The Mangle

June 29, 2007

Unified Messaging – a New Frontier for Global Embarassment?

Filed under: Real Stuff — themangle @ 6:54 am

I received my first voicemail via my email inbox the other day – a pretty momentous event! Not long afterwards, I received two forwarded voicemails from colleagues – one a WAV file from a Cisco Unity system, and the other a WMA file from Microsoft Exchange 2007. That got me thinking about some of the more famous emails that have found their way out onto the Internet, much to the embarassment of the sender – such as Claire Swires back in 2000 and two Sydney legal secretaries in 2005 – and how much worse it might be in a unified messaging world!

For those who came in late, unified messaging is a technology that is growing in popularity where organisations are dispensing with separate voicemail, email and fax systems to centralise them into one location – the email inbox. If someone calls you and goes through to voicemail, that voicemail is recorded and stored in a digital format and sent through to you as a sound file in your inbox, appearing as just another “email” with an attachment. You can click on the attachment and listen to the message through your PC. The same thing works for a fax…

So why is the unified messaging scenario so much more damaging than email? For one, your embarassing message isn’t just something you wrote down – it is your voice people are listening to, as the file does the rounds in cyberspace! It’s going to be pretty hard to deny you ever said it, when someone plays the message back to you! Your voice also has the potential to be used as the soundtrack to a video posted up on YouTube or maybe even downloaded and turned into someone’s mobile ringtone.

At a more mundane level, it’s more than likely that innocuous voicemails from prominent people – celebrities, politicians and tycoons – will start proliferating on the Web, with a whole new subculture emerging online – people collecting and trading voicemails from Paris Hilton, Bill Gates and the like!

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