What I Want to Learn at IBM World of Watson

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This week, I’m off on an educational journey, attending and speaking at IBM’s World of Watson conference in Las Vegas.

While I’ve got a few things to say about the rise of the citizen analyst, I’ve got far more to learn than share. What topics are on my mind? Here are four areas of focus I’m on the quest for knowledge about:

  • Watson Tradeoff Analytics
  • Watson Alchemy
  • Watson Retrieve and Rank
  • Watson Conversation
  • Watson Analytics API

Plus whatever else is announced. Why these areas?

Watson Tradeoff Analytics

Tradeoff Analytics is a powerful tool for helping humans make decisions with lots of data. Instead of struggling to digest massive, complex datasets, Tradeoff Analytics lets us tell Watson what variables are most important to us, then helps us pick from reasonable choices.

For example, in the demo, Tradeoff Analytics can help a consumer buy a car based on variables such as fuel efficiency, cost, appeal, etc.

For us marketers, Tradeoff Analytics might help us choose marketing programs or tools based on cost, speed, reach, or other variables.

Watson Alchemy

Alchemy is Watson’s natural language processing facility. With Alchemy, Watson can help us understand massive volumes of text or large chunks of the web.

The demo software helps us to parse popular speeches for sentiment, topics, relationships, and more.

For us marketers, we struggle with understanding text at scale. We simply can’t read thousands of blog posts a day or drink from the raw news feeds of the world. Watson can – and with its help, we will make better use of all the text flung at us every day.

Watson Retrieve and Rank

Building your own search engine was an impossibility without the massive resources of a Google just a couple of years ago. However, many companies and organizations would benefit greatly from being able to search and rank text behind corporate walls.

Watson Retrieve and Rank allows us to build and customize our own search engines to identify the things we care about most. Those search engines we can make available either privately or publicly. The demo software gives us the ability to search through TED Talks for themes and topics of our choice.

For us marketers, wouldn’t it be useful to search through social media posts or content from blogs to identify and rank the most relevant posts by the themes we care about most?

Watson Conversation

Chatbots are hot, but very few companies are doing them well. Watson Conversation helps us to construct chatbots with true artificial intelligence conversational skills, to more easily interpret what our customers are saying to us. With Watson, instead of developing chat algorithms, we can outsource that part and focus on building our training library for it instead.

Watson Analytics API

For those who love data and analytics, Watson Analytics has been a wonderful, powerful, and inexpensive tool. I’ve covered it many times in the past here.

One of the limitations of Watson Analytics thus far has been relative inflexibility in importing data, restricted to a few formats. With a newly-announced API, Watson Analytics should be able to talk to most of our marketing systems, making its insights available to much more of our marketing data.

What’s Your Watson?

These are just a few of the topics and themes I’ll be studying at IBM World of Watson. For those attending, for those following along, or for those who know the Watson ecosystem, what are you looking forward to most?


IBM has paid for me to attend World of Watson and provide unbiased coverage of the event. They have not provided content for me to publish, but ask that I do publish during the event on blogs and social media in exchange for free admission and travel expenses.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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