May 24, 2016
The article on GlobeNewsWire titled Ex-Googler Startup DGraph Labs Raises US$1.1 Million in Seed Funding Round to Build Industry’s First Open Source, Native and Distributed Graph Database names Bain Capital Ventures and Blackbird Ventures as the main investors in the startup. Manish Jain, founder and CEO of DGraph, worked on Google’s Knowledge Graph Infrastructure for six years. He explains the technology,
“Graph data structures store objects and the relationships between them. In these data structures, the relationship is as important as the object. Graph databases are, therefore, designed to store the relationships as first class citizens… Accessing those connections is an efficient, constant-time operation that allows you to traverse millions of objects quickly. Many companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, LinkedIn and Dropbox use graph databases to power their smart search engines and newsfeeds.”
Among the many applications of graph databases, the internet of thing, behavior analysis, medical and DNA research, and AI are included. So what is DGraph going to do with their fresh funds? Jain wants to focus on forging a talented team of engineers and developing the company’s core technology. He notes in the article that this sort of work is hardly the typical obstacle faced by a startup, but rather the focus of major tech companies like Google or Facebook.
Chelsea Kerwin, May 24, 2016
May 19, 2016
I read “Sorry Google, We Just Don’t Want to Be Friends with You.” What struck me is that Facebook, which is not the focal point of the write up, is one beneficiary of this write up. The centerpiece of the article is a series of comments about Google’s social media belly flops: Wave, Buzz, Google +. The article omitted the wonderful Orkut service, which was embraced by certain users in Brazil.
Google is not the sole company to be dumped in a bourbon barrel filled with sour mash. Apple and even a nod to Facebook’s slops make the focus on Google less eye watering.
But the winner is Facebook. The Telegraph states:
Facebook has neutralized threats such as Instagram and WhatsApp by buying them before they really surface.
Okay, Facebook is the big dog. The write up makes one last snap at the GOOG:
Perhaps it should just accept that we don’t want to be friends with Google.
I am not sure I want to be friends with the Telegraph.
Stephen E Arnold, May 19, 2016
May 13, 2016
Did you know that Facebook combs your content for criminal intent? American Intelligence Report reveals, “Facebook Monitors Your Private Messages and Photos for Criminal Activity, Reports them to Police.” Naturally, software is the first entity to scan content, using keywords and key phrases to flag items for human follow-up. Of particular interest are “loose” relationships. Reporter Kristan T. Harris writes:
“Reuters’ interview with the security officer explains, Facebook’s software focuses on conversations between members who have a loose relationship on the social network. For example, if two users aren’t friends, only recently became friends, have no mutual friends, interact with each other very little, have a significant age difference, and/or are located far from each other, the tool pays particular attention.
“The scanning program looks for certain phrases found in previously obtained chat records from criminals, including sexual predators (because of the Reuters story, we know of at least one alleged child predator who is being brought before the courts as a direct result of Facebook’s chat scanning). The relationship analysis and phrase material have to add up before a Facebook employee actually looks at communications and makes the final decision of whether to ping the authorities.
“’We’ve never wanted to set up an environment where we have employees looking at private communications, so it’s really important that we use technology that has a very low false-positive rate,’ Sullivan told Reuters.”
Uh-huh. So, one alleged predator has been caught. We’re told potential murder suspects have also been identified this way, with one case awash in 62 pages of Facebook-based evidence. Justice is a good thing, but Harris notes that most people will be uncomfortable with the idea of Facebook monitoring their communications. She goes on to wonder where this will lead; will it eventually be applied to misdemeanors and even, perhaps, to “thought crimes”?
Users of any social media platform must understand that anything they post could eventually be seen by anyone. Privacy policies can be updated without notice, and changes can apply to old as well as new data. And, of course, hackers are always lurking about. I was once cautioned to imagine that anything I post online I might as well be shouting on a public street; that advice has served me well.
Cynthia Murrell, May 13, 2016
May 12, 2016
In the tech world, the word billion may be losing meaning for some. Pando published a recent editorial called, While the rest of tech struggles, so far VCs have raised more this quarter than in past three years. This piece calls attention to the seemingly never-ending list of VC firms raising ever-more funds. For example, Accel announced their funds were at $2 billion, Founders Fund raised $1 billion in new funds, and Andreessen Horowitz currently works to achieve another $1.5 billion. The author writes,
“It was hard to put that [recent fundraising rounds] in context. I mean, yeah. These are major funds. Is it news that they raised a collective $4.5 billion more at some point? Doesn’t mean they’ll invest it any more quickly. All it means is that the two will still be around for another ten years, which we kinda already guessed. It’s staggeringly hard for a venture fund to actually go out of business, even when it wasn’t some of the first money in Facebook or, in the case of Marc Andreessen, sits on its board. [Disclosure: Marc Andreessen, Founders Fund and Accel are all investors in Pando.]”
As the author wonders, asking Pitchbook if it’s a “bigger quarter than usual”, our eyebrows are not raised by this this thought, nor easy money, bubbles, unicorns. Nah, this is just routine in Sillycon Valley.
Megan Feil, May 12, 2016
May 10, 2016
A stiff upper lip type told me eons ago: “Never complain, never explain.” I just read “Facebook denies Claims It Suppressed Conservative and Controversial New on Its Trending Topics Sidebar.” If the write up is accurate, Facebook may be explaining and complaining.
The company had been accused of encouraging the humans that run its “Trending Topics” sidebar to suppress conservative stories and those from right-of-centre outlets. But the company has “found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true”, according to a post from its head of search Tom Stocky.
The write up quoted Facebook as an “it” which said:
It said also that does not “insert stories artificially into trending topics, and do not instruct our reviewers to do so”. While it’s possible for reviewers to stick certain topics together – such as #StarWars and #?maythefourthbewithyou – a topic must already be trending for it to be added to the panel, Mr Stocky claimed.
Interesting. Why would a giant in social media let humans interfere with smart software? But why would Jeff Bezos buy a newspaper?
Alas, no answers and certainly no complaining or explaining from Harrod’s Creek.
Stephen E Arnold, May 10, 2016
April 20, 2016
Computer software has progressed further and keeps advancing faster than we can purchase the latest product. Software is now capable of holding simple conversations, accurately translating languages, GPS, self-driving cars, etc. The one thing that that computer developers cannot program is human thought and reason. The New York Times wrote “Taking Baby Steps Toward Software That Reasons Like Humans” about the goal just out of reach.
The article focuses on Richard Socher and his company MetaMind, a deep learning startup working on pattern recognition software. He along with other companies focused on artificial intelligence are slowly inching their way towards replicating human thought on computers. The progress is slow, but steady according to a MetaMind paper about how machines are now capable of answering questions of both digital images and textual documents.
“While even machine vision is not yet a solved problem, steady, if incremental, progress continues to be made by start-ups like Mr. Socher’s; giant technology companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google; and dozens of research groups. In their recent paper, the MetaMind researchers argue that the company’s approach, known as a dynamic memory network, holds out the possibility of simultaneously processing inputs including sound, sight and text.”
The software that allows computers to answer questions about digital images and text is sophisticated, but the data to come close to human capabilities is not only limited, but also nonexistent. We are coming closer to understanding the human brain’s complexities, but artificial intelligence is not near Asimov levels yet.
March 29, 2016
One thing you can always count on the tech industry is talent will jump from company to company to pursue the best and most innovating endeavors. The latest tech work to jump ship is Eric Weiss, he leaps from Foursquare to head a new Search, Learning, & Intelligence Group at Slack. VentureBeat reports the story in “Slack Forms Search, Learning, & Intelligence Group On ‘Mining The Chat Corpus.’” Slack is a team communication app and their new Search, Learning, & Intelligence Group will be located in the app’s new New York office.
Weiss commented on the endeavor:
“ ‘The focus is on building features that make Slack better the bigger a company is and the more it uses Slack,” Weiss wrote today in a Medium post. “The success of the group will be measured in how much more productive, informed, and collaborative Slack users get — whether a company has 10, 100, or 10,000 people.’”
For the new group, Weiss wants to hire experts who are talented in the fields of artificial intelligence, information retrieval, and natural language processing. From this talent search, he might be working on a project that will help users to find specific information in Slack or perhaps they will work on mining the chap corpus.
