Learn how to use Adobe apps, HTML, and CSS to become an in-demand web designer

This is a paid placement and if you buy something through this article or on the BGR Store we will receive compensation from retail partners.

Adobe has some awesome apps that really take design to the next level. And with The Web Design CPD Certification Bundle, you’ll get a lifetime subscription for just $39.

This bundle will teach you how to use Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Flash to up your design game. You’ll learn some of the crucial elements of web design, and you’ll also master the art of editing images on the computer. You’ll even learn how to create, code, and manage HTML sites with Dreamweaver.

Become an expert in using Adobe apps to design amazing things on your computer. A lifetime subscription to The Web Design CPD Certification Bundle is only $39.

[“Source-bgr”]

 

How to Start and Run a Successful Web Design Business?

How to Start and Run a Successful Web Design Business?

While listening to the stories of great web designers it seems that starting a web design business is much easy. But the process of starting your own business is not that easy as it seems; you not only need to have designing skills but along with that, a full-fledged plan and sincere efforts are also required to get your business run successfully.

Once designers get experience and acquire skills to handle projects on an individual basis, they think of working as a freelancer or starting their own web designing company. No doubt it is a good idea but it requires a blend of strategic thinking, thoughtful and skilled efforts, and tenacity to convert your dreams into reality. However, all those, who are planning to start their own web designing business, can refer to the below-given tips for a perfect start and seamless running of their web design business.

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses

Your strengths will let you choose main services you would be offering and your weaknesses will help you at avoiding wastage of time and energy on the things that can be handled by someone else.

If you have planned to start your own business then definitely you will be hiring some staff for it. So, a thing that you need to do at first is knowing the tasks you are excellent at and you would handle yourself, and knowing the ones for which you would need someone’s help.

  • Know your market

No doubt you would be delivering the services you are good at but don’t offer people what you are trying to sell. Instead, try to know what they are looking for and tailor your services to their needs. If you are finding it hard then you can get some potential clients to tell you about their requirements for web designs.

Ross Williams of Rawnet Ltd explains: “In the beginning there was a rush for everyone to have a website. Now the focus is on the most innovative and exciting.”

  • Have a clear thought about your offerings

Once you have known your market, enlist all your offerings. It depends on your skill set and talent that what services you would be offering to your clients. More clarity about offerings means greater chances of success. Here are some questions that you should ask to yourself for finalizing your services:

– If you want to deliver services all over the world or just to local clients?

– If you want the payment for the whole job or on an hourly or daily basis?

– If you will be managing the client relationships yourself or would hire a professional?

  • Design an attractive website

As people would be hiring you for web designing services, they will definitely notice the design of your own website to have an idea about the quality. So, design an attractive website to reflect your business to the best. It should be responsive, fast and engaging so that viewers will just enjoy the browsing process on it. Clear and easy navigation along with the relevant content are the two main things that will add value to your business website.

Andy Budd of Clearleft explains. “The quality of design work is so high, that you have to be really, really good to actually get work.”

  • Be active on the Social Media

Social Media is no more restricted to establish social connections among the people, its approach has reached a far behind that. It has become the excellent way to promote your services, drive traffic to your website, attract potential customers and form a network of the people who have the same niche. So, understand the importance of all the social media platforms and the way you can use them to maximize your business profits.

  • Show your credibility

When clients shop around for web designing services, they look for the experts. So, showing your credibility to the world is really essential. Mention all the essential educational details, certifications and work experiences on your profile as it would give people a reason to trust you and your services. Enhance your credibility by posting visual content about your area of expertise and by updating yourself as per the latest industry trends.

In the last, we would like to say that this is an era of tough competition, so you would need to keep patience and show perseverance regardless how many hardships you face to get started. And once you have an effective and thoughtful foundation in place, success will come your way on its own. It is well said by Gurpreet Walia, CEO at Suffescom Solutions- “The way to get started is to stop talking and start working as per your plans”.

 

 

[Source:- Entrepreneur]

How to speed up Windows 10

Want to find out the top tips and tricks to make Windows 10 faster? Read on…

Despite (or perhaps because of) all the bells and whistles, Windows 10 can sometime run a little slower than other systems, particularly on older machines. If you’re one of the new Windows 10 users who feels that they’ve had to sacrifice speed to get the latest version of Windows, here’s how to speed it up.

