EasyAsk Guarantees Revenue Boost with Its eCommerce Search System

November 26, 2016

I read “How EasyAsk Will Help You Drive 23 to 121% Higher eCommerce Revenues: Guaranteed.” The headline is quite different from most search vendors’ announcements. Search vendors, in my experience, do not guarantee anything: Uptime, fees, performance. EasyAsk, a natural language search technology vendor, is guaranteeing more eCommerce revenues. Like most information available online, I assume that the facts are correct.

I highlighted this statement:

Within 90 days of the EasyAsk implementation, 95% of internal searches were returning the right results – nearly eliminating the dreaded no-results pages. The results have been outstanding;

  • Search conversion has increased by 54%
  • Revenue from search has seen a boost of over 71%
  • Transactions are up 81%

Unlike SOLR, EasyAsk offers powerful merchandising tools that are intuitive, easy-to-use and maintained by business users instead of programmers.

Now the “guarantee” part:

We [EasyAsk] will contractually guarantee that EasyAsk will drive at least 20% more revenue from search.

Here’s how:

  • We will take a baseline benchmark measuring revenue, conversion rate and average transactions on your existing search engine.
  • We will work with you to deploy and implement EasyAsk’s eCommerce suite to provide you with advanced Natural Language semantic search and merchandising.
  • Within 90 days of implementation, we will perform a new benchmark that measures revenue, conversion rate and average transactions and compare them with the original baseline. EasyAsk will contractually guarantee to drive at least 20% more revenue.

The write up explains that there is no risk to the eCommerce vendor who embraces EasyAsk.

There you go. A New Year’s gift which is six weeks early.

Stephen E Arnold, November 26, 2016

Dark Web Marketplaces Are Getting Customer Savvy

November 17, 2016

Offering on Dark Web marketplaces are getting weirder by the day. Apart from guns, ammo, porn, fake identities, products like forged train tickets are now available for sale.

The Guardian in an investigative article titled Dark Web Departure: Fake Train Tickets Go on Sale Alongside AK-47s reveals that:

At least that’s the impression left by an investigation into the sale of forged train tickets on hidden parts of the internet. BBC South East bought several sophisticated fakes, including a first-class Hastings fare, for as little as a third of their face value. The tickets cannot fool machines but barrier staff accepted them on 12 occasions.

According to the group selling these tickets, the counterfeiting was done to inflict financial losses on the operators who are providing deficient services. Of course, it is also possible that the fake tickets are used by people (without criminalistics inclinations) who do not want to pay for the full fares.

One school of thought also says that like online marketplaces on Open Web, Dark Web marketplaces are also getting customer-savvy and are providing products and services that the customers need or want. This becomes apparent in this portion of the article:

The academics say the sites, once accessed by invitation or via dark-web search engines (there’ll be no hyperlinks here) resemble typical marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay, and that customer service is improving. “Agora was invitation-only but many of these marketplaces are easily accessible if you know how to search,” Dr Lee adds. “I think any secondary school student who knows how to use Google could get access – and that’s the danger of it.

One of the most active consumer group on Dark Web happens to be students, who are purchasing anything from fake certificates to hacker services to improve their grades and attendance records. Educational institutions, as well as law enforcement officials, are worried about this trend. And as more people get savvy with Dark Web, this trend is going to strengthen creating a parallel e-commerce, albeit a dark one.

Vishal Ingole, November  17, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Black-Hat SEO Tactics Google Hates

November 16, 2016

The article on Search Engine Watch titled Guide to Black Hat SEO: Which Practices Will Earn You a Manual Penalty? follows up on a prior article that listed some of the sob stories of companies caught by Google using black-hat practices. Google does not take kindly to such activities, strangely enough. This article goes through some of those practices, which are meant to “falsely manipulate a website’s search position.”

Any kind of scheme where links are bought and sold is frowned upon, however money doesn’t necessarily have to change hands… Be aware of anyone asking to swap links, particularly if both sites operate in completely different niches. Also stay away from any automated software that creates links to your site. If you have guest bloggers on your site, it’s good idea to automatically Nofollow any links in their blog signature, as this can be seen as a ‘link trade’.

Other practices that earned a place on the list include automatically generated content, cloaking and irrelevant redirects, and hidden text and links. Doorway pages are multiple pages for a key phrase that lead visitors to the same end destination. If you think these activities don’t sound so terrible, you are in great company. Mozilla, BMW, and the BBC have all been caught and punished by Google for such tactics. Good or bad? You decide.

Chelsea Kerwin, November 16, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Oh No! The Ads Are Becoming Smarter

November 15, 2016

I love Christmas and subsequent holiday season, although I am tired of it starting in October.  Thankfully the holiday music does not start playing until Thanksgiving week, as do the ads, although they have been sneaking into the year earlier and earlier.   I like the fact that commercials and Internet ads are inanimate objects, so I can turn them off.  IT Pro Portal tells me, however, that I might be in for a Christmas nightmare; “IBM’s Watson Now Used In Native Advertising” or the ads are becoming smarter!

While credit card expenditures, browsing history, and other factors are already used for individualized, targeted ads, they still remain a static tool dependent on external factors.  Watson is going to try be tried in the advertising game to improve targeting in native advertising.   Watson will add an aesthetic quality too:

The difference is – it’s not just looking at keywords as the practice was so far – it’s actually looking at the ad, determining what it’s about and then places it where it believes is a good fit. According to the press release, Watson “looks at where, why and how the existing editorial content on each site is ‘talking about’ subjects”, and then makes sure best ads are placed to deliver content in proper context.

Another way Watson’s implementation in advertising is “semantic targeting AI for native advertising.”  It will work in real-time and deliver more individualized targeted ads, over your recent Amazon, eBay, and other Web site shopping.  It is an interesting factor how Watson can disseminate all this information for one person, but if you imagine that the same technology is being used in the medical and law fields, it does inspire hope.

Whitney Grace, November 15, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Online Drugs Trade Needs Surgical Strikes

October 25, 2016

Despite shutdown of Silk Road by the FBI in 2013, online drug trade through Dark Net is thriving. Only military-precision like surgical strikes on vendors and marketplaces using technological methods can solve this problem.

RAND Corporation in its research papaer titled Taking Stock of the Online Drugs Trade says that –

Illegal drug transactions on cryptomarkets have tripled since 2013, with revenues doubling. But at $12-21 (€10.5-18.5) million a month, this is clearly a niche market compared to the traditional offline market, estimated at $2.3 (€2) billion a month in Europe alone.

The primary goal of the research paper was to determine first, the size and scope of cryptomarkets and second, to device avenues for law enforcement agencies to intervene these illegal practices. Though the report covered the entire Europe, the role of Netherlands, in particular, was studied in this report. This was owing to the fact that Netherlands has the highest rate of consumption of drugs acquired using cryptomarkets.

Some interesting findings of the report include –

  • Though revenues have doubled, drug cryptomarkets are still niche and generate revenues of $21 million/month as compared to $2.1 billion in offline trade.
  • Cannabis still is the most in demand followed by stimulants like cocaine and ecstasy-type drugs
  • Vendors from US, Australia, Canada and Western Europe dominate the online marketplace

Apart from following the conventional methods of disrupting the drug trade (dismantling logistics, undercover operations, and taking down marketplaces), the only new method suggested includes the use of Big Data techniques.

Cryptomarkets are going to thrive, and the only way to tackle this threat is by following the money (in this case, the cryptocurrencies). But who is going to bell the cat?

Vishal Ingole, October 25, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

eBay and Corrigon: Heading in the Right Direction?

October 14, 2016

I find eBay fascinating. Many things for sale; for example, $3,000 Teddy bears. I wonder what those are.

I read “eBay to Acquire Corrigon Ltd.” Interesting. I learned about Corrigon, an Israel-based image search and analysis outfit, about seven years ago. The company’s technology can “look” at a digital image and recognize objects in the image. Coirrigon’s pitch, as I recall it, introduced me to the concept of “dynamic browsing.” I thought most browsing was, by definition, was dynamic, but why ask questions which marketers cannot or will not answer. The buzzwords are the intellectual food which gives me Delhi belly.

One application of Corrigon’s technology is to identify objects in a photo can create a link to a shopping site where one can purchase that object. For instance, I am looking at this image:

image

The Corrigon system will, in theory, point me to this type of entry on another Web site:

image

What if I really want the model’s shirt? Well, that may be an issue.

Corrigon has some law enforcement and intelligence applications as well. My hunch is that eBay wants to allow a person to see something, buy something.

The method adds layers and performs image parsing. The method is fine but the approach can add compute cycles. Latency when shopping is a bit of brown bread.

The write up informed me that:

Corrigon’s technology and expertise will contribute to eBay’s efforts with image recognition, classification and image enhancements as part of its structured data initiative. There are three parts to eBay’s structured data initiative: first, collect the data; second, process and enrich the data; and third, create product experiences.Corrigon will support the second and third parts – processing and enriching the data and creating product experiences.

Let’s think about how an eBay user accesses information in the digital flea market now. A person navigates to the site and plugs in keywords. The system then generates a bewildering array of options and some listings. A user then scans and clicks the laundry list of listing. Then the user reads individual listings. Then the user presumably buys the best listing. Heaven help the user who needs to hunt for the link to ask the seller a question. Etc. etc. etc.

eBay’s purchase of Corrigon is going to make eBay into a zippier shopping experience. Well, that’s the theory.

eBay’s challenge is my fave Craigslist and obviously the Bezos beastie. I asked myself, “Perhaps eBay should do some interface work and poke around its core search functionality?”

Stephen E Arnold, October 14, 2016

Watch out for Falling Burritos

September 22, 2016

Amazon and Wal-Mart are already trying to deliver packages by drones, but now a Mexican restaurant wants in on the automated delivery game.  Bloomberg Technology tells the story in “Alphabet And Chipotle Are Bringing Burrito Delivery Drones To Campus.”  If you think you can now order a burrito and have it delivered to you via drone, sorry to

tell you that the service is only available on the Virginia Tech campus.  Alphabet Inc. unit Project Wing has teamed up with Chipotle Mexican Grill for the food delivery service.

Self-guided hybrid drones will deliver the burritos.  The burritos will come from a nearby food truck, so the navigation will be accurate and also so the food will be fresh.  The best part is that when the drones are making the delivery, they will hover and lower the burritos with a winch.

While the drones will be automated, human pilots will be nearby to protect people on campus from falling burritos and in case the drones veer from their flight pattern.  The FAA approved the burrito delivering drone test, but the association is hesitant to clear unmanned drones for bigger deliver routes.

…the experiment will not assess one of the major technology hurdles facing drone deliveries: creation of a low-level air-traffic system that can maintain order as the skies become more crowded with unmanned vehicles. NASA is working with Project Wing and other companies to develop the framework for such a system. Data from the tests will be provided to the FAA to help the agency develop new rules allowing deliveries…

The drone burrito delivery at Virginia Tech is believed to be the most complex delivery flight operation in the US.  It is a test for a not too distant future when unmanned drones deliver packages and food.  It will increase the amount of vehicles in the sky, but it will also put the delivery business in jeopardy.  Once more things change and more jobs become obsolete.

Whitney Grace, September 22, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

SLI Search: Loss Narrows for $35 Million Business

September 14, 2016

SLI Systems offers an eCommerce search system. If you followed the history of NBC’s search efforts, you may know that SLI Systems has some DNA from Snap Search. The company is an interesting one. It competes with EasyAsk, another eCommerce search vendor.

SLI released its financial results in a news release titled “SLI Systems Announces Financial Research for the Year to 30 June 2016.” (Some news releases have the ability to disappear or become a pay to play feature. The release was online an free as of September 6, 2016.)

The write up confirmed what most stakeholders in search and content processing systems may avoid thinking about: Generating revenue in today’s economic climate is difficult.

