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Humanizing Tech

"Beta Testing Magic’s Assistant Service" in Humanizing Tech

How texting a machine compares to a real human being

I. Overview

A few weeks back I got a phone call out of the blue. Turns out it was a woman from a startup called Magic that I had signed up for a year prior. They were a YC company and were a precursor to other smart messaging assistant services like Facebook’s fabled M Messenger service.

Instead of trying to do anything AI they do it all with real humans and then work backwards into writing the software required to handle that request automatically the next time it might come through. It allows for scale at an efficient price point.

And all you need to do is chat via text message. It looks something like this:

I had signed up a year ago to give it a shot, and finally got it, so was more than curious to give it a try.

II. Onboarding Experience

After discussing the service with the team member who called me for a few minutes, I decided to give it a shot. In order for them to truly judge willingness to pay, they text you a link to enter your credit card information into their website for a refundable $249 per week. It seems a bit steep for a chat service, but they mention it’s affordable compared to a real human assistant that you have to hire, train, and provide comp and benefits for.

Before I could enter my credit card details in the link they texted me, they were already asking about requests they could help fulfill for me so they could get started. Their willingness to help, friendliness and level of timely interaction impressed me.

After paying for the first week, I was quickly off and running with a team of real people ready to handle anything I threw their way. Instead of one personal assistant, I now had a team of them, complete with a supervisor overseeing things, and the benefit of software to help me get things done faster than I could by myself.

Or practically, with someone I would hire myself.

At least, that was the promise. Booking helicopters by sending a text, getting tickets, updating calendars, responding to emails, and anything else a real assistant would do.

I gave them three initial tasks:

  1. Research which electric cars, available today, are easiest to hack into and edit the software yourself if you’re an owner.
  2. Find out the prices and least busy times for a local museum and air show for that upcoming weekend.
  3. Ghostwrite a post for this Humanizing Tech publication.

So, how did they fare?

III. My Experience Using the Service

Truth be told, the service was incredibly timely and polite, complete with full sentences and reminders. If “it’s hard to find good help these days” is something you find yourself saying, then this service could be a godsend for you.

But, for someone like me who’s spent his whole life doing everything himself (fixing IT problems, scheduling my own meetings, responding to my own emails, and being on top of everything all the time, I found that the service I actually needed was something more like an apprentice rather than an assistant.

I wanted someone who would ghostwrite some blog posts for me, do research into which electric car manufacturers were easiest to write your own software for, get tickets to some events, remind me to get flu shots, and a few other things. Here’s how it looked from my perspective:

As you can see, they are incredibly helpful and clearly want to stay within the limits of the law. They were very responsive with reminding me about getting tickets and informing me of why they might not be able to perform a request (e.g., hack into an electric car you own).

In short, I feel like I tested their limits. Anything that would require an Analyst rather than an Assistant is something that their team can’t really do. It seems to be things that require some prior professional training. Things like writing, marketing, software development, technical research, etc.

Of course that makes sense. Your personal assistant isn’t likely to know how to fix your car’s engine. It’s not that they couldn’t if they had the training and time to learn, but your better bet is to take that request to someone who already knows how to do it (e.g., a car mechanic).

So should you give it a shot?

IV. Recommendations for You

Very simply, if you’re incredibly busy and used to having a real human assistant help you with your everyday work, and personal, life then this service might be an alternative for you. It’s probably cheaper, and they can probably do about 50% to 80% of the things a real human could do.

But if there are more complex tasks you need their help with like analyzing documents, helping to write papers, organize things around the office, take care of some personal errands, get coffee, ship and print things, then obviously it’s not going to work.

If you just need someone to triage emails, manage your calendar, book things online, and basically be an extra pair of internet hands, then paying $1000 / month for Magic might be a godsend to you.

Either way, it’s worth a refundable trial if you’re interested. You can sign up on their website, but the waiting list is pretty long. So just to manage expectations, it might take a few months to a year before you’re able to beta test it.

Sean

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Beta Testing Magic’s Assistant Service was originally published in Humanizing Tech on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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from Stories by Sean Everett on Medium http://ift.tt/2dRAk6E