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Publication numberUS20060031121 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/246,333
Publication dateFeb 9, 2006
Filing dateOct 7, 2005
Priority dateNov 8, 1996
Also published asUS6282515, US6697786, US20020123929, US20040260792
Publication number11246333, 246333, US 2006/0031121 A1, US 2006/031121 A1, US 20060031121 A1, US 20060031121A1, US 2006031121 A1, US 2006031121A1, US-A1-20060031121, US-A1-2006031121, US2006/0031121A1, US2006/031121A1, US20060031121 A1, US20060031121A1, US2006031121 A1, US2006031121A1
InventorsGregory Speicher
Original AssigneeSpeicher Gregory J
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
System and method for introducing individuals over the internet to establish an acquaintance
US 20060031121 A1
Abstract
A system for introducing individuals over the internet to establish an acquaintance for the purpose of dating includes a first processor, a database and a second processor. The first processor maintains an internet website that interfaces with a plurality of computing devices via a first network comprising the internet. The internet website receives a plurality of personal advertisements, receives search criteria, identifies personal advertisements meeting the search criteria, transmits the identified personal advertisements, receives a response to a selected personal advertisement, stores the response in the database in a mailbox assigned to the selected advertiser, receives a password from the selected advertiser and communicates the response to the selected advertiser. The second processor is also adapted to receive a password from the selected advertiser via a second network comprising a telephone network and to communicate the response via the second network to the selected advertiser.
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Claims(33)
1. A system for introducing individuals over the internet to establish an acquaintance for the purpose of dating comprising:
at least one first processor that maintains an internet website that interfaces with a plurality of computing devices via a first network comprising the internet, the internet website adapted to receive personal advertisements including a digital image, age information and gender information from advertisers via the first network, to receive search criteria from a searching individual via the first network, to identify a set of personal advertisements meeting the search criteria, to transmit at least a portion of the identified personal advertisements to the searching individual via the first network, to receive from the searching individual via the first network a response to a selected personal advertisement placed by a selected advertiser, to store the response, to receive a password from the selected advertiser via the first network and to communicate the response via the first network to the selected advertiser;
a database operably connected to the first processor, the database adapted to store the response to the selected personal advertisement in a mailbox assigned to the selected advertiser; and
at least one second processor operably connected to the database and the second processor adapted to receive the password from the selected advertiser via a second network comprising a telephone network and to communicate the response via the second network to the selected advertiser.
2. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein the telephone network is a publicly switched telephone network.
3. The system as recited in claim 2 wherein the second network is a publicly switched telephone network.
4. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein at least one of the computing devices is a mobile computing device.
5. The system as recited in claim 4 wherein the mobile computing device is a notebook computer.
6. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein the first processor is adapted to receive contact information from the selected advertiser and to notify the selected advertiser using the contact information when a response is received to the selected advertiser's personal advertisement.
7. The system as recited in claim 6 wherein the contact information comprises an email address.
8. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein the response comprises a text message.
9. The system as recited in claim 8 wherein at least a portion of the text message is communicated over the telephone network.
10. The system as recited in claim 9 wherein at least a portion of the text message is converted to audio via a text-to-speech algorithm.
11. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein the response comprises an audio message.
12. A method for introducing individuals over the internet to establish an acquaintance for the purpose of dating, the method comprising:
interfacing a plurality of computing devices to a website via a first network comprising the internet;
receiving a plurality of personal advertisements including a digital image, age information and gender information from advertisers via the first network;
receiving search criteria from a searching individual via the first network;
identifying a set of personal advertisements meeting the search criteria;
transmitting at least a portion of the identified personal advertisements to the searching individual via the first network;
receiving from the searching individual via the first network a response to a selected personal advertisement placed by a selected advertiser;
storing the response;
receiving a password from the selected advertiser via the first network;
communicating the response via the first network to the selected advertiser;
receiving a password from the selected advertiser via a second network comprising a telephone network; and
communicating the response via the second network to the selected advertiser.
13. The method as recited in claim 12 wherein the telephone network is a publicly switched telephone network.
14. The method as recited in claim 13 wherein the second network is a publicly switched telephone network.
15. The method as recited in claim 12 wherein at least one of the computing devices is a mobile computing device.
16. The method as recited in claim 15 wherein the mobile computing device is a notebook computer.
17. The method as recited in claim 12 further comprising the step of receiving contact information from the selected advertiser and the step of notifying the selected advertiser using the contact information when a response is received to the selected advertiser's personal advertisement.
18. The method as recited in claim 17 wherein the contact information comprises an email address.
19. The method as recited in claim 12 wherein the response comprises a text message.
20. The method as recited in claim 19 wherein at least a portion of the text message is communicated over the telephone network.
21. The method as recited in claim 20 wherein at least a portion of the text message is converted to audio via a text-to-speech algorithm.
22. The method as recited in claim 12 wherein the response comprises an audio message.
23. A system for introducing individuals over the internet to establish an acquaintance for the purpose of dating comprising:
means for interfacing with a plurality of computing devices via a first network comprising the internet;
means for receiving a plurality of personal advertisements comprising digital images, age information and gender information from advertisers via the first network;
means for receiving search criteria from a searching individual via the first network;
means for identifying a set of identified personal advertisements meeting the search criteria;
means for transmitting at least a portion of the identified personal advertisements to the searching individual via the first network;
means for receiving from the searching individual via the first network a response to a selected personal advertisement placed by a selected advertiser;
means for storing the response;
means for receiving a password from the selected advertiser via the first network;
means for communicating the response via the first network to the selected advertiser;
means for receiving a password from the selected advertiser via a second network comprising a telephone network; and
means for communicating the response via the second network to the selected advertiser.
24. The system as recited in claim 23 wherein the telephone network is a publicly switched telephone network.
25. The system as recited in claim 24 wherein the second network is a publicly switched telephone network.
26. The system as recited in claim 23 wherein at least one of the computing devices is a mobile computing device.
27. The system as recited in claim 26 wherein the mobile computing device is a notebook computer.
28. The system as recited in claim 23 further comprising means for receiving contact information from the selected advertiser and means for notifying the selected advertiser using the contact information when a response is received to the selected advertiser's personal advertisement.
29. The system as recited in claim 28 wherein the contact information comprises an email address.
30. The system as recited in claim 23 wherein the response comprises a text message.
31. The system as recited in claim 30 wherein at least a portion of the text message is communicated over the telephone network.
32. The system as recited in claim 31 wherein at least a portion of the text message is converted to audio via a text-to-speech algorithm.
33. The system as recited in claim 23 wherein the response comprises an audio message.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation of co-pending U.S. application Ser. No. 08/965,367 filed Nov. 6, 1997, which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 08/744,879, filed on Nov. 8, 1996, now abandoned.

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates, in general, to introducing individuals for the purpose of dating and, in particular, to a system and method for introducing individuals using the Internet and the telephone system to establish an acquaintance for the purpose of dating.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Personal advertisements, or “personal ads”, which are available in most newspapers, are a popular way for previously-unacquainted people to become acquainted. In certain services, an advertiser may call a live operator via a telephone network and place a text personal ad. The personal ads are then published in a newspaper. An advertiser may also call voicemail system and record an audio message, often referred to as a greeting, which expands upon the advertiser's text ad by describing in more detail the advertiser and the type of person he is seeking. A personal ad generally includes a telephone number and a mailbox number permitting a caller to listen to an advertiser's voice greeting. A caller can respond to a personal ad by recording a reply voice mail message for the advertiser. An advertiser retrieves a message by calling the system and entering a password given at the time of ad placement. In other situations, an advertiser may place a personal advertisement without speaking to a live operator. An advertiser may, for example, record an audio greeting which is later reviewed by a transcriber, who then writes a text summary of each audio greeting for publication in the newspaper.

With the expansion of the Internet and other on-line services, personal ad services have been created to take advantage of this new medium. A typical service allows an advertiser to place a text personal ad that is published on the Internet on an HTML (HyperText Markup Language) page. An Internet user may respond to a personal ad by sending an advertiser a message via electronic mail. One type of Internet personals service allows a person to place a text personal advertisement to which other on-line users may respond via electronic mail.

Certain systems have integrated traditional personal ads services with the Internet. Using this approach, a newspaper can publish personal ads in both the newspaper and on the Internet. Callers may be asked to provide information about themselves in the form of input data that is used to match them with other advertisers. Each personal ad includes a telephone number and an ad mailbox number permitting a caller to listen to an advertiser's voice greeting. Other advertisers can, in turn, respond to ads by calling a telephone number and leaving messages which are then accessed and listened to by advertisers. In another format, text ads are taken from newspaper and television personals programs and published on the Internet. Each personal advertisement also contains a number and an associated telephone number. By calling the telephone number and entering an advertisement's number, a caller can hear a voice recording of the advertiser and respond to the ad, if desired.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to a first aspect, the present invention is a system for introducing individuals over the internet in order to establish an acquaintance for the purpose of dating. The system includes a first processor maintaining an internet website adapted to interface with a plurality of computing devices, to receive personal advertisements comprising images, age information and gender information from advertisers via a first network comprising the internet, to receive search criteria from individuals via the first network, to identify personal advertisements meeting the search criteria and to transmit at least a portion of the personal advertisements identified according to the search criteria and to receive via the first network a response to a personal advertisement. The present invention also includes a database operably connected to the internet website and adapted to store at least one response to a personal advertisement in an advertiser's mailbox. The system includes a second processor, operably connected to the database and a second network comprising a telephone network, the second processor being adapted to receive a password from an advertiser via the second network and to communicate to the advertiser, via the second network, at least one response stored in the advertiser's mailbox.

According to certain embodiments, the internet website is adapted to receive contact information from an advertiser and to notify the advertiser using the contact information when a response is received to that advertiser's personal advertisement. The contact information may include an email address. The response may include a text message, and the text message may be converted to audio via a text-to-speech algorithm. The response may also include an audio message. In certain embodiments, at least a portion of the telephone network may include a portion of the publicly-switched telephone network, and may be the publicly-switched telephone network.

According to other aspects, the present invention includes methods for introducing individuals over the internet in order to establish an acquaintance for the purpose of dating.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

For a more complete understanding of the features and advantages of the present invention, reference is now made to the detailed description of the invention along with the accompanying figures in which corresponding numerals in the different figures refer to corresponding parts and in which:

FIG. 1 shows a schematic representation of the present invention;

FIG. 2 shows a table of the fields used for storing personal data, including a brief description of the particular fields;

FIG. 3 shows a table of the fields used for storing greetings data, including a brief description of the particular fields;

FIG. 4 shows a table of the fields used for storing response data, including a brief description of the particular fields;

FIG. 5 shows a flow diagram of an exemplary operation of the present invention, more specifically placing an ad via a telephone network;

FIG. 6 shows a flow diagram of an exemplary operation of the present invention, more specifically placing an ad through the Internet;

FIG. 7 shows a flow diagram of an exemplary operation of the process of reviewing and summarizing ads as accomplished by the present invention;

FIG. 8 shows personal ads as they would appear in a local newspaper;

FIG. 9 shows a flow diagram of an exemplary operation of the process of responding to an ad via a telephone network as accomplished by the present invention;

FIG. 10 shows a flow diagram of an exemplary operation of the process of responding to an ad through the Internet as accomplished by the present invention;

FIG. 11 shows a maximized personal ad as seen by the Internet user who chooses to expand the ad to full-page size;

FIG. 12 shows a flow diagram of the response confirmation process, including the Response Confirmation Form which gives the Internet user instructions on how to enhance a response to an ad with, audio, video or a photograph;

FIG. 13 shows a flow diagram of an exemplary operation of the process of retrieving responses via a telephone network as accomplished by the present invention;

FIG. 14 shows a flow diagram of an exemplary operation of the process of retrieving responses through the Internet as accomplished by the present invention;

FIG. 15 shows a flow diagram of an exemplary operation of the process of searching for ads via a telephone network as accomplished by the present invention; and

FIG. 16 shows a flow diagram of an exemplary operation of the process of searching for ads through the Internet as accomplished by the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

As required, a detailed illustrative embodiment of the present invention is disclosed herein. However, telephone techniques, physical communication systems, data formats and operating structures in accordance with the present invention may be embodied in a wide variety of forms and modes, some of which may be quite different from those in the disclosed embodiment. Consequently, the specific structural and functional details disclosed herein are merely representative.

Referring initially to FIG. 1, a series of remote telephone terminals T1-Tn are represented. In addition, a series of remote computer terminals CT1-CTn are represented. The indicated terminals T1-Tn represent the multitude of telephone terminals existing in association with a telephone network, in this case the public telephone network PTN. The indicated computer terminals CT1-CTn represent the multitude of computer terminals connected to the Internet.

Public telephone network PTN, which accommodates the individual terminals T1-Tn, is coupled to an Interactive Voice Response System IVR. The Internet, which accommodates individual computer terminals CT1-CTn, is coupled to an Internet Web Server IWS. Individual callers may use the individual telephone stations T1 through Tn to interface the IVR through the public telephone network PTN. Individual users at computer terminals CT1 through CTn may use the Internet to interface the Internet Web Server. Telephone callers and Internet users may record digital audio messages, which can be retrieved via any of the remote telephone terminals T1-Tn or remote computer terminals CT1-CTn. Users may leave digital text messages, which may be retrieved via any of the remote telephone terminals T1-Tn or remote computer terminals CT1-CTn via computer monitor.

Considering the system of FIG. 1 in somewhat greater detail, it is to be understood that public telephone network PTN has multiplexing capability in order to individually couple the terminals T1-Tn to the IVR on request. In the illustrative embodiment of the system, the individual terminals T1-Tn take the form of existing traditional or conventional telephone instruments. It is also to be understood that the Internet has the capability for individually connecting the computer terminals CT1-CTn to the Internet Web Server. In the illustrative embodiment of the system, the individual computer terminals CT1-CTn take the form of personal computers that comprise a central processing unit CPU, modem, monitor, keyboard, hard drive, sound card and microphone.

As noted, public telephone network PTN is coupled to an Internet Voice Response system (IVR). In the disclosed embodiment, multiple lines are connected from public telephone network PTN to the IVR and, accordingly, the IVR may accommodate multiple simultaneous calls from public telephone network PTN. The IVR contains a processor, an exemplary form of which is an INTEL® PENTIUM® Processor. The lines from public telephone network PTN are connected to the processor though an interface 15, an exemplary form of which is a series of commercially available interface cards. The interface may incorporate modems, tone decoders, switching mechanisms, DNIS and ANI capability. Generally, DNIS capability is a function of public telephone network PTN to provide digital data indicating the called number. ANI capability is a similar function whereby the digital data indicates the calling number.

The Internet Web Server (IWS) is coupled to the Internet. The IWS and the Internet may be connected by a line between the IWS and a local Internet provider service. The IWS may accommodate a multitude of simultaneous Internet users. As represented, the IWS is a computer programmed for Internet information server operations. The IWS contains a processor and Internet server software, exemplary forms of which are an INTEL® PENTIUM® Processor and MICROSOFT® Server software.

The IWS may also be loaded with REALAUDIO® Server software from PROGRESSIVE NETWORK®. REALAUDIO® allows MICROSOFT® WINDOWS®.WAV files to be converted into a REALAUDIO®.RA file, a compressed format which allows playback over the Internet streamed in real time, as opposed to first downloading a file and then listening to it. REALAUDIO® accomplishes this by playing a first portion of an audio file while a subsequent portion is still downloading.

The IWS may also be loaded with VDOLIVE® Server software. VDOLIVE® allows a video clip in the MICROSOFT® WINDOWS® AVI, APPLE® QUICKTIME®, or MPEG video files formats to be converted into a VDOLIVE®.VDO format, a compressed format that allows streaming playback over the Internet in real time, as opposed to first downloading a file and then listening to it.

The IVR and the IWS are coupled to a Database Server DBS via an Ethernet hub as shown in FIG. 1. The system includes one or more Operator Workstations OW1-OWn, through which an operator can interact with and control the DBS, IVR and IWS. The database server DBS is a computer programmed for database operations. In the illustrated embodiment, the DBS manages a personal Ad Database which is comprised of multiple tables that manage ad creation, the audio greeting files, ad response files, photograph and video files and keyword searching of ads. The Ad Database comprises electronic personal classified ads and responses placed to ads.

In addition, the DBS converts audio files received via telephone into the REALAUDIO®.RA format for real time retrieval via the Internet. The DBS may also convert audio files into DIALOGIC®.VOX files for retrieval via telephone. Audio file conversions are done through audio file conversion software, an exemplary form of which is VOX STUDIO® by XENTEC®. The DBS contains a processor and an SQL (Structured Query Language) relational database software, exemplary forms of which are the INTEL® PENTIUM® Processor and MICROSOFT® SQL Server®.

The Operator Workstation (OWS) is a conventional personal computer capable of playing the audio data and capable of displaying digitally stored photographs and movies. An exemplary form of the OWS is a microcomputer equipped with an INTEL® PENTIUM® Processor and a Creative Labs® Sound Blaster® sound card. Operators may review incoming advertiser files, including text, audio, photograph, and video, to insure that their content is appropriate. Also, operators may use advertisers' text messages and audio recordings to create summary text ads for publication in a newspaper.

The following sections describe in greater detail the interaction between the IVR, the DBS, the IWS, and the OWS.

Placing a Personal Ad Via a Telephone Network

According to certain embodiments of the present invention, an individual can place a personal advertisement via a telephone network. An illustrative embodiment of this process is depicted in FIG. 5. According to this method, an individual at terminal T1 makes a call over a telephone network to the IVR in order to place a personal advertisement. Using standard DNIS techniques, the IVR associates the called number with a specific function, in this case receiving personal advertisements via telephone.

In the process of placing a personal advertisement, an advertiser will generally be prompted to assist in generating a profile of himself or herself by answering a series of questions using the buttons on his phone. Upon receiving a call, the IVR cues the advertiser to enter his telephone number 801. The IVR stores the telephone number 802 in the field AD_PHONE 203. Next, the IVR cues the advertiser to enter his gender 803. For example: “If you are a woman, press 1. If you are a man, press 2.” The IVR stores the advertiser's gender 804 in the field AD_GENDER 207. Next, the IVR cues the advertiser for his marital status 805. For example: AIf you are single, press 1. If you are divorced, press 2. If you are widowed, press 3.” The advertiser responds and the IVR stores the advertiser's marital status 806 in the field AD_MARITAL_STATUS 208. Next, the IVR cues the advertiser for his age 807. For example: “Please enter your age.” The advertiser's age is then stored 808 in the field AD_AGE 209.

Next, the IVR cues the caller to record an audio greeting 812. The advertiser's audio greeting is then stored to a file on the IVR 813 and Ad database is updated 809. Specifically, the AD_REVIEW_FLAG 210 in the AD_PERSONAL_TABLE (see FIG. 2) is set to FALSE, indicating that the ad must be reviewed by an operator. In addition, a new record is created in the AD_GREETINGS_TABLE (see FIG. 3) and the field GR_REVIEW_FLAG 303 set to FALSE to indicate that the audio greeting has not been reviewed. In the new record, the fields GR_MAILBOX_NUMBER 301, GR_TYPE 302, GR_FILENAME 304, GR_DATE_TIME 305 in the table AD_GREETINGS (see FIG. 3) are also populated to indicate the advertiser's mailbox number, the format of the audio file, the location of the audio file on the IVR and the date and time the greeting was recorded. The field GR_TYPE is set to VOX to indicate that the audio recording is in the DIALOGIC®.VOX file format. Finally, the field GR_CONVERSION_FLAG is set to FALSE to indicate that the audio file must be converted from the DIALOGIC®.VOX format to create a new audio file in the REALAUDIO®.RA format for playback on the Internet.

The IVR then cues the advertiser to indicate if he wishes to record contact information, in this case an e-mail address 816. The contact information may be used notify the advertiser when someone responds to his or her personal ad. For example: “Press 1 to input an e-mail address. Press 2 to decline.” If the caller elects to leave contact information, the IVR cues the advertiser to record the contact information, in this case an e-mail address 817. The audio recording is stored to a file on the IVR 818 and the field AD_EMAIL_FILENAME 205 in table AD PERSONAL (see FIG. 2) is set, indicating that an e-mail audio file exists and identifying its location on the IVR.

Next, the IVR assigns the advertiser a mailbox number 819. For example: “Your 5-digit mailbox number is 12345.” The mailbox number is then stored 820 in the field AD_MAILBOX_NUMBER 201. The IVR then cues the caller to enter a password 821. The password is stored 822 in the field AD_PASSWORD 202.

In addition, the IVR stores the date the ad is taken in the field AD_DATE_TIME 206, and updates the field AD_ORIGIN 211 to indicate that the personal ad was received via a telephone network 823. Finally, the IVR creates an electronic mailbox for the advertiser on the IWS 824 and stores it in the field AD_MAILBOX_NUMBER 201 to allow respondents to submit audio, video and photographic files in response to the advertiser's personal ad.

Placing an Ad Via the Internet

Although certain embodiments may employ a telephone network to place a personal advertisement as described above, it is anticipated that the majority of personal advertisements will be placed using the Internet, with a telephone network being employed for subsequent querying and maintenance activities. The use of the Internet to place a personal advertisement is depicted in FIG. 6. According to this method, an advertiser at terminal CT1 connects to the Internet to place a personal advertisement. The advertiser connects to the Internet and then to a Home Page 1001 on the Internet Web Server IWS.

From the Home Page 1001 on the IWS, the advertiser selects an Ad Placement Form 1002 as shown in FIG. 6. Ad Placement Form 1002 contains the following input fields corresponding to fields in the Ad database as indicated:

Gender 1003 AD_GENDER 207
Marital Status 1004 AD_MARITAL_STATUS 208
Age 1005 AD_AGE 209
E-mail address 1006 AD_EMAIL_ADDRESS 204
Phone Number 1007 AD_PHONE 203
Password 1008 AD_PASSWORD 202
Greeting Text 1014 GR_FILENAME 304

The process of placing a personal advertisement via the Internet largely parallels the process of placing a personal advertisement via a telephone network. Password 1008 is used by the advertiser to retrieve messages and e-mail address 1006 and telephone number 1007 are used to contact the advertiser. The gender 1003, age 1005, and marital status 1004 fields contribute to the profile of the advertiser. Finally, the Greeting Text 1014 field can be used to describe the advertiser and/or the person he or she is seeking.

The advertiser completes the Ad Placement Form 1002 and presses the “Submit” button to submit her personal ad. The form is checked by the IWS for completeness 1016. If the form is incomplete, the advertiser may be returned to the Ad Placement Form 1002. If the form is complete, the IWS assigns the advertiser a mailbox number 1021 and stores it in the field AD_MAILBOX_NUMBER 201. The advertiser's profile, contact information, password and greetings are then stored in their respective fields, as indicated above.

The advertiser's text greeting is then stored to a file on the IWS and the Ad database is updated 1017. Specifically, the AD_REVIEW_FLAG 210 in the AD_PERSONAL_TABLE (see FIG. 2) is set to FALSE indicating that the ad has not been reviewed by an operator 10. In addition, a new record is created in the AD_GREETINGS_TABLE (see FIG. 3) and the field GR_REVIEW_FLAG 303 is set to FALSE to indicate that the audio greeting has not been reviewed. In the new record, the fields GR_MAILBOX_NUMBER 301, GR_TYPE 302, GR_FILENAME 304, GR_DATE_TIME 305 in the table AD_GREETINGS (see FIG. 3) are also populated to indicate the advertiser's mailbox number, the file format, and the location of the text file on the IWS, and the date and time the greeting was placed. Specifically, the field GR_TYPE is set to TEXT. Finally, the field GR_CONVERSION_FLAG is set to TRUE to indicate that the text does not need to be converted to a different format.

Lastly, the Internet Web Server creates an Ad Confirmation Page 1020. The Ad Confirmation Page 1020 performs two functions: (1) it confirms the advertiser's mailbox number 1021, and (2) it gives the advertiser instructions on how to include an audio greeting 1022, photograph 1023, or video clip 1024 with her personal ad. Finally, the Internet Web Server stores the date and time the ad is taken in the field AD_DATE_TIME 206, and updates the field AD_ORIGIN 211 to indicate that the personal ad originated on the Internet 1025. In addition, the IWS creates an electronic mailbox for the advertiser and stores it in the field AD_MAILBOX_NUMBER 1026 to allow respondents to submit audio, video and photographic files in response to the advertiser's ad.

Enhancing an Internet Ad with Audio, Photograph and Video

Although a text-only personal advertisement may communicate basic information about an individual, the present invention provides an individual with the ability to enhance his or her personal advertisement with an audio clip, a photograph and/or a video clip as well. To submit an audio greeting, the advertiser first makes an audio recording using, for example, a .WAV file editor, and then saves the file using his or her mailbox number as the file name 1030. The advertiser then submits the audio file using e-mail to an audio greeting electronic mailbox 1031. The advertiser's audio recording is then stored to a file on the Internet Web Server.

In addition, a new record is created in the AD_GREETINGS_TABLE (see FIG. 3) and the Ad database is updated 1033. Specifically, the field GR_REVIEW_FLAG 303 is set to FALSE to indicate that the audio greeting has not been reviewed. Also, the fields GR_MAILBOX_NUMBER 301, GR_TYPE 302, GR_FILENAME 304, GR_DATE TIME 305 in the AD GREETINGS TABLE (see FIG. 3) are also populated to indicate the advertiser's mailbox number, the format of the audio file, and the location of the audio file on the IWS, and the date and time the greeting placed. The field GR_TYPE is set to WAV to indicate that the audio recording is in the MICROSOFT®.WAV file format. Finally, the field GR_CONVERSION_FLAG is set to FALSE to indicate that the audio file must be converted from the MICROSOFT®.WAV format to create two new audio files: one in the REALAUDIO®.RA format for playback on the Internet, and another in the DIALOGIC®.VOX format for playback via a telephone network.

To enhance a personal ad with a photograph, the advertiser first digitizes a photograph using a scanner or takes a photograph with a digital camera and then saves the image to a GIF file using her mailbox number as the file name 1036. The advertiser then submits the graphic file using e-mail to a photograph electronic mailbox 1031. The advertiser's photo is stored to a file on the IWS and the Ad database is updated 1032. Specifically, a new record is created in the AD_GREETINGS_TABLE (see FIG. 3) and the field GR_REVIEW_FLAG 303 set to FALSE to indicate that the graphic file has not been reviewed. In each new record, the fields GR_MAILBOX_NUMBER 301, GR_TYPE 302, GR_FILENAME 304, GR_DATE_TIME 305 in the table AD_GREETINGS (see FIG. 3) are also populated to indicate the advertiser's mailbox number, the format of the graphic file, and the location of the graphic file on the IWS, and the date and time the photograph was received. The field GR_TYPE 302 is set to GIF to indicate that the graphic file is in the GIF file format. Finally, the field GR_CONVERSION_FLAG 306 is set to TRUE to indicate that no file conversion is necessary as GIF is the graphic file format used by the IWS. If other graphic formats were accepted, they might have to be converted to a GIF format, depending on the file formats supported by the IWS. If file conversion were necessary, the field GR_CONVERSION_FLAG 306 would be set to FALSE.

To enhance a personal ad with video, the advertiser first digitizes a video clip and then saves the image to a file, for example a MICROSOFT®.AVI file, using her five digit mailbox number as the file name 1036. Other video formats such as APPLE® QUICKTIME® or MPEG video could also be used. The advertiser then submits the graphic file using e-mail to an electronic mailbox 1031. The advertiser's video clip is stored to a file on the IWS and the Ad database is updated 1032. Specifically, a new record is created in the AD_GREETINGS table (see FIG. 3) and the field GR_REVIEW_FLAG 303 set to FALSE to indicate that the video file has not been reviewed. In each new record, the fields GR_MAILBOX_NUMBER 301, GR_TYPE 302, GR_FILENAME 304, GR_DATE_TIME 305 in the table AD_GREETINGS (see FIG. 3) are populated to indicate the advertiser's mailbox number, the format of the video file, and the location of the video file on the IWS, and the date and time the video was received. Specifically, the field GR_TYPE 302 is set to AVI to indicate that the video clip is in the MICROSOFT®.AVI file format. Finally, the field GR_CONVERSION_FLAG 306 is set to FALSE to indicate that the video file must be converted to the VDOLIVE® format for real time playback on the Internet.

Reviewing and Summarizing Ads

New personal ads may be reviewed by an operator at an Operator Workstation to insure that their content is appropriate. Also, greetings submitted by an advertiser, whether they be audio greetings or text greetings, may be summarized by operators to create classified text ads for publication. In certain embodiments, text ads to be published may be placed with a live operator rather than via a recording.

FIG. 7 depicts one embodiment of a process for reviewing and summarizing personal ads. An operator first queries the database to determine if there are new ads to review 1800. Specifically, the query looks for all ads in the AD_PERSONAL table (see FIG. 2) where the field AD_REVIEWED 210 is set to FALSE. If the query finds a new ad, the operator first reviews the ad's greeting 1801 as found in the AD_GREETINGS table (see FIG. 3). This step consists of either listening to or reading the ad's greeting depending on the format in which it is stored. The operator then determines if the greeting's contents are appropriate 1802. If the greeting's contents are inappropriate, the ad is deleted, the record is purged from the database 1803 and the operator is returned to block 1800. If the greeting's contents are appropriate, the operator writes a summary of the greeting 1804. The operator then queries the database to determine if the advertiser recorded contact information, such as an e-mail address 1805. If an e-mail address audio recording is found, the operator transcribes the e-mail address 1806. The operator then updates the database 1807.

The advertiser's text summary is subsequently stored to a file on the IWS. The AD_REVIEW_FLAG 210 in the AD_PERSONAL table (see FIG. 2) is set to TRUE, indicating that the ad has been reviewed. In addition, a new record for the text summary is created in the AD_GREETINGS table (see FIG. 3) and the field GR_REVIEW_FLAG 303 set to TRUE, indicating that the record has been reviewed. In the new record, the fields GR_MAILBOX_NUMBER 301, GR_TYPE 302, GR_FILENAME 304, GR_DATE_TIME 305 in the table AD_GREETINGS (see FIG. 3) are also populated to indicate the advertiser's mailbox number, the file format, and the location of the text file on the IWS, and the date and time. The field GR_TYPE is set to TEXT. Finally, the field GR_CONVERSION_FLAG 306 is set to TRUE to indicate that the text does not need to be converted to a different format.

The operator then returns to block 1800 to continue processing ads. If no new ads are found, the operator queries the database to determine if any multimedia files (audio, video, or photo) have been submitted via the Internet to enhance a personal ad 1808. Specifically, the query looks for all ads in the AD_PERSONAL table (see FIG. 2) where the field AD_REVIEWED 210 is set to TRUE that has files in the AD_GREETING_TABLE (see FIG. 3) where the GR_REVIEW_FLAG 303 is set to FALSE. If the query finds a multimedia file, the operator first reviews the file 1809. If it is an audio file, this consists of listening to the ad's audio greeting. If it is a video or graphic file, this consists of viewing the file. The operator then determines if the greeting's contents are appropriate 1810. If the greeting's contents are inappropriate, the filed is deleted and the record purged from the database 1811. The operator is then returned to block 1808 to continue processing multimedia files. If the file's contents are appropriate, the operator approves the file 1812 and updates the database 1813. Specifically, this consists in setting the field GR_REVIEW_FLAG 303 to TRUE to indicate that the file has been reviewed.

If the file is an audio file, the Operator Workstation converts the file to create a new REALAUDIO®.RA file and stores the file on the IWS. The Operator Workstation also converts the file to create a DIALOGIC®.VOX file and stores the file on the IVR. For each new audio file, a new record is created in the AD_GREETINGS table (see FIG. 2) and the fields GR_MAILBOX_NUMBER 301, GR_TYPE 302, GR_DATE_TIME 305, and GR_FILENAME 304 are populated to indicate the mailbox number of the advertiser, the format of the file, the date and time, and the location of the audio file on the IVR. Also, the field GR_REVIEW_FLAG 303 is set to TRUE to indicate that the file has been reviewed. Finally, the field GR_CONVERSION_FLAG is set to TRUE to indicate that the audio file does not need to be converted.

If the file is a video file, the Operator Workstation converts the MICROSOFT®.AVI file to a VDOLIVE® file and stores the file on the IWS. Also, a new record is created in the AD_GREETINGS table (see FIG. 2) and the fields GR_MAILBOX_NUMBER 301, GR_TYPE 302, GR_DATE_TIME 305, and GR_FILENAME 304 are populated to indicate the mailbox number of the advertiser, the format of the file, the date and time, and the location of the video file on the IVR. Also, the field GR_REVIEW_FLAG 303 is set to TRUE to indicate that the file has been reviewed. Finally, the field GR_CONVERSION_FLAG 306 is set to TRUE to indicate that the video file does not need to be converted. The operator then returns to block 1808 to continue processing multimedia files. If no new multimedia files are found, the session is terminated 1814.

Publishing Ads Via the Newspaper

Each week, text ads submitted via a telephone network and via the Internet may be published in a newspaper along with their mailbox numbers. FIG. 8 depicts personal ads as they may appear in a local newspaper. Icons are included in each ad that represent the origin of an ad (via a telephone network or via the Internet) and what additional information or multimedia, if any, is available on the Internet. For example, an ad placed via a telephone network contains a telephone icon 2001; an ad placed via the Internet contains a computer icon 2002. If there is additional text on the Internet, an ad contains an icon denoting additional text 2003. The presence of a photo or video clip is indicated respectively by a still camera 2004 and/or video camera 2005 icon, respectively.

Responding to a Personal Ad Via a Telephone Network

FIG. 9 depicts one embodiment of a method by which an individual at terminal T1 may respond to a personal advertisement via a telephone network. After dialing of the appropriate telephone number, a connection is established from the remote terminal T1 to the IVR. Using standard DNIS techniques, the IVR associates the called number with a specific function, in this case a voice personals response function.

Upon receiving a call, the IVR sets the “invalid mailbox number count” equal to zero 2301. The IVR then increments the “invalid mailbox number count” by one 2302 and cues the user for a mailbox number 2303. Upon receipt of a mailbox number from the user, the IVR queries the field AD_MAILBOX_NUMBER 201 to determine if the mailbox number is valid 2304. If the mailbox number is invalid, the IVR determines if the user has exceeded the maximum number of attempts allowed 2305. If the user has exceeded the maximum number of attempts allowed, the call is terminated 2306. If the maximum number of attempts allowed has not been exceeded, the IVR increments the “invalid mailbox number count” by one 2302 and again cues the user for a mailbox number 2303.

If the mailbox number is valid, the IVR queries the field AD_ORIGIN 211 to determine if the ad originated on the Internet 2307. If the ad originated from a telephone network, the IVR plays the ad's audio greeting 2311. If the ad originated on the Internet, the IVR may employ a text to speech function to recite the ad's text greeting as placed on the Internet 2308. The IVR then queries the AD_GREETINGS table (see FIG. 2) to determine if the Internet advertiser also submitted an audio greeting 2309. If the query does not find an audio greeting 2310, the IVR prompts the user to indicate whether he or she wishes to respond to the ad 2312. If the query finds one or more audio greetings 2310, the IVR plays the audio greetings 2311. The IVR then prompts the user to indicate whether he or she wishes to respond to the ad 2312.

If the user elects not to respond to the ad, the call is terminated 2306. If the user elects to respond to the ad, the IVR next cues him to record his response 2319. The IVR then stores the response to a file 2320 and updates the database 2321. Specifically, the IVR creates a new record in the AD_RESPONSE table (see FIG. 4) and populates the fields RSP_MAILBOX_NUMBER 501, RSP_DATE_TIME 503, RSP_TYPE 504, and RSP_FILENAME 505 to indicate the mailbox number of the ad responded to, the date and time of the response, the format of the response, and the location of the response file on the IVR. The field RSP_TYPE 504 is set to VOX to indicate that the audio recording is in the DIALOGIC®.VOX file format. Finally, the field RSP_CONVERSION_FLAG 506 is set to FALSE to indicate that the audio must be converted from the DIALOGIC®.VOX format to create a new audio file in the REALAUDIO®.RA format for playback on the Internet.

The IVR creates a new REALAUDIO®.RA file from DIALOGIC®.VOX file and stores the REALAUDIO® file to a file 2322 on the IWS and updates the database 2323. Specifically, the IVR creates a new record in the AD_RESPONSE table (see FIG. 4) and populates the fields RSP_MAILBOX_NUMBER 501, RSP_DATE_TIME 503, RSP_TYPE 504, and RSP_FILENAME 505 to indicate the mailbox number of the ad responded to, the date and time of the response, the format of the response, and the location of the response file on the IVR. The field RSP_TYPE 504 is set to RA to indicate that the audio recording is in the REALAUDIO®.RA file format. Finally, the field RSP_CONVERSION_FLAG 506 is set to TRUE for both the audiotex VOX file and the REALAUDIO®.RA file to indicate that the audio files do not need to be converted 2324. The caller is then prompted to respond to another ad 2325. If the caller chooses to respond to another ad, the IVR continues processing at block 2303, otherwise the call is terminated 2326.

Responding to a Personal Ad Via the Internet

FIG. 10 depicts the process by which a user at terminal CT1 may respond to a personal ad via the Internet. The user connects to the Internet and then to a Home Page on the Internet Web Server IWS. From Home Page 2401, the user selects an Ad Response Form 2402. The Ad Response Form instructs the user to enter 2403 the mailbox number of the ad to which he or she wishes to respond. Upon receipt of the mailbox number, the IWS queries the field AD_MAILBOX_NUMBER in the Ad database to determine if the mailbox number is valid 2404. If the mailbox number is invalid, the user is presented with an Invalid Mailbox Number Form 2405.

If the mailbox number is valid, the IWS presents the user with a Results Form 2406. The Results Form 2406 shows the ad selected by the user, including at least some portion of the ad's text 2407. In addition, the ad may contain one or more icons that represent any additional text or multimedia files (audio, video, photograph) for the ad that are available on the IWS. These icons include an audio icon 2408 to denote the ad's audio greeting, a still camera icon 2409 to denote a photograph of the advertiser, a video camera icon 2410 to denote a video clip of the advertiser, or a paper icon 2411 to denote additional text. It is to be understood that these icons are merely representative and that many other possibilities exist to denote the existence of text and multimedia files. By clicking on an icon, the user can view and/or listen to the associated file. In addition, by selecting a maximize bar 2412, the user can expand an ad to full page size, as shown in FIG. 11. The user can then respond to an ad by selecting the “Respond” button 2413.

When the user selects the respond button, she is presented with an Ad Response Form 2414. The user creates a response by completing a response text field 2416. After completing the Ad Response Form, the user submits the form by pressing the “Submit” button 2422. The advertiser is then presented with a Response Confirmation Form 2423. The Response Confirmation Form gives the advertiser information on enhancing her response with an audio message, photograph, or video clip.

The IWS then stores the response to a file and updates the database 2424. Specifically, the IWS creates a new record in the AD_RESPONSE table (see FIG. 4) and populates the fields RSP_MAILBOX_NUMBER 501, RSP_DATE_TIME 503, RSP_TYPE 504, and RSP_FILENAME 505 to indicate the mailbox number of the ad responded to, the date and time of the response, the format of the response, and the location of the response file on the IWS. The field RSP_TYPE 504 is set to TEXT. Finally, the field RSP_CONVERSION_FLAG 506 is set to TRUE to indicate that the text does not need to be converted to a different format.

Enhancing a Response with Audio, Photograph and Video

As already indicated, after a text response has been submitted, the user is shown a Response Confirmation Form 1501 (see FIG. 12). Response Confirmation Form 1501 gives the user instructions on how to enhance a response to an ad with audio, video, or a photograph. To submit an audio response, the user first makes an audio recording using an audio file editor and then saves the file using her mailbox number as the file name 1503. The user then submits the audio file using e-mail to the recipient's electronic mailbox 1512 on the IWS 1504. The user's audio response is stored to a file on the IWS and the Ad Database is updated 1505.

Specifically, the IVR creates a new record in the AD_RESPONSE table (see FIG. 4) and populates the fields RSP_MAILBOX NUMBER 501, RSP_DATE TIME 503, RSP_TYPE 504, and RSP_FILENAME 506 to indicate the mailbox number of the ad responded to, the date of the response, the format of the audio file, and the location of the audio file on the IVR. The field RSP_TYPE 504 is set to WAV to indicate that the audio recording is in the MICROSOFT®.WAV file format. Also, the field RSP_CONVERSION_FLAG 506 is set to FALSE to indicate that the audio file must be converted from the MICROSOFT®.WAV format to create two new audio response files: one in the REALAUDIO®.RA format for playback on the Internet, and another in the DIALOGIC®.VOX format for playback via a telephone network.

The IWS determines if conversion of audio files is needed 1506, and then creates a new REALAUDIO®.RA file and DIALOGIC®.VOX file from the MICROSOFT®.WAV file 1507. The REALAUDIO® file is stored on the IWS and the DIALOGIC® file is stored on the IVR. The IWS also updates the Ad Database 1508. Specifically, for each new audio file, the IWS creates a new record in the AD_RESPONSE table (see FIG. 4) and populates the fields RSP_MAILBOX_NUMBER 501, RSP_DATE_TIME 503, RSP_TYPE 504, and RSP_FILENAME 505 to indicate the mailbox number of the ad responded to, the date of the response, the format of the response, and the location of the response file on the IWS. Finally, the field RSP_CONVERSION_FLAG 506 is set to TRUE for both the source audio file (.WAV) and the target audio files (.VOX and .RA) to indicate that the audio files do not need to be converted 1509.

To send a photograph in response to an ad, the Internet users first digitizes a photograph using a scanner or takes a photograph with a digital camera and then saves the image to a GIF file using her mailbox number as the file name 1510. The respondent then submits the graphic file using e-mail to the recipient's electronic mailbox 1504. The respondent's photo is stored to a file on the IWS and the database is updated 1505.

Specifically, the IWS creates a new record in the AD_RESPONSE table (see FIG. 4) and populates the RSP_MAILBOX_NUMBER 501, RSP_DATE_TIME 503, RSP_TYPE 504, and RSP_FILENAME 505 to indicate the mailbox number of the ad responded to, the date of the response, the file format of the photograph, and the location of the file on the IWS. The field RSP_TYPE 504 is set to GIF to indicate that the graphic file is in the GIF file format. Finally, the field RSP_CONVERSION_FLAG 506 is set to TRUE to indicate that no file conversion is necessary as GIF is the graphic file format used by the IWS 1506. It should be noted that file conversion may or may not be necessary depending on what file formats are supported by the IWS and IVR and what formats the system allows users to submit files in.

To send an advertiser a video clip, the Internet user first digitizes a video clip and then saves the image to a MICROSOFT®.AVI file using her five digit mailbox number as the file name 1510. Other video formats such as APPLE® QUICKTIME®, or MPEG video could also be used. The respondent then submits the graphic file using e-mail to the recipient's electronic mailbox 1504. The respondent's video is stored to a file on the IWS and the AD database is updated 1505.

Specifically, the IVR creates a new record in the AD_RESPONSE table (see FIG. 4) and populates the fields RSP_MAILBOX_NUMBER 501, RSP_DATE_TIME 503, RSP_TYPE 504, and RSP_FILENAME 505 to indicate the mailbox number of the ad responded to, the date of the response, the file format of the video clip, and the location of the video file on the IWS. Specifically, the field RSP_TYPE 504 is set to AVI to indicate that the audio recording is in the MICROSOFT®.AVI file format. Finally, the field RSP_CONVERSION_FLAG 506 is set to FALSE to indicate that the VDOLIVE® file must be converted to the VDOLIVE® format for real time playback on the Internet.

The IWS determines that the video file must be converted to VDOLIVE® format 1506. The IWS creates a new VDOLIVE® file from the MICROSOFT®.AVI file and stores the new audio file to a file 1507 on the IWS and updates the AD database 1508. A new record in the AD_RESPONSE table (see FIG. 4) is created and the IWS populates the RSP_MAILBOX_NUMBER 501, RSP_DATE_TIME 503, RSP_TYPE 504, and RSP_FILENAME 505 fields to indicate the mailbox number of the ad responded to, the date and time of the response, the format of the video file, and the location of the video file on the IWS. Finally, the field RSP_CONVERSION_FLAG 506 is set to TRUE for both record formats (AVI and VDOLIVE®) in the database to indicate that no video files need to be converted 1509.

Retrieving Responses Via a Telephone Network

A user can retrieve responses via a telephone network, as indicated in FIG. 13. First, an advertiser at terminal T1 places a call over a telephone network to retrieve messages left for him or her. As a result, a connection is established from the remote terminal T1 to the IVR. Using standard DNIS techniques, the IVR associates the called number with a specific function, in this case a message retrieval function.

Upon receiving the user's call, the IVR sets the “logon attempts” equal to zero 2501. The IVR then increments the “logon attempts” by one 2502 and cues the user for a mailbox number and password 2503. The IVR then queries the AD database to determine if the mailbox number and password are valid. If the entries are not valid, the IVR determines if the user has exceeded the maximum number of logons attempts allowed 2505. If the user has exceeded the maximum number of logon attempts allowed, the call is terminated 2506. If the maximum number of logon attempts allowed has not been exceeded, the IVR increments the “logon attempts” by one 2502 and again cues the caller for a mailbox number and password 2503.

If the entries are valid, the IVR then queries the AD_RESPONSE table to determine if the user has any responses 2507. If the user has no responses, the call is terminated 2506. If the IVR finds a response, the IVR presents the text 2513 and audio 2514 messages from the respondent. If a response is in text form, the IVR may use a text to speech process to play the message audibly. If there are additional responses, the user is returned to block 2513. Otherwise, the call is terminated 2506.

Retrieving Responses Via the Internet

A user can retrieve responses via the Internet, as indicated in FIG. 14. First, a user at terminal CT1 connects to the Internet to retrieve messages. The user connects to the Internet and then to a Home Page 1701 on the Internet Web Server. From the Home Page 1701 on the Internet Web Server, the user selects a Message Retrieval Form 1702. The Message Retrieval Form 1702 instructs the user to enter a mailbox number 1703 and password 1704. The IWS then queries the Ad Database to determine if the mailbox number and password are valid 1705. If the entries are not valid, the user is presented with an Invalid Mailbox and Password Form 1706. If the entries are valid 1705, the IWS queries the Ad Database 1707 to find responses directed to the user.

If there are no responses, the IWS presents the user with a No Responses Form 1709. If the IWS finds one or more responses, the IWS presents the user with a Personal Ad Messages Form 1710. The Personal AD Messages Form 1709 shows any messages for the user. Each message shows the date 1712 and time 1713 the message was received and contains one or more icons that represent the contents of the message. A text icon 1714 denotes a text message; an audio icon 1715 denotes an audio message; a still camera icon 1716 denotes a photograph; a video camera icon 1717 denotes a video clip. By clicking on an icon, the user can view or listen to the associated file.