Other tech companies have done the same. Snapchat built a research team that uses artificial intelligence to analyze user content. Flipboard and Pinterest are working on new image recognition technology. Meanwhile Google, Facebook, Baidu, and Microsoft are working on their own artificial intelligence projects.
What will artificial intelligence develop into as more companies work on their secret projects.
March 9, 2016
The article on Nextgov titled Facebook Is Giving Users a New Way to Access It On the ‘Dark Web’ discusses the lesser-known services of the dark web such as user privacy. Facebook began taking advantage of the dark web in 2014, when it created a Tor address (recognizable through the .onion ending.) The article explains the perks of this for global Facebook users,
“Facebook’s Tor site is one way for people to access their accounts when the regular Facebook site is blocked by governments—such as when Bangladesh cut off access to Facebook, its Messenger and Whatsapp chat platforms, and messaging app Viber for about three weeks in November 2015. As the ban took effect, the overall number of Tor users in Bangladesh spiked by about 10 times, to more than 20,000 a day. When the ban was lifted, the number dropped..”
Facebook has encountered its fair share of hostility from international governments, particularly Russia. Russia has a long history of censorship, and has even clocked Wikipedia in the past, among other sites. But even if a site is not blocked, governments can still prevent full access through filtering of domain names and even specific keywords. The Tor option can certainly help global users access their Facebook accounts, but however else they use Tor is not publicly known, and Facebook’s lips are sealed.
Chelsea Kerwin, March 9, 2016
March 7, 2016
A Facebook executive found that the party-loving Brazilians were not full of fun recently. A Facebook executive was detained without samba music. (See “Facebook Executive Jailed in Brazil.”)
Also interesting was “Facebook Hit With German Antitrust Investigation Over User Terms.” The write up reported:
The German federal competition authority has opened an investigation into Facebook over what it suspects is “an abusive imposition of unfair conditions on users.”
The friction between governments and widely used American software systems and services appears to be increasing.
The only challenge will be figuring how to put the horse back in the barn. The barn burned and apartments and a Chuck E Cheese have been built on the once fallow land.
Facebook was set up in 2004. That works out to more than a decade of development. How often are complexes torn down in a modern digital city? Municipal bureaucracies often react slowly and in often confusing ways.
Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2016
February 24, 2016
Okay, the 100 years is in Internet time. But the idea is one that is not a surprise to me and the goslings here in Harrod’s Creek. We are far from the field of battle. What sparked my thoughts about the squabbles among the Plantagenets and the good folks over at the House of Valois. What happened to chivalry?
I read “Facebook and Google at War: Is It Time to Pick Sides” and my addled goose brain thought of the 14th and 15th century dust up. Chivalry and deception went hand in hand with the routine stuff of fights over sovereignty.
In the world of search, the Alphabet Google thing faces a couple of challenges. The 15 year old GoTo.com/Overture/Yahoo revenue model is still chugging along. The users’ behavior is changing, and that put a bit of pressure on the Googlers to diversify their revenue streams. Yikes. What business model can the science and math club use as inspiration? Wild and crazy X Labs’ activities? The social thrust has not exactly worked out. Google no longer requires mandatory Google social log ins for games. Games are big, right?
In the world of social, Facebook is the go to way to keep track of pals. Unlike Twitter, which is a coterie service, Facebook is big, popular with some folks, and has revenue streams from its services. Facebook addiction, anyone? Facebook is also holding its own against upstarts, and the company is semi-famous for its hefty flow of useful information about people, individuals, heck, anyone who signs up and remains logged in. Good stuff.
The write up points out:
Businesses can create a ‘Canvas’ by bringing together their own videos and images, which they combine with interactive buttons to create a truly engaging social experience. The functionality is top notch: “In Canvas, people can swipe through a carousel of images, tilt to view panoramic images and zoom in to view images in detail.” Businesses can easily build their Canvas using a combination of videos, still images and call-to-action buttons.
I would mention that Facebook wants folks with content to use Facebook as a publishing platform. There you go. More useful content to analyze via assorted graph analytics methods.
What’s Google doing? The write up does not focus too much on the Alphabet Google thing.
Now back to that 100 year war. Were not the winners the innovators who created the weapons and, of course, the plague?
Stephen E Arnold, February 24, 2016