Author Archive for: cbassin

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CEO Blog: Cognitive Computing, Natural Language & AI: Game Changers

Most analysts agree that the next big thing in IT involves Natural Language Processing (NLP), semantic search. It’s a big thing because it will allow non-subject matter experts obtain answers to questions using only natural language to pose their queries.

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CEO Blog: Putting the ‘Cognitive’ in Cognitive Computing: NLQ

‘Cognitive’ is everywhere these days. IBM Watson is pushing the concepts of Cognitive Computing from cancer research to cooking recipes. VPAs (virtual personal assistants) are gaining acceptance and adoption. Just look at the explosion behind Amazon’s Alexa. Every technology show I attend has a few vendors now showing their Alexa interface and sometimes it even works. We’re all talking at boxes and we expect those boxes to understand. iPhones, Androids, PlayStations, TV remotes, HeySiri, OKGoogle, etc.

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You’re Betting Your eCommerce Business on . . . SOLR ??!!

What’s behind your eCommerce search box? You’re not going to like the answer

As an eRetailer, one of the most critical functions on your website is your search box.  This is where your shoppers go to find things they want to buy.  The truth is that, deep down; you know it just doesn’t work very well.  Most eRetailers think that “search” is just “search” and that all search tools are just about the same.  They expect that their search has some navigation, basic spell correction, and maybe type-ahead.  If that’s all search offers, then what’s the difference, really? Read More

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It’s elementary Watson . . . it’s all about Siri!

Without trying to be too dramatic here, everything has now changed.  The world has shifted.  We are in the midst of a technology paradigm shift.  Thank you, Siri.

Here’s the how and the why of it.  As CEO of EasyAsk, I’m certainly attentive to my company’s needs.  I have to confess, I’m one of those guys who checks on my business at the traffic light.  Yes, I know.  I’m sorry.  But, as one of those guys, I’ve also seen plenty of others driving down the road, weaving across the lanes, and working their smartphones while driving – an accident waiting to happen.

Siri fixes all of that.  Yes, there have been dictation products on the market for awhile, allowing you to press a button, dictate your text or email, send and done.   But what Siri can do goes beyond what you have seen on a smartphone before – it understands the intent of the question.  Why?  Because there’s a Natural Language engine embedded within Siri.

We all cheered when IBM Watson won on Jeopardy!  And we might see what Watson can do when applied to large problems like healthcare.  But Watson ran on a network of computers that could run the Starship Enterprise.  Siri sits in the very palm of your hand using the multitude of services available on the Internet.  Siri will be in the hands of a hundred million consumers.  Watson will cost a hundred million dollars.  Okay, maybe not that much, but you get my drift.

Back to the paradigm shift concept – With Apple Siri on every iPhone or iPad and eventually on your computers, EVERYONE will reap the benefits of voice recognition on top of natural language.  It will become the standard way we all communicate with our computers, tablets, smartphones, and more – interactively, intelligently, naturally.  Ask your question EXACTLY as you would to a live human being and you’ll get what you asked for.  This is the advantage of natural language.  THIS is the paradigm shift.

But how does this apply to the business world?  That’s where EasyAsk steps in. 

Want your customers to find products faster and easier?  Give them a better shopping experience no matter where they search from – iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, Android, etc.  Allow them to ask for exactly what they want, ‘Ladies blue blouses under $50’.  Magically, blue blouses start appearing. EasyAsk gives your e-commerce site that, and so much more.

Now take it one step farther.  Apply this concept to your business..  You are walking into an investor meeting and want the latest sales figures.  Push a button on your smartphone and ask, ‘What was closed revenue versus forecast last month’? EasyAsk displays both the actual and forecasted sales figures!  You’ve got the answer and your investors know you are on top of things.  Now you’re talkin’! (Pun intended). 

We’ve now taken real business productivity and made it ubiquitous.  You can find the right information faster via the same natural language interface on your smartphone and your computer.  We’re interactive, we’re intelligent and it’s all natural.  Paradigm shift indeed.  Give us a call or send us a note.  We’ll help you get it done, naturally.

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Oracle Buys Endeca – Another E-Commerce Software Company to Vanish?

Endeca goes to Oracle. Now that is big news. I’ve read nine articles analyzing the acquisition and they all paint the same picture: good news for Oracle’s BI solutions; an enhanced Oracle BI architecture with Endeca’s ability to integrate unstructured data; new functionality for Oracle BI in analyzing data from Hadoop.

The consensus is clear: the Endeca acquisition was driven by the need for Oracle to expand its BI solutions and have more offerings to sell to existing Oracle customers.

But does anyone remember when Endeca was an e-commerce search company? What about that segment of their customer base? What should Endeca e-commerce customers expect?

The acquisition news is fresh, so there is little solid information beyond a few comments expecting an integration of Endeca’s search and merchandizing with Oracle’s ATG platform. Does this imply that ATG will become the primary, or even only e-commerce platform which Endeca supports? Where does this leave customers using Endeca with other e-commerce platforms (WebSphere, Magento, others)? With all the focus on the BI aspect of this announcement, I’m not sure anyone knows the answer. . . yet!

What I can tell you is this – Endeca e-commerce customers should not be surprised if they’re treated as second-class citizens. A recent study by Computer Economics found that “42% of Oracle (ORCL) customers are dissatisfied with the quality of Oracle’s support while 58% are dissatisfied with the cost of the support.” And that was for traditional Oracle customers! What about Endeca customers coming into the fold? What about Endeca SaaS customers? Who knows?

What I can tell you for certain is that EasyAsk believes in customer satisfaction. Or as Ford Motors used to say it is ‘JOB 1’. Since we spun EasyAsk from Progress Software back in ’09, we’ve made sure our ALL our customers know how important they are to us and how committed we are to making them successful.

Providing the very best search and merchandizing technology is what EasyAsk is all about. We can deploy in a fraction of the time it takes for a traditional Endeca site and typically ¼ the costs.

Our natural language based search provides dramatically better results, while our merchandizing tools are so intuitive and easy to use you can return control of your e-commerce merchandizing to the experts – your merchandizers.

This is why NetSuite, Magento and Infor were excited to partner with EasyAsk. We provide IBM Watson-like natural language functionality that is intuitive and optimized for customers and end users. With EasyAsk powering you search, when a visitor searches for a product they get the right result the first time, every time.

Congratulations to Endeca on their sale to Oracle. I’m sure they knocked it out of the park. Congratulations to Endeca’s investors and to their employees.

For Endeca’s e-commerce customers however, this might be a different story. If you are looking for best of breed search technology, remember that EasyAsk is here for you too.

Thanks for listening,
Craig

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Steve Jobs – We Have Lost a Giant

I heard the sad news an hour ago.  Steve Jobs passed away.  My reaction was immediate.  Loss.  Steve envisioned everything I love in our technology world.  He was brilliant.  He was fearless.  He had the courage of his convictions.  He took on the world and made no apologies. 

Think about it for a minute.  Apple competed with EVERYONE !  They competed with all the PC manufacturers back in the ‘80’s.  They competed with the largest software company in the world, Microsoft.  They competed with IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell . . EVERY hardware manufacturer, almost every software company. 

APPLE did it their way, Steve’s way.  He had a vision and he never let go of it.  I loved (and bought) everything Apple ever built . . .  well, except for the Newton.  OK, no one’s perfect.  Good idea and they got it right decades later with the IPAD. 

I’ll never forget the 1984 ad introducing the Macintosh, (directed by Ridley Scott) that ran during the Super Bowl.  You could have knocked me over with a feather at the conclusion of that ad.  And it never ran again.  Are you kidding me?!

Who had the moxie, the chutzpah, the pure audacity to take on IBM like that?  One shot, but unforgettable.  Brilliant.

