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LiveChat24/7 mans your chat app with robots when you’re offline

When you have a chat app on your site, it can help you boost your ability to connect with customers, but what happens when you’re offline? This app wants to fill in while you’re gone by using robots.

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Where chat tools fall short

Me: Hey, thank goodness you guys have a chat feature. I’ve been having trouble with my online order. Can you help walk me through the process? I’m tearing my hair out over here.

Automated response: Hello, customer #20919. Our agents are currently offline and unable to assist you. Please visit our FAQ page for help or email us and we will reply at our earliest convenience. Thank you for your business.

^This^ is what you don’t want. I get it, it’s the future, so we have to talk to computers. But why aren’t they ever helpful? I could have clicked the dang FAQ page myself, I didn’t need a robot to tell me that.

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LiveChat24/7 decided to step up the game of AI agents by helping them learn from agents when they’re online. For example, if a customer asks a question about a coupon code while an agent is online, LiveChat saves the agent’s response and stores it for future use. That way, when someone asks after hours, it can answer with ease.

How the app works while you’re away

It builds a template of frequently asked questions and responses from incorporating the information from live chats, so the automated response actually correlates with the situation at hand.

It’s hard to get relevant help at 3 am EST when you’re trying to order sweatpants with front and back pockets. “Do these have back pockets? They’re black, so it’s hard to see in the photo.” The answer would be, “Yes, this product does feature two back pockets,” instead of, “Email us your query and we’ll get back to you in 5-10 business days.”

Switch from automated to live instantly

In addition to all of this super neat stuff is that you can switch from automated to live agents with zero turbulence. With LiveChat, you’ll have “super agents” available around the clock, so my late-night impulse buys won’t have to be carried out in the dark. And if the super agent ever gets stumped, you can answer for it. Simple as that.

What is especially cool about this tool is that it will actually forward you potential customers. If someone is searching online for products or services that your site offers, LiveChat will help them find their way to your page using the FAQ template that it compiled from your chat sessions. Craaaazy, right? It’s about time automated chat started making sense.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some sweatpants to buy.

#LiveChat247

Staff Writer, Johnny Crowder, is a hard working creative with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a deep passion for writing. In his other life, he is the front man for signed metal band, Dark Sermon. He has a wicked sense of humor and might literally die if he goes a day without putting pen to paper.

Tech News

Five inexpensive VPNs to keep you all sorts of secure

(TECH NEWS) If you work on public internet or are just looking to beef up your internet security VPNs could be your answer. Here are five worth looking into.

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We must speak, as we so often do, of l33t h4x0rz.

Let’s get blunt. We have reached the point in the evolution of technology where access to your personal data is equivalent to access to everything you own. Data security breach, which involves fewer twentysomethings with improbable hair and more Russian state actors than 90s movies led me to believe, can be the end of a business, especially a small one.

Frustratingly, the mainstream market hasn’t really produced perfect solutions for that. At present, you really have two options.

Option one, you roll with AppleFacebookGoogleSoft. Different companies, same model: hand your data to a giant organization with an affirmative interest in keeping it confidential. That can work! It can also, y’know, not. A lot.

Option two, full infogeek. Pull together All The Information and put it behind tight security you control. We’re big fans of this. On the other hand, we’re geeks. Doing this successfully requires knowledge, specialty tools and changes in behavior that may not be practical for you.

Ain’t exactly optimal, those options. So for the love of the white hat, what’s to do? Where’s the middle ground between “put it in a big sack and hand it to HugeCorpCo” and “lock every 0 and 1 in a painstakingly handcrafted box?”

Meet your friend, the VPN. Virtual private networks aren’t just the irritating things you have to sign into before another constructive day on the cube farm. For any entrepreneur or freelancer who isn’t into a rad Linux solution, a VPN is a straight-up necessity. They’re how you Internet without people keeping logs (your ISP does), tracking your activity (everybody does), or carrying off your innocent data to the dark web or the Kremlin.

