SXSW 2010: Customer Support in a 140 Character World

Monday, March 15, 2010 5:00pm
Caroline McCarthy, CNET News/CBS Interactive
Frank Eliason, Comcast
Lois Townsend, HP
Toby Richards, Microsoft
Jeremiah Owyang, Altimeter Group

Session Description

Gone are the days of traditional customer support. In a world of Twitter, Facebook, and customer complaint sites like GetSatisfaction, customers are now jumping online to vent and publicize their customer support issues. But does it work for everyone and can complex customer service issues really be resolved within a 140 word limit? This panel of experienced customer support experts, analysts and vendors, will discuss the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to social media centric customer support. Recent snafus and success stories will be highlighted, along with a unique insider perspective of the internal business and operational requirements that companies must keep in mind when going online. This panel is sponsored by HP.

Discussion

Social Media is a place the customer owns. And thus, it becomes a place feasible to gather customer feedback. The question becomes is what should businesses do with the feedback? Twitter seems, in most businesses, to be a way to connect with the customer but not converse with the customer.

  • HP has 11 people dedicated, and about 75 actively supporting customers in social media.
  • Comcast reviews over 2000 tweets per day.
  • Microsoft supports about 1200 customers per month online through 6 people.

Basically what you say online hurts their company image, and they’ll respond. But a phone call? Ha! (read the past blog post, and you’ll see why that’s bad).

More Information

#140customersupport OR #140cs
ClaraBridge (Microsoft uses this)
Blue Ocean (Microsoft uses this)

SXSW 2010: AI 2010: Wall-e Or Rise Of The Machines?

Monday, March 15, 2010 3:30pm
Mason Hale, OneSpot
Doug Lenat, Cycorp
Bart Selman, Cornell University
Natasha Vita-More, H+ Lab
Peter Stone, UT Austin

Session Description

Computers have come a long way since green screens; they have evolved into complex creatures. This panel explores artificial intelligence, from advanced cooking robots to algorithms that learn your musical preferences. Do we control AI or does it control us? Are we headed towards cute trash collectors or deadly terminators?

Discussion

Today AI is still limited to logical questioning and answering. By 2015 it’s estimated that question answering, semantic search, and syntatic search will all be possible. By 2020 there will be a “cradle-to-grave” mental prosthesis. These both assuming AI-learning will become more prevalent giving AI greater potential.

The goal of AI is to create robust, fully autonomous agents in the real world. Well, how can we do this?

  • Build complete solutions to relevant challenge tasks Complete agents: sense, decide, and act – closed loop Challenge tasks: specific, concrete objectives
  • Drives research on componenet algorithms theory: improve from experience (machine learning), interact with other agents (multiagent systems)
  • A top-down, empathetical approach

What happens when we achieve this goal?

  • Utopia view? (Like the Jetsons)
  • Or not? (like Terminator)

Question: would you rather live 50 years ago, or 50 years in the future? It’s not really clear since the world is changing in many ways for the worse.

Complex Issues

  • Enhancement
  • Normality: What do we consider to be normal, and what will be considered normal in the future?
  • Behavior: What type of biology or behavior will they have to communicate with humans?

AI metabrain: The concept of AI being placed in human brains to make “super-humans” and allow us to naturally interface with devices or with each other differently.

AAAI Presidential Panel on Long-Term AI Futures

More Information

#ai2010

SXSW 2010: Gary Vaynerchuk Presentation

Monday, March 15, 2010 12:30am
Gary Vaynerchuk, Vaynermedia

Discussion

“No matter your profession what’s going to happen is we all have one thing in common. You better listen, because it’s coming hard and it’s coming fast. We’ll all soon be doing Customer Support/Relations.”

You can have a really great product, but if you don’t care about the consumer, then it doesn’t matter. Now a days no one even cares. That’s why when companies, like Zappos, even care then you love it.

Most people want twitter followers so they can spam them, and hit them up with advertisements.

“Everybody is trying to be a 19 year old dude. Everyone is just trying to close too fast, give it some time!”

We love our parents because they loved us first. And we really need companies to love us too, otherwise we’ll never love them back. People have awesome “bull shit” detectors and people need to start caring or they’re going to loose.

We need the “Thank you Economy.” You need to do good first, because someone else is going to do it first and then it will not be you.

More Information

#garyvaynerchuk
Gary’s book “Crush It!” on Amazon

SXSW 2010: Web Accessibility Gone Wild

Monday, March 15, 2010 11:00am
Jared Smith, WebAIM

Session Description

This session presents a wide variety of mistakes, blunders, misconceptions, over-indulgences, intricacies, and generally silly aspects of modern web accessibility. Sometimes the most serious errors are made by well-meaning developers who misunderstand the concepts or take their limited accessibility knowledge to an extreme level – thus web accessibility gone wild.

