Friday, February 28th, 2014 .

What makes a great hold music song?  

— catchy melody

— lyrics you don’t quite know but can fake your way through

— lyrics that don’t quite make sense either

— something that could be performed by artists as varied as an 80s punk band or Perry Como.

— a song that doesn’t quite annoy you but isn’t really very good either

Of course anything by Glen Campbell is good, as well as most of the Coldplay catalog.  Believe it or not, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana could be an excellent hold music song, especially if it were covered by, say, Nancy Griffith.   Or, since we’re in that mode of thinking, how about the 80s punk classic “Don’t Wanna Know If You Are Lonely” by Husker Du… except it’s covered by Jack Johnson.

You know what else works great on hold?  Just about anything by either Dean Martin or Celine Dion.

Keep in mind here, I’m not praising this music for its musical qualities.  I’m praising it for its ability to distract you from the annoyance of being put on hold.  If you’re on hold and some hold music is playing and you aren’t singing along but instead are getting increasingly peeved, the hold music has failed.  Good hold music keeps you from entering the state of peevishment.  Which is a word I just made up.

And, having spent considerable time on hold in my frequently misbegotten life, I’ve come up with four songs that really are the best.

And then I thought: what else would I like to hear while I’m on hold?  For that section, I’ve added three non-songs.  They are speeches from movies that you will always enjoy listening to as you are stuck in hold purgatory.

 

Four Hold Music Classics

1. “The Girl From Ipanema”.  You’ve just called your insurance company about why they rejected a claim you made for the poweful anti-depressant meds your psychiatrist prescribed, and they put you on hold to check.   The darkness is gathering over your life, bleak thoughts of nothingness and despair fill you as you sit and wait…  suddenly, on the hold music: “Tall and tan and young and lovely the girl from Ipanema goes walking…”  And there you are, not quite so aggravated, not quite so willing to question your entire existence.  It’s a lovely day in Rio and the girl from Ipanema has just walked by, my friend.  Things are gonna be okay, even if that prescription is going to cost you $1,600 a month out of pocket.


2. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.”  Burt Bacharach and Hal David are one of the great song-writing duos of all time.  And I have often said these words to myself while waiting for the electric company to approve an extension on my bill: “Raindrops keep fallin’ in my head, but that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turnin’ red.  Cryin’s not for me…”  The woman from PG & E then comes back on the line and before she can say anything, you say to her: “Look, regardless of what your decision is, I just want you to know that these blues they send to meet me won’t defeat me.”  There’s a long, uncomfortable pause and then she says: Okay, well, we can give you one more extension but then you have to pay the bill in full.  Thanks so much, you say, and remember, ma’am: you’re never gonna stop the rain by complainin’ because you’re free.  She hangs up, but you’re happy because your refrigerator is going to work for another month!


3. “What’s It All About, Alfie?”  Another hold music classic from Bacharach and David.  You’ve called your agent, and she’s “on the line with another client, could you hold?”  Sure, you say, because what else are you, an unemployed writer, going to say?  You’re wondering if the network liked your pilot script and are a bundle of nerves until these questions are posed by Dionne Warwick: “Is it just for the moment we live?  What’s it all about, when you sort it out, Alfie?’  You know what? you say to yourself, Dionne Warwick makes a good point.  It doesn’t really matter if this project is picked up and you suddenly are rich.  No.  It’s cool if they say no because they hate my writing because, really, what’s it all about?  Nothing, frankly.  It’s just TV.

4. “If Ever I Should Leave You” from the Broadway musical, “Camelot.”  You’ve got a quick question for your lawyer about the divorce but he’s just finishing up a conference call with a couple who are preparing a pre-nup so you’re on hold.  And then you hear these words being sung: “I’ve seen you in autumn when fall nips the air/I know you in autumn and I must be there.”  Oh, no, not in springtime,  you start belting away, summer, winter or fall… the lawyer comes on the line.  Look, you say, I’ve decided she can have all the good car and the house.

The Three Non-Songs That Should Be Part of Hold Music Rotations.

What else would I like to hear while I’m on hold?  For this section, I’ve added three non-songs.  They are speeches from movies that I would  always enjoy listening to as I am stuck in hold purgatory.


1. “I’m A God” speech by Bill Murray from “Groundhog Day.”  You know that scene late in the movie, not far from the start of the third act, where Bill Murray’s character has hit the peak of frustration over the endless loop his life has become in Punxatawny, PA, and starts to tell Andie MacDowell’s character about all the people in the diner and then tells her about herself (“You like boats, but not the ocean…”)? Could somebody play that when I’m on hold so I could listen to that instead yet another rendition of “God Didn’t Make Little Green Apples”?  Please?


2. “Was It Over When the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor?”  In 1994, the Cleveland Indians fell behind 2-0 in the American League Championship Series on the road to the Seattle Mariners.  With the series coming to Cleveland, the Indians management played this speech from “Animal House” to the crowd at Jacobs Field in Cleveland prior to the national anthem to get the crowd pumped up.  In it, John Belushi tries to motivate his defeated fraternity brothers.  Let’s face facts, here.  If you’re on hold, it’s not because you’re awaiting good news.  You’re probably feeling a bit blue and tense and overwhelmed.  You need some Bluto, my friend.  What is called for here is that a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.


3. “You Were Born to Be Hockey Players, Every One of You.”  Probably the greatest locker room speech of all time — and the best part is that it actually happened.  Just before the US-USSR hockey game in the 1980 Olympics, the US coach Herb Brooks (played here by Kurt Russell doing a perfect St. Paul accent), tells his players they have a shot against the greatest hockey team in the world.  I could listen to this over and over while I’m on hold with my bank as I ask them to reconsider the overdraft charges they stuck me with.

Monday, February 24th, 2014 .

We’re an innovative company so we made an innovative hire.  We’ve hired a comedy writer.

Meet David Raether, the newest member of our Marketing and Communications group. Raether, 57, has had a varied and, well, let’s just say “interesting” career prior to joining UberConference. A graduate of Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN, with a degree in English and philosophy, Raether worked as a newspaper journalist in the Upper Midwest for several years, and then he lived in Mexico and taught English in a high school there for a while. Or at least that’s what he’s telling us.

In the 80s, Raether joined computer trade magazine publisher IDG at their division in Peterborough, NH, as a publishing executive, where he was involved in the launch of nearly a dozen magazines.  After eight years there, he reconnected with an old Minneapolis friend, the comedian and actor Tom Arnold, and joined the writing staff of “Roseanne.”

Raether was a writer on 111 episodes of that ground-breaking comedy.  During his years on the show, “Roseanne” received several Emmys, a Golden Globe, and the prestigious George Foster Peabody award.  In 2012, Entertainment Weekly magazine named the Roseanne writing staff as one of the Ten Greatest Writing Rooms in television history.

In addition to “Roseanne”, Raether wrote for programs on HBO, CBS, ABC, the WB, along with pilot development for studios such as Sony, Castle Rock, and Universal. He also did feature film rewrite work for a wide variety of pictures, ranging from “Homeward Bound II” (the movie with the talking dogs and cat) to the searing Oliver Stone-produced drama “Savior” about the civil war in Bosnia. In the years following the end of his television and film career, Raether specialized in content creation and editing for a number of companies, including several Bay Area startups.

In 2013, he published a highly-regarded memoir, “Tell Me Something, She Said.”  A portion of that book was excerpted in an essay on the San Francisco-based website, Priceonomics.com.  The essay, “What It’s Like to Fail”, about his post-television years, attracted wide attention and was named one of the “Five Best Essays of 2013” by LongForms.org.  Portions of the book also have been excerpted on Salon.com and The Good Men Project’s website, as well as being featured in an upcoming edition of the Times of London magazine.

In fact, our CEO, Craig Walker, happened to read “What It’s Like to Fail” and found it compelling and brought Raether in for an interview as a writer for the company.  And now we’re stuck with him because he keeps showing up and it’s just too uncomfortable to ask him to stay home.

Raether has eight grown children, and lives in Berkeley, CA.

david picture

 

Friday, February 21st, 2014 .

I have eight (8) children, now mostly grown. Two live in New York City — Brooklyn, to be exact — one lives in Washington, D.C., one lives and works on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota, one goes to college in Minnesota and another is in South Africa, and my two youngest live in Germany. I live in Berkeley, CA. The nine of us regularly do Skype Group Calls, and there is nothing I love more than seeing all eight of them in a group call. Take my word for it, they are all incredibly beautiful-looking children.That pretty much covers my need for video calling. The rest of you? I don’t really want to look at you when we talk on the phone. Nothing personal… oh, okay, it is something personal. It’s not that I don’t like you. It’s just that, well, I’d prefer imagining how you look.

