Google Wizards Accused of Spoiled Bratism

January 29, 2010

I was dismayed when I read “Google, Land of the Spoiled Brats?” I don’t think it is fair to characterize 40 year olds as spoiled brats. I did mark this passage in the article:

It is true, however, that Google will hit a rough patch one day, and it may well decide to cut costs by installing a cash register in the cafeteria. Across the company the Odwalla coolers will go empty. The net on the beach volleyball court will fray. What will happen then? It will be a sad time. Googlers will sulk and commiserate. The rest of us will get a small taste of schadenfreude. But in the end, Google employees will console themselves with the knowledge that they work at one of the most innovative tech companies in the world, while most of the rest of us will not.

Google seems to be the current version of the math club kid everyone on the soccer team likes to mock in the lunch room in high school. Not fair, not accurate in my opinion. The source of the ad hominen was allegedly a former eBay executive. I think that person was the genius who purchased Skype but not the Skype technology. Dunce cap anyone?

Stephen E Arnold, January 20, 2010

No payment for this. I don’t even use Skype. I will report this to the NIST folks who are real techies.

AskJeeves Returns

January 29, 2010

My recollection is that one of the Ziff Information Access guys was involved with the original AskJeeves.com. I remember learning that the original system used templates to answer questions. When a question came in that required a new template, a human coded one. The approach was interesting but never took off. AskJeeves sold its question answering technology into the corporate market and then exited that business. I don’t know how AskJeeves.com ended  up in the Barry Diller empire, but I do have a vague recollection of various repositionings. I read “Ask Jeeves Pushes Q&A Service with New TV Ad Campaign” and thought, “It’s the old AskJeeves.com again. It’s back.” The TV campaign strikes me as old school. The buzz today is about social media marketing. The question-answer game does not appeal to me. I think many people are happy typing 2.3 words into Google and going with the first two or three hits. Close enough for intellectual horseshoes in today’s “we’re too busy to think” world. What is even more fascinating to me is that the butler is back and AskJeeves.com is the only search engine since Northern Light to put bucks into auto racing. The company is trying, but with Google’s market share increasing and Bing.com showing some muscle, I don’t know if AskJeeves.com can clean up.

Stephen E Arnold, January 29, 2010

A freebie. I will report this sad fact to the mayor of Philadelphia who monitors this type of information. I think the mayor asks, “What’s an AskJeeves.com?”

Univ of Georgia Study May Rain on Tablet Parade

January 28, 2010

A happy quack to the reader who sent me a link to the University of Georgia’s news release titled “UGA Researchers Find e-Readers Falls Short as News Delivery Tool.” Let me say that I hope e-Readers return the publishing industry to its salad days. University of Georgia’s survey results suggest that there may be some storm clouds on the hypothetical summer days that gizmos like the Kindle and Nook will bring. You will want to read the news release, but in my opinion the key passage in the survey summary was:

While adults of all ages were impressed by the readability of the Kindle screen, describing it as “easy on the eyes,” few considered it a primary way to read news. For younger adults, the Kindle fell short when compared to their beloved smart phones, with touch screens and multiple applications—from music to surfing the Internet—available in a single small package. The e-reader felt “old” to them. Older adults were overall more receptive to the concept of an e-reader. However, the Kindle failed to include aspects of the traditional newspaper they had grown fond of, such as comics and crossword puzzles. Cost was a factor regardless of age. Nearly all respondents balked at the Kindle DX’s $489 price tag for reading a newspaper.

I like the “old” word. What’s missing in the dreams of a return to the earning power of Computer Shopper is the reality that geezers like me are going to the big data center in the sky. The younger folks have different information pathways. Possible  bad news for publishers?

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2010

A freebie. I will report this to the Pew research outfit, who has jurisdiction in wild and wonderful Internet survey data.

Shocking Paywall Information

January 28, 2010

I read “After Three Months, Only 35 Subscriptions for Newsday’s Web Site” and did a double take. If I lived in New York, I would definitely subscribe to Newsday’s Web site to keep up with the local information about the newspaper itself. My recollection is that it is a pretty exciting place with a buzz that keeps everyone on his or her toes. But I live in Kentucky, and I don’t think I will be spending money to read Newsday. I am not alone. According to the article:

So, three months later, how many people have signed up to pay $5 a week, or $260 a year, to get unfettered access to Newsday.com? The answer: 35 people. As in fewer than three dozen. As in a decent-sized elementary-school class. That astoundingly low figure was revealed in a newsroom-wide meeting last week by publisher Terry Jimenez when a reporter asked how many people had signed up for the site. Mr. Jimenez didn’t know the number off the top of his head, so he asked a deputy sitting near him. He replied 35.

