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January 05, 2010


lauren pressley

Interesting post, Brian! I'm totally with you, at least wondering what the impact will be (despite the fact that at this point I prefer text).

For what it's worth, in some focus groups last year, we found that students wanted transcripts of videos we were making, so they could watch the videos muted in a public space, but still get the narration. I wonder if that translates to too strong of a tie to text for this generation to make this type of switch.... though, admittedly... the sample size is very small. :)

Dottie Hunt

I take credit for teaching you the way of the Mac.


I had to share this. I was reading the Philly inquirer at dinner and there's a feature where they asked little kids to predict something about 10 years in the future. Of course, the ones who said everyone would be nice to each other in the future were very cute. But one caught my eye. A 7-year old girl wrote that in the future everyone would talk to their computers and no one would type or write anything ever again. Now I'm wondering where you got the idea for this post from. That aside, just because we have software it doesn't mean everyone has started dictating to their computers. But having a bit of experience with voice search on my phone, maybe for a short, search engine query it could work well. I'm not sure how well it might translate to a more complicated search. BTW, how long has this blog been on typepad?


I’ve been on typepad since May 2006.

As for where I got this idea—it didn’t come from the Philly Inquirer. I was messing around on my new iPhone 3G s (greatest phone ever) and it has this cool feature where you can say ‘play songs by lil wayne’ and – it plays songs by lil wayne. There are several free voice-driven apps for the phone and so it seems logical that it will continue to evolve. This post was kind of a whim. I’m trying to be more spontaneous with the blog.

Hey, maybe Temple could use the iPhone to teach info lit skills. It could be great for mastering Boolean. You can say find songs by lil wayne AND Jay, or find songs by lil wayne BUT NOT birdman.

As for the article you mention. That 7 year-old girl is my target audience. I want to start working on libraries for the next generation of users! Talk instead of type, touch instead of click.

Ken Liss

I like the Google voice search on my Droid (though my kids roll their eyes every time I use it around them.) It's faster and easier than typing on the phone and is great for the kind of query where a simple Google search works well.

But because it makes the ease of use gap between Google and other sources much wider than it is on a larger device, I find myself settling for a Google search on some queries on which I'd use other sources if I weren't on the mobile. I probably also settle sometimes for what I can get with the kind of simple Google search you can do with voice instead of a more advanced Google search I could do with the keyboard.

The hands-free phone function in my car has a kind of field searching: you can say "Dial by Name" or "Dial by Number" and then get prompted for a name or number. Maybe as voice searching expands to other sources we'll see it evolve to where we can say "Search Title" or "Search Author" or "Search Subject" followed by whatever our query is.


Ken. Happy New Year. Droid huh. Sorry to hear that. Anyway. That’s exactly what I am thinking. Applying the same technology to databases and beyond. Something like:
“search for articles on cloning and ethics” RESULTS. “refine search, scholarly articles, full text, since 2005.” RESULTS. “read abstracts one, two, five, seven, ten, fifteen,” LISTEN TO THEM WHILE I AM DOING SOMETHING ELSE “show table in article five” PINCH AND PULL IMAGE. “email image to ken liss” SENT “save articles five, ten, and fifteen.”

This is just a silly example, but essentially anything you can type, click, or select can be automated. Hmmm, can we add a voice recognition field to MARC records?

Wow, somehow I have talked myself into becoming an ambassador for voice-search. Ebsco—I’m willing to give you a marketing plan.


A little over a year ago I saw Thomas Frey from the DaVinci Institute speak (to a group mostly comprised of library managers who I'll generously describe as...more experienced members of the profession). One of the questions he left off with was "how long will it be before it's possible to earn a phd without being able to read?"

I'm sure you can guess, the librarians didn't take very kindly to that proposition and the discussion that followed ended up focusing more on that pie-in-the-sky question than the more relevant and realistic ideas from the presentation. My first degree is in linguistics (also I like to cause trouble), so I played devil's advocate...

The thing is, spoken language is innate to humans. We don't have to teach our babies to speak - they will just pick it up on their own from hearing other humans speak. Written language, however, is not. It's something we have to learn, and many people struggle with it. It's a means to an end. Be that as it may, written language is still pretty much the best way of storing/sharing/conveying information that we've got the technology for. But, technology for recording/sharing/playing back audio and video is increasing dramatically in quality and affordability.

The point of all this is that it's likely the day will come soon when written language will not be the "best" way for us to store/share/convey information...at some point we will look back and remember when we used to waste time and energy writing or typing, and actually sitting down to read when we could be listening while working on something else (although transcriptions will probably still be useful - I don't actually think we'll have any illiterate doctoral candidates anytime soon). Voice search definitely fits into this category.

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