Twitter is the current favorite when it comes to instant presence, but there are other services out there which could be a better fit.

David DeJean, Contributor

May 10, 2007

5 Min Read

Pinger: Voice-Activated

Pinger, in many ways, is a voice-activated version of Jyngle. It's all about using your cellphone to create and deliver voice messages to individuals and groups. Pinger works by mixing in a little text messaging.


Pinger: You can use Pinger via spoken commands from your cell phone to address and record messages.

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You can use Pinger via spoken commands from your cell phone to address and record messages.

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To create a message you call the Pinger number and speak the names of contacts and groups you've previously set up in your Pinger account (Pinger can import an address list) or the phone number of someone you want to message ad hoc. Pinger prompts you through the process of addressing and recording your voice message, then texts the recipients with a phone number they can dial to hear it. Pinger adds voice prompts that let listeners reply or forward your message as well.

If you're wondering why you'd do this instead of just leave a voicemail, or call somebody directly, Pinger points out that (1) it's an easy solution for that one-to-many problem with voicemail, (2) sometimes you just want to leave a message, you don't want to talk to the person, and (3) it can be whole lot safer than trying to text somebody while you're driving.

Pinger also offers an online option, so you can create a message from a computer equipped with a microphone and annotate it with some brief text. You can manage your account online, as well, adding contacts and creating groups, and best of all you get an inbox that shows all your messages. You can review messages from the inbox and even download them to your computer as WAV files.

If you have a Blackberry 7000 or 8000, or Treo 600/650/680/700p, you can download a Pinger application that provides single-click message retrieval, and lists your last 10 Pinger messages.

Swarm-it: Grander Ambitions

Swarm-it, from SwarmTeams, is something like Loopnote in the way it handles security control and access (and something like Joopz in the way it handles money -- it's not free).

The service can send short text messages to SMS, e-mail, or IM addresses (and it allows you to add extended text for e-mail and IM, which is nice). Everybody in the group, or "swarm," you create must sign up for an account and set their messaging preferences.


Swarm-it: Swarm-it is the closest thing to a business-grade collaboration application among these services.

(click image for larger view)

Swarm-it is the closest thing to a business-grade collaboration application among these services.

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Swarm-it isn't as flexible as Loopnote in the control it gives you over who can initiate a message, but it's far more flexible in the amount of communication it permits. Swarm members (not the most felicitous of appellations, eh?) can replay to and forward messages, and upload files for sharing from the Swarm server. Send out a meeting invitation and get back RSVPs as replies. Upload a file and send out a message to the swarm saying it's ready for them to download and use.

Swarm-it offers the most robust collaboration environment of any of the services reviewed here -- which is obviously what SwarmTeams had in mind, because it also offers a Swarm-Pro product with some additional features clearly aimed at enterprise customers.

For individual users, Swarm-it charges a dime apiece for SMS messages -- messages sent via e-mail and IM are free. You get 50 free SMS messages if you sign up with a cell phone number, and you can buy more, 100 at a time, through PayPal. When you create a swarm, you decide whether you, as the owner, will pay for any SMS users, or whether the individuals who elect to receive messages via SMS will pay.

The Swarm-it user interface is business-like (translation: very plain), but it does provide a complete history of the messages sent to the swarm, and shows replies in context. Swarm-it also allows users to send private one-to-one messages to other users -- but this isn't always a good thing. You can send a message via IM, for example, without having an IM account configured in Swarm-it. The user receiving the message can send a reply, and the reply sails off into the ether without any notification of non-delivery to either party.

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