January 6, 2016
Google Search has worked its way into our culture as an indispensable, and unquestioned, tool of modern life. However, the algorithms behind the platform have become more sophisticated, allowing Google to tinker more and more with search results. Since so many of us regularly use the search engine to interact with the outside world, Google’s choices (and ours) affect the world’s perception of itself. Researcher Safiya Umoja Noble details some of the adverse effects of this great power in her paper, “Google Search: Hyper-Visibility as a Means of Rendering Black Women and Girls Invisible,” posted at the University of Rochester’s InVisible Culture journal. Not surprisingly, commerce features prominently in the story. Noble writes:
“Google’s algorithmic practices of biasing information toward the interests of the powerful elites in the United States,14 while at the same time presenting its results as generated from objective factors, has resulted in a provision of information that perpetuates the characterizations of women and girls through misogynist and pornified websites. Stated another way, it can be argued that Google functions in the interests of its most influential (i.e. moneyed) advertisers or through an intersection of popular and commercial interests. Yet Google’s users think of it as a public resource, generally free from commercial interest15—this fact likely bolstered by Google’s own posturing as a company for whom the informal mantra, ‘Don’t be evil,’ has functioned as its motivational core. Further complicating the ability to contextualize Google’s results is the power of its social hegemony.16 At the heart of the public’s general understanding and trust in commercial search engines like Google, is a belief in the neutrality of technology … which only obscures our ability to understand the potency of misrepresentation that further marginalizes and renders the interests of Black women, coded as girls, invisible.”
Noble goes on to note ways we, the users, codify our existing biases through our very interaction with Google Search. To say the paper treats these topic in depth is an understatement. Noble provides enough background on the study of culture’s treatment of Black women and girls to get any non-social-scientist up to speed. Then, she describes the extension of that treatment onto the Web, and how certain commercial enterprises now depend on those damaging representations. Finally, the paper calls for a critical approach to search to address these, and similar, issues. It is an important, and informative, paper; we suggest interested readers give it a gander.
Cynthia Murrell, January 6, 2016
December 29, 2015
Data visualization and analysis firm Tom Sawyer announces the latest release of their flagship platform in, “Tom Sawyer Software Releases Tom Sawyer Perspectives, Version 7.1, .NET Edition.” There is a new “timeline” view, and they promise a boost to layout performance. The press release specifies:
“Users can dynamically manipulate sliders in a timeline view to choose a specific time period. Once a time period is chosen, the elements within other views are filtered and updated accordingly to hone in on events based on time of occurrence.
“Users can now see how data progresses through time and focus on the events they are most interested in. Visualize the spread of an epidemic, the progression of crime in a city, or uncover how information disseminates across an organization’s departments.
“Tom Sawyer Perspectives, Version 7.1 also includes enhanced examples and user experience. New Crime Network, Commodity Flow, and Road Safety example applications are included, the look and feel of the tutorial applications is modernized, and neighborhood retrieval is improved. In addition, many quality and performance enhancements have been made in this release, including up to 16 percent improvement in layout performance.”
The write-up includes screenshots and links to further information, so interested readers should check it out. Founded in 1992, Tom Sawyer helps organizations in fields from intelligence to healthcare make connections and draw conclusions from data. The company maintains offices around the world, but makes its headquarters in Berkeley, California. They are also hiring as of this writing.
Cynthia Murrell, December 29, 2015
December 28, 2015
A blog series from iSightPartners aims to help organizations make the most of Cyber Threat Intelligence. The series is introduced in, “How CTI Helps Six Groups Do Their Jobs Better: A New Blog Series!” Writer Christina Jasinski explains:
“The importance of Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) has become more widely recognized in the past year. But not many people realize how many different ways threat intelligence can be utilized across an enterprise. That’s why now is a good time to drill down and describe the wide range of use cases for employing threat intelligence for many different functions within an IT organization.
“Are you a CISO, SOC Analyst or an Incident Responder? Stay tuned….
“This is the first post in an iSIGHT Partners blog series that will delve into how IT security professionals in each of six distinct roles within an organization’s information security program can (and should) apply threat intelligence to their function. Each post will include 3-4 use cases, how CTI can be used by professionals in that role, and the type of threat intelligence that is required to achieve their objectives.”
Jasinski goes on to describe what her series has to offer professionals in each of those roles, and concludes by promising to reveal practical solutions to CTI quandaries. Follow her blog posts to learn those answers.
