One of my favorite tweets:
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The network, popular among the market obsessed, has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks for what critics claim is a propensity to cheerlead Wall Street. Occasionally brash commentary on White House policy by hosts Jim Cramer and Rick Santelli did little to help CNBC's cause among progressives. A few weeks ago, a group of leading progressives and economists penned an open letter demanding that the network modify its mission.
Since the launch of FixCNBC.com, the network has, in fact, made several programming changes. Former DNC Chair Howard Dean was brought on as a regular commentator, and Huffington Post editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington guest hosted CNBC's morning show Squawk Box last week.
Big up to Adam Green, Katie Halper, Negin Farsad, Jeff Kreisler, Lee Camp and everyone else involved in the http://fixcnbc.com program. This was actually fun to do. The video doesn't reveal all the footage we got, but you get a slice.
Based on my experience, I'd say half the people we approached had no comment and were in a rush. Another 20 percent thought CNBC was just there for entertainment and didn't take it seriously but conceded that it could be damaging. Another 20 percent thought it was a market-pumping, completely biased and useless network. Ten percent loved it.
While I've got your attention, I have two large pieces of feedback around product strategy / capability. The message is long, but I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and hope you'll find it helpful. The first issue is SMS. You guys are trying to get users to give out their GC number as the ONLY number. That's fine in a voice-only world, but with SMS there's a problem. If I want people to be able to text me, I HAVE to give them my cell phone number, and texting is a very large part of my communications. I imagine you could install some sort of inbound SMS-aware gateway which could tell if the "call" was voice, fax or text, then forward appropriately. Inbound SMS would go to my mobile phone, as defined in my settings. Then you need to solve my response text to that message. If someone texts me at my GC number, it will be confusing for them to get a response from my cell number. So my reply also must go through your gateway. If you can solve the "SMS hole" then I will be a true fan. Right now, though, I'd have to say I couldn't use GC to its full potential because I'd have to give out two numbers, which defeats your "one number for life" motto.To quickly expand on the size of this problem, the number I had through GrandCentral was a 646 area code, which is commonly understood to be an NYC mobile prefix. Folks I deal with assume that I text, which is true, but when people sent text messages to my GrandCentral number, those messages went into a black hole. While extremely popular and often more reliable than voice or mobile data connections, SMS usually offers no confirmation of delivery, no feedback whatsoever that your message did or did not go through. You could be texting a dead payphone and not know it. Vincent wrote me back two hours later (at 5am!) saying they were working on SMS, but in July 2007, they were acquired by Google, and I never saw the feature rolled out... until now. I'm happy to say that people can text my Google Voice number, and I can text back, most importantly, from the same Google Voice number. I can respond via the Google Voice website or my own mobile phone, again, without exposing my true cell phone. We also had a lengthy exchange about the value of one number vs. multiple numbers (or aliases) that lead to the same end point. I won't provide all that detail here. While Google was gobbling up GrandCentral, I decided to test two other services that offered some form of voicemail management and unified communications. They both worked off the premise that people didn't want a new phone number; they wanted to manage their existing and often default number: the cell number. I was an early beta user of CallWave (http://callwave.com). You plug in some fancy forwarding codes on your handset, and CallWave becomes the voicemail provider. When folks left you a message, you would get the gist of the message via text (a service they called "VGist") and the full transcript via email. They had a decent transcription service, and allowed you to use a web console to manage/search/archive messages as well as make calls that were bridged to your mobile number. I ditched them late in the Fall, however, due to an infuriating customer service experience. After CallWave, I moved on to SkyDeck. (http://skydeck.com). Their speech-to-text is powered by SpinVox and is hands down the best I've ever used. The web interface, however, is lame, and I think the service costs too much for what I need. So now that I've established myself as a credible/obsessed user, on to my Google Voice test. I maintained my GrandCentral number as a very public way to reach me. It is listed it on my website, but I had since stopped listing it on my business cards. In fact, I just gave up on the idea and put my cell phone on my cards starting in the summer of 2008 at the DNC. With voicemail transcription offered by CallWave / SkyDeck, that was good enough for the time being, but now Google Voice is back. Here are some of the voicemail messages I received yesterday along with Google's attempt to transcribe them. Transcript reads: hey they're trying to reach you know vick just got your facebook in on calling to leave your message there you go bye Transcript: hey there it's just wanted to call and tell you that you were rock and that's the door hi Transcript: never got not cathy hawk lady at four forty five central standard time missing out bye Transcript: this is a test of the better attend a google voice messaging system if this is been an actual message the tell them that i just hardwood avenue followed by something with the this is only a test Transcript: hi it's sarah calling from california distant you know bother you make sure you have to start okay myself bye Transcript: alright sunday jemilla day here i guess it's actually let me leave a message i just wanted to be of some assistance to another thinking black person i live in D C N or we can short supply us i hope your day is lovely be well So I'm going to say right it right now: this sucks. Out of the six messages above, only one of them has what I consider to be usable. And by "usable" I'm looking for a transcript which prevents me from having to listen to the message. That's the point of a transcript right? The SkyDeck service (powered by transcriber SpinVox) is leagues ahead of Google Voice. By way of comparison, here's a transcript I got a few weeks ago from SkyDeck:
Hey ___, it's [REDACTED]. Sorry I forgot to call you this morning. I'm not gonna be able to make coffee cos we're only just going to lunch now, which means I don't have time to see you after lunch and then make my 4:00. But at least gimme a call back or something or maybe when you're done South ___, South West and if I don't speak to you before then have a great trip and even if you're not to be my Sunday morning date at ___ I hope I get to see you next time I'm in New York. Bye.That's what we call a transcript. I was on a conference call when this message came in, but I was able to read it via email and get relevant info. Google has miles to go to match this. They should just buy SpinVox and plug their engine into Google Voice. Other feedback on the Google Voice system: