T9 Provokes Gossip

November 12, 2006 at 2:08 am 6 comments

On the subject of T9 mistakes, earlier this week, I got a text message from a friend that simply read:

“r u pregant?”

The question seemed pretty out of the blue, but upon inquiry it turns out the T9 on my phone was to blame. 

Earlier in the day, I had sent a message to that friend to talk about lunch.  In the middle of the message, T9 guessed one word (not sure which one) as “mommy”.  It was a mistake I did not catch or correct.  So my friend received a message with the word “mommy” inexplicably in the middle. 

She thought I was trying to send her a secret message!  🙂

Entry filed under: Ann.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Clint  |  November 12, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    I still don’t get why people use phones to write each other. That’s what email is for. I find it strange that there is a class of written communications that is more immediate than email, but less immediate than actually calling someone. 🙂 I mean, all that just sounds like a huge pain 🙂

  • 2. tgaw  |  November 12, 2006 at 4:33 pm

    I’m actually quite a convert to text messaging. I know you dislike cell phones period, and I suspect some of the reasons you dislike them are exactly the reasons I like them. 🙂 But anyway, for what it’s worth, here are some aspects of text messaging I appreciate.

    It provides for easier multitasking. If I’m eating dinner with someone, I can continue my conversation with them while typing a brief message to someone else. Whereas if I was going to call, I would have to shush the other person and put them completely on hold while I called. Plus that person (and any nearby tables) would have to then listen to everything I had to say which may or may not be of interest to them.

    I also like that you can transmit relevant bursts of information you need right away without the overhead of making conversation. For example, sometimes I have Sean look up information on the computer (like weather when I’m hiking). He and I don’t have to be on the line and make small talk while he walks to the computer and pulls up wunderground.com. I can send my request then continue along my way and my phone will beep when the answer has arrived. Similiarly, there have been times where I’m in an airport waiting for a connection and I know immediately my flight is delayed because Sean messages me. In one case, I knew a good half hour before the airport annonced it and posted it on the screens.

    Picture messaging proved to be useful last week. One of our friends needed to borrow a particular wire for a video camera. Sean and I were actually on the phone and he was verbally describing the wire to me. I found a matching one and described it back to him. Our verbal descriptions were still not conclusive, so I took a picture of the wire on my cell phone and sent it to his and he was able to confirm it was the correct wire within seconds. No need to come all the way home.

    Text messaging is also helpful if one or both parties are passing through a spotty reception area. We may not have enough reception for an ongoing conversation, but with a text message I just need enough reception to transmit it. And if the other person is in a bad area, I don’t have to keep calling and calling and calling until they are back in range. I send my message and continue on. When they return in range, the message is delivered. I’ve been on hikes where my voice cuts in and out to Sean, but I manage to get a text message with the pertinent information through.

    And take the case where the person you need to communicate with has perfect reception but they are in a loud place like a bar, football game or concert. Despite the good reception, it would be a struggle for them to hear you and decipher your voice…but they can still read!

    Finally, I like the discreteness of text messaging. It is particularly useful if you wanted to talk poorly about someone who is in earshot… just as long as you don’t accidently send the message to *that* person! 😉

    Quick discreteness story. I got stuck on a conference call during lunch one day. While I was speaking with the customers, my phone vibrated. I took a quick look and found a text message from Larry. It read:

    “Ha ha We are eating while you are in a meeting!”

    So even though the meeting kept me for eating with my friends, I still got a little taste of their humor and company. Meanwhile the customer was none the wiser and I was able to carry out my job duties 🙂

    I’ve come a long way from the days where I didn’t even subscribe to text messaging and did not understand what Sean and my colleagues saw in it. Now, it is a significant form of my communication, particularly with Sean, Larry and Ann.

  • 3. Clint  |  November 21, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    Well, it should be no surprise that I disagree with most of this.

    1) “It provides for easier multitasking.”

    Yes, receiving a text message in a restaurant is less invasive & obtrusive than a call.

    But how about, heaven forbid, a meal where you can actually sit down, talk to the person who is there face to face, and NOT TAKE ANY COMMUNICATIONS during this time.

    Are your plans really goign to change in mid-meal? Is something going to come up where you have to dash out of your chair and run to your car and drive away (and I guess pay the check real quick)?

    If so, it would probably be a voice call, not a text message.

    If not, then it is providing no other purpose than giving you information that you don’t truly need at the moment. It is superflous at best, and rude at worst. I sure as hell wont make dinner plans with someone who has an exit strategy for leaving mid-meal, or needs to stay connected to a device rather than having a conversation with me.

    Either the information transmitted to you is immediately useful (and, if actionable, that would most lkely be a voice call), or it is not, in which case IT CAN WAIT UNTIL AFTER DINNER. You don’t need to be taking messages as you eat with me.

    I don’t think that the “it’s less intrusive than a voice call during situations where using a cell phone would be considered rude” makes it not rude. It simply lowers the degree of rudeness.

    If the message is about after dinner plans, you can check it after dinner.

    Or, heaven forbid, people actually plan their evenings.

    2) “Also like that you can transmit relevant bursts of information you need right away without the overhead of making conversation.”

    While that fact is true, I still disagree that this is a good reason to text message.

    Calling someone and SPEAKING to them, or leaving a voice mail, are both far easier than typing on a non-qwerty keyboard. Less buttons to push. Perhaps the skilled can text as fast as they leave voicemail with neat tricks like word autocompleting. I’ve made maybe 1 text message in my life. I could have made the call twice over in the time it took.

    Checking voicemail is comparable to checking text messages (same effort, same number of buttons to press, more time because listening is slower than reading).

    But at least you get to TALK TO A HUMAN.

    There’s nothing more annoying than getting a
    call, finding a phone, picking it up, then only getting 1 line of text out of all that overhead. I got interrupted for a line of text?!?!

    A line that could have been an email in many cases…

    I have lost count of how many TV shows we’ve been in the middle of watching, had to pause, go find Carolyn’s cell phone, go into the menus, and simply find out it was a 1 line text message that did not have timely impact or importance, and could have simply been an email (i.e. non-interrupting medium). This “lack of overhead” and ease on your part simply translates to more interruptings, getting out of comfy chairs, and rooting around dark spaces to find a cellphone that we had no intention of answering while watching a video. (It would help if I was familiar with the ringtones on the new phone.. in which case text messages would be ignored until later.)

    You do that via voice too — make us stop everything we’re doing just to ask a yes/no question that has no timely impact. But at least when it’s voice there is a semblance of human interaction.

    And that’s just 1 person, you, texting 1 person, Carolyn. I can’t imagine the level of interruption if everyone I knew was texting me all the time. I’d reject the messages. I sure as hell woudln’t pay 10 cents to receive something that should be a free email. Corporate greed?

    3) Picture messaging.
    That wasn’t what I was talking about. I was talking about text messaging. Picture messaging actually makes a lot of sense — yardsales, hardware stores, flea markets.

    4) Spotty reception.
    If your plan is so delicate that you must rely on text messages getting through in areas of spotty reception, then you are a poor planner that I would not want to share plans with.

    If a plan is so lacking in contingencies that one must have CONSTANT contact with everyone else involved in order for it to succeed, then the plan itself is already quite lacking. Even if the objective somehow manages to succeed, I would consider any plan hinging on cellphone service to be a bad plan.

    At best, cell phone reception should be the *contingency*, not the plan itself.

    And — voice mail often works on those situations too, if 1 side can still get service. I’d rather have a voice mail.

    5) Loud place like a bar.
    If you are at a public place to be surrounded by people that you want to ignore in favor of a portable electronic device — then leave. You have no business in the public. You are taking up space in which a human being who might actually interact with another human being could be taking up. If I take you to a bar and you are playing with your phone, I am going to consider you uninterested in the scene at best, divisive and antisocial at the worst.

    Now, I’m not saying I’ve never played with an electronic device in an anti-social way. But you wont see me going to a bar with an ipod on, or at a house party with a blackberry. That’s just rude.

    Either you want to be there, or you don’t. If you’d rather be talking to someone else, LEAVE.

    Pretty soon we’ll have a society where 1000 people can gather in a public place without interacting with anyone else in the slightest. Do you think that is a good direction for society or the human species to go in?

    6) Talking discretely about someone.

    That’s simply an argument of impatience. Rather than wait until you are in a closed space with person X, so that you can gossip about person Y, you are so impatient as to have to text the gossip ahead while the person you are badmouthing is still there! I know you’ve done this to the wrong person and gotten in trouble for it. Isn’t it easier to keep gossip where it belongs — as speech with no record? Gossip is generally a bad thing. So text messages making it easier is now a good thing? I don’t buy it. It’s funny, but it’s like passing a note in class: rude.

    7) “Ha ha We are eating while you are in a meeting!”

    That’s another impatience argument. You have to be electronically connected to your friends at all times to be happy?! You can’t get through a meeting without electronic morale-boosting messages?!? C’mon now! You’re at a meeting. I know meetings are paticularly boring, but I don’t think getting text messages is going to redeem that. If I was running the meeting I would be offended if someone was checking their cellphone while I was trying to address the group. It’s about as appropriate as answering a voice call in the middle of a meeting. That it is less obtrusive does not at all change the interrupting and inappropriate nature of such things.

    Wow. I sound like a conservative. (runs away)

  • 4. tgaw  |  November 21, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    Wow! That is the longest comment ever posted on my blog! I don’t think I can top your length…but I may get close!

    Anyway, although I can appreciate your distaste for the technology (as I once was a skeptic), you won’t be able to sway me in the affection I have for it now. It may be the kind of thing that you have to use regularly to appreciate– I certainly never visualized how beneficial I would find text messaging to be.

    Anyway, some notes/responses:

    1) Speed of Voicemail and Text Messaging
    There is a learning curve with text messaging and there is a learning curve with the phone menus, for sure. Every time I had to use Larry’s phone for something, I’m always fumbling around. However, with your own phone you quickly become familiar with the controls. Between T9 (aka autocomplete) and familiarity of the functions, text messaging in our social group is very rapid. I did two timed experiments this evening and it is *substantially* faster than leaving a voicemail.

    In my first experiment, I sent two identical messages to Ann– one as a text message and one as a voicemail. The text message (and keep in mind I am familiar with my phone and use T9) took 23 seconds. When I left the voicemail, at 23 seconds the phone was still ringing. The voicemail picked up and you have to listen to the message and wait for the beep. By the time I left my message and hung up– 1 minute and 13 seconds had gone by.

    In the second experiment, I picked up an identical text message and voicemail. With the text message I have a total of three keys to hit (Message, Inbox, View). It took me 4 seconds to pull up a message. There are significantly more buttons to push for voicemail. I have to hit *86 (already matching what I pushed for text messaging) then Send. Then my passcode. Then # and then 1 to hear messages. It took me 25 seconds to get to the voicemail.

    I was surprised by the results of the first experiment (I thought the two would be closer with the typing that had to be done), but I had a feeling about the second results. I already knew how I much rather would get a text messaging than a voicemail because of how few steps there were. It’s such a pain to retrieve a voicemail.

    Anyway by text messaging, rather than leaving a voicemail message, I am not only saving myself time– but I’m saving my recipient time (assuming they are familiar with their phone).

    I didn’t time text messaging vs. speaking. I suspect speaking is faster (assuming a prompt pickup– I believe it was three rings that got me to 23 seconds in my voicemail trial), but I still feel there are a lot of thoughts that are better via a concise text than an entire phone call.

    2) Changing of Plans
    You mentioned a couple of times of the scenario of people changing their plans. For example, in #1– you asked me if I was going to change my plans mid-meal. Actually, no. I didn’t say anything about devising alternate plans… so I’m not sure where you got that? Anyway, I’m not messaging about other plans. Furthermore, I can’t recall a single incident where someone here found out about another event via a text message and left the original event (people typically know about those ahead of time).

    Now, where I live could be a factor– we don’t have as many concurrent events competing for time. But, I suspect how our social group uses the technology is also a factor. When we text message at a dinner or at a party or at a football game, it isn’t a constant polling to see what is going on at other locales. Not in the least. Rather, those conversations are frequently an enhancement to the current conversation. For example, a few weeks ago a number of us were together and the subject of Brian Vandervort appearing in a music video came up. We couldn’t remember the video, so we sent a message off the Brian and he wrote back:

    “Bed of roses. The proudest moment of my life.”

    We all got a good laugh and even though Brian now lives in a different state, he was with us that evening.

    Not only can the content of the text message supplement the current conversation, it is often inclusive. It is not unusual for a message to be read aloud to the group. This can range for details on a football injury (like we received last week while in the stadium), to trivia, to funny antidotes or statements or just relaying someone’s poor predicament. “Brian says…”, “Bill says…”, “Good Lord, Jon’s been in traffic for 2 hours”

    And on a few occasions there has actually been a group collaboration to come up with the best wise ass remark to someone who now lives out of town!

    Also– text messaging is not constant– we aren’t sitting there and ignoring all others and the environment to constantly message to faraway buddies– and because of the speed I don’t think it is nearly the interruption you believe.

    In our social group, text messaging is not perceived as rude. I’m sure text messaging can be rude– I’m sure people use it to shop around for different activities…. but that is not the way we use it.

