The Newest Coolest Technology from the Source of All New Cool Things

This morning I was at the keynote speech at the NTEN annual conference, taking place in New Orleans. The speaker was David Pogue, the NY Times’s highly engaging and amusing technology writer. His speech was a "what’s hot" in new technology for non-profits, and he focused on a lot of free or very inexpensive services. Since I follow his column, I didn’t find that much new.

However, one thing he showed knocked me out, and you’ll quickly see why. Yesterday, I was walking around New Orleans and wanted to find the name and address of a restaurant — I knew it was called "Mothers" but that was about it. I used the Google 411 service (which is at 800-466-4411). It’s a completely voice-activated service, but unlike the normal 411 service, it’s free. It’s also pretty clunky and I never actually got the information I was looking for, after about four tries in the space of ten minutes.

So, this morning as I was listening to Mr. Pogue, he started extolling the virtues of Google’s text-messaging information service. You can send a text to 46645, and find out things like airline arrival times, weather forecasts, directions, and a whole host of other information. As he was giving his talk I sent a text with the words "mother’s restaurant new orleans," and within about three seconds I got a response with complete information about the restaurant, including the address and a phone number (try it yourself!).

Aside from wanting to share this information, and to report that the restaurant had amazing seafood gumbo, it occurred to me that this service proves yet again how far ahead text-based queries are vs. voice-activated inquiries. I’ll probably write more about what Pogue had to say in future posts, but this little item was so useful I wanted to share it first.

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