How to Estimate Agenda Times for a Meeting/Workshop in the USA

How to Estimate Agenda Times for a Meeting/Workshop in the USA
OR

Time Management for the Eternally Optimistic and Always Late Facilitators/Leaders

I have worked in nonprofits, educational and other venues for which meetings (workshops, Board meetings, conference convocations, etc.) are a necessity. I cannot count how many times I have sat through a session run by someone else who could not figure out how to manage the time for the stated agenda, nor how to create an agenda that could actually be completed in the time allotted.

Frustrating, insulting and disrespectful to those in attendance, and otherwise a TIME WASTER.

running effective mtgs
image and meme info from http://www.inspiredemployee.com “Running Effective Meetings”

My friend and colleague, Mario Cossa, and I have coined the term “pre-crastinators” endearingly to refer to ourselves. Pre-crastinators are prepared early so that we are able to and do send out agendae AS PROMISED, distribute minutes or preparatory materials in advance and do not make other wait.

Leaders are training people with every move
—I never start late, even if I and only a few others are on time, because if I did, then I would be dishonoring those who made the effort to be punctual and training participants/members to believe that being on time won’t matter in the future.
—Similarly, I always end on time, unless I have asked the group for permission to extend our time and been granted that.

When an item requires more time
I must notice this so that we can take a break from the agenda to discuss this dilemma PRIOR to the ending time and list what our options are. The members can then let me know if adding a specific number of minutes to complete a specific item/task is acceptable or if we have to postpone that item’s completion.

If we run late, then, it is as a group and not based solely on my decision or due to poor planning. These approaches to time management show respect and organizational control. Therefore, I make sure that I/we can conclude the event and its agenda by the end of our agreed-upon time limit, with designated items labeled in advance that must be discussed at more than one meeting.

start and end on time
image from http://http://www.slideshare.net/gretchenrubin/gr-14-tips-for-running-a-good-meeting-2/2-1_Very_obvious_Start_on “Start and End on Time”

Therefore, I offer my pearls of wisdom from decades of managing time extraordinarily well. Take notes.

Let’s use an hour-long session as the prototype for this list of tips.

Opening, Closing and Pacing a Session

  • Allow three minutes extra for “entry” and “ending” than whatever you have planned. TOTAL TIME: 6 minutes
  • Allow one minute between agenda items/activities for transitions. TOTAL TIME: 6 minutes
  • Include announcements, brief introductions, setting meeting format/ground rules (if needed), selecting timekeepers/co-facilitators (if desired), site’s logistics (for longer sessions, the locations of bathrooms, break times, fire exits) thank-you’s and other necessities up front or at the end: allow about two minutes for each. TOTAL TIME: 4 minutes

    opening the mtg
    image from http://vismap.blogspot.com “Opening the Meeting”

  • Allow a “next steps” agenda item preceding the conclusion of any session for at least five minutes to have participants be assigned/volunteer for tasks, set time expectations/deadlines, and confirm/set the next meeting date/place/leadership. TOTAL TIME: 5 minutes
  • Remind people of the last session(s) or read and accept the minutes to get everyone back into this group’s objectives from wherever they each just came to your session from, especially if more than two weeks have elapsed between sessions. Allow 5 minutes for this re-cap. TOTAL TIME: 5 minutes
  • Make sure everyone has a chance to speak during an hour-long session by inviting individuals by name to contribute at least once. During the wrap-up, ask if anyone has anything else to say before ending. Allow 4 minutes for this. TOTAL TIME: 4 minutes

You actually have only 30 minutes for your “hour-long” session’s actual agenda. Truly. And, that is only if you start and end on time. Schedule more sessions if you need more time.

What about introductions?
—NEVER use your precious session’s time for longer introductions of members’ UNLESS that is the sole purpose of your session.
—When your group has more than five people and you have only scheduled one meeting, you can’t use more than about 15-30 seconds to “meet” each other by way of self-introduction for each person.
—Be clear about that up front and then model the proper format for the group by going first.

quick intros
“Quick Introductions”

Generating and Upholding Realistic Time Expectations

  • For a 30-minute agenda, no item should be allocated more than 10 minutes unless it is the main focus of the entire session.
  • Sub-divide any complex item’s components into 3- to 10-minute slots to keep people’s attention and keep you (the leader/time-keeper) on task.
  • For a 30-minute agenda, a maximum of 3 items should actually require group discussion and/or voting/ consensus/ confirmation of learning. If you have more, you need a longer meeting time.
  • Allow up to twelve minutes, total time, for each major agenda item, start to finish, including transitions between sub-items. If any requires more than 12 total minutes, postpone/table some of the decision/learning to the next meeting.
  • Put the designated/expected times for each item right next to it.

Sample-Agenda-copy
image from http://northboundsales.com “Sample Agenda with Times Listed”

People Management
I do not let others hijack my meetings or workshops with unending stories, unfiltered confessions, boring and repetitious contributions (like your own voice much?) or other time-wasters.
I make sure everyone has a chance to speak who wants to contribute.
When I run the meeting or workshop, everyone can relax, listen and participate well.
I facilitate with humor, grace and firmness.
People LOVE my workshops and meetings because I use their time respectfully.

  • If you have groups whose members consistently keep on “running off” verbally, rotate the timekeeping and agenda-maintenance roles (per meeting or per item) and don’t assume these all yourself.
  • Bring a visible/audible timer and use it for each item. Set the timer to go off or have the timekeeper announce when there is one minute left for that item and again when that item’s time has elapsed.

    timer
    “Visible/Audible Timer”

  • When more time is actually needed for an item than was anticipated (new issues or problems arose, a useful activity or discussion is occurring), discuss extending the time and get consensus about that with the group AND announce that you/we are deciding that some other item(s) will now have to wait until the next meeting OR we can agree to postpone finishing this one until our next meeting.
  • Rephrase, reframe or thank each contributor with as few words as possible.
  • When someone starts to be repetitive or repeat someone else’s contribution, interrupt them with something like this: “I appreciate your enthusiasm/interest/knowledge, but we don’t have time to go over the same ground here. Do you have anything new to add?”
  • Remind people to add to/refer to rather than repeat others’ contributions by saying: “I agree/disagree with [THAT PERSON], AND/BUT…” and thank them for their conciseness in advance.
  • Use your hands and face as traffic/time controllers: hold up one finger, a hand in a stop-gesture, use a calming/quelling gesture, a nod, a frown, a smile, a slight shake of your head with clear intention. Point to the agenda (which should be posted where all can see it as well as handed out on paper) and your phone or watch or the wall clock. Count down with your fingers and say: “Two more minutes on this item.”

ending the mtg
image from http://vismap.blogspot.com “Ending the Meeting”

  • Be firm and grateful, both.
  • Briefly summarize what was accomplished, next session’s tasks, and meeting date/time/place before leaving.

success signs of mtg
image from http://www.opensesame.com/ “Signs of a Successful Session”

Good luck!

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Top 10 Characteristics #Presidential #Candidates for the #USA 2016 Race Should Have

We have more than a year to go and the field is crowded and, to me, depressingly unfit to run for President in 2016. In listening to, watching and reading about the current candidates, I despair. So, I’m dispensing FREE advice to them. I hope they listen and behave appropriately.

Top 10 Characteristics #Presidential #Candidates for the #USA 2016 Race Should Have

  1. Honesty. Seems obvious, but so far, every candidate from the two main parties, except Bernie Sanders, seems to be an inveterate, pathological liar. Bad start. Even worse are Presidents who lie to us: had way too many of those in the last few decades, right?
  2. Integrity. Also seems obvious. Again, sorely lacking in every mainstream candidate to date, except possibly Bernie Sanders. When is the last time we had a President holding office with integrity? Jimmy Carter? Pathetic crew we’ve had since then. Bums and liars, every one.

    See saw characterics
    image from http://www.free-management-ebooks.com

  3. Reliability. I want a President who can be relied upon to behave in consistent ways, espouse similar beliefs today as he/she will in four years and did four years go or more, and generally be somewhat predictable, while being open to learning and changing, when appropriate. Few candidates do exhibit this criterion, but it is fulfillable.
  4. Relatability. Have some qualities, experiences, life achievements that I can relate to, that we have in common. We don’t have to be exactly alike, but if a candidate has NOTHING in common with me except having a human body and being a parent, how can I believe that such a President would be able to consider and be empathetic to me, my circumstances?
  5. Advocacy. I want candidates who demonstrate strong passion, commitment, diligence, devotion and inspiration for their chosen causes, especially those that help people, geographic areas, other aspects of political life that have few advocates. I might not like what these candidates are supporting, but I would respect their ability to advocate and expect them to engage in advocacy successfully, when President.

    Characteristics
    image from http://www.viacharacter.org

  6. Ethics. This may seem redundant, but our Presidencies have been sorely lacking in all of the above characteristics for so long it seems we must be specific and particular, here. I want Candidates who hold strong moral positions and do not waver, even if those are based on their religious beliefs which I do not support or adhere to, myself. However, it is unethical for Presidents to impose their personal beliefs on the political system. I want them to know that and behave (and vote/veto) accordingly. “Separation of Church and State” is not just a bumper sticker. Marriage equality, anti-racism, compassion for the poor and downtrodden, equity, age/ability/gender/class fairness and anti-sexism are ethical positions my Candidates should also support completely. Do we have any like that, besides Bernie Sanders?
  7. Intelligence. Candidates must be educated AND intelligent. They must understand and employ science, logic, appropriate argument and rational thinking in all areas. A President must know what questions to ask, whom to ask, and when to say “I need more time and more information before deciding.” A President has to know whom to trust and which “research” is bogus. Is that so much to ask?
  8. Compassion. Kindness, empathy, sympathy, caring: emotional intelligence, or EQ, lead to and contain enormous compassion and are fundamental to the kind of person I want to run for President, critical for anyone actually getting elected. Not just for those “like us,” or for those we already care about, but compassion for ALL. That’s what I’m talking about. We have had many Presidents in the last few decades sorely lacking in compassion, with dire outcomes for us and the world that were caused by that deficiency.
  9. Humor. We really can’t have Candidates without a sense of humor. It’s not only boring, it’s scary when they can’t laugh at themselves, at appropriate jokes, at silliness. We need a President who isn’t afraid to be mockable, who will go on Saturday Night Live and be funny. Knowing when to be serious and when to be humorous are essential qualities for MY President!
  10. Health and Longevity. Here is where things fall apart for Bernie Sanders. What is the point of running if the candidate won’t be able to serve for more than one term? Not to be ageist, and I hope I’m wrong, but since he’s already almost 74, how could Sanders possibly serve in one of the most stressful, time-intensive jobs ever devised, as he goes into his early 80s? Serve well, I mean. Possible, but not likely, right?

Qualities
image from http://blogs.gartner.com

All right. If current Candidates (or future ones) do NOT measure up, BOOT THEM OUT! Demand better Candidates! Run, yourself, if you measure up!

WRITING AND PROMOTING A SERIES: Series authors, Nicholas C. Rossis and Charles Yallowitz

WRITING AND PROMOTING A SERIES:

by series authors, Nicholas C. Rossis, Pearseus series, and

Charles Yallowitz, Legends of Windemere series

Guest bloggers and former guests on CHANGES conversations between authors
(Episodes 7 and 9), http://www.sallyember.com

PEARSUS VIGIL NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

PEARSEUS: VIGIL NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

This joint post was made possible by the invitation of Sally Ember, who has been gracious enough to allow us to speak on her blog. She has done this knowing that Mr. Rossis and Mr. Yallowitz have a history of crazy antics. Indeed, some of these antics occurred on Sally’s very own LIVE video show *CHANGES* conversations between authors, which you can find online. Thank you to Sally Ember and we hope everyone enjoys this post on writing a series.

Check out Nicholas’s newest release, Pearseus: Vigil, by clicking on the above cover art and
prepare for a March/April debut of Charles’s next book, Legends of Windemere: Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue.

Charles: First, I would like to say that I’m happy to be working with Nicholas again and on a post this time. Our back and forth on our blogs is a lot of fun and he has a very sharp, creative mind that keeps me on my toes. This carries over into his writing, which impressively spans several genres.

Nicholas: Same goes for me. I’m very impressed by Charles, both as an author and as a person. Plus, it’s great to have someone who gets my weird sense of humor!

What is the hardest part about promoting a series?
Charles: It’s really easy at the beginning because you can play around with teasers and you only have one book out. Then you get the second and try to find ways to promote without revealing everything in the first book. Around the third book, if you go higher than a trilogy, you get caught between avoiding big revelations in the earlier books and spoilers for the next one. It’s a really hectic balancing act because you don’t want to say too much. Yet, you have to say enough to keep people interested and lead to them to the rest of the series.

I’ve found that you have to make sacrifices in this, for example, revealing a minor spoiler to promote the next book while keeping the big stuff secret. A teaser helps, too, because it isn’t so much a spoiler, but a hint that something is going to happen or a foreshadowed event is coming to pass. Oddly enough, I found that Twitter is the less nerve-wracking social media site to promote a series on because the 140-character limit means you can’t say much and it’s hard to tiptoe around spoilers like that; you have to stick to catchy blurbs or small quotes from the book.

CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE
Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Nicholas: I agree with Charles that Twitter is a great promotional medium for a series, as my marketing relies on a short quote and a link.

One of the best things about having a series is that you can have a different book on sale each month and it will help the others’ sales as well. However, unlike Charles, I have also made a book bundle available. This contains all the books published so far in Pearseus. Obviously, when this is on sale, no one buys the rest of the books. However, it does attract a lot of attention as it offers great value for money. So, it’s all a bit of a balancing act.

How difficult is it to maintain continuity in a series and what tricks do you use to accomplish this?
Charles: I once switched one of my main character’s eye colors and a minor recurring character lost his hair. So some of the details can be messed up if one isn’t careful. Perhaps the biggest challenge to story continuity is that you can forget some foreshadowing or you do something that alters a previously established rule. Middle books can also have events that change the finale because what you plan in your head might not always be what comes out on paper. It really is a game of memory and concentration or like putting together a 5,000-piece puzzle with no picture to guide you.

There are two tricks that I use. One is that I keep notes on a lot of things that I believe I will forget. For example, I had some minor characters who step into the spotlight in a later book and I never gave them much description in their first appearances. There was just enough that they stood out and I had to make sure I had those identifiers written down. The other trick is never to be afraid to look back at your earlier books to confirm information. If you have even an inkling that you’re off on a fact, then jump back to the book where you know the information has already been written. This helps with plot lines, character descriptions, world-building and anything else that carries over from book to book.

Nicholas: LOL—I love the idea of “a 5,000-piece puzzle with no picture to guide you.” Indeed, it can feel that way at times.

I have a .doc file that includes all sorts of minor details, from names to subplots. Also, when I write, I always have my older books open as well. That way, I’m instantly able to jump back and forth and check things out. For example, a lot of the action takes place in a place called the “Chamber of Justice.” Every now and again, I’ll catch myself typing “Chambers of Justice” (plural) instead, so I have to remember it’s actually singular. I have no idea why some days it feels self-evident it’s singular and others that it’s plural, but that’s just how it is.

Pearseus Bundle on Amazon

Pearseus Bundle on Amazon

Do you have any suggestions for readers who wish to get into reading a long series?
Charles: I’m a fan of starting from the beginning, but I know many who start at the most recent book. If you do this, then I highly suggest that you read the earlier books at some point for more context and to see events that don’t get mentioned again. Also, one must be patient with a series because the story is stretched out and every book will have an opening. Also, not everything gets cleared up at the end of the earlier books. That understanding helps a reader accept that questions will remain. The only other tip I have is that you have to trust that the author knows what he or she is doing. I see a lot of readers try to demand that certain events happen in a story, but those desires might not fall in line with what the author has planned.

Nicholas: This is a typical “patience is a virtue” situation. Writing a series is a serious responsibility. Reading a series is an investment of both time and money, so we have to make sure that each and every book not only meets the readers’ expectations, but exceeds them. We owe them as much. That is why I’m grateful to all my readers, but those who have invested in Pearseus hold a special place in my heart.

There are several things we can do to make it easier on the reader, of course. For example, all my Pearseus books have a map with the cities and places that have been revealed so far, plus any new ones. Also, I have a character list at the beginning (and in “X-ray,” if reading on a Kindle), with a two-sentence description of who that person is. Another good idea is to offer a quick reminder each time a minor character first appears. For example, you can say something along the lines of:

“Parad walked into the room. He spotted Angel, his daughter, and smiled.”
This helps people who may have forgotten who Angel is.

Yet another trick I use is to give names to as few people as possible. For example, a minor character may be safely referred to by their property or occupation. Readers don’t need to know the name of every healer that tends a hero’s wounds or every blacksmith that sharpens his weapons.

