Voice Protocol

Saturday, February 16, 2008 Saturday, February 16, 2008

Over the past few months I've found that I am increasingly using voice over chat. At first when voice was unleashed on the virtual hordes, I wondered what the effects might be. Others thought it might be the end of the world. Still others welcomed it. I just wasn't sure if it was good or bad. I admit this: I was a little nervous about using it myself, since it strips a little bit of that anonymity away.

However, after some months of use it turns out Voice is mostly useful to me. But for others, it may indeed be bad.

Here's the good points:

Voice is simply much, much faster than typing. I don't care how fast you type, you cannot beat voice for the speedy conveyance of valuable information. Or taunts.

Voice interactions are synchronized. What do I mean by this? Consider the situation where someone in chat is taking a long time to type a response, and during the delay we start on a new train of thought. We end up answering the question from two entries back and mix it all together, sometimes with hilarious, embarrassing or catastrophic results. This rarely happens in voice, since questions and answers are usually in sync.

Voice is more than just characters. It carries tone and emotion far more accurately than chat. This might be important. Really important.

And the bad:

Anonymity is compromised. Imagine the shock I felt when I discovered one of my female friends was outed as a guy! (Truth: nothing shocks me very much now in Second Life. Or Real Life either, for that matter.) Depending on the type of Second Life activities or role-playing you engage in, it may be impossible to do them with voice since the freedom that comes with total anonymity evaporates. Or maybe you just don't sound like a Dragon/Chick/Mafia Gangster/etc.

Background noise. More than once I've had rather interesting voice conversations with people who suddenly have real life audio interruptions - be they cat, dog, spouse or spawn, it can completely destroy the moment. Suddenly you are looking at pixels again instead of your virtual friends.

Isolation. This occurs when you have a group in which some are Voiceable, while others are not. The question is, who does what? Should the Voicers "degrade" back to typing to accommodate the typists? Or should the Typists listen to the voice stream and respond with their fingers? Sometimes the Voicers simply communicate on a different level (voice) and leave the Typists totally out of the loop. At first I found crowds willing to "degrade", but lately the occurrences of that seem to be getting fewer, as the Voicers get increasingly attached to voicing.

Translation. Apologies in advance to Peter Stindberg aside, you cannot obtain automatic language translation while using voice. However, there are a few translation gadgets you can use that automatically (and often poorly) translate your text into various other languages. It's not great, but sometimes it's better than nothing. No such thing is available with voice.

It's Busted. Yep, happens to me constantly. Drop outs, mic not working, etc. It's not nearly as reliable as it should be.

So which side wins? Voice or Not Voice? There seems to be more negatives with Voice than positives.

The only possible answer: It Depends.

It depends on what you are doing, who you are with and everyone's ability to compromise. My advice is to simply make a sensible decision on each situation. Be sure to account for everyone's needs, because it does no one good to alienate others. And be ready to WEAR and DETACH your headset at any moment!

What's your opinion of voice?


hammerwielder said...

Voice may be some nice feature, but I must admit that on my side the impression is mostly that it takes away a lot of atmosphere. SL is based heavyily on illusions and images, people create of themselfs, underlining certain factors they want to be recepted by others. Voice can utterly ruin this appearance.

E.g. the Shadowy Warriorfigure or impressive CEO - type that appears in a room and -simply by carefully chosen avatar-composition- attains a certain degree of respectability.
Which is completely blown as soon as he uses voice with some pimple-faced-geeks-voice. Not to talk of things like:

- northern irish accent
- repeated amusing comments like
"hu-hu ... so way way cool
- a session of 6 utterly stoned
collegeboys you run into,
coming up with the constant
yelled question "Wheres the sex
- Non-english-native-speakers from
anywhere trying so hard to sound
english that it hurts (let me
mention that I am a german
myself but it hurts even my ears

Well now, life on the typewriter side of SL might be a bit slower, but far more relaxing for me.

Best regards,
Calixus Voom

Dale Innis said...

Why I don't use voice in SL. :)

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