Voicenotes for Backpack Jason 25 Jul 2006

52 comments Latest by Ali Daniali

We’ve recently been experimenting with celltell voiceNote for Backpack and found it quite useful. Think of it as voicemail for your Backpack account.

All you do is sign up, enter up to three phone numbers you’d call from (your cell, your home, and work, for example), your Backpack URL, and the email address for whichever Backpack page you want to send voice notes to (yes, Backpack pages have email addresses). Then you get a phone number to call. When you call that number you leave a message after the beep and then it shows up on your Backpack page a few minutes later.

A voice note looks and sounds like this:

You can play the note, pause the note, rewind the note, and even save the note to your computer (click the eject button on the right side of the player).

It’s a really cool little tool. It works with all Backpack plans — including the free plans. And as of now the service is free. A big thanks to Ali who put this service together and continues to make it better. We certainly hope you like it.

52 comments so far (Jump to latest)

JF 25 Jul 06

Colonel, nothing happened man. This is someone getting really creative with Backpack’s already built in email-in feature. We didn’t build this voice notes feature, someone else did.

Dan Boland 26 Jul 06

This will be extremely useful for a lot of people. Well done.

Joe Bart 26 Jul 06

Wow! Thanks for the tip JF. Signed up and called in right away—it instantly addressed me by name. Very, very cool little tool.

Matthias 26 Jul 06

The feature is sadly only for US users. For all other users the numbers are international call which is too expensive.

Long Time Listener - Repeat Caller 26 Jul 06

Inserts plea for calendar comment here.

Realises calendar is supposed to come “this week”.

Wonders if new feature will work for those of us overseas.

Thanks 37S for their efforts.

Quizak 26 Jul 06

This is the missing piece for me.

I don’t have a crackberry, I mean blackberry yet and I am never able to email my backpack on the go.

With this new feature I will always be a few clicks away from recording my notes.

Don Wilson 26 Jul 06

No Dallas number :(

Adrian 26 Jul 06

Can you make it clear up front that there are only US numbers (perhaps that is just for now), as it isn’t much use to your customers in other places right now, unless we want to pay international call charges.

Adrian 26 Jul 06

… oh - and because it’s no good to me can I hide the black bar on my paid for pages please.

Adrian 26 Jul 06

forget it - just noticed that it’s not on every page!


Ali Daniali 26 Jul 06

Thank you Jason for the blog. Now that the cat is out of the bag I want to thank all the early adoptors for their help. Let me reply to some concerns posted here. I know a lot of you wish for some international numbers, so we’ve been researching to find a finacially managable solution.

Also we are looking to add more US based local metro numbers.

Initially we anticipated that most voiceNotes would be generated from someones cellular phone and further assuming that most plans include nationwide LD.

So you might want to register your cell number as an alternative if we don’t have a local number for you.

Furthermore, we plan on rolling out some major features at the end of the month, but send your suggestions/feedback to me please.

-Ali Daniali

Jason 26 Jul 06


At least in my case your assumptions were dead on. I don’t live near any of the numbers but have unlimited LD on my cell which is what I’ll always be using to access the service. Tried it out and it’s awesome…gets rid of my need to carry something around for notes when I’m away from my computer. Now when the calendar shows up there won’t be much need for anything else to keep track of all my “stuff”. Great service, thanks!


Michael S. 26 Jul 06

Cool feature. But what’s with the eject button as save?

Mike S. 26 Jul 06

VoiceNoted did not work when I tried it. I signed up and called and was greeted with my name. That part worked fine, but the voice note has not appeared on my Backpack page. I wanted to go back and check my settings to make sure that I put in the proper email address, but could not find any way to do that. Perhaps I just missed it.


Daniel Drucker 26 Jul 06

I love it!

Don Scencl 26 Jul 06

Did Backpack just Jump The Shark?

Just asking?

(Aside: Nice feature!)

Ali Daniali 26 Jul 06

Mike S. I corrected the database. You had added the “mailto:” portion of your backpack page email. Thanks for bringing this up I am going to write some validation code to avoid others from making the same error. Give it a try again it should work for you now.


