More about the Math Club Syndrome: Hey, Bro!

April 16, 2018

It was not that long ago that being a geek or nerd had negative connotations. Geeks and nerds were and continue to be targets for bullies, but the social stigma has changed. It is now okay to be smart, to be interested in science-fiction and fantasy, to watch cartoons in your adulthood, and to be good at something other than sports. Geeks and nerds always knew they would inherit the Earth…er…rule over society…er…find acceptance. Just as the underdogs thought they were gaining a foothold, Scientific American springs this on them: “Superior IQs Associated With Mental And Physical Disorders, Research Suggests.”

Being smart has many advantages, the article points out, including longer life, have healthier lives, and less likely to experience negative events. The journal Intelligence published a study that shows the downside of high IQs. Ruth Karpinsku from Pitzer College emailed a psychological and physiological disorder survey to Mensa members and the results found that smart people are more likely to have some serious disorders. The questions included ones about mood, anxiety, autism, and ADHD disorders and also asthma, allergies, and autoimmune problems. The respondents were asked if they were diagnosed or suspected they had the disorders and 75% of the Mensa said yes. Here are some more numbers:

“The biggest differences between the Mensa group and the general population were seen for mood disorders and anxiety disorders. More than a quarter (26.7%) of the sample reported that they had been formally diagnosed with a mood disorder, while 20% reported an anxiety disorder—far higher than the national averages of around 10% for each. The differences were smaller, but still statistically significant and practically meaningful, for most of the other disorders. The prevalence of environmental allergies was triple the national average (33% vs. 11%).”

Some of Karpinski’s findings and interpretations have been discussed in the scientific community before. Most of the findings that state more intelligent people spend more time analyzing and feeling anxiety over events like a boss’s comment is not new. The better question to ask is if Mensa people are more different from the average person, because they spend their time with intellectual pursuits instead of exercise or social interaction.

This is just another study about the difference between average and above average people. More research needs to be done before definitive conclusions can be drawn. Equality? Sure, anyone can join the Math Club. Will the real members tell you when the “real” meeting is? Duh.

Whitney Grace, April 16, 2018

Google Argues With Russia About Website Rankings

April 10, 2018

Amidst its employee petitions and the increasing concern about YouTube videos for children, Google is annoyed with Russia.

Google fiddled with its ranking algorithm to stop the dissemination of fake news and Russia believes it is biased against two of its news agencies. Reuters describes more of the argument in the story, “Google Seeks To Defuse Row With Russia Over Website Rankings.” Roskomnadzor called out Alphabet Inc. and its popular search engine Google, when it claimed that Google pushed Russian media sites Sputnik and Russia Today into lower search results.

Eric Schmidt claimed that Google would not be deleting those links, instead they would be pushed lower in search results. Russia claimed Google discriminated against Russia Today and Sputnik, also saying they would take action if necessary. Google responded:

“ ‘We’d like to inform you that by speaking about ranking of web-sources, including the websites of Russia Today and Sputnik, Dr. Eric Schmidt was referring to Google’s ongoing efforts to improve search quality,’ Google said in a letter posted on Roskomnadzor’s website… ‘We don’t change our algorithm to re-rank,’ it added. A Google spokeswoman confirmed the letter had been sent by the company but provided no further comment.”

Years ago Mr. Brin’s trip to space fizzled. Now the search giant is finding fault with a country known to use interesting methods to solve problems.

Whitney Grace, April 10, 2017

Quote to Note: Mobile Ads As a Google Business

March 27, 2018

I read “Where Yegge’s Wrong.” In the write up I noted one sentence which popped out as a quote to note. Here’s the passage I highlighted in bright blue:

Mo­bile ads still com­plete­ly suck as a busi­ness, BTW.

Interesting. As desktop search becomes a terra incognita for some young wizards, will Google find a way to de-suck mobile ads?

What happens if the surveillance capitalism thing begins to erode online advertising at Google? With Google’s costs becoming very difficult to control, some creativity thinking may be warranted.

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2018

Answering the Question “What Is the Future of Blogger?”

March 7, 2018

Short honk. We noted this The Register story: “WordPress Is Now 30 Percent of the Web, Daylight Second.” The data in the write up substantiates information the addled goose heard at a conference in Setpember 2017; namely, Google’s Blogger may be marginalized, and it could go the way of Web Accelerator and Dodgeball.

The Register reports:

WordPress has over 60 per cent share among websites that do run a CMS. That’s a dominance few products in any category can claim.

Is a blogging system a content management system? Frankly we don’t care. The point is that Blogger is looking at WordPress’ tail lights.

When it comes to Google products which lack traction, the Alphabet approach spells marginalization. Marginalization can lead to the junk yard.

Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2018

Palantir Executive Reveals How Silicon Valley Really Works

March 5, 2018

I usually ignore the talking heads on the US television cable channels. I did perk up when I heard a comment made by Alex Karp, one of the founders of Palantir Technologies. The company’s Gotham and Metropolitan product lines (now evolved to a platform called Foundry), its licensing deals with Thomson Reuters, and the company’s work for commercial organizations is quite interesting. Most consumers and many users of high profile online services are unaware of Palantir. Some click centric outfits like Buzzfeed rattle the Palantir door knob with revelations about the super low profile company. The reality is that Palantir is not all that secret. In fact, a good online researcher can unearth examples of the company’s technology, including its plumbing, its interfaces, and its outputs. Dig further, and one can pinpoint some of the weaknesses in the company’s technology, systems, methods, and management approach.

In the CNBC interview, which appeared as an online story “CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Palantir Technologies Co-Founder & CEO Alex Karp Joins CNBC’s Josh Lipton for Rare Interview Airing Today,” I noted several insights. Critics of Palantir might describes these comments in another way, but for me, I thought the ideas expressed were interesting and suggestive.

Here’s the first one:

I believe that Silicon Valley is creating innovation without jobs, and it’s really hurting our world.

I read this to mean that if one cannot get hired in a world infused with smart software, job hunters and seekers are dead in the water. Those homeless people, by extension, will replicate the living conditions in shanties in Third World countries. Most Silicon Valley cheerleaders sidestep what is a massive phase change in society.

The second statement I noted is:

Realize that most Silicon Valley companies don’t care and nor do they have a corporate responsibility to care.

For me, Mr. Karp is making clear that chatter from FAGMA (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple) about doing the right thing, trying to be better, and accepting the responsibility which falls upon the shoulders of quasi-monopolies is just that—chatter. Palantir, it seems, is a critic of the Silicon Valley way. I find this fascinating.

The third statement I circled is:

We are primarily a creative organization, so that means we create, we try not to look at what other people are doing, or obviously not overly.

This statement does not hint at the out of court settlement with i2 Group. The legal dust up, which I discussed in this post, was not mentioned by either the interlocutor or Mr. Karp. The omission was notable. I don’t want to be skeptical of this “creative organization” phrase, but like many people who emerged from the start up scene, the “history” of innovation often has an important story to tell. But unless the CNBC interviewer knows about the allegations related to the ANB file format and other Analysts Notebook functions, the assertion creeps toward becoming a fact about Palantir’s innovation. (Note: I was an adviser to i2 Group Ltd., before the company’s founders sold the enterprise.)

The original interview is interesting and quite revelatory. Today, I believe that history can be reshaped. It’s not fake news; it’s a consequence of how information is generated, disseminated, and consumed in an uncritical way.

Stephen E Arnold, March 5, 2018

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

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