Tag Archives: Alexa

The Age of Alexa

 

As a birthday gift for my daughters, Flora and Cora, their grandfather purchased for them an Amazon Echo (aka “Alexa”).

If you’re not familiar, the Amazon Echo / Alexa is a voice command controlled free-standing computer (with a nice speaker system to boot!) that links with your wireless network. Measuring some 9.3 inches with a circumference of 3.3 inches, Alexa can just about fit anywhere. In addition, it looks attractive (in a manner of speaking) and readily plugs into a regular wall outlet for power (it connects to your wireless network; no wired connections are required). With some adjustments and minimal amount of programming (took me all of 15 minutes to get it going) you’ll be able to give direct voice commands. Alexa can either answer your inquiries or (depending on your set up) control the lights in your house, control your thermostat, give you automatic news and sports updates as well as tell you the weather, your commuting time or even where the nearest restaurant (down to the type – Belgium ale house, Indian, Chinese, etc.) is to your house.

But doing a little research and experimentation, Alexa can do a lot more – and not just for your home (more on this in a moment).

As an old-timer, I’m amazed at this recent technological development if for no reason than I can appreciate what’s involved. First off, I’ve been working with voice command / recognition software since it first came out back in the 1990’s: things have come a long way. Used to be you had to spend about an hour just to ‘train’ the software/computer to recognize your voice (what with your inflections, accents, voice idioms, etc.) and then more time spent on getting it to do what you wanted it to do – open files, do basic computer commands, etc. And even then, it was rarely perfect: if you were hitting 95% accuracy, you were down great.

With Alexa, there was no hesitation: no training. Alexa was out of the box and running down the road in mere minutes.

Damn; that’s powerful.

No matter who you are, so long as you speak the language that it’s set for, it’ll respond. So literally out of the box, I and both my daughters were taking and using Alexa. Even now, my guests – upon visiting – now ask Alexa for the weather or for sport scores, along with local news as a matter of course, just as they would ask anyone else.

But aside from Alexa being able to give you a host of information – such as cooking recipes, bartending (excuse me, “Mixology”) recipes for drinks or for random facts (‘on this date,…’), with some adjustments and hardware / interface additions, Alexa can water your lawn, control /monitor your house alarms.

Sometimes, amusing situations can arise – such as when my younger daughter asked “Alexa: how old is the Earth?”

Alexa replied “The Earth is 5.35 Billion years old.”

“I knew it! Those people who keep saying that the Earth is only 7,000 years old don’t know what they’re talking about!”

So it’s all fun and games, right?

Not when you check out the IFTTT page for Alexa (IFTT – “If / then” user programming routines). Alexa comes with an ability for folks to program basic interface commands enabling users to link Alexa to various apps and also create routines. Want something done automatically? With a little bit of simple programming, anyone can make their Alexa do things automatically and with a mere voice command.

The potential for Alexa can go beyond just a cool item for the average household: the potential for business applications is also well worth considering. Aside from stock indexes, one could create business services and routines both for the average user and for the business / service end of things. Already, there are ‘recipes’ for users to link to their Evernote and Todoiast, along with dictating short emails (sending them out) or dictating voice message for your Skype. As one example, I can set up and schedule calendar events on my Google calendar just by using my voice – and it’ll appear on all of my calendars (phone, computer, etc. simultaneously).

I would not be surprised to see businesses – especially those who profess the notion of being ‘lean and mean’ – installing Echoes in their offices as means to better streamline operations (not to mention that Echoes could also be of good use for non-profit and governmental agencies as well).

In a manner of speaking, although this is not exactly new technology, the way it’s being recast is nothing short of remarkable. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Echo came from Amazon. After all, as I had previously written, Amazon and the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been quietly working together for seveal years now, with Amazon’s in-house computer network now being the repository of the CIA’s records – and ground zero for a development project based in Vancouver, Canada for true AI (Artificial Intelligence) development (https://shockwaveriderblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/the-cia-and-jeff-bezos-working-together-for-our-the-future/) utilizing quantum computing. Feel free to read my past posting on this subject matter: it’s well worth the read and helps one to better appreciate what’s taking place now.

I cannot help but wonder if Alexa is but one minor result  / spin-off from that ongoing effort. And granted, Alexa may sound awesome and smart, but it’s certainly not about to pass the Turing Test.

If Alexa is any indication, we are indeed entering a new age  – the Age of Alexa.

Advertisements

Understanding Social Media Ranking

internet-of-things-2

We discussed the power of your name and the importance of controlling your internet presence; now let’s look at the social media platforms by which you will do this.

