Monday, February 23, 2015

Follow me on Twitter

As you have noticed, I have slowed down on posting new articles to my blog. I find I have less time to write, so my blogging has taken a back seat. Instead, I've picked up my Twitter account. This makes it much easier for me to talk about what's happening around me. I also post links to interesting articles.

I encourage you to follow me on Twitter. My username is @jimfhall, the same as my user ID on LinkedIn.

I am not stopping this blog. Please do check back for more. I will continue to post articles and reflections, but I won't be as frequent.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The end of voicemail?

How often do you pick up your voicemail? That flashing red light on your phone is a reminder that someone is trying to reach you. Depending on your role, this can be a positive thing or a distraction.

But our attitudes to voicemail are changing. Especially with the new generation of workers, voicemail is on the way out; they don't want to use it. A November 2014 article in Destination CRM Magazine, business voicemail goes unanswered. We desire other ways to connect than just the telephone.

The article highlights the customer service end of voicemail: callers don't want to leave voicemail anymore. Citing Forbes, 80 percent of callers who reach voicemail do not leave messages because they don't think anyone will listen to them. "Everyone is looking for instant gratification, and if you can't provide that...a lot of times they'll simply hang up," says Adam Boalt, CEO of LiveAnswer.

I, for one, have changed my opinion on voicemail. I used to check voicemail three times a day: in the morning when I arrived, after I got back from lunch, and at the end of the day before I went home. This allowed me to stay on top of messages and respond in a timely manner. But as times change, I do find fewer people leave voicemail. If the caller isn't able to reach me via phone, they may try to send email instead. My friends rarely leave voicemail; they text me.

In my personal life, I am an avid user of Google Voice. This not only manages my voicemails via a mobile or web interface, Voice also automatically transcribes my voicemails and sends me a text. So if I miss a call and the caller leaves voicemail, I'll get the message via text after a few minutes. As the article says, it's instant gratification.

Do you still use voicemail? How do you stay connected?
photo: spDuchamp

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Let me translate that

Over the last week or so, I have been demonstrating Google Translate with colleagues. Maybe you have used the Google Translate website to translate text from a website. For example, my involvement in open source software often puts me in contact with folks from around the world. Sometimes, a contributor will not have enough English to express themselves, so they will write to me using their native language. While I am conversationally fluent in Spanish, I'm not able to follow a more technical conversation in Spanish or any other language. So I often rely on Google Translate to help me. The translation is never perfect, but it's enough that I can understand the message.

There is also a Google Translate app on Android and on iPhone. The app includes several important features, including some recent impressive additions. Point your phone's camera at a sign, and the app will translate the text "on the fly" and display the translation on your screen. It really is like magic. Again, the translation may not be perfect, but it's enough that if you are lost while traveling abroad, you can get around.

To help you in conversations, your phone can act as the intermediary, listening to both sides of a conversation and translating where appropriate. You can speak an English phrase, and the phone will repeat the translation in your selected language- for example, in Italian. As the other person replies in Italian, your phone will repeat the translation in English. With enough context, the translation should be good enough to help you converse with others in a different language.

As I demonstrate these features, I don't position Google Translate as a replacement for learning another language. Rather, our students traveling abroad or studying overseas might find Google Translate useful in getting around. The app opens new doors to communicate. Especially during emergencies when you might not have someone else to translate for you, Google Translate can make the difference.

This was recently exhibited when paramedics responded to help a Congolese woman about to give birth in Ireland. From an article in, while en route to hospital, the woman suddenly went into labor. The paramedics "pulled over to the side of the road in order to deliver the baby, but the woman spoke limited English. That’s when Gerry had a lightbulb moment and opened up Google Translate on his phone in order to communicate with the woman." Through the app, the paramedics were able to help the woman deliver her baby girl.
image: Google