Tag Archives: search

Natural language processing – or the future of chatbots

Natural language is what we humans use with each other, and it is not always logical and straightforward. That is why we have had to learn to rephrase our queries so Papa Google knows what we mean.

But most people don’t know how to search effectively because they are still stuck in natural language. Hence the rise of chatbots.

For now, chatbots are stupid, irritating pieces of code that work by leading us through a long, tedious process of questions and answers. If this article is right, however, chatbots of the future will use natural language processing [NLP] to work out what we want, and give it to us with the minimum of fuss and bother [on our part]. Machines getting smarter? Or humans dumbing down?



Chatbots don’t quite understand us yet. We speak and they process our commands. In a chatbot like Yahoo Weather, you ask about the forecast in Seattle and the bot returns an answer. Natural Language Processing or NLP can read what you say and interpret some meaning. You don’t want to know the current temp in…

via Pat.ai chat technology is a step in the right direction — VentureBeat

#Chatbots – and we need them because…?

Okay, all I know about chatbots is what I’ve been reading on Medium lately, and the frustrating experience of ringing my utility company and being forced to answer the STUPID questions of its chatbot.

You know how it goes. You ring and either have to wait forever for the call to be picked up, or the chatbot answers and asks for your account number when all you want is some general information. Grrrr….

So you dig out a utility bill and spit out the account number, knowing full well that if you get through to a real person they will ask you for the number again anyway.

Then the utility company bot asks you to explain the reason for your call. You grit your teeth and try to think of a one or three word description and e.n.u.n.c.i.a.t.e it as clearly as possible while growling in the back of your throat.

What happens next? The chatbot either mishears you, or simply doesn’t have a response for your particular query and asks if you want to speak to a customer service representative…

-face palm-

Do I want to speak to a real, live person? Oh god…

Anyway, if you look at this infographic from Medium, you will see a comparison between a chatbot ‘conversation’ and the same query via a simple Google search:

chatbots vs google

To me, there is no point in carrying on a long, inane Q&A ‘conversation’ with a chatbot when a word or two is all I need to get all the information I need from Papa Google. But am I just being an elitist nerd?

I rather suspect I am. In fact, I rather suspect that most people who regularly use computers are elitist nerds. Why? Because using a computer is actually a lot harder than learning how to use apps on a smartphone. That is why smartphone use has skyrocketed world wide. It is also the reason some pundits believe the days of the desktop [computer] are over. Why pay so much and have to go through such a steep learning curve to do things a smartphone can do so much easier?

There is a part of me that wants to scream that what a smartphone can do is just a fraction of what a ‘proper’ computer can do, but the words barely form before I get a flash of the early 80’s and the emergence of the personal computer. Back then, PCs were much less powerful than mainframes, and I’m sure a lot of old school programmers could not see why everyone couldn’t just learn FORTRAN or something…

So…smartphones may be to the future what PCs were to the past because they are:

  • cheaper,
  • convenient,
  • portable in a real sense,
  • easy to use, and
  • a growth market

But I hope, truly ruly hope that chatbots are just the toddler stage of a technological progression that will end [?] with real voice recognition and real AI support.

Until then, I’ll stick with old school search engines and my antiquated desktop because…I’m an elitist dinosaur with poor eyesight and a pathological hatred of chatbots.



#howto – search for an image on the internet

My thanks to Pinky for showing me how to do this! Now for the why. The answer is the big C. No, not cancer, copyright.

If you are just downloading pictures off the internet for your own enjoyment, and no, I’m not going to go there, then copyright is not an issue. The instant you use one of those images in anything vaguely commercial, even a simple blog post, you have to be sure you’re not infringing on someone’s copyright.

But how do you do that when you have no idea where the picture originally came from?

This is where Google Images comes in. Google has long been the king of word searches, but now it also lets you search by picture [and voice], and it all starts in the familiar Google search box…sort of.

How to find Google Images

If you are using Google Chrome then it’s easy. Simply click on the ‘Images’ option in the top, right hand corner of the screen:

googleimages 1

That will lead to this:

googleimages 2If you’re using some other browser [I use Firefox], type http://images.google.com into the address box of your browser and hit Enter :

googleimages 3[Note: as soon as the page is displayed, the URL changes to ‘https‘. As I’m a purist I always type the plain ‘http’.]

You should now be looking at this:

googleimages 4[Note: in Firefox, the Google search box does not include the ability to search by voice. This is only available in Chrome.]

How to actually do an image search

Whatever route you took to get here, you should now click on the small icon of a camera as shown above. That will lead to this:

googleimages 5

The ‘Search by image’ dialogue box contains two tabs – Paste image URL, and Upload an image.

Click the tab to Upload an image. This is what you will see:

googleimages 6

Click the ‘Browse’ button as shown. This will allow you to browse your own computer in order to find the image to be searched:

googleimages 7

The next bit assumes that you know how to find your way around the Windows files and folders. If you don’t, you can find a step-by-step how-to here.

Find the folder that contains the image you’re interested in. Click on that image and then click on ‘Open’ [as shown in the screenshot above].

And now the magic happens. Google search will think for a moment or two and then it will present you with the closest match it can find on the internet. This is the result for my image:

googleimages 8

As the image I chose is from a game, I did not expect to get a perfect match, and I didn’t. That’s because game avatars, even when customised, are based on a preset image. So they’re not unique. Photos of people and/or drawings etc., are unique, so they’re easier to find.This also means that if you use a copyrighted image in your blog, it can be found. So be careful!




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