Tag Archives: jott

Back to Jott

After trying either to live without Jott or to use an alternative speech-to-text service like reQall (which seemed very unwieldy to me), I finally decided to go back and give the new, for-profit version of Jott a spin. And actually, it’s fine.

The service is still the same — you call 866-JOTT-123 and leave a message, and Jott transcribes it to text — and it appears to work just as well as it used to (which isn’t always so great, depending on the signal strength and your enunciation skills). What made Jott the killer app for me, before it went out of beta, was that the text transcription of voice messages was sent directly to GMail. (Or your choice of several other links.) Some of the links from Jott to the rest of the web are still free (such as Twitter) but the others, particularly all the Google apps, are “premium links” which you can have for $3.95 a month. Having to go to a web site to retrieve my tasks from Jott was just one or two steps more in the collection process than I wanted to do.

But as I said, as it turns out, it’s still OK: Under the “basic” (free) plan, when you leave the voice message, the transcription is placed on the Jott Desktop (a website), but there’s still an email notification sent that contains a link to the appropriate message. I have my email set up to send to a GTD label in GMail, so when I check my GMail inbox, there’s my task, just as it always was — I only have to click a link. It’s not like I have an entirely new inbox to add to my list of inboxes, and that was the main sticking point with the Jott Basic plan.

I don’t know if there was anyone else out there as anal-retentive about GTD as I am who might have been ditching Jott for the same reasons as me, but if so, I’d say it’s OK to go back.

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Farewell, Jott, I hardly knew ye

Jott, the voice-to-text program I have blogged about a couple of times, has come out of “beta” (you mean Web 2.0 apps can be something other than “beta”?) and, sadly, is no longer a free service. (You mean Web 2.0 apps aren’t always free?) There will be a “Jott Basic” plan that will remain free, but all it allows you to do is leave voice messages to the online “Jott desktop”; it does not include the feature that made Jott so addictive useful, namely the ability to have voice messages transcribed and sent directly to your email account, Google Calendar, Twitter, or other supported services. For that, you have to pay $3.95 a month for the regular plan or $12.95 for the “Pro” plan. Also, the basic plan includes ads.

I can’t begrudge Jott for wanting to have some kind of a revenue stream, but I have to say that I am very disappointed in this move, and I won’t be using Jott from here on out. I use Jott to capture thoughts, ideas, and other stuff when I am not near a pen and paper or a computer — driving home, walking across campus, whatever — by phoning them in to Jott, and then Jott sends them to a special GTD folder in my Gmail for non-dated stuff and into Google Calendar for dated stuff. Jott allows me to eliminate several “collection buckets” — notepads, voice recorders, etc. — that I would need for collecting on-the-go stuff and instead just use my normal GMail/GCalendar account. It sounds like laziness, but making me go to Jott’s website to my Jott Desktop to get the stuff that I would capture using Jott, rather than sending it straight to GMail/GCal, adds a lot of complexity to my collection/processing routine. Too much.

Is it worth $4 a month? Not for me; in my household we are pinching every penny we have,  which is one of the reasons that free Web 2.0 apps are such a blessing for me. A search for Twitter posts on “jott” reveals a handful of “It’s worth it and I’m going to pay for it” tweets out there, but a lot more people are like me — disappointed and getting off the Jott bandwagon. Jott would keep a lot of its current users if the free plan would allow Jott to send to just one email or calendar account, and the $4/month plan could send to multiple accounts. Jott, if you’re reading this, give it some thought. Otherwise, it’s been fun, but…

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Jott as a diction-checking device

I’ve blogged before about Jott, the web service which lets you call in and leave a voice message, and then it transcribes it to text and emails it to you or others you want to contact. I use Jott quite often in lieu of a voice recorder for quick thoughts that might be actionable. When I want to catch an idea, I get my cell phone, hit “5” on the speed dial to call Jott, then talk through my message. A few moments later, I get a transcribed version in my GMail inbox which then gets reviewed at my next GTD weekly review.

Jott’s capabilities as a speech-to-text converter are impressive, but it’s not perfect. When I get a mis-transcription, sometimes I wonder whether it’s Jott’s fault or whether it’s something having to do with how clearly I am speaking. Take this recent message for instance. I had just finished teaching a section on exponential growth and decay in my calculus class that meets this summer. I wanted to leave myself a quick note for my GTD review about things I needed to work on with the presentation for this section. Here’s what I said:

I need to edit the 3.8 presentation. The example on Newton’s Law of Cooling didn’t quite work. Need to add a question as to what the C represents in Newton’s Law of Cooling. It just went too long. I think one decay example, one growth example, one Law of Cooling and that’ll be enough. Maybe flesh out a little bit more what a differential equation is, they were a little lost.

