Another Google Gaffe?

December 30, 2019

Censorship is an intriguing job. A human — chock full of failings — has to figure out if an object is offensive, defensive, or maybe-sive.

If true, the BBC story “YouTube Admits Error over Bitcoin Video Purge” documents a misstep. DarkCyber loves the GOOG, and the research team doubts any anecdote suggesting a Google gaffe took place. For example:

Many video-makers have complained that YouTube’s current systems let so-called “copyright trolls” make false claims on their videos, while its automated detection tools often fail to understand when material has been legally used.

The BBC reports:

YouTube said in a statement that it had “made the wrong call” and confirmed that any content mistakenly removed would be restored. “With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call,” it said.”When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.” It said there had been no changes to its polices, and insisted there would be “no penalty” to any channels that were affected by the incident.

I liked the idea that Googzilla is an it, very 2020. And the individuals who depend on YouTube for some money.

Yeah, well, you know, err.

Stephen E Arnold, December 30, 2019

YouTube: Will It Continue to Fancy Dance to the Editorial Control Be Bop?

September 20, 2019

Kids these days have ambitions of being astronauts, writers, scientists, and YouTubers. YouTubers are social media influences with mass followings that make decent livings through YouTube, mostly through ad revenue. YouTubers love and hate their platform of choice and it does not come as a surprise due to how controversial YouTube has become. The Guardian runs down YouTube’s recent headlines and spoke with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki in the article, “YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki: ‘Where’s The Line Of Free Speech-Are You Removing Voices That Should Be Heard?’”


YouTube faces frequent scandals, involving its creators posting questionable content like hate speech, Holocaust deniers, etc. And there are those pedophiles who communicate in the comments of children’s videos or engage in code speak related to videos posted by a doting parent for digitally aware Silver Surfer.

YouTube made some progress with anti-hate speech policies to curb hate mongering videos and periodic takedowns. YouTube allegedly has a 10,000 alert, morally upright, dedicated human moderators working with smart software and systems able to the alleged five hundred hours of video posted every minute. Wojcicki seems to say her Googley unit cannot catch every instance of hate speech and questionable video, but they are trying and making a good effort at it.

The video streaming platform is one of the most popular ways Americans entertain themselves and generate money for the online ad giant. The problem is these scandals and bad actor videos that stain YouTube’s reputation, but does removing/banning them violate free speech:

“But hasn’t it been dangerously influential? [Wojcicki] pauses. ‘Look, [these question videos are] a very small percentage of our views, and the way that we think about it is: ‘Is this content violating one of our policies? Has it violated anything in terms of hate, harassment?’ If it has, we remove that content. We keep tightening and tightening the policies. We also get criticism, just to be clear, [about] where do you draw the lines of free speech and, if you draw it too tightly, are you removing voices of society that should be heard? We’re trying to strike a balance of enabling a broad set of voices, but also making sure that those voices play by a set of rules that are healthy conversations for society.’”

This particular write up adds a human dimension to the problem of hate speech and child abuse. Wojcicki’s life includes hobbies. (Imagine. A hard working Type A Googler having a hobby.) She is determined to leave a strong legacy and wants to influence more women to work in the technology industry. A good attitude is a plus when working for a company whose top lawyer makes headlines about personal behavior and the video content contains some darned awful data.

YouTube would have made a great MBA case study had not the market for MBAs imploded and free online classes demonstrated that MBA students go to school for contacts, not learning.

Nevertheless, a great case study awaits.

Whitney Grace, September 20, 2019

YouTube May Be Too Big to Monitor or Fail

September 17, 2019

A friend if mine who shall remain nameless, but who is a Baby Boomer and not technology illiterate once said that the United States government should just shut down the entire Dark Web. I burst out laughing at this statement and incredulously he asked why I guffawed. After explaining how wide spread the Dark Web is, the number of countries involved, and using the “herding cats” metaphor my point was made. Google is facing the same problem as it tries to sanitize YouTube, you can read the story from IT Wire.

YouTube is a big Web site and its expanse does not know an end. Google’s CEO Sundar Puchai stated to CNN that it was too difficult to clean up the entire video platform. YouTube tends to obey the US’s First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech, but there is a mega backlash when it comes to YouTube hosting harmful content.

