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September 10, 2008
All the Information You Need
Remember the days of calling 411 and hearing, “hello Operator” and before calling 411 cost from $1.25 and upwards? What about what I used to do in the early 90’s, calling the Chicago Public Library’s reference desk to answer questions that are now a click away on Google? Sure, I could have gone over there and done the research, but the librarians on the other end of the line were too happy to do it for me.
Well, there are a couple of newish tools and websites that allow you to have much of the same functionality all at your voice or if needed, fingertips, all of which are free. Why are these important to look at? Well, just as I described a few weeks back how the iPhone is more computer then phone, services like these make any phone more computer-like.
There are three services that I’ve been using for a while, all of which allow you to use your voice for tasks. First is 1-800-GOOG-411, Google’s answer to 411. A simple call and I get not only the number I’m looking for, but I also get connected or can get a text message with the number and address. GOOG-411 has been a around for a bit, so chances are you have used it already; if not, however, give it a go.
I find that while I’m driving is when ideas, to-do’s or follow-up’s come to mind, but I can’t very well stop or keep driving safely and write them down. So that’s where Jott comes in. Just out of beta, Jott is still free for the ad-supported version and low cost for the pro version. What is Jott? Well, think voice-to-text but with actions associated with it.
After an initial set-up through the Jott website, and a confirmation text with your phone, you’re ready to go. A simple call to (866) JOTT-123 / (866) 568-8123 and you can record to-do lists, send emails or texts, add an appointment in outlook, post to twitter or your blog, and even get Amazon prices/results back. This list keeps growing each day.
And while Jott works with any phone, there are applications for the iPhone and Blackberry. With Jott’s iphone application, a tap to the screen and you can record a message and use a second tap to stop. These Jotts are transcribed to text notes and become available on-line or on the phone itself as part of the notes.
Next up is ChaCha, which for the back-to-school crowd is like a cheat sheet on your phone. By either texting CHACHA (242242), calling 1.800.2CHA.CHA or twitter @chacha any question you have, you’ll get an answer back from one of their guides. Yes, a human at the other end. Now some questions like weather or stock are automated when you text message, but I find that I use ChaCha when I’m in a hands-free situation for anything I might have looked up on Google.
And ChaCha is also the ultimate bar/party bet decider, as we found out one night at a ping pong night over at CrowdSPRING. Questions like “how long is the conveyor belt at at Wal-Mart distribution center" or “what’s the largest public building” were handled with ease by the ChaCha guides. -note I mention CrowdSPRING because as a reader of this blog and TalentZoo, they are worth checking out, and most recently presented at DEMO and CNMS08, but I'll cover them in a future post.
From my usage, these three apps are harbingers of another form of change in how we access and use data. For example, with GOOG-411, why would I pay for a call to 411 or if GOOG-411 isn’t finding my info, why not try ChaCha? And if I can’t or shouldn’t (walking, driving) use my phone’s keyboard, why not let my voice do the work with Jott or ChaCha?
I think these three tools are just the start; there are others as well but it’s the tip of the iceberg in how we now and will access data and information. Call it part convergence or part device specialty--either way, jump in and try them out, because there will be more to come.

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For more than 15 years, Chris Mller has created, built and led businesses in the digital marketing space. He is a regular speaker at agency conferences and forums and is a recipient of numerous awards including agency of the year by Revolution Magazine, Cannes Cyber-Lion, One Show, Addy’s and Gold Effie. Currently he is the SVP, Group Managing Director, Interactive at Draftfcb and is actively involved with the majority of Draftfcb’s clients.
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