Cynthia Murrell, December 28, 2015
December 4, 2015
Oh, 1999, what a year that was! It was full of people afraid of Y2K, TV was still analog, email was still a novelty, and AOL still reigned as the supreme Web browser. Nobody really knew what Amazon was as many people did their online shopping on individual Web sites or on eBay. Recode takes a look at a video blast from the past in “Watch Jeff Bezos Lay Out His Grand Vision For Amazon’s Future Dominance In This 1999 Video.”
In 1999, Amazon was a four-year-old company with $1 billion in annual sales. It started out primarily selling books, CDs, and movies. The Jeff Bezos video is of a talk he gave at the Association of American Publishers annual meeting, it played on Book TV and nobody watches that, which it is why it probably has gone unnoticed for so long. While it is a good retrospect about how the company has grown, it also offers some useful information for business entrepreneurs. The entire video is fifty-five minutes long, but the article contains some of Bezos’s best quotes. Our favorite is this one about favoring growth versus profits:
“Amazon.com is a famously unprofitable company. And the question is: Are we concerned about it? The answer is, in the short term, no; and in the long term, of course. Every company needs to be profitable at some point in time … Our strategy and we’ve consistently articulated this, is that we believe that this opportunity is so large that it would be a mistake for any management team not to invest in it very aggressively at this kind of critical category formation stage. We don’t claim it’s the right strategy. We just claim it’s ours. But we do think it’s right. And that it would be a mistake to try to optimize for short-term profitability.”
Jeff Bezos’s advice about favoring growth versus short-term profit definitely worked for him. Amazon is one of the world’s retailers and it is still growing. It is set to dominate TV, software-as-a-surface, and air delivery.
Whitney Grace, December 4, 2015
December 4, 2015
An abundance of data is not particularly valuable without the ability to draw conclusions from it. Forbes recognizes the value of data analysis in, “Text Analytics Gurus Debunk Four Big Data Myths.” Contributor Barbara Thau observes:
“And while retailers have hailed big data as the key to everything from delivering shoppers personalized merchandise offers to real-time metrics on product performance, the industry is mostly scratching its head on how to monetize all the data that’s being generated in the digital era. One point of departure: Over 80% of all information comes in text format, Tom H.C. Anderson, CEO of, which markets its text analytics software to clients such as Coca-Cola KO +0.00% told Forbes. So if retailers, for one, ‘aren’t using text analytics in their customer listening, whether they know it or not, they’re not doing too much listening at all,’ he said.”
Anderson and his CTO Chris Lehew went on to outline four data myths they’ve identified; mistakes, really: a misplaced trust in survey scores; putting more weight on social media data than direct contact from customers; valuing data from new sources over the customer-service department’s records, and refusing to keep an eye on what the competition is doing. See the article for the reasons these pros disagree with each of these myths.
Text analytics firm OdinText promises to draw a more accurate understanding from their clients’ data collections, whatever industry they are in. The company received their OdenText patent in 2013, and was incorporated earlier this year.
Cynthia Murrell, December 4, 2015
November 18, 2015
Patent information is available to peruse via the USPTO Web site and Google has an accurate patent search (that is significantly easier to use than USPTO’s search), but this does not tell the complete story of US patents. GCN announced that the USPTO plans to remedy missing patent information in the article, “USPTO Opens The Door To Four Decades Of Patent Data.”
With the help of the Center of Science and Innovation Policy (CSSIP), the USPTO launched the new tool PatentsView:
“The new tool allows individuals to explore data on patenting activity in the United States dating back to 1976. Users can search patent titles, types, inventors, assignees, patent classes, locations and dates. The data also displays visualizations on trends and patent activity. In addition, searches include graphic illustrations and charts.”
People will be able to conduct the equivalent of an “advanced search” option of Google or an academic database. PatentsView allows people to identify trends, what technology is one the rise or dropping, search a company’s specific patents, and flexible application programming interface to search patent information.
The USPTO wants people to access and use important patent and trademark data. It faces the issue that many organizations are dealing with that they have the data available and even with the bonus of it being digital, but its user interface is not user-friendly and no one knows it is there. Borrowing a page from marketing, the USPTO is using PatentsView to rebrand itself and advertise its offerings. Shiny graphics are one way to reach people.
