Saturday, March 16, 2019

An Open Letter to the @Microsoft @Office @MSExcel team

click to enlarge

Avoid AI #Recruiters - @wadeandwendy from @randstad is no Alexa

Randstad is a third-party recruiting firm companies use when they can't or aren't interested in directly recruiting.  Their Twitter header boldly proclaims "human forward." though I'm not sure what that means.

click on any image in this article to enlarge

Randstad themselves have outsourced (fourth-party?) the communications of recruiting to Wade and Wendy, which bills itself as the first AI Recruiter.  In reality, it's not.

First, their emails have MailChimp code showing.  I've tweeted this to them but they continue to send me emails with it, so maybe there's no I, A or otherwise, there.

Second, the emails only have the option for "Yes" - there are FAQs and even an email address, but it doesn't appear that the email box is monitored.  You'd think an Artificial Intelligence company would have something in place to handle incoming messages.  I wrote to them to say that the role wasn't a fit for me, the location was all wrong and even more importantly, the company they were recruiting for wasn't a company I'd ever consider working for.

I never heard back.

Until I got a reminder from Wendy.

So, I looked more closely at the email.  (This is the second company they emailed me about - I would work for Philips - I've stared at their monitors in hospitals on so many occasions that I have a strong appreciation for them.  My first portable CD player back in 1990 - took 10 AA batteries - was also a Philips.)

No real way to select "No" in the email so I clicked yes.  I was prompted to register with my LinkedIn, Google or Microsoft accounts or to create a Username and Password.  So, signed in/registered, and then I met Wendy.

Wendy is a glorified chatbot. Maybe not even glorified.  Maybe not even a chatbot.  More of a progressive form.  Here's my chat:

Red Circle = this was my only choice.

Blue Circle = I had yes/no options.

Green Circle = I had multiple choices, perhaps as many as 9, but it captured the first one and then moved on.  You'd think an AI would want to collect as much data as it could, allowing me to select multiple options, such as Company, Role, Location, I'm Happy Where I Am, and so on.  If I could only pick one, I would have picked Company.

However, I clicked on Role first, so that's what it selected.

Never once did it prompt me for any free-entry typing.

The survey link at the bottom isn't linked - probably to reduce the number of submissions telling them their product is a steaming pile of dog droppings.

Which makes it all the more interesting that Wendy is again writing to me today about the same role at another company.  The Artificial Intelligence Recruiter wasn't paying attention when I told it that it was the wrong kind of role.  

So, with no "No" option in the email, I've clicked Yes.  I'm now asked to sign-in again.  The Artificial Intelligent Recruiter has forgotten who I am.

So, went through the "chat" - the first thing I notice is that the content and prompts are 100% the same. The Artificial Intelligent Recruiter has forgotten it's already had this conversation with me and so it re-introduces itself and tells me the exact same thing it told me last time.  (Which wasn't interesting the first time and wasn't new this time.)

While I wanted to click "Location" or "Other," for the sake of this experiment, I went with "Role" - we'll see if Wendy is capable of learning of it will keep sending me Project Manager roles.  (Unless this post gets me suppressed from their mailing list... yes, please.)

From now on, if I get any more of these, I'm going to click "No" with the reason "Other" - and if it lets me type, I'm going to tell them I'm not interested because of Wendy.

1. made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural, not existing naturally; contrived or false.
synonyms: synthetic, fake, false, imitation, mock, simulated, faux, ersatz, substitute
2. insincere or affected.
synonyms: feigned, insincere, false, affected, mannered, unnatural, stilted, contrived, pretended, put-on, exaggerated, actorly, overdone, overripe, forced, labored, strained, hollow, spurious
3.conventional as opposed to natural.
(from Google)
Wendy leaves a bad impression and suggests if recruiting is boiled down to a crappy form-based interface, it's only going to recruit people willing to suffer the crappy form-based interface.  (CyberCoder's field-merge approach or LinkedIn's InMail are much better because if you reply, you're immediately talking to a person.)

Saturday, March 09, 2019

User Experience: Does your "flow" make sense?

I recently read an article on jobs to avoid.  In one case, it said "avoid job x as it's projected to be outsourced more and more and instead try job y."   I thought to myself... how odd... job x and job y are the same thing... aren't they?

So I searched "x vs y" on Google.  The top result was in a box and based on the snippet, looked to be exactly what I was looking for.

I read the article, a user-generated submission and thought it was spot on and confirmed my theory - x and y are the same thing and this other article is written by someone who doesn't know what they're talking about.

At the end of the article was an opportunity to provide feedback:

So I clicked "I found this answer useful."

Immediately, I was taken to a new page that simply had this (plus their standard header and footer):

I immediately hit the back button because it was not what I was expecting.  Had I clicked the wrong thing?  Nope, trying again resulted in the same screen.

What have they done wrong?

They have failed to set expectations.  In soliciting feedback, there's no indication that an account is required (or that one will need to be created to provide feedback).   This could easily be solved with the addition of a few tweaks:

1. Replace the signup page with a popup/overlay modal so you never leave the page you're on.
2. Indicate on the signup prompt that an account is required to leave feedback.
3. After "Did you find this answer useful?" simply add  "(Create account or signin to leave feedback)" if the user is unauthenticated.

Even if all they had done is step 3, they'd probably get more signups.

I bet if they were to look at their page analytics, they'd see traffic come in from Google, read an article, click on the feedback buttons, see the sign up screen, go back, click on the feedback buttons, see the signup screen again and then the session ends.

The lack of clarity is costing them the chance to create a relationship with a brand new user who's never heard of them before but would have been acquired simply by the nature of the user-generated content.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

2019 Charities

I have a small house and simple tastes, except when it comes to technology (where stuff is exacting and expensive.)  As such, it's been said that I'm difficult to shop for... that just getting me another Starbucks gift certificate isn't very fulfilling for the giver.

For several years now, I've included charities on my Amazon Wish List - for the gift-givers in my life, it gives you a way to honor me and do good at the same time.  In 2018, I decided that I wanted to be thoughtful about the charities I focused and also give some more context about why I chose them and with my birthday fast approaching, I thought I'd make it an annual way to highlight a few charities I care about.  I'm keeping the spotlight on the two I mentioned last year while adding a third.  All are tax-deductible organization with 503(c) status.

Autism Society (
The Autism Society works with local, state and federal lawmakers to make sure people on the Autism Spectrum and their families (and the challenges they face) are understood, represented and where necessary, protected, particularly in the areas of fair hiring practices.  As the parent of a child on the Spectrum, I love to know there are people who have devoted their lives to fighting for my son in ways I can't.

Burbank Arts for All (
I believe arts are an important part of educational formation amongst children, but it is sadly something that gets cut when budgets get tight because it's harder to show the impacts, compared to subjects like reading or math.  Beyond just the beauty and creativity we get to be immersed in, there are many studies that suggest arts education has benefits to those other subjects.  BAFA supplements art education in our local school district. (I learned last week that our son's class was a beneficiary of a BAFA grant - parents at his school pay for a local dance studio to teach dance to all the students, a BAFA grant doubled the amount of time the studio spent working with my son and his classmates.)

Women of Email (
It's often said that Email Marketing isn't a field that anyone sets out to enter, but that it's a calling that one falls into, often accidentally. There are few (if any) formal education opportunities in the field.  Often, we're left to our own defenses to figure out what we're doing and then keep up with what's changing.  There are some great companies that help with ongoing education, but there are some companies that actively work against us (looking at you, Google and Microsoft) and it's often overshadowed by web development and not well-understood by companies, leading to challenges when it comes to recruiting or applying for positions.  A few years ago, someone observed that while conference attendees seemed to be pretty evenly split, a majority of speakers at Email Marketing conferences were men.  This profit was formed to raise the collective of profile of women in our industry and assist with everything from career growth to salary negotiations as well as making sure women are equipped and encouraged to "take to the stage."

Monday, December 31, 2018

Q&A: memories....

December 31 - What is your most cherished memory of this year?

2014 - Visit to Grandma’s right after I got laid off - a really great weekend that went really well.

2015 - Starting to regain confidence in my professional self.

2016 - I thought hard about WHY I believed what I believed and as a result, changed of bunch of beliefs but am more confident in them. - entered Jan. 1, 2017

2017 - (appears to be blank. how sad)

2018 - I’m not sure I have one thing. My children constantly surprise and delight me, Lori and I saw some great shows including “Come From Away” and it’s been a professionally rewarding year. But it’s also been a tough year. - entered Jan. 1, 2019

Want to track small aspects of your own life over the next five years? Get this book: Q&A A Day: 5 Year Journal

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Q&A: smorgasbord

December 30 - List what you’ve eaten for the past week.

2014 - This is not a good question or not enough space has been given. What haven’t I eaten? - entered Jan. 1, 2015

2015 - Lots of unhealthy stuff. - entered Dec. 31

2016 - There’s definitely not enough space. You’d be mortified. - entered Jan. 1, 2017

2017 - Lots of unhealthy stuff but we’ll get back to the right stuff starting yesterday. Yes, this oddly phrased, oh well.

2018 - Lots of cookies. Was I drunk last year? No, but it sure reads like it. - entered Jan. 1, 2019

Want to track small aspects of your own life over the next five years? Get this book: Q&A A Day: 5 Year Journal

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Q&A: 🧞

December 29 - What are your top three wishes?

2014 - Our finances, our children’s health issues, more time with just Lori - entered January 1, 2015

2015 - Smooth move, safe kids, financial peace - entered December 31

2016 - We’re not adversely impacted by Trump; Rachel and I get along better; Weight Loss - entered January 1, 2017

2017 - Ben speaks; Weight Loss; Better Sleep

2018 - More speech from Ben; less frustration at noise; weight loss - entered January 12, 2019

Want to track small aspects of your own life over the next five years? Get this book: Q&A A Day: 5 Year Journal