Discussion

“Mistakes, misconceptions, over-indulgences, minutia, and generally silly aspects of modern web accessibility” …or “how to Fail at web accessibility”

The mythical “accessible” web site does not exist. Accessibility is a continuum with many different paths.

Web accessibility is about more than just blindness. We need to think beyond blindness and visual disabilities and look into the cognitive areas which include many more people than those with visual impairments.

Accessible sites don’t need to be ugly. You want a really good experience still, and that’s possible. For people with disabilities the web is a godsend since it allows people with disabilities to access things they normally wouldn’t. Most areas of accessibility calls for larger fonts, contrasting colors, etc. which help everyone and not just those with disabilities.

Web accessibility has a branding issue, and it has devolved into specifications, checklists, and techniques. People run through a checklist of what they think is accessible, and just leave it at that. Web Accessibility is a continium and needs to be addressed again and again.

Compliance does not necessarily make your website accessible. Use guidelines as tools (and only tools) to achieve accessibility. So, your site can be fully compliant, yet totally inaccessible. Your site can also be fully compliant and technically accessible, yet functionally inaccessible.

Can you have too much accessibility? Yes! Web accessibility can and should happen naturally.

Accessibility implemented partially or incorrectly can be worse than no accessibility at all. Basically you need to build one version of a web site that is fully accessible. If there is a page you cannot make accessible then you’ll need to write alternative text to it.

Alternative Text

This is probably the most difficult aspect of Web Accessibility. You cannot define in a spec what equivilant

Alternative text for images should contain Content and Function. If you have a photo of yourself, you should probably have the “alt” tag set as your name, or “Photo of [your name].” If you have a graphical bullet, then don’t make it alt=”bullet,” that’s just bad all over. Also, having “image of…” or “graphic of…” in alt text is bad. It just becomes redundant, and you don’t want redundancy. However, if it’s an Illustration or a Photo then perhaps “Photo of…” or “Illustration of…” could be appropriate. But this is not necessary everywhere.

Do focus on content and functionality. “I don’t want to miss out on any content” vs. “I’m listening to the page at 400 words per minute in a robotic voice and I don’t want to miss out on any content.”

I’mages that are the only thing within a link, then this must have alt text. Otherwise the screen-reader wont know how to read off what the link goes to. In most cases if an alt tag is missing, it will read off the file of the image, or the URL it goes to. Avoid redundant text in cases where you have an alt tag assigned, but next to the image is the same exact text. It’s perfectly accessible to make the alt tag of an image blank in this case.

Captcha for spam prevention will not be accessible for people unless there is an audio version. And if someone is both deaf and blind then neither of these visual or audio preventions will work.

Accesskey and Tabindex is usually fail unless you’re sure you know what you’re doing. Learn the power of tabindex=”0″ and tabindex=”-1″.

  • tabindex=”1+”: Specifies exact tab order. Ensure tab order is complete, logical, and intuitive. Rarely needed.
  • tabindex=”0″: Places element in the default tab order.
  • tabindex=”-1″: Do not place element in tab order, but allow the element to programmatically receive focus.

Tabindex, focus(), and Aria to the rescue! Aria stands for “accessible rich internet applications.” Accessibility will greatly be built into HTML5.

  • Gives or enhances semantics of non-semantic or other-semantic elements
  • Landmark roles – define major functional areas of your page (search, navigation, main, etc.)
  • Enhances keyboard accessibility for widgets and controls
  • Ensures accessibility of dynamically updated content

Visually hiding content

  • Display:none and visibility:hidden hide from everyone… and that’s a good thing.
  • Absolute position off-screen left with CSS for screen readers
  • Use judiciously

The native accessibility (and usability) of your site is typically inversely proportional to the volume of …___

Make sure to skip to the main content links. Until browsers provide better keyboard navigation for sighted users. You can position them off-screen if you must, but make them clearly visible on :focus. One “skip” link is typically sufficient.

Do not removing focus indicators from links with the CSS attribute outline:0. CNN.com uses this, so when you tab through links you have no idea where you are. That’s a bad CNN, bad!

Bullet-proof web design is good. It’s a way for a designer to understand that they do not have control over what the website looks like to the end user. For example, if someone increases the font size then it shouldn’t make the website look crazy with the design.

Avoid links which say, “click here” as they lack description.

Headings; h1, h2, etc.; are great as screen readers (such as Jaws 10) will navigate you to these as “content” chunks. Lists are also very useful for navigation in design, and very very important in accessibility.