Make starting up Windows 10 quicker

By default, Windows 10 will ask for the user’s password every time the computer boots up. Although this is an example of security best practice, you may feel it’s a touch unnecessary, particularly if your machine sits in a secure home office.

If you want to get rid of this safety precaution, click on the Search field next to the start menu and type ‘netplwiz’ and then press Enter. Untick the box next to ‘Users must enter a username and password to use this computer’, click apply and enter your password to finish up.

Be warned, however – this will disable all forms of login authentication, meaning that anyone will be free to use your PC. We would discourage anyone who handles sensitive or valuable information from doing this, and password requirements should never be disabled on laptops.

Make shutting down Windows 10 faster

If you like to shut down your computer after a hard day’s work, then you will realise that the process still requires three clicks. To speed this up you can use a shortcut. Simply right-click anywhere on a free part of the desktop then click New > Shortcut. In the Location field, type in the following.

%windir%\System32\shutdown.exe /s /t 0

Click on the Next to finish. Now each time you click on that shortcut, your PC will immediately shut down. Be careful though!

Disable Startup programs in Windows 10

Virtually every version of Windows allows you to disable startup items, and Windows 10 is no exception. Stopping some programs from starting up will speed up the OS.

To find this option, right-click the taskbar and choose Task Manager, and then click on the Startup tab. Here you can disable the programs you don’t want to start up.

Remove bloatware in Windows 10

No one likes bloatware (except PC manufacturers) but it does mean your system is slightly cheaper as a result. But you can ditch this crapware. For the most part, these are programs such as disc burning software, backup tools from the manufacturer or other utilities that you don’t necessarily need.

Why programs such as PC Decrapifier and CCleaner do a sterling job of getting rid of bloatware, if you have a brand new (but bloatware laden) computer, then a clean install of Windows 10 could be the best way of clearing out unnecessary software clogging up your system.

Make the Windows 10 Start menu and other Windows zippier

The brand new Windows 10 Start menu can be slower to pop up on older machines. This is because making this appear in a whiz-bang fashion consumes compute power. To turn off this animated feature, bring up Systems Properties (type in the search field sysdm.cpl and press Enter.)

Click on the Advance tab, then click on the Settings button in Performance. Untick the box for Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing, then click Apply.

This should speed up not only the Start menu but also all other windows that appear on your desktop.

If you really wanted to, you can disable all visual effects to really speed Windows 10 up. Just click on the radio button next to Adjust for best performance.

 

[Source:- ITPRO]

How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD

SSD

he move to a solid-state disk will make your Windows PC faster

One of the best ways of making your PC run faster is by installing a solid-state drive (SSD). However, moving Windows to an SSD is not an easy task.

The best way to move Windows 10 (or any other OS) onto an SSD is by using a cloning tool. This takes everything on the old drive and copies onto the new one. Of course, for a lot of people, this will be like trying to fit a pint in a half pint pot. With all your music, photos and videos, taking up a terabyte of space, you may find compromises will have to be made.

Before you move the Windows installation files to an SSD, you have to separate any other data (documents, pictures, music, videos) to another disc as these won’t be transferred to the SSD.

You will then clone the Windows OS onto the new SSD and move personal data onto the old disc. The great thing here is that you will get the benefit of running Windows from a faster drive while retaining the spacious hard drive for data.

If you are doing this with a desktop computer, then you will have little trouble fitting in both the new disc and the old disc as there should be space for both. Things get a little more difficult when it comes to laptops. At this point, you may have to remove the optical drive to fit in a second drive or spend more money on an SSD that can accommodate all the data present on the old disc.

What do you need?

As mentioned before, for this project you will need your current hard drive (or spinning platters of rust), which you will migrate data from; your new solid-state drive which data will be migrated to; and a backup of all your data, as you can only clone the system files.