The definition of “harmful and malicious” content varies. The general consensus is videos related to neo-Nazism, white supremacy, racist, nudity, promoting terrorism, sexism, hate speech, and anything that specifically targets ethnic or social groups in a negative fashion fits the harmful definition.

Pichai said that using a combination humans and machines Google has gotten 99% of YouTube sanitation right, but videos still sneak between the upload cracks. This reminds me of Web filters “supposed’ to protect children from harmful Internet content, but they always took things to the extreme. Pichai admitted that while he wants the harmful content on YouTube to be well below 1%, he admitted that any large scale system will have a trace amount of fraud, take credit cards for example. Pichai remained silent when confronted with a conspiracy question:

“Asked why YouTube had taken nearly seven years to remove videos claiming that the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 never took place, Pichai did not give a straight answer, but danced around, saying he wished that the company had gotten to the task of removing such videos much earlier. The Google chief was not asked about the fact that numerous alternative media sites have now been demonetized as a result of the purge of content which Google says is unsuitable for YouTube.”

Yep, impossible.

Whitney Grace, September 17, 2019

Machine Learning Created A Big Data Problem And Only Machine Learning Can Fix It

September 12, 2019

Companies heavily invest in machine learning algorithms, but they soon learn that the algorithms are not magic and do not deliver the desired business insights. Data scientists are then employed to handle junk data and “fix the problem,” but they hardly get to use their skills appropriately. The bigger problem, said Silicon Angle’s article, “The Real Big-Data Problem And Only Machine Learning Can Fix It” is that businesses do not employee machine leaning algorithms from the onset. Instead they concentrate on the end result and data quantity over quality, most of which is useless.

Tamr Inc. CEO Andy Palmer and its chief technology officer Michael Stonebraker believe that smaller startups offer more scalable big-data solutions for companies than the legacy companies. Tamr Inc. assists companies to use machine learning to unify their data silos. Palmer and Stonebraker have worked for years to share the truth about big data. It is better to use machine learning for the menial labor, so that the data can be cleaned and organized before it’s analyzed, marketed, or anything is sold with it.

Becoming entirely machine learning is another problem, but it has more to do with a company’s culture than anything else:

“Machine learning isn’t a silver bullet, Stonebraker conceded. Becoming truly data-driven requires both technological and cultural adjustments. In fact, 77% of surveyed executives said business adoption of big data/AI initiatives is difficult for their organizations, according to a NewVantage Partners LLC study. That’s up from last year despite plenty of new software flooding the market. These executives cited a number of obstacles holding back adoption, 95% of which were cultural or organizational, rather than technological. ‘Organizations … need a plan to get to production. Most don’t plan and treat big data as technology retail therapy,’ Gartner Inc. analyst Nick Heudecker has said.”

The culture is one reason why data scientists are forced to spend much of their time sifting and sorting the data. It also means replacing humans with machine learning. Will organizations have the knowledge to make this type of shift in an informed manner?

Whitney Grace, September 12, 2019

Is Amazon Chaotic?

September 1, 2019

DarkCyber found a FedEx tag on the door to our office. An Amazon FedEx delivery driver determined that we were not in the office. We were. Now what? FedEx did not care. We did not bother contacting Amazon. Will the package arrive? Who knows? But an outfit engaged in real news has invested one year in gathering information about Amazon’s delivery systems and methods. Note: This short write up will also be included in the Amazonia column in DarkCyber on Monday, September 2, 2019. Here’s a preview:

The Chaos of Amazon

DarkCyber read “Even Amazon’s Own Products Are Getting Hijacked by Imposter Sellers.”

This sentence seemed important, although its source is Marketplace Pulse, an information service with which DarkCyber has little knowledge:

“It just highlights yet another case of the chaos that exists on Amazon”

The “it” is hijacked listings. The procedure is to locate a product and then wait until Amazon stops selling that offering. Then a bad actor or a semi bad actor uses the listing to sell unrelated products. Reviews? Positive, of course. The write up explains the procedure this way:

One common tactic is to find a once popular, but now abandoned product and hijack its listing, using the page’s old reviews to make whatever you’re selling appear trustworthy.

