Fasten Your Seat Belt: A Big Data List with Some Surprises

March 31, 2014

I read “The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Big Data.” I am not sure if this Fast Company article is news, content marketing, or analysis for the Silicon Valley set. I found the list of companies that apparently are going to get a chunk of the “$18 billion” market for Big Data surprising. I read the article riding in the back seat of a friend’s SUV. I had my seat belt fastened. The shocks in this article prevented me from jumping upwards and striking my head against the vehicle’s roof. You are now warned.

First, there are some obvious companies on the list, assembled according to one of those undisclosed analyses embraced by “real” journalists and mid tier consulting firms hungry for engagements.

I recognized these big names: GE (General Electric, maker of jet engines and other gear that continues  bring “good things” to one’s life), IBM (purchaser of companies like Cognos, Cybertap LLC, SPSS, and others in the data arena),

I had heard of Kaggle (for fee information and services) and Splunk, the company now in the gun sites of Elasticsearch, among others, for log file supremacy. I ran across Knewton (education) when I did a feature for Online Search Magazine not long ago.

There were some outfits that I had never heard of. My personal filtering system (Overflight) had little information about these organizations. New to me were Evolv (a personnel outfit), the Weather Company (not global worming type climate data, the environment and shopping angle), and Ayasdi (a visualization services firm funded by DARPA).

I think the word is “eclectic”i for this group.

But the two shocks were Mount Sinai Ichan School of Medicine (allegedly building the hospital of the future) and GNIP (another social media analytics firm).

Several observations:

First, the list raises more questions than it answers. What were the criteria used to determine who was able to make the cut for “most innovative.”

Second, what the heck is “innovation.” I think this word, like search and Big Data itself, is emerging as the go-to buzzword for the first half of 2014.

Third, are these outfits much different from hundreds of other organizations that process available data as a routine business process?

Beyond Search is surprised by the listicle itself and the helter skelter natures of the selection of companies. By the way, I thought IBM was in the game show winning business. Watson, Jeopardy, and revolutionizing health care just like Mount Sinai.

Little wonder folks are confused about Big Data. A dose of Google Flu might be necessary.

Stephen E Arnold, March 31, 2014

Free eBooks at Open Culture

March 31, 2014

There are legal ways to download books on the Internet without having to resort to Pirate Bay or other P2P networks. If you visit Open Culture, you will discover that there are over “550 Free eBooks: Download Books For Free.” Before you get on your soapbox and explain that most books available for free on are usually in the public domain, thus old and less than exciting to read. While that is true for these books, there are also more contemporary authors listed, such as Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Neil Gaiman, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

If you are also interested in studying up on the Harvard Classics, because of this idea:

“During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. The publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to assemble the right collection of works.”

You will find that all of these classics are available for easy reading and download on the Internet. That Internet has made it easier to educate yourself with the amount of free classes, books, movies, and other content that can be obtained legally.

Whitney Grace, March 31, 2014
Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Style Over Substance?

March 31, 2014

You might have noticed a simple change in Google’s design recently. The search engine designers decided to remove underlined links, increased font sizes, and deleted the yellow box around AdSense results. Fast Company is pleased with the removal of these Web 1.0 design techniques, because it pushes Google forward into modern times when people use more than a mouse to Web surf. Fast Company discusses their opinion of the change in “How Google’s Redesigned Results Augur A More Beautiful Web.”

Fast Company notes that hyperlinks are not only ugly to the eye, but they also hurt reading comprehension. The design change was headed by Larry Page, but the article also points out that the golden search results would never be touched unless:

“But taste alone is seldom enough to woo Google. Google would never, ever remove hyperlinks on its main page (and again, AdSense!) if it hadn’t tested the new design, and if the company wasn’t completely sure that the design wouldn’t impact Google’s ability to generate clicks. It’s pretty safe to conclude that underlines are a superfluous marker, at least on Google’s pages, which we’ve all used countless times–especially when link text is still the same old shade of blue, filling the “hey, I’m a link that you can click” role on its own.”

The article ends by saying the Web is becoming more beautiful. Fine by us, but beauty is only as substantial as content. Functionality and usefulness is more important that appearance. We don’t live in Victorian times anymore.

Whitney Grace, March 31, 2014
Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

SQL Server 2014 Coming to SharePoint 2013

March 31, 2014

Microsoft recently announced changes to SharePoint, some well received and others less so. For instance, the next SharePoint server update is planned for 2015. However, in other news, SQL server will be supported within SharePoint 2013. Read more in the Redmond article, “Microsoft Adding SQL Server 2014 Support to SharePoint 2013.”

The article says:

“SharePoint Server 2013 will be capable of supporting SQL Server 2014 when Microsoft releases the next SharePoint cumulative update next month, according to an announcement on Friday. SQL Server 2014 is currently in the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) stage, and is expected to hit general availability on April 1.”

SharePoint is continuing its quest to be all things to all people, incorporating more and more outside components. However, it is becoming more difficult and more complicated for users to manage such complex implementations. Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in search and gives a lot of coverage to SharePoint on his Web site

Emily Rae Aldridge, March 31, 2014

New Age Management and Search Vendors

March 30, 2014

I once saw a cartoon with the caption “Ready, Fire, Aim.” The artist showed the person with a handgun pointing the barrel at his head. I am not too keen on the Ready, Fire, Aim approach to walking my dog. When it comes to figuring out what to do for money, I eschew the Ready, Fire, Aim as well.

Not for some whizzy Silicon Valley type management theorists and practitioners. Navigate to “Tom Erickson of Acquia, on the Philosophy of Ready, Fire, Aim.” If the real journalists take the story down, you can find it in the dead tree edition of the New York Times, page 2 of the Sunday Business Section for March 30, 2014.

I like spontaneity, but I don’t want Max and Tess to chase after a poodle. My boxers like to play rugby. Poodles like to knit, do yoga, and bite socks. So, no Ready, Fire, Aim when I have to take my senior advisors for their daily constitutionals. With regard to money, I take the alleged Ben Franklin aphorism, A penny saved is a penny earned seriously. Ben, as you may know, went with the Ready, Fire, Aim approach to interpersonal relations and was sent home from France if I recall my history teacher’s anecdote correctly.

The New York Times, an outfit that has faced some management challenges, has in its files some data about one of its Ready, Fire, Aim ideas: The New York Times Online. If I recall that system, it was a flop. Coming on the heels of killing the exclusive with LexisNexis, not only did the gray lady real journalists blow off seven figures of easy money, the NYT floundered through multiple online systems. Will the real journalists get their money back on that Ready, Fire, Aim decision and its financial consequences? I don’t think the jury is in, but in my view, some accounting magic may be needed since that decision 30 years ago.

What’s Ready, Fire, Aim management?

According to the write up, nicely presented by the real journalists. I noted this sentence alleged spoken by Mr. Erickson of Acquia, a outfit that “Acquia gives organizations unparalleled FREEDOM [sic] to unify content, community and commerce.” In short, Acquia is a services firm based on open source technology. How much hotter a market sector is there?

Now Mr. Erickson’s statement, attributed to his farther:

“We need to be on the forefront of what’s next.”

For those who believe in the power of technology and innovation, this is an important lesson. “Forefront” and “what’s next.” The problem, of course, is that figuring out what’s next is tough. Money doesn’t do it. Brains in masses don’t do it. I am not sure what produces innovation. Elasticsearch, an open source search vendor built on the ashes of Compass, has sort of just happened.

The next component of Ready, Aim, Fire struck me as tucked into this statement allegedly made by Mr. Erickson:

“I learned that I could sell.”

Okay, the ability to solve a person’s problems, be spontaneously helpful, and function like a fraternity or sorority president are part of Ready, Fire, Aim. (Well, maybe selling and Ready, Fire, Aim are not exactly management, but let’s move forward, shall we?)

Ready, Fire, Aim and selling combine in this way:

People would try to tell me, “We need to do things differently here.” I’d say, “No, this is how you stay on message, on target.”

The formula worked in Australia, France, Japan, and obviously in the US of A.

With these tantalizing knowledge tchotchkes, the threads are stitched together into one seamless insight:

One thing I preach a lot about is the importance of “ready, fire, aim.” There are people in the world who are ready-aim-fire types. If I sense from an interview that they are a ready-aim-fire person, I’ll tell them: “I don’t think this is the right place for you.

Mr. Erickson does not want colleagues who are interested in a job “where precision matters and the ability to get the right answer will be valued.”

Let’s think about this searing notion. Mr. Erickson (hypothetically) has a medical problem. Does he seek out health care with a track record of performance, maybe based on excellent training, evidence based medicine, and in touch with modern devices? Or, does Mr. Erickson seek out a health care professional who does the “Ready, Aim, Fire” thing? My hunch is that the decision will lean toward a professional or system where precision and the ability to get the “right answer” are important. Guessing, hunches, and random medications—probably not in the cards I would suggest.

What’s this have to do with search and content processing?

In my view, Mr. Erickson’s management philosophy is likely to work sometimes. But what works for more companies is rather less loose and spontaneous. Products and services are offered. Contracts are signed. Stuff happens and the customer pays the bills. Government regulations are followed (at least one hopes). People get paid. These are routine management functions. Many venture funded companies are not particularly skilled in these administrative swamps.

In my experience, the work of whizzy open source and proprietary search and content processing companies is raising money, generating revenue via agility, and exiting with a profit for the founders. The disconnect between the objective of the customer and the goals of the employees is often visible for those who take the time to look for signs of a discontinuity. Chaos produces visible activity. Chaos does not lead to consistent results. Even Google hired an adult and has tried to become more businesslike.

My view is that Ready, Fire, Aim may result in feeding the lucky Kentucky hunter a dead squirrel for lunch. But for most activities from walking the dog to figuring out how to earn a living, Ready, Aim, Fire is a cartoon-like caricature of quite complex and subtle activities. Too much rigidity is as unproductive as too much looseness.

Remember that gun pointed at the cartoon figure? Is that your idea of a thoughtful, insightful, and responsible behavior? The woes of companies that take the Ready, Aim, Fire approach to business is the trail of failures documented in the profile at

For me, sales skill does not equal innovation. Ready, Aim, Fire does not equate to management expertise. For the New York Times and the funding entities pumping tens of millions into duplicative search and content processing vendors, where is that gun pointed? A company that has lost money for five, 10, or more years is likely to lose money next year? Ready, Aim, Fire is humorous except to those who want their money back, customers who want a problem solved, and employees who want to work in a stable organization.

Success is tough to plan, but should one manage using the methods of a drive by shooter?

Stephen E Arnold, March 30, 2014

Search Quality Slips Away

March 30, 2014

One way that people try to get to the top of Google’s search results is by making random Web pages with links and key terms. It combines SEO with linkage. Instead of having to rely on writing code yourself, a programmer and hacker named Dam discovered a little trick on Github to take out all the hard work. He describes how he uses an infinite recursion Web site in his post, “Trolling The Search Engines.”
Dam created his blog Web site in October 2013 and used MDamien/infinity to create random, but consistent pages. He got an unexpected and pleasing result:

“A while after, I got an unexpected result: Google indexed more than 148k page for the site. Wow! And now you can do fun things like taking two random words from the site and it appears at the top! slenderising aneurismatic for example.”

He says that he wrote the blog post to document this historical event before March 18. That date has passed without any explanation as to why you can only manipulate Bing and Google until that date. Maybe Microsoft and Google caught onto the trick. If that is the reason, we do not doubt that someone will create another infinite recursion Web site code. What is saddening, however, is that this pollutes search results and quality information is lost.

Whitney Grace, March 30, 2014
Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Darpa Prods Big Data Experts

March 29, 2014

I read “Darpa Calls for Advanced Big Data Ideas.” If the write up is accurate, Darpa is not on board with the marketing innovations about Big Data, whatever the term means. Darpa wants more. According to the TechRadar story:

According to V3, DARPA director Arati Prabhakar told a briefing on emerging threats with the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence that it is looking to come up with some advanced big data ideas. She said that DARPA is creating a new set of cyber security capabilities that will ensure that networked information is trustworthy.

Address “big data” may be easier if those talking about it would define the term and the context in which the phrase is being used. Those who chant “Big Data,” including Darpa, are just empowering the sales people, the self appointed experts, and the failed middle school teachers who write “reports” for mid tier consulting firms.

Stephen E Arnold, March 29, 2014

Tibco Connects with Popular Big Data Repositories

March 29, 2014

Tibco continues to grow. The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch reveals, “TIBCO Expands Connectivity to Key Big Data Sources.” Now, users of the company’s Spotfire data analysis platform can connect directly to big data storehouses at Cloudera, Hortonworks, and Pivotal. The press release quotes VP of Spotfire product strategy, Lars Bauerle:

“Our ability to connect directly to these data sources, conduct in-database analysis, and mash-up the data in the worlds of Hadoop and others puts Spotfire in prime position for enterprises looking to get the most out of their data assets. Spotfire now further embraces data access in all forms, including Big Data architecture, enabling our customers to derive significantly greater value from their existing data.”

