Group Projects

Web-based group projects can be a gamble.  If you do not know the key players on your team prior to the project, it can be difficult to collaborate and accomplish tasks.  Other concerns may also arise throughout the project such as miscommunication, lack of communication, troubleshooting, file transfer issues, poor planning, or inequitable allotment of work.  These and other factors can have dire effects on the success of a project.  Thankfully, for this web project, my group and I were able to avoid major problems, communicate effectively, and deliver our project successfully.
My team and I were assigned to research a company’s social media policy and online activity and provide our analyses and recommendations for how the firm could better their online presence.  We selected Nike and began distributing research among our team.  Each of us chose two social media sites to monitor Nike’s posts and drafted mini reports containing our findings.  The reports included our thoughts on Nike’s tactics and screenshots of the websites.  We posted our documents on our class’s online discussion board and determined who would be responsible for drafting the wiki and social media policy/recommendations.
One of my teammates had suggested that we share e-mail addresses as a means of additional communication.  This was a key factor in coordinating our project.  My teammate also asked that we determine a tentative schedule for our project.  I voluntarily drafted a schedule that outlined the components of our project and gave a proposed deadline for each.  This helped keep the group on track and allowed us to complete our assignment prior to the official deadline.
Personally, I was very impressed with how well my team and I worked together.  We each contributed to the project and communicated with each other regularly.  This helped make the experience less stressful and ultimately ensured successful completion of our project.
This assignment enabled me to experience collaborating with a group in a web environment and allowed me to practice organizing and coordinating an online project with a team.  Overall, the experience was beneficial.  Web projects are becoming widespread among businesses and it is, therefore, imperative to know how to engage in online projects with others.  The social media assignment allowed my team and me to get a taste of this and will provide us with an advantage in our careers.

Microsoft’s Cortana – Evolution of Siri

What — or who — is Cortana?
For all the non-gamers our there, Cortana is an artificial intelligence character from Xbox’s Halo series. But Microsoft seems to be planning to make her much more than that. ZDNet reported earlier this week that Cortana may be the base of new AI “shell” that could power the personal assistant features in Microsoft’s next iteration of Windows Phone.

In July, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a memo that the company was working on, “a family of devices powered by a service-enabled shell.”

He went on to say, “Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it.”

In sum, a voice assistant that knows what you’re saying and in what context you’re saying it, before you ask it, and tied into all of the important services you use on your devices. It’s a pretty tall order, and it could give existing personal assistants a run for their money.

Been there, done that
The personal assistant skeptics may be saying that we already have features like this, and that they aren’t that great. Siri was first released two years ago in its beta version and users generally have mixed feelings about it. Although improvements have been made, it’s often considered a novelty rather than necessity. Apple says the new non-beta version of Siri coming out this week will process questions faster, check more sources, and can handle more tasks, like playing voice mail or changing iPhone settings.

But Siri lacks the anticipated information sharing that Google. Now boasts. The Now app can tell you when a package is delivered, how long it will take to get to work, and when your next appointment is. Much of which can be had without even having to ask.

Up until recently, Google’s predictive information was strictly reserved for Android users, but a recent update to the iOS Google Search app added the same features for iPhone users as well. While iOSers actually have to open the app to get the info — as opposed to Android where the information just shows up — it’s more than Apple currently offers its own users. Google pulls information from Gmail, Google News, Navigation, Maps, and its other services to give users the real-time data. With reliable voice searching and predictive data, Google Now is one of the most advanced mobile personal assistants.

Though Microsoft may be excited about creating a new system shell that can anticipate a user’s requests, talking about what you want a mobile artificial intelligence system to do and actually getting it work are two different things. The company is set to release the next version of its smartphone platform around the holidays, called Windows Phone Blue, so it’s possible we could see Cortana sooner rather than later.

Microsoft is in desperate need of something that can lure iPhone and Android users away from their devices to Windows Phones. Holding onto just 3.9% of global smartphone shipment market share isn’t making investors happy. We really need to see new features from Windows Phone that prove Microsoft can create devices that users really want. Cortana could be a great first step in the right direction.