Google Patents: A Quote to Note

November 30, 2013

I read “Google’s Growing Patent Stockpile.” There is nothing like a search of commercial databases for patent information. The write up points out that Google is filing more patents. Only outfits like IBM and Microsoft are doing more filing and inventing, or is it inventing and filing?

Tucked into the article was this paragraph which is a quote to note in my opinion:

Gregory Aharonian, a technical analyst who works with lawyers to overturn patents, says that Google, like other big companies, knows that if it swamps the overworked patent office with applications, it will win patents, even if its ideas aren’t necessarily that novel. “The general rule is, the more patents a company has, the more closely the quality of their patent portfolio approaches the quality of all patents, which is to say the majority of all of these patents are invalid,” says Aharonian.

Good point. Google patents are useful for many reasons. One function for me is to gauge how quickly Google is becoming more like IBM and Microsoft. Is that a good thing? Just look at search. Google’s search innovations are redefining relevance and bringing a new connotation to precision and recall.

Progress is evident.

Stephen E Arnold, November 30, 2013

Amazon Aims to Make Computing Cheaper

November 30, 2013

Amazon has aspirations beyond being the world’s largest retailer. The online retail giant also aspires to be a mega force in computing, says The New York Times Bits Blog in: “Amazon Bares Its Computers.” Amazon has announced that it is taking its Amazon Web Services beyond simple cloud-computing to include specialized computers, data storage systems, networking systems, optical transmissions systems, and power substations. The overall goal is make computer cheaper and run more efficiently.

Amazon rarely discusses its AWS plans, but the recent discussion about how it plans to annually spend one billion comes as big news.
Amazon is prepping to boosts its web services by hiring power engineers to work on substations and remove power redundancies in cloud-computing. Hardware is purchased directly to reduce costs and the company created original statistical methods to limit damage from catastrophic failures. Amazon also owns its own optical fiber systems and take AWS global.

Amazon is hardly keeping their information under wraps this time, though. They are sharing their advances via open source in a direct challenge to Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Microsoft will never share its secrets and Google does share some of its toys, but it keeps the bigger stuff locked away. What about Facebook?

The article explains:

“The notable outrider among the giant computers is Facebook, which isn’t selling its own system. Instead, Facebook is focused on pure cost-cutting, and spearheads the Open Compute Project, a kind of open-source, cloud-computing architecture. Open Compute is far enough along that companies like Hewlett-Packard, which came late to cloud computing, use aspects of it in their public clouds.”

Amazon is not directly asserting it is better than its competitors, but its openness and cost-cutting procedures certainly make it look better in the consumers’ eyes.

Whitney Grace, November 30, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

A Novelist Helps Explain Search Software Erosion

November 29, 2013

Orson Scott Card turned up in a Hacker News item this morning. I followed the link because I was curious about a sci-fi novelist’s views about the death of software companies. As I scanned the short essay, I realized that Mr. Card had touched on several points germane to search, content processing, and analytics companies. I recommend you read the essay that is available on a Carnegie Mellon Web site.

The main idea is:

The environment that nurtures creative programmers kills management and marketing types – and vice versa.

The essay concludes with a passage that is particularly thought provoking:

He [the programmer] suddenly finds that alien creatures control his life. Meetings, Schedules, Reports. And now someone demands that he PLAN all his programming and then stick to the plan, never improving, never tweaking, and never, never touching some other team’s code.  The lousy young programmer who once worshiped him is now his tyrannical boss, a position he got because he played golf with some sphincter in a suit. The hive has been ruined. The best coders leave. And the marketers, comfortable now because they’re surrounded by power neckties and they  have things under control, are baffled that each new iteration of their software loses market share as the code bloats and the bugs proliferate.

The essay edges up to one of the characteristics of search, content processing, and analytics companies. A talented individual may have a great idea and there may be one, two, or a handful of others who convert capability into creation.

My team and I are reviewing profiles— actually case studies — of search and content processing vendors we have assembled over the last 20 or so years. Most of the vendors begin with a passion to solve a particular problem. For example, the Fulcrum Technologies company in Ottawa, Ontario. A group of innovators left one company, set up another, and then proceeded to bedevil the then market leader Verity.

Fulcrum opened in 1983. The product appears to be available today as a component in an OpenText enterprise solution. But who thinks about Fulcrum today? I am not sure if many, if any, of the original programmers are still working at the company 30 years later. Who runs the Fulcrum unit? What are the innovations it offers? Where is the tension and excitement of the Fulcrum – Verity face offs. Verity has been absorbed into Autonomy and Autonomy has been gobbled by Hewlett Packard. Fulcrum Ful/Text and the WAIS-based SearchServer migrated through an Italian outfit, PC Docs, then Hummingbird, and finally into OpenText.

Image from Cranberry Township.

Several observations:

  1. The vendors offering search and content processing solutions seem to have a very distinct trajectory that follows Mr. Card’s essay. I can’t think of many search and content processing vendor that has avoided some type of Gravity’s Rainbow trajectory
  2. Search technology seems to be resistant to innovation. The assertions of Fulcrum and Verity are as fresh and buzzwordy today as they were decades ago.

Read more

Customization Increases SharePoint Adoption

November 29, 2013

SharePoint is known as a large unwieldy platform and research has now proven that customization options increase SharePoint satisfaction. CMS Wire reports the latest in their story, “Enabling Customization Increases SharePoint User Adoption.”

The article begins:

“Enabling business users to customize SharePoint is good for companies. If that seems unlikely, a Dimensional Research report commissioned by Dell supports this claim. According to the report, almost all of those surveyed (98 percent) said customization by business users is desirable. The report, The Impact of DIY SharePoint – How User Empowerment Drives Adoption, outlines the results of a survey of 203 people responsible for the administration, development, technical oversight or business ownership of Microsoft SharePoint in companies with more than 100 employees.”

But how to customize remains the question. SharePoint 2013 does support more customization options, but many organizations are choosing third party add-ons for more out-of-the-box functionality. Stephen E. Arnold, a longtime leader in search, follows SharePoint news with his information service, Stay tuned for the latest customization options, including in-house and third party.

Emily Rae Aldridge, November 29, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Never Forget a Radio Station Again

November 29, 2013

Last Christmas I was ready to annihilate my regular radio stations, because they kept playing the same carol mix over and over again. There was not one new song introduced within a twenty-four hour period. Looking for some relief, I surfed the FM waves in hopes of finding a new station. My efforts were rewarded with a station I had never heard before and I was filled with new musical glee. While I never found the station again, Michael Robertson can help me avoid WHAM’s cover of “Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart” by “Introducing the World’s First Radio Search Engine.” Robertson recently launched his beta version of

The article explains:

“There are other directories of A-Z lists of radio stations, but this is the first search engine where any song or artist can be located on stations playing from anywhere in the world. A universal web player for the first time connects to and plays nearly every station offering immediate audio satisfaction and unprecedented user control.

The search engine updates in real-time, so users will be able to track a song and instantly play it. The search engine indexes all the songs every three-five minutes for an instantaneous searchable music. Robertson’s creation also makes recommendations to the user based on the song selection, allows users to skip songs, and view popularity rankings.”

Before finishing the article, I was about to say that YouTube is just as easy, but the ability to fast forward, skip songs, and add new content is the search engine’s major selling point. Robertson might have just launched the newest music trend.

Whitney Grace, November 29, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

LinkedIn Catches the News Bug

November 29, 2013

Ever since Google left a void by discontinuing Google Reader, other RSS feeds programs have attempted to fill it. Pulse is one of the top replacements and now “LinkedIn Integrates With Pulse For Professional News Aggregation. Social Sharing.” LinkedIn purchased Pulse earlier this year and now they are offering their users professional news for both desktop and mobile platforms. LinkedIn and Pulse are now synced and sharing articles and social media interactions are as simple as a few mouse clicks.

There have been some changes made to how LinkedIn works and improvements to Pulse:

“This means that LinkedIn Today, which gathered top news related to your profession—one of the cool, little-known features in LinkedIn—has now been made defunct. Instead, even if you visit the web app, you will be taken to LinkedIn Pulse. Under the hood, the search feature has been enhanced and Pulse will now offer better autocomplete suggestions.”

It is a great idea to have all of your professional content and social interactions in one place. It makes it easier to stay on top of current events and network, but as any new venture starts this question must be asked: will the news be relevant to the individual users, advertisers, and LinkedIn’s professional standards? LinkedIn probably does not want “News of the Weird” or the latest prescription drug advertised on their Web site. Pulse already has high standards, so doubt is low but who knows.

Whitney Grace, November 29, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Iphone SayHi App Preferred to Google Translate App

November 29, 2013

The article on MakeUseOf titled SayHi Translate Is Quite Possibly The Closest Thing To Star Trek’s Universal Translator promotes the Iphone app SayHi as the best translation app available. At one $1.99, the app provides translations between some 40 languages (more are available with the premium version). The user says their phrase slowly and clearly into the phone, hits done and waits a few seconds for the phrase to appear in the original and translated languages. At the same time the app reads out the translation so that the person you are attempting to communicate with can hear it as well.

The article explains:

“The star allows you to create a list of favourite phrases (accessible from the star icon at the very top of the screen). The arrow is the usual iOS sharing options (email, iMessage, Twitter, Facebook, etc), the arrow pointing right enables you to play the phrase back again if you need to hear it again, and the trash-can deletes the phrase from the screen.”

The author even claims that SayHi beats out the Google Translate app, although that may become an issue of personal preference. Ultimately, these resources are a must-have for people traveling in foreign countries where they don’t speak the language. (And in galaxies far far away?)

Chelsea Kerwin, November 29, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Big Data: History and Confusion

November 28, 2013

I read “Are Big Data Vendors Forgetting History?” I worked through five observations about Big Data and realized that history is essentially irrelevant to Big Data vendors and to some pundits.

