Monday, August 13, 2012

How to talk to me on the phone

So, one of the many things about me that's notable is that I have hearing loss. My right ear's hearing is significantly degraded, and my left ear has lost much of its high-tone sensitivity (or my brain doesn't interpret high tones correctly; that's also a possibility, given how much of a mess it is in there) due to foolishness when younger. When going to rock concerts, wear earplugs. That will go a LONG way towards avoiding what's happened to me. Take similar precautions around firearms; those things are very loud, and will damage your hearing. Between the loss of hearing and interference from chronic tinnitus, I find it difficult to follow conversations. That's actually a big part of why I'm quiet in person; I don't follow the thread of conversation well enough to join in, because I literally can't hear well enough.

A game designer and generally awesome person I follow on Twitter by the name of Eddy Webb is significantly worse off than I am by way of hearing, and he recently posted a link to an article on "how to talk with the hearing-impaired". While the advice is good, it's very much focused on face-to-face interactions, and doesn't cover telephones. Telephones are a very much harder nut to crack, when it comes to hearing difficulties.

Here's my advice, in handy bullet point form.
  • Speak up. Don't shout, but do speak clearly and loudly. It helps.
  • Speak slowly. Don't let your words run together.
  • Sit up straight. This does actually make your voice clearer, makes it easier to project, and means I find it easier to hear you.
  • Minimise background noise. If I'm straining to pick you out over music, fans, engines, or similar, I'm going to have trouble.
  • Re-phrase. If I didn't catch what you said, take a moment and try different words.
  • Be patient. I really am trying.
Sadly, the biggest obstacle to easy telephone communication with anyone hearing-impaired is the telephone itself. Telephone transmission involves throwing away an astoundingly large part of the voice's spectrum, to save bandwidth. Someone with good hearing can cope fine, but the worse a person's hearing is, the harder they'll find it to correct for that.

The biggest thing you can do for me, in terms of communication, is to only use the telephone when absolutely necessary. I much prefer something that doesn't require I hold large amounts of unsorted data in mind at once AND strain to hear. But if you have to call me, the checklist above will make it less annoying for both of us. Because I've no doubt whatsoever that as frustrating as it is for me to struggle through a telephone call, it's just as frustrating for you trying to get the information to me when I seem bent on mis-hearing.


It pains me to do this, but I'm putting the "regular content" experiment on hiatus for a short while. I've run out of buffer, and between family health issues, various sources of stress for the LA and me, excessively hot weather, and sundry other stuff I won't bore you with, I am, not to put too fine a point on it, shagged out.

So consider this a summer break. I'll aim to restart regular content drops around the middle of September. Feel free to yell at me on Twitter if that doesn't happen.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The booth babe problem

As happens all too frequently, the internet is afire with accusations of objectification, slut-shaming, feminazism, and all the wonderful fun epithets that get flung around when people with poor social skills start talking about subjects which hit gender politics. This time, the catalyst was someone complaining that there are too many attractive women at conventions.

Leaving aside the absurdity of such a statement, the real complaint is that some of the aforementioned attractive women may not be as "dedicated" to geek lifestyle as the complainer. Considering that many of his targets spend large amounts of time and significant money making excruciatingly detailed costumes for themselves, I doubt that one holds water either.

But there really is a problem with women at conventions. The problem is that commercial entities at such events have a depressing tendency to hire representatives based solely on physical appearance, with no thought to having them able to speak knowledgeably about what they're promoting. The term is "booth babe", which I dislike; it diminishes the women involved in this as people.

I've no objection to hiring attractive spokesmodels. I don't even object to having them dress up as characters from whatever you're promoting (although I'd prefer if you let them dress however they wished, and if need be display your expensively-made costume on a carefully painted mannequin). What I object to is having their value to your promotional effort be solely as eye candy. If you're trying to sell to geeks, well, yes, I'll freely admit that the pretty face will grab our attention, but we would much prefer to find out that she knows about this thing, that she cares about it, that she's going to tell us why she thinks it's great. And our social skills aren't so poor as to be unable to tell marketing guff from genuine enthusiasm.

My first assumption when I meet someone at a convention is that they're there because they think the subject matter is interesting. I'd like that to hold true for as many people as possible, regardless of gender, physical appearance, or other unimportant matters.