And here’s how I picture you: you’re looking great. Your hair is perfect and you’re dressed in a casual yet elegant manner that bespeaks the quality of you as a person.In addition, if I’m going to talk to you on the phone, I kinda don’t want to spend anytime making sure I look good. I just want to sound good. I want you to imagine me the way I’m imagining you. I want to sound smart and competent and brilliant and insightful and piercing in my analysis, or — depending on the situation — maybe a little sexy. Even if I’m wearing that ratty University of New Mexico Football sweatshirt with holes in the armpits that I got at a thrift store eight years ago, and my hair is a mess, and I haven’t showered since Tuesday. You don’t need to see that. No one needs to see that. Frankly, it’s upsetting enough to me that I look like this, and I certainly don’t want to inflict it on you.

A couple of months ago, I did a video call with my writing partner on a film project. We had never met, but had corresponded and done a lot of work together via email and Google Docs, and I felt completely comfortable with him as a partner. Then we did the Skype video call. His hair was a mess and his nose was bright red from a cold… and he was lying in bed! To be honest, that killed it for me. It felt as if I were lying in bed with him. And he was sick! I did not want to be lying in bed with a sick guy talking about the second act break. I didn’t.

“Can we continue this call tomorrow?” I asked.

“Why?” he said.

“You’re sick and in bed,” I said. “And I kinda feel like I’m in bed with you right now and I might catch what you have..” And so we ended what had been up to that point a productive call.

Look, I don’t want to come across as Mr. Fussbudget Himself, Felix Unger, and certainly the technology exists to make video conference calling simple and convenient.

But don’t you sometimes wish you were just doing an audio-only conference call? That way, all of us could be sitting in our PJs at home, and we could all be imagining that everyone else looks as good as they sound. These are smart and brilliant and handsome people I’m working with, you can think to yourself, without reality — messy hair and ratty t-shirts and dingy living rooms — ruining it for everyone.

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 .

At UberConference, we know teamwork requires effective collaboration. One of our favorite collaborative tools is Dropbox. Thanks to Dropbox’s simple document storing and sharing, millions of professionals collaborate easily and efficiently. We at UberConference share a focus on simplicity and ease of use and often look to Dropbox for inspiration in our ongoing efforts to make things simple.

That’s why we’re excited to announce that Dropbox’s document sharing is available on UberConference. You can now share any document stored in a Dropbox account with all the participants on your UberConference call.

While on an UberConference, any participant on the call can share a Dropbox document by clicking the “Share Files” button on the visual dashboard. Once they have chosen a file to share, it appears in the conferencing window where everyone has access to it.

 

So give it a try, it’s available in your account right now, and as always, we welcome your feedback.

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 .

A couple of weeks ago, we announced with Google that our teleconferencing product, UberConference, was now integrated with Google Hangouts.  The response we got from that announcement was almost overwhelming.  Our biggest day of new customer signups-ever.

Which is great for us, and we couldn’t be happier or prouder.  But let’s step back a moment and answer the question: why is this a big deal for you?

Well, first of all, UberConference and Google Hangouts are just about perfect matches for one another.  Google Hangouts is a wonderful tool for video conferencing- it’s easy to use, and it works great, provided everyone is sitting in front of a computer that has a video camera, and your internet connection is solid.

But that’s not often the case with real life business calls.  Many times you have callers who are on the road, riding in the back of a cab to the airport, stuck in a hotel room with a bad internet connection or don’t have a webcam immediately available.  Or, frankly, don’t really want to be seen and are in no mood to get dressed at 5 a.m. in Los Angeles for an 8 a.m. conference call with New York.

Enter UberConference.  When you use UberConference with Google Hangouts, you can take the conference call out of the confines of the office and out into the real world where you, your coworkers and your customers are living and working and doing business.
Plus, UberConference allows you to join a Google Hangout without a webcam.  Or at least without turning on your webcam.

Then there’s the size of your conference calls.  Google Hangouts is limited to 15 participants.  By integrating with UberConference, that conference call can now add in another 100 participants.

The UberConference integration with Google Hangouts, however, was only part of the announcement.  At the same time Google also announced its Google Chromebox for meetings.

For small to medium-sized businesses, what’s not to love about this product?  Up until now, if your company did regular video conferencing, you were spending at least $10,000 on hardware for a video conferencing system.

What’s your investment cost with Google Chromebox for meetings?  About $1,500.  The Chromebox hardware package, which includes UberConference, is just under $1,000.  Buy yourself an HD TV for another $500, and you’re set.  You’ve got a complete video conferencing system for a fraction of the cost of existing systems.

And this is just the beginning of innovative, low-cost products we’re going to be rolling out for you.  Stay tuned.