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Last week one of my favorite podcasts, Note to Self, reported on some interesting new technology: CrystalKnows.com. Crystal Knows is an email-writing assistant that goes far beyond spell check or grammar. Crystal Knows…us. Or, at least it knows our cyber-presence. Simply type in a name and Crystal searches the web for content written by the person in question. Then, using complex algorithms, Crystal determines the subject’s personality type, after which it can recommend the appropriate voice in which to contact this person.

If all of this sounds too easy, it’s not. I had to try it out for myself, so I visited CrystalKnows.com, requested an invitation and within a few hours was busy creeping on all of my coworkers to see how well Crystal actually knows us. Skeptical as I was, I found Crystal to be strangely accurate for some people and less so for others, but it was never completely off-base. Obviously the more published content a person has online, the more accurate Crystal will be. So, I decided to pull my own profile – I seldom post anything on social media and my other published content would be limited to this blog, so I figured Crystal might have a hard time pegging me for anything. But, with 69% certainty, Crystal reported that “Trisha is a creative influencer: forward-thinking, ambitious, easily distracted, and makes quick decisions that can seem unpredictable.” Well, thank you, Crystal…I think.

Now comes the inevitable discussion on ethics: Crystal’s platform is primarily directed towards professionals who need a hand emailing contacts they have yet to form a relationship with. Think customer service, new business and the like. And I don’t have a problem with that. But what if a prospective client were to “Crystal” me? She would see that Crystal thinks I like emoticons (I HATE emoticons and wish them to be banished from everything)? That I cannot be trusted to follow specific verbal instructions (are Crystal’s human spies shadowing me)? That it does not come naturally to me to communicate important ideas in writing (this IS a blog, isn’t it)? I’m not sure I want professional views of me to be derived from the Facebook comments I leave in response to dog photos. And let’s not even discuss what this technology will eventually do in the hands of email marketers. That’s another post entirely.

So, I have two options at this point:

  1. I can begin my quest to author an insane amount of professional-sounding web content and only post Facebook birthday greetings as an old British gentleman. (“Many happy returns of the day, old friend! May your annuities ripen with your age!”)
  2. I can opt out of Crystal. Which is probably the best bet, but then it also looks like I have something to hide, which I don’t think I really do.
  3. Perhaps there is a third option: the hope that thinking humans can understand and respect the limitations of new technology.  

~ Trish Salge, Forward-Thinking, Ambitious, Easily Distracted Creative Supervisor, The S3 Agency


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