Bad Automation – It’s Here

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Automation is Here

Go to a movie theater,  an airport, or an amusement park and you will experience more interaction with machines and less with human beings.    This may on the surface seem like a good thing but in terms of personal cost and experience, I believe it is harmful to customer experience and limits our ability to make choices.

Do you push or say “operator” when you are calling a company?

Most people when asked dislike dealing with machines vs talking to a human being. See http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/6-tips-to-reach-a-human-operator.html.   Nigel Clark even created a consumer business around this concept called http://www.pleasepress1.com.

Companies continue to use these services because most customers simply deal with it.

  1. The overall costs are lower or seem to be lower in the short run.
  2. The percentage of customers that get frustrated and leave may find that they have no place to go because many companies have gone to robotic services.
  3. Machine services are getting better and some people today may not even realize they are speaking to a machine.

From the business side of things, it makes sense and it makes the “board” happy to see operating costs decrease.  From the consumer side,  I argue that good customer experience is decreasing over time and that consumers are simply getting used to being treated like this.   Consider what you do in your life and how you deal with these situations.

From here,  I will just provide a few short examples of why automation at this time is bad for consumers and customer experience.

Air Travel

Airline companies have pushed customer experience to the brink.  They have pushed people so far emotionally and economically that they don’t want to fly.   When I was a child, my father would take me to the airport to watch the planes take off.   We would see people get dressed up to fly.  It wasn’t a bus service it was an experience .   When we did fly, it was fun and felt like an adventure.   I recall people clapping when the plane landed.   The pilot was a person that you would admire.

Today,  flying is miserable.   Consumers must deal with micro-transactions, unfair practices and treatment of passengers, limited choices and being forced to be physically and emotionally uncomfortable through the travel process.  On top of all of this,  since our world is increasingly unsafe,  consumers are forced to deal with being dehumanized and embarrassed as they line up as cattle to be inspected as they seek to get to their gate.

Automation is all over the airlines

  1. While choosing an airline or flight, it is very likely that you are dealing with a machine.   This is very normal today and the reason it is bad for consumers is because we are presented with choices and there is no negotiation.
  2. Once a consumer makes a choice and locks in, micro-transactions can begin to take place and consumers now only have two options,  choose to continue or choose to discontinue the overall transaction.  If they choose to discontinue the overall transaction,  there may be a fee (most likely).
  3. Through the process of physically getting a ticket,  confirming a seat,  tagging baggage more recently weighing baggage, it is likely that a consumer deals with a machine vs a person.

Why is this a problem?

On recent travel,  I had a problem confirming my flight on the website and application.   When I called the airline, I had no person I could talk to and the machine just kept telling me that I had to solve my problem at the airport.  I spent a lot of time going back over my information to make sure, I didn’t miss anything.  I also kept going back to the website to continue trying just in case it was a technical issue or a timing issue.   After many attempts over time, I was able to resolve the problem but I am not sure how.  I just kept trying.

When I got to the airport,  there were several lines but I couldn’t tell if I needed to get in line or not because I had already confirmed and simply needed to drop off a bag.   Asking another passenger a question is the natural thing to do because maybe they know something I don’t.   Of course they don’t know, they are just guessing like the rest of us.  So,  I took a chance and went to the short line where they receive baggage.  Luckily, there was a person there and she took my bag.   Other passengers noticed my “airline courage” and followed over to the short line.    When the person took my bag and placed it on the scale she said “It is 2 kilograms over, please be sure to take something out on your way home, I will let you through now.”

I was thankful that she took the bag and didn’t make me open it or pay $300.00 more for 4 extra pounds.   Here is the reason why she told me to be careful on the way home.

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On the way home, there are no people only machines.   We are to tag and bag our own baggage and if it weighs more,  you pay.  There is no negotiation and no discussion only 0 or 1.

As a side note,  over 90% of the trip home including security was automated.  There were only 2-3 times that we interacted with a person.

