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Summary:

Call me crazy or call me at 262-KCTOFEL. It’s your choice and I’ll only know which you chose if my phone rings. Some early morning web browsing alerted me to the news that Google is offering Google Voice phone number changes for $10. Boy Genius Report […]

3147798491-googlevoice_03Call me crazy or call me at 262-KCTOFEL. It’s your choice and I’ll only know which you chose if my phone rings. Some early morning web browsing alerted me to the news that Google is offering Google Voice phone number changes for $10. Boy Genius Report called out the Google blog post that provides the details and I’m thinking that a fair number of original Grand Central account owners will search the new batch of numbers.

Searching is easy: Enter an area code or zip code and then any combination of numbers or letters you want in a phone number. If Google has any that match, you can grab them for the one-time fee. I searched around for at least 20 minutes in the four area codes local to me, thinking I might get a more personal number than what I have. Then I realized: You can leave the area code blank to widen the scope of your search. That’s how I ended up with a number that spells my name, but the area code and exchange are in Hartland, Wis. Since I live in southeastern Pennsylvania, I felt immediate disappointment. But then I reconsidered.

After thinking it through, I bought the number. Ideally, I’m still hoping for number portability, so the local cell phone number I’ve had for nine years can become my Google Voice number. It’s the number that well over 1,000 people have for business and personal use. But while I’m waiting, I decided that a more personalized number goes with my branding and my identity. Earlier in the week, I talked about this at great length in a GigaOM< Pro post (subscription required). I’m envisioning a “DNS for people” type of system where phone numbers simply don’t matter on the surface. Much like IP addresses, you don’t remember the IP address of every web site. Instead, you type an easy to remember name and DNS translates that to the appropriate IP address for your destination.

Anyway, I decided that most people who call me really don’t care where they’re calling. PR folks and tech companies are generally national or global, so it shouldn’t matter to them. And very few of my friends and family call me from a landline these days. They all call from cell phones where long-distance charges don’t exist on their modern plans. Minutes are minutes for the most part, unless you’re talking about international calls. Even if my family and friends run into a long-distance stumbling block, they have the local phone numbers tied to my handsets, so it’s essentially a non-issue for them. In fact, as consumers cut the landline cord and move to digital voice or mobile handsets, the term “long distance” loses more and more meaning. How long will it be before nobody pays a “long distance” charge when calling a area code far, far away?

So yes, I live in Pennsylvania and you can call me in Wisconsin. In a way, I think this was meant to be. My new number could have been in any city in the U.S., but my name was available in Hartland. That just happens to be where the central character grew up in Terry Goodkind’s “Sword of Truth” series: Hartland. It’s one of my favorite fantasy series. Must be magic that got me this number. Oh and if you own a Palm Pre and we’re Facebook friends, my new number should already be in your phone. I just cast a Synergy spell of my own. ;)

  1. cybertactix Friday, July 3, 2009

    At first I was thinking “ok Kevin’s lost it over a vanity number” but you’re right, area codes are just another part of the number for just about anyone using VOIP or cell. As for Hartland, any comments on the “Legend of the Seeker” TV series?

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  2. turn.self.off Friday, July 3, 2009

    iirc, there is a RFC somewhere for personal DNS entries (basically turning DNS into a large phone book).

    oh and sword of truth, is that not the second most preachy book series after ayn rand’s books?

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  3. Just wanted to add a little to the “branding and identity” aspect of this post. When I left New Jersey to move west (Arizona first and then Utah) after 15 years in technology and software consulting, Vonage had just opened for business and I became one of their first customers. For about $20/month I was able to keep a local number in NJ with unlimited calling. My consulting clients appreciated being able to call a local number because they frequently called me from home after work and weekends.

    In the years since then I have frequently added temporary numbers around the US and Europe to appear closer to my clients – I never want them to consider a local consultant more convenient. Clients have told me they appreciate it and the cost to me is insignificant.

    I like the idea of personalized numbers, but always know your customers before making them call you in Wisconsin.

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  4. I just did the same thing and now have one for a North Carolina prefix, but at least I have my “palmsolo” name for vanity number now that will make it much easier for me to remember and share with others. I tried different “Miller” variants, but there was nothing available.

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  5. Personalized numbers are OK until some poor guy tries to dial them using a Blackberry.

    RIM really need to provide a little sticker, or software hack that allows their users to dial these numbers correctly!

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    1. You can dial a name on a BlackBerry. Just hold down the ALT key!!

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    2. Brian…

      I have had a Blackberry for 7 years and I never knew this! Bloody fantastic.
      You will have meade me a hero of my collegues if this works.

      A virtual pint of the best ale is on its way to you.

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  6. This is great I must log into my account and see what I can come up with. I sure do hope they do let you port a number into GV, this would nice. Since I can call anyone in the U.S. with my mobile phone with no long distance charges, I will be calling Kevin Wisconsin… or is that Pennsylvania? ;)

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  7. I’d like to change for free. My original Grand Central number is plagued by the bill collectors. Quite a few *ZATZ and *DZATZ numbers are available… but I don’t think I care.

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  8. I think it will be great when area codes are abolished and numbers are just like e-mail addresses. But maintaining compatibility with simple phones with number pads without letters will be difficult. Maybe there can be an internet code in addition to country codes, with some guarantee in major countries that this won’t cost more to dial than a local call.

    Hard to see this happening, so as an international person I’m stuck paying for and remembering several Skype numbers.

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  9. Regarding the “DNS for people” idea, isn’t this what ENUM is supposed to do? See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ENUM

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  10. I love that you got a Hartland, WI number. I lived there from age 11-18.

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  11. yea, i live in chicago but the number i got is from detroit. not tooooo bad, but then i did some research and the same 7 digits that i wanted were not even being used by 2 of the local area codes.
    so i emailed google asking if they can buy that number for me so i can buy it from them.

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  12. My new one matches my existing cell phone except for the prefix – 850 instead of 294. Easy for me to remember that way instead of a vanty number!

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  13. Very interesting, linking all your numbers to one place. In the long run, people who want to call you shouldn’t worry about which number to use or which device to call (your mobile or home or office), they should be calling a person, not a device. So there should only be one number per person for life, and we should be able to decide which device should ring depending on where we are at any given time! Google is getting us one step closer to that by linking all our current phones to just one number…

    BUT the thing that Google hasn’t been able to do though, is to link people’s *old* phone numbers to the google number. Or their old emails, or skype IDs, or all the other online ID’s. Ideally, we would want to get our one and only google number to “replace” all those other bulky or outdated contact alternatives too… Btw, http://www.avakit.com is a great help with that, highly recommended!

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