And, years later, after building Apple Computer into a $2 billion company, . . .  they fired him.  Maybe one of the most successful marketing moves since New Coke.  No, really.  New Coke was fabulously successful.  Not for the product, but for stimulating an unprecedented demand for Classic Coke.  The net effect was to propel Coca Cola back into first place vs. Pepsi.  Steve said his firing was one of the best things that could have happened to him.  Off he went to start NeXT Computer, then in his spare time, spun off the Graphics Group from Lucasfilm, creating Pixar.

Pixar !  What Steve had done for the PC world, he now did for the world of animation.  Toy Story, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, Wall-E and many more.  26 Academy Awards,  7 Golden Globes, 3 Emmys.  He later sold it to Disney for a lousy $7.4 billion, becoming the largest single stockholder at Disney.  Astounding.

NeXT was, of course, acquired by Apple in 1997.  Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?  Steve rejoined the company and served as CEO from 1997 until a few months ago. 

Steve Jobs, thank you for my iPhone, my iPad, my Macintosh(s).  Thanks for iTunes, iBooks.  Thanks for defining ‘intuitive’ and building it into every Apple product.  Thank you for your commencement speech at Stanford, 2005.  If you haven’t had a chance to read the speech here is a link to it.

I sent this to everyone here at EasyAsk and to my 3 young adult children.  I’d strongly recommend you set aside a few minutes of your time.  It will touch your soul.

Most of all, thank you for being one hell of a role model as visionary, leader and CEO. 

And thank YOU for taking the time to read this. 

The world has lost a giant . . .

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You’re Paying Endeca How Much?!

Endeca customers … when is the last time you looked at how much you are paying Endeca annually?

You might want to take a second look at that.  While it might have looked like the right decision at the time, you’re now drowning in the annual maintenance costs.  And for what?  A search box that really doesn’t work very well.  In fact, it’s hardly functional.  Frustrated visitors who leave your site because they could not find what they wanted?

EasyAsk has a radically new idea!  A search box that actually WORKS!  Plus you will have rich, easy to use analytics and tools that allow your team to tune your search faster and easier than you ever dreamed.  Add to that, we’ve have all the navigation and merchandizing features you’d ever want or need.

Most importantly, your shoppers can find what they want THE VERY FIRST TIME.  If they can find it quickly, they’ll probably buy it.  That’s called customer conversion and no one does it better than us.  Imagine giving your customers the ability to search for ‘ladies blue blouses under $50‘ and immediately delivering the exact product(s).  Try that with Endeca.  Good luck. 

We’ll bring you all the advantages of IBM/Watson to your e-commerce site, but we’ll deliver it NOW and we can get your site up and running in a couple of weeks.  Best of all, we can provide all the benefits that EasyAsk has to offer in an on-premise model or hosted SaaS from one company, with the very best search technology in the industry.

Switch to EasyAsk and you will get superior e-commerce search functionality and your annual Total Cost of Ownership will go down dramatically.  Best of all, you customer conversion rates will go up.  We guarantee it.

Give us a call or feel free to send me an email.  I’m craig@easyask.com.  We’ll dramatically cut your costs and increase your bottom line profits. 

Thanks for listening.  Craig

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Sherlock, IBM, EasyAsk and Bell

Watson, come here, I need you. (to be clear, Mr. is at the beginning of this quote) Famous phrase uttered by Alexander Graham Bell, the voice-over-wire transmission. 

Elementary, my dear Watson.  A famous Sherlock Holmes line, never written by Arthur Conan Doyle, by the way.  Straight out of the movies.

So, Watson has always been widely recognized.  But now Watson is EVERYWHERE , and with good reason.  We congratulate IBM for their impressive (and expensive) accomplishments in building a Natural Language solution designed to win at Jeopardy.  We understand the enormity of the challenge.  After all, we’ve been building Natural Language solutions for Ecommerce and Business Solutions for a decade. 

