Conferences: A Juicy Source of Intelligence?

June 9, 2020

Conferences are interesting. These face-to-face experiences are becoming virtual. After decades of operating off the radar for most attendees, the content of conferences is “suddenly” getting some love.

Decades ago, I worked at a company which produced a database called CPI or Conference Papers Index. That database was sold to another firm, and I am not sure if the original product persists 39 years later. Only a handful of customers accessed this product compared to our flagship databases ABI/INFORM and Business Dateline.

Potential Organized Fraud in ACM/IEEE Computer Architecture Conferences” caused me to think about who (the people) and the companies (the outfits hiring the people) used CPI. Almost 40 years ago, the who and the companies were either government agencies from countries which now provide high technology to the US and other nation states and companies either based in the US with non-US owners or outfits with names difficult to connect to a particular discipline. Did I care 40 years ago? Nope. We wanted to sell that database for several reasons:

  1. Conference organizers were among the most disorganized and distracted outfits we tapped for information; for example, copies of talks, abstracts, and names and affiliations of speakers. Much effort and many “let’s have lunch” and “yes, we will send that information tomorrow.” Sorry, lesson learned. Conferences 40 years ago were a different content animal. Fiefdoms, ego centric owners who wanted “total control”, trade associations eager to serve their members and preserve their mostly concierge type jobs, and similar flora and fauna. Much remains unchanged even as conferences undergo Rona-ization.
  2. Customers were not plentiful. The customers the CPI attracted wanted more: More images, more full text, more presentation foils. Delivering more cost money and it was not clear that if we invested the money to get “more” information that it would be a profitable operation. My hunch is that indexes of conferences, including the wonky listings one can find on the Internet, are essentially useless. Why? Sponsors are not indexed consistently. Names of speakers are not included as searchable content. The presentations, if one is lucky, becomes a YouTube video, usually delivered with both lousy audio and video. Sigh. Conferences are today a black hole of content. Going into the virtual conference business just makes the black hole deeper and weirder than before Rona.
  3. Conference organization is a remarkable exercise in rejecting, begging, and scrambling. Each conference wants stars for the keynotes. Each conference wants new talent to deliver hot information. Each conference desperately needs sponsors; that is, people to pay for snacks (yuck), liquor (much loved by attendees except for virtual presentations unless a company FedExes bottles to an attendee-with-a-budget’s home), and lunch (now a weird buffet brown bag thing which hopefully will disappear from real and virtual events completely). The organizer wants to put on a stellar show but lacks the expertise, money, and organizational talent to pull off most events.

What’s the fix?

If the information in the write up is accurate, it seems — note the hedge word “seems” — that individuals, companies, and countries are doing everything in their power to get their hands on the same information that people told us to include in our Conference Papers Index.

Valuable data include:

  • Abstracts of proposed talks, some submitted a year before an event in certain event cycles
  • The actual draft presentations: Text, PDFs of the visuals, author’s biography, and author details
  • Names of speakers, addresses, email, etc.

The blog post suggests that some fancy dancing has been underway in the rarified world of big tech at the ACM and IEEE computer architecture conferences.

The article is worth reading.

However, there is context for what amounts to intelligence exploitation.

The question is, “Will most conference organizers care?” Another question, “Will most conference organizers be sufficiently adept at addressing the alleged problem?”

DarkCyber has a tentative answer, “Nope. The sucking of conference data is an institutionalized behavior for many “experts,” their employers, some government entities, and even employees of conference companies.

Net net: Squeeze the fruit for informational juice.

Stephen E Arnold, June 9, 2020

MBA Think Reveals a Stunningly Obvious Insight

April 16, 2020

I am not sure when I began to feel uncomfortable with MBA speak. Perhaps it was after I developed an aversion to lawyer speak? On the other hand, my reaction could have been triggered by the rash I developed when I was exposed to accountant speak. Each “specialty” has its own lingo. But MBA speak is usually fascinating.

I read “Coronavirus Clarity.” The write up explains that the present medical challenge makes it clear that large technology companies have “power.” There is the patois of the MBA; for example:

  • Conversation
  • Differentiation
  • Scale
  • Zero margins

There are examples: Apple, Facebook, et al.

What’s the main idea?

The big technology companies like Apple, Facebook, et al are powerful.

Amazing. Who knew these monopolies were capable of collusion and operating as nation states. I feel in a way similar to Jonathan Edwards’ reaction to his revelatory moment in the woods.

