Neeva: Is This Google Killer on the Run?

May 18, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Sometimes I think it is 2007 doing the déjà vu dance. I read “Report: Snowflake Is in Advanced Talks to Acquire Search Startup Neeva.” Founded by Xooglers, Neeva was positioned to revolutionize search and generate subscription revenue. Along the highway to the pot of gold, Neeva would deliver on point results. How did that pay for search model work out?

According to the article:

Snowflake Inc., the cloud-based data warehouse provider, is reportedly in advanced talks to acquire a search startup called Neeva Inc. that was founded by former Google LLC advertising executive Sridhar Ramaswamy.

Like every other content processing company I bump into, Neeva was doing smart software. Combine the relevance angle with generative AI and what do you get? A start up that is going to be acquired by a firm with some interesting ideas about how to use search and retrieval to make life better.

Are there other search outfits with a similar business model? Sure, Kagi comes to mind. I used to keep track of start ups which had technology that would provide relevant results to users and a big payday to the investors. Do these names ring a bell?


If the Snowflake Neeva deal comes to fruition, will it follow the trajectory of IBM Vivisimo. Vivisimo disappeared as an entity and morphed into a big data component. No problem. But Vivisimo was a metasearch and on-the-fly tagging system. Will the tie up be similar to the Microsoft acquisition of Fast Search & Transfer. Fast still lives but I don’t know too many Softies who know about the backstory. Then there is the HP Autonomy deal. The acquisition is still playing out in the legal eagle sauna.

Few care about the nuances of search and retrieval. Those seemingly irrelevant details can have interesting consequences. Some are okay like the Dassault Exalead deal. Others? Less okay.

Stephen E Arnold, May 18, 2023

The Gray Lady: Objective Gloating about Vice

May 15, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Do you have dreams about the church lady on Saturday Night Live. That skit frightened me. A flashback shook my placid mental state when I read “Vice, Decayed Digital Colossus, Files for Bankruptcy.” I conjured up without the assistance of smart software, the image of Dana Carvey talking about the pundit spawning machine named Vice with the statement, “Well, isn’t that special?”

The New York Times’s article reported:

Vice Media filed for bankruptcy on Monday, punctuating a years long descent from a new-media darling to a cautionary tale of the problems facing the digital publishing industry.

The write up omits any reference to the New York Times’s failure with its own online venture under the guidance of Jeff Pemberton, the flame out with its LexisNexis play, the fraught effort to index its own content, and the misadventures which have become the Wordle success story. The past Don Quixote-like sallies into the digital world are either Irrelevant or unknown to the current crop of Gray Lady “real” news hounds I surmise.

The article states:

Investments from media titans like Disney and shrewd financial investors like TPG, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars, will
be rendered worthless by the bankruptcy, cementing Vice’s status among the most notable bad bets in the media industry. [Emphasis added.]

Well, isn’t that special? Perhaps similar to the Times’s first online adventure in the late 1970s?

The article includes a quote from a community journalism company too:

“We now know that a brand tethered to social media for its growth and audience alone is not sustainable.”

Perhaps like the desire for more money than the Times’s LexisNexis deal provided? Perhaps?

Is Vice that special? I think the story is a footnote to the Gray Lady’s own adventures in the digital realm?

Isn’t that special too?

Stephen E Arnold, May 15, 2023

Good Enough AI: Decimating Bit-Blasted Wretches

May 9, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I think the writers’ strike will make it possible for certain Hollywood producer types to cozy up with smart software. What works in the cinema wasteland are sequels and remakes of what has sold. My hunch is that purpose-built smart software will be able to output good enough scripts quickly. A few humanoids, maybe even on set actors, can add touches which elevate good enough to pretty good.

There are other humanoid writers now at risk from good-enough outputs. At a Derby Party on May 6, 2023, I whipped out my mobile and illustrated how can crank out a short essay good enough to get an A or a B in a sophomore English class. One person  who made a bundle of money selling automobiles said immediately, “I could have used this instead of that PR company and the part-timers who used to drive me crazy with questions.”

This person understood, and he was in his late 70s but still able to remember PR and marketing experts who were supposed to write presentations, ads, and marketing letters.

If a biz whiz heading to the old-age home grasp the concept, imagine what a rotund, confident MBA will do with good enough smart software.

What’s interesting to me is that the Washington Post, under the control of the original bulldozer driver Jeff Bezos, seems to understand what’s going to happen to many scribes, columnists, littérateurs, and scribblers. The ink stained wretches are going to become bit-blasted wretches. “He Wrote a Book on a Rare Subject. Then a ChatGPT Replica Appeared on Amazon” includes a quote from a human involved in smart software created content:

“We published a celebrity profile a month. Now we can do 10,000 a month.”

Net net: Smart software will create many opportunities for “writers” to find their future elsewhere. Fixer uppers of machine generated content may become a hot new gig along with TikTok maker of van life videos, creators of text based wall graffiti, and signs with messages such as “Will edit for food.”

Stephen E Arnold, May 9, 2023

Once High-Flying Publication Identifies a Grim Future for Writers… and Itself

May 8, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I am not sure what a Hollywood or New York writer does. I do know that quite a few of these professionals are on strike. The signs are not as catchy as the ones protesters in Paris are using. But France is known for design, and Hollywood and New York is more into the conniving approach to creativity in my opinion.

The article “GPT-4 Can’t Replace Striking TV Writers, But Studios Are Going to Try” identifies a problem for writers. The issue is not the the real or perceived abuses of big studios. The key point of the write up is that software, never the core competency for most big entertainment executives, is now a way to disintermediate and decimate human writers.

ChatGPT apps — despite their flaws — are good enough. When creativity means recycling previous ideas, ChatGPT has some advantages; for example, no vacays, no nasty habits, and no agents. Writers have to be renewed which means meetings. Software is licensed which another piece of smart software can process.

In short, writers lose. Even if the ChatGPT produced “content” is not as good as a stellar film like Heaven’s Gate, that’s show business. Disintermediation has arrived. Protests and signs may not be as effective as some believe. Software may be good enough, not great. But it is works fast, cheap, and without annoying human sign carrying protests.

Stephen E Arnold, May 8, 2023

Google Economics: The Cost of Bard Versus Staplers

April 4, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumbNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Does anyone remember the good old days at the Google. Tony Bennett performing in the cafeteria. What about those car washes? How about the entry security system which was beset with door propped open with credit card receipts from Fred’s Place. Those were the days.

I read “Google to Cut Down on Employee Laptops, Services and Staplers for Multi-Year Savings.” The article explains:

Google said it’s cutting back on fitness classes, staplers, tape and the frequency of laptop replacements for employees. One of the company’s important objectives for 2023 is to “deliver durable savings through improved velocity and efficiency.” Porat said in the email. “All PAs and Functions are working toward this,” she said, referring to product areas. OKR stands for objectives and key results.

Yes, OKR. I wonder if the Sundar and Prabhakar comedy act will incorporate staplers into their next presentation.

And what about the $100 billion the Google “lost” after its quantum supremacy smart software screwed up in Paris? Let’s convert that to staplers, shall we? Today (April 4, 2023), I can purchase one office stapler from Amazon (Google’s fellow traveler in trashing relevance with advertisements) for $10.98. I liked the Bostitch Office Heavy Duty device, which is Amazon’s number one best seller (according to Amazon marketing).

The write up pointed out:

Staplers and tape are no longer being provided to print stations companywide as “part of a cost effectiveness initiative,” according to a separate, internal facilities directive viewed by CNBC.

To recoup that $100 million, Google will have to not purchase 9,107,468.12. I want to retain the 0.12 because one must be attentive to small numbers (unlike some of the fancy math in the Snorkel world). Google, I have heard, has about 100,000 “employees”, but it is never clear which are “real” employees, contractors, interns, or mysterious partners. Thus each of these individuals will be responsible for NOT losing or breaking 91 staplers per year.

I know the idea of rationing staplers is like burning Joan of Arc. It’s not an opportunity to warm a croissant; it is the symbolism of the event.

Google in 2023 knows how to keep me in stitches. Sorry, staples. And the cost of Bard? As the real Bard said:

Poor and content is rich and rich enough,
But riches fineless is as poor as winter
To him that ever fears he shall be poor. (Othello, III.iv)

Stephen E Arnold, April 4, 2023

Stanford: Llama Hallucinating at the Dollar Store

March 21, 2023

Editor’s Note: This essay is the work of a real, and still alive, dinobaby. No smart software involved with the exception of the addled llama.

What happens when folks at Stanford University use the output of OpenAI to create another generative system? First, a blog article appears; for example, “Stanford’s Alpaca Shows That OpenAI May Have a Problem.” Second, I am waiting for legal eagles to take flight. Some may already be aloft and circling.


A hallucinating llama which confused grazing on other wizards’ work with munching on mushrooms. The art was a creation of The smart software suggests the llama is having a hallucination.