Whitney Grace, November 18, 2015
October 30, 2015
The Internet Society has made available its “Global Internet Report 2015,” just the second in its series. World-wide champions of a free and open Internet, the society examines mobile Internet usage patterns around the globe. The report’s Introduction explains:
“We focus this year’s report on the mobile Internet for two reasons. First, as with mobile telephony, the mobile Internet does not just liberate us from the constraints of a wired connection, but it offers hundreds of millions around the world their only, or primary, means of accessing the Internet. Second, the mobile Internet does not just extend the reach of the Internet as used on fixed connections, but it offers new functionality in combination with new portable access devices.”
It continues with this important warning:
“The nature of the Internet should remain collaborative and inclusive, regardless of changing means of access. In particular, the mobile Internet should remain open, to enable the permission-less innovation that has driven the continuous growth and evolution of the Internet to date, including the emergence of the mobile Internet itself.”
Through the report’s landing page, above, you can navigate to the above-cited Introduction, the report’s Executive Summary, and Section 2: Trends and Growth. There is even an interactive mobile Internet timeline. Scroll to the bottom to download the full report, in PDF, Kindle, or ePub formats. The download is free, but those interested can donate to the organization here.
Cynthia Murrell, October 30, 2015
October 29, 2015
CSI might stand for a popular TV franchise, but it also stands for “compound structured identification” Phys.org explains in “Bioinformaticians Make The Most Efficient Search Engine For Molecular Structures Available Online.” Sebastian Böcker and his team at the Friedrich Schiller University are researching metabolites, chemical compounds that determine an organism’s metabolism. Metabolites are used to gauge information about the condition of living cells.
While this is amazing science there are some drawbacks:
“This process is highly complex and seldom leads to conclusive results. However, the work of scientists all over the world who are engaged in this kind of fundamental research has now been made much easier: The bioinformatics team led by Prof. Böcker in Jena, together with their collaborators from the Aalto-University in Espoo, Finland, have developed a search engine that significantly simplifies the identification of molecular structures of metabolites.”
The new search works like a regular search engine, but instead of using keywords it searches through molecular structure databases containing information and structural formulae of metabolites. The new search will reduce time in identifying the compound structures, saving on costs and time. The hope is that the new search will further research into metabolites and help researchers spend more time working on possible breakthroughs.
Whitney Grace, October 29, 2015
October 27, 2015
Is Apple ready to openly embrace open source? MacRumors reports, “Apple Building Unified Cloud Platform for iCloud, iTunes, Siri and More.” Writer Joe Rossignol cites a new report from the Information that indicates the famously secret company may be opening up to keep up with the cloudy times. He writes:
“The new platform is based on Siri, which itself is powered by open source infrastructure software called Mesos on the backend, according to the report. Apple is reportedly placing more emphasis on open source software in an attempt to attract open source engineers that can help improve its web services, but it remains to be seen how far the company shifts away from its deep culture of secrecy.
“The paywalled report explains how Apple is slowly embracing the open source community and becoming more transparent about its open source projects. It also lists some of the open source technologies that Apple uses, including Hadoop, HBase, Elasticsearch, Reak, Kafka, Azkaban and Voldemort.”
Rossignol goes on to note that, according to Bloomberg, Apple is working on a high-speed content delivery network and upgrading data centers to better compete with its rivals in the cloud, like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Will adjusting its stance on open-source allow it to keep up?
Cynthia Murrell, October 27, 2015
October 23, 2015
While it would be lovely to access and find all important documents, emails, and Web sites within a couple clicks, users usually have to access several programs or individual files to locate their information. Stark Industries wanted users to have the power of Google search engine without compromising their personal security. Xendo is a private, personal search engine that connects with various services, including email servers, social media account, clouds, newsfeeds, and more.
Once all the desired user accounts are connected to Xendo, the search engine indexes all the files within the services. The index is encrypted, so it securely processes them. After the indexing is finished, Xendo will search through all the files and return search results displaying the content and service types related to inputted keywords. Xendo promises that:
“After your initial index is built, Xendo automatically keeps it up-to-date by adding, removing and updating content as it changes. Xendo automatically updates your index to reflect role and permission changes in each of your connected services. Xendo is hosted in some of the most secure data-centers in the world and uses multiple layers of security to ensure your data is secured in transit and at rest, like it’s in a bank vault.”
Basic Xendo search is free for individual users with payments required for upgrades. The basic search offers deep search, unlimited access, and unlimited content, while the other plans offer more search options based on subscription. Xendo can be deployed for enterprise systems, but it requires a personalized quote.