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Exploring Machine Learning, AI, and Data Science

Christopher P. Willis on Using AI to Create a Better User Experience with Better Content

In this episode, Frank and Andy speak to Christopher P. Willis about Using AI to Create a Better User Experience with Better Content.

Certainly, if you have ever you read instructions or product documentation that left you annoyed and confused, then you can appreciate the work he does with Acrolinx.


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00:00:00 BAILey 

Hello and welcome to data driven. 

00:00:02 BAILey 

In this episode Frank and Andy speak with Christopher Willis about how artificial intelligence can help bake brands create congruent content across cultures, languages and writers. 

00:00:13 BAILey 

One quick word of correction. 

00:00:15 BAILey 

Frank made the assumption that CPO was chief product Officer. 

00:00:19 BAILey 

Chris is actually Chief pipeline officer. 

00:00:21 BAILey 

In addition to being chief marketing Officer, Acrolinx currently does not have a chief product officer. 

00:00:28 BAILey 

Frank should know by now what happens when you assume anything. 

00:00:32 BAILey 

I’ll have a chat with him later. 

00:00:34 BAILey 

For now, enjoy the show. 

00:00:44 Frank 

Hello and welcome to data driven, the podcast where we explore the emerging fields of data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

00:00:52 Frank 

If you’d like to think of data as the new oil, then you can think of us like Car Talk because we focus on where the rubber meets the virtual road and with me on this epic road trip down the information. 

00:01:04 Frank 

Superhighway as always is Andy Leonard. 

00:01:07 Frank 

How’s it going Andy? 

00:01:08 Andy 

Good Frank, how are you doing? 

00:01:10 Frank 

I’m doing great, I’m doing great. 

00:01:11 Frank 

It’s a beautiful Tuesday morning here in the DC area. 

00:01:14 Frank 

We’re recording this on September 28th and I can’t believe it’s already October. 

00:01:22 Andy 

Almost gosh, yeah, yeah. 

00:01:23 Frank 

Almost October. 

00:01:25 Andy 

It’s it’s been beautiful fall weather. 

00:01:28 Andy 

Past few days here in sunny Farmville, VA. 

00:01:33 Andy 

And I’m really enjoying that. 

00:01:35 Andy 

Got a lot of outdoors work done in the past few days and that’s always a good thing. 

00:01:40 Frank 

Yeah, we just built the trampoline for the kids and that was a was a lot of fun. 

00:01:46 Frank 

’cause the. 

00:01:46 Frank 

Instructions were horrible. 

00:01:50 Andy 

Did you get one with that big net around it? 

00:01:53 Andy 

Keep from bouncing off and ’cause otherwise it should come with a coupon for a free cast. 

00:01:58 Frank 

Freecast and free healthcare that’d be funny. 

00:02:00 Andy 

Yes, yes, that’s right, yeah. 

00:02:03 Frank 

Yeah, so without further ado I’d like to introduce we have this. 

00:02:07 Frank 

Awesome guest today. 

00:02:08 Frank 

We’ve been really lucking out on terms of folks coming to us and and suggesting guests for us, which is quite refreshing, actually. 

00:02:17 Frank 

So so today we have with us Christopher Willis, Acrolinx Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Product Officer. 

00:02:25 Frank 

Christopher is an expert in technology, marketing and brand alignment alignment with over 20 years of experience in with some of the world biggest tech names including Perfecto. 

00:02:35 Frank 

Kmag and Cambridge technology group. 

00:02:39 Frank 

And through his work at Acrolinx, he’s become a renowned thought leader on the topics of content governance and brand alignment. 

00:02:46 Frank 

He’s also an expert on AI and how AI can help. 

00:02:50 Frank 

Big brands can great create congruent content across cultures, language and writers. 

00:02:56 Frank 

Acrolinx creates tools for developing content that feels human, relatable, and compassionate. 

00:03:01 Frank 

It’s already used by some of the biggest brands in the technology world today, so welcome to the show, Chris. 

00:03:09 Christopher 

Thank you, I’m excited about your trampoline. 

00:03:12 Frank 

Well, thank you. 

00:03:12 Frank 

Thank you. 

00:03:13 Frank 

You should come on down I. 

00:03:14 Frank 

I think you’re on the East Coast somewhere in Boston. 

00:03:17 Christopher 

I am outside of Boston, yes? 

00:03:18 Frank 

Awesome cool cool you never know ’cause sometimes people will put where they used to live on LinkedIn and not update that so. 

00:03:26 Christopher 

Nope, haven’t gone anywhere in what a year? 

00:03:27 Christopher 

And a. 

00:03:27 Christopher 

Half if not. 

00:03:28 Frank 

Right, right? 

00:03:29 Christopher 

A lot, not a lot of travel, yeah? 

00:03:30 Frank 

Year and a half in the two week lockdown. 

00:03:35 Frank 

Well, welcome to the show so so. 

00:03:38 Frank 

Tell me about what so, so you’re a CMO and a CPO. 

00:03:43 Frank 

That’s that’s, uh. 

00:03:45 Frank 

That’s an interesting mix I I can see how the two are related, but can you explain kind of like what it is you do for acrolinx and maybe a little bit about. 

00:03:54 Christopher 

So I do a bunch of things. 

00:03:55 Christopher 

I I I joined the company to run marketing and marketing has. 

00:04:00 Christopher 

A lot of. 

00:04:00 Christopher 

Reach in this organization because of what we do and who we sell to. 

00:04:05 Christopher 

So I reach into pipeline. 

00:04:07 Christopher 

I reach into the product process on product marketing in there and come from a background where this approach really resonates and makes a lot of sense and the way that we collect and build and use data is very aligned to the way that I’ve. 

00:04:24 Christopher 

I’ve built content in the past. 

00:04:28 Frank 

Interesting, interesting. 

00:04:29 Frank 

So the the product at acrolinx it it. 

00:04:33 Frank 

It uses AI to create content. 

00:04:36 Frank 

So, so like what does that do is? 

00:04:38 Christopher 

Different so we are. 

00:04:38 Frank 

It kind of NLP. 

00:04:40 Christopher 

We’re improving content, so we’re we’re about being improving the quality and effectiveness of enterprise. 

00:04:47 Christopher 

Content so the easiest way to think about what we do is everybody that writes everybody that owns a content organization, whether that’s in a development group with technical documentation or product manuals, or marketing content enablement content, internal education. 

00:05:04 Christopher 

All these folks have a whiteboard in their office and. 

00:05:07 Christopher 

On that whiteboard are all the components of language, the way that they want to create their content. 

00:05:12 Christopher 

It’s the tone of voice. 

00:05:13 Christopher 

It’s the clarity level education level of their of their readers. 

00:05:17 Christopher 

It’s the amount of compassion, emotion, inclusiveness that they want in their contents. 

00:05:22 Christopher 

The words that they want to use and that they don’t want. 

00:05:24 Christopher 

Use, it’s all up there on the whiteboard. 

00:05:26 Christopher 

They feel good about it. 

00:05:28 Christopher 

They’ve defined essentially the voice of their group or their organization. 

00:05:32 Christopher 

The problem with that whiteboard is that it’s in their office and nobody can see it, and even if they could, we don’t have a writers pool in the world anymore. 

00:05:40 Christopher 

We’re all writers when you go to work, a byproduct of your work is. 

00:05:45 Christopher 

Content, and so. 

00:05:46 Christopher 

As a marketer I get my best content from folks that don’t touch marketing. 

00:05:51 Christopher 

They’re just smart people that can create so they don’t. 

00:05:55 Christopher 

They don’t care about what’s on my whiteboard at all, and. 

00:06:00 Christopher 

When we were, I mean, the last seven or eight years you talked about. 

00:06:03 Christopher 

The potential for the digital shift, and I think everybody been using that as a marketing buzzword like digital shift is coming. 

00:06:10 Christopher 

You got to get ready and I don’t know if anybody ever really thought it was coming, but it was a great way to so some fear into our prospects that if you don’t modernize, the world is going to change. 

00:06:20 Christopher 

Holy crap March hit last year and the digital shift arrives and now you’re only touchpoint with your consumer is through digital content for some period of time and it became really apparent to folks that how you commute. 

00:06:36 Christopher 

Gay matters and then all the things that happened last year from from a social standpoint. 

00:06:43 Christopher 

Language took on a very lead role. 

00:06:46 Christopher 

And how do you as an enterprise ensure that you’re communicating in the voice of your audience? 

00:06:53 Christopher 

And that’s where Acrolinx comes in. 

00:06:54 Christopher 

We look at terminology. 

00:06:56 Christopher 

We look at. 

00:06:56 Christopher 

It’s style guidelines voice guidelines to be able to create this essentially central lexecon of how to communicate his business and then. 

00:07:07 Christopher 

Either your writers in real time use acrolinx in their sidebar and what in whatever authoring tool they’re using, whether they’re using something like madcap flare or Adobe products or Google Docs or Microsoft or anything in a browser. 

00:07:21 Christopher 

Uhm, you’re able to use acrolinx in real time to check there your content. 

00:07:25 Christopher 

Acrolinx checks for all the components that. 

00:07:28 Christopher 

It’s learned from your organization to create great content and provide you with the score. 

00:07:32 Christopher 

You can improve over time or through automation. 

00:07:35 Christopher 

So think in terms of continuous process, continuous delivery of content. 

00:07:42 Christopher 

I’m checking content in it’s being scored delivered back to me. 

00:07:45 Christopher 

I’m making changes and it’s rolling out at the speed of my. 

00:07:48 Christopher 

Development process. 

00:07:50 Christopher 

So at the base of what we’re doing, when you think about where we’re at, it’s it’s really about taking content in stream of characters, extracting that content, buying the context of that, identifying. 

00:08:03 Christopher 

Uh, your tokens either at the word level at the sentence. 

00:08:06 Christopher 

Level and then adding in the linguistic data underneath that around morphology and compound analysis to understand what’s. 

00:08:14 Christopher 

In the content that we’re we’re looking at identifying terminology and and variant detection and then laying patterns on top of that, our proprietary secret sauce to be able to provide that. 

00:08:26 Christopher 

That feedback of whether or not your content is correct on character on tone on terminology, and then that feeds back. 

00:08:34 Christopher 

To users in the form of guidance. 

00:08:37 Frank 

Interesting, so it guides the people who are creating the content doesn’t necessarily generate the content for them. 

00:08:45 Christopher 

We don’t override and we don’t right because customers. 

00:08:47 Frank 


00:08:49 Christopher 

If you think in terms of who our customers are. 

00:08:51 Christopher 

Our our customers tend to be the largest technology companies in the world, so think top 20 global technology companies almost every single one of them uses acrolinx and. 

00:09:02 Christopher 

A piece of guidance might be useful, it might be on purpose, so as an example, when I write through my system and I write the word software. 

00:09:12 Christopher 

It says Are you sure you didn’t mean platform? 

00:09:14 Christopher 

And why does it say that? 

00:09:15 Christopher 

Because in my world, if we’re talking about our product, I don’t want my employees to call it software, it’s it’s platform. 

00:09:21 Christopher 

It’s an extensible platform with integration pieces and an API. 

00:09:24 Christopher 

I don’t want to sell it as software. 

00:09:26 Christopher 

But I might have meant to say software. 

00:09:29 Christopher 

So I don’t want to. 

00:09:30 Christopher 

I don’t want to enforce that rule. 

