[tabi] Re: Fw: [VICUG-L] FW: Farewell, GOOG-411

  • From: "Barbara Lineberry" <bkblpp@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2010 14:40:27 -0400

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.  Do you mean you 
called goog 411 and asked for the number for the Village Idiot?

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Adam Gaffney 
  To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 2:36 PM
  Subject: [tabi] Re: Fw: [VICUG-L] FW: Farewell, GOOG-411

  hi folks, what other free phone information services do folks recomend since 
goog 411 is going away?  I've used 800 free411 800 3733 411 but like goog 411 a 
little better.  

  I have a strange sence of humor and have a few nick names for things, one 
being the village idiot for the village inn.  I called goog 411 one day to get 
this number and wanted to see what would happen when I asked for the number in 
Tallahassee and got a funny result, it was a place of learning.   

  "The people may be made to follow a path of action, but they may not be
  made to understand it."

  -        Confucius ca. 480 B.C. 

    ----- Original Message ----- 
    From: Lynn Evans 
    To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
    Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 3:47 PM
    Subject: [tabi] Fw: [VICUG-L] FW: Farewell, GOOG-411

    This was an active discusion on the VICUG list:

    Farewell, GOOG-411 - NYTimes.com
    Pogue's Posts - The Latest in Technology From David Pogue

    October 14, 2010, 12:04 pm
    Farewell, GOOG-411

    Oh, it's a sad day in techland.

    On November 12, Google will turn off 800-GOOG-411 forever.

    It was one of the best, juiciest, most useful services in all 
    It didn't cost anything.  It didn't require a smartphone.  Its 
    was uncanny.

    In case you missed it, GOOG-411 is a free, voice-activated
    directory-assistance service.  You say the business name or 
    category you
    want-"Freestyle Gym," "taxi," "Sakura restaurant," "hospital,"
    whatever-and the city and state.  In one second, the guy's voice 
    reading a list of the best eight results.

    mem/email The Times's technology columnist, David Pogue, keeps 
    you on
    top of the industry in his free, weekly email newsletter.  Sign 
    up | See

    You interrupt him by saying, "number two" or whatever.  Then you 
    can say
    "details" to hear him read you the address and phone number.  Or 
    you can
    say "text message" to have him text you the information.  But if 
    you just
    hang on, he connects your call for free.

    You never actually hear the phone number.  But why should you 
    care? You
    just want to call the place, right? It's like having a little 
    dude back at HQ connecting your calls-and if you're driving, 
    which you
    often are when you use this service, never once did you take your 
    off the road.  Or even write anything down.

    People who knew about GOOG-411 adored it.  But Google is about to 
    turn it
    off forever.

    The blog gives no explanation.  Instead, it simply says "Goodbye 
    to an
    old friend" and suggests that you use one of Google's 
    voice-driven tools
    on an Android cellphone instead.

    Well, that's great if you have an Android cellphone.  What about 
    the 95
    percent of us who don't?

    I asked Google why Google pulled the plug.  The PR person's 

    "Our focus is to provide the most value that we can for our 
    users.  In
    this context, we see the combination of speech technologies with 
    increasing growth of smartphones as a better opportunity to 
    provide more
    value for users, so that is where we've chosen to focus our 

    I wrote back: "Thanks for the information.  But if Google's focus 
    is to
    provide 'the most value,' then certainly a service that works on 
    100% of
    phones provides more value than one that works only only 5% of 
    Is there a more plausible reason?"

    The reply this time was no more helpful: "GOOG-411 showed that a
    fully-automated service could connect callers and businesses all 
    the country.  We will continue to invest in voice recognition


    The real answer was one Google search away.  Here's Google's 
    Mayer, talking to Infoworld in 2007 , when she was Google's vice
    president for search: "If you want us to build a really robust 
    model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken 
    by a
    particular voice with a particular intonation.  So we need a lot 
    people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off 
    that.  So 1-800-GOOG-411 is about that: Getting a bunch of 
    speech samples."

    In other words, GOOG-411 was never intended to be a permanent 
    it was a phoneme-harvesting operation for honing Google's voice

    Anyway, if you intend to soldier on in the post-GOOG-411 world, 
    here are
    your options:

    * Use Google's even older, text-message version of GOOG-411, 
    which is
    still available.  You can text, for example, "home depot dallas 
    tx" to
    the address 46645-that is, GOOGL-and you'll be texted back with 
    information.  Unfortunately, that's nowhere near as quick or as
    hands-free as GOOG-411.

    * Use the Google Mobile App.  It's available for Android, iPhone 
    BlackBerry.  You speak what you want, just as with GOOG-411 ("CVS
    pharmacy San Diego"), and you're shown the best matches on a map,
    complete with prominent, one-tap phone numbers.

    Unfortunately, it's not hands-free and it works only on those 
    three app

    * Use Microsoft's competing service, 800-BING-411.

    BING-411 is a renamed version of TellMe, which Microsoft bought 
    in 2008
    for about $1 billion.  (You can read about the service here .  Or 
    read my
    original 2001 Times review .)

    It works very similarly to GOOG-411, except it also offers 
    driving directions, news headlines, travel info, cheap gas, 
    weather for any city, traffic, sports scores, movie information, 
    and so
    on.  (Say "Tell me my choices" at any time to hear this menu.)

    This service would seem to be a natural successor for Google's
    service-it works from any phone, for example.  It does, however, 
    more steps to get to the information you want.  A typical call 
    might go
    like this:

    Darby: "Bing 411.  Say a city and state." Me: "Cleveland, Ohio." 
    "Cleveland, Ohio.  Is that right?" Me: "Yes." Darby: "OK.  What 
    or type of business are you looking for?" Me: "Home Depot." 
    Darby: "OK,
    Home Depot.  What street is it on? Or say 'I don't know.'" Me: "I 
    know." Darby: "I found nine locations.  When you hear the one you 
    just say it.  Brook Park Road.  Center Ridge Road.  Mayfield 

    (To get to this point on GOOG-411, you could have just said, 
    "Home Depot
    Cleveland, Ohio." It would have read you the listings 

    Me: "Mayfield Road." Darby: "OK.  There are two numbers for Home 
    Depot at
    3460 Mayfield Road, rated 2 stars.  The first number is 
    216-297-1303.  The
    second number is 800-887-3395.  Now you can say, 'Driving 
    "Share this listing' or 'Connect me.' You can also say 'Repeat 
    the info'
    or 'Start over.'"

    And so on.

    At least you can interrupt Darby at any time, cutting the 
    short.  (Yes, that's her name.  I actually met her once.  She's 
    the voice
    of TellMe and about a million other voice-activated 
    lines.) Also, you get a text to your cellphone automatically when 
    identify the listing you want, which is handy.

    Note that Bing lists (and identifies) advertised search results 
    which is annoying (but may mean that this service will carry on).  
    again, if all you want is a phone number (and are willing to 
    listen to
    an ad to get it), services like 800-FREE-411 are still around.
    GOOG-411's fans will miss it dearly.  But BING-411 will get us 

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