    3) Interrupting Medium
    It doesn’t have to be an interrupting medium. It is the user who decides whether it is an interrupting medium. You can just as easily have set your email up to beep. Just like an incoming email, you don’t have to get up when your phone beeps and you don’t even have to have your phone set up to beep. There isn’t an expiration time– the text message will wait until you choose to go to your phone. It’s your choice.

    4) Spotty Reception Need != Poor Planner
    I think I should elaborate on just why I find text messaging in spotty reception valuable. I hike. I often hike alone (unless you count two dogs). I have hiked from the crack of dawn until just after dusk. I have hiked where I have not seen a single human being the entire trip. And with every hike there is indeed a chance (albeit very small) that something can go wrong. Therefore, having a communication means at my disposal is important to me. Now there are times, where I can get a call to go through when I can’t get a text message out. But I’ve found a lot more occasions the other way around. Finally, there are times were neither works (luckily more and more rare these days). Nonetheless, having that extra tool of text messaging at my disposal increases my communication opportunities. This is extremely valuable to me.

    Now, I *always* check the weather before I leave. However, especially in the summer, a thunderstorm can crop up. I may sense a change in humidity or note some clouds which is why I’ll have Sean check the radar. This is not poor planning. This is staying abreast of my surroundings and being advised so I can revise the plan and/or seek shelter accordingly. When I leave, knowing the mileage and the altitude change I always communicate Sean my expected travel time and he always knows my planned route. During the hike, I will message Sean to let him know where I’m at. This is not poor planning. This is communicating compliance to the plan. Sean knows where I’m at and when. He’ll have a revised ball park for when I’ll be home. Finally, this is arming Sean with information that will prove to be crucial in the (very unlikely!) event something happens.

    Of course, I don’t *bank* on having cell phone access, but taking advantage of it being there is not poor planning. Rather I see it as the other way around.

    5) Meeting Example
    It sounds like you have a picture of me in a meeting full of execs with my cell phone in hand, ignoring them, so I can type away. That’s absolutely not the case. In fact, unless an emergency or an ongoing customer issue is in progress, I leave my cell phone at desk (Exercising my choice whether it is an interrupting medium). Look closely at my original description in the first sentence — I mentioned the meeting was a “conference call”. I gave a very summarized, compressed account before, so let me expand the picture a bit. In this particular case, I was in a conference call alone in my office with Mexican clients where I connected remotely to their server to assist with some server maintenance. Now, in case you aren’t familiar with this kind of scenario with Mexico– there is a lag. Most of it is technological— waiting for the remote screen to register your clicks, or waiting for an executable to finish executing or waiting for an application to load. Some of it is language related– I have been on calls where the user is literally typing what they want to say in something like Babelfish first. And I’ve been on calls where there is an actual translator on, so about half the text is not decipherable to me period. I don’t quite remember if there was a language delay in this particular meeting, but I was still facing the technological delay. In this situation, is doodling on my notepad while waiting rude? No! And I don’t think reading that text message was either…especially considering it took less time than most of my doodles! 🙂

    As far as “You can’t get through a meeting without electronic morale-boosting messages?!?” I think you made quite the presumptuous leap there. I can get through meetings without morale boosts. In fact, I do it quite a bit every work day. Tomorrow I’m scheduled to exercise that ability for 4 hours and that is the day before a holiday! The electronic morale boosts is certainly not something I need. But, when you are in a situation where you are counting to 10 after every click of the mouse? Why, yes, it does bring a little bit of joy to the moment. I don’t see anything wrong with that added joy.

    6) Gossip Trouble
    Quick clarification– I did not get in trouble for my “controversial” text message to Ann about Ann falling asleep. Rather, it is a story we share and laugh about with great amusement.

    Poop. I think that’s all I wanted to cover. I don’t think I beat your word count.

  • 5. tgaw  |  November 21, 2006 at 10:47 pm

    Whoa…. I did beat your word count. Not only that, I dusted it! (9,734 to 6,874)

  • 6. tgaw  |  November 22, 2006 at 10:27 am

    I have some corrections to my comment this morning!

    1) My keypress count for retrieving a text message was wrong. The “long way” which I cited yesterday actually requires me to press an arrow key twice to get to my Inbox, which I forgot to count. So it would be a total five key presses, instead of three. Of course, there is the “short way” where a screen pops up when the message arrives and asks if you what to view it. If I take advantage of that– it’s only one key press. Either way, my claim of “three” was wrong.

    2) As soon as I walked in this morning I found out my afternoon meeting was canceled! So my claim of four hours of commitment today needs to be revised. Now I’m only scheduled for 2 hours. 🙂


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