YackPack is an Internet service that helps families, club members and work groups communicate with each other by talking into a computer.
Messaging is done at your convenience, or you can talk live with each other. If you are leaving voice messages, you log in when you want, you listen, and you talk. All the messages are stored for future reference. If you choose the live preference, you can converse at the same time.
Think of it as an intercom on the Web, said B.J. Fogg, founder and chief executive officer of YackPack.
"Typed messages are less interesting than talking to someone. With YackPack, you just push a button and talk."
DOES WHAT E-MAIL CAN'T?
YackPack does what e-mail doesn't do. It captures and conveys the expressiveness of voice, putting emotion into what you are saying.
"As a researcher, I went out and worked with 112 people for a year and found out the more you use e-mail, the worse relationships get. You stop meeting for tea, you stop calling, you start neglecting the relationship when you use e-mail. It is a terrible way to connect emotionally," said Fogg. "That is where voice comes in. Voice is magical. It conveys our attitude and communicates an incredible amount."
To use YackPack, your computer needs to be hooked up to speakers and a microphone, which Fogg said are available at a number of discount and electronic stores. However, there is no typing or software required.
"YackPack runs on your Web browser," Fogg said. "You hook up your computer to the Internet, then hook up your microphone (and speakers) to the computer."
YOU HAVE TO REGISTER
That is all there is to it once you register for the free service, said Fogg, a psychologist who studies how people use computers. To register for YackPack go to www.yackpack.com. Click on sign-up and follow the directions.
Once registered, you can invite others to join your private YackPack group or groups. You can have several.
"It takes about three or four minutes to register, that's all," he said, claiming that YackPack is so intuitive that a 3-year-old can use it.
In addition to creating YackPack, Fogg directs research and design at Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab and he teaches courses on persuasive technology at Stanford's Computer Science Department.
"I've known B.J. for quite a while and knew he was working on this project," said Bebo White, a retired departmental associate for Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and one of the pioneers of the World Wide Web.
"The one thing I am impressed by is it allows me to have the convenience of e-mail without having to write. It is basic voice communication that people are used to," he said, noting that he uses YackPack to communicate with family, personal interest groups, and business.
White has academic appointments at Hong Kong University, University of San Francisco, and Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Calif., and has given talks, classes, and seminars around the world about Web and Internet technology.
Being able to communicate with everyone is important to him, and he said YackPack has made that job easier.
"I've found YackPack to be extremely useful," he said. "The biggest problem I've seen, is that people have reluctance to talk into their computer without knowing where their voice is going. I think it is probably the same as when the telephone was invented."
Derek Baird, a California-based education technology consultant specializing in social media, Generation Y (born between 1978 to 1998), e-learning, and educational media, said he uses YackPack to collaborate with colleagues overseas.
"It is pretty new right now," he said. "I'm on the education advisory board which Dr. Fogg put together to help find ways to integrate YackPack into an educational setting either online or in the front-line classroom. I've mostly been working on ways on how to integrate it into online or e-learning applications."
One of the benefits for YackPack is that the Gen-Y learner doesn't learn in a linear manner, he said.
"They are kind of all over the place and they have this always on mentality where they want to learn when they want to learn.
"YackPack is great in this type of situation because the teacher, or one of their peers, can leave a message. They can have interactive voice communication and be able to put things into context," Baird said. "If the teacher says something in the classroom and the student misses it, it is gone. If the conversation is going on in YackPack, you can keep it. They are able to listen to it on demand according to their own schedule. They can play it over until they get it (whatever the teacher is saying)."