Off the Top: Voice Entries
This past week I had two wonderful experiences. The first was with Adobe customer service and sales support. I have been trying to do a "cross-platform upgrade" from my Windows Photoshop to the current Mac version. I have been trying this for a couple years. The phone services has been miserable and often would take over 45 minutes for them to pick up.
Not this week. The phone was picked up by customer service by Adobe in less than 3 minutes (I seriously thought I had dialed the wrong number). They fixed some problems with my account information, but I needed to talk to another department to get the upgrade I wanted completed. They transfered me to the sales group, which had all the information I had just changed and we started working through what I wanted (ultimately the Adobe CS Premium Suite). We found I could not directly do that going the cross-platform route, but I could upgrade to Photoshop CS and once that was installed and authenticated do the upgrade to the package I desired. All of this was less than the full price, not the optimal price I had been hoping trying to get.
What impressed me was the competence, speed, politeness and the working through their arcane rules to get me what I desired. In all I was done in 20 minutes.
The second also involved the phone and a voice automated solution. But after trying to exchange airline flight miles for a magazine subscription on the web, which seemed not work in any browser I had to verify my frequent flier number and extra authentication code. I first called the help number for the magazine people, which took me to a human, who seemed very confused with the information his computer was providing him (he had at least eight addresses and name variations for me (there was a more button to see the rest). He asked how I heard about the program and said I was on my preferred airline site and was linked to theirs to get magazines. That seemed confusing as he asked how long ago I got the software. A couple minutes later I could not give him answers that fit his check boxes and our conversation ended.
I then tried the airline's number to complete the magazine transaction if the web did not work or a person needed assistance. It was a voice interactive system (I loathe these). It asked some simple questions and I responded and it understood. It authenticated me very easily and quickly by me reading my needed information. I authenticated by telling it my address and it understood (this is a beautiful task given my street name and city). Next it started reading the magazine offerings and said I could interrupt and just tell it what I wanted. I interrupted (this never works with the local phone company for information) and it understood what I wanted. My transaction was complete and in under 5 minutes. I was completely impressed, which happens very rarely.
Yesterday I left my mobile phone in my car parked at the metro station. I had to use a landline phone to call my stationary mobile phone to get messages throughout the day.
I did have my Hiptop, but many of the stored numbers are not up to date, like Joy's new cell number. Numbers not updated is attributed to the non-synching ability of the device. The phone qualities of the Hiptop version 1 were are not too good. I do really like the ability to get POP e-mail, IM, and Internet from anywhere I get a service.
The New York Times has an article on voice telephone access in Africa, particularly voice over Internet in Ghana. This is of interest to me for many reasons, but it is very good to see the Internet can break the insanely high calling rates in Africa. Communication is a key to doing business and providing medical care, now the African monopolies are may be broken and advances begin. Yes, there are many more problematic growth and philosophical questions to overcome. The more than one dollar per minute outbound call rates may now have room to fall. Part of the solution is wireless access to get around the lack of in-ground infrastructure.
The Apple iChat AV is insanely cool and easy to use. My TiBook had a built in mic, who knew? My friend Jeff rang and started talking. I typed back that I could not talk. Then Jeff asked why he could could hear Steve Jobs talking, which was being streamed on my TiBook. He said talk, I did. Jeff heard.
Once again Apple has made an application that is insanely simple and just works. I have never been repeatedly impressed with any computer company the way I have with Apple. This is the way we all dreamed computing would be. Who knew it would take so long, yet who knew it would be today to make voice over computer so simple.
I just flat out love Apple. There have been no headaches or other problems with any of this. How un-PC and how very Apple (yes I know the Mac is a personal computer). You must get a Mac and join the ease of computing and get out of computing hell.
I am already enjoying my Hiptop for much of the reason that I picked it up. I wanted access to information. More importantly I wanted information to be able to follow me. I found information or thought of information I really have been wanting to have access to that information from where ever I am. I wanted the ability to share the information from where I was and have others be able to use that information to better their understanding.
Yes, I have had cellphones and have called others, but the information is not that useable in voice form. The information needed to be convered to data elements that could easily be used and reused. Voice only (at the current time) allows us to hear then act upon the information and not store that information in a searchable repository or to easily share that information back out.
Yes, I have PDAs (Palm-based handhelds), but they need to synch with other devices to share information and the e-mail capabilities were not the best around. The 3rd party applications on the Palm and the fantastic operating system that is fast and small are great features that will be hard to beat by anybody.
I have been looking for a solution to have the information I wanted when I want or need it in my hands. The Hiptop gets me much closer to that goal. I tend to use e-mail to share ideas with myself and others. This weblog is another method of doing the same. Being able to search for an address and get a map is a solid tool to have at all times.
This is a personal quest to have the Model of Attraction (MoA) extend back to myself. The MoA not only helps us think about the attration between the user and information during the finding tasks, to help improve findability, but in phase where the user wants information to stay attracted to them. My Hiptop is my information attraction device. I can push an e-mail to myself that has the name, address, time, and phone number needed to do to a party with friends that have come in from out of town. I can access my Amazon Wishlist when I am in a store to help remember the author or title of a book, CD, or DVD I have been seeking. This bookstore amnesia (or musicstore amnesia) can be a thing of the past. The Hiptop provides me the information in my hand and gives me the access to the information I do not have at hand wirelessly.
There will be some experiments to see if I can improve on the information attraction to keep the information closer to me. Am I getting rid of my Palm? No, as there is information in it that I prefer in the format it is in. I will be keeping my cell phone as it has great reception and is CDMA (I found having a non-dominant cell phone technology is an advantage during emergency times, like being in San Francisco during September 11, 2001, which is a TDMA and GSM dominant city. I was one of a few that had no problem getting a signal to call out). It is rather awkward having three devices with through out the day. We will see how it goes.
Last Days of the Corporate Technophobe the NY Times headline reads. This article on how business is driven by information and the organization of information is paramount. The business world, or now those that did not "get it" before, is a knowledge-sharing and information processing realm. Those with out the ability are lost, or as this article states:
Not being able to use a computer in the year 2002 is like not being able to read in the 1950's.
This is important for us that create applications, Web sites, and other technologies. We have an important job in assisting the ease of information use and the process that helps this information become knowledge. Digging through the heaps of data can be eased so that the user can find the information that is important for their purposes. A large part of this job is creating an environment that will make for the ease of information use and mining the desired bits and bytes. A centralized or a minimum interconnected system of data stores that have the ability to keep information current across resources. Finding the snippets of information is often daunting in a large database centered system, but even worse in environments that have stores of segregated documents and data files (like MS Access). Information Architecture is vital to this effort assisting in helping create a navigatible structure of information. Looking at Google and its great improvements in vast information searching is the right direction also.