I am not inclined to take a trip like this again as I felt like a unique id being fed through a physical manifestation of something digital.

 

Movies

There was a time that parents would hand kids a few bucks and drop them off at the movie theater.  The movies represented a lot of things, it was a way to get out for a little while and immerse yourself in a new world.  Maybe we would go on a date and share some popcorn or even take the whole family.

Today going to the movies is a whole production in itself.   The experience in the theater is one thing but the experience to get the tickets is a whole ordeal within itself.   We can use services like Fandango to buy tickets ahead of time.   Print the tickets or use an app.  While this seems convenient and practical it is very expensive.  An average trip to the movies for my family is over $75.00 between tickets, popcorn etc.   Automation has made things worse.

On a recent trip to the theater,  I decided I would go directly to theater with my family because it is likely that the theaters do not put special pricing on sites like Fandango.

“The availability of military and student discount tickets is controlled by each individual theater, not by Fandango. To see if any discounts are being offered for your theater for purchases made via Fandango, click on a red show time to begin the purchase process. All available ticket categories will be displayed on the subsequent page. Look for ticket categories labeled “military discount” and “student discount,” or similarly named categories which would indicate a specially priced ticket.

Please be aware that not all theaters make student and military discounts available through Fandango. Many theaters offer these discounts exclusively at their box office. We suggest that you check with your local theater for their military and student discount policy and availability. Individual theater phone numbers can be found by clicking on the corresponding blue theater name.” http://fandango.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/144/~/military/student-discounts

When I went to my local theater,  I had the expectation that a person would be at the window and that I could get the discounts that I had expected before.  What I found was a kiosk.

Ticket-Kiosks

When I walked up to the kiosk,  it said “Welcome Mr. Cohen, so happy to see you, Alexa told us you would be here and we tracked your vehicle and estimated your arrival, based on your previous movie choices, we believe that you, your children and your wife would like to see Spiderman.”   Just kidding, it didn’t say that but I tell you what it didn’t say “DISCOUNT.”   There were no discounted tickets and the kiosk itself has a service charge.  Technically,  you can pre-order popcorn or whatever else you want on there as well but choices are limited.

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Combine the “decoy effect” with automation and you have a perfect opportunity!

We always have the choice to stay home or pay the extra money,  what I am talking about is the experience.    I enjoy talking to the young kids at the counter that are working their first job.  I enjoy asking for other options.

Where else?

Home improvement stores,  Pharmacy (they hand you a paper and you may not even talk to a pharmacist any longer),  Doctors office,  grocery stores,  bowling alley, gas station, and work.   Automation and the reduction of people in the workforce is accelerating day by day.    Some of this is intelligent but most of it is not.    Consumers are constantly getting hit with less choice, no opportunities to negotiate or discuss, less opportunity to interact with human being and less opportunity to benefit from a transaction.

Most people are asked to agree to things electronically that are overwhelming thought automation as well.   People are so used to hitting electronic licensing agreements that they simply don’t read, they just say “yes.”   Recently,  22,000 people agreed to scoop poo and clean toilets for free wifi. Free Wifi.

Summary

Maybe this was a little long but I hope you realize that this impacts you and it is important to understand what is happening.    It will only get worse over time as we become more numb and tolerant to automation.

Recently a television commercial for a security system has a woman calling asking for help as someone just broke into her house, the machine answered and told her that she was in the wrong department.

Automation is here and it is advancing too quickly.   What happens when your mother receives a robocall from the lab diagnostic services.  “Hello, Mrs. Weaver,  we hope you are having a wonderful day, your lab results are in and they are x,y,z.  Your death is estimated in 5.35 weeks, 2 hours and 3 seconds.  If you have any questions about your results please contact our lab health center or find us on line at http://www.fastlabz.com.”

Consumers are being treated like unique identified targets vs customers.   Analytics is replacing the idea of individual interaction.  Customization is really about the presentation of limited options that are terminus as opposed to having room to move in directions that are not prepacked.   As more companies go down this road, consumer choice will actually continue to decrease over time.   This impacts work life and home life and it impacts the quality of an experience.

