‘Clear as mud…’ (Considering telephone conference calls)

A telephone conference takes all the participants’ voices and squishes them together. Ideas can be communicated and action steps decided etc, but later it’s really hard to recall who was who, and who said what during the call.

Mud pie chart conference call diagram
The joys of a conference call...

Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life gave a talk in April of this year to the Gronstedt Group in Second Life. During this talk he described his frustration with telephone conference calls:

“Think about when you are sitting at a meeting using a speaker phone, and you are staring at that speaker, and then after a while you become frustrated because you think; ‘Why am I looking at this stupid phone’, and you try to look at the other people but that feels really awkward, so you look at the ceiling. Then you kind of give up in frustration and maybe look back at the phone.”

Philip Rosedale then added that our brain localizes “the voices that it hears as being little tiny humans that are sitting somehow inside that phone… If there are multiple people at the end of your line your brain images them all as being trapped inside that little phone, and that’s really unpleasant because two people (or more) are right in the exact same space. When they are speaking to you from the same place… your brain has a hard time.” (Rosedale, 2009).

"...little tiny humans that are sitting somehow inside that phone…"
"...little tiny humans that are sitting somehow inside that phone…"

Philip Rosedale, Founder of Linden Labs. Gronstedt Group. Second Life.  April 2009. To hear more visit: http://www.gronstedtgroup.com/MP3s/Philip_Rosedale_Linden_Lab.mp3

(Post update: Friday May 29. Image showing tiny humans trapped inside phone added as a lacy kerchief wave to Dusan’s post titled Philipisms #7 – Get Those Tiny Humans Out of Your Head)

3 thoughts on “‘Clear as mud…’ (Considering telephone conference calls)

  1. Wow, what a chain of discussion leading (so far)to Prokofy Neva!
    I am really impressed!
    Good job, even if your last three posts are reminding me too much of my actual working conditions…

  2. in video conferencing systems (which I have used) there is an explicit queuing system to talk, with off-line IM for cross talk and back up URLs etc. Thus you always have the face for the talker, and only one at a time. This does slow up the flow of conversation- however in phone conference calls one ends up unintentionally riding over each other, starting at the same time etc. so in effect one learns to wait in a queue and identify oneself.

    I wonder why these sorts of mechanisms are not implemented in voice-only conference calls.

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