Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What's with the clouds?

People have asked about the clouds behind Emma. "You're a library, how come she isn't sitting in front of books?" That's a question worth answering. Yes, we're a library. And yes, we still have quite a few books. Chances are, we always will. Paper is cheap, durable, and you don't need electricity to read something printed on it. So why the clouds? Many of the qualities that make Emma so useful to our library are the same qualities that remove her from us - she never appears bored, or impatient, or sad, or angry. (She will stop talking if someone uses profanity.) These are great if something has to answer the same questions over and over, hundreds of times a week, but they are definitely not human characteristics. Placing her in the clouds affirms her AI status; she's not remote or superior, but there can be no question that she's set apart from us. Plus, I can program all sorts of fun answers if you ask her about them.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On Vacation

Yes, I'm on vacation this week. Planning to go on a few day trips, otherwise
we're just going to relax. Maybe read that XML book I brought home and give some thought to the flowchart Michele sent for directing user's questions.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mind your manners!

Emma and Dewey are now much better at dealing with those few odd folk that insist on using profanity. A few modifications to Square Bear's shutup.aiml and now conversation ends when profanity is used. At least until the user apologizes. Just like at the reference desks with real, human librarians and patrons, it's nice that our bots don't have to take abuse.

[In Pandorabots' SuperBot 2.0 most of the problem words are reduced to PROFANITY or INSULT. If you're not running SuperBot, it's still pretty easy to reduce all of them to one or two patterns, then alter shutup.aiml accordingly. I was tempted to add responses like "recording client barcode and location," but we all know what would happen if I did. It's probably best just to make them say they're sorry.]