SLI Systems is a $35 million dollar company. The firm lost several big accounts for a range of reasons. The good news is that instead of losing $7 million in FY2015, SLI reported a before tax loss of $162,000. There are no details about what caused the hefty loss 12 months ago or what a new management team to reduce the shortfall by almost $8 million. Great management? Magic?

I circled this chunk of management explanation:

SLI Systems Chairman Greg Cross said: “The 2016 financial year has been a period of significant change for the company. Chris Brennan took over as Chief Executive Officer in October 2015 and since then we have recruited three key executives: a new Chief Revenue Officer, a new Chief Marketing Officer and a new Vice President of Customer Success. Drawing on the expertise of these new recruits and the broader management team, SLI has put in place new business processes and organizational structures to lift the performance of the business for the long term.

He added:

“The company remains in a strong financial position. Although we expect net cash outflows in the coming year as we return to a growth trajectory, we remain confident that we have sufficient cash resources to support the company’s plan. We are looking forward to the remainder of the year with cautious optimism,” Mr. Cross said.

SLI is based in New Zealand. The mot recent version of the company’s Web site does not make it easy to locate the company’s address at 78 – 106 Manchester Street. Christchurch 8011. New Zealand. New Zealand Phone: 0800 754 797. The company’s office appears to be in the Enterprise Precinct Innovation Center. The firm has an office in San Jose, California. SLI’s office locations are available at this link.

Stephen E Arnold, September 14, 2016

Intuitive Interfaces Matter on Dark Web Sites Too

September 1, 2016

Did you know some sites on the Dark Web have a sleek look and intuitive user experience?  VeriClouds published this information, including screenshots and more in a piece called Dark Web: Sophisticated eCommerce platform trading in your personal information. Channels for cybercriminals allow users to search for Dark Web commodities such as personal or sensitive information by: category, product type, price, sale type, location and shipping options. Mirroring the processes and policies of traditional retail, some sellers also have refund options. The article states:

Platforms like these are so much more than just rudimentary command line setups or chat rooms. They offer many of the same features as online stores like Amazon or Ebay with vendor ratings, buyer feedback, detailed search options and facilitated transaction and delivery services. Collections of data are presented with detailed descriptions (similar to an ecommerce product pages), and some even provide tutorials on how to best utilize that data to scam victims.

On one level, this report shows us how much an intuitive user experience has become the expectation, not an added bonus — anywhere on the web. Related to this heightened expectation for even intangible “things” to have an effective look and feel, we are reminded this is the information age. As information is a commodity, it is no surprise to see the rise in cyber theft of such invisible goods on the Dark Web or otherwise. For example, as the article mentioned, last year’s estimate by the Federal Trade Commission showed 9.9 million victims of identity theft.

Megan Feil, September 1, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Dark Web Purchases Potentially More Challenging Than Media Portrays

August 8, 2016

German TV journalists recently discovered acquiring weapons on the Dark Web may be more challenging than media coverage suggests. Vice’s Motherboard published an article on this called TV Journalists Try Buying AK-47 on Dark Web, Fail. Producers for German channel ARD, working for a show “Fear of terror—how vulnerable is Germany” lost about $800 in bitcoin during the attempted transaction through a middleman. We learned,

“It’s not totally clear if this was because the seller wasn’t legitimate, or whether the package had been intercepted. Regardless, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise: The dark web gun trade is rife with scammers. One con-artist previously told Motherboard he would ask legal sellers to send him photos of weapons next to a piece of paper with his username. From here, he would “just send a bag of sugar,” when an order came in. And undercover law enforcement agents also sell weapons in order to identify potential customers.”

Motherboard is careful to reference cases of successful Dark Web gun sales. Not that readers would be so quick to assume guns cannot be easily purchased on the Dark Web after seeing numerous media coverage that is the case. For the average reader, is the knowledge of the Dark Web from media or personal experience? We see a lot of articles reporting number of web sites that exist, perhaps because of the inability to accurately report a number of users on the Dark Web. While that may not be retrievable, perhaps the number of Tor downloads may be.

 

Megan Feil, August 8, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

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