How Technology Can Help You Engage Your Audience the Right Way

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If you’re looking for a scapegoat for just about any of the world’s issues, you probably know technology makes a good choice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people talk about how technology and being “plugged in” is making relationships harder than ever.

For some, I’m sure that’s probably true. At the end of the day, though, technology is a tool, and your relationships with other people — including your audience — depend on how you use it.

For marketers, technology presents an opportunity for you to reach and connect with your audience. Content marketing tools, for example, help you plan and craft your brand’s most engaging messages. Social media tools help you get them into the hands of the right people. Marketing automation platforms help you streamline and automate your processes, among other things.

The only catch? You can’t entirely remove the human element from the equation and let technology do it all.

Learn the Golden Equation: Technology + authenticity = engagement

If you had your choice between an engaging, personalized message from an authentic thought leader at a company and boring, automated content coming from an impersonal corporate logo, which would you prefer? It’s no contest: We’d all choose personalized content from real humans.

Marketers can use technology to create that content, deliver it, measure their efforts — any number of things. But tech, as ever-present as it is, won’t magically result in audience engagement and stronger relationships. Like I said, it’s a tool that needs to be used to make your job of connecting with your audience easier than before.

Sadly, too many brands forget their role in building those relationships and overlook the human elements that are necessary to make their messages resonate. They then wonder why engagement is low, assuming technology has created this huge trust barrier and made it harder to connect instead of looking in the mirror to find the root of the problem: They haven’t humanized their brands or used the right content to communicate that.

Make the shift from me to you

Talking “at” versus talking “with”: It’s a big distinction. Too many companies are knee-deep in the former, pushing out information like that boorish uncle at your folks’ annual Fourth of July picnic who simultaneously says everything and nothing.

In the past, brands would develop an idea or a message and push it out for everyone and their mother to see, whether those recipients truly cared to see it or not. In my business and marketing book, “Top of Mind,” I call this “Me Marketing,” where marketers only push out what they want and focus on themselves in the process. (I’ve yet to meet one person who truly enjoys getting spammed with a ton of promotional emails that were clearly sent out en masse with no personalization at all.)

Today, effective brands and marketers are taking a different approach. They have shifted to what I call “You Marketing” and have begun creating content for the actual audience members receiving it.

There’s a much greater focus on what audiences want and how they like to receive information, engage with content, and work with brands. Marketers need to listen to and authentically engage with audiences, and they need to do it on that audience’s terms. Technology can help.

Pursue new technology for better relationships

One example of a tool that’s taking the modern customer experience and running with it is PingPilot. Launched by SCORCH, this software aims to change the conversation between businesses and individuals by allowing people to choose their preferred means of communication. The means of conversation can change depending on the client’s needs — live chat, voice, and SMS are all viable channels. Essentially, businesses move over and give consumers the keys to the car, as well as the wheel.

Over time, this allows brands and consumers to forge sincere bonds based on trust and live interactions, not chatbots or automated replies. Each touchpoint becomes an opportunity to build a better understanding of customers; data from these interactions can improve the company’s marketing stack and explode lead generation, not to mention conversions.

This is a prime example of how technology actually helps build stronger personal relationships and connections, not replace them.

Everyone loves to hate something, but it’s time to pull back from blaming technology left and right. Instead of cursing a technology-rich world that’s made Snapchat filters and hashtags so ubiquitous you hardly notice them anymore, it’s wiser to look deeper into what those selfies and hashtags mean to the people who make, view, and engage with them. Authenticity between brands and audiences has technology at its core, but it takes human hands, minds, and hearts to execute it.

John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a keynote speaker, and the author of “Top of Mind.” You can book John to speak here.

[“Source-forbes”]

Transforming, self-learning software could help save the planet

Image result for Transforming, self-learning software could help save the planet

Artificially intelligent computer software that can learn, adapt and rebuild itself in real-time could help combat climate change.

Researchers at Lancaster University’s Data Science Institute have developed a software system that can for the first time rapidly self-assemble into the most efficient form without needing humans to tell it what to do.

The system — called REx — is being developed with vast energy-hungry data centres in mind. By being able to rapidly adjust to optimally deal with a huge multitude of tasks, servers controlled by REx would need to do less processing, therefore consuming less energy.

REx works using ‘micro-variation’ — where a large library of building blocks of software components (such as memory caches, and different forms of search and sort algorithms) can be selected and assembled automatically in response to the task at hand.

“Everything is learned by the live system, assembling the required components and continually assessing their effectiveness in the situations to which the system is subjected,” said Dr Barry Porter, lecturer at Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications. “Each component is sufficiently small that it is easy to create natural behavioural variation. By autonomously assembling systems from these micro-variations we then see REx create software designs that are automatically formed to deal with their task.

“As we use connected devices on a more frequent basis, and as we move into the era of the Internet of Things, the volume of data that needs to be processed and distributed is rapidly growing. This is causing a significant demand for energy through millions of servers at data centres. An automated system like REx, able to find the best performance in any conditions, could offer a way to significantly reduce this energy demand,” Dr Porter added.

In addition, as modern software systems are increasingly complex — consisting of millions of lines of code — they need to be maintained by large teams of software developers at significant cost. It is broadly acknowledged that this level of complexity and management is unsustainable. As well as saving energy in data centres, self-assembling software models could also have significant advantages by improving our ability to develop and maintain increasingly complex software systems for a wide range of domains, including operating systems and Internet infrastructure.

REx is built using three complementary layers. At the base level a novel component-based programming language called Dana enables the system to find, select and rapidly adapt the building blocks of software. A perception, assembly and learning framework (PAL) then configures and perceives the behaviour of the selected components, and an online learning process learns the best software compositions in real-time by taking advantage of statistical learning methods known as ‘linear bandit models’.

The work is presented in the paper ‘REx: A Development Platform and Online Learning Approach for Runtime Emergent Software Systems’ at the conference ‘OSDI ’16 12th USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation’. The research has been partially supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and also a PhD scholarship of Brazil.

The next steps of this research will look at the automated creation of new software components for use by these systems and will also strive to increase automation even further to make software systems an active part of their own development teams, providing live feedback and suggestions to human programmers.

[Source:- SD]

Toddler robots help solve how children learn

Children learn new words using the same method as robots, according to psychologists.

This suggests that early learning is based not on conscious thought but on an automatic ability to associate objects which enables babies to quickly make sense of their environment.

Dr Katie Twomey from Lancaster University, with Dr Jessica Horst from Sussex University, Dr Anthony Morse and Professor Angelo Cangelosi from Plymouth wanted to find out how young children learn new words for the first time. They programmed a humanoid robot called iCub designed to have similar proportions to a three year old child, using simple software which enabled the robot to hear words through a microphone and see with a camera. They trained it to point at new objects to identify them in order to solve the mystery of how young children learn new words.

Dr Twomey said: “We know that two-year-old children can work out the meaning of a new word based on words they already know. That is, our toddler can work out that the new word “giraffe” refers to a new toy, when they can also see two others, called “duck” and “rabbit.” ”

It is thought that toddlers achieve this through a strategy known as “mutual exclusivity” where they use a process of elimination to work out that because the brown toy is called “rabbit,” and the yellow toy is called “duck,” then the orange toy must be “giraffe.”

What the researchers found is that the robot learned in exactly the same way when shown several familiar toys and one brand new toy.

Dr Twomey said: “This new study shows that mutual exclusivity behaviour can be achieved with a very simple “brain” that just learns associations between words and objects. In fact, intelligent as iCub seems, it actually can’t say to itself “I know that the brown toy is a rabbit, and I know that that the yellow toy is a duck, so this new toy must be giraffe,” because its software is too simple.

“This suggests that at least some aspects of early learning are based on an astonishingly powerful association making ability which allows babies and toddlers to rapidly absorb information from the very complicated learning environment.”

 

[Source:- SD]

SQL Server monitoring tools help DBAs take back nights and weekends

Many DBAs have to work more and more nights and weekends to fulfill zero-downtime demands. But tools for monitoring and managing SQL Server might free up some of that time.

Minimizing weekend and late-night work by database administrators was a quest near and dear to the hearts of many attendees at PASS Summit 2014in Seattle. At the conference, Thomas LaRock, president of the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) user group, explained the dilemma of the modern DBA: Routine maintenance, updates, patches and hardware replacements all require database downtime — but that’s unacceptable except at night or on weekends.

And as systems have grown more and more efficient, La Rock added, many database administrators (DBAs) are being asked to take on workloads that used to be spread across multiple individuals, requiring longer working hours to get everything done. “It’s only ever more, more, more,” he said in an interview.

“I’ve seen a huge growth rate of after-hours work that people are being demanded to do,” agreed Carl Berglund, director of business development at DH2i Co., a vendor of SQL Server monitoring tools and management software in Fort Collins, Colo. But, Berglund said, working more nights and weekends results in tired DBAs — and tired people make more mistakes.

One thing that potentially can help SQL Server DBAs cut down on their off-hours workloads is the database performance monitoring and managementsoftware sold by Microsoft and various third-party vendors. For example, LaRock works as database management “head geek” at SolarWinds, a vendor in Austin, Texas, that offers a tool called Database Performance Analyzer (DPA). The product, which SolarWinds acquired when it bought Confio Software last year, tracks and analyzes the “wait time” in applications running on top of a database. DPA pinpoints processes that are causing holdups and provides guidance on how to alleviate the problems and speed up processing time.

DH2i has also developed tools specifically intended to combat lost nights and weekends for DBAs. Berglund presented on that topic at a SQLSaturday conference held by PASS in Orlando, Fla., in September. DH2i’s strategy is designed to provide application mobility and infrastructure independence, enabling SQL Server instances to be updated on a new virtual host with little downtime. DBAs “can do the majority of [updates and patching] in the daytime and just a stop and restart at night,” Berglund said.

New tool saves time — for other tasks

Cindy Osborn, SQL Server technology lead and SQL architect at International Paper Co. in Memphis, Tenn., is a user of the SolarWinds DPA tool. She started a trial of the software in June, when it was still known as Confio Ignite. Now Osborn uses it on a regular basis as she manages 100 instances of SQL Server for the global paper and packaging manufacturer. She found DPA while looking for a monitoring tool to help her analyze database performance and deal with code issues in applications.

Previously, whenever one of the multiple software development groups at International Paper had a problem, Osborn’s DBA team was forced to drop everything to “stop and dig,” as she described it. The developers couldn’t work on fixing the problems themselves without being given elevated access to the servers running the databases, which could cause security issues. In one case, Osborn had to do hours of code tweaking to get a homegrown incident tracking application to work correctly. At other times, she said, it took her “hours upon hours” to tell software vendors what was wrong with their applications.

With the SolarWinds tool, Osborn said her team can pinpoint problems more quickly and reduce interruptions to their usual DBA work. Another benefit, she added, is that graphs generated by DPA as part of reports on performance problems are easy for business users to understand. “Now, I don’t get, ‘Your server is slow,’ ” she said, describing phone calls with users.

Osborn is still working off-hours, but she said that DPA has helped her reduce her workload by enabling her to consolidate some SQL Server instances. Thanks to the database consolidation, she now can run SQL Server on fewer processor cores — and with fewer cores and instances to manage, Osborn has freed up some time. Much of it was taken up by other tasks, but she has noticed a decrease in night and weekend overtime.

On-call DBA hours hard to endure

Andrea Letourneau stopped working as a DBA for financial services technology provider Fiserv Inc. after her experience in an on-call position there. Letourneau, who now is a developer and database specialist at Viewpoint Construction Software in Portland, Ore., said that she was one of two people working as on-call DBAs at Fiserv, which meant she had to be available to take calls from its customers more than 50% of the time. “My husband got sick of the 3 a.m. phone calls,” she said.

While Letourneau has exchanged the duties of a DBA for writing custom code, she did offer some strategies for minimizing night and weekend work time. She said she checked system usage trends before the weekend so she could see if more hardware would be needed and put in a request to IT before it became a problem, thus cutting down on emergency calls. She also made manual checks of the database servers part of her daily routine and especially monitored disk space to make sure there was plenty of room.

Letourneau added that DBAs now are able to use SQL Server monitoring tools from vendors like SolarWinds, SQL Sentry and Idera to help them with that process. “It’s definitely come a long way,” she said. “If you have good monitoring software and a good DBA doing the monitoring, it helps.”

 

[Source:- techtarget]

Travel apps: The best travel apps to help you before and during your holiday

If you’re off on a big holiday, chances are you’ll take your smartphone. The computer you can carry anywhere is a window to a world of thousands of apps, and there’s a shedload that claim they will make your trip better. Few actually can, so we’ve gone to the trouble of finding the best travel apps out there.

