HonkinNews for January 31, 2017 Now Available

January 31, 2017

This weeks’ seven minute HonkinNews includes some highlights from the Beyond Search coverage of Alphabet Google. If you have not followed, Sergey Brin’s participation at the World Economic Forum, you may have missed the opportunity that Google did not recognize. More surprising is that Alphabet Google owns a stake in a company which specializes in predicting the future. IBM Watson had a busy holiday season. The company which has compiled 19 consecutive quarters of declining revenue invented a new alcoholic “spirit”, sometimes referred to as booze, hooch, the bane of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. How did Watson, a software system, jump from reading text to inventing rum? We tell what Watson really did. How did Palantir Technologies respond to a protest in front of its Palo Alto headquarters, known by some as the Shire? Think free coffee, and we reveal what the Beyond Search goose wants when she attends a protest. Beyond Search has an interest in voice search, which seems to be more than an oddity. Learn about the battle between Amazon and Google. The stakes are high because Amazon is not a big player in search, but Alexa technology way be about to kick on of the legs from Google’s online hegemony. DuckDuckGo honked loudly that it experienced significant growth in online search traffic. How close is DuckDuckGo to Google? Find out. Mind that gap. Microsoft has “invented”, rediscovered, or simply copied Autonomy’s Kenjin service from the 1990s. The lucky Word users will experience automatic search and the display of third party information in an Outlook style paneled interface. HonkinNews believes that those writing term papers will be happy with the new “Research.” Yahoot or Yabba Dabba Hoot warrants a mention. The US Securities & Exchange Commission is allegedly poking into Yahoo’s ill timed public release of information about losing its users information. Yep, Yabba Dabba Hoot. Enjoy Beyond Search which is filmed on 8 mm film from the Beyond Search cabin in rural Kentucky.

If you are looking for previous HonkinNews videos, you can find them by navigating to www.googlevideo.com and running the query HonkinNews. Watch for Stephen E Arnold’s new information service, Beyond Alexa. Who wants to type a search query? That’s like real work and definitely not the future.

Kenny Toth, January 31, 2017

Alleged Google-Killer Omnity Is Now Free

January 31, 2017

Omnity is a search engine designed to deliver more useful results than one obtains from outfits like Google. The company, according to “Omnity Is a Semantic Mapping Search Engine That’s Now Offered for Free”,

…sometimes there’s a need for another kind of search, namely to locate documents that aren’t explicitly linked or otherwise referenced between each other but where each contains the same rare terms. In those cases, a method called “semantic mapping” becomes valuable, and there’s now a free option that does just that…

My query for “Omnity” returned these results:


When I checked the links in the central display and scanned the snippet in the left hand sidebar, I did not locate many relevant results. I noted a number of NASA related hits. A bit of checking allowed me to conclude that a company called Elumenati once offered product called Omnity.

If you want to experiment with the system, point your browser thing at www.omnity.io. You will have to register. Once you verify via an email, you are good to go.

We don’t have an opinion yet because we don’t know the scope of the index nor the method of determining relevance for an entity. The “semantic” jargon doesn’t resonate, but that may be our ignorance, ineptitude, or some simple interaction of our wetware.

Omnity may have some work to do before creating fear at the GOOG.

Stephen E Arnold, January 31, 2017

Big Guns Want to Make Artificial Intelligence Ethical

January 31, 2017

I read “Apple Joins Research Group for Ethical AI with Fellow Tech Giants.” The write up informed me that:

As artificial intelligence becomes an increasingly powerful force in industry and society, some of the world’s biggest companies are worrying about how the technology can be used ethically, and how the public will perceive its spread. To combat these problems (and others), five tech companies — Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and IBM — set up a research group called the Partnership on AI.

Apple is on the bus.

I don’t want to be skeptical, but there are some outfits actively working on smart software for government use cases. There is, in effect, a shadow business in artificial intelligence and smart software for warfighting, intelligence, and law enforcement.


A prototype autonomous weapon hunts for the enemy. For more images of the device, navigate to this link.

Sure, it’s great that the consumer facing outfits are going to meet and talk about how to keep children and partially informed users of mobile phones from negative uses of smart software. But I had two thoughts flit through my addled goose brain.

What are the outfits listed in the Carahsoft round up of Carahsoft IT solutions for government doing to make sure smart software is ethical. If you are not familiar with Carahsoft’s lists, you can check them out at this link.

Also, there are the US government programs to advance the use of smart software. Some of these ideas are interesting to me, but I am not sure how they will fly in a grade school. Examples include self directing swarms of weaponized mini drones released from an aircraft to autonomous imagery analysis systems which can deploy countermeasures automatically when folks face a threat.

Finally, there are the wizards working at various government research centers. These range from the little known units of consulting companies to university related research organizations.

In short, the notion of making artificial intelligence ethical is an interesting one for commercial enterprises. I wonder if the folks will chit chat about other topics when the members sit down for Philz coffee. There’s nothing like a helpful conversation among publicly traded companies who have a mandate to maximize their revenues.

I don’t want to be a fuddy duddy, but what does “ethics” mean?

Stephen E Arnold, January 31, 2017

Rise of Fake News Should Have All of Us Questioning Our Realities

January 31, 2017

The article on NBC titled Five Tips on How to Spot Fake News Online reinforces the catastrophic effects of “fake news,” or news that flat-out delivers false and misleading information. It is important to separate “fake news” from ideologically-slanted news sources and the mess of other issues dragging any semblance of journalistic integrity through the mud, but the article focuses on a key point. The absolute best practice is to take in a variety of news sources. Of course, when it comes to honest-to-goodness “fake news,” we would all be better off never reading it in the first place. The article states,

A growing number of websites are espousing misinformation or flat-out lies, raising concerns that falsehoods are going viral over social media without any mechanism to separate fact from fiction. And there is a legitimate fear that some readers can’t tell the difference. A study released by Stanford University found that 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t spot authentic news sources from ads labeled as “sponsored content.” The disconnect between true and false has been a boon for companies trying to turn a quick profit.

So how do we separate fact from fiction? Checking the web address and avoiding .lo and .co.com addresses, researching the author, differentiating between blogging and journalism, and again, relying on a variety of sources such as print, TV, and digital. In a time when even the President-to-be, a man with the best intelligence in the world at his fingerprints, chooses to spread fake news (aka nonsense) via Twitter that he won the popular vote (he did not) we all need to step up and examine the information we consume and allow to shape our worldview.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 31, 2017

Advocacy Groups Back Google over Right to Be Forgotten Conflict

January 31, 2017

Does a European’s  “right to be forgotten” extend around the globe? (And if not, is one really “forgotten”?) Can one nation decide what the rest of the world is allowed to see about its citizens? Thorny questions are at the heart of the issue MediaPost examines in, “Google Draws Support in Showdown Over ‘Right to Be Forgotten’.”

Privacy-protection rights, established by European judges, demand Google remove search-result links that could embarrass a European citizen at the subject’s request (barring any public interest in the subject, of course). French regulators want Google to extend this censorship on its citizens’ behalf around the world, rather than restrict access just within that country’s borders. No way, says Google, and it has some noteworthy support—the Center for Democracy & Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and other organizations agree that what France is attempting sets a dangerous precedent.  Writer Wendy Davis elaborates:

Google argues that it can comply with the ruling by preventing links from appearing in the results pages of search engines aimed at specific countries, like Google.fr, for French residents. But the French authorities say Google must delete the links from all of its search engines, including Google.com in the U.S. Earlier this year, France’s CNIL [Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés ]rejected Google’s position and fined the company $112,000. Google is now appealing that ruling, and the Center for Democracy & Technology and others are backing Google’s position.

The CDT argues in a blog post that authorities in one country shouldn’t be able to decide whether particular search results are available in other countries—especially given that authorities in some parts of the world often object to material that’s perfectly legal in many nations. For instance, Pakistan authorities recently asked Google (unsuccessfully) to take down videos that satirized politicians, while Thai authorities unsuccessfully asked Google to remove YouTube clips that allegedly insulted the royal family.

Google itself has argued that no one country should be able to censor the Web internationally. ‘In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place,’ global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer wrote on the company’s blog last year.

Indeed. As someone whose (most) foolish years occurred before the Web was a thing, I sympathize with folks who want to scrub the Internet of their embarrassing moments. However, trying to restrict what citizens of other countries can access simply goes too far.

Cynthia Murrell, January 31, 2017

Composite Software: From Search to Data Virtualization

January 30, 2017

I was deleting some of the old enterprise search and content processing data I had gathered over the years. I came across a text file which noted that Cisco Systems bought Composite Software in 2013. My recollection was that I had a screen shot of Composite’s search and retrieval interface. I dug around and located this graphic:

screen shot

Composite was founded in 2008, and at that time it was positioning its technology as an enterprise search solution. I was no longer compiling information for my Enterprise Search Report, which had devolved to a content management type outfit.

I did have in my files this diagram of what Composite’s search system morphed into:


Search is still in the architecture but it is called a Query Engine and includes traditional search functions; for example, a federation component, rules (which are very expensive to maintain in my experience), metadata, and editorial management now called “Governance.”

What’s interesting to me is that Composite figured out that search was not exactly a booming business. The company wrapped itself in next-generation features like Discovery and an Endeca-type “Studio” to create interfaces.

The sale of the company as a “data virtualization” vendor to Cisco took place in July 2013. According to a ZDNet write up, Cisco paid about $180 million for the five year old company. What I found interesting was the description of Composite in “

Composite provides software that connects different kinds of data on a network, including cloud and big data sources, and consolidates it as if it were in one place. In doing so, it allows companies to better visualize their data in order to make more accurate real-time decisions.

One would not know that Composite was an enterprise search vendor which pulled of a successful repositioning. Then Composite was able to sell the company to Cisco Systems, which had dabbled in search before this deal went down. At one time, I thought that Cisco would embrace open source search software.

Net net: Cisco got a search system for a fraction of the price HP paid for Autonomy. Composite is one of a small number of search vendors able to recognize the dead end that plain old search became. That’s important because slapping the word “semantic” on a keyword search system and shopping for a buyer may not be very productive.

In fact, it raises the question, “Why are some enterprise search vendors still pitching search?” Composite’s approach suggests that there are other ways to package keyword search and add some sizzle to what otherwise may be a cold chunk of stew meat.

Stephen E Arnold, January 30, 2017

30 Content Filters Illustrated

January 30, 2017

Short honk. I came across an illustration of how content filtering works. The popular name for this function is “filter bubble.”


Source: “The Filter Bubble.”

The idea is that smart online systems note what a user does online and shapes the information presented to that user. The procedures is described by various names; for example, filtering, personalizing, shaping, tailoring, customizing, etc. Here’s the illustration that makes the process clear. I found the image in “The Filter Bubble.” Kudos to whoever crafted the diagram.

Stephen E Arnold, January 30, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Releases Q4 Earnings of First Year After Split from HP

January 30, 2017

The article on Business Insider titled Hewlett Packard Enterprise Misses Its Q4 Revenue Expectations But Beats on Profit discusses the first year of HPE following its separation from HP. The article reports fiscal fourth quarter revenue of $12.5B, just short of the expected $12.85B. The article provides all of the nitty gritty details of the fourth quarter segment results, including,

Software revenue was $903 million, down 6% year over year, flat when adjusted for divestitures and currency, with a 32.1% operating margin. License revenue was down 5%, down 1% when adjusted for divestitures and currency, support revenue was down 7%, up 1% when adjusted for divestitures and currency, professional services revenue was down 7%, down 4% adjusted for divestitures and currency, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) revenue was down 1%, up 11% adjusted for divestitures and currency.

Additionally, Enterprise Services revenue was reported as $4.7B, down 6% year over year, and Enterprise Group revenue was down 9% at $6.7B. Financial Services revenue was up 2% at $814M.  According to HPE President and CEO Meg Whitman, all of this amounts to a major win for the standalone company. She emphasized the innovation and financial performance and called FY16 a “historic” year for the company.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 30, 2017

Counter Measures to Money Laundering

January 30, 2017

Apparently, money laundering has become a very complicated endeavor, with tools like Bitcoin “washers” available via the Dark Web. Other methods include trading money for gaming or other virtual currencies and “carding.”  ZDNet discusses law enforcement’s efforts to keep up in, “How Machine Learning Can Stop Terrorists from Money Laundering.”

It will not surprise our readers to learn authorities are turning to machine learning to cope with new money laundering methods. Reporter Charlie Osborne cites the CEO of cybersecurity firm ThetaRay, Mark Gazit, when she writes:

By taking advantage of Big Data, machine learning systems can process and analyze vast streams of information in a fraction of the time it would take human operators. When you have millions of financial transactions taking place every day, ML provides a means for automated pattern detection and potentially a higher chance of discovering suspicious activity and blocking it quickly. Gazit believes that through 2017 and beyond, we will begin to rely more on information and analytics technologies which utilize machine learning to monitor transactions and report crime in real time, which is increasingly important if criminals are going to earn less from fraud, and terrorism groups may also feel the pinch as ML cracks down on money laundering.

Of course, criminals will not stop improving their money-laundering game, and authorities will continue to develop tools to thwart them. Just one facet of the cybersecurity arms race.

Cynthia Murrell, January 30, 2017

IBM Watson: Inventing a Distilled Rum

January 29, 2017

I think this write up has some drops of truth in it. I wanted to check with a former MADD volunteer, but the email address wobbled and then fell against a light pole. The title was arresting: “IBM Watson Bottles ‘Holiday Spirit’ with New RUM Created Using Artificial Intelligence.” The source? The “real” news outfit the UK Mirror.

The write up explained that Watson allegedly “produces beverage based on social media posts.” I learned:

“Holiday Spirit” is claimed to be the world’s very first data-distilled rum and was created using IBM Watson. The supercomputer analyzed data from social media posts in order to produce a bespoke rum “that tastes like a holiday”. “In just six hours Watson was able to read 15 million posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter relating to holidays – and find the predominant emotions and concepts in those posts,” explained Joe Harrods, big data analyst and AI expert, who works closely with Watson.

The idea was that Watson guzzled 5,000 rum reviews. Then Watson demonstrated that it was in control of its faculties by “matching emotions from the reviews with ingredients.” Finally Walked a straight line to a master blender who concocted liquor, hooch, booze, or nectar that

has a subtle vanilla flavor, medium sweetness, hints of coconut and is naturally caressed with cinnamon and allspice.

So what? Here’s the results of the breathalyzer test:

“There’s no reason that this ‘taste sensation’ couldn’t be recreated for all kinds of experiences and emotions. We’ve already seen robot bartenders that can mix custom cocktails for every different punter based on their personality…

I am delighted that I have never had a drink of alcohol. I wonder if the same might be said of Watson or possibly the marketer who blended this knock out punch for artificial intelligence. What was that question? Oh, right. I remember: “Watson, when will you generate enough money to make IBM stakeholders happy.”

After 10 consecutive quarters of declining revenue, Holiday Spirit may be in short supply.

Stephen E Arnold, January 29, 2017

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