29
Jan

Personal agents, and artificial intelligence may transform enormous amounts of information into manageable resources

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthPeter Holley of the Washington Post captured some thoughts Bill Gates articulated during a Reddit “Ask me Anything” session on the topic of a Microsoft project “called the Personal Agent”. Holley’s clips appear in an article titled Bill Gates on dangers of artificial intelligence: ‘I don’t understand why some people are not concerned’. Holley writes: “He went on to highlight a Microsoft project known as the “Personal Agent,” which is being designed to help people manage their memory, attention and focus.”

But Holley doesn’t note the project has been discussed before, this time by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Nadella touched on the very same theme on July 10, 2014, in his letter to Microsoft Employees, titled Bold Ambition & Our Core. Here is the quote from Nadella: “Computing is ubiquitous and experiences span devices and exhibit ambient intelligence. Billions of sensors, screens and devices – in conference rooms, living rooms, cities, cars, phones, PCs – are forming a vast network and streams of data that simply disappear into the background of our lives. This computing power will digitize nearly everything around us and will derive insights from all of the data being generated by interactions among people and between people and machines. We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.”.

I wrote earlier in this blog on these comments of Nadella’s. My formal education includes a Master’s degree in English Literature. I spent a lot of time working on the poems of Samuel Coleridge and couldn’t help noting Coleridge’s prescience when he wrote in the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner: “Water, water everywhere, but nary a drop to drink”.

I think, in 2015, a lot of us are parched mariners, dying of thirst in a world flooded with too much information to be manageable. So, where Holley reads Gates’ comments as a portrayal of some of the features of Microsoft’s personal agent as a kind of personal tune up, I read them as depicting a set of components of a solution packed with artificial intelligence. The solution will be designed to sort, and prioritize information into useful, digestible chunks, which can provide the user with a reliable basis of beneficial activity.

Cortana, Siri, and Google Now are three very early stage examples of this type of effort, with, respectively, very limited results. But perhaps these tools will become useful in time.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

23
Dec

ExactTarget and Socedo enable direct marketing in an online, otherwise inbound contact world

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthDirect marketers feeling lonely in 2014’s online world can take heart. ExactTarget and Socedo have the tools required to potentially transform an outbound strategy into an online, social media winner.

I’ve been using Socedo for about a month, and recently sat through a couple of ExactTarget product presentations. In my opinion, either of these tools provide direct marketing professionals with methods of proactively engaging with prospects online. The opportunity for this type of, hopefully, person-to-person interaction (as opposed to person to bot interaction), in a world of online product promotion otherwise dominated by inbound marketing solutions (like HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo), is no small feat. Certainly the prominence of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, (along with the information-heavy alerts/newsfeeds they each provide) near the top of the heap of opportunities, online, for personal engagement, contributes to the promise of these tools. But readers are advised not to get sidetracked: the tools themselves are definitely worth some study.

Both tools can be used to identify online content matching patterns, including keywords, prospect profiles, etc. The ExactTarget demonstration I attended included identification and aggregation of online content matching pattern targets in real time. The presentation method included a set of browser widgets, which a user can run, ad hoc, by simply refreshing a browser window.

Socedo and ExactTarget each include a workflow engine. So some of the task of engaging with prospects can be automated. Socedo’s workflow is complex and includes a component which can be configured with a set of criteria the solution will then use to analyze targets prior to presenting them as “leads”. The brief glimpse I had of ExactTarget’s workflow leads me to assume their automation engine is more useful for routing information along to designated contacts within a marketing team, than it would be as a means of placing the whole outbound engagement process on auto pilot (which is where Socedo looks to be going with their processes).

As far as scope is concerned, ExactTarget presents online direct marketers with a panoramic view of just about all of the social media venues they could imagine. In contrast, Socedo is limited (at least at present) to the Twitter fire hose.

Bottom line: early stage ISVs after a method of neutralizing the “passivity potential” of inbound marketing should take a look at one, or better yet, both of these tools. Feel free to contact me for more of my thoughts on either product.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

10
Nov

Online conversations become even more valuable data as consumers implement new analytics designed to work with big data

On October 29, 2014, IBM and Twitter announced a partnership. Under the terms of this partnership, Twitter will provide IBM with data. In turn, IBM will permit customers to use its IBM Watson Analytics to work with Twitter data.

The Twitter data is often referred to as the “fire hose”. According to Statistic Brain, an average day sees some 58,000,000 Tweets. So it should be fair to say any effort to collect this volume of information, and, then, to analyze it, falls into the big data and analytics category.

So just who would be interested in the Twitter “fire hose”, and why? Reading further in the IBM press release one finds a clue: “The first joint solution will integrate Twitter data with IBM ExperienceOne customer engagement solutions, allowing sales, marketing, and customer service professionals to map sentiment and behavior to better engage and support their customers.” A brief look at IBM’s web site for its ExperienceOne service reveals a data analytics offer targeted to Chief Marketing Officer (CMOs), who usually lead “marketing, merchandising, sales, and customer service” (quoted from the ExperienceOne web site).

For an ISV like IBM to offer data collection, analytics, and even predictive analytics solutions, and the services required to successfully implement them, to a target market of CMOs from Lines of Business (LoBs), represents a major shift in focus from IBM’s familiar market of CIOs and enterprise IT organizations. In turn, the ExperienceOne offer stands as a testimony as to how the path by which technology innovation enters the enterprise has shifted away from the CIO and over to leaders from LoBs. Bottom line, this deal is a further indicator of why CIOs and their enterprise IT organizations are playing much more catch up than used to be the case in the past. It also can be interpreted as an indicator of a bigger enterprise need for Enterprise Device Management (EDM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions.

In this writer’s opinion the IBM Twitter partnership is a milestone in the evolution of the value of online user data. The daily production of enormous volumes of unstructured data from Tweets becomes a commodity, which Twitter can profit from in an entirely different manner than other social media sites have been able to achieve in the past. One can argue Facebook is doing much the same thing. But there is no IBM in the middle of how Facebook interacts with its customers. The data collection, warehousing, analytics, and, finally, predictive analytics capabilities a player like IBM brings to the process substantially elevates the potential represented by the Twitter fire hose for the CMOs who will ultimately consume it.

There is certainly room for firms competing with IBM to attempt to apply the same structure (with, presumably, Twitter competitors) for consumers with, perhaps, similar objectives in mind. The important point for anyone following the businesses owning the data (meaning Twitter and its competitors) is the likely need to factor in a higher valuation, should this IBM Twitter partnership pay off.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved