Building Trust: Current Instances of Dubious Credibility

June 20, 2019

I buzzed through the overnight email and scanned the headlines dumped in my “Pay Attention” folder. Not much of interest to me. Sure, Congress is going to ask questions about the new sovereign currency from the People’s Republic of Facebook. That’s going to be a rerun of the managerial version of “So You Think You Can Dance.”

image

I did spot three items which make clear the ethical swamp in which some companies find themselves lost. Let’s look at these and ask, “Yeah, about that bridge to Brooklyn you sold my mother”?

ITEM ONE: Vice reports that Twitter is working on a bug fix which tells a user, “You know that person you unfollowed. Well, good news, that person is now following you.” The write up “A Nightmare Twitter Bug Is Sending Users Notifications When They’re Unfollowed” states:

For several days, untold numbers of Twitter users have been getting push notifications whenever someone unfollows them. To add insult to injury, the notifications say the user has “followed them back” when in fact the opposite is true.

Yep, a bug, not another programming error, not a failure of code QA prior to pushing the ones and zeros to a production system, not an example of a senior management team looking for fire extinguishers. Just a bug. Forget the cause, and, of course, the Twitteroids are going to fix it.

ITEM TWO: The somewhat frantic and chaotic methods of YouTube are going to more attention. “YouTube Under Federal Investigation over Allegations It Violates Children’s Privacy” reports:

A spokeswoman for YouTube, Andrea Faville, declined to comment on the FTC probe. In a statement, she emphasized that not all discussions about product changes come to fruition. “We consider lots of ideas for improving YouTube and some remain just that — ideas,” she said. “Others, we develop and launch, like our restrictions to minors live-streaming or updated hate speech policy.”

Okay, let’s clam up and face facts: The methods used to generate engagement, sell ads, and stave off the probes from Amazon Twitch are just algorithms. Once again, no human responsibility, no management oversight, and no candid statement about what the three ring video extravaganza is willing to do with regard to this long standing issue.

ITEM THREE: Facebook’s crypto currency play aside, I noted this admission that Facebook users have zero expectation of privacy, and, if I understand Facebook’s argument, you will get zero privacy from our platform. Navigate to “Facebook Under Oath: You Have No Expectation of Privacy” and note this statement:

In a San Francisco courtroom a few weeks ago, Facebook’s lawyers said the quiet part out loud: Users have no reasonable expectation of privacy. The admission came from Orin Snyder, a lawyer representing Facebook in a litigation stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Now I am not sure this is an admission. It strikes me as a statement of a Facebook bedrock foundational principle.

What do these three current items trigger in my mind? Let me answer that question, gentle reader:

  1. Large, powerful high technology firms say what’s necessary to get past a problem.
  2. Situational decision making creates what are unmanageable business processes.
  3. The senior managers and spokes humans are happy to perform just like the talent on “So You think You Can Dance.”

For me, that show show is becoming tiresome, repetitive, and the intellectual equivalent of chowing down on KryspyKreme chocolate- iced, glazed-with-sprinkles donuts. The music is getting louder, and the tune is “Deflect, aplogize, keep goin’.” Boring.

Stephen E Arnold, June 20, 2019

Alphabet Google: Reality Versus Research in Actual Management Activities

June 19, 2019

For a few months, I have been using my Woodruff High School Science Club as a source of ideas for understanding Silicon Valley management decisions. I termed my method HSSCMM or “high school science club management method.” A number of people have told me that my approach was humorous. I suppose it is. One former colleague from a big name consulting name observed that I was making official, MBA-endorsed techniques look like a shanked drive at a fraternity reunion golf scramble. (MBA students seem to be figuring out that their business degrees may open doors at Lyft or Uber, not McKinsey & Company.

Where the HSSCMM differs from “situational thinking without context” (this is DarkCyber jargon), Google research has identified best practices for management. However, HSSCMM is intuitive and easy to explain. My touchstone for management appears in the article “Google Tried to Prove Managers Don’t Matter. Instead, It Discovered 10 Traits of the Very Best Ones.” Google’s original goal involved figuring out if a sports team manager was important or not. Google’s brilliant analysts crunched numbers and found that coaches matter. The best ones shared some data-backed characteristics. Let’s compare what Google found with the HSSCMM.

I made an a MBA-influenced table to keep thoughts clear.

