Brief Configuration Error by Google Triggers Japanese Investigation

October 12, 2017

When a tech giant makes even a small mistake, consequences can be significant. A brief write-up from the BBC, “Google Error Disrupts Corporate Japan’s Web Traffic,”  highlights this lamentable fact. We learn:

Google has admitted that wide-spread connectivity issues in Japan were the result of a mistake by the tech giant. Web traffic intended for Japanese internet service providers was being sent to Google instead.

Online banking, railway payment systems as well as gaming sites were among those affected.

A spokesman said a ‘network configuration error’ only lasted for eight minutes on Friday but it took hours for some services to resume. Nintendo was among the companies who reported poor connectivity, according to the Japan Times, as well as the East Japan Railway Company.

All of that content—financial transactions included—was gone for good, since Google cannot transmit to third-party networks, according to an industry expert cited in the post. Essentially, it seems that for those few minutes, Google accidentally hijacked all traffic to NTT Communications Corp, which boasts over 50 million customers in Japan. The country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is investigating the incident.

Cynthia Murrell, October 12, 2017

Google-Publishers Partnership Chases True News

September 22, 2017

It appears as though Google is taking the issue of false information, and perhaps even their role in its perpetuation, seriously; The Drum reveals, “Google Says it Wants to Fund the News, Not Fake It.” Reporters Jessica Goodfellow and Ronan Shields spoke with Google’s Madhav Chinnappa to discuss the Digital News Initiative (DNI), which was established in 2015. The initiative, a project on which Google is working with European news publishers, aims to leverage technology in support of good journalism. As it turns out, Wikipedia’s process suggests an approach; having discussed the “collaborative content” model with Chinnappa, the journalists write:

To this point, he also discusses DNI’s support of Wikitribune, asserting that it and Wikipedia are ‘absolutely incredible and misunderstood,’ pointing out the diligence that goes into its editing and review process, despite its decentralized means of doing so. The Wikitribune project tries to take some of this spirit of Wikipedia and apply this to news, adds Chinnappa. He further explains that [Wikipedia & Wikitribune] founder Jimmy Wales’ opinion is that the mainstream model of professional online publishing, whereby the ‘journalist writes the article and you’ve got a comment section at the bottom and it’s filled with crazy people saying crazy things’, is flawed. He [Wales] believes that’s not a healthy model. What Wikitribune wants to do is actually have a more rounded model where you have the professional journalist and then you have people contributing as well and there’s a more open and even dialogue around that,’ he adds. ‘If it succeeds? I don’t know. But I think it’s about enabling experimentation and I think that’s going to be a really interesting one.’

Yes, experimentation is important to the DNI’s approach. Chinnappa believes technical tools will be key to verifying content accuracy. He also sees a reason to be hopeful about the future of journalism—amid fears that technology will eventually replace reporters, he suggests such tools, instead, will free journalists from the time-consuming task of checking facts. Perhaps; but will they work to stem the tide of false propaganda?

Cynthia Murrell, September 22, 2017

Twitch Incorporates ClipMine Discovery Tools

September 18, 2017

Gameplay-streaming site Twitch has adapted the platform of their acquisition ClipMine, originally developed for adding annotations to online videos, into a metadata-generator for its users. (Twitch is owned by Amazon.) TechCrunch reports the development in, “Twitch Acquired Video Indexing Platform ClipMine to Power New Discovery Features.” Writer Sarah Perez tells us:

The startup’s technology is now being put to use to translate visual information in videos – like objects, text, logos and scenes – into metadata that can help people more easily find the streams they want to watch. Launched back in 2015, ClipMine had originally introduced a platform designed for crowdsourced tagging and annotations. The idea then was to offer a technology that could sit over top videos on the web – like those on YouTube, Vimeo or DailyMotion – that allowed users to add their own annotations. This, in turn, would help other viewers find the part of the video they wanted to watch, while also helping video publishers learn more about which sections were getting clicked on the most.

