Alphabet Google: Three Financials Factoids

October 28, 2016

The Alphabet Google demonstrated the revenue power of its ad based business. You can dig through the juicy financial report at this link. Three items caught our attention here in Harrod’s Creek.

First, there is an IBM scale stock buy back planned. The amount? $7 billion. In our view, stock buy backs help out management and suggest a lack of imagination in the use of capital. The upsides are popular with the MBA crowd but we like the “keep the share price up” argument.

Second, the company is implementing tactics to offset the shift in click value between desktop search on which Google was built and the newer mobile search model. The approaches are working for now.

Third, the cost cutting yielded some savings in the science club projects. But the company continues to be almost completely dependent on ad revenue.

One can’t argue with the $22 billion in revenue. Alphabet is on its way to $100 billion in revenue powered by advertising, not search, technology, or innovation.

We realize that many Alphabet fans are unaware that Google’s revenue remains an “overture.”

Stephen E Arnold, October 28, 2016

The IBM Watson Hype Machine Shouts Again

October 28, 2016

The IBM Watson semi news keeps on flowing. The PR firms working with IBM and the Watson team may bring back the go go days of Madison Avenue. Note, please. I wrote “may.” IBM’s approach, in my opinion, is based on the Jack Benny LSMFT formula. Say the same thing again and again and pretty soon folks will use the product. The problem is that IBM has not yet found its Jack Benny. Bob Dylan, the elusive Nobel laureate, is not exactly the magnetic figure that Mr. Benny was.

For a recent example of the IBM Watson buzz-o-rama, navigate to “IBM Watson: Not So Elementary.” I know the story is important. Here’s the splash page for the write up:


I will definitely be able to spot this wizard if I bump into him in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky. I wonder what the Watson expert is looking at or for. Could it be competitors like Facebook or outfits in the same game in China and Russia?

The write up begins with an old chestnut: IBM’s victory on Jeopardy. No more games. I learned:

IBM’s cognitive computing system is through playing games. It’s now a hired gun for thousands of companies in at least 20 industries.

I like the “hired” because it implies that IBM is raking in the dough from 20 different industry sectors. IBM, it seems, is back in the saddle. That is a nifty idea but for the fact that IBM reported its 18th consecutive quarter of revenue declines. The “what if” question I have is, “If Watson were generating truly big bucks, wouldn’t that quarterly report reflect a tilt toward positive revenue growth?” Bad question obviously. The Fortune real journalist did not bring it up.

The write up is an interview. I did highlight three gems, and I invite—nay, I implore—you to read and memorize every delicious word about IBM Watson. Let’s look at the three comments I circled with my big blue marker.

Augmented Intelligence

at IBM, we tend to say, in many cases, that it’s not artificial as much as it’s augmented. So it’s a system between machine computing and humans interpreting, and we call those machine-human interactions cognitive systems. That’s kind of how it layers up….it’s beginning to learn on its own—that is moving more in the direction of what some consider true artificial intelligence, or even AGI: artificial general intelligence.

Yikes, Sky Net on a mainframe, think I.

Training Watson

there isn’t a single Watson. There’s Watson for oncology. There’s Watson for radiology. There’s Watson for endocrinology…for law…for tax code…for customer service.

I say to myself, “Wow, the costs of making each independent Watson smart must be high. What if I need to ask a question and want to get answers from each individual Watson? How does that work? How long does it take to receive a consolidated answer?  What if the customer service Watson gets a question about weather germane to an insurance claim in South Carolina?”

The Competition

The distinctness of the Watson approach has been to create software that you can embed in other people’s applications, and these are especially used by the companies that don’t feel comfortable putting their data into a single learning system—particularly one that’s connected to a search engine—because in effect that commoditizes their intellectual property and their cumulative knowledge. So our approach has been to create AI for private or sensitive data that is best reserved for the entities that own it and isn’t necessarily ever going to be published on the public Internet.

I ponder this question, “Will IBM become the background system for the competition?” My hunch is that Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and a handful of outfits in backwaters like Beijing and Moscow will think about non IBM options. Odd that the international competition did not come up in the Fortune interview with the IBM wizard.

End Game

these systems will predict disease progression in time to actually take preventive action, which I think is better for everybody.

“Amazing, Watson will intervene in a person’s life,” blurt my Sky Net sensitive self.

Please, keep in mind that this is an IBM Watson cheer which is about 4,000 words in length. As you work through the original Fortune article, keep in mind:

  • The time and cost of tuning a Watson may cost more than a McDonald’s fish sandwich
  • The use of “augmented intelligence” is a buzzword embraced by a number of outfits, including Palantir Technologies, a competitor to IBM in the law enforcement and intelligence community. Some of IBM’s tools are ones which the critics of the Distributed Common Ground System suggest are difficult to learn, maintain, and use. User friendly is not the term which comes to mind when I think of IBM. Did you configure a mainframe or try to get a device driver for OS/2 to work? There you go.
  • The head of IBM Watson is not an IBM direct hire who rose through the ranks. Watson is being guided by a person from the Weather Channel acquisition.

How does Watson integrate that weather data into queries? How can a smart system schedule surgeries when the snow storm has caused traffic jams. Some folks may use an iPhone or Pixel or use common sense.

Stephen E Arnold, October 28, 2016

Web Marketers: Get Ready for the Google Disruption

October 28, 2016

The GOOG is shifting from desktop search to mobile search. The transition will take time and make life exciting for the Web marketers who have to [a] justify their budgets, [b] generate traffic, [c] keep their jobs. The search engine optimization wizards will be looking a McMansions and BMW convertibles. Business is likely to boom for the purveyors of fairy dust and jargon.

Navigate to “50+ Web Measurement KPIs – Analytics Demystified.” The write up presents four dozen ways to accomplish your objectives. The write up groups the analytics some folks view like the Rosetta Stone. The principal categories are:

  • Key Performance Indicators to Measure Return on Investment
  • KPIs to Measure Lead Generation Campaigns
  • KPIs to Measure Intent to Purchase
  • KPIs to Measure Website Engagement

I worked through the long write up, complete with mini MBA comments and screenshots of the magic data. The thought I had was that some folks are reaching for straws to build their career. The number that matters is the revenue produced by a digital marketing program.

Intent? Probably to sell consulting.

Stephen E Arnold, October 28, 2016

Facebook Still Having Trouble with Trending Topics

October 28, 2016

Despite taking action to fix its problems with Trending Topics,  Facebook is still receiving criticism on the issue. A post at Slashdot tells us, “The Washington Post Tracked Facebook’s Trending Topics for 3 Weeks, Found 5 Fake Stories and 3 Inaccurate Articles.” The Slashdot post by msmash cites a Washington Post article. (There’s a paywall if, like me, you’ve read your five free WP articles for this month.) The Post monitored Facebook’s Trending Topics for three weeks and found that issue far from resolved. Msmash quotes the report:

The Megyn Kelly incident was supposed to be an anomaly. An unfortunate one-off. A bit of (very public, embarrassing) bad luck. But in the six weeks since Facebook revamped its Trending system — and a hoax about the Fox News Channel star subsequently trended — the site has repeatedly promoted ‘news’ stories that are actually works of fiction. As part of a larger audit of Facebook’s Trending topics, the Intersect logged every news story that trended across four accounts during the workdays from Aug. 31 to Sept. 22. During that time, we uncovered five trending stories that were indisputably fake and three that were profoundly inaccurate. On top of that, we found that news releases, blog posts from sites such as Medium and links to online stores such as iTunes regularly trended. Facebook declined to comment about Trending on the record.

It is worth noting that the team may not have caught every fake story, since it only checked in with Trending Topics once every hour. Quite the quandary. We wonder—would a tool like Google’s new fact-checking feature help? And, if so, will Facebook admit its rival is on to something?

Cynthia Murrell, October 28, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Posting to the Law Enforcement Database

October 28, 2016

The article titled Police Searches of Social Media Face Privacy Pushback on Underground Network discusses the revelations of an NPR article of the same name. While privacy laws are slow to catch up to the fast-paced changes in social media, law enforcement can use public data to track protesters (including retroactive tracking). The ACLU and social media networks are starting to push back against the notion that this is acceptable. The NPR article refers to the Twitter guidelines,

The guidelines bar search companies from allowing law enforcement agencies to use the data to “investigate, track or surveil Twitter’s users (…) in a manner that would require a subpoena, court order, or other valid legal process or that would otherwise have the potential to be inconsistent with our users’ reasonable expectations of privacy.” But that policy is very much open to interpretation, because police don’t usually need legal orders to search public social media…

Some police departments have acknowledged that fuzziness around privacy laws puts the onus on them to police their own officers. The Dunwoody, Georgia police department requires supervisor approval for social media searches. They explain that this is to prevent targeting “particular groups” of people. According to the article, how this issue unfolds is largely up to police departments and social media giants like Twitter and Facebook to decide. But social media has been around for over a decade. Where are the laws defining and protecting our privacy?

