Monday, March 07, 2005

Phone trees...

There exists a necessary evil in our society that you experience any time you call for service on just about anything. From issues as diverse as questions about your cell phone plan to changing your primary care provider, when you call customer service, you NEVER get to speak to a person right away. We all know this and most of us have just grown to accept the reality of the situation. There is something new coming in this space that I absolutely cannot stand though!

The current generation of phone trees that are voice driven are a step in the wrong direction. They are offered as a high-tech, friendly new way to interface with the system (as if we were too lazy in our society to even push the button now), but the technology is just not there yet. My single largest frustration is that they pick up on too much of the background noise. I tried to call our cell phone provider the other day while my wife was driving with a car full of kids - that was a joke! It kept telling me, "OK, I can help you..." even when I started telling it, "Apparently not!"

What they really need to do is build in an ability to detect when users get to the point that they are yelling, "WOULD EVERYONE SHUT UP SO THAT I CAN GET SOME #$&^*! HELP?" and transfer you straight to a person - now that would be useful!

I know that phone trees aren't going to go away, but they need to be carefully designed. I swear that Cingular employees have never called their own customer service - if they had, surely they would revise that menu!

Friday, March 04, 2005

New SOP for listening to podcasts

If you own a Pocket PC and listen to podcasts, there is something you’ve got to try.  In our world of too much to do in not enough time, I have found a way to decrease the time it takes me to listen to podcasts.  Here’s what I’m doing:  I’ve installed betaplayer on my Pocket PC and download the MP3 file for the podcast I am interested in to my SD card.  In betaplayer, I go into the “Options” menu and adjust the playback speed to 120% or 150% (as high as I can go and still follow the conversation).

It’s an awful lot like listening to Mickey Mouse do a podcast, but when I crank the speed up to 150%, I can listen to a 40 minute podcast in about 27 minutes!  I have learned to look past the funny voices and now that I have been doing this for a while, the standard playback speed sounds way too slow!

So give it a try and let me know what you think…


Note:  If you listen to podcasts from your PC (which I occasionally do as background noise while I work), Windows Media Player 10 has variable playback speed capability and will allow you to do the same thing.

Digital paper - cool stuff!

Last night at school, we had a guest lecturer from a local tech company (sorry to be vague, but I don’t know how much he was supposed to tell us). He is a sales account manager for a lot of very big hotel chains. I had the chance to talk to him about technology and what he has to offer the hotels.

One of his products they are currently pushing is digital paper. He said they make for great conference room agendas and maps because they can be updated frequently via wireless and consume no power once they have been updated. He said they hope to eventually have a small sheet hanging next to the door in every room that gets customized for each guest. It would say something like, “Welcome back to the Portland Marriott Mr. Jarvis, you have one message waiting for you at the front desk and the concierge has booked the limo you requested.” Or something like that! :^)

Cool stuff and it’s finally more than a rumor on Engadget.

What's in your recycling bin?

I just cleaned out the recycling bin on my laptop and reclaimed 5 Gigs of disk space! The scary thing was that it wasn't like there were any really big files or directories - it was tons of small stuff! I know that I never go check the contents of the bin and in the past I have been amazed by how much gets in there, but that's a lot of space. How 'bout much is in your recycling bin?