Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Frank Turtle, Otter at Large: Fun With Google Voice Search

I'm a fan of all things Google.

Google is my go-to search engine. I use Chrome as my default browser. I want a Chromebook so bad I'm nearly ready to start mugging little old ladies in parking lots. I have a Chrome account, which lets me add apps from the Chrome store (most are free) and run them from any machine I happen to be using at the moment.

So, when I decided to play with Google's new voice search feature, I expected great things.

After all, this is Google. I've heard about their voice search software -- it's said to be even more conversational than Apple's Siri. Ask Google for the population of Chicago, for instance, and it will tell you. Then ask 'Who is the mayor?' and Google will tell you that too -- it assumes that you mean the mayor of Chicago, since that's what you asked immediately before asking 'Who is the mayor?'

That's pretty impressive. Even Siri can't do that.

So I pointed my browser at Google, clicked the little microphone icon, and spoke clearly into my very nice (studio quality) Blue microphone.

I like to start testing some newfangled technical thingamabob by confirming what everyone already knows, i.e., that I am a self-aggrandizing hog for attention. So I started out by searching on my own name, followed by the word author.

Google quickly interpreted my backwoods accent as asking for a search for 'Frank turtle otter.'

Ha ha, quoth I. I cleared my throat and tried again.

Frank huddle bother?

Frank hurt a bottle?

Frank turned art tour?

By now, I began to suspect one of two events was taking place. Either my Mississippi accent is simply alien to Google's voice recognition software, or --


Think about it. If Frank Tuttle can't be searched on Google, then people can't find my books. If people can't find my books, people can't buy my books, which is why I'm lurking in dark parking lots hoping to nab a stray coin purse so I can buy a Chromebook that won't search on my name anyway.

Crime truly doesn't pay.

Not one to let a technical glitch go undocumented, I decided to run a few Google voice searches on my name and capture screen shots for your reading pleasure.

I quickly realized that clicking the mic icon to initiate the search and stabbing madly at the screen capture key and holding the mic at the same time required two more tentacles than I'm allowed to display here on Earth. Instead, I put my camera on a tripod in front of the screen and captured the results of my attempts to do a voice search on my name, because yes, my life really is just that boring.

The dismal results are below.

Google never had a problem with my first name. Frank is fine, sayeth Google. But Tuttle?

Forget it...

Okay, we got author! And tunnel is close to Tuttle, but alas, as they say, no cigar (or, according to Google, 'nose boxcar').

Well, I never! Even Siri is never so forward.

Now Google is just being mean.

By now, I was convinced my accent was to blame. Surely the average Google user, who of course speaks in a flat American Midwestern dialect devoid of any unique pronunciations or inflections, can easily find my webpage or works?

I grabbed the first person I saw, which, um, let's just say grabbing a stranger wasn't my best decision. After a brief explanation to the court, it occurred to me that Google should best be able to understand another computer generated voice, because after all the same methods are used to synthesize speech as they are to interpret speech, are they not?

I have two computers. Both have sound systems.

And thus, my Computer to Computer Voice Search Test Rig was born. See below.

The speaking PC used a free Chrome Text-to Speech app called Chrome Speak from Dante.

It's really simple. You enter the text to be spoken and click speak.

My listening PC has a good soundcard and an excellent, studio-quality microphone. So I aimed the speaking PC's speakers at my listening PC's Blue Snowball mic. I clicked the mic icon on Google Search. Then I clicked speak on Chrome Speak. The text I entered was Frank Tuttle, author.

And how did Google hear this?

I won't bore you with more screen-shots of Frank title upper or the ever-popular Frank timer otters. Although I do like the mental picture conjured up by 'timer otters,' who I see as bespectacled otters in suits inspecting pocket-watches through monocles. 

Not a single test returned a proper search for Frank Tuttle or Frank Tuttle author.

But Peter Piper can pick a peck of pickled peppers, oh yes he did!

Google, Google, why doth thou despise me?

I own an iPhone, and Siri has never had any trouble understanding me. I just did a quick voice search for Frank Tuttle, author, and Siri instantly came back with my webpage, this blog, Amazon reviews, etc.

If you've got a machine with a mic, please try Google voice search in your own name, and let me know if it works!


All the Paths of Shadow will be free in Kindle format for a few more hours! It reached #127 on Amazon, which is pretty cool. If anyone out there is interested, hitting #127 overall meant I gave away nearly 3000 books in the last 48 hours. Emphasis on 'gave away,' because I don't get royalties on freebies.

The trade-off, of course, is that you might pick up a goodly number of new fans, who will go on to buy your other titles.

Hey, it's a business, and it's a tough one at that.


Marvel upon my latest writing aid! Yes, I've got computers, word processors, spreadsheets, etc. But what I really needed was an old-fashioned corkboard I could pin notes to, like this:

I've got all the scenes for the book in a Word file.

But as a day-to-day workspace to quickly add (and just as quickly remove) scribbled notes and reminders, this corkboard works pretty well. Too, it serves a second purpose, that of providing frequent mild head injuries because, like Google Voice, I sometimes have trouble recognizing things in my environment.


Not final final, just the last ones for tonight. Unless you know something I don't. And if you do, I don't want to know.

I'm just starting the second of ten scenes in the new Meralda and Mug book. Which makes me around 12% complete, he said, yanking random numbers out of the air.

You know, I haven't tried Google voice search for "Meralda and Mug." Let's see what I get!

Google voice search folks?

You've still got some work to do!

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