Better yet? There are lots of good ones that are inexpensive, reliable, and only a Google away. Here’s 5. Unranked, because every VPN is a beautiful snowflake.

IPVanish wins at efficiency. They own 100 percent of their resources, rather than outsourcing any work to third parties. That means high speed and optimal security, since their commitment to keeping zero information on their clients can’t be undercut by nosy contractors.

NordVPN has tech wizardry going for it, with double encryption and even an optional kill switch that automatically disconnects you from the Internet if anything goes amiss with the VPN. Nord also wins at most devices per subscription, and will happily wrap up to 6 of your robots in the warm embrace of infosec.

Private Internet Access, in addition to winning the Most Straightforwardly Named Product Ever award I just made up, is great for power users, with unlimited bandwidth and a subscription allowing up to 5 devices. It’s also super simple, designed to run in the background while you go about your digital day, so for folks who aren’t looking for bundled apps or a shiny interface, this is your guy.

PureVPN gets compatibility cred, since it’s usable across Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows and even provides proxy workarounds for Chrome and Firefox. It also has a frankly enormous server network, which is good news for speed freaks.

TunnelBear, in addition to being adorable, is extremely user friendly. It’s kind of the anti-PIA, with a rich interface and lots of shiny features. Those features include neat security tricks like Intellibear, allowing users to selectively VPN into particular sites, and Vigilant Mode, which makes like Nord and blocks Internet traffic in case of outages.

Snowflake jokes aside, the list really isn’t ranked, and for reason. Your VPN will be your gateway to the Internet. What works for you is totally contingent on what you do and what you need. There are only two definitive rules.

One, never free. A free trial is fine. “Free VPN” is online shorthand for “place all your information in this bucket, which I will then steal, seal and sell to the Internet’s many, many buyers of evil buckets of data.”

Two, it’s a numbers game. There are countless choices for VPNs on the market. The entries on our list offer substantially similar services to dozens of others. What makes our 5 special?

Twelve bucks. The maximum cost of each of the 5 VPNs above is less than twelve dollars per month. Most cost less: spring for a subscription and you can get the average cost down to 2 or 3 dollars monthly. But month to month, no obligation, even the most expensive entry on the list – that’s a tie between NordVPN and PureVPN – costs you less than twelve dollars a month.

Beat that for peace of mind.

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Tech News

Descript is a mindblowing editing shortcut for audio and video

(TECH NEWS) Descript is an automatic transcription tool that uses machine-learning to make transcribing easier.

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Anyone getting into audio/video editing for the first time is almost immediately struck with the sheer enormity and complexity of it all. Even if you have the physical hardware, the proper software, and the creative spark to produce media, that doesn’t make the process of editing it all into a cohesive product any less daunting. For those of us struggling under the sisyphean weight of complicated editing workflows, a new product aims to relieve us all of this struggle. Enter Descript, an automatic transcription tool.

Descript uses machine-learning to transcribe your raw audio and video files into a dialogue script. This in itself is an incredibly valuable tool for anyone looking to transcribe podcasts, youtube videos, or whatever kind of media you produce. But this is just the beginning of what makes this app so special.

Descript is the world’s first audio word processor. Using the transcript the app creates from your audio, you can edit the text script to change the media itself. Removing the “umms” and “ahhs” from your speech — or removing whole sentences at a time — is as simple as using the backspace key on a word processor.

As a would-be podcaster, I played around with the app over the weekend, so I can tell you my initial impressions of the app. While it’s not for me (not yet, anyway), it is incredibly easy and fun and quite frankly mindblowing to use.

First things first, let’s talk about the cost.

The app works on a subscription model that pays by the minute. New users are able to upload up to 30 minutes of audio for free, but anything past that will require paying 15 cents per minute or signing up for a monthly subscription. Keep in mind these costs apply to total raw audio uploaded, not finished product audio produced. So if you’re the type (like me) to record several hours of audio per week only to trim it down to a single hour of product, this may be a bit on the wasteful side.

