Hack 21. Google for Telephony Info
Harness the world's most knowledgeable search database for your own voice purposes.
Near the end of the dotcom boom, a little search engine startup called Google was born. Today Google dominates search on the Internet. Though Google has moved into the realm of VoIP with Google Talk, its new IM client, the company's best offering to telephony is still its famously useful search engine, Google.com.
2.15.1. Mine for Phone Numbers
If you're looking for a particular phone number, or for a group of phone numbers to be used in telemarketing or fundraising applications, a great place to start is with Google. (And a really smart next step is the National Do Not Call Registry [http://www.donotcall.gov/] if you plan to solicit the folks you're calling. Once a call recipient informs you that his number is on the list, it's illegal for your organization to call him again.) Here are some Google search queries that you can use to turn up phone numbers.
Suppose you want to turn up numbers in a given area code and prefix. You can form your Google query like so:
"(440) 328" OR "440-328"
The quotation marks surrounding the two expressions tell Google to treat them each literallythat is, to return only instances of the entire expression ("(440) 328") and not mere instances of the elements within the expression ((440) or 328).
Google will return web page hits that contain occurrences of the area code 440 and the prefix 328 (you might get some non-telephone-related stuff, too) in its two most common forms: with parentheses, and with a hyphen. Of course, the results you get from that query might require a lot of interpretation and massaging before you can really use the phone numbers that you've turned up in an automated dialing app or something similar.
2.15.2. Complete That Phone Number
Sometimes the results from a Google phone number search can be fast, useful, and simple to interpret. Let's say you need to call somebody in your neighborhood, like the local pizza parlor. Let's also say that you know the pizza shop's phone number begins with the area code that's common in your neighborhood. Bang a query like this into Google and you'll have the whole phone numberand your pizzain no time:
Hungry Howie's Lakewood 216
By giving Google the name of the pizza place, the city it's in, and the area code you expect its phone number to have, the first Google result is (almost) always the right oneand the entire phone number you're looking for usually shows up in the short synopsis on Google's results page, so you don't even need another click. Hey, when you're craving pizza, time is of the essence, right?
2.15.3. Telephone Privacy Check
While you're perusing Google's phone number department, you might want to see if your phone number is in the Google search index. If it is, your privacy could be in question. Try Googling your phone number, with and without punctuation, and see what results come back. You might even turn up somebody who has published your phone number without your authorization. This isn't entirely likely, but I remember a couple of years ago when a list of thousands of valid credit card numbers made it into the Google index, so it's not out of the question.
2.15.4. Research VoIP History on Google Groups
Probably the best historical newsgroup search tool on the Web, Google Groups lets you go back in time to search for public correspondence about all kinds of topics, including Voice over IP. By surfing to Google Groups (http://groups.google.com/), I was able to find that the first mention of VoIP on record occurred in early 1996 and that the first mention of Voice over IP dates back to early 1995. A good deal of early IP telephony research is probably quoted in the Google Groups archives, so if you're interested in the history of VoIP, this is a fantastic source. After all, as Gavin DeGraw sings, "Part of knowing where I'm going is knowing where I came from."