I was encouraged by the opening paragraph; to wit:

With any new hot trend comes a truckload of missteps, bad ideas and outright failures. I should probably create a template for this sort of article, one in which I could pull out a term like “cloud” or “BYOD” and simply plug in “social media” or “Big Data.”

My confusion mounted as I worked through the five “history lessons” Datamation sought to teach me:

  1. Little failures “portend” sometimes big failures
  2. Fuzzy terminology can “poison the well”
  3. Details can sidetrack a project
  4. Technical details are important
  5. Big Data matters.

Okay, let me address items 3 and 4, the paradox of “details matter” and “details don’t matter.” I am not sure how to resolve these opposites. In my experience, the result, particularly in technology, depends on details. But the details have to fit into some “frame.” A random detail lacks context. Perhaps the lesson is to balance the “vision” with the “execution.” Get one wrong and the other is dragged down. Big Data requires trimming; that is, chopping the data down so that a question can be answered. Once the data set is created and conforms to textbook statistical tests, then a cascade of details take center stage. Big Data often lacks this organic flow between the two opposites.

With regard to item 1, failure on any scale predicting the future, I am not sure what history teaches. Napoleon hoofed it to Moscow and then a German military leader followed in Napoleon’s footsteps. Er, winter. Food. Resupply. History, like the stock market, does not do much to make prediction a dead certain process. Do technology managers learn from the “past”? In my experience, technology managers do what is necessary to keep their job and make money. Excellence is not as high on this list as one would hope. Tomorrow is like today. “Progress” based on reading tea leaves may be a difficult to achieve.

I think that fuzzy terminology, item  2, is an emergent function in technology. Making up words and coining buzzwords performs three jobs. First, it creates an air of specialty or I know something you need to know. Second, it allows an in crowd to form so that outsiders have a tough time getting in the club. Third, marketers can hook vague promises of value to a with it term to close a deal. In the last five years, the technical innovations have been more like refinements than breakthroughs.

Item 5 which suggests that anyone who questions the value of Big Data is taking the easy path forward is interesting. Big Data, in my view, has been a constant issue. What’s new is the number of companies using the term to describe what have been standard functions. Sure, the aging Hadoop “revolution” eliminates some of the hassles and costs associated with a Codd database. The reality is that most organizations lack the staff, the resources, and the time to convert Big Data into meaningful business activities. (Meaningful means “revenue producing.”)

In short, I find the list interesting, but I don’t think there are many history lessons for me. The write up is more of an apologia for a buzzword that is teaching some people that making sense of available information is dog work, expensive, and often tough to connect to a specific payback.

The reason? Big Data requires trained professionals with expertise in math, statistics, and business processes. Last time I checked, individuals with these capabilities were in short supply. Big Data just gets bigger when there are too few sculptors to chop down the ever growing mountain of bits and bytes.

Stephen E Arnold, November 28. 2013

Hating SharePoint Less by Achieving More

November 28, 2013

While SharePoint is arguably one of the most widely adopted pieces of software to ever exist, it is also arguably responsible for the most pain and suffering. It is a dramatic irony. Information Week acknowledges and tackles the issue in their article, “Microsoft SharePoint: 7 Ways To Achieve More.”

The article begins:

“Among major enterprise technology products, Microsoft’s SharePoint is something of a Catch 22. On one hand, surveys routinely conclude that around 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies use the platform. But despite widespread adoption, surveys also find a lot of dissatisfaction; according to two Forrester reports released last month, between 50 percent and 60 percent of SharePoint users dislike it. This dissonance is striking.”

The article goes on to list several ways to make SharePoint more usable and less frustrating. However, there are organizations that are giving up on SharePoint and looking elsewhere. Stephen E. Arnold of has covered the world of enterprise search for decades. Lately his attention has turned to SharePoint add-ons and alternatives. Keep an eye on his SharePoint information stream to keep up with the latest.

Emily Rae Aldridge, November 28, 2013

IT Policies Encompass Ergonomics Along with Help Desks and Google Glass

November 28, 2013

The collection of policies on ZDNet is titled 90+ IT Policies At Your Fingertips, Ready For Download. With a subscription the article offers templates for many of the policies necessary to govern IT and other workplace necessities. Of course, the pitch is a bit of a circular argument (instead of paying someone hundreds of dollars for a policy, pay us hundreds of dollars for many policies) but more important is the implied state of governance.

The article explains in the blurb provided for the IT Consultant Conduct Policy:

“By the very nature of their business, IT consultants–who have both access and exposure to a company’s most sensitive data–must be held to the highest ethical standard. Ethics are critical, not only to the consultant’s company, but to the client organization. In addition to ethical behavior, a consultant must maintain appropriate behavior at all times. This IT Consultant Conduct Policy outlines an example code of conduct and a code of conduct for consultants.”

Looking ahead, there is even a policy available for the day when employees start bringing Google Glass to work. This is a technology that provides for sneaky recording of audio and visual, (or perhaps not so sneaky, more of a hiding in plain sight maneuver) and so employers might do well to think ahead. Not included in the long list is any sort of editorial policy, which we thought might be making a comeback. Maybe not.

Chelsea Kerwin, November 28, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

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