Odds and Ends

  • Test in a screen reader. NVDA is an open-source and free
  • Provide accurate, descriptive, succinct page titles
  • Don’t stress over screen reader pronunciation and quirks.
  • Expand first instance of acronyms and abbreviations. You don’t have to use <acronym>/<abbr> on all instances. Don’t use for well known terms.
  • Use <fieldset> and <legend> for groups of radio buttons and checkboxes.
  • Layout tables don’t (typically) affect accessibility.

More Information

#webaccessgonewild
@jared_w_smith
Wave: Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool

SXSW 2010: Managing Your Content Management System

Monday, March 15, 2010 9:30am
Alex Will, Spoonfed Media
Henry Erskine Crum, Spoonfed Media

Session Description

An effective content management system is a must for any content-based web service. This technical session will discuss elements of designing and building a custom CMS that leverages technology and existing web data from sources such as Flickr and Wikipedia to automate research and increase time spent writing original content.

Discussion

Key takaways of this panel

  • Most important factors when making a decision about a CMS: contentext of your content business and process of content protection.
  • Tools to evaluate what CMS you need for your business.
  • “A computer based system that allows one or more people to manage the online publication, storage and display of content.”

Content is generated from all different means. It can be from twitter, youtube, flickr, etc. But what they’re going to talk about today is the editorial content of the primary page.

The Production Process (of writing content)

  • Data Collection: The raw event data before you start writing the editorial
  • Work Flow Management: How you assign tasks to divide up the editorial parts into logical chunks
  • Research: Look to sources on the internet for further information or clarify information they may already know
  • Write
  • Review
  • Publish: At this point you also consider SEO or linking into Social Media to maximize what you get as far as viewers

Content Production in Events (from Spoonfed’s view)

  • Events are a moving target with a finite shelf-life
  • Incentive structure for UGC in events is small
  • Opinionated content for target market

Business Objective (from Spoonfed’s view)

  • Develop a way of publishing copyright event listings in an efficient and scalable way

Why Spoonfed choose a Custom CMS

What didn’t matter

  • Amount of data
  • Size of web site
  • Complexity of idea

What did matter

  • Data aggregation from multiple sources
  • Work flow management between editors
  • Reducing research time per event: having all data for the event on the same edit page
  • Search Engine Optimization: the editors need to know how to efficiently do this
  • Lead generation and contact management

Getting the Raw Data

  • Automate and aggregate non-editorial elements
  • Create different processes for different parts of the information
  • Dealing with issues of quality and duplication
  • Example: deciding what news stories to write real-time

Workflow Management

  • Dividing tasks, vertically segmenting, prioritizing and assigning responsibility
  • Incorporate automated steps into the workflow process
  • Reduce or remove the time that is spent by humans prioritizing the information

Reducing Research Time: the golden ratio

  • Give editors research esources without leaving the page: Wikipedia, Flickr, Twitter and Google News
  • Rise of real-time news as part of this process increases relevancy and quality
  • Re-purposing data

Talking about SEO

  • Tools to aid editors in the production of content for SEO; such as Keyword research
  • Suggested Inlinking
  • Major benefits if you’re not using off-the-shelf systems

Contacts, Relationship Building and Lead Generation

  • Linked to prioritization – manage the most important information first
  • Store and prioritize contacts that can be converted into leads
  • Automatically alert contacts when you create content they’d be interested in

Things we are thinking about in the Future

  • Prioritizing content pages for individual editors; such as Leveraging trend data
  • Analytics: value of historical data within CMS; such as what worked on the site and how to leverage in the CMS for the future

Don’t Forget

  • Every circumstance is different – think about tradeoffs
  • Launch and iterate mentality is key
  • Don’t expect to get it 100% first time; Editorial team is essential for further efficiency gains.

Reflect: Why custom CMS was right in this case

  • Solve problem of producing huge amounts of content efficiently
  • Analyze and innovate on improving every step of production process
  • Competitive advantage: size of editorial team, SEO, scalability

Questions and Answers

How many man-hours did it take for you to complete this development?
Their second version took about 7 months to get the main CMS out, and another 4 months of tweaks. It is written in Rails.

Do you have user themed content?
They use “tags” and you can create your own “entity magazine” on which tags you want displayed.

Can you talk about the visual about where does the feed come vs. where you’re actually writing?
One is a calendar and workflow, divided up how the editor wants it. Then you have the area in which you write, with an area where data is pulled in from Wikipedia and Flick allowing you to drag and drop into your own content (all within on the same page).

Do you retain a developer, or more than one? And if so, do you analyze ever where the expense of doing it yourself may financially surpass what it’s worth?
Yes. We’ve found now there is about one developer’s needs half a year for typical maintenance.

How much is your content found typically? Via clicking through articles, or searching on your website?
Articles, social media, and a large amount of traffic through search. They focus on whenever someone searches for sometime they’ve documented then it’s found.

More Information

#contentmgmtsystem