? – Txt Ur Librarian or Expert 4 411

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What a great idea for dispensing reference information in the digital age: MyInfoQuest.com. This website is a collaboration among fifty participating libraries, Altarama Information Systems and WebClarity Software, Inc.  The “collaborative text messaging” service permits patrons of the participating libraries to text questions to the service at number 309-222-7740 and receive a text response from a real, live reference librarian. The pilot program just started at the end of July and will continue through December, 2009. While standard text messaging rates apply, the service itself is free. Service hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon – Fri and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, the librarians rest.

Not a member of the MyInfoQuest consortium libraries and/or interested in help outside of their service hours? Try ChaCha – another free service offering 24 hours of “expert” answers to phone calls or text questions. You can call ChaCha at 1.800.2ChaCha (1.800.224.2242) or text ChaCha at 242242 (spells ChaCha). ChaCha routes the question to “the most knowledgable person on that topic in our guide community.” The answer is spit back out as a text message reportedly within minutes. I couldn’t resist – I followed a link to see what people were asking and came up with this list:

  • Are dolphins nice or mean to people
    1 min ago | Asked 3 times | in Animals & Plants
  • What is the biggest water slide in the world
    1 min ago | Asked 12 times | in Attractions & Destinations
  • Who does the voice of chris griffen from family guy
    1 min ago | Asked 2 times | in TV & Radio
  • If you switch birth control pills does it make you more likely to get pregnant for a while
    1 min ago | Asked 2 times | in Pregnancy
  • What is longest word in the english language
    1 min ago | Asked 90 times | in Literature , Definitions , Language & Lookup
  • Are there muscles in your fingers
    1 min ago | in Fitness , Biology
  • What does ‘Dulce et decorum est, Pro patria mori’ mean
    1 min ago | in Translations
  • What is the best way to preserve and dry a rose
    1 min ago | in Home & Garden
  • What is a foxtrot
    1 min ago | Asked 6 times | in Definitions
  • What is the number to nationwide insurance company
    1 min ago | Asked 2 times | in Demographics
  • How many people live in the US? How many people live in the US
    1 min ago | Asked 96 times | in Demographics
  • What movies has Alexa Vega appeared in
    1 min ago | Asked 13 times | in Movies
  • What are the basic rules of tennis
    1 min ago | Asked 6 times | in Tennis
  • What is the Chicago Whitesox stadium name
    1 min ago | Asked 2 times | in Baseball
  • What are the lyrics to “over the rainbow”
    1 min ago | Asked 10 times | in Music
  • What is the best way to get a girl to approach you
    1 min ago | Asked 2 times | in Relationships & Dating
  • What is the cheat code for Sims 2 Pets for the computer
  • Clearly, ChaCha is highly focused on pop culture and most answers appear readily obtainable from a basic Google search. I am tempted to run a legal question through the service and see what kind of response I get in return.

    In any event, the model of ready access to an “expert” and receipt of an answer within minutes in mobile “txt” form is intiguing and appealing. I can envision legal reference professionals providing such a service to their attorney-clients and attorneys providing such a service to their own clients, subject to ethical guidelines of course. Innovation in a medium embraced by the masses seems is a winner in my book.

    Hat tip to ResourceShelf

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    New Technology To Address The Texting While Driving Conundrum

    It really is an issue: people just can’t resist the lure of message calling for a response. Following my post a couple days ago about Jalopnik’s map showing anti-texting laws across the country, I got an email from Michael Riemer of ZoomSafer, a new technology to help drivers reduce distractions imposed by technology.

    ZoomSafer is a free software and services application for download that manages calls, texts and social networks to ensure that the driver is presented with as few distractions as possible. It is currently in alpha, but will be released in beta in early August. Taken from a recent press release:

    ZoomSafer software will automatically detect when users are driving, triggering a set of user defined events, and activating several services, including:

    • The playing of a customizable audio file – from spouse, child, employer or favorite celebrity — reminding the user to “be safe and focus on the road”
    • Auto-updates to social networks including Facebook and Twitter (including the option to share location) so friends, family and co-workers know that the user is driving and are less likely to interrupt
    • Automatic suppression of inbound alerts and issuance of auto-replies to calls, texts, and emails to inform others that the user is focused while driving and will respond when available
    • Personalized audio announcements of select callers so the user does not have to look at their phone to see who is calling
    • Voice safety portal so users can create / send voice-powered emails, text messages, and Tweets as well as well as listen to audio-enabled, personalized content feeds including blogs, RSS, Twitter posts, etc.

    ZoomSafer will be available on RIM Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian and Android powered devices. Sounds like an interesting way to customize the distractions you want while eliminating the distractions you don’t.

    This morning, I stumbled upon another take on a solution to this problem: the DOT. DOT is the brainchild of graphic designer Cyrene Quiamco and is quite ingenious. It is a hybrid cellphone and headset, with the ability to project an active keyboard or other images. It is designed to browse the internet and project pages as well, essentially offering the wearer a heads-up display and reducing the need to look away from the focus target. Check out the concept image below, it is pretty cool:

    DOT 2

    Nothing like technology to solve the problems that technology creates! Nice solutions, ZoomSafer and DOT.

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