Sound letters

December 7, 2005, [MD]

My best friends are scattered all around the world, which can be very frustrating at times. Luckily, more and more opportunities are appearing for staying in touch, Skype (and the Gizmo project) being perhaps the most important - free high quality phone calls over the internet. Works out of the box. (With Gizmo you can even leave short messages, surprisingly fun). I have still to try webcams, and don’t know how that works. Also, I have been experimenting with sound letters.

I think that even with the existence of Skype, etc, sound letters still have a function - sometimes I need to just “tell a story” or “complete a line of thought”, without needing to have someone say “mhm” or “yeah” all the time. Especially because talking to others, it is very easy to get derailed. This is of course the nature of a conversation, and often it is desirable. But sometimes, it can be annoying never to be able to make a certain point. So I have been experimenting with different ways of doing it.

The best is still using Audacity to record the sound, save it as an mp3 (usually takes almost as long as the sound file is, on my slow iBook), and email it through GMail (max 10 MB pr file). This works quite well. I tried out an online system today, called podomatic, where you can actually record straight over the web (through Flash). Unfortunately, it was very choppy (as in leaving out whole 30-second segments) which made my 10 minute coherent talk into incoherent rambling. (Okay, the first version was perhaps not that coherent, but the second one was immeasurably worse, almost absurd.)

The one annoying thing about internet phonecalls is sitting in front of your computer looking at the screen talking (especially since I am using the built-in iBook mike). Buying a headset would improve this. I wonder what is next.

And of course, it does worry me slightly where this is going. Certainly, having already a lot of friends around the world, email, IM and voip are very helpful. But I would love to have a larger percentage of my good friends in Toronto (or whichever city I happen to live), instead of spread out. Does the existence of these tools help us keep long-distance friendships alive, and thus spend less time on our local friends? Are we eventually going to go all global? Or perhaps it’s only me being weird.


Stian Håklev December 7, 2005 Toronto, Canada
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