Hewlett Packard and Code Reviews: Micro Focus Policy Shift

October 12, 2017

I noted that Hewlett Packard Enterprise allowed Russia to perform a code review. The software under “review” performs some security related functions. HPE is no longer in the software business after its sale of Autonomy to Micro Focus earlier this year and the somewhat interesting hiving of the HPE Micro Focus stake to the creatively named Seattle SpinCo in August 2017.

Micro Focus, according to Reuters, announced on October 9, 2017, that it would no longer permit code reviews by what Reuters called “high risk” governments. Prompt action for a giant roll up of different companies and their technologies. Somebody at Micro Focus mashed the pedal to metal for this policy change. Maybe Micro Focus’ UK customers were less than enthusiastic about the code review than US officials?

I am not sure what to make of HPE’s action, but on the surface, it seems that Micro Focus appears to be scrambling to contain the issue.

I did a quick look at Micro Focus and turned up a number of pointers to a company called Entit Software. This is a company with which I am not familiar. Entit has a number of offices, including one which looks pretty close to Hewlett Packard in Silicon Valley.

What’s amusing about this story is that HPE seems to be executing a complex combination of the paso double combined with a down home square dance. CNBC reported that “a White House cyber official called Russian review of Pentagon software problematic.” That seems like a criticism of HPE from my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek.

Interesting executive decision making plus footprints from corporate intermediaries. Perhaps Autonomy was not the challenge for Hewlett Packard. HP may be its own storm system? Seattle SpinCo? Really? MBAs and lawyers should be more creative in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, October 12, 2017

Google: Doing Better?

October 10, 2017

I recall that Google was not able to pull together some salary data. I just read “Google, Facebook and Twitter Scramble to Hold Washington at Bay” and formed the opinion that Facebook and Twitter are equally challenged by data requests. The three companies are, however, able to “scramble” to use Bloomberg’s loaded word.

The write up states:

It’s a delicate balance for the companies, whose products reached massive scale because of their ability to transact advertising automatically, without much restriction. They must figure out how much responsibility to take and how much change to promise, without succumbing to costly regulation or setting a precedent that might be difficult to follow in other countries. In the context of political advertising, some lawmakers are already proposing new limits.

I also noted this passage:

Google executives expected Congress to be more receptive to its arguments that penalizing knowledge of trafficking might stop smaller internet companies from looking for it at all. They were caught off-guard by negative responses to the company’s lobbying, according to one Washington operative who works for the company.

I thought Google’s analytics capabilities could predict certain actions. Google “off-guard” suggests that more than high school math club antics may be necessary.

Stephen E Arnold, October 10, 2017

Does Google Want to Be Broken Apart?

October 10, 2017

There’s nothing like a 23 hour travel spree to make new thoughts flow. Sitting in a noisy airport in Tuscany, I read “Google CEO Sundar Pichai: ‘I Don’t Know Whether Humans Want Change That Fast’” surprised me.

The “management by ambiguity” leader of the GOOG granted another interview. The story, which appeared on October 7, 2017, and made its way to Tuscany on October 8, 2017, contained some statements I found thought provoking.

Let’s look at three I circled as memorable:

Item 1: Mistakes

“I recognize that, in the Valley, people are obsessed with the pace of technological change,” he says. “It’s tough to get that part right… We rush sometimes, and can misfire for an average person.”

Comment: Yep, there are impacts particularly when the outfit making the mistake may be the big dog in the kennel.

Item 2: Information control

“Once everybody has access to a computer and connectivity, then search works the same, whether you are a Nobel laureate or just a kid with a computer.”

It’s tough to find information when some of the data are [a] censored, [b] not indexed, and [c] not updated once indexed.

Item 3: We’re no big deal…

No single company or country can change the pace of progress. Nobody is trying to socially engineer anything [here] – we are trying to solve hard problems.

Interesting. I wonder if companies affected by Google’s last 20 years would agree?

Item 4: Break up my company, please!

As a big company, you are constantly trying to foolproof yourself against being big, because you see the advantage of being small, nimble and entrepreneurial. Pretty much every great thing gets started by a small team.

Will governments force Google to bunsha or will Google just break itself up?

Stephen E Arnold, October 10, 2017

Medieval Thoughts in a Mobile Smart Bubble

October 6, 2017

I read two articles this morning when the recalcitrant Vodaphone network finally decided that resolving links from Siena, Italy, was okay today. Yesterday the zippy technology did not work as Sillycon Valley wizards and “real” journalists expect.

The first write up is one of those “newspapers should be run by “real” journalists operating from a rock-solid, independent position as gatekeepers of the “truth.” You can draw your own conclusion about this “real” journalistic cartwheel by reading “If Journalists Take Sides, Who Will Speak Truth to Power?

I noted this passage:

The essential argument was recently laid out by an outlet called 888.hu: “The international media, with a few exceptions, generally write bad things about the government because a small minority with great media influence does everything to tarnish the reputation of Hungary in front of the world – prestige that has been built over hundreds of years by patriots.”

The “real” Guardian newspaper presents opinion and news by blending observations, mixed sources, and “news.” Technology, zeros and ones, facts experts accept in order to win a grant, get tenure, or prove merit.

Navigate to “The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions.

Your are correct: medievalism meets “real” journalism. The argument in this “real” hard technology write up is that baloney, hoohah, and sci-fi has made “articiiial intelligence” into today’s boogeyman.

Chill out because those touting smart software and those who are afraid that a “real” Terminator will jump out of a police flying patrol car with Robocop are are coming to your city, village, or mud hut.

As readers of Beyond Search will be able to verify, I have poked fun at Technology Review for recycling the Watson confection with little or no critical analysis. I have also had a merry time commenting about the disconnect between the monopolistic systems which define “facts” and the old school journalists who flop between infatuation and odd ball criticism of the services which have captured their attention.

The reality is that artificial intelligence has been taking baby steps for decades. Computing power, data, and well-known numerical recipes can be combined to permit marketers to do what they have been doing for many years: Identify what’s hot and deliver more of that hotness in order to generate money via ads or provide services for which companies and governments will pay.

The notion that technology generates hyperbole is the stuff of entrepreneurs’ dreams. Today’s smart software is little more than making available some of the less crazy ideas from Star Trek.

Let me cite an example from “Seven Deadly”:

machine learning is very brittle, and it requires lots of preparation by human researchers or engineers, special-purpose coding, special-purpose sets of training data, and a custom learning structure for each new problem domain.

I am interested in watcching people struggle to make an app for adding ringtons to an Android mobile phone work. I am interested in watching people struggle with laptops which combine a keyboard and a touchscreen. I am interested in the conflation of news, opinion, facts, “weaponized” information, shaped data to sell ads, and online services providing a user what the user “really wants.”

AI raises some interesting challenges. First, for those “real” newspapers and magazines, I hope that more criticcal thinking is applied to the “real” story. I hope that regulators do more than flop around like a fish dumped on the dock. I hope that smart software can remediate some of the problems humans seem to be manufacturing with more efficiency than Kia implements on its assembly lines.

What’s the “truth” in the Guardian “real” news story, opinion, blog quoting write up. What’s the path forward for a champion of IBM Watson and the richly funded MTI IBM AI lab?

These are big issues. Digital Svanarola’s? Maybe not.

Stephen E Arnold, October 6, 2017

Google Got It and Feels Too: Ambiguity Management

October 5, 2017

Here’s a quote to note from “Sundar Pincha Says the Future of Google Is AI. But Can He Fix the Algorithm?” Bold are alleged words spoken by the chief Googler and the bracketed text are two of my questions:

I view it [Google’s role?] as a big responsibility to get it right. I think we‘ll [Google employees or senior management?] be able to do these things better over time. But I think the answer to your question, the short answer and the only answer, is we feel huge responsibility. Today, we overwhelmingly get it right. But I think every single time we stumble. I feel the pain, and I think we should be held accountable.

I am not sure what the its, the things, the stumbles, and the pains mean. I noted the “feel”word and the royal “we.”

Is this leadership via ambiguity? It sure seems like a stumble from a ratty hotel in Siena, Italy. Overwhelmingly, yes.

Stephen E Arnold, October 5, 2017

Google to Win in Self Driving Vehicles. Too Soon to Call the Game?

September 25, 2017

I like confidence. The trait is particularly charming when predicting the future. For example, consider the write up “How Google Will Beat Tesla, GM in Self-Driving Cars.” The title promises a cook book recipe for victory and, as I interpret the title, a win for the GOOG in the autonomous car game.

I highlighted this passage as one worthy of note because it uses as a source the paywalled Wall Street Journal, the Murdoch newspaper. (I fondly recall the wire tapping allegations of another Murdoch property. Impressive, if the allegations were accurate.)

The secret to the recipe seems to be a single new hire at the GOOG, John Krafcik. Mr. Krafcik is associated with outfits which makes the Fiat 500. I noted this description of Mr. Krafcik’s contribution to the Google:

Mr. Krafcik “is making headway in bridging a yawning cultural gap between Silicon Valley and Detroit.”

Another ingredient is that the Alphabet Google thing is “looking at developing theirs for a broad range of uses, including ride hailing, fright delivery, and public transportation.

An interesting factoid caught my attention. Some auto manufacturers have cars which cannot be sold. What does one do when vacant parking lots storage yards are packed with lime green vehicles?

The answer is to convert them to autonomous vehicles. What’s a little time and effort to convert that four door gas sipper into a self driver?

That’s a question to which I don’t have an answer which the auto industry does not seem to have either. Those lime green sleds are not yet set up like a whiz bang Tesla to make autonomous driving a bit flip. Retrofit? Well, a couple of demo models maybe?

The headline and the recycling of the WSJ story do not provide a recipe.

I believe the last “Google will win” trophy was awarded to Anthony Levandowski, the Otto Uber guy. Like Google’s inspired purchase of Motorola, the Levandowski play did not have the secret to an award winning recipe.

The GOOG is swinging for the fences, but American sports do not pay much attention to the competition in other parts of the world. But Mr. Murdoch’s intrepid reporters and those who amplify the “real” journalism are more interested in clicks and ad revenue than some auto industry executives who visit the general store in Harrod’s Creek once in a while.

Yep, these folks mostly grouse about “quality”, not self driving F 150s. But that is not “real news” is it?

Stephen E Arnold, September 25, 2017

Silicon Valley and the Butterflies

September 24, 2017

I read “The Tide Is Starting to Turn Against the World’s Digital Giants.” The idea is that those butterfly wings in Brazil can whip up Irma in Miami. Maybe? Maybe not? “Real” journalists have been paddling their canoes away from a whirlpool for decades.

Their efforts, like those sucked into the digital maws of the evil “Internet” have not gone well. The Guardian newspaper, itself whipped by one digital transformation after another, wants the old order restored. The idea is that “real” journalists and other “intermediaries” were gatekeepers. Now the distributed technologies have replaced the “old” gatekeepers with “new” gatekeepers. Oh, the “real” journalists sign, “We want to be Facebook. We were you know.”

The write up explains that the information satans are about to get their comeuppance. About time, I think the write up suggests.

I noted these comments in the “real” news write up:

[a] Multimillion fines are just the start for Facebook and Google, as the world comes to realize how political big tech has become [a piñata? Satan’s right hand? the destroyer of “real” news? Sentence fragments invite completion even when they appear in the Guardian newspaper]

[b] What’s more interesting are various straws in the wind that show how digital behemoths are losing their shine. Many of these relate to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, and to the dawning of a realization that Google and Facebook in particular may have played some role in these political earthquakes.

[c] What we’ve come to understand over the last two years is that, to coin a slogan, the technical is political.

I find it interesting that the intellectual touchstone for the write up is not the history book but Buzzfeed. Yep, Buzzfeed, a love child of the Guardian in spirit perhaps?

Ah, “real” journalism. Bashing successful companies is effective with a digital information service as one’s inspiration.

Stephen E Arnold, September 24, 2017

Old School Publishing: On the Ropes?

September 18, 2017

If you are interested professional publishing, you will want to read “We’ve Failed: Pirate Black Open Access Is Trumping Green and Gold and We Must Change Our Approach.” The “colorful” metaphors aside, there are some interesting statements in the article, which is available online without a fee.

I noted this passage:

Not for the first time, pirates are delivering where the established players and legal channels are not.

I also highlighted this idea for professional publishers:

What if, like the airline industry, publishers unbundled their product and started to test the value of some of the elements that form the bundle?

Please, read the full article, which is free I wish to reiterate, and think about the business decisions companies dependent on the business model for professional information services.

There’s nothing like an uncomfortable coach class seat.

Stephen E Arnold, September 18, 2017

A Write Up about Facebook Reveals Shocking Human Weakness

September 18, 2017

What do I need with another write up about Facebook? We use the service to post links to stories in this blog, Beyond Search. My dog has an account to use when a site demands a Facebook user name and password. That’s about it. For me, Facebook is an online service which sells ads and provides useful information to some analysts and investigators. Likes, mindless uploading of images, and obsessive checking of the service. Sorry, not for a 74 year old in rural Kentucky, thank you very much.

I did read “How Facebook Tricks You Into Trusting Algorithms.”

I noted this statement, which I think is interesting:

The [Facebook] News Feed is meant to be fun, but also geared to solve one of the essential problems of modernity—our inability to sift through the ever-growing, always-looming mounds of information.

Why use Facebook instead of a service like Talkwalker? Here’s the answer:

Who better, the theory goes, to recommend what we should read and watch than our friends? Zuckerberg has boasted that the News Feed turned Facebook into a “personalized newspaper.”

Several observations:

  1. The success of Facebook is less about “friends” and more about anomie, the word I think used by Émile Durkheim to describe one aspect of “modern” life.
  2. The human mind, it seems, can form attachments to inanimate objects like Teddy Bears, animate objects like a human or dog, or to simulacra which intermediate for the user between the inanimate and the animate.
  3. Assembling large populations of “customers”, Facebook has a way to sell ads based on human actions as identified by the Facebook monitoring software.

So what?

As uncertainty spikes, the “value” of Facebook will go up. No online service is invulnerable. Ennui, competition, management missteps, or technological change can undermine even the most dominant company.

I am not sure that Facebook “tricks” anyone. The company simply responds to the social opportunity modern life presents to people in many countries.

Build a life via the gig economy? Nah, pretty tough to do.

Generate happiness via Likes? Nah, ping ponging between angst and happiness is the new normal.

Become a viral success? Nah, better chance at a Las Vegas casino for most folks?

Facebook, therefore, is something that would have to be created if the real Facebook did not exist.

Will Facebook gain more “power”? Absolutely. Human needs are forever. Likes are transient. Keep on clicking. Algorithms will do the rest.

Stephen E Arnold, September 18, 2017

Demonizing the Ever Helpful Alaphabet Google XXVI Things

September 2, 2017

Gentle reader, I am horrified at the indirect vilification of my beloved Alphabet Google XXVI things. You must judge for yourself. Navigate to “A Serf on Google’s Farm.” A serf, as I understand the term is a person who is in thrall to a noble. The noble provides the land, and the serf the labor. As our modern world embraces the precepts of the Great Chain of Being, serfs are below the one percent. Thus, it is. In the Dark Ages, one did not grouse too much about the one percent. Bad things could happen because that was the mechanism for the Great Chain of Being. It was a perception that the top spot was occupied by a deity. The lower levels were ranked by their station in life. In short, it was and is good to be up near the top of the pecking order.

The write up makes clear that publishers find themselves lower in the Great Chain of Digital Being than they were in the pre-Google era. Yep, when the king disowned an annoying son, life was not as good outside the castle as it was inside the castle.

Publisher types are now looking at the castle from the mud and straw vantage points close to the pigs and chickens. Big change. The trip to the castle may have been short in terms of steps but long in terms of the Great Chain of Being.

The article points out that Google has put publishers and related content types in the squalid hovels built near the castle walls. Life can be fun when the wine and mead are available, and the harvest is good. But at other times, those lice and muddy lanes were a bummer.

The write up points out that the Google has assembled an advertising Catch 22. Get with the program and you may be squeezed by the program. Thus it was for serfs and thus it is for those who have little choice but accept Google’s way of life.

I noted three statements which characterize the world as perceived by a digital serf:

  1. as the adage puts it, if you don’t pay for the product, you are the product. Google isn’t doing us any favors. We get these services for free because Google’s empire and the vast amounts of money it brings in every year is built on the unimaginable amounts of data that come from, among other places, DoubleClick for Publishers and Analytics. We’re [the article author’s company] just one of a kabillion [sic] sites allowing Google to harvest our data.
  2. Running TPM [the article author’s company] absent Google’s various services is almost unthinkable. Like I literally would need to give it a lot of thought how we’d do without all of them. Some of them are critical and I wouldn’t know where to start for replacing them. In many cases, alternatives don’t exist because no business can get a footing with a product Google lets people use for free.
  3. And in general Google tends to be a relatively benign overlord….Google’s monopoly control is almost comically great. It’s a monopoly at every conceivable turn and consistently uses that market power to deepen its hold and increase its profits. Just the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is textbook anti-competitive practices.

My view is that the Google has been operating in a consistent manner since it was inspired by the Yahoo, GoTo, Overture pay to play model. That shift from better Web search to the ad thing took place before the Google initial public offering. That works out to 13 years ago.

In that span of time, publishers wanted the world to be like the good old days of print which put the publishers in the role of gatekeepers and power brokers. Nice try, but publishers were unable to adapt to the Googley world. Just like the hapless retail giants, the failure to take advantage of digital opportunities has put Sears, JC Penny, and other “giants” outside the castle walls. Wattle, not Walmart, is the go to operating model.

Forget Google. Had there been no Google, another outfit would have filled the void. Google is a reflection of today’s version of the Middle Ages.

Do I feel sorry for traditional publishers? Nope. These outfits embrace systems and methods like XML, slicing and dicing, and surfing on Google as the skateboard wheels that will carry them to the future.

The wheels spin but don’t win X Games competitions.

Now Google itself is vulnerable. There is Facebook, the Chinese outfits, and the Bezos transformer machine. Perhaps publishers should think about ways to exploit Google’s flaws instead of grousing about Google being Google for 13 years. The Alphabet Google XXVI things are not likely to change their stripes overnight.

Publishers might find life easier if they quit complaining and name calling. Meeting user needs might be a path forward. But Google bashing is so easy and so much fun. Figuring out how to make money is work. Who wants to do that?

Stephen E Arnold, September 2, 2017

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