These are some of the best travel apps out there, and with a decent roaming package from your operator or a decent hotel Wi-Fi connection, these apps will help you plan your trip, find the best mojito in town or get you out of sticky travel situations.

Come June 2017, EU roaming charges will be abolished, and to celebrate we will all go on a Euro holiday and stream Game of Thrones on our smartphones before calling mum back home whilst sending a thousand Snapchats, but until then, make sure to watch your bill.

We’ve broken down the 14 best travel apps into sections, so click below to just straight to a particular one:

  • Pre-trip planning
  • Getting around
  • Food & drink
  • Language
  • Money

Pre-trip planning

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Best travel apps: Kayak

Free
Kayak for Android
Kayak for iOS

The Kayak app is a bit of an all-rounder when it comes to holiday planning. You’ll be able to use it to find and book hotels, flights and cars, and also track flights and manage your trip agenda. There’s also a price alerts feature that’ll help you get the best deal on the holiday you’re hoping to go on, as well as a packing list to ensure you don’t forget anything.

It’s got a really smart, intuitive interface too, so getting the information you need is quick and easy. For example, once you’ve chosen your city and holiday dates, Kayak’s search engine will bring up a long list of available hotels, clearly showing a photo, the hotel’s rating and the price it’ll cost you for each hotel so you can skip right past the horrible or expensive ones.

TripAdvisor

Free
TripAdvisor for Android
TripAdvisor for iOS

One of the most popular apps to use while planning your holiday is TripAdvisor, the main benefit being the huge number of hotel reviews that have been written by holidaymakers themselves. You can make your decision about pretty much any hotel you’re interested in based on the reviews left on TripAdvisor, which will tell you about everything from the food and the cleanliness of the rooms to the service and location.

Even if you don’t book your hotel through TripAdvisor, it’s well worth checking the reviews before you make your decision about where you want to stay.

TripAdvisor also lets you find and book flights.

Best travel apps: Booking.com

Free
Booking.com for Android
Booking.com for iOS

Another great app for booking hotels is Booking.com, especially if you’re looking to book it last minute or if you’re one of those brave people who waits until they arrive to book somewhere. There’s a feature that helps you find available hotels nearby, and it works in more than 64,000 destinations around the world. Plus, as well as showing available hotels, Booking.com also includes villas and apartments.

Like TripAdvisor, Booking.com features reviews of each hotel from people who’ve been there, and you can use the app to go through the entire booking process.

Best travel apps: Expedia

Free
Expedia for Android
Expedia for iOS

For booking both hotels and flights, Expedia is a good app. It’s nicely designed (though sometimes there’s a little too much information to take in at once) and it offers some exclusive deals that might be right up your (holiday) street.

As with TripAdvisor and Booking.com, Expedia has reviews from real customers, and lets you book everything straight from the app.

Best travel apps: Hotels.com

Free
Hotels.com for Android
Hotels.com for iOS

Another hotel discovery and booking app is Hotels.com, which has recently had a rather nice redesign. Just like TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Expedia, Hotels.com helps you find good hotels in the area you’re planning to travel to, and has helpful filters to weed out the hotels that won’t work for you.

There’s also a map feature for nearby hotels, which you can book straight from the app.

Really, which of these four similar apps you use is down to your personal preference. They’re all free, so it’s worth giving them a try until you find the one you like best.

Best travel apps: Triposo

Free
Triposo for Android
Triposo for iOS

Apps from developer Triposo can help you plan your visit to pretty much any country in the world. You can’t use this app to book hotels or flights, but you can use it to help you find out what’s nearby to your chosen destination, so you can plan the activities you’ll get up to while you’re there.

For example, if you’re planning to travel to Italy, you can download Triposo’s Italy Travel Guide (it’s free) to find out what there is to do in the city you’re going to, such as Rome, Florence or Venice. You’ll find maps with highlighted attractions, restaurants, bars, supermarkets and photo opportunities, as well as information such as directions, reviews and contact details for restaurants, museums and more. These guides, handily, can also be viewed offline.

Other handy features include a phrasebook and currency converter.

There’s also a Triposo app that encompasses the entire world, so if you’ve not yet made up your mind about where you’re heading, this might be a better option for you.