If you disagree please like this post, if you agree please like this post.

Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5% Comment on Hate and Bigotry

Do You Know What a 5 Percenter is?

I grew up in Co-op City located in the northeast section of The Bronx.   When I was a teenager I had a good friend named John who lived in the building next to mine.  John was a nice kid and  we had a lot of fun hanging out and running around our area which was called “Section 5.”    One day,  I was walking out of my building and I saw John from a distance,  I waved hello and he put his head down as if to avoid seeing me.   I started walking toward him and he ran into the building and disappeared.

A few weeks later something similar happened and John avoided me.   I couldn’t understand what I did or what was going on and I was confused.   I was walking past our shopping section and John was there hanging out with a bunch of other kids.   I waved and said, “Hello,” and he yelled back, “Devil.”    I thought he was joking around with me so I just yelled back at him and laughed it off.   That didn’t work out for me.    You see, John and his new friends ran down and cornered me.   He said “My name ain’t John … it is Justice and we aren’t friends.. Devil.”    I told him that I didn’t understand, we were friends growing up all these years in the same section.  We ran to Mr. Softee together and played in courts and..

Because I was his friend at some point,  he asked the other kids to let me go without beating me to a pulp.   I was lucky that day, but he told me to stay clear of him and know that he was a G-d and his friends would kill me if needed.

Lasting Memories of Pain

I was walking out of school through the backdoor and my friend Sean and a few other kids were walking out behind me.    I heard, “Hey, Devil! You know what you did to the slaves, Devil?”   It wasn’t long before a few kids turned into 12.   I was about 125 pounds soaking wet and carrying a back pack that was as heavy as me.   A few girls that I was close friends with saw what was going on and ran over to stop whatever was about to happen.    It was too late.   It started with words and one kid that was of Spanish decent started to charge me and circle me like a vulture.   They slapped my bag down and started shoving me.    I was scared, but at the same time, I knew that no matter what I did, this thing was going to happen.   I said, “I’m Jewish, I had nothing to do with slaves.  In fact, my people were slaves too.”   Sean looked at me with great sadness in his eyes and said, “I’m sorry.”  He didn’t hit me, but the fists where flying and all I could see was a mix of hands, light, dark, and … nothingness.    I think sometime during a beating like that,  you go into shock and pain stops.   Everything slows down and you are just living in the moment of trying to figure a way out of the situation or just survive.   The girls were screaming to get off of me, fighting back for me stopped after I realized that I couldn’t hit anyone.   There were just too many people hitting me.    I remember when it stopped and the girls walked up to me as I was laying on the ground trying to get up.   Remember, there were no cell phones, no pictures and no cameras outside, just me and a bunch of kids kicking my ass.    The girls got me to the bus stop and I took the bus home, I must have been in shock for a long time because I didn’t feel pain for a while.   When I got home, my mother took me to the hospital.   My tailbone was damaged and my back was pretty hurt.    The back pain and pain in my tailbone never went away 100%.   I have a reminder of their hate for me and the person they think I was every day.    They were indoctrinated Five Percenters and wore the symbols and changed their names too.    I don’t remember the name Sean took, I was just thankful that he didn’t hit me and sorry that he submitted to it.

The Scars

Growing up in NY,  people were pretty tolerant and generally most people respected each other.  The kids used excuses to hurt each other and hate just needed a reason.    My parents grew up in The Bronx and never did in my entire life did I hear anything negative about a type of people.   In fact,  I learned about hate from people sitting in lawn chairs lined up across the building as I would walk in.   People would call me over to talk and I would listen.  It was Holocaust survivors sitting with Cubans who escaped or WWII veterans and others.    It was black men and women just sitting in the chair enjoying the afternoon with others, willing to share a memory.    It wasn’t long into my teenage years that I started to experience hate against me, however it was the Navy that taught me how much I am hated as a Jew.    I dealt with religious people from different groups telling me how bad I am and how evil the Jewish people are.   I had my sheets cut up and swastikas drawn on them.    The assumption that I have a tail and horns was something that people believed and asked me about.   On my ship until I made a name for myself,  the only group of people that would even talk to me were kids from NY.     I was very alone and the Navy at the time had less than 1/2 of 1% of sailors of Jewish decent.   Let’s say that the chaplain was not a Rabbi.

