IBM Continued to Brag About Watson, with Decreasing Transparency

February 29, 2016

A totally objective article sponsored by IBM on Your Story is titled How Cognitive Systems Like IBM Watson Are Changing the Way We Solve Problems. The article basically functions to promote all of the cognitive computing capabilities that most of us are already keenly aware that Watson possesses, and to raise awareness for the Hackathon event taking place in Bengaluru, India. The “article” endorses the event,

“Participants will have an unprecedented opportunity to collaborate, co-create and exchange ideas with one another and the world’s most forward-thinking cognitive experts. This half-day event will focus on sharing real-world applications of cognitive technologies, and allow attendees access to the next wave of innovations and applications through an interactive experience. The program will also include panel discussions and fireside chats between senior IBM executives and businesses that are already working with Watson.”

Since 2015, the “Watson for Oncology” program has involved Manipal Hospitals in Bengaluru, India. The program is the result of a partnership between IBM and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Watson has now consumed almost 15 million pages of medical content from textbooks and journals in the hopes of providing rapid-fire support to hospital staffers when it comes to patient records and diagnosis. Perhaps if IBM put all of their efforts into Watson’s projects instead of creating inane web content to promote him as some sort of missionary, he could have already cured cancer. Or not.


Chelsea Kerwin, February 29, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Intel Identifies the Future of High Performance Computing. Surprise. It Is Itself

February 29, 2016

I make a feeble attempt to pay attention to innovations in high performance computing. The reason is that some mathematical procedures require lots of computing resources; for example, figuring out the interactions in a fusion plasma test. Think in terms of weeks of calculation. Bummer. Most folks believe that the cloud and other semi magical marketing buzzwords have made super computers as fast as those in a sci fi movie. Wrong, gentle reader. There are computational issues. Big O?


I read with interest “The Future of High Performance Computing Has Arrived.” The write up does not do too much with the GPU methods, the brute force methods, or the “quantum” hopes and dreams.


The write up points out with a nifty diagram with many Intel labels:

Intel is tightly integrating the technologies at both the component and system levels, to create a highly efficient and capable infrastructure. One of the outcomes of this level of integration is how it scales across both the node and the system. The result is that it essentially raises the center of gravity of the memory pyramid and makes it fatter, which will enable faster and more efficient data movement.

I like the mathy center of gravity lingo. It reminds me of the “no gravity” buzzword from 15 years ago.

Allegedly Moore’s Law is dead. Maybe? Maybe not? But as long as we are geared up with Von Neumann’s saddles and bits, Intel is going to ride that pony.

Gentle reader, we need much more computing horse power. Is it time to look for a different horse to ride? Intel does not agree.

Stephen E Arnold, February 27, 2016

Watson Weekly: Managing Smart Buildings

February 29, 2016

I read “Now IBM Watson Wants to Look after Your Office Too.” Interesting. IBM as a company seems to be struggling with watching over its stakeholders’ interests, but let’s not go there.

No, let’s go there. I find the idea that a company which has demonstrated its inability to reverse a revenue decline after four years of trying and talking lacks a bit of credibility in the “management” area of expertise.

The write up informs me:

Siemens and IBM have announced they are working together to integrate software from IBM’s Watson IoT Business Unit, including analytics and asset management, into Siemens cloud-based Navigator energy and sustainability management platform to make it easier to manage smart buildings.

Now how many smart buildings are not managed at this time? I suppose I would like to know what a “smart building” is. Once that information is available, one can ask, “Who is providing management functions for these light, HVAC, and other accoutrements of life in increasingly marginalized traditional office structures?”

No answers in the write up, which is not surprising.

IBM’s public relations and marketing efforts for Watson are roaming far and wide. This is okay from a marketer’s point of view, but when the horse carrying the valiant marketers into battle is Lucene, I wonder about the steed’s trailworthiness.

Is anyone thinking about the glue factory? Do these facilities need Watson?

Stephen E Arnold, February 29, 2016

LinkedIn: Looking for Its Next Gig?

February 29, 2016

I signed up for the free LinkedIn years ago. I don’t do too much LinkedIn surfing. I do delete the email I get from the company. I had one of the goslings post a list of my articles to see what would happen. (Results of the test: Nothing happened.) I find it amusing that marketers and PR “professionals” want to be my LinkedIn contact. I used to write these folks and ask, “Why do you want to be my LinkedIn friend?” (Results of the test: No one writes back.) Now you know why I don’t do much LinkedIn surfing. No, I don’t read the musings of the firm’s “thought leaders.”

I did read “LinkedIn Problems Run Deeper Than Valuation.” The write up informed me of this interesting “assertion”:

The problem stems from each of the company’s revenue streams, which ultimately diminish the business value of using the service. Whether it’s being paid to promote content, focusing on sales and recruitment over other professions, or interruptive advertising, these streams incentivize poor behavior by individual users on the site.

I like that “poor behavior” and the incentive angle. The concrete foundation of LinkedIn, it seems to me, is spam.

The company, according to the write up, has a reason to face each day with a big smile:

The company still has assets that are the envy of any tech company — a vast user base and a wealth of content to exploit.

As Yahoo’s publishing experiment demonstrates, content may not be enough.

I think the larger issue is the fact that social networks often lose their stickiness after a period of time. Google’s social efforts seem to mirror the challenges of MySpace. LinkedIn may find itself trapped by its own job hunting system choked with marketers’ leading thoughts.

Why not drive for Uber, Lyft, or Amazon? Less spam and probably a shorter path to some real cash. By the way, did you ever try to locate something using the company’s search engine? Quite a piece of work is that.

Stephen E Arnold, February 29, 2016

New Tor Communication Software for Journalists and Sources Launches

February 29, 2016

A new one-to-one messaging tool for journalists has launched after two years in development. The article Ricochet uses power of the dark web to help journalists, sources dodge metadata laws from The Age describes this new darknet-based software. The unique feature of this software, Ricochet, in comparison to others used by journalists such as Wickr, is that it does not use a server but rather Tor. Advocates acknowledge the risk of this Dark Web software being used for criminal activity but assert the aim is to provide sources and whistleblowers an anonymous channel to securely release information to journalists without exposure. The article explains,

“Dr Dreyfus said that the benefits of making the software available would outweigh any risks that it could be used for malicious purposes such as cloaking criminal and terrorist operations. “You have to accept that there are tools, which on balance are a much greater good to society even though there’s a tiny possibility they could be used for something less good,” she said. Mr Gray argued that Ricochet was designed for one-to-one communications that would be less appealing to criminal and terrorist organisers that need many-to-many communications to carry out attacks and operations. Regardless, he said, the criminals and terrorists had so many encryption and anonymising technologies available to them that pointing fingers at any one of them was futile.”

Online anonymity is showing increasing demand as evidenced through the recent launch of several new Tor-based softwares like Ricochet, in addition to Wickr and consumer-oriented apps like Snapchat. The Dark Web’s user base appears to be growing and diversifying. Will public perception follow suit?


Megan Feil, February 29, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Is Bing Full of Bugs or Is Constant Change And “Agility” the Wave of the Future?

February 29, 2016

The article titled  600 Engineers Make 4,000 Changes to Bing Each Week on WinBeta goes behind the scenes of a search engine. The title seems to suggest that Bing is a disaster with so many bugs that only a fleet of engineers working around the clock can manage the number of bugs in the system. That is actually far from the impression that the article makes. Instead, it stresses the constant innovation that Bing calls “Continuous Delivery” or “Agility.” The article states,

“How about the 600 engineers mentioned above pushing more than 4,000 individual changes a week into a testing phase containing over 20,000 tests. Each test can last from 10 minutes to several hours or days… Agility incorporates two “loops,” the Inner Loop that is where engineers write the code, prototype, and crowd-source features. Then, there’s an Outer Loop where the code goes live, gets tested by users, and then pushes out to the world.”

For more details on the sort of rapid and creative efforts made possible by so many engineers, check out the Bing Visual Blog Post created by a Microsoft team. The article also reminds us that Bing is not only a search engine, but also the life-force behind Microsoft’s Cortana, as well as being integrated into Misrosoft Office 2016, AOL and Siri.


Chelsea Kerwin, February 29, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Alphabet Google Search: Dominance Ending?

February 28, 2016

I read “Will PageRank Expiration Threaten Google’s Dominance.” The main point is that Google’s shift to artificial intelligence “hurt Google Search’s market share and its stock price?”