There are some mechanics involved; for example, one source in the write up allegedly said:

She [former Amazon professional] says these listings were likely seized by a seller who contacted Amazon’s Seller Support team and asked them to push through a file containing the changes. The team is based mostly overseas, experiences high turnover, and is expected to work quickly, Greer says, and if you find the right person they won’t check what changes the file contains.

Is this a problem? Sure. Fix? Not an easy one. Think of the challenge as a type of YouTube vetting challenge. There’s so much going on, so much churn, one gets chaos. Interesting?

A Wobbling Flywheel?

The Cost of Next Day Delivery” is interesting. We noted this assertion:

Amazon’s next day delivery system has brought chaos and carnage to America’s streets. But the world’s biggest retailer has a system to escape blame.

That should activate the Amazon management team. A “Have you stopped beating your dog?” question puts the individual who is to respond near high RPM flywheel.

We noted this passage from the allegedly accurate essay:

the company’s [a subcontractor to Amazon] drivers worked under relentless demands to deliver hundreds of packages each shift — for a flat rate of around $160 a day — at the direction of dispatchers who often compel them to skip meals, bathroom breaks, and any other form of rest, discouraging them from going home until the very last box is delivered.

Okay, one example. A fluke? An outlier? An anomaly?

Buzzfeed asserts that Amazon:

in its relentless bid to offer ever-faster delivery at ever-lower costs, it has built a national delivery system from the ground up. In under six years, Amazon has created a sprawling, decentralized network of thousands of vans operating in and around nearly every major metropolitan area in the country, dropping nearly 5 million packages on America’s doorsteps seven days a week.

Amazon responded to this Buzzfeed essay, according to Buzzfeed, in this way:

“The assertions do not provide an accurate representation of Amazon’s commitment to safety and all the measures we take to ensure millions of packages are delivered to customers without incident. Whether it’s state-of-the art telemetrics and advanced safety technology in last-mile vans, driver safety training programs, or continuous improvements within our mapping and routing technology, we have invested tens of millions of dollars in safety mechanisms across our network, and regularly communicate safety best practices to drivers. We are committed to greater investments and management focus to continuously improve our safety performance.”

Buzzfeed, says Buzzfeed, conducted a year long investigation into delivery by Amazon. The conclusion:

Amazon’s pivot to delivery has, all too often, exposed communities across the country to chaos, exploitative working conditions, and, in many cases, peril.

Amazon kills people. Okay. The delivery vehicles are often poorly maintained. Subcontractors may have interesting pedigrees like interactions with law enforcement. Drivers may be attacked by a dog.

Amazon, like other super efficient, edge companies, pressures its suppliers. The method has worked for companies like Toyota. But the difference, it appears, is that Amazon is not unionized. The workflow for some delivery procedures may be based on what DarkCyber calls the “high school science club management method”. This ungainly phrase suggests, “We make stuff up as we go along.” Is it possible that this approach to management is one which allows cost suppression because mid level staff who often create guidelines, procedures, and handbooks of “rules of the road” are not needed. Making up procedures on the fly is expedient.

Buzzfeed focuses on the problems which, it appears, can be addressed with unionization and a mechanism for accountability. Examples in the Buzzfeed write up range from a desire to maximize resources to abuse of power, for example, this statement from the article:

“Amazon, you are so big,” he said. “Why do you want to treat your business partner this way?”

The answer, it seems to DarkCyber, is that efficiency generates “customer satisfaction” and “revenue.” Which is more important? Buzzfeed does not say. The article points out:

“Our [Amazon’s] #1 priority,” it said, “is getting every package to the customer on time.”

Net net: Buzzfeed is likely to step up its analysis of Amazon. Amazon, DarkCyber hypothesizes, will step up its scrutiny of Buzzfeed.

What other business practices will “me too” news organizations research and document? Amazon has been around since 1994. Interesting time lag: A quarter century and now an exposé? DarkCyber will stay tuned.

