January 20, 2011
Gold Systems is hiring a sales person in the Great Lakes region
2010 was a good year for Gold Systems, and we grew revenue and profits. Now we want to do it again, so we're going to be adding to our sales organization.
We are looking for a Regional Sales Manager for the Great Lakes Region. Besides the usual requirements, (you need to be able to prospect, sell and close business) we're looking for people who fit our culture and have experience in our industry. The ideal person would have sales experience with IVR and speech recognition applications, contact centers, and most importantly a track record of selling with Microsoft and Microsoft partners.
To learn more about Gold Systems, click here. You can submit your resume on the website or if you send it directly to me, I'll get it to the right people.
April 14, 2008
Computer versus human
I think I tend to take my brain for granted. And I don't really mean my brain in particular, but brains in general.
My business develops speech recognition applications. We're not the speech scientists figuring out how to recognize sounds as words, but we take their engines and then build applications on top of them. Given a limited domain, we can build applications that really do an amazing job of interpreting what a person is saying. When you encounter a "bad" application, it's usually the result of a designer who's tried to push the technology too far, hasn't given enough consideration to what we call "human factors" or they haven't done a good enough job integrating the speech recognition with the back end systems that retrieve whatever information you are looking for at the moment.
My big sister sent me an email that had the following passage in it, and it reminded me just how amazing our brains are at pattern matching. I guess software could be written that would be able to interpret the text accurately (it almost makes me want to go download Visual Studio and take a shot at it) but to think that our brains can do this without much effort is pretty cool. I believe we're still a long way away from a computer being as "smart" as a human.
Can you read this?
I cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd what I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in what oredr the ltteers in a word are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is that the first and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! If you can raed this psas it on !!
Now sometimes this pattern matching ability gets us in trouble. In the same email was this little test . . .
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTI
FIC STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS...
Now go back and count how many times the letter 'F' appears. (Go on, I'll wait for you to count.)
The answer is six. I'm sure I've seen this before, but it still took a couple of tries to get it right, thanks I imagine to the amazing pattern matcher in my brain.
February 06, 2008
Help Wanted and getting things done
This post on "getting things done" is brought to you by Gold Systems, a Unified Communications software company in Boulder, Colorado. If you are a Unified Communications Specialist, a Telecom Engineer, a sales professional or a software Engineer and you think you just might want to consider a career change, check out the job postings at http://www.goldsys.com/index.php?load=content&page_id=28 Doesn't matter too much where you live - you'd be welcome to join us in sunny Boulder, Colorado, but we have people all over the U.S. if you happen to like where you currently live.
Now back to the blog - I've had a task on my task list to write the three sentences above for about a week. Once I sat down to do it, it took me about five minutes. And that reminds me of a blog post I've been meaning to write.
A few years ago Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, came to CU Boulder to talk about his experience as an entrepreneur. It was a great thrill to hear him speak and to talk to him for a minute after his presentation. One story he told was how in the very early days of Amazon.com they (him included) would box up books to ship out to customers. The orders started pouring in and they found they were spending a lot of time on their knees on a hard concrete floor boxing up books.
Jeff said that he'd finally had enough, and he told someone that he was going to the local home improvement store to buy knee pads like the kind carpenters often wear. The other person said, "Jeff, why don't we just buy tables instead?" He told the story I think to illustrate how easy it is to get so busy that you get so focused on the task at hand that you can't think about the real problem and the best way to solve it.
I see this all the time, and it is an easy trap to fall into. A good entrepreneur friend of mine doesn't have time to investigate buying a high-quality spam filter, so he spends time every day or two going through the spam to make sure nothing important is getting trapped by his low-quality spam filter. It's like buying kneepads instead of a table.
