Waking up is a social activity with TalkO’Clock

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Currently in an open Beta version, TalkO’Clock, a “social alarm service” is a brand new way to indulge in social networking and may be its next evolution.

TalkO’Clock lets you request and/or make telephone calls with complete strangers from all over the world. That sounds odd, at first, and I even heard one person call the idea ‘creepy’.

But looking deeper into the concept and the actual process and product, one begins to see a certain genius in the idea and the possibilities of where it might lead in the future. Bear in mind that people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg were also told that their ideas were odd, crazy, impossible and even creepy.

With things like Facebook and Subjot and Twitter being at the forefront of the way we communicate and socialize today, most of us have the option to make friends and ‘hang  out’ with them without ever leaving the house. As the world of social networking grows and evolves, it’s always interesting to see what new ideas are being put into action. Things like Omegle and other chat roulette programs became the next step, offering a pipeline to meet strangers online in an ostensibly safe, if not entirely sane, environment. “Don’t talk to strangers” is advice from a previous and defunct generation. These days, it’s not only acceptable to talk to strangers, it’s actually an accepted form of entertainment. Of course, that applies to adults who are responsible for themselves and their own safety, not children. I am always in favor of children being protected from strangers trying to prey on them, but this program and article is directed toward adults who would be using TalkO’Clock. Children shouldn’t be using the internet at all without supervision, in my opinion. There are lots of great programs, like Qustodio, to help parents monitor their children and their activities online.

TalkO’Clock is a free website and service that, in its most basic usage, let’s you request a wake-up call at a specific time from an unspecified person. As an example, let’s say that you have to get up for work at noon. You can log into TalkO’Clock and request a wake-up call for noon, specify if you want to get a call from a male, female, robot, or no preference. Then, your call request goes up on a web page where other users of TalkO’Clock can see it, and click a link to have the TalkO’Clock service call their phone and connect them to yours, totally anonymously.

So, at noon, you get a call from a total stranger who may be able to provide an uplifting conversation, a weird anecdote, a joke, or whatever they can think of to get you out of bed and motivated for the day. Since it’s totally anonymous, it’s safe as long as you don’t offer any personal information to them, and there’s a lot of variety in what kind of friendships or connections could arise from such an encounter. Now, I personally hate alarm clocks and the horrible buzzing or beeping sound they make to wake me up. They automatically put me in a bad mood because they make me remember waking up at five in the morning when my parents’ alarm clock would go off and they would never wake up so it would just buzz and beep for an hour or so before they finally hit the snooze button, fell back to sleep for ten minutes, and then started all over again.

So, for me, getting woken up by a ringing phone is much more pleasant and desirable. Not to mention the fact that if you are answering a phone call instead of hitting a snooze button, you have to actively engage your brain in the process and wake up much easier than with a loud buzzing noise. Many of us have become trained to sleep through an alarm clock but we’re conditioned to wake up to the sound of the phone because it could be important. This is just another of those technology evolutions that spreads through society itself.

imageOn another hand, let’s say you don’t need to be woken up or reminded of a meeting or appointment. Those are great uses for TalkO’Clock but there are others that are just as useful. When you sign up on the website to request a call, you can put in a personal message on your request, asking the caller for specific topics or whatever else is on your mind. This means, for example, you can request a call from a stranger just because you’re having a tough day and you’d like to hear an uplifting message. It’s strange how much more effective it can be to hear an uplifting message from a stranger than from someone who knows you and likes or even loves you. I think it works because, if someone knows you or loves you, they feel obligated to try and cheer you up when you’re down and they may say things that are merely placating. On the other hand, a complete stranger doesn’t know you, love you, owe you anything, so there’s a certain amount of force and verve behind their attempts to raise your spirits. Have you ever been on a bus in a bad mood, and someone across the aisle from you happens to catch your eye, and smiles at you, making you smile back and even feel a tiny bit better for no reason? If you have, or if you have had any similar experience, then you know something about what TalkO’Clock can offer you. You can request a call to be cheered up, or be wished a happy birthday. You can request a call from someone to talk about the latest news developments, or what’s going on with your favorite football team. You can even put in a request for a call just to have a random conversation. I even saw one request where someone asked to hear impressions of celebrities because it makes them laugh. There’s literally no limit to what you can request.

imageThen the other side of the TalkO’Clock service enters. You can not only request calls, but every user of TalkO’Clock can choose to make calls as well. When you put a request on the website, it goes into a list where any other user that fits your preference (man, woman, robot or any) can see it and call you. That means, if you are the one who is bored but you want to be pro-active about it, you can look through the list of requests and choose to call someone who needs cheering up. Maybe you can tell them a funny story or maybe you can crow into the phone like a rooster to wake them up. People are the heart of the TalkO’Clock service and site. There’s so much opportunity and leeway here for creativity and having fun that the sky is the limit. What if, you say, there isn’t anyone available to make a call when you requested it? What if no one picks your  request to fulfill? Don’t worry, they have a pleasantly voiced robot who will call you to wake you up or notify you of your important meeting time coming up. What if the person who calls you is rude or mean or just downright creepy? Well, the website says that most of their users report an entirely positive experience, but anyone who has been in an online chat room knows that some people just like trying to bring others down, for whatever reason. In that case, you can report that person and help get them kicked off the service. TalkO’Clock takes that kind of thing very seriously because people are their bread and butter. Without people, the TalkO’Clock concept is just a robot voice and a timing device.

What about safety? Can others see my phone number? What about privacy and protecting my phone number from third parties? All of these questions are also addressed by the TalkO’Clock website and they assure us that they don’t give our phone numbers to anyone, not even the strangers that fulfill your requests. TalkO’Clock creates an anonymous phone number for you if you’re the caller, and hides your number if you’re the receiver. Also, since the TalkO’Clock service is the one that makes the connection between the two phones, there’s no way either party can get the other’s information including phone number. It’s actually rather brilliant.

TalkO’Clock supports tons of different languages and can be used from any country at all, as long as you have a phone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cell phone or a landline or a satellite phone. As long as you have a phone you can use it. The service is totally free, and the developers do plan on putting ads on the website to help support the service. They also have plans, they say, to offer some premium services but the current service as described in this article will always be free. That’s a hefty promise and I for one sure hope they keep it. I have already used TalkO’Clock a number of times and had many good experiences with it. I was nervous at first. Trying something new is always a bit nerve-wracking, but it was worth it to step out of my familiar world and into a new kind of social networking. It might be fun for you too, so I do hope you will try it out. They have a very robust Frequently Asked Questions page on their site, so anything you might want to know that isn’t answered here, you can probably find there. Additionally, they offer the standard contact page to send them a request for more information, which I have used and got a reply in less than 12 hours. Not bad, considering the average time it takes for a ‘customer service’ representative to contact me from services that I actually pay for (around 72 hours, usually). There is also a video available to see how it works (here).

TalkO’Clock is new and it’s just getting its legs under it. There is a mobile app available for it as well, but you really don’t need one as you can access the website from any browser. It might become the next Facebook or it might go into the dark internet night and vanish. It’s up to the users to make that determination. Personally, I can’t wait to see where it goes. Until next time, my friends!

Tested On: Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium and Chrome 5.0+

Requirements: Any internet browser should be able to access it. Other than that, you just need a phone and a willingness to try new things.

Available here.