Now, on the other hand, here’s what Jott thinks I said (differences are in boldface):

I need to edit the 3.8 presentation. The example on Newton block cooling didn’t quite work. Need to add a question as to what the C represents in Newton block cooling. I just went too long I think one decay example, one growth example,in block cooling that’ll be enough. Maybe flush out a little bit more for the differential equation is, they were a little lost.

Newton block cooling“? I went back and listened to the voice message and, to me, I am clearly saying “Newton’s Law of Cooling”, but Jott went 3-for-3 in transcribing this as it did. That makes me wonder if my students would hear me say “Newton block cooling”. Students are more intelligent than a computerized speech-to-text processor, but still, if this advanced technology is convinced that I am not saying “law of cooling” but “block cooling”, there’s a pretty good chance I am not being clear enough.

So perhaps Jott would be useful as a diagnostic tool for a speaker’s enunciation and clarity — if there’s 100% agreement between what the speaker actually said and the Jott transcription, then there are no problems with clarity; otherwise, there might be.

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Looking for an internet voice mail app for students

Sorry for the light blogging, but I’ve been trying to cram in a bunch of work this week so I can take next week completely off. (Summer classes start the week after that.) Today I’m prepping for my summer calculus course, and I have a question for the audience about a particular web service I need but can’t seem to find. 

The calculus class I am teaching this summer is in the evenings, and as far as I can tell all the students who are taking it are commuters. Normally, during the regular school year, I set up lots of office hours and have an open-door policy for students to come and get help when they need it. But since the class is in the evenings and I am staying at home with the kids during the day, and since the students won’t be on campus anyway except for my class, office hours are not really going to be the optimal way for students to get help. I’ll have office hours by appointment, but I can’t really be on campus for hours and hours each week. 

So I have email and IM available for students to use, but students aren’t always around a computer when they need help. But they are around phones all the time, so what I’d really like is to have some kind of voice mail service where students could call in their questions, and then I’d get to them when I could. Of course I have a phone at work, but like I said I am not going to be in the office much, and if they leave a voice message on that phone I may not get it until it’s too late — and we have no way of checking our voice mail off campus. (Or at least, I have no idea how to do it.) And I’m a little reluctant to give out my cell phone number to students, and really reluctant to give out our Vonage number we use at home, just because I’m kind of private and paranoid that way. 

What I am looking for is a service that: 

  • Lets students call in and leave a voice mail message on a server somewhere, which…
  • …I then listen to via the internet, and then…
  • …publish a response to the question via email or a return call. And, 
  • It needs to be cheap or free for me, and
  • Students should not need to sign up or register for anything — just dial a number on their phones and leave a message. 
I thought that Jott might do this, but I think only if every student signs up for a Jott account. I’m not opposed to that, but students might be, and it adds an additional layer of complexity. 
Anybody know of something out there that does all this? Surely the vast Web 2.0 application world has something that matches all these criteria, you’d think. 

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Software! Software! Get your fresh software!

Lots of activity on the software front lately.

OmniFocus, the GTD app which I wrote about here, was released in version 1.0 today. I’ve been very satisfied with OmniFocus since settling on it for my GTD needs, especially since I managed to combine discounts to get it for under $20. I don’t know how many of those discounts are still available, but definitely the educational pricing is still there (though you have to look around for it at the Omni web site).

Bento, called the “missing database from iWork”, was released out of beta today as well. I’ve been demoing Bento for the last few days as a tracking system for students, and it’s very nice and visual. But I found the $49 price tag to be a little pricey, especially when the entire iWork ’08 suite is $79.

Sage, an open-source computer algebra system comparable to Matlab, has been gathering lots of buzz. With all my issues with Maple 10 not working under OS X Leopard, I’ve made learning Sage to be one of my January projects. I’ve got it downloaded and installed — which was no small feat, since there is no DMG package for OS X and it has to be built from source — but I haven’t had a chance to test drive it much. More later if I do.

Jott is not exactly software but rather a voice-to-text service that is really quite amazing. You call up a central phone number, address your voice message using voice commands, and then speak your message — and Jott converts it to text and sends it to the addressee as an email, SMS message, or both. You can also set Jott up to post to Google Calendar, Twitter, even blogging services (which unfortunately excludes WordPress.com). I used to want a digital voice recorder for capturing thoughts for my GTD inbox while not able to write things down or get to my laptop, but now I just call up Jott and have it send me an email. Brilliant — and free! (This has been around for a while, but I realized I hadn’t blogged about how enthused I was about it.)

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