Raising the Jolly Roger
I came across Jolly Roger Telephone a couple months back. I haven't tried it yet, in part because I don't think that my phone set-up would allow for it (though it may, I'll have to check it out...), but I'm fascinated and very amused by it.
Jolly Roger Telephone was created by programmer Roger Anderson as a way to combat telephone robocalls and telemarketing scammers. He developed wildly-inventive "bots" that are designed to totally frustrate the unwanted callers. The bots are recordings of real humans, but done in a sort of "artificial intelligence" way that sound to the telemarketing caller like they're carrying on an actual conversation.
It works very simply.
1) You buy a subscription, and provide your phone numbers and email address.
2) Choose among the various "bot" recordings offered, and mark down the phone number for that bot.
3) When you get a telemarketing call, you transfer it to the bot.
4) After the bot is done talking to the telemarketer, it will send a copy of the audio to your email so, as the company puts it, you can have a laugh.
And you most likely will have a laugh. The Jolly Roger folks provide a lot of sample calls to listen to, and the ones I've heard are a hoot. Some go on for a bizarrely long time, up to 15 minutes (keep in mind, these are recordings of telemarketers talking to a very clever recording, thinking it's a real conversation -- that's how good the Jolly Roger bots are), and I tend not to be interested enough to listen to those all the way through, but some are shorter, and all I've listened to are a hoot.
One caveat -- you must have Conference Call or 3-Way Calling service. That's the reason I mentioned above that I haven't tried it out yet. It costs $2 a month or only $6 a year.
On the site, Roger Anderson writes, "First, I love telecommunications and I vow to never use this technology for mischief or malice. I built these bots to handle INBOUND telemarketer scammers, but about 10 days ago I got a popup saying my computer was infected. I called it and confirmed it was 'Microsoft Technical Department.' I called it a few more times from different caller-ids and got the same call center. So I pounded it into the ground. After about 300 calls, the number was disconnected."
There's a video of a good TedX talk that Anderson gives, in which he discusses the technology and then plays short samples of some of the calls. Full recordings can be found on YouTube, but my favorite is only available on the Jolly Roger homepage, so I can't embed it here. But I'll provide the link. It's very funny, and fairly short, about five minutes.
Just click here. That will take you to the Jolly Roger homepage. Then look for the section called, "Catch of the Day," and click on the audio player that displays, "Sally Learns to Use Her Remote." This is recording of a telemarketer who gets a sweet lady named Sally who is having the hardest time trying to program her TV remote and asks for help. Keep in mind that it is not a real conversation. This is just a "bot." And "Sally" is just a recording. (It takes a few minutes for "Sally" to get to that point. First, "she" has to suck the telemarketer in.)
Are they unfair to the telemarketer? Keep in mind they always have the option to hang up. It's just that they are trained not to. They are there to get your money, some "honestly," some as a scam. So, is it unfair? At the very least, it's a form of justice. One good robocall deserves another.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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