Autonomy: Some Search History

April 6, 2021

I want to offer a happy quack to The Register, an online information service, for links to Autonomy documents. The slow moving legal carnival train is nearing its destination. “Everything You Need to Know about the HPE v Mike Lynch High Court Case” provides a useful summary of the trial. In addition, the article includes links to a number of fascinating documents. These provide some helpful insights into the challenges vendors of enterprise search and content processing systems face. Furthermore, the documents make clear that enterprise software can be a business challenge. The sales cycle is difficult. Installing and optimizing the software are challenges. Plus keeping the customer’s expectations for a solution in line with the realities of the solution often require the intellectual skills of big time wizards. Why are these documents relevant in 2021?

First, some vendors of search and content processing systems ignore the realities exposed in these documents.

Second, today’s customers are fooled by buzzwords and well crafted demonstrations. The actual system may be “different.”

Third, the users of today’s systems are likely to find themselves struggling to locate and make sense of information they know is available in the organization.

But marketing and complex interactions among software and service vendors and their partners are fascinating. Are similar practices in play today?

That’s an interesting question to consider.

Stephen E Arnold, April 6, 2021

Blockchain and Reality

April 2, 2021

Sure, I wrote a chapter in Transforming Scholarly Publishing With Blockchain Technologies and AI, but my focus was everyone’s favorite online bookstore: The Bezos bulldozer aka Amazon. I read “Enterprise Blockchain Doesn’t Work Because It’s About the Real World.” The essay was interesting even though there was zero consideration of Amazon’s technological presence in the techno-space.

I did spot an interesting statement in the essay:

The price of accuracy is unreality. The Bitcoin blockchain is accurate only because what it “records” isn’t real: bitcoin holdings are shadows cast by the blockchain itself. Enterprise blockchains reach beyond these shadows into the real world – but in doing so they abandon the surety that is the technology’s distinctive promise.

The statement is worth thinking about the “value” of some NFTs.

Stephen E Arnold, April 2, 2021

Google Maps to Drive Profits

April 2, 2021

Google loves money. Google wants to make more money. How does Google make more money when it already monopolizes Internet ads and search engine traffic? Auto Evolution tells how in the article, “Google Has Crazy Idea To Bring More Ads To Google Maps.”

Google recently filed a new patent called “Valuing advertisements on a map” that essentially will put more ads on Google Maps. The patent reads:

“Depending on a user’s view of a map, different combinations of locations can be shown. Similarly, different combinations of advertisements associated with those locations can also be shown depending on the user’s view of the map and the amount of display space available for advertisements, Advertisers can advertise on a map to promote businesses that may satisfy a user’s intent, such as to identify a navigational route, to explore a geographical area, or locate desired products or services. These advertisers may also find value in differentiating themselves from other advertisers, and/or from being unique in their local area.”

Google continues that it could “have a positive impact on the user.” In other words, it is more targeted ads in places that do not need them.

Market Screener explains another way Google is trying to make money: “Alphabet: Google To Offer Travel Sites Free Hotel Booking Links.” Google will now offer hotel and travel sites the ability to list empty hotel rooms for free on price-comparison pages. The goal is to support vendor competition and give users more options. Google is under mounting scrutiny for influencing Internet commerce. Travel sites have a love-hate relationship with Google because of this influence:

“Travel sites have seen Google as one of the biggest drivers for new business. But some of them say the company is also a big competitive threat, with critics saying that Google’s travel boxes and other kinds of specialized search products increasingly keep users within the Google ecosystem, encouraging them to use Google products rather than clicking to other sites to transact business.”

Google will continue to search for new ways to wrestle money from the Internet. One wonders if they even see Amazon as a threat.

Whitney Grace, April 2, 2021

Who Spends $69 Million on a Digital String? Pals Do.

April 1, 2021

The buyer of Beeple’s digital art is Metakovan. One suggestion is a person allegedly named Vignesh Sundaresan. NBC, the real news outfit, was not convinced and reported: “Metakovan’s real identity is not known.

Sure but don’t tell The Straits Times which reported in the story “I Don’t Have a Car or House” that the savvy buyer of a digital string is allegedly Vignesh Sundaresan, an entrepreneur, a technopreneur in fact. Plus, I love the quote attributed to the digital Warrant Buffet type:

I don’t have a car or house.

Makes sense. Singapore has apartments, lots of apartments. A rental in a Marina Bay makes it easy to get around. No encumbrances to haul around like some Roman statues from a covert dig near Naples (Italy, not lovely Florida). A Grab ride is good enough when physical movement is required.

Yep, a digital Warren Buffet.

Stephen E Arnold, April 1, 2021

Harvard Channels MIT: The Epstein Ethos

April 1, 2021

I read “Harvard Punishes Professor Who Had Ties to Jeffrey Epstein.” Amusing. I noted this statement:

Harvard’s 2020 review found that the university accepted more than $9 million from Epstein during the decade leading up to his conviction but barred him from making further donations after that point.

Is it possible that nine million reasons were identified to make the issue less visible. But what was fascinating was this statement from the write up:

Other universities have also faced scrutiny over their ties to Epstein, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The former director of MIT’s famous Media Lab, Joi Ito, resigned in 2019 amid uproar over his financial connections to Epstein. He issued a public apology and vowed to raise money for victims of trafficking.

Just like a couple of grade school kids exchanging “He did it too” comments. How similar are these outstanding, highly regarded, influential, and upstanding institutions?

PS. The British newspaper The Independent reported, “A 30-year-old MIT graduate has been found dead in an apartment n Chicago surrounded by equipment that could be used to make bombs…” Interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, April 1, 2021

Sounds Good: Financial Firms Need Organic Search Strategies

March 26, 2021

ATM Marketplace draws our attention to a recent study from SEO firm Terakeet in, “Google Study Shows Companies Need to Tap Into Organic Search Strategies to Drive Greater Traffic.” Hmm, sounds like Google’s algorithm may be at odds with its goal of selling paid-search ