2011/Own Your Phone Number

From IndieWeb


  • Asterisk hard to use
  • Google voice first time phone numbers are decoupled from devices easily

Things you might want your phone number to do

  • Answer a call on any device (computer, phone, iPad)
  • Respond to SMSs on any device
  • Archive all SMSs and phone calls
  • Simple conference calls (web dashboard?)
  • Smart auto-attendant (quiet hours, awareness of your location)

Tropo Resources/Docs

Session Notes

Etherpad (Kirsten/Aaron)


Own Your Own Phone Number @aaronpk


They get the voicemail before it hits your phone, and sends you an mp3 and transcribes it (which is not accurate) but they do color the words with their judgement of how accurate each word is. And it can transcribe numbers very well. You can click the numbers to call them. Makes it extremely easy to decouple numbers from devices.

Use your phone number as your identity. Pushing this as using this as your only phone number. Nobody has to know where you are answering your phone. Handy for moving across the US, traveling around the world.

You can only get US numbers.

You can answer calls in Gmail (uses Flash so browser has to support Flash) - Gmail starts ringing.

But you're still tied to Google, you don't exactly own it.

Good: law which allowed you to move phone numbers to other carriers. (You can use Google Voice to choose a cool looking number then move it to another carrier).

Would really like a way to own your own number. There's no API for Google Voice.

Tropo http://tropo.com/

Is an API for phones. SMS as well as voice.

You also get a way to hook into IM accounts, such as AIM. Also have a browser widget, so can use your browser to chat.

It's really easy to set up. Notify this URL when these things happen.

Provides you a Skype number and SIP number.

Can either pick a new phone number (will be live in 2 minutes) or port your number.

When the phone number is rung, you get a file w/ data about the call.

Their software is open source - but you probably can't run it because you can't interface with telephone carriers yourself.

There are a lot of libraries in various languages.

Can write your own code to process the text, reply depending on what the text is.

They also have a transcription API (it's charged by the minute). In 30 languages.

You can use the number in development mode for free.

Does IVR - voice response

Prompt the caller "say sales or support", figure out what they said. By restricting the vocabulary, you increase the accuracy a lot.

In several languages.


  • Get an archive of all messages sent & received.
  • Send SMSs with a full computer keyboard/whatever device is nearest/most convenient.
  • Conference Calling: would be nice to use your number for a conference


  • Could create a voice-based command system: call in and have it tweet for you, to automate something.
  • Aaron's phone always knows where he is, or if he's moving. Would be nice if he is moving, have it say "It looks like Aaron is driving, would you like to call him anyway, leave a message, send an email" Want to discourage people from leaving messages.
  • If there's an event on Aaron's Google calendar, say "It looks like Aaron's in a meeting"
  • Temporary phone numbers. I need a phone number for a certain situation to give out to certain people. Could expire the number after a certain point. Craigslist ads, people at bars. Create a pool of phone numbers you can use temporarily. You can choose between "ring through" or "sound like fax". Or even make it sound like someone else is answering.
  • Link to a contacts database. Message the caller hears is dependent on what group they are in. Family hears you're on a plane, strangers hear "unavailable." Seattle friends hear a message like "aaron is in town, just checked in to ___". Customizing responses based on who is calling.
  • Use spoofed caller IDs to trigger different types of rings/vibrate patterns so you know which group the person is calling from. Context-based ringback tones.
  • Return call queue, have it automatically connect you to your list of people who called during a meeting.
  • Discourage people from leaving voicemails, use your voicemail greeting to push people to other communication media.
  • Caller ID on analog telephones: 1st ring is a 50volt pulse (DC so ouch), then they use the pause btwn 1st & 2nd ring to send caller ID data. This concept doesn't exist in cell phones. There's no dial tone. But there is ability to send arbitrary data, so why don't they send caller ID?
  • If there was a regular check-in call to someone who is living alone, has health issues, is older etc, and then alert someone if they don't answer.
  • Or a tool for parents to make their teenage children's lives miserable. Then teenage children can write a script with Tropo to play their parents pre-recorded messages.

Aaron demonstrated writing a script that called his virtual number, then had it call Nate and say Hello.

Reid: You need a web app that calls you and plays disco inferno. (cue music)