Monday, July 28, 2003

More HTML Email
Only one email left in the free signup process to convert to HTML. The new Screen Name email is still flat text, and now that I'm converting to HTML, the old ones really look awful. I converted the new domain email which really added quite a bit of power. It now more obviously presents the HTML to add a simple My[Q]Box to any HTML page and had a big bold green link to the Getting Started Guide. The downside to converting the emails to HTML is that SPAM blockers are incorrectly marking the emails as SPAM... tisk, tisk... well; they can't be 100% perfect :-) I'll keep working on the emails to be sure they filter through as many SPAM filters as I can find.

Smoothed out the Signup Process Even More
The final page, step 3, of the free signup process used to be this really scary page with way too much text to read and a button that sent you to the login page for the [Q]Server Tools. Now it's much cleaner and directs the use to the Getting Started Guide instead. I am just trying to make the system flow more smoothly for new users.

Added *SameAs() Function to A.I. BASIC
Knowledge base answers can contain text, HTML, JavaScript or A.I. BASIC code. The first three of these are defined by others, but I control A.I. BASIC. While the implementation of A.I. BASIC in the current version is weak as compared to versions I created decades ago, I did just add an important new function. The *SameAs() function allows one answer to reference another question. Put simply, if you teach a new answer and a user asks a question that you feel was has the same meaning as the question associated with an existing answer, then you can use link the new question to an existing question using the *SameAs() function.

Here is an example: Suppose you teach the system to answer the question "What is your name?" but you have some Spanish speaking users who insist on typing "¿Cuál es su nombre?".

You would teach:

Q> What is your name?
A> My name is Mike.

Then you would teach:

Q> ¿Cuál es su nombre?
A> *SameAs("What is your name?")

Now when one of your Spanish speaking users asks "¿Cuál es su nombre?", the system will answer just as if they had typed the question "What is your name?".

Another example would be a good way to handle the question "Who are you?". The direct meaning of that question is not the same as "What is your name?", so it is unlikely that the system would find an answer, but if you added "Who are you?" as a new question and used *SameAs(), you could direct the system to find the similarity in meaning.

Q> Who are you?
A> *SameAs("What is your name?")

You can also include a different [Q]Base in the *SameAs() function. If you use *SameAs("What is My[Q]Box?", "\\AboutMyQBox") as the answer to any question, you are telling the system that the question is the same as asking the main My[Q]Box knowledge base "What is My[Q]Box?". It's sort of like binding, but instead of binding one [Q]Base to another, it binds one question to another, in any [Q]Base.

Friday, July 18, 2003

The Blog Goes Live
Ok, I guess the blog is official now. I added a link on the main My[Q]Box web site page to the blog. I also added quite a few blog related keywords to the Goggle Adwords account hoping that the blogging community might find My[Q]Box cool.

Well it's been great, had our busiest day ever today. Folks love it and it feels great. We have worked hard on this for a long time, so it's great to see it taking off, even in this down turned economy. Perhaps the recent pickup in My[Q]Box business is a good sign for the general economy as well. Let's hope so!

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Teach Directly from the Unanswered Question Email
In the past, every email sent used plain text to assure that every user could read it. But in the effort to achieve "Old Lady Easy", I have broken stride and converted the "Question Unanswered" email that is sent out when a user asks a question but receives a default answer to HTML. It looks much nicer than the previous version and allows the recipient to teach directly from the email without the need to open a browser and log into the [Q]Server Tools.

To teach, the recipient needs only to reword the users question to be proper English and into its most concise form, then select a keyword or two from the questions and enter the answer. The recipient then enters their Screen Name and Password and double checks that the listed [Q]Base is indeed where the knowledge should be added and then click the "Save" button right in the email. The result is that a new browser opens, automatically logs the recipient into the [Q]Server Tools and posts a new answer. The user can then just close the browser and move on, or they can navigate the [Q]Server Tools just as if they had logged in manually.

This is something I've been talking about doing for a long time, but just never got a around to. Now that it's done, I think it may be one of my favorite features. One days work is all it took, so it makes me wonder why I took so long to get around to it :-) Well, I guess now I'll have to convert all the emails to HTML... oh yea.. that's why I never got around to it.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

No More Lame Counter
I created an inline frame on this page and filled it with a blank page served from the web servers so that I can use my log analyzer to track who is visiting and how often. I'm used to hosing my own pages, so I was a bit dismayed that I couldn't know who was visiting or how often. Originally I decided to just add a page counter to the blog page, but how lame is that! So I killed the counter and now I can see pretty graphs and full on stats. Whoohoo! :-)
New Version of the Getting Started Guide
I was up late last night updating the "Getting Started Guide" to reflect the recent changes to the system. I keep trying to figure out ways to make getting started even easier and I hope the new automatic [Q]Form feature makes a big impact on helping folks get started quickly and easily.

My goal is to have it take less than five minutes from the time you first visit and having one answer in the knowledge base and having that one answer delivered. I can personally do it in less than two minutes, but new users need time to figure out what's up in a system unlike any they have worked with before. Just getting the Question/Answer paradigm to click and having the user absorb a new vocabulary just takes time.

After working on this project for almost 25 years, I think it's gotten allot easier, but it's still not "little old lady" easy. Making something really easy and at the same time extremely powerful is a real challenge for me. I hope that folks will agree that I've done a fair job of it.

Steps to get started
  • Visit

  • Sign up for a new account

  • Log into the [Q]Server Tools

  • Read and follow the getting started guide

  • Add answers as users ask questions

I just seems so simple to me, yet I know I need to make it even simpler... if anyone has ideas, leave me feedback using the "Report Bug or Request Feature" tool available in the Miscellaneous section of the [Q]Server Tools.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Added Links to All My Online Projects & Updated My[Q]Box
I added links for each of the projects that I have been responsible for that have a web presence. I have been making nice enhancements to the My[Q]Box system lately.

I've smoothed out the sign-up process and added super lexicons to the near lexicon list. These are so very cool. Where a lexicon entries like "CD=Compact Disk" or "CD=Certificate of Deposit" actually change the text that the user types in, super lexicon entries just imply that words or phrases may have like meanings. They can be used for things like "it=widget" so that users can ask "What is it?" and the system assumes they may mean "What is widget?". But at the same time, it doesn't always change "it" into widget, so you can still ask "What time is it?" without the system thinking you said "What time is widget?". Check it out, it's very cool.
Sent Sarah and Leo an email!
I really love all the programming on TechTV, I watch "The Screen Savers" religiously (Thank you TiVo!). I added links to my favorite shows and then decided to send Sarah Lane (The queen of the Blog) and Leo Laporte (The king of all that is tech) an email telling them about my new blog and hopefully turning them on to My[Q]Box.

I could see them both needing My[Q]Box big time!!! With all the questions these folks answer, I bet they have a ton of questions that they'd love to only answer one time and let some silly computer answer the rest automatically. Maybe I'm bias, but the mixture of blogs and My[Q]Box seems like a natural. Your visitors tell you what they want to know, so you always know what to write about.

Well, starting to blamble (That's rambling in a blog) so I'll close this entry with one last plug for THE SCREEN SAVERS!
Birth of the My[Q]Box Blog!
See the My[Q]Box website for details.