The Future Is Search. Hmmm

December 17, 2017

I read an unusual chunk of content marketing. Navigate to “In the Rush to Big Data, We Forgot about Search.” Who’s the “we”? I think the “we” are customers who are migrating next generation information access systems. Lawyers have relativity. Manufacturers have SAP and Dassault solutions. Folks without much faith in commercial search vendors have Elasticsearch or low-cost systems which deliver a list of results which match a query. The “we”, therefore, seems to refer to the Lucid Imagination outfit now doing business as Lucidworks.

The write up explains that “we need to look at search to be the glue that lets us find the data and analyze it together no matter where it lives.”

That sounds super.

I think there are companies delivering this type of service as they have been for a number of years.

The reason is that vendors who are anchored in search and retrieval like Lucidworks have been bypassed.

In Dark Cyber I write about a stealthy outfit called Blackdot. The company complements the Relativity eDiscovery platform. Sure, there’s a search function, but Relativity does analytics, clustering, and functions which fit the needs of those engaged in eDiscovery. Search is part of the game, which for big cases, involves big data.

Blackdot enhances Relativity. You can learn about some of the functions of this company in the December 26, 2017, Dark Cyber video program.

So what?

The so what is that the services provided by Relativity and Blackspot deliver high value outputs that provide outputs which are immediately useful to analysts, investigators, lawyers, and others who use the integrated systems to solve problems.

A company which wants to deliver this type of service is likely wade into high water and thrash for purchase. The reason is that building a solution from open source tools and home brew scripts is a tough job.

Specialists have been using open source and proprietary code to roll out information access solutions. Relativity is just one example. By the way, Relativity has been plugging away for more than a decade.

A column which makes a case for a customer to let a vendor of open source search build from ground zero a next generation information access solution is going to be a vendor with a smile. However, once the solution fails to meet expectations, those smiles will turn to frowns.

Maybe that’s why Lucidworks has burned through one original founder, several presidents, and $59 million?

Search is a utility. It is not a headliner. Search works when it complements higher value functionality such as those delivered by Relativity and Blackdot or any of the other firms we track for our CyberOSINT research.

Search had its fling, but the glory days faded. When we look at the landscape of enterprise search or Big Data for that matter, we see winners. From our vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, the company leading the much smaller search parade is Elastic. Yep, it’s Lucene, but it has a following.

Guess who one of the followers is. Give up. Lucidworks. The technology is based on Lucene.

Selling consulting services is one thing. Selling search is another.

Today’s forward looking companies want next generation access, and they can get it from dozens of vendors. No starting from scratch. Sign a deal and begin processing data (big or small).

I highlighted this statement from the write up:

So if you move some of your data to SaaS solutions, move some of your data to PaaS solutions, move some of your data to IaaS solutions and across multiple vendors’ cloud platforms while maintaining some of your data behind the firewall—yeah, no one is going to find anything!

Sure. Solve problems. Don’t create them. One can search for solutions using a search engine. Let me know how that works out for your next big decision which you have to make in 10 seconds or less.

Stephen E Arnold, December 17, 2017

Quick Question: Why Not Loon Balloons, Google?

December 16, 2017

I read “Google Is Using Light Beam Tech to Connect Rural India to the Internet.” I understand. But the question just hangs there like a hot air balloon on a still day:

Why not use the vaunted Loon balloons?

I have an idea or two. What do you think about cost, complexity, and the weather? Yep, weather. As in weather balloons.

Does this pop the loon balloon big idea or just shine light on a loon balloon?

Stephen E Arnold, December 16, 2017

AI in China: Insiders and Outsiders

December 15, 2017

Google is trying to scramble in China’s artificial intelligence market. Several years ago, Google wanted China to “change.” Now it looks as if Google has figured out that it has to conform in order to catch up with other outfits in the Middle Kingdom.

Case in point: Navigate to “Li Ka-Shing Bets on Hong Kong AI Start-Up to Parse Chinese Call Centre Industry’s Tower of Babel.” Mr. Ka-Shing is an important figure and rumor has it that he is associated with some powerful government figures in China. He also has money, telecommunications, shipping, and other interests to help him pay his bills.

