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IBM Continued to Brag About Watson, with Decreasing Transparency

February 29, 2016

A totally objective article sponsored by IBM on Your Story is titled How Cognitive Systems Like IBM Watson Are Changing the Way We Solve Problems. The article basically functions to promote all of the cognitive computing capabilities that most of us are already keenly aware that Watson possesses, and to raise awareness for the Hackathon event taking place in Bengaluru, India. The “article” endorses the event,

“Participants will have an unprecedented opportunity to collaborate, co-create and exchange ideas with one another and the world’s most forward-thinking cognitive experts. This half-day event will focus on sharing real-world applications of cognitive technologies, and allow attendees access to the next wave of innovations and applications through an interactive experience. The program will also include panel discussions and fireside chats between senior IBM executives and businesses that are already working with Watson.”

Since 2015, the “Watson for Oncology” program has involved Manipal Hospitals in Bengaluru, India. The program is the result of a partnership between IBM and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Watson has now consumed almost 15 million pages of medical content from textbooks and journals in the hopes of providing rapid-fire support to hospital staffers when it comes to patient records and diagnosis. Perhaps if IBM put all of their efforts into Watson’s projects instead of creating inane web content to promote him as some sort of missionary, he could have already cured cancer. Or not.


Chelsea Kerwin, February 29, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Data Insight: Common Sense Makes Sense

February 25, 2016

I am skeptical about lists of problems which hot buzzwords leave in their wake. I read “Why Data Insight Remains Elusive,” which I though was another content marketing pitch to buy, buy, buy. Not so. The write up contains some clearly expressed, common sense reminds for those who want to crunch big data and point and click their way through canned reports. Those who actually took the second semester of Statistics 101 know that ignoring the data quality and the nitty gritty of the textbook procedures can lead to bone head outputs.

The write up identifies some points to keep in mind, regardless of which analytics vendor system a person is using to make more informed or “augmented” decisions.

Here’s the pick of the litter:

  1. Manage the data. Yep, time consuming, annoying, and essential. Skip this step at your decision making peril.
  2. Manage the indexing. The buzzword is metadata, but assigning keywords and other indexing items makes the difference when trying to figure out who, what, why, when, and where. Time? Yep, metadata which not even the Alphabet Google thing does particularly well.
  3. Create data models. Do the textbook stuff. Get the model wrong, and what happens? Failure on a scale equivalent to fumbling the data management processes.
  4. Visualization is not analytics. Visualization makes outputs of numerical recipes appear in graphical form. Do not confuse Hollywood outputs with relevance, accuracy, or math on point to the problem one is trying to resolve.
  5. Knee jerking one’s way through analytics. Sorry, reflexes are okay but useless without context. Yep, have a problem, get the data, get the model, test, and examine the outputs.

Common sense. Most basic stuff was in the textbooks for one’s college courses. Too bad more folks did not internalize those floorboards and now seek contractors to do a retrofit. Quite an insight when the bill arrives.

Stephen E Arnold, February 25, 2016

Analytics Reality: Do You Excel?

February 24, 2016

I read “What Is the Most used Feature in Any business Intelligence Solution? It’s the Export to Excel Button.” The write up asserts:

I was recently forwarded an article on the continued popularity of Excel in the BI community consisting of quotes from 27 experts saying how great and how relevant Excel remains. We do categorize BI as static and historical as opposed to forward looking predictive analytics but I bet it’s still true that Excel is a very widely used tool even by folks that categorize themselves as data scientists.

Let’s assume this is accurate. What does this suggest for complex analytics like my old pals SAS or IBM SPSS? What about high flying outfits like Palantir, and Centrifuge Systems?

I have some answers, but I think the questions are suggestive of a hurdle which high horsepower analytic systems must power around. There is a reason so few folks are adept at statistics whether the industrial strength variety or the weird approach taken in social science and economics classes.

Excel seems to be tough to master but compared to more supercharged methods, Excel sure looks like a push peddle tricycle. You can’t go too far or too fast. If you crash into something, there is F1 and semi automated procedures to kiss the boo boo and make it better.

Stephen E Arnold, February 24, 2016

No Evidence That Terrorists Are Using Bitcoin

February 23, 2016

If you were concerned virtual currencies like Bitcoin are making things easier for Islamic State (aka IS, ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh), you can rest easy, at least for now. The International Business Times reports, “Isis: Bitcoin Not Used by Daesh.” That is the conclusion reached by a Europol investigation performed after last November’s attacks in Paris. Though some had suggested the terrorists were being funded with cyber money, investigators found no evidence of it.