Chelsea Kerwin, October 28, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Another US Outfit Learns about the Online Idiosyncrasies of Nation States

October 27, 2016

Google learned that China does not listen to suggestions from the ad giant about its online policies. Now LinkedIn has bumped into a similar ethnocentrism in Russia, altogether a really fun place in some folks’ eyes. I read “LinkedIn Runs Afoul of Russian Data Law — Is It on the Verge of Being Banned?” I highlighted this passage:

Russia could end up banning LinkedIn in a matter of weeks as the government reportedly seeks to make an example of the business-oriented social network. The company is being targeted following its failure to comply with a 2014 federal law that demands online firms that deal with the personal information of Russian citizens store their data within the country. Earlier this year, the Kremlin’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor attained an injunction against LinkedIn from a lower court. If a Moscow city court decides to reject an appeal, set for November 10, the platform will be blocked.

As the punk band learned in 2012, Russian authorities have some interesting approaches to resolving life’s little challenges. Not only did the band end up in jail, few knew in which jail the musicians resided. I was told at a conference in Prague that losing track of the female prisoners was an unfortunate administrative error.

LinkedIn may want to keep the fate of the punk rock band in mind if the Moscow authorities gear up and speed to locations where LinkedIn may have advisors, employees, fellow travelers, or folks who are championing the social media recruitment online service. Just an idle thought.,

Stephen E Arnold, October 27, 2016

Google Tries to Hide Big Wizards. A Mystery or a Harbinger of Wagon Circling??

October 27, 2016

I read “A Google Mystery: The Names and Bios of the Company’s Top Execs Are No Longer Listed on Its Website.” The main point of the write up is that a Google page listing some of the big dogs in the digital kennel have gone missing. I highlighted this passage:

If you needed to know who oversees financial maters for parent company Alphabet (Ruth Porat), or know who the CEO of the core Google internet business is (Sundar Pichai), or if you wanted to get a sense of who is leading businesses like smart home appliance maker Nest, the company’s investor relations page won’t be of much help. Right now, the company’s management page just takes you to an Error 404 page.

Is this a mystery? Here in Harrod’s Creek, we suggest that the GOOG is doing a bit of self preservation. If you are watching folks head out the door to hotter and potentially more lucrative companies, why make it dead simple for a home economics major to identify a Googler to hunt down at a conference.

The problem Google faces is a slide to mediocrity. The ad outfit is ageing and not particularly well. A CFO is raining on the math club’s parade. Revenue from mobile searches poses more of a challenge than the good old Yahoo inspired ad words for desktop computers. The costs just keep on rising. The competitors keep on coming. Hello, Snapchat. Searching for products? Good morning, Amazon. Think about it. There is  unfortunately a limited supply of wizards. When a big dog wanders, one has to settle for maybe two smaller dogs which hopefully will add up to the big dog right now.

Mediocrity is baked into the replacement hiring process. Ergo. Make it difficult to figure out who does what. Dodge stories like “Google Ventures Founder Latest Executive to Depart Alphabet.”

If you really want to know who does what at the ad outfit, consider these resources:

  1. Take a look at Google journal articles. Capture the names of the authors. Look for authors with multiple papers in a particular niche. The data provide useful pointers to who does what.
  2. Examine Google patent documents. Perform inventor entity analysis. Metrics point to folks who may be competent in a particular field.
  3. Those odd ACM, database, and advanced computing conference presentations are important. Suck down the programs, perform textual analysis, and you have useful data about who knows and does what.

If that’s too tough, point your browser at Boardroom Insiders and copy the list of executives and hunt for Googlers at softball games on the fields off El Camino in Palo Alto. There’s often beer after a co-ed game and recruitment fest. The same method works for a number of Sillycon Valley outfits. No dumpster diving required, and the process works from right here in rural Kentucky.

There is no correlation between IQ and players’ ability to catch a ball, But you might be able to convert a Googler into a Xoogler with a nifty move.

The Google is circling its wagons. Nothing but a logical response to the increasing pressure the company faces in hiring, cost control, competition, and its legacy technology. A Web page take down may be a harbinger, not a mystery.

Stephen E Arnold, October 27, 2016

Reading Verizon Tea Leaves

October 27, 2016

I read “Verizon: ‘We have to assume’ Yahoo’s Massive Hack Is a Major Deal.” The write up summarizes a telephone call between Verizon and folks who care about the former Baby Bell. Tucked into the news report were some interesting factoids, which I assume to be accurate. The write up is from a real newspaper close to Jeff Bezos’ warm, kind heart.

Image result for 1890 boxing posters

Is a dust up between the former Baby Bell (Verizon) and the Purple Haze machine on the horizon?

Here are the factoids I noted:

Verizon’s chief financial officer seems to suggest that Yahoo’s security woes and loss of a few (okay, 500 million user credentials) may have a material impact on the Yahoo deal. I interpret “material” as meaning [a] We will buy the Purple Haze machine but for less than $4.8 billion or [b] Adios, Yahoo.

The write up included this intriguing paragraph:

Verizon will take “some time” to determine the fate of the deal, Shammo [Verizon CFO] said, unless Yahoo “comes up with a different process” for interacting with its buyer.

I translated into Kentucky speak the paragraph as meaning “Verizon will go slow” and “Yahoo needs to figure out a way to answer our questions and learning to speak Baby Bell.” Both of these statements would be interpreted as criticism here in Harrod’s Creek. Fisticuffs can break out in the local watering hole for similar perceived problems in information exchanges.

Stephen E Arnold, 27, 2016

Yahoo: Email Tizzy Makes One Dizzy

October 27, 2016

I read “Yahoo Wants the US to Explain Its Email Surveillance Order.” The write up suggests that “reports of its email scanning system [are] misleading.” Right, but who talked about the email scanning? The US government or Yahoo? My recollection is that Yahoo offered the information. Now Yahoo wants the US government to explain a task which I assume was either privileged or not for public dissemination. But what do I know? I am in rural Kentucky, observing the Purple Haze machine from afar. Thank goodness.

The write up earned this highlight from my passionate purple marker:

In a letter to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Yahoo’s general counsel, Ron Bell, called on the government to clarify the “national security orders they issue to internet companies to obtain user data.”  The company said that although the letter references allegations made against Yahoo, “it is intended to set a stronger precedent of transparency for our users and all citizens who could be affected by government requests for user data.” “We appreciate the need for confidentiality in certain aspects of investigations involving public safety or national security,” the letter reads, “However, transparency is critical to ensure accountability and in this context must include disclosing how and under what set of circumstances the US government uses specific legal authorities, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA], to obtain private information about individuals’ online activities or communications.”

There you go. Yahoo at the Yahooligans’ best.

I noted this statement from the article too:

“As we’ve [Yahoo]  said before, recent press reports have been misleading; the mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems,” the company said. “We therefore trust that the US government recognizes the importance of clarifying the record in this case,” the company added.

Okay, Yahoo, what are the odds that the US government will jump through a hoop for you? I don’t see Yahoo as much of a ringmaster these days. Yahoo leaves me dizzy because the Yahooligans may be in a tizzy.

Stephen E Arnold, October 27, 2016

How to Find an Email Address

October 27, 2016

Like any marketers, search engine optimizers must reach out to potential clients, and valid email addresses are important resources. Now, Search Engine Journal explains “How to Find Anyone’s Email Address in 60 Seconds or Less.” Anyone’s, really? Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

SEO pro, Joshua Daniels discusses six techniques to quickly find an email address. He writes:

If you’re a specialist in SEO or link acquisition, then you’ll know that generic email addresses are as much use as a chocolate fireguard when it comes to outreach. You need to develop personal connections with influencers, regardless of whether you work in PR or SEO, it’s always the same. But finding the right person’s email address can be a draining, time-consuming task. Who has time for that?

Well, actually, it’s not so difficult, or time-consuming. In this post, I’m going to walk you through the exact step-by-step process our agency uses to find (almost) anyone’s email address, in 60 seconds or less!

For each suggestion, Daniels provides instructions, most with screen shots. First, he recommends LinkedIn’s search function paired with Email Hunter, a tool which integrates with the career site. If that doesn’t work, he says, try a combination of the Twitter analyzer Followerwonk and corporate-email-finder Voila Norbert.

The article also suggests leveraging Google’s search operators with one of these formats: [ + “name” + contact] or [ + “name” + email]. To test whether an email address is correct, verify it with MailTester, and to target someone who posts on Twitter, search the results of All My Tweets for keywords like “email” or “”. If all else fails, Daniels advises, go old school—“… pick up the phone and just ask.”

Cynthia Murrell, October 27, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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