You will also need a cloning tool. In this instance, we will use EaseUS Todo Backup Free. Mainly because it is free and also because it is easy enough for most people to use. Also, the tool is good at cloning data from a large disc to a much smaller disc

Defrag your disk and back up your data 

As we are cloning a disc, it is a good idea to defrag the file system before we start anything. Click on the Start menu and type in defrag, when you see the option for Disk Defragmenter, click on its and run the tool to tidy up the disc.

Next thing to do is the back up ALL your data. An external drive is a good start or an online service such as CrashPlan is a good alternative, but the latter will take a lot longer to complete, even with a good internet connection.

 

[Source:- ITPRO]

How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

Has your PC frozen during an update? Here’s how to get it running again

Keeping your Windows 10 installation up to date is incredibly important; it patches security holes, adds new features and generally keeps your machine running smoothly.

It can often be something of an irritation, however. Windows 10, in particular, has an annoying habit of deciding to apply updates at inconvenient times, and if its gets stuck during the process, it can take some serious time out of your workday. If your Windows 10 update gets stuck, here’s how to fix it.

First, though, a note: make sure your PC is genuinely frozen before you attempt any of these. If you were in the middle of doing something when the update hit, you’ll likely be impatient to get back to whatever it was, but remember that jumping the gun can cause more problems than it fixes. If there’s been no on-screen activity for a couple of hours, you can be pretty sure that something’s wrong.

How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

Step 1. Try pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del. In some cases, the update will get stuck on a particular point which will allow you to access the login screen by using the trusty ‘three-finger salute’. If it works, simply sign in as normal. If not, move on to the next step.
Step 2. Restart your PC. Resetting your PC mid-installation is a cardinal sin and expressly warned against by manufacturers, but if your update is genuinely stuck then you haven’t got a lot of options. Use your computer’s physical power or reset button, and remember than you may have to hold it down.
Step 3. Boot into Safe Mode. Accessible from the Startup Settings menu, this mode disables everything but the absolute essentials Windows needs to run, ensuring that any software conflicts that could be interfering with the update are removed. After the update installs, you can restart Windows to exit Safe Mode.
Step 4. Perform a System Restore. In order to safeguard against this type of thing, Windows will usually create a restore point just before applying an update, so you can roll it back if there are any problems. You can access the System Restore function from Safe Mode, or from the Advanced Startup Options if that doesn’t work.
Step 5. Try a Startup Repair. A more in-depth fix than just doing a System Restore, the Startup Repair tool (also accessible from the Advanced Startup Options screen) can sometimes fix underlying issues that may be hampering the update process.
Step 6. Perform a clean Windows installation. This is pretty much the ‘nuclear option’, but if all else fails, you may be forced to simply erase your previous copy of Windows and simply start from scratch. Be warned, though, that this will erase your entire hard drive, so make sure that any vital data is as thoroughly backed up as possible beforehand.

 

[Source:- ITPRO]

The Power of Geofencing and How to Add it to Your Marketing [Infographic]

The Power of Geofencing and How to Add It to Your Marketing | Social Media Today

Thanks to the ubiquitous smartphone, there’s now an entirely new level of marketing available: Geofencing.

Geofencing is a location-based marketing tool that enables more active consumer focus. There are three ways to track a customer’s location: GPS, Bluetooth, and beacons, and each method finds and targets customers in different ways. And while it’s a relatively new technology, it’s important for marketers to be aware of- and understand – geofencing in order to help their company’s bottom line.

A solid 30% of the international population uses location-based services, and an overwhelming majority of them are open to receiving location-based alerts from businesses. This can help increase sales and loyalty, especially when paired with CRM data, because you can offer individual customers the messaging they need in order to make a conversion.

With 92% of U.S. smartphones capable of responding to geofencing, this is a powerful marketing tool that retailers and other location-based companies need to use.

[Source:- socialmediatoday]

How LinkedIn will invade Windows and Office

It’ll soon become harder to avoid LinkedIn’s messages if you use Office or Windows.

Microsoft has revealed how it will start to integrate LinkedIn into its own email and other platforms, after European authorities approved its acquisition of the professional social network.

Following the approval, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wrote in a note on LinkedIn how the social network would be used “to help professionals transform how they work, realise new career opportunities and connect in new ways”.

The immediate “integration scenarios” include the use of LinkedIn’s logins and network in Microsoft Outlook and Office, as well as letting LinkedIn users draft resumés in Word, presumably without switching to the productivity software.

