March 1, 2012

I just talked to Kristin Scales... OR DID I!!?!!??!?!?!?!?

I just had a chat with a support representative from my credit card company. Halfway through I became curious whether the person I was talking to was actually a computer. Below is a transcript of the chat, slightly redacted to protect my credit card information which gets stolen like once a year, so I don't even know why I bothered.

Kristin Scales: Welcome to Credit Card Chat Service. My name is Kristin. I'm here to assist you with your personal Credit Card Accounts. May I know your complete name as it appears on Credit card?
You: Sure, it's William Carlough.
Kristin Scales: Hello, Will.
Kristin Scales: I'm sorry, William*
Kristin Scales: May I please know the last four digits of your Credit card number?
You: No, no problem, my name's Will.
Kristin Scales: Great.
You: Yes, xxxx.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for providing the account number.
Kristin Scales: How may I assist you with your Personal Credit card today?
You: I think I've gotten to be a month behind in my payments, but the balance summary is confusing.
You: So like I've been paying the month before's bill for a couple months.
You: My question is, do I have an outstanding balance that I should pay now, or am I good and should wait til 3/15, my next billing date.
Kristin Scales: I understand that you would like to know the status of the balance and the payment on the account.
Kristin Scales: I'll certainly check that for you, Will.
You: Yes, lovely, thank you.
Kristin Scales: You're welcome.
Kristin Scales: Your account security is of prime importance to us. May I ask you a few verification questions before I proceed?
You: Sure.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for your understanding in this regard.
Kristin Scales: Could you please provide your Date of Birth and the last four digits of your SSN?
You: Sure. xx/xx/xx and xxxx.
Kristin Scales: Perfect, thank you for the information.
Kristin Scales: Please give me few minutes to check your account details.
You: Sure.
Kristin Scales: Thank you, Will.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for your patience, I appreciate it.
You: No problem.
Kristin Scales: Will, I see that the next billing date is :03/19.
Kristin Scales: I also see that you have a outstanding balance of xxxx at the moment on the account.
You: So that's stuff I should have paid before, you're saying.
Kristin Scales: I mean, you have an outstanding balance to pay on the account.
You: Gotcha.
Kristin Scales: Absolutely, you got me correct, Will.
You: I have one more question, if you'll humor me.
Kristin Scales: I really appreciate your quick thinking in this regard.
Kristin Scales: Sure, I'll be more than happy to assist you if you have any other questions?
Kristin Scales: That's alright.
You: I'm wondering whether you're a computer or not, so could you name a character in a Star Wars movie?
Kristin Scales: Will, I'm a Live Person, you can be sure of it.
Kristin Scales: I'm sorry, I would not be able to provide you any other information apart the information relating to your Banking Needs.
Kristin Scales: I would sincerely request you to understand in this regard.
You: That's okay.
Kristin Scales: Thank you, Will !
You: I'm a little disappointed you can't name a Star Wars character, but I understand.
Kristin Scales: I appreciate your understanding in this regard.
Kristin Scales: Sorry to hear that, you're disappointed today.
You: All right, you had me going that you were a person for a second, but now you just sounded like a computer again.
Kristin Scales: So, do you feel that I'm sounded like a Computer, Will?
Kristin Scales: If the answer is "YES", then I'm sorry once again.
You: Now I can't tell if you're a computer or someone just messing with me.
You: You're good.
Kristin Scales: Nice to hear that, Will, and it was really wonderful chatting with you today.
You: Touche, touche, Kristin.
You: Well, a pleasure talking with you, and thanks for your help.
Kristin Scales: You're welcome, Will.
Kristin Scales: Please contact us for any further questions, we'll be happy to assist you.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for choosing Bank of America's Credit card Services.
You: I will. And if I need to find out the name of any Star Wars characters, I'll find someone else.
Kristin Scales: You have a Wonderful weekend !!
You: Thanks, you too.
Kristin Scales: Sure.
Kristin Scales: Sure, you can always do that.

I would have kept going, but if Kristin is a real person, I would have felt bad making her look bad at her job.

So, first thing I should note, is that the company providing the software and possibly Kristin herself is called Live Person, so that explains her weird line, "Will, I'm a Live Person, you can be sure of it."

Second is, sorry I couldn't come up with a better Turing test than naming a Star Wars character, but asking Cleverbot, an award winning chatbot resulted in this:

Me: Name a Star Wars character.
Cleverbot: Ron Weasley. Duh.
Me: Who is Luke Skywalker's father?
Cleverbot: Darth Vader.
Me: Who are Darth Vader's children?
Cleverbot: They are a family in the future.
Me: Who run Bartertown?
Cleverbot: Your father.

So clearly computers don't know that much about Star Wars, when it takes place, or whether or not Master Blaster runs Bartertown.

I'm sure many of you have interacted with a customer service representative who was not allowed to go off script on the phone, so a lot of this chat makes sense as someone who is just copying and pasting out of a list of things they're allowed to say. The most convincing argument that Kristin is a person is right in the beginning, when she gets my name wrong. It's hard to believe that someone would program a computer to call someone by a common nickname and apologize for it. A friend that I showed this to offered up an interesting theory, and it's that Kristin is both a human and computer. She starts out as human, and when she realizes that this is a fairly standard case, she passes it off to computer Kristin, and when the computer gets scared, it asks for person Kristin again. Others have suggested that Kristin is someone in a call center in India whose English isn't very good, which I don't really buy.

There are some weird grammatical inconsistencies throughout the conversation, like the fact that "credit" is always capitalized, but "card" usually isn't. "Thank you for choosing Bank of America's Credit card Services." She really went out of her way not to capitalize "card" that time. Then there are certain words that are capitalized out of nowhere like "Wonderful" and "Banking Needs". There's occasionally an extra space before the end of a sentence, and a colon before the date she gives me, which could be sloppy copy and pasting or shoddy programming. So none of that is evidence either way, I just wanted to let you know I've really thought about this a lot.

My favorite part is when she says "If the answer is "YES", then I'm sorry once again." I mean, that's just crazy. No human would ever say that and no one would program a computer to say that. It's like I'm talking to someone being held hostage and they're trying to slip me information about how to rescue them without their captors catching on.

Anyway, what a dystopian future we live in where we can't tell if the people we're talking to are people or robots. Do any of you have a strong opinion either way as to who or what Kristin Scales is?

Posted by Will at 8:51 PM | Comments ()

March 18, 2011

I put facebook comments on this blog and I forgot why.

Facebook recently released a way for a regular old blog like diogenes club to have its commenting system implemented and stored by facebook. If you scroll down and you're logged into facebook, you might very well see a picture of yourself next to the comment box and the option to post your comment on facebook.

Will, why did you do this, you might ask. I already told you, I forgot. It may have started with me being annoyed that when I would link here on facebook, some people would comment on facebook, and some people would comment here. (Or, more likely, no one would comment at all.) This doesn't actually fix this since comments on something I post on facebook won't show up here in the new way either. It would help with comment spam, except I had already squashed it entirely by making people type "yeah" into a box before they commented.

There is an option to blacklist certain keywords and to automatically correct common grammar mistakes, but I've turned both of them off, because what's the point of commenting on the internet if you can't swear and use bad grammar?

A lot of real blogs have started using facebook comments with the idea that it would increase civility because people need to use their real name. Those people clearly don't know how to create a fake facebook profile. It isn't hard.

So, in short, I handed over control of my blog to a guy whose only motivation is impressing his ex-girlfriend from college. For absolutely no reason.

PS: I also put a like button on everything cause fuck it.

Posted by Will at 9:34 PM | Comments ()

March 11, 2011

Do you remember when a British teenager sent me a cease and desist letter?

It was a while ago, I'd understand if you didn't.

Here, you can refresh your memory:

I got a cease and desist letter from a British teenager

Now, almost six years later, is no more. It's been taken over by one of those people who can apparently make money putting ads on domains that no one goes to.

