Is there an app that tracks how much time each person in a convo talks?
November 21, 2017 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I would like an app that keeps track of how much time each person in a conversation, meeting, therapy session, etc talks. This could be done manually. It doesn't have to involve speech recognition or anything. The interface would be something like a chess clock in reverse. There's a spot for each person. When a person starts talking, they tap their spot and the app begins running up their time. When they are done, they tap their spot again to stop their clock. Alternatively, if someone else jumps in they can tap their own spot and the app starts running up their time and stops running up the previous person's time.

You could also have a mode where the timers count down. At the start of the meeting, you give each person 5 minutes or 10 minutes or something, and that's all the time they get to use.

The app would work for 2 or more people (unlike chess clocks, which are limited to 2 people).

I realize that this would be annoying, but it could also be very revealing to meeting participants. In the appropriate circumstances (e.g. therapy) it could also be educational for family members, couples, etc. Think of it as a conversational equity tool.

Does anything like this exist?

Bonus question: would this actually be useful, or would it be an almost guaranteed nightmare?
posted by Winnie the Proust to Technology (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am a technical idiot, but if you wanted that functionality immediately, you could do it by just having each participant start and stop a separate timer, and compare at the end of the session. But the app you want probably does exist for real.
posted by LizardBreath at 11:00 AM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

A quick google for "multiple person chess clock" turned up this. and this.

However, I think this would be a nightmare. All it takes is one person to hit the wrong button or forget to hit it and all the stats are ruined.
posted by bondcliff at 11:08 AM on November 21, 2017

I was at a seminar where someone mentioned using a conference call tool which automatically measured and published the speaking times at the end of each call to all participants. I don't know what the tool was, but it sounds similar to what you are asking for. Maybe someone with better google-fu than me can turn it up.
posted by meinvt at 11:22 AM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, speaker-detection has been a thing in conference calling for a while now. There are some tools if you search "speaker recognition," if doing this afterwards is an option.
posted by rhizome at 12:12 PM on November 21, 2017

This isn't an app, but you can get a separate device, generally called a sociometric badge (because you wear it like a badge). The badges measure this and lots of other stuff as well - who you talk to, how much, interruptions, etc. They are sometimes called sociometers.
posted by cushie at 4:03 PM on November 21, 2017

You could cobble this together with Charlie DeTar's Progressive Clock.

I built a provocative prototype of limited currencies for conference calls but didn't get very far in testing it. General reaction was "nightmare."

Although having to trade speaking time is a nice thought experiment, I think Charlie's version is way more practical in the real world.

Joan DiMicco also did some work in this space, visualizing over/under participation on shared displaces while groups were doing decision-making exercises. My dim memory was that simply showing who was over/under participating didn't really solve the underlying problem; over-participators tended not to moderate their participation.

Based on that insight, I sought to find ways to scaffold under-participators into participating more, instead of expecting over-participators to participate less and expect others to fill the space. That paper is here. It worked pretty well. In interviews, over-participators tended to have high confidence that their contributions were valuable and a low tolerance for dead air. They bucketed under-participators as "not wanting to participate" and felt like it was their own responsibility to keep the class discussion moving forward.
posted by heresiarch at 4:32 PM on November 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Whether it's going to be a nightmare or not probably depends on what you're going to do with the data. Someone could use it to penalize people who don't get as many opportunities to speak (women would be an example of one such group) or introverts who just don't want to talk as much. If you're going to try to get people who hog the spotlight to be aware of how much they're doing it, it might not be so bad. But even that would probably require some tact.

Arthur C Clarke wrote a story, The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch, about a device like this.
posted by Anne Neville at 3:27 PM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

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