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Picture of Ernest Hemingway

Social Media Writing with the Iceberg Theory

Social Media Writing with the Iceberg Theory 200 200 Cordny

Telling the story of your company is very important. Lots of SaaS companies use social media for this. LinkedIn, Facebook and also Instagram are excellent distributors of your story. At TestingSaaS we use it lot.

But, beware! Users of social media are impatient. If a story is too dull, they click or swipe to the next one.

So you have to get your story told in a quick and amusing way.

And because social media, next to the graphics and videos, makes use of short texts, you need to know how to write these. Why not use the same technique as is used in writing short stories: the famous Iceberg Theory of Ernest Hemingway. No, you do not need to be chased by Spanish bulls or have to shoot an elephant. It describes Hemingwway’s writing style.

What is the Iceberg Theory?

Why is it called the Iceberg Theory?

Well, it’s really about the iceberg. When you look at an iceberg, what do you see? The top! The other bigger part is under the water, which you can’t see.

Hemingway adapted this in his story by omitting everything that did not contribute to the story. His opinion was the reader could interpret this themselves and further construct the story.

Hemingway mentioned the Iceberg Theory in his famous book about bull fighting Death in the Afternoon’:

 ” If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

For Hemingway, the actions of the characters should clarify the tensions felt in in the story, without explicitly mentioning them. Hemingway used his journalistic skills to accomplish this. Examples are the omission of adjectives and using short and crispy sentences.

The link with Social Media Writing

Awesome, but how is this related to telling my SaaS story on social media?

Social media stories are short and you have to use less words to tell your story. A great exercise for the Iceberg Theory. If you do it well, your story will be remembered by the reader who will then follow you for more stories. Voila, a follower.

In short, Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory is a great technique to promote your SaaS company, or any company, on social media.

Have a go! I’d love to hear your experiences.

what is a swipe file?

No Inspiration for your SaaS Website? Use a Swipe File

No Inspiration for your SaaS Website? Use a Swipe File 1424 744 Cordny
what is a swipe file and how can you create 1
credits: https://martech.org/content-creation-swipe-files-inspiration-tools-organization/

You have a SaaS startup and you are busy as hell. Designing the application, getting funding, and you also need to market your SaaS solution. You only have 24 hours in a day and especially marketing lags behind. It takes too much time to create content for your marketing. How is it possible other SaaS startups, especially the succesfull ones, have great websites, articles and ads? And they also attract many visitors who convert into clients. Are they so good in copywriting? No! You know how they do it? They use a swipe file. What is that? Read all about it here on TestingSaaS.

What is a Swipe File?

A swipe file is a set of writing examples you can find on- and offline. Examples are websites, blogs, advertising, news letters, e-mails, editorials, you name it. A swipe file is even not restricted to copywriting. Songwriters and novel writers also rely on a swipe file when they are out of inspiration.

What is the Goal of a Swipe File?

First of all, a swipe file is not meant to copy from your competitors. The main goal is to get inspiration from this file and enhance your writing skills. You could for instance develop a template from a set of succesfull ads for a SaaS application similar to yours. Companies like Salesforce, Microsoft and Amazon have great ads which can inspire you for your SaaS ad. Great, but how do I create a swipe file?

How do you Create a Swipe File

Tha’s quite easy. Create a directory called SWIPE on your PC, laptop or tablet. This can be done on- or offline. In this directory you collect all your inspiring examples. You can even make subdirectories like social media ads, blogs, editorials etc. to categorize your examples.

The Advantages of a Swipe File

The most important advantage is you can always tun on your swipe file when you are out of inspiration. Is it hard to create a Facebook ad? Just look at examples in your swipe file.

You can save your swipe file locally, offline, on your device, but why not online? This way you can manage the swipe file anytime and anywhere. Working online also increases the collaboration with others.

Are there tools for online management of your swipe file? Yes, there are!

Tools for Swipe Files

Google KeepDropbox or the popular tool Evernote are great tools. These tools enable you to manage your swipefile anywhere anytime. Now you will never have to be afraid you can’t collect a great headline you can use for your SaaS marketing.