Pain On

I have pain today from getting hurt and fighting mostly to protect myself from others.   I have pain from stuff I did in the service as well, but mostly beyond the physical pain,  I am sad.    Our world is a beautiful place that we are destroying and we are fighting with each other and creating more division between us than ever.   We are going to a place that we can’t come back from when we kill people.    I imagined a world with much more tolerance and respect, not this.     When I think about people and the world we live in,  I think about how I grew up in Co-op.   I think about my friends in my childhood before I was 13 and how we played and how we didn’t care about color or race or religion.   We just had fun and played or fought because of something stupid, but we worked it out and played again the next day.     I went to high school where I was 1 of 5 kids that were white and I am sure I was the only Jewish kid there.    I was accepted and it wasn’t always easy, but we did it.   The complaint back then as I remember and the quote, “Black on black crime, was way before our time, we need to reach for the heights.”     The name of the school was University Heights.    As I think about how we have created ways to hurt and hate throughout history,  I realize today that there is very little hope for peace.  It will be an act of G-d that will bring us together or destroy us all.   It may very well be that the acts of man will destroy us or our children before then.

As I go through my daily routine reminded by the pain in my back and tailbone of the children that hated me for something that I was not, I think of the only things that I can do to make things better.

  1. I look to do at least one good thing in a day.
  2. I teach my children about reality and how they need to behave better and aim to do what is right even under harsh conditions.
  3. Practice kindness even in the face of those who hate me.

Very Little Hope

I said there is very little, but there is hope.   Even if it is a sliver of a slice,  I will hang on to it.   I hope that Justice / John has changed his mind about me and realizes that I am not a “devil” and I hope that we can find through acts of kindness as individuals the pebbles to fill the jar of love for humanity.     If we do, we can turn hope into a reality.

How Can I Help? #Advocate

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Three+1 Things You CAN Do


Wake up in the morning, get my cup of coffee,  head to the office to start my day.  Open my email, it is full to the brim, I switch over to the calendar and see my schedule is full.   How did my day become consumed by meetings?   I go through my day,  I eat while I am working, it gets late,  I go home.  I tend to my family and then back to the email, maybe a little book reading and off late to bed to restart the whole thread.

Somewhere in the mix I have to hold on to my humanity.  All the work that I do is electronic and amounts to a pile of nothing, but electrons and virtual transactions.  How the heck can I help anyone?

Take Time to Listen

When someone writes, calls or knocks on the door, make the time to listen.   Sometimes you are standing between two connections and you are the bridge, you just didn’t know it.  Active listening is a great skill to have and it certainly takes practice. https://cohenovate.com/2015/02/22/understanding-conflict-and-knowledge-management/  Listening is good for them and good for you!

Share Ideas, but Don’t Share Answers

Sometimes the answers come easy, but the real solutions are difficult.   In other words,  having an answer on how to fix a problem may create more of a problem.  Sometimes we need to just talk through ideas and come to solutions on our own.  Offer up ideas or thoughts but, offer them as concepts and not answers.

Be a Shoulder, not a Boulder

Being there for a person and helping means you have your attention focused on their needs.  I have found that listening to people and helping them sort through their problems can help me with challenges that I face.   The best thing to do is to stay focused and help them and be strong for them as they need.  Adding your problems to the discussion is a weight added, not a burden lifted.

Recognize and Advocate for Others

They say that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile.  Some suggest that this is not true, but that smiling may cost us less overall energy. http://zidbits.com/2011/09/does-it-really-take-more-muscles-to-frown-than-to-smile/

It may seem that it takes more energy to advocate and recognize others than it does for yourself, but if you practice recognizing others and advocating for others, it will take overall less energy and be helpful to you.  Realistically, we can’t be responsible for the actions of others, but our entire world is built on the foundation of relationships.   Recognizing a contribution or advocating for someone helps strengthen the bonds and the ties between us.   We are better together and we are better when we recognize each other.   It is simple to do.   Be mindful, be courageous and bold, advocate with intent and without fear, the costs are low and the results will always pay off.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

Thanks Wendy Woodson for your creative contribution

Devil in a Pebble

Global Warming

Our Plastic Ocean

Nuclear Meltdown

Gas Leaks

Oil Spills

Zika

Ebola

Cancer

Flint 

Distractors (Trump, Clinton, Journalists, Kanye..etc)

Short term Business Thinking <–Consequence Deferred

War — (The Clock is at 3 Minutes to Midnight)

Greedy World Leaders <– Destroyers of Humanity 

Greedy Business Leaders <– See World Leaders

These things and more are pebbles in the jar of our world.  The pebbles will continue to add up and we watch these events and behaviors everyday and feel as if we can do nothing. 

The same pebbles that are adding up to destroy our world and our kind can be countered by good behavior and healthy contribution.

You don’t get fat or fit in a day.  The world is becoming something new and it doesn’t look favorable for the human race.    To address this, we need to change our focus from Kardashian to Flint.   From wars we can’t win to battles we can win.   From political nonsense to practical mindful behaviors and actions.

It is our world and it is our choice.  Each of us is a contributor and each of us has an opportunity to make it better.  Doing nothing is doing something and it is not too late to save us.

We don’t have to worry about aliens attacking, the plague or great disasters, we have to worry about silence, ignorance and a lack of caring or humanistic paralysis.

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This is our world..

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Image Linked from CNN

Summary:

Our first world, second and third world problems are connected.  Money won’t matter when there is nothing to trade.  We must raise awareness and bring these conversations to light.

As a people this is our test.  As a group, a community, a world, this is our judgement day.

The choices we make and the actions we take will determine the blessings or the curse for our children and their children.  Today we are leaving a stain over a mark.. and we have to work together to figure out how to change our behavior.

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Pass it on..

 

 

 

 

 

Cutting the Cord 2015 (Happy New Year)

A few years back we had television through cable.   I was frustrated by the fact that the cable company kept raising the rates.  They charged us for every box, they charged us for channels that I wanted to watch in the form of packages.  They charged us with confidence that we were either too lazy or incapable of finding other options.

The alternatives seemed just as bad.   Going to DirectTV or Dish would have cost the same or more.  I thought I wanted FIOS but when I called Verizon the options felt the same.  Additionally, I wouldn’t be able to get FIOS until it becomes available sometime in 2030 or never.

The cable bill was about $130.00 dollars at the time which to most folks that seems pretty inexpensive except it isn’t.   I can think of a lot of other things I can do with a $130.00 dollars.  The reason it wasn’t $200.00+ was because my wife kept calling the cable company negotiating the number.

Today our cable bill is for internet alone.  We do have a bill but it is a lot less than $130.00 and we have more options.  There are a few tradeoffs but for our family none of these impacted us to an extent that were lasting.

While there are many ways to cut the cord, I will give you a short list here of what worked for me.

This was my first post about cutting the cord. RaspberryPizzle.jpg

By the way,  I went online and did a search about cutting the cord.  What I read was mostly garbage that directs people to use services like Netflix or Hulu.

Getting it..

I have 4 televisions.  Two have what I would call full functionality and the other two are limited.  The two that are limited are only limited because I didn’t care to run a wire.   I have less local channels on those two.   At this time I can watch all local channels in my region and I have some augmented abilities to watch on demand content.

I was located in Virginia Beach when I started trying to figure this all out.   I used http://antennaweb.org/address.aspx to enter my zip code.  It tells you what tv stations are in your area and what kind of antenna will work best for you.   I also used https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=potkay.tvantennahelper.free which helped me point the antenna in the right direction.   For me antennaweb worked fine and was enough to get me in the right direction.  Although, I did play with the app.

Since I was within 30-50 miles of the tv stations, it was easy for me to go with small fractal antennas like http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-fractal-antenna-for-HDTV-DTV-plus-/ or http://www.htpc-diy.com/2012/04/diy-flexible-fractal-window-hdtv.html

I bought the flat panel Mohu Leaf but I wouldn’t recommend it as being better than most of the other products I played around with.  As a matter of fact, the best results came from antenna built by my friend Rob.  As shown in the first post about cutting the cord.

I decided to run all my testing on one television until I could get comfortable with the results.  Ironically, the television I chose was the one that was used most often.    After a few adjustments on a clear Sunday morning, I was “dialed in” and  had about 30 local channels.   Where I am today, I have about 50 over the air (OTA).

I wanted to have some on demand capabilities as well and I didn’t want to miss out on our Sunday football games.   Generally in Virginia I couldn’t watch my football team every Sunday unless I had an NFL package which my cable company didn’t offer.  I would have to go somewhere else or watch over another device.

In order to get on demand I did something like this http://lifehacker.com/5929913/build-a-xbmc-media-center-with-a-35-raspberry-pi which turned a little computer into a media center for me.  It was about $50 bucks all said and done but it was sluggish and I had to do a lot of work to make it the way I wanted.  The plugin I use for on demand sports is “SportsDevil”

No doubt I wanted to stay with XBMC which is now called Kodi but I wanted it to respond faster and I didn’t want to have to work hard to watch anything.  Some folks like to just use Netflix, Hulu or Plex (http://www.htpcbeginner.com/plex-vs-kodi-comparison-guide/) from here but I wanted a little more flexibility.

I used the Amazon FireTv and sideloaded the Kodi application on it http://kodi.wiki/view/HOW-TO:Install_Kodi_on_Fire_TV

Here are some other links to devices and options for Kodi http://kodi.wiki/view/Devices

What is Kodi? http://kodi.tv/about/

The easiest way for me to put it is.. an open source operating environment that allows you to have a very custom multimedia experience.  You can stream content or gain access to content on demand.  You can use preconfigured software packages like TVMC or you can customize it yourself.  The only limit on what content you have is the amount of time you want to invest playing around with it.

You can actually purchase preloaded systems too. http://www.amazon.com/LYNEC-M6-Android-Pre-loaded-Streaming/dp/B00PC5XVPO  I am not recommending this one, it is just an example.

For me it was easy to sideload the FireTV but I realize that folks may not have time or desire to load it on there and it isn’t straight forward.

It isn’t perfect 100% of the time and since it is a customized experience some results will vary but I would trade what I had with cable for Kodi any day.  In fact, I probably watch more media than I did in the past because I have access immediately to content I am interested in.   I think my favorite is being able to look at content around the world and get a glimpse of how others live.

Happy cutting.. if you choose to go down this road.  Post questions if you have any.. I am happy to answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Video Games make you smarter.

One day I was playing my favorite video game The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword and I could not complete a puzzle because it was difficult. I could not believe it. Video games were made for fun, not making you use your head. Then I was thinking could video games make you smarter? Well CBS says yes. In its research CBS thinks that action video games make it so we “sharpen our predicting skills”. I think it is true. If you don’t just disagree in the comments.

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/playing-video-games-could-make-you-smarter/         <— copy and paste this link in google to see the web page

 

 

For more go to B. simple

Back to the Future?

Back to the Future? by Bryce Cohen

Time Travel real? With the right motion in the right place it could be possible. But it could be physically impossible considering that there is no theories proven. Therefore I say that time travel is impossible. Also if you are using common sense if time travel was possible wouldn’t have some scientist from the future would have come to our generation to studied what we lived like to teach the youth of the future. So is there a “Back to the Future” Think about it.

More blogs from Bryce at B. simple.