Human/machine partnership for problems otherwise Too Hard

Clippit asking if the user needs help
Clippit asking if the user needs help (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Agreed. I think insofar as a computer AI can watch and see what we’re doing and step in and prompt us with some questions, THAT will be the killer app. It won’t be Clippy the assistant from MS Word, but a friendly prompt saying, “I just watched you do something 3 times in a row, would you like some help doing a bunch of them without having to go through the steps yourself?” Then you got the offer of assistance, it’s timely and non-threatening. You won’t have to “turn-on” a Macro recorder to tell the computer what you want to do, and let it see the steps. It (the computer) will have already recognized you are doing a repetitive task it can automate. And as Jon points out it’s just a matter of successive approximations until you get the slam dunk, series of steps that gets the heavy lifting done. Then the human can address the exceptions list. The 20-50 examples that didn’t work quite right or the AI felt diverged from the pattern. That exception list is what the human should really be working on, not the 1,000 self-similar items that can be handled with the assistance of an AI.

Jon Udell

My recent post about redirecting a page of broken links weaves together two few different ideas. First, that the titles of the articles on that page of broken links can be used as search terms in alternate links that lead people to those articles’ new locations. Second, that non-programmers can create macros to transform the original links into alternate search-driven links.

There was lots of useful feedback on the first idea. As Herbert Van de Sompel and Michael Nelson pointed out, it was a really bad idea to discard the original URLs, which retain value as lookup keys into one or more web archives. Alan Levine showed how to do that with the Wayback Machine. That method, however, leads the user to sets of snapshots that don’t consistently mirror the original article, because (I think) Wayback’s captures happened both before and after the breakage.

So for now I’ve restored…

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