Monday, April 21, 2008

Samsung BlackJack II, and a related mild indictment of AskMeNow

When, for reasons well-known to some readers of this blog, I suddenly needed to find a new mobile carrier on February 1, I decided to return to the AT&T fold.

Because, from their point of view, it would be a new contract, I was entitled to new-customer pricing on devices, so I decided to rediscover my madness for Windows Mobile with a Samsung BlackJack II, which I quite recommend unless one has a need for an esoteric feature it doesn't have.
For me, the coolest feature was the built-in GPS, which works out of the box with (for example) Google Maps Mobile. Since I was actually more interested in more technical GPS information than moving maps, I soon installed GPS Skinner, and later gpsVP. The GPS feature has now become just about my favorite toy ever.

How does this relate to AskMeNow?
Early in my GPS experience, I was motionless in downtown LA and one or the other of those applications reported my altitude at several hundred feet, which seemed high to me (in retrospect, I think because it hadn't fully triangulated).
I decided, instead of Googling, to Ask AskMeNow Now.
Me to AskMeNow, 3/11 5:54pm: 'What is the altitude of Los Angeles?'
Me to AskMeNow, 3/11 6:47pm: 'What is the altitude of Los Angeles?'
I guess their NLP didn't get the point. I almost repeated it, prefaced with 'Cmon, this is easy, ', but waited until:
Me to AskMeNow, 3/12 3:26pm: 'What is the altitude of Los Angeles?'
And at last, AskMeNow to Me, 3/12 3:29pm:
Los Angeles, CA
Elevation: 5ft/1m
73.1 ?F / 22.8 ?C
...and that seems a bit low (but probably is just the minimum altitude for LA, which is horizontally huge), but the mild indictment is that it took three questions over two days to get the answer.
I suspect some sort of AI fields easy obvious questions, sending the others to humans (cf. Pronto and iNetNow), and this happened to all three questions, the first two getting lost in the 'human queue'. AskMeNow, GetTheAnswerLaterIfAtAll. I *love* automation, but some things just need a human touch.


Jake of All Trades said...

Welcome to the blog, Chris!

GPS skinner looks neat. Have you found any "Find Friends" type of apps?

And for the record:

Lowest Point
9 feet below sea level (at Wilmington)

Highest Point
10,080 feet above sea level atop Mt. San Antonio

SpaceMonkeyMojo said...

I can't believe AskMeNow is still in business.

the_main said...

Hi there,

I work for AskMeNow and can confirm that we do not use humans to answer questions. The question you asked is easily answered by our NLP (try any other major city as well):

I'm assuming you were using the SMS based version of our service. 99% of issues related to delayed messages are a result of the SMPP system that connects us to aggregators who in turn connect to carriers. About 10% of all messages fail and another 40% are 'status unknowns'. AT&T was actually experiencing rolluing outages beginning March 4th, at 11:40 AM PST. I suspect this is the reason you did not receive your answer - either we didn't receive the query or you didn't receive our response.

While our new natural language processing search engine is not as accurate as human researchers, it's built in a manner that it will get smarter over time. Our goal is to have Smart Alec (the engine behind it) continually learn from its mistakes and one day reach the level of accuracy we previously maintained with human researchers.

Here are some examples of questions that it currently does answer:

-how far away is the moon
-what is botany
-why is the sky blue
-capital of ohio
-what is mpeg4
-chemistry is the study of
-what is the color of the brazilian flag
-when did Al Gore run for vice-president
-what is the capital of Australia
-is liposuction safe
-How many people live in Rome
-who wrote Against The Day
-who is god
-When did Boise become the capital of Idaho
-where did leonardo da vinci live
-How many times have the UCLA Bruins football team won the national title?
-who are the band members of U2?
-Does Japan have a death penalty?
We appreciate your feedback.

the_main said...


Thanks for your support!

the_main said...

That URL was