The Phonepedia concept is simple: take Wikipedia’s rich content and add voice recognition. It’s as easy as calling a number and asking your question, the answer will be returned via SMS and email. Go ahead and try it for yourself.
The voice recognition is powered by Jott, and thanks are due to Heidi for writing so glowingly about it (Cluetrain moment: I’d heard about Jott before, but hadn’t been stirred to look at it until I saw Heidi’s post speaking in the voice of a real person). And the thing about Jott that got me interested was the remixability of the service. They call it Jott-Links, and it allows any user to connect external applications to the service.
Jott handles all the interaction with the user. The email responses look like these, though the URL is truncated from the SMS message. Wikipedia doesn’t offer an API, and the content requires a lot of massaging to get consistently useful text for applications like this, so I built those pieces, as well as the glue to connect it to Jott.
It’s not perfect, and I’m certain there are a number of things it gets wrong, but it’s worth a try. I think it also highlights the value of having free information and remixable systems. I’m looking for ways to connect it to a library catalog, but I’m at a loss at the moment to figure out what kind of spoken questions of our catalogs can be usefully answered in a 140 character response.
Of course this also raises the question about which technically aware people might have questions for Wikipedia and have a Jott-registered phone but don’t have web access handy. But I’m a librarian, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t looking for new ways to access and use information.
Finally, I hope nobody is so confused as to think this is in any way officially affiliated with or sanctioned by the Wikimedia Foundation or Jott.com. It’s not.