The funding of Fano Labs via Horizon Ventures is important in my opinion. For outfits like Google, the best and brightest of the Chinese AI experts may find their future in companies similar to those Mr. Ka-Shing finds “interesting.”

Outsiders? Nope, insiders. The difference is important when it comes to big deals in China in my experience.

Stephen E Arnold, December 14, 2017

Marketing Craziness Will Dominate in 2018

December 15, 2017

It’s official. The new year will herald more marketing craziness than even I expected. The proof, if one can call a survey of people who want to be really rich while keeping Sillycon Valley in high clover, a source of unbiased information appears in “State of Startups.”

I learned:

In 2015 and 2016, engineering leaders were far and away the hardest executive hires to make. But this year, the tables turned, and sales leaders became the most coveted and difficult hires (with 26% saying sales was the hardest vs. 24% saying engineering). This looks like the start of a sea change as more enterprise companies enter the fray, compete for talent, and see firsthand how costly a bad VP of Sales hire can be.

The “report” outlines other issues of importance. For me, the shift from gee whiz technology to selling products and services is the signal for the revenue horse race to begin.

Marketing by jargon, demo fluff, and mindless automated communications are likely to be in contention. But the smart money is on the consummate sales person who can close deals and generate revenue. Horse owners want a payoff because digital currency seems to be a new game for those with a desire to bet on a big winner.

They are off and running.

Stephen E Arnold, December 15, 2017

Pinterest Searches Now Powered by Dollars

December 15, 2017

Oh, Pinterest why did it take you so long?  Search Engine Watch shares the long awaited and non-surprising news that: “Pinterest Moves Into Paid Search: What You Need To Know.”  If you have a craft, design, decoration, wedding, book, dog, clothing, etc. business, then Pinterest Ads Manager is now open for business and ready to host your ads.  Pinterest hopes that its new ad platform will deliver a competitive advertising experience similar to Google AdWords.

This announcement comes at the end of a lengthy campaign to get the product right, with early partners including eBay, Target, and bid management platform Kenshoo. The newly released self-serve paid search platform provides the same experience these early partners have enjoyed, without the need to go through Pinterest or a third party to get started. The Ads Manager allows brands to create and optimize their promoted Pins and will also track and report on campaign performance.

Pinterest has long desired to monetize its search and the image-driven social platform is perfect to suggest products and services to consumers.  Monetizing search has its own unique challenges, but they are practically the same ones Facebook had when they launched their own ad platform.  Pinterest used its statistics to lure potential advertisers:

          97% of Pinterest searches are non-branded

There are now over 200 million Pinterest users (up from 150

million in 2016)

More than 2 billion searches take place on Pinterest each                    month

75% of all Pins saved by users come from businesses.

Pinterest heavily borrowed search ideas from other social networks, such as the keyword targeting.  However, Pinterest wants to be seen as a separate and highlight its unique features as different Google’s AdWords.  It is another market to target users and get attention to products.  It is brand new and exactly the same!

Whitney Grace, December 15, 2017

Online Privacy Just Got a Lot Less Private

December 15, 2017

Forget for a moment political hacks from other countries and think about yourself. We are far more vulnerable online than you might think. A scary new report was discovered in a University of Washington News story, “For $1,000 Anyone Can Purchase Online Ads to Track Your Location and App Use.”

According to the story:

The researchers discovered that an individual ad purchaser can, under certain circumstances, see when a person visits a predetermined sensitive location — a suspected rendezvous spot for an affair, the office of a company that a venture capitalist might be interested in or a hospital where someone might be receiving treatment — within 10 minutes of that person’s arrival. They were also able to track a person’s movements across the city during a morning commute by serving location-based ads to the target’s phone.


Importantly, the target does not have to click on or engage with the ad — the purchaser can see where ads are being served and use that information to track the target through space. In the team’s experiments, they were able to pinpoint a person’s location within about 8 meters.