One of the more controversial features will involve showing LinkedIn notifications inside the Windows action centre. While you’ll reportedly be able to disable the notifications, it means LinkedIn invitations and messages will pop up directly in Windows, rather than flooding your inbox as they do now.

Other changes include powering LinkedIn’s lookup search tools with Active Directory, making LinkedIn Learning tools available across Office 365 and the rest of Windows, and sharing ads between the two.

Nadella said the “top priority is to accelerate LinkedIn’s growth” – if you didn’t think LinkedIn was aggressive already, it’s about to become more so – but the Microsoft CEO believes there’s more to the acquisition than network effect.

“We also see a greater opportunity to help ensure that everyone can benefit from digital technology and the new opportunities created by the digital economy,” he wrote, adding that the tie-up between the companies will help “people develop new skills online, find new jobs and easily connect and collaborate with colleagues”.

Nadella added: “Technology alone will not solve these challenges, but together, working across private and public sectors, we can create more opportunity for everyone to participate and share in economic growth.”

 

 

[Source:- ITpro]

How to Make Your Website More Effective

How to Make Your Website More Effective | Social Media Today

Search “how to make your website more effective” and the winner of the search engine sweepstakes is…

5 Free Ways to Make Your Website More Effective NOW.

Good stuff – it’s a guest post on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income site by Sarah Peterson of SumoMe.

Peterson says that to make your website more effective you should:

  • Reduce decision fatigue
  • Capture the audience’s attention with strong taglines, images, and specific language
  • Present social proof
  • Audit and optimize the technical stuff
  • Move your opt-in offers higher up on the page

These are good suggestions. Thanks Sarah and Pat.

Want to make your website more effective with design?

A strong post from Peep Laja at ConversionXL recommends:

  • Create a visual hierarchy based on objectives
  • Make the things you want visitor’s to click bigger and easier to get to
  • Use great visuals that comply to the rule of thirds
  • Use white space
  • Simplify

More good stuff and lots of cool examples and explanations of design principles.

Now I want to share my suggestion – just one, one big one.

The way to make your website more effective is…

Make your website more generous.

Simple, right? Be like Santa. Make a list and check it twice.

What goes on that list?

Like Santa’s list, it should contain the things your people want you to produce. They’re probably not going to write you letters or sit on your lap and tell you, but you need to find out what they want somehow.

You need to know precisely what challenges your audience face and give them solutions.

Give, give, and give some more and what you get is a more effective website.

What is an effective website?

Those ten tips I borrowed from Smart Passive Income and ConversionXL are good ones, but they focus strictly on conversion. They’re ideas for getting people on your website to take action, which is obviously something you want.

However, you also want more people on your website. As Andy Crestodina teaches, the formula for success is:

Traffic x Conversion rate = Success

So let’s look at some of the measures you can use to assess the effectiveness of your website. (I’ll also share with you how I’ve done this year with these.)

Domain authority

Domain authority (DA) reflects the ranking strength of your website on Google, as measured by Moz, which looks at your link profile and a variety of other metrics. It’s not from Google, like PageRank once was, but it’s the closest you’ll get to learning where your website stands for authority and is today’s best measure of how you’ll do on search for competitive keyword phrases.

It’s not easy to elevate your DA quickly, and it’s unlikely you’ll increase it at all unless you continuously publish useful content and increase its reach across the various digital channels.

This year, my website’s domain authority slowly climbed through the 40s, remained at 49 for several months, and recently reached 50 (on a scale of 1 – 100). While I often compete with more authoritative websites for search phrases, 50 is nothing to shake a stick at for a company of my size.

Alexa ranking

Your Alexa ranking is a number that attempts to report (it’s estimated) where you stand in the race for traffic against every website in the world. If your Alexa ranking is 5, it means only 4 websites get more traffic.

In the past three months (the window Alexa reports), my Alexa ranking has risen 103,904 spots to reach a global rank of 228,206.

Actual traffic

Your traffic numbers come from Google Analytics. They’re not estimates. Theoretically, they’re accurate. A visit is described as a “session.” You can also look at “pageviews” or “unique pageviews.” I prefer the latter, which eliminates the factor of a single page being viewed multiple times in a session.