Examples of Swipe Files

Onlne there are many examples of swipe files. For my SaaS marketing I use swiped.co a lot. It really assists me to create a great SaaS content marketing campaign for my clients.

Now you have the basics for making your swipe file. Have fun!

What is the connection between IKEA, playful learning and TestingSaaS?

Playful learning at TestingSaaS

Playful learning at TestingSaaS 1440 710 Cordny

What has playful learning at Ikea have in common with TestingSaaS?

Yesterday I read an article on the Dutch mtsprout.nl about IKEA and how Bas Van De Poel, creative director SPACE10, IKEA’s innovation lab, looks for answers for tomorrow’s business questions and creating a better everyday life.

With the Ikea Place app Space10 revolutionized shopping for furniture by placing the furniture immersed in your own living room.

How? By augmented reality.

Ikea and Augmented Reality

Space10 saw this opportunity when in 2016 Apple announced the launch of ARKIT for iOS11 and development started.

Together with the Dutch TWNKLS, a PTC company. they made this opportunity a reality and created the augmented reality Ikea Place app.

“Having all these different minds on the project made the difference.

It meant we all pushed each other to our limits.”

Daniel van der Schoor, manager at TWNKLS

Great Cordny, but why are you so interested in this?

Not only because it’s about augmented reality or the Ikea brand.

Playful Learning and TestingSaaS

No, I’m interested in how Space10 fosters innovation.

Not with thick and elaborate research reports, but through playful research.

Like Space10 and Bas van de Poel I want to make research accessible to more people.

How? By first visualizing it. For this, augmented reality is a great method.

It’s key to combine the hard facts with appealing and simple graphics.

I do now want the reader to become an instant academic, but let him experience

the process of the research.

Frankly that’s what I have dome with TestingSaaS from the beginning:

show the reader what the online application is all about.

Software testing, security, data science, blockchain… I do not mind the subject.

I want to give the reader the experience.

How? By first experiencing it myself, write about it and give it to the world through a

manual, whitepaper, blog, case study or even in augmented and virtual reality.

Who knows? Maybe one of my readers will become inspired and create

the next innovative app or device.

Just like the companies I test for and write about.

Do you have a new innovative app like the IKEA’s augmented reality app Space?

Do you NOT want boring and extensive documentation your prospects do not like when onboarding and walk away?

Let’s have a chat and see how I can help you create documentation for your app your future customers will certainly like.

My first experience testing Google Assistant with the chatbot testtool Botium

Getting practical with Botium: Testing Google Assistant

Getting practical with Botium: Testing Google Assistant 1394 818 Cordny

How did I end up with testing Google Assistant with Botium?

During my daily software tests I verify a lot of SaaS apps and platforms.

Examples are Chatbots and virtual assistants.

And recently, clients asked me more about testing Google Assistant.

This can be done manually. This takes a long time and errors can occur when testing the same cases over a longer period of time. 

Is it also possible to use test automation?

Yes, with the help of Botium.

This article shows my first experiences when testing Google Assistant automatically with Botium.

But first what is Google Assistant?

What is Google Assistant?

Google Assistant is Google’s voice assistant. By voice commands, voice searching, and voice-activated device control you can finish a number of tasks after you’ve said the “OK Google” or “Hey Google” wake words. Conversational interactions through text or speech is its main goal, making Google Assistant a chatbot.

After the wake words you can start talking to Google without using a ‘trigger word’. Google listens and gives a response.

Google can even recognize different voices, knowing who is talking to it and responding accordingly. 

You can also ask for multiple things in one sentence.

Great, now we know what Google Assistant is. 

But do we want to test Google Assistant manually – with our own voice, or multiple voices – or can this testing be done automatically? 

Yes, by using Botium, the tool for Testing, training and quality assurance for chatbots.

What is Botium?

Selenium is the de-facto-standard for testing web applications. 

Appium is the de-facto-standard for testing smartphone applications. 

Botium is the de-facto-standard for testing conversational AI. 

And just as Selenium and Appium, Botium is free and Open Source, and available on Github.

I can tell you a lot about Botium’s architecture, but that’s out of scope for this article.

