Gradescope Cuts Grading Time in Half, Makes Teachers Lives 50% More Bearable

February 8, 2017

The article titled Professors of the World, Rejoice: Gradescope Brings AI to Grading on Nvidia might more correctly be titled: TAs of the World, Rejoice! In my experience, those hapless, hardworking, underpaid individuals are the ones doing most of the grunt work on college campuses. Any grad student who has faced a stack of essays or tests when their “real work” is calling knows the pain and redundancy of grading. Gradescope is an exciting innovation that cuts the time spent grading in half. The article explains,

The AI isn’t used to directly grade the papers; rather, it turns grading into an automated, highly repeatable exercise by learning to identify and group answers, and thus treat them as batches. Using an interface similar to a photo manager, instructors ensure that the automatically suggested answer groups are correct, and then score each answer with a rubric. In this way, input from users lets the AI continually improve its future predictions.

The trickiest part of this technology was handwriting recognition, and the Berkeley team used a “recurrent neural network trained using the Tesla K40 and GEForce GTX 980 Ti GPUs.” Interestingly, the app was initially created at least partly to prevent cheating. Students have been known to alter their answers after the fact and argue a failure of grading, so a digital record of the paper is extremely useful. This might sound like the end of teachers, but in reality it is the beginning of a giant, global teacher party!

Chelsea Kerwin, February 8, 2017

JustOne: When a Pivot Is Not Possible

February 4, 2017

CopperEye hit my radar when I did a project for the now-forgotten Speed of Mind search system. CopperEye delivered high speed search in a patented hierarchical data management system. The company snagged some In-Q-Tel interest in 2007, but by 2009, I lost track of the company. Several of the CopperEye senior managers teamed to create the JustOne database, search and analytic system. One of the new company’s inventions is documented in “Apparatus, Systems, and Methods for Data Storage and/or Retrieval Based on a Database Model-agnostic, Schema-Agnostic, and Workload-Agnostic Data Storage and Access Models.” If you are into patent documents about making sense of Big Data, you will find US20140317115 interesting. I will leave it to you to determine if there is any overlap between this system and method and those of the now low profile CopperEye.

Why would In-Q-Tel get interested in another database? From my point of view, CopperEye was interesting because:

  1. The system and method was idea for finding information from large collections of intercept information
  2. The tech whiz behind the JustOne system wanted to avoid “band-aid” architectures; that is, software shims, wrappers, and workarounds that other data management and information access systems generated like rabbits
  3. The method of finding information achieved or exceeded the performance of the very, very snappy Speed of Mind system
  4. The system sidestepped a number of the problems which plague Oracle-style databases trying to deal with floods of real time information from telecommunication traffic, surveillance, and Internet of Things transmissions or “emissions.”

How import6ant is JustOne? I think the company is one of those outfits which has a better mousetrap. Unlike the champions of XML, JustOne uses JSON and other “open” technologies. In fact, a useful version of the JustOne system is available for download from the JustOne Web site. Be aware that the name “JustOne” is in use by other vendors.

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The fragmented world of database and information access. Source: Duncan Pauly

A good, but older, write up explains some of the strengths of the JustOne approach to search and retrieval couched in the lingo of the database world. The key points from “The Evolution of Data Management” strikes me as helpful in understanding why Jerry Yang and Scott McNealy invested in the CopperEye veterans’ start up. I highlighted these points:

  • Databases have to be operational and analytical; that is, storing information is not enough
  • Transaction rates are high; that is, real time flows from telecommunications activity
  • Transaction size varies from the very small to hefty; that is, the opposite of the old school records associated with old school IBM IMS system
  • High concurrency; that is, more than one “thing” at a time
  • Dynamic schema and query definition

I highlighted this statement as suggestive:

In scaled-out environments, transactions need to be able to choose what guarantees they require – rather than enforcing or relaxing ACID constraints across a whole database. Each transaction should be able to decide how synchronous, atomic or durable it needs to be and how it must interact with other transactions. For example, must a transaction be applied in chronological order or can it be allowed out of time order with other transactions providing the cumulative result remains the same? Not all transactions need be rigorously ACID and likewise not all transactions can afford to be non-atomic or potentially inconsistent.

My take on this CopperEye wind down and JustOne wind up is that CopperEye, for whatever management reason, was not able to pivot from where CopperEye was to where CopperEye had to be to grow. More information is available from the JustOne Database Web site at www.justonedb.com.

Is Duncan Pauly one of the most innovative engineers laboring in the database search sector? Could be.

Stephen E Arnold, February 4, 2017

Google and the Cloud Take on Corporate Database Management

February 1, 2017

The article titled Google Cloud Platform Releases New Database Services, Fighting AWS and Azure for Corporate Customers on GeekWire suggests that Google’s corporate offerings have been weak in the area of database management. Compared to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, Google is only wading into the somewhat monotonous arena of corporate database needs. The article goes into detail on the offerings,

Cloud SQL, Second Generation, is a service offering instances of the popular MySQL database. It’s most comparable to AWS’s Aurora and SQL Azure, though there are some differences from SQL Azure, so Microsoft allows running a MySQL database on Azure. Google’s Cloud SQL supports MySQL 5.7, point-in-time recovery, automatic storage resizing and one-click failover replicas, the company said. Cloud Bigtable is a NoSQL database, the same one that powers Google’s own search, analytics, maps and Gmail.

The Cloud Bigtable database is made to handle major workloads of 100+ petabytes, and it comes equipped with resources such as Hadoop and Spark. It will be fun to see what happens as Google’s new service offering hits the ground running. How will Amazon and Microsoft react? Will price wars arise? If so, only good can come of it, at least for the corporate consumers.

Chelsea Kerwin, February 1, 2017

Et Tu, Brutus? Oracle Database on the Way Out

January 10, 2017

i read “NoSQL to Undo Oracle’s Database Reign.” The author is a person who once worked at Oracle. Like Brutus, the author knows Julius Caesar. Sorry, I meant the jet loving, top dog at Oracle.

The tussle between Oracle and MarkLogic seems likely to continue in 2017. The write up explains that Oracle has become a lot like IBM. I learned:

Like IBM did in the past, Oracle and the other incumbents are adding features to old technologies in an attempt to meet today’s challenges — features such as in-memory, graph, JSON and XML support. None of them have changed their underlying architectures so their efforts will fall short, just as IBM’s did in the last generational shift of the database industry 35 years ago. What’s more, their widely publicized moves of shifting old technology to the cloud changes the deployment model but doesn’t help solve the modern data challenges their customers are facing. An outdated database technology on the cloud is still an outdated database.

The new champion of the data management world is MarkLogic, the outfit where Gary Bloom labors. MarkLogic, I concluded, is one of the “emergent winners.”

That’s good.

MarkLogic is an XML centric data management system. XML is ideal for slicing and dicing once the data have been converted to validated XML. For some folks, changing a legacy AS/400 Ironside output into XML might be interesting. But, it seems, that MarkLogic has cracked the data conversion, transformation, extraction, and loading processes. Anyone can do it. Perhaps not everyone because there are some proprietary tweaks to the open source methods required by the MarkLogic system. No problem, but volume, time, and cost constraints might be an issue for some use cases.

I noted this passage in the undated write up:

There is definitely shake out of the NoSQL vendors and MarkLogic is one of the emergent victors. As an enterprise-ready NoSQL database that handles multiple models natively and doesn’t care if you have two or hundreds of data silos, MarkLogic is becoming the database platform for those with complex data integration problems. In fact, some companies are skipping the relational generation altogether and going straight from the mainframe to NoSQL. Virginia’s Fairfax County recently migrated years of historical data from its 30-year-old mainframe system to MarkLogic’s NoSQL. Residents and employees can now more easily and quickly search all the data—including property records going back to the 1950s and both old and new data coming from multiple data silos.

MarkLogic, however, is no spring chicken. The company was founded in 2001, which works out to 16 years old. Oh, you might recall that the total equity funding is $173.23 million with the most recent round contributing $102 million in May 2015 if the Crunchbase data are on the money. Some of that $102 million came from Gary Bloom, the author of the write up. (No wonder he is optimistic about MarkLogic. Hope is better than fear that one might have to go look for another job.)