Don Schenck 26 Jul 06

The spelling OF MY OWN NAME has jumped the shark!

S-c-h-e-n-c-k … sheesh … I’m an idiot.

Sven Winterstein 26 Jul 06

Pretty cool! That what we germans
call Vorsprung durch Technik.

JF 26 Jul 06

Vorsprung durch Technik

Don, just to annoy you, that’s Audi’s tagline.

pete kim 26 Jul 06

very cool concept!

one question… is there a limit as to how long each recording is?

shane 26 Jul 06

Ali, very innovative and simple! Great work, keep it up!!

Joe 26 Jul 06

Yes, the limit is 5 minutes.

Once you’ve registered, is there any way to add additional numbers? I can’t seem to find a way to add a second or third number once I’ve completed (other than hitting the back button and re-completing registration). I dont know if that does the trick.

But WOW - this is exactly what I’ve been looking for, a way to capture voice recordings without buying a seperate voice recorder or messing with hardware. Calling your own cellphone’s voicemail is kinda weird when you’re holding your cellphone. This is so much better. Definitely willing to pay.

Ali Daniali 26 Jul 06

Thank you everyone for the great response. The service will continue to be free as all this great publicity has gotten the application a sponsor!

Voxeo (http://www.voxeo.com), the Integrated Voice Response service that I use for voiceNotes has agreed to sponsor the application. The expensive side of this application was the IVR side, and with this gracious sponsorship, all of us will continue to leave voiceNotes without cost. Woot! Thank you Voexo and Rick.

Joe, at the end of the month we will be releasing an admin to the application, which will allow you to add/remove/change more phone numbers, associate additional backpack pages to your account, change the timezone, and more.


andrew 26 Jul 06

I’d like to second the comment by Michael S… What’s with the “Save to computer” button? Usually eject means “I’m done, go away” Maybe a disk icon? I also like the Round circle with an arrow out of it ( it looks kinda like: C-> ) for export.

But eject? Seems a bit of an odd choice.

JimT 26 Jul 06

Has anyone tried using Skype to call this? It seems like people from outside the US could call one of the US numbers for free or nearly free that way. I just put it on my Treo and will try it later and report back unless I hear that someone else has done it successfully first.

Ali Daniali 26 Jul 06

JimT I have tried to use Skype for voiceNotes, but because the application “recognizes” you through your telephone number’s CallerID (which Skype doesn’t properly pass) it would require additional input from the user to associate to the proper account.

During our Beta stage I’ve chosen to keep the service lean to get a good baseline.

With that said, my intention is to add Skype support in the future by prompting the user for a PIN if the caller ID information is missing. When this will happen depends greatly on the sucess of the service.

Otherwise, you can test out the Skype number provided by Voxeo by calling: +99000936 9990026611

Email me if you have any further questions. ali at celltell dot tv.


Ali Daniali 26 Jul 06

Quick update. The Skype number that I posted above was for our staging server, the correct number for the production server is the following:

+99000936 9992004270

Rember the application can’t correctly recognize you if you use skype, I am just posting the number as reference if you want to test.

Thanks Rick from Voxeo for catching this.


Brian Munroe 26 Jul 06

@Ali - I had the same problem as Mike S. I put the wrong page email address in the first time I signed up. Tried signing up again with the same info and the correct page email, but still doesn’t work. Thanks.

Greg Beatty 26 Jul 06

I thought a quick fix might be turn the eject icon upside down so its kind of similating download. not eject.

Greg Beatty 26 Jul 06

I thought a quick fix might be turn the eject icon upside down so its kind of simulating download, not eject.

brenton 26 Jul 06

how long does the database take to update? This would be a really useful tool - the voice recorder on my cell sucks, but leaving a voice message at my backpack account could work out well… but right now when I call, a computer voice tells me that my phone number is not recognized in the database (I’m not supressing caller ID or anything).

Mary-Anne 26 Jul 06

no massachusetts number…


Barb Carlson 26 Jul 06

It worked perfect for me the first time I tried it. Thank you! This is great.

