26 October 2012

Robocall Contest

Stop! I give up! No more robocalls!
Welcome back. I’m retired, right? That means I’m at home much more than I used to be. And that means, every day without fail, I receive half a gazillion telephone solicitations, most of which are robocalls--you know, computerized, autodialed, like a robot calling to sell or tell you something.

Today, however, I am home and I’m ecstatic. I just learned that the Federal Trade Commission is sponsoring a contest to find a way to block robocalls, at least the illegal commercial robocalls. For some reason (oh, I could never guess) that doesn’t include political calls, which are by far the worst offenders. I know; those should end promptly after the election.

Contest Details

The FTC’s contest is wide open. Anyone can enter as long as you do it by 17 January. There’s no entry fee. Do you need incentive beyond terminating the agony? There’s a cash prize, $50,000, if a winner is selected.

The cash prize will be awarded to an individual, team or organization of fewer than 10 people, based on three criteria: (1) does it work, (2) is it easy to use and (3) can it be rolled out (i.e., is it ready to use). Organizations larger than 10 people may enter to win an achievement award but no cash prize.

If you’re interested in submitting, there are more details you should know, such as how the criteria are weighted and the complaint data on robocalls that the FTC will share with contest participants. Check out the links in my P.S.

My Innovative Solution

Let me be clear: I will not be entering the contest. You can thus enter, knowing there is a chance you’ll win. That $50,000 prize, on top of the Social Security I receive, would drive me up a wall when taxes come around next April. Since I’m not entering, I am willing to share the broad parameters of at least one solution I might have proposed.

Are you old enough to remember Mission: Impossible from TV in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s? Or maybe you’ve seen one of the Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible movies. Anyway, somewhere near the beginning of the TV episodes or movies, a device is used to describe the proposed, if-you-accept-it, impossible mission. After laying out the mission, the device self destructs.

Well, one solution I’d offer to end robocalls is to answer those calls with a signal that leaves the autodialer fried like the Mission: Impossible device after spelling out the mission. Zap! That’s Step 1.

For Step 2, I’d like the seemingly inert, fried autodialer to flare up forebodingly if handled. The flare up need not be lethal to the individual inspecting and planning to fix or replace the device, but the warning should be unquestionable.

Do you think I’m being too harsh?

Wrap Up

I’m certainly open to discussing my ideas or any you might have. I’ll sign a nondisclosure agreement if you wish. I will…excuse me; it’s the phone…great, a robocall, promoting one of the candidates. So, if you’d like to share some…oh darn, it’s the phone again. I’m sorry; I’d better not keep you. Thanks for stopping by.

P.S.

FTC robocall contest announcement:
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2012/10/robocalls3.shtm
FTC robocall contest rules, FAQ, etc:
http://robocall.challenge.gov/

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