Blog Posts

A Quick Review of the Salesforce.com Chatter Superbowl Ad

Salesforce.com introduced Chatter to the world during the Superbowl. This is a quick look at what was good, not so good and what's hopefully next.
A Quick Review of the Salesforce.com Chatter Superbowl Ad

Baby Peas!

For all of us Salesforce geeks, not only did we see the superbowl commercial but most of us sat glued to the television before halftime to make sure we didn't miss it. I have to admit, it was pretty cool to see the Black Eyed Peas promoting the software-as-a-service platform I know and love, but did it deliver? Here's what this Salesforce geek thinks.

The Chatterati

The fact that Salesforce.com has made it to primetime is an amazing step in itself regardless if the full message got across. To think in less than five years, enterprise social software has gone from a mere concept to a superbowl ad viewed by millions. What I was scratching my head about at last year's Dreamforce has got me telling every business owner I know how Chatter can help their business. The other big thing is it costs nothing to get started. If the ad at least got you to go to Chatter.com, a free offering warrants a try. If one trys, then they tell a friend and so on and so on.

Just Chit-Chat?

Both commercials seemed a little rushed and not fully informative. As one tweet put it, "Apparently with Chatter.com, the Black Eyed Peas can make donkeys and elephants make out, nice." (link to that tweet) Is that going to get people to go check it out and on top of that, what audience did it get the attention of? Most business owners I know aren't listening to the Black Eyed Peas and when I asked some of them what they thought, they had nothing to say. Not till I explained what they can do with it did they start asking questions.

Next up for Chatter?

I give Salesforce an A for effort but a C for the final product. The commercials didn't give enough information for someone to open the laptop and Google it but might of started enough of a buzz to give evangalists some good talking points to help spread the word. Hopefully this isn't a one and done and the commercials get more play time in different venues. In a few months I will revisit with a part two of this blog to see where it has gone and what impact it has had.

Avoiding Email Bankruptcy with Mail.app Smart Folders & Flags

A take on starting off the new year right, without going bankrupt on your email.

With the increasing onslaught of emails comes a new idea and term, which is to go bankrupt with your email, wiping away all of your overflowing inbox and starting again fresh and new. The problem with email bankruptcy is that the debt isn't to a bank and the action might hurt more than your credit score such as your work or relationships with others. The start of 2011 is a good time to outline some tips and tricks on dealing with emails to avoid going bankrupt on family, friends and colleagues.

Search > Folders

The first thing to understand is that modern email search is much faster, easier and effective than putting things into folders. I can search over the 15 years of emails in 7 different accounts (131,718 messages to be exact) in seconds. I have since given up the traditional idea of moving emails back and forth between different folders. Mail.app gives two different folders for each email account in Inbox and Sent and search can be started at any level.

Inbox Zero

The second thing is that dealing with an Inbox of over 20,000 emails is overwhelming and I am not suggesting anyone click on that inbox every morning. Stealing from the great work of David Allen and Merlin Mann I use the "Inbox Zero" methodology which is to say my goal each day is to empty my inbox down to zero emails having dealt with each email along the way. The question is how do you have over 20,000 emails representing years of activity in an inbox but not look at all of them everyday and feel totally overwhelmed. Enter Smart Folders in Mail.app.

Get Smart Folders

Smart Folders are just persistent searches or filters used to define and re-run every time they are clicked on. In Mail.app they are stored in their own section and dragging that section to the top of the left navigation pane really helps increase their visitibility. The first smart folder I

Smart Folders

 suggest is one I call "Inbox Zero" and is all unread, non-junk email. Any new email that comes into one of my email accounts and that is not automatically dealt with by some other filter shows up in this view. From here I use the Getting Things Done methodology of doing, deleting, delegating or archiving. While deleting and delegating are obvious, for arching my main action is no action since it already exists in the proper inbox, if I read it and do nothing it is automatically archived. Problem solved. The doing part is either responding to it immediately or flagging it which brings in my next trick.

Raise The Flags

Since I go through my emails in short scheduled periods of work (ie: Sprints) so as not to spend all of my time doing email and not every email needs a simple and quick reply, I flag (SHIFT + COMMAND + L) any email that I need to deal with later. This allows me to get my Inbox Zero to driving through the hundreds of new emails, flagging the ones I need to work on and deleting, delegating and auto-archiving the rest. Flagged

My second smart folder "Flagged" is just a collection of all flagged emails from any account. I work through the Flagged smart folder a few times a day, depending on my work load and give more attention to those emails that need more or require more work. If an email has more work in it than can be handled in a single day I capture that work into my task/project list (OmniFocus) and un-flag it since it is now captured somewhere else.