Searching for Personal Ads Via a Telephone Network

A user can search for personal ads via a telephone network, as indicated in FIG. 15. First, a user at terminal T1 places a call to search personal advertisements. As a result, a connection is established from the remote terminal T1 to the IVR over a telephone network. Using standard DNIS techniques, the IVR associates the called number with a specific function, in this case a voice personals ad searching format.

The user is first prompted to indicate his preferences regarding the type of person he or she wishes to meet. Referring to FIG. 15, the IVR cues the user to enter the gender of the person he or she wishes to meet 2101. Next, the IVR cues the user to enter the lowest age of the person he or she wishes to meet 2102. Next, the IVR cues the user to enter the highest age of the person he or she wishes to meet 2103. Finally, IVR cues the user for the marital status of the person he or she wishes to meet 2104.

Next, the IVR queries the database to find ads that match the user's preferences 2114. If the query does not find any ads, the call is terminated 2133. If the query returns one or more ads, the IVR queries the field AD_ORIGIN 211 to determine if the ad originated on the Internet 2117. If the ad originated from a telephone network, the IVR plays the ad's audio greeting 2119. If the ad originated on the Internet, the IVR presents the ad's text greeting, and may employ a text to speech function to play the ad's text greeting 2118. The IVR then queries the AD_GREETING_TABLE to determine if the Internet advertiser also submitted an audio greeting 2120. If the query does not find an audio greeting 2120, the IVR prompts the user to indicate if he wishes to respond to the ad 2122. If the query finds an audio greeting 2120, the IVR plays the audio greetings 2121. The IVR then prompts the user to indicate if he wishes to respond to the ad 2122.

If the user elects not to respond to the ad, the IVR determines if there are additional matches 2132. If the there are no additional matches, the call is terminated 2133. If there are additional matches, the user is returned to block 2116.

If the user elects to respond to the ad, the IVR next cues him to record his or her response 2129. The IVR then stores the response to a file 2130 and updates the database 2131. Specifically, a new record in the AD_RESPONSE table (see FIG. 4) is created and the IVR populates the RSP_MAILBOX_NUMBER 501, RSP_DATE_TIME 503, RSP_TYPE 504, and RSP_FILENAME 505 fields to indicate the mailbox number of the ad responded to, the date and time of the response, the format of the response, and the location of the response file on the IVR. The field RSP_TYPE 504 is set to VOX to indicate that the audio recording is in the DIALOGIC®.VOX file format. Finally, the field RSP_CONVERSION_FLAG 506 is set to FALSE to indicate that the audio file must be converted from the DIALOGIC®.VOX format to create a new audio file in the REALAUDIO®.RA format for playback on the Internet.

The IVR creates a new REALAUDIO®.RA file from DIALOGIC®.VOX file and stores the REALAUDIO® file to a file 2130 on the IWS and updates the database 2131. A new record in the AD_RESPONSE table FIG. 4 is created and the IVR populates the RSP_MAILBOX_NUMBER 501, RSP_DATE_TIME 503, RSP_TYPE 504, and RSP_FILENAME 505 fields to indicate the mailbox number of the ad responded to, the date and time of the response, the format of the response, and the location of the response file on the IVR. The field RSP_TYPE 504 is set to RA to indicate that the audio recording is in the REALAUDIO®.RA file format. Finally, the field RSP_CONVERSION_FLAG 506 is set to TRUE for both files (.VOX and .RA) to indicate that the audio file does not need to be converted.

Next, the IVR determines if there are additional matches 2132. If the there are no additional matches, the call is terminated 2133. If there are additional matches, the user is returned to block 2116 to continue.

Searching for Ads Via the Internet

A user can search for personal ads via the Internet, as indicated in FIG. 16. First, a user at terminal CT1 connects to the Internet to search for ads that match her preferences. The user connects to the Internet and then to a Home Page 2201 on the Internet Web Server. From the Home Page 2201 on the IWS, the user selects an Ad Searching Form 2202. The Ad Searching Form instructs the user to indicate preferences, including the gender 2203, low age 2204, high age 2205, and marital status 2206 of the person she wishes to meet. When the form is complete, the user submits it by pressing the “Submit” button 2208. The IWS then checks the submitted form for completeness 2209. If the form is incomplete, the user is returned to the Ad Searching Form 2202. If the form is complete, the IWS queries the database to find ads that match the user's preferences 2210. If the query returns no matches 2212, the user is presented with a No Matches Page 2213. If the query returns matches for one or more ads 2212, the IWS presents the user with a Results Form 2214.

The Results Form 2214 shows the ads that match the user's preferences. Specifically, the Results Form shows a text ad of the type that appears in the newspaper 2215. In addition, each ad contains one or more icons that represent any additional text or multimedia files (audio, video, photograph) for the ads that are available on the IWS. These icons include an audio icon 2216 to denote the ad's audio greeting, a still camera icon 2217 to denote a photograph of the advertiser, a video camera icon 2218 to denote a video clip of the advertiser or a paper icon 2219 to denote additional ad text. It is to be understood that these icons are merely representative and that many other possibilities exist to denote the existence of text and multimedia files. By clicking on an icon, the user can view or listen to the associated file. In addition, by selecting a maximize bar 2220, the user can expand the ad to a full page size FIG. 11.

The user responds to an ad by selecting the “Respond” button 2221. When the user selects the respond button, she is presented with an Ad Response Form 2222. The user creates a response by typing in a response text field 2225. After completing the Ad Response Form, the user submits the form by pressing the “Submit” button 2230. The user is then presented with a Response Confirmation Form 2231. The Response Confirmation Form gives the user information on enhancing her response with an audio message, photograph, or video clip.

The IWS then stores the response to a file and updates the database 2232. Specifically, the IWS creates a new record in the AD_RESPONSE table (see FIG. 4) and then populates the fields RSP_MAILBOX_NUMBER 501, RSP_DATE_TIME 503, RSP_TYPE 504, and RSP_FILENAME 505 to indicate the mailbox number of the ad responded to, the date and time of the response, the format of the response, and the location of the response file on the IWS. The field RSP_TYPE 504 is set to TEXT. Finally, the field RSP_CONVERSION_FLAG 506 is set to TRUE to indicate that the text does not need to be converted to a different format. The user can then return to the Results Form at any time by using the “Back” key on her browser.

The foregoing has been a disclosure of certain illustrative embodiments of the present invention. As noted above, telephone techniques, communication systems, data formats and operating structures in accordance with the present invention may be embodied in a wide variety of forms and modes, some of which may be quite different from the specific examples disclosed herein. Consequently, the specific structural and functional details disclosed above are merely representative and should not be considered as limiting the invention as recited in the following claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification705/319
International ClassificationG06Q30/00, H04M3/487, H04M3/493, H04M7/00, G06Q99/00
Cooperative ClassificationG06Q30/02, H04M3/4878, H04M3/4938, H04M2201/60, G06Q30/0277, G06Q50/01, G06Q30/0271, H04M7/0006
European ClassificationG06Q30/02, G06Q30/0271, G06Q30/0277, G06Q50/01, H04M3/493W