Prophetess 26 Jul 06

My concern here is voicemail spam: the scenario is, you are Joe Random Spammer. You find some public Backpack URLs and start a brute-force attack using the fairly-obvious pattern [email protected]. So, after some searching you get lucky, enter the phone number of a throwaway cell you have, and whammo…. some poor guy’s backpack page has 40-50 calls advertising the porn-hotline-of-the-moment.

My secondary concern is that the signup page is not secure (now that’s a good source of Backpack page email addresses for the intrepid wardrivers out there)…

I like the feature; I even like the implementation. How do you plan to address the security concerns?

Ali Daniali 26 Jul 06


My first response to your “brute-force-attack” scenario is that it sounds more expensive to implement than the value the spammer would get.

Also if it does happen, the Backpack customer would delete the offending voiceNote spam, let [email protected] know so we can track their IP and block them, and regenerate a new Page email address.

I think it comes how much it will cost a spammer to send voiceNote spam versus how much they would expect you to spend.

But I will give it to you, I never would have thought of this scenario.

On the SSL for the sign-up form, you have a good point. We’ll implement SSL on this page in the near future, it is a sound practice to do this.

Hope my answer was sufficient. And thank you all for your support.


Anonymous Coward 26 Jul 06

fairly-obvious pattern

What’s the pattern if it’s so obvious? Word # word? That’s not obvious. There could be millions and millions of permutations. There are far cheaper/easier ways to spam people than with Backpack voice notes.

JimT 27 Jul 06

AD, thanks for the quick update. I tried connecting via Skype on the Treo and got some cryptic robotic error message.

I’m highly interested in using this as a work around for the missing audio note feature on my Treo.

Audio notes are possible but not in a very usable fashion (need both hands and the stylus).

Now if I could only get Backpack and Outlook talking I’d be a happy user.

Thanks for the good and innovative work.


William 27 Jul 06

Can we get a “hide” link for the notice in Backpack?

Jon 27 Jul 06

wonderful. Worked immediately, i’m covered by free nights and weekends as well as NW long distance, and this gives me yet another way to get digital files into my system. This is great!

J401 27 Jul 06

Absolutely NOT jumping the shark. This is the next logical step in integrating all facets of a communications network. Always a step ahead, and yet simple. Very well done.

sergio ruiz 27 Jul 06

this is a GREAT feature.. at red red, we have been doing this for some time.. but for a HUGE array of different uses.. this is actually a very simple and clean implemenation of a useful idea..


ignazio 27 Jul 06

Really useful!

Noah Winecoff 27 Jul 06

Love the new feature.

igeekrn 27 Jul 06

Tons of posts above so sry if I missed it. I notice that my time stamps on the Backpack pages are 3 hours behind the time i recorded them though they are available almost immediately. I am in the EST/EDT time zone and I am using a Chicago # (CST I think) so it might be that the server is in California?

Has anyone else noted this issue?

Ali Daniali 28 Jul 06

The timezone issue will be corrected in the release coming at the end of the month. -AD

Terry Howard 28 Jul 06

Are there any plans to add this into basecamp? I would be sweet to have myself and my partners able to post our lightning strike big idea thoughts directly to our messages from wherever we are via the phone

jonto 29 Jul 06

@Terry Howard

Since you are able to edit posts in Backpack, it is possible to copy the voiceNote code and paste it anywhere: e.g. Basecamp, Writeboards, or any webpage that you may have. This is due to the fact that the voice note appears to be stored on celltell’s servers, and the nifty voiceNote player is really a fancy Shockwave link to the file.

Ali Daniali 02 Aug 06

I wanted to let everyone know that we’ve just added a new toll-free number to the service.

877-866-8380 or spelled out as 877-VNOTE-80 !

Thanks to Voxeo for their great support.

-Ali Daniali

Ali Daniali 02 Aug 06

More news today…

Now our friends over the pond can leave a voiceNote too. Here is the London call in number. Enjoy!


-Ali Danali