Quote to Note: Facebook and Open Source As a Wooden Club

February 24, 2018

I read “Serverless & GraphQL.” Here’s the passage which caught my attention because I did not know about this use of open source as a wooden club:

And I don’t know how many of you know about some of the Facebook technologies and the patents and licensing issues that are around those- they had an interesting clause, if you sue Facebook, you lose the right to use any of their stuff in any of their products and some people were really scared about it.

That’s one way to earn a “like.”

Stephen E Arnold, February 25, 2018

Froogle, Froogle, Can You Come Back?

February 24, 2018

When you are shopping for a new product, the first place you usually visit is Google. Google usually lists the top results for products and brands, but it takes a long time to sort through all of those results. (That is nothing new when it comes to search.) Google has decided to help shoppers in their consumer quest, says The SEM Post in the article: “Google Adds Research Search Feature To The Search Results.” While it sounds like Google is about to help researchers finish their homework assignments, the new feature actually adds product images to search results.

The new search feature is similar to the top stories search feature that lists the top news articles based on keyword entries. The product feature, however, lists top and popular products related to a query term. There are some drawbacks, as the article points out, when they searched for “bbq grills” One of the listings was outdated, another was a landing page that required clicking through the Web page for more information, and another only listed a partial date.

It is a good update, but it does need some revisions:

“I think this is an interesting addition, but definitely could use some tweaks to ensure that the articles they pull out are more current – such as under a year old – as well as ensuring what is linked to is useful.  And it could serve as a great resource in the future for searchers, especially for those who are trying to get this type of information from third parties rather than from the retailers.”

From a business standpoint, however, this could be a new way Google could sell ad revenue. Companies can pay for their products to show up in this research feature. It is a great idea, but another thing that can be exploited. Perhaps Froogle can come home again?

Whitney Grace, February 24, 2018

Should Google Blogger Users Worry about the Platform?

February 13, 2018

Not long ago, Beyond Search picked up a vibe that Blogger, Google’s blogging platform, was going the way of Google Accelerator and Orkut. There may be some tailwind pushing that idea forward.

Navigate to “Google Partners With WordPress To Accelerate The Development Of A Faster Web.” The article reports as “real” news, of course:

WordPress controls a staggering 59 percent of the CMS market. Partnering with the platform makes sense for Google to advance its goals in creating a faster and better web.

I understand the need for speed, but perhaps Blogger is falling behind WordPress, and the Google may love more users more than its own platform. Is Blogger a liability, a black hole of costs, or an acquisition that failed to avoid a Dodgeball fate?

We’re watching.

Stephen E Arnold, February 13, 2018

Startup Success: Cleverness and Lady Luck

February 7, 2018

Right now a game-changing startup is begging for funding. That’s a given. But just as likely is the idea that that company is getting completely ignored. It’s a common story that the biggest asset for startups is luck, which was wonderfully illustrated by a recent Quartz story, “Google’s Early Failure to Sell Itself Shows Why We Can’t Recognize Good Ideas.”

According to the funder who wrote Sergey Brin his second check, who advised them to give up on a failed plan to license Google:

“It’s very hard to get anyone else to adopt your baby. I told them, “You have to raise your baby yourself.” They came back some months later, and I don’t think they said I was right, but they’d decided to start their own company because nobody was interested in their baby.”

This has always been the case. These babies that tech gurus design often don’t find sympathetic investors. It’s often like hearing news of a brilliant musician who went unnoticed because of bad luck or a beautiful movie that fell through the cracks. It’s timing and luck and networking and it’s been like this for as long as anyone can remember. Quora was asking how big of a role luck plays in startup success way back in 2010. The results are about what you can expect: Lady Luck picks her dates often without much thought.

Patrick Roland, February 7, 2018

Thomson Reuters: The Unwinding Begins

January 31, 2018

Years, no, decades ago, I did some work for Thomson. Today the company is Thomson Reuters, a large company with diverse businesses. When I last counted the units, I think the number was somewhere around 150. The exact number matters less than the statement, “Thomson Reuters has a lot of brands, products, business units, and companies under one corporate roof.”

Some of the businesses are related; for example, the legal information services. Others seem different from professional publishing. One example would be news and the entities set up to compete with Bloomberg for financial services or the companies jousts in financial data analysis.

Every year or so I take a look at the company’s annual financial report. My impression of the company is that it has struggled to grow. That’s not news because far bigger companies find that what worked in the past does not apply in today’s business climate; for example, IBM’s struggles are both interesting and to some amusing.

I read “Exclusive: Blackstone in Talks to Buy Majority Stake in Key Thomson Reuters Unit.” The exclusive makes sense. Thomson Reuters is, after all, reporting about Thomson Reuters. The main point is that Thomson Reuters is selling “a key business unit.” Another telling fact in the report is that Thomson Reuters is selling a “majority stake.”

For a company that exercised management control, the abrogation of control of some of its Financial and Risk business is interesting. With financial data and risk a business sector which is attracting interest from start ups and established companies, Thomson Reuters seems to be saying, “Hey, this has real value. Let’s sell. Maybe a buyer can juice up the revenues.”

Lord Thomson of Fleet is a distant memory to some at the company I assume. What’s clear is that change of a significant nature is now taking place within the company.

Have stakeholders grown weary of the reorganizations and efforts to generate Facebook and Google like growth? Have the senior managers realized that generating money from what are information businesses may be increasingly difficult going forward and now is the time to act?

I don’t know. This development is worth watching.

Stephen E Arnold, January 31, 2018

Facebook and Google: An Easy Shift from Regulated to Menace

January 26, 2018

I read “George Soros: Facebook and Google a Menace to Society.” I thought the prevailing sentiment was regulation. Many industries are regulated, and some which should be like consulting are not.

The British newspaper which is popular in Harrod’s Creek for its digital commitment and its new chopped down form factor offered this nugget from George Soros, an interesting billionaire:

Facebook and Google have become “obstacles to innovation” and are a “menace” to society whose “days are numbered”, said billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday. “Mining and oil companies exploit the physical environment; social media companies exploit the social environment,” said the Hungarian-American businessman, according to a transcript of his speech.

Let’s assume that Mr. Soros’ viewpoint grabs the hearts and minds of his fellow travelers. Will Facebook and Google face actions which are more than mere regulatory harnesses?

Not even good old Microsoft warranted the “menace” label. I think of menace as a word suggesting physical harm. Other definitions range from “a declaration of an intention to cause evil to happen” to scare, startle, or terrify.

Now Facebook and Google can be characterized in many ways. When we disseminate links to Facebook’s intellectual underbelly, none of the goslings is particularly frightened. When one of the DarkCyber researchers to I run a query on the GOOG, our blood does not run cold. We sigh, and run the same query on different systems, even www.searx.me which is often quite useful.

In my opinion, the PR stakes are rising for these superstars of the Silicon Valley way.

This will be interesting. Perhaps Philz Coffee fueled protests will become more common in Plastic Fantasticland. Could some wealthy Davos types fund such gatherings? The T shirts could become collectibles too.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2018

Casetext: A Disrupter

January 21, 2018

Legal information is of interest to legal eagles. However, a business move by Casetext may cause pain at professional publishing shops operated by LexisNexis and Westlaw. Both companies pride themselves on their technology savvy. But a four year old company may have become the little engine that could run over executives napping on the train tracks.

According to a company statement:

Casetext’s new Holdings feature is the largest searchable collection of concise case summaries ever assembled. To create Holdings, Casetext applied a tactic they call “judicial language processing,” exploiting patterns within the case law corpus to excerpt summaries directly from judicial opinions. Holdings is invaluable for any attorney looking to quickly familiarize herself with the crux of a judicial opinion and nimbly compare and contrast similar holdings across a particular area of law.

To add to the competitive thrust, Casetext uses smart software which seems to be a competitive advantage.

Founded in 2013, Casetext has attracted more than $20 million in venture funding.

Worth watching how this battle of legal eagles plays out.

Stephen E Arnold, January 21, 2018

Alphabet Google Is Allegedly Inventing the Future

January 14, 2018

I read an interesting round up of Alphabet Google’s research initiatives. The article’s title is “The Future According to Alphabet Moonshots: From Calico to X.”

The write up begins by pointing out that Alphabet Google has trimmed some of its notable explorations. I learned:

Alphabet has already started to shed some of its less successful side projects, suggesting the holding company will only tolerate so much discomfort. In the past year, it sold satellite imaging firm Terra Bella and terrifying robotics division Boston Dynamics, while shuttering down solar-powered, internet-by-drone idea Titan and modular smartphone Project Ara.

Yep, cost control exists at Alphabet Google.

The list of “inventions” for the future mentioned in the article includes:

  • Calico which is part of the “solving death” thing
  • CapitalG, which is another of Alphabet Google’s “invest in others” activities
  • DeepMind, which is Alphabet Google’s smart software outfit
  • Jigsaw, the company’s “tech accelerator.”
  • Project Jacquard which is focused on weaving electronics into clothing
  • Project Soli which is a sensor “that uses radar to track miniscule motions”
  • Sidewalk Labs, which is Google’s smart city play
  • Verily, which seems to be another component of the “solving death”, immortality initiative
  • Waymo, which is the self driving auto initiative
  • X, which is the home of the Loon Balloon and “early stage trials”

Several thoughts crossed my mind as I worked through this list.

  1. Google is largely dependent on online advertising for its revenues. After 20 years of investing and inventing, the company still remains dependent on an idea inspired by GoTo.com. You know trend lines reveal quite a bit about the past and the future. This trend line suggests that Alphabet Google is an online advertising company with little success in diversification or leapfrogging.
  2. Alphabet Google in into a wide spectrum of technologies. The unifying theme of these inventions, bets, or moonshots is not evident to me. The analogy is a person who has money betting on many different long odds lottery games.
  3. The artificial intelligence plays like DeepMind do not allow Alphabet Google to deal with malware in the Android store, filter YouTube videos for certain proscribed content for children, and cope with Google Images penchant for returning oddball search results. (Try male bikini without parental filters enabled.)

Without doing any additional research, I think that Alphabet Google is demonstrating that some Internet start up ideas do not enable additional revenue streams by throwing money at many bets. The old Bell Labs pulled off this trick but so far Google has not been able to duplicate Bell Telephone’s success in innovations that stick, then diffuse, and ultimately create new businesses.

Alphabet Google’s principal mechanism for innovation is the thousands of former Google employees who have left the company and pursued their own ideas. A good example is the Xoogler magnet Facebook.

Also, will Alphabet Google be been able to match Amazon’s revenue diversification?

Is Alphabet Google inventing the future? Yes, as long as it hires smart people who leave the company. The internal track record is interesting, but it has done little to allow the company to shake its addiction to online ad revenue.

What happens if that ad revenue softens, faces regulation in Europe and elsewhere, and erodes the online search value statement?

Has Alphabet Google’s bets created a situation in which the company must dog paddle frantically to maintain the status quo?

Stephen E Arnold, January 14, 2018

Two Senior Citizens Go Steady: IBM and British Telecom Hug in the Cloud

January 10, 2018

I read “BT Offers businesses Direct Access to IBM Cloud Services.” That sounds like an interesting idea. However, BT (the new version of British Telecom) has joined hands with Amazon’s cloud as well. See this Telecompaper item, please.

These tie ups are interesting.

When I learned of BT’s partnering, I thought of an image which I saw on a Knoxville, Tennessee, TV news program. I dug through Bing and located the story “Couple Renews Vows in Nursing Home after 70 Years of Marriage” and this image:

Image result for nursing home marriages

British Telecom open for business in maybe as far back as 1880, depending on how one interprets the history of the British post office. IBM, of course, flipped on its lights in 1911.

The idea that those with some life experience find partnering rewarding underscores the essence of humanity.

Will the going steady evolve into significant, sustainable new revenues?

Where there is a will there is a way. I am tempted to state boldly, “Let’s ask Watson.” But I think I will go with Amazon’s Alexa which will be installed in some Lexus automobiles.

But age has its virtues. A happy quack to WVLT in Knoxville. No pix of the new couple (BT and IBM) were available to me. Darn.

Stephen E Arnold, January 10, 2018

Google and China: The Story Moves Forward

January 7, 2018

Years ago I recall that Google allegedly wanted China to change its ways. One consequence of that “suggestion” was that Google found itself dropping down the Chinese politicos’ list of favorite online companies.

According to “Google Continues China Push with Investment in YouTube Gaming Like eSports Startup,” Google is investing in Chinese companies; for example:

Chushou is a live streaming mobile game platform that is now valued at $120 million following the latest investment round which Google was a part of.

After the 2010 dust up with the Middle Kingdom, Google invested in Mobvoi, a Chinese artificial intelligence company, and set up an artificial intelligence research lab.

Will the ruling entities in China welcome Google’s attempts to return to the good graces of the largest country on earth?

From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, my thought formulation is that China has not softened on Google or any American company. In my experience, Chinese authorities are not into the American approach to disruptive innovation.

Worth monitoring how this story unfolds.

Stephen E Arnold, January 7, 2018

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