Crowd Wisdom Adjusted to Measure Information Popularity

June 2, 2017

The article on ScienceDaily titled In Crowd Wisdom, the ‘Surprisingly Popular’ Answer Can Trump Ignorance of the Masses conveys the latest twist on crowd wisdom, or efforts to answer questions by asking many people rather than specialists. Unsurprisingly, crowd wisdom often is not very wise at all, but rather favors the most popular information. The article uses the example of asking various populations whether Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania. Those who answered yes also believed that others would agree, making it a popular answer. The article goes on to explain,

Meanwhile, a certain number of respondents knew that the correct answer is “no.” But these people also anticipated that many other people would incorrectly think the capital is Philadelphia, so they also expected a very high percentage of “yes” answers. Thus, almost everyone expected other people to answer “yes,” but the actual percentage of people who did was significantly lower. “No” was the surprisingly popular answer because it exceeded expectations of what the answer would be.

By measuring the perceived popularity of a given answer, researchers saw errors reduced by over 20% compared to straightforward majority votes, and by almost 25% compared to confidence-weighted votes. As in the case of the Philadelphia question above, those who predicted that they were in the minority deserve the most attention because they had enough information to expect that many people would incorrectly vote yes. If you take away nothing else from this, let it be that Harrisburg, not Philly, is the capital of Pennsylvania.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 2, 2017

Palantir Technologies: A Beatdown Buzz Ringing in My Ears

April 27, 2017

I have zero contacts at Palantir Technologies. The one time I valiantly contacted the company about a speaking opportunity at one of my wonky DC invitation-only conferences, a lawyer from Palantir referred my inquiry to a millennial who had a one word vocabulary, “No.”

There you go.

I have written about Palantir Technologies because I used to be an adviser to the pre-IBM incarnation of i2 and its widely used investigation tool, Analyst’s Notebook. I did write about a misadventure between i2 Group and Palantir Technologies, but no one paid much attention to my commentary.

An outfit called Buzzfeed, however, does pay attention to Palantir Technologies. My hunch is that the online real news outfit believes there is a story in the low profile, Peter Thiel-supported company. The technology Palantir has crafted is not that different from the Analyst’s Notebook, Centrifuge Systems’ solution, and quite a few other companies which provide industrial-strength software and systems to law enforcement, security firms, and the intelligence community. (I list about 15 of these companies in my forthcoming “Dark Web Notebook.” No, I won’t provide that list in this free blog. I may be retired, but I am not giving away high value information.)

So what’s caught my attention. I read the article “Palantir’s Relationship with the Intelligence Community Has Been Worse Than You Think.” The main idea is that the procurement of Palantir’s Gotham and supporting services provided by outfits specializing in Palantir systems has not been sliding on President Reagan’s type of Teflon. The story has been picked up and recycled by several “real” news outfits; for example, Brainsock. The story meshes like matryoshkas with other write ups; for example, “Inside Palantir, Silicon Valley’s Most Secretive Company” and “Palantir Struggles to Retain Clients and Staff, BuzzFeed Reports.” Palantir, it seems to me in Harrod’s Creek, is a newsy magnet.

The write up about Palantir’s lousy relationship with the intelligence community pivots on a two year old video. I learned that the Big Dog at Palantir, Alex Karp, said in a non public meeting which some clever Hobbit type videoed on a smartphone words presented this way by the real news outfit:

The private remarks, made during a staff meeting, are at odds with a carefully crafted public image that has helped Palantir secure a $20 billion valuation and win business from a long list of corporations, nonprofits, and governments around the world. “As many of you know, the SSDA’s recalcitrant,” Karp, using a Palantir codename for the CIA, said in the August 2015 meeting. “And we’ve walked away, or they walked away from us, at the NSA. Either way, I’m happy about that.” The CIA, he said, “may not like us. Well, when the whole world is using Palantir they can still not like us. They’ll have no choice.” Suggesting that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had also had friction with Palantir, he continued, “That’s de facto how we got the FBI, and every other recalcitrant place.”

Okay, I don’t know the context of the remarks. It does strike me that 2015 was more than a year ago. In the zippy doo world of Sillycon Valley, quite a bit can change in one year.

I don’t know if you recall Paul Doscher who was the CEO of Exalead USA and Lucid Imagination (before the company asserted that its technology actually “works). Mr. Doscher is a good speaker, but he delivered a talk in 2009, captured on video, during which he was interviewed by a fellow in a blue sport coat and shirt. Mr. Doscher wore a baseball cap in gangsta style, a crinkled unbuttoned shirt, and evidenced a hipster approach to discussing travel. Now if you know Mr. Doscher, he is not a manager influenced by gangsta style. My hunch is that he responded to an occasion, and he elected to approach travel with a bit of insouciance.

Could Mr. Karp, the focal point of the lousy relationship article, have been responding to an occasion? Could Mr. Karp have adopted a particular tone and style to express frustration with US government procurement? Keep in mind that a year later, Palantir sued the US Army. My hunch is that views expressed in front of a group of employees may not be news of the moment. Interesting? Sure.

What I find interesting is that the coverage of Palantir Technologies does not dig into the parts of the company which I find most significant. To illustrate: Palantir has a system and method for an authorized user to add new content to the Gotham system. The approach makes it possible to generate an audit trail to make it easy (maybe trivial) to answer these questions:

  1. What data were added?
  2. When were the data added?
  3. What person added the data?
  4. What index terms were added to the data?
  5. What entities were added to the metadata?
  6. What special terms or geographic locations were added to the data?

You get the idea. Palantir’s Gotham brings to intelligence analysis the type of audit trail I found some compelling in the Clearwell system and other legal oriented systems. Instead of a person in information technology saying in response to a question like “Where did this information come from?”, “Duh. I don’t know.”

Gotham gets me an answer.

For me, explaining the reasoning behind Palantir’s approach warrants a write up. I think quite a few people struggling with problems of data quality and what is called by the horrid term “governance” would find Palantir’s approach of some interest.

Now do I care about Palantir? Nah.

Do I care about bashing Palantir? Nah.

What I do care about is tabloidism taking precedence over substantive technical approaches. From my hollow in rural Kentucky, I see folks looking for “sort of” information.

How about more substantive information? I am fed up with podcasts which recycle old information with fake good cheer. I am weary of leaks. I want to know about Palantir’s approach to search and content processing and have its systems and methods compared to what its direct competitors purport to do.

Yeah, I know this is difficult to do. But nothing worthwhile comes easy, right?

I can hear the millennials shouting, “Wrong, you dinosaur.” Hey, no problem. I own a house. I don’t need tabloidism. I have picked out a rest home, and I own 60 cemetery plots.

Do your thing, dudes and dudettes of “real” journalism.

Stephen E Arnold, April 27, 2017

Connexica (Formerly Ardentia NetSearch) Embraces Business Analytics

December 31, 2016

You may remember Ardentia NetSearch. The company’s original product was NetSearch, which was designed to be quick to deploy and designed for the end use, not the information technology department. The company changed its name to Connexica in 2001. I checked the company’s Web site and noted that the company positions itself this way:

Our mission is to turn smart data discovery into actionable information for everyone.

What’s interesting is that Connexica asserts that

“search engine technology is the simplest and fastest way for users to service their own information needs.”

The idea is that if one can use Google, one can use Connexica’s systems. A brief description of the company states:

Connexica is the world’s pioneer of search based analytics.

The company offers Cxair. This is a Java based Web application. The application provides search engine based data discovery. The idea is that Cxair permits “fast, effective and agile business analytics.” What struck me was the assertion that Cxair is usable with “poor quality data.” The idea is to create reports without having to know the formal query syntax of SQL.

The company’s MetaVision produce is a Java based Web application that “interrogates database metadata.” The idea, as I understand it, is to use MetaVision to help migrate data into Hadoop, Cxair, or ElasticSearch.

Connexica, partly funded by Midven, is a privately held company based in the UK. The firm has more than 200 customers and more than 30 employees. When updating my files, I noted that Zoominfo reports that the firm was founded in 2006, but that conflicts with my file data which pegs the company operating as early as 2001.

A quick review of the company’s information on its Web site and open sources suggests that the firm is focusing its sales and marketing efforts on health care, finance, and government customers.

Connexica is another search vendor which has performed a successful pivot. Search technology is secondary to the company’s other applications.

Stephen E Arnold, December 31, 2016

On-Demand Business Model Not Sure Cash Flow

December 23, 2016

The on-demand car service Uber established a business model that startups in Silicon Valley and other cities are trying to replicate.  These startups are encountering more overhead costs than they expected and are learning that the on-demand economy does not generate instant cash flow.  The LA Times reports that, “On-Demand Business Models Have Put Some Startups On Life Support.”

Uber uses a business model revolving around independent contractors who use their own vehicles as a taxi service that responds to individual requests.  Other startups have sprung up around the same on-demand idea, but with a variety of services.  These include flower delivery service BloomThat, on-demand valet parking Zirx, on-demand meals Spoonrocket, and housecleaning with Homejoy.  The problem these on-demand startups are learning is that they have to deal with overhead costs, such as renting storage spaces, parking spaces, paying for products, delivery vehicles, etc.

Unlike Uber, which relies on the independent contractor to cover the costs of vehicles, other services cannot rely on the on-demand business model due to the other expenses.  The result is that cash is gushing out of their companies:

It’s not just companies that are waking up to the fact being “on-demand” doesn’t guarantee success — the investor tide has also turned.  As the downturn leads to more cautious investment, on-demand businesses are among the hardest-hit; funding for such companies fell in the first quarter of this year to $1.3 billion, down from $7.3 billion six months ago.  ‘If you look in venture capital markets, the on-demand sector is definitely out of favor,’ said Ajay Chopra, a partner at Trinity Ventures who is an investor in both Gobble and Zirx.

These new on-demand startups have had to change their business models in order to remain in business and that requires dismantling the on-demand service model.  On-demand has had its moment in the sun and will remain a lucrative model for some services, but until we invent instant teleportation most companies cannot run on that model.

Whitney Grace, December 23, 2016

A Crisis of Confidence

December 14, 2016

I remember a time, long ago, when my family was confident that newspapers and TV reporters were telling us most of the objective facts most of the time. We also had faith that, though flawed human beings, most  representatives in Congress were honestly working hard for (what they saw as) positive change. Such confidence, it seems, has gone the way of pet rocks and parachute pants. The Washington Examiner reports, “Fishwrap: Confidence in Newspapers, TV News Hits Bottom.” The brief write-up gives the highlights of a recent Gallup survey. Writer Paul Bedard tells us:

Gallup found that just 20 percent have confidence in newspapers, a 10-point drop in 10 years. TV news saw an identical 10-point drop, from 31 percent to 21 percent. But it could be worse. Of all the institutions Gallup surveyed on, Congress is at the bottom, with just 9 percent having confidence in America’s elected leaders, a finding that is clearly impacting the direction and tone of the 2016 elections. And Americans aren’t putting their faith in religion. Gallup found that confidence in organized religion dropped below 50 percent, to an all-time low of 41 percent.

Last decade’s financial crisis, the brunt of which many are still feeling, has prompted us to also lose faith in our banks (confidence dropped from 49 percent in 2006 to just 27 percent this year). There is one institution in which Americans still place our confidence—the military. Some 73 percent of are confident of that institution, a level that has been constant over the last decade. Could that have anything to do with the outsized share of tax revenue that segment consistently rakes in? Nah, that can’t be it.

Cynthia Murrell, December 14, 2016

GE Now Manufactures Artificial Intelligence

December 9, 2016

GE (General Electric) makes appliances, such as ovens, ranges, microwaves, washers, dryers, and refrigerators.  Once you get them out of the appliance market, their expertise appears to end.  Fast Company tells us that GE wants to branch out into new markets and the story is in, “GE Wants To Be The Next Artificial Intelligence Powerhouse .”

GE is a multi-billion dollar company and they have the resources to invest in the burgeoning artificial intelligence market.  They plan to employ two new acquisitions and bring machine learning to the markets they already dominate.  GE first used machine learning in 2015 with Predix Cloud, which recorded industrial machinery sensor patterns.  It was, however, more of a custom design for GE than one with a universal application.

GE purchased Bit Stew Systems, a company similar to the Predix Cloud except that collected industrial data, and Wise.io, a company that used astronomy-based technology to streamline customer support systems.  Predix already has a string of customers and has seen much growth:

Though young, Predix is growing fast, with 270 partner companies using the platform, according to GE, which expects revenue on software and services to grow over 25% this year, to more than $7 billion. Ruh calls Predix a “significant part” of that extra money. And he’s ready to brag, taking a jab at IBM Watson for being a “general-purpose” machine-learning provider without the deep knowledge of the industries it serves. “We have domain algorithms, on machine learning, that’ll know what a power plant is and all the depth of that, that a general-purpose machine learning will never really understand,” he says.

GE is tackling issues in healthcare and energy issues with Predix.  GE is proving it can do more than make a device that can heat up a waffle.  The company can affect the energy, metal, plastic, and computer system used to heat the waffle.  It is exactly like how mason jars created tools that will be used in space.

Whitney Grace, December 9, 2016

Big Brother Now in Corporate Avatar

October 31, 2016

Companies in the US are now tracking employee movements and interactions to determine how productive their assets are. Badges created by Humanyze; embedded in employee IDs track these key indicators and suggest appropriate measures to help improve employee productivity.

An article published on Business Insider titled Employees at a dozen Fortune 500 companies wear digital badges that watch and listen to their every move reveals:

Humanyze visualizes the data as webs of social interaction that reveal who’s talking to whom on a by-the-second basis. The goal: Revolutionize how companies think about how they organize themselves.

The badges though only track employees who have explicitly given permission to track their working hours, imagination is the only inhibiting factor that will determine how the meta-data can be used. For instance, as the badges are being embedded into employee IDs (that already have chips), it can also be used by someone with right tools to track the movement of an employee beyond working hours.

Social engineering in the past has been used in the past to breach IT security at large organizations. With Humanyze badges, hackers now will have one more weapon in their arsenal.

One worrisome aspect of these badges becomes apparent here:

But the badges are already around the necks of more than 10,000 employees in the US, Waber says. They’ve led to wild insights. One client moves the coffee machine around each night, so the next morning employees in nearby departments naturally talk more.

The ironic part is, companies are exposing themselves to this threat. Google, Facebook, Amazon are already tracking people online. With services like Humanyze, the Big Brother has also entered the corporate domain. The question is not how the data will be used by hacked; it’s just when?

Vishal Ingole October 31, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Tries to Hide Big Wizards. A Mystery or a Harbinger of Wagon Circling??

October 27, 2016

I read “A Google Mystery: The Names and Bios of the Company’s Top Execs Are No Longer Listed on Its Website.” The main point of the write up is that a Google page listing some of the big dogs in the digital kennel have gone missing. I highlighted this passage:

If you needed to know who oversees financial maters for parent company Alphabet (Ruth Porat), or know who the CEO of the core Google internet business is (Sundar Pichai), or if you wanted to get a sense of who is leading businesses like smart home appliance maker Nest, the company’s investor relations page won’t be of much help. Right now, the company’s management page just takes you to an Error 404 page.

Is this a mystery? Here in Harrod’s Creek, we suggest that the GOOG is doing a bit of self preservation. If you are watching folks head out the door to hotter and potentially more lucrative companies, why make it dead simple for a home economics major to identify a Googler to hunt down at a conference.

The problem Google faces is a slide to mediocrity. The ad outfit is ageing and not particularly well. A CFO is raining on the math club’s parade. Revenue from mobile searches poses more of a challenge than the good old Yahoo inspired ad words for desktop computers. The costs just keep on rising. The competitors keep on coming. Hello, Snapchat. Searching for products? Good morning, Amazon. Think about it. There is  unfortunately a limited supply of wizards. When a big dog wanders, one has to settle for maybe two smaller dogs which hopefully will add up to the big dog right now.

Mediocrity is baked into the replacement hiring process. Ergo. Make it difficult to figure out who does what. Dodge stories like “Google Ventures Founder Latest Executive to Depart Alphabet.”

If you really want to know who does what at the ad outfit, consider these resources:

  1. Take a look at Google journal articles. Capture the names of the authors. Look for authors with multiple papers in a particular niche. The data provide useful pointers to who does what.
  2. Examine Google patent documents. Perform inventor entity analysis. Metrics point to folks who may be competent in a particular field.
  3. Those odd ACM, database, and advanced computing conference presentations are important. Suck down the programs, perform textual analysis, and you have useful data about who knows and does what.

If that’s too tough, point your browser at Boardroom Insiders and copy the list of executives and hunt for Googlers at softball games on the fields off El Camino in Palo Alto. There’s often beer after a co-ed game and recruitment fest. The same method works for a number of Sillycon Valley outfits. No dumpster diving required, and the process works from right here in rural Kentucky.

There is no correlation between IQ and players’ ability to catch a ball, But you might be able to convert a Googler into a Xoogler with a nifty move.

The Google is circling its wagons. Nothing but a logical response to the increasing pressure the company faces in hiring, cost control, competition, and its legacy technology. A Web page take down may be a harbinger, not a mystery.

Stephen E Arnold, October 27, 2016

Explain Cloud Analytics Like I Am Five

October 10, 2016

One of Reddit’s popular subreddits is “explain to me like I’m five,” where redditors post questions they have about science, math, computing, engineering, politics, and other topics.  Outside of reading textbooks or questioning experts in person, this subreddit allows intellectual discussion on a global basis…as long as the comments remain mature.  “Explain to me like I’m five” is like the favorite For Dummies book series.

While Internet forums and Reddit itself have made the series semi-obsolete, For Dummies books are still a reliable reference tool when you don’t want to search and scroll on the Internet.  As companies move towards cloud-based systems, you can be sure there will be a slew of cloud computing For Dummies books.

Open Source Magazine shares that “Analytics For Dummies” is available for a free download!

Cloud analytics is dramatically altering business intelligence. Some businesses will capitalize on these promising new technologies and gain key insights that’ll help them gain competitive advantage. And others won’t.  Whether you’re a business leader, an IT manager, or an analyst, we want to help you and the people you need to influence with a free copy of “Cloud Analytics for Dummies,” the essential guide to this explosive new space for business intelligence.

For Dummies books usually retail around twenty dollars, so this offers the chance for a free, updated manual on the growing cloud analytics field and you can save a few dollars.

Whitney Grace, October 10, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Business Intelligence Take on the Direction of Media

October 7, 2016

The article on Business Insider titled The Top 7 Predictions For the Future of Media offers a long gaze into the crystal ball. With significant research over the past six years including interviews with key industry players, the article posits that the future is clear for those willing to sit through the IGNITION Conference presentation put together by BI’s co-founder and CEO Henry Blodget. The article sums up the current state of uncertainty in media,

Users are moving away from desktop and toward mobile. Social media referrals are overtaking search. Consumers are cutting their cords and saying goodbye to traditional pay-TV. Messaging apps are threatening email. And smart devices are starting to connect everything around us. These changes in trends can disrupt our businesses, our portfolios, and even our lives. But they don’t have to…Those who are well informed and well prepared don’t see innovation as a threat; they see it as an opportunity.

The article overviews some of the major takeaways from the presentation such as: Newspapers will soon be joined by TV networks in their frustrating battle for relevance. The article also mentions that the much-discussed ad blocking crisis will “resolve itself,” with the caustic note that we should all be “careful what [we] wish for.” Not much interest in finding information however. The full report is available through BI for free after signing up.

Chelsea Kerwin, October 7, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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