Friday, January 30, 2009

Nuance + IBM speech technology

Here's one that got by me for a few days. Nuance and IBM announced a plan to combine IBM's speech technology with Nuance's. I've blogged previously about IBM's effort to get competitive in speech technology. One of their research managers had said that IBM was working with partners like Vlingo and others, but there was no mention of Nuance.

This is interesting. It seems to signal that IBM has some good technology but no good idea of how to market it. So, it was over to Nuance to bring IBM's technology to market. That's too bad. I was hoping that IBM speech recognition could provide a challenge to Nuance. I don't see that happening now.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mac's 25th anniversary

Everyone's written an article about the Macintosh computer's 25th birthday, so I don't have anything new to add. Just to say that it was a great leap forward not just in computing, but in recognition that intuitive, easy to use, attractive user interfaces really matter.

Just a couple of years earlier, in 1982, I'd started to learn to program in Cobol on a large creaking mainframe--"real" computing, we used to tell ourselves. At the same time I learned to program in Basic on a TRS 80 Model III with 16K memory and a cassette tape player for storing programs. Man, the Mac just destroyed peoples' idea of what a micro should look like. Trouble was, I couldn't afford it, and settled for a cheap, underpowered PC clone. My mistake.

I bought a Performa in the mid 90s. It was a huge disappointment. It was sluggish and featureless, and the monitor quit within about a year. I never went back to Mac after that, but I still like them, and I appreciate what Apple was able to do.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow day

We had about 2 or 3 inches of snow last night and today. In central N.C., that means everything shuts down, including the universities. That's a lot different from, say, central Illinois, where it takes a blizzard to close schools and people are expected to make it to work on snowshoes. I missed my marketing class, which was a shame. I'm taking marketing and services management this semester in my MBA program at NC State. If every things goes according to plan I'll graduate in December.

Of course, not everyone thinks an MBA is the best way to improve one's life.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Telephone etiquette and VUI guidelines

A lot has been written on the topic of persona and best practices for designing voice user interfaces. Here's an early Bell Systems manual that tells you just about all you need to know. Thanks to Crispin Reedy for forwarding this.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The fabulous Georgia Aquarium

My family and I spent a wonderful three hours at the fabulous Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta recently. Talk about a well designed user experience. It was awesome. Where else can you walk through a glass corridor and see whale sharks swimming above you?

Here's a webcam of the main underwater habitat. See if you can spot the manta ray, the hammerhead shark, or one of the four whale sharks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Re-inventing the wheel is usually a bad idea

In the marketing battle between form and function, form too often wins. The Onion shows what happens when a hot interface is pasted onto the wrong device to do the wrong thing. Thanks to Jonathan Bloom for forwarding this item.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Remarks on The Best Service Is No Service

The Best Service is No Service (2008) by Bill Price and David Jaffe is a wonderful book about how to improve customer service. Their ideas are simple in concept but difficult to implement properly. The idea is this. If companies understand why customers contact them they should be able to identify "triggers" for inbound contacts. If companies proactively contact their customers with information that customers want then they should be able to eliminate a large proportion of inbound contacts.

Most of the book gives solid advice on how to implement this seemingly simple idea. It also points out some of the difficulties that companies will encounter, one being that the business area that is catching all the incoming flak - the customer service area - has little organizational pull in getting effective incoming contact mitigation implemented.

I work at the IVR and contact center end of customer service, and I can vouch for the fact that a lot of incoming calls could be prevented simply by communicating more effectively with customers - giving them information they need before they call and ask. Companies are just dying for design approachs to customer service, and this book is a good place to start.