Weakly Watson: The Possibilities Are Limitless

July 31, 2016

Hyperbole? Nah, just another fascinating chunk of content marketing by IBM, the proud owner of Watson. You know Watson. The “system” consisting of goodies from open source, acquisitions, and home brew IBM code.

Navigate to “It’s Elementary, Says (IBM) Watson!” The write up shouts:

Given such abilities, the possibilities of what IBM Watson can do in every industry, are limitless!


The possibilities, enumerated below, contain hashtags to make certain that the word diffuses through hashtaggy social media channels. I bet those Pokémon Go players are thrilled to get these items in their “news” stream too. The possibilities are:

  • Send Watson to school. This is a nice way of saying that one must create valid training sets. Then the training sets are provided to the content processing system, the results verified, and then the intake process tuned. Does this sound like Autonomy IDOL’s method? It sure does. Plus, it is an expensive and time consuming process when done with rigor. Take a short cut and the system goes off the rails.
  • Oversee Watson’s study. Yep, this is fine tuning, and it involves humans, who want money, time off, benefits, and managerial love. Is this expensive? Yep.
  • Getting a grip on things. Now this is a possibility which makes the others in this list appear to be semi coherent. Watson uses “artificial intelligence” to “understand” what’s being said in text entering the system.  Okay, I think this means Watson is now indexing content in a useful manner. Isn’t that what IBM iPhrase purported to do a decade ago?
  • Solve complex problems in a real world. Okay, now we are getting something. What does Watson suggest to IBM, a company which has reported more than four years of declining revenue? What? I did not hear the answer.
  • Learning from experience. I think this means that as Watson solves real world problems like IBM’s declining revenues, Watson bets “better.” How long will stakeholders wait? Yahoo’s stakeholders became unsettled and look what happened? Fire sale at a fraction of what Microsoft offered a few years ago.

I am not convinced about the logic of the write up nor about the “endless possibilities” Watson creates. I am more inclined to think about Amazon, Facebook, and Google as big companies likely to deliver results from smart software. What’s not to like about Amazon drones in the UK, Facebook filtering Wikipedia content, and Google solving death. Smart stuff is everywhere. One doesn’t need Sherlock Holmes to figure this out.

Stephen E Arnold, July 31, 2016

Stephen E Arnold,

Verizon and Yahoo Integration

July 30, 2016

Short honk: How does a former Baby Bell plan? The answer appears to be, “Not too much.” Navigate to “AOL’s Tim Armstrong Says ‘Scale Is Imperative’ in the Verizon-Yahoo Deal.”

Here’s the quote to note:

… Because this has been an auction process, he noted, rather than a direct sale, there has been no time to make specific integration plans between Verizon and Yahoo. In fact, according to many sources, Verizon has had little insight into a number of issues, including the terms of the contracts with key employees, that it will need to make plans for the future.

Is this an example of “Fire, ready, aim”? Will two Xooglers blend to create a viable competitor to Facebook and Google? What happens if 1 Xoogler + 1 Xoogler = 0?

Stephen E Arnold, July 30, 2016

Library Search and Survival

July 29, 2016

I read “Library Systems Report 2016.” Interesting round up of niche player companies. The focus is upon library systems. This is today’s equivalent of the card catalogs I used when I was a wee lad in central Illinois.

Three points jumped out at me:

  • Most of the companies mentioned in the report are unknown outside of the library market. That’s okay. One can make a great deal of money serving niche markets. The takeaway for me was the technologies referenced struck me as decidedly 1990s-ish. There are no Palantir Technologies in this collection of “high tech” leaders.
  • The industry, which strikes me as small, compared with Pokémon Go is consolidating. I have no problem with this, but it suggests that library funding may be further constrained. With fewer libraries, there will be fewer customers; therefore, only the “big” will survive. MBAs threaten MLSs it seems.
  • Open source software and Web based and cloud solutions are beginning to have an impact. As I said, 1990s-ish thinking perhaps.

This quote sums up how one of the big dogs approaches the financial challenges it faces:

EBSCO Information Services stands as one of the major forces in the library technology sector, despite not offering it own comprehensive management product.

Unlike Google or Facebook, EBSCO, a company once known for making three ring binders, wants to be everyone’s connectivity pal.

Which of these vendors will become a billion dollar company? Which library start up will be the next big thing on Shark Tank?

I think I know the answer to these questions. Do you?

Stephen E Arnold, July 29, 2016

Search Experts Rejoice. Work Abounds in Semantics

July 29, 2016

Are you a struggling search engine optimization “expert”? Do you know how to use Google to look up information? Can you say “semantics” five times without slurring your words?

If you answered “yes” to two of these questions, you can apply for the flurry of job openings for “semantic experts.” Incredible, I know. Just think. Unemployed SEO mavens, failed middle school teachers, and clueless webmasters can join the many folks with PhDs in the booming semantic technology sector.

