Communications

Why Your Call Center is Only Getting Noisier (mckinsey.com) 22

From a report by research firm McKinsey & Company: Organizations have been investing in all manner of customer-facing technology solutions to replace live calls. Of all operational call-center technologies, digital solutions were ranked as one of the most important over the next five years by four out of five executives. Only agent desktop tools ranked higher. These technologies begin with websites, chat bots, and apps and extend to artificial-intelligence robots that simulate human conversations -- redefining the way organizations interact with customers -- as well as more tried-and-tested functionalities such as improved web, app, or self-service capabilities in interactive voice-response (IVR) systems. And yet, despite this plethora of technology solutions, we see that calls are not going away and instead are catching call-center executives off guard in their efforts to reduce volumes. It's not that a spike in call volumes is necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, the proliferation of digital tools can awaken previously dormant customers, sparking new inquiries from an engaged customer base. But in many instances, we've also observed that the volumes of unwanted calls exceed what would be expected during a learning period, or remain constant or rise over time, defeating strategic goals and leaving managers bewildered and unable to tie tech investments to improved operational outcomes. Why are so many organizations struggling with reaping the full benefits from these investments? In our experience, the answer often lies in two core areas. First, as companies turn to technology to address call-center volumes, they allow customer experience to take a back seat to digital technology in their operations, creating dissonance in direct customer interaction, where the objective is harmony and efficiency. Second, by counting on technology to solve their call-center issues, executives lose focus on core operations and upset the balance between human interaction and automation in an era of evolved customer service.
Twitter

Twitter Added Zero New Users Last Quarter Despite Trump Tweets (nypost.com) 68

Twitter did not add any new users in Q2, a disappointing follow-up to what had been a promising start to 2017. Twitter reported earnings Thursday morning, claiming 328 million total users -- the same number it reported after Q1. Analysts had been hoping the company would add around four million new users last quarter. From a report: Despite its appeal among celebrities and public figures, Twitter has struggled to sustain its closely watched user growth even as it invests in features and live content to help draw viewers and boost user engagement. It is in stiff competition for advertising dollars with other platforms like larger rival Facebook and Snap's messaging app Snapchat. The company also reported a wider quarterly net loss and lower revenue, and said it did not expect its total revenue growth to pick up in the second half of the year. [...] President Donald Trump, one of the most active politicians on Twitter, has tweeted multiple times a day on average since his inauguration in January, according to social media analytics company Zoomph.
AMD

AMD Launches Ryzen 3 Series Low Cost Processors Starting At $109 (hothardware.com) 30

Reader MojoKid writes: AMD is launching a new series of Ryzen processors today, the affordably priced Ryzen 3. Ryzen 3 will complement the previously launched Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 series of desktop processors, but will target entry-level price points. Ryzen 3 features the same die as its higher-end Ryzen 7 and 5 siblings, but has fewer active cores and symmetrical multi-threading (SMT) has been disabled. Ryzen 3 processors feature quad-core configurations, leverage the same socket and chip packaging and are also fully unlocked for easy overclocking. The Ryzen 3 1300X has a base clock of 3.5GHz, with a 3.6GHz all-core boost clock, a 3.7GHz two-core boost, and a max XFR boost clock of 3.9GHz. The Ryzen 3 1200's default clocks are decidedly lower. Its base and all-boost clocks are both only 3.1GHz, and its two-core boost tops out at 3.4GHz. XFR pushes its max single-core clock up to 3.45GHz. In the benchmarks, with multi-threaded workloads, the Ryzen 3's quad-core configuration generally gives it an edge over the dual-core / quad-thread Intel Core i3 and in some cases allows it to compete with more expensive Intel Core i5 chips. With single or lightly threaded workloads, however, Kaby Lake-based Core i3s are likely to pull ahead due to their increased IPC and typically higher clocks. Ryzen 3 1300X will retail for $129, while Ryzen 3 1200 will list for $109. Retail chips should be available today in the channel.
Apple

'Apple's Refusal To Support Progressive Web Apps is a Detriment To Future of the Web' (medium.com) 136

From a blog post: Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) are one of the most exciting and innovative things happening in web development right now. PWAs enable you to use JavaScript to create a "Service Worker", which gives you all sorts of great features that you'd normally associate with native apps, like push notifications, offline support, and app loading screens -- but on the web! Awesome. Except for is one major problem -- While Google has embraced the technology and added support for it in Chrome for Android, Apple has abstained from adding support to mobile Safari. All they've done is say that it is "Under Consideration." Seemingly no discussion about it whatsoever.
Android

Samsung Said To Open Its Pay Service, Could Make It Available On Rival Companies' Smartphones (phonedog.com) 28