Who knew? Plus, those not associated with Apple, Facebook et al should be grateful these firms are just doing so much for everyone. Proof? Check out “Google’s Former CEO Hopes the Coronavirus Makes People More Grateful for Big Tech.” Absolutely.

Stephen E Arnold, April 16, 2020

Acquisdata: High Value Intelligence for Financial and Intelligence Analysts

March 31, 2020

Are venture capitalist, investment analysts, and other financial professionals like intelligence officers? The answer, according to James Harker-Mortlock, is, “Yes.”

The reasons, as DarkCyber understands them, are:

  • Financial professionals to be successful have to be data omnivores; that is, masses of data, different types, and continuously flowing inputs
  • The need for near real time or real time data streams can make the difference between making a profit and losses
  • The impact of changing work patterns on the trading floor are forcing even boutique investment firms and global giants to rely upon smart software to provide a competitive edge. These smart systems require data for training machine learning modules.

James Harker-Mortlock, founder of Acquidata, told DarkCyber:

The need for high-value data from multiple sources in formats easily imported into analytic engines is growing rapidly. Our Acquisdata service provides what the financial analysts and their smart software require. We have numerous quant driven hedge funds downloading all our data every week to assist them in maintaining a comprehensive picture of their target companies and industries.”

According to the company’s Web site, Acquisdata:

Acquisdata is a fast growing digital financial publishing company. Established in 2010, we have quickly become a provider to the world’s leading financial news companies, including Thomson Reuters/Refinitiv, Bloomberg, Factset, IHS Markit, and Standard and Poor’s Capital IQ, part of McGraw Hill Financial, and ISI Emerging Markets. We also provide content to a range of global academic and business database providers, including EBSCO, ProQuest, OCLC, Research & Markets, CNKI and Thomson Reuters West. We know and understand the electronic publishing business well. Our management has experience in the electronic publishing industry going back 40 years. We aim to provide comprehensive and timely information for investors and others interested in the drivers of the global economy, primarily through our core products, the Industry SnapShot, Company SnapShot and Executive SnapShot products. Our units provide the annual and interim reports of public companies around the world and fundamental research on companies in emerging markets sectors, and aggregated data from third-party sources. In a world where electronic publishing is quickly changing the way we consume news and information, Acquisdata is at the very forefront of providing digital news and content solutions.

DarkCyber was able to obtain one of the firm’s proprietary Acquisdata Industry Snapshots. “United States Armaments, 16 March 2020” provides a digest of information about the US weapons industry. the contents of the 66 page report include news and commentary, selected news releases, research data, industry sector data, and company-specific information.

image

Obtaining these types of information from many commercial sources poses a problem for a financial professional. Some reports are in Word files; some are in Excel; some are in Adobe PDF image format; and some are in formats proprietary to a data aggregator. We provide data in XML which can be easily imported into an analytic system; for example, Palantir’s Metropolitan or similar analytical tool. PDF versions of the more than 100 weekly reports are available.

DarkCyber’s reaction to these intelligence “briefs” was positive. The approach is similar to the briefing documents prepared for the White House.

Net net: The service is of high value and warrants a close look for professionals who need current, multi-type data about a range of company and industry investment opportunities.

You can get more information about Acquisdata at www.acquidata.com.

Stephen E Arnold, March 31, 2020

Medical Surveillance: Numerous Applications for Government Entities and Entrepreneurs

March 16, 2020

With the Corona virus capturing headlines and disrupting routines, how can smart software monitoring data help with the current problem?

DarkCyber assumes that government health professionals would want to make use of technology that reduced a Corona disruption. Enforcement professionals would understand that monitoring, alerting, and identifying functions could assist in spotting issues; for example, in a particular region.

What’s interesting is that the application of intelware systems and methods to health issues is likely to become a robust business. However, despite the effective application of established techniques, identifying signals in a stream of data is an extension of innovations reaching back to i2 Analyst Notebook and other sensemaking systems in wide use in many countries’ enforcement and intelligence agencies.

What’s different is the keen attention these monitoring, alerting, and identifying systems are attracting.

Let’s take one example: Bluedot, a company operating from Canada. Founded by  an infectious disease physician, Dr. Kamran Kahn. This company was one of the first firms to highlight the threat posed by the Coronavirus. According to Diginomica, BlueDot “alerted its private sector and government clients about a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases happening around a market in Wuhan, China.”

image

BlueDot, founded in 2013, combined expertise in infectious disease, artificial intelligence, analytics, and flows of open source and specialized information. “How Canadian AI start-up BlueDot Spotted Coronavirus before Anyone Else Had a Clue” explains what the company did to sound the alarm:

The BlueDot engine gathers data on over 150 diseases and syndromes around the world searching every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. This includes official data from organizations like the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization. But, the system also counts on less structured information. Much of BlueDot’s predictive ability comes from data it collects outside official health care sources including, for example, the worldwide movements of more than four billion travelers on commercial flights every year; human, animal and insect population data; climate data from satellites; and local information from journalists and healthcare workers, pouring through 100,000 online articles each day spanning 65 languages. BlueDot’s specialists manually classified the data, developed a taxonomy so relevant keywords could be scanned efficiently, and then applied machine learning and natural language processing to train the system. As a result, it says, only a handful of cases are flagged for human experts to analyze. BlueDot sends out regular alerts to health care, government, business, and public health clients. The alerts provide brief synopses of anomalous disease outbreaks that its AI engine has discovered and the risks they may pose.

DarkCyber interprets BlueDot’s pinpointing of the Corona virus as an important achievement. More importantly, DarkCyber sees BlueDot’s system as an example of innovators replicating the systems, methods, procedures, and outputs from intelware and policeware systems.

Independent thinkers arrive at a practical workflow to convert raw data into high-value insights. BlueDot is a company that points the way to the future of deriving actionable information from a range of content.

Some vendors of specialized software work hard to keep their systems and methods confidential and in some cases secret. Now a person interested in how some specialized software and service providers assist government agencies, intelligence professionals, and security experts can read about BlueDot in open source articles like the one cited in this blog post or work through the information on the BlueDot Web site. The company wants to hire a surveillance analyst. Click here for information.

Net net: BlueDot provides a template for innovators wanting to apply systems and methods that once were classified or confidential to commercial problems. Business intelligence may become more like traditional intelligence more quickly than some anticipated.

Stephen E Arnold, March 16, 2020

Import.io and Connotate: One Year Later

March 3, 2020

There has been an interesting shift in search and content processing. Import.io, founded in 2012, purchased Connotate. Before you ask, “Connotate what?”, let me say that Connotate was a content scraping and analysis firm. I paid some attention to Connotate when it acquired Fetch, an outfit with an honest-to-goodness Xoogler on its team. Fetch processed structure data and Connotate was mostly an unstructured data outfit. I asked a Connotate professional when the company would process Dark Web content, only to be told, “We can’t comment on that.” Secretive, right.

Connotate was founded in 2000 and required about $25 million in funding. The amount Import.io paid was not revealed in a source to which DarkCyber has access. Import.io, which has ingested about $38 million. DarkCyber assumes that the stakeholders are confident that 1 + 1 will equal 3 or more.

Import.io says:

We are funded by some of the greatest minds in technology.

The great minds include AME Cloud Ventures, Open Ocean, IP Group, and several others.

The company explains:

Starting from a simple web data extractor and evolving to an enterprise level solution for concurrently getting data that drives business, industry, and goodness.

What’s the company provide? The answer is Web data integration: Identify, extract, prepare, integrate, and consume content from a user-provided list of urls. To illustrate the depth of the company’s capabilities, Import.io defines “prepare” this way:

Integrate prepared data with a library of APIs to support seamless integration with internal business systems and workflows or deliver it to any data repository to develop robust data sets for advanced analytics capabilities.

The firm’s Web site makes it clear that it serves the online travel, retail, manufacturing, hedge fund, advisory services, data scientists, analysts, journalists, marketing and product, hospitality, and media producers. These are a mix of sectors and industries, and DarkCyber did not create the grammatically inconsistent listing.

Import.io offers videos which provide some information about one of its important innovations “interactive extractors.” The idea is to convert script editing to point-and-click choices.

The company is growing. About a year ago, Import.io said that it experienced record sales growth. The company provided a link to its Help Center, but a number of panels contained neither information nor links to content.

The company offers a free version and a premium version. Price quotes are provided by the company.

Like Amplyfi and maybe ServiceMaster, Import.io is a company providing search and content processing with a 21st century business positioning. A new buzzword is needed to convey what Import.io, Amplyfi, and Service Master are providing. DarkCyber believes that these companies are examples of where search and content processing has begun to coalesce.

The question is, “Is acquiring, indexing, and analyzing OSINT content a truck stop or a destination like Miami Beach?”