What’s happening?

The model trained from OWW or Other Wizards’ Work mostly works. The gotcha is that using OWW without any silly worrying about copyrights was cheap. According to the write up, the total (excluding wizards’ time) was $600.

The article pinpoints the issue:

Alignment researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky summarizes the problem this poses for companies like OpenAI:” If you allow any sufficiently wide-ranging access to your AI model, even by paid API, you’re giving away your business crown jewels to competitors that can then nearly-clone your model without all the hard work you did to build up your own fine-tuning dataset.” What can OpenAI do about that? Not much, says Yudkowsky: “If you successfully enforce a restriction against commercializing an imitation trained on your I/O – a legal prospect that’s never been tested, at this point – that means the competing checkpoints go up on BitTorrent.”

I love the rapid rise in smart software uptake and now the snappy shift to commoditization. The VCs counting on big smart software payoffs may want to think about why the llama in the illustration looks as if synapses are forming new, low cost connections. Low cost as in really cheap I think.

Stephen E Arnold, March 21, 2023

Crypto and Crime: Interesting Actors Get Blues and Twos on Their Systems

January 31, 2023

I read a widely available document which presents information once described to me as a “close hold.” The article is “Most Criminal Crypto currency Is Funneled Through Just 5 Exchanges.” Most of the write up is the sort of breathless “look what we know” information. The article which recycles information from Wired and from the specialized services firm Chainalysis does not mention the five outfits currently under investigation. The write up does not provide much help to a curious reader by omitting open source intelligence tools which can rank order exchanges by dollar volume. Why not learn about this listing by CoinMarketCap and include that information instead of recycling OPI (other people’s info)? Also, why not point to resources on one of the pages? I know. I know. That’s work that interferes with getting a Tall, Non-Fat Latte With Caramel Drizzle.

The key points for me is the inclusion of some companies/organizations allegedly engaged in some fascinating activities. (Fascinating for crime analysts and cyber fraud investigators. For the individuals involved with these firms, “fascinating” is not the word one might use to describe the information in the Ars Technica article.)

Here are the outfits mentioned in the article:

  • Bitcoin Fog – Offline
  • Bitzlato
  • Chatex
  • Garantex
  • Helix – Offline
  • Suex
  • Tornado Cash – Offline

Is there a common thread connecting these organizations? Who are the stakeholders? Who are the managers? Where are these outfits allegedly doing business?

Could it be Russia?

Stephen E Arnold, February 1, 2023

Japan Does Not Want a Bad Apple on Its Tax Rolls

January 25, 2023

Everyone is falling over themselves about a low-cost Mac Mini, just  not a few Japanese government officials, however.

An accountant once gave me some advice: never anger the IRS. A governmental accounting agency that arms its employees with guns is worrisome. It is even more terrifying to anger a foreign government accounting agency. The Japanese equivalent of the IRS smacked Apple with the force of a tsunami in fees and tax penalties Channel News Asia reported: “Apple Japan Hit With $98 Million In Back Taxes-Nikkei.”

The Japanese branch of Apple is being charged with $98 million (13 billion yen) for bulk sales of Apple products sold to tourists. The product sales, mostly consisting of iPhones, were wrongly exempted from consumption tax. The error was caught when a foreigner was caught purchasing large amounts of handsets in one shopping trip. If a foreigner visits Japan for less than six months they are exempt from the ten percent consumption tax unless the products are intended for resale. Because the foreign shopper purchased so many handsets at once, it is believed they were cheating the Japanese tax system.

The Japanese counterpart to the IRS brought this to Apple Japan’s attention and the company handled it in the most Japanese way possible: quiet acceptance. Apple will pay the large tax bill:

“Apple Japan is believed to have filed an amended tax return, according to Nikkei. In response to a Reuters’ request for comment, the company only said in an emailed message that tax-exempt purchases were currently unavailable at its stores. The Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau declined to comment.”

Apple America responded that the company invested over $100 billion in the Japanese supply network in the past five years.

Japan is a country dedicated to advancing technology and, despite its declining population, it possesses one of the most robust economies in Asia. Apple does not want to lose that business, so paying $98 million is a small hindrance to continue doing business in Japan.

Whitney Grace, January 25, 2023

Billable Hours: The Practice of Time Fantasy

January 16, 2023

I am not sure how I ended up at a nuclear company in Washington, DC in the 1970s. I was stumbling along in a PhD program, fiddling around indexing poems for professors, and writing essays no one other than some PhD teaching the class would ever read. (Hey, come to think about it that’s the position I am in today. I write essays, and no one reads them. Progress? I hope not. I love mediocrity, and I am living in the Golden Age of meh and good enough.)

I recall arriving and learning from the VP of Human Resources that I had to keep track of my time. Hello? I worked on my own schedule, and I never paid attention to time. Wait. I did. I knew when the university’s computer center would be least populated by people struggling with IBM punch cards and green bar paper.

Now I have to record, according to Nancy Apple (I think that was her name): [a] The project number, [b] the task code, and [c] the number of minutes I worked on that project’s task. I pointed out that I would be shuttling around from government office to government office and then back to the Rockville administrative center and laboratory.

She explained that travel time had a code.  I would have a project number, a task code for sitting in traffic on the Beltway, and a watch. Fill in the blanks.

As you might imagine, part of the learning curve for me was keeping track of time. I sort of did this, but as I become more and more engaged in the work about which I cannot speak, I filled in the time sheets every week. Okay, okay. I would fill in the time sheets when someone in Accounting called me and said, “I need your time sheets. We have to bill the client tomorrow. I want the time sheets now.”

As I muddled through my professional career, I understood how people worked and created time fantasy sheets. The idea was to hit the billable hour target without getting an auditor to camp out in my office. I thought of my learnings when I read “A Woman Who Claimed She Was Wrongly Dismissed Was Ordered to Repay Her Former Employer about $2,000 for Misrepresenting Her Working Hours.”

The write up which may or may not be written by a human states:

Besse [the time fantasy enthusiast] met with her former employer on March 29 last year. In a video recording of the meeting shared with the tribunal, she said: “Clearly, I’ve plugged time to files that I didn’t touch and that wasn’t right or appropriate in any way or fashion, and I recognize that and so for that I’m really sorry.” Judge Megan Stewart concluded that TimeCamp [the employee monitoring software watching the time fantasist] “likely accurately recorded” Besse’s work activities. She ordered Besse to compensate her former employer for a 50-hour discrepancy between her timesheets and TimeCamp’s records. In total, Besse was ordered to pay Reach a total of C$2,603 ($1,949) to compensate for wages and other payments, as well as C$153 ($115) in costs.

But the key passage for me was this one:

In her judgment, Stewart wrote: “Given that trust and honesty are essential to an employment relationship, particularly in a remote-work environment where direct supervision is absent, I find Miss Besse’s misconduct led to an irreparable breakdown in her employment relationship with Reach and that dismissal was proportionate in the circumstances.”

Far be it from me to raise questions, but I do have one: “Do lawyers engage in time fantasy billing?”

Of course not, “trust and honesty are essential.”

That’s good to know. Now what about PR and SEO billings? What about consulting firm billings?

If the claw back angle worked for this employer-employee set up, 2023 will be thrilling for lawyers, who obviously will not engage in time fantasy billing. Trust and honesty, right?

Stephen E Arnold, January 16, 2023

Apple Signals and Messages Telegram Its Intentions

December 30, 2022

Apple is losing its touch. Once the outfit was a religion with chips. Now it is a subscription machine with no right to repair.

Telegram is an encrypted message service that has avoided paying Apple fees, but according to TechRadar that has come to an end: “Telegram Forced To Crack Down On Paid Posts Because Apple Wasn’t Getting A Cut.”

Telegram used to allow users to set up paid content posts with third-party payment bots. This allowed content creators to avoid paying Apple’s fees and their fans paid them directly. Content creators received close to 100% of their fans’ donations without sending a chunk to Apple. Unfortunately, Apple wants its 30% and Telegram is forced to comply. If Telegram does not comply with Apple, then it will be removed from the App Store.

Apple has a monopoly in the app market and even other tech giants, like Elon Musk and Spotify, are saying 30% is too much. South Korea passed a law that allowed content creators to use third-party payment services other than Apple:

“You have the likes of Spotify calling the tech giant “anti-competitive” because of App Store rules that make buying an audiobook overly complicated. Newfound Twitter wrangler Elon Musk said back in May that 30 percent is “10 times higher than it should be” and South Korea thought so, too. Last year, the nation passed a law forcing Apple and Google to allow developers to use third-payment systems and not pay the hefty tax.”

Apple does not care that it charges 30%, because they have a monopoly and all its decisions are unilateral. That is what happens when they use an OS other than Windows. Will Apple compete with Telegram to capture more encrypted messaging traffic?


Whitney Grace, December 30, 2022

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