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I didn’t listen to any voicemail in 2007. I got plenty of them – but I didn’t listen to any of them. Yet I got 100% of the information that people left to me. I discovered a magical system that transcribes voicemails to emails. And it doesn’t involve anyone that works for me.
I’ve been searching for a speech-to-text voicemail conversion system for a while. I approached the problem incorrectly – I assumed that it was a technology issue. I’d periodically come across something that tried to do what I wanted but truly sucked. For a while I had my assistant transcribe my voicemails, but that was tedious, a poor use of her time, and often had a lag if the call was after hours or when she was in the middle of other stuff. Plus, she hated doing it (think "extremely tedious part of the job – yuck.")
In my quest for a solution I came across SimulScribe early in 2007. It’s exactly what I want. For $30 / month I have my voicemails immediately transcribed and sent to my email account with the text and an attachment of the message (if – for some reason – I have to listen to it to pick up a nuance that the transcription missed.)
The real aha was that SimulScribe didn’t actually try to solve the hard technology problem (in this case – translating voice to text.) They simply outsourced it to India. Transcription has been around for a long time (it’s what your doctor’s office has been doing for decades) – using the Internet, email, low cost outsourcing, and a simple web service makes this a marvelous solution for the voicemail haters of the world. I wrote about an analogous dynamic on the post Manually Automate Your API. While it’s nice to believe that technology can be applied to processing any and all data, there is an old fashioned way to get there quickly. In some cases, like SimulScribe, it’s quite elegant.
Other folks are using this same approach, including SpinVox and Jott. I’m been happiest with SimulScribe for voicemail and can’t imagine living without it. I look forward to 2008 being another voicemail free year.