Google Voice for everyone — how?

Google announced yesterday that Google Voice is open to the public. You don’t need an invitation; you just sign up and you get “one number to ring all your phones, voicemail that works like email, free calls and text messages to the U.S. and Canada, low-priced international calls and more.” That’s great. Some of these features might really be helpful to a lot of people. I’ve been trying it out for the last week or so and I like the transcripts of voicemails I get via email and text. The iPhone’s Visual Voicemail is pretty awesome — no calling a number to check your messages or having to listen to a bunch of messages to get to the one you want, etc. So if you have an iPhone, the improvements of Google Voice are diminished. If you don’t have an iPhone, you’ll probably find Google Voice’s transformation of voicemail to be a little revolutionary.

Anyway, my big question here is: How can this be free? Mike Elgan offers one answer:

I’m going to give it to you straight: I believe Google Voice is free because Google wants to track your phone calls, read your voicemails and text messages and invade your privacy to offer you up on a silver platter to advertisers.

Hmph. Maybe Google Voice isn’t so cool after all…

Time and lines

This will not be new to you real web pros, but I just discovered Google’s Timeline search. Search for anything in Google, then on the left column of the results page you can choose to see your results in standard view, “wonder wheel,” or timeline. Here’s an example of what you get with a timeline of chicago drinking laws, one for Gideon v. Wainwright. and one for public defender. You can even get a timeline of timelines. The timelines are far from complete, but they are a fascinating way to display information.

In the past couple of years I had the opportunity to work on more and more complex cases as a public defender and as the cases got more complex I found timelines to be the absolute best way to organize the most crucial information in a case. I searched quite a bit for a good (affordable) program to help me create those timelines and to display them in useful and visually appealing ways. I never found anything worthwhile for Windows, but if you have access to Mac OS X, you can’t go wrong with Beedocs Timeline, which is completely awesome.

Timelines are simple but powerful. Look, for example, of how simply this personal timeline conveys a great deal of information about one person’s life. It kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? What would a timeline of your life look like?