Attempting to Reconcile the value of Telephone Communications

I’m not sure what value and importance other people place on telephones, but I place little value on telephones: if I need to make a phone call I consider that to be a great inconvenience.

So I am attempting to reconcile the value of a telephone. Personally I don’t talk very much, I tend to listen more than I talk, so I have never really had much use for a phone. If I need information I tend to seek it from books, not from people. So I can generally be found, reading, writing or drawing. I probably spend as much time writing articles as I spend writing computer programs.

The Business and the Phone – the Past

In the past we had a land line, and we moved the phone number around from building to building as we moved the location of the office. We had phone number and dedicated fax line. Most business related phone calls typically ended in please send a fax. We work with visual information, and in a form typically considered to be a permanent record.

Since private individuals seldom had a fax machine, these people usually turned up at the office, either bringing their own sketches or we would sketch whilst they were talking. Being local was considered important, neither small builders or private individuals wanted to travel into the city centre (approx 18km away from TTG). The reasons being travel distance, time taken, problems with parking, long waits in reception area, getting fobbed off with recent graduate, never getting to talk to supervising engineer. However there is a problem with being readily available, it takes us away from doing the paid work.

It should also be noted that a pareto principle applied: 80% of clients only accounted for 20% of our income, and they also consumed the bulk of time. We had a choice either work on large projects or find better ways to handle the smaller projects. My belief was that larger projects are infrequent and not sustainable, and that it was better to find better ways to handle the smaller projects since they are always around. Roy’s choice was the shorter term, pay the mortgage, get to retirement, go with the flow. Since the flow of projects is random, the projects have to be handled on the basis of priority: first come, first served (FIFO) does not assign the priority. Priority is assigned on the basis of completeness of information received, ability to get stuck into the project and complete, and likelyhood of getting paid, and how interesting the project is. Larger projects tend to have more complete information and the better income stream. The consequence is that smaller projects got cast aside. As expected the larger projects dried up: Roy paid off the mortgage and got to retirement. I get to start from scratch.

A large number of the phone calls comprised of:

  1. Salespeople wanting us to change telephone service providers
  2. International traders wanting us to get into the share market
  3. Charities wanting large donations
  4. People conducting surveys
  5. People just selling stuff
  6. People who don’t pay attention to timeframes. They were told 4 weeks, but keep phoning during the first week, trying to push to the front of the queue.
  7. People who don’t pay attention to requirements for 48 hours notice, and phone 1 hour before require us to visit site.
  8. People seeking wrong services and need to be directed else where (to builders, plan drafters, building designers, ArchiCentre)
  9. People wanting free advice
  10. People who were told 4 weeks, do pay attention, but were otherwise being neglected {These are understandable: and their wants being delayed by the time wasted by everyone above.}

The result of interruptive phone calls was the telephone answering machine was on all the time, and we monitored phone calls. Regular clients were advised to leave a message, if we were available we would intercept and answer the call. Since most people don’t or didn’t like leaving messages, smaller jobs from individuals tended to drop off. Also salespeople and those conducting market surveys, and charities tend not to say who they are or what they want when they leave messages: hence these kind of messages were given low priority and the call seldom returned.

In short our use of the phone and fax had diminished. The information we typically requested to be faxed was emailed, and communications by email increased, so the phone became of limited value. Roy checked his emails intermittently, whilst my email software was open all day, with notifications. So I was the easiest one to contact, and likely to respond as quickly as I could compile an answer.

The Business and the Phone – the Present

When the business retracted back home around beginning of 2014, we did not have the phone number transferred, as most communications by that time were either by email or via Roy’s mobile phone. Roy’s phone is switched off most of the time, and he doesn’t check messages until sometime near the end of the day. Similarly he doesn’t check emails until near the end of the day.

As I indicated I have little use for a phone, and I didn’t get a mobile phone until around the middle of 2014, and I didn’t get it because I wanted a phone, I got it because it’s an handheld mobile computing device: computers I have use for. Very few people have my phone number. Unlike Roy’s phone, I try to switch the phone on between 13:00 and 17:00 Monday to Friday. I don’t have a voice messaging service. I don’t want voice messages as I have better things to do with my time than chasing people up leaving messages on their messaging services. If I am available to answer the call, I will answer. If your number is not in my contacts list, and your caller ID is not available, and I am not expecting a call,  then chances are, I will not answer the call.  Phone numbers for regular clients are most likely in my contact list. My phone therefore is not the most appropriate means of making first contact.

In our current location, the office space we rent does not have any phone lines. All our business communications are via mobile phone and mobile internet. We have ADSL internet access at home. Emails are checked at home before going to the office. Once at the office emails are checked on my mobile phone intermittently, once it is switched on. Emails are again further checked at home. Sending and receiving large files (larger than 1 MByte) are best done from home (eg. at the start or end of the day).

Thus compared to the past emails are no longer monitored continuously, as my mobile phone doesn’t give a visual notification of the emails direct to my computer screen: and I’m not switching an audible notification on. I don’t want mobile broadband on all the time on my computer, as I don’t want automated software updates consuming my limited data allowance. Put simply we are not available all the time, and we shouldn’t need to be. Giving free advice during meetings in the office or over the telephone, was not and is not sustainable: we are consultants, we are supposed to be paid for the advice we give. If you want free advice this website is available 24 hours every day (or at least approximately so, depending on the reliability of our web hosting provider).