Finally, the best thing to do is to make sure each book can stand on its own. That means no cliffhangers and no obscure references—at least not without a reminder.

Sadly, this is not always possible. Mad Water, the third book in the series, ends on a cliffhanger because the subplots raised there are not resolved for another 400 pages. So I could either have an 800-page-long book or two 400-page ones, the first of which ends on a cliffhanger.

Obviously, I chose the latter, which brings me back to readers’ patience. 🙂


CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE
Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Charles Yallowitz‘s Information

charles_author_photo_bw
Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cyallowitz
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/CharlesYallowitz
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Charles-E-Yallowitz/e/B00AX1MSQA/
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com
Jason Pedersen, Legends of Windemere‘s Cover Artist: http://www.jasonpedersen.com/

Nicholas Rossis‘ Information

Nicholas Rossis
Blog:http://nicholasrossis.me/ .
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Nicholas-C.-Rossis/e/B00FXXIBZA/
Goodreads: Pearseus: Schism can be read for free on Goodreads.
Twitter: www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Rossis
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+NicholasRossis
Facebook: www.facebook.com/NicholasCRossis

Sally Ember, Ed.D., is the author of the sci-fi/romance/utopian ebooks in The Spanners Series. Volume I, This Changes Everything, is permafree. Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, is usually $3.99. Look for Volumes III and IV in 2015.
All reviews, info, excerpts, links: http://www.sallyember.com/Spanners

‘BOT v. HUMAN: Score 2 for the Human! Transcript of Actual Online Chat with AT & T “Service Representative,” July, 2014

I had the occasion today to have an Online Chat with a “Service representative” on what is called (hilariously) the “LIVE PERSON” chat function on AT & T.

What a great person this corporation is!

Complete transcript is below. Verbatim. All grammatical, punctuation and other errors of syntax are #AT&T’s.

Their “Representative” is posted in BOLD. Comments welcomed. My sideline comments are in

ITALICS.

Thank you for choosing AT&T. A representative will be with you shortly.
You are now chatting with David.

Sally Ember: HI, David

David: Hello my name is David. Thank you for allowing me to be your specialist today. How may I assist you?
David: Good Morning Sally.
David: How are you doing today?

So, already, I’m suspicious. This much of an intro and the repetition scream ‘BOT to me.

Sally Ember: I just paid my bill, but there was an unexpected $8 “late charge” on it. I was in a terrible accident April 6 and was unable to keep up with bills (concussion; couldn’t use oomputer or track things for a while). I talked to someone at UVerse more than once as they called me to get me to make phone payments (which I appreciated), but no one said anything about any late charges. I am very low-income.Please remove this charge.
Sally Ember: Thanks.

David: I am so sorry to hear about your accident Sally.

Wow! They scripted this ‘bot pretty well!

Sally Ember: I would also like to talk about how to lower my bill.
Sally Ember: I’ve talked to many others and they all say my internet bill is way too high.

David: As I understood you need to get the Late payment charge of $8.00 removed from your account. Correct?

A little slow on the uptake, though. Can only process one task at a time?

Sally Ember: Yes. And I’d like to lower my bill overall.

David: No problem.
David: I can help you with that!
David: Please allow me a moment, while I access your account.

Sally Ember: Are you human or a ‘bot?

Why not ask? This is one of those questions it can’t answer properly, regardless.

David: I am sorry that I did not get your last statement.

Sally Ember: Most people get internet services for a lot less than $54/month.

David: Okay.

“Okay” what? Witness is nonresponsive.

Sally Ember: You don’t understand because you’re a ‘bot.
Sally Ember: I want a person, please.
Sally Ember: LIVE PERSON please! This works on the phone. Not here.

David: Yes, I am here to help you with this.
David: Yes, I am.

Some scripter thinks having it repeat itself is helpful. NOT.

Sally Ember: No, you’re not.

David: Don’t worry.

“Be happy” is supposed to come next. Missed its cue.

Sally Ember: I want the late charge removed and I want my internet bill to be under $40/month. Starting TODAY.

David: Please bear with me so that I can go ahead and help you with your concern.

See? Can only handle one at a time.

Care-O-Bot

Maybe it looks like this? image from commons.wikimedia.org

Sally Ember: ‘bot ‘bot ‘bot

I know; “don’t taunt the ‘bot.” Well, it has no feelings.

