Voicemail Stinks


Dad (#346) and yours truly (#347) after finishing the Lillian Larson "Buzz" Marathon a few years ago

Today is my dad’s birthday so I’ve been thinking about him more than usual over the past week.  He isn’t on Facebook (although his dad is), and Dad’s generally weary of sharing any private information in public.  Suffice to say he definitely doesn’t blog, gives out his social security number more reluctantly than anyone I know, and is absolutely going to hate this post.

Growing up, my dad had an office at home so my brothers and I got to see the latest in corporate innovations in real time.  I vividly remember watching him receive his first fax (“you can instantly send a piece of PAPER thousands of miles?!  Magic!”), and one day he brought home a small – but very heavy – briefcase that housed a PORTABLE telephone.  Whoa.

Dad also has an uncanny ability to see the big picture.  For example, on a family vacation in the late ’80s, I vividly remember him claiming that some day we wouldn’t share one phone number for the whole family, but that everyone would have their own personal phone which we would carry around in our pocket wherever we went.  I genuinely thought he was telling a fairy tale.  Sure enough, within a decade I didn’t have a landline.

Today, Dad sends text messages with the enthusiasm of a teenage girl (okay, not quite – hold the emoticons), and he sends photos he’s snapped from his Blackberry as if he’s been doing it his whole life.  One thing he won’t advance with, however, is voicemail.  He loves it.  I think it’s a function of starting his career without email/IM/video chat/etc., but he’ll never give it up.  I’m certainly “my father’s son” in many ways, but for me, voicemail really stinks.  Here are my top reasons why:

  • Searching is brutal.
  • It’s hard to reply and even harder to forward.
  • One can’t discretely sneak a look during a boring meeting in the same way they could an email.
  • When the message actually happens to contain important info, it’s almost always left at the end and spoken quickly, forcing the receiver to listen all over again.
  • Google Voice (and similar services) are a step in the right direction, but they never really work properly.
  • The user has to listen at the speed the message was delivered.  No skipping through the rambling intro.
  • It’s awkward to leave a voicemail during off hours (the caller might wake the receiver, for example).
  • Most smart phone users need to have a strong cell signal to retrieve voicemail or they’re forced to proactively call into their own number and enter the passcode (which is hard to do without a strong cell signal).

I dislike voicemail so much that I actually just changed my outgoing message to “Hi, you’ve reached Mike Katz.  I do not check this voicemail.  The best way to reach me is to send a text message to this number or to send me an email.  Thanks.”  As an aside, I generally like video as a medium, but it has many of the same shortcomings as voicemail in terms of a communication format (in recruiting, it takes 4-5 times longer to watch someone tell their “story” in a video resume as opposed to scanning their LinkedIn profile).  More on that in another post, however.

Anyway, happy birthday, Dad.  If you’re reading this, I left you a voicemail earlier so give me a ring when you get a chance.  I figured on the anniversary of your birth I’d do it your way.

  • http://twitter.com/marissa marissa

    haven’t you left me voicemails that i’ve ignored? i believe so.

  • http://MikeKatz.com Mike Katz

    Absolutely – not even a question! When I need to get your attention quickly I know to write a text message that begins: “So I’m shooting hoops with Amar’e Stoudemire and he wants to know…”