My view is that MarkLogic wants a big fight with Oracle. That adds some zip to what is one of the less magnetic types of software in a business world excited by Amazon,  Google, Facebook, Tesla, and Uber. Personally I find data management exciting, but I gravitate to the systems and methods articulated by Googler Ramanathan Guha. Your mileage may vary.

The challenge for MarkLogic is to generate sufficient sustainable revenue to achieve one of these outcomes:

  1. A sale of the company to a firm which believes in the XML tinted world of the XML rock stars. (Yes, there’s is an XML rock star video at this link.) Obviously a lucrative sale would make the folks watching their $173 million grow into a huge payday would find this exit worthy of a happy face emoji.
  2. A surge in the number of companies convinced that MarkLogic and not an open source, now license fee alternative writing checks for multi year licenses and six figure service deals. Rapid revenue growth and high margin services may not get the $172 million back, but life would be less stressful if those numbers soar.
  3. MarkLogic goes public fueled in part by a PR battle with Oracle.

Will systems like MarkLogic’s become the future of next generation operational and transaction systems? MarkLogic believes NoSQL is the future. Will Oracle wake up and buy MarkLogic? Will Google realize its error when it passed on a MarkLogic buy out? Will Amazon figure out that life will be better without the home brew approach to data management that Amazon has taken since it shifted from an Oracle type fixation? Will Facebook see MarkLogic as a solution to some of its open source data management hassles?

Here in Harrod’s Creek, we still remember the days when MarkLogic was explaining that it was an enterprise search system, an analytics system, and a content production system. A database can be many things. The one important characteristic, however, is that the data management system generate substantial revenue and juicy profits.

Stephen E Arnold, January 10, 2017

Smarter Content for Contentier Intelligence

December 28, 2016

I spotted a tweet about making smart content smarter. It seems that if content is smarter, then intelligence becomes contentier. I loved my logic class in 1962.

Here’s the diagram from this tweet. Hey, if the link is wonky, just attend the conference and imbibe the intelligence directly, gentle reader.

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The diagram carries the identifier Data Ninja, which echoes Palantir’s use of the word ninja for some of its Hobbits. Data Ninja’s diagram has three parts. I want to focus on the middle part:

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What I found interesting is that instead of a single block labeled “content processing,” the content processing function is broken into several parts. These are:

A Data Ninja API

A Data Ninja “knowledgebase,” which I think is an iPhrase-type or TeraText type of method. Not familiar with iPhrase and TeraText, feel free to browse the descriptions at the links.

A third component in the top box is the statement “analyze unstructured text.” This may refer to indexing and such goodies as entity extraction.

The second box performs “text analysis.” Obviously this process is different from “the analyze unstructured text” step; otherwise, why run the same analyses again? The second box performs what may be clustering of content into specific domains. This is important because a “terminal” in transportation may be different from a “terminal” in a cloud hosting facility. Disambiguation is important because the terminal may be part of a diversified transportation company’s computing infrastructure. I assume Data Ninja’s methods handles this parsing of “concepts” without many errors.

Once the selection of a domain area has been performed, the system appears to perform four specific types of operations as the Data Ninja practice their katas. These are the smart components:

  • Smart sentiment; that is, is the content object weighted “positive” or “negative”, “happy” or “sad”, or green light or red light, etc.
  • Smart data; that is, I am not sure what this means
  • Smart content; that is, maybe a misclassification because the end result should be smart content, but the diagram shows smart content as a subcomponent within the collection of procedures/assertions in the middle part of the diagram
  • Smart learning; that is, the Data Ninja system is infused with artificial intelligence, smart software, or machine learning (perhaps the three buzzwords are combined in practice, not just in diagram labeling?)
  • The end result is an iPhrase-type representation of data. (Note: that this approach infuses TeraText, MarkLogic, and other systems which transform unstructured data to metadata tagged structured information).

The diagram then shows a range of services “plugging” into the box performing the functions referenced in my description of the middle box.

If the system works as depicted, Data Ninjas may have the solution to the federation challenge which many organizations face. Smarter content should deliver contentier intelligence or something along that line.

