Methods of Communication

James Whatley, at the Spinvox Blog, recently published some thoughts of his on ‘Confidence in Communication.’ If you’ve not read it, you’ll need to do so before my thoughts will make sense, so do that now. Here’s the link.

Ok, so, James basically says that for him, using Spinvox actually creates a sort of prioritization mechanism, the quotation marks, for him to know which messages are more important (as they originated from voice). However, I completely disagree. Spinvox isn’t creating any prioritization for me, it’s actually removing the voicemail category from my list entirely, and promoting voicemail up to the level of SMS. When I had voicemail (before I simply disabled my voicemailbox), a message might sit, unheard, for days on end. With SMS, it’s read immediately, and typically acted upon within 4 hrs, though usually in under an hour.

Spinvox also helps voice calls to not be so unbelievably annoying. You’re saying, ‘but you live and breathe mobile phones, so why is voice ranked so low in your mind?’ Easy, cause voice is the lease polite and respectful of my time. Voice phone calls are incredibly invasive. They’re basically the calling party saying to the recipient, ‘I don’t care what you’re doing right now. Whatever I have to say is infinitely more important, and thus I feel it’s ok to invade your time and demand your attention.’

A big statement, but it’s true. A voice call takes precedence over whatever you’re doing, unless your phone is on silent, but even then, I would imagine that you still glance at your phone to see who it is, and determine if they are indeed more important than what you’re doing at the moment.

Also, voicemail is not included in the list because it’s not communication – it’s notification. A voicemail is a notification that someone attempted to get ahold of you, and you were not there, so they left you a notification of the fact. More often than not, the message they actually left is simply, ‘Hey, it’s Bob, give me a call when you get this.’ Thanks Bob, because I couldn’t get that information by looking at my caller ID.

So then, how would I rank, in practice, my communication hierarchy?

1. face to face
2. email
3. IM
4. SMS
5. voice

James lists Social, but I don’t believe that is really a form of ‘communication’, necessarily. Sure, I’m active on Facebook, Jaiku, and a few others, but that’s not so much one-to-one communication. It’s more broadcast communication, and thus it doesn’t fit.

Email, as Zach points out, is actually personally preferred, due to the control that I have, though I would also add the organization mechanism. I can read an email, and then mark it as unread, so I’ll be prompted visually to check it later. I can also take as much time as I need to craft (yes, I consider it a skill to craft a really good email) a really good email response.

So, James wants to know if this new prioritization restores the primacy of voice? No. I’ve always seen voice as disruptive and invasive, unless the call is prescheduled. While that seems a bit cold and…anal, it’s also more polite, as I’m guaranteed to be attentive to you. Let’s say it’s 3pm in the afternoon and I receive a phone call. If I wasn’t expecting the call, I’m likely in the middle of working, probably reading or writing a post. If I answer, it’s unlikely that you’ll have my full attention, as I’ll be mentally trying to wrap up what I was doing.

However, if you email/IM/SMS me and say, ‘I’d like to talk to you about something, can I call you at 3p?’ then I’ll probably put it on my calendar, and a few moments before you call, I’ll be reminded. I can then have a few minutes to clear what I’m doing from my head, and be 100% focused on our phone call. It’s polite to you, and it’s respectful of my time. Win-win.

Spinvox helps facilitate this because I can send an incoming call to ‘voicemail’, which then delivers it to me instantly as an SMS. Without having to really interrupt what I’m doing, I can quickly glance over it and find out who called and what they wanted, and determine the immediacy. A regular voicemail would get no such attention.

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