Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blog: Schneier on security

Bruce Schneier became one of my favorite writers after I read his excellent Secrets and lies: digital security in a networked world. He was and is an expert security tech guy, but his focus has changed over time to the behavioral aspects of security. The chapter called The Human Factor explains why people are the weakest link in any security system. Good stuff.

He also posts often to his security blog. Timely and interesting. I liked the 4/30 article on the biometric fingerprint reader in the gym. I guess no one wrote a "sweaty guy with barbell indents on his fingertips" use case.

Quick trip to New Orleans

I took a quick business trip to New Orleans this week. That's my favorite city in the US, so it was a real pleasure to go back. I only wish I had more time to explore different places other than Bourbon St. and Jackson Square. That's OK. I'll plan for a longer trip next time.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

End of semester time adjustment

The end of a semester always requires a little adjustment, because I have free time in the evening. It takes about three days to adjust, and find new ways to fill that time. I'll only have a few days to enjoy the downtime, and then summer session starts.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The "automated lady" isn't helping

This CNN article describes the frustration of homeowners who reach a recorded message when they call banks regarding foreclosure. I cringed at the homeowner's exasperation with the "automated lady," because I know how frustrating the situation is. The callers need to talk to a person but the banks are using a simple IVR to keep customers away rather than using the IVR to serve them. I can just imagine the chipper "automated lady" persona starting her greeting with pain-enducing phrase "Your call is important to us..."

The banks have resorted to a conventional solution to an unprecedented situation - play a recorded message and drop the callers into a queue. I understand that the number of calls and average call times are overwhelming the call centers, but there are much better uses of the technology. For example, you can use automated call backs to let the customers go about their business rather than forcing them to stay on the line.

There's really a huge opportunity here for an IVR integration company to help banks, if they can get into the banks and talk to managers about solutions. If anyone in an overworked bank call center wants to find a way to make their IVR help with their workload, contact me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Digression: The Grateful Dead in Greensboro

I went to see one of my old favorites Sunday, the Grateful Dead (or just "the Dead"). The Coliseum was the first stop on their new tour. Good show. They still really rock after all this time. Warren Haynes filled in on lead for the late great Jerry Garcia. Sorry, no video of the concert unless someone has posted some that I don't know about. But here's a recent Touch of Grey instead.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Real money in Second Life

As things go bad in our first lives, apparently some performers are making money in Second Life. I've spent a lot of time listening to live music. I've spent only a little time in SL, just doing projects for my MBA program, and I must say I don't see the attraction of listening to music in SL. Maybe I'm just Old School, but performances need to be seen live to get the real experience. But, if people can make some extra cash by working as virtual performers, I say good for them.

Monday, April 6, 2009

When the speech reco finally works we'll see...

Is there anything more attention-getting than a software exec gushing about the future when we finally get speech recognition working to perfection? This article in the online Guardian delivers an interview with an unnamed (for obvious reasons) exec at Microsoft who touts virtual secretaries as an application of avatar+speech reco technology. Thanks to Todd Chapin for forwarding this article.

The Guardian reporter is suitable skeptical, which is a nice change from most articles that deal with these sorts of predictions. To get this to work right Microsoft will need to have solved the general AI problem, which is to produce a human-level-or-better intelligence in a machine. If that happens Microsoft won't be wasting its time producing virtual assistants.

When I try to visualize the avatar the exec is talking about, I get an image of the funny Oddcast avatar that I'd written about previously.