Tuesday Morning Late Out of the Gate Blips (April 10 Edition)

April 10th, 2007  |  Published in etc

» I’m moving Jott from the “I don’t want to even try it for fear of liking it” category to the “I like it and I’m going to use it because it’s not stupid, nor is it perfect, but it works” category.

Nutshell: You call jott from your phone and record a brief message (15 or 20 seconds, I think). The message is transcribed (partially by machine, partially by humans) and sent on to your e-mail address. You can add people to your address book and just speak their names as the recipient when you first dial jott up. It’s keyed to your phone number, which Nitesh Dhanjani warns us isn’t 100 percent secure. This FAQ entry makes me think of Oompah Loompahs. Oompah Loompahs who are welcome to know that I need to pick up diapers, for all the good it’s going to do them from their clean room in India:

How do I keep my phone jotts from being transcribed by other people?

Our transcribers have no way of associating your personally identifiable information with the recorded jotts they are transcribing (unless, of course, you make that information part of the recording). They operate in a ‘clean’ environment that is also used for transcribing sensitive medical dictations, with no tools or other equipment that would allow them record or make use of this information. Finally, we have very strict confidentiality guidelines for our employees and agents, and violations of these guidelines can lead to termination or other legal action. Nevertheless, we understand if you would like to transcribe your own jotts. If this is the case, simply go to the Jott.com setting page, and click the checkbox next to “Do not transcribe my jotts”. It is very easy to transcribe your own jotts on jott.com.

The use case for me is pretty straightforward. I have a small digital voice recorder for a lot of stuff now, operating on recent awareness/acceptance that if I don’t instantly make a reminder or take a note, most of my thoughts are like mayflies. The pain of a vox recorder for me is in the part about getting my notes into the computer.

There’s also some minor social awkwardness. The people down at the health food store get antsy when the 30-something white dude with short hair makes a quick note into his voice recorder like “March 19, anti-war protest, downtown 3 p.m.” I have been “identified” as a cop by street urchins no less than three times in this city. If you’re ever down on Pioneer Courthouse Square and see one of the regulars hop to his feet and start yelling “Narc on the square! Narc on the square!”, let’s do lunch.

Anyhow … voice recorder is odd, because you don’t see them a lot. Cell phones, though? We’re all used to those.

So I can call jott, say my message taking care to spell out potentially problematic words, and I get the text in my inbox within 5 minutes most of the time, maybe closer to 15 every so often. If they can’t make out what I said, jott also sends along the original recording for playback.

Free for now. I hope the ad-supported free version they’re threatening us with won’t introduce any real friction to the process.

» Google 411 is neat, too, but still rudimentary. I don’t see any way to get movie times out of it, for instance, and spoken results delivered in a deliberate synthetic voice aren’t as scannable as textual ones. It kind of brings you face to face with how broad the results of Google’s local search can be. I mean … it’s great because out of the eight answers you get, one will no doubt be the one you need, but you can’t exactly skim a voice talking into your ear, and sometimes the results aren’t helpful without additional visual cues. For instance, if a business I’m looking for doesn’t return one of Portland’s east-west streets, which I’m very familiar with throughout most of the SE, but instead gives me an address on one of the north-south streets, I’m screwed. “In the 3500s on SE 92nd” doesn’t mean anything to me, because I don’t have Portland’s y-axis mapped to block numbers.

You know what would work, though? Offering an option to ask for its relationship to a designated cross street delivered in a simple “about nine blocks north and eight blocks east” format. Not quite as nice as a map or door-to-door directions, but a lot less painful to listen to and remember.

Memo to self, though, I oughta figure out what the likely range of block numbers going north and south are and memorize a few cross streets for some of those … just enough to get a ballpark figure.

» I thought I was just buying the phone, but it may well be I was subconsciously buying a picture of a blowjob:

Virgin Mobile Manual

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