Stephen E Arnold, November 28, 2016

On the Hunt for Thesauri

December 15, 2016

How do you create a taxonomy? These curated lists do not just write themselves, although they seem to do that these days.  Companies that specialize in file management and organization develop taxonomies.  Usually they offer customers an out-of-the-box option that can be individualized with additional words, categories, etc.  Taxonomies can be generalized lists, think of a one size fits all deal.  Certain industries, however, need specialized taxonomies that include words, phrases, and other jargon particular to that field.  Similar to the generalized taxonomies, there are canned industry specific taxonomies, except the more specialized the industry the less likely there is a canned list.

This is where the taxonomy lists needed to be created from scratch.  Where do the taxonomy writers get the content for their lists?  They turn to the tried, true resources that have aided researchers for generations: dictionaries, encyclopedias, technical manuals, and thesauri are perhaps one of the most important tools for taxonomy writers, because they include not only words and their meanings, but also synonyms and antonyms words within a field.

If you need to write a taxonomy and are at a lost, check out MultiTes.  It is a Web site that includes tools and other resources to get your taxonomy job done.  Multisystems built MultiTes and they:

…developed our first computer program for Thesaurus Management on PC’s in 1983, using dBase II under CPM, predecessor of the DOS operating system.  Today, more than three decades later, our products are as easy to install and use. In addition, with MultiTes Online all that is needed is a web connected device with a modern web browser.

In other words, they have experience and know their taxonomies.

Whitney Grace, December 15, 2016

The Robots Are Not Taking over Libraries

December 14, 2016

I once watched a Japanese anime that featured a robot working in a library.  The robot shelved, straightened, and maintained order of the books by running on a track that circumnavigated all the shelves in the building.  The anime took place in a near-future Japan, when all paper documents were rendered obsolete.  While we are a long way off from having robots in public libraries (budget constraints and cuts), there is a common belief that libraries are obsolete as well.

Libraries are the furthest thing from being obsolete, but robots have apparently gained enough artificial intelligence to find lost books, however.  Popsci shares the story in “Robo Librarian Tracks Down Misplaced Book.”  It explains a situation that librarians hate to deal with: people misplacing books on shelves instead of letting the experts put them back.  Libraries rely on books being in precise order and if they are in the wrong place, they are as good as lost.  Fancy libraries, like a research library at the University of Chicago, have automated the process, but it is too expensive and unrealistic to deploy.  There is another option:

A*STAR roboticists have created an autonomous shelf-scanning robot called AuRoSS that can tell which books are missing or out of place. Many libraries have already begun putting RFID tags on books, but these typically must be scanned with hand-held devices. AuRoSS uses a robotic arm and RFID scanner to catalogue book locations, and uses laser-guided navigation to wheel around unfamiliar bookshelves. AuRoSS can be programmed to scan the library shelves at night and instruct librarians how to get the books back in order when they arrive in the morning.

Manual labor is still needed to put the books in order after the robot does its work at night.   But what happens when someone needs help with research, finding an obscure citation, evaluating information, and even using the Internet correctly?  Yes, librarians are still needed.  Who else is going to interpret data, guide research, guard humanity’s knowledge?

Whitney Grace, December 14, 2016

Need Data Integration? Think of Cisco. Well, Okay

November 25, 2016

Data integration is more difficult than some of the text analytics’ wizards state. Software sucks in disparate data and “real time” analytics systems present actionable results to marketers, sales professionals, and chief strategy officers. Well, that’s not exactly accurate.

Industrial strength data integration demands a company which has bought a company which acquired a technology which performs data integration. Cisco offers a system that appears to combine the functions of Kapow with the capabilities of Palantir Technologies’ Gotham and tosses in the self service business information which Microsoft touts.

Cisco acquired Composite Information in 2013. Cisco now offers the Composite system as the Cisco Information Server. Here’s what the block diagram of the federating behemoth looks like. You can get a PDF version at this link.

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The system is easy to use. “The graphical development and management environments are easy to learn and intuitive to use,” says the Cisco Teradata information sheet. For some tips about the easy to use system check out the Data Virtualization Cisco Information Server blog. A tutorial, although dated is, at this link. Note that the block diagram between 2011 and the one presented above has not significantly changed. I assume there is not much work required to ingest and make sense of the Twitter stream or other social media content.
The blog has one post and was last updated in 2011. But there is a YouTube video at this link.

The system includes a remarkable range of features; for example:

  • Modeling which means import and transform what Cisco calls “introspect”, create a model and figure out how to make it run at an acceptable level of performance, and expose the data to other services. (Does this sound like iPhrase’s and Teratext’s method? It does to me.)
  • Search
  • Transformation
  • Version control and governance
  • Data quality control and assurance
  • Outputs
  • Security
  • Administrative controls.

The time required to create this system is, according to Cisco Teradata, is “over 300 man years.”

The licensee can plug the system into an IBM DB2 running on a z/OS8 “handheld”. You will need a large hand by the way. No small hands need apply.

Stephen E Arnold, November 25, 2016

Genetics Are Biased

November 4, 2016

DNA does not lie. DNA does not lie if conducted accurately and by an experienced geneticist.  Right now it is popular for people to get their DNA tested to discover where their ancestors came from.  Many testers are surprised when they receive their results, because they learn their ancestors came from unexpected places.  Black Americans are eager to learn about the genetics, due to their slave ancestry and lack of familial records.  For many Black Americans, DNA is the only way they can learn where their roots originated, but Africa is not entirely cataloged.

According to Science Daily’s article “Major Racial Bias Found In Leading Genomics Database,” if you have African ancestry and get a DNA test it will be difficult to pinpoint your results.  The two largest genomics databases that geneticists refer to contain a measurable bias to European genes.  From a logical standpoint, this is understandable as Africa has the largest genetic diversity and remains a developing continent without the best access to scientific advances.  These provide challenges for geneticists as they try to solve the African genetic puzzle.

It also weighs heavily on black Americans, because they are missing a significant component in their genetic make-up they can reveal vital health information.  Most black Americans today contain a percentage of European ancestry.  While the European side of their DNA can be traced, their African heritage is more likely to yield clouded results.  On a financial scale, it is more expensive to test black Americans genetics due to the lack of information and the results are still not going to be as accurate as a European genome.

This groundbreaking research by Dr. O’Connor and his team clearly underscores the need for greater diversity in today’s genomic databases,’ says UM SOM Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who is also Vice President of Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko Bowers Distinguished Professor at UM SOM. ‘By applying the genetic ancestry data of all major racial backgrounds, we can perform more precise and cost-effective clinical diagnoses that benefit patients and physicians alike.

While Africa is a large continent, the Human Genome Project and other genetic organizations should apply for grants that would fund a trip to Africa.  Geneticists and biologists would then canvas Africa, collect cheek swabs from willing populations, return with the DNA to sequence, and add to the database.  Would it be expensive?  Yes, but it would advance medical knowledge and reveal more information about human history.  After all, we all originate from Mother Africa.

Whitney Grace, November 4, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

NTechLab as David to the Google Goliath of Facial Recognition

October 27, 2016

The article titled A Russian Startup is Beating Google with Eerily Accurate Facial Recognition Technology on Business Insider positions NTechLab as the company leading the industry in facial recognition technology. In 2015, the startup beat Google to win the “MegaFace” competition. The article explains,

NTechLab sets itself apart from its competitors with its high level of accuracy and its ability to search an extensive database of photographs. At the MegaFace Championship, NTechLab achieved a 73 percent accuracy with a database of 1 million pictures. When the number dropped to 10,000 images, the system achieved a jaw-dropping accuracy of 95 percent. “We are the first to learn how to efficiently handle large picture databases,” said NTechLab founder Artem Kukharenko to Intel iQ.

The startup based its technology in deep learning and a neural network. The company has held several public demonstrations at festivals and amusement parks. Attendees share selfies with the system, then receive pictures of themselves when the system “found” them in the crowd. Kukharenko touts the “real-word” problem-solving capabilities of his system. While there isn’t a great deal of substantive backup to his claims, the company is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Chelsea Kerwin, October 27, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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