# Google Research Says HSSCMM Approach Observations
1 Be a good coach Be arrogant because you understand differential equations Google is working on discrimination
2 Empower Others are stupid The smartest person is in charge
3 Inclusive team Exclusivity all the way. Google hires best talent, and Google defines “best”
4 Be results oriented Do what you want. Outsiders don’t get it. Boost ad sales
5 Communicate Don’t get it? You’re fired. Explain YouTube is too big to be fixed
6 Have a strategy React. Ignore the uninformed Make quick decisions like buying Motorola
7 Support career development Learn it yourself Find a team or leave
8 Advise the team Figure it out, or you don’t belong First day at work confusing? Try flipping burgers
9 Collaborate Work alone Fix the problem or quit
10 Be a strong decision maker Do what I say, dummy Obvious, right?

Answer this question: How many of the characteristics from each column match actions from Silicon Valley-type companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, etc.?

image
Which type of management method is exemplified in this allegedly true incident? The Google management research findings or the high school science club management methods? Answer: HSSCMM.

As you formulate this answer, consider the decision making evidenced in this allegedly accurate article from 2017 about a Silicon Valley executive.

Stephen E Arnold, June 19, 2019

So You Wanna Be a Start Up Winner?

June 18, 2019

Many people dream of becoming a start up winner. Good news. Now you have road maps to follow.

First, navigate to Chagency (not Change Agency, just close enough to make the name interesting) and click through the curated library of venture capital pitch decks. You can get ideas and perhaps some verbiage to increase the amount of money the investment firms will deliver to your door step.

Second, when it comes time to sell, you can navigate to this CNBC story and get the inside scoop on terms sheets.

There may be some rumors about the likelihood of failure. Those are just rumors. Are those who fund you likely to get angry? Not too much. What about the company acquiring your start up reaction when its investment tanks? Nah, no big deal.

Take flight to Moneyland.

Stephen E Arnold, June 18, 2019

Amazon and YouTube: The Hong Kong Protests Mark the Day that Twitch.tv Made Clear the Limitations of YouTube

June 16, 2019

I heard there was a small protest underway in Hong Kong. The time is now 6 30 am US Eastern time. I navigated to YouTube, entered the query “Hong Kong protest”, and I saw links to videos from a day ago (today is June 16, 2019). I navigated to the YouTube “Live” page which provides a limited selection of streaming videos on YouTube. If you have not seen that somewhat incomplete index, navigate to https://www.youtube.com/live. No live stream of the Hong Kong protest.

If it’s not on YouTube, then it doesn’t exist, goes some old times’ catchphrase.

Well, not quite.

Navigate to Amazon’s Twitch.tv. Run a query for Hong Kong. Here’s what I saw before I clicked on the live stream of Unable to Breath.

image

Amazon Twitch.tv search result. The Unable to Breath stream is not one but an aggregate of eight separate feeds from Hong Kong.

Front and center was a link to Unable to Breath, which presents this streaming image:

image

This is a screen shot of a single screen which is eight different feeds showing different views of the handful of people who are participating in the event. Note: Handful means more than one million.

Notice that three are eight live streams of this modest protest. This is one live stream with eight separate views of the modest demonstration in Hong Kong. Eight in one stream! No registration required. No in stream pop up ads. Just high value intelligence in pretty good streaming video quality.

Read more

Microsoft and Oracle: Fear Helps Make New Friends

June 6, 2019

I found “Microsoft, Oracle Team Up on Cloud Services in Jab at Amazon” amusing. The real news outfit Thomson Reuters reported this unusual big company relationship when I was making my way through torrential rain in lovely West Virginia coal country. The mist did disguise the land renewal, but this Microsoft Oracle relationship is going to make for a nifty road trip video.

Imagine. The elegant Larry Ellison and the sleek Satya Nadella explaining how old school databases are the pajamas made for the cool cats. Amazon and Google will pay attention to this odd couple because it makes very visible the fear which both companies have for their database futures. Forget the cloud. We’re talking databases anywhere: On premises, hybrid, in the cloud, or residing in some wonky quantum storage thing yet to be made stable, affordable, and usable by a normal rocket scientist.

The news report does not wax poetic, nor does it offer much in the way of addressing the fear thing. I did note this statement:

The two companies said the high-speed link between their data centers would start with facilities in the eastern United States and spread to other regions. They will also work together to let joint users log into to services from either company with a single user name and get tech support from either company. The move comes as both Oracle and Microsoft are courting large businesses and government customers considering moving computing tasks currently handled in their own data centers to cloud providers.

I would point out that Oracle has chosen to add its legal pointy stick to its approach to database efficacy. Microsoft, on the other hand, is working overtime to explain that it is the solution to a range of data management issues. If one does not think about Microsoft’s struggles to update its Windows operating system, the PR sounds darned convincing.

