IBM Skills Gateway: Refreshing your technical arsenal!

I have been hearing a lot about the different courses offered on the IBM Skills Gateway so I decided to try one. Since I have been working with BlueMix for a bit I figured it would be easy to go through the BlueMix Essentials course and earn the badge, I squeaked by the test with a 90% (you need an 80% to earn the badge, so make sure you REALLY pay attention as there are only 10 questions).

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I have to say I am pretty impressed with the way the course played out; mixing video, text, and lab content into a seamless straightforward experience. You can stop and start as you will, it will just keep track of where you left off. I got a little impatient with a few videos but that was only because I was familiar with most of the material, however it makes you finish watching each video – so no skipping around! I really like this course because if anything, it teaches you how to setup an application, make code changes locally, and then deploy those changes to the BlueMix cloud. Make sure you before you actually do the lab you watch the lab video. I kept making the mistake of just doing the lab as described and then I was forced to watch a 10-12 minute video of the instructors walking through the lab. It explains how to install the different tools you may need, walks you through all configurations, using the command line Cloud Foundry tools (cf), and using Eclipse as your IDE for your project.

Finding courses is very easy and many are free! You can filter courses by duration, category, product group, and skill level.

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You can take courses that are instructor led or self-paced. Some courses are a combination of reading material and videos, while others may contain hands on labs, or may just be a simple article like An introduction to InfoSphere Streams. If you really like the concept of badges, which in my opinion are similar to certfications, then you can search for them here. The badge system is a partnership with Acclaim and it uses Open Badges which can then be posted to your social profiles, like on LinkedIn.

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I am still waiting for my first badge, I guess some badges could take from 1-2 weeks to get. I would be interested to hear others experience with this process. Meanwhile, I think I might earn a few more badges and beef up my own technical arsenal!

Is the future of photo libraries with auto-tagging and Watson?

Tagging digital content is time consuming for a person and very hard for a computer. Who remembers when Flickr’s auto-tagging was called out? (read more here) So needless to say its not a trivial task, unless you are Watson…

I am fascinated by this technology. To be able to actually pull apart an image and apply tags that describe what is in the image is amazing. If you think about the applications here, they are endless. I was thinking about how I constantly look for images on my Mac. I have over 10,000 photos on my mac and the only way I can find them is using the map if I recall where I took it or I remember the time frame and find it based on date. Imagine if you could do a search based on tags!

Since Watson Content Hub(WCH) does the auto-tagging for me I decided to whip up a short video showing the power of this amazing feature using WCH. Remember, you could always build your own application like this article explains using OpenWhisk and the API’s on BlueMix. To get you started, below is a screen shot of the Watson API’s on BlueMix:

Now for the video. Like I mentioned, I was really just playing around with various photos in my collection to see how well Watson did at tagging. All in all, I am very impressed…

Where do you think this technology is going? Will you expect your photo albums to have this ability in the future?

 

Using Watson Content Hub as a central repository and tag generator

Want to learn how to integrate Watson into your applications? Well, it’s as easy as clicking on this link and getting started. From image recognition to financial services API’s there is an entire catalog of Watson API’s right at your finger tips. I personally have been playing with the Watson Content Hub API’s and they are very cool. A project I worked on used the Watson Content Hub(WCH) API’s with WebSphere Commerce where we used WCH as not only a central repository but also extracted the tags Watson generated for product images and pushed them into the product record in WebSphere Commerce. This enhanced the searching for products by a customer greatly. Watson generated key words we didn’t think of at first, making search and type-ahead much better.

Here is a quick video where we used a City Cool product called Minimals Moped. We pushed the images to WCH, Watson generated new tags, then we used those tags in the products keyword field. The search indexer did the rest and viola, the search experience was greatly enhanced to have a broader set of key words per product.

Beautiful B2B sites with BlueSky

B2B has traditionally never been sexy. They are usually mean and lean and very functional; but in recent years the expectation is they look and feel like a  B2C site but still remain powerful for the B2B users. IBM has invested a lot in the B2B space and our partner BlueSky augments that with premier solution, hosting, and services package.

B2B eCommerce websites are often thought of as dull and boring with outdated UX and uninteresting business challenges when compared to modern B2C sites.

As a premier partner and expert in implementing B2B and B2C sites, I urge you to check out their blog and see what they have to offer. I like the image they put together, see below, because it showcases the B2B starter store and all it has to offer. The store is a launch point for your store development efforts and it is a fully functional site out of the box. While the shopping experience is identical to a B2C site it offers the power of everything you would expect from a B2B site: contracts, requisition lists, organization/member management for your B2B sellers, and the primary business models for B2B and B2B2C.

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BlueSky will also be at Amplify 2017 featuring these key sessions from two of their customers: Performance Bicycle and Cardinal Health. Here is a quick reference to those sessions:

Performance Bicycle’s Smooth Migration to the Cloud: A Success Story

Performance Bicycle is the largest bike retailer in the US. Join this session to hear how Performance Bicycle worked with BlueSky Technology Partners to rapidly and painlessly move from an IBM WebSphere Commerce on-premise solution to IBM Commerce on Cloud. You’ll hear why Performance Bicycle made the move, lessons learned, and best practices. If you are looking to move to Version 8 or to the cloud, this session will help you on your path to success! (link to session abstract)

The “Four P’s” of Success to Build a New eCommerce Site at Cardinal Health Canada

Cardinal Health Canada is wholly owned by Cardinal Health, a Fortune 21 company. Cardinal Health Canada’s eCommerce site experienced exponential growth in the early years, but stabilized and flat-lined after the first decade. With over 2,500 customers and 120,000 products, their goal to launch a brand new site with a modern design and focus on an exceptional user experience seemed insurmountable. With the power of the right Platform, the right Partners, top-notch People and Agile Processes, Cardinal Health launched in eight months! How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. This story is about delivering incremental value… step by step! (link to session abstract)

Cardinal Health and IBM Predictive Customer Intelligence: Personalizing eCommerce Marketing

Cardinal Health, a Fortune 25 healthcare services company, sells $40 billion annually via its B2B eCommerce portal. The eCommerce Digital Marketing department drives incremental sales via this portal by personalizing product promotions to targeted pharmacies, and is on a journey to scale using IBM Predictive Customer Intelligence. The solution learns from past customer behavior, predicts future purchase patterns, and optimizes and targets audiences for marketing offers. Combining propensity models with customer profitability data will allow Cardinal Health to optimize its promotional mix and maximize profit. The solution self-optimizes based on new products, changes in consumer behavior, and other trends—it is cognitive analytics in action.(link to session abstract)

Working in the BlueMix Garage

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-2-26-39-pmI have always been a fan of gamification and now I can be manly and say I am working in the garage, the BlueMix Garage!  You can earn points by completing different tasks in the BlueMix Garage Method site.