Autonomy and Hewlett Packard: A How To from Fortune

January 16, 2017

I read “How Autonomy Fooled Hewlett-Packard.” The article was written by Jack T. Cielsielski, who is president of R.G. Associates, Inc. in Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Ciesielski’s company publishes “The Analyst’s Accounting Observer, which is described as “a research service for institutional investors.” The company offers this example return on a $1 million investment:

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The caption for the chart is “All performance data is net of advisory fees.  3, 5, 10 year returns are annualized total returns.  Inception is the annualized total return since 12/31/1992.  S&P 500 Total Return sourced from www.standardandpoors.com.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.”

I am not sure if the write up is a Fortune-edited article, a Fortune-commissioned article, or an inclusion in Fortune which an entity purchased. For the purposes of Beyond Search, I will assume that the article is an example of “real” reporting and spot on in its objectivity and accuracy. I recognize that depending on where one sits and the tools and information available will affect what one perceives. This is the viewshed problem, which is illustrated below. Each color shows what the respective observer “sees.”

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I was interested in the write up because the legal dispute between the “old” Hewlett Packard and executives of Autonomy is on going. Obviously neither Mr. Ciesielski  Fortune does not want to find itself in the legal crossfire. My assumption is, therefore, that Fortune’s “real” journalists have figured out some of the nuances of the HP-Autonomy matter. I would point out that these nuances were overlooked or misinterpreted by HP’s executives, Board members, advisers, lawyers, and accountants. Too bad neither HP nor Autonomy had Fortune-caliber experts assisting when the $11 billion deal was conceived, executed, understood, and prosecuted. Some outfits have smarter, more thorough investigators, researchers, and analysts.

The write up points out that the former top dog of Autonomy USA (Christopher Egan) had to pay $800,000 in November 2016 he garnered from the HP buy out. The prime mover in this check writing was the US Securities & Exchange Commission. The Fortune article states:

HP relied on figures he had helped inflate. The facts of the case are now public.

Here’s the method used by Autonomy as reported by Fortune:

Autonomy’s UK-based senior managers directed a program swelling revenues by almost $200 million. Autonomy sold its software through “value-added” resellers, legitimate businesses providing additional services and support to product end users while also selling Autonomy’s software. Just five resellers, in 30 transactions, provided services to Autonomy that couldn’t be called legitimate.

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Yahoot: A Master of Disaster Management

December 16, 2016

I have a Yahoot (sorry, I meant Yahoo) email account. I have refused to change the password in order to see what nefarious behaviors manifest themselves. So far, the only bad guys in the picture are Yahoot’s merrie band of wizards, lead by the Purple Privacy Eater, Marissa Mayer. Ms. Mayer was a Xoogler. Now I am able to paint a mental picture about why she left Googzilla for the outfit Terry Semel tried to convert to a media company. Prescient guy. Get out of online. Do sitcoms.

disaster master

I read “Verizon Demands a Better Deal After Yahoo’s Latest Historic Hack.” The main idea of that write up is that the former Baby Bell wants to do the Trump thing: A better deal. That seems reasonable. Yahoo managed to fumble the security ball, delivering an alleged one billion customers’ details to alleged bad actors. There are even “real” journalists who allege that the Yahooligans’ secrets are for sale on the Dark Web.

And what personal data slipped through the former Googler’s fingers? The write up knows and, therefore, reported:

Yahoo said late on Wednesday [December 14, 2016] that it had uncovered a 2013 cyber attack that compromised data of more than 1 billion user accounts, the largest known breach on record. It said the data stolen may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.

Fortune, whose journalists do not surf the Dark Web like the clever folks at the New York Times, used “real” journalistic methods and revealed:

Verizon is said to have threatened to go to court to get out of the deal if it is not repriced.

There you go. Verizon may be rethinking its clever move to buy the Purple Haze machine for about $5 billion. Knock the price down, and maybe the Baby Bell will [a] ante up some cash, [b]  replace the Xoogler with a person who can keep Yahoot from becoming more of a master of disaster than it is, and [c] blend the wizardry of AOL with the Yahooligans’ approach to technology. In my 73 years, I have not previously witnessed the rubble-ization of a publicly traded Sillycon Valley company in quite this way. Business school case study? For sure.

The real news outfit’s write up adds:

The U.S. No. 1 wireless carrier still expects to go through with the deal, but is looking for “major concessions” in light of the most recent breach, according to another person familiar with the situation.

