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The Amazon Alexa’s distinct AI skills are raising bars and eyebrows

(TECH NEWS) Amazon’s Alexa is insanely talented – like 15,000 distinct skills kind of talented and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

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alexa skills ai

Get ready for takeover

As AG’s self-appointed correspondent on the robot apocalypse, I note with some interest that Alexa, one of the “clearly named with a supervillain in mind” entries in the ongoing race for consumer artificial intelligence, has passed 15,000 distinct AI skills. I am perturbed. Perturbed, I am.

bar
I don’t know about y’all, but I have maybe 15 skills, and this is the best one. Let me be the first to welcome our soft-voiced, bluelit conquerors.

Ahead by a mile

Tripling my troubles is the fact that the closest competitors aren’t even in the neighborhood, with Google Assistant and Cortana chalking up a measly 378 and 65 respectively.

We officially have a leader in the race for Skynet.

More importantly, however, those numbers, collected by VoiceBot but confirmed by the companies, show a trend in AI tech that, for consumers to get the most out of their equipment needs to come in tandem with changes in tech usage.

Everyone uses technology for different things

There were probably different factions glowering at each other around the Lunch Rock over whether hand-axes were better for hunting, hacking or hygiene. What unites us all, however is that pretty much all of us, your humble narrator emphatically included, uses only a tiny fraction of his devices’ various functions.

Real talk: if you replaced my laptop with a typewriter that played death metal at regular intervals, there’s an excellent chance I wouldn’t notice.

And yet, I am given to understand, computers do other things.

Amazon’s insane 15,000 units of functionality are that problem raised by an order of magnitude. Ruts abound in consumer tech, whether it’s “email, spreadsheet, game” or “notifications, calendar, selfie” or my own “article, Tetris, Swedish men shouting at one another.”

That’s silly enough with a tablet or smartphone, both of which are designed to optimize that behavior.

AI is an opportunity to break those ruts for good, to run your thermostat or chat with your favorite Disney character without having to get out of your chair, let alone break workflow.

Here we are

Alexa, Cortana, Siri – seriously, I’m never going to get over the 70s SF names – really aren’t just smartphones that talk anymore. Frankly, they were for a while. But ever since the last holiday, when orders for Alexa in particular went through the flippin’ heliopause, AI has begun to deliver on its promise of a brighter, more interactive, more interesting world.

Don’t miss it.

#ExploreAI

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

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Tech News

How to build apps without knowing how to code (it’s actually common!)

(TECHNOLOGY) No-code app-building tools are becoming more available to the everyday user, which could lead to more inventive and original apps.

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no-code website

“Learn to code” is a common, frustrating refrain often hurled at job-seekers, entrepreneurs, creative professionals, and others. Depending on who’s saying it, the intent could range from well-meaning to willfully hurtful.

It does, in a way, make sense. Computer programming is the foundational language that modern life is built on. And while many people use technology that they don’t understand every day—from microwaves to cars—there’s something a little different about programming. It’s omnipresent for just about anyone, just about everywhere, whether they use it for work or not. And more people use it for work than ever. It’s the single most sought-after skill in the job market.

But “learn to code” isn’t practical for everyone. Not everyone with an app idea has the time to learn how to build an app from scratch, or the money to hire people to do it for them. That’s where the low-code/no-code movement comes in. It’s all about giving the people the tools they need to execute on an idea without having to learn an entire new skill set. When you bake a cake, you probably don’t grind wheat into flour, and when you build an app, you don’t have to start with Python.

No-code isn’t really a new idea.

The fact that computers have menus and icons is the result of early programmers realizing that non-programmers would have to use a computer sometimes. You could look to tools like RPG Maker that let people build their own video games back in 1992. RPG Maker was like a Lego kit for making a video game. And not only is it still going strong, it proved itself prophetic. It turns out that giving people tools and a sand box is a great way to enable creativity.

This has been the long arc of the Internet, too. There was a time when participating in the World Wide Web in a meaningful way meant learning to program. Places like Geocities gave you real estate to set up a website. But you had to build that site yourself. We’ve moved away from that as the Internet commodified. Sites like Facebook and Twitter remove customization in the name of uniformity.

But creative tools persist. Consider “WYSIWYG,” or “What You See Is What You Get” web editors. These are tools like WordPress that reclaimed some of that Internet customization. They give you assets to build a website, and you plug them in where you want.

It’s a middle ground between building from scratch, and having everything handed to you. It’s the sweet spot of accessible creativity. (If you’ve never heard anyone say “WYSIWYG,” that’s probably because these web development tools are so common that they don’t really need a special name anymore.)

Right now, one of the biggest areas of no-code design is in app development. These app dev tools are similar to building a WordPress site. They give you the raw materials, and you customize and assemble them however you want to. Adalo, a no-code platform for building apps, lets your bring assets and ideas to the table, and gives you a framework to organize those ideas into an app.

They aren’t alone. AppOnboard, a no-code software development suite, purchased Buildbox, a leading no-code game development platform. Their combined resources represent a stunning library of assets, full of potential.

What does this mean for coders? Probably not much. Specialized skills are still in high demand. But for the rest of us, a slow democratization of development is taking place, and it’s exciting to watch it take shape.

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Tech News

Recall announced by Daily Harvest via aesthetic post, gets major backlash

(BUSINESS) Trendy meal delivery service, Daily Harvest, sticks to branding by announcing a serious food recall via Instagram, met with obvious backlash.

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Man looking up Daily Harvest recall on computer.

What NOT to do when things go south.

We can learn a lot from other businesses’ mistakes. Check out Daily Harvest, for example.

Daily Harvest is a trendy food home delivery service. They are under heavy backlash from their customers following a recall on their lentil and leek crumbles meal. Multiple customers have reported stomach issues after eating this meal.

Users across social media accounts such as Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram have complained about nausea, vomiting, and liver damage symptoms after consuming this dish. Several customers even reported hospitalization.

How did Daily Harvest react?

As entrepreneurs, we are all aware that things are going to go wrong from time to time. And as humans, we know that how we respond to these issues determines the future of our business.

Well, Daily Harvest’s social team didn’t get the memo as you’ll see by their response on social.

They issued a recall notice by using a vague aesthetic product image of the questionable lentil meal with a caption that read “UPDATE 6/19: An important message regarding our French Lentil + Leek Crumbles. Link in bio with details.” Daily Harvest’s inability to take control and react with clear communication to aid their customers shows us how NOT to handle an urgent situation. Their ambiguous caption provides no real information or help to their consumers and they have noticed.

They have since deleted the original post from Instagram, but we all know the internet never forgets. This is how they launched their product recall.

Daily Harvest Instagram Post

As of 10:58 – June 22, 2022 this is how the notice appears on the main page of their website:

Daily Harvest Main Page

Upon further examination, I can find hardly a mention of the recall other than the home page and the actual product listing itself. I did confirm that I was not able to purchase the product through their web-based system at this time. Maybe most of their traffic lands on the home page, but why not go ahead and put the banner at the top of every page until this gets resolved? Not to mention how it appears at the top of the home page. It’s barely noticeable.

Daily Harvest Best Sellers

If you click on the details, the notice on their website details the steps Daily Harvest claims to be taking to handle the sickness reports from the voluntary recall, to direct consumer communication, and the investigation with the FDA along with current results.

Daily Harvest Recall

What’s the takeaway?

Do better than Daily Harvest and you’ll already be a winner.

No, seriously you will!

But first, consider posting eye-catching imagery or text for your consumer. The text should be in the image posts themselves and in the captions. Pin it to the top of your social media accounts. Share it to stories. Make sure every page on your website has a banner and it’s noticeable. Over-communicate with your customers.

Do all of these and you’re already beating Daily Harvest.

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Tech News

Make your current tech tools as useful as possible with these productivity hacks

(TECHNOLOGY) No downloading obscure apps to increase your production here. This site gives you productivity hacks to utilize the tools you already have.

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productivity hacks with productivity.so

If you find yourself searching for productivity hacks on the internet, chances are you’re already procrastinating. We’ve all been there and sometimes you do need to invest a little time upfront in order to save time long-term. The problem is that most “productivity hacks” recommend you download a new app or software which means you need to invest time in learning how to use it. All of this strays you further and further from your original goal of working more efficiently and saving time.

A new website called Productivity.so is designed to save you time by better utilizing the tools you’re already using. The websites founders are self-proclaimed productivity lovers who have devoted their own time to collecting a pool of productivity hacks for you iPhone, computer, Gmail, and more. No downloading obscure apps to increase your productivity here.

This website focuses on helping you make your current technology as useful as possible.

It’s a safe bet that there are dozens of ways you could be using your phone, computer, or tablet more efficiently. No one stops to read the instruction manual and even if you did it would only be so helpful because modern technology updates. Everything from your computer to your favorite social media app is constantly pushing out updates with new productivity hacks just waiting to be found.

It’s impossible to keep up on your own! Earlier today I realized you can switch between Twitter accounts by holding down the home button. I use this app every day, but I couldn’t tell you if this a new feature or if I just noticed it.

Productivity.so could be a great way to stay up to date on the latest UX tricks that will help you and your team speed up your workflow. The website currently hosts a small library of hacks that users can browse through. The next great breakthrough in your productivity could be waiting.

The website also offers a free weekly newsletter which promises to send you two new productivity hacks each week. These hacks will be simple tricks like switching between Gmail accounts by holding down your avatar. They’re easy enough that you can start implementing them into your daily routine right away.

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