Receptionist.  Great article by Mike Langberg on an idea he has called Receptionist…..

Trying to reach me? Meet my Receptionist
By Mike Langberg
Mercury News

I have four telephone numbers, three e-mail addresses, two fax numbers and user names on three instant messengers.

Many of the people I know personally or professionally have equally complicated electronic fingerprints.

I lose more and more productive time trying to figure out how to reach them, as well as managing my own little communications network so people can reach me.

This is a problem caused by technology, and I believe technology can provide a solution: a future service I've dreamed up and named Receptionist.

I got the idea for Receptionist after writing recently about improvements in electronic mail, instant messaging, video conferencing, voice-over-the-Internet phone calls and mobile phones. Receptionist would bring together all forms of electronic identity in a single gateway, making it easier to reach other people and at the same time increasing our privacy.

I'm not the first to think of this. A long list of companies in a field called “unified messaging'' offers services today that cover one or two pieces of what I want. Yet as far as I know, none is yet offering a product as comprehensive as Receptionist.

The center of Receptionist would be a customizable Web page where others would go to reach you. My page could be The address would never change, even as I shift phone numbers or e-mail addresses, and I'd never have to give out any contact information other than my page.

The public version of your page would have only basic information that you're willing to share with the world at large, perhaps just your name and e-mail address. A password-protected private page, where you would control how much information is given to each account-holder, would go much deeper.

Receptionist would link to a new generation of mobile phones, just now becoming available, that know their geographic location, allowing the Receptionist page to display either vague or detailed information on your whereabouts. Receptionist would also know when you're signed on to an instant messenger program, so visitors could be told whether you're sitting at your desk.

Here's how my Receptionist page might look:

“Welcome to the contact page for Mike Langberg, Personal Technology Columnist of the San Jose Mercury News.''

The next line would vary.

On weekdays, you might see: “Mike is working, and is available now for your phone call or message.''

Or you might see, “Mike is working, but talking on the phone at the moment'' — because Receptionist would know when either my wired phone or cell phone is in use.

Or “Mike is working today, but is out of the office at the moment.'' Receptionist would post this message automatically whenever the location data on my cell phone showed I was more than a few hundred yards from the longitude and latitude of my desk.

Below this line would be a row of buttons with options for contacting me:

“Leave a voice message,'' “Call me on the phone,'' “Send me an e-mail,'' “Send me an instant message,'' “Start a video conference.''

The voice message and e-mail options would always be available, but the others would be grayed out when I'm busy or otherwise unavailable.

Beneath the contact buttons would be a log-on box, where family, friends and co-workers could enter their name and a password. This would take them to a private page where they could see my exact location, as reported by my cell phone. Family and close friends, but maybe not my boss, could ring through to my home phone anytime day or night. Co-workers would get permission to view my electronic calendar, although they wouldn't see private appointments such as weekend parties.

There would also be a voice-only version of Receptionist for people who want to reach me on the phone, without using a computer.

I'd gladly pay $10 to $20 a month for such a service, and I believe millions of others would do the same.

Receptionist would greatly increase my privacy, because I could manage how people interact with me.

More important, I could quickly and easily manage how people interact with me.

Receptionist in its fullest form isn't ready yet for the real world. We'd need much wider adoption of self-locating cell phones, more broadband Internet access in homes and more integration between telephones and the Internet. But all these things will happen within the next few years.

[via Marc's Voice]

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