Monday, October 27, 2008

On long-distance communication

I've heard that Stephen Fry considers the telephone an extraordinarily rude device, and I find it hard to disagree with that assessment of it. It demands our attention, it chains us to somebody else's idea of when is a good time to talk, and it forces one to make ill-considered replies to questions.

Be that as it may, we are stuck with the devices for the time, but there are methods one can use to make them more bearable.

First among these methods is learning a few simple rules. Here are some things to do with telephones:

  1. Know who you expect to answer. Opening a call that you dialled with the words "Who is this?" is, in my opinion, grounds for being reported to the FCC.
  2. Answer rapidly. Pretending to answer, by means of having a machine pick up and put the caller on hold, is Not Allowed.
  3. Reduce reliance on automated systems. Why should I have to do the job you're paying your call centre staff to do?
  4. Voice Recognition Doesn't. Automated voice recognition systems are, in my opinion, grounds for being encased in concrete and dropped into a subduction zone.
  5. Speak my language. If the person at the other end speaks a different language than you were expecting, you MIGHT have the wrong number, and it would be a good idea to at least try to clear this up in the language they first spoke. If that's not possible, you might at least learn to say "Sorry, wrong number".
  6. Redial doesn't correct. When you hit "redial", it dials exactly the same number, so if you got a wrong number before, it's STILL a wrong number!
  7. Admit you're not perfect. We've all misdialled. Every last one of us. Don't accuse me when YOU get the number wrong.
  8. Telephones get link rot too. Phone companies recycle numbers. There are only so many valid combinations. It is not the fault of the person who got the recycled number that whoever had it before failed to tell you that they no longer had it.
  9. Where did you think I'd be? At four in the morning, sane people are in BED, and you should NOT be making telephone calls.
  10. Not right now means exactly that. When someone says they can't talk now, please, STOP trying to talk to them.
I really want a whitelisting mechanism for telephone calls so I can only allow certain people to call me.


  1. As a telephone support guy, I heartily agree with you.

    I quite often get calls from people complaining about their internet connection from Carphone Warehouse.

    I don't work there. Never have. LISTEN when I answer the phone - I say "Good Morning/Afternoon/Night [Company Name]"

    Note that the company name is NOT Carphone Warehouse!

    (Incidentally, the captcha doesn't work under Firefox 3.0.3. why is that?)

  2. How should I know what Firefox has done to break Google's captchas? Or whoever your internet connection is through?

  3. - I dunno. Thought you might have heard something!

    As for Whitelisting, my mobile phone can do it.

    I simply set the default ringtone to 'utter silence' (without vibrate), and then set a specific ringtone for each of the numbers I want to accept calls from.

    I don't know if you can do the same for landlines in the US. Caller ID seems to exist properly there, so maybe it's possible.

  4. Possible, but requiring a rather more configurable telephone than I have tethered to my wall.


After some particularly vile spam showed up, I have disabled the ability to comment as a nonny-mouse.