Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Otter - Auto Reply App for Smartphones

I just got a comment on my post about texting and driving, and I thought it was definitely worth sharing.  Because I'm just now starting to text, I don't understand how addictive it can be for people - and that just not doing it isn't as easy as it might sound. 

From Erik:
I think we live in a culture where business people need to 'hit the ball over the net'. Teens consider it rude not to reply immediately to texts. Home schedules would grind to a halt without immediate communication. We are conditioned to pursue this level of efficiency but we are all supposed cease this behavior once we sit in our respective 5,000 pound pieces of steel and glass. Anyone can win an argument in a forum like this by saying "Just put the phone away" - but we can see it;s just not happening.

I just read that 72% of teens text daily - many text more 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook - even with their professors. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and I think we need to do more than legislate.

I decided to do something about it after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple GPS based texting auto reply app for smartphones. It also silences call ringtones while driving unless you have a bluetooth enabled. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws.

Erik Wood, owner

Erik did not leave a link, so I looked up his app - Otter app - and I thought I'd share in case this sounds like something that would be helpful for you - either for yourself or to help protect your teen drivers.
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  1. That's all good and well, but what about the people that are merely passengers in someone else's car? Should they also be restricted from the use of their phone?

    I haven't figured out the point of texting myself. I have it blocked on my phone, after someone sent me a text to say happy Thanksgiving a few years ago - I didn't want to pay to have someone send me a message that I didn't want. I would much rather talk on the phone to a person than have to stretch out a conversation over several messages, which would seem to take longer to me.

    When I sold phones a few years ago, at a sales meeting one guy said that texting was great for those business meetings where you can't step away to take a call. I think it would be a lot more polite and respectful to the speaker to excuse yourself to make a call then it would be to be texting under the table.

  2. From what I can tell about this app, you have to activate it - so if you're the passenger, it wouldn't automatically restrict you from using your phone. Parents can set it up with a password on their kids' phones, and that would probably restrict all texting whether the kids are drivers or passengers. But seriously, if they're passengers, they could actually talk to the driver and the other passengers, right?

    I don't think anyone should have to pay for incoming texts. It's not like you can control what someone else sends you. Our cell phone provider agrees and has never charged for incoming messages. Since a lot of times I would rather use instant messenger than actually talk on the phone, I think I can understand texting a little bit - but I also don't feel a constant need to be in touch with people.

    And, yeah, texting in a meeting seems rude. Maybe if it has to do with business or getting more info needed for the meeting, but otherwise, why can't it wait? I am not totally sold on the need even for the auto reply. How about leaving the messages alone and then dealing with them after the meeting? Or, if we're talking about driving, dealing with them when you get where you're going? But, for people who don't think these things can wait, then this might be a good tool.

  3. Thanks for the support in posting this. Several safety organizations like Kids and Cars and Impact Teen Drivers (just to name two) have also been very supportive of our product.

    Just to clear up our approach with regard to the comments, here are a couple of video links that explain OTTER's intent and functionality even better. (Is it OK to post a link on this site?)

    - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKyo84I7NIk

    - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Oan1O8M1uA

    Bringing a tool that changes the driver's habits constitutes real change. Imposing an ultimatum or using Big Brother type software may work once or twice but ultimately the end user is smart and will do what they want when they want. I am less concerned with winning a philosophical discussion than I am with increasing the chances that the driver next to me or my family on the way home tonight has decided not to engage in distracted driving.

    Please show your texting teen or loved one of any age the incidents we post every day involving teen texting drivers at http://BTHnow.org - We need this trend to change - now! Thanks again for looking...

    Erik Wood, owner
    OTTER app

  4. Erik, it is OK to post your links, provided they are relevant and useful. Too often people post spam links that don't have anything to do with the post they are commenting on, in an effort to get free links to their sites. Your links are very relevant and useful.

    That being said, part of the reason I wanted to mention this was that you did not leave a link and weren't looking to get a free link to your site but just offering some useful information.


I love your comments! Keep them coming.