Traffic numbers for Feldman Creative:

  • I hit and passed the 10,000/month mark for the first time this year.
  • In the past 30 days, my website has logged 10,613 sessions.
  • For the year (to date), traffic increased by 14% vs. the prior year as measured by unique pageviews.

Traffic from search

The Google Analytics acquisition reports allows you to examine where your traffic comes from. Because a big portion of my efforts goes into creating blog posts that will rank in search, I like to monitor the number and, of course, see it go up.

  • Search traffic for the year 2016 increased by 28% vs. the prior year.
  • 25% of my site’s traffic comes from organic search, which is 2.5% higher than the previous year.

Engagement

Making your website more effective also requires engaging its visitors. The degree to which you’re accomplishing this is revealed in the “Behavior” section of your Google Analytics. Conveniently (and in alphabetical order), it appears after Acquisition (traffic) and before Conversion.

Metrics within this section include average session duration, bounce rate, and pages per session.

  • My session duration level stayed the same this year.
  • Bounce rate went down slightly, but I don’t pay this metric a lot of mind because as a blogger (a generous content marketer), I expect a large percentage of users to be one-and-done. I do monitor the bounce rate for my home page because a high bounce rate there is obviously a concern.
  • Good news came from my behavior analytics in that pages per session came in very close to 2, which is a 30% increase over the previous year.

Conversion

You can monitor conversion a variety of ways and I don’t plan to get deep into the topic in this post. Google Analytics allows you to setup goals which might be a transaction, pageview, and more. Content marketers aiming to increase the size of their email list often measure conversion as an opt-in, which is often useful.

I use GetResponse for email marketing and marketing automation and have a variety of forms and landing pages, each with its own conversion stats. A couple of recent offers or lead magnets are converting well:

  • A blogging eBook, offered via a pop-up is converting at > 3%, which is a nice number.
  • A “content upgrade,” a lead magnet promotion checklist available on two of my blog posts, is converting at > 5%, also quite good.

You’re unlikely to find a meaningful benchmark to use as an industry standard, so your conversion goals should be focused within. That is, you’ll want to measure how your offers compare to each other.

Benchmark and monitor website effectiveness

If you haven’t already, I propose you benchmarking all or some of these metrics.

Create a simple dashboard. Identify the effectiveness measures you care about and list them along one axis of a spreadsheet. Create a reasonable time interval for the other axis: monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or annually. Longer intervals will probably deliver more meaningful insights to inform your content marketing strategy.

Website effectiveness is also about reach

I’ve hit the topic of measuring traffic fairly hard thus far and stressed the key is to be generous with your expertise.

You can do this by:

  • Blogging – Publish blog posts regularly. In addition to consistency, try to offer variety. Tackle a variety of topics related to your field of expertise and mix up the format or style of your posts: how-to’s, lists, roundups, interviews, stories, videos, podcasts, etc.
  • Lead magnets – Give visitors a reason to join your mailing list, come back for more, and tell their friends with awesome offers. Package your lessons as eBooks, checklists, cheat sheets, webinars, tools, templates and so forth.

Then promote the hell out of your content, both your articles and lead magnets. Far too many marketers invest heavily in content creation and very little in promotion. Some experts say you’ll achieve optimum ROI by putting 80% of your content marketing budget, be it time or money, or both, into content promotion.

  • Search – The majority of your content should trace to strategies based on keywords. Select keywords that (1) you know people search for and (2) you have a chance of ranking for.
  • Social media – Through some combination of the social media channels, your audience uses, you should share your content close to every day.
  • Email – Send an email notice or newsletter at least as often as you create new blog posts and lead magnets. Promote older ones from time-to-time and batch topically related content into email campaigns as well.

Cumulatively, all of these efforts will go towards making your site more effective and a better driver of traffic – and ultimately, revenue.

I hope these ideas help. In summary, if you want to make your website more effective in 2017, be a giver.

 
[Source:- Socialmediatoday]

 

How Fitbit Keeps Its Customers Moving in Social Media and Online Communities

Fitbit, a global leader in wearable fitness technology, has made it easier and more fun for millions of people to live a healthier life. And they’ve done it by focusing on the experience.

“Customer experience is really paramount to everything we do here,” says Allison Leahy, the director of community at Fitbit, adding that in the online space, “Fitbit is trying to be everywhere you are and more”.

The company employs a bilateral approach to online customer care, focusing separately on social media and communities, though both groups report up through the same department. While Leahy considers the two channels “different disciplines” with different tools (and hence different agents), one similarity is that Fitbit does a lot of customer listening in both. The team has a system to “incorporate all of our great customer feedback into the products and services we develop,” she adds.

 

Community platforms are used “as a way to organize information around emerging issues and to troubleshoot and gather information from customers who may be experiencing a certain type of issue so that we can get a good assessment and bring that back to our engineering teams,” says Leahy. Weekly reporting shares quantitative and qualitative feedback to the product and engineering teams, and the most popular ideas get integrated into future product releases.

One recent such example was “Reminders to Move,” a buzzing reminder on the Fitbit device that encourages the user to get up and take some steps. Users in the community forums had self-titled it “Idle Alert,” but the core idea was the same.

A blogger for much of her career, Leahy was an early supporter of communities. “It was really through blogging that I started to notice the power of online comments and user engagement and develop an interest in the psychological aspects of online community,” she said. “In particular, what happens when you carve out spaces for debate and self-expression and even support spaces for brands and companies online.” She helped Fitbit launch its first customer-centric community platform.

“Customer experience is really paramount to everything we do here.”

— Alison Leahy, Director of Community for Fitbit

Here’s how Fitbit approaches social media and communities differently, according to Leahy:

Social Media: “In social care our key practice revolves around fully resolving all customer inquiries, doing some of that broad social listening, providing customers with a little bit more delight from the brand, and giving customers a really fast support experience.”

Communities: “Community is really where we have more time and attention from users. It’s also more of a one-to-many platform and our community forums are really rooted in a peer-to-peer support philosophy. So we’re constantly impressed with the wealth of knowledge and expertise our users bring to the table… they’re often the best suited to answer each other’s questions and motivate each other to get the most of their Fitbit experience.”

Fitbit promotes both community and Twitter support on its Contact Us page, alongside telephone, email, and chat support. Leahy says that social media is “definitely a high CSAT [Customer Satisfaction] channel and it’s a great channel from a business standpoint because cost per contact is a little lower than some of the other channels”. But when questions can’t be answered completely in social media, the other service channels come in handy.

Leahy joined me for Episode 44 of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast, sharing Fitbit’s best practices for being successful in both social care and online community management.

 

 

 

[Source:- Socialmediatoday]

Google DeepMind: What is it, how does it work and should you be scared?

Image result for Google DeepMind: What is it, how does it work and should you be scared?

Today concludes the five ‘Go’ matches played by AlphaGo, an AI system built by DeepMind and South Korean champion, Lee Sedol. AlphaGo managed to win the series of games 4-1.

‘Go’ is a strategy-led board game in which two players aim to gather and surround the most territory on the board. The game is said to require a certain level of intuition and be considerably more complex than Chess. The first three games were won by AlphaGo with Sedol winning the fourth round, but still unable to claim back a victory.

What is DeepMind?

Google DeepMind is an artificial intelligence division within Google that was created after Google bought University College London spinout, DeepMind, for a reported £400 million in January 2014. 

The division, which employs around 140 researchers at its lab in a new building at Kings Cross, London, is on a mission to solve general intelligence and make machines capable of learning things for themselves. It plans to do this by creating a set of powerful general-purpose learning algorithms that can be combined to make an AI system or “agent”. 

Suleyman explains

These are systems that learn automatically. They’re not pre-programmed, they’re not handcrafted features. We try to provide a large set of raw information to our algorithms as possible so that the systems themselves can learn the very best representations in order to use those for action or classification or predictions.

The systems we design are inherently general. This means that the very same system should be able to operate across a wide range of tasks.

That’s why we’ve started as we have with the Atari games. We could have done lots of really interesting problems in narrow domains had we spent time specifically hacking our tools to fit the real world problems – that could have been very, very valuable. 

Instead we’ve taken the principal approach of starting on tools that are inherently general. 

AI has largely been about pre-programming tools for specific tasks: in these kinds of systems, the intelligence of the system lies mostly in the smart human who programmed all of the intelligence into the smart system and subsequently these are of course rigid and brittle and don’t really handle novelty very well or adapt to new settings and are fundamentally very limited as a result.

We characterise AGI [artificial general intelligence] as systems and tools which are flexible and adaptive and that learn. 

We use the reinforcement learning architecture which is largely a design approach to characterise the way we develop our systems. This begins with an agent which has a goal or policy that governs the way it interacts with some environment. This environment could be a small physics domain, it could be a trading environment, it could be a real world robotics environment or it could be a Atari environment. The agent says it wants to take actions in this environment and it gets feedback from the environment in the form of observations and it uses these observations to update its policy of behaviour or its model of the world. 

How does it work? 

The technology behind DeepMind is complex to say the least but that didn’t stop Suleyman from trying to convey some of the fundamental deep learning principles that underpin it. The audience – a mixture of software engineers, AI specialists, startups, investors and media – seemed to follow. 

Suleyman explains 

You’ve probably heard quite a bit about deep learning. I’m going to give you a very quick high-level overview because this is really important to get intuition for how these systems work and what they basically do. 

These are hierarchical based networks initially conceived back in the 80s but recently resuscitated by a bunch of really smart guys from Toronto and New York.

The basic intuition is that at one end we take the raw pixel data or the raw sensory stream data of things we would like to classify or recognise. 

This seems to be a very effective way of learning to find structure in very large data sets. Right at the very output we’re able to impose on the network some requirement to produce some set of labels or classifications that we recognise and find useful as humans. 

How is DeepMind being tested? 

DeepMind found a suitably quirky way to test what its team of roughly 140 people have been busy building. 

The intelligence of the DeepMind’s systems was put through its paces by an arcade gaming platform that dates back to the 1970s. 

Suleyman demoed DeepMind playing one of them during his talk – space invaders. In his demo he illustrated how a DeepMind agent learns how to play the game with each go it takes. 

Suleyman explains 

We use the Atari test bed to develop and test and train all of our systems…or at least we have done so far. 

There is somewhere on the magnitude of 100 different Atari games from the 70s and 80s. 

The agents only get the raw pixel inputs and the score so this is something like 30,000 inputs per frame. They’re wired up to the action buttons but they’re not really told what the action buttons do so the agent has to discover what these new tools of the real world actually mean and how they can utilise value for the agent. 

The goal that we give them is very simply to maximise score; it gets a 1 or a 0 when the score comes in, just as a human would. 

Everything is learned completely from scratch – there’s absolutely zero pre-programmed knowledge so we don’t tell the agent these are Space Invaders or this is how you shoot. It’s really learnt from the raw pixel inputs. 

For every set of inputs the agent is trying to assess which action is optimal given that set of inputs and it’s doing that repeatedly over time in order to optimise some longer term goal, which in Atari’s sense, is to optimise score. This is one agent with one set of parameters that plays all of the different games.

Live space invaders demo

An agent playing space invaders before training struggles to hide behind the orange obstacles, it’s firing fairly randomly. It seems to get killed all of the time and it doesn’t really know what to do in the environment. 

After training, the agent learns to control the robot and barely loses any bullets. It aims for the space invaders that are right at the top because it finds those the most rewarding. It barely gets hit; it hides behind the obstacles; it can make really good predictive shots like the one on the mothership that came in at the top there. 

As those of you know who have played this game, it sort of speeds up towards the end and so the agent has to do a little bit more planning and predicting than it had done previously so as you can see there’s a really good predictive shot right at the end there. 

100 games vs 500 games

The agent doesn’t really know what the paddle does after 100 games, it sort of randomly moves it from one side to the other. Occasionally it accidentally hits the ball back and finds that to be a rewarding action. It learns that it should repeat that action in order to get reward. 

After about 300 games it’s pretty good and it basically doesn’t really miss. 

But then after about 500 games, really quite unexpectedly to our coders, the agent learns that the optimal strategy is to tunnel up the sides and then send them all around the back to get maximum score with minimum effort – this was obviously very impressive to us. 

