Arkus Blog

The official Arkus blog provides your weekly dose for all thing Salesforce. Stay on top of the latest, most relevant Salesforce features, applications, and best practices.

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.  

Carrier Wars - Episode #28 of CloudFocus Weekly

The new Verizon iPhone, social CRM to take off?, Amazon competes with Netflix in Europe and Zoho launches Quickbook competitor. Our app picks of the week.
Carrier Wars - Episode #28 of CloudFocus Weekly

Carrier Wars - Episode #28

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.


 

DimDim SomeSome - Episode #27 of CloudFocus Weekly

7 cool things in Spring '11, Google checks in, Rackspace speeds up the cloud and Salesforce.com buys DimDim. Our app picks of the week to wrap it all up.
DimDim SomeSome - Episode #27 of CloudFocus Weekly

DimDim SomeSome - Episode #27

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

  • Open Link in New Tab
  • Download

Flow Into Spring - Episode #26 of CloudFocus Weekly

Goodbye disks blog post, Dell buys again, Wikipedia goes OpenStack, Apple's new App Store, Spring '11 peak and our app picks of the week.
Flow Into Spring - Episode #26 of CloudFocus Weekly

Flow Into Spring - Episode #26

Goodbye Disk, Hello World

There are a few App Marketplaces worth mentioning including the Salesforce AppExchange, the Google App Marketplace, and even the Apple Apps Store that are changing the game for software sales and distribution.
Goodbye Disk, Hello World

App Marketplaces make it easy to install and deploy applications from the cloud.

As we often talk about on the CloudFocus Weekly podcast

App Marketplaces are taking over as distribution channels for applications. Think about the last time that you bought a software application on a disk and installed it on your computer. The last time I did that was with Microsoft Office, go figure it was a product out of Redmond. Aside from the dinosaur Office Suite I can't think of a time I needed anything but an internet connection and a license key to get started with an application. Of course I am not a "creative type" so I don't use high-end editing software but in reality not many other people do either, this is a select niche of users who need very focused applications. In the business world today many applications are productivity apps or communication apps which are used more broadly and by most any knowledge worker. In the world of cloud computing these apps are installed with clicks via an app marketplace as opposed to in the client server days when software was shipped to IT shops to be installed on servers and deployed across enterprise architectures.

 

Apps Delivered in a Click

 

iTunes changed the way that music and entertainment is distributed to consumers. Like iTunes, App Marketplaces have changed the way consumers browse, test drive, and ultimately purchase software. The key here is that the App Marketplace is a fully integrated environment where going from the purchase phase to the deployment phase is generally as easy as clicking a few buttons and following a configuration guide. Scalable applications being delivered on an integrated and secure platform makes for game changing results. In the old world of Client Server computing an IT department would have to build out massive environments to test out new applications for integration, security, and scalability. Once an environment was built out they would configure the application for a use case or two all in a sandbox. Think about the time that was burned building out this environment just to throw it all away once they want to move the application to production. With App Marketplaces IT shops can click a few links to install apps into their cloud environments and deploy in a much more rapid fashion resulting in much better time to market and ROI. Not to say that you wouldn't want to install and test the new app in a sandbox but all the work you do is not wasted since it's the same version of the App that you would eventually install in your production environment therefore you can just push it over when it's configured and you are ready to roll.

 

Wisdom of the Crowds

 

Another secret sauce that App Marketplaces have borrowed from the consumer web is Ratings and Reviews. Much like Amazon.com

uses customer ratings and reviews to help other customer's make informed decisions, so do the App Marketplaces for cloud apps. Just use intuitive searching tools to look for the type of application you need and read about what other customer's experiences have been like. If you read that an application has a bad rating and has a few bad reviews you are likely to skip over that one and go to the next one - a really easy way to get to the best option for you. You like what you read and a few clicks later you are off and running with a test drive. A real-time playground for you to see what the functionality of the application is like with your own two eyes all without having to stand-up a server and test integration capabilities.

 

Risks and Rewards

 

Thusfar I have taken the very positive view that the App Marketplace is a revolutionary new way to distribute and install software (or services). In reality there are some risks that should be considered whenever you are looking to use a service from one of the aforementioned marketplaces. For example, if you have very stringent security requirements and have already vetted Salesforce.com for example as a platform for use by your company then using an AppExchange product that keeps all of your data within the Force.com

platform is absolutely fine, but, if the application you are installing is sending data to their own server farm then you must consider the security ramifications of having your data flow to a service that you haven't yet given the stamp of approval to. It's all about how you weigh out the risk and reward, the reward is obviously faster implementation and integration, the risks are data security and potential of using a service that isn't up to snuff with your standards. Always be aware of where your data is residing and make sure that it meets your documented standards.

 

If you want to discuss App Marketplaces with me further feel free to comment on this post on our Facebook Page or tweet me at www.twitter.com/justedelstein.  

 

2011 Cloud Predictions - Episode #25 of CloudFocus Weekly

A bunch of 2011 predictions blog posts, the new Salesforce.com Community, Google Apps marketplace billing API, BPOS goes bump in the night and our picks of the week.
2011 Cloud Predictions - Episode #25 of CloudFocus Weekly

2011 Cloud Predictions - Episode #25

Holiday Spirits - Episode #24 of CloudFocus Weekly

Giving with cloud technology, new Salesforce.com help and purchase of Etact. Apple & Google TV and the App Marketplace, picks of the week.
Holiday Spirits - Episode #24 of CloudFocus Weekly

Holiday Spirits - Episode #24

Cloud Companies Making Giving Back as Easy as Their Technology

Read how Google and Salesforce.com made giving back easy during this holiday season and why companies should follow suit.
Cloud Companies Making Giving Back as Easy as Their Technology

How easy it can be!

    Throughout my life I have always tried to find time to give back to the community. Since I have dedicated my career to efficiency, it always bothered me that most of the charities I donated my time to were inefficient. There always seemed to be wasted time on process and procedures that could of been spent on actually making a difference. In the last month however I got participate in two really forward thinking organizations and how they made giving back easy and efficient.

    Dreamforce '10 - Stop Hunger Now

    Most people involved with Salesforce.com know about Marc Beniof's 1/1/1 corporate philanthropy model and how Salesforce.com is very focused on giving back to the community. For the newbies, Salesforce.com gives 1% of their product, 1% of their time and 1% of their equity to qualified 501(c)3 organizations and NGO's with their own foundation. As part of their corporate DNA they dedicate a large portion of Dreamforce to promoting and evangelizing philanthropy. This year the Dreamforce '10 organizers brought the charitable activities into the conference by placing stations inside the Moscone Center. One of stations to donate time was Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief organization that coordinates the distribution of food and other life-saving aid around the world. In the limited time I participated, I was able to make about 40 meals to be distributed to needy people around the world. It was an amazing experience and took all of one minute to learn what I needed to do and get going. In just twenty minutes, I felt I made a difference.

    Google Chrome for a Cause Extension

    Google launched an extension last week to help raise money and awareness in addition to promoting their browser. During last week, for each tab you opened in Google Chrome a donation would be made to a charity. At the end of the day, you could allocate which charities you wanted your "tabbed" donation to fund. Google raised over one million dollars in this effort and promoted charities around the world. Making a difference with a click of a mouse, what a great concept.

    Future of Philanthropy

    Both Salesforce.com and Google have set a standard as to how all companies could run their philanthropic efforts. Could you imagine what could be done for causes if all companies adopted these models? I hope exisiting organizations take notice how these programs made it so easy for people to participate and promote. I know everything can't be as simple as clicking a mouse but if organizations spent some time on how to make their process simple, I think it would go a long way.

    Happy Holidays! 

 

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