How to build your own conference call number in the cloud

twilio

I hate conference calls. Actually I hate dialing into them. It’s a tedious painful process that is iffy to automate. But, thanks to Twilio, Dropbox, my colleague Kevin Tofel  and Maciej Skierkowski from Factor.io I can now make the whole experience easier. And you can too.

Skierkowski had created this hack after his own frustration with conference calls, and he blogged about it after I begged him to tell me how he made a simple, one-number conference call line. His blog post made it seem so easy I decided to see if I could do it. After all, I already use Dropbox and I easily could sign up for a Twilio account.

A couple caveats here. This line has no password associated with it. So, presumably once someone has the number, they could dial it at any random point in time to potentially listen in on your calls. You do herar a tone when someone joins the line, though. This also costs money, although how much depends on your use. There are other pre-fabricated options such as Speek, HipDial and others that have different features worth exploring.

The gist of this hack is that you sign up for a Twilio number and then post some code in a Dropbox file. You then associate that code with your Twilio number, and voila, you have a conference call line.

It wasn’t quite as easy as Skierkowski wrote (go check it out for the details), but with Kevin helping me, it took me about 20 minutes to sign up for Twilio, follow Skierkowski’s instructions and create my own private conference number. The toughest part was actually creating an .xml file to drop in Dropbox simply because converting the files from Text Edit and Google Docs formats added all this junk that messed with the program.

So Kevin installed Drive Notepad in Chrome to create the file, we saved Skierkowski’s code, and the whole thing worked. I changed the message to the oddly formal, “Welcome to the Stacey conference number” since the text-to-speech engine read the word “Stacey’s” as “Stacey S”, but that’s about it.

It was fun. It was easy. And now I have a conference call line that I can dial with one touch from my phone whenever a calendar invite opens on my handset. Plus, there’s a whole bunch of stuff I’ve been wanting to try on Twilio, and now that door is open to me.

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