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Is it a good time to phone?

it's rude to interrupt
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You know when you phone someone and they're in the middle of having their dinner (at 9pm), or watching a film, or jumped out of the bath to get the phone, or worse still, in the middle of a blazing argument with their partner/mother/cat? Or when the phone rings just as you're about to take that pizza out of the oven and you nearly burn the house down listening to your best friend's latest tragedy, or in the middle of Coronation Street (okay, I'm British)?

I think phones should have a code attached to them that you program to mean certain things, e.g. yellow means a must-see TV episode, green for "don't dare phone me, I'm about to hurl things from the knife drawer after I've finished with the plates", and red for "phone me if you have to but I'm kinda busy right now". Then anyone picking up the phone can judge whther or not they really really want to ring you.

Or better still, an automatic sensor attached to the telephone that can pick up your mood, and knows the times of your favourite TV programs etc.....

baby_steffee, Apr 07 2001

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       This is needed, but I think you have a choice here between two bad alternatives - either something that people explicitly signal (bothersome, often forgotten), or something automatic that violates the user's privacy.   

       ("Why didn't you want to be disturbed yesterday around 4? When I called and asked what you had been doing, you said 'Oh, nothing.'")   

       The same conundrum applies to Instant Messaging applications that display the operator's idle time. ("What do you mean you were working late? You certainly weren't at your desk!")   

       [Later: Hm. I like idea #3, too.]
jutta, Apr 07 2001, last modified Apr 10 2001
  

       Idea #1: To avoid these problems, have the caller indicate the "urgency" of the call. The ring changes accordingly, and the recipient simply decides whether or not it's worth answering.   

       Idea #2: Since this is so similar to screening one's calls, perhaps we should just take the next step and eliminate the ringer altogether. The answering machine picks up before the first ring; there's very little OGM, and it's up to you to announce your call.   

       There's a social problem here, though; I'd still be afraid to make a low-priority "just called to say hi" call, since the simple act of calling might distract someone, and if they were too busy I'd feel a little embarrassed.   

       So, idea #3: As in #1, specify the urgency of your call. If it doesn't match the callee's pre-set threshold (configurable per caller), the phone doesn't ring. You get the answering machine, but it's silent; you can hang up, and nobody will ever be the wiser. (Or you can leave a message.) Unfortunately, unlike #1 and #2, this does have the disadvantage of requiring people to constantly declare a threshold -- but at least the privacy problems are less, since you can't know if you didn't meet their threshold, or they weren't there, or they simply chose not to answer the phone.
egnor, Apr 07 2001
  

       This is a lovely idea, as I have a friend who is a 2-hour minimum talker who always calls when I'm extremely busy. What I do in this situtation (when I can anticipate being very busy) is record a message on my answering machine indicating that yes, I'm here, no, I can't talk right now. A good friend will understand and respect this.
kitsune, Apr 09 2001
  

       No. It is never a good time to phone. I hate the phone. It might be nice if somebody told me my house was burning down, but if that happens later rather than sooner because I wasn't checking my email, well, that's my fault. Disembodied voices drifting through my head to the exclusion of productive activities is never a good way to spend my time.
absterge, Apr 10 2001
  

       A version of this (instant messaging + cellular phones) was just on my telecom final.
bookworm, Apr 10 2001
  

       kitsune: Why bother? Will it change anything from the callers end if they know you are home and are not answering the phone? (I guess they might actually come over if they know you are there....but if you're too busy to answer the phone you are probably too busy to have someone visit.)
blahginger, Apr 10 2001
  

       How about just having three different degrees of ringtone (or three ringtones)? You don't need to specify a threshold; all that happens is the caller sets an importance when calling (low, normal, high) and your phone rings accordingly:   

       Summertime from Porgy & Bess: Low importance Toccata: Normal importance Flight of the Bumblebee: High importance   

       etc...   

       You can then decide whether you want to answer.   

       (incidentally, I just thought of the ringtones thing and was searching to see if it had been posted already - looks like I was well and truly beaten to it this time!)
kmlabs, Feb 16 2005
  
      
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