I figured out a long time ago that as an entrepreneur, there would always be more for me to do than there was time to do it. The first five years or so I stressed out about it all the time, thinking that I needed to work longer hours to get everything done. I needed to get everything done, I thought. I tended to work on the least important, most urgent tasks but then my friend Jim Lejeal pointed out that the CEO's job is to work on the most important tasks that only the CEO can do, and that the really important tasks are usually not perceived as urgent at all. It's normal to have more than we can do, and I think it's good because if I have a lot of options for how to spend my time, I can try to choose the very best use of my time. (It's a goal - I don't always spend my time on the most important thing - I'm human and I still spend time on silly stuff at times. It helps keep me sane.)
I created a category on my task list as "The ONE Most Important Thing" just to remind me to think about the one really important thing each day that I can do to move the company forward.
So here's the tie-in back to my original help wanted post. I was so busy, I didn't take five minutes to do something that will ultimately make me and other people at my company less busy. Now I've done it and I can check it off my task list. What have you not taken time to do, that if you'd just do it, would ultimately save you a lot of time and make your business or your life better?
September 25, 2007
Wireless in the wilderness
I've had one of the Microsoft Tanjay VoIP phones for three or four months now and I'm really liking it. I start my day by swiping my fingerprint to unlock the directory, which automatically sets my presence to "Available", unless I have a meeting scheduled, in which case it talks to the Exchange Server and magically sets my presence to "In a Meeting". The sound quality, which is what really matters in a phone, is great.
A couple of weeks ago, the Microsoft product manager for UC wrote about how cool it was that he was able to take his Tanjay phone home, plug it into his home network and it just worked. He could make and take calls just as if he were sitting at his desk at work.
Yep, that's cool all right, but you just know (if you read my blog) that my first thought was "I wonder if it would work in the FJ Cruiser?" Not only did it work in the FJ, but I was able to go up into the mountains, and sit on a rock with both my laptop and the Tanjay working together on the FJ's EVDO hotspot.
A quick note - the new FJ Cruiser Car computer has arrived and I'm starting the installation.
September 04, 2007
Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 Pricing
Michael Dunn, one of the gotspeech.net guys, wrote the first article that I saw in public about the pricing for the new Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007. Michael does an example configuration of a typical speech recognition system that will handle 96 ports. For the speech recognition engine, Text-to-speech, development and deployment environment the software license price comes to $700. Not $700 per port, but $700 for software for the entire server!
That’s a little more than $7 per port. OK, that doesn’t include hardware so factor in the price of a good rack mounted server, and a VoIP gateway if you can’t talk SIP with your PBX.
Michael speculates that you could do a touch-tone application and get as many as 200 ports on a single server. Still $700. He says that’s roughly $3.50 per port for the software. “Insanely Cheap” he says. I’d agree with that! Even allowing for redundancy and extra capacity, this still slashes the price in the market for the typical speech recognition telephone self service application.
You can read more about the product at http://www.microsoft.com/uc
Microsoft also published two new case studies that I’m particularly happy to see, given that Gold Systems did the software development on both of them.
- Customer case study (Microsoft has permission to say the customer name, but I'll just say "A well-know overnight package delivery and office services company. Click the link if you can't guess who THAT is." http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=4000000579
Avaya, another one of my business partners, began the move from "Big Iron" to software solutions many years ago, designing less proprietary hardware and relying more on industry standard hardware. It's been a smart move for them. They also saw that computers and telephones would come together and they've moved away from closed systems to open systems, being one of the earliest proponents of Unified Communications. As I’ve said before, lower prices and more companies deploying applications is good for the industry and the consumer.
August 20, 2007
About a year ago David Cohen, entrepreneur investor, and author of the ColoradoStartups blog, dropped by my office and asked if I would be interested in working with some new entrepreneurs as part of a new venture called TechStars. I love talking to entrepreneurs, especially new ones because some of their energy always rubs off, and I hope to help them avoid some of the mistakes I've made over the years as an entrepreneur.
Through TechStars, I met Carmin Turco and Sebastian Replanski. Carmin and Seb were well on their way to success with their company SearchToPhone when they were invited to join the TechStars. Fast forward to today, and they have launched their service, received some great press and I'm happy to say that my company Gold Systems and SearchToPhone have created a strategic alliance. Carmin talks about the TechStars experience, the SearchToPhone service and how Elvis showed up to help with the VC pitch. Congratulations Carmin and Seb!
August 10, 2007
Ford announces pricing on Sync
Ford Motor Company announced pricing yesterday for their new Sync product that was developed in partnership with Microsoft Windows Automotive. It's going to be a $395 option on new Fords and will be available in the Ford Focus, Ford Edge and the Lincoln MKX. It's a "fully integrated voice-activated in-car communications and entertainment system for mobile phones and digital media players" according to Mark Fields, the Ford Motor Company President of the Americas. You can see Mr. Fields and Mr. Gates talking about the Ford/Microsoft partnership and a promo video at the Zune-Online website. Sync will be available in nine other Ford vehicles by the end of the year. You can get more information at Ford's SyncMyRide.com website too.
Here are some of the cool things that can be done with Sync.
- You can use speech recognition to access any track in your Zune, iPod or even a flash drive (yes, it has a USB interface). I saw a prototype in a Lincoln Navigator earlier this year and it worked perfectly. The person demoing it had a Zune full of pop music and he was taking requests from other people in the car, saying the track name and then a moment later the music started playing. I suggested "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and the guy said he didn't have any Bluegrass on his Zune, but he offered to plug mine in and show that it really would work on any device.
- When you get in the car, Bluetooth pairs automatically (as you would expect) but if you are talking on the phone it moves the conversation from the handset to the sound system automatically so that you can keep both hands on the wheel. If you are talking on the phone when you get to work, you just pick up your cell phone and walk in and the conversation automatically moves back to the handset. (If you must talk and drive, use hands-free and be careful out there!)
- If you get a text message to your phone, the Sync will read the text message to you over the sound system, even translating emoticons like smiley faces. This has great prank-potential and I can't wait for one of my friends to get one! Of course, they can always block me from sending them text messages, so maybe I'd better rethink that.
- Hands free-dialing, as you would expect, and caller-id read aloud for incoming calls.
- The video mentions conference calling, but I didn't see that demo'd and I'm not sure how it's implemented.
I think it's great that Ford decided to release this across the line, starting with the lower-end cars. If they had made it a high-end, expensive option I think it would have died on the vine, but with this strategy I expect that a lot of people will be ordering it. Congratulations to Ford for getting ahead of a technical wave that is surely going to just get bigger over the next few years. At a price that isn't a lot higher than what some manufactures have charged for putting a 29 cent headphone jack in the dash, Ford is delivering a lot of capabilities and I'm sure there will be more to come.
Speaking of Fords, does anyone know where my 65 Mustang is? I sold it for $2,400 in 1977 after restoring it to what you see here. Last I heard, 25 years ago, was that a collector had put a set of red-stripe tires on it and was keeping it in a warehouse. My name is on a blank IBM punch-card underneath the carpet on the passenger side. The bill of sale says it was a 64 1/2, but I'm certain it was a 65. I'd love to get it back someday and I realize it has appreciated a bit since I sold it.
May 21, 2007
The gethuman standard
There are amazing things happening in the world of communications, which is one reason I haven't had as much time to devote to my blog as I'd like. Technology is speeding ahead, sometimes to our frustration, but at the same time I can see the cost of communications continuing to drop and the ease and convenience continuing to improve. Not all of these advances involve technology though. One initiative is something called the gethuman standard.
The gethuman standard started with a guy named Paul English who was frustrated and feeling like he was often trapped by automated telephone systems. I've been in the business of building those systems for 16 years, and believe me I know they can be frustrating. I also believe though that with good design they can be great. What started as one guy trying to make a difference has turned into a much larger effort by individuals and corporations who have a simple belief - if you show to customers that you appreciate their business and you make it easy for them to reach you, they'll buy more stuff. (Those are my words by the way.)
