The Bonsai Method: Google and Change

October 24, 2010

When I was in Japan, I watched a bonsai “treasure” work his magic. I liked the idea of binding young shoots with wire and forcing the malleable living things to do what the “treasure wanted.” My guide explained that the “national treasure” could convert any species of tree into a model railroad scale plant. Remarkable.

The problem is that companies in general and a 12 year old Google in particular do not respond to the bonsai master’s interventions the way a sprouting maple does.

Let’s face it. Google is not likely to change in a meaningful way. The aircraft carrier is underway. Even a minor course correction takes a long time. Think about the six versions of the Google Search Appliance before Google could hook Google Apps content into the system.


Can the Google oak tree be shaped into a bonsai art work? Not likely, grasshopper.

Google has been chugging along on its “controlled chaos” approach to business for 12 years. If you have worked with juvie offenders, you may have encountered some 12 year olds who are going to grow their own way. Those 12 year olds are on their own often predictable path.

Opinion: Angry birds Android Market Snub Shows Google Has to Change” asserts:

What looks initially to be typical press release waffle is in fact a damning indictment of Google’s Android Market. If its own official retail channel is not seen as the “obvious choice” for a major app developer, something needs to be done to make it so – and fast. Perhaps, in hindsight, we shouldn’t have been so surprised at Rovio’s gutsy move. The signs of general dissatisfaction with Android Market have been there for all to see since its launch. Put bluntly, Android Market is an absolute mess. The navigation experience is blighted by a poor filter system that makes it very hard indeed to hone in on quality paid software. Dubious free ringtone and porn apps clog up the Multimedia, Entertainment, and even Games categories.

The author wanting Google to change is probably not going to do too well at bonsai. How is one to miniature and tame a 12 year old tree? Sure, the tree can be shaped, but the total control stuff is no longer possible. Make a pear tree look like Donald Duck. No problem. Make the pear tree fit into a dish for the dining room sideboard, problem.

I do think Google is changing, but the change has little to do with Angry Birds or even government regulators. Google is changing because of its addiction to money. The shift in StreetView policies is less about fear of legal hassles and mostly about the firm’s ability to get needed data from other methods not widely discussed in the blogosphere.

There are several important changes evident to me. Keep in mind that I look at Google in terms of its technical information freely available as open source content. Here’s my checklist, which you may compare with the Angry Birds’ example in the cited article.

First, Google is going consumer. The company’s roots are in brute force search and solving engineering problems that sank other brute force Web indexing companies. This consumer shift may be a turning point for Google. In my opinion, Google is betting the farm on its understanding of the consumer.

Second, Google faces a world in which Facebook and Apple are the hot tickets. Second or third billing is an issue for those who are sensitive to such shallow accolades. With Xooglers filling the ranks at Facebook, the notion that Google is not number one is a bitter pill in my opinion. Angst can manifest itself in interesting ways. Consider the Google TV which a number of people have found an amusing way to test their technical aptitude. The couch spud? Indifferent.

Third, online advertising is ramping up. But the big money is going to talent centric programming available on the Internet. AdWords is a great business, but a new ad business is emerging and Google has to figure out how to play a big part in that world. Adam Carolla may be a former radio DJ, but his growing empire represents an advertising opportunity that does not lend itself to Google’s algorithms at this moment.

The PocketGamer’s write up about Google and Angry Birds is interesting, but it does not apply to the larger forces at work on and within the Google. Google is in the closing innings of what is its worst public relations year in its 12 year history. Buzz, Wave, Germany, Google Books, and Google TV—quite a track record.

Controlled chaos is the method and it is now showing some flaws. And Google will find it difficult to change. There is no bonsai master able to take a 12 year old tree and squish it down to a seven inch living entity. One big tree does not make a forest.

Stephen E Arnold, October 24, 2010


Clarabridge Spans Sentiment

October 24, 2010

My perception of Clarabridge is that the company was a more friendly version of MicroStrategy’s query tools. I guess I was incorrect. I read “Execuvue Software Tracks Guest Sentiment” and learned about my perceptual shortcomings. According to the write up, Apptech “is now leveraging text analytics to include guest sentiment tracking.” For me the key factoid in the write up was contained in this passage:

The Execuvue Sentiment Engine measures the two primary sources of guest satisfaction information: brand data, including email surveys and brand comment cards, and Web data from social media sites and hotel review sites.  The system collects data from all sources, including written comments and, in conjunction with Clarabridge, uses a natural language processing program to extract written speech prompts and then converts them to measurable scores. Additionally, it provides drill down capabilities so operators can view individual guest comments that make up the sentiment metrics.

A quick trip to the Clarabridge Web site alerted me that “Clarabridge is the leading provider of text mining software used by many global 1000 companies to improve customer experience management.” When I last looked closely at Clarabridge, I watched as the firm demonstrated how its system could provide information about a retail chain’s inventory.

Like other content processing companies, Clarabridge has verticalized; that is, instead of pitching a one size fits all platform or framework, the company is focusing on solving a problem. Like Lexalytics and Attensity, that problem is figuring out if content expresses happy or sad thoughts. Masssaged with some numerical sage and basil, a licensee will be able to head off trouble or ride a surge of interest quickly.

A Clarabridge document identifies these features of its system:

  • Automatic linguistic “reading” of text and ad-hoc searching and filtration;
  • Categorization of the text at detailed sub-document, sentence, and clause levels;
  • Identification of varying levels of positive and negative sentiments and what they relate to;
  • Analysis of root cause, emerging issues, and trends, and;
  • Capability to drill down to the original text to understand any areas of interest.

The pricing model is interesting because it appears to be a per document charge. Clarabridge refers to a “verbatim” which is unclear to me. Each processed verbatim rings the cash register at 15 cents. Taxi meter pricing is a valid method, but the fees can escalate unless close attention is paid to the document processing flow.

Stephen E Arnold, October 24, 2010


Google TV: A New Spin on the Vast Wasteland

October 23, 2010

My hero was Newton Minow, one “n” thus differentiating him from the Leuciscinae, surely one of my favorite fish. My hero coined the phrase “vast wasteland” in a speech given in 1961. My dirt poor family got a television in 1958, so I had only three years of American Bandstand before the wasteland bon mot. I have never been hooked on TV. Lots of folks are, including one of my two friends and at least one member of my immediate family. For me, snap on the boob tube, and my eyes drift shut. The flickers and audio knock me out cold.

I have a fancy TV in my office. If I did not, the tech folks suck up bandwidth watching soccer on their workstations. Clever I solved this bandwidth problem with the big flat screen and a cable connection. I have been reading about the battle for the couch potato. Unlike Hannibal at Cannae, the Google TV phalanx seems to have marched into a thicket of troubles. Keep in mind that I know zero about the Google TV and my information comes from secondary sources. As a result, my writing this blog post is a reflection of what’s flitting around the World Wide Web news sites.

I noted two write ups that struck me as potentially problematic for the Google and for the lucky consumers who have snagged one of the gizmos that deliver the Google experience to the couch spuds.

Yahoo, probably an authority on rich media after the Semel years, posted “24 hours with Logitech’s Google TV-Enabled Revue.” Mouse maker Logitech has created a box that allows the lucky consumer to access the Google TV service.

For me, the key passage was:

As many have reported, several of the biggest TV networks — think ABC, CBS, and NBC  —have blocked Google TV users from watching their online videos; needless to say, Hulu access has been blocked as well. (Online videos at still seem to be working, at least for now.) Reuters reports that Google is in negotiations with the networks to restore access, but my guess is that the networks will hold out for the inevitable arrival of Hulu Plus — for which you’ll have to pay $10 a month (at least for now) — on Google TV.

Okay, the Google TV is available but the networks are not playing ball. Google’s Math Club team can dominate the TV executives while sending tweets and eating pizza. But when it comes to double dating with the Google, the TV executives are shy indeed. Fear? Money? Who knows.

The second write up that caught my attention was the Electronista write up “Sony’s Google TV Booted into Recovery, Opens Door to Hacks.” I can understand some rough edges with the interface and the need to update the gizmos before the lucky consumer can tap into Google’s search festivity. But a system that can allow the user to install updates and take control of the device seems to be a curious oversight. Maybe the Math Club team that worked on Buzz and Wave contributed to the Google TV? If you want to see how to hack the just released device, Electronista provides a couple of helpful YouTube videos. Left hand, right hand knowing what’s up? Go figure.

Keep in mind I don’t worship TV. I have not played with the Google TV. I can’t attest that the two cited write ups are accurate. Against this bleak factual background, my observations are:

  • I wonder if the Google TV is the equivalent of the Microsoft Kin?
  • Google is now moving into consumer territory. Does the Math Club understand the couch russet?
  • Looking at the screenshots, some interface work seems to be in order. Someone told me that the Google TV browser lacks a browser bar. Well, the fix methinks is to know the key combination Control L. Intuitive for the Math Club, not so much for a soap opera fan.

The Apple TV is $99 and seems pretty easy to use. Yep, Apple and Google are chasing consumers. I don’t want to place a wager. I do like fireside apples, a book, and a TV on mute. Will apples take root in the vast wasteland?

Stephen E Arnold, October 23, 2010


Google: No More Never Complain, Never Explain

October 23, 2010

The Straits Times reported “Google Sorry for Lapses.” Is this a change in method? I recall learning from one of my college professors at the cow town school to which I was admitted, “Never complain, never explain.” Now Google is apologizing, which combines complaining and explaining. If the write up is accurate, the Google may now be recognizing that it has created the equivalent of a ceramic brake slowing the Googlemobile to a snail’s pace. For a Googzilla, getting smoked by a snail is painful indeed. I opine that such friction may be worse than sitting out the senior prom in high school to work on a problem in partial derivatives.

Here’s the passage that caught my attention:

Mr Eustace [Google wizard and adult in charge of rocket science] provided Google’s most detailed description yet of the private data on unsecured wireless networks scooped up by Street View cars as they cruised through cities around the world taking pictures. ‘While most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords,’ he said. ‘We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and I would like to apologize again for the fact that we collected it in the first place. ‘We are mortified by what happened, but confident that these changes to our processes and structure will significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices for the benefit of all our users,’ Mr Eustace said.

Several observations:

  • What about that phrase “most of the data is fragmentary”? “Data” is a plural but that matters not to the Google. The “most”? Well, that is more problematic and apparently ambiguous.
  • With so many smart lads and lasses, how can such a mistake get propagated across the years and multiple versions of the scampering little data gobbling vehicles? Interesting to me, but I am not mortified. Google is. Ooops.
  • After 12 years, a couple of alleged stalkers, and an Odwalla beverage delivery truck full of legal hassles, the Google is fixing up its “internal privacy and security practices.” I do like the categorical affirmative. Too bad the multiple exceptions create a bit of a logical issue for this goose.

In short, complaining and explaining perhaps?

Stephen E Arnold, October 23, 2010


Click Fraud: Sucking Your Recession Bucks?

October 23, 2010

I don’t do online advertising. I don’t do sales. I don’t do marketing except this opinion-charged blog in the persona of an addled goose. But if you do online advertising, you will want to read about the alleged click fraud reported in “Click Fraud Rate Jumps in Q3 Behind Botnets.” Sports fans, put on your protective gear. You will find a real helmet to helmet collision. Here’s one passage that will make online advertisers see red, red ink that is.

Click fraud is a scheme where a person, automated script or computer program mimics a legitimate user clicking on an online ad to make money from a pay-per-click arrangement. According to a new report by Click Forensics, the click fraud rate was 22.3 percent in the third quarter of 2010, up from 18.6 percent in the previous quarter and 14.1 percent in the third quarter of 2009.

In case you did not get the point, here’s another allegation:

“While most third-party ad networks and all major search engines typically apply filters before charging advertisers, we have seen some advertisers waste as much as 10 percent of their monthly spend on invalid traffic and fraud.”

Yankee Doodle Dandy! In a lousy economic climate that’s some serious money. Now we ask, “Are these allegations accurate?” Don’t know. Or we ask, “What’s the method behind the shocking numbers?” Don’t know. And we ask, “Who else has these data?” Snap. No info.

If true, what are the online ad outfits who are rolling in dough doing to control this alleged issue? Now don’t give me Buffy the PR lady from Reed College. How about some info? The goose is thankful he has no need to hustle folks for money. The ads in this blog come from myself and the Google. Would the Google tolerate click fraud? Does a bear…?

Stephen E Arnold, October 22, 2010

Freebie which is definitely different from an online ad.

Search Engine History

October 22, 2010

Joe Stalin would love this infographic. Point your browser thingy with an Evercookie at “Search Engine History.” for the azurini, the infographic is gold. For the goose in Harrod’s Creek, the information is close—not 100 percent on the money—but horseshoe close. Were I younger, I would make some corrections. But with the testosterone charged MBAs and Amazonian females, I don’t need the push back. With Google’s market share reported as a monopoly invoking 84.73 percent, the Google will be working over time to make that market share look like a more acceptable 65 percent. Reality? Nah. Just the way the present world likes to operate. Sigh.

Stephen E Arnold, October 22, 2010


Google: The StreetView Money Machine

October 22, 2010

I have now decided that StreetView is heading in a different direction. I don’t think the outrage over privacy has much to do with Wi-Fi sniffing or the dorky pictures of my house behind trees. StreetView is an ATM  for countries. Here’s how it works. Country is outraged over Google Wi-Fi sniffing. Forget that the data are flying around because individuals run fast and loose. Forget that Google explained that it had one bad apple in the midst of a Japanese 7-11 stuffed full of perfect apples in little foam girdles. Forget that Google is really not sucking in Wi-Fi data any longer.

Read “Spain to fine Google over Street View.” My thought is that the ATM angle is evident in this passage:

The Spanish Data Protection Agency is preparing to fine Google over infractions against local data protection laws when it collected Wi-Fi data as part of its Street View service, it said in a statement on Monday.

Here’s how it works. Charge Google with a crime. Fine the Google. Collect Google bucks or Google Euros. Works for me and for cash strapped entities. I don’t feel too sorry for the GOOG, and I don’t feel sorry for the Spanish authorities. If I were in similar circumstances, why not see Google as a giant yellow ATM with a dinosaur skeleton in front of a building?

Easy money, right?

Stephen E Arnold, October 22, 2010


Test Your Feelings toward Sentiment Analysis

October 22, 2010

A happy quack to the reader who alerted us to “Lexalytics, Inc. Offer s No-Hassle Trial of Text Analytics Solution.” My understanding of algorithms understanding text created by free thinking, often creative geese is flawed. Years ago, sentiment analysis was matching a document’s words against a controlled term list. Lots of negative words or phrases such as “My lawyer” would pile up points on the negative side of the ledger. Happy words like “loved” and “wonderful” flipped bits on the positive side. A document with more negatives than positives was a nastygram. In the dark ages, we used a reddish light to indicate trouble. A green light flagged a document as fodder for the PR Trents and Janes. The yellow light indicated that we didn’t have a clue. Today systems are allegedly more sophisticated. You can test this yourself by navigating to and download the Text Analytics Trial. You can crunch 50 documents. Get in touch with your inner feelings toward sentiment analysis. For this goose, I will paddle across the pond content to allow humans to figure out if other humans have positive or negative feelings toward a product, person, thing, or software system.

Stephen E Arnold, October 22, 2010


RedHat CEO Suggests Trouble for Traditional Software Vendors

October 22, 2010

I am not sure about my reaction. Am I to be surprised? Nah, the commercial vendors’ licensing fees put a world of hurt into the big, throbbing brains of chief financial officers. On the other hand, yep. An open source vendor stands up and questions what made IBM Big Blue.

Point your browser at “Red Hat CEO: Software Vendor Model Is Broken” and get the info direct. For me, the key passage in the story was:

Whitehurst [RedHat boss] kicked off his talk by asking a seemingly simple question: “Why are costs of IT going up when the underlying costs to deliver those services halves every 18 months?” The cost of computing should come down, he reasoned, thanks to improving processing speeds and storage capacities. New, more powerful development tools and frameworks should also ease the cost of deployment. Yet IT expenditures continue to go up by about 3 percent to 5 percent a year. The answer to his question is that “it’s the vendors and how we are delivering [IT] for our customers,” he said.

My thought is that today’s systems are like a sticky rolling pin and cookie dough. Push and pull and the mess sticks to the rolling pin and the cookies suck. The fix is to call in another cook or send someone to the bakery to buy a cookie that is edible. Every step adds costs. The rolling pin is the flow of requirements from users who don’t know from agile. Users need to do their job. The cookie dough is the compound of stuff jammed together by rushed cooks. The result? Lousy cookies and a growing interest in open source.

And cloud computing? Just an expression of dissatisfaction. I am not sure I am 100 percent in agreement, but I know there are lots of lousy cookies out there and legions of second tier consultants advising on butter, flour, milk, and eggs. One problem. Not too many Julia Childs, just lots of children.

Stephen E Arnold, October 33, 2010

Freebie unlike Girl Scout cookies

Sigh. The Future of Search. Jeopardy

October 21, 2010

Think back to college. Remember freshman English. You know. You had to write essays every week or two. Most students got Cs. Now everyone is a great writer. I am not. I suck. My knack was finding information. I skipped fun and games in order to dig up facts for my crappy papers. I got by. Now everyone is a great researcher. Search, the browser, and the mouse has made it easy for anyone to find “everything” about a topic. Baloney.

I just read a remarkable summary about the future of search called “The Future of Search Looks a Lot Like the Present (on Steroids).” Even the title scares me. See I like Boolean queries. I don’t like algorithms, 20 somethings, or programmers who “know” what I want. Research means collecting information, synthesizing, and assembling. I don’t want research to be easy. I want to do the work. Pretty shocking.

Now you navigate to the article and read the future of search. Look at this item:

Keyword research may be narrowed down by all three search engines

What does this mean? The notions of precision and recall are gone. Today it is clicks. Lady Gaga type tricks. Easy answers. Hey, those C students wouldn’t know disinformation if it covered their Honda windshield, right?

Work? Thinking? Slogging through data? Too darned hard. Today search is information with training wheels. Get off the marketing bicycle and walk. C students will be walking, probably to the unemployment office. What about the top dogs? Working at marketing agencies, making millions from their blogs, or raking in the dough at a conference sponsored by third tier consulting firms. Who wants the dudes and dudettes in the Math Club making decisions? The C students. Sigh.

Gimme Boolean or gimme death.

Stephen E Arnold, October 21, 2010

Freebie for sure.

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