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IBM Watson Content Hub has problems before you even start

Now that IBM has sold its Portal, Commerce, Notes and Domino on-premises offerings to HCL Industries, it seems that Big Blue is pushing its chips into the center of the table on IBM Watson and the cloud. One of the tools under the Watson umbrella that continues to garner attention in web content management (WCM) circles is IBM Watson Content Hub, so I decided to give it a go and see what all the fuss was about.

My first mistake was to google IBM Watson and sign up for a free trial on the ibm.com/watson page. My registration gave me access to all sorts of Watson-branded tools, including Watson Language Translator, Watson Assistant, the Watson IoT platform and the Watson Voice Agent.

But, the one product that didn't have access with a free trial on IBM Watson was IBM Watson Content Hub. After wasting about 10 to 15 minutes in the IBM Cloud rabbit hole, I realized that the IBM Watson Content Hub tool wasn't anywhere to be found after I signed up for IBM Watson.

Watson offerings
IBM is branding everything that moves with the name Watson.

So, now what?

I headed back to Google and specifically searched the IBM Watson Content Hub term. This generated an interesting result. Google provided a number of links, the first of which asked me to go to IBM Watson Latvia, the second asked me to go to IBM Watson Czech Republic. I was actually browsing from Toronto, so I found this quite confusing. Even more baffling was that the provided URLs contained my language and country code, en-ca, within them. Despite all of the quiz-show-winning acumen Watson possesses, IBM's flagship AI tool seems to think that Latvia is part of English-speaking Canada.

How on earth could an IBM-generated URL with embedded en-ca produce verbiage about countries in Eastern Europe? It doesn't make any sense.

Well, I should say that it doesn't make sense unless you have ever attempted to internationalize a website with IBM WebSphere Portal or IBM's Digital Experience Manager. Those tools do not make I18N a simple task. Seeing IBM's web content management tools generate non-English-Canadian content for English Canadian sites tells me that not even IBM's own WCM experts know how to use these IBM tools effectively.

IBM Watson SEO Problems
Why is IBM Watson including Latvia and Czech Republic in a clearly English Canadian request?

Anyways, I clicked on the IBM Watson Latvia link, which took me to IBM Watson Canada. From there I tried to register for a free trial. I say tried, because it took me several attempts. You see, the registration required a password of eight characters, one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter and at least one number. I submitted the registration form using 18Indian as the password. That's two numbers, one uppercase letter and eight characters in total. But, IBM's Jeopardy-winning AI technology blocked my registration.

I noticed the password field was punitively highlighted red, and the word weak adjoined it. I'd met all the stated password requirements, but the form still blocked me.

Registration password
Watson registration password field has a secret, undocumented requirement. Can you spot it?

I added a ninth letter, but the tool didn't like 18Indians either. It looked to me like the whole registration form was broken. As I was about search for AWS Content Hub, I decided to throw a tenth letter into the mix, and miraculously, I was allowed to register.

But I have to say, all of these glitches and problems were really starting to sour me, and I'd barely made it past the registration wall. IBM has branded so many products with the Watson name that I find it overwhelming and confusing. Furthermore, despite IBM's 20 years in the WCM game, it still can't seem to do I18N and search engine optimization properly. And finally, on something as simple as user registration, the company managed to produce something so confusing and non-intuitive that it practically drove me, a seasoned veteran of the IT field, to a competitor.

IBM seems to be betting the farm on Watson and the cloud. But if this showcase of ineptitude is the best its AI product can do, customers will want to source their WCM tools from a different pasture. Surely IBM can do better.

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What is the worst web-based interaction you've ever had with an established company that should know better?
My family and I are reading "IBM and the Holocaust" right now.  The original Watson was ruthless and savage, like the signup process you describe.  Da da, CHING!  But seriously, folks, I'm questioning the cloud model, personally.  I like the thrifty software running on distributed low power hardware with a more empowered Human Intelligence guiding the way.  Hardware that could be fairly easily audited by high school graduate level students would be a fantastical and ideal goal.
I'm not questioning the cloud model. I mean, the model works for many users. It's not going away.

But what I question is how sound it is for a company like IBM to get into the cloud and AI landscape. I just can't seen any grounds for differentiation. I mean, a clock-cycle is a clock-cycle. If a company needs clock-cycles, they'll just go to the lowest bidder. And IBM has never had a reputaiton for providing low-cost alternatives.

So I can't see IBM winning in the cloud space over the long term. I don't see any value they add over cheaper Microsoft of AWS offerings.

I also think the AI space is a losing gambit as well. I've looked at a number of AI offerings, and they all look the same. Nobody is doing anything significantly different. Image recognition, chat bots and context analysis? I don't see one offering significantly better than the other.

So in the end, it just becomes a race for the bottom. And IBM isn't fast enough to win that type of a race.
I forgot who said it, but I love this quote. 

"There is no cloud.  It's just someone else's computer."
Perhaps a computer hardware salesman?
Or someone who was able to peer through the marketing.  Cloud computing has serious limitations regarding the chain of custody of data and information.  Contracts will never be tight enough because possession is 9/10 of the law.  Going to cloud computing is like going back to the payphone.  But as I contemplate this, maybe we ought to go back to the payphone.  :p