What remains? Well, their my space profile still exists. And if you really want to, you can browse for all of your sonning needs, but I wouldn't if I were you.

Posted by Will at 2:21 AM | Comments ()

September 21, 2010

Von Kaiser

My friend Rick sent me a site called Six Minute Story.

I wrote this:

Von Kaiser

Don't be too hard on me. I only had six minutes.

Posted by Will at 1:14 AM | Comments ()

January 17, 2009

Hope for the future of yeah

I just found a thing on facebook that graphs usage of words on people's walls. And shockingly, a vast majority of people on facebook know how to spell yeah.

yeah vs yea vs yah

Posted by Will at 4:10 PM | Comments ()

November 13, 2008

Diogenes Club: 3. New York Times: 0

From Alaska Senator Now Trails in Votes:

Republicans claimed then that traditional voting patterns among absentee voters favored Mr. Stevens’s holding on to win, but Mr. Begich countered that he had made a concerted effort to win early and absentee voters.

Mr. Begich can't make a concerted effort. A concerted effort requires more than one person so that they can work in concert with each other. I realize that it was probably Begich who made the mistake, but the Times should at least but quotes around it or add a [sic] or something.

Boo-yeah, New York Times!

(For reference: the other two times I sonned the Times: Strawberry Shortcake redux and This is probably the only chance I'll ever have at impugning the New York Times' accuracy)

Posted by Will at 12:19 PM | Comments ()

May 4, 2005

One day at Whole Foods

I was in the checkout line when one of the workers shouted out, "All lines are express."

A line can't be express if all the lines are express. To be express, you have to be quicker than another line. He could have just as easily said, "All these lines are the slowest," and it probably would have been more accurate.

Posted by Will at 11:26 PM | Comments (1)

November 16, 2004

Anna is

Some text from a subway Trimspa ad:

Get the attention you deserve... Anna is.

Now, how that made it to print is beyond me. It should either be 'Anna does,' or, I don't know, 'Be getting the attention you deserve.' Now, elsewhere, the ad does say 'Be envied,' so maybe 'Anna is' is a reference to that, but they're far apart and in different fonts.

My other problem with the ad is that it's all about how much weight Anna lost, but in every shot, her body is obscured by something. In the main picture, she's being given a piggy back ride by some guy. In another picture, we can see her face (glowering at us) and her shoulder, but that's about it. In another very small picture, we can see her full body, but for one, she's in this absurd 1930's swimsuit, and for two, her arm is covering the rest of her up because she's dancing with the piggy back guy.

Oh, and that glower and shoulder picture? It has a little subtitle: 'Trimspa baby!' There should be a comma between Trismpa and baby, but I don't even care about that anymore. Trimspa baby? Appending baby on the end of stuff was sort of tolerable for about a month after Austin Powers came out. But after two sequels and god knows how many lame imitations, geez. Why didn't they make it - 'Trimspa sucks. Not!' How about 'We're two wild and crazy guys! On Trimspa!' Or something equally dated and not funny.

And do women really want to take advice from Anna Nicole Smith on how to get attention?

Posted by Will at 3:27 PM | Comments (2)

September 29, 2004

We - the not royal kind

Two things. First:

Y'all. It's a Southern colloquialism. If you use it up north, and you're not, say, a rapper, people will make fun of you. But really, it's a useful word. It's a plural form for you. Proper English has no such pronoun. French has vous for its second person plural (and it doubles for the formal you, which, in all honesty, seems to me a bit dated). I'm sure other languages have equivalents. There's no reason English shouldn't. Y'all: Use it unabashedly.

And let's talk about 'we' for a second. It has two meanings: 'You and I,' and 'They and I.' Frankly, these two meanings are disparate enough that they should have two different words.

Imagine me in high school, approaching two friends. "We need to talk," says one of them. I pull up a chair. "What do you want to talk about?" The two friends smirk. "I meant we, us, not we you." A different pronoun would have saved me that scarring embarrassment.

I'm just saying.

Posted by Will at 6:34 AM | Comments (5)