Because I have a moderately-trafficked weblog of niche humor that is appreciated by a tiny fraction of English-speaking humanity, marketing folks in charge of promoting products routinely target me in the hopes that I might mention their product and link to their websites.
More often than not they’re completely off-target. Last week I was approached by Nivea about promoting a skin care package for men, a website that tells you when your favorite actor will be on next, and a place that I believe sells panties. The marketer usually makes some feeble effort to suggest they love your weblog: “Hey! Really enjoy Banterist!” and then delivers the off-the-mark pitch: “I’m thinking your readers would love to hear about our amazing water filters. Can I send you some?”
Occasionally a PR guy or gal is on the mark or close to the mark or, as fate will have it, is actually pitching something I’m familiar with.
In this case it’s SimulScribe, a service which I actually use and have come to rely on. They have the unpleasant task of explaining what they do to the general population – 90% of whom aren’t that clever. They’re forced to help folks get their heads around their service, which is really simple in theory but still manages to make people ask weird questions. Remember how long it took to explain TiVo to people?
SimulScribe, simply put, converts your voicemail to text. When someone calls you and it goes to voicemail, they leave a message – just like they always have. But then SimulScribe’s magical computers convert it to text and send it to you via email or SMS. When it’s confused, it lets you know by adding (?) when it’s spelled a word phonetically or (??) when it’s just not sure.
You can have it attach the actual sound file of the message (very useful for lawyers and DJs). And, of course you have the option of calling up and listening to the actual voicemail like grandpa used to.
Now, you might say “What’s wrong with just calling and listening to my messages?” and I’d say “Nothing, really.” But transcribing does have several practical applications I’ve discovered:
For starters, I spend a lot of time in a “quiet room” filled with novelists, journalists and striking screenwriters. We’re not allowed to talk. The only noise here is the sound of laptops clickety-clacking. So, with my phone off, I let calls go to voicemail and then read the subsequent email message. If it’s worth me getting up and leaving the quiet room to return the call, I do so.
And, I have a text record of all my messages. So when I’m trying to recall directions someone left me, or what someone said about something, I can just look up the transcript. “You said I had until Friday!” I can tell the editor. Then I can send him the transcript and sound file as proof, just to make sure he never hires me again.
I have also used it as a dictation device – calling myself and leaving a message that gets turned into an email to remind me of something I thought I should have written down.
As an added bonus, the new transcription technology really amuses your friends. Here’s the message one friend left once he realized the call would be transcribed: