Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Sublime Frustration of Convergence

I occasionally get cranky about converged communications channels - thing like merging Email and SMS or merging SMS and IM. For starters, I don't like how it tends to blur the "appropriate forms of address" lines for a given communications medium. While "RU ther" is almost OK in an SMS, it's less so in an IM and pretty much not tolerable in an Email. The other thing is, convergence means too many things jangling and, when there's errors, it's even worse.

Three times, today, I had convergence-related issues:
  • Buddy calls me to thank me for his Christmas present. I, first, get an inbound call-notification on my laptop's GV/Hangouts browser-plugin. I answer on my cellphone as soon as it rings (hate trying to voice-chat via my laptop - also, see not about "too many things jangling") Just as I'm picking up the call on my cell, the VOIP line starts ringing ...and then continues to ring and ring while I'm starting my conversation on the cell. Wife comes up to find out why the hell the landline's ringing off the hook. I tell her "GV's being a butt". I'd yet to try to deal with the VOIP line as I'd noticed my cell's battery was down (apparently, I'd not snugly seated the charging plug, previously) and was tied to the wall by the (now seated) charging-cable. So she does us both a solid by tracking down a VOIP handset and terminating the errant ring-through.
  • Boss tries to arrange an after-hours video call. "After hours" is about the only time everyone on my scattered team is available to talk since our "scattered" is across time-zones and, even those of us in the same time-zone are frequently working places where we can't do phone-calls (let alone video chats). His initial invitation to everyone had apparently gone awry, so he SMS'es me to ask if I'm available. I SMS back to affirm that I am. He states that he'll send out an invite to the video chat. The scheduled time for the call to start passes and still no email-invite. I assume it's gone into the Ether, so I SMS him again to ask what's up. He "dials" me into the video conference. This time, my cell rings before my browser starts jangling. I pick up on the cell and I'm in the video call. The cell isn't really stable for being on camera, so I'm a touch put out that what I'd *thought* was my cell ringing for a call was actually ringing for a video chat. My annoyance is subsequently eased when the invitation email finally arrives and I'm able to switch over to my laptop for the video-conference.
  • While the video-call is going on, my messaging widget pops up a long-assed text message. It was from the customer-lead for one of the projects I work on. I reply with an SMS - failing to notice that the text message was actually a transcription delivered via the text messaging component of the messaging widget. Worse, he'd called from a land-line rather than his cell, so my SMS gets delivered to the Ether.

Actually, three and a half times...

While working on one of my projects, I encounter a mis-documented security-fix. I go to call one of my co-workers about it. Both he and I have ZRTP widgets on our cellphones and our phones each "know" that the other's phone is ZRTP-capable. When I got to hit the call button, my phone helpfully asks, "do you want this to be an encrypted call". I think, "sure - it's about a security-related documentation-bug, so why not do the call encrypted". His phone rings and rings with no answer. It occurs to me that the ZRTP widget actually doesn't dial to his VMail-enabled "number". So, I hang up, re-start the call and select "no" when asked if I want to encrypt the call. Eventually, the call rings through to his voicemail (DAMMIT). I leave a message for him to call me back.

An hour or so later, he IMs me to tell me that he got the call but the voicemail was garbled. Irony: the encrypted VOIP calls frequently have better sound-quality than the PSTN calls do.

Just convergence-annoyance all over the damned place, today.