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The News – 03/06/03

In this Issue:

Recommended Reading

I realize this is the only newsletter you’ll ever need, but if you want more in-depth detail, check out:

Stan Hustad’s
The Coaching Connection

Management Signature's
The Express Read

Automated IM Dudes

My kids have recently been using robotic Instant Messaging thingies – pals, services, buddies? What the heck would you call an automated thingie that you can IM and have it respond intelligibly? Eliza? Anyway, their favorite, smarterchild, now appears to be offline, at least on the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service. That leaves ringmessenger, a Lord Of The Rings dude; dnLflipit, basically an ad for 7up (dnL is 7up flipped, get it); and Austin Powers. Austin greats you thusly:

Hello, cramderux! I am the Austin Powers International Bot of Mystery. I was built by the Ministry of Defense to serve, protect and... put the grrr in swinger, baby! Yeah!

Many of these bots are the product of ActiveBuddy, which I covered in an article for the TaylorHarkins newsletter. In that article I explored the eBay Buddy, which was actually pretty lame, as this transcript attests. This new generation of bots is a lot more conversational. Here’s how dnLFlipIt greeted me:

dnLFlipIt: Wassup cramderux! I'm dnL Flipit. brought to you by Dr. Pepper/7-Up Inc.

I can tell you about the slammin' new soda dnL, help you win $5 mil, play games and more. To read more about privacy, click here

To get going, type "home" now.

The bot lets you play five games, Hangman, Word Scramble, Downloads, Groove Blender, and Manicdotes, a variant of MadLibs. While the bot is pretty smooth, and the game unremarkable, there’s work to be done in BotVille. Check out the message I got when I won my game of hangman:

dnLFlipIt: :-) Puzzle solved: Stream!

Check it out! You are the GetOrdinalFromInt(157) person ever to solve this puzzle!

I always wanted to be the GetOrdinalFromInt(157) person to solve a puzzle! Obviously there’s a bit of errant programming inside the dnLFlipIt bot.

ActiveBuddy says they offer these other bots in addition to the ones previously mentioned:

  • RecipeBuddie – Need an idea for dinner? Meet RecipeBuddie, your IM recipe pal.

  • AOLBuddy™ Wireless Informer – When you’re on the go, send a wireless instant message to the AOLBuddy™ screen name to have movie times, stock quotes, news and even your horoscope delivered via AOL® Instant Messenger™ service, right to your wireless phone.

  • AgentFinance – Specializes in news and financial information, with stock quotes, charts, indices and more.

However, none of these three appear to be online on AIM at the moment. The ActiveBuddy FAQ has this to say about “retired” bots:

Several ActiveBuddy-powered interactive agents, including GooglyMinotaur, TattleTeller, and LindsayBuddy, are retired. There are many reasons why an interactive agent would retire, but in most cases, it's because the agent's work is done. For example, TattleTeller was focused on the 2002 Academy Awards. Once the awards were presented, the agent was ready to move on. If your favorite interactive agent retires, check our agent list and start talking with a new one!

As silly as all this may seem, these IM bots are a significant new way to market, especially to kids. The bots offer amusing games or silly conversations, and gently slip in the marketing message. Witness Austin Powers, who for some reason is able to give me my horoscope:

Austin Powers: You hit your mark every time, baby. Anytime your targets seem skittish all you have to do is look 'em in the eye and say, “Au contraire baby, you can't resist me!” But when the person you love turns out to be a mechanized lackey for a despotic super villain, don't despair. Just think, “Wait a tic! This means I'm single! Yeah! Freedom, baby!”

OK, I'll remember that you are a Sagittarius.

Here's your Sagittarius horoscope for Wednesday, March 5th:

You will be in a party mood so make plans to do something that is fun as well as challenging. You will be spontaneous, imaginative and ready to take on whatever comes your way. Your ability to work hard and have fun while doing so will impress anyone watching from the sidelines.

>>> It's a bit nutty, baby! Goldmember is in theatres now!

I’d say he’s got me pegged! He knows more about me than about the movie Goldmember, which is not playing in theatres now.

There are two things to think about regarding this trend.

First, how can you use Instant Messaging to market your product or service? Perhaps you could create a customer service bot or a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) bot.

Second, now not only do you need to worry about the live people your kids are IMing, you also need to worry about what bots they’re talking to, and what those bots are doing with the information they gather. I guess I don’t mind if Austin Powers knows I’m a Sagittarius, but there are plenty of things I don’t want strangers to know about my kids.

I tell my kids, frequently, to treat people they encounter online as strangers. Don’t tell them anything you wouldn’t tell a stranger who walked up to you on the street. Don’t tell them your real name, your age, where you live, or Dad’s bank account number. Don't ever agree to meet. It’s important to repeat this message often as kids tend to forget.


Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: A couple issues ago I debuted SNS Begware, an opportunity for you, gentle reader, to express your appreciation by tipping your server via PayPal. See the sidebar for more info. Total in the kitty so far: $0.00.

    I’ve reworked the Opinion section, adding a Prediction Tracking page to track the various predictions I’ve made, and also added a Stuff I Said page with some quotes of things I said a decade or so ago on the Net. I've also given the TrendSpot a much needed overhaul.

    I repurposed and adapted an article about the wireless service known as Short Messaging Service (SMS) for the Reside newsletter. It’s entitled, Wherever they go, there you are and it points out how marketers can use – carefully – this new way to contact their customers.

    I’m featured in Manyworlds’ Thought Leader Showcase, which lists a few of the white papers I’ve done. I’ve also added their fancy icon to the StratVantage site.

    Finally, the CTOMentor wireless white paper, You Can Take It with You: Business Applications of Personal Wireless Devices, is available at ITPapers.

  • The Answer to a Question Nobody Asked: One of the hottest, or at least most hyped, new computing categories is the so-called Tablet PC. The idea behind these LCD panel-cum-computers is convenience. Many have touch screens and some, like ViewSonic’s $999 Airpanel V110 Smart Display, don’t have built-in keyboards or even much on-board computing power.

    ViewSonic’s device is merely a Wi-Fi (wireless networking) based display that shows whatever your main computer, which is stashed away somewhere in a closet, sends it. The host PC does most of the computing work, but displays on the V110, which weighs 2.9 pounds and has a 10.4-inch screen. The unit comes with a USB-based Wi-Fi hotspot for your base computer.

    But who asked for it? How much computing do you do that doesn’t need text input? Or even power scrolling?

    As Business Week puts it, “The device merely saves you from having to sit in front of your desktop computer or cart around a notebook, which may or may not be bulkier. For instance, the V110's 15-inch sibling, the $1299 V150, tips the scales at 5.9 pounds, making it heavier than many laptops. [. . .] For a device that is clearly intended for heavy Web surfing, however, the absence of a wheel or toggle for scrolling is mystifying and inexcusable. And due to Wi-Fi bandwidth limitations, the V110 can't handle video files or serious 3D games, but you can stream music to the V110 or use it as a remote for a computer connected to your stereo.”

    Like I said, the answer to a question nobody asked. However, you should be aware that the first time I called a product the answer to a question nobody asked I was talking about the four-wheel-drive Subaru station wagon in the mid-70s. And we all know where that eventually went.
    Business Week

  • Deadly Phones: Some drug dealers in Europe are using guns that are disguised as mobile phones. French police recently seized two devices that looked like traditional mobile phones on the outside, but which were capable of shooting four .22 caliber bullets, with digital touch pads used as triggers.

    Talk about shooting your mouth off!
    Wireless Week
  • Gartner Does the 802.11 Numbers: Although the report is almost a year old, Gartner’s summary of the various 802.11 wireless LAN standards is clear and easy to read. It even predicts that 802.11g devices will be available in the first half of 2003 with .7 probability. Regular readers know I bought an 802.11g hotspot at the end of January, so I guess Gartner would call that a win, despite forecasting that the standard would be solidified by the end of 2002. It hasn’t been yet, and might not be until the end of this year.

    By the way, thanks to Best Buy’s wonderful return policies, I traded in my malfunctioning 802.11g laptop card for one that actually works. So now everything’s coolly unwired at StratVantage Central.
    Gartner Group

  • House to Consider $2.1B Nanotechnology Bill: House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced legislation to authorize $2.1 billion over three years for a multi-agency national nanotechnology research initiative. Nanotechnology is one of the top interagency priorities in the Administration's fiscal 2004 proposed budget.

    H.R. 766, the Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003 (What no cute acronym? No Mom and Apple Pie jingoism?), authorizes nanotechnology research and development programs at the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and the National Science Foundation. (For more info on nanotechnology, with will change your life by the end of this decade, see the StratVantage Nanotechnology Resources Directory.) A section-by-section analysis of H.R 766 can be found at:
    US House of Representatives

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About The Author

Announcing CTOMentor, a New Service from StratVantage

Can’t Get Enough of ME?

In the unlikely event that you want more of my opinions, I’ve started a Weblog. It’s the fashionable thing for pundits to do, and I’m doing it too. A Weblog is a datestamped collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a Web page. If you’d like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do, you can create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows you FTP access, and the free software from This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts to your Weblog.

I’ve dubbed my Weblog entries “Stratlets”, and they are available at Let me know what you think.

Also check out the TrendSpot for ranking of the latest emerging trends.

In Memoriam

Gerald M. Ellsworth

March 14, 1928 - July 5, 2003

In Memoriam

Jane C. Ellsworth

July 20, 1928 - July 20, 2003