Wow.

Stephen E Arnold, January 28, 2010

A freebie. Who would pay me to summarize this astounding result. I will report this sad fact to the National Institutes of Health, an outfit that understands health.

Another Shot to the Google Liver

January 28, 2010

Short honk: You will want to read “Lessig Calls Google Book Settlement a Path to Insanity.” The article in TechCrunch reports that “Harvard law professor and free-culture advocate Lawrence Lessig” describes the Google Book settlement in harsh terms. TechCrunch links to an essay in “The New Republic” where more detail is provided. I don’t have an opinion about legal matters, but I do known a punch to the liver when I see one on the UFC mixed martial arts shows. Ouch.

Stephen E Arnold, January 28, 2010

A freebie. I will report this to the physical education instructor at Ft. Hood next time I am doing push ups for my own betterment.

Google: An Interesting Factoid

January 28, 2010

ClickZ’s “Google Attracts Two Thirds of Worldwide Searches in December” surprised me. I find the projections of various online tracking firms out of sync with information I have. You can scan the data table in this article, and see a hefty jump in the year-on-year comparisons. If we assume that these data are plus or minus 10 percent (a modest assumption), the 66 percent figure covers the range 56 to 76 percent. The higher figure is more in line with the usage information about which I have heard.

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2010

No one paid me to point out my thoughts regarding Web traffic reports. I will report this to the Department of Transportation.

Microsoft and Mikojo Trigger Semantic Winds across Search Landscape

January 28, 2010

Semantic technology is blowing across the search landscape again. The word “semantic” and its use in phrases like “semantic technology” has a certain trendiness. When I see the word, I think of smart software that understands information in the way a human does. I also think of computationally sluggish processes and the complexity of language, particularly in synthetic languages like English. Google has considerable investment in semantic technology, but the company wisely tucks it away within larger systems and avoiding the technical battles that rage among different semantic technology factions. You can see Google’s semantic operations tucked within the Ramanathan Guha inventions disclosed in February 2007. Pay attention to the discussion of the system and method for “context”.

image

Gale force winds from semantic technology advocates. Image source: http://www.smh.com.au/ffximage/2008/11/08/paloma_wideweb__470x289,0.jpg

Microsoft’s Semantic Puff

Other companies are pushing the semantic shock troops forward. I read yesterday in Network World’s “Microsoft Talks Up Semantic Search Ambitions.” The article reminded me that Fast Search & Transfer SA offered some semantic functionality which I summarized in the 2006 version of the original Enterprise Search Report (the one with real beef, not tofu inside). Microsoft also purchased Powerset, a company that used some of Xerox PARC’s technology and its own wizardry to “understand” queries and create a rich index. The Network World story reported:

With semantic technologies, which also are being to referred to as Web 3.0, computers have a greater understanding of relationships between different information, rather than just forwarding links based on keyword searches.  The end game for semantic search is “better, faster, cheaper, essentially,” said Prevost, who came over to Microsoft in the company’s 2008 acquisition of search engine vendor Powerset. Prevost is still general manager of Powerset.  Semantic capabilities get users more relevant information and help them accomplish tasks and make decisions, said Prevost.

The payoff is that software understands humans. Sounds good, but it does little to alter the startling dominance of Google in general Web search and the rocket like rise of social search systems like Facebook. In a social context humans tell “friends” about meaning or better yet offer an answer or a relevant link. No search required.

I reported about the complexities of configuring the enterprise search system that Microsoft offers for SharePoint in an earlier Web log post. The challenge is complexity and the time and money required to make a “smart” software system perform to an acceptable level in terms of throughput in content processing and for the user. Users often prefer to ask someone or just use what appears in the top of a search results list.

Read more

Financeoid Pushes Business News Aggregation Forward

January 27, 2010

Business information is important but difficult to index. On the surface, business information appears to be a less-than-demanding type of content. Some publishers embed ticker symbols. Others stuff in metatags. The problem, however, boils down to language. Marketing mavens are quick to invent new words, spell names in a weird way, and cook up bizarre coinages to create consulting buzz. (A good example of this appeared in the Wall Street Journal on january 25, 2010, page B7 in the article “Strategic Plans Lose Favor.” That was a buzzword fest in my opinion.)

Now there is Financeoid.com. I admit that I am not crazy about the name, but I can see that the service makes certain business information easily accessible. I have already dropped the hard copy subscription to the Financial Times, and I think my local newspaper subscription is next. If Financeoid shows some muscle, maybe I will drop the Wall Street Journal hard copy subscription. I find its information increasingly stale and feature oriented. Not what I want with my McVittie’s biscuit in the morning.

I suggest you take a look at a financial news aggregation service that pulls “financial news, tips, and advises [sic] from 15,000 financial/ business blogs.” Although still in shake down cruise mode, the service makes pretty clear that the traditional financial media may have to shift their hate gaze from Google to other online innovators. The service Financeoid.com is at http://www.financeoid.com.

The site calculates “karma” via a proprietay algorithm. The goslings and I think this is a quite interesting aggregation service. The company promises that it will offer additoinal aggregations in the future. Worth a look.

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2010

A free write up. I will report this to the Bureau of Labor. I am a slave to this blog. If I were younger, I could turn myself in for employee overwork.

Crime and Timelines

January 27, 2010

I had a conversation yesterday (January 25, 2010) with a colleague. The question was the ability of online systems to date and time stamp events. If you are familiar with the i2.co.uk technology, you know that one of its features is the ability to generate a timeline. Events can be plotted by hours, days, or other intervals. This type of information display is quite useful in certain types of research.

The I2 company is a specialized outfit and it is not well known outside of a narrow market sector. The company, in my opinion, was a pioneer in the machine processing of data and generating useful time displays. But the usefulness of time lines remains an area of interest to specialists.

Google has done an excellent job with its Google News Timeline. If you have not explored that service, you can access it at http://newstimeline.googlelabs.com/. I don’t want to veer into a discussion of Google’s significant work in time and historical systems and methods.

image

Source: http://www.fetch.com/products/footprint/fetchcheck/howitworks/

I do want to highlight a company I mentioned in my conversation referenced above: Fetch Technologies. In 2008, I saw a demonstration of the company’s FootPrint technology. You can get some basic information about the FootPrint system from the Fetch Technologies Web site. I thought the system was forward looking in 2008 and I have the same opinion today.

In a nutshell:

Fetch FootPrint’s DaaS gives background screening/pre employment professionals accurate real time criminal history data culled from hundreds of online sources without having to purchase dedicated software, pay upfront license agreements or make internal IT integration investments. “We leveraged our AI tools to develop our DaaS delivery model to eliminate the expense of court runners and the time consuming process of looking up online records manually.

The system processes information from hundreds of online information sources. The focus is on real time updates, not the content that may be weeks, months, or years old; for example, certain publicly accessible repositories of registration information not updated by certain information providers.

You can get more information from the company about some of its approaches by contacting the company directly.

As I said to my colleague, this is worth a look. Fetch has a number of sophisticated real-time information services. Several of these push the envelope in real time information acquisition and analysis. Before embracing a “real time” solution from a content management vendor or content processing vendor jumping into real time because it is trendy, check out the Fetch approach.

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2010

A freebie. I don’t think I have ever been to El Segundo for fun or money. I will report this to the governor of California.

CMS and Karma

January 27, 2010

I found “SharePoint vs Alfresco vs Nuxeo” fascinating. I was unfamiliar with the “karma” scoring method, but it was a novelty. The write up takes a look at the SharePoint Swiss Army knife of content processing functionality and compares SharePoint to two open source content management systems. SharePoint gets low marks, and the reasons are one which resonate with me. For example, SharePoint is not a standalone system. Microsoft has engineered its Swiss Army knife to require its own digital butcher, a baker, and a candlestick makers. For example, the reviewer identifies seven or eight other Microsoft products needed to make SharePoint work its magic.

The review gives Alfresco high marks. Nuxeo comes in second. The hitch with any software for content management is that most of the systems are complicated, frustrating to users and system administrators alike, and prone to sluggish performance.

Unfortunately the reviewer does not pay much attention to search. That is understandable. A CMS is designed to make content. Finding a piece of content comes along later. With CMS systems frustrating some users, a lousy search system is not a big surprise.

I liked the write up. I don’t like CMS whether proprietary or open source. I enjoy search projects that require the goslings and me to help users locate content objects. Fascinating to watch licensees struggle with these complex systems that make it difficult and expensive to find their own information.

Fascinating. An appropriate word.

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2010

A freebie. No one paid me to reference this interesting review. I will report this to GSA, an outfit with deep experience with content management systems.

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