Bing Improvements

February 17, 2017

Online marketers are usually concerned with the latest Google algorithm, but Microsoft’s Bing is also a viable SEO target. Busines2Community shares recent upgrades to that Internet search engine in its write-up, “2016 New Bing Features.” The section on the mobile app seems to be the most relevant to those interested in Search developments. Writer Asaf Hartuv tells us:

For search, product and local results were improved significantly. Now when you search using the Bing app on an iPhone, you will get more local results with more information featured right on the page. You won’t have to click around to get what you want.

Similarly, when you search for a product you want to buy, you will get more options from more stores, such as eBay and Best Buy. You won’t have to go to as many websites to do the comparison shopping that is so important to making your purchase decision.

While these updates were made to the app, the image and video search results were also improved. You get far more options in a more user-friendly layout when you search for these visuals.

The Bing app also includes practical updates that go beyond search. For example, you can choose to follow a movie and get notified when it becomes available for streaming. Or you can find local bus routes or schedules based on the information you select on a map.

Hartuv also discusses upgrades to Bing Ads (a bargain compared to Google Ads, apparently), and the fact that Bing is now powering AOL’s search results (after being dropped by Yahoo). He also notes that, while not a new feature, Bing Trends is always presenting newly assembled, specialized content to enhance users’ understanding of current events. Hartuv concludes by prompting SEO pros to remember the value of Bing.

Cynthia Murrell, February 17, 2017

Enterprise Heads in the Sand on Data Loss Prevention

February 16, 2017

Enterprises could be doing so much more to protect themselves from cyber attacks, asserts Auriga Technical Manager James Parry in his piece, “The Dark Side: Mining the Dark Web for Cyber Intelligence” at Information Security Buzz. Parry informs us that most businesses fail to do even the bare minimum they should to protect against hackers. This minimum, as he sees it, includes monitoring social media and underground chat forums for chatter about their company. After all, hackers are not known for their modesty, and many do boast about their exploits in the relative open. Most companies just aren’t bothering to look that direction. Such an effort can also reveal those impersonating a business by co-opting its slogans and trademarks.

Companies who wish to go beyond the bare minimum will need to expand their monitoring to the dark web (and expand their data-processing capacity). From “shady” social media to black markets to hacker libraries, the dark web can reveal much about compromised data to those who know how to look. Parry writes:

Yet extrapolating this information into a meaningful form that can be used for threat intelligence is no mean feat. The complexity of accessing the dark web combined with the sheer amount of data involved, correlation of events, and interpretation of patterns is an enormous undertaking, particularly when you then consider that time is the determining factor here. Processing needs to be done fast and in real-time. Algorithms also need to be used which are able to identify and flag threats and vulnerabilities. Therefore, automated event collection and interrogation is required and for that you need the services of a Security Operations Centre (SOC).

The next generation SOC is able to perform this type of processing and detect patterns, from disparate data sources, real-time, historical data etc. These events can then be threat assessed and interpreted by security analysts to determine the level of risk posed to the enterprise. Forewarned, the enterprise can then align resources to reduce the impact of the attack. For instance, in the event of an emerging DoS attack, protection mechanisms can be switched from monitoring to mitigation mode and network capacity adjusted to weather the attack.

Note that Parry’s company, Auriga, supplies a variety of software and R&D services, including a Security Operations Center platform, so he might be a tad biased. Still, he has some good points. The article notes SOC insights can also be used to predict future attacks and to prioritize security spending. Typically, SOC users have been big businesses, but, Parry advocates, scalable and entry-level packages are making such tools available to smaller companies.

From monitoring mainstream social media to setting up an SOC to comb through dark web data, tools exist to combat hackers. The question, Parry observes, is whether companies will face the growing need to embrace those methods.

Cynthia Murrell, February 16, 2017

Google Battling Pirates More and More Each Year

February 10, 2017

So far, this has been a booming year for  DMCA takedown requests, we learn from TorrentFreak’s article, “Google Wipes Record Breaking Half Billion Pirate Links in 2016.” The number of wiped links has been growing rapidly over the last several years, but is that good or bad news for copyright holders? That depends on whom you ask. Writer Ernesto reveals the results of TorrentFreak’s most recent analysis:

Data analyzed by TorrentFreak reveals that Google recently received its 500 millionth takedown request of 2016. The counter currently [in mid-July] displays more than 523,000,000, which is yet another record. For comparison, last year it took almost the entire year to reach the same milestone. If the numbers continue to go up at the same rate throughout the year, Google will process a billion allegedly infringing links during the whole of 2016, a staggering number.

According to Google roughly 98% of the reported URLs are indeed removed. This means that half a billion links were stripped from search results this year alone. However, according to copyright holders, this is still not enough. Entertainment industry groups such as the RIAA, BPI and MPAA have pointed out repeatedly that many files simply reappear under new URLs.

Indeed; copyright holders continue to call for Google to take stronger measures. For its part, the company insists increased link removals is evidence that its process is working quite well. They issued out an update of their report, “How Google Fights Piracy.” The two sides remain deeply divided, and will likely be at odds for some time. Ernesto tells us some copyright holders are calling for the government to step in. That could be interesting.

Cynthia Murrell, February 10, 2017

Probability Algorithms: Boiling Prediction Down

February 6, 2017

I read “The Algorithms Behind Probabilistic Programming.” Making a somewhat less than familiar topic accessible is a good idea. If you want to get a sense for predictive analytics, why not read a blog post about Bayesian methods with a touch of Markov? The write up pitches a more in depth report about predictive analytics. “The Algorithms Behind…” write up makes it clear to peg prediction on a method which continues to confound some “real” consultants. I like the mentions of Monte Carlo methods and the aforementioned sporty Markov. I did not see a reference to LaPlace. Will you be well on your way to understanding predictive analytics after working through the article from Fast Forward Labs. No, but you will have some useful names to Google. When I read explanations of these methods, I like to reflect on Autonomy’s ground breaking products from the 1990s.

Stephen E Arnold, February 6, 2017

Smart Software Recipe Fiesta

February 2, 2017

I read “140 Machine Learning Formulas.” The listing hits the top 10 most popular algorithms and adds an additional 130. The summary of the formulas is at this link. A happy quack to Rubens Zimbres who compiled the list. A profile of Mr. Zimbres is available at this link. FYI. He’s looking for a new challenge.

Stephen E Arnold, February 2, 2017

Now Watson Wants to Be a Judge

December 27, 2016

IBM has deployed Watson in many fields, including the culinary arts, sports, and medicine.  The big data supercomputer can be used in any field or industry that creates a lot of data.  Watson, in turn, will digest the data, and depending on the algorithms spit out results.  Now IBM wants Watson to take on the daunting task of judging, says The Drum in “Can Watson Pick A Cannes Lion Winner?  IBM’s Cognitive System Tries Its Arm At Judging Awards.”

According to the article, judging is a cognitive process and requires special algorithms, not the mention the bias of certain judges.  In other words, it should be right up Watson’s alley (perhaps the results will be less subjective as well).  The Drum decided to put Watson to the ultimate creative test and fed Watson thousands of previous Cannes films.  Then Watson predicted who would win the Cannes Film Festival in the Outdoor category this year.

This could change the way contests are judged:

The Drum’s magazine editor Thomas O’Neill added: “This is an experiment that could massively disrupt the awards industry. We have the potential here of AI being able to identify an award winning ad from a loser before you’ve even bothered splashing out on the entry fee. We’re looking forward to seeing whether it proves as accurate in reality as it did in training.

I would really like to see this applied to the Academy Awards that are often criticized for their lack of diversity and consisting of older, white men.  It would be great to see if Watson would yield different results that what the Academy actually selects.

Whitney Grace, December 27, 2016

An Apologia for People. Big Data Are Just Peachy Keen

December 25, 2016

I read “Don’t Blame Big Data for Pollsters’ Failings.” The news about the polls predicting a victory for Hillary Clinton reached me in Harrod’s Creek five days after the election. Hey, Beyond Search is in rural Kentucky. It looks from the news reports and the New York Times’s odd letter about doing “real” journalism that the pundits predicted that the mare would win the US derby.

The write up explains that Big Data did not fail. The reason? The pollsters were not using Big Data. The sample sizes were about 1,000 people. Check your statistics book. In the back will be samples sizes for populations. If you have an older statistics book, you have to use the formula like


Big Data doesn’t fool around with formulas. Big Data just uses “big data.” Is the idea is that the bigger the data, the better the output?

The write up states that the problem was the sample itself: The actual humans.

The write up quotes a mid tier consultant from an outfit called Ovum which reminds me of eggs. I circled this statement:

“When you have data sets that are large enough, you can find signals for just about anything,” says Tony Baer, a big data analyst at Ovum. “So this places a premium on identifying the right data sets and asking the right questions, and relentlessly testing out your hypothesis with test cases extending to more or different data sets.”

The write up tosses in social media. Facebook takes the position that its information had minimal effect on the election. Nifty assertion that.

The solution is, as I understand the write up, to use a more real time system, different types of data, and math. The conclusion is:

With significant economic consequences attached to political outcomes, it is clear that those companies with sufficient depth of real-time behavioral data will likely increase in value.

My view is that hope and other distinctly human behaviors certainly threw an egg at reality. It is great to know that there is a fix and that Big Data emerge as the path forward. More work ahead for the consultants who often determine sample sizes by looking at Web sites like SurveySystem and get their sample from lists of contributors, a 20 something’s mobile phone contact list, or lists available from friends.

If you use Big Data, tap into real time streams of information, and do the social media mining—you will be able to predict the future. Sounds logical? Now about that next Kentucky Derby winner? Happy or unhappy holiday?

Stephen E Arnold, December 25, 2016

Big Data Needs to Go Public

December 16, 2016

Big Data touches every part of our lives and we are unaware.  Have you ever noticed when you listen to the news, read an article, or watch a YouTube video that people say items such as: “experts claim, “science says,” etc.”  In the past, these statements relied on less than trustworthy sources, but now they can use Big Data to back up their claims.  However, popular opinion and puff pieces still need to back up their big data with hard fact. says that transparency is a big deal for Big Data and algorithm designers need to work on it in the article, “More Accountability For Big-Data Algorithms.”

One of the hopes is that big data will be used to bridge the divide between one bias and another, except that he opposite can happen.  In other words, Big Data algorithms can be designed with a bias:

There are many sources of bias in algorithms. One is the hard-coding of rules and use of data sets that already reflect common societal spin. Put bias in and get bias out. Spurious or dubious correlations are another pitfall. A widely cited example is the way in which hiring algorithms can give a person with a longer commute time a negative score, because data suggest that long commutes correlate with high staff turnover.

Even worse is that people and organizations can design an algorithm to support science or facts they want to pass off as the truth.  There is a growing demand for “algorithm accountability,” mostly in academia.  The demands are that data sets fed into the algorithms are made public.  There also plans to make algorithms that monitor algorithms for bias.

Big Data is here to say, but relying too much on algorithms can distort the facts.  This is why the human element is still needed to distinguish between fact and fiction.  Minority Report is closer to being our present than ever before.

Whitney Grace, December 16, 2016

Googles Bid for AI Dominance

December 14, 2016

Google‘s dominance on our digital lives cannot be refuted. The tech giant envisages that the future of computing will be Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the search engine leader is all set to dominate it once again.

Arabian Business in a feature article titled Inside Google’s Brave New World, the author says:

The $500bn technology giant is extending its reach into hardware and artificial intelligence, ultimately aiming to create a sophisticated robot that can communicate with smart-device users to get things done.

The efforts can be seen in the form of company restructuring and focus on developing products and hardware that can host its sophisticated AI-powered algorithms. From wearable devices to in-home products like Google Home, the company is not writing powerful algorithms to answer user queries but is also building the hardware that will seamlessly integrate with the AI.

Though these advances might mean more revenue for the company and its shareholders, with Google controlling every aspect of our working lives, the company also needs to address the privacy concerns with equal zeal. As the author points out:

However, with this comes huge responsibility and a host of ethical and other policy issues such as data privacy and cybersecurity, which Google says its teams are working to resolve on a day-to-day basis.

Apart from Google, other tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple too are in the race for AI dominance. However, the privacy concerns remain there too as the end user never knows, how and where the data collected will be used.

Vishal Ingole, December  14, 2016

Smart Software and Bias: Math Is Not Objective, Right?

December 12, 2016

I read “5 Unexpected Sources of Bias in Artificial Intelligence.” Was I surprised? Yep, but the five examples seemed a bit more pop psychology than substantive. In my view, the bias in smart software originates with the flaws or weaknesses in the common algorithms used to build artificially intelligent systems. I have a lecture about the ways in which a content creator can fiddle with algorithms to generate specific results. I call the lecture “Weaponizing Information: Using Words to Fiddle with Algorithms.” (Want to know more? Write benkent2020 at yahoo dot com. Be aware that this is a for fee presentation.)

This “5 Unexpected…” write up offers these ideas:

  • Data driven bias. The notion is that Stats 101 injunctions are happily ignored, forgotten, or just worked around. See what I mean? Human intent, not really mathy at its core.
  • Bias through interaction. The idea is that humans interact. If the humans are biased, guess what? The outputs are biased, which dominoes down the line. Key word: Human.
  • Emergent bias. This is the filter bubble. I view this as feedback looping, which is a short cut to figuring out stuff. I ran across this idea years ago in Minneapolis. A start up there was explaining how to let me do one thing to inform the somewhat dull system about what to present. Does this sound like Amazon’s method to you?
  • Similarity bias. Now we are getting close to a mathy notion. But the write up wanders back to the feedback notion and does not ask questions about the wonkiness of clustering. Sigh.
  • Conflicting goals bias. Now that puzzled me. I read the paragraphs in the original article and highlighted stereotyping. This struck me as a variant of feedback.

Math is sort of objective, but this write up sticks to some broad and somewhat repetitive ideas. The bias enters when thresholds are set, data are selected, processes structured to deliver what the programmer [a] desires, [b] ze’s boss desires,  [c] what can be made to run and sort of work in the time available, or [d] what the developer remembers from a university class, a Hacker News post, or a bit of open source goodness.

The key to bias is to keep the key word “human” in mind.

Stephen E Arnold, December 12, 2016

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