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GrandCentral, Faith and Web 2.0

April 13, 2008

GrandCentral
GrandCentral is down right now, to much gnashing of teeth [techcrunch].

I’ve been a big fan of GrandCentral since the beginning, and I still am. But I didn’t trust them back when they were a plucky startup, and that didn’t change with their acquisition by Google.

One of their original promises was “a free phone number for life”. Unfortunately, “life” on the internet is usually 3-5 years, less time off for bad behavior or poor market estimation.
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Jott (mini Review)

April 3, 2007

JottI know that Jott has been around awhile, but I’ve only just started messing with it — and now I’m a believer.

The concept is elegantly simple — you call Jott (typically from your mobile), tell it who you want to leave a message for (in my case, usually “me”), and speak a short message. A minute or two later, the message (transcribed) shows up as text in your email.

This is a great application for the terminally disorganized (again, usually “me”) — tie it to a speed dial number on your mobile phone, and when something occurs to you that you need to deal with later, press the button, and leave your message. When you get back to your computer, there it is, ready to be dealt with or dropped into the task management system of your choice.

If this kind of thing keeps up, I could start running out of excuses for not getting stuff done.

You can also add your own contact list (I now have too many web apps with contact lists — I need some way for them all to be synced automatically), and send Jotts to other people or groups.

The transcription is very good, and in fact, appears to be manual. There are a lot of assurances on the site about the privacy of your messages, but if you want, you can ask to leave your jotts untranscribed, and do them yourself.

All in all, another great “voice 2.0” application. My only concern is whether they’ll start charging for the basic service once it’s out of (open) beta, and if so, how much.

Jott

[tags]Jott, Voice 2.0, Mobile, Smartphone, Task Management, GTD[/tags]

GrandCentral hits the spotlight

March 15, 2007

GrandCentralTechmeme points us to a great write-up on GrandCentral by David Pogue in today’s New York Times.

I’ve been using GrandCentral for awhile now, and David’s article does a nice job of introducing “what it’s all about”

In short, GrandCentral gives you one local phone number — “for life” — and then slices and dices calls into that number to provide an amazing array of features:

  • Incoming calls can be set to ring all of your numbers simultaneously — your office line, your cell phone, your home number, etc. You can control which numbers ring on a time-of-day basis, or on a caller by caller basis.
  • When a call comes in, GrandCentral identifies the caller ID — if it can match it to an entry in your contact list, it gets the name from there, otherwise it asks the caller to give their name while it “attempts to locate you”
  • When you answer the call, GrandCentral tells you who it is, and gives you the option of taking the call, taking the call and recording it, sending the caller to voicemail, or sending it to voicemail while you listen in — in the latter case, you can pick up the call mid-message if you like, just like on your old answering machine.
  • In mid call, you can start or stop recording if you like, by pressing a key. You can also press a key to cause all of your numbers to ring again — and pick up the call where you left off, but on a different line. (Convenient for switching from your office phone to a cell phone, for instance).
  • You can assign voicemail greetings, and even “ringback tones” (the “ringing” the caller hears while the system is calling you) on a caller-by-caller or group-by-group basis, by recording a message or uploading an MP3, respectively.
  • Voicemail notices are delivered by email, and by SMS to your cell phone.
  • Calls can be screened against GrandCentrals growing list of telemarketers, and dumped to voicemail – or a phony disconnect notice. You can add your own list of annoying callers to this list as well.

All of this is driven through a very well-thought-out web front end, where you can change your settings, listen to voicemail, review your calls, edit your contact list (or import it from a variety of address books or organizer programs and services), and even place a call.

Other features allow you post recordings online or mail them, and place a “click to call” button on a web page where a user can enter their number, and GrandCentral will call you, then them.

Oh yeah — and all of these features are free. At least for now, while GrandCentral is in beta. Indications are that the basic service will remain free, with a “fully loaded” account quite inexpensive when the service officially launces..

All in all, GrandCentral is amazing, and amazingly useful — if you still don’t get how, check out this video from the NYT article.

In using it however, I’ve discovered a few things you may want to consider, before you jump in with both feet.

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We have met the machine, and he is us.

February 8, 2007

I’m still not sure I’m ready to buy “Web 2.0” lock, stock and Kool-Aid, but I do have to admit that this is extremely cool.

(Via Lawrence Lessig)

Google Reader Wish List

February 8, 2007

Speaking of Google Reader, 901 AM (or I guess that’s 90.1 AM) has a nice list of Needed Features and Fixes for Google Reader.

Most of these are pretty good (although I wonder how small your list of feeds is if you really need a “new story available” pop-up), but the one that really intrigued me was:

Solve Overflow Memory Leak Problems: The ability to auto-refresh or just manually refresh your RSS feeds in Google Reader is a great feature, but the downside is you will find all those feeds build up in your session, and if your running Firefox, this can cause some serious memory leaks, if you use it frequently.

If I could find a place to turn off auto-refresh, I could be a much happier camper with Google Reader (since I suspect he’s right that that’s a lot of the Firefox problem). Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a setting to turn this off — am I missing something obvious?

I’ve gotten around some of the problems I’ve had since they did Video Embeds by using the “U” shortcut to lose the folder navigation while I’m reading — that seems to keep it from locking up all over the place (although there’s still some user interface oddities, like large grey boxes that appear over text occasionally), but if I could go back to the normal view and not have it freeze, I’d be thrilled.

Memeorandum – mapping the live web

October 22, 2005

I guess I’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks, since somehow I missed the buzz on tech.memeorandum.

Memeorandum itself has been out for a year or so, mapping the doings on the political sites (which I tend to avoid like herpes), and so I missed it when they came out with the tech version a few weeks ago.

What Memeorandum does — and appears to do awfully well — is put together conversations off of diverse sites — blogs and “traditional” journalism alike — into a coherent thread, and then bubble the hot topics to the top.

Wired recently posted nice writeup about Memeorandum

“If you read blogs, you know that there is this conversation and that some articles are the talk of the day, and other posts have important things to say about those,” Rivera said. “If you built graphs in your mind of what the talk looks like, I think it looks like what I’ve done. I get the sense (Memeorandum) is just a natural representation of what is already going on.”

Rivera hopes the site will appeal to more than just the überconnected, and could be useful as an entry point for those unfamiliar with blogs. To that end, the site’s design, which features large headlines and stories in declining order of importance, mimics that of an online newspaper.

Check it out…

Web 2.0 App Roundup

September 19, 2005

Shacknews has a nice listing of new AJAX-enabled web 2.0 apps.

What’s an “AJAX enabled web 2.0 app”, you ask? Well, usually it’s a web-based application that acts a lot like it’s a program running on your local machine — just without any installing or updating or having to be on a specific machine to use it. AJAX is mostly just a fancy way of making a lot of interactive stuff happen without having to constantly reload the page (think GMail for example.)

Included in the list are integrated IM apps, word processors, group calendars and schedulers, plus even a recipe search system (type in your ingredients, get a recipe.)

Check it out.

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