November 3, 2014 By Nathan Vega 9 min read

Top 38 Questions about the Watson Services on Bluemix

Thank you everyone that joined Hands On: Building Your Own Watson Powered Application on Bluemix.  This link will take you to the replay should you want to share it or listen again.  Please don’t wait though, come check out Bluemix and experience the services for yourself.  

We had tremendous participation and a large number of questions that couldn’t be answered within time.  I’ve take the list of questions, sorted them and provided answers.  I encourage you to follow up with the team on Twitter @IBMBluemix if you have additional questions or contact me at

Let’s round out our two Watson webinars before I get to the Q&A.  The first webinar, Watson Can Power Your Application. What Will You Do With It?, was meant to give the audience familiarity with the concepts around cognitive computing (Watson) and platform-as-a-service (Bluemix).  If you missed it, I’d encourage you to follow the link to the replay to better understand our second webinar, Hands On: Building Your Own Watson Powered Application on Bluemix.  In the second webinar, the focus was looking at actually interacting with the Watson services on the Bluemix platform.  We showed the audience a live demo of creating an application, binding services to an application, the inputs and outputs for the services, and then deploying the app.  This basic knowledge will help any developer to get started using the services.

Join us on Nov 19th for the third Watson webinar, Using Watson to Build Cognitive Internet of Things Apps on Bluemix, that introduces Internet of Things data to the Watson services.  We’ll have a concept overview and a demonstration of Watson + IoT for the audience to see and ask questions to our experts about.  


Pricing, Access, Website

How much do these services cost?  What services are provide and the cost?The 7 beta services and 1 SDK from Watson are free to use on bluemix are free.  The services available are:  Message Resonance, Q&A, User Modeling, Visualization Rendering, Concept Expansion, Language Identification, Machine Translation, and Relationship Extraction

What is the cost after the 30 day trial [of Bluemix]?  Is there any university program to extend the 30 days free of charge for the Watson Services?There is no cost for the 30 day trial on Bluemix.  After the 30 days, a credit card is required to continue, but that does not mean there are charges.  Each of the services available on Bluemix has a free tier that allows experimentation at no cost.  Today, there is no special extension for the Watson services for students since the services are free to anyone with a Bluemix account.  

can I use bluemix environment for mysql php platform?Yes, and the steps can be found here

How exactly is BLueMix opensource?Bluemix is built on Cloud Foundry which is an open source Platform-as-a-Service.  You can find out more about CF here

Do I need to use bluemix or can I just deploy through other means? For instance, an android app can be deployed with Bluemix. The JSON interface along with eclipse seem to be all I need.Services from Bluemix will be hosted in IBM’s cloud, but the application can be hosted anywhere the developer chooses.  In terms of actual development environments, Bluemix provides a visual interface and an browser based integrated development environment (IDE) that allows code editing.  However, this isn’t a mandatory interface.  Many of our developers use cmd line tools, Eclipse, or something else.

Are older IBM platforms and tools available on Bluemix (e.g. MVS TSO, JCL and the like)?Bluemix is a Platform-as-a-Service that allows developers to access middleware APIs from across IBM.  We have a breadth of analytics tools, DevOps, mobile, etc available. We are not supporting the MVS platform within Bluemix, but that should not limit developers from building applications that connect to existing on-premises platforms. 

I’m from Malaysia, how do we request to create new instance to use watson engagement advisor so we can upload and train contents for a specific industry?  I am IT Director in the University Hospital in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Is there a special treatment for public health centers?Anyone with a account can access beta level services today.  The beta level Watson services have a fixed corpus (e.g. Q&A against Travel or Healthcare corpus).  In order for partners to deploy their own data/content (aka corpus), they must join the Watson Ecosystem

Is this live pr using BlumixPlatform?The demo is running live on Bluemix.  There are code samples for each service available through Bluemix to get you started.