Just think. No more Uber driving on Friday and Saturday nights. No more shame at a conference when someone asks, “What is it you do exactly?”

Navigate to “Semantic Technology Experts In Demand.” Get the truth. Don’t worry to much about:

  • A definition of semantics
  • A knowledge of semantic methods which actually work
  • How semantic methods are implemented
  • Which numerical recipes are most likely to generate accurate outputs.

Cash in now. Embrace this truth:

If you’re not heavily involved in the data world, you may not have heard of semantic technology, but it might be time to give the category some attention. It’s one of those areas of tech that’s becoming more important as organizations of all kinds contend with streams of information that contain multiple data structures (or no structures) and move at speeds that approach the threshold of mind-boggling. If you follow the news, you can watch the technology’s spread through a variety of industries and products. Ford, for example, recently acquired California startup Civil Maps, which develops and maintains live semantic maps of all the roads in the United States. And health IT experts say the day is coming when “data silos and lack of semantic interoperability will not be tolerated.”

If you spent months or years learning about Big Data, the cloud, and natural language processing, you can repurpose your expertise. Just say, “I am an expert in semantics.” Easy, right?

Stephen E Arnold, July 29, 2016

The Surprisingly Diverse Types of Cybercriminals Threatening Your Business

July 29, 2016

The article titled BAE Systems Unmasks Today’s Cybercriminals- Australia on BAE Systems digs into the research on the industrialization of cyber crime, which looks increasingly like other established and legal industries. While most cybercriminals are still spurred to action by financial gain, there are also those interested more in a long-term strategy of going after intellectual property and selling the data on the black market. The article states,

“Some cyber criminals are becoming even more professional, offering skills and services, such as “project management” to other criminal organisations. They are writing their own software that comes with service agreements and money-back guarantees if the code gets detected, with the promise of a replacement. This ‘industrialisation’ of cyber crime means it has never been more important for businesses to understand and protect themselves against the risks they face,” said Dr Rajiv Shah, regional general manager, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence.”

The article pinpoints six profiles including career criminals but also internal employees, activists and, and what they call “The Getaway,” or underage criminals who won’t be sentenced like adults. Perhaps the most insidious of these is The Insider, who can be a disgruntled employee or a negligent employee with more access than is good for them or the company they work for.


Chelsea Kerwin, July 29, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Environmental Big Data Applied to Sustainable Health Purchasing

July 29, 2016

The US healthcare system has some of the best medical procedures and practices in the world, but the governing system is a violent mess.  One aspect tangled in the nightmare is purchasing.  Wharton University explains how big data can improve sustainability in everything in purchasing in everything from drugs to cleaning supplies: “The Four A’s: Turning Big Data Into Useful Information.”

The health care system is one of the biggest participants in group purchasing organizations (GPOs).  One significant downplayed feature that all GPOs share is its green product usage.  GPOs rely on using green products to cut back on waste and cost (in some cases), however, they could do more if they had access to environmental big data.  It helps the immediate bottom line, but it does more for the future:

“Longer term, it makes good business sense for hospitals and clinics, which spend so much battling environmentally caused illnesses, to reduce, and where possible eliminate, the chemicals and other pollutants that are damaging their patients’ health. That is precisely why Premier’s GreenHealthy program is eager to move beyond price alone and take EPP into consideration. ‘Price doesn’t give us the whole story,’ said [Kevin Lewis, national program coordinator for the GreenHealthy division of Premier Inc]. ‘Our prime concern is making our patients safer.’”

Individual health service providers, however, do not have access to certain healthcare metrics and data, unless they ask for it from manufacturers/supplies.  Even worse is that the health metrics data is often outdated.

The GPOs and the health providers could work together to exchange information to keep all data along the supply chain updated.  It would create a sustainability chain that would benefit the environment and the bottom line.


Whitney Grace, July 29, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Governance for Big Data. A Sure Fire Winner for Consultants

July 28, 2016

I read “What’s Next for Big Data Analytics?” I didn’t know the answer to this question, and I still don’t. The angle of attack is common sense. Companies with experience is dealing with digital information often have viewpoints different from the marketing collateral produced by their colleagues. This write up seems to fall in the category of Mr. Bush’s request, “Please, clap.”

The idea is that an organization has to have information policies. That sounds like consultant speak. Most organizations struggle to figure out what their company party policies are. Digital data policies are one of those tasks that senior managers allow others to wrestle to the ground and get a tap out.

The write up includes a number of diagrams. I highlighted this one:


The red area is the governance and management thing. Good luck with that. Companies need revenue. Big Data is supposed to deliver. If not, those policies and governance meeting minutes along with the consultants who billed big bucks for them are going to the shredder in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, July 28, 2016

Weakly Watson: IBM Watson and a Department Store

July 28, 2016

I have fond memories of selling men’s shirt at a department store in Illinois when I was a wee, thin lad. At the end of the year, the place was jammed with people. On a slow day, there were three or more folks riffling through the men’s shirts. Department stores have fallen on hard times. There is the Amazon thing. Social media sites like the Needs.com wants to become a storefront.