Based in Palo Alto, ClipMine went on to make indexing tools for the e-sports field and to incorporate computer vision and machine learning into their work. Their platform’s ability to identify content within videos caught Twitch’s eye; Perez explains:

Traditionally, online video content is indexed much like the web – using metadata like titles, tags, descriptions, and captions. But Twitch’s streams are live, and don’t have as much metadata to index. That’s where a technology like ClipMine can help. Streamers don’t have to do anything differently than usual to have their videos indexed, instead, ClipMine will analyze and categorize the content in real-time.

ClipMine’s technology has already been incorporated into stream-discovery tools for two games from Blizzard Entertainment, “Overwatch” and “Hearthstone;” see the article for more specifics on how and why. Through its blog, Twitch indicates that more innovations are on the way.

Cynthia Murrell, September 18, 2017

A New and Improved Content Delivery System

September 7, 2017

Personalized content and delivery is the name of the game in PRWEB’s, “Flatirons Solutions Launches XML DITA Dynamic Content Delivery Solutions.”  Flatirons Solutions is a leading XML-based publishing and content management company and they recently released their Dynamic Content Delivery Solution.  The Dynamic Content Delivery Solution uses XML-based technology will allow enterprises to receive more personalized content.  It is advertised that it will reduce publishing and support costs.  The new solution is built with the Mark Logic Server.

By partnering with Mark Logic and incorporating their industry-leading XML content server, the solution conducts powerful queries, indexing, and personalization against large collections of DITA topics. For our clients, this provides immediate access to relevant information, while producing cost savings in technical support, and in content production, maintenance, review and publishing. So whether they are producing sales, marketing, technical, training or help documentation, clients can step up to a new level of content delivery while simultaneously improving their bottom line.

The Dynamic Content Delivery Solution is designed for government agencies and enterprises that publish XML content to various platforms and formats.  Mark Logic is touted as a powerful tool to pool content from different sources, repurpose it, and deliver it to different channels.

MarkLogic finds success in its core use case: slicing and dicing for publishing.  It is back to the basics for them.

Whitney Grace, September 7, 2017

 

Factoids about Toutiao: Smart News Filtering Service

August 28, 2017

The filtering service Toutiao is operated by Bytedance. The company attracted attention  because it is generating money (allegedly) and has lots of users or “daily average users” in the 120 million range. (If you are acronym minded, the daily average user count is a DAU. Holy Dau!)

Forget Google’s “translate this page” for Toutiao, the service is blind to the Toutiao content. A work around is to cut and paste snippets into FreeTranslations.org or get someone who reads Chinese to explain what’s on the Toutiao’s pages.

Other items of interest include. (Oh, the hyperlinks point to the source of the factoid.)

    • $900 million in revenue (allegedly). Wall Street Journal, August 28, 2017 with a pay wall for your delectation
    • Funding of $3 billion Crunchbase
    • Valuation of $20 billion or more Reuters
    • Toutiao means headlines Wikipedia
    • What it does from Wikipedia:

Toutiao uses algorithms to select different quality content for individual users. It has created algorithmic models that understand information (text, images, videos, comments, etc.) in depth, and developed large-scale machine learning systems for personalized recommendation that surfaces content users have not necessarily signaled preference for yet. Using Natural Language Processing and Computer Vision technologies in A.I, Toutiao extracts hundreds of entities and keywords as features from each piece of content. When a user first open the app, Toutiao makes a preliminary recommendation based on the operation system of his mobile device, his location and other factors. With users’ interactions with the app, Toutiao fine-tunes its models and make better recommendations.

  • Founded by Zhang Yiming, age 34, in 2012 Reuters

Technode’s “Why Is Toutiao, a News App, Setting Off Alarm Bells for China’s Giants?” suggests that Toutiao may be the next big Chinese online success. The reason is that the service aggregates “news” from disparate content sources; for example, text, video, images, and data.

Toutiao may be the next big thing in algorithmic, mobile centric information access solutions. The company generates revenues from online ads. The company’s secret sauce include smart software plus some extra ingredients:

  • Social functions
  • Search
  • Video
  • User generated “original” content
  • Global plans.

Net net: Worth watching.