The scariest part of this story is that, while there are many techniques for hiding your online browsing and consumption, there is not much you can do from being spied on by software like this. However, the ebb and flow of the internet tell us that as soon as this becomes a public concern some programmer with dollar signs in their eyes will invent a solution. We just hope it’s not too late by then.

Patrick Roland, December 15, 2017

SIXGILL: Dark Web Intelligence with Sharp Teeth

December 14, 2017

“Sixgill” refers to the breathing apparatus of a shark. Deep. Silent. Stealthy. SIXGILL offers software and services which function like “your eyes in the Dark Web.”

Based in Netanya, just north of Tel Aviv, SIXGILL offers services for its cyber intelligence platform for the Dark Web. What sets the firm apart is its understanding of social networks and their mechanisms for operation.*

The company’s primary product is called “Dark-i.” The firm’s Web site states that the firm’s system can:

  • Track and discover communication nodes across darknets with the capability to trace malicious activity back to their original sources
  • Track criminal activity throughout the cyber crime lifecycle
  • Operate in a covert manner including the ability to pinpoint and track illegal hideouts
  • Support clients with automated and intelligence methods.

The Dark-i system is impressive. In a walk through of the firm’s capabilities, I noted these specific features of the Dark-i system:

  • Easy-to-understand reports, including summaries of alleged bad actors behaviors with time stamp data
  • Automated “profiles” of Dark Web malicious actors
  • The social networks of the alleged bad actors
  • The behavior patterns in accessing the Dark Web and the Dark Web sites the individuals visit.
  • Access to the information on Dark Web forums.

Details about the innovations the company uses are very difficult to obtain. Based on open source information, a typical interface for SIXGILL looks like this:

Related image

Based on my reading of the information in the screenshot, it appears that this SIXGILL display provides the following information:

  • The results of a query
  • Items in the result set on a time line
  • One-click filtering based on categories taken from the the sources and from tags generated by the system, threat actors, and Dark Web sources
  • A list of forum posts with the “creator” identified along with the source site and the date of the post.

Compared with reports about Dark Web activity from other vendors providing Dark Web analytic, monitoring, and search services, the Dark Web Notebook team pegs s SIXGILL in the top tier of services.

Read more

Jaywing: Can the Company Outperform Tracer?

December 14, 2017

I am a person who gathers odd items of information. Not long ago, I learned about Thomson Reuters’ Tracer smart system for risk prediction assessment and other helpful services for those hungry for a data edge.

The idea is that wonks at Thomson Reuters figured out how to make sense of content in order to “predict” whether an investment poses a risk or a big trend will be, well, big.

From my point of view, a large outfit like Thomson Reuters suffers from size, management incentive programs which focus on specific financial goals, and technology lag. The term “technology lag” means that by the time a giant outfit decides a technology is important and useful, the technology is likely to be an old hat, a fedora from the 1950s perhaps?

I read about Jaywing, which is not a particularly easy thing to do. If you navigate to the Jaywing Web site, there are pictures and jargon which can be tough to decipher. For instance, the company is involved with “data science.” The company wants to delivery “strategy.” The company is “creative.” These are useful words, but I am not sure I can define them. I know that when Jaywing says, “Data science” and then explains it with by saying “It’s in our blood”, I think I understand, but I don’t really.

I did note an article in Global Banking and Finance which helps to explain what the company purports to do. “Jaywing Launches new AI Risk Technology Product Archetype.” I highlighted several statements about the interesting “AI risk technology” service; to wit:

Archetype uses deep neural networks, an advanced predictive modeling methodology and an intuitive user interface to create models that will radically improve the interpretability and predictability of the AI-driven scoring process.

Yep, easy model tweaking. When applied to fraud detection, Archetype works wonders.

I also noted this statement from the managing director of the firm:

Initial comparative tests of Archetype against an already strong fraud model have shown an uplift in the order of 10 points.

If I understand the statement, if a competitive product from one of the FinTech vendors delivers 85 percent accuracy, Jaywing pumps out an an interesting 95 percent accuracy. Now, if true, that is significantly better than outfits like Google can deliver. Most smart software chugs along with 80 to 85 percent accuracy. Quite a significant leap that 10 points makes. I can’t verify this performance, but it suggests that Jaywing knows how to catch one’s attention and financial fraudsters.

I circled this statement from Jaywing’s CEO (Rob Shaw) too:

We have now brought new algorithmic and expert knowledge on machine learning and AI to further optimize risk management, regulations and operational control while freeing resource to focus on other value-adding tasks.

Those blue chip, McKinsey like consultants may find themselves losing engagements to Jaywing if these assertions are on the money.

The big question is, “Is Jaywing able to deliver a significant boost in accuracy?”

Worth watching. I assume Thomson Reuters, among others in the smart software for risk analysis game, will be paying attention to the UK company. If the existing vendors can’t match Jaywing, I am 85 percent confident their marketing departments can deliver when explaining the benefits of their systems.

Jaywing’s intelligence unit states,

“We free marketers to think, not do.”

Competitors may want to note that Jaywing operates Epiphany and Bloom, two marketing companies. One of these firms asserts, “The marketing agency where artificial intelligence meets human creativity.”

When pitching high accuracy smart software outputs, marketing is important. Who wouldn’t like predictions that are 95 percent accurate?

Stephen E Arnold, December 14, 2017

Bye-Bye Silicon Valley Monopoly

December 14, 2017

Silicon Valley is a technology epicenter and used to be synonymous with modern innovation, but that is no longer the case.  CNBC reports that, “Billionaire Investor Peter Thiel: Silicon Valley’s Monopoly On Big Growth Tech Companies Is Over.”   Peter Thiel is a famous Silicon Valley investor.  He helped launch PayPal, was an early investor in Facebook and Airbnb, and he also launched Palantir Technologies.  As one of the top Silicon Valley insiders, he said that:

‘I have been investing in the technology space — entrepreneur and investor over the past 20 years in Silicon Valley — and within the area of IT, it has for the last 10, 15 years in the US and the world been extremely centered on Silicon Valley,’ Thiel says, speaking at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Thursday.  ‘I think there are a lot of reasons for that, but the question is, ‘Where is the growth going to happen the next 10 years?’ And what I would tend to think is that it will be more diversified from just Silicon Valley.’

Thiel continued that technology startups can be built anywhere, you just need the right people, money, and the right governance structures.  He was surprised that so many technology businesses popped up in Silicon Valley, but that happened because of the number of mentors and entrepreneurship concentrated in one area.  Innovators went where the action was happening.  It is similar to how actors go to Hollywood and writers head to New York City.

Thanks to Silicon Valley, technology has changed the world, so the next venture company can be located anywhere.  Take a guess about where the next big technology might be or if it will be spread out along the grid.

Whitney Grace, December 14, 2017

Machine Learning Becomes Major Battle Ground

December 14, 2017

It has been known for a while that machine learning is the next great platform for tech visionaries to master. While this ground level opportunity gives many a chance to make a mark, the big names in tech are catching up quick. We got a hint about this competition from the recent Recorded Future press release, “Recorded Future Expands Automated Threat Intelligence Solution With Analyst-Originated Intelligence.”

According to the story:

By adding current and finished threat intelligence to the broadest compilation of machine learning and natural language processing generated intelligence, only Recorded Future can provide organizations with the relevant expert insights and analysis they need for operational improvements and targeted risk reduction.


This new analyst-originated information provides customers with access to new insight as well as additional third-party intelligence research on threat actors, vulnerabilities, malware, and other indicators of compromise (IOCs). It is available in multiple formats to suit the diverse needs of customers.

Recorded Future has a bright future, no doubt about it. But we’d be leery of putting all our money on this horse. At this very moment, Amazon is gearing up to get a serious foothold in the world of machine learning. Seeing the merchandising giant getting into this arena is a terrifying threat to any startup. Be on the lookout.

Patrick Roland, December 14, 2017

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