Next to testing the conversation flow of a chatbot you can do a lot more:

  • Testing NLP model of a chatbot
  • E2E testing of a chatbot based on Selenium and Appium
  • Load- and Stress testing
  • GDPR testing
  • Security testing
  • CI/CD integration (Jenkins, Bamboo, Azure DevOps Pipelines, IBM Toolchain, …)
  • and many more

For now we will focus on testing Google Assistant with Botium.

How can I test Google Assistant with Botium?

Instead of thinking how I could test Google Assistant with Botium I did a very modern thing.

I Googled the question.

And I got lucky. Botium already made a video on this with the appropriate name ‘Setting Up a Google Assistant Project in Botium Box’

Awesome, now I can copy this completely for my own testing.

The steps in Google Actions, Assistant and Botium are very straightforward.

And soon I was making my own Botium tests and creating scripts for testing Google Assistant.

But, as with all software, it is not always as easy as it seems.

My experiences with Testing Google Assistant with Botium

From what I saw when testing Google Assistant, Botium as a tool is very intuitive.

What I really like is that you can see and hear (!)  the results as they occur when using Google Assistant. Just search in your test result for the following links.

The sound and screen-links overlap, but that’s a cosmetic issue.

The important thing is, it works. 

You can hear the text as it is displayed by using the play button as seen above.

And by clicking the weblink you are forwarded to a page resembling the results you get when using Google Assistant.

One of the things I noticed when testing Google Assistant it can be different in their response than what you expected.

For example, see this result after saying ‘Hallo’ to Google Assistant:

Always update your testcases regularly, Google Assistant is changing fast, and as you can see, it even gets more personalized.

Also, what happens when the answer to your question can be random? Better said, the answer can be given in a different sequence.

Google Assistant will give appropriate prompts, depending on the question you ask.

But see what happens when I ask Google Assistant via Botium the following question:

‘Who is Jack Nicholson’?

Great, the testcase worked fine, but let’s see what happens when I repeat this testcase?

In the second test different buttons appear in the result, failing the testcase.

Now you can delete the expected test results from your Botium code in your testcase, but remember you are testing a voice assistant and Google Assistant returns these buttons so you can click them for more information or an answer to a question.

Therefore in Botium you really have to define your testcases and their expected results to avoid situations like this.

Wrap up

This article showed my first experience testing Google Assistant with Botium.

These results are not exhaustive, I only mentioned the findings important when testing Google Assistant with Botium for the first time.

Other future test cases could be multiple voice testing, asking multiple questions at the same time etc. But that’s for a future article.

Botium is intuitive, easy to use and can be used for different testing processes with chatbots.

As with every tool, you have to stay critical as a real tester should be.

Test automating a chatbot is never easy, but with Botium you have a great tool to work with.

It should be in every chatbot tester’s toolbox!

a digital twin via 3d scanning of an adidas shoe made via fectar and th3rd

How reading ‘Shoe Dog’ led me to 3d Scanning and a new TestingSaaS service

How reading ‘Shoe Dog’ led me to 3d Scanning and a new TestingSaaS service 796 932 Cordny

3D scanning, shoes and TestingSaaS, what’s the connection?

Do you remember my blog about reading ‘Shoe Dog’, written by Phil Knight, founder of Nike. It’s a boy’s book about starting a business you are passionate about.  

Great, so I read the book, what’s the connection with 3D scanning and TestingSaaS?

Well, when reading the book I got interested in sneakers and how they would be advertised in this modern age.

Sneakers in Augmented Reality: Digital Twins

As an augmented reality enthusiast I first searched for use cases of advertising sneakers in augmented reality.

This opened a new world for me: 3D modeling, photogrammetry, 3D scanning, product photography etc. Grat material for another ARdeedive.

But what is the connection with SaaS?

Fectar and Th3rd: 3D Scanning available for the Masses

The greatest thing was, this new world was already in reach for me with an AR-innovation I already tested: Fectar , the Dutch Content Management System for Augmented and Virtual Reality. A SaaS solution for managing and displaying your AR and VR objects.

One of it’s partners, th3rd, offers a corporate solution for brands & retailers to digitize their product catalog at scale & on site: 3D Scanning as a Service.

And th3rd creates AR environments (called Spaces in Fectar) for showing their capabilities. One of these is creating digital twins of sneakers. Just have a look at these LinkedIn posts I wrote showing Nike and Adidas digital twins.

How promoting 3D scanning via LinkedIn led to new Opportunities

As an AR enthusiast I like to promote these AR innovations.

And by filming the Th3rd spaces, powered by Fectar, and distributing these via LinkedIn I met more people enthusiastic about AR and shoes.

Great people from the biggest shoe brands, but also creative developers, keen on creating a digital twin from a self made video.

But that’s another story.

Are you interested in creating a digital twin of your product?

And do you want to know more of how I can create a video of a digital twin of your product using Fectar?

Let’s schedule a call.

See here for my availability.

WPsupporters en TestingSaaS

WordPress onderhoud voor startende ondernemers

WordPress onderhoud voor startende ondernemers 1024 522 Cordny

Een gastblog door Remco Nieuwenhuizen, WPSupporters


Je bent net gestart met je onderneming en hebt een prachtige WordPress website gemaakt of laten maken. Of misschien ben je een startende IT-er en beheer je een aantal websites voor klanten.

Hoe voer je dan het WordPress onderhoud uit?

In dit artikel gaan we in op alle basis onderdelen die WordPress onderhoud bevat. Daarbij geven we je een overzicht over de dagelijks, wekelijks, maandelijks en jaarlijkse taken.

Je kunt dit alles terug vinden in de volgende onderwerpen:

  • Waarom is WordPress onderhoud zo belangrijk?
  • Waar moet je allemaal aan denken bij WordPress onderhoud?
  • Alle taken op een rij
  • WordPress zelf onderhouden vs uitbesteden

Waarom is WordPress onderhoud zo belangrijk?

WordPress is volgens het bedrijf Sucuri, het meest gebruikte content management systeem (CMS) van de wereld en hierdoor ook het meest gehackte systeem. Het goed onderhouden van je website is hierdoor dus extra belangrijk.

Wanneer je dit altijd doet, zal het je de volgende voordelen opleveren:

  • Met een goed onderhouden website zorg je ervoor dat je website niet trager wordt en dit scoort in zoekmachines als Google.
  • Met een goed onderhouden website ben je op de hoogte van de nieuwste plugin en thema updates.
  • Met een goed onderhouden website zorg je ervoor dat klanten langer op je website blijven
  • Met een goed onderhouden website voorkom je errors
  • Met een goed onderhouden website blijft je website online

Waar moet je allemaal aan denken bij WordPress onderhoud?

WordPress onderhoud bestaat uit een aantal essentiële onderdelen die ieder hun aandacht nodig hebben. Wanneer één van deze onderdelen niet op orde is loopt jouw website alsnog risico op beveiligingsissues of kan hij zelfs offline komen te staan.

Beveiliging

Zoals ik al aangaf, is de beveiliging van je website een zeer belangrijk onderdeel van je WordPress onderhoud. Bij het niet goed onderhouden maak je het gemakkelijk voor hackers en Malware om binnen te treden op je website en deze vervolgens te gebruiken voor het verspreiden van zeer onprettige informatie. 

Je website kan hierbij flinke schade oplopen en zelfs totaal offline gaan. Ook kunnen klantgegevens worden gestolen waardoor je aan de stok krijg met de Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens. Iets wat je absoluut niet wilt!

Belangrijke onderdelen van je beveiliging bestaan uit:

  • Een goede hosting
  • Het updaten van je website (zowel voor de plugin/thema’s als de daadwerkelijke WordPress versie)
  • Maak regelmatig back-ups
  • Maak gebruik van een beveiligde omgeving door middel van SSL/HTTPS
  • Zorg voor goede beveiliging plugin

Snelheid

Door het goed onderhouden van je website, blijft ook je website snelheid op pijl. Een website die heel traag laadt, verliest bezoekers. Daarbij spelen ook zoekmachines als Google hier op in. Een website die traag laadt, wordt minder goed gevonden dan een website die snel laadt.