David: Please allow me a moment to access and review your records.

They don’t even both to write a different script for the online “LIVEPERSON” ‘bot than for the phone ‘bot. BIG CLUE.

Sally Ember: ‘bot
Sally Ember: They should add to your script: “I am a human.”
Sally Ember: LOL
Sally Ember: No human would every say that, though.
Sally Ember: Except to an alien.

David: As I am checking your account details, I see that you have been charged $8.00 as the late payment charge.

Can’t engage in any other task until task one is completed? Interesting.

Sally Ember: Yes. Please remove this.

David: Alright.

I wish the scripter knew how to spell “ALL RIGHT.”

Sally Ember: So, I will now have an $8 credit?
Sally Ember: Because I already paid that charge.
Sally Ember: Lower my bill, please.

David: Yes
David: I am crediting you $8.00 as you were not able to pay the bill on time due to the problem faced by you.

It can’t even remember I had an accident and has to resort to generic language, here? I’m hurt.

Sally Ember: I want to pay less than $40/month.
Sally Ember: Thank you.
Sally Ember: Change my monthly rate to $39.90/month, please.

David: Your bill has bill credited with $8.00.

Victory #1!

Sally Ember: Good. Lower my monthly rate, now.

Got to be persistent with these ‘bots or they just won’t respond.

David: Please check your updated account balance.

Sally Ember: Thank you.
Sally Ember: Lower my monthly bill to $35.00

David: Now let me check with lowering your bill.

Excellent. New task.

Sally Ember: Thank you. I am over 55 and unemployed.

I hope these are the right key words/phrases.

David: I can understand your concern and do have complete sympathy with you.
David: Please stay connected.

Sally Ember: Excellent. Apply that ‘bot compassion to lower my bill.

“Sympathy”? From a ‘bot? I don’t think so.

Sally Ember: Other people have internet service in which they are served by HUMANS for under $40/month. I want that.

David: Let me check that for you.
David: Please have patience.

Sally Ember: Oh, you have no idea.
Sally Ember: I am the epitome of patience and kindness. Just like you.

David: Thank you.

For what? Oh. You are programmed to thank me for having patience?

Sally Ember: LOL
Sally Ember: If you are human, they have given you a terrible script to use.

David: Sally, what I can do for you to lower your bill down is that I can get your bill down to $46.00.

Sally Ember: $46 is better, but not low enough. Keep going.
Sally Ember: $35 is better.

David: I make sure that your bill will  not increase now.

This ‘bot is using English even more poorly for this task. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Sally Ember: A T & T has billions. It can afford to lower my bill $20 and not even notice.

David: I am really very sorry that I am not able to get your bill lower than what I have offered you.

No response to my corporation baiting, eh? Fine. Take the ‘bot high road.

Sally Ember: Tell your ‘bot scripter for you to be kinder and more generous, please.
Sally Ember: I bet you are. $46 is fine. Thanks.

David: Sally, I have tried my best to help you with your concern.

Oh, oh. Have to make sure it doesn’t take away my reduction. Have to be more direct, now. Show it who’s boss.

Sally Ember: I do thank you. Please lower my bill to $46.

David: You are most welcome.
David: You are most welcome.
David: Yes, I have lowered your bill to $46.00/month.

Wow! I feel doubly welcomed, now.Victory #2, sort of!

Sally Ember: Gee. All I had to do was ask. Excellent!

David: Is there anything else I can assist you with?

Sally Ember: Thank you. You are dismissed.
Sally Ember: Sleep mode.

I’m taking control, now. “Orders from humans must be obeyed” has got to be in its programming somewhere.

David: Thank you for being the best part of AT&T. Take good care of yourself & have a wonderful time with your family and friends ahead!!

The “big finish” is a bit much, don’t you think?

So, limited, but mostly a success. ‘BOT v. Human: Score 2 for the Human!

Great, AT & T! Your fake LIVE PERSON / ‘bot mostly works!

But, here is the LIVE PERSON I wished you had! ERNESTINE! (a Lily Tomlin character, on Laugh In, circa 1969)

Ernestine Llily_tomlin

image from http://www.gracegritsgarden.com

‘BOT v. HUMAN: Score 2 for the Human! Transcript of Actual Online Chat with AT & T “Service Representative,” July, 2014

I had the occasion today to have an Online Chat with a “Service representative” on what is called (hilariously) the “LIVE PERSON” chat function on AT & T.