I've been given permission to reproduce the standard here, but if you want to find out more just go to gethuman.com. I don't know of any system that completely implements the standard, but it's something to strive for. I doubt if any consumer would argue with any of the points in the standard. Here it is - feel free to comment. --terry
The gethuman standards have been designed with simplicity and directness as to eliminate ambiguity and enable testing and certification. There may be more than one way to accomplish each, but the result must be as follows:
- The caller must always be able to dial 0 or to say "operator" to queue for a human.
- An accurate estimated wait-time, based on call traffic statistics at the time of the call, should always be given when the caller arrives in the queue. A revised update should be provided periodically during hold time.
- Callers should never be asked to repeat any information (name, full account number, description of issue, etc.) provided to a human or an automated system during a call.
- When a human is not available, callers should be offered the option to be called back. If 24 hour service is not available, the caller should be able to leave a message, including a request for a call back the following business day. Gold Standard: Call back the caller at a time that they have specified.
- Speech applications should provide touch-tone (DTMF) fall-back.
- Callers should not be forced to listen to long/verbose prompts.
- Callers should be able to interrupt prompts (via dial-through for DTMF applications and/or via barge-in for speech applications) whenever doing so will enable the user to complete his task more efficiently.
- Do not disconnect for user errors, including when there are no perceived key presses (as the caller might be on a rotary phone); instead queue for a human operator and/or offer the choice for call-back.
- Default language should be based on consumer demographics for each organization. Primary language should be assumed with the option for the caller to change language. (i.e. English should generally be assumed for the US, with a specified key for Spanish.) Gold Standard: Remember the caller's language preference for future calls. Gold Standard: Organizations should ideally support separate toll-free numbers for each individual language.
- All operators/representatives of the organization should be able to communicate clearly with the caller (i.e. accents should not hinder communication; representatives should have excellent diction and enunciation.)
March 22, 2007
Gold Systems wins best Speech Self-Service Application award
I'm proud to announce that the Gold Systems Password Reset product was named the "Best Speech Self-Service Application" at SpeechTEK West this year. If you work in a large company, especially one that is regulated, you know that your IT department is getting more and more strict about the passwords you use and how often you change them. And for good reason - no one wants to be the next company in the news that got hacked and accidentally disclosed a bunch of credit card numbers.
The problem with stricter, ever-changing passwords is that it is becoming more difficult to remember all the passwords in our lives. I've heard that as many as 25% of all calls to help desks are to request that a password be reset because the user couldn't remember the right combination of letters, numbers and special characters that is now their password. Our product automates the resetting of passwords, using speech recognition and even voice authentication if you are really paranoid, it's more secure because the help desk agent doesn't ever know your password and - here's the best part - you don't have to be embarrassed to call up for the third time this month and admit to a person that you've forgotten your password again.
The cost of automating this is generally less than the cost of the salary of one help desk agent. Now the people can go back to solving the really hard problems like recovering the database that was accidentally deleted last night or figuring out why the wireless network isn't working in the board room. Help desk agents will always be needed, even if we can automate some of the more mundane, but still costly tasks that they do. Speaking of help desk agents and IT people - try thanking them for the work that they do. When everything is working fine, they get little credit and when it isn't, they catch hell. If nothing else you'll enjoy the startled look on their faces, because their job is difficult and often thankless.
March 06, 2007
Hiring event Wednesday night
Just a quick reminder about our hiring event this Wednesday night, March 7th at the Westin in Westminster between 5:30 and 7:30 PM. Here's my original post on the event. I expect to be there along with a couple of other people from Gold Systems. If you can't make it, that's OK, drop me an email. I don't know about the other companies who are going to be there, but I'd suggest you not dress up for us - we're a Boulder software company. Enough said?