More spin than vox

For sometime I've been aware of a service called Spinvox that converts voicemails into text messages. Very handy as a) its faster to read a text than listen to voicemail b) any numbers left are automatically written down [no more fumbling for paper and pen only to have to listen to the message a few times] c) you can discretely read your voicemails in meetings! Whilst its not cheap, its useful.

The service is receiving plaudits in the blogosphere - its even rated a mention on Techcrunch, the high altar of Web 2.0 applications.

However, "SPIN" vox is apparently a clue to this apps underlying tech credentials - apparently I understand from informed sources that this is absolutely HUMAN translation. Spinvox voicemail message are routed to India for human operators to code and then send out as text messages. As a consequence, they have specific issues in providing the service to non-English speaking markets and in scaling the service up.

The Spinvox business is also up for sale, and its being touted round London right now. For potential buyers in the telcon space they believe that it would be relatively straight forward to replicate and hence aren't convinced that its worth much of a premium. Furthermore, taking such a volume sensitive service into the mass market could involve considerable difficulties in maintaining service levels.

So big applause for making available a convenient service - but only moderate applause for marginally updating phone based transcription services and outsourcing it to a cheap labour market. Not sure that this really qualifies as "Web 2.0".

posted by John Wilson @ 9:31 PM Permanent Link newsvine reddit


At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Liam said...

John, i'm looking into this company as part of some research i'm doing. I wondered if you could tell me what you know about the alleged human element to this service? Where did you find this out?

At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BS - why are spreading FUD when you are talking out of your behind? Here - try try dictating this
"Jim, hey it's Bob. It's about, think it's like 6:30 or so. Just wondering where you are & I might try calling Alan at home just in case you guys were ___ on my cell so we'll see you in a bit. I'm in near gate 2A so that's terminal 2 gate 2A. Alright we'll see you soon, bye."
in 10 seconds, have someone type it and then also send it as an e-mail and text within 10 seconds - its not humanly possible! Thats how much time it toook me from the time I got a missed call on the call above and the text message came in.
People like you are why its tough to trust a blog.

At 10:17 PM, Blogger John Wilson said...

Hi Anonymous (odd that you choose to hide behind anonymity). However, you completely miss the point.

For the record, I am a user of the service. I don't think it matters whether or not it relies upon human or machine translation, provided they deliver the service. You obviously do, given your tirade, or else you rate this above the useful of the service.

My comment was merely on the hype the company uses to promote itself as a technology miracle company, perhaps because this makes it sexier and attaches a higher multiple.

Do you not find it curious that the best speech recognition programmes available achieve about 85% recognition rates and that is after 20mins or so of training? Yet by your assertion Spinvox can seemingly hear new callers and, with no training, achieving high recognition rates, regardless of the content of a message.

My information came from several sources very close to the company - the London finance scene is highly networked.

At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Predictive text within the application HUMAN agents use to transcribe all Spinvox messages makes this possible but I believe your 10 seconds is a little off, perhaps 30 seconds is closer to the mark. How do I know this? I used to transcribe Spinvox messages and I am definately a human.

The application is called Tenzing and it uses predictive text to assist the operator during transcription. It is very clever and appears intuative but can get things completely wrong occassionally.

Messages are transcribed in various countries including India, Ireland and South Africa where the operation is run by the parents of the VP security and compliance for Spinvox, Sean Groenewald.

The amazing thing is for most of these agents, English is not their first or second language but you will note a lot of common English names are transcribed incorrectly whilst Indian names are usually perfect.

At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The worst-kept secret in the mobile industry is now on the BBC!


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