When someone dies: capturing their voicemail messages

tl;dr version: play the message on one device while recording it with the voice memo on a smart phone or Vocaroo on a laptop, email yourself a copy / save the file on computer.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/microphone-stage-sound-1222302/

Well this’ll be a cheerful post 😉 But it was inspired by this lovely tweet from James O’Brien.

My dad died in Nov 2016 and at the time I was too all over the place to actually manage to record the last voicemail message he sent me a few days before (I’d spent the day with him the day before he died and spoke to him on the morning of the day he died so the voicemail message was from a few days earlier). I was very glad that I’d had the presence of mind earlier in the year to make a recording of a message he’d left me – he’d been ill and I think it had been in my mind that I might not have that many opportunities to record him. I’m glad I did. Sadly I didn’t think to do the same for my mum.

Here’s my dad, leaving a voicemail message on my phone, telling me about a BBC Four programme I’d have enjoyed about the London to Penzance overnight sleeper train which I’d travelled on the year before.

Although this particular post is about preserving sound here’s one about capturing text messages.

Before people die…
My advice is to ask your loved ones to record something, or capture their voicemail messages as you go along, as this person has done. Whatever you do don’t leave the voicemail message on the phone in case of accidental deletion.

If your loved one has a Wikipedia page they may even want to record something to append to their wiki entry! Find out more at the Wikipedia Voice Intro Project.

After people die…
It really seems to me that as soon as someone dies and you go through the process of registering the death etc etc that someone official should suggest capturing any old voicemail messages (texts too I suppose) as their capture is very time-limited. It would be great if phone companies and phone manufacturers made it super easy for people to access a better-quality recording. Meanwhile, here’s my rather old school way of doing it.

1. Making a recording of someone’s outgoing voicemail message
When you ring someone and they’re not there this is the message you hear from them before you leave your message. To record this some kind person (Pete Keen) has created a free online tool which will let you download the message as an .mp3 – see VMSave for more.

2. Making a recording of a message that someone’s left on your phone
I literally played the voicemail message through the speaker on my landline phone and held my iPhone microphone up to it, recording the message you can hear above with the already-installed Voice Memo app. It took a couple of goes to get a good recording, ensuring the right positioning of the microphone next to the speaker.

If the deceased person has left a message ON your iPhone (ie you can’t record it from the same decvice) then I’d suggest some borrowing someone else’s phone that has a voice memo recording facility, playing it on speaker phone rather than topping/tailing the microphone and speaker. If you have a laptop or computer with a microphone then you can use that to make a free recording with Vocaroo.

The recording results in an .m4a file which you can email to yourself from the phone (you can also use iTunes to move it around too) and you can listen to it on iTunes or the free VLC player and I’m sure plenty of other things too.

For sharing it with others possibly the best thing, beyond emailing a copy, is to download (or do it online) free Dropbox and add the file there. You can then share the link with anyone, only those with the link can access it but it is technically public. I have a sound-related blog and I pay an annual fee which lets me add any file (curiously WordPress dot com blogs don’t let you upload sound files without paying!) so that works for me. Much more public ways to share a sound file might include Soundcloud and things like that.

See also this postCapturing / sharing voice memos from iPhone and WhatsApp – it contains instructions on how to capture a voice message originally sent by WhatsApp and also has screenshots of the process involved in using the iPhone voice memo and sending the resulting file by email.

I’m hoping to find out other, better ways of making recordings and update this post – if you know of a simple method (that people who don’t have professional recording equipment could do) please let me know.

Further reading

 

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When your tweet shows that someone has replied (or you get notifications) but you can’t see the replies

Screenshot 2018-02-13 23.26.31Screenshot 2018-02-13 23.26.40Screenshot 2018-02-13 23.26.50
Above: a series of three ‘bits’ below three different tweets (screenshots from Firefox, desktop browser using Twitter.com) showing a tweet with no replies, a single reply and two replies respectively.

I’ve seen a few people wondering why their tweet says that it has some replies (as in the images above), but no tweeted replies show up. There are several reasons why this might be the case. I don’t know what the answer is, these are just best guesses. If you know more, please let us know!

In all cases it’s probably worth checking by logging out and viewing your tweet to see if the responses show up then.

  1. Twitter doesn’t actually show all tweets all the time anyway
    If you’re not seeing your reply below a Tweet, it may be because of an outstanding technical capacity limitation. When there are an overwhelming volume of replies to a Tweet, our platform is unable to show all of these replies.” [Twitter help pages]
  2. Your tweet has received replies from bots and Twitter’s deleted their account, or the tweet. As far as I know the fact that the tweet had X number of replies remains, I don’t think deleting the tweet reduces the response count (does anyone know?).
  3. The people replying have private / locked accounts and so you cannot see their tweet.
  4. You have muted those replying and so are less likely to see their tweets – you can try viewing them by searching from:yourname and they may show up there (or log out). Blocked people aren’t able to reply to your tweets now.
  5. The sender has deleted the tweet – though I’m not sure what this does to the tweet count.
  6. Your better answer goes here 🙂

Further reading
Help with missing tweets (more Twitter help pages)

 

How to add alt-text descriptions to pictures on Twitter for visually impaired people

I’ve seen a couple of tweets and Twitter threads in the last couple of days that have gone a bit viral, highlighting that everyone can set something up in their Twitter settings to make things easier for visually impaired users. If you switch ON the option to be able to caption your photos then, whenever you upload a pic to Twitter, you can click on the image and add a text description. This description doesn’t show up in your tweet (it doesn’t impinge on your character limit) but is useful for those using voice software.

  1. History
  2. How to set it up
  3. Write good descriptions

1. History: Twitter rolls out the ability to add alt text in 2016, initially just for phone apps I think, then later it rolls out to everything.

2. How to set it up

Full info in How to make images accessible for people but for desktop users (like me) the steps look like this, below.

a) Go to https://twitter.com/settings/account and scroll to the bottom of the panel on the left, click on Accessibility.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.12.14

b) Make sure there’s a tick next to ‘Compose image descriptions’

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.14.00

Example of what it looks like when you upload a picture to desktop

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.41.22

Click anywhere on the image to Add description and write your text in the box that appears.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.41.55

3. Write good descriptions: Lovely thread from RobotHugsComics (h/t ScottKeir) with suggestions of what to actually write in the description window.

 

• Block quiz / test apps from accessing your Facebook information

Here’s what I posted on Facebook recently

Your friends are the weakest link, mine too

Every time I spot that you’ve taken some test on Facebook and shared your results here I block the app that you used. This is because, when you authorise the app to interact with your page, it is then able to interact with mine* (and can, I assume from the wording below, access non-public information). Which I’d rather it didn’t. Obviously I will miss some because Fb won’t show me everything.

How to block apps etc https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=blocking

*because you can see my page and the app can access what you can access

Screenshot 2017-11-16 00.56.06.png

If you scroll down that page there are several options for blocking or restricting various things. At the time of writing (Nov 2017) the list is

  • Restricted list
  • Block users
  • Block messages
  • Block app invites
  • Block event invitations
  • Block apps
  • Block pages

The last two are particularly useful for dodgy looking quizzes and tests. As far as I can tell when your friends take a test they authorise the app to access their page. Their page can access all your info, so my supposition is that the app can access all your info too. This is borne out in the format of the help text Facebook uses to clarify what happens when you block an app (in the picture above) – “Once you block an aapp, it can no longer contact you or get non-public information about you through Facebook.” Hmm, the ‘non-public information’ bit made me wonder, so I have blocked – over the years – over 260 of these apps I think, here is my full list.

It’s very simple to block, just start typing the name of the offending app and autofill options will appear (if not you’d need to visit the app’s page and see if you can work out who is behind it). If an app doesn’t show up in the Block Apps dialogue box try it in the Block Pages option lower down.

Of course once someone’s authorised an app it’s already (presumably) been able to harvest some of your info so you can request that individual app owners remove that data by contacting the developer directly. I have not done this, I probably should.. but…

Supplemental
I’ve realised that I’ve already switched off the Platform app setting on Facebook’s App Settings page. In the ‘Apps, Websites and Plug-ins’ panel on the left in the pic below mine says Disabled. For the ‘Apps others use’ panel on the right I’d previously unticked all the options so in fact this the subject of this post has probably never actually been a problem for me!

Screenshot 2017-12-20 16.17.09

Screenshot 2017-12-20 16.11.58

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further reading

 

• How can I/we persuade employers to set up a /jobs redirect from their homepage?

If an organisation…

  • employs people and
  • has a website…

…then I think it would be great if they made

https://www.companywebsite.com/jobs

redirect to wherever they keep their vacancies page. This would let visitors to any organisation’s site type /jobs at the end of the homepage and find out about opportunities.

An example is https://cern.ch/jobs which autoredirects to https://jobs.web.cern.ch/

Websites often move their vacancies pages around during site overhauls but companies also use different terms to refer to jobs (vacancies, employment, career, recruitment, opportunities, work with us, work for us etc) – this can mean a few search attempts before uncovering it (assuming it’s there, smaller orgs might not have one).

If you like this idea please share with organisations. I’d love it if this could be the industry default 🙂

How to set up a redirect
Ironically, for a mildly tech-ish blogger, I am not particularly confident in advising how to do this. The method I’ve used for an old website may not be ‘best practice’ but it did work. That method used the refresh redirect and the code looked like this

Screenshot 2017-11-12 01.16.05
The W3Schools website lets you try out some html to achieve this effect and once you’re happy with it you can copy the code to your own site.

This site says that you shouldn’t use the refresh redirect though as it can cause problems if your website visitor uses the back button. It recommends instead using HTTP redirects. The 123 registration site has information (and example text) on how to do that.

Wikipedia has super-detailed information on URL redirection. I’m hoping that people who maintain organisation’s websites know more about this and can set this sort of thing up fairly easily.

You can only delete Twitter DMs (Direct Messages) from your own mailbox

The screenshot in the tweet below comes from Twitter’s support pages on Direct Messages, in particular the section on ‘Things to know about Direct Messages‘. The text says “When you delete a Direct Message or conversation (sent or received), it is deleted from your account only. Others in the conversation will still be able to see Direct Messages or conversations that you have deleted. When you delete a group conversation, you will leave that group and will no longer be able to participate.

I spotted this yesterday and a friend helped me check to see if it was the case. It is. It seems to be a new thing but I don’t know when it was implemented, or why. I’m fairly certain that it used to be the case that if you deleted a direct message then it was deleted everywhere, but that is no longer what happens.

In the screenshot within the second embedded tweet (above) my friend has deleted the direct message saying “Let me know when you’ve seen this DM… and I’ll delete it“. After refreshing my page (and also checking on my phone) his DM was still there for me. I also deleted one of his and we tried all the permutations we could think of.

So… if you send a DM and delete it the other person will still have a copy.

Note that if the other party has email notifications switched on it’s possible that the email will contain a copy of the text of the DM*, or just inform them that a DM has been sent (possibly both – I switched off email notifications as soon as I could so no longer know what’s in them).

*the same email notification thing would happen with an at-mention too.

Supplemental
What happens to the DMs of someone blocks you? They’ll still be there.

I’m blocked by several #homeopathy fans though I’ve exchanged a few DM messages with one, who later blocked me again). Those messages are still there – I’ve no idea if the other party deleted them too (I didn’t delete mine, just forgot about them but went and checked). Until this moment I’d assumed that blocking someone wiped the DMs. I’m not sure if it did and Twitter’s restored them to my mailbox (literally not looked at them in two years) or if they were always there.

This also means that all of my Quora answers on the topic have turned out to be wrong 😉

I have been trying to find out when this change (I’m convinced it’s a change and that it hasn’t always been this way) and the earliest tweet(s) I can find about it are below.

This suggests the change happened between 2014 and 2015 – anyone know more?

Got it! July 2014! See point 5 in the list change from 7th to 19th July. There isn’t an archived snapshot of the page between 7-19th July but Lou and Sharon’s tweeted exchange above suggests deleting still affected both parties on 9 July 2014.

7 July 2014 – archived copy of Twitter’s support article from that date, screenshot below

Screenshot 2017-10-06 23.46.53

19 July 2014 – archived copy of Twitter’s support article from that date, screenshot below

Screenshot 2017-10-06 23.49.29.png

This refers to using Twitter on the web, the info also tells you how to delete DMs using a phone but doesn’t specify if they’re deleted for the other person too.