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Online bots: It’s not nice to fool your customer June 30, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Information Technology, Management, Software, Technology, Web.
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RobotMany years ago (1950), before most of the readers of this blog were born, a computer scientist named Alan Turing came up with a test for artificial intelligence and computers. It became known as the Turing Test of artificial intelligence.

Here’s what the Cross-Currents blog wrote about it, “In 1950, Alan Turing devised a straight forward test for artificial intelligence: a person sitting at a terminal, engaged in conversation (what we would call today an Instant Messaging chat), is unable to determine that he or she is conversing with a computer rather than another human being. He also predicted that by the year 2000, a computer could fool the person for at least five minutes roughly 70% of the time.”

Why do I mention the Turing test? Because, I just read this interesting post by Rob over on the Business Pundant blog. He shared his experience with a customer service center that had an online “operator” that provided live chat sessions with customers. Since Rob is a little more savvy than the average customer, Rob determined that his answers were coming from a preprogrammed software robot (or bot) and that there wasn’t any live person on the other end reading his questions or typing answers.

Now, it that possible? Sure! But, is it ethical? Well, not really. Especially if the company advertises that they have live people responding to customer service chat sessions. I am certain online bots are used because companies can save a lot of money and can handle 100 (or 1,000) times more customers than they could or would with live operators.

What do you think? Have you ever thought that the customer service chat session you were having was a little strange and wondered if it wasn’t just a bot that you were complaining to?

Web 2.0 vs. Traditional Management June 25, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Information Technology, Management, Open Source, Software, Technology, Web, Weblog.
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The June 19, 2006 edition of BusinessWeek magazine has several articles about technology. One particularly interesting article was about Web 2.0 and its potential role within corporations and for developing for-profit services.

A mostly non-technical definition of Web 2.0 for business managers (as defined by BusinessWeek) can be found here. And, for more I.T. oriented people, you can read a more technical and complete description of Web 2.0 here.

One of the more interesting observations made by BusinessWeek magazine relates to the impact that Web 2.0 could have on corporate management. They said…

"…the nature of these services will challenge the command-and-control mindset of the corporation, already in the throes of tech-driven transformations such as globalization and outsourcing. Web 2.0 could flatten a raft of organizational boundaries—between managers and employees and between the company and its partners and customers."

BusinessWeek Magazine, June 19, 2006, page 58

Looking at the affect of Web 2.0 technologies like blogging and wiki servers have had on my own I.T. department I can see how some old school managers who are used to total control of all subordinates' actions would strongly resist this new 'flattening' technology where everyone is equal. The source of resistance by most people who are faced with opportunities to use Web 2.0 technologies can have roots in the loss of control over what's said and done by others. That includes employees blogging and corporate wiki sites where employees and customers can write anything they like.

Managers must be willing to release the control over others in order to reap the benefits of a very dynamic and highly participatory environment. Some managers will find it far too risky to use Web 2.0 technologies, while others will find the risk worth the potential rewards in developing new models for communication, collaboration, and strengthening relationships within the organization and outside the organization with customers.

Change takes time, and moving some managers to Web 2.0 technologies may take a very long time.

Wars and rumors of wars… June 24, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Information Technology, Microsoft, News and politics, Open Source, Software, Technology, Web, Windows/Microsoft.
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I thought that the Internet browser wars had pretty much been fought and were over, but in the past 24 hours I've seen a lot more written about it than I have seen in the past 24 months. I guess they come in cycles or waves.

Yesterday, sitting on the break room table at work, was this series of diagrams that illustrated the software wars taking place against Microsoft (the evil empire). It provided quite a dramatic view of how many fronts that Microsoft is fighting competition, both in the open source space and the for-profit competition.

Then, today I read Robert Scoble's post about browser wars and the fact that he's trying to decide which browser he will use in his new job when he will be given both a Mac and a Windows PC (some might say, aren't they the same thing now?).

What browser do I use? Mostly Firefox. At least, that's my first choice on both my Mac and my PC. But, I also use Internet Explorer on my PC a lot (to keep in touch with what most of the Windows world is using and to test the corporate web site) and I use Safari on my Mac almost as much as I use Firefox on the Mac. I guess I like to use multiple browsers to keep in touch with what my users are experiencing. After all, where I work my department supports almost 1,500 people. And, as you might guess, they don't all use the same browser.

So, what about you? Do you use only one web browser and nothing else? Or, do you use multiple web browsers as I do?

Ichthus Photographer June 17, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Family, Music, Photography, Random, Weblog.
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Ichthus 2006 Crowd

In Kentucky (USA), there is an annual Christian music festival known as Ichthus.

The Ichthus music festival began this week. For the past several years (maybe four years) I have been a volunteer photographer and would shoot lots of pictures for Ichthus Ministries. The first night (Thursday night) I was out there well past midnight, then I went to work this morning. After work, I went out to shoot another 1,000 digital photos before I packed it in and headed home. Again, well past midnight. So, I am exhausted right now. I hope this post makes sense.

Tomorrow is the last day of the music festival. I will be there all day to make as many photographs as possible.

Half life of technical knowledge June 13, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Information Technology, Management, Technology, Web, Weblog.
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Radioactive SymbolAbout twelve years ago during a job interview I mentioned the importance of refreshing one's technical knowledge in my line of work, which is information technology. I put forward the idea that technical knowledge has a half-life. The approximate half-life I used back then seems to still hold true today. I said the half-life of technical knowledge was six to twelve months.

The more specific and technical the knowledge, the shorter the half-life. And, the opposite is true. The less specific and the more theoretical the knowledge, the longer the half-life.

I believe it is the job of the I.T. manager to make sure that people who work in their department have both informal and formal ways to continually learn new things. Informal ways include subscribing to lists, reading specific technology web sites, and reading trade journals. More formal ways to improve their technical knowledge includes meetings with peers from other organizations, vendor provided training on specific technologies or products, and attending industry conferences.

Of course, one of the most important things in my list of things to do for I.T. professionals is to keep them stocked with technical documentation, including books published on various topics, not just the vendors' hardware or software manuals. Though, they are important, too.

Oh, in case you were wondering if I got the job twelve years ago, I did. I was in that job for six years before pursuing the job I'm presently in. This July 1st will be my six-year anniversary for my current job.

Do It Yourself (DIY) Home Video Projector June 12, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Information Technology, Open Source, Random, Technology, Web.
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Believe it or not, you can build your own video projector. And, the best part is that the bulb only costs $50 US and lasts as much as three times as long as the normal ($400) video projector bulbs.

If it seems too good to be true, then check out the details of this project in this post on the Popular Science's How To 2.0 web site.