The NOTIS Answer System

by Alan Alexander-Manifold


We need another feature in our NOTIS LMS:
An answer system that can give a simple "no" or "yes".
We have a perfect model in the "Magic Eight Ball" toy
Which gave me wise responses back when I was just a boy.
It shouldn't be too hard to code--there's really nothing to it;
I wouldn't be surprised if Maribeth and crew could do it.
Despite its modest nature, think how useful this could be--
A quick and easy way to give ourselves authority.
We'd use it first for something trivial--like Reference:
A patron asks, "Was John Wayne Secretary of Defense?"
A knowing look, a quick clear-clear, then type l-a-n-s.
Type in the question, NOTIS will respond, "Signs point to yes."
If any skeptic wants to throw one of our answers out,
Just say, "But NOTIS says it's true:  to quote, "Without a doubt."
But we won't stop with Reference; we've bigger fish to fry:
Why not let book selectors give this new program a try?
"Do we need fifty copies of this Guide to MVS?"
Just let it know the question, it says, "As I see it, yes."
And what about directors--could they use a tool like this
As they decide if money goes for books or for a CWIS?
Of course they could--it's faster than their current crystal balls
And tea leaves, easier than reading writing on the walls.
They'll ask, "Should we keep pumping cash into technology?"
Without a second's pause, NOTIS says, "Yes, definitely."
"Has everyone in Systems earned ten thousand dollars more?"
"You can rely on it" says NOTIS (that's what friends are for!)
Can we in Systems get some use from this our new-found friend?
What kind of counsel to our problems would this system lend?
We're not concerned with simple stuff like budgets, jobs and books,
But with important things like how our OPAC menu looks,
And whether we should change the switches on LB510,
And what would NOTIS answer:  "Concentrate and ask again."
"Would it help to run OPAC stats if we could figure how?"
NOTIS would hesitate a second, "Cannot predict now."
But on the biggest question facing most of us today,
The answer system likely has something profound to say.
When this strategic question comes, its randomness is lost;
Like Washington, it cannot lie, no matter what the cost.
"NOTIS Horizon--should we buy it, and if so then when?"
It thinks a moment, then says, "Reply hazy, try again."