One of the prominent Google watcher weblogs out there posted this morning about a possible Google online presentation program called Google Presently. Details are sketchy at the moment, but it’s not surprising that Google has a presentation application in the works given that most people have come to expect a true ‘office suite’ to include word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation capabilities. My hope is that Google begins the daunting process of tightly integrating all of their applications sooner rather than later. With the guys at Zoho setting a torrid pace on the integration front, Google has some catching up to do.
Archives For web2.0
In the last year or so, the concept of storing large volumes of personal data online has begun to take hold among mainstream computer users. Online data storage has become abundant and cheap just as consumers have migrated to high speed data connections. While most people are still not comfortable with managing their files online – In my opinion this has more to do with clunky access to online files than with privacy – services like Mozy and Carbonite have ‘revolutionized’ the concept of data backup. Bill Burnham, however, provides some sobering thoughts about the rush to online data storage.
I think Bill is correct that we haven’t reached the online storage ‘holy grail’ yet. Services like the two I mentioned above are really nice and easy to use, particularly for those who don’t have the patience or foresight to backup on a regular basis. In fact, I use Carbonite to maintain a backup of my primary computer. I also, however, maintain an imaged backup of that same computer on another disk drive that is connected directly to it, and not dependent on internet connection speeds. Maybe I’m paranoid, or just the victim of previous backup disasters, but I like the added security of having the two pronged approach. Anyway, I think the online backup process will continue to improve and still should be used by those who don’t have any other standard approach to maintaining a reliable (albeit slow) backup process.
Carbonite is really easy to setup, and run….set it and forget it. The downside to a service like Carbonite is that it doesn’t offer remote access to the files that it backs up. The backup is done in an inaccessible, (and I’m assuming) proprietary format that can only be accessed to restore files, not to access them for general use.
This second part is where my frustration lies with the current set of online services. I’d like to be able to access my entire file structure in a manner that doesn’t require installing some proprietary software onto the PC that I happen to be using at the time. I’ve heard rumors that Carbonite may be introducing accessibility features in an upcoming release, but right now those are just rumors.
In the long run, as my Office 2.0 migration plans shake out, I plan to build and manage all my critical files directly on the internet through applications like Google Docs, Zoho Spreadsheet, Gliffy, and the like. In the meantime, I will continue to rely on a combination of Carbonite and local backup to keep my precious files safe.
John Pollard, CEO of Jott wrote back to me yesterday regarding the processes that Jott employs behind the scenes. He was kind enough to grant me permission to post his reply here:
Thanks for spending some time with Jott over the holidays, and for your interest in general.
You are correct that we use a mix of human and machine technologies. Not only would it be amazing for a machine to have such high accuracy with names, technical jargon, etc., it would be impossible to do it burdened by car noise, random accents, zero grammatical context and the typical low bandwidth cellular phone connection. We are dead focused on making Jott immediately useful, in situations that are realistic.
The machine part gets very interesting over time, and we’re excited by the innovation that’s going to happen there. But right now we wanted to deliver on voice-powered, hands-free, messaging and to do lists. Lots of good stuff coming down the road too…
Best wishes and Happy New Year.
So, as we sort of suspected, there is some human interaction involved. I guess the most important thing to note here is that the service is extremely easy, and the backend magic is nearly invisible to the user. I certainly plan to follow these guys along in their development of this clean and elegant service.
I wrote about Jott a few days back, and was slightly off the mark about it’s usefulness. As it turns out, Jott is not really meant for transcribing voicemail to text (that really would be a killer service), rather Jott is meant for you – the user – to be able to call Jott and leave a message that is then transcribed and delivered to your inbox.
The service is very easy to setup, and has an elegant interface. The real power of Jott, however, is its ability to transcribe voice messages to text. Over the holidays, while we had family visiting from Boston and New York, I mentioned Jott to the geeks amongst us. One of them, Yogendra Jain, is no ordinary geek. He’s been working in the DSP, intelligent voice arena for over two decades. So, naturally, I wanted Yo to critique the Jott service. He set up an account and off we went. He recorded messages that referenced his kids (both with fairly complex Indian names), some technical jargon, and a general grocery list. Jott nailed it all, to Yo’s amazement. What astounded us was the ability of Jott to decipher the Indian names, as well as the technical jargon. For fun, we then asked my brother the Neurologist to ramble on about a patient diagnosis. His message included complex medical terms, as well as medical acronyms, and Jott was spot on with that message too.
While the transcription was not instantaneous, as you could tell that messages were in queue, they were nearly 100% accurate. It made me wonder if there was some human intervention involved in the transcription process – you know, some processing center deep inside India that is validating what the computer spits out. I’ve emailed the developers of Jott to see if they are willing to share some of the inner workings of their service. Hopefully, I’ll get a reasonable response – and I’ll report back on what the tell me.
In the meantime, I’m adding Jott to my GTD workflow as another way to get notes into my inbox.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been contemplating the possibility of targeting 2007 as the year that I migrate totally to computing on the ‘cloud’. By this I mean eliminating the use of specific computers (laptops, tablets, PCs) and depending on ubiquitous internet (cloud) connectivity to handle all my storage and processing needs. Even as recent as the last New Year’s holiday, this seemed to be just out of reach. Now, primarily due to the EV-DO access on my Palm 700p, the ability to ‘hit the cloud’ from just about anywhere – with reasonable speeds – seems possible. The anchor application for this approach is a rock solid, lean and efficient email application. Gmail has been the obvious choice. With a growing number of incremental enhancements, massive storage capability, and a decent, recently released phone (Palm compatible) client, I was ready to take the leap. Then…..this happened. Yikes!
While Google claims only a small number of users were affected (it seems that the issue had more to do with a bug in Firefox than a Gmail related issue), the blogosphere has been abuzz with the news. The thought of losing so much aggregated knowledge in the blink of an eye is really a frightening, and sobering reminder that living on the cloud’s edge can be a dangerous place to be.
I guess I’m still going to move ahead with the plan to migrate to the cloud (I’ll post details of my approach soon), but I will still rely on having a solid offline backup – which is further backed up by Carbonite.
To address the immediate issue of vanishing gmail, I recommend using a pop3 application, like Thunderbird, to suck down all emails from gmail for safe offline storage.
Wikis can be a powerful tool to collaborate with a bunch of people, manage notes, and meta-tag all types of content for future reference. With all their strengths, however, one of the biggest fall backs of the wiki is the inability to be productive in a wiki environment while disconnected from the cloud. Well, that may soon be a problem of the past. Socialtext has introduced an interesting open source partnership with the developer of the TiddlyWiki (which is very popular among the GTD crowd). Now, with the combination of Socialtext and TiddlyWiki, you can ‘disconnect’ sections of a wiki for offline use and editing. You can ‘reconnect’ through a simple synchronization interface.
Socialtext Unplugged is collaboratively developed with Jeremy Ruston of Osmosoft, the creator of TiddlyWiki. Socialtext Unplugged is an application within a single HTML file, which also means it is cross-platform.
This is a really nice feature to have when the cloud is not reachable. It seems like the team over at Socialtext is trying really hard to make its product as easy to get to as possible. Earlier this year they rolled out the Miki, a light client version of the wiki. With a Miki you can access wiki pages via your Treo or other wirelessly connected PDA.