00:09:32 Christopher 

I want to provide guidance and if you agree with that guidance, you implement that guidance. 

00:09:37 Christopher 

We have the technology to override that, but in almost every case that doesn’t make sense to the customer. 

00:09:45 Andy 

So is the input for the content is it? 

00:09:46 Frank 

What is this? 

00:09:46 Frank 

What this? 

00:09:50 Andy 

Is it spoken or written or all of the above? 

00:09:55 Christopher 

All of the above, so we can take in. 

00:09:57 Christopher 

I mean, there’s a number of ways to teach the platform to be your editor. 

00:10:04 Christopher 

One is to pull mass quantities of content. 

00:10:07 Christopher 

Give me all your great content. 

00:10:09 Christopher 

What does it look like? 

00:10:10 Christopher 

Identify what you think is good and we’re going to read through that, and the system will read through all that content and start generating guidelines. 

00:10:15 Christopher 

Based on what you believe is great content today. 

00:10:18 Christopher 

Uhm, there’s also the ability to just go in and into our interface and set guidelines so you can set a tone of voice you can identify how lively you want your content. 

00:10:29 Christopher 

Today there are challenges to all of those methods because over time you’re going to learn more, and that’s part of what I’ve really been aiming to. 

00:10:39 Christopher 

Evolve with the product is. 

00:10:42 Christopher 

Gartner, the analyst firm, has said that 50% of of marketers, people that set the company voice are. I don’t think this is the word they use, but I. 

00:10:52 Christopher 

Will use guessing. 

00:10:54 Christopher 

I have a good idea of what my audience wants to hear, so I define my tone of voice. 

00:10:58 Christopher 

I define the words that I’m going to use I I think I know what people want to hear. 

00:11:02 Christopher 

And if I use acronyms. 

00:11:05 Christopher 

Go ahead and I take all that information that I’ve gathered, and I teach acrolinx to to help create content like that and the output of acrolinx is an Acura link score so you’re aiming for 100. 

00:11:17 Christopher 

Most customers are aiming for 80. 

00:11:18 Christopher 

You want to be 80 or better. 

00:11:20 Christopher 

80 means good, 90 means done, numeric value of of good and done, so no subjectivity. 

00:11:26 Christopher 

It’s just it is what it is. 

00:11:28 Christopher 

This is either on my guidance or it’s not on my guidance and. 

00:11:32 Christopher 

If I get 100 acrolinx score on a piece of content, well by God, that’s going to perform fantastically. It’s exactly what I think. 

00:11:41 Christopher 

My audience wants to hear and how I think they want to hear it. 

00:11:43 Christopher 

The important word in. 

00:11:45 Christopher 

There though, is I think. 

00:11:47 Christopher 

I think that. 

00:11:49 Christopher 

Where I want to aim to get to is the ability to create a feedback loop from my audience. 

00:11:54 Christopher 

So think in terms of support tickets. 

00:11:57 Christopher 

I’m I’m using acrolinx to create support tickets. 

00:12:00 Christopher 

I’m scoring very highly. 

00:12:02 Christopher 

I’m putting those support tickets out. 

00:12:03 Christopher 

People are using them and. 

00:12:06 Christopher 

They’re failing on whatever it is they’re trying to fix. 

00:12:11 Christopher 

Can you tell me why can we gather why first, is there a way to systematically take in the lie? 

00:12:16 Christopher 

But if there isn’t. 

00:12:17 Christopher 

I don’t know. 

00:12:18 Christopher 

Happy face sad face like at the airport. 

00:12:20 Christopher 

Are you happy with this or aren’t you? 

00:12:22 Christopher 

And if you’re not? 

00:12:24 Christopher 

Why is it a clarity issue? 

00:12:26 Christopher 

Did you not understand the words where we’re using words that you’ve never seen before, but it give me some reasons and then I can start gathering data to feed back into acrolinx that takes us from being strategy aligned, I think to audience aligned they want. 

00:12:42 Christopher 

And as that, as our software moves more in that cyclical process, you don’t need to know what your audience wants to hear and how they. 

00:12:50 Christopher 

Want to hear it? 

00:12:51 Christopher 

They’ll tell you, and that’s what I that’s the thing that. 

00:12:53 Christopher 

I’m most excited. 

00:12:54 Christopher 

About right now is being able to to evolve towards that world. 

00:12:58 Christopher 

This product has been in a state of evolution. 

00:13:02 Christopher 

It’s about 2002 I. 

00:13:05 Christopher 

I joined the company in in 2017, UHM to move us into sort of a wider market space and this is I think that’s one of the most exciting things for me right now is seeing how we can bridge that gap from going. 

00:13:21 Christopher 

I believe too they want. 

00:13:25 Frank 

Interesting, so it becomes kind of a virtuous feedback loop. 

00:13:30 Frank 

Yep, uh. 

00:13:33 Frank 

And it becomes, dare I say, a data driven process because. 

00:13:40 Frank 

Your documentation, my experience on software products is that. 

00:13:45 Frank 

Documentation tends to be done last, maybe even Andy after after testing and after security maybe. 

00:13:54 Frank 

If testing is done intentionally so I like the idea of kind of making this rather is from us a kind of subjective thing to this objective. 

00:13:54 Andy 

Yeah, agreed. 

00:14:02 Frank 

Are you meeting the customer needs? 

00:14:04 Frank 

Because I think we can all empathize with the idea that we’ve all read instructions that quite frankly, stink. 

00:14:10 Frank 

The trampoline instructions were just godawful. 

00:14:14 Frank 

I mean like and like. I like to think I’m a smart guy. I like to think I’m a smart guy, but like you know I actually it’s funny you mentioned it because I actually ended up going to YouTube to find a couple of videos where. 

00:14:26 Frank 

Somebody else built it and kind of had the same problems. 

00:14:30 Frank 

You know, and we’ve all we’ve all had that experience with, like just awful instructions. 

00:14:34 Frank 

So I, I like the idea of, you know, if they had, uh, maybe they do have a website. 

00:14:38 Frank 

I didn’t check, but. 

00:14:40 Frank 

Uh, you know. 

00:14:41 Frank 

Kind of just saying like you. 

00:14:42 Frank 

Know this is what? 

00:14:43 Frank 

Worked, this is what didn’t I like that. 

00:14:46 Christopher 

Yeah, I mean think in terms of like we have a a major motorcycle manufacturer here in the US and they create a multi 100 page user manual and from a consistency standpoint. 

00:14:50 Christopher 

Cycle megapack 

00:15:01 Christopher 

When you are hiring people that are within your motorcycle culture that use certain words, I’ll say on the street to identify pieces of a motorcycle. 

00:15:13 Christopher 

And then they come to work and create this manual. 

00:15:16 Christopher 

How are you ensuring that you’re using consistent terminology through hundreds of pages and hundreds of writers? 

00:15:21 Christopher 

All who say things in different ways about the same thing. 

00:15:25 Christopher 

So if it’s something as simple as. 

00:15:26 Christopher 

This is how you connect the battery and anytime we talk about connecting the battery. 

00:15:30 Christopher 

We use this. 

00:15:31 Christopher 

Language and then governing that over hundreds of pages and hundreds of writers. 

00:15:36 Christopher 

That simple example is the basis of what makes this really interesting. 

00:15:41 Christopher 

That consistency built into your process, so that if you’re a coffee maker and you’re doing training. 

00:15:47 Christopher 

For your burrito. 

00:15:49 Christopher 

Language matters like a latte latte. 

00:15:53 Christopher 

It’s it’s not a flat white. 

00:15:55 Christopher 

It’s not an Americano. 

00:15:56 Christopher 

Don’t confuse your terminology, but at the top of the hierarchy. 

00:16:01 Christopher 

What if we all spelled the name of the company, right? 

00:16:03 Christopher 

Like what if everybody that wrote at this company spelled the company right or or used the right name? 

00:16:08 Christopher 

If you’re American Express, or you Amex or you, American Express or UAE, and if everybody does it just slightly different. 

00:16:16 Christopher 

You have no consistency and you have. 

00:16:18 Christopher 

No brand voice. 

00:16:18 Christopher 

So just those simple ideas. 

00:16:21 Christopher 

That’s a that’s a guideline. 

00:16:22 Christopher 

So then you move from there. 

00:16:23 Christopher 

What else would you do if you could make sure that everybody creates a piece of content with the right name spelled correctly? 

00:16:28 Christopher 

What else would you? 

00:16:29 Christopher 

Do and that’s where this gets really interesting because you start thinking in terms of, well, I sell really weird meat. 

00:16:36 Christopher 

Nice products that people I can’t hire people that know about it to come in and write about it. 

00:16:41 Christopher 

And I had a customer that was in the insurance space and sold insurance for equine husbandry so I can’t hire people that walk in here knowing how to write about that. 

00:16:53 Christopher 

OK, first you need to tell me what that means and then he told me and I was like oh cool, I get it and and then too I I see what you’re saying. 

00:17:02 Christopher 

So by teaching the system to identify terminology, match that terminology and look for correct terminology, I can create content in domain without domain knowledge and that starts to change the game. 

00:17:14 Christopher 

On how you hire, how you on board and, and the value of your employee base. 

00:17:18 Frank 

So as a city boy from New York City, I’m assuming equine husbandry means horse breeding. 

00:17:29 Andy 

Well, one of the things this reminds me of is a very important field or part of a field in in managing data and we call it the overarching piece as data stewardship and that has a lot of facets. 

00:17:44 Andy 

One of them is master data management. 

00:17:47 Andy 

Where when we say something or when we more importantly name a fee. 

00:17:52 Andy 

Field or column in a table somewhere that we use a name that everybody understands and that the entire enterprise agrees. 

00:18:01 Andy 

Oh, that’s what’s in that particular column, and it turns out that it sounds simple. 

00:18:08 Andy 

It really does. 

00:18:09 Andy 

It’s like, really, you know, this is how how hard can it be. 

00:18:13 Andy 

But I remember a conversation once about what does a day mean. 

00:18:19 Andy 

And it meant different things depending on which department, and in some cases you have to create these. 

00:18:26 Andy 

These dictionaries that say you know in the sales department that day means this in the software Development Department today means that and it’s very much this inter intra intra enterprise. 

00:18:41 Andy 

Communications process, and it sounds a lot like what you guys are doing except. 

00:18:46 Andy 

You’re adding some automation to it. 

00:18:48 Andy 

You’re applying AI. 

00:18:50 Andy 

You’re looking for that consistency, which is really where master data management serves well. 

00:18:55 Andy 

So I absolutely love that now. 

00:18:58 Andy 

One of the questions that I have is, is there a generic set of rules that applies kind of as a baseline everybody when they start using your product they they inherit this baseline? 

00:19:14 Andy 

Or is it completely blank and everybody has to coat it up? 

00:19:19 Christopher 

So you can. 

00:19:20 Christopher 

You can turn it on and use, you know standard style guideline, AP Strunk and White whatever as the basis of what you do. 

00:19:29 Christopher 

But the the value of the product is making it your own, and that’s where I mean. 

00:19:35 Christopher 

If in a future world, turn it on with a base. 

00:19:39 Christopher 

Guidelines set and let the audience teach you, and you build up over time the the guidelines for your audience. 

00:19:46 Christopher 

Today it’s about doing that capture to be able to pull all that information in and make that usable guidelines. 

00:19:53 Andy 

That so question follow up about that audience feedback. 

00:19:57 Andy 

There’s some notorious anecdotes about people creating bots in social media and having the blocks go sideways based on feedback. 

00:20:06 Christopher 

It’s there yet there are. 

00:20:10 Andy 

Is that, uh, worry. 

00:20:11 Andy 

Is that a concern? 

00:20:13 Christopher 

It’s it’s something that we’ve talked about for years. 

00:20:15 Christopher 

Actually, it’s been a big part of the way that we’ve communicated, even even at the investor level about what we do. 

00:20:21 Christopher 

There’s always that risk with AI that it goes full sideways and and because of the audience that we’re working with from a customer standpoint, because it’s an enterprise pitch and not a consumerized. 

00:20:33 Christopher 

We think. 

00:20:33 Christopher 

It’s it’s less likely to be, uh, a major challenge. 

00:20:36 Christopher 

And most importantly, we’re not. 

00:20:39 Christopher 

We’re not making those changes for our customers, we’re not forcing them. 

00:20:44 Christopher 

It is just guidelines. 

00:20:45 Christopher 

So if you start to see guidelines that are. 

00:20:49 Christopher 

Things that you wouldn’t want, right? 

00:20:52 Christopher 

You wouldn’t. 

00:20:53 Christopher 

You wouldn’t have to act on them. 

00:20:54 Christopher 

I mean, right now what we’re seeing is. 

00:20:58 Christopher 

You know things like inclusive language. 

00:21:01 Christopher 

This has become a very important aspect of what the enterprise is dealing with. 

00:21:05 Christopher 

Everybody has a diversity and inclusion officer within their organization. 

00:21:09 Christopher 

Everybody wants to be better and it’s not just about, you know. 

00:21:14 Christopher 

Using a a database on a website that tells you things that you shouldn’t, shouldn’t say. 

00:21:18 Christopher 

It’s also about providing education for your your end users for your writers, for your employees, so that they understand why. 

00:21:25 Christopher 

Because not all of this inclusive language process is intuitive. 

00:21:30 Christopher 

There are things that we say that none of us would ever have any idea where they come from. 

00:21:35 Christopher 

What the basis of those are, you know, things like peanut gallery or or even saying something isn’t up to par from an inclusion standpoint. 

00:21:45 Christopher 

Not everybody golfs and might not know what you’re talking about, so being able to. 

00:21:50 Christopher 

Not only say here’s a thing that maybe you would like to remove from your content, but here’s some reasons why and what we would expect is over time and what we’re starting to see with our customers is that over time people don’t. 

00:22:01 Christopher 

Need the guidance for specific terminology as much because they’ve learned that, oh, I had no idea that was insensitive. 

00:22:08 Christopher 

Cool, I’m just not going to do that, so it’s it’s it’s a I actually teaching real intelligence to be more sensitive. 

00:22:18 Frank 

It’s a bit like guardrails then as opposed to like new. 

00:22:22 Frank 

So you know what you’re saying. 

00:22:24 Frank 

And I like the fact that you know it’s still up to a human judgment to make that decision. 

00:22:29 Christopher 

Yeah, I mean it, this is still it’s still an art. 

00:22:29 Frank 

’cause I think it also. 

00:22:29 Frank 

’cause think it also? 

00:22:32 Christopher 

There’s still arguments. 

00:22:32 Christopher 

Right now. 

00:22:33 Christopher 

We need to leave that in. 

00:22:35 Frank 


00:22:36 Frank 

No, that makes a lot of sense. 

00:22:37 Frank 

That makes a lot of sense. 

00:22:39 Frank 

So at this point, this is where we do the pre canned questions which should have been attached to the. 

00:22:45 Frank 

Invite. Yep, awesome. 

00:22:48 Frank 

And given that we’re having issues with our. 

00:22:52 Frank 

Her audible sponsorship because I think for some reason it got the URL changed so I don’t know. 

00:22:58 Frank 

If we’re gonna ask that one. 

00:23:00 Andy 

Yeah, we could talk about that, like, uh? 

00:23:02 Frank 


00:23:03 Andy 

Yes, it changed. 

00:23:05 Frank 

So they changed the URL on us and the whole program on us. 

00:23:08 Frank 

Maybe there was an email sent, maybe we missed it, who knows? 

00:23:12 Frank 

They could, they could use Acrolinx anyway, yes, uh, how did you find your way into this kind of data in AI or data driven marketing like? 

00:23:22 Frank 

Or did you find it? 

00:23:24 Frank 

Or did it find? 

00:23:25 Christopher 

You I I got confused way back in 2003. Actually when I found myself in my first. 

00:23:33 Christopher 

AI company, uh and interestingly it wasn’t one mentioned because nobody would mention it, it was model. 

00:23:39 Christopher 

Golf model Golf was a uh golf training software company and the basis of this technology was a composite. The gathering of of 2000. 

00:23:51 Christopher 

Segments of an individual. 

00:23:53 Christopher 

Two second golf swing across hundreds of top golfers to create a single individual composite that eliminated each one of their individual weaknesses to create the perfect golf swing. 

00:24:04 Christopher 

And then we would overlay that golf swing over a golfer to improve their golf game. 

00:24:09 Christopher 

The technology was amazingly complex. 

00:24:11 Christopher 

And there’s just this huge system that had been built up over years. 

00:24:15 Christopher 

I know any of that until I just happened across that business. 

00:24:20 Christopher 

Joining with a VC that had purchased that business. 

00:24:23 Christopher 

Uhm, coming here to acrolinx. 

00:24:26 Christopher 

I knew exactly where I was going so I didn’t really trip into it here. 

00:24:30 Christopher 

This is a huge need in in my world coming from international software companies where your greatest content creation minds are not necessarily the best writers, the. 

00:24:43 Christopher 

Editorial process is super painful, and identifying acrolinx as an answer to that. 

00:24:50 Christopher 

It’s kind of like that hair club for men thing. 

00:24:52 Christopher 

I’m not just the President, I’m a customer. 

00:24:54 Christopher 

I mean I. 

00:24:55 Christopher 

I use this product every day and my team couldn’t live without the product we we build. 

00:25:01 Andy 

Eating your own dog food, I think is a is a powerful metaphor. 

00:25:06 Frank 

Which may which may or may not be understandable to your audiences, so maybe that would be flagged. 

00:25:11 Andy 

That may be something yeah problem. 

00:25:11 Andy 

That may something yeah problem. 

00:25:13 Christopher 

I don’t know what a dog is. 

00:25:14 Frank 

Right, right or you know. 

00:25:17 Frank 

Or just like who would he dog? 

00:25:18 Frank 

Food like Dana there there’s. 

00:25:20 Frank 

I mean, I mean, there’s. 

00:25:21 Frank 

A lot of art in language, you know. 

00:25:23 Frank 

Oh yeah, and there’s a lot of kind of what’s the fancy word for illusions? 

00:25:23 Frank 

Yeah, absolutely. 

00:25:31 Frank 

And kind of subtle references that not everybody would get. 

00:25:35 Frank 

And then as you kind. 

00:25:36 Frank 

Of deal with. 

00:25:37 Frank 

You know different cultures? 

00:25:39 Frank 

I mean, you know you can’t right just because it’s in English doesn’t mean it will be intelligible by someone in Japan. 

00:25:47 Frank 

Or you know, Indonesia, like it’s just. 

00:25:51 Frank 

You know so. 

00:25:51 Frank 

You know? 

00:25:52 Christopher 

So, and that’s one of the things that we do as well as be able to take all of this content, strip it down to source. 

00:25:57 Christopher 

Content for. 

00:25:57 Christopher 

Translation have it translated somewhere and then take it back through acrolinx and put back in some sense of of voicing guidelines in that foreign language so that you’re creating something that’s cool here. 

00:25:58 Frank 


00:26:12 Christopher 

And I want it to be cool someplace. 

00:26:13 Christopher 

So it’s their definition of cool is probably fairly different than ours, so being able to translate that base thing, take it from flowery language down to source content and then bring it back to localized flowery content is is another thing that we do. 

00:26:27 Frank 

I remember when I when I worked for a large German bank there was an English translation for like a recruiting website. 

00:26:35 Frank 

And I read it, and while it was mechanically correct, I mean they used phrases that no American would know. 

00:26:40 Frank 

Like you know, in in Germany, cell phone would be handy. 

00:26:44 Frank 

So like they wrote like. 

00:26:46 Frank 

Keep your handy. 

00:26:48 Frank 

Like what does that even mean? 

00:26:50 Frank 

Like you know, it’s just like it is adorable, but like it’s just kind of like what do you mean you don’t call it a handy only call the cell phone? 

00:26:50 Christopher 

It’s adorable though. 

00:26:57 Frank 

Well, can we call it a mobile phone? 

00:26:59 Frank 

Again, no one really uses it and you don’t understand it but that. 

00:27:02 Frank 

I mean that sounds. 

00:27:03 Frank 

Awkward like that it. 

00:27:07 Andy 

Yeah, there’s this old anecdote. 

00:27:08 Andy 

I mean old like back from when, when the years began with the one where the early early attempts at automating translation. 

00:27:17 Andy 

And, uhm, there’s an anecdote. 

00:27:19 Andy 

That said, they fed into the machine. 

00:27:23 Andy 

You know, something in English. 

00:27:24 Andy 

Had it translated to another language, I believe it was actually Russian, and then they had that output translated back into English to test and see. 

00:27:34 Andy 

And I think they skipped the step where they took it from. 

00:27:37 Andy 

Flowery, or, you know, metaphorical down to the basics, the both ways, and they put in the flesh, as the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. 

00:27:48 Andy 

And it went to Russian. 

00:27:49 Andy 

And then it came back as. 

00:27:52 Andy 

Let’s see, the vodka is good, but the meat is raw. 

00:27:56 Andy 

That’s what I believe in. 

00:27:57 Andy 

Yeah, and you can see. 

00:27:59 Andy 

Kind of how that went, but it’s it’s like Frank mechanical translation, you know, but it’s fascinating adding that step I I can’t imagine number one how difficult that is. 

00:27:59 Christopher 

I get it. 

00:28:10 Andy 

And #2 just the amount of metadata you’ve got swirling around about expressions in other languages that you can then substitute to add the flowerree back. 

00:28:22 Christopher 

Yeah, I mean it’s it’s. 

00:28:23 Christopher 

It’s a big process to be able to do that. 

00:28:27 Christopher 

I mean, all of these things, words, language English is difficult enough. 

00:28:32 Christopher 

Now go and do it in German. 

00:28:34 Christopher 

Go and do it in Japanese Scandinavian languages it’s it’s a fun challenge to be a part of. 

00:28:41 Andy 

Sounds like it. 

00:28:42 Frank 

Speaking of fun, there’s actually a subgenre of videos on YouTube I’ve seen where they’ll take a song. 

00:28:50 Frank 

And translate it back and forth on Google Translate between different languages. 

00:28:55 Frank 

Until it kind of stops changing. 

00:28:58 Frank 

And then they’ll sing that one of the ones, and maybe we’ll put in the show notes if I could find it. 

00:29:02 Frank 

Is The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. 

00:29:06 Frank 

Translated like 50 times from English to Mandarin, then to Spanish, then back to English. 

00:29:10 Frank 

Something like that and it just sounds like so bizarre. 

00:29:14 Frank 

It’s kind of like there’s like a sentence or two, like, oh, I. 

00:29:16 Frank 

Can see where that kind of makes. 

00:29:17 Frank 

Sense, but it. 

00:29:18 Frank 

Was just it’s just funny and I think. 

00:29:20 Frank 

It shows kind of an. 

00:29:21 Frank 

Extreme example, but a funny example. 

00:29:27 BAILey 

Hello Bailey here. 

00:29:29 BAILey 

I just wanted to make sure that our loyal listeners knew about Frank and Andy’s new podcast about quantum computing. 

00:29:36 BAILey 

It’s called impact quantum and it helps data and software engineers prepare for the coming quantum computing revolution by bringing in the best minds in the field and having them explain the watts and the whys of this new technology. 

00:29:50 BAILey 

Sure, Frank and Andy are the hosts there too, but I am also part of the show, so if you can’t get enough of me, rest assured that I do the voiceovers there as well. 

00:30:01 BAILey 

Now back to Christopher Willis. 

00:30:09 Andy 

Our second question is, what’s your favorite part of your current gig, Chris? 

00:30:15 Christopher 

I mean, I think it’s the company that I worked for. 

00:30:17 Christopher 

I mean, this is an interesting place because we are NLP and there is a lot of language and art within this. 

00:30:24 Christopher 

It does. 

00:30:27 Christopher 

Like your average software company, we hire a very diverse employee base of of skills that most companies don’t have, and one of the things that we did during the the the COVID period was create this weekly coffee match up and you get matched with somebody in the. 

00:30:46 Christopher 

Company most likely that you don’t know. 

00:30:48 Christopher 

And having conversations with with the scope of people that we have in the organization has been really interesting and fun because. 

00:30:57 Christopher 

I wouldn’t run into that. 

00:30:58 Christopher 

In my past experiences. 

00:30:59 Christopher 

Uhm, you kind of know what you’re going to get at a mobile cloud testing company or a mobile app development firm. 

00:31:06 Christopher 

But here just the diversity level and the people that I work with is really awesome. 

00:31:12 Frank 

Cool, so we have three fill in the blank. 

00:31:15 Frank 

Questions complete this sentence when I’m not working, I enjoy blank. 

00:31:21 Christopher 

Uh, coaching CrossFit? 

00:31:22 Christopher 

I’m a. 

00:31:23 Christopher 

I’m a CrossFit coach. 

00:31:24 Frank 

Oh interesting cool. 

00:31:27 Andy 

Very cool, our next one is I think the coolest thing in technology today is blank. 

00:31:27 Andy 

Right cool. 

00:31:35 Christopher 

The rise of content intelligence, so being able to make all of this more valuable from a use standpoint, it’s another area that we’re leaning into. 

00:31:45 Christopher 

But there’s a lot of companies in that space that are making content ensuring the content is valuable in its use. 

00:31:52 Christopher 

So you’re spending a lot of time and energy creating it, it’s. 

00:31:55 Christopher 

Doing anything. 

00:31:59 Frank 

Our final completed sentence is I look forward to the day when I can use technology to blank. 

00:32:06 Christopher 

Wait any number of things. 

00:32:09 Christopher 

Right now it’s probably an and and I bet there are solutions out there that do some of this, but be able to foresee my my analytics needs and actually build reports for me. 

00:32:21 Christopher 

The way that I need them to be built. 

00:32:22 Christopher 

I’m having a huge problem hiring an analytics. 

00:32:26 Christopher 

Leader for my operations team. 

00:32:28 Christopher 

It’s very difficult, so we could just have something that knew exactly what I wanted and built my reports on it that. 

00:32:35 Christopher 

Would be really cool. 

00:32:37 Frank 

Very cool, yeah. 

00:32:39 Andy 

So our next, not a fill in the blank, is share something different about yourself. 

00:32:45 Andy 

But we remind people we’re trying to keep our friendly family friendly rating here so. 

00:32:51 Christopher 

So I have a tail, no don’t I. 

00:32:56 Christopher 

I think the difference. 

00:32:57 Christopher 

About me. 

00:32:58 Christopher 

Is and this is the question that comes up the most when I talk to the media is how are we even talking to you? 

00:33:04 Christopher 

I have a theater degree from a liberal arts college. 

00:33:06 Christopher 

Uhm, I went off to college to be premed biology was at 8:00 AM my freshman year. 

00:33:13 Christopher 

That didn’t really match. 

00:33:14 Christopher 

With my new lifestyle in college and dumb and and I, I had done some theater in high school and. 

00:33:21 Christopher 

Thought I should. 

00:33:22 Christopher 

Devote the rest of my life to the stage. 

00:33:25 Christopher 

And I realized waking up, you know, software junior year. 

00:33:30 Christopher 

Oh no. 

00:33:31 Christopher 

What have I done? 

00:33:32 Christopher 

But I corrected it. 

00:33:34 Christopher 

Right, so the second half a junior year and a senior year, I backed it up with a minor that would at least help me get a real job. 

00:33:40 Christopher 

You know, philosophy, uh? 

00:33:43 Christopher 

I’m so so helpless, helpless as I was. 

00:33:45 Frank 

A very noble pursuit though. 

00:33:48 Christopher 

That was coming out and being able to use the skills that I acquired in college to actually a get a job and then these be successful in that job I, I think, makes me a bit different than a lot of my peers who come out of degree programs around engineering their coders. 

00:34:09 Christopher 

That become marketers in in my peer group here in Massachusetts. Almost all of the CMO’s in equivalent companies have technical backgrounds. I owned a Commodore 64 in 1983. 

00:34:21 Christopher 

But that’s that was as technical as I got. 

00:34:25 Christopher 

I had to learn a lot I. 

00:34:27 Andy 

Yep, sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off. 

00:34:29 Andy 

But I can see. 

00:34:31 Andy 

Those both of those aspects playing into it. 

00:34:34 Andy 

Theater being, you know all about communication. 

