Friday, May 09, 2008


I just signed up for a Jott Account ( and I thought I'd briefly explain the what, how and why of it all. It's basically a speech-to-text web service linked to your cell phone. You record voice messages and they are automatically sent to your inbox as plain text messages. These can be great for leaving yourself friendly reminders or acting as a virtual tape recorder for those moments when an idea strikes and you're without pen and paper. The really interesting stuff comes when you start linking your other web services to this, like your Twitter account, your blog, or even your personal Google Calendar. So having a Jott account and a cell phone handy means you can post updates to almost anywhere while you're on the go, as easily as leaving a voicemail message.

I'm sure there are other more creative ways to use the service, but for right now, I'm just testing the waters and feeling the service out. I've already made a few Google Calendar events from the convenience of my own phone and they worked more or less. Most of the menus are accessed via various voice commands from the 1-866-JOTT-123 phone number. It does require a bit of online setup though, so you can't just sign up for an account and jump right in. After you link your cell number to your account, you also need to link any other web services you'd like to use as well. You can also create lists (think tags or gmail labels) and add contacts (up to 5 max) for organizing your "where" you will send the message. The first thing you're asked when you call the Jott number is who you'd like to send to.. Me? Grocery List? Reminder? Steve? Twitter? Easy enough, but remember that each of these keywords must be set up on your computer prior to you ever using them.

Sometimes after recording a message, you will have the opportunity to re-record your message or cancel it completely. Although I'm not sure why it doesn't give you this option every time, so far I've found it to come up for Google Calendar posts, but not when I'm simply sending something to myself. This can be kind of annoying if you're like me and have grown heavily reliant on the re-record button for voicemail menus. Also noticeably absent is the ability to listen to what you just recorded before posting a message. I'd actually prefer a "Microsoft Sam" type program to read back what I just said to me, but even replaying the original recording would be a nice option. I should note that the service is still in beta, so maybe these are things that are still being developed.

As for the quality of the speech-to-text itself, I've found it to be fairly reliable for the half dozen or so times I've used it. I don't know if I'd use it to post an entire blog entry (sans any post editing), but for simple notes and updates it seems to be adequate. I am a bit surprised that there isn't any way for you to fine tune the speech-to-text interpreter to your own voice. I remember using the built-in Windows application in the past and I had to spend a good 10 minutes reading to my computer like a father reading a bedtime story to his kids. It'd be nice if services like these at learn from your personal use as well (can you please make predictive typing learn my last name?), but perhaps that technology is not here quite yet. So far it's a very neat tool. We'll see if I come to rely on it more in the future.

The web operates a bit like a free market, in that if something is useful, people will use it. Simple as that.

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