I possess an accent which seems to fox most voice recognition systems.  I suppose the closest that it comes to that most non-British people will have heard is that of the Arctic Monkeys, since Sheffield is only about 15 miles away from where I grew up.  Generally voice recognition systems are optimized for American voices, so I am at a disadvantage right off the bat.  That said, my accent, diction, intonation and whatever other elements combine to entice such systems into the creation of ridiculous transcriptions, far in excess of my other countrymen.

The main source of these transcriptions is the Microsoft voicemail system, powered by Exchange / Office Communicator.  I often need to contact people at Microsoft, whether in terms of product team members in relation to Monarch and Monarch Data Pump and it’s interaction with Office, or on the interoperability side, in my work within ISO/IEC/JTC1 SC34 Working Group 4.

A couple of years back, I was sent the transcription of one of my voicemails by a contact at Microsoft, as he found it amusing.  This has continued as a tradition with more contacts there, over the years.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the actual content of these voicemails, but rest assured, it bears no resemblance to the voicemail transcription system’s version of events.

It seems to have settled on a food related theme here, for no apparent reason.

“Hey ****** it’s Gareth just love let you know that some track who cherry. Job begin from the I’m consoles console kidney stones Julie Weiss seafood see walnuts the community they’ll be. Doing any case full you try and hook up with my sequel on. You non Jerry fish and and should not very seems like he’s out the offices about it so I will give you a heads up. That. Hey we call it a. He mentioned I tried that section. Well please correct. Anyway. I’ll speak to you soon bye bye.”

“I got your inspection yourself I think this is so I can. Thank you — only so another chat about the recent my seafood see what we — and — hey Ryan Montoya from the columns like something on your cell phone — for the Y7 check your good weekend. Speak to you soon bye bye.”

What’s with the seafood? Who is “Ryan Montoya from the columns”? Is that like ‘the projects’ ?

It also seems to think that I call under assumed names every time, which I most certainly do not.

“Hey ******* it’s John Anderson calling just ringing to let you know. Alright I’ll speak to you later bye bye.”

“Hey ******* it’s Scott Smith. Give me a call I’m at 8 to 9 tonight chat — I have sounds and I will talk to you later — but I just wanted to check if there’s any YAM — issue than anything on called full sign now maybe I’m sure — I’ve talked for — at talk access the full Doc acts so. Anyway I’ll try and get you like 10 or 12 logic tomorrow on then bye bye.”

“Hi ******* it’s Doug I just thought give you a call on the off John this is a I’d be very soon seems to me a call I can phone bye bye. Hi me like cellular the busy day had and interest in CD it’s Davidson — the funny going over all I — need to be chief. A lot and I’ll speak to you soon bye bye.”

“Hey ******* it’s Just. Not — hi this is all give me a call 90 because I’m stuck in traffic minutes 10:15 PM and a bomb any other big blocks and right on 30 and I think I’m probably gonna I’m on the status bar now — anyway — just so I’m a little chat but — now that I need sing Allen so I’ll speak to you like and you can always full with me the — note that absolutely fascinating transcription but — zero.”

Er, no bomb.  Hope the NSA wasn’t listening. Spooky that it noticed when I criticized it’s “absolutely fascinating transcription”.

“Hey ******** you got this so I’d better give usable last with the voice mail transcription.– Interesting regarding the sudden all the Columbia look into this that would be blocking I called up laws — with message something to a — haven’t replace — I’d come see you go I saw — a lot — anyway that was about to go so I just now — it just an email from strolled these seems a lot of problems he without things about that. Anyway I’ll speak to you soon bye bye.”

Again, it comes out of it’s fug when being talked about.  Not sure how Columbia got in there.  The NSA almost certainly has a file on me by now, if their voice recognition software is anything like this.

“Hey ******* sister it’s joint get in touch with them. Actually see the from I got hold of an experienced a Angeline Love — anyway we’ll have a chat that’s it and reinstall anyway — good evening not in school. Hundred bye bye.”

I would like to clarify in no uncertain terms that I have never got hold of an experienced Angeline Love. Nor do I refer to senior Microsoft staff as “sister”.  Especially when they are male.

“Hey ******** it’s got the phone because message off.  — So I — will probably try again — tomorrow — shopping — yeah I’m not sure that you — are shipping didn on home trapeze — or not many more experienced you recall I appreciate troubles. So anyway that’s about it.”

I’m pretty sure you can’t get a home trapeze, even on those American shopping channels.  Maybe I can get Microsoft to pay me to talk into the system all day long and see what other interesting business ideas come out of it.

“My name is Gareth. Telling the boys and shopper internal costing unsure I guess we’re playing right next one — that you sent debriefing from ****** — extension two three oh should be self so I’m I’m trying to get on your cell moment rolling I’m — bye bye. Hello.”

Got the name right, but I’m pretty sure my contact knew my name after a couple of years. Plus, I don’t usually end voicemails with “hello”.

“Thanks ******** a Scott but this is all give me a call at about 40 years.So I’m just getting a chance — together and tax money like you probably not tonight I’m I got your message — you know your voice mail sit back inside along the venturing stuff — I’ll try you like to delete chop chop.  Parking lot bye bye.”

I distinctly recall never asking anyone to give me a call in 40 years.

“Hi ******** hopefully as laughter events it’s and IK series new package explorer which is a pretty know likes.– Just a wishing you could look for next week probably going out to a demo to be very silly so — could look in the lines done and I don’t have a good weekend anyway. I’ll speak to you soon bye bye.”

At last! “new package explorer” is actually accurate and refers to Wouter Van Vugt’s Package Explorer utility. My days of “going out to a demo to be very silly” are but a fond and distant memory.

“Hey ******** it’s Gareth. Chad discuss about — what full day — digital cool of calling technically awful stuff — dot com and run some — probably — some of them thanks and so. Anyway I’ll speak to you bye bye bye.”

This is actually a recent one, so I am 100% sure that I didn’t say this.  One wonders whether it has been added to some kind of Exchange voice recognition dictionary as a high frequency phrase within Microsoft. 

By the way, technicallyawfulstuff.com is still available.


With thanks to Barney Finucane (Twitter:bfinucane) for the inspiration.

A tweet from Barney led me to daydream about a fantasy scenario with Larry Ellison and Richard Stallman on Ellison’s yacht.

Larry summons Stallman, after being informed that RMS is the guru of Open Source software, a boatload of which Larry has just acquired.

“So Dick, they tell me you are the go-to guy for this Open Source stuff.  I’ve got the goddamn stuff coming out of my ears now.  I need a 20% growth rate next fiscal on licenses, lay out your business plan for me.”

“Larry, I don’t think you have quite grasped the concept of Open Source, it is about freedom and letting everyone have choice”

“Yeah Dick, that’s good spin, go on, where’s the main growth potential”

“Larry, the point of Open Source is that it is free, you don’t pay for it”

“Dick, you’re not making any sense, or do you mean that you don’t pay for it up front, kind of a loss leader sort of thing, then we come in with the maintenance and support hammer and grind the customer to a pulp.  A sort of market share grab, is that the deal?”

“No Larry, you develop software and give it away, including the source code”

“Dick, now you’re really starting to worry me, you look like a bit of a hippy-have you dropped acid or something?”

“Larry, you should read some of my writing, about how software has no owners, it is free, the documentation is free, it is more reliable than proprietory softw…”

Gunshot rings out.

“Kenny, (gestures with smoking pistol to robust-looking bodyguard) throw this crazy-ass hippy in the ocean will you”