Wowza! Microsoft OneNote for iPhone! Christmas already?

I didn’t see THAT one coming! Just glanced over at my reader and caught this awesome bit of news for lovers of iPhones and MS OneNote, a Venn diagram that until recently showed very little area of intersection. I haven’t written about my deep and abiding admiration for OneNote in a while, but I have in fact crowed about it in the Studio before (link). OneNote, originally a powerful desktop note taking and organizational tool with amazing editing, search and collaboration features, made its way to the cloud via Microsoft’s Skydrive about six months ago (link). Now, through God-knows-what-sort-of-unholy-alliance, you can get OneNote on your iPhone free (for a limited time), with automatic sync and backup via the cloud-based SkyDrive. It bears noting that there is no native Mac application for OneNote, making this news all the more surreal.

For those unfamiliar with OneNote, I took the liberty of copying the description provided by Microsoft in the App Store for its shiny new app:

Microsoft OneNote Mobile is the easy-to-use, powerful note-taking application for all of your ideas, brought to you by Microsoft Office. OneNote Mobile lets you create and view notes and lists whenever you need them. Sync your notes with free Windows Live online storage and access them from virtually anywhere using your phone, PC, or almost any web browser.

With OneNote Mobile, you can:
▪ Create flexible notes that can include text, pictures, bullets, and checkboxes ▪ Check To Do items off on the go▪ Save time with quick access to your most recent notes▪ Work with confidence—OneNote Mobile automatically syncs your notes with Windows Live in the background▪ Organize your notes into sections or create new notebooks using OneNote 2010 or OneNote Web App and access them from your iPhone

Although Microsoft has other iPhone apps already, this is the first app I know of that directly relates to a paid Microsoft software product within its venerable Office suite.

From the chatter on the Web, it appears that the auto sync update via SkyDrive may not yet be working and is being addressed by Microsoft. I didn’t let that little glitch bother me – I have my app downloaded and can’t wait to dig in. Any edge Evernote may have had on OneNote based on its portability may now be gone!

I ❤ OneNote + iPhone!

UPDATE : the SkyDrive sync is working – simply log in via the app to your Windows Live account.

Speakertext Does Just What It Sounds Like

There is a tool for everything, including a tool for extracting text from video and reaping the benefits of it. Need a transcript of that YouTube video or a way to improve your video search SEO? Check out Speakertext.  Speakertext recognizes that, while multi-media draws people to the Web, the Web was designed with text in mind. When we search, we can only access the text associated with that media. Fine for tags and descriptions, but not so good for the actual content of a video presentation. Speakertext converts that video into easily-searched text-based content, all gussied up for the search engines. To add to the fun, when you convert a video to Speakertext and quote a portion of that text, the embeddable link will then bring you right back to the place in the video where the text occurred. From the searcher’s standpoint, Speakertext is a real boon as it will allow you to find the precise place in a video where your desired information may reside. Clicking back and forth between text and video creates more links, more hits and greater visibility. And, Speakertext allows you to “watch” videos without sound – with scrolling text running alongside the images for those times when reading is better than listening. They have a lot to offer for the video-heavy content publisher:

Videotext

Video-to-Text

SpeakerText combines artificial and human intelligence to offer low-cost, high-quality video transcription. Once you connect SpeakerText to a video hosting platform––we currently support BrightcoveYouTube and Blip.tv––SpeakerText automatically downloads your videos, turns them into text and loads the text onto your website.
Meta

Video Metadata
and XML Sitemaps

SpeakerText analyzes each video transcript to create descriptive metadata. These meta-tags are placed on your website and used to create XML sitemaps so that your videos are indexed by video-specific search engines.
Autoupdate

Automatic Updating

SpeakerText automatically updates the text on your webpage and loads it into the SpeakerBar as soon as the transcript is ready.

Speakerbar

The SpeakerBar

Once a video has been transcribed, SpeakerText loads an interactive transcript player beneath each video. Dubbed the SpeakerBar, this player allows visitors to use the text as an interactive controller for the video. Visitors can use the SpeakerBar to search and navigate within the video as well as share video quotes on Facebook and Twitter that link back to the video.
Plugin

Transcript Hosting

SpeakerText stores your video transcripts in the cloud using the über reliable Amazon Web Services where they can be accessed server-side via API, ready-made scripts or our nifty WordPress plugin. This text is indexed by Google and other search engines for SEO.

Good for Speakertext, offering a free service to get someone started. There are relatively reasonable per month plans that add features and scope. Check out their pricing here. Right now, it works with at least YouTube, Blip.TV and Brightcove. I can think of all sorts of uses for this tool – particularly if you are someone who embeds or creates a lot of video content to support your on-line marketing efforts. If you don’t, Speakertext might convince you that it could be well worth your effort to add this dimension to your arsenal. Cool tool!

Use Hunch To Power Personal Recommendations

It gets exciting when the computers start getting smarter than the concierge at the Park Hyatt. Hunch is seeking to prove that evolution. Hunch bills itself as a “taste graph” of the Web personlized to your specific interests. In essence, Hunch offers a decision engine powered by your own preferences and behaviors on Hunch’s site as well as other, linked sites. The more you use Hunch, the more it learns about you, the better it can answer questions like “what is the next car I should buy?”

It all started as a machine learning experiment by a bunch of MIT-ers. Hunch, the current iteration of the machine, improves its IQ through community participation in the site, as well as your own interactions with it. Hunch strives to provide users with an “educated” response akin to what a panel of knowledgeable experts might provide or hours of internet searching might yield. From the site:

Contributions can take many forms. When Hunch makes a recommendation, it will also show you why it proposed what it did. If you disagree with some of the reasoning, you can correct it. If you think Hunch missed asking a crucial question, you can submit one. And if you think Hunch is missing a good result, you can add that, too. Hunch collects and organizes all this input so that it becomes smarter for the next user.

You start by answering twenty random questions so that Hunch can establish a “taste” profile for you. You get some off the cuff suggestions, which I found pretty strikingly on the mark. As you work within the site, you, as a user, refine questions and topics, making them smarter, and in turn, Hunch smarter. The more questions you answer and topics you explore, the better Hunch will do for you. You can respond to Hunch’s suggestions with your own critique as to their usefulness to you, which further aids the process. So, there is certainly a human element to the education, but this element is fed into the machine to feed the process.

For what it is worth, I kept answering until I had blown through about 50 questions. Hunch then recommended to me that I read the New Yorker Magazine (my favorite) and watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus (yes, I can probably quote better than 50 percent of the lines).

Hunch has to appeal to the masses, so you can follow others and there are ways to increase your social cred within the community and earn badges. All trappings aside, the idea that my computer can help me quickly solve the mundane and the more meaty questions seems very intriguing. Bing is seeking billing as a “decision engine”, but uses human curation to aid its process. And, while Quora opens the door to problem solving via a wiki-like community, it too rests on a human foundation. Hunch is offering to do the same with powerful algorithms supporting its decision engine. Fast forward a handful of years when the machines get more and more fine-tuned and we are turning to engines like Hunch to suggest service professionals (who have maintained enough of a web presence to hit the engine’s radar).

Man or Machine? Not sure yet, jury’s still out, but if you hear me asking Hal to open the Pod Bay doors, and suggest a mixed drink to serve at my next cocktail party, you might suspect I am following my Hunch.