Co.Create

Listen To This: Pling Is A Voice App That Brings Talking Back To Instant Communications

De-De’s Pling is a fascinating new instant-communications tool. Are people ready to speak to each other again?

More often than not, we need to get in touch with people when we don’t have the luxury of face-to-face encounters. And though the options are plenty, each has its own drawback. Texts and IM are fast, but they’re impersonal; voicemails are intimate, but tedious; and email can all too easily be misinterpreted (and all that typing!).

Pling, a new voice messaging app from New York-based product development studio De-De, aims to combine the speed and ease of a text message with the personality of the human voice.

The desktop and mobile app, whose name is a portmanteau of "play" and "ping," lets you exchange quick voice messages with either one person or a group. Each Pling conversation is contained in its own thread, and each message is archived chronologically, so you can revisit them if you’d like.

But Pling is not an app meant for the "How are yous" and "Hope to see you soons" that clutter many a voicemail. Rather, De-De created Pling to be a tool that makes creative collaboration less tedious, and more true to life. For example, you can’t listen to a Pling before you send it--as soon as you let go of the "tap to record" button, it’ll shoot the message off to the recipient.

Pling is the latest in a range of products to come out of De-De, an offshoot of the ad agency Droga5 whose name is short for "design" and "development." The year-old studio, which operates independently and has its own board of directors, has previously launched Thunderclap, a platform for crowdsourced ideas. De-De has several new launches in the pipeline for 2013, including Night Out, a photo sharing app, and Birdseye, an app that re-envisions email specifically for the iPad.

Each De-De product is built by a team that includes both engineers and marketers, which CEO Hashem Bajwa says requires "constant recalibration."

"It’s a marketing company, and an engineering and development company, and we work together in a way that I don’t think the two industries do well very often," he says.

We’ve often written about the differences between ad agencies and tech startups, and how each can learn from the other. The products that come out of De-De, which has deep roots in marketing and storytelling, yet defines itself as a technology company, exemplify that creative friction.

For example, De-De subscribes, at least in part, to the Lean Startup principle of shipping early and often. So Pling 1.0 is very sparse and missing several features the team initially wanted to include, such as the ability to attach documents and other media to Plings (which Bajwa says will definitely make its way into a future version). At the same time, Pling CTO Robert Spychala says he doesn’t want to hurriedly ship something that’s ugly and crashes all the time, because the customer won’t come back.

"Whatever product we release, we want people to recognize the craft that went into building it," he says.

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