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I’m doing Jesús Martín’s VUI Challenge to sharpen my skills. Jesus has a great deal of experience to share, and I enjoy doing his course when I have the time. Keeping my writing sharp is vital for great conversation design.

I spend a few hours on each challenge within my daily tasks. Here’s my writing with my thought process…

VUI Challenge Email #1

Each day he sends a new challenge by email.

This is challenge #1:

Challenge: Design a Welcome message for a service called TVguide for a Google Action or an Alexa Skill. …

An image that reminds me of Blade Runner, which Jason references at the end of the interview
An image that reminds me of Blade Runner, which Jason references at the end of the interview
Photo by Aline Kircchinbauer on Unsplash

Last year I interviewed my friend Jason F. Gilbert to discuss his approach to conversation design.

As I’ve tried to get my head around this whole new area of design Jason has been a wonderful inspiration. He’s generous with his thoughts and advice, and hilarious too. I’m so glad I recorded this.

As the interview was recorded last year Jason talks a lot about Anna — the bot he was designing at CoCoHub. Anna is one of those designs that I feel every conversation designer should study and learn from — a bot that’s been developed over decades, is the…

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If you’d prefer to listen to the blog, follow the above SoundCloud link

We know that writing is hugely important to conversation design.

But I think there’s something else that is equally important and doesn’t get enough attention.

Great writing will take you toward the final result, but the user will experience the voice that embodies your writing.

I find it peculiar how some conversation designers place less importance on how the voice talks than what it says. To me, this is like saying “my final results don’t matter — the work I produce before that is more important.”


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In November 2020 I reached out to the conversation design community with a question:

What do conversation designers need in their toolkit?

This idea came from Steven King’s book ‘On Writing’. He suggests that writers use certain tools every time they write — grammar, style, vocabulary, etc. — and they should consider which tools are in good shape and which need improving. I loved this idea and wondered how it might relate to conversation design?

You probably know this, but it’s worth saying it again; ‘conversation designer’ is still a new job title. Chatbots and voicebots were niche until around…

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It was at the first excellent VoiceLunch of 2021 that Allen Firstenberg said we should disagree more — his point being that we should avoid being an echo chamber as we all might benefit from the insights gained.

I absolutely agree (off to a bad start there!).

Allen’s suggestion made me think how I spent too much time on social media (LinkedIn and Twitter) in discussions about conversation design throughout 2020. This year I‘m going to do things differently because I’m not sure how much impact I can have when I suggest a different approach without showing it.

So here’s…

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Sound brings the world to life. We listen all day (even when sleeping). Even people with partial or total hearing loss still respond to vibrations.

I wrote this article as a quick introduction to important principles of sound, and why you should care about them. It’s for designers who are new to sound but perhaps veterans will also find something useful here.

Let’s get started!

1) Sound is emotional

We constantly use our ears to listen for threats. It’s a survival mechanism. For example we listen to find out; Is that person angry with me? Is that growling dog close by? …

Words gain new meaning when said aloud — this can strengthen the message or undermine it. With this article I shine a light on how paralanguage can impact voice assistants.

Photo by Andre Guerra on Unsplash

Paralanguage needs to be experienced to be understood — please listen to the included audio files :)

Words on a screen.

Words said aloud.

They are not the same.

Why is that? When a text is read aloud it gains an extra layer of meaning; each speaker puts their own spin on words and this can either reinforce or change the message. This phenomena is often called paralanguage and it’s present with every spoken utterance. Paralanguage also occurs with synthetic voices…

Benjamin McCulloch (

Conversation Designer (with audio super powers)

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