Macy’s is a well known vendor. We have one in Louisville, Kentucky, but I think my last visit was in 2011. Too much hassle with the parking, the traffic, and the clutter in the men’s department.

Macy’s labeled its 2015 Annual Report and its 2016 Fact Book with the title “The Agility to Adapt.” I love marketing mantras and the lingo of MBAs. Yep, adapt. Macy’s seems to be struggling to generate sustainable top line revenue and healthy profits. My take on the company’s financial performance is that flat lines suggest mucho efficiency think. At some point, Macy’s has to find a way to jump start growth.

I read “Macy’s Taps IBM Watson to Improve In-Store Shopping App.” The idea is:

The retailer will use Watson’s machine-learning and cognitive-computing technology to assist shoppers as they wander through Macy’s department stores

Millennials, let’s assume, love apps. (I think apps are a bit of disappointment for some folks.) Millennials love to shop (I think online appeals to some of these fine lads and lasses.) Millennials love their smartphones. (I know this is a fact because two of them bumped into me as I walked into an eatery yesterday.)

What could be better? A retailer and Big Blue?

The write up informs me:

The app will apply Watson’s natural language processing (via its Natural Language Classifier API) in order to let shoppers ask questions like “Where can I find the swimsuits?”, and then it’ll find answers based each store’s unique products, services, and layout. Navigation is being provided by Satisfi’s location-based software, which accesses Watson’s technology from the cloud to make the whole experience come together. As time goes on, the app will get smarter as it learns more about each store’s customers and the frequently asked questions for each location.

When I read this, I thought about Pokeman Go. Perhaps the way to generate traffic in a department store is to entice the potential buyers with digital egg hunts. Instead of creatures, one could hunt for bargains with cute digital personas and clever graphics.

IBM Watson does not seem to have the zeitgeist of Pokeman Go. Apps strike me as a little 2007, but I am out of touch. Why not ask Watson?

Stephen E Arnold, July 28, 2016

Facebook Acknowledges Major Dependence on Artificial Intelligence

July 28, 2016

The article on Mashable titled Facebook’s AI Chief: ‘Facebook Today Could Not Exist Without AI’ relates the current conversations involving Facebook and AI. Joaquin Candela, the director of applied machine learning at Facebook, states that “Facebook could not exist without AI.” He uses the examples of the News Feed, ads, and offensive content, all of which involve AI stimulating a vastly more engaging and personalized experience. He explains,

“If you were just a random number and we changed that random number every five seconds and that’s all we know about you then none of the experiences that you have online today — and I’m not only talking about Facebook — would be really useful to you. You’d hate it. I would hate it. So there is value of course in being able to personalize experiences and make the access of information more efficient to you.”

And we thought all Facebook required is humans and ad revenue. Candela makes it very clear that Facebook is driven by machine learning and personalization. He paints a very bleak picture of what Facebook would look like without AI- completely random ads, unranked New Feeds, and offensive content splashing around like beached whale. Only in the last few years, computer vision has changed Facebook’s process of removing such content. What used to take reports and human raters now is automated.

Chelsea Kerwin, July 28, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Baidu Hopes Transparency Cleans up Results

July 28, 2016

One of the worries about using commercial search engines is that search results are polluted with paid links. In the United States, paid results are differentiated from organic results with a little banner or font change.  It is not so within China and Seeking Alpha shares an interesting story about a Chinese search engine, “Baidu Cleans Up Search Site, Eyes Value.”  Baidu recently did a major overhaul of its search engine, which was due a long, long time ago. Baidu was more interested in generating profits than providing its users a decent service.   Baidu neglected to inform its users that paid links appeared alongside organic results, but now they have been separated out like paid links in the US.

Results are cleaner, but it did not come in time to help one user:

“For anyone who has missed this headline-grabbing story, the crisis erupted after 21-year-old cancer patient Wei Zexi used Baidu to find a hospital to treat his disease. He trusted the hospital he chose partly because it appeared high in Baidu’s results. But he was unaware the hospital got that ranking because it paid the most in an online auctioning system that has helped to make Baidu hugely profitable. Wei later died after receiving an ineffective experimental treatment, though not before complaining loudly about how he was misled.”

The resulting PR nightmare forced Baidu to clean up its digital act.  This example outlines one of the many differences between US and Chinese business ethics.  On average the US probably has more educated consumers than China, who will call out companies when they notice ethical violations.  While it is true US companies are willing to compromise ethics for a buck, at least once they are caught they cannot avoid the windfall.  China on the other hand, does what it wants when it wants.


Whitney Grace, July 28, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


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