I want to hear someone speak to understand tone, sometimes I want to read to save time. I think voice and email will converge. Just because he's getting speech to text doesn't mean he'll want to destroy the speech data. What if you don't know someone is being sarcastic, or if you just happen to miss the sound of someone's voice?

    Alternatively, I think a simple text to speech feature will eventually come about too. Though theoretically not quite as useful for gauging emotion (though I'm sure some "emotional emphasis" could probably be added without too much difficulty), some people may prefer to hear a text message when they're doing things like driving.

    It will certainly be refined and perfected over the next decade or so, but as the summary states, it's already starting to happen.
  • I switched my voice mail off, so I don't need to check my messages, because "the leaving of a message is one half of a social contract which is completed by the checking of the message.

    If that social contract breaks down then all social contracts break down. We decent into anarchy."

  • language barrier? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Krupuk (978265) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:49AM (#27895229)
    Voice-to-text is great if you speak English or another language spoken by at least 20 million people. If you're part of a minority, not so.
  • by dontmakemethink (1186169) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:55AM (#27895247)

    Although I check my voicemail via emailed attachments, most of them are rather urgent, and mere text does not convey the whole story. There's no way anyone can convince me they leave the same message on voice mail as they do on a SMS text message.

    Here's a real example of two messages I received two days ago:
    [text] you gotta minute?
    [voice] Man I'm in a jam, I've got an offer to jump in on a European tour, but we don't have the right demo, they want something raw, can we cut something in the club?

    That is a personal favor and no way it gets approved via text. It would be ignored, and the sender would be PNG instead of on his way to Europe.

  • by IHC Navistar (967161) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:57AM (#27895255)

    Voice Mail is easier than E-Mail.

    With voice mail, you can:

    1: Delete by quickly pressing 1 key,
    2: Don't get as NEARLY as much SPAM mail,
    3: You just need a cheap phone, and not a whole computer, internet access, ISP, etc.

    Voice mail will never go away. Period. I wish these 'tech people' would quit making their bizarre predictions just to get their name in a magazine or article.

    • Voice Mail is easier than E-Mail.

      With voice mail, you can:

      1: Delete by quickly pressing 1 key

      If only. My office voicemail uses two keys (* 3) and my cell phone use one, totally different key (7) and my previous cell phone used a different key altogether. And i have to remember which one's which.

      Whereas with email, you do get one-key delete. And it's always the same key. And that key is helpfully labeled "Delete."

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @06:11AM (#27895299)
    Google voice is not generally available and is due to be rolled out soon.

    This "article" reads like someone who is either trying to promote the new service with a little extra publicity - or is trying to prove how techno-savvy he/she is by using a leading edge tech.

    Well, yawn, I really don't care.

  • I dunno... (Score:5, Funny)

    by MichaelTheDrummer (1130657) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @06:29AM (#27895343)
    Listening to drunken messages left on my voicemail is often the highlight of a Sunday morning hangover.
    • by dzfoo (772245)

      Imagine reading them, as interpreted by the Google Voice-to-Text system. Hilarity!

              -dZ.

  • Visual Voicemail (Score:3, Informative)

    by Andy Smith (55346) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @06:31AM (#27895349) Homepage

    Visual Voicemail on the iPhone should have "fixed" the user-unfriendly nature of traditional voicemail. But alas, here in the UK, it is all-too-frequently unavailabe, either due to lack of a mobile signal (even though the messages are stored on your phone, Visual Voicemail is disabled if you lose signal), or due to unspecified faults that result in you being told smply that Visual Voicemail is unavailable and you must dial in to access your voicemail manually. A potentially great service, crippled by some horrible "service DRM" that shuts it off as soon as the service isn't there.

    Like many iPhone users, I often evangelise about the iPhone and encourage my friends to get one. But I always include one caveat: DON'T get it based on the attraction of Visual Voicemail. The feature is so often unavailable that you should regard it as non-existant.

  • by Faizdog (243703) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @06:39AM (#27895371)

    I have some services, such as Vonage, that attempt to provide a speech-to-text transcription of your voicemail to your email. However, being someone not originally born in the US, many of my voicemails tend to be in another language.

    Staying in touch with my family is very important to me, and if I'm missing their voicemails, then I can't use these services. It will be a long time before a lot of the world's languages have speech-to-text conversion and an automatic service could recognize which language is being spoken and then use the appropriate conversion.

    So I don't think voicemail will go away at all, perhaps become less common.

  • by saigon_from_europe (741782) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @07:10AM (#27895493)

    And it was never popular in Europe.

    In Serbia, our fixed line monopolist Telekom does not offer voice mail. On the other side, all of our mobile providers do offer voice mail, and they offer it for 8 years, and still no one uses it.

    Somewhat similar to this, mobile providers send you a SMS with a list of missed calls (time + number) so if you have turned your mobile off, you'll get the list as soon as you turn your phone on.

    Also if you cannot get someone on his mobile, you can send him a SMS, and it will be delivered once he gets reachable again.

  • Yeah, right... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dwm (151474) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @07:40AM (#27895605)

    ...just like email killed faxes.

  • Singing voicemail (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bohnanza (523456) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:37AM (#27895865)
    I'm a songwriter, and sometimes I call to sing to my answering machine when I have an idea and I'm away from home. I sure hope that google thingy can write music...
  • Unfortunately only my landline forwards to email - the mobile phone has a voicemail number, which is extremely expensive for a prepaid phone. I pay twice as much as the caller to listen to a message. That's why I haven't yet listened to my voicemail this year.

    I wouldn't want to rely on voice transcription - especially of a recording that isn't dictated. I've managed to get a dictation tool to more or less transcribe my voice, but only if I speak far more slowly and clearly than I would on the phone.

    Doesn't

  • "It's important!"

    On the answering machine I may be able to guess the identity of from the voice. With a transcription I won't have a clue. And when is calling on a tinny cellphone that cuts out frequently from inside a boiler factory all I will get is "Lkjas! Fpie fgjh gpas! Important!". Especially when has a heavy Indian accent (which I would hsve recognized on the answering machine).

    Now a system that would email me transcriptions with the original message attached would be interesting.

    And no, I don'

  • by el_flynn (1279) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:56PM (#27898127) Homepage

    Disclaimer: I work for a cellphone operator.

    Ok, TFA has some valid points on the endless annoyance that we know as voicemail. But for mobile operators, at least, there's really no reason for them to kill this service.

    And do you know why? Voicemail is considered, from a telco point of view, as a Call Completion Service. This allows the operator to generate revenue by forwarding a call that was destined for termination (B-party hung up, rejected etc) into a service that answers the call. At which point, they can charge the caller for this "previlege".

    Let's say operator X has 100 million calls per month on its network where the called party has rejected the call or is unavailable. Assuming that:

    * a chargeable block of 0.10 per minute
    * everyone leaves a short message that's less than one minute long

    The operator stands to make $10,000,000 a month in call completion revenue. By providing a simple voicemail service. Which no-one really cares about anyways. Of course, there'd be interconnect charges from other operators, but the gist is the same.

    If voicemail was removed, the operator would lose this significant chunk of revenue, just because there was nothing to complete the calls. Which is why you'll never get existing operators who already provide voicemail removing it.

    Voicemail == Call Completion == Cash Cow

    Where I'm working, revenue from this call completion bit contributes around 20% of the monthly voice traffic revenue.

    Another fun factoid: voicemail retrieval stands at 10% of those deposited.

  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:55PM (#27898609) Journal

    Sure, we know checking voicemail is a pain in the ass, but leaving it is worse. I so much prefer text messages, especially for anything that's simple to ask or answer. "Wut time shud i pik u up?" As opposed to "ring....ring....ring....*click* Hey this is Susie, I'm not here right now, but if you'll leave me your name and number I'll give you a call back at my earliest convenience. Thanks and have a great day! *click* to page this user, press 7. To leave a callback number, press 5. To leave a voice message, press 1 or stay on the line." "Hi Susie, what time should I pick you up? Call me."

    And yeah I know you can skip to the "leaving a message" part by pressing 1 but it's still annoying.

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