HonkinNews for 21 February Now Available

February 21, 2017

Hang onto your lightweight mobile. HonkinNews lets you watch recall, precision, and relevance being kicked to pieces by a real live SEO expert and famed author. We love that “famed” thing. You will also get a peek at how to visualize innovation. Inside the box and outside the box look tame compared to our view of the real world. We give you a tip for searching for an image in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 350,000 digital collection. You may not like the answer. We did not. If you have a mainframe in your home office, you can load Watson and let it index your significant other’s recipes, or you can process a local bank’s overnight cash transactions. Either way, IBM gives you some Watson juice. And you will get a bit of information about Yahoo’s most recent security issue. Yep, yabba dabba hoot.

Kenny Toth, February 21, 2017

IBM Watson: Mixed Signals from the Real World and IBM Marketers

February 21, 2017

I read a write up which might be fake news for all I know. I live in rural Kentucky and the doings of folks in a big city like Houston are mysterious and far away. Out local doctor squeezes in humans after dealing with race horses and dogs.

I read in Forbes, the capitalist tool, this story: “MD Anderson Benches IBM Watson In Setback For Artificial Intelligence In Medicine.”

The main idea is easy to grasp, even for folks like me sitting near the wood stove in Harrod’s Creek. As I understand it, IBM Watson was supposed to be helping the doctors at the número uno cancer treatment center in their quest to eradicate cancer. I assume the idea was to make more time available to physicians and other health care givers because IBM Watson would have had answers about patient treatment. IBM Watson knew the Jeopardy answers, right. Dealing with cancer-related questions seems to me to be easier: More narrow domain, more consistent terminology, smart people, etc etc.

The possibly fake news write up says:

The partnership between IBM and one of the world’s top cancer research institutions is falling apart. The project is on hold, MD Anderson confirms, and has been since late last year. MD Anderson is actively requesting bids from other contractors who might replace IBM in future efforts. And a scathing report from auditors at the University of Texas says the project cost MD Anderson more than $62 million and yet did not meet its goals.

But there is good news, or at least face saving news. I like this statement in the capitalist tool:

The report, however, states: “Results stated herein should not be interpreted as an opinion on the scientific basis or functional capabilities of the system in its current state.”

The door is not locked. Perhaps IBM Watson will once again be allowed to dine in the MD Anderson cafeteria and spark the pixels on the MD Anderson computing devices. Every smart software cloud may have a silver lining. Right?

But the project seems to be on “hold.” If the news is fake, then the project is full steam ahead, but I think the truth is closer to something like this: The users found the system like other smart software. Sort of helpful sometimes. At other times, the smart software was adding work, time, and frustration to an already high pressure, high stakes environment.

The capitalist tool ventures this observation:

The disclosure comes at an uncomfortable moment for IBM. Tomorrow, the company’s chief executive, Ginni Rometty, will make a presentation to a giant health information technology conference detailing the progress Watson has made in health care, and announcing the launch of new products for managing medical images and making sure hospitals deliver value for the money, as well as new partnerships with healthcare systems. The end of the MD Anderson collaboration looks bad.

I have zero idea what giant conference is held “tomorrow.” But I did notice this write up, which may be a coincidence: “IBM Sees Watson As a Primary Care Provider’s Assistant.” This seems similar to what IBM Watson was going to do at the MD Anderson cancer center. The write up asserts:

IBM is prepping Watson to work alongside primary care physicians and streamline processes. The company also added features to its Watson-based health cloud services.

The IBM Watson system has been enhanced too. The write up reports:

That Watson-primary care provider connection is being rolled out in Central New York in a six-county region and more than 2,000 providers. Meanwhile, Atrius Health, based in Massachusetts, will embed IBM’s cognitive computing tools inside its electronic medical records workflow for primary care providers.

This sounds good. Perhaps this is the “real” IBM Watson news. Rapid adoption and new capabilities make IBM Watson a must have in the smart health care providers arsenal of disease fighting weapons.

But there is that MD Anderson situation.

What do I make of these apparently contradictory write ups, which I assume are fake news, of course?

  1. IBM Watson, like other end user smart software systems, is a disappointment in actual use. Humans have to learn how to use the system and then take time to figure out which of the outputs are the ones that are likely to be useful in a particular patient’s case. Instead of saving time, the smart software adds tasks to already stretched professionals.
  2. The marketing and sales pressure is great. As a result, the marketers’ explanations may not match up with the engineering realities of a search-based system. When the marketers have left the building, the users learn the reality. After normal bureaucratic jabbering, the users’ dissatisfaction become too much for administrators to deal with. Hasta la vista, Sr. Watson.
  3. IBM, like other outfits betting on smart software, continue to repeat the cycle of belief, hyperbolic marketing, and learning about the costs and problems the smart system triggers. So why did Fast Search & Transfer’s run to fame fall off a cliff? Why is Hewlett Packard annoyed with Autonomy Software? Why did Entopia fail? Why is Lexmark’s new owners trying to exit the search with smart software business? Answer: Hope does not make an end user facing smart system generate sustainable revenues.

Because this IBM Watson news is fake. Why worry? Smart software will lift IBM to heights not experienced since the mainframe was the go to solution to computing needs. If you have a z series, you can run IBM Watson on it. Now that’s something I wish I could experience. My hunch is that none of the docs at MD Anderson will buy a z series and load up Watson because it is so darned useful. Maybe that is the “real” reality?

How does IBM get this Watson thing under control and generating money and producing happy customers? Let’s ask Watson? On the other hand, I don’t think the outputs will be too helpful.

Stephen E Arnold, February 21, 2017

Google Search Versus Academic Library Search

February 21, 2017

Well, Dartmouth’s library search does a killer job on topics like employee compensation, regression analysis, and the intricacies of duacetylmorphine. Google does a better job with Lady Gaga, where to buy pizza in Toledo, and learning about Google services.

I know this because I read and believed “Google Search engine vs Dartmouth Library Search.” The write up is a clarion call to the way things were. I can hear echoes of free Dialog training, the blandishments of the LexisNexis and Westlaw sales professionals, and the explanations of silver, gold, titanium, platinum, and diamond versions of Ebsco’s databases.

The write up points out:

Dartmouth Library access to thousands of articles, journals, abstracts, papers and theses from Dartmouth College, the other Ivy leagues, the other top universities, even out of the United States. So, to answer to the question, what is the difference between Google and Dartmouth Library, I would say Google is more public and is open to everybody. But, it doesn’t give us all of the actual research papers and publications.

Lousy writing aside, research libraries offer more reliable and slightly less crazed information than one finds in the Google index.

What’s frightening me is that this type of comparison is necessary.

Stephen E Arnold, February 21, 2017

Google Shoots for Star Status in the Cloud Space

February 21, 2017

Competition continues in the realm of cloud technology. Amigo Bulls released an article, Can Google Cloud Really Catch Up With The Cloud Leaders?, that highlights how Google Cloud is behind Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. However, some recent wins for Google are also mentioned. One way Google is gaining steam is through new clients; they signed Spotify and even some of Apple’s iCloud services are moving to Google Cloud. The article summarizes the current state,

Alphabet Inc’s-C (NSDQ:GOOG) Google cloud has for a long time lived in relative obscurity. Google Cloud results do not even feature on the company’s quarterly earnings report the way AWS does for Amazon (NSDQ:AMZN) and Azure for Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT). This appears somewhat ironic considering that Google owns one of the largest computer and server networks on the planet to handle tasks such as Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail. Further, the Google Cloud Platform is actually cheaper than offerings by the two market leaders.

Enterprise accounts with legacy systems will likely go for Microsoft as a no-brainer given the familiarity factor and connectivity. Considering the enterprise sector will make up a large portion of cloud customers, Amazon is probably Google’s toughest competition. Spotify apparently moved to Google from Amazon because of the quality tools, including machine-learning, and excellence in customer service. We will continue following whether Google Cloud makes it as high in the sky as its peers.

Megan Feil, February 21, 2017

Gender Bias in Voice Recognition Software

February 21, 2017

A recent study seems to confirm what some have suspected: “Research Shows Gender Bias in Google’s Voice Recognition,” reports the Daily Dot. Not that this is anything new. Writer Selena Larson reminds us that voice recognition tech has a history of understanding men better than women, from a medical tracking system to voice-operated cars.  She cites a recent study by linguist researcher Rachael Tatman, who found that YouTube’s auto captions performed better on male voices than female ones by about 13 percent—no small discrepancy. (YouTube is owned by Google.)

Though no one is accusing the tech industry of purposely rendering female voices less effective, developers probably could have avoided this problem with some forethought. The article explains:

’Language varies in systematic ways depending on how you’re talking,’ Tatman said in an interview. Differences could be based on gender, dialect, and other geographic and physical attributes that factor into how our voices sound. To train speech recognition software, developers use large datasets, either recorded on their own, or provided by other linguistic researchers. And sometimes, these datasets don’t include diverse speakers.

Tatman recommends a purposeful and organized approach to remedying the situation. Larson continues:

Tatman said the best first step to address issues in voice tech bias would be to build training sets that are stratified. Equal numbers of genders, different races, socioeconomic statuses, and dialects should be included, she said.

Automated technology is developed by humans, so our human biases can seep into the software and tools we are creating to supposedly to make lives easier. But when systems fail to account for human bias, the results can be unfair and potentially harmful to groups underrepresented in the field in which these systems are built.

Indeed, that’s the way bias works most of the time—it is more often the result of neglect than of malice. To avoid it requires realizing there may be a problem in the first place, and working to avoid it from the outset. I wonder what other technologies could benefit from that understanding.

Cynthia Murrell, February 21, 2017

Be Like Cortana, Really Microsoftish

February 20, 2017

We noted “Microsoft Adds More AI Tools to Dev Cognitive Services Suite.” The battle for lock in continues. Facebook, Google, and others in the online oligopolistic club want to initiate members to their group. The best way, it seems, is to shower the developers with freebies. This is a variant of the Xalisco approach to drug distribution in the United States. Free stuff gets folks coming back for me. Well, that’s the theory.

The write up says:

Microsoft has released three artificial intelligence (AI) tools used in its Skype Translator, Bing search and Cortana speech recognition services to developers as part of a bundle of 25 tools in Microsoft Cognitive Services.

Yes, cognitive. That’s the IBM Watson word, isn’t it? The write up adds:

The collection of tools will enable developers to add features such as emotion and sentiment detection, vision and speech recognition, and language understanding to their applications, according to Microsoft, which claims that they will require “zero expertise in machine learning” to use.

How are these tools working? I would ask Tay, but I prefer a less biased type of Microsoft smart software. And Cortana? Isn’t that the intrusive thing in Windows 10. I can type, thank you.

But, hey, free is free. What’s the long term cost? Good question. Perhaps I can ask Bing? On the other hand, I could swing by H&R Block and ask Watson.

Stephen E Arnold, February 20, 2017

Pinterest Offers the Impulse Shopper a Slice of Wonderfulness

February 20, 2017

How about point-and-click impulse buying? Sound good? Pinterest has merged looking at pictures with spending money for stuff.

Navigate to “Pinterest’s New ‘Lens’ IDs Objects and Helps You Buy Them.” I know that I spend hours looking at pictures on Pinterest. When I see wedding snapshots and notice a pair of shoes to die for, I can buy them with a click… almost. My hunch is that some children may find Pinterest buying as easy as Alexa Echo and Dot buying.

I learned:

[Pinterest] announced a new feature called Lens, which will enable people to snap a picture of an item inside the Pinterest app. The app will then suggest objects it thinks are related. Think Shazam but for objects, not music. Surfacing the products will make it easier for people to take action, according to Pinterest. That could include everything from making a purchase to cooking a meal.

One of Pinterest’s wizards (Evan Sharp) allegedly said:

“Sometimes you spot something out in the world that looks interesting, but when you try to search for it online later, words fail you.” The new technology, Sharp said, “is capable of seeing the world the way you do.”

Isn’t the consumerization of no word search a life saver? Now I need a new gown to complement my size 11 triple E high heels. There’s a bourbon tasting in Harrod’s Creek next week, and I have to be a trend setter before we go squirrel hunting.

Stephen E Arnold, February 20, 2017

Upgraded Social Media Monitoring

February 20, 2017

Analytics are catching up to content. In a recent ZDNet article, Digimind partners with Ditto to add image recognition to social media monitoring, we are reminded images reign supreme on social media. Between Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram, messages are often conveyed through images as opposed to text. Capitalizing on this, and intelligence software company Digimind has announced a partnership with Ditto Labs to introduce image-recognition technology into their social media monitoring software called Digimind Social. We learned,

The Ditto integration lets brands identify the use of their logos across Twitter no matter the item or context. The detected images are then collected and processed on Digimind Social in the same way textual references, articles, or social media postings are analysed. Logos that are small, obscured, upside down, or in cluttered image montages are recognised. Object and scene recognition means that brands can position their products exactly where there customers are using them. Sentiment is measured by the amount of people in the image and counts how many of them are smiling. It even identifies objects such as bags, cars, car logos, or shoes.

It was only a matter of time before these types of features emerged in social media monitoring. For years now, images have been shown to increase engagement even on platforms that began focused more on text. Will we see more watermarked logos on images? More creative ways to visually identify brands? Both are likely and we will be watching to see what transpires.

Megan Feil, February 20, 2017


Kasperski Discovers Firmware-Level Spyware Linked to NSA

February 20, 2017

It looks like the NSA is hacking computers around the world by accessing hard-drive firmware, reports Sott in their article, “Russian Researchers Discover NSA Spying and Sabotage Software Hidden in Hard Drives.” We learn that Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab found the sneaky software lurking on hard drives in 30 countries, mostly at government institutions, telecom and energy companies, nuclear research facilities, media outlets, and Islamic activist organizations. Apparently, the vast majority of hard drive brands are vulnerable to the technique. Writer Joseph Menn reports:

According to Kaspersky, the spies made a technological breakthrough by figuring out how to lodge malicious software in the obscure code called firmware that launches every time a computer is turned on. Disk drive firmware is viewed by spies and cybersecurity experts as the second-most valuable real estate on a PC for a hacker, second only to the BIOS code invoked automatically as a computer boots up. ‘The hardware will be able to infect the computer over and over,’ lead Kaspersky researcher Costin Raiu said in an interview.

Though the leaders of the still-active espionage campaign could have taken control of thousands of PCs, giving them the ability to steal files or eavesdrop on anything they wanted, the spies were selective and only established full remote control over machines belonging to the most desirable foreign targets, according to Raiu. He said Kaspersky found only a few especially high-value computers with the hard-drive infections.

Kaspersky’s reconstructions of the spying programs show that they could work in disk drives sold by more than a dozen companies, comprising essentially the entire market. They include Western Digital Corp, Seagate Technology Plc, Toshiba Corp, IBM, Micron Technology Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.”

Kaspersky did not come right out and name the NSA as the source of the spyware, but did connect it to Stuxnet, a known NSA tool. We also learn that a “former NSA employee” confirmed Kaspersky’s analysis, stating these tools are as valuable as Stuxnet.

Menn notes that this news could increase existing resistance to Western technology overseas due to security concerns. Researcher Raiu specifies that whoever created the spyware must have had access to the proprietary source code for the drives’ firmware. While Western Digital, Seagate, and Micron deny knowledge, Toshiba, Samsung, and IBM remain mum on the subject. Navigate to the article to read more details, or to view the four-minute video (scroll down a bit for that.)

Cynthia Murrell, February 20, 2017

Watson to the Future: The Mainframe

February 19, 2017

Hey, you love mainframes. You may have some. IBMs own. Hitachi-style plug compatibles. Whatever.

Want to run some zip zip stuff on them? Now you can load Watson and get cognitive computing for your airline reservations, your government accounting, or your bank’s back office process which no one knows how to port to Goggle-style servers.

The light shined in my mind’s dark rooms when I read “IBM Brings Machine Learning To The Private Cloud.” Nestled into the article is this statement:

BM has extracted the core machine learning technology from IBM Watson and will initially make it available where much of the world’s enterprise data resides: the z System mainframe, the operational core of global organizations where billions of daily transactions are processed by banks, retailers, insurers, transportation firms and governments.

The write up makes some bold assertions; for example, “any” language, popular machine learning framework, transaction data type, and “without the cost, latency, or risk of moving data off premise.”

The write up provides a snapshot of where IBM thinks mainframes and Watson will generate revenues; specifically:

  • Retail
  • Financial services
  • Healthcare.

My thought is that each of these markets may want to reduce their dependence on mainframes and the challenges of cost control, staffing, and rapid application development “chains.”

If Watson were selling like hot cakes, why chase mainframes? Answer: More revenue. Customer demand, in my opinion, might be the wrong answer.

Stephen E Arnold, February 19, 2017

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