Receive articles directly to your email, or subscribe via an RSS reader.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mobile Phone Etiquette

This cartoon is definitely worth a thousand words, and it says a lot about cellphone etiquette. As adults most of us don't excel when it comes to cellphone etiquette, so I guess it's no great surprise that our children don't either. Somehow though I think current attempts at banning celphones in schools will be about as successful as the attempts to ban calculators in the 70s and 80s. Heck, enforcing bans on teacher's use of them in the classroom hasn't been very successful from my personal experience, so how can we expect the kids to comply?

And if you think voice conversations are the main problem then you are way behind the times! Long gone are the days when kids passed notes to each other to cheat on tests. A quick SMS is much more efficient. Since some kids can even type blind on the miniscule keyboards, they don't even have to take the phone out of their pocket to send a message.

Obviously teaching our children appropriate use of phones and basic mobile phone etiquette is the first step. Teaching Kids Cell Phone Etiquette has some suggestions and tips about what to discuss when you broach the subject with your child.

A recent New York Times article highlights very pointedly some people's frustration with mobile phone conversations carried out in public places. As the article describes, some people and business owners are so frustrated that they purchase jamming devices to block cellular signals. With a press of a button on a device hidden in a pocket they prevent the people in their vicinity from receiving and making cellular phone calls. The devices and their use is illegal, but it is a growing trend.

So what is the solution? Education is part of it, but I believe that technology will also be a major part. In my previous post I described the location tracking technologies that are becoming available. As these technologies become more mainstream we will see applications built on top of them that will make etiquette enforcement much easier. I believe that this will happen in several ways:
  1. Our rich presence information (I'm in school, driving, in a concert, etc) will be shown as part of the contact information in our phone's contact list. and thus will move some of the etiquette to the caller. The caller will then hopeful refrain from sending an SMS if I am driving, or will refrain from calling at all if I am in school. This is an extension of the capabilities I described in my post on instant messaging.
  2. Automatic call routing will enable me to define when, where and how I want to receive my calls. I will define, for example, that if I am in a movie theater I want to receive SMSs only and if I'm driving I want only voice. Automatic systems will make those conversions, including automatically converting speech to text and vice versa.
  3. Instituations and businesses will be able to define the required etiquette in their locations, and the level of enforcement. Enforcement will be automatic. The frustrated commuter in the New York Times article could sit in a quiet car on the train which would prevent voice calls but allow SMSs, for example.

None of these capabilities are available in the market yet, but they give you an idea of some of the things I am addressing at work.

No comments: