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Make it Ridiculous (Till it’s Awesome)

I’m finally getting around to writing up my presentation at the “Telephony is Sexy” edition of the SF Telephony Meetup on December 16th. I wish I’d spoken to Clay Shirky before I went out to California, as I have him to thank for the apt title of this post, a phrase he overheard used recently to describe the modus operandi of ITP, which over the last two years I’ve largely co-opted as my own.

My fellow presenters spoke about hacking up a windshield display using a pico projector and a mobile phone, replacing the expensive and proprietary handheld devices used by large enterprises to track inventory and maintenance requests with already ubiquitous mobile handsets—basically, “why isn’t there an app for that?”—, and using web sockets with telephony platforms like Tropo to create persistent connections (for games and the like). There was a lot of code and engineering speak, peppered with good-natured technical objections from the audience.

I spoke about the importance of playing, of doing things that seem totally useless but fun in the interest of stumbling upon new ideas that might not be so useless. I showed my perennial favorite, Generative Social Networking, the ever-popular Botanicalls, the ill-fated Popularity Dialer, and the soon-to-be-huge Megaphone alongside my Eliza project and my more recent forays into accented speech synthesis:

Call Iñigo and his ESL friends by dialing: +1 617-466-6212


If I’d had a bit more time, I would also have shown Sebastian Buys’s amazingly Rube Goldberg-y World of Warcraft phone-in project, which is tragically not documented anywhere. Because Blizzard doesn’t include any hooks for third-party developers in its code, Sebastian captured screenshots of the game, used OCR to turn the image of the chat box at the bottom of the screen into machine-readable text, and then fed it into an Asterisk script so that a remote user can call in and have his guild’s chatter read to him by a robot over the phone even when he’s not close to his computer. Amazing.

I might also have shown my knock-knock jokes:

Knock knock answering service: +1 617-682-9322


I was a little disappointed I didn’t get any objections from the audience, but I did get a couple of very nice emails!

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