Anna the Lingubot Revisited, Rural Broadband, Zimbra's 3.2, CA and SAP NetWeaver, Terrorism-Fighting Fish

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
| CRM, ERP, Contact Center, Turkish Coffee and Astroichthiology:

Anna the Lingubot Revisited, Rural Broadband, Zimbra's 3.2, CA and SAP NetWeaver, Terrorism-Fighting Fish

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Electro-Shock Blues by The Eels. The Eels is essentially the vehicle for E, born Mark Oliver Everett, and the guy writes interesting, if dark, songs. Hey you probably would too if you were in his moccasins -- his father was a brilliant physicist who originated the many worlds theory of quantum physics, and died at 51 from heavy drinking. Mark's sister later committed suicide, his mother died of cancer, eliminating the last of his immediate family, and if that weren't enough, his cousin was a stewardess on the 9/11 flight that hit the Pentagon. So his music isn't exactly ABBA, although his songs were used on the Shrek soundtrack:

So much e-mail to sort through here, the life of a busy columnist…

Hi David – I have an interesting topic for you, let me know if we could tell you more.

APA Cables & Networks have now focused on bringing broadband equipment to rural areas throughout the Midwest as opposed to bustling metropolises – why? Because, surprisingly that’s where the better technology is…Smaller, more rural communities are starting to outpace larger cities with the adoption of all fiber networks.  What used to be a void is now turning into a huge market for vendors like APA – my associate can discuss this anomaly; how rural areas are leading the evolved broadband charge -- I thought it might be good fodder for a chat.

Let me know, we also have a slew of news we will be announcing at the show … thanks!

Might be, that's one thing First Coffee's been watching for with the explosion of broadband. When the Internet arrived I thought that would democratize geography, East Slingshot, Nebraska was now on a level playing field, communicatively, with San Francisco and had better schools and more affordable housing. Of course the dispersing of business never really happened, because, well, there were good reasons why San Francisco got crowded and East Slingshot didn't in the first place.

What happened was people moved a bit further out, a day's commute from Boston type of thing, for the slightly better schools and slightly more affordable housing in Waltham.

But now with broadband, it reminds me of when, thanks to Ronald Reagan being right and the Democrats being wrong about the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall came down, the 1950s-era infrastructures of Eastern Europe simply leapfrogged the '60s, '70s and '80s directly into the '90s, and you had small towns in Romania with the highest density of cell users anywhere in the world, etc.

The same thing could happen in rural areas with broadband, sleepy carriers can leapfrog directly to the best technology available and don't have as much invested in legacy hardware or software as the bigger boys do. It'll be interesting to watch.


Just saw your article about Zimbra 3.2 beta and am confused as we were just about to upgrade to version 4.0. Has there been a fork or something?


Hi Ewan, let me look at the info again… it's definitely Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) 3.2 Beta, they're introducing something called the Zimbra Assistant and keyboard navigation, as well as other beta features. Hope that helps.

Dear David,

Today, CA announced an extended agreement with SAP AG to provide SAP NetWeaver customers access to the top application performance management solution, Wily Introscope. Wily and SAP share a common goal of helping customers deploy web applications rapidly and performing optimally. Through this agreement, all SAP customers can now realize the benefits of Introscope without additional license fees.

As one of our important contacts we’d appreciate the opportunity to brief you on the significance of today’s announcement. I will follow-up with you shortly to gauge your interest; however feel free to contact me directly to coordinate a briefing. I look forward to your feedback. The full release is also embedded below for your convenience.

Thanks and best regards,

"CA" being Computer Associates, of course, the company founded by Charles Wang in 1976, but for some strange reason you have to dig pretty deep in their Web site, back in the History timeline, to learn that "CA" stands for "Computer Associates." That's the only place I saw it mentioned on the site.

And an e-mail about my experience with the virtual rep, Anna at IKEA,

David, I see you got on well with Anna…

I think you missed her showing you the “garden tables”, no link is provided, but the home page changes automatically.

You are, of course, right that asking questions outside of the knowledgebase of words and phrases results in no answer or a best guess.

The systems are initially built around FAQs but they are continually improved based on the questions asked. So perhaps Anna in Istanbul will know about the menu if you ask her enough times.

Some clients’ spot check the “correct answers” to make sure they are really answering “the question” and that drops the percentage correct by about 3 percent, but still over 85 percent.

The volume of questions answered by Lingubots is increasing so it looks like customers are voting with their fingers. The sites with an avatar always have higher volumes.

From a business point of view every question answered by a Lingubot instead of a call center saves them money.

This technology has been around for a while but it is only in the last couple of years that we have really achieved a momentum, with both end users and businesses adopting the technology. Some clients have linked answers to appropriate FAQs and navigation to web pages. Lingubots are becoming more prominent because clients are  responding to the natural language dialogue, instead of menus or search boxes.

If you are interested and have an hour, we would be happy to show you how Lingubot works and where it is going.

I’m sure virtual person (avatar) answer bots help a lot of people, but my point was that static FAQ boxes help a lot of people and don't raise unrealistic expectations of human-style interaction the way avatars do. And while it's true initially that "every question answered by a Lingubot instead of a call center saves them money," what happens then is that the easy questions, the ones any minimum-wage hack can answer, are cleared off via Web site FAQs.

Which means the ones that get to the call center are the harder ones, the ones that take real brains and knowledge, so you need higher-quality people in your call center then, not just any old job-seeker, and it gets more expensive to hire them. I've heard of doctors who make $120,000 a year working at pharmaceutical and other high-end health companies' call centers.

Hey Dave, you see this news?

SAN FRANCISCO - A type of fish so common that practically every American kid who ever dropped a fishing line and a bobber into a pond has probably caught one is being enlisted in the fight against terrorism.

San Francisco, New York, Washington and other big cities are using bluegills -- also known as sunfish or bream -- as a sort of canary in a coal mine to safeguard their drinking water.

Small numbers of the fish are kept in tanks constantly replenished with water from the municipal supply, and sensors in each tank work around the clock to register changes in the breathing, heartbeat and swimming patterns of the bluegills that occur in the presence of toxins.

Sounds like a great idea. No doubt The New York Times is already protesting that this is illegal and gives us an unfair advantage over terrorists, and the first time a bluegill dies PETA will condemn the government’s use of fish in this manner.

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