Best travel apps: Skyscanner

Free
Skyscanner for Android
Skyscanner for iOS

This one is just for flights, but it sure helps if you’re trying to find the best deal. It’s free to download, though you will spot some ads unless you’re willing to cough up the £1.49 in-app purchase to remove them.

Using Skyscanner, you can search flights from hundreds of airlines around the world to find the cheapest and best ones. Definitely worth a check before you book your flight.

Best travel apps: TripCase

Free
TripCase for Android
TripCase for iOS

This is a rather nice app for both planning your holiday and helping you out when you get there. You’d use it once you’ve already booked your accommodation and flights, as you can enter all of your trip details into TripCase to keep them all in one place and find out if anything has changed (if your flight has been delayed, for example).

In addition to hotel reservations, flights and other transport, you can also add details of trips you plan to make, attractions you’ve booked and restaurants you’d like to eat at. Sharing the itinerary with others who’re coming on your trip with you, or even with those you’re leaving behind at home, can come in useful to keep everyone in the loop.

Plus, there’s a 10-day weather forecast including so you’ll know what to pack and you can rearrange your plans to avoid the rain.

Getting around

Best travel apps: CityMapper

Free
CityMapper for Android
CityMapper for iOS

Currently available in 31 cities worldwide, CityMapper is an excellent app for navigating public transport and walking directions. As long as you’re set up with a good roaming plan so you don’t get charged the earth, it’ll get you from A to B (or from the club to your bed) with excellent step by step instructions based on your current location. It’s a potential lifesaver in a foreign city.

Best travel apps: Google Maps

Free
Google Maps for Android
Google Maps for iOS

The king of map apps remains Google’s offering. We’ve found that day in, day out it offers the most reliable routes while remaining very intuitive and easy to use. A plethora of options, from bus-only routes to an optimised in-car GPS mode make this ridiculously good for a free app.

Perhaps one its still best kept secrets is offline mode – if you’re abroad and haven’t got a data package, you can find where you’re going for the day on your hotel Wi-Fi and save that map for offline use. Google claims the biggest download size for an offline area is 120,000 square kilometres, so we think you’ll be fine for a day or two!

You lose GPS navigation, but carrying around a section of unfamiliar city in your pocket in traditional map form is incredibly handy.

Food & drink

Best travel apps: Untappd

Free
Untappd for Android
Untappd for iOS

An app for beer lovers the world over, Untappd lets you create your own profile and then discover the best beer in town. You can check in at various watering holes and post opinions on local tipples and talk to others who have been to the same places.

For travelling it’s great, as you can search for popular pubs or simply those closest to you, and hopefully get an idea of what’s on tap there. You can also search for individual beers to see where they are being served near to you – very handy in a city you’re new to.

Best travel apps: OpenTable

Free
OpenTable for Android
OpenTable for iOS

OpenTable is a great research and booking app for restaurants while you’re away in the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, Germany, Australia and Japan. You can search by location, cuisine, price and more and book tables instantly – great in unfamiliar cities when most places are bound to have a user generated review too, meaning nights out when away just got a whole lot easier.

You can even send booking invitations to friends and add booking to your phone’s calendar, meaning OpenTable is one of the best integrated apps on offer.

Language

Best travel apps: Google Translate

Free
Google Translate for Android
Google Translate for iOS

We love this app. It is as intuitive and versatile as you’d expect from a Google-made app and has some excellent features, from fun to downright practical.

You can set the written language and the language to translate into, which then displays on the screen after you type it in, and you can even make it full screen to read easier or show to a (likely unimpressed, but oh well) local.

Even more useful, particularly for menu reading, is the auto-translate option via your smartphone’s camera. Turn it on and hold your phone up to a foreign language sign, and the app translates each individual word for a quick and easy rough translation. Helpful if you don’t want to accidentally order the pig’s tongue.

Money

Best travel apps: XE Currency

Free
XE Currency for Android
XE Currency for iOS

For the money conscious traveller (which really should be all of us) this is a standard meat and potatoes currency converter. It’s worth using instead of a pre-installed smartphone function as it is updated with live rates and has around 180 currencies listed, and it’ll help you check whether the rickety shed you’re getting your new currency from because you didn’t do it at the Post Office before you travelled is really ripping you off or not.

It also has a simple conversion calculator for when you cant resist the allure of a duty-free iPad. This will help you check if the saving is truly worth it.

 

[Source:- PCadvisor]