One of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard for software engineers is "Use the tools". Like words for an author, tools help define how you think, and how you develop and ultimately, what you can develop. One of my best tools, and one that I find myself relying on time, and time again, is Voxeo. Voxeo is hosted provider of IVR solutions in Orlando, run by a really decent and talented group of people led by CEO Jonathan Taylor and CTO (a geek's geek) RJ Auburn. Using Voxeo, it's really easy to throw together IVR scripts and deploy them for demos, betas and production. And, I can integrate the results from, or use it drive data to, database driven web sites. Voxeo handles inbound and outbound calling, and integrates easily with standard and VoIP phones.
I'm actually doing a mashup right now using Voxeo that (I hope) is ready for Cluecon in a few weeks. I'll post the details when I'm done, but here's the idea. The Cluecon audience is pretty dense with geeks, so for fun, I was wondering if I could find the geekiest one. I'm writing a Voxeo script that will call each attendee (or they can call into it, if they want), and give them a survey. For instance, I might ask them if she-bang was a Unix script thingy or something that Gomer Pyle says. I'll take all the answers, profile them, and find the person who's answers were closest to the norm. Maybe we'll even find the person who's answers are furthest from the norm, and give him the Prom King award or something. Anyways, using Voxeo, this demo is pretty easy to put together, including the database site, and won't take me more than a few days to put together, host and test.
RJ - I'm afraid you're not eligible for this contest. I'll send you an O'Reilly book as a consolation prize.