I wish to offer a couple of observations:

First, Amazon and Google continue to capture the attention of the next generation of innovators. Oh, I know that there are clever Microsoft and Oracle wizards inventing the future at this very moment. But let’s be real: Amazon has an innovation ecosystem. Google may not have the perseverance to make its products work and then “put wood behind” some to make them competitive, but the Google does have a low cost phone and the ability to go off line because of configuration errors. Amazon, on the other hand, is evolving into an innovation platform. I am not sure the database technologies are what makes Amazon attractive to smaller firms and specialists, but Amazon is revving the bulldozer’s engine.

Second, Microsoft and Oracle are “look back” technology providers. I think both companies share many of the adorable traits of Hewlett Packard (any flavor) and IBM. In today’s business environment, which is similar to the weather around Oklahoma City, being old is not what I interpret as a plus.

Third, the two besties have somewhat different personalities. Microsoft wants to be a do gooder. Oracle wants to fly its fighter jet over the San Jose suburbs. Microsoft wants to be the big dog in Seattle. Oracle wants to be relevant. Microsoft wants to avoid the fate of Vista. Oracle wants to keep the myth of the structured query language alive. Amazon and Google, on the other hand, just want to avoid regulation and emulate the business success of pleasant people like JP Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and a couple of other “good business men.”

To sum up, fear is tough to explain away. The exchange of fraternity rings and an appearance at the fraternity party or the high school reunion is in the future. Town & Country material I believe. Will the two parties dance each dance together at these shindigs?

Stephen E Arnold, June 6, 2019

 

AT&T: A Job Creator. Wait, Job? Jobs?

June 6, 2019

Gee, why didn’t that work out as promised? We were told the administration’s tax cuts for big business would lead to more jobs, but here is the latest disappointment in that arena: BoingBoing reports, “AT&T Promised It Would Create 7,000 Jobs if Trump Went Through with Its $3B Tax-Cut, but They Cut 23,000 Jobs Instead.” The very brief but indignant write-up cites this Ars Technica piece, and summarizes:

“In 2017, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson campaigned for Trump’s massive tax-cuts by promising that they would create 7,000 jobs with the $3,000,000,000 they stood to gain, as well as investing in new infrastructure: instead, the company has reduced its headcount by 23,328 workers (6,000 in the first three months of 2019!) while reducing capital expenditures by $1.4B (AT&T reduced capex by another $900m in Q1/2019). AT&T substantially increased executive bonuses over the same period.”

Of course the phone outfit did. AT&T acknowledges these findings by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), but blames the discrepancy on the fact that “technology is changing rapidly.” Was that a surprise? Perhaps high-tech companies should refrain from making promises they are not sure they can keep.

Cynthia Murrell, June 5, 2019

Google and UX: Ads Like It or Not

May 30, 2019

I love it when a large company become desperate. A bit of history is in order. In the pre-monopoly days, Google survived the Yahoo allegation that the then-Web search company was influenced to an unusual degree by the ad system developed by GoTo.com. That system morphed into Overture, and then disappeared into the purple morass. After some early influencers of the GOOG suggested that revenue was a good idea, Google rolled out its ad platform. To my untrained eye and to those in other organizations, the influence was more than coincidence. After a bit of legal wrangling before the Google IPO and a bit of “real” money, the allegations went away. Google, between 2003 and 2006 enjoyed the glory days of online advertising. No one paid any attention. The access was via desktop computers (often described as boat anchors by the mobile believers), and there was zero friction between an advertiser and Google selling access to its traffic.

Ah, the good old days.

As the mobile revolution managed traction from some flawed limited slip differentials, the diffusion of tiny screens began. A trickle at first soon grew into a flood. Today, more than two thirds of online activity takes place on mobile devices; that is, tiny screens.

So here’s the problem. Google’s infrastructure is a money eating machine. To make matters worse, former Googlers working at Facebook have tweaked that wild and crazy social service to sell ads too. The Bezos bulldozer has pulled its left tractor control and is guiding the big orange machine into the lucrative world of selling product ads with more types soon to follow. Just check out what Amazon is doing and ask, “What will advertisers pay to reach profiled, data mapped, verified users who are interested in these services?”

Against this background I read “Google to Restrict Modern Ad Blocking Chrome Extensions to Enterprise Users” and chuckled. The write up states:

Google is essentially saying that Chrome will still have the capability to block unwanted content, but this will be restricted to only paid, enterprise users of Chrome. This is likely to allow enterprise customers to develop in-house Chrome extensions, not for ad blocking usage. For the rest of us, Google hasn’t budged on their changes to content blockers, meaning that ad blockers will need to switch to a less effective, rules-based system. This system is how blockers like AdBlock Plus currently work.

Okay, now back to the historical information provided above. Google is trimming certain functionality; for example, depth of spidering, more aggressive implementation of the bluebirds, canaries, and sparrows approach, and killing off services which do not produce revenue or which impose money chewing functions. Where’s that enterprise search thing? Google Plus? WebAccelerator?

In the ethos of the Google, ad blocking is not going to be part of the game plan. I have no doubt that in a slide deck is information about making darned sure ads appear everywhere most of the time. Enjoying that free YouTube video about how to make a 3D shape in Adobe Illustrator. You will enjoy the ads stuck in the middle of the stream as you are watching even more. You will like it! Got that?

The Google ads-everywhere policy is okay with me. I have considerable enthusiasm for searches in quotes which return results not related to my query. I like looking for US government data which are not in the index any more. I find the complaints of bloggers who find their backfiles disappeared.

That’s life in the access road leading to the Google information highway. Ads are the toll, and payment is necessary. Google blocks YouTubers, is blocking individual users who access Google content with a browser that blocks ads be a thing?

Worth thinking about. Well, actually maybe not. Google’s data reveals that there are lots of Google service users who accept an ad filled walled garden. The messages are personalized and something relevant, just like Google search results.

Google needs every penny of advertising money it can get; otherwise, the cracks in Googzilla will bring down the system.

Stephen E Arnold, May 30, 2019

Google: AMPs Up One Doubter of the One True Way, an Old Way at That

May 29, 2019

If you want the North American and Western European Internet on your mobile phone, you may have to deal with AMP. “Cake or Death: Amp and the Worrying Power Dynamics of the Web” is one more person who has figured out how online coalesces into a monopoly or two. Is this news? No, but it sure is for some people.

The write up explains that there are three issues with Google’s unification of what one obtains when querying the “Internet”. These are technical, user experience, and commercial.

Technical. We noted the explanation of Google’s portal state. Not new. The idea is that one never leaves the Google walled garden.

User experience. Our reaction is that it is too late. With more than 60 percent of Google’s queries coming from mobile. One’s experience is what Google wants to deliver. Example: I disabled the Play store on my Android device. Google sends messages when I listen to voice mail. As a result, voice mail is broken. Does Google care about this experience? Nope. Amp experiences? Nope.

Commercial. The write up dances around the obvious. Google has to generate revenue from sources other than giant Web pages with ads. Now the Amp pages are tiny and the old school revenue is shrinking. Yikes. Solution? Sell anything and everything to whoever will pay. The user experience on most Google services delivered on a mobile device are terrible. Can you use a Google Map? Can you figure out how to get rid of messages that cover up the map?

To sum up, this is an interesting article, but it is coming about a decade after the plumbing was explained in excruciating detail in Google technical papers (no longer online by the way) and Google patents from a decade ago. I explain some of these “inventions” in my decade old monograph “Google Version 2.0: The Calculating Predator.” If you want a copy, let me know. Write darkcyber333 at yandex dot com.

Stephen E Arnold, May 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, Delivery.com, 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

HPE: The Acquisition Champ Makes a Move

May 17, 2019

I read “HP Enterprise Nears Deal to Buy Supercomputer Pioneer Cray.” The article reports the allegedly accurate rumor that the former owner of Autonomy is poised to snap up another outfit. The idea is that by purchasing a fast growing, high potential company, HPE will increase its revenues.

I noted this statement:

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. has agreed to buy U.S. supercomputer maker Cray Inc. in a deal valued at about $1.4 billion as the firm works to become more competitive in high-end computing.

The market for high end computing is changing. Cray, founded in 1972, has bounced from owner to owner in the last 47 years. Yep, almost a half century. In the world of computers, that strikes me as a long, long time.

Years ago I worked with a Cray engineer. I recall one comment about her former employer:

It was fun. We mostly solved problems the Cray way.

What was the Cray way? Usually sophisticated, quite original, and very expensive to manufacture.

How much of that tradition persists after 47 years?

HPE’s financial results. There may be some useful comparative data on Top500.org. Cray held down the number 5 spot in November 2018. IBM an China offer solutions which are a bit more zippy. But for tens of millions of dollars, the stakes are high when competing with a country and IBM.

What about Amazon, Google, and Microsoft? These outfits have systems which are not “super”. The companies do generate some hefty revenues.

Stephen E Arnold, May 17, 2019

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta