Amazon and RIM: Sour Grapes Day and Its Whines

June 30, 2011

Long day for the goose. Most folks heading toward 67 do the golf thing, maybe drink a lunch, or hang out at the mall and check out the walkers. Not me. I was checking out the latest in news and info on the rapidly deteriorating Internet. It is not just the lousy throughput here in Harrod’s Creek, it is the increase in the whine volume. Yep, sour grapes make whine.

The first example is the anonymous letter about the management woes at Research in Motion. Based in Waterloo, the BlackBerry whine maker criticized policies, procedures, innovation, and the furniture. Yep, griping about the office decorations will fix up the BlackBerry orchard in a nonce. You will want to read “Open Letter to BlackBerry Bosses: Senior RIM Exec Tells All as Company Crumbles around Him.” There are some great lines in the letter. The passage I found most amusing was:

Let’s obsess about what is best for the end user. We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice — the end user doesn’t care. We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this and it is one of the reasons they have people lining up overnight at stores around the world, and products sold out for months. These people aren’t hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work. Android has a major weakness — it will always lack the simplicity and elegance that comes with end-to-end device software, middleware and hardware control. We really have a great opportunity to build something new and “uniquely BlackBerry” with the QNX platform. Let’s start an internal innovation revival with teams focused on what users will love instead of chasing “feature parity” and feature differentiation for no good reason (Adobe Flash being a major example). When was the last time we pushed out a significant new experience or feature that wasn’t already on other platforms? Rather than constantly mocking iPhone and Android, we should encourage key decision makers across the board to use these products as their primary device for a week or so at a time — yes, on Exchange! This way we can understand why our users are switching and get inspiration as to how we can build our next-gen products even better! It’s incomprehensible that our top software engineers and executives aren’t using or deeply familiar with our competitor’s products.

The snippet has some interesting assertions. Let me squeeze those grapes:

  1. RIM takes guidance from partners and lawyers. Hey, partners and lawyers know what to do. Partners resell and lawyers bill by the hour. A sharp outfit like RIM not be able to climb much higher up the innovation jungle gym unless it pays more attention to partners and lawyers. RIM is on the right track.
  2. Android has “a weakness.” That is one reason why the whiner is not working at Google. Google is the top dog.  Android. Weakness. Oxymoron.
  3. Features. Look. Features made Microsoft Word the outstanding product it is. I find the intelligent reformatting, the wonderful numbering function, the intuitive placement of images, and the lightning fast response regardless of computing platform nearly perfect. RIM needs to work harder to add complex functionality. Stop whining and starting adding more icons, earthworm menus, and ever-so-precise trackball ALT key thingies.

Now read “An Open Letter To Jeff Bezos On Terminating The Amazon Affiliate Program In California.” Like the high pitched scree of the RIM letter,  this epistle makes my ear drums bleed and my frontal lobes throb throb throb. The issue is that a high traffic Web site gets a piece of the action, a commission, a kick back, a bounty, a beak dip, or a cut of what ever a visitor to an affiliate site spends on Amazon.  The world’s smartest man  may struggle with uptime for its blend of open source and proprietary software for webby services things, but TWSM, aka Jeff Bezos, knows how to make money. Here’s a passage I found amusing:

Not only are you [The World’s Smartest Man] sucking purchases (and thus potentially jobs) out of my state and undermining those retailers, but you’re also not letting the state earn off the sales tax like those retailers who actually are based here do. That makes me feel really good as a Californian.

Why should Amazon pay sales tax?

Amazon is a sort of virtual company. It does not drive on the roads of California too often. It does not use the California school or sewer systems all that much, and it does not provide fire protection for TWSM’s Seattle area properties. Why pay for what you do not use, do not need, and do not acknowledge as being relevant to the Amazon implementation of the Walton retail vision built of bits, not bricks?

So what’s with the whining about Amazon’s doing what a company is supposed to do in post crash America? Any nibbling at the edges of Amazon’s  revenue is bad. What is bad for  Amazon is bad for Mr. Bezos. Mr. Bezos wants his way in a manner similar to other  tech titans’ perception of right and proper behavior. This whiner wants an entity in America to be fair. Get with the program. Join Prime. Suck it up and get back to search engine optimization, a field of great value and promise.

So there you have it. Two whines. If I drank, I suppose I could slurp some whine too. I am more of a  commenter and from a goose pond at that. These two whiners are muddying the waters of the way business is conducted in the US today. Get with the program and put a stopper in the whine bottle, please. Honk.

Stephen E Arnold, July 1, 2011

Stephen  E Arnold, described by super real news person Ken Auletta as gruff is the author of the New Landscape of Search, published by Pandia in Oslo, Norway. The monograph is not available for the BlackBerry (I cannot read my screen’s type. Too small.) and not available through Amazon either. I often wonder why I bother to write candid and objective analyses of enterprise search systems. Whining is where it is at for today.

Google Chromebooks Aim for Microsoft and Miss Facebook

June 30, 2011

The enterprise market has a siren’s appeal to Googlers. The idea of tapping into the revenue of Office and Microsoft’s back office products is magnetic.

How Much of a Threat Exactly do Google Chromebooks Pose to Microsoft?” asks the Guardian.co.uk. Personally, we think Microsoft is a bigger threat to itself with its multi-front war and catch-up position in mobile phones. However, with Chromebooks Google does have some tricks up its sleeve that may put some pressure on Microsoft.

The Chromebook runs not Windows, but ChromeOS. It also eschews Microsoft Office in favor of Google apps. Granted, that won’t meet the needs of many users. The company knows, though, that it will suffice for plenty others. Google is not primarily aiming at individuals, but businesses, which is where Microsoft gets most of its income:

“Google, with the Chromebook, is aiming to eat Microsoft’s lunch – and its dinner and breakfast too. How? By nibbling away at Windows and Office revenues by finding the companies that have finally had enough of Office upgrades, and aren’t that keen on the Windows upgrade cycle – and associated costs – either. The other target: schools – where Microsoft first gets its customers. Chrome is, make no mistake, a dagger poised over Microsoft’s heart. The only question is whether it’s made of steel or rubber.”

It’s true that not having to deal with Windows and Office upgrades would be an advantage. Also, the Chromebook is designed to run entirely in the cloud, which means that if you lose or destroy one, you can still get to your data. Handy, that. It also means you don’t have to remember to back up your hard drives.

Furthermore, Google insists that you won’t have to worry about malware with this device, since they take care of security within its servers. The challenge, of course, will be making inroads that add up to a significant revenue stream. After more than a decade of trying, Google is dependent on ad revenue. An overpriced, underpowered, cloud centric computing device sounds good, but it lacks the sizzle of the Apple hardware. I also believe that Google’s fixation on Microsoft has been a contributing factor in Google’s inability to respond effectively to Facebook. Facebook seems a far cry from the enterprise. I am not sure that’s a fully informed view of what Facebook is planning. Just my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, June 30, 2011

From the leader in next-generation analysis of search and content processing, Beyond Search.

Daily Deal Sites Are Hot and a Challenge

June 30, 2011

CNN Money’s article “Study Offers Grim News on Deal Sites Like Groupon” caused me to do some thinking about online deal sites. I know that some of the goslings follow the offers on Groupon and LivingSocial. I write a couple of columns about online marketing options and included deal sites in my recommendations. I was skeptical about some of the business models. With many companies jumping into the sector, I am not sure which approach will win and which will lose.

The write up called my attention to some research conducted by  Rice University. One surprising finding for me was that the deal toboggan may be reaching the finish line. The study, by Utpal Dholakia, professor of management at Rice University, found that nearly 80 percent of coupon users are first-timers, and only 20 percent of them become repeat customers of businesses offering deals through services like Groupon, LivingSocial and OpenTable. . . .

The article said:

Theoretically, many customers will either spend beyond the deal offer or return for more business. But Dholakia found that just 36 percent of customers buy goods or services beyond what was offered in the deal. Worse, less than 20 percent return to the business for full-price purchases.

If true, does the study predict bad news for a field poised to fill with new competitors, including behemoths like Facebook and Amazon. In light of these findings, business clients are likely to either bail altogether or demand the deal sites take a smaller slice of the revenue. I am not sure Web search will regain is zip. This means that those wanting to sell online will have to put on their thinking caps. Easy to say but tough to do in a faltering economy. So much depends on a Google, filled with ads beside the hungry merchants. (Apologies to William Carlos Williams.)

Cynthia Murrell, June 30, 2011

From the leader in next-generation analysis of search and content processing, Beyond Search.

And What about Yahoo?

June 30, 2011

Google has been rolling out products that redefine its business: Google+, Android’s staggering growth, and legal hassles that numb my mind. Facebook got ready for summer by announcing that it had upwards of 700 million “members.” Amazon’s interesting infrastructure worked well enough for the company to announce that it would move the Kindle to iPad territory.

And what about Yahoo?

Two things caught my attention. First, I noticed that finding the link to the personalized page I set up years ago required navigating to Yahoo.com and then back to the personalized page. That’s one way to get page views from a person who is already on record as disliking the number of clicks I have to do to get my Yahoo mail. I am a premium Yahoo mail user and I still have to jump through hoops. What’s this tell me? Trouble in click land. Yahoo is a high traffic site compared to BigO Tires. I think Yahoo and a couple of other big fellas are twiddling with pages to crank up the traffic numbers. For me, this is something I want to watch. I hope I am wrong. But if I am correct, the softening of Web traffic is going to be a major headache.

Second, I noticed some PR wing flapping. The spin out of a company focused on Hadoop is one example. If you want the “real” journalists take on this development, read “Yahoo, Benchmark Capital Launching Independent Company for Apache Hadoop.” My hunch is that the reason for the move is the RedHat rainbow and its pot of gold. Will Hadoop with Yahoo’s purple mantle become the next RedHat? Nope. The other thing that caught my attention was the rumor that Yahoo was ripe for more management upheaval. One of my goslings was excited to read “Yahoo Is Quietly Looking For Replacements for Carol Bartz, Says Report.” So far, no turmoil but the rumor, like the Hadoop play, lights up my radar.

What is clear is that Yahoo is dropping from the top tier of Web properties. Like the spectacular fall of MySpace.com, certain online services are tough to reinflate. I use a low power, low cost netbook from Toshiba for some work at night when I am flopped on the floor with my boxers, Max and Tess. Yahoo mail does not like my tiny screen and keeps insisting that I use the “new” Yahoo mail. If I click the button for the “new” Yahoo mail, Yahoo tells me that my netbook cannot run the new Yahoo mail. So I go back to the same clunky Yahoo interface I have been using for years. Yahoo is persistent. I keep getting asked to switch. I find the assumption that everyone must use the new mail fascinating. Nice job of personalization for a paying customer? Nope.

Net net. Yahoo seems to be struggling when I try to use the service to meet my needs. Here’s my checklist of issues:

  1. Clutter
  2. Redesign that gets in the way of doing a basic task like reading a message
  3. Search that returns results that are less useful than Bing.com’s results. (I find this amazing.)

I hope Yahoo can find a way to kindle excitement in its products and services. As a case study, Yahoo is an exemplary instance of 21st century business strategy.

Stephen E Arnold, June 30, 2011

From the leader in next-generation analysis of search and content processing, Beyond Search.

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June 30, 2011

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AtHoc at Home in the Pentagon

June 30, 2011

AtHoc, Inc. is the leader in “net-centric” emergency mass notifications. MediaWorkstation.com is reporting they have announced that the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) will deploy AtHoc alerts in order to meet mass notification requirements. We learned from the write up:

Responsible for the security of the Pentagon, PFPA uses the AtHoc IWSAlerts mass notification solution to rapidly send alerts through its IP network to connected computers, SMS text messages to cell phones and voice alerts to office, home and mobile phones. Alerts to computer workstations override the computer screen with an intrusive audio/visual message that describes the threat, includes instructions for taking appropriate action and provides response options via bi-directional communication between the alert recipients and operators. Phone alerts appear both as text (for cell phones) and voice, allowing recipients to respond and indicate their status.

AtHoc is IP-based and integrated within the already working structure of the Pentagon’s systems to notify personnel in case of emergency and has features to insure safety. It is another step in the Pentagon’s remodeling of their Computer Emergency Notification System (CENS) that was created after the attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

Sounds like a good idea to me. AtHoc delivers in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, June 30, 2011

From the leader in next-generation analysis of search and content processing, Beyond Search.

The Google Health Death Rattle

June 29, 2011

Quote to note: I wrote an analysis of Google Health and gave a talk in the weird wonderland of Houston a couple of years ago. As interesting as the idea was, I was not excited nor were those in the audience. Google was not part of “big health”. Without that credibility, the health establishment was not gaga over Google. I was perusing the funeral attendance book. I came across “Google Health: Why It’s Ending & What It Means.” Tucked in the pretty good write up was a quote to note:

Healthcare blogger Faisal Qureshi said on Twitter this afternoon, “Google Health failed at not reaching out to vertical developers, Android fixation & not learning how MSFT partners.”

Yikes! Another example of the curse of Android and the dream of global mobile ad domination. Google has already broken traditional Web search. Google Health is a goner. What’s next? My eyes are on Washington, DC, home of Potomac fever and egos larger than those in Silicon Valley. What happens when high IQs meet those cherry blossom tinged countenances? We will know soon enough.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2011

From the leader in next-generation analysis of search and content processing, Beyond Search.

Google and 1plusV: When Algorithms and Egos Collide

June 29, 2011

I am not taking sides. I want to point out that there are big issues and big egos involved in this spat. Well, “spat” may be to soft and fuzzy for the dispute between the GOOG and 1plusV. For the norte americanos who don’t pay attention to doings in Costa Rica, the hassle with far off France may mean nothing. But from my goose pond, this particular legal matter is more like a tactical weapon deployed at a legal meet up in the Sorbonne. “Google Faces Damage Claim from French Rival 1plusV” reported a suit with claims for alleged Google actions of about US$400 million. The key point in the write up for me was:

“We always try to do what’s best for our users,” spokesman Al Verney said. “It’s the key principle that drives our company, and we look forward to explaining this.”

By golly, lemons from lemonade. Google had the world by the tail. Then the relevance thing seemed to bump into the 1plusV view of objectivity. The problem is that other Web site owners may find that Google’s ability to convert a victory into yet another legal fight is as remarkable as the company’s controlled chaos approach to management.

As I said, I am neutral on this type of allegation about algorithms and humans. My hunch is that algorithms can make decisiono amased on threaholds. That is fine with me. Avoid the tripwires. However, if the algorithms bump into human decisions, that may require an explanaiton of an editorial policy. I am worn out from discussions about Web traffic, SEO, and inexplicable traffic peaks and valleys.

I look forward to Google’s explanation of what is best for its users. Yep, looking forward, never back. Never complain, never explain. The only problem is that legal eagles do look back, do explain, and do work for humans allegedly abused by an algorithm.

I have some modest experience working in France with French rocket scientists. I am aware of the intellectual capabilities of some folks who relax in August. Underestimating the French. Not for me.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2011

Latent Semantic Indexing: Just What Madison Avenue Needs

June 29, 2011

Ontosearch examines “The Use of Latent Semantic Indexing in Internet Marketing.” Going beyond the traditional use of simple keywords, Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) puts words into context. On the assumption that words used in the same context are synonyms, the method uses math to find patterns within text; this process is known as Singular Value Decomposition. The word “latent” refers to creating correlations that are just sitting there waiting to provide important clues to the reader (either human or software) within the text sample.

When used by a search engine to determine ranking, LSI is a huge advance in establishing relevance to the user’s query. It also helps to lower the rank of duplicate websites. A company’s marketing department must keep this process in mind, and refuse to rely on keywords alone.

Google recently made headlines by revamping their search engine to increase the relevancy of their search results. Enhanced LSI was at the root of that change. Many users have been happy with the results, but a lot of businesses found themselves scrambling to recover their coveted high rankings. Adjustments had to be made.

Ontosearch’s post examines the response to this technique in the marketing world:

Latent Semantic system, is known to enhance or compliment the traditional net marketing keyword analysis technique rather than replacing or competing with them. One drawback of the LSI system is that it is based on a mathematical set of rules, which means that it can be justified mathematically but in the natural term, it has hardly any meaning to the users. The use of Latent Semantic System does not mean that you get rid of the standard use of keywords for search reference, instead it is suggested that you maintain a good density of specific keywords along with a good number of related keywords for appropriate Web marketing of the sites.

That technique allows marketing departments to maximize their search rankings. Wow, the marketers are moving to the future! I guess they know what’s good for them. Any company that refuses to embrace the newest techniques risks being left in the dust, especially these days.

But what happens if the Latent Semantic interpretation is incorrect? It can’t guess correctly every time. Check up on search engines’ interpretation of your site’s text to be sure you appear where you think you should.

During a quick Web search (no, the irony is not lost on me), I found that the method has been used to filter spam. That’s welcome. It’s also been applied to education. It’s also been applied to the study of human memory. Interesting. (That reminds me, have I taken my Ginkgo biloba today?)

Our view is that semantic methods have been in use in the plumbing of Google-like systems for years. The buzz about semantic technology is one of the search methods that surf on Kondratieff waves. This has been a long surf board ride. The shore is in sight.

Cynthia Murrell June 29, 2011

You can read more about enterprise search and retrieval in The New Landscape of Enterprise Search, published my Pandia in Oslo, Norway, in June 2011.

Data Fusion: A Source of Contention?

June 29, 2011

Research. is reporting that Kantar and TRA are doing battle over intellectual property. In their article, “Kantar and TRA at Loggerheads over Data Fusion Patent” they report that Kantar and Cavendish have filed a joint complaint as a pre-emptive strike against TRA who is threatening to sue them over patent right infringement.

According to Kantar and Cavendish, TRA claims that Kantar’s RapidView-Retail product encroaches on its patent. The product marries TV audience data and purchase behaviour data with a view to better targeting ad spend. The case is unusual as Kantar has been a long-time investor in TRA, and Sheila Spence, a WPP and Cavendish executive, sits on the TRA board – though she is alleged to have been excluded from a recent board meeting and may also be excluded from another upcoming meeting.

Let’s think about this. Will a patent spat about data fusion in the ad world trigger potential downstream issues in other market sectors. On the surface, a person might say, “No.” However, with the surprises the US legal system can spring, I am not so sure. My view is that patent litigation can spill over and take out the entrepreneurial Minots and Fargos. There is considerable risk in certain legal matters. Data fusion is the issue but the problem is the advertising. Some folks care a great deal about advertising. My yellow warning lights are now flashing.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2011
You can read more about enterprise search and retrieval in The New Landscape of Enterprise Search, published my Pandia in Oslo, Norway, in June 2011.

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