Details about the Services

What skills do I need to use these services? Do I need to be a data scientist? what knowledge is seen as “prerequisites” to follow the demos/ instructions?To get started with the services, the skill required is familiarity with REST APIs.  In order to move beyond beta services, many customers will want to use their own data which likely means you’ll need to do training.  Dependent on the service (e.g. Q&A, Message Resonance, Concept Expansion, and Relationship Extraction) training on the domain/data may be required for production environments.  Domain expertise is an important skill at this stage in order to ensure training is done properly.

What languages are these services available in?Node, Ruby, and Java

The api seems intuitive, but I wish you can demonstrate how to load data into the “Watson Experience” app part.The beta level services don’t require the Watson Experience Manager because they have fixed corpra.  This is good feedback for future webcasts that show the production level services that require users to interact directly with the Watson toolset, Watson Experience Manager

Does the Q&A capability take time based data into consideration?Watson considers time and geo-spacial data when queried, but it does not take a time series.  I recommend Bluemix’s Time Series Database (powered by Informix) which is purpose-built for fast and efficient storage and analysis of time series data.

Define “language tag”Language tag in this reference was the UTF-8 encoding tag that designates the language

what does Watson do with the feedback and to what extent is Watson’s response to feedback configurable?I believe this question centers on the Q&A service. Partners are using feedback from their users for training Watson through explicit means (e.g. Pointing Watson to the correct answers that were previously answered incorrectly to tune the algorithms).  The responses to the Q&A service are highly configurable like showing confidence or not, showing source data or not, adding information to or in substitution of low confidence answers,… You can read API Doc here

can developer modify/manage the corpus? Can we extend Watson to our own domain? Giving our own corpus?Not for the beta services.  For moving into production with your own data, interested parties can go to Watson Ecosystem

Can we use a model-based development ? With Rational Rhapsody or Rational Software Architect ?The REST services are available in JAVA, Node, and Ruby today and developers can connect to them through a host of different tools like Eclipse which supports Rhapsody.

can this platform be used to develop an algorithmic program that correlates with financial markets?I believe that you’re asking about analytics for financial markets.  Watson Analytics, Watson Services, and IBM’s analytics portfolio have numerous applications in the Financial Services Sector.

Does it automatically protect e.g. signature keys from being published to GitHub?

Anything that is in the project directory can be committed via git. If you don’t want something committed create a file called .gitignore and add a line in that for each file you don’t want committed.

This Q&A service, how does it detemine the target language to use?The Q&A service is using an English only corpus (dataset) and the API is doing English in and English out, today.

Why are the confidence levels so low and how do you increase them?There are several ways to improve the confidence level of responses when training Watson is an option.  The beta services have a fixed corpus which means the users cannot do training. With the beta level services, rephrasing the question and trying different question types (e.g. try “What is” vs “How did”) is your best path. 

Will a generic corpus, similar to what would be used in a jeapordy match, be available beyond travel and health?There beta service has travel and healthcare as corpus options.  We are taking input on these services to continually enhance their functionality and to meet our users’ needs. 

is Watson Analytics an embedded service with Bluemix?Watson Analytics is not embedded in Bluemix today, but you can find out more on that product here

by twitter whit 200 tweets its possible know the personality of a personUser Modeling can use a person’s digital and social footprint to produce a personality portrait.  This includes, but is not limited to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.

I have an existing questionaire which makes expert evaluations based on multiple choice. Which features of Watson do you suggest to let me automate it and get greater insight from the answers? Also, is there a VR interface to Watson?There isn’t a Virtual Reality interface for Watson.  I’m not sure I completely understand the questionnaire question.  We see Watson as an expert advisor and many of the services are meant to help professionals make better decisions.  For example, empowering an Oncologist with relevant, up to date information across millions of pages of cancer research is invaluable to their decision making ability. I’m guessing the answer is “yes”, but without more information it’s tough to be definitive.