What a great person this corporation is!

Complete transcript is below. Verbatim. All grammatical, punctuation and other errors of syntax are #AT&T’s.

Their “Representative” is posted in BOLD. Comments welcomed. My sideline comments are in

ITALICS.

Thank you for choosing AT&T. A representative will be with you shortly.
You are now chatting with David.

Sally Ember: HI, David

David: Hello my name is David. Thank you for allowing me to be your specialist today. How may I assist you?
David: Good Morning Sally.
David: How are you doing today?

So, already, I’m suspicious. This much of an intro and the repetition scream ‘BOT to me.

Sally Ember: I just paid my bill, but there was an unexpected $8 “late charge” on it. I was in a terrible accident April 6 and was unable to keep up with bills (concussion; couldn’t use oomputer or track things for a while). I talked to someone at UVerse more than once as they called me to get me to make phone payments (which I appreciated), but no one said anything about any late charges. I am very low-income.Please remove this charge.
Sally Ember: Thanks.

David: I am so sorry to hear about your accident Sally.

Wow! They scripted this ‘bot pretty well!

Sally Ember: I would also like to talk about how to lower my bill.
Sally Ember: I’ve talked to many others and they all say my internet bill is way too high.

David: As I understood you need to get the Late payment charge of $8.00 removed from your account. Correct?

A little slow on the uptake, though. Can only process one task at a time?

Sally Ember: Yes. And I’d like to lower my bill overall.

David: No problem.
David: I can help you with that!
David: Please allow me a moment, while I access your account.

Sally Ember: Are you human or a ‘bot?

Why not ask? This is one of those questions it can’t answer properly, regardless.

David: I am sorry that I did not get your last statement.

Sally Ember: Most people get internet services for a lot less than $54/month.

David: Okay.

“Okay” what? Witness is nonresponsive.

Sally Ember: You don’t understand because you’re a ‘bot.
Sally Ember: I want a person, please.
Sally Ember: LIVE PERSON please! This works on the phone. Not here.

David: Yes, I am here to help you with this.
David: Yes, I am.

Some scripter thinks having it repeat itself is helpful. NOT.

Sally Ember: No, you’re not.

David: Don’t worry.

“Be happy” is supposed to come next. Missed its cue.

Sally Ember: I want the late charge removed and I want my internet bill to be under $40/month. Starting TODAY.

David: Please bear with me so that I can go ahead and help you with your concern.

See? Can only handle one at a time.

Care-O-Bot

Maybe it looks like this? image from commons.wikimedia.org

Sally Ember: ‘bot ‘bot ‘bot

I know; “don’t taunt the ‘bot.” Well, it has no feelings.

David: Please allow me a moment to access and review your records.

They don’t even both to write a different script for the online “LIVEPERSON” ‘bot than for the phone ‘bot. BIG CLUE.

Sally Ember: ‘bot
Sally Ember: They should add to your script: “I am a human.”
Sally Ember: LOL
Sally Ember: No human would every say that, though.
Sally Ember: Except to an alien.

David: As I am checking your account details, I see that you have been charged $8.00 as the late payment charge.

Can’t engage in any other task until task one is completed? Interesting.

Sally Ember: Yes. Please remove this.

David: Alright.

I wish the scripter knew how to spell “ALL RIGHT.”

Sally Ember: So, I will now have an $8 credit?
Sally Ember: Because I already paid that charge.
Sally Ember: Lower my bill, please.

David: Yes
David: I am crediting you $8.00 as you were not able to pay the bill on time due to the problem faced by you.

It can’t even remember I had an accident and has to resort to generic language, here? I’m hurt.

Sally Ember: I want to pay less than $40/month.
Sally Ember: Thank you.
Sally Ember: Change my monthly rate to $39.90/month, please.

David: Your bill has bill credited with $8.00.

Victory #1!

Sally Ember: Good. Lower my monthly rate, now.

Got to be persistent with these ‘bots or they just won’t respond.

David: Please check your updated account balance.

Sally Ember: Thank you.
Sally Ember: Lower my monthly bill to $35.00

David: Now let me check with lowering your bill.

Excellent. New task.

Sally Ember: Thank you. I am over 55 and unemployed.

I hope these are the right key words/phrases.

David: I can understand your concern and do have complete sympathy with you.
David: Please stay connected.

Sally Ember: Excellent. Apply that ‘bot compassion to lower my bill.

“Sympathy”? From a ‘bot? I don’t think so.

Sally Ember: Other people have internet service in which they are served by HUMANS for under $40/month. I want that.

David: Let me check that for you.
David: Please have patience.

Sally Ember: Oh, you have no idea.
Sally Ember: I am the epitome of patience and kindness. Just like you.

David: Thank you.

For what? Oh. You are programmed to thank me for having patience?

Sally Ember: LOL
Sally Ember: If you are human, they have given you a terrible script to use.

David: Sally, what I can do for you to lower your bill down is that I can get your bill down to $46.00.

Sally Ember: $46 is better, but not low enough. Keep going.
Sally Ember: $35 is better.

David: I make sure that your bill will  not increase now.

This ‘bot is using English even more poorly for this task. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Sally Ember: A T & T has billions. It can afford to lower my bill $20 and not even notice.

David: I am really very sorry that I am not able to get your bill lower than what I have offered you.

No response to my corporation baiting, eh? Fine. Take the ‘bot high road.

Sally Ember: Tell your ‘bot scripter for you to be kinder and more generous, please.
Sally Ember: I bet you are. $46 is fine. Thanks.

David: Sally, I have tried my best to help you with your concern.

Oh, oh. Have to make sure it doesn’t take away my reduction. Have to be more direct, now. Show it who’s boss.

Sally Ember: I do thank you. Please lower my bill to $46.

David: You are most welcome.
David: You are most welcome.
David: Yes, I have lowered your bill to $46.00/month.

Wow! I feel doubly welcomed, now.Victory #2, sort of!

Sally Ember: Gee. All I had to do was ask. Excellent!

David: Is there anything else I can assist you with?

Sally Ember: Thank you. You are dismissed.
Sally Ember: Sleep mode.

I’m taking control, now. “Orders from humans must be obeyed” has got to be in its programming somewhere.

David: Thank you for being the best part of AT&T. Take good care of yourself & have a wonderful time with your family and friends ahead!!

The “big finish” is a bit much, don’t you think?

So, limited, but mostly a success. ‘BOT v. Human: Score 2 for the Human!

Great, AT & T! Your fake LIVE PERSON / ‘bot mostly works!

But, here is the LIVE PERSON I wished you had! ERNESTINE! (a Lily Tomlin character, on Laugh In, circa 1969)

Ernestine Llily_tomlin

image from http://www.gracegritsgarden.com

Author Q & A on Goodreads and Google On Air Hangout on Release Date of “This Changes Everything” Register!

Join ebook author, Sally Ember, Ed.D., for Q & A online chat on 12/19/13, Release Date of This Changes Everything, Volume I, The Spanners Series, on Goodreads, 9 AM – 12 PM PST, FREE.

Join Goodreads (also free), then use the link, below, to post question/comments and register in advance or on the day of the event. SHARE!

ALSO, simultaneously, on Google On Air Hangout via youtube: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cqk9o94v7ovcdbdbq8q6mn26dns

Links to reviews, interviews, blog posts and buy links as well as excerpts on author’s website http://www.sallyember.com

This Changes Everything cover

Cover art by Willowraven.

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SYNOPSIS: Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, Ph.D., 58, is having the first of many home visits from holographic representations of five beings from the Many Worlds Collective (MWC), a consortium of planet and star systems all around the multiverse, over a thirty-year, increasingly Utopian period. Earth is being invited to join, formally, and the December, 2012, visit is the first one allowed to be made public. Making the existence of the MWC public means many Earthers have to adjust our beliefs and ideas about life, religion, culture, identity and, well, everything we think and are. Clara becomes the liaison for Earth, the Chief Communicator, between Earth and the MWC. This Changes Everything relates the events partly from her point of view, partly from records of meetings of varying groups of the MWC governing bodies, and partly from her Media Contact, Esperanza Enlaces, employing humor, poignancy, a love story, family issues, MWC’s mistakes and blunders, history, politics, paranormalcy and hope.

https://www.goodreads.com/event/show/911803-chat-with-the-author-of-this-changes-everything-on-release-date