Posts Tagged ‘Google Voice’

Google Voice Call Log Time Warp

Monday, May 24th, 2010

While I have been using Google Voice more regularly, I haven’t made the switch to using it as my primary number. It is a little odd to place a call from the web, have my office phone ring, then hear the ring on the other side, but, having my numbers in one place, a call log and many other useful features is quite handy. While I’ve only ever given out one phone number for the last ten years, I’ve maintained that with creative use of busy call forwarding, ultra call forwarding and a number of other calling features over the years. While it works, Google Voice does handle things a little better.

However, on a recent call, it appears that I made a call that was 13 minutes long, 12 minutes ago. Google knew when my call would end.

While there are quite a few odd things about Google Voice, I am getting closer to using it for my permanent number.

Facebook Pro – Facebook’s Revenue Stream

Friday, December 11th, 2009

I’ve always been an early adopter of technology, social media and new websites that had a technological edge. I read quite a few of the tech news websites and love to get in on early beta and beta offerings from companies. One of my recent favorite betas that I was invited to was On the surface, it seemed to lack a certain finesse, but, the biggest feature it had was that it was extremely quick, lacked the application spam and let me see 99% of what I was interested in.

I’ve loved Google Voice and was a fairly early adopter. I had tried Grand Central, but, it didn’t replace enough functionality with what I had currently set up with the local phone company. Google Wave and their Sandbox is another product that I find very intriguing. I have worked with Wave Federations and I think once someone develops a killer app for Wave, it’ll gain wide acceptance.

But, this isn’t about Google, this is about Facebook.

I was an early adopter of FB Connect. I’ve written a number of applications that I’ve not released to experiment with their API and have been generally impressed by their openness. Some of the information an application is able to access is a privacy nightmare. People complain day in and day out about Google and Privacy – perhaps because Google has to collect all of its market intelligence based on your surfing habits, and then Facebook finds a way to have you spend hours customizing your profile – giving Facebook precisely the information that makes their advertising system 10x more intrusive than Google could ever be. Back to the point.

In August I received an email from Facebook asking if I would participate in another beta project. I was warned that this one would entail a purchase from their store, but, in exchange, I would receive credit towards advertising. It makes perfect sense to test the payment system ahead of time on a major release – something many new electronic stores fail to do. I clicked the link saying I would be a part of their beta and waited.

And waited.

Last night, a very cryptic email arrived with a link to follow to read about this exciting new product Facebook had to offer. As I read the page, I was already pulling out my wallet to get my credit card because the service seemed perfect for me. Having to maintain a LinkedIn profile and a Facebook Profile has always been an exercise in duplication. Facebook doesn’t ask enough questions to really be useful in business and I suspect if they put their heads together, they could develop a new angle.

It appears they listened.

The page was very basic, it talked about the benefits of a ‘Facebook Pro’ account, pricing hadn’t been established but they had set a test price of $29.95 for a 6 month recurring membership.

Some of the benefits listed included:

* Ability to store Work History
* Ability to write Recommendations on profiles
* Tighter control over Profile Security
* Additional Contact Method fields
* Certification badges
* Digital Business cards

facebook pro beta

Once you get in, there is a small NDA that prevents screenshots of the interface, but, it is obvious that there are hundreds of people in the beta. Even as I have set up some business interests, it is listing profiles in a ‘Business Network’ that are staggeringly accurate. A refreshing change from the People You May Know lottery.

So far, the new options are quite intriguing and if the quality of the business contacts I’ve made in the beta are indicative of the trend, I think Facebook has a real winner here.

I found it interesting that the beta was released which allows tighter control over privacy the day after they release new privacy options that the masses are hailing as anti-privacy. Perhaps this is why Facebook chose this week to release the beta.

