17 May 2013 etbe   » (Master)

Effective Conference Calls

I’ve been part of many conference calls for work and found them seriously lacking. Firstly there’s a lack of control over the call, so when someone does something stupid like putting an unmuted phone handset near a noise source there’s no way to discover who did it and disconnect them.

Another problem is that of noise on the line when some people don’t mute their phones, which is related to the lack of control as it’s impossible to determine who isn’t muting their phone.

Possibly the biggest problem is how to determine who gets to speak next. When group discussions take place in person non-verbal methods are used to determine who gets to speak next. With a regular phone call (two people) something like the CSMACD algorithm for network packets works well. But when there are 8+ people involved it becomes time consuming to resolve issues of who speaks next even when there are no debates. This is more difficult for multinational calls which can have a signal round trip time of 700ms or more.

I think that we need a VOIP based conference call system for smart phones to manage this. I think that an ideal system would be based on the push to talk concept with software control that only allows one phone to transmit at a time. If someone else is speaking and you want to say something then you would push a button to indicate your desire but your microphone wouldn’t go live while the other person was speaking. The person speaking would be notified of your request and one of the following things would happen:

  • You are added to the queue of people wishing to speak. When the other person finished speaking the next person in the queue gets a turn.
  • You are added to the queue and the moderator of the call chooses who gets to speak next. This isn’t what I’d prefer but would probably be desired by managers for corporate calls.
  • You get to interrupt the person who’s speaking. This may not be ideal but is similar to what currently happens.

Did I miss any obvious ways for the system to react to a talk request?

Is there any free software to do something like this? A quick search of the Google Play store didn’t find anything that seems to match.

Related posts:

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  2. Phone Calls and Other Distractions Harald Welte has written about the distraction of phone calls...
  3. Talking Fast My previous post about my LCA mini-conf talk received an...

Syndicated 2013-05-17 01:53:47 from etbe - Russell Coker

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