The write up references the 1997 write up about the search engine’s core algorithms. (There is no reference to the work by Jon Kleinberg and the Clever system, which is understandable I suppose.) Few want to view Google as a me-too outfit, “cleverly” overlooking the firm’s emulation strategy. Think in the monetization mechanism.

The write up states:

The Google Search today transcends PageRank: Google has a myriad of proprietary technology.

I agree. Google is not an open source centric outfit. When was the last time, Google made it easy to locate its employees’ technical papers, presentations at technical conferences, or details about products and services which just disappear. Orkut, anyone?

The write up shifts its focus to some governance issues; for example, Google’s Loon balloon, solving death, etc. There is a reference to Google’s strategy concerning mobile phones.

Stakeholders may want to worry because Google is dependent on search for the bulk of its revenues. I learned:

From Alphabet’s recent 10-k and Google’s Search revenues from Statista, you will realize that Search has been ~92%, ~90%, ~90% of total revenues in 2013-2015 respectively.

No big news here.

The core challenge for analysts will be to figure out if a shift to artificial intelligence methods for search will have unforeseen consequences. For example, maybe Google has figured out that the cost of indexing the Web is too expensive. AI may be a way to reduce costs of indexing and serving results. Google may realize that the shift from desktop based queries to mobile queries threatens Google’s ability to deliver information with the same perceived relevance that the desktop experience created in users’ perceptions.

Alphabet Google is at a cross road. The desktop model from the late 1990s is less and less relevant in 2016. Like any other company faced with change, Google’s executives find themselves in the same boat as other online vendors. Today’s revenues may not be the revenues of tomorrow.

Will Alphabet Google face the information headwinds which buffeted Autonomy, Convera, Endeca, Fast Search & Transfer, and similar information access vendors? Is Google facing a long walk down the path which America Online and Yahoo followed? Will the one trick revenue pony die when it cannot adapt to the mobile jungle?

Good questions. Answers? Tough to find.

Stephen E Arnold, February 28, 2016

IBM: Transforming to What?

February 28, 2016

I read “Multi-Billion Dollar Question: Is IBM’s Transformation for Real?” The question is being asked by Fortune Magazine, an outfit which certainly has had a front row seat to its own transformation efforts.

The write up focuses on a Wall Street analyst who is not drinking the Big Blue fruit juice. Here’s the passage I highlighted:

IBM’s “core” revenues have declined by a stunning $29.7B, resulting in revenue declines (adjusted for currency and acquisitions and divestitures) in each of the last 4 years. Most sobering, IBM’s revenue growth rate on this normalized basis has not improved during the period.

This is news? I think not.

One of the initiatives which underscores IBM’s performance is the presentation of Watson. As you may know, Watson is a combination of:

  • Lucene and other open source bits and pieces
  • Home grown scripts
  • Acquired technology

These “innovations” are presented as something new, innovative, and significant to businesses and consumers. Each time I read a puff piece like “IBM Watson Machine Learns the Art of Writing a Good Headline.” Text summarization and machine written news stories are not new.

IBM warrants some skepticism. What’s remarkable is that Fortune Magazine has seized on a single analyst’s observations? Good for the analyst. But the reality of IBM has been front and center for years.


Stephen E Arnold, February 28, 2016

Weakly Watson: Oscar Ads

February 27, 2016

Short honk. I read “IBM Watson battles Hollywood robot stereotypes with Carrie Fisher and Ridley Scott.” Pretty darned amazing. IBM, an enterprise software company, is advertising on the Oscars award television program. The commercials feature Carrie Fisher and Ridley Scott. All I can say is, “Wow.” Lost in Space may be available after the ads appear.

Stephen E Arnold, February 27, 2016

Around Paywalls? Probably Not Spot On

February 27, 2016

I read “How Google’s Web Crawler Bypasses Paywalls.” I am not confident the write up is spot in. You may find the information useful in your own efforts to do the Connotate-type or Kimono-type thing.

The outfit with the paywall tunnel, according to the write up, is Alphabet’s Google unit. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

The write up points out that the method uses Referer and User –Agent headers.

The approach is detailed in the article via code snippets. It’s in the cards, so have at it.

Oh, there may be other methods in play, but I will leave you to your experimentation.

Stephen E Arnold, February 23, 2016

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