Google Now Searches the Digital Shelves of a Library

October 27, 2017

Google can search the Internet in mere seconds and locate nearly every single bit of information on the planet.  Except for ebooks you can rent for free from your local library…oh wait!  According to the Digital Reader, that is now possible-read the news in the article, “Google Added Local Library eBook Listings To Search Results.”

Google has undertaken the challenge to add library catalogs to its search results, at least the digital collection holdings.  Can you imagine visiting Google to search your library’s catalog?  It will now be a thing, so go ahead and search your local library holdings through Google.

Google, however, cannot access all of a public library’s holdings, the physical items are left out.  There are also some bugs in the new feature, such as an item’s availability status:

I did run into some inconsistency with this new feature. While some books would bring up the Borrow ebook card without any problem, other titles just wouldn’t trigger it. While Cixin Liu’s “Three-Body Problem” had the extra field in results, searches for N. K. Jemisin’s recent Hugo Award winner “The Obelisk Gate” didn’t trigger the same behavior.

I first thought it might have to do with availability, but the card appeared for titles with universally long waiting lists, too. Behavior was the same for search on both desktop and mobile, and I’m at a loss to explain why.

It is not perfect, but this is an excellent way for Google to connect people not only with a library’s digital collection but the physical collection as well.  Searching a library’s catalog on their website, however, still remains the best way to locate the material.

Whitney Grace, October 27, 2017

Instagram Milestone: 800 Million Monthly Active Users

October 27, 2017

If there were any doubts that Facebook’s 2012 purchase of Instagram was a good idea, this should put them to rest—SiliconBeat reports, “Facebook-Owned Instagram Reaches 800 Million Monthly Active Users.” Reporter Queenie Wong writes:

The photo-sharing app reached 800 million monthly active users, Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, announced at an advertising event in New York Monday. That’s an uptick of 100 million monthly users since April. Instagram also grew its daily active users to 500 million and reached 2 million advertisers. Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock in 2012. So far, the social media giant’s purchase appears to be paying off. Analysts have noted before that Instagram was a good investment for Facebook because it gave the company an app that was popular among teens.

Wong concludes by reminding us that Instagram has recently been competing with Snapchat with its own version of temporary posts, Stories. In fact, Facebook just announced the ability to cross-post Stories between the two platforms.

Cynthia Murrell, October 27, 2017

Amazon on the Bezos Hot Seat?

October 26, 2017

I read “Amazon Key Is Silicon Valley at Its Most Out of Touch.” The article appeared in a newspaper which I believe is owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Independent journalism is alive and well in Washington, DC. The angle for the story is that one can buy an Amazon product which only an Amazon “delivery person” can open. Even better the gizmo will make a video. The goal is to eliminate the Amazon boxes piled outside of doors. I have heard that in some neighborhoods, people help themselves to these Amazon boxes with the smiling arrow logo. I noted this passage from the write up which seems to be a Bezos supported criticism of Bezos’ latest and greatest idea:

Amazon wants to let strangers into your house and train a surveillance camera on your front door. Oh, and they’d like you to pay them $250 for the privilege.

I also highlighted this passage:

Yes, I do value convenient deliveries, but I value my security more — better to strategize around postal schedules than be assaulted by a person hiding in one’s home! And while I dislike rained-upon packages, I prioritize privacy enough that I’m loath to install a corporate-controlled surveillance apparatus inside my house.

Independence is good. What if the company requires the Amazon Key? I suppose there are other newspapers eager to hire independent thinkers who criticize the do no wrong Amazon thing. No one in Washington gets fired for rowing the canoe against the Potomac currents.

Stephen E Arnold, October 26, 2017

Queries Change Ranking Factors

October 26, 2017

Did you ever wonder how Google determines which Web pages to send to the top of search results?  According to the Search Engine Journal, how Google decides on page rankings depends on the query results-see more in the article: “Google: Top Ranking Factors Change Depending On Query.”  The article contains screenshots of a Twitter conversation between people at Google as they discuss search rankings.

Gary Illyes explains that there are not three ranking factors that apply to all search results.  John Mueller joined the conversation and said that Google’s algorithm’s job is to display the relevant content, but other factors vary.  Mueller also adds that trying to optimize content for ranking factors in simply short-term thinking.  Illyes mentioned that links (backlinking presumably) is not much of a factor either.

In summary:

That’s why it’s important for Google’s algorithms to be able to adjust and recalculate for different ranking signals.

