Google Voice questions

Dear Lazyweb,

We've got this phone number where someone reads aloud the DNA Lounge calendar for the upcoming week. In this modern world, I'm not really sure whether it's worth even having such a thing (e.g., I have no idea how many people ever listen to it, since the telco won't give us those statistics), but we keep doing it because it's been the same phone number since 1985 (I've seen it printed on flyers going back that far!)

Anyway, I'd like to automate the process. I was thinking that I could have it forward to a Google Voice number, and then have a cron job upload a new speech-synthesized MP3 every night as the outgoing message.

Can any of you who are Google Voice users tell me if this is even possible? Reports seem to conflict. Can you try it and let me know?

I can't easily try it myself, because currently that phone number doesn't ring anywhere (it's announce-only). So to set it up for Google Voice, first I'll have to forward it to a real phone so that I can receive a call and type in the magic confirmation code. I'd rather not bother until I know it's worth the effort.

Also, I'm kind of confused about which of the two varieties of Google Voice setups I should be using. Should I create a new phone number and forward the old one to it, or should I tell it to "take over" voicemail on the old one? How does that work, anyway?

Update: The answer is, "No, Google Voice can't do that. You can't upload an MP3, and outgoing messages are limited to 30 seconds."

Other unacceptable suggestions included "hook up the phone line to a Linux PC running some hacky software", and "use some other random web service that actually costs money."

Obviously both of these approaches would be way more costly than what I'm willing to put in to this passing whim of a project. So, fuck it.

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27 Responses:

  1. mordant says:

    could you cron this:

    then divert the number to a VOIP service running asterisk which then plays back the recording as an OGM?

    • jwz says:

      Text-to-speech is a solved problem with /usr/bin/say on any Mac.

      The rest of your acronym-soup means nothing to me.

      • mordant says:

        OGM is an outgoing message on a voicemail service.

        The Asterisk package has been recommended to me as a great VOIP ("Voice over IP") platform.

        You could set up the service to respond just witha voicemail. And because Asterisk would theoretically run in the same environment as your other tools (or be reachable by scp or another file transfer agent), you could pipe the output of your say tool to a file which is then copied across.

        In theory all you'd need to do to update is dump a text file somewhere.

        • jwz says:

          "Download this Linux-ware to run on a computer that is physically in your office." Fuck no.

          • romanticboy says:

            Asterisk runs on Macs, but it's overkill for what you want (the phone adapter cards start at ~600$)

            It's unclear, is this recording service at the company or on a machine at your place?

            • shandrew says:

              The point of most of these VOIP systems is that you don't need any sort of adapter cards. You can simply have your ip phones (or phone software) talk to your asterisk phone server which talks to some VOIP provider.

              The phone adapter cards are only needed if you want to involve analog phone lines or analog phones. The asterisk server is simply a highly customizable version of the box you get with something like Vonage (the Vonage box also has an analog adapter).

              But yeah, this is way overkill. There must be other providers out there which abstract the server part out for you.

  2. nmiell says:

    The only way to record an outgoing message is to have Google Voice call you and then record the message via your telephone, so uploading a speech-synthed MP3 is a non-starter.

  3. joel says:

    Give Twilio a try, if you like it, forward the current number to Twilio?

  4. dan_lane says:

    You could probably achieve what you want with

  5. hadlock says:

    tell it to "take over" voicemail on the old one? How does that work, anyway?

    I got google voice to take over my cell phone's voicemail (using tmobile) with no problems; I've been using it now for a little over six months (Since I got the Google Voice invite) and I've had zero problems with it.

    I don't know how long of a "name" or message you can leave with G.Voice though. The string I used to forward the call can also be found on wikipedia, using your local phone system's strings.

  6. pixel_juice says:

    I think what you are looking for is:


  7. lovingboth says:

    Where does the line terminate? If it's there, there are other ways of finding out how many people call it apart from having someone listen for it (not) ringing.

    Some band names are not very text-to-voice friendly, so you also risk announcing you've got David Boo-eee playing. Plus if this becomes popular amongst venues, you know that some bands will deliberately pick names Ghoti-like names, just to mess with them.

    I would be tempted to make a feature of the line. Let one of the people who will be playing in the next week record the message. They can add a plug about how wonderful they are after the listings.

  8. vordark says:

    As one person mentioned, importing a greeting just isn't possible with Google Voice (unless this feature has been added in the last month or so, which is the last time I tried it).

    The only way to change the message is to do so via a phone call. There are hacks/workarounds that report to "solve" this by having some software on your computer talk to an internet phone provider (like Skype), have it make the phone call for you and then have your computer play the MP3. I assume you'd also have to have your computer emit the control tones to navigate the phone prompts.

    I say "assume" because after dicking around with these "fixes" for a few hours, I made no observable progress and decided to just stick with my provider's voice mail system.

  9. erorus says:

    In this modern world, I'm not really sure whether it's worth even having such a thing (e.g., I have no idea how many people ever listen to it, since the telco won't give us those statistics)

    I may be missing the point, and you want to do this whole Google Voice thing as a technical exercise or to continue your tradition, but you may want to consider seriously whether people ever listen to it. Before going through all that effort, I would append a message to one event: "mention this phone number for half price admission" or "mention this phone number between 7pm and 8pm for a drink discount" or something to give your listeners incentive to mention the number to you. I leave it to you to find what incentive works best and doesn't cost too much. If you never hear anything after appending that to a few events for a few weeks, maybe it's not worth doing at all?

  10. allartburns says:

    I used Tropo for an art project last year, it was really easy to set up and the text to speech was pretty good for arbitrary text strings. I was also able to play music samples and have a complex phone tree. The only downside was that I had to bother learning some Python.


  11. option12 says:

    I use google voice all the time. I am not sure how you would change the greeting, as it calls your phone and has you record it. As far as which method, just fwd the old number to the new google number. set the google number to do not disturb, so that it goes straight to voice mail

  12. samalolo says:

    It's actually doable using the twilio API.
    I wrote a perl script where you just provide the url to an MP3 file and your google voice number. It then calls your GV number and plays back the audio over your default greeting. It's not perfect as every now and then it chops the first second of the audio .. I think I just need to add some more delays in there. Cost is 3 cents per minute using their API.
    My google voice greeting is now "Believe it or not, George isn't at home" from Seinfeld :-)


  13. lhoriman says:

    Replace the voice message with "Visit, you luddite." I'm pretty sure that'll fit in 30 seconds.

    • netsharc says:

      Or "Please send an SMS with 'DNA, space, month, slash, date' to xxDNA to get a message of the bands playing on that date." (or just 'DNA' for the bands for tonight/tomorrow night, etc).

      This technique is probably also less than cheap...

      How about a horde of telephone-answering Indians?

    • lovingboth says:

      People with impaired vision? People who not want to pay lot$ for a mobile net connection on their phone?