(2014-09-24) Ozzie Talko

Ray Ozzie's new Collaboration Ware app Talko is a little bit WhatsApp, a little bit Google Voice, and a little bit Push To Talk app Voxer. The app lets you text, call, send voice or photo messages, and conference call your team — with the ease of today’s top consumer apps. Every message and call is recorded inside one thread, and you can bookmark specific audio bits or messages so people can return to them later (similar to Sound Cloud)... Talko is built around the asynchronous nature of how we talk to each other today. If somebody misses the beginning of a Conference Call, they can hop in midway and listen to what’s happened, or send a quick text to the people on the call, or listen to the call later with the aid of bookmarks and tags to guide the way.

Steven Levy sees the phone call busy being reborn...

  • On a whiteboard, Ozzie has jotted down a long checklist of emotions easily conveyed by voice, but difficult to decipher in quickly thumbed-out bursts of text: concern, pain, urgency, empathy, clarity, seriousness, confidence, anxiety, trust, strength, accountability, anger, fear, stress, confusion, doubt... The app’s key innovations allow people to build conversations as if they were collaborative documents — adding to these artifacts both in real time and asynchronously... “What’s striking is the fluid nature of going from synchronous [real time, like a phone call] to asynchronous [discrete, like text or email],” says former Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, whose VC firm has invested in Talko... It’s not only invaluable to those who might miss a session, but also to people who are in the room together for the meeting, who can refer to key moments in a playback...
  • “I live and breathe computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) — that’s my thing,” he says. “I love communications tools.”... his next project, based on a core idea that it was time for the human voice to reassert itself online. One contributing factor to that idea might have been what he saw at Microsoft: a communications breakdown rooted in part by an overreliance on email. “The EMail culture runs deep at Microsoft,” says Ozzie. “Email is an amazing thing. It enables communication, but allows you to posture in a way you would never do face to face.” Hiding behind the conventions of email, it’s possible to passive-aggressively ignore a problem, or subtly orchestrate a position. All too often, even small groups are able to skate around disputes they would have hashed out had they been forced to interact in real time. My experience has been the opposite - email allows refinement of clarity which is harder to do in real-time. A poisonous culture is rarely fixed by technological changes.

Martin Geddes thinks it is a potential game-changer... It shifts the boundary between voice and text, and allows voice to have the emotive urgency it deserves. It places voice in its true conversational context as part of a unified activity stream.

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