There are a multitude of internet social sites, varying from a wide range of interests and focus. Your mission, however, is simple: finding the most prominent social media sites to establish your internet presence, enabling you to more readily ‘spread out’ and develop a greater internet impact. Remember: consistency across your social media platforms is vital. Your information about yourself should be consistent – as best as you can – with what you’re saying in all of your sites. Additionally, how you list your name should also be consistent as well (i.e., ‘Joe Smith’ is not necessarily the same as ‘Joseph Smith’).

Some of these sites are self-evident in their purpose and how they present you, the user – Facebook, for instance. But each site varies in their approach and their approaches of what they want you, the user, to employ. Thus, we’ll look more into the aspects of ‘traffic’ and presenting yourself in a way that’ll ensure greater internet presence.

It Not Just About the Number of Users,…

…it’s really about the amount of traffic and what drives that traffic. Sure, some sites can have a lot of users, but it’s more than just users which count. Understanding how ‘Alexa’ and traffic ranking works is very important.

Alexa Internet, Inc. is a California – based company providing commercial web traffic data and analytics. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com. Founded as an independent company in 1996, Alexa was acquired by Amazon in 1999. Alexa is an industry standard service utilized by many to determine internet traffic ranking, and thus knowing a sites Alexa ranking is important in terms of understanding any social media sites ranking.

Alexa’s traffic estimates and ranks are based on the browsing behavior of people in Alexa’s “global data panel” – which basically is an active sampling of all internet users. Alexa’s ranks are based on the traffic data provided by users in Alexa’s global data panel over a rolling 3 month period. Alexa ranks are updated daily, with a given site’s ranking based on a combined measure of Unique Visitors and Pageviews. Unique Visitors are determined by the number of unique Alexa users who visit a site on a given day. Pageviews are the total number of Alexa user URL requests for a site.

Bear in mind, however, multiple requests for the same URL on the same day by the same user are counted as a single Pageview (so clicking on your very own sites from your home computer all the time doesn’t count).

With Alexa, the site with the highest combination of unique visitors and pageviews is ranked #1 – but also importantly, it’s not just the number of users alone a social media site has that counts.

So clicking on the below link, we look at the top social media sites on the internet:

socialmediasitesmay2016

Viewing the chart we see the usual top-level social media sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, etc.

But note this: in terms of Alexa ranking, the top fifteen social media sites are not as strong as they appear to be, emphasizing an important point: if you really want to get at the top in terms of getting successful hits, you need to produce fresh content.

Content Is King

Ultimately the biggest factor determining one’s internet presence is content: new material will beat out repeated stories clicked over and over. In the long run, regurgitating the same old story over and over will lessen interest and lower your ranking (this is not to be confused with how you describe yourself on your various social media sits: your bio is constant and although its good idea to review and update). It’s primarily what you post on your accounts which drive interest. Get into the habit of posting something on your social media sites on a regular basis, no matter how small it may be – an occasional Tweet, comment, maybe even moving up to a blog – can make a big difference bulding and defining your internet presence.

Thus, to help your ranking you need to do the following:

  1. Codify your name and make it consistent.
  2. Develop a good bio; generally, the rule of thumb is that it should be no less than 300 words. Don’t have much to say? You’ll figure out. One trick is to also insert your name within the body of the bio (just make sure it matches your user name). Often, writing in the third person, although a little strange for some, is also a great way to have your bio presented.
  3. Connect the dots – i.e., if given the option to link with other social media sites (preferably those you already have a presence on) do so. This will create your ‘web of presence’ on the Internet. Interconnecting your social media sites make for a far stronger internet presence and will sure better control for you to determine the direction you want your Internet presence to go.
  4. Post, write, update. Some things on Facebook you’ll want to keep amongst your friends, but every so often it’s good to post something ‘Public’ as it’ll get picked up by search engines. Likewise, posting on LinkedIn, Twitter or writing an occasional blog are excellent ways of creating live content, and thus drawing more positive attention – and traffic – to you.

The Internet is not something to fear or avoid; rather, it’s an opportunity to control how you appear and what you offer to prospective buyers, employers, your professional peers both nationally and internationally or developing new contacts. For some, social media can be a nuisance and a bother; it’s your choice. But in today’s world it’s best to consider controlling what aspects of your person and who you are. Who you are on the Internet increasingly plays a bigger role than many realize; ignoring the Internet is often done at one’s peril. Who knows what comes up about her whenever somebody does an Internet search; better to define that for yourself before something or someone else does. Besides, what better way then to put your best foot forward?