We’ve now achieved human performance in 49/57 games that we’ve tested on and this work was recently rewarded with a front cover of Nature for our paper that we submitted so we were very proud of that. 

How is it being used across Google? 

Google didn’t buy DeepMind for nothing. Indeed, it’s using certain DeepMind algorithms to make many of its best-known products and services smarter than they were previously. 

Suleyman explains

Our deep learning tool has now been deployed in many environments, particularly across Google in many of our production systems.

In image recognition, it was famously used in 2012 to achieve very accurate recognition on around a million images with about 16 percent error rate. Very shortly after that it was reduced dramatically to about 6 percent and today we’re at about 5.5 percent. This is very much parable with the human level of ability and it’s now deployed in Google+ Image Search and elsewhere in Image Search across the company.

As you can see on Google Image Search on G+, you’re now able to type a word into the search box and it will recall images from your photographs that you’ve never actually hand labelled yourself. 

We’ve also used it for text and scription. We use it to identify text on shopfronts and maybe alert people to a discount that’s available in a particular shop or what the menu says in a given restaurant. We do that with an extremely high level of accuracy today. It’s being used in Local Search and elsewhere across the company. 

We also use the same core system across Google for speech recognition. It trains roughly in less than five days. In 2012 it delivered a 30 percent reduction in error rate against the existing old school system. This was the biggest single improvement in speech recognition in 20 years, again using the same very general deep learning system across all of these. 

Across Google we use what we call Tool AI or Deep Learning Networks for fraud detection, spam detection, hand writing recognition, image search, speech recognition, Street View detection, translation. 

Sixty handcrafted rule-based systems have now been replaced with deep learning based networks. This gives you a sense of the kind of generality, flexibility and adaptiveness of the kind of advances that have been made across the field and why Google was interested in DeepMind.

GoogleDeepmind, AlphaGo and Go: the discussion

Techworld editors discuss the implications of AlphaGo beating all the humans.

The number of scientists and world-famous entrepreneurs speaking out on the potential dangers of AI is increasing week-by-week, with renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and PayPal billionaire Elon Musk being two of the most outspoken anti-AI advocates. 

The pair, along with several others including Bill Gates and Sky cofounder Jaan Tallinn, believe that machines will soon become more intelligent than humans, just as they do in recent Hollywood blockbuster Ex Machina. 

Despite this, Google is keen to develop its AI algorithms as much as possible in order to improve its offerings and boost its profits. 

Suleyman tried to put people’s minds at ease and explain the logic behind all the hype. 

Suleyman explains

Over the last 18 months or so, AI breakthroughs have, I think, created a sense of anxiety or in some cases hype around the potential long term direction of the field. 

This of course is not least induced by Elon [Musk] who recently Tweeted that we need to be super careful with AI because it’s “potentially more dangerous than nukes” and that’s obviously backed up by various publications including Nick Bostrom’s – all culminating in this kind of sense that AI has the potential to end all human kind. 

If you didn’t really pay attention to the field and all you did was read, as I think the vast majority of people do, descriptions of the kind of work that we do on the web then you could be forgiven for believing that AI is actually about this. Whether it’s Terminator coming to blow us up or societies of AIs or mad scientists looking to create quite perverted women robots.

This narrative has somehow managed to dominate the entire landscape, which I think we find really quite remarkable. 

It’s true that AI has in some sense really arrived. This isn’t just a summer. These are very concrete production breakthroughs that really do make a big different but it’s also sad how quickly we adapt to this new reality. We rarely take time to acknowledge the magic and the potential of these advances and the kind of good that they can bring. In some sense, the narrative has shifted from isn’t it terrible that AI has been such a failure to isn’t it terrible that AI has been such a success. 

Just to address directly this question of existential risk. Our perspective on this is that it’s become a real distraction from the core ethics and safety issues and that it’s completely overshadowed the debate. 

The way we think about AI is that it’ll be a hugely powerful tool that we control and direct whose capabilities we limit, just as we do with any other tool that we have in the world around us, whether they’re washing machines or tractors. 

[Source:- Techworld]