Ranking content based on the same 3 ranking signals at all times would result in Google not always delivering the most ‘relevant’ content to users.

As John Mueller says, at the end of the day that’s what Google search is trying to accomplish.

There is not a magic formula to appear at the top of Google search results.  Content is still key as is paid results too.

Whitney Grace, October 26, 2017

Bing out, Google in for Siri and Spotlight

October 26, 2017

Was it only a matter of time? Softpedia News reports, “Apple Replaces Microsoft’s Bing with Google for Siri and Spotlight on iOS, macOS.” The company explains the change will make the user experience within these services more consistent with Safari, the browser used by iOS and macOS. Writer Marius Nestor reports:

As of today, Apple chooses to use Google instead of Microsoft’s Bing for web search results on Siri for iOS and macOS, as well as on the Spotlight feature of macOS Sierra or High Sierra and iOS’ built-in search functionality. In a statement given to TechCrunch this morning, Apple confirms the switch from Bing to Google for web search results provided by either Siri or Spotlight on both iOS and macOS operating systems, claiming that the drastic change has to do with consistency across all of its supported Mac and iOS devices, but we know that Google paid Apple $3 billion to remain default search engine on iOS and macOS.

Though Bing diehards can re-enable that search engine within the Safari browser, but not for Siri or Spotlight. Apple emphasizes they maintain “strong relationships” with both Google and Microsoft.

Cynthia Murrell, October 26, 2017

Speech Recognition: Another Work in Progress

October 25, 2017

Smart software has arrived, or has it? I read “Speech Recognition Is Not Solved.” The hypesters pitching software that teaches itself and other artificial intelligence innovations have created a perception that slam dunks for smart software are more common than in an NBA All Star game.

I noted this statement in the article about machine learning:

Saying we’ve achieved human-level in conversational speech recognition based just on Switchboard results is like saying an autonomous car drives as well as a human after testing it in one town on a sunny day without traffic.

For a summary of a few of the hurdles which trip the bro smart software athletes, check out the original article. Two warrant special attention:



My hunch is that these will remain a challenge for many firms or until the marketers change their buzzwords.

Stephen E Arnold, October 25, 2017

Google and Android Are Fragmented

October 25, 2017

Google and Android are usually linked in arm and arm proving that the latter is the superior phone.  There might be problems, however, with Google’s newest augmented reality program ARCore.  The news comes from Venture Beat’s story, “Android’s Fragmentation Will Give Google’s ARCore Problems.”  Google released the ARCore to compete with Apple’s ARKit, but problems occur with fragmentation.

One of the reasons is that there are 24,000 smartphones that use the Android OS.  This would not be an issue, except all of these devices use one of seven different versions of the Android software.  It is difficult, nay, impossible for all of the smartphone developers to agree on a set of standards.  Apple has the benefit of being a singular company without that issue.

The ARCore will only run on high end smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Pixel, that do not have the fragmentation problem.  Google also does not have a happy developer community, because they are forced to make multiple copies of the same app for the different Android versions.

Ultimately, if you don’t have happy developers, you won’t have great content, which means you won’t have users. Just look at Microsoft’s Windows Smartphone: it failed to attract developers to build its mobile ecosystem, which former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer blamed for the demise of the company’s smartphone unit.

Android has fragmentation issues with the ARCore as well as a fragmented developer community.  Things could and probably will change in who dominates the phone market, but for now, Apple remains on top.

Whitney Grace, October 25, 2017

Free Language Learning Resources That Are Not Duolingo

October 25, 2017

For those who wish to learn a foreign language, the fun and engaging Duolingo has become a go-to free resource, offering courses in more than 20 languages. However, it is not the only game in town; MakeUseOf  gives us a rundown of “The Best (Completely Free) Language Learning Alternatives to Duolingo.” Writer Briallyn Smith tells us:

One of the reasons some people are looking to move away from Duolingo is the recent introduction of in-app purchases. While the core functions of Duolingo are still free, the purchase options can give learners a boost when playing games — much like the bonuses and extra lives you can purchase on Bejewelled or other addictive gaming apps. Learners may become frustrated when they are prevented from working on a specific language skill or accomplishment because they ran out of ‘hearts’ or need to purchase ‘gems’ to continue. Other in-app purchases allow users to remove ads from their learning experience and to download offline content.

While there’s nothing wrong with Duolingo charging fees for its services, it can be frustrating for those looking for a truly free resource. Other language learners simply do not enjoy learning through games. This is especially true for those who require industry-specific vocabulary or who already have a background in the language. Thankfully, there are many other online resources available for language learners. While you won’t get the same kind of program as Duolingo for free, you can easily use these resources to put together a language learning strategy that works well for you.

Before getting to her list, Smith takes a moment to advocate for paid language-learning services, like Babbel. Basically, if you are serious about your language studies and can afford it, they are worth the investment.

The resource list begins with a compound entry, Online Communities; included here are Fluent in 3 Months/r/LanguageLearning, and The Polyglot Club. Then there are Rhino Spike, Mango Languages, the Yojik Website, and, of course, YouTube (with a list of 10 suggested channels). Furthermore,  Smith supplies a link to OpenCulture for more even options. See the article for more about each of these entries.

Cynthia Murrell, October 25, 2017

Google and Its AI Crusade

October 24, 2017

The next big thing is, according to Google is that artificial intelligence “is just really difficult to do. Very few people can do it.”

How does one make more smart people? The answer is to create a “crash course” in artificial intelligence.

According to “Google Wants to Train Other Companies to Use Its AI Tools,”

Google will offer 15 hours of coding lessons and instructional videos from some marquee names in the field, like research director Peter Norvig. Google has tested the course with some universities, but hopes to train staff at large corporations in health, finance and other sectors.

Anyone remember how old fashioned classes used to work. The teacher would give a test and only a few people got top marks. None of that gold badge which said, “Also Participated.”

How many effective machine learning programmers will emerge from the Google program. Even Malcolm Gladwell pegs expertise at 10,000 hours. So with 15 hours of instruction, that’s only a few hours short for mastery.

But what if “Tensorflow Sucks” is spot on? The blog post states:

Take the React Javascript library as an example, the standard choice today for interactive web applications. In React, the complexity of how data flows through the application makes sense to be hidden from the developer, since Javascript execution is generally orders of magnitudes faster than updates to the DOM. React developers don’t want to worry about the mechanics of how state is propagated, so long as the end user experience is “good enough”.

Note the “good enough.” Cupcakes on maps. Pixel phone displays which are drab. The Google assertion about the end of lousy”poorly designed or poorly maintained deep learning frameworks.

Google wants to do better. With costs soaring for traffic, the Google needs a really big winner. Education it is. Just like the “free” Lexis and Westlaw for law students. Focus on the commercial solution because it is just, well, so much better than any other way to find what one needs quickly.

Instant AI and machine learning expertise sounds like a big PR program to get Google’s approach adopted in order to benefit the Google? Of course not, gentle reader.

Only if you Google them.

Stephen E Arnold, October 24, 2017

You Cannot Patent Public Domain Property

October 24, 2017

Oh, Google!  Is there no end to the amount of mischief you will cause to make a dollar?  Bleeping Computer reports that, “Google Is Accused Of Trying To Patent Public Domain Technology” and that is not right.  A Polish assistant professor named Jaroslaw Duda invented a technology called Asymmetric Numeral Systems.  He said he released it to the public domain so it would not be trapped in restrictive licenses.

Duda’s Asymmetric Numeral Systems (ANS) is a powerful family of entropy coding methods that is used in data compression systems.  These include Apple’s LZFSE compressor, Facebook’s standard compressor, and Google’s Draco 3D compressor.  Technology companies love ANS, because it has faster compression and decompression speeds with minimal data loss and computational costs.

Duda has a sarcastic response to Google trying to patent his technology, saying it was a nice “thank you” from a “don’t be evil” company.  He is also bringing a very strong case against Google and also strong supporters:

The International Search Authority [ISA], a WIPO department tasked with searching prior patents, has already sided with Duda on the topic and published a scathing review, calling Google’s patent as not comprising ‘an inventive contribution over the prior art, because it is no more than a straightforward application of known coding algorithms.

Writing on online forums, Duda said he had high hopes when he first reached out to Google.

There was a moment they gave me hope for a formal collaboration with my University so I could build a team, but then silence … probably due to this patent application,” the researcher wrote. ‘[Right now,] Google is not responding, probably currently rewriting the patent – showing its determination to reach this monopoly..’

Google might have deep pockets and powerful lawyers, but Duda released ANS as public domain technology in 2014.  Good luck trying to overcome that, Google!  Not really.

Whitney Grace, October 24, 2017

« Previous PageNext Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta