Tweet and Shout! Or How I Get a Little Closer to Bono, The Edge, Beyonce and Dave Stewart

My sister, a huge U2 fan, sent me an email the other day with a photo of Bono, The Edge, Beyonce and the Eurythmics' Dave Stewart practicing for a charity concert in a tent in Africa. Along with the photo came the relaxed, melodious voice of Dave Stewart explaining the picture.

"Wow, an audio caption," said my colleague, Keith, who peered over my shoulder sipping the last of the coffee.

"It's a great idea," I said. "And don't you dare finish the coffee without making more."

Keith and I are literature professors and spend much of our overly-caffeinated lives grading papers. Being bookish, however, does not stop us from enjoying groundbreaking technology. The audio caption added a warmth and familiarity to the photo, as if four old friends were checking in.

"Fine, I'll make more coffee," Keith said. "But only if you send that to me. I'll show Meg tonight." Meg is Keith's 10-year-old daughter who adores everything Beyonce.

Curious about this new technology, that evening I did a bit of googling and found the photo and audio caption originated from a new company called ShoutOmatic. ShoutOmatic allows you to speak for up to thirty seconds on your Tweets and Facebook page. You don't even have to be on your computer when you do it -- you can actually call in from your cell phone, and it'll record your update and post it immediately to Twitter or Facebook. You can actually say what you want, when you want and -- boom -- it's uploaded then and there. (It's a girl!! Boom!)

There are other interesting things you can do as well. Like Dave Stewart, you can upload a photo to Twitter and Facebook and voice a caption. There is also a built-in tool that allows you to record multiple "shouts" at one sitting and schedule them to post at later times. I immediately notify my Greek friend with the 27 cousins... she can get her "happy birthdays" for the year finished in one sitting. She's sending me flowers.

At work the next morning, Keith walked over to my desk and yawned. "Meg woke me up at six wanting to know if she could get a 'shout' from Beyonce. I blame this on you and insist you make coffee."

I brewed a fresh pot and decided to call ShoutOmatic, located in Long Island. After a bit of phone tag, I finally spoke with Shoutomatic's friendly founder, Norm Levy.

"We do have the celebrities option, where people can get 'personal shouts' from a growing roster of celebrities," said Levy. "It's an amazing gift. The whole idea of 'shouts' adds authenticity, emotion and tonality that's just not possible with 140 characters of text. It really adds a personal element. Sometimes there are things that just have to be said."

Not only can fans buy "personal shouts" from various idols, but businesses and charities can bid on celebrities to do sponsored "shouts", or voice endorsements that get posted to their Twitter and Facebook page.

"It's the first audio social networking of its kind," said Levy. "It's groundbreaking technology that allows you to post text, voice, photo and location all from one application to all of your social networks, and we're very excited about it."

Meg is also excited. She turns eleven in June, so I hope Beyonce starts "shouting" by then. I haven't told Keith yet, but if things work out, he'll be making the coffee for a very long time.

Bono, The Edge, Beyonce and Dave Stewart practicing in a tent in Africa
http://bit.ly/dEXbw1