The End of 'Voicemail Hell'

There are two types of people: Talkers and Typers. A new technology lets them meet in the middle.
There are two kinds of people: talkers and typers.

Talkers tend to be social extroverts who don't like committing their words to the scrutiny of black-and-white. They feel comfortable with oral conversations because they can gauge the response of their interlocutors in real-time, and they feel the need to hear and use non-verbal cues like intonation. Talkers love phones.

Typers tend to be more thoughtful and introverted, and hate live phone calls because they're time consuming and don't leave a searchable record. Typers tend to express themselves better with the written word, and fear that during live conversations, they'll either say something stupid or forget to say something intelligent. Typers prefer e-mail, IM or SMS.

When these two types interact, there's always a subtle tension between communication styles, with each trying to force the other into his own favorite arena.

The talkers drag typers kicking and screaming into endless conference calls, pointless games of phone tag and boring, content-free conversations. The typers subject the talkers to endless e-mails nobody has time to read, spring awkward text-messaging sessions on the talkers at bad times, and send cryptic, factual e-mails perceived by talkers as rude and impersonal.

Hey, can't we all just get along?

Thanks to a free new service that launched this week, the answer is: Yes, we can.

CallWave introduced Monday a free beta service called Vtxt, which puts you in control of all incoming voice-mail. When someone sends voicemail, CallWave computers instantly convert the caller's words to text, send a summary of the message to your cell phone via SMS, and push a transcript of the voicemail -- that's right, a text-based transcript -- to e-mail.

Talkers leave voice-mail, typers get e-mail.

The e-mail message includes a hyperlink to a CallWave Web page where you can listen to the voice-mail, and click over to a page for managing all voice-mails.

I love this page. The left half is the list of all current and past calls. By selecting one of the calls, you can do anything with it using the four options on the right half of the page: Play message; read the Vtxt GIST (summary of the voicemail); "Text Reply" (unlike other Web-based SMS services, CallWave gives your cell phone's return address); and "Call Back."

Wait, "Call Back"? That's right. By clicking this item, the Web site calls YOUR phone. When you pick up, it calls the phone of the person who left voicemail. When they answer, you're connected.

The result of all this is that talkers can send their voicemail, and typers can get it as searchable e-mail -- and reply via SMS, E-mail or -- gasp! -- phone.

Vtxt is especially sweet for busy people with no time to waste on endless voice-mail. Just scan the "GIST," or summary of the message, then bang out a text or e-mail reply. It turns 10 minutes of voicemail and phone tag into 10 seconds of real communication.

The GIST feature is pretty amazing. I tested it by leaving a very long-winded message to myself, blathering on about getting everyone together for a meeting about "the project." Callwave ignored all the blather, and sent me the "GIST" of the voicemail, which was this: "talk about the new project that we've been working on and see if we can have a meeting about that." It's not a complete sentence, but it makes it very clear what my long voicemail was about -- clear enough for me to reply without wasting time on the voice-mail itself.

It's also great for control freaks, who want to see their voicemail and choose how to reply; productivity enthusiasts who like to optimize communication; and info pack-rats, who like to keep voice-mail around so they can search it later.

Me? I'm all of the above: a typer with no time to waste on voicemail and a control freak productivity enthusiast info pack rat. That's why I *really* like CallWave Vtxt.

Go here to try it.

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