Thus far the only way I know to handle large numbers of low paying individuals with small projects, is by developing online do-it-yourself services. Developing D.I.Y services will take a long time to develop. Until such are available, the fastest approach is to make use of standard data forms delivered by email and/or web site.

Internet Access

According to statistics on ABS and elsewhere, most of Australia’s population has access to the internet, therefore using a website and email is not exclusionary.

  1. 8146.0 – Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2014-15
  2. 8153.0 – Internet Activity, Australia, June 2016
  3. Australians get mobile | ACMA
  4. Our digital nation: Australia one of the highest users of mobile phones globally + majority of Australians use the internet every week – Campaign Brief Australia
  5. Australia has more phones than people | SBS News
  6. 9 in 10 Aussie teens now have a mobile (and most are already on to their second or subsequent handset) – Roy Morgan Research
  7. 28 Impressive Facts about the Australian Mobile Market
  8. The Rise of the Mobile-Only User
  9. Why the Internet’s Next Billion Users Will Be Mobile-Only | Time.com
  10. Richmond’s internet a pilot for remote communities | Stock Journal

However, it seems that an increasing number of people only have a mobile phone to connect to the internet. A mobile phone keyboard however is not all that convenient for adult sized fingers to use. However, given that portable handheld computing devices is the future of computing devices, it should be possible to connect larger keyboards and displays to a mobile phone, and such is possible, as the following show:

  1. There can only be one: Smartphones are the PCs of the future – ExtremeTech
  2. Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into A Desktop Replacement
  3. Connect an Android Smartphone or Tablet to a Monitor, USB Keyboard and Mouse Easily with a DisplayLink Docking Station
  4. Then there is: Mini PC: Intel® NUC
  5. and Raspberry Pi – Teach, Learn, and Make with Raspberry Pi

Reading this website using a mobile phone is possible, I check it occasionally with my own phone. Reading emails with a mobile phone is convenient. Answering emails by phone, is not so convenient. However, I don’t expect people to be nonchalantly answering emails and describing their projects whilst out and about driving their cars. Nor do I expect phone calls to be used in such a wasteful manner. If you have a project you wish me to assist with, then I expect that you take the project seriously, and sit down and document your intentions, and thus make a permanent record so that you do not forget what you want and can also see what you have missed and thus add to your wants. As long as the idea is in your head it is impermanent and mutable, and so your thoughts tomorrow are likely to be different.

Building and machine structures are going to be around for a long time, as are any mistakes in their design and construction. The first stage towards such permanence is a documented specification of intent. Such document is semi-permanent and will likely go through several mutations before finally settle on a specification which will finally be implemented. Buildings are typically described by plan drafters, building designers, architects and builders. Once a building is described then an engineer fits a structure to the building: the architect is typically responsible for the whole building. If you do not have plans of the proposed building, and approach an engineer, then you are requesting the engineer also take on the role of plan drafter and architect. Unless the consultants provide a one stop shop then such is not appropriate.

Consulting Structural Designers/Engineers, typically only provide one stop shop for machine structures and other non-building structures. If the structure is a building they can provide full design and documentation only if the building is simple enough that it does not require any architectural design and does not require any electrical/mechanical building services. (eg. sheds, carports, verandahs. retaining walls, cranes)

In any case, phone or email: do not expect immediate response. However, if want to make contact then use email, as a random phone call is likely to miss the mark. If phone then I repeat, my phone is likely switched on between 13:00 and 17:00, therefore best time to call would be between 14:00 and 16:00, Monday to Thursday. Fridays, I tend to stay home, to do admin and accounts, and to make use of the ADSL internet connection: and the day I am most likely to completely forget about my phone: as I can check emails without the hassle of plugging in mobile broadband device, which is typically inconvenient and in the way (Some fool shifted usb connections from top edge of laptop computers to lower edge, where devices plugged into are more likely to be leaned on and damaged. And shifted optical drive from left to the right, where opening clashes with horizontal platform of tilting computer stand. Good design seems to be going down the proverbial gurgler. Design seems to be plagued by the bad advice and opinions of UI/UX experts who have experience of stuff all.)


Notes:

  1. I have the sound on my computer switched off.  Also in the past I mostly watched the TV with the sound switched off, thus favouring TV stations with subtitles: namely our foreign language station SBS. It is easier to watch TV and read/write without the sound. If the movie more interesting than the book or other task, then switch sound on, else keep reading and the TV just background window on the world. Currently I cannot get away from other people watching the TV, and spend more time listening to the TV. Furthermore by listening to this unwanted distraction, I seem to know more about the shows than those supposedly purposefully watching the shows. I do not observe blindly.
  2. I do not believe that people have the right to know. Whilst people may have a desire to know everything about anyone, they certainly shouldn’t have a right to know.
  3. Whilst people may have a desire to be able to contact anyone, anytime and anywhere, they do not have a right to be able to contact anyone, anytime, anywhere.
  4. People should have a right to privacy and solitude.

Revisions:

  1. [17/02/2017] : Original Post
  2. [03/03/2017] : Minor Edits