Computer Voices

This weekend I came across multiple articles relating to voice synthesis. Since I spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff I found them interesting given the different customer each is targeting.

In a Bloomberg article, VocaliD was highlighted about how Rupal Patel’s company is working on personalizing synthesized voices for those who are unable to speak.

In his New York Times article, John Markoff talks about how the voice for IBM’s Watson was created and the factors that played into how the voice sounds. Keeping the voice out of the uncanny valley was of high importance and influenced the final character of Watson’s voice.

Another related article in the New York Times discussed the major virtual assistants like Siri and Amazon’s Echo.

Good posts I came across

Reading:  A couple good posts I came across today.

Cancun was Amazing

Returned from Cancun two weeks ago and I’m still enjoying thinking about the amazing time we had there.
It was our first time there and I highly recommend it for some ‘get-away time’.

Tasty Restaurants in Montreal

I visited Montreal last week for Christmas and had an amazing time experiencing the city. Can’t wait to go back when it’s a bit warmer. :)

I always like to highlight the good restaurants in cities where I spend time so here are some restaurants I liked.

Olive et Gourmando
One of the first places we visited. Great place for a casual breakfast or lunch. Cafe vibe, great sandwiches and salads. The space compliments the food well.

Marche de la Villette
Amazing breakfast spot. Baked eggs, fresh bread, lots of cured meats :) and…amazing service. It is a popular spot so prepare for a crowd.

Les 3 Brasseurs
Had dinner here one night. I believe it’s one of three or four restaurants of the same name. But, it is good. The menu is varied enough to please anyone. I had pizza with some French cheese you don’t see everywhere…on pizza at least. Tried their frites and putine too. Very good. The place is a brew pub so we had to try their beer which was all really good too.

Chez Queux
Went here for wonderful dinner. Fixe menu that was classic French. Well rounded meal. Couldn’t be better…the service was great too.

Old Montreal Keg Steakhouse
Good hang for reasonably priced food.

Restaurant de Vieux-Port
Great ambience. Good steaks and fish.

L’usine de Spaghetti
Okay pasta joint. Nice for a low-key meal but not a destination.

Tried three different pizza and the lasagna. Great modern atmosphere.

Does a Project Manager Need to Have Functional Experience?

I recently had a conversation with someone about the role of a project manager and how knowledgeable a pm needs to be about the functions of the people s/he is managing. The argument was made that a pm doesn’t need to have intimate knowledge of the functions and roles they are managing. I strongly disagreed with this before I heard where that argument stemmed from.

A friend who works at a very large public tech company argued that a pm doesn’t need to have intimate knowledge of the roles of the people they are managing. Disagreeing at first I quickly came around and looked at that statement from another angle. In a large company where processes and expectations of what happens when resources are applied to a project a pm might not need to have functional experience in the roles of people who are working the project.

The breakdown comes when that same sort of thinking is applied to a smaller company or startup where processes are not in place or haven’t been discovered yet. In this case a pm with functional experience in the roles of people working on a project will succeed faster than the pm without appropriate experience. They won’t necessarily have more success but faster and cheaper success.

These are my thoughts…I’m sure there are other or better schools of thought on this.?

What Can Be Done to Improve the Music Production Process?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the music production will evolve in the future. There are a couple things happening one being the ease of content creation. The company I work for and it’s competitors are making it easy for anyone to create music. The technology enabling these products will no doubt help to further the evolution of content production.

The creative process itself is changing too because of how social it can be today. The ability to share files and project data has become relatively easy. The ability to collaborate online is also getting easier. Companies like Goblr are helping to push that forward. I do think there is room to make process even more social though. I’ve always thought that the music production process is a very closed and private thing and that there is a lot of room for change. It will be interesting to see how it will evolve to become more transparent.

It All Comes Down to the Offer

Coupon offers and hyper local marketing are a hot thing right now. With Facebook launching its Deals program and Groupon being courted by Google for a ton of dough, timely deals delivered to customers at the right time is the new hotness. And rightly so, there is a lot of room for innovation in the area and with Groupon’s revenue numbers to back it up it seems as though this is a great market to be involved in.

I think about how all of this is going to play out and what opportunities are going to come from these companies opening up the mobile coupon market. With Facebook Deals a business is able to create a “deal” or offering using four different models or templates, if you will. Groupon approaches deals in the same manner really; there is one select type of deal and it’s typically 50% off on a particular product or service.

It makes sense that deals be this simple and similar across the board but as the market for highly distributed and social deals grows we’re going to see more variation in offer types and templates, in the case of Facebook.

Good Article About Social POS

Zachary Adam Cohen recently wrote an article on Mashable about the convergence of different location based mobile technologies like Four Square and how they one day could impact businesses at the POS (point of sale). Zachary argues that though mobile location-based technologies have positive effects there are still significant gaps that need to be filled for SMBs and larger businesses like the Gap to really harness the capabilities of data that location-based technologies generate.

Zachary goes on to talk about the connections that could be made between retailer and customer. For instance, POS systems and a retailer’s customer database system could integrate with a customer’s location and in-store action data for the purpose of feeding that customer customized offers.

I agree there are some great things that could come from using this data effectively like creating real-time personalized offers. It seems as if the consumer side data is being created but the business / retailer side of the equation, the ingestion of the data, still needs development. I think that being able to measure the “in-store” actions of a customer and knowing when and what they purchase or prefer, against what call-to-action, is a huge need for SMBs that doesn’t currently exist.

For many businesses the trick is going to be how to integrate and mesh this social data with existing exclusive systems and databases. But, as Zachary mentions, location and conversion data needs to reach critical mass before retailers big and small will find great benefits in it.

A Local Business Point of View

I’ve been thinking a lot about how every small business in my local community can harness the power of the social graph to improve awareness or just simply to improve monthly revenue. I’ve been working with various small businesses here in Los Angeles on ways they can use the internet to reach their goals and one thing I’ve learned in using the tools the available tools is how easy it is becoming to drill down to individual customer preferences and actions.

Small businesses in any community have the ability to take advantage of the opportunity to intelligently market their services or products. Many of the pieces are in place to put together effective campaigns. Email services are beginning to provide social data along with traditional metrics and companies like CoTweet are enabling large businesses to monitor customer sentiment in the Twitter channel. But, there are still areas where development and improvement need to be made and I think those areas are in the bottom-up, business side of the equation. The top-down, consumer-side tools and platforms are being created but from the point of view of the business, the ability for any one of them to plug into a platform and gain the basic data needed to help make future decisions is an area full of opportunity for improvement.

A Restaurant Direct-to-Consumer Case Study

I’ve been working with the good folks at a restaurant in Los Angeles on a few campaigns and promotions. We came to them with a plan for how to leverage the online activity that was occurring around the rise in popularity of the restaurant.

The restaurant had a decent Twitter and Facebook presence as well as a good amount of traffic to their website. After talking with the owners of the restaurant we found that data wasn’t being collected from these ‘fans’ and patrons of the restaurant.

We set out to do two things. 1) set up a email address and patron data capture method and 2) create something exciting and fun for the restaurant’s community to purchase.

After building a substantial email list organically by placing capture widgets on the website, we did a promotion to sell one of the restaurants most tasty products.. We developed a story around the product and set up a Special Offer page on the restaurant’s website.

Using Twitter, Facebook and the email list we drove awareness and traffic towards the special offer page on the website. This resulted in expected conversion from visitors to purchasers of the product.

This exemplifies a way for restaurants to please customers and give them something new and interesting. The campaign also showed that non-traditional special offers coupled with appropriate digital marketing channels can result in a benefit to a restaurant’s bottom line and awareness.