De snelheid van je website hangt onder andere samen met het updaten van plugin/thema’s, de grote van je afbeeldingen en je hosting provider.

Backups

Backups zijn naast beveiliging en snelheid één van de belangrijkste onderdelen van je WordPress website onderhoud. Wanneer je website offline gaat kan je hem, met 1 simpele druk op de knop, herstellen met een backup.

Het maken van backups kun je handmatig of door middel van een plugin regelen. Let er bij beide op, dat je altijd een externe backup maakt. Een externe backup sla je namelijk, op een andere plaats dan je website zelf staat opgeslagen, op. Hierdoor kun je er altijd bij, ook wanneer je website totaal offline gaat.

Plugin en thema updates

Zoals ik al aangaf is het doen van updates aan plugin en thema’s een belangrijk onderdeel van je website beveiliging en onderhoud. Oude plugin en thema’s worden namelijk vaak gebruikt als achterdeur door hackers.

Plugin en thema’s zijn eigenlijk allemaal kleine stukjes software die samenwerken in het systeem van WordPress. Net zoals bij de software van Word, heeft deze software ook regelmatig updates nodig. Zorg er daarom altijd voor dat je de updates uitvoert wanneer WordPress hier naar vraagt. 

Alle taken voor WordPress onderhoud op een rij

Hier vind je een schema met daarin het onderhoud wekelijks, dagelijks, maandelijks en jaarlijks weergeven.

Dagelijkse taken

  • Controleren of de site online is
  • Controleren beveiliging 
  • Website & database backups

Wekelijkse taken

  • Plugin/thema updates
  • Malware scans
  • Visuele inspectie

Maandelijkse taken

  • Monitoren bezoekersverkeer
  • Monitoren rankings in de zoekmachine
  • Database opschonen
  • Websitesnelheid testen
  • Gebroken hyperlinks detecteren 
  • Check op Google Search Console: Errors/Issues

Jaarlijkse taken

  • Beoordelen van je WordPress site
  • Beoordelen content voor updates
  • Verlengen hosting, domein en licenties (jaarlijkse betaling)

Zoals je ziet, is het onderhouden van een WordPress website geen makkie. Sterker nog, het kan je nog best veel tijd (en geld) kosten. 

WordPress website zelf onderhouden vs uitbesteden

Je WordPress website zelf onderhouden is zeker mogelijk. Indien je een beetje technische onderlegt bent en je voldoende tijd hebt, zul je zien dat je al een heel eind komt. WordPress is namelijk best een gebruiksvriendelijk systeem om mee te werken. 

Daarbij zijn er tegenwoordig allerlei plugins te verkrijgen die het onderhouden van je website weer wat eenvoudiger kunnen maken.

Toch kan WordPress onderhoud spannend zijn wanneer je het voor het eerst doet of juist wanneer je het een tijd niet gedaan hebt. Updates en beveiligingsproblemen kunnen zich voordoen wanneer je hiermee aan de slag gaat. Wanneer je in deze situatie zit is het wellicht prettiger om het onderhoud uit te besteden.

Daarbij kan WordPress onderhoud ook best veel tijd kosten. Tijd die je liever in andere dingen investeert.

Wanneer je het onderhoud wil laten uitbesteden, laat dit dan altijd opnemen in een WordPress onderhoudscontract. WordPress onderhoud is namelijk in diverse soorten en maten aanwezig. 

Aan jouw de keus om een passend pakket te kiezen. De minimale standaard bestaat uit:

  • Cloud backups (minimaal 1x per dag)
  • Wekelijkse plugin/thema updates
  • 24/7 uptime monitoring

Zoals je ziet, is dit minimale WordPress onderhoud nodig voor iedere website maar lang niet genoeg om alle bovenstaande punten te dekken. Wanneer je website meer is dan alleen een visite kaartje of simpele weergave van jouw diensten, raden we aan om ook beveiligingsmaatregelen te nemen.

Remco Nieuwenhuizen is eigenaar van de WPsupporters, een bureau dat ondernemers en bedrijven helpt met WordPress onderhoud.

“Ik merkte dat het onderhoud in de vorm van updates, back-ups, snelheid en veiligheid vaak te weinig aandacht kreeg. Hierop heb ik besloten om dit aspect te professionaliseren en hiermee andere ondernemers en bedrijven te helpen.”

Ondertussen helpen de WPsupporters vele ondernemers en bedrijven metWordPress onderhoud.

Snapchat as a use case for using Augmented Reality in Content Marketing

Augmented Reality, a Power-Up for Online Marketing

Augmented Reality, a Power-Up for Online Marketing 1024 512 Cordny

Why is Augmented Reality for Online Marketing an Innovation?

In our previous AR-deepdive we discussed the role Augmented Reality (AR) can play when working remotely.

Thank you for your feedback on this AR-deepdive, very appreciated.

Up to now we discussed healthcare and remote working in the TestingSaaS AR-deepdives, are there other use cases Augmented Reality can be beneficiary?

Augmented Reality and Online Marketing

Why is Augmented Reality for Online Marketing an Innovation?

What is a typical Example of Augmented Reality in Online Marketing?

Can you give me a few Succes Stories of this Example?

These questions are answered in this AR-deepdive .

The use of the mobile messaging app Snapchat is shown to illustrate how AR is used in online marketing campaigns.

Enjoy and if you have any questions or remarks you can always contact me.

remote working and augmented reality

Augmented Reality and Remote Working, is it a match?

Augmented Reality and Remote Working, is it a match? 1920 607 Cordny

In our previous AR-deepdive we discussed the role Augmented Reality (AR) is going to play in healthcare.

Are there other use cases Augmented Reality can be beneficiary?

Corona and Remote Working

Today, the world is facing a medical challenge, the Corona virus is spreading globally and people have to adapt to fight this virus. One of these adaptations is working from home, remote working, to stop the virus spreading further.

Why does Augmented Reality improve Remote Working?

Remote working is a necessity now with the Corona Crisis, can Augmented Reality be beneficiary? See TestingSaaS his answer in the second AR-deepdive on LinkedIn.

If you have any questions or remarks, I am happy to help you.

Keep safe!

a use case in augmented reality: healthcare

Deepdiving in the Use Cases of Augmented Reality

Deepdiving in the Use Cases of Augmented Reality 1024 522 Cordny

Writing and distributing content about Augmented Reality (AR) is fun and I am always curious how people react to a ‘new’ phenomenon like this in B2B and B2C.

Cordny, great, but what can you with AR?

Are there any working use cases?

These questions I get a lot.

And that’s why I started a deepdive into the use cases for AR the coming weeks.

This week I started with healthcare and posted this deepdive on LinkedIn.

For the next weeks I will focus on the following Augmented Reality use cases:

  • E-commerce and marketing
  • Education
  • Advertisement
  • Manufacturing
  • Real estate and Construction

Have a look at my AR Healthcare deepdive where I have answered the following questions:

What is Augmented Reality and why is it in healthcare a revolution?

What are examples of current use cases of Augmented Reality in healthcare?

Enjoy and if you have any questions or remarks you can always contact me.

Stay tuned for my next AR deepdives on LinkedIn!

chatbot vs virtual assistant

Chatbot versus Virtual Assistant

Chatbot versus Virtual Assistant 282 179 Cordny

Last week I wrote about Google’s new Chatbot Meena, which resulted in a lot of feedback from my readers.

Thank you for that. I appreciate this reader engagement a lot.

Someone asked me if Meena is also a Virtual Assistant aka VA?

I had to think about this. a VA is, in my honest opinion, software that helps you with organising and completing your work, like an online calendar, a password manager, a dictaphone, a video conferencing tool or a to do list.

What about Chatbots? Do they also belong to the VA family? Or are they completely different? To answer this question we first have to know what both software agents are and how they are used in our daily life.

What is a Chatbot?

These are software agents capable of simulating a conversation (a chat) with a user in natural language through messaging applications, websites, mobile apps or through the telephone.

In recent years they have been widely adopted by companies to interact online with their customers: lead generation, sales and customer support.