Arkus

Arkus

Another good tip is to create a combined smart folder for any area of focus. For me that is Arkus, my company and this smart folder just combines all Inbox and Sent emails into one threaded view. This is useful for starting another search or for quickly finding the last few emails in a the hierarchical thread they were sent and received.

Not Responded (Yet)

Not RespondedThat last smart folder I suggest is one that is a view of all emails that are not junk or sent and from actual people that have not been responded to in the last 8 days. I use eight days since I review this folder once a week to make sure nothing slipped through the cracks. You can add your own filters to remove things like order invoices and discussion lists.

Hopefully these tips will help you avoid your own email bankruptcy and keep your time and attention on the things that matter. If you have any tips or tricks, including your own smart folders feel free to tweet them to me @JasonMAtwood

References

Watson Beyond Jeopardy

Watson is a supercomputer built by IBM to understand and solve the question and answer problem facing computers today. They plan to demonstrate it's capabilities by playing a game of Jeopardy against past grand champions.
Watson Beyond Jeopardy

IBM is building out Watson to compete on Jeopardy.

Have you seen commercials recently on television about Watson, an IBM project aimed at winning Jeopardy against grand champions? I have, and I am totally interested in seeing this super computer in action. The challenge of answering questions by understanding context, linguistics, semantics, and syntax is an incredibly difficult one for a computer. Sure, ask a computer to calculate complex scientific equations and it performs in a jiffy with great accuracy but throw a pun at it and ask it to answer in question form and it may choke a bit. The task of understanding context and semantics is a great one and one that humans have a distinct advantage over computers. Jeopardy is a perfect challenge for Watson to see just how far computers have come in the question and answering space - particularly when the data it's being asked to answer is unstructured. 

 

How Does It Do That? 

 

Watson itself is a self contained clustering of servers that has a limited knowledgebase to draw it's answers from. It is built on a mega stack of IBM computers with over 3,000 cores of processing power. It doesn't just query a database of structured knowledge for answers either, rather it has been fed a mix of structured and unstructured data such as books, knowledge articles, the Elements table, newspapers, etc. It is also equiped with algorithms that can calculate meanings of words, natural language processors, confidence calculations, and hundreds more. How else would Watson be able to buzz in to answer a question in under 6 seconds if it wasn't able to calculate all of this data, understand the meaning of the question being asked, and calculate a confidence score to determine if it should even buzz in at all.  

 

There is obviously much more to how Watson does what it does and if you are interested here is a great video (22 min) that goes into greater detail:  

 

Amazing Machine, Meet Real Problems 

 

Not to diminish the real-world problem of winning Jeopardy but the first time I saw what IBM is doing with Watson I immediately thought of customer service and the service cloud. One thing to consider is that Watson's knowledge is limited by what you feed it, but in theory it doesn't have to be. It could go out and query the entire Internet if we wanted it to which would require some serious computer power behind it to render an appropriate answer - yay cloud! Here is a hypothetical scenario where Watson's technology would work really well with a Salesforce.com service cloud implementation in a perfect world: 

  • We have structured data about our clients in our sales and service cloud
  • We have unstructured data surrounding our client in our Chatter feeds 
  • We have unstructured data in the form of documentation, files and knowledge articles
  • We have a history of past occurrences with this product for clients just like the current one we are dealing with
  • We have a history of past occurrences with this product for clients just like the current one we are dealing with
  • We also have a deep understanding of their issues contextually with what Watson brings to the table - meaning we can sense different issues and problems by analyzing the way that they asked the question
  • Add into the mix what we can find out about this client using the Internet and Social Networking
    • Interests 
    • How the client speaks and how they frame their questions
    • Did they already ask the question on Twitter therefore increasing our urgency to answer fast and correctly 

 

With all of the above at our fingertips we ought to be able to solve almost any problem that a client brings our way. The ability to deeply understand what our clients need and want surrounding all the data we have collected about them as well as the products that we support should allow us to pinpoint answers in seconds leading to a much better customer experience.  

Your Watson? 

 

I wonder what other people are thinking about Watson. Let me know what you see as a potential good use case in the business world for such powerful technology. I mean hey, if it can compete and win on Jeopardy then it can certainly understand and contextualize a lot of business problems that we face today and are likely to face in the future.  

To discuss in more depth tweet me at twitter.com/justedelstein or post a comment on this blog post on our Facebook page at facebook.com/arkusinc.  

iPhone: The Clone Wars

The iPhone is now available on the Verizon network. Here are some thoughts about how this might impact the marketplace and will it have a negative or positive effect on the service of both Verizon and AT&T.
iPhone: The Clone Wars

The iPhone Wars

    Last week the world was introduced to the iPhone on the Verizon network. As a former Verizon customer who moved to AT&T for the iPhone I thought it would be good to provide a little insight as to whether it's time to jump ship again. I broke out the comparison into three key areas to consider.

    No New Features

    Based on the press release, the actual features of the iPhone on Verizon are really no different then the one on AT&T. So for those hoping for more features and functions, you will have to wait for the next version of the iPhone, probably coming in Summer. The only thing that was changed of note is the design to avoid the "Death Grip" issue. I personally never had an issue and actually got a free case out of the deal.

    Better Phone Service

    As a former Verizon customer I used to think hands down that Verizon had a leg up on AT&T and would cause a mass exodus for existing iPhone owners. Now, I'm not so sure. Since being on AT&T, I have to admit that it's not a real problem. I've had limited dropped calls and AT&T provided us with one of their Micro Cells to solve the "No Service" issue in my office. It's still dumbfounding to me that in the heart of Time Square I cannot get good service and we will see if the Micro Cell works out. The phone has nothing to do with the no service but does it have something to do with dropped calls? I've heard some people say that every time an iPhone is activated, a dropped call occurs. If that is the case, what will happen with it on Verizon? And do they have the right plan in place to solve it? Only time will tell. If you are gonna jump, maybe wait a few months to see what others experience.

    Speed, Speed and More Speed

    Times have changed. Everyone is now mobile and the need for data services is greater then ever. Texting someone is much quicker then calling and why pull out a laptop and click away when I can touch a button on my phone to change my Facebook status. In a recent article in PC World, they tested the two phones and AT&T actually "trounced" their rivals in the thirteen urban areas they tested. In addition, AT&T tested 90% reliability in 10 of the 13 urban areas tested and Verizon didn't score 90% in any. That is pretty impressive and I want my data fast, fast, and faster. Also remember that AT&T technology allows for both voice and data at the same time, while Verizon does not. This might be a deal breaker for some.

    I don't see myself changing networks anytime soon. If AT&T can keep winning the data war, I see no reason to move unless there is some new feature I can't live without. I'm also curious to see the release schedule for the iPhone upgrades and also how the price will be affected. Rumors have the next iPhone being built with the ability to handle all networks, so you won't have to buy another handset to switch carriers. With Sprint rumored to get it in February of 2011, the competition could get even more fierce. For now, AT&T is my choice.


 

The Top 7 Spring '11 Features Worth the Wait

While it seems like we just got through the Winter '11 release from Salesforce.com, here comes Spring '11 with a bucket full of enhancements. Here are the seven that I am pretty excited about.

Email Attachments & Associations

One great feature of Salesforce.com is Email to Salesforce which allows the user to BCC emails from any email client to Salesforce and have them automatically associated to the right records. In Spring '11 this features gets better by also dealing with any file attached to the email and by creating a new place to deal with any unresolved emails. No longer will you have to hunt and peck through all those "Unresolved Email:" tasks.

Dashboard Profile Pictures & Alerts

On the analytic side Dashboards get two upgrades which should prove useful and fun. The first is the ability to create a user dashboard and have it display the users Chatter profile picture. This should make for more personal charts and encourage a lot more professional pictures. The second builds on the ability to follow entire dashboards by enabling users to follow individual dashboard components. Changed dashboards can now show up in your feed so you never lose another update.

Chatter @Mentions & Emails

Speaking of Chatter, the new darling of Salesforce.com, it too gets a bunch of new updates from mobile to groups. The two that I know will be an instant productivity increase for me are mentions and email replies. With @Mentions users can now reference other Chatter users following the Twitter functionality. Entering an @ sign will start a dynamic lookup of Chatter users that both notifies the user and provides a clickable link to their profile. Also in Spring '11 is the ability to reply to Chatter alert emails which will go back into Salesforce.com and be attached to the update. These two will definitely help keep the conversation going and make Chatter a more and more powerful collaborative tool.

Google Chrome Browser Support

The browser wars might be over but nobody has told Google as they keep putting out a great product in Google Chrome. In Spring '11 Google Chrome will get official support so things like meeting requests and the dashboard builder should now work instead of failing miserably. In terms of internet browsers Google Chrome brings a speed, stability and extendability that keep it in my dock right next to Safari.

These are just a few of the plethora of features coming in February. Tweet me back at @JasonMAtwood and let me know what is going to tickle your fancy.

Salesforce.com Spring '11 Release Notes

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