Shall we talk?

by Vittoria Marino on 08/01/2014

In recent months we’ve seen growing confirmation of the importance that voice interfaces will have in the applications of the future. Just consider how many wearable devices have come to market, and the extent to which Google is still continuing to add voice functions to its browser. We are increasingly certain that our applications will have to have a voice interface.

To reach our goal, the first step was to introduce Voice Commands in Instant Developer 13.0, which, thanks to the use of Google’s Speech API, make it possible to use voice to interact with web applications inside Chrome. A review of the feedback we received through our roadmap enabled us to choose the right direction for our next step.

The first implementation let you continue hands free while giving commands to the application, but you still had to look at the device to read the answer. Also, only panels supported voice commands, making it necessary to use your hands when working with interfaces based on books.

And this was our starting point in deciding what to introduce next in the second version of Instant Developer voice commands, which I’m pleased to present to you today:

  • voice synthesizer;
  • support for voice commands for books;
  • new, even more natural interaction.

Thanks to the voice synthesizer, the application now responds by speaking to user commands, making it possible to interact with the device without needing to look at it to see the effect of a command. New usage options are now possible in cases where conventional interaction with the application is difficult, such as when the screen is very small or the device must be used while moving. I’m thinking of small, round devices with a strap.

Support for voice commands for books now makes it possible to move between pages and search for text in a report without using your hands.

Finally, given that the language we use is important, in order to break down even more barriers between app and user we have improved the interaction, making it more natural and more accommodating of language that sounds closer to how we’d speak to another person. And all of this while still preserving options for the developer to customize commands and voice recognizer responses, so they fit better into the context of your app.

Stay tuned, because the next step will deal with offline apps: they’re just itching to talk to you.

Do you already have an application that you'd like to talk to?

  •    I've already implemented voice commands; I just need to update to 13.1.
  •    Now that apps respond, I know where to use voice commands.
  •    Not yet. I need voice commands in offline apps.
  •    I don't think the interface of the future will involve voice.

Image: Mustafa Khayat

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I have to say, time flies. It’s already been a year since I presented to you our virtual training options for Instant Developer. This academic year has given us a chance to build up some experience and collect feedback and suggestions that we’d like to use to further improve the service.

The classes have proven to be the best way to approach InDe and also to learn more about it, especially thanks to the added value of interaction with the teacher.

Many people have stressed how useful the recordings are, but others have reported some trouble in consulting them “given that each video contains an entire lesson and it’s hard to quickly find which point in the recording to review.” That’s why the lesson recordings will be replaced by a set of short tutorial videos, each one on a specific subject about the program, and lasting 5 to 10 minutes.

Another important change is that upcoming classes will be held for just a week, in four lessons of 120 minutes each, and they will be more frequent so it will be simpler to participate.

The price for each student will vary from a maximum of $349 (or € 249) to a minimum of $269 (or € 169) per person based on the number purchased, to make it easier for more people to attend. Signing up for courses will become easier too: starting in September, simply access the help desk to sign up on your own or for your colleagues for the course you want, directly through Pro Gamma’s e-commerce.

The following course subjects will be offered:

  • Basic CourseWeb applications and the basics of Document Orientation (InDe’s OOP)
  • Report Course- Traditional reports, in preview and dynamic interfaces
  • Mobile CourseOffline mobile applications, synchronization, native shell

Are you ready to head back to school?

  •    Definitely! I'm already planning to attend the upcoming courses.
  •    It's great, but the course I want isn't there (please tell us in a comment what you'd like to see).
  •    I don't believe that online courses are effective. Only a teacher in a classroom can make a difference.

Image: mbeo.

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As already reported by Andrea, one of the main new features of version 13.1 is integration with Salesforce, the cloud-based CRM tool for sales force management, customer service, support, and help desk. Now, integrating this Customer Relationship Management tool into your applications is very simple.

A special wizard allows you to authenticate on Salesforce and create classes in your project that correspond to the entities exposed by the service. The import wizard makes it easy to read and save data, because you can simply treat the imported classes as normal Document Oriented classes, using them in master queries of panels. Then you only have to create the application to perform the necessary web calls to service, sending the CRUD operations initiated by the user.

But it doesn’t stop at Salesforce, because with the same wizard – available in the menu under Tools-Web API Importer – you can integrate a generic RESTful service into your project. And even in this case managing the data for the service is as simple as calling the usual Document Orientation functions:

If you have a Salesforce account and want to try this new feature, you can find more information in the WebApi Guide.

With version 13.1 we integrated Salesforce, and the next step will be support to another popular ERP system that I’m sure will be useful for many people, but I’d like to leave you with an additional thought: the Web API that simplifies integrating these services into your Instant Developer projects also simplifies integrating applications made with InDe into other services, including exposing your own Web APIs.

Are you interested in integrating Salesforce in your applications?

  •    Definitely, in fact we've already implemented Salesforce integration.
  •    Very interested, and we want to integrate it in our applications as soon as possible.
  •    For now we don't use it, but we're thinking of adopting it in the future.
  •    I'm not interested in Salesforce.

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June has come and gone, and as promised, it’s time once again to talk about Instant Developer technical support. However, this time I want to go beyond just presenting performance indicators. I’d like to dig a little deeper and look at the real value underlying user feedback.

Since the start of the second quarter, the average grade rose from 4.24 to 4.28, and the percentage of sessions receiving a grade rose from 55% to 64%. Now, if we only looked at the numbers, it would be like saying “well, we’ve managed to complete the thankless task of technical support”. But that’s not the case. Technical support should not be viewed as a thankless task to be avoided if possible, but as an important resource for innovating and improving the product. I’d like to use today’s post to share what I’ve learned from your feedback.

To better understand where improvement is needed, I broke down the average grades by type of session:

  • 4.32 for support requests.
  • 3.93 for bug reports.
  • 4.78 for internal error reports.
  • 5 for consulting services.

It’s clear that bug reports have the lowest average grade, which is perhaps to be expected, but I was surprised when I broke the figure down by outcomes:

  • 2 for bug reports closed because the error could not be reproduced.
  • 3.30 for bug reports closed because the problem was due to improper use of InDe.
  • 4.35 for bug reports closed with a workaround provided.

This data shows that the weak point is related to non-reproducible bugs. To find out more, I contacted most users who gave a grade, and it turns out that the negative factor was the perception that the discussion was closed, not the inability to reproduce the problem.

And this is perhaps understandable. Some might view the response to such reports as “the error could not be reproduced, so we are closing the request; if you want, you can open another one (in other words, it’s your problem)”, but that is not what we mean to say! What we are trying to say in these cases is “as of now, we have not been able to reproduce the error; can you open another request with more information or with a different project?”. We always prefer a continuous dialogue, but the fact that these tickets were being placed in closed status led to misunderstanding.

In response to this business intelligence exercise, I’ve decided to experiment with a change in the support procedure over the rest of the year: when a bug report is closed due to a non-reproducible error, to re-open it and provide additional information, the user will only need to reply via email with more information on how to reproduce it. If the results of this trial period are positive, we will implement the ability to perform this operation with a simple click from the response email.

My analysis has confirmed that there are two factors involved in improving both the product and our relationship with customers: being receptive to feedback and not being afraid to acknowledge and address it.

If I could give any advice to readers, it would be to do likewise.

Image: Steven Shorrock.

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