MediaFile

I hear you, says AT&T

speechrecognition

Anybody who’s been at the wrong end of a automated customer service conversation may understandably have doubts about speech recognition technology. Personally I’ve been frustrated by systems that couldn’t understand something as basic as whether I’d answered “yes” or “no.”

But AT&T says that after working on speech recognition for more than 20 years, it’s come a long way, in improving  accuracy and in developing cool applications.

After years of profiting handsomely from touchscreen technology in the form of Apple Inc’s iPad, maybe voice will be the next hot mobile interface for the operator?

Of course it’s not saying if any of the ideas being cooked up in AT&T labs will actually become full-fledged services. One of its scientist types told me ”I don’t know and I don’t really care” in answer to such a question at a technology showcase today.

But maybe it’s telling that speech recognition was the main theme for the event. Here’s a sample of some demos:
    

Laugh graph: Conan and the ratings race

The debut of Conan on TBS won its time slot against more established late-night comedy shows. But can the former Tonight Show host keep up the momentum? Reuters is keeping daily track of how O’Brien performs against his rivals; tune in every day for an update.

Related stories:
Conan O’Brien’s new show draws fans, not critics
Conan O’Brien returns to TV in downsized role
“War for Late Night” lifts lid on NBC turmoil

from Chrystia Freeland:

Don Graham: For-profit school plan hurts poor kids

Don Graham, Chairman and CEO of the Washington Post Company, visited the Reuters studio this morning to chat with Chrystia about the future of the company's Kaplan subsidiary as well as its flagship newspaper. In addition to its popular test preparation courses, Kaplan operates 75 colleges and graduate schools, both online and through brick-and-mortar campuses, that serve 112,000 students. Earlier this year the Department of Education lashed out at for-profit colleges like Kaplan for misleading prospective students about tuition costs and salaries after graduation. The Department proposed new regulations on these institutions that would tie federal aid to the number of students who are repaying their loans.

Graham said that while the Department's efforts to crack down on bad actors are right-minded, the current proposals will end up having an unintentional yet harmful effect on low-income students:

There is a 99% correlation between the number of Pell Grant students—the number of poor students a campus serves—and the repayment rate under the proposed Department rules… The Department has scored a direct hit on schools that serve poor students. They didn’t want to. They didn’t mean to. But that is what they did. And I hope they’ll reconsider that rule and propose something that in fact cracks down on bad actors but does not punish schools that serve poor students.

UPDATE: AOL News hires ABCNews.com guy as new leader

AOL_Say_CanvasThere’s been an exodus of reporters and editors leaving AOL News of late but today the company snaggeda new leader. Jonathan Dube has been named senior vice president and general manager of AOL News & Information heading up its news and content division which includes the tech, finance, and sports group.  Dube will report in to David Eun, president of AOL Media & Studios.

Dube was most recently at ABCNews.com where he responsible for, among other things,  editorial content.

“Equal parts journalist and business strategist, Jonathan is adept at building online content partnerships and creating exceptional user experiences,” Eun said in a statement. “I am delighted that he will be taking over the management of our news teams as we continue to innovate and create original content at scale for our users.”

Apple iPhone launche$, everybody i$ happy!

During these economic and political hard times, it’s nice when people can get together to rejoice about something wonderful. You know: the good times.

Such was the case this morning at Apple stores around the nation, where still-employed Apple workers sold phones and stuff  (and clapped a lot), and eager shoppers bought the new iPhone 4 for $200, and signed up for — or renewed — contracts to pay AT&T $2,400 or more over 2 years.

Woo hoo!

Dot-Com: ‘Three Letters and a Punctuation Mark’ That Changed the World

DellTwenty five years ago, on March 15, 1985, the first commercial dot-com domain name – Symbolics.com – was born. It was one of only six dot-com domain names registered that year (Among the 15 oldest are Northrop.com, Xerox.com, HP.com, IBM.com, Sun.com, Intel.com, TI.com and ATT.com.)

A lot has happened between then and now: the fall of the Berlin wall, the dot com boom and bust, two Gulf wars, Sept. 11, at least one major global economic crisis and the creations of YouTube and Facebook. To give you an impression of the passage of time, REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” had just succeeded “Careless Whisper” by Wham! on the U.S. pop charts.

Today there are more than 80 million websites and the Internet, for many, is nearly as omnipresent as air.

Digital, Life, Design 2010 Live Coverage

DLD (Digital – Life – Design) is a three-day experience gathering 800 entrepreneurs, investors, philantropists, scientists, artists and creative minds from all over the world. With global diversity in attendees and an interdisciplinary perspective of digital, media, design, art, science, brands, consumers and society, the conference is known as the European forum for the “creative class”.

Follow live coverage of the conference here

from Felix Salmon:

The devil in the NYT meter’s details

One issue which I'm sure has yet to be settled inside NYT headquarters is the status of blogs vis-a-vis the nytimes.com paywall. On the one hand, blogs are a central part of the website's value proposition -- exactly the sort of extra digital content that they want people to pay for. On the other hand, blogs simply don't lend themselves to paywalls in general, or to metering in particular. While newspaper articles are self-contained entities -- visit once, get the information, you're done -- blogs are conversations. As a result, participating in any one conversation -- reading any one blog -- will in and of itself use up whatever pageview quota the NYT might be willing to give you.

Even if the blogs stay outside the paywall, the NYT might find it hard to communicate that effectively -- and in any case, as Ezra Klein says, non-NYT blogs are sure to be the big winners from this move. Many of the NYT's star blog properties, including Paul Krugman and Freakonomics, are likely to leave nytimes.com -- or at the very least mirror their NYT postings elsewhere -- if they wake up one morning to find themselves within a firewall.

This is just one of the many bits of fine-tuning which are going to use up an enormous amount of developers' and managers' time. Will the NYT still break up long stories into multiple pages? If so, how will it ensure that it's counting stories read rather than pages visited? And how will it communicate that to its readers? Will they be able to see their own personal meter as it ticks up towards the paywall level? What about slideshows -- how many meter-points will they rack up? And what about things like the Times Skimmer, which is one page with hundreds of different articles on it?

from Felix Salmon:

The economics of the NYT paywall

Preston Austin has managed to squeeze the economics of a NYT-style paywall into one tweet, but it's compressed, so let me expand it into slightly more than 140 characters.

The way that it seems the NYT paywall is going to work, visitors to nytimes.com will have a free allowance of n articles per month. To read the n+1th article, they will have to pay a subscription fee F. After that, they can read as many articles as they like for the rest of the month.

If a visitor to nytimes.com normally reads N articles per month, then the key number in their mind will be N-n. If reading that number of articles is worth more to them than F, they'll pay the fee. If on the other hand N-n is small, or perceived value-per-article is small, then they won't pay. Specifically, if the average value to the reader of any given article is v, then they'll pay the fee when v(N-n)>F.

from FaithWorld:

Malaysia’s “Allah” row spills over into Facebook

allah herald

The word "Allah" in a Malay-language Catholic newspaper, 29 Dec 2009/Bazuki Muhammad

More than 43,000 Malaysians have protested online over a court ruling allowing a Malay-language Catholic paper to use the word "Allah" for "God," signaling growing Islamic anger in this mostly Muslim Southeast Asian country.

A group page on social networking site Facebook was drawing 1,500 new supporters an hour on Monday as last week's court ruling split political parties and even families.  Among those who signed up for the protest were Deputy Trade Minister Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of Malaysia's longest serving prime minister, Mahathir Mohamed, while Mahathir's daughter Marina called critics of the court decision "idiots" in her blog.