As for the transcription itself, the program’s machine-learning transcription transcribed my dulcet tones into the appropriate written words with nearly complete accuracy. I did have a few issues with the program understanding other speakers, but I believe that may have been a fault on my end that I’ll go into later. If the machine-learning transcription isn’t accurate enough for you, you can also choose to pay extra in order to have your audio specially transcribed by real human professionals.

The app can divide audio between different people speaking, but not automatically. If you have different audio files for each speaker, then each audio file will be labeled separately from the start. If multiple speakers are on the same audio track (like mine), then you’ll have to notate these differing speakers in the script yourself. I believe this is why the program had difficulty transcribing other speakers on the audio than myself. Being on the same audio track, the machine attuned itself to my voice (the first speaker on the recording) and was trying to interpret other people’s words as if I were the one saying them.

As for the audio editing aspect of this program, well, it really needs to be experienced to be believed. I was told what the program could do beforehand, but actually editing audio just by changing words around on a script is something else entirely. Cutting out non sequitur sentences, removing unnecessary articles, or even changing the order of words around to better suit the flow of conversation — through a literal word processor — will make you feel like an arcane grammar wizard.

Will this replace your entire audio/video workflow? Probably not. At least not yet. In addition to the cost factor which may be prohibitive to some users, there are some issues of editing that aren’t based on word choice. I found myself frustrated at my inability to change the timing of spaces between words, sometimes leaving gaps between sentences (or not enough space between words). Of course, I only had the program for a weekend, so this could very well be attributed to user error.

Whatever flaws real or imagined this program may have, it’s very important to keep in mind that Descript is the first of its kind.

It can only improve from here, not to mention potentially inspire a wave of similar programs that may very well function better. Whether or not Descript is right for you, what’s undeniable is that this program is the start of something amazing.

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Tech News

IRL Glasses magically block all screens (ads) around you

(TECH) IRL Glasses block out screens, allowing you to enjoy a variety of previously screen-dominated venues in visual peace.

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Screens are pretty much ubiquitous in all but the least-developed parts of America, and getting away from them during a night out usually isn’t easy. If you’re somebody who suffers from screen overload throughout the day, a product called “IRL Glasses” may hold the solution for you.

The concept behind the IRL Glasses is fairly straightforward: they’re a pair of sunglasses made from a material that blocks light specifically from most television, monitor, and mobile device screens, allowing the wearer to experience through a screen-free view a variety of environments which are typically dominated by visual clutter.

For example, someone wearing the IRL Glasses might be able to tolerate the numerous screens lining the wall in a Subway or tune out the closest TV on a sports bar’s patio. The glasses might even come in handy during road trips if you habitually check your phone while driving or find yourself distracted by screens along the way.

It’s clear that the primary intention for the IRL Glasses is to prevent unwanted screen exposure, but the glasses actually have a less self-aware application: screen addiction treatment. In theory, people hoping to cut down on involuntary screen use could don these glasses to help remind them that they’re in a no-screens period of the day.

Regardless of how you decide to use the IRL Glasses, however, the basic principle is definitely conducive to better eye health and substantially less unwanted news exposure.

There are still a couple of inherent problems with the glasses’ design, chief among which is the fact that they’re sunglasses by default. While the material used to facilitate the glasses’ function is naturally tinted, one can easily make the point that wearing a pair of IRL Glasses while indoors is inconvenient (not to mention tacky). Obviously, a non-tinted model—if possible—would solve this issue.

Another less-obvious problem is that the lens material doesn’t actually block all screens. While LCD, LED, and CRT screens will show up as black when viewed through the IRL Glasses, OLED screens—the screens found on some Android phones and the newer iPhone X line—will still show up like usual.

IRL Glasses are currently in development via Kickstarter, but given that they’ve wildly exceeded their funding goal, they’re projected to be available mid-2019 for less than $100.

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