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Ringtones [Mar. 5th, 2009|10:57 am]
What is a ringtone for? Answer: it is for you to be able to hear your cellular telephone ringing.

What makes one cellphone ringtone better than another? Answer: annoyingness. Ringtones annoy by either being bad songs or by being overly loud or by being audible to anyone who is not the recipient of the call.

What is the ideal ringtone? Answer: A ringtone which is clearly audible by you, but remains inaudible, or just background noise, to everyone else.

Are there any noises which YOU hear better than everyone else? Answer: if so, make those noises your ringtone! You can then set your volume lower, be less annoying, and still get the same ability to hear your phone ring.

What if I don't know of such a noise? Answer: The cocktail party effect points out that you can hear your own name at lower volumes than other people will hear your name. In a crowded party, everything is background noise except you instantly notice when someone says your name.

What is the point of this? Answer: Your cell phone ring tone should be someone saying "Hey <your name>". It's an almost perfect solution. It allows everyone to know who's cell phone is ringing, and it allows you to hear your own cell phone at volume levels that won't annoy others. It means that a lonely ringing cell phone embarrasses its owner, rather than being a deniable event. And finally, unless your name is actually IN the song Mambo No 5, it means that I'll never have to hear that ringtone ever again.

[User Picture]From: roninspoon
2009-03-05 04:45 pm (UTC)
Ringtones have additional value. Different tones can be assigned to different notifications or callers. I find it very helpful to have different short tones for calendar and email events as well as different call tones that rank priority of caller.
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2009-03-05 04:48 pm (UTC)
You are advanced, sir!
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[User Picture]From: dragonmudd
2009-03-05 05:05 pm (UTC)
I like most of your reasoning, but you seem to discount one aspect of annoyingness: how annoying it is to the cell phone holder. I mean, if your cell phone administered a small electrical shock to the cell phone holder, that would also satisfy all of your requirements, but would be incredibly annoying. I think I would find the cell phone calling my name to be annoying.

It could cause some funny situations where someone is actually calling my name and I think my phone is ringing, thus trying to answer my phone... and now the person thinks that I'm trying to ignore them by pretending that I got a phone call when I didn't.

Another possibility is to have a voice of some that is very familiar to you, like a family member or a close friend or significant other. I definitely can pick out voices that I know intimately almost as well as I can hear my own name in noisy situations. Of course, this equally gives an opportunity for humorous situations.
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2009-03-05 06:38 pm (UTC)
Give it a try and report the results! I have found it to be non-annoying, particularly because it is me saying my own name, so it doesn't sound like other people so much.

Don't discard this idea without trying it. I have been doing it for 6+ months now with very positive results.
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[User Picture]From: qousqous
2009-03-05 05:47 pm (UTC)
So you're saying that using this ringtone to announce that my wife is calling is not a good idea?
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[User Picture]From: purple_dj
2009-03-05 06:21 pm (UTC)
I knew someone who adjusted their ring tone to be a baby crying to optimize the annoying value. It worked too well and was turned off after two days.
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2009-03-05 06:40 pm (UTC)
I tried to make my ringtone annoying for a while, but was also overly-successful. Utilizing the cocktail party effect has been good for 6+ months so far.
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[User Picture]From: stereotype441
2009-03-05 06:28 pm (UTC)
My ringtone is a dixieland rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In". It is so embarrassing that I always keep my cell phone on vibrate. Which is exactly the way I like it.
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[User Picture]From: waltermonkey
2009-03-05 08:40 pm (UTC)
I agree. I don't like any ringtones interrupting normal conversation.

It is good to know the cocktail party effect has a name though! I have always wondered why that was. I wasn't sure if I had superpowers or if I was just self-obsessed.
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[User Picture]From: steuard
2009-03-05 07:36 pm (UTC)
You know, this reminds me of the time in college when some friends used my computer to record themselves whispering, "Hey Peter!" and some similar (more specific) clips. Their plan, as I recall, was to recompile the MP3 player on your computer to play the clips at random, widely-spaced intervals.

Did they ever pull it off?
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2009-03-05 08:05 pm (UTC)
This is the first I have ever heard of it... oh my...
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[User Picture]From: bookerz
2009-03-05 07:50 pm (UTC)
I speculate that over time unique ringtones begin to sound an awful lot like names do to the owner of the ringtone or name. Just like I often hear my name when someone answers in the affirmative, I hear a phantom ringtone in the sounds of unrelated electronics.

My own suggestion: pick a sound that makes you happy. triath's suggestion sounds pretty good for that.
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2009-03-05 08:20 pm (UTC)
There's a converse effect: when you have a ringtone, that soundbite gains recognizability for you over time -- it becomes a mental proxy for someone calling your name anyway.
I remember that I had a scenario once where this was useful to train up a particular noise's importance, but I can't remember right now
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[User Picture]From: qousqous
2009-03-05 09:59 pm (UTC)
A couple of my ringtones are based off of music in my collection, and it freaks me out when I actually hear it playing.
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[User Picture]From: harobed
2009-03-05 08:33 pm (UTC)
My phone is mostly set to vibrate, which means I miss a fair percentage of calls. If I have the ringer loud enough to hear it in public places, it terrifies me when I'm home alone, and I figured that not yelping right before saying "hi" to people was a good move.
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[User Picture]From: porfinn
2009-03-05 09:56 pm (UTC)
Oh! To never have to hear Mambo No. 5 ever again! That would be so wonderful.

I just would appreciate it if more manners were applied to cell phones, but that is a huge, whole other cauldron of issues, not just ring tones.

I have the most basic and unexciting cell phone you can get, but I did cough up a buck so I could have a ring tone that no one else would have so I never had to worry about not recognizing my phone ringing. I got the unexpected bonus that my ring tone always appears to cause people to laugh, as they smile, shake their heads and say some variation on, "That has got to be Cj's phone." Who doesn't love the Muppet Show theme? (but, primarily I wanted to have something so distinct that I would know instantly it was mine!)
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[User Picture]From: goteam
2009-03-06 01:19 am (UTC)
I miss my old Star Trek theme song ringtone, but my new sounds-like-the-Matrix-calling old-school phone ringing sound is all right. And I stand by my theory that cell phones should ring loud and embarrassing, and we should all feel free to heap verbal abuse on people who are embarrassed thusly, the better to make us default to setting the damn things to silent.
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[User Picture]From: jondissed
2009-03-06 03:16 am (UTC)

happy memories

Ahhh, happy memories of working at midnight in the university office, peaceful, not a soul around, when suddenly, from beneath the paper heap on my office-mate's desk, red and green disco lights and a robot announcing PETER BOOTHE YOUR PHONE IS RINGING, PETER BOOTHE YOUR PHONE IS RINGING!

Frickin' terrifying. Well, I guess "cocktail party effect" is accurate after all, because those terrify me too.
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2009-03-06 03:21 am (UTC)

Re: happy memories

I just want to point out: Not a robot. Actually how my voice sounds!
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[User Picture]From: zudini
2009-03-06 07:12 pm (UTC)
So make a handy mobile web service that lets people type in their name and get a synthesized voice calling them. Have it gradually increase in volume over the course of the clip. You may have to charge people $.99 in order to make it really popular though.
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[User Picture]From: profgreg
2009-03-12 05:05 pm (UTC)
It is entirely beyond me why anyone would want their cellphone to make noise at all. I've had mine on vibrate for 3 years, because I like being able to ignore it if I'm in the middle of something else, and would otherwise live in fear of being the jackass whose phone rings during class or in the theater.
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