00:34:37 Andy 

I mean, that’s that’s huge in marketing and then philosophy. 

00:34:42 Andy 

Well, I, I think it’s a good bedrock to base anything. 

00:34:46 Andy 

You know anything that requires understanding. 

00:34:49 Andy 

And then couple those two together. 

00:34:51 Andy 

I I remember a Scott Adams book where he talks about aligning different skills and how when you get like two different skills together they create this. 

00:35:02 Andy 

This really nice. 

00:35:04 Andy 

I don’t know the right word, but a very nice combination at least, and I can see both of those fitting well. 

00:35:10 Andy 

Into marketing, especially which you you’re doing now with AI and communication. 

00:35:16 Christopher 

The the theater aspect of it, so I didn’t act. 

00:35:19 Christopher 

I’m not a great actor. 

00:35:19 Christopher 

I don’t know what to do with my hands so so I directed for four years and what I took away from that that I now it defines me in my role is you have castle right people. 

00:35:34 Christopher 

That’s first thing you’re not on stage. 

00:35:36 Christopher 

They’re on stage. 

00:35:37 Christopher 

You need to provide them with the right context, blocking prioritization to be able to do their job. 

00:35:43 Christopher 

And then you need. 

00:35:43 Christopher 

To get out of the way. 

00:35:44 Christopher 

And your only job is to help to keep them on script or on on on the on the words in the right places, breaking down barriers. 

00:35:54 Christopher 

To make them more successful and then you just got to believe that they’re going to do what they they they said they were going to do, and that’s very much how I managed today. 

00:36:03 Christopher 

I can’t micromanage. 

00:36:05 Christopher 

I don’t want to. 

00:36:06 Christopher 

I don’t have the time to. 

00:36:07 Christopher 

I’m doing other things. 

00:36:08 Christopher 

Things so I need to put the right people on the stage. 

00:36:10 Christopher 

I need to give them priorities. 

00:36:11 Christopher 

I need to make sure that they have everything they need to be successful and then I need to let them do their job and that’s gotten me the ability to hire people that I never should have been able to hire at the companies that I’ve worked at, from much larger companies because they know that they’re going to come to this. 

00:36:26 Christopher 

Company and be able to do all the things they’ve always wanted to do. 

00:36:29 Christopher 

And it’s it’s helped me get really great teams in place. 

00:36:34 Frank 

Very interesting, interesting. 

00:36:34 Andy 

Very nice. 

00:36:36 Frank 

And where can folks learn more about you and your? 

00:36:42 Christopher 

Uhm, so I’m on. I’m on LinkedIn at CP Willis, UM and then Acrolinx is all of our information is there or you can find me through any number of socials I’m sure. 

00:37:00 Frank 

OK, but make sure you use Christopher P. 

00:37:05 Christopher 

The singer is not me anymore. 

00:37:07 Frank 

Fingers not you, nor is the vineyard person. 

00:37:11 Christopher 

No, but God willing things work out. 

00:37:15 Frank 

Uh, and do. 

00:37:18 Frank 

You do audiobooks. 

00:37:19 Frank 

Or can you recommend a good book for audience? 

00:37:22 Christopher 

I well so so I do, but the last one that I listened. 

00:37:26 Christopher 

To God, what was? 

00:37:27 Christopher 

It you know the guy that wrote the Martian, yes. 

00:37:30 Christopher 

Uh, uh. 

00:37:32 Frank 

Is it Andy Weir? 

00:37:34 Christopher 

Yep it is Andy Weir. 

00:37:36 Christopher 

Andy Weir just released a new book. 

00:37:39 Christopher 

Uhm called Hail Mary. 

00:37:44 Christopher 

A guy wakes up in a spaceship. 

00:37:47 Christopher 

I he thinks he’s on a spaceship in the middle of space along with two dead bodies, and he has no idea how he got there. 

00:37:55 Christopher 

That’s all you need to know. 

00:37:56 Christopher 

I I didn’t read the Martian. 

00:37:58 Christopher 

Uhm, I was on a road trip with my dad last year during the pandemic. 

00:38:03 Christopher 

Uhm, and he popped that into the. 

00:38:06 Frank 

I’ll echo Andy sentiment and all that nice British lady and the show. 

00:38:11 Frank 

Alright cool, definitely put that on my list and well audible is kind of sort of a sponsor, but we don’t have a link right now ’cause they changed the platform on us that is in progress right now, so hopefully by the time this show gets published that’ll be fixed. 

00:38:26 Frank 

And if that is the case, we’ll have Bailey kind of explain that. 

00:38:31 Frank 

So with that anything else you’d like to add, Chris. 

00:38:33 Christopher 

Nope, good. 

00:38:34 Frank 

Awesome Andy. 

00:38:37 Andy 

I’d just like to thank you Chris for being on the show, taking time out of your day. 

00:38:42 Andy 

I won’t speak for Frank, but I had a great time. 

00:38:45 Andy 

I learned stuff. 

00:38:46 Andy 

I always love it when I learn new stuff. 

00:38:48 Andy 

So thank you so much. 

00:38:49 BAILey 

Thanks for listening to data driven. 

00:38:52 BAILey 

We know you’re busy and we appreciate you. 

00:38:54 BAILey 

Listening to our podcast. 

00:38:56 BAILey 

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00:38:58 BAILey 

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00:39:05 BAILey 

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00:39:17 BAILey 

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About the author, Frank

Frank La Vigne is a software engineer and UX geek who saw the light about Data Science at an internal Microsoft Data Science Summit in 2016. Now, he wants to share his passion for the Data Arts with the world.

He blogs regularly at and has a YouTube channel called Frank's World TV. (www.FranksWorld.TV). Frank has extensive experience in web and application development. He is also an expert in mobile and tablet engineering. You can find him on Twitter at @tableteer.