Saturday, January 30, 2010

Better Than Smoke Signals

It's time to talk about Google. I have become something of a fanboy in recent years and today I feel like sharing. I use a lot of their other products: Gmail, Blogger (obviously), Reader, Calendar, Tasks, and Documents, to name a few. The fact that they're all synchronized is a big deal to me, the systems engineer. Google doesn't provide the only such system, but theirs is a good one, especially if you're already using Gmail.

I have also recently added two new Google products to my toolbox: Google Voice and Google Wave.

Google Voice is a phone forwarding system that gives me significant control over my phone lines, voicemail, and text messages. I've had it for a few months now and I love it. It would be even more useful if I had multiple phones, but for now I just use the voicemail capabilities. I can filter calls, put up specific messages for specific callers, save voicemails to my computer (I really wish I had this capability when my dad left the Goose V-formation joke on my voicemail), and receive transcripts of each phone message as an email or a text on my phone. It's quick and easy to check (and while the transcript program isn't perfect, it's good enough for me to use to interpret the urgency and topic of the message). It's still in beta and requires an invite to get in, but those are relatively easy to come by. I've used up my invites already, so I can't get you in myself, but I know a few people who might. And I got in by requesting an invite directly from Google. Check it out if either of the following apply to you:
  • You have multiple phones and want to manage when calls go to which lines. Especially useful for those of you who have poor cell reception in your house, or who can't or don't want to get cell phone calls at work.
  • You like to keep old messages, but hate trying to navigate the list structure of traditional voicemail to find them again.
Others are doing similar things with voicemail. For example, Verizon now offers Visual Voicemail on their smartphones and I'm sure other companies do as well. I suspect all voicemail is going to head this direction soon.

Google Wave is billed as what email would look like if it was invented today. It's a communications/collaboration platform that acts as a sort of combination of Gmail, Google Docs, Wiki, and Instant Messaging (if none of those words mean anything to you, than you probably don't need Wave either). It's great for collaboration. Sarah and I have been doing a fair amount of our wedding planning with it. The trouble is that it's the kind of thing that is only really useful at scale. Right now it's kind of empty, although every time I sign on, I see more of my design friends have joined it (especially those still in school). This one is also still in early beta, so it has issues. They're getting better, and the promise is there, but it still needs some polish. I do have plenty of invitations available for this. If you're interested, let me know.

I realize I'm not selling it very well, but it is an excellent tool. If more of my friends were on it, I'd use it to organize our Xbox Live nights and coordinate groomsmen activities. This would have been the perfect place to organize the weekly Dinner & Game nights we used to have in DC. And, of course, I can imagine some pretty entertaining B&B conversations on here :)


Mike D said...

Who knew your blog was back?!? Do you like Google Reader? I've been looking for something like that, but I didn't realize Google had one. I tend to like Google's products as well, so I figure it would be a good choice.

Rob said...

I love Reader. It's one of the links I check every day. It's especially useful for helping answer questions like your first one :) I know whenever you or Penrock post a new entry pretty much the day you post it. I also use it to find and share links to stories I think are interesting (which is where the stuff in the sidebar on the blog comes from). I follow blog posts with it, but also the feeds from other people's recommendations (Johnny Lee and my design friends can put up some fascinating stuff).

I can't compare it to other RSS aggregators (I've never used anything else) but I like what it does for me.