Watson, Cognitive Computing, Concept Clarification

Can you make it clear if Watson learns “only” from the data you give it or does it also add its own “Corpus”.Watson’s knowledge set is constrained to the data that the user provides called a corpus.   One instance of Watson can be an expert on travel while another user may wish to have a Watson for healthcare.  These are mutually exclusive instances.

Only humans, not machines, have a cognitive system! Why do you then say that Watson has a cognitive system? How does Watson create situational awareness, situational understanding and make a decision – practice the three cognitive processes?Here’s a great article on cognitive computing and why Watson is cognitive.  The key point is that Watson is adaptive, contextual, and interactive which allows it to solve problems that are ambigous and complex through inference which is a basic level of reasoning.

Has Watson yet been utilised to accelarate research and innovation for environmental challenges such as Climate Change?We have partners exploring ways that Watson can accelerate innovation in a wide range of industries and we’re keen to see how Watson can positively impact some of the great challenges including Climate Change.

For feedback tools, is there a way for Watson to figure out if the feedback is true? What if the feedback I’m sending is incorrect?Today, Watson isn’t aware if the training is good or bad.  Feedback that’s false will only reinforce false results.

I have no experience or expertise to make applications. I know what I want and the outcome. Who would I work with to interact with Watson to make the application. Who is the person that I would consult with to make an application through Watson?If you’re interested in a consulting team to help build your application, I’d suggest working with our Watson Ecosystem.  There is a Watson Talent Hub through this program that has consultants available.

Do Watson services evolve? What happens to existing applications that use them?Some of the services can be adapted and trained.  This can be done to improve answers, build a vocabulary set in a new domain, or introduce new domains entirely.  Since we’re not talking about a single machine, the impact of these changes is easy to scope to particular application(s).

When you talk about ‘WATSON’, is it only one super computer, or there are separate machines for Travel, Health Care, Finance industries players?In the context of our conversation, Watson is a platform that provides many different services through REST APIs available in the cloud.  There isn’t a single machine or instance.  Instead there are many instances in the data center ready to take on work.  The different domains that you mention (travel, health, FSS) represent different corpra.  The individual corpus is separate from the API layer which means a single API can access different domains indiscriminetely and without jading results. 

Is there a like-user contextual component to Watson, similar to a Google search (sorry for the comparison) where value is applied to accepted answers. Or, is the accepted answer not a concept within Watson?Sort of, Watson has a training toolset called Watson Experience Manager that allows a person to train Watson through a number of tasks including finding accepted answers.

Does Watson have pattern recognition ? Can we use that service ?Watson has an ability to understand patterns in data to make inferences.  However, the Watson services and patterns it’s identifying are based in natural language.  I am inferring the question is about number patterns for which our Big Data and Analytics APIs are better suited.

Does Watson actually ‘learn’ along during running from various users’ application?Watson is not trained during an end user’s session with an application.  Training is done through explicit system feedback using a toolset called The Watson Experience Manager.

You talked about a Healthcare Corpus….How do you use Bluemix on Healthcare Industry? Are there apps that physician can use? How can use it?Bluemix is a Platform-as-a-Service that provides middleware services to that allow developers to rapidly build and deploy applications.  There are many services available that could be leveraged in healthcare from Watson to analytics to database connection APIs.  However, these are meant for assembling an application not to provide a preconceived solution for healthcare.  IBM has a number of software-as-a-service application available on the cloud marketplace. 

Other Questions:

How can a share a replay of the seminar with colleagues? Will there be a recording available?Available at the same link you followed for the live event

is there any online class where we can learn how to make applications from scratch .We don’t currently have an online course per say.  There are number of videos, webinars, and articles available.  If you send me an email with specifics, I’ll point you in the right direction.

What is the best way to teach Bluemix to others?Use to find a local area meetup and bring a buddy

Thank you again to everyone that joined Hands On: Building Your Own Watson Powered Application on Bluemix.  Please don’t wait, come check out Bluemix and experience the services for yourself.  

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