What IBM Watson did for Jeopardy, we do for you, our customers.  If you’re an EasyAsk ecommerce customer, we put the search results on the very first page.  Every time.  If you’re using EasyAsk for Business, we provide your end users instant answers to their complex questions like:  ‘who bought products last year, but not last quarter?’ 

 So we can be your own company ‘Watson’, except for one thing.  Watson got a few questions wrong.  When we deploy our solutions on your site:

. . .  we won’t put your business in jeopardy.

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The time has come to talk of Natural Language

‘The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things . . . ‘

But instead of ‘shoes and ships and sealing wax’, let’s talk about something that is new, different and exciting:  the emergence of Natural Language as the next logical step in the evolution of search and business intelligence.

When you think of search, you probably think first of Google, and with good reason.  They’ve done a masterful job of establishing themselves as the pre-eminent force in the field of ‘search’.  Google taught us all how to search.  But, the problem is, they taught us all how to search . . .  WRONG. 

With Google you don’t search for exactly what you want.  You search for ‘kind of what you want’ and hope that what you’re really looking for will be on the first few pages of the 10,000 they return.

‘The time has come . . . ‘ to talk about NLP – Natural Language Processing and how computers can now understand, not only the content, but also the INTENT of what it is that you are looking for. 

Our mission, at EasyAsk, has been to expand beyond the traditional ‘key word’ search bottleneck and provide the next generation of NLP-based search for both ecommerce search and merchandising, and business intelligence solutions.  We’re proud to claim a leadership role in helping advance both the adoption and functionality of Natural Language search. 

EasyAsk powers the ecommerce search within the GAP, Lands End and others on the high end, Shuler Shoes, Travers Tools and others in the SMB space. Our partnership with NetSuite provides EasyAsk solutions to their SMB/SaaS markets. 

We now, proudly welcome both IBM and Microsoft to our side of the table.

As I’m sure you know Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, is also an NLP-based solution.  I, like many of you, use Google, but also use Bing.  The results are different.  In my experience Bing understands my ‘intent’ and provides a more accurate response to my question.  It should.  It’s a pretty good NLP engine that crawls the web. 

Now we are watching the launch of IBM’s Watson project.  The Jeopardy challenge is an excellent test of what an NLP-based solution can do when the right resources are applied.  We applaud IBM for this incredibly, successful project and for furthering the cause for NLP-based computing.

But how does this impact you?  You’re in business.  Maybe you’re a small business looking for an accurate ecommerce solution.  You have lots of choices.  All of the search engines you’ll look at are pretty good.  Almost all of them are ‘key word’ based, some provide navigation.  Only one provides an NLP-based engine that will give your customers the item they are searching for on the very first page, every time.  Only one allows you to search for products ‘less than $50’, for example. 

Only one leads the industry in converting browsers to buyers.  EasyAsk.

Maybe you’re part of a larger company and just can’t find answers to the questions you’d like to ask of your Business Intelligence solution.  Frustrating.  Especially after a team of engineers labored for months, spent millions of dollars trying to build the right BI solution.   Possibly you’re one of the thousands of business users desperately trying to get analysis and reports out of your CRM system so you know what marketing campaigns are driving closed deals, what your sales pipeline looks like and which customers are ready for renewal, but have outstanding support issues…

Now imagine similar NLP technology that powered IBM’s Watson, optimized for your corporate information.  Watson was able to compete and win at Jeopardy because it understood the questions.  You communicate to Watson exactly the way you’d speak to another person. 

With EasyAsk Business Edition, you ask questions of EasyAsk exactly the way you’d ask of your VP Sales or your CFO.  For example: ‘show me customers who bought products last year, but not last quarter’.  It’s easy, just ask.  EasyAsk.

So, we welcome both IBM and Microsoft to the next step in the evolution of search.  It’s just a better way to search.  But . . . and I just can’t resist this . . . we were here first!

Next time, let’s discuss the perfect front end for CRM!  Thanks for listening.

Craig

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