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Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Lazyweb: I want an Upcoming Call Queue in my Phone

Partly as a result of Jaiku smart address book, I've been thinking about more features I'd like to see in my phone, if it were an open platform rather than a walled garden. Here's one that occurred to me yesterday: I'd love to be able to send (or sync via my calendar) a set of phone numbers for upcoming calls. Let's say I have an hour and a half drive to Silicon Valley. It's usually packed with scheduled calls. Since I'm driving, I either ask people to call me, or try to dial while I'm at a stop light, or write the number on a piece of paper that I can dial from, but it's all too often a death-defying feat to look up the number in my address book. How nice it would be to have a "scheduled calls" tab in my phone memory -- not just recently made, received, or missed calls, but planned calls.

Ideally, on my open phone platform, I could email the numbers to my phone, or SMS them, or sync them from my calendar. But however they got there, they'd show up in this convenient one-touch calling queue.

This is all part of my quest for "Address Book 2.0," a personal CRM system that would turn the crude address book offered by most products today into a smart platform that learns from my call history (yes, Mr. Phone Carrier, we need APIs to our call history database), lets me annotate it and manage it via an iTunes-like application (which also integrates email history a la xobni), automatic address book extraction for all calls, emails and IM, and so on.

tags: address_book, iphone, social_networking, web2.0, xobni  | comments: 15   | Sphere It


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Comments: 15

Gary Carroll   [10.11.07 05:25 AM]

A nice idea, but while you're waiting you could just get a phone that has useable voice activated dialling. My N95 is great for this; one button touch, speak the name, make the call. No voice training needed. Good luck and keep your eyes on the road.

Mark Simpkins   [10.11.07 06:11 AM]

Another good idea. It has been thinking about what it is that I want from my phone and network that has lead me to start designing In principle it is nothing more than a focused lazyweb, post your ideas on what you want your phone to do, or how you want your network to operate etc. Then view all the other ideas, views cut across category (phone, network, configuration, browsing, voice, data, billing etc). and see if anyone has the solution you need.

What I hope we might learn from this is a model (or a series of models) on what would be 'excellent' mobile solutions. Then we can examine the possible business models and see if the implementation of them is going to be possible. ie. could you set up a niche network, targeted at a specific user type with a specific set of use cases and make a viable business. In fact how possible is it going to be to build new services on top of existing network infrastructure, as I am guessing that most would not be able to roll out their own network but would buy network connectivity from one of the large players. If I did that though, would I be able to implement say, visual billing (online views of your phone usage for the month, showing calls on time lines etc.) or be able to download an audio copy of every call to my computer?

The site is just going to be a lazyweb (ug, i did that before, prefigured mysociety in trying to come up with ideas for politics 2.0 and lazysanta was, um well just a way to post your wish list to santa, using trackback and the lazyweb. All a la Ben's original implementation).

What will be interesting is if ideas about phones and networks and mobile communications are shared in a way to push open the market even more.


Cary Schwartzman   [10.11.07 07:34 AM]

I had a similar problem. If you have a smartphone of one kind or another (BlackBerry, Windows Mobile Device, whatever), what I do is simply create a calendar event for the time when I know I'll be out of the office.

For the subject, enter something like "Upcoming Call List". Then, in the notes area, put in all of the names & numbers of my upcoming calls.

Now, to make any of them, I just go to the calendar event (which is one-click access from my home screen because it is setup to be the next upcoming event), and then click on a phone number to auto-dial.

Ta-da! No fumbling with address books or anything!

Joe   [10.11.07 07:54 AM]

Since the iPhone Safari browser supports phone number links you can easily make an "iPhone Home Page" on a web server anywhere. List the phone numbers there and then just pull up that page in Safari, click on the numbers and the iPhone will offer to dial them. Basically a ToDo List (TaDa List?) that has phone numbers and names as the items.

Alec Saunders   [10.11.07 08:18 AM]

If you're on a BlackBerry, you can have this feature today. Just download the iotum Talk-Now application. It lets you create a list of people you need to talk with, and then be notified when they become available during your commute.

Free at

Beau   [10.11.07 08:52 AM]

Wow! Just ran into the same problem myself when I was trying to call a list of references. They were all one-time calls that I did not want added to my addressbook, but there was no way to pre-load them before starting my drive.

Ron Brinkmann   [10.11.07 08:58 AM]

Actually, this is pretty easy - Not only does the phone recognize phone numbers in webpages, it also parses them out of emails and makes them clickable links. So just email yourself a list of numbers to call and you're good to start driving.

Not that this should, in any way, stop us from continually hammering Apple to open this platform up to developers...

Steve Bowbrick   [10.11.07 09:27 AM]

Actually, what I really need is a tab on my phone for the people who are going to be calling me later so I can pre-reject them.

Andy Wong   [10.11.07 04:22 PM]

The so called "Upcoming Call Query" can be just a list of calendar events interacting with telephony as well as other tele methods. We just need a set of protocol to glue address book, calendar and telephony together in order to bring us a convenient UI for making scheduled calls.

The computing platform can be PC, PDA or Web or combination. So we need a startup to do so?

IT Giants, please pay more attention on usability design.

Andy Wong   [10.11.07 11:18 PM]

Following up Tim's idea, I just drafted user interfaces of creating scheduled call list and using the list, at

I just wonder how the phone manufacturers did the usability study. In addition, I appreciate Tim's call: Mr. Phone Carrier, we need APIs to our call history database.

Jay   [10.12.07 05:43 AM]

I'm with Ron, I don't have my iPhone handy to check but I'm pretty sure it will recognize phone numbers in webpages or email (I know it does in SMS). So I would simply set up a pair of scripts to email contacts to call.
Although it's a bit cumbersome I'd do one email per contact and then you could delete it when you were done, leaving you with a fairly intuitive system for people who you still need to call (vs trying to keep them all on one page and hacking things up so you had to email yourself back with a marked up message for whom you'd managed to speak with).

Vasudev Ram   [10.12.07 10:29 AM]

I think that's a great idea - making mobile phones more open as a platform. It would probably lead to all sorts of direct and indirect benefits to both phone users and software developers who build apps for phones.

Vasudev Ram
Dancing Bison Enterprises

Patrick Logan   [10.13.07 09:18 AM]

Em, don't talk on the phone while driving?

Gavin Bell   [10.15.07 09:38 AM]

Something I'd like is a sort order for the address book which lets me see the most recently added or modified details for a person. Adding last contacted would be helpful for some people too.

Andy Wong   [10.15.07 11:41 PM]

Joe and Jay mentioned "Since the iPhone Safari browser supports phone number links you can easily make an "iPhone Home Page" on a web server anywhere. List the phone numbers there and then just pull up that page in Safari, click on the numbers and the iPhone will offer to dial them."

Very handy for the initiative of this post.

I just realized that an address book program "Open Contacts" I developed had already supported this function implicitly.

1. Select contacts into a category named "Upcoming call list".
2. Select all contacts in the category and run "Output->Export phones to HTML", then you get a HTML file with contact names each of which has multiple phone numbers.
3. Send the HTML file to your iPhone.

You may change the layout of HTML output through modifying an XSLT file.

The program is at

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