Chatbots are programmed to respond with a certain set of answers and statements.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

As already said, a VA is a software agent that assists you in performing your daily activities like setting clock alarms, scheduling appointments, making (video) calls etc. Virtual Assistants are in that sense similar to personal human assistants. They help you get things done.

What are the similarities between Chatbots and Virtual Assistants?

They are both user interfaces designed to interact with a user, a human. The interaction is based upon pre-defined commands or questions.

They are now an important part of our (online) life helping us with answering daily questions.

Here, Natural Language Processing (NLP), an important part of machine learning, plays a key role.

NLP can help to understand how a text (Chatbot) or voice (VA) – a natural language – has to be interpreted and processed, so the software agent can react to it effectively.

This is not only limited to words, also conversations can be understood with the help of NLP.

NLP enables Chatbots and VA’s to be trained with different conversations so they can react effectively when the user interacts with them in a similar conversation already trained.

Vital for an effective conversation is knowing the intent of the user and the context of the conversation.

What are the Differences between Chatbots and Virtual Assistants?

The difference is based mainly on usability. Contrary to Virtual Assistants, Chatbots are only text-based and work on a single-turn exchange. In other words, it reacts to a question by the user, interprets it and gives a single pre-defined answer. If the question the user asked does not match their learned set of knowledge then they fail to answer.

Next to that, Chatbots are software agents used in business, Virtual Assistants are more used on a personal level.

Chatbots are more used in business because they can automate simple tasks for all clients. A VA on the other hand, is more uniquely associated with an individual user. Their range of tasks is also bigger, they have a wider scope than Chatbots, mainly due to the simpler algorithms the latter uses.

And don’t forget, the VA is a voice assistant, capable of interpreting also voice, contrary to the text-based work a Chatbot can do.

Virtual Assistants can improve over time, because with every user-interaction they learn more about their user. That is why these software agents can manage your daily activities.

Both software agents use Natural Language Processing, but the Virtual Assistants are more sophisticated in this, because they, as already said, use more sophisticated algorithms and improve over time due to their machine learning capabilities. This enables them to give contextualized answers back to the user. This does not mean there are no Chatbots using machine learning or artificial intelligence. More and more software developers are using these to improve their bots, but this takes some time. A lot of software companies say their bots have machine learning capabilities, but these companies base this on using IF-THEN-ELSE in their code. My dear readers, that is not machine learning, that is computer programming.

Is Siri a Chatbot?

Now we have covered the similarities and differences between the two software agents, let’s consider real life examples.

Siri on your Apple mobile device does not belong to the Chatbots, but it is a Virtual Assistant, capable of executing tasks or delivering services by means of speech recognition. It is even capable of opening apps (like navigation or calendar) and retrieve the information necessary for answering your question. It is your personal Virtual Assistant, usable in business and at home.

What is Meena then?

Now we have seen Siri is a Virtual Assistant, what about Meena?

Meena is an example of an open-domain Chatbot — designed to converse on any topic that can function as a “friend,” advisor etc. This is different than the closed-domain Chatbots which are programmed for specific Q&A.

But unlike Siri, it is a textbot, and not a Voice Assistant, so it is, in my honest opinion, still a Chatbot and not a Virtual Assistant. Although if you combine it with Google Assistent and implement it correctly, it will become an awesome Virtual Assistant, capable of many tasks and services.

Wrap-up

We discussed the similarities and differences between Chatbots and Virtual Assistants.

Chatbots are business-driven text-based online software agents and work on a single-turn exchange, used mainly for non -complex customer interaction like lead generation and FAQs.

NLP and machine learning is used to widen their scope, but this is still in research and development.

Virtual Assistants like Siri on the other hand are used on a personal level, have a wider usability scope.

More importantly, they can improve over time, because with every user-interaction they learn more about their user through machine learning.

Although more and more of the Chatbots are also benefiting from machine learning these days.

One of these is Meena, the Google Chatbot, which is still in research and development, but has high expectations, because it is designed to converse on any topic that can function as a “friend,” advisor etc. This is not the case with the current Chatbots.

I am curious what Meena and the next generation Chatbots and Virtual Assistants will bring.

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