Google Voice

Friday, July 10th, 2009

A few years ago, a very unique phone service called Grand Central was purchased by Google. As with most acquisitions that Google has made, the service was closed, existing clients maintained their current service level, but, new clients weren’t added. Grand Central had a very unique service offering and much like Picassa or Postini, you knew Google was going to take the service, twist it around and make it better and change the price model. With most of the other services that Google purchased, they were quickly revamped, branded and released. This wasn’t the case with Grand Central. Google announced Google Voice, and allowed you to submit your email address to get put on the waiting list. After what has seemed like many years, and after people on the Internet had started getting invites on June 26, 2009, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened up my email to see a notice from Google. Since I was somewhat familiar with Grand Central’s offering, I was excited to see what Google had done.

Voicemail almost becomes as easy to use as email. You can listen to voicemails, read them (if you have transcription turned on) and forward the messages to other email addresses. Once you have signed into Google Voice, you are presented with the Inbox


On the left menu, we are presented with special inboxes for voicemail:


and a number of other inboxes including SMS, Recorded, Placed, Received and Missed Calls. If you send an SMS message to your Google Voice Number, it is recorded in the Inbox and the SMS inbox, and forwarded to any phone you have tagged as able to accept SMS. You can also send SMS messages from within Google Voice by clicking the SMS button.


If a number is marked as spam, future calls from that number will be sent to voicemail immediately without ringing your numbers. You can unblock a number marked as spam later.

In the settings, you can set up how voicemail notifications should occur. You can select to have the voicemail notification emailed to you and optionally page your mobile phone through SMS.


Your email message will include a transcribed copy of the message. In several test calls, their transcription was fairly accurate. During playback, a green underline is displayed under each word as you listen to the message.


The Phones menu allows you to set up multiple phone numbers. When someone calls your Google Voice number, all of the phone numbers listed here ring at the same time. You can answer any of the phones and the first one answered receives the call.


By default, when answering an incoming call, you receive a notification that Google Voice is calling along with the name of the caller. You can enter a 1 to accept the call, 2 to send it to voicemail, 3 to send it to voicemail and listen, or 4 to accept the call and record it. There is a brief notification at the beginning of the call on both sides that the call is being recorded. The recorded call is able to be accessed in the Recorded Inbox. When someone calls your Google Voice number, they are told that Google Voice has answered the call and it asks for their name which is presented to you in presentation mode.


When you add a phone, Google places a call to the number you’ve added and asks for a two digit code to be keyed in.


There are also advanced settings:


You can set up Call Groups and have different behaviors depending on what group the caller is in. In this case, Friends are put through immediately when the phone is answered without me having the option to screen the call. A caller receives a ringing phone as you are being located or listening to the menu options during the incoming call.


Once in groups, you can set which phones will be rung, define a special greeting and whether you want to use call presentation:


Of course, you can edit your contact lists and change what group each contact is in. By default, Google Voice has already imported your Gmail contact list. There are several other import methods supported, so, importing your contact list should be easy.


Another nice feature is the Call Widget. This is a method for placing an icon on your website where a potential caller can click the graphic, enter their phone number and hit connect. Google then calls that number, establishes the connection, then proceeds to call your number. Your number is hidden within an encoded string making this a somewhat effective method for accepting callers without giving out your number.


The above 3 screens show the widget on a page, entering a name and phone number and connecting the call. When the name is entered, Google does do text to speech and announces the call. If you put a two word name, i.e. Bob Smith, the nature of the URL encoding shows through and the caller is announced as Bob plus Smith.

The last screen in the settings is for Billing. The prices for International calls are relatively aggressive compared to Vonage.


My initial impression is quite positive. Phone calls connected through the service are extremely quick and sound great. When you want to change a message prompt, Google Voice calls your phone so that you don’t need to depend on your microphone on your computer resulting in a relatively good quality recording.

Irony? The Google Voice widget is a flash widget and I haven’t been able to get Flash to install in Chrome. I haven’t been able to install Delicious for Chrome either, and of course, the Google Toolbar doesn’t work. The web interface for Google Voice is very ajax intensive and it loads very quickly and is very responsive. Since I prefer using my keyboard shortcuts over the trackpad on my laptop, Google does capture some of the shortcuts I would normally use to switch tabs.

If you don’t have Google Voice and are looking for a good way to have a single phone number that rings your house, mobile and work numbers and allows some handy features, you might want to try applying for an Invite at Google Voice.

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