Cloudera development VP Tim Stevens added:

“Cloudera and TIBCO Big Data technologies complement one another by adding significant value to our joint customers’ IT environments. Until now, analytics and Hadoop have separately been two of the most significant enterprise technologies of the last few years. As these technologies come together in Spotfire, we see an opportunity for organizations to reap great business value as they build out their enterprise data hubs.”

Launched in 1997 and offering a range of infrastructure and business intelligence software, Tibco is based in Palo Alto, California. The company is so sure of the competitive edge granted by its BI software that it has trademarked the phrase “two-second advantage.”

Cynthia Murrell, March 29, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Elasticsearch: 70:30 Odds as the Next Big Thing in Search

March 28, 2014

We learned on March 26, 2014  suggesting that the German search vendor Intrafind has been looking for the next big thing. The company may have found it, and we expect that this low profile vendor will be plugging into the Elasticsearch power cable. Wikipedia already has, joining hundreds of other firms looking for a solution to doggy indexing in some other open source centric solutions.

Elasticsearch repackager SearchBlox has rolled out Version 8 of its hosted Elasticsearch system, according to Timo Selvaraj, Co-Founder/VP Product Management of SearchBlox.

As if these two recent developments were not enough, GoveWizely, a Washington, DC engineering services firm, has added Elasticsearch to its arsenal. GovWizely, operated by Erik S. Arnold (yep, that’s my boy) has moved adroitly to capitalize on the surging interest in Elasticsearch’s high performance system.

Contrast Elasticsearch’s rise as the go to open source enterprise search system with the struggles of other open source search vendor and some commercial outfits. LucidWorks has ingested $2 million in venture funding, according to Crunchbase. Elasticsearch has received $34 million in funding. Parity, right?

Not so “fast”. (A gentle nod to the fascinating proprietary system shoe horned by Microsoft into SharePoint.) Elasticsearch seems to be catching up to LucidWorks or winning the critical struggle for developers. Here’s the Elasticsearch pitch:


Understated and quiet, according to my engineering team. Could the developments at Intrafind, SearchBlox, and Adhere Solutions, among others, are an early warning system, Elasticsearch certainly could be the “next big thing” in search, enterprise and otherwise.

What’s this mean for the proprietary and non open sourcey vendors like Coveo, Funnelback, Lexmark ISYS, and Hewlett Packard? I would suggest that these firms’ management have to adapt to what appears to an emergent and disruptive force in information processing. If Elasticsearch does emulate the growth of the pre HP Autonomy, the likelihood that the millions of venture funding pumped into search funding and search acquiring may never be repaid. Chilling thought for some stakeholders who may have jumped on the wrong horse and seem compelled to continue to feed the nag fresh, expensive, non recoverable “clover.” (Think millions in hard cash funding with little to show that a payback is imminent or even possible.)

Read more

Open Data Collection with Ushahidi

March 28, 2014

The crowdsourced data collection platform Ushahidi, now assisting activists worldwide, was first created to facilitate public accountability and social activism during crises in its home nation, Kenya. Not surprisingly, Ushahidi is also the name of the non-profit behind the open-source project. interviewed the organization’s director of data projects, Chris Albon, about the platform. The article prefaces the dialogue with a brief explanation:

“In a nutshell, it allows citizens to make reports in a collaborative way, creating crowdsourced interactive maps. With a very intelligent approach, Ushahidi gives citizens the possibility to use the web, their smartphones and even SMS to gather data, which makes this technology accessible almost everywhere and for everyone. Originally created in Kenya to serve as an instrument for social activism and public accountability in crisis situations, the software has proven to be a great companion worldwide in bringing advocacy campaigns to a successful end. The team behind Ushahidi has not only created a world-changing technology but also they share it with others since it is released as Open Source.”

Albon tells us that the core Ushahidi platform is now being used in 159 countries and has been translated into 35 languages, and explains it is being used by groups from small, election-monitoring non-profits to global organizations tracking disaster relief efforts. Journalists also make use of the platform. Albon notes that his group helped build iHub in Nairobi, an “innovation hub” and community workspace designed to facilitate collaboration and community growth. See the article for more on this and Ushahidi’s other projects, Crowdmap, Swiftriver, Ping, and BRCK. The interview wraps up with something to look forward to: the next generation of the Ushahidi core platform, v3, is on its way.

Cynthia Murrell, March 28, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

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