Skype Journal

Unbound Spiral: SkypeVM Update

February 1, 2005 05:58 PM

I've again been playing with Skype VM beta. I also wrote about it first here and then added these thoughts here. Today I terminated my little experiment with iPodRadio. I just wanted my iPod back. While it was neat getting visitors from all over the world listening to my music I wasn't getting to use it myself. So it is now offline. Which brings me back to SkypeVM (voice messaging please!).

I added voice messaging to my iPodRadio, thinking it would be a neat way to share what I was doing with those that found the line engaged. I got a lot of voice mails. Mostly blank and short voice mails. I also got VM's from people that clearly didn't know how to stop them... I think that is the "Oh no!" what is it doing factor... playing message and then asking to record. Too scared to do anything they end up as 1 minute of silence. Having added VM to this account I found that there was no way to turn it off. Why would one want to turn it off? Well in this case a "busy" signal would have provided better feedback. Now that the client is completely offline it has probably taken VM from frustrated former listeners all day. Most will be a second or nothing at all. Thus this account would be better served by remaining permanently offline rather than collecting VM's until this trial ends. Collecting VM on an account that someone may not use again seems like a bad idea.

So we should be able to switch it on and off. An example may be vacation. Another may be that I want to turn off the VM messaging function while retaining the messaging function. Eg I am away until X please contact me by Y - thanks - with a no messages at this time being accepted. Forcing me to activate VM and take messages 100% of the time defeats or may turn off some users from buying the service. Particularly as messages can't be autoforwarded. Then the design of the sytem suggests that you will never be able to call in to a SkypeIn account and pick up your VM.

The second element which intrigues me traces to a few web developers that were clearly thinking about how iPodRadio could be used. There is an opportunity for pre-recorded longer messages. Even many current VM users want a longer leaving a message option. There's also a cost in the pre-recorded messages that Skype is balancing at the moment. By limiting it to one minute (most are less) and same time length for sent messages files remain efficient and delivery is relatively quick even on dialup and GPRS connections.

Demand is likely to be there for a hosting service that simple accepts Skype calls and for each, plays back the message. It would be better if these didn't require downloading, simply played like iPodRadio in real-time. For small businesses I think it is easy even now to set up a simple multi-line answering system with pre-recorded messages. With some of the third party answering machines currently in beta this will be made even easier.

And that creates another area where Skype VM could add additional features. The example is phone in a customer complaint line... get a complaint form in a semi intelligent chat message back. Thus takes you step by step. Similarly, I may be deaf and use Skype. VM can respond to the caller with a note that also asks for text messages. Skype doesn't actually have to engineer this into their VM application at all. All they need to do is provide an instruction in the Skype API so the third party developers that already are experimenting with text responses to call and away status can actually send a text message for VM. Example, VM received and thus I can send a text confirmation... received your VM; will get back to you as soon as i can.... It the reverse answer to the normal voice mail system.

To press further into this realm, Skype shouldn't worry about developing this type of texting function in their VM. For example the Skype API enables buddy list management and thus, say different responses where messages to different groups of people, can be handled outside of Skype. It's many times more difficult (I think) for Skype to develop and manage different groups of friends, different messages etc, than enable that development to proceed on a third party app. We shall see as these new systems emerge.

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