Stephen E Arnold, August 28, 2017

Smartlogic: A Buzzword Blizzard

August 2, 2017

I read “Semantic Enhancement Server.” Interesting stuff. The technology struck me as a cross between indexing, good old enterprise search, and assorted technologies. Individuals who are shopping for an automatic indexing systems (either with expensive, time consuming hand coded rules or a more Autonomy-like automatic approach) will want to kick the tires of the Smartlogic system. In addition to the echoes of the SchemaLogic approach, I noted a Thomson submachine gun firing buzzwords; for example:

best bets (I’m feeling lucky?)
dynamic summaries (like Island Software’s approach in the 1990s)
faceted search (hello, Endeca?)
model
navigator (like the Siderean “navigator”?)
real time
related topics (clustering like Vivisimo’s)
semantic (of course)
taxonomy
topic maps
topic pages (a Google report as described in US29970198481)
topic path browser (aka breadcrumbs?)
visualization

What struck me after I compiled this list about a system that “drives exceptional user search experiences” was that Smartlogic is repeating the marketing approach of traditional vendors of enterprise search. The marketing lingo and “one size fits all” triggered thoughts of Convera, Delphes, Entopia, Fast Search & Transfer, and Siderean Software, among others.

I asked myself:

Is it possible for one company’s software to perform such a remarkable array of functions in a way that is easy to implement, affordable, and scalable? There are industrial strength systems which perform many of these functions. Examples range from BAE’s intelligence system to the Palantir Gotham platform.

My hypothesis is that Smartlogic might struggle to process a real time flow of WhatsApp messages, YouTube content, and mobile phone intercept voice calls. Toss in the multi language content which is becoming increasingly important to enterprises, and the notional balloon I am floating says, “Generating buzzwords and associated over inflated expectations is really easy. Delivering high accuracy, affordable, and scalable content processing is a bit more difficult.”

Perhaps Smartlogic has cracked the content processing equivalent of the Voynich manuscript.

image

Will buzzwords crack the Voynich manuscript’s inscrutable text? What if Voynich is a fake? How will modern content processing systems deal with this type of content? Running some content processing tests might provide some insight into systems which possess Watson-esque capabilities.

What happened to those vendors like Convera, Delphes, Entopia, Fast Search & Transfer, and  Siderean Software, among others? (Free profiles of these companies are available at www.xenky.com/vendor-profiles.) Oh, that’s right. The reality of the marketplace did not match the companies’ assertions about technology. Investors and licensees of some of these systems were able to survive the buzzword blizzard. Some became the digital equivalent of Ötzi, 5,300 year old iceman.

Stephen E Arnold, August 2, 2017

Academic Publisher Retracts Record Number of Papers

June 20, 2017

To the scourge of fake news we add the problem of fake research. Retraction Watch announces “A New Record: Major Publisher Retracting More Than 100 Studies from Cancer Journal over Fake Peer Reviews.”  We learn that Springer Publishing Company has just retracted 107 papers from a single journal after discovering their peer reviews had been falsified. Faking the integrity of cancer research? That’s pretty low. The article specifies:

To submit a fake review, someone (often the author of a paper) either makes up an outside expert to review the paper, or suggests a real researcher — and in both cases, provides a fake email address that comes back to someone who will invariably give the paper a glowing review. In this case, Springer, the publisher of Tumor Biology through 2016, told us that an investigation produced “clear evidence” the reviews were submitted under the names of real researchers with faked emails. Some of the authors may have used a third-party editing service, which may have supplied the reviews. The journal is now published by SAGE. The retractions follow another sweep by the publisher last year, when Tumor Biology retracted 25 papers for compromised review and other issues, mostly authored by researchers based in Iran.

The article shares Springer’s response to the matter, some from their official statement and some from a spokesperson. For example, we learn the company cut ties with the “Tumor Biology” owners, and that the latest fake reviews were caught during a process put in place after that debacle.  See the story for more details.

Cynthia Murrell, June 20, 2017

Algorithms Are Getting Smarter at Identifying Human Behavior

June 19, 2017

Algorithm deployed by large tech firms are better at understanding human behaviors, reveals former Google data scientist.

