I guess I am really looking for here is an answer to a question that a lot of people are asking these days. One that had become all to real to me recently: Is it better to have automated services or people backed services. I am not talking about Robots doing the work – but more about the real life situations that we get ourselves into where we rely more and more on dysfunctional technology to help us.
Even though, Google is an amazing search engine, it still has it’s faults. Searches on “Locksmiths in Springfield Ma” returns great results on the front end – it is the intricate details that it cannot. For instance, if you call all of those results from Google you will soon find out that you are in luck with almost every major car brand except Volkswagen (one of the prices you pay to drive the best car ever made =).
So, unless someone lists on their website (more than half of the Locksmiths in the Springfield, Ma area don’t even have websites) that you specialize in Volkswagens – Google can’t help you. It is beyond the technology leap – you need some level of human intervention.
If you are tenacious enough however, to continue to search for locksmith’s and you start calling them – most of them will tell you the dealer is the only place (who intern tells you to wait until Tuesday – not good when you are stranded 120 miles from home on Friday before a long vacation weekend) that can make Volkswagen keys.
If you happened to call 24 Hour Locksmiths in West Springfield they would have told you to call A & J Locksmith and when you talked to Johnathon at A & J he would have told you to call and ask for Paul at “Scott’s Locks” in West Hartford – and he would have called Scott (Paul’s partner) who would have called you back 3 hours later to tell you he could do it. But that only goes for the tenacious few that have nothing better to do than to stare at all of the people having fun at Six Flags while calling every locksmith in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Flashback to earlier today: I was traveling to D.C. to work with a client and arrived early to my hotel in hopes I could get some work done before my 1:30 demo with a prospective client. During my trip down from the airport (40 minute drive) I contemplated the possibility that the hotel would not have a room ready for me when I arrived at 10:30. Quite possibly, I would have to find a place to do some work with a descent (cheap – if not free) Internet connection.
Ok – so here is my second scenario for “Connectimated” – I would have liked to have been able to connect with a few people in the area (more than likely people I have never met before) and ask them where a good place would be to get Internet access for a few hours in a quiet place (that was not Starbucks or Borders). Preferably somewhere where I can get a Dew and sandwich. My new “Connectimated” service application would essentially ping a bunch of people in the area asking them if they wanted to help an incoming traveler with a service request.
Sites like Mahalo and Spock have begun to challenge the “Automated” response system that is Google. Each offering services which are either aided or centralized around Human interaction. These systems are critical because I think that the automated services may never get to point where they can understand true human interaction. Even Google is testing “User generated content”. You can see it in search results using Google Maps.
What I see is a combination application like Twitter, Brightkite (or the like) and Mahalo. A platform with which to communicate on rather than building a platform with all the answers. A crowdsourcing style approach may be just what we need.
Maybe we are pushing too hard and maybe we need to use systems to be smarter at connecting people who can help each other and not providing the help beyond capabilities. We live in a complex world and it is unlikely that we will ever teach systems to understand us – truly. Why try?