Stephen E Arnold, September 1, 2019

AI Reality: Making Music Requires Humans

August 31, 2019

The hype, double talk, and downright obfuscation about artificial intelligence is remarkable. For an excellent walk through of what is involved to use open source and Google developed tools, you may want to scan “How YACHT Fed Their Old Music to the Machine and Got a Killer New Album.” Tip: This title does not express the processes used by the band to generate “new” music. Just like the marketers who find it easier to make up stuff and use jargon to explain “smart software,” whoever write the title to this article probably should have invested a few minutes reading and thinking about the procedures the band followed. Yeah, push a button and get what? Nothing without manual and intellectual effort. In short, AI is available, but it takes bright humans to make tuneful magic.

Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2019

Google and Details: Hey, Work? What?

August 24, 2019

DarkCyber noted several “real news” items related to what we call “the chill mentality”, one aspect of Google’s management methods.

Example 1: The Next Web reported “Google listed the wrong number for its product hotline, nobody noticed.” That’s one way to be efficient with regard to customer support costs.

Example 2: The Next Web reported “Open-source spyware bypasses Google Play defenses — twice.” Yep, security is Job One.

Example 3: Ars Technica noted: “85 Google Play apps with 8 million downloads forced full screen ads on users.” A paltry eight million downloads. Chill, folks.

Example 4: Slashgear pointed out that “Google just gave Hangouts a temporary stay of execution.” From the death sentence in January 2019 to August 2019, Google is just being flexible. Relax.

Be flexible.

Stephen E Arnold, August 24, 2019

Tradition: New Methods Gummed Up by Back and Forthing

August 19, 2019

DarkCyber spotted a post called “The Arc of Collaboration.” At first glance, the article points out that “messaging” may be a:

better center of gravity than documents.

That makes sense. People send texts from their mobile devices. Lots of text messages. Phone calls are okay if prearranged with a text. Email is okay, but despite Fancy Dan smart in boxes and folders, email still requires some grunting around to find the message with the needed attachment.

Here’s a key point in the write up:

Slack is not air traffic control that coordinates everything. It’s 911 for when everything falls apart.

The write up points out:

Slack is ubiquitous at most companies in tech (and in many other industries as well), but it doesn’t feel like it is becoming the central nervous system undergirding all the apps and workflows of its customers. A new generation of functional apps have risen, with messaging and collaboration built directly into them as first parties. And with them it becomes increasingly clear that Slack isn’t air traffic control for every app, it’s 911 for when they fail.

DarkCyber agrees.

Quick blast from the past: Remember Lotus Notes? Hmmm.

Here’s an insight from the write up:

Productivity and Collaboration are two sides of the same coin for any team with more than one person. Work is just the iterated output of individuals creating and coordinating together. But the two have been distinct and isolated segments historically, due to how long the feedback loops of both were.

The emphasis on latency is an important point. Time is the one thing that is difficult to manufacture.

Quick blast from the past: In 1972, I worked at a nuclear services company. We had to prepare a 400 page document in less than 10 days. One scientist said, “Just hire 400 people and each types one page.” Right. But the time required to locate 400 typewriters with identical government accepted type balls and 400 people who could type simultaneously and the people needed to proofread those 400 pages was more than one day.

DarkCyber noted this passage:

The dream of Slack is that they become the central nervous system for all of a company’s employees and apps. This is the view of a clean *separation* of productivity and collaboration. Have all your apps for productivity and then have a single app for coordinating everyone, with your apps also feeding notifications into this system. In this way, Slack would become a star. With every app revolving around it. Employees would work out of Slack, periodically moving to whichever app they were needed in, before returning to Slack. But productivity *isn’t* separate from collaboration. They are the two parts of the same loop of producing work. And if anything collaboration is in *service* of team productivity.

The problem is “meta coordination”; that is:

Discord is the best analog for what should exist. For a while Slack and Discord were compared to each other as competitors. As Discord has focused squarely in gaming, and Slack in companies this comparison has been used less and less. But this misses the main distinction between Slack and Discord. Discord is actually two products bundled into one. It *is* a messaging app that looks akin to Slack. But it is *also* a meta-layer that runs across all games. … Discord has functionality like a social graph, seeing what games your friends are playing, voice chat, etc. These have been misunderstood by the market. They aren’t random small features. They are the backbone of a central nervous system.

There are more valuable insights in this Kwokchain essay. But these points resonate with DarkCyber.

Stephen E Arnold, August 19, 2019

When Is a Deletion a Real Deletion

June 29, 2019

Years ago we created the Point (Top 5% of the Internet). You oldsters may remember our badge which was for a short period of Internet time a thing.

point logo

When we started work on the service in either 1992 or 1993, one of the people working with the team put the demo in the Paradox database. Hey, who knew that traffic would explode, and advertisers would contact us to put their messages on the site.

The Paradox database was not designed to deal with the demands we put upon it. One of its charming characteristics was that when we deleted something, the space was not reclaimed. Paradox — like many, many other databases — just removed the index pointer. The “space” and hence some charming idiosyncrasies remained.

Flash forward decades. A deletion may not be a deletion. Different “databases” handle deletions in different ways. Plus anyone with experience working with long forgotten systems like the Information Dimensions’ system to the total weirdness of a CICS system knows that paranoid people back up and back up as often as possible. Why? Fool with an AS400 database at the wrong time doing something trivial and poof. Everything is gone. More modern databases? Consider this passage from the Last Pickle:

The process of deletion becomes more interesting when we consider that Cassandra stores its data in immutable files on disk. In such a system, to record the fact that a delete happened, a special value called a “tombstone” needs to be written as an indicator that previous values are to be considered deleted.

When one digs around in database files, it is possible to come across these deleted data. People are amazed when a Windows file can be recovered. Yep, deletions don’t explain exactly what has been “deleted” and the conditions under which the data can be undeleted. Deletion allows one to assume one thing when the data have been safely archived, converted to tokens, or munged into a dossier.

Put these two things together and what do you get? A minimum of two places to look for deleted data. Look in the database files themselves, and look in backups.

In short, deleted data may not be deleted.


How does one know if data are “there”? Easy. Grunt work.

Why is this journey to the world of Paradox relevant?

Navigate to “Google Now Lets Users Auto-Delete Their Location and Web History.” Note this passage:

Specifically, Google account holders will be able to choose a time limit of either 3 or 18 months, after which, their location, web, and app history will automatically be deleted.

Some questions?

  • Who verifies that the content has been removed from indexes and data files?
  • Who verifies that the data have been expunged from metadata linked to the user?
  • What does deletion mean as the word is used by Google?
  • From what has something been deleted?

Like hotel temperature controls, fiddling with the knobs may change nothing.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2019

Google Disintermediates Apps

May 27, 2019

Do you really want to find, download, and use a separate app when you order food or anything for that matter? No, of course not. Companies developing apps may push back a little, but there are other ways to make a living. Uber? Amazon delivery person until the robot driven vehicles arrive?

Hey, Google Bring Me a Chalupa!” explains that Google has sucked into its system functions once the domain of the independent app. Yes, disintermediation has arrived for startups. The write up states:

Now thanks to the clever folks at Google, hangry [editor’s note: this slang appeared in the original article] people everywhere can order food delivery directly from Google Search, Maps, and Google Assistant. That doesn’t mean that a Google intern is going to show up at your door with your White Castle Crave Case or pineapple pizza. Instead the tech giant is partnering with companies that are already in the delivery game—like DoorDash, Postmates,, Slice, ChowNow, and more on the way.

I am not sure what “partnering” means in the thrilling world of Alphabet Google. I will leave that to you to figure out.

What seems important here in Harrod’s Creek are these issues:

  • What’s the branding? Google or the oddball service absorbed into the Google environment?
  • How will Google prioritize information about the services playing ball with the online advertising company? Maybe buy advertising to get pride of place for that Chalupa?
  • Will Google set up sweet heart deals or buy a company which is getting traction via the Google service? How will the disintermediated service feel about that? Probably the disintermediated will bond. App developer and start up service company together again?

Convenience may come at a price? Do you think Google  will send the person who orders chalupas ads for related products?

Does disintermediation lead to unemployment or underemployment? That’s a positive, right?

Stephen E Arnold, May 27, 2019

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