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

  • From: "Adam Gaffney" <gaffney@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2010 14:36:52 -0400

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 
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  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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