In an article published by Business Insider titled A Former Google Data Scientist Explains Why Netflix Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz says:

Many gyms have learned to harness the power of people’s over-optimism. Specifically, he said, “they’ve figured out you can get people to buy monthly passes or annual passes, even though they’re not going to use the gym nearly enough to warrant this purchase.

Companies like Netflix use this to their benefit. For instance, during initial years, Netflix used to encourage users to create playlists. However, most users ended up watching the same run of the mill content. Netflix thus made changes and started recommending content that was similar to their content watching habits. It only proves one thing, algorithms are getting smarter at understanding and predicting human behaviors, and that is both good and bad.

Vishal Ingole,  June 19, 2017

U.S. Government Keeping Fewer New Secrets

February 24, 2017

We have good news and bad news for fans of government transparency. In their Secrecy News blog, the Federation of American Scientists’ reports, “Number of New Secrets in 2015 Near Historic Low.” Writer Steven Aftergood explains:

The production of new national security secrets dropped precipitously in the last five years and remained at historically low levels last year, according to a new annual report released today by the Information Security Oversight Office.

There were 53,425 new secrets (‘original classification decisions’) created by executive branch agencies in FY 2015. Though this represents a 14% increase from the all-time low achieved in FY 2014, it is still the second lowest number of original classification actions ever reported. Ten years earlier (2005), by contrast, there were more than 258,000 new secrets.

The new data appear to confirm that the national security classification system is undergoing a slow-motion process of transformation, involving continuing incremental reductions in classification activity and gradually increased disclosure. …

Meanwhile, ‘derivative classification activity,’ or the incorporation of existing secrets into new forms or products, dropped by 32%. The number of pages declassified increased by 30% over the year before.

A marked decrease in government secrecy—that’s the good news. On the other hand, the report reveals some troubling findings. For one thing, costs are not going down alongside classifications; in fact, they rose by eight percent last year. Also, response times to mandatory declassification requests (MDRs) are growing, leaving over 14,000 such requests to languish for over a year each. Finally, fewer newly classified documents carry the “declassify in ten years or less” specification, which means fewer items will become declassified automatically down the line.

Such red-tape tangles notwithstanding, the reduction in secret classifications does look like a sign that the government is moving toward more transparency. Can we trust the trajectory?

Cynthia Murrell, February 24, 2017

Investment Group Acquires Lexmark

February 15, 2017

We read with some trepidation the Kansas City Business Journal’s article, “Former Perceptive’s Parent Gets Acquired for $3.6B in Cash.”  The parent company referred to here is Lexmark, which bought up one of our favorite search systems, ISYS Search, in 2012 and placed it under its Perceptive subsidiary, based in Lenexa, Kentucky. We do hope this valuable tool is not lost in the shuffle.

Reporter Dora Grote specifies:

A few months after announcing that it was exploring ‘strategic alternatives,’ Lexmark International Inc. has agreed to be acquired by a consortium of investors led by Apex Technology Co. Ltd. and PAG Asia Capital for $3.6 billion cash, or $40.50 a share. Legend Capital Management Co. Ltd. is also a member of the consortium.

Lexmark Enterprise Software in Lenexa, formerly known as Perceptive Software, is expected to ‘continue unaffected and benefit strategically and financially from the transaction’ the company wrote in a release. The Lenexa operation — which makes enterprise content management software that helps digitize paper records — dropped the Perceptive Software name for the parent’s brand in 2014. Lexmark, which acquired Perceptive for $280 million in cash in 2010, is a $3.7 billion global technology company.

If the Lexmark Enterprise Software (formerly known as Perceptive) division will be unaffected, it seems they will be the lucky ones. Grote notes that Lexmark has announced that more than a thousand jobs are to be cut amid restructuring. She also observes that the company’s buildings in Lenexa have considerable space up for rent. Lexmark CEO Paul Rooke is expected to keep his job, and headquarters should remain in Lexington, Kentucky.

Cynthia Murrell, February 15, 2017

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