Will Yahoo enter the online security business? The company now has mind share. Governance? Exemplary management team? Technical chops? That’s a $5 billion dollar question from a company that spurned Microsoft’s even more robust offer. Right, the same outfit which fumbled the pay to play for traffic business. Right now Terry Semel looks like a managerial paragon.

Yahoooot!

Stephen E Arnold, December 16, 2016

The Google: A Real Newspaper Discovers Modern Research

December 4, 2016

I read “Google, Democracy and the Truth about Internet Search.” One more example of a person who thinks he or she is an excellent information hunter and gatherer. Let’s be candid. A hunter gatherer flailing away for 15 or so years using online research tools, libraries, and conversations with actual humans should be able to differentiate a bunny rabbit from a female wolf with baby wolves at her feet.

Natural selection works differently in the hunting and gathering world of online. The intrepid knowledge warrior can make basic mistakes, use assumptions without consequence, and accept whatever a FREE online service delivers. No natural selection operates.

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A “real” journalist discovers the basics of online search’s power. Great insight, just 50 years from the time online search became available to this moment of insight in December 2017. Slow on the trigger or just clueless?

That’s scary. When the 21st century hunter gatherer seems to have an moment of inspiration and realizes that online services—particularly ad supported free services—crank out baloney, it’s frightening. The write up makes clear that a “real” journalist seems to have figured out that online outputs are not exactly the same as sitting at a table with several experts and discussing an issue. Online is not the same as going to a library and reading books and journal articles, thinking about what each source presents as actual factoids.

Here’s an example of the “understanding” one “real” journalist has about online information:

Google is knowledge. It’s where you go to find things out.

There you go. Reliance on one service to provide “knowledge.” From an ad supported. Free. Convenient. Ubiquitous. Online service.

Yep, that’s the way to keep track of “knowledge.”

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Ontotext: The Fabric of Relationships

November 9, 2016

Relationships among metadata, words, and other “information” are important. Google’s Dr. Alon Halevy, founder of Transformic which Google acquired in 2006, has been beavering away in this field for a number of years. His work on “dataspaces” is important for Google and germane to the “intelligence-oriented” systems which knit together disparate factoids about a person, event, or organization. I recall one of his presentations—specifically the PODs 2006 keynote–in which he reproduced a “colleague’s” diagram of a flow chart which made it easy to see who received the document, who edited the document and what changes were made, and to whom recipients of the document forward the document.

Here’s the diagram from Dr. Halevy’s lecture:

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Principles of Dataspace Systems, Slide 4 by Dr. Alon Halevy at delivered on June 26, 2006 at PODs. Note that “PODs” is an annual ACM database-centric conference.

I found the Halevy discussion interesting.

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A Decision on the Palantir US Army Dust Up Looms

October 28, 2016

I read “Inside Palantir’s War With the U.S. Army.” The article follows a somewhat familiar line of thought about why a Sillycon Valley outfit wants to take the US Army to Federal court.

One of the major reasons, according to the article, is choice of clothing. I highlighted this passage:

The slacks and dress shirts with a few buttons undone that Palantir executives wore may have been a step up for sunny California where hoodies are the norm but were a sign of disrespect at the Pentagon, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Senior officials, including U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Dean Popps, were not impressed, this person said. They told Palantir: “Don’t come to the E-ring without a tie unless your name is Gates or Buffet,” said the person, referring to the portion of the Pentagon occupied by senior officials. “They couldn’t get over the tie thing. They didn’t care about the technology.”

The culture disconnect between the Silicon Valley type and the Department of Defense type is real. The externalities of uniforms versus business casual are easy to spot. I read:

Because Palantir wasn’t able to show how its technology could work with the Army’s existing intelligence systems—the purpose of conducting both tests—it was sidelined from competing for a new contract and pigeonholed by Army officials as a niche player, Palantir claims in the documents.

One question is, “Why wasn’t Palantir able to show interoperability?” From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, I thought that this question was an important one. I wandered around my mental filing cabinet for some angles on this question about “Why?”

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The decision about the Palantir –US Army legal matter may be made public on October 31, 2016. That’s Halloween in the US. Will Palantir be treated with a favorable decision with regard to its efforts to license Gotham to the US Army? Will Palantir be tricked by the legal maneuvers of US government legal eagles?

Three points struck me as I reflected:

First, Palantir Technologies was funded in part by In-Q-Tel. Some folks in the CIA love In-Q-Tel’s investments. Some folks point out that In-Q-Tel often gee whiz but often difficult to integrate into what are called “as is” systems. Most vendors make it difficult to integrate certain types of operations, data, or functions with their “as is” systems. The idea of open interchange of information is talked about and enshrined in SOWs (statements of work) but the reality is to keep the “as is” folks contracting for lucrative integration work. As logical as “snap in” and “seamless interchange” are in go go Palo Alto / Berkeley mindset, the “as is” crowd is a reluctant bride in many procurements, particularly multi-year deals.

Second, the Pentagon professionals have specific rules to follow when it comes to licensing software. For a company focused on being disruptive with gee whiz technology the rules are “not logical.” Software, for example, has to be free from backdoors. Software has to conform to various features and functions set forth in an SOW. Software has to be more than just disruptive, pretty, or state of the art. The software has to arrive via a process and be accompanied with people who can work within the often illogical rules of the US government. In my experience, this notion of “conforming” is one that does not compute for Googley-type companies.

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Google: Fragmentation and the False Universal Search

October 14, 2016

I read “Within Months, Google to Divide Its Index, Giving Mobile Users Better & Fresher Content.” Let’s agree to assume that this write up is spot on. I learned that Google plans “on releasing a separate mobile search index, which will become the primary one.”

The write up states:

The most substantial change will likely be that by having a mobile index, Google can run its ranking algorithm in a different fashion across “pure” mobile content rather than the current system that extracts data from desktop content to determine mobile rankings.

The news was not really news here in Harrod’s Creek. Since 2007, the utility of Google’s search system has been in decline for the type of queries the Beyond Search goslings and I typically run. On rare occasion we need to locate a pizza joint, but the bulk of our queries require old fashioned relevance ranking with results demonstration high precision and on point recall.

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Time may be running out for Google Web search.

Several observations:

  1. With the volume of queries from mobile surpassing desktop queries, why would Google spend money to maintain two indexes? Perhaps Google will have a way to offer advertisers messaging targeted to mobile users and then sell ads for the old school desktop users? If the ad revenue does not justify the second index, well, why would an MBA continue to invest in desktop search? Kill it, right?
  2. What happens to the lucky Web sites which did not embrace AMP and other Google suggestions? My hunch is that traffic will drop and probably be difficult to regain. Sure, an advertiser can buy ads targeted at desktop users, but Google does not put much wood behind that which becomes a hassle, an annoyance, or a drag on the zippy outfit’s aspirations.
  3. What will the search engine optimization crowd do? Most of the experts will become instant and overnight experts in mobile search. There will be a windfall of business from Web sites addressed to business customers and others who use mobile but need an old fashioned boat anchor computing device. Then what? Answer: An opportunity to reinvent themselves. Data scientist seems like a natural fit for dispossessed SEO poobahs.

If the report is not accurate, so what? Here’s an idea. Relevance will continue to be eroded as Google tries to deal with the outflow of ad dollars to social outfits pushing grandchildren lovers and the folks who take snaps of everything.

The likelihood of a separate mobile index is high. Remember universal search? I do. Did it arrive? No. If I wanted news, I had to search Google News. Same separate index for scholar, maps, and other Google content. The promise of universal search was PR fluff.

Fragmentation is the name of the game in the world of Alphabet Google. And fragmented services have to earn their keep or get terminated with extreme prejudice. Just like Panoramio (I know. You are asking, “What’s Panoramio?), Google Web search could very well be on the digital glide way to the great beyond.

Stephen E Arnold, October 14, 2016

Five Years in Enterprise Search: 2011 to 2016

October 4, 2016

Before I shifted from worker bee to Kentucky dirt farmer, I attended a presentation in which a wizard from Findwise explained enterprise search in 2011. In my notes, I jotted down the companies the maven mentioned (love that alliteration) in his remarks:

  • Attivio
  • Autonomy
  • Coveo
  • Endeca
  • Exalead
  • Fabasoft
  • Google
  • IBM
  • ISYS Search
  • Microsoft
  • Sinequa
  • Vivisimo.

There were nodding heads as the guru listed the key functions of enterprise search systems in 2011. My notes contained these items:

  • Federation model
  • Indexing and connectivity
  • Interface flexibility
  • Management and analysis
  • Mobile support
  • Platform readiness
  • Relevance model
  • Security
  • Semantics and text analytics
  • Social and collaborative features

I recall that I was confused about the source of the information in the analysis. Then the murky family tree seemed important. Five years later, I am less interested in who sired what child than the interesting historical nuggets in this simple list and collection of pretty fuzzy and downright crazy characteristics of search. I am not too sure what “analysis” and “analytics” mean. The notion that an index is required is okay, but the blending of indexing and “connectivity” seems a wonky way of referencing file filters or a network connection. With the Harvard Business Review pointing out that collaboration is a bit of a problem, it is an interesting footnote to acknowledge that a buzzword can grow into a time sink.

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There are some notable omissions; for example, open source search options do not appear in the list. That’s interesting because Attivio was at that time I heard poking its toe into open source search. IBM was a fan of Lucene five years ago. Today the IBM marketing machine beats the Watson drum, but inside the Big Blue system resides that free and open source Lucene. I assume that the gurus and the mavens working on this list ignored open source because what consulting revenue results from free stuff? What happened to Oracle? In 2011, Oracle still believed in Secure Enterprise Search only to recant with purchases of Endeca, InQuira, and Rightnow. There are other glitches in the list, but let’s move on.

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Yahoo Security Breach: The Pee-Wee Purple Solecism

September 23, 2016

Remember ShrinkyDinks. Kids decorate pieces of plastic. The plastic then gets smaller when heated. I believe the ShrinkyDink management process has been disclosed. The innovator? Marissa Mayer, the former Google search guru turned business management maven.

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What’s the ShrinkyDink approach to running a business? Take a revenue stream, decorate it with slick talk, and then reduce revenues and reputation. The result is a nifty entity with less value. Bad news? No. The upside is that Vanity Fair puts a positive spin on how bad news just get worse. A purple paradox!

ShrinkyDink Management. Pop business thinking into a slightly warmed market and watch those products and revenues become tinier as you watch in real time. Small is beautiful, right? I can envision a new study from Harvard University’s business school on the topic. Then comes an HBR podcast interview with Marissa Mayer, the Xoogler behind the ShrinkyDink method. A collaboration with Clayton Christensen is on deck. A book. Maybe a movie deal with Oliver Stone? As a follow up to “Snowden,” Stone writes, produces, and directs “Marissa: Making Big Little.” The film stars Ms. Mayer herself as the true Yahoo.

I read “Yahoo Verizon Deal May Be Complicated by Historic Hack.” Yahoo was “hacked,” according to the write up. Okay, but I read “hack” as a synonym for “We did not have adequate security in place.”

The write up points out:

The biggest question is when Yahoo found out about the breach and how long it waited to disclose it publicly, said Keatron Evans, a partner at consulting firm Blink Digital Security. (Kara Swisher at Recode reported that Verizon isn’t happy about Yahoo’s disclosures about the hack.)

CNBC points out that fixing the “problem” will be expensive. The write up includes this statement from the Xoogler run Yahoo:

“Such events could result in large expenditures to investigate or remediate, to recover data, to repair or replace networks or information systems, including changes to security measures, to deploy additional personnel, to defend litigation or to protect against similar future events, and may cause damage to our reputation or loss of revenue,” Yahoo warned.

Of interest to me is the notion that information about 500 million users was lost. The date of the problem seems to be about two years ago. My thought is that information about the breach took a long time to be discovered and disclosed.

Along the timeline was the sale of Yahoo to Verizon. Verizon issued a statement about this little surprise:

Within the last two days, we were notified of Yahoo’s security incident. We understand that Yahoo is conducting an active investigation of this matter, but we otherwise have limited information and understanding of the impact. We will evaluate as the investigation continues through the lens of overall Verizon interests, including consumers, customers, shareholders and related communities. Until then, we are not in position to further comment.

I highlighted in bold the two points which snagged my attention:

First, Verizon went through its due diligence and did not discover that Yahoo’s security had managed to lose 500 million customers’ data. What’s this say about Yahoo’s ability to figure out what’s going on in its own system? What’s this say about Yahoo management’s attention to detail? What’s this say about Verizon’s due diligence processes?

Second, Verizon seems to suggest that if its “interests” are not served, the former Baby Bell may want to rethink its deal to buy Yahoo. That’s understandable, but it raises the question, “What was Verizon’s Plan B if Yahoo presented the company with a surprise?” It seems there was no contingency, which is complementary with its approach to due diligence.

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The decision making process at Yahoo has been, for me, wonky for a long time. The decision to release the breach information after the deal process and before the Verizon deal closes strikes me as an interesting management decision.

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Jigsaw Reveals How Google Can Manipulate Thought and Behavior

September 12, 2016

Who knew? There have been suggestions that Alphabet Google manipulates search results. But the disclosure of a “clever plan to stop aspiring ISIS recruits” makes clear one thing: Alphabet Google can manipulate to some degree what a person thinks and how that person may then behave.

To get the details, navigate to Wired, the truth speaker for the technical aficionados. The article is “Google’s Clever Plan to Stop Aspiring ISIS Recruits.” Let’s visit some of the factoids in the article. I, of course, believe everything I read online.

Alphabet Google used to have an outfit called Google Ideas. Ideas, in my book, are a dime a dozen. The key is converting and idea to action and then shaping the idea to generate revenue. The Google Ideas group donned a new moniker, Jigsaw. According to the write up:

Jigsaw, the Google-owned tech incubator and think tank—until recently known as Google Ideas—has been working over the past year to develop a new program it hopes can use a combination of Google’s search advertising algorithms and YouTube’s video platform to target aspiring ISIS recruits and ultimately dissuade them from joining the group’s cult of apocalyptic violence. The program, which Jigsaw calls the Redirect Method and plans to launch in a new phase this month, places advertising alongside results for any keywords and phrases that Jigsaw has determined people attracted to ISIS commonly search for. Those ads link to Arabic- and English-language YouTube channels that pull together preexisting videos Jigsaw believes can effectively undo ISIS’s brainwashing—clips like testimonials from former extremists, imams denouncing ISIS’s corruption of Islam, and surreptitiously filmed clips inside the group’s dysfunctional caliphate in Northern Syria and Iraq.

This paragraph is mildly interesting and presents weaponized information in a matter of fact, what’s the big deal way. Consider these points:

  1. Search ad numerical recipes and videos. Quite a combination.
  2. Redirect. Send folks a different place from the place they really want to go.
  3. Undo brainwashing. Now that’s an interesting concept. Isn’t brainwashing a tough nut to crack. Cults, Jim Jones, etc.
  4. Shifting attention from a “dysfunctional caliphate” to something more acceptable. Okay for ISIS, but what if the GOOG substitutes other content to something else. Right, it will never happen. Mother Google is a really good person.

The article hits the high spots of censorship, including Twitter and the US Department of State’s Think Again, Turn Away, and everyone’s favorite cartoon Average Mohammed.

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Click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vJ-SlxjRrQ which may be offline after the Wired article hit the Internet.

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The Yahooing of Alphabet Google

August 12, 2016

I read “Google Isn’t Safe from Yahoo’s Fate.” The write up is a business school type analysis which reminded me of the inevitable decline of many businesses. Case studies pose MBAs to be to the thrills of success and the consequences of management missteps. I recall a book, published by a now lost and forgotten outfit, which talked about blind spots and management myopia. Humans have a tendency to make errors. That’s what makes life exciting. But I see a GooHoo trajectory.

Goohoo

I learned in this article:

Google is on the wrong side of major trends in the digital advertising industry: Google captures direct response dollars as digital ad spend shifts up the funnel, its focus is still on browsers and websites as engagement is moving into apps and feeds, Google is deeply dependent on search during a shift to serendipitous discovery and ads designed to interrupt the user’s attention are being replaced by advertising designed to engage them. Its competitor, Facebook, is on the right side of all these trends.

The Alphabet Google thing has not been able to hit home runs in social media in my opinion. The Google Facebook dust up exists, and it seems to me that Google is withdrawing from the field of social battle.

The write up informed me:

Google’s search advertising model is built on direct response in that it charges for search ads that people click on. In theory, this is an entirely transparent model: After all, advertisers only pay when the advertising works. What it conceals is that they are taking more credit (and charging more) for value that its ads didn’t deliver. By charging you for the click that follows a search, Google effectively takes credit for the entire funnel of purchase consideration that led you to type in the search and click on the link in the first place….But the ad itself didn’t create their purchase intent — it just takes credit for it. Google’s lower funnel ads are getting credit for upper-funnel effectiveness, in no small part because the latter is just too hard to measure.

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