Worth monitoring the trajectory of the company.

Stephen E Arnold, March 3, 2020

An Interesting View of Snowden

October 2, 2019

DarkCyber noted “Looking Back at the Snowden Revelations.” This essay highlights the “cryptographic” angle of the leaked documents. Key points in the essay are:

  • Explanation of the collect everything method
  • The importance of signals intelligence
  • The “problem” of encryption.

The write up states:

…the world that Snowden brought to our attention isn’t necessarily a world that Americans have much say in. As an example: today the U.S. government is in the midst of forcing a standoff with China over the global deployment of Huawei’s 5G wireless networks around the world. This is a complicated issue, and financial interest probably plays a big role. But global security also matters here. This conflict is perhaps the clearest acknowledgement we’re likely to see that our own government knows how much control of communications networks really matters, and our inability to secure communications on these networks could really hurt us. This means that we, here in the West, had better get our stuff together — or else we should be prepared to get a taste of our own medicine.

Interesting write up. Should the focus be on government collection and analysis?

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2019

 

Is Google Aiding the Chinese Government?

July 17, 2019

DarkCyber does not know if Google is aiding the Chinese government. Axios published this story — “Peter Thiel says FBI, CIA should probe Google” — which seems to suggest that the fun loving Googlers are up to something. Here’s the segment of the write up which we circled in red:

“Number one, how many foreign intelligence agencies have infiltrated your Manhattan Project for AI?

“Number two, does Google’s senior management consider itself to have been thoroughly infiltrated by Chinese intelligence?

“Number three, is it because they consider themselves to be so thoroughly infiltrated that they have engaged in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military and not with the US military… because they are making the sort of bad, short-term rationalistic [decision] that if the technology doesn’t go out the front door, it gets stolen out the backdoor anyway?”

These appear to be allegations wrapped in a question bundle. Who can get upset with a few questions?

One thing is certain: Google needs big, new revenue to keep the system rolling. With costs of infrastructure skyrocketing, Google has to generate revenue or face the unpleasant task of curtailing spending. Add to the mix the Bezos bulldozer; that is, the system which gets people to pay for the Amazon plumbing as the company expands its online advertising, policeware, and services businesses. Facebook — despite its self inflicted wounds — continues to push forward. Libra, the proposed digital currency for the country of Facebook, seems more innovative than Google’s new social media meet up service.

Who can answer the Peter Thiel questions? Perhaps Palantir Gotham armed with the “right” data? Will Google trip on its shoelaces?

Stephen E Arnold, July 17, 2019

Another List of Business Intelligence Missteps

June 3, 2019

AI has the business intelligence field booming, but not every company uses these tools as well as they could. ITWeb shares a white paper titled, “The Top Five Worst Practices in Business Intelligence,” produced by Information Builders. We wonder—why only five? Oh well, perhaps there will be a sequel. The paper’s introduction states:

“Companies of all sizes suffer from countless oversights and poor judgment calls during planning, tool selection, and rollout – mistakes that can be detrimental to BI success. Even the smartest, best-run businesses in the world commit the common missteps that doom BI projects to shelfware and failure.

The list below, culled through the real-world experiences of Information Builders’ BI experts, comprises what we consider the five worst practices leading to poor results in BI deployments. … This white paper discusses these five worst practices in business intelligence, outlines their negative impact from both a technology and a business perspective, and serves as a guide for avoiding them.”

The first worst practice listed is Depending on Humans to Operationalize Insights; be sure analytics are embedded alongside insights, we’re warned. Next is Expecting Self-Service BI to Address All Your Needs. Though some users can make use of self-service BI, advanced users need more flexibility, while executives require summaries and alerts. Then we have Underestimating the Importance of Data Preparation, which we agree cannot be over emphasized. (The old adage garbage-in-garbage-out comes to mind.) At number four is Using Tactical BI Tools to Support Broad BI Strategies—a hodgepodge of specific tools will fail to address the needs of the larger organization; both discovery tools and summary apps are required. Finally, Ignoring Important Data Sources rounds out the list; specifically, we’re told:

“BI initiatives tend to focus on the information contained in ERP and CRM applications, relational databases, data warehouses and marts, and other enterprise systems. However, important other data sources, such as machine-generated, mobile, location, social media, and web monitoring data, which contain a wealth of crucial insight, have emerged. Today, IDC estimates that as much as 90 percent of available content is unstructured, residing in various formats and places.”

