Who has not wound up nowhere in an Internet search for information that should be available about a company, an institution, or an organization? Who has not then longed to have someone to talk to who could answer questions with no hassle or waste of time? Johan Åberg, from the Department of Computer Science at Linköping University, Sweden, has studied what such a human help system might look like.
Automatic help systems with computerized answers already exist. But they seldom work very well unless the field they cover is extremely narrow or unless the number of possible questions is limited. In all other cases, automated help systems often leave the user feeling frustrated rather than satisfied.
In his dissertation, Johan Åberg has tested a human help system at the Website Elfwood (http://elfwood.lysator.liu.se), an international site for fantasy art and literature. For three weeks there were 35 volunteer assistants available there to answer questions in real time.
Ingela Björck | alphagalileo
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