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

  • From: "Adam Gaffney" <gaffney@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2010 14:43:59 -0400

Yes, I did and then tried for several other cities to see if places of learning 
turned out idiots..  
"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: Barbara Lineberry 
  To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 2:40 PM
  Subject: [tabi] Re: Fw: [VICUG-L] FW: Farewell, GOOG-411

  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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