Todd "Turbo" Watson -- IBM Corporation
turbotodd 100000388Y Tags:  privacy google voice_search online_marketing grand_central 4,705 Views
"Calls recorded for quality."
That's the first thing you hear when you call into Google's voice search portal number, 1-800-GOOG-411.
But after hearing Google senior VP Marissa Mayer discussing its voice portal in more detail at last week's Searchnomics event in Santa Clara, and now after reading coverage of Google's acquisition of Grand Central overnight, a more comprehensive and strategic picture is beginning to emerge.
Google needs a few million of us to make contributions to its phoneme bank.
"Calls recorded for quality."
Uh-huh....and, phoneme analysis.
You know, those bits of language that constitute the theoretical representation of a sound which are critical building blocks for any good speech recognition capability.
And, more oxygen needed for the sprint to the mobile voice search recognition and results finish line against Microsoft.
Take a brief moment and flash back to Microsoft's acquisition of TellMe earlier this year, TellMe being a pioneer in 1-800 voice driven assistance and speech-to-Web capability.
As mentioned in a Reuters article at the time, "TellMe brings to Microsoft the world's largest database of voice-recognition data."
Realizing the import of that move (Microsoft using TellMe to drive its own voice and Web search integration), Google needed to exercise its own vocal chords and fast. Mayer admitted as much last week in Santa Clara.
What better way to collect even more phonemes to improve the algorithm than to buy a company (Grand Central) that has the ability record your phone calls and link you to a specific phone number!
Which brings us to the issue of privacy in the voice realm.
"If you do not have caller id blocked, we collect and store the number of your phone, along with the time of your call, each time you use the Google Voice Local Search service. We may use this phone number to distinguish you from other users, and ultimately, to personalize the service to you."
But there's more:
We also collect and store a copy of the voice commands you make to the service, so we can audit, evaluate, and improve the voice recognition capabilities of the service.
Calls recorded for quality and improved phoneme acquisition and analysis. The more phonemes, the better the GOOG 411 algorithm. Because the better the system gets at analysis, the higher the voice recognition rate.
Also, Google will now have the capability to analyze your voice print and potentially segment yours' from others.
Everybody wins. Users...advertisers and marketers (particularly those with a local bent).
But especially Google.
Because before too long, it will be Google which has the world's largest voice print database.
And then, the last mile of the Google personalized marketing juggernaut loop is closed.
Google will then have your single phone number (caller id recognizable), cookie, and voice print, along with a history of all your search queries and clickstream.
Throw in a few bat's heads and some mistletoe, and pretty soon you've got an extremely potent witches brew of information that makes marketers and advertisers salivate, and privacy advocates running for the Orwellian exits.
"Calls recorded for quality."[Read More]
Speaking of great online marketing stories, Spread Firefox!, the home of Firefox community marketing, just signaled that Firefox has now reached over 400 million downloads.
I'm surely responsible for at least 100 of those, but that aside, it's nice to see Firefox continuing to pick up browser share.
Aside from the few times I'm forced to use Internet Explorer for certain intranet apps at IBM (yeah, go figure), I use Firefox pretty much full time these days, and I suspect I'm not alone.
The Spread Firefox! movement began back on November 9th, 2004, delivering 25 million downloads in the first 99 days.
That doubled to 50 in the next six months. 100 million in the first year.
And now, three years after the movement started, 400 million.
So, if you put up a Firefox button to encourage the community marketing movement, or are a Firefox devotee, congratulate yourself.
You're part of online, open source, grassroots marketing at its finest.Read More]
I wanted to send out my heartfelt congratulations to the winners of this year's Ryder Cup, which ended yesterday with a handshake between Jim Furyk and Miguel Angel Jiminez.
Apparently, golf's not too popular a sport in Italy, as I couldn't find coverage one on television here in Milan. So, thank heavens for ESPN mobile, which provided regular updated scores via my Blackberry.
This was the first U.S. victory in the Ryder Cup since 1999 at Brookline, and it was a long time coming.
According to the coverage I've been able to unearth, both teams turned in some remarkable performances, including newcomer Anthony Kim, who seems to have put Sergio Garcia through the ringer yesterday.
While the U.S. was out winning on the golf course, ZDNet's Tom Steinert-Threlkeld blogged about the art of video advertising online, featuring none other than the IBM "Art of the Sale" series of videos touting IBM mainframe computers.
If you've not yet seen the video, I'd urge you to go to YouTube and see for yourself.
But, the entire series is pretty funny and definitely worth checking out.
And if you remember nothing else, remember this: It's just like a barn.
Facebook is finally ready to expand its social networking tentacles beyond Facebook.com, the New York Times is reporting this morning, with the adoption of Facebook Connect by a number of partner Web sites.
This capability, announced earlier this year, will essentially let users take their Facebook data and use it on other Web properties.
Their identity (read: authentication, as well as basic profile information), friends, and privacy controls can be carried to and leveraged by other Websites, and in turn, it will allow those other properties to feed off the Facebook engine.
The Times story indicates that among those signing up to use the service include Digg, Discovery Channel, the San Francisco Chronicle, online video star Hulu, among others.
Though this is clearly intended to make the very popular social networking site even more social, it also seems clearly intended to identify more logical ways to monetize the Facebook juggernaut.
Advertisers haven't exactly flocked to Facebook in droves, and a recent IDC study observed that only 57 percent of users of social networks clicked on an ad in a social networking site over the past year.
By taking the Facebook profile data into other sites, Facebook is essentially opening the aperture of its ad sales opportunity.
But they're also running the risk of another privacy bungle, one not unlike the original outcry among college students when Facebook introduced the now incredibly popular NewsFeed feature, and more recently its Beacon advertising system.
For my money, education and a slow and steady approach wins this race.
Facebook needs to educate the market and its user base about the opportunity Connect presents to each constituency, one for selling advertising, and the other for enriching the Facebook experience.
By demonstrating how Facebook Connect can enhance the consumer FB experience beyond the site, Facebook can ease concerns about the use (or misuse) of their profile information, much as they smoothed over the initial concerns expressed about NewsFeed -- a feature which many would now consider to be the key feature that distinguishes the Facebook experience (I would be one among them).
Based on my reading of the Times story, the slow and steady approach seems to be the one that Facebook has adopted, remembering that friends in one's social graph are made one click at a time.Read More]