Samsung Pay, the second most OEM-Pay mobile payments service (only second to Apple Pay), may be available on smartphones from other manufacturers, according to a report. From an article: Samsung is in talks with other device makers about bringing Samsung Pay to non-Samsung high-end devices, according to a report from Gadgets 360. Samsung is reportedly aiming to offer Samsung Pay support for these non-Samsung devices by mid-2018. As for how it'll happen, Samsung is said to be considering two options. Samsung Pay relies on MST chips in order to offer contactless payments with non-NFC terminals, and so Samsung is said to be talking with other smartphone makers about adding MST tech to their devices. Another option that Samsung is thinking about is an external accessory like the LoopPay Card Case. This would enable Samsung Pay on supported devices without requiring the phones' manufacturers to add MST tech into their phones. Magnetic Secure Transmission technology is patented to LoopPay, which Samsung acquired two years ago. The feature, which mimics a card swipe, enables Samsung Pay to work on any card swiping machine, an advantage it has over Android Pay and Apple Pay.
Businesses

Apple Discontinues iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle (macrumors.com) 108

From a report: Apple today removed the iPod nano and iPod shuffle from its website and online store around the world, suggesting the iconic portable media players may be discontinued. Apple continues to sell the iPod touch. Beyond new colors and storage capacities, Apple had last updated the iPod nano in October 2012 and the iPod shuffle in September 2010. Apple last updated the iPod touch in July 2015 with an 8-megapixel rear camera. Apple introduced the iPod shuffle in January 2005, followed by the iPod nano in September 2005. In total, there were seven generations of the iPod nano, and four generations of the iPod shuffle. The company has confirmed that it has discontinued the devices.
Businesses

More Than One Billion People Use Facebook's WhatsApp Service Every Day (whatsapp.com) 68

Facebook has announced that more than one billion people use its instant messages and voice calling app WhatsApp every day. To put that in perspective, there are 7.5 billion people on this planet. And Facebook, whose marquee service itself is used by more than two billion people every month, says that 13.3 percent of the world's population is using Whatsapp every day.
Businesses

Not Made in America, Wal-Mart Looks Overseas For Online Vendors (reuters.com) 87

Walmart.com, trailing Amazon.com in the number of goods for sale on its website, is recruiting vendors in China and other countries to boost its online offerings in a pivot away from Wal-Mart's Made-in-America campaign. From a report: While there is a financial incentive behind the move, Wal-Mart's decision comes out of necessity: not all the goods its customers want -- ranging from jeans to bicycles to beauty products -- are manufactured within the United States. That reality pits Wal-Mart against President Donald Trump's "Made in America" push. It also risks alienating some of Wal-Mart's existing U.S. vendors since it runs counter to the American-made pledge the retailer made in 2013 in a bid to win customers, and satisfy unions and other critics who said its drive for low cost goods was undermining American jobs. According to two sources with knowledge of the matter, Wal-Mart Stores in February began inviting sellers from China, the United Kingdom and Canada to list on the marketplace section of Walmart.com, where it earns a share of revenue from goods sold and delivered to customers by third-party vendors.
Businesses

Jeff Bezos Surpasses Bill Gates as World's Richest Person (bloomberg.com) 115

An anonymous reader shares a report: A surge in Amazon shares Thursday morning in advance of the online retailer's earnings report has propelled founder Jeff Bezos past Bill Gates as the world's richest person. Shares of the online retailer rose 1.3 percent to $1,065.92 at 10:10 a.m. in New York, giving Bezos a net worth of $90.9 billion, versus $90.7 billion for Gates. If that holds through the 4 p.m. close, Bezos, 53, will leapfrog Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Gates, 61, has held the top spot since May 2013.
Facebook

Facebook Employees Living in a Garage Hope Zuckerberg Will Learn What's Happening in His Own City (cnbc.com) 372

At the beginning of the year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg set a goal to visit every state in the U.S. so he could learn more about the millions of people who use the social network every day. But two of his employees tell The Guardian that they wonder when the billionaire is going to get to know his own community. From a report: The employees, a married couple named Nicole and Victor, are both contract workers in the cafeteria at Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters. And they wish they, and the problems closer to home, could also get a share of Zuckerberg's attention. "He should learn what's happening in this city," Nicole tells The Guardian. The couple says they can barely make ends meet. Together with their three children, Nicole and Victor share a two-car garage adjacent to Victor's parents' home. They borrow money from friends and family to stay afloat and occasionally resort to payday loans. Although they earn too much to qualify for state benefits, they don't earn enough to afford Facebook's health care plan.
Communications

FCC Is Not Complying With Freedom of Information Act Requests, Alleges Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 84

burtosis writes: The FCC is being sued for failure to turn over documents related to "correspondence, e-mails, telephone call logs, calendar entries, meeting agendas," between chairman Ajit or his staff and ISPs. Given the FCCs recent transparency issues, which appear to be directly ignoring the vast majority of feedback from Americans that are pro net neutrality, a nonprofit group called American Oversight is trying to force the real conversations the FCC is holding into public view. They are also asking for any communications with the media, Congress, and congressional staff. Two extensions for missed deadlines have been given, but the third extension was denied on July 24th. The FCC also ignored a FOiA request by Ars for the DDoS attack during the public comment period on net neutrality. With the current administration's attitude toward transparency and catering only to the largest corporate donors, will the American people have any meaningful influence in how the country is run anymore?
Medicine

E-Cigarettes Linked To Helping People Quit Smoking, Says Study (theverge.com) 170

According to a new study, electronic cigarettes help people trying to quit smoking. The Verge reports: For the study, published today in the journal BMJ, researchers analyzed survey data from over 160,000 people spanning almost 15 years. They found that smokers who used e-cigs tried to quit smoking more often and succeeded (for at least three months) more often than smokers who didn't use e-cigs. Overall, more people quit in the latest year that data was available -- the 2014 -- 15 year -- than in the 2010 -- 11 year. Today's study didn't address whether e-cigs are luring people who would otherwise be nonsmokers. But it did find that e-cigs do have a role in helping people quit. The researchers looked at several population surveys that cover the years 2001 to 2015. These surveys provided smoking-cessation rates, and the most recent survey, from 2014 to 2015, had information about e-cigarette usage. The results show that 65 percent of e-cigarette users had tried to quit smoking, versus 40 percent of people who smoked but didn't use e-cigs. About 8 percent of e-cig users succeeded in quitting for at least three months, compared to about 5 percent of non-users. Overall, the number of people who quit smoking increased by 1.1 percentage points in 2015 from 2011. This might not seem that impressive, but it still represents about 350,000 people.
Businesses

The Inside Story of the Lily Drone's Collapse (wired.com) 127

New submitter mirandakatz writes: Lily Robotics had everything: Two charismatic young founders; millions in funding; and a product that promised to change the world -- or, at the very least, transform photography. But over 60,000 customers are still waiting for their Lily Drones, and the company is now being sued by the San Francisco District Attorney's office for false advertising. As it turns out, Lily Robotics never actually had the right tools to create the product it was selling -- and it all came crashing down. At Backchannel, Jessica Pishko has the untold story of how such a promising company went so wrong.

From the report: "The magic of the Lily Drone was in its concept: It was a product you could unpack and throw -- so easy, Antoine Balaresque, the cofounder and CEO of Lily Robotics, wrote in emails, that even an old person could do it. But translating that idea into a tangible product proved difficult, and the storytelling that made the Lily Drone so tantalizing to consumers ultimately factored into its downfall. In one of his presentations, Balaresque presented a PowerPoint slide with the sentence, 'Humans have a fundamental need to put themselves in the center of stories.' It appeared to be a quote he made up, but the idea that human nature needs stories is fundamental. Stories are how we make sense of our lives. But while a good story can get you funding and acclaim, ultimately it isn't enough."

Medicine

Stem Cell Brain Implants Could 'Slow Aging and Extend Life,' Study Shows (theguardian.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Scientists have slowed down the aging process by implanting stem cells into the brains of animals, raising hopes for new strategies to combat age-related diseases and extend the human lifespan. Implants of stem cells that make fresh neurons in the brain were found to put the brakes on aging in older mice, keeping them more physically and mentally fit for months, and extending their lives by 10-15% compared to untreated animals. The work, described as a tour de force and a breakthrough by one leading expert, suggests that aging across the body is controlled by stem cells that are found in the hypothalamus region of the brain in youth, but which steadily die off until they are almost completely absent in middle age. Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York hope to launch clinical trials of the procedure soon, but must first produce supplies of human neural stem cells in the lab which can be implanted into volunteers. The study has been published in the journal Nature.
Education

Scientists Propose To Raise the Standards For Statistical Significance In Research Studies (sciencemag.org) 129

sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: A megateam of reproducibility-minded scientists is renewing a controversial proposal to raise the standard for statistical significance in research studies. They want researchers to dump the long-standing use of a probability value (p-value) of less than 0.05 as the gold standard for significant results, and replace it with the much stiffer p-value threshold of 0.005. Backers of the change, which has been floated before, say it could dramatically reduce the reporting of false-positive results -- studies that claim to find an effect when there is none -- and so make more studies reproducible. And they note that researchers in some fields, including genome analysis, have already made a similar switch with beneficial results.

"If we're going to be in a world where the research community expects some strict cutoff ... it's better that that threshold be .005 than .05. That's an improvement over the status quo," says behavioral economist Daniel Benjamin of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, first author on the new paper, which was posted 22 July as a preprint article on PsyArXiv and is slated for an upcoming issue of Nature Human Behavior. "It seemed like this was something that was doable and easy, and had worked in other fields."

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