On the other hand, the organization’s communication networks are thriving online through the Dark Web and a variety of apps. Writer Alistair Charlton tells us:

Better known by European law enforcement is how terrorists like IS use social media to communicate. The report says: “The internet and social media are used for communication and the acquisition of goods (weapons, fake IDs) and services, made relatively safe for terrorists with the availability of secure and inherently encrypted appliances, such as WhatsApp, Skype and Viber. In Facebook, VKA and Twitter they join closed and hidden groups that can be accessed by invitation only, and use coded language.”

se of Tor, the anonymising browser used to access the dark web where sites are hidden from search engines like Google, is also acknowledged by Europol. “The use of encryption and anonymising tools prevent conventional observation by security authorities. There is evidence of a level of technical knowledge available to religiously inspired terrorist groups, allowing them to make their use of the internet and social media invisible to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

Of course, like any valuable technology, anonymizing apps can be used for weal or woe; they benefit marginalized peoples trying to make their voices heard as much as they do terrorists. Besides, there is no going back to a disconnected world now. My question is whether terrorists have taken the suggestion, and are now working on a Bitcoin initiative. I suppose we will see, eventually.


Cynthia Murrell, February 23, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

SAP: Statistics Need Sizzle

February 22, 2016

The underlying data? Important, yeah, but the action is Hollywood style graphics. Taking a page from the Palantir game plan, SAP is getting with the visual sizzle program. Navigate to “SAP Buys All the Pretty Data Firm Roambi.” The article states:

The data prettifier’s angle is it that displays data using deliciously slick and dynamically updating charts, graphs and sliders that are native apps for iOS and Android. Roambi’s front ends tap into back ends including Excel, SQL Server, Cognos, Box, Salesforce and – yes – SAP.

Special effects matter in videos, Web pages, and business analytics.

What if the analyst gets the underlying data out of joint? What if the person using the graphic output does not understand what analytic choices were made to give the visual some zing?

What? Who worries about details? It is the visual snap that crackles.

Stephen E Arnold, February 22, 2016

Google to Combat Terrorist Messages with Counter Narrative AdWords

February 22, 2016

Governments are not alone in the fight against terrorism. Google Will Show ‘Counter-Narrative’ AdWords To Users Searching For Terrorist Websites from Tech Week Europe explains how Google is playing a role in containing terrorist messages. In effort to prove their commitment to anti-terrorist initiatives to UK members of parliament, Google will employ a counter narrative strategy using Google AdWords as a marketing channel for their anti-extremist messages. According to the article,

“Users searching for words and websites associated with religious extremism that is linked to terrorism will be shown the ‘counter-narrative’ via Google AdWords, the sponsored links that appear at the top of a search results page. Dr House also told MPs at the Common’s home affairs select committee that Google had removed 14 million videos from YouTube in 2014 for reasons that include terrorist content, according to the Telegraph. Google reportedly offers AdWords grants to NGOs, so that their ‘counter-narrative’ websites can appear on search results for queries such as ‘join Isis’, reported The Telegraph.”

In the article’s concluding remarks, the author raises several questions regarding censorship, freedom of speech and user control; the saying with great power comes great responsibility comes to mind. Developments related to Google’s counter narratives will be important to follow as the bigger-picture conversation unfolds.


Megan Feil, February 22, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The Pros and Cons of Data Silos When It Comes to Data Analysis and Management

February 22, 2016

The article on Informatica Blog titled Data Silos Are the Death of Analytics. Here’s the Fix explores the often overlooked need for a thorough data management vision and strategy at any competitive business. The article is plugging for an eBook guide to data analytics, but it does go into some detail on the early stages of streamlining the data management approach, summarized by the advice to avoid data silos. The article explains,

“It’s vital to pursue a data management architecture that works across any type of data, BI tool, or storage technology. If the move to add Hadoop or NoSQL demands entirely different tools to manage the data, you’re at risk of creating another silo…When you’ve got different tools for your traditional data warehouse versus your cloud setup, and therefore different skill sets to hire for, train for, and maintain, you’re looking at a real mess.”

The suggestions for streamlined processes and analysis certainly make sense, but the article does not defend the reasonable purposes of data silos, such as power, control, and secrecy. Nor do they consider that in some cases a firm is required to create data silos to comply with a government contract. But it is a nice thought: one big collection of data, one comprehensive data strategy. Maybe.

Chelsea Kerwin, February 22, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Computational Demand: Not So Fast

February 19, 2016

Analytics, Big Data, and smart software. The computer systems today can handle the load.

The death of Moore’s Law; that is, the drive to make chips ever more capable is dead. I just learned this. See “Moore’s Law Really Is Dead This Time.” If that is the case, too bad for some computations.

With the rise of mobile and the cloud, who worries about doing complex calculations?

As it turns out, some researchers do. Navigate to “New Finding May Explain Heat Loss in Fusion Reactors.”

Here’s the passage that underscores the need to innovate in computational systems:

it requires prodigious amounts of computer time to run simulations that encompass such widely disparate scales, explains Howard, who is the lead author on the paper detailing these simulations. Accomplishing each simulation required 15 million hours of computation, carried out by 17,000 processors over a period of 37 days at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center — making this team the biggest user of that facility for the year. Using an ordinary MacBook Pro to run the full set of six simulations that the team carried out…would have taken 3,000 years.

The next time you buy into the marketing baloney, keep in mind the analyses which require computational horsepower. Figuring out who bought what brand of candy on Valentine’s Day is different from performing other types of analyses.

Stephen E Arnold, February 19, 2016

Google 20% Time Policy Projects Take Users Around the World

February 18, 2016

The article on StumbleUpon titled 12 Lesser-Known Google Projects That Are Absolutely Amazing describes how certain Google employees took advantage of their creative time, or “20% time polcy” that dictates one day a week should be used experimentally. Hence some of these whimsical concepts like Google Sky, which functions similarly to Google Earth but in the far-out setting of space. Another idea is the game Ingress,

“Ingress transforms the real world into the landscape for a global game of mystery, intrigue, and competition. Our future is at stake. You must choose a side. A mysterious energy has been unearthed by a team of scientists in Europe. The origin and purpose of this force is unknown, but some researchers believe it is influencing the way we think. We must control it or it will control us.”

Other projects offer outlets to explore global culture and history, such as the World Wonders Project, which enables users to view high-res photos and 3D views of distant places like the Pyramids of Giza and Angor Wat. The Google Art Project contains quality images of important artworks from 400 art museums all over the world and allows users to build their own collections for take audio tours to learn more about famous pieces. Overall, the projects encourage increased engagement with technology, culture, and creativity.

Chelsea Kerwin, February 18, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Was the Silk Road Trial Fair?

February 17, 2016

The Dark Web burst into the general consciousness with underground Web site called the Silk Road was busted.  Ross Ulbricht aka the Dread Pirate Roberts ran the crime ridden Web site Silk Road that was a darknet playground for drug pushers, sex traffickers, money launders, hackers, and just about every other relatable crime that wants an untraceable presence.  The Naked Security blog by Sophos proposes the question “Ross Ulbricht Appeals Silk Road Conviction-Did He Get A Fair Trial?”

In 2015, Ulbricht was convicted for money laundering, drug and hacking-related charges, and sentenced to two life terms with an additional forty years for running the entire Silk Road network.  Ulbricht’s lawyers appealed the case based on the grounds that the law enforcement officials were guilty themselves of stealing bitcoins and extorting from Ulbricht.  The evidence proving this was, of course, withheld in the trial and any favorable pro-Ulbricht evidence was suppressed.

“Ulbricht’s family paints a very different picture of him than federal prosecutors.  The family has been waging a campaign to “Free Ross Ulbricht” that accuses the government of framing Ulbricht as part of the “failed War on Drugs,” and depicting his case as a milestone in the government’s crackdown on Internet freedom.  Ulbricht’s defense attorneys argued at trial, and in his appeal, that Ulbricht had founded the Silk Road using the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts, but that he had sold his stake and was framed by subsequent operators.”

Ulbricht’s family says that the two corrupt agents Shaun Bridges and Carl Force had administrative privileges on Silk Road and would have been able to manipulate information in their favor.  They claim the information was withheld when Ulbricht’s case went to court and the government kept it under seal to protect its agents.

Ulbricht and his family have many supporters saying that the two consecutive life terms without parole was too harsh of a punishment.  They also claim that Ulbricht’s Fourth Amendment rights were breached.

The US government, however, thinks otherwise.  They want to make an example of Ross Ulbricht and send a message to cyber criminals that they cannot hide behind the Dark Web’s invisibility cloak.  The Dark Web might be a mask criminals wear, but a light can unmask them.


Whitney Grace, February 17, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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