See the white paper, downloadable for free here, for more details on each point. It is worth noting the paper concludes by promoting Information Builders’ own platform, WebFOCUS, to guard against such mistakes. Still, the list could be helpful if taken with that salt grain.

Cynthia Murrell, June 3, 2019

15 Reasons You Need Business Intelligence Software

May 21, 2019

I read StrategyDriven’s “The Importance of Business Intelligence Software and Why It’s Integral for Business Success.” I found the laundry list interesting, but I asked myself, “If BI software is so important, why is it necessary to provide 15 reasons?”

I went through the list of items a couple of times.Some of the reasons struck me as a bit of a stretch. I had a teacher at the University of Illinois who loved the phrase “a bit of a stretch, right” when a graduate student proposed a wild and crazy hypothesis or drew a nutsy conclusion from data.

Let’s look at four of these reasons and see if there’s merit to my skepticism about delivering fish to a busy manager when the person wanted a fish sandwich.

Reason 1: Better business decisions. Really? If a BI system outputs data to a clueless person or uses flawed, incomplete, or stale data to present an output to a bright person, are better business decisions an outcome? In my experience, nope.

Reason 6. Accurate decision making. What the human does with the outputs is likely to result in a decision. That’s true. But accurate? Too many variables exist to create a one to one correlation with the assertion and what happens in a decider’s head or among a group of deciders who get together to figure out what to do. Example: Google has data. Google decided to pay a person accused of improper behavior millions of dollars. Accurate decision making? I suppose it depends on one’s point of view.

Reason 11. Reduced cost. I am confident when I say, “Most companies do not calculate or have the ability to assemble the information needed to produce fully loaded costs.” Consequently, the cost of a BI system is not the license fee. There are the associated directs and indirects. And when a decision from the BI system is wrong, there are some other costs as well. How are Facebook’s eDiscovery systems generating a payback today? Facebook has data, but the costs of its eDiscovery systems are not known, nor does anyone care as the legal hassles continue to flood the company’s executive suite.

Reason 13. High quality data. Whoa, hold your horses. The data cost is an issue in virtually every company with which I have experience. No one wants to invest to make certain that the information is complete, accurate, up to date, and maintained (indexed accurately and put in a consistent format). This is a pretty crazy assertion about BI when there is no guarantee that the data fed into the system is representative, comprehensive, accurate, and fresh.

Business intelligence is a tool. Use of a BI system does not generate guaranteed outcomes.

Stephen E Arnold, May 21, 2019

Business Intelligence: Some Worst Practices

April 16, 2019

AI has the business intelligence field booming, but not every company uses these tools as well as they could. ITWeb shares a white paper titled, “The Top Five Worst Practices in Business Intelligence,” produced by Information Builders. We wonder—why only five? Oh well, perhaps there will be a sequel. The paper’s introduction states:

“Companies of all sizes suffer from countless oversights and poor judgment calls during planning, tool selection, and rollout – mistakes that can be detrimental to BI success. Even the smartest, best-run businesses in the world commit the common missteps that doom BI projects to shelfware and failure.

The worst practices have been shaped by subjective methods. Accurate? Judge for yourself.

The first worst practice listed is Depending on Humans to Operationalize Insights; be sure analytics are embedded alongside insights, we’re warned. Next is Expecting Self-Service BI to Address All Your Needs. Though some users can make use of self-service BI, advanced users need more flexibility, while executives require summaries and alerts. Then we have Underestimating the Importance of Data Preparation, which we agree cannot be over emphasized. (The old adage garbage-in-garbage-out comes to mind.) At number four is Using Tactical BI Tools to Support Broad BI Strategies—a hodgepodge of specific tools will fail to address the needs of the larger organization; both discovery tools and summary apps are required. Finally, Ignoring Important Data Sources rounds out the list; specifically, we’re told:

“BI initiatives tend to focus on the information contained in ERP and CRM applications, relational databases, data warehouses and marts, and other enterprise systems. However, important other data sources, such as machine-generated, mobile, location, social media, and web monitoring data, which contain a wealth of crucial insight, have emerged. Today, IDC estimates that as much as 90 percent of available content is unstructured, residing in various formats and places.”

See the white paper, downloadable for free here, for more details on each point. It is worth noting the paper concludes by promoting Information Builders’ own platform, WebFOCUS, to guard against such mistakes. Still, the list could be helpful if taken with that salt grain.

Is business intelligence an oxymoron?

Cynthia Murrell, April 16, 2019

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