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‘Google 411’ Proves to be a Powerful Tool

This is the first in a series of reports to analyze the web applications and special free products Google has developed just for you. If you are just using Google’s search engine to surf the World Wide Web, then it is as though you are eating a hamburger in an Italian Bistro. Google offers many selections on its menu. It is time to expand your palette. Today, we’ll be dining on a current favorite – Google411.

Thanks to our friends at Google, dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) from any phone, and you will receive free nationwide business information. There is no charge for the call or the search but, as always, your normal phone charges may apply.

Oh, and you must speak English, though Google may translate voices in the future. 

While old systems barely recognized the spoken word, voice technology has has made a giant leap in the past few years. Now, you can speak at any speed, and your voice will be understood.

You will hear the greeting, “Google 411. What city and state, please?” O.K, don’t jump ahead, read the entire story. You will miss out on a special feature if you cut and run now.

If you think that Google is just a search engine, think again. Google is a software and services development monster, which has created dozens of powerful applications for you, your family and your company.
Google takes “doing good” seriously. The first paragraph of Google’s Employee Code of Conduct reads:

"Don't be evil." Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But "Don't be evil" is much more than that. Yes, it's about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it's also about doing the right thing more generally -- following the law, acting honorably and treating each other with respect.”

So, where did the word Google originate? A close spelling “Googly” first became a word in approximately 1896 when it was used to describe a spinning cricket move. Interestingly, the first use of the word google was to name a fictional monster Google in the 1913 children’s book “The Google Book.” According to author David Vise, in his book The Google Story, he writes that the founders used a misspelling of the world Googol to come up with Google. Googol (coined by Milton Sirotta in 1938) is a mathematical term used to describe the number one to the one-hundredth power.

If Google’s true purpose is good, then one of my favorite applications it has released is Google 411. Calling Google to locate a named business (Baptist Hospital), call a business or business category (hospitals) is free at the touch of a button. After dialing Google 411, I hear “what city and state, please.” I say, “Appwright – Jacksonville, Florida” (be sure to speak phonetically). The guttural voice repeats back "Aaaap Right, Jacksonville, Florida, is that correct?”

You can now say “Yes” or “Start Over.” If there are similar sounding companies, you will hear a list of companies with a number like: “Number One, Appwright, Number Two, Act Right, Number Three . . . .” If you say the word “Two,” you’ll be connected to the Act Right Company.

Once you have chosen a company, the system asks: “Would you like me to connect you?” If you say “Yes,” you will be connected without having to dial the number. If you say “No,” it will say “Starting Over”. But here is the clincher, if you respond “Text Me,” it will send you a text with the company’s name, address and phone number. How about that? And, if you have a web-enabled phone, if you respond “Map It” Google will send the locator map directly to you.

Now, with the features I have described, the normal company would say to itself, “O.K., we’ve created the best 411 style phone service around.” But not Google, it added another stellar feature. Suppose you want Dr. Wilson, but his practice name is Family Care Center which you can’t remember. Google will allow you to say the word “physicians.” Next, you will be requested to enter a zip code where it would be located or the name of the intersecting streets. You can say “University and Beach” if your physician works at or near that intersection. Again, you will be returned to a listing of physicians near that intersection.

This feature works flawlessly for finding a restaurant. Suppose you are hungry for Middle Eastern food and you are in Jacksonville, Florida. You would say “Middle Eastern Restaurant, Jacksonville, Florida.” If there are more than five or six listings, you will be requested to narrow the search by saying the closest intersecting streets. The Google engineers had fun in programming this piece. As the search takes place, the silent void is filled with an engineer going “Ptptptptptptptptptp” until the list is compiled. Within moments, a listing will be spoken outloud.

Google may receive a lot of bad press for the ambitious strides it is taking; however, they mean well. Try this feature and come back and read the next installment.

Send me a comment on how you like Google 411 at Jaxhistory@gmail.com


jmillerbest-240x300For over thirty years, Joseph Miller has been a computer consultant advising business owners in ways to improve their companies. A local South Jacksonvillle Rotarian, he recently completed a book on the founder of the national organization, Paul P. Harris. In 2002, he developed and founded the Rotary Gingerbread House Extravaganza, which has distributed over $500,000 to charity and has entertained thousands of spectators in three cities (Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Tulsa).

10 Responses »

  1. The bigger question is why are they doing such a service for Free? Maybe they are capturing the cellphone id's for data mining. I'm sure that some company would pay handsomely for such information. Maybe even the I.R.S. Big Brother may not be who we should fear. Maybe the one to watch is Big Google?

  2. Very informative article. For so many of us, we just don't use the full capabilities of the Internet. Thanks for expanding my horizon. I also heard that Google Earth now has another feature for the ocean. Apparently, Google's engineers have teamed up with an oceanographer to show different parts of the ocean (the floor, the currents and sea life). Do you have any idea how to access this and how to use all of its capabilities? Would love to know more about Google Earth and the ocean option, if that is really now available. Keep teaching. I need it very much.

  3. Great article Joe. Very informative and a welcome edition to helping us understand some of the many options available to us through Google. Looking forward to more.

  4. This is a fantastic service - and yes, somewhere, someway Google will find a way to monetize the data. The service is likely free for you and I, but at some point it may cost the business to be included. This really is their Google Local feature, but by phone - and it is a service that the traditional directory assistance will not provide (at my last check). If you call the traditional directory assistance and ask for some recommendations in a category, you are told that they can not suggest a particular business for you. This will fill in that gap to be sure.

    I typically have my web enabled phone with me so I can pop open the google map (when I am the passenger) and key into search what I am looking for and In fact, I did just that on my recent visit to San Francisco. Bravo Google for continuing to provide services that people want.

  5. I have been using some of the other free 411 services for years, but Google 411 is far and away the best. Thanks for the info, Joe.

  6. Great information and you communicated in a very readable manner. Good job and keep the articles coming.

  7. Is it true that google provides a way to create documents.?

  8. Joe - this is great! Used it three times for real today, and about 20 times for effect.