Martin Geddes

The Dog Food Test: Lessons Learned in the Land of Hypervoice

As Ambassadors from the Land of Hypervoice, we are often asked what it’s like to live there. To bring it down from the ethereal castle in the cloud and get practical: How does Hypervoice make life different? 

Staring in January, our team at the Hypervoice Consortium packed our bags and did a full cultural immersion in Hypervoicelandia.  Our main driver was the need to interview a wide spectrum of industry luminaries and gather their insights on the future of communications.  Given that we would likely have one clear shot at meeting with some of these good people, the ability to capture our sessions fully was tantamount. From these interviews, we would glean insights that would ultimately ground our own learnings and allow us to produce an ecosystem report on emergent communications companies, players and trends.  

What we realized from the start is that without a fully searchable and shareable audio archive of our conversations, we would have had lots of talk and no repudiation. One conversation would have quickly bled into another, one luminary’s insight indistinguishable from another. The resulting report would have been chockfull of our own biases. As recursive as it sounds, without Hypervoice we would have had no means to catch ourselves chugging the Hypervoice Kool-Aid.

So the journey to create the ecosystem report provided us the occasion to move into Hypervoiceland and partake in the local cuisine. Yes, we needed to eat our own dog food.  Nom. Nom. Nom.

As any product manager can tell you, dogfooding is often as unpleasant as it sounds.  If it were anything else, we would refer to it as home-cooking or locavore picnicking.  

But before going into recipes and meal-planning, I think it’s important to explain exactly what our dog food looked like.

Starting in January, we conducted over thirty phone interviews using HarQen’s Hypervoice conference calling tool, Symposia.  We structured each interview with an interviewer (me), and interviewee (a subject matter expert), and a scribe, who captured key ideas and actively took notes. By the very act of note-taking, Symposia marked up the underlying recorded audio so that a simple click on an unclear note post-conference call could deliver the audio underneath. No more guessing what that note was about.  We could revisit the conversation exactly as it had happened. In addition, slide transitions also marked up the audio, so that I could click on a slide and hear the conversation that ensued around that particular slide.  

Once we completed the interviews, our team had the task of extracting the key insights from the recorded interviews. I worked mainly from the text notes, only occasionally resorting to the spoken word. In contrast, my co-founder Kelly Fitzsimmons preferred listening to the original recordings. 

Part of this is personal preference: I like the written word, am often impatient with linear audio-visual media, and am easily distracted; whereas Kelly is dyslexic, likes audio-based media, and manages focus better. Part of it is down to lifestyle and culture: I am European, spend plenty of time on public transport, and don’t drive much, whereas she is American and has plenty of drive time to fill. I processed several interviews whilst on planes and trains. I am a newbie to Hypervoice, whereas Kelly has recorded every business conversation for several years, making her a bionic businesswoman in the process. 

An important lesson for us is that people will approach captured conversions in a variety of ways. Future tools need to provide different options for participation in conversations that reflect that difference. Given the new dimension of searchable, shareable voice, the interface issue is not trivial.  It’s akin to going from driving to flying.  There are more dimensions for which we need to account.

My top learning from becoming an active Hypervoice user reflects something that Kelly had previously said to me, but I had not yet viscerally experienced: having calls recorded, and having a good index into that recording, gives you mental space to actively listen. You are no longer concerned with this being the only opportunity to capture the thoughts being shared. In Kelly’s words:

When you have perfect recall, the anxiety of managing complex conversations goes away. You are freed up to really listen. And then what you discover is that what you hear is hardly what was said. Our listening is highly filtered by what we want to hear. And this is mostly subconscious. The ability to review reveals how far we need to go with communications.
— Kelly Fitzsimmons

With both a scribe creating notes for me, as well as the recording to fall back on for critical ideas or clarification, I was freed to put my whole concentration into actively listening to what was being said. I was better able to make sense of it in real time, and offer back strong summaries or alternative perspectives that enriched the conversation. At some level, we were subtly having a superhuman level of interaction that would not have been possible without the technology. 

As a result, I believe we got far more out of the interviews than we would have using more conventional methods. Many years ago I was involved in a “voice of the customer” exercise that involved recording, transcribing and analysing interviews. Using Hypervoice technology delivered 80% of the value with 20% of the effort.

As a result, I am now a convert. Instead of holding my nose and choking down the local Hypervoice dog food, I grew rather fond of the plain and simple cuisine.  In fact, I now find that I am craving it for all my conversations. Participating on non-hypervoice conference calls feels “broken” no matter how slickly presented the UI.

Although there remains much to be done, our journey thus far has proved to me that we are venturing into a land of Hypervoice ripe with opportunity and laden with low hanging fruits.  Our dream is that more of the great minds of the world, who are interested in these opportunities, will move to Hypervoiceland with us and reap the benefits.