US Still Most Profitable for Alphabet

May 8, 2017

Alphabet, Inc., the parent company of Google generates maximum revenue from the US market. Europe Middle East and Africa combined come at second and Asia Pacific occupying the third slot.

Recode in its earnings report titled Here’s Where Alphabet Makes Its Money says:

U.S. revenue increased 25 percent from last year to $11.8 billion. Sales from the Asia-Pacific region rose 29 percent to $3.6 billion. Revenue from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa was up 13 percent to $8.1 billion.

Despite the fact that around 61% of world population is in Asia Pacific region, Google garnering most of the revenues from a mere 322 million people is surprising. It can be attributed to the fact that China, which forms the bulk of Asia’s population does not have access to Google or its services. India, another emerging market though is open, is yet to embrace digital economy fully.

While chances of Chinese market opening up for Google are slim, India seems to be high on the radar of not only Google but also for other tech majors like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook.

Vishol Ingole, May 8, 2017

Facebook Excitement: The Digital Country and Kids

May 4, 2017

I read “Facebook Admits Oversight after Leak Reveals Internal Research On Vulnerable Children.” The write up reports that an Australian newspaper:

reported that Facebook executives in Australia used algorithms to collect data on more than six million young people in Australia and New Zealand, “indicating moments when young people need a confidence boost.”

social media madness small

The idea one or more Facebook professionals had strikes me as one with potential. If an online service can identify a person’s moment of weakness, that online service could deliver content designed to leverage that insight. The article said:

The data analysis — marked “Confidential: Internal Only” — was intended to reveal when young people feel “worthless” or “insecure,” thus creating a potential opening for specific marketing messages, according to The Australian. The newspaper said this case of data mining could violate Australia’s legal standards for advertising and marketing to children.

Not surprisingly, the “real” journalism said:

“Facebook has an established process to review the research we perform,” the statement continued. “This research did not follow that process, and we are reviewing the details to correct the oversight.”

When Facebook seemed to be filtering advertising based on race, Facebook said:

“Discriminatory advertising has no place on Facebook.”

My reaction is to this revelation is, “What? This type of content shaping is news?”

My hunch is that some folks forget that when advertisers suggest one has a lousy complexion, particularly a disfiguring rash, the entire point is to dig at insecurities. When I buy the book Flow for a friend, I suddenly get lots of psycho-babble recommendations from Amazon.

Facebook, like any other sales oriented and ad hungry outfit, is going to push as many psychological buttons as possible to generate revenue. I have a hypothesis that the dependence some people have on Facebook “success” is part of the online business model.

What’s the fix?

“Fix” is a good word. The answer is, “More social dependence.”

In my experience, drug dealers do not do intervention. The customer keeps coming back until he or she doesn’t.

Enforcement seems to be a hit-and-miss solutions. Intervention makes some Hollywood types oodles of money in reality programming. Social welfare programs slump into bureaucratic floundering.

Could it be that online dependence is a cultural phenomenon. Facebook is in the right place at the right time. Technology makes it easy to refine messages for maximum financial value.

Interesting challenge, and the thrashing about for a “fix” will be fascinating to watch. Perhaps the events will be live streamed on Facebook? That may provide a boost in confidence to Facebook users and to advertisers. Win win.

Stephen E Arnold, May 4, 2017

Android Introduces in Apps Search

March 20, 2017

Android has announced a new search feature, this one specifically for documents and messages within your apps. With this feature, if you want to revisit that great idea you jotted down last Tuesday, you will (eventually) be able to search for it within Evernote using whatever keywords you can recall from your brilliant plan. The brief write-up at Ubergizmo, “Google Introduces ‘In Apps’ Search Feature to Android,” explains the new feature:

According to Google, ‘We use apps to call friends, send messages or listen to music. But sometimes, it’s hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. Today, we’re introducing a new way for you to search for information in your apps on your Android phone. With this new search mode, called In Apps, you can quickly find content from installed apps.

Basically by searching under the ‘In Apps’ tab in the search bar on your Android phone, instead of trying to search the web, it will search within your apps itself. This will be ideal if you’re trying to bring up a particular message, or if you have saved a document and you’re unsure if you saved it in Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox, in your email, and so on.

So far, In Apps only works with Gmail, Spotify, and YouTube. However, Google plans to incorporate the feature into more apps, including Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, Evernote, Glide, Todoist, and Google Keep. I expect we will eventually see the feature integrated into nearly every Android app.

Cynthia Murrell, March 20, 2017

When AI Spreads Propaganda

February 28, 2017

We thought Google was left-leaning, but an article at the Guardian, “How Google’s Search Algorithm Spreads False Information with a Rightwing Bias,” seems to contradict that assessment. The article cites recent research by the Observer, which found neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic views prominently featured in Google search results. The Guardian followed up with its own research and documented more examples of right-leaning misinformation, like climate-change denials, anti-LGBT tirades,  and Sandy Hook conspiracy theories. Reporters Olivia Solon and Sam Levin tell us:

The Guardian’s latest findings further suggest that Google’s searches are contributing to the problem. In the past, when a journalist or academic exposes one of these algorithmic hiccups, humans at Google quietly make manual adjustments in a process that’s neither transparent nor accountable.

At the same time, politically motivated third parties including the ‘alt-right’, a far-right movement in the US, use a variety of techniques to trick the algorithm and push propaganda and misinformation higher up Google’s search rankings.

These insidious manipulations – both by Google and by third parties trying to game the system – impact how users of the search engine perceive the world, even influencing the way they vote. This has led some researchers to study Google’s role in the presidential election in the same way that they have scrutinized Facebook.

Robert Epstein from the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology has spent four years trying to reverse engineer Google’s search algorithms. He believes, based on systematic research, that Google has the power to rig elections through something he calls the search engine manipulation effect (SEME).

Epstein conducted five experiments in two countries to find that biased rankings in search results can shift the opinions of undecided voters. If Google tweaks its algorithm to show more positive search results for a candidate, the searcher may form a more positive opinion of that candidate.

This does add a whole new, insidious dimension to propaganda. Did Orwell foresee algorithms? Further complicating the matter is the element of filter bubbles, through which many consume only information from homogenous sources, allowing no room for contrary facts. The article delves into how propagandists are gaming the system and describes Google’s response, so interested readers may wish to navigate there for more information.

One particular point gives me chills– Epstein states that research shows the vast majority of readers are not aware that bias exists within search rankings; they have no idea they are being manipulated. Perhaps those of us with some understanding of search algorithms can spread that insight to the rest of the multitude. It seems such education is sorely needed.

Cynthia Murrell, February 28, 2017

 

 

Companies As Countries: Facebook Plans for Its Social Nation State

February 26, 2017

I read some of the Facebook manifesto. About half way through the screed I thought I was back in a class I audited decades ago about alternative political structures. That class struck me as intellectual confection, a bit like science fiction in 1962. The Facebook manifesto shared some ingredients, but it is an altogether different recipe for a new type of political construct. Facebook, not Google, is the big dog of information control. Lots of folks will not be happy; for example, traditional “real” journalists who want to pull the info-yarn and knit their vision of the perfect muffler and other countries who want to manage their information flows.

I thought about my “here we go again” reaction when I read “Facebook Plans to Rewire Your Life. Be Afraid.” Sorry, I am not afraid. Maybe when I was a bit younger, but 74 years of “innovative” thinking have dulled my senses. The write up which is from the “real” journalism outfit Bloomberg is more sensitive than I am. If you are a Facebooker, you will be happy with the Zuck’s manifesto. If you are struggling to figure out what is going on with hundreds of millions of people checking their “friends” and their “likes,” you will want to read the “real news” about Facebook.

Spoiler: Facebook is a new type of country.

The write up “reports”:

Facebook — launched, in Zuckerberg’s own words five years ago, to “extend people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships” — is turning into something of an extraterritorial state run by a small, unelected government that relies extensively on privately held algorithms for social engineering.

Yep, the same “we can do it better” thinking has infused many other high technology companies. Some see the attitude as arrogance. I see the approach as an extension of a high school math team. No one in the high school cares that much about the boys and girls who do not struggle to understand calculus. Those in the math club know that the other kids in the school just don’t “get it.”

The thinking has created some nifty technology. There’s the GOOG. There’s Palantir. There’s Uber. No doubt these companies have found traction in a world which seems to lack shared cultural norms and nation states which seem to be like a cookie jar from which elected officials take handfuls of cash.

The write up points out:

As for the “rewired” information infrastructure, it has helped to chase people into ideological silos and feed them content that reinforces confirmation biases. Facebook actively created the silos by fine-tuning the algorithm that lies at its center — the one that forms a user’s news feed. The algorithm prioritizes what it shows a user based, in large measure, on how many times the user has recently interacted with the poster and on the number of “likes” and comments the post has garnered. In other words, it stresses the most emotionally engaging posts from the people to whom you are drawn — during an election campaign, a recipe for a filter bubble and, what’s more, for amplifying emotional rather than rational arguments.

The traditional real journalists are supposed to do this job. Well, that’s real news. The New York Times wants to be like Netflix. Sounds great. In practice, well, the NYT is a newspaper with some baggage and maybe not enough cash to buy a ticket to zip zip land.

The real news story makes an interesting assertion:

It’s absurd to expect humility from Silicon Valley heroes. But Zuckerberg should realize that by trying to shape how people use Facebook, he may be creating a monster. His company’s other services — Messenger and WhatsApp — merely allow users to communicate without any interference, and that simple function is the source of the least controversial examples in Zuckerberg’s manifesto. “In Kenya, whole villages are in WhatsApp groups together, including their representatives,” the Facebook CEO writes. Well, so are my kids’ school mates, and that’s great.

But great translates to “virtual identify suicide.”

The fix? Get those billion people to cancel their accounts. Yep, that will work in the country of Facebook. I am, however, not afraid. Of course, I don’t use Facebook, worry about likes, or keep in touch with those folks from that audited class.

From my point of view, Facebook and Google to a lesser extent have been chugging along for years. Now the railroad want to lay new track. Your farm in the way? Well, there is a solution. Build the track anyway.

Stephen E Arnold, February 26, 2017

Mobile App Usage on the Rise from 34% of Consumer Time in 2013 to 50% in 2016

February 24, 2017

Bad news, Google. The article titled Smartphone Apps Now Account for Half the Time Americans Spend Online on TechCrunch reveals that mobile applications are still on the rise. Throw in tablet apps and the total almost hits 60%. Google is already working to maintain relevancy with its In Apps feature for Androids, which searches inside apps themselves. The article explains,

This shift towards apps is exactly why Google has been working to integrate the “web of apps” into its search engine, and to make surfacing the information hidden in apps something its Google Search app is capable of handling.  Our app usage has grown not only because of the ubiquity of smartphones, but also other factors – like faster speeds provided by 4G LTE networks, and smartphones with larger screens that make sitting at a desktop less of a necessity.

What apps are taking up the most of our time? Just the ones you would expect, such as Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, and Google Maps. But Pokemon Go is the little app that could, edging out Snapchat and Pinterest in the ranking of the top 15 mobile apps. According to a report from Senor Tower, Pokemon Go has gone beyond 180 million daily downloads. The growth of consumer time spent on apps is expected to keep growing, but comScore reassuringly states that desktops will also remain a key part of consumer’s lives for many years to come.

Chelsea Kerwin, February 24, 2017

 

Google Loon Balloons: Still Aloft

February 23, 2017

I enjoy thinking about Google’s Loon balloons. Others are fascinated as well. For instance, the renowned journalistic outfit CBS News showed a happy face. Navigate to “Can Google’s Internet Beaming Balloons Beat the Wind?” The answer, I thought, is obvious, “Darn right.” The write up told me:

Engineers involved in the eccentric project, a part of the X Lab owned by Google’s corporate parent Alphabet Inc., say they have come up with algorithms that enable the high-flying balloons to do a better job anticipating shifting wind conditions so they hover above masses of land for several months instead of orbiting the earth.

The idea is that instead of being blown like a US government balloon from the DC area to Pennsylvania, the Loon balloon would circle an area. Smart software does the trick. The technology allows the Google to deploy fewer balloons to provide Internet access (and ads) to those parts of the world where water, not online connectivity, is a big deal.

The write up points out:

The Alphabet subsidiaries operating outside Google, a hodgepodge of far-flung projects, have lost a combined $7.1 billion during the past two years. In an acknowledgement of their lofty goals and risky nature, Alphabet CEO Larry Page calls them “moonshots.”

I noted that moon rhymes with loon.

The relative of Dr. Edward Teller allegedly said that the new approach plays “a game of chess with the wind.”

Anyone remember that old TV commercial, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”? With some interesting weather manifesting itself here in good old rural Kentucky and near the Oroville Dam, Google believes it will look that Mother Nature in the eye and say, “Checkmate.” Weather is not match for the Googlers.

Oh, one question: What does Google do if those now enabled with Google Loon balloons spend most of their time on Facebook? Can Google knock out the Zuck?

Stephen E Arnold,  February 23. 2017

Fight Fake News with Science

February 1, 2017

With all the recent chatter around “fake news,” one researcher has decided to approach the problem scientifically. An article at Fortune reveals “What a Map of the Fake-News Ecosystem Says About the Problem.” Writer Mathew Ingram introduces us to data-journalism expert and professor Jonathan Albright, of Elon University, who has mapped the fake-news ecosystem. Facebook and Google are just unwitting distributors of faux facts; Albright wanted to examine the network of sites putting this stuff out there in the first place. See the article for a description of his methodology; Ingram summarizes the results:

More than anything, the impression one gets from looking at Albright’s network map is that there are some extremely powerful ‘nodes’ or hubs, that propel a lot of the traffic involving fake news. And it also shows an entire universe of sites that many people have probably never heard of. Two of the largest hubs Albright found were a site called Conservapedia—a kind of Wikipedia for the right wing—and another called Rense, both of which got huge amounts of incoming traffic. Other prominent destinations were sites like Breitbart News, DailyCaller and YouTube (the latter possibly as an attempt to monetize their traffic).

Albright said he specifically stayed away from trying to determine what or who is behind the rise of fake news. … He just wanted to try and get a handle on the scope of the problem, as well as a sense of how the various fake-news distribution or creation sites are inter-connected. Albright also wanted to do so with publicly-available data and open-source tools so others could build on it.

Albright also pointed out the folly of speculating on sources of fake news; such guesswork only “adds to the existing noise,” he noted. (Let’s hear it for common sense!) Ingram points out that, armed with Albright’s research, Google, Facebook, and other outlets may be better able to combat the problem.

Cynthia Murrell, February 1, 2017

Facebook and Google: The M Word Is Not Enough. The C Word Arises.

January 19, 2017

I believe everything I read on the Internet. I am so superficial. Perhaps I am the most superficial person living in rural Kentucky. The write up “The Google-Facebook Online Ad Cartel is the Biggest Competition Problem” seems to be the work of a person who specializes in future Internet competition. He has worked for presidents and written op eds for “real” journalistic outfits. I am convinced… almost.

The main point of the write up is that Facebook and Google operate as a cartel. I highlighted this statement:

Google commands ~90% market share of mobile search and search advertising. It protects those monopolies with an anti-competitive moat around Alphabet-Google by cross-subsidizing the global offering over 200 expensive-to-create, products and services for free, i.e. dramatically below Google’s total costs. Those many expensive subsidized products and services make Google’s moat competitively impregnable, because no competitor could afford to recreate them without a highly profitable online ad business, and the Goobook ad cartel forecloses that very competitive possibility.

The statement echoes Chaos Monkeys, the tell all about the high flying world of Silicon Valley.

I also noted:

In early 2013, Facebook launched its alternative to Google search, called “Facebook Graph Search” in partnership with Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Then in 2014, Google and Facebook obviously, abruptly, and relatively quietly, chose to no longer directly compete with one another. In the first half of 2014, Google reversed course in social, defunding Google+, ending its forced integration, and announcing the shutdown of Orkut, Google’s 300 million user social network. In the second half of 2014, Facebook quietly dropped its Facebook Graph Search alternative to Google search and its search partnership with Microsoft’s Bing.

One consequence is:

Goobook’s customers – advertisers — pay higher ad prices and have less cohesive and effective ad campaigns under the Goobook ad cartel than they would have if Google and Facebook continued to compete. No material competition to keep them honest, also means Google and Facebook can avoid third party accountability for the core advertising activity metrics that they use to charge for their ad services.

The net net is that US laws and policies:

favors free-content models over paid content models, ultimately produces monopolies and monopolies colluding in cartel behaviors that are hostile to property rights. Monopsonies [sic] de facto forcing property owners to offer their property for sale at a wholesale price at zero, is anti-competitive and predatory. Free is not a price, it’s a subsidy or a loss.

No monopoly word. The cartel word is the moniker for these two esteemed outfits grouped under the neologism “Goobook.” WWTD? Oh, that means “What will Trump do?” Perhaps the Trump White House will retain the author as a policy adviser for cartels?

Stephen E Arnold, January 19, 2017

The Government Has a Sock Puppet Theater

January 13, 2017

Law enforcement officials use fake social media accounts and online profiles to engage with criminals.  Their goal is to deter crime, possibly even catching criminals in the act for a rock solid case.  While this happened way back in 2011, the comments are still coming.  In light of the recent presidential election and the violent acts of the past year, it is no wonder the comments are still fresh.  Tech Dirt talked about how the, “US Military Kicks Off Plan To Fill Social Networks With Fake Sock Puppet Accounts.”

The goal was for a company to develop a software that would allow one person to create and manage various social media profiles (including more than one profile on the same platform).  These accounts will then, and we are speculating on this given how dummy accounts have been used in the past, to catch criminals.  The article highlights how the government would use the sock puppet accounts:

Apparently a company called Ntrepid has scored the contract and the US military is getting ready to roll out these “sock puppet” online personas. Of course, it insists that all of this is targeting foreign individuals, not anyone in the US. And they promise it’s not even going to be used on US-based social networks like Facebook or Twitter, but does anyone actually believe that’s true?

Then the comments roll in a conversation that a span of five years the commentators argue about what it means to be American, reaffirming that the US government spies on its citizens, and making fun of sock puppets.

Whitney Grace, January 13, 2017

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