Orange is my favorite color

Am I the last one to hear about outbound dialing from your web application? There are a couple of service providers who will let you programmatically initiate an outbound telephone call and incorporate pre-recorded audio or text-to-speech. I just tried a demo of CDyne’s Notify! and you can even set the caller ID parameters. Voxeo, who has long been the VoiceXML champion, has a similar product called CallXML which seems to have much more powerful pronunciation and text-to-speech controls. Voxeo also has VOIP integration with Skype.

Voxeo how it works graphic

This is incredible stuff! At, event organizers send tons of email to communicate with their attendees. Our email system handles bounces and sends a nightly report that includes any new bounces along with alternate phone contact information in case the email was urgent or they want to follow-up offline.

As email addresses go bad over time, part of our bounce handling could be to schedule a pre-recorded phone call to dial the number on file and let them know that we’re unable to reach them. It could even include step by step directions on how to update their account, provide a phone number to call back later for help or even transfer them to our general support number. The calls are very simple:

POST /NotifyWS/PhoneNotify.asmx HTTP/1.1
Content-Type: text/xml; charset=utf-8
Content-Length: length
SOAPAction: ""

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<soap:Envelope xmlns:xsi="" xmlns:xsd="" xmlns:soap="">
<NotifyPhoneBasic xmlns="">

Notify! costs $39/mo and $.09/call. 1000 bounces per month would cost about $125. That seems like a ridiculous bargain for the increase in data integrity and the benefit to users. Note that I’m assuming these are emails that users want to receive… undesirable emails would only be worse in telephone form.

Is anyone doing this with their apps? Either inbound VoiceXML or outbound calling?


  1. dave said:

    on September 15, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    Cool technology. I can see how it would be useful, but keep in mind that many ‘members’ didn’t enter their email addresses using the site in the first place. In my case, mine was added by a BMW chapter I had never even done a DE with. I was a bit confused when I first began receiving emails from this site.

    Obviously, if my email was mistaken, the prospect of getting harassed over the phone by a website I’ve never heard of is less than desirable. I’m not suggesting you would do that intentionally, but there’s a good possibility that some would take it that way.

    If I were in your shoes (and drawing somewhat on my experience running a major web service), I would give users the ability to opt in to receive those kinds of phone calls. If you do it right, everyone will understand that it’s in the best interest of the event registrars, and check the box. For people new to the site, make it the default.

    It’s possible that I’m being too conservative, but people can be very touchy about phone calls. Just my two cents, anyway.

  2. brian said:

    on September 15, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    @Dave, thanks for (apparently) tracking me down through MSR and commenting here. Your point about organizers importing email addresses is a really good one – I wouldn’t want to receive random phone calls so we’re not going to inflict that on our users either.

    Did you receive emails from or from an organizer using MSR? It’s primarily instructors who are imported by clubs and they don’t always send an introduction message describing what they’re doing.

    I checked your site out – welcome to the dark side of racing! You think owning the truck is bad? Wait until you go to the enclosed trailer. :)

  3. dave said:

    on September 20, 2006 at 9:33 pm

    Sorry, forgot to return here.

    I just looked through my old email (never delete anything) to make sure I knew what I was talking about. My MSR account was created in feb 2004 by the del val bmwcca, back when the site was still called pukkasoft. I was somewhat confused by this at the time, mostly because I didn’t remember ever participating in a delval event before. The reply address was yours, and your and lou’s names were included in the body of the email.

    Not a big deal, in any case. I commented because I was reading your site, not because I was trying to track you down about this issue.

    I think I’ve come to terms with owning the truck, btw. Certainly nice not to have to pile everything into a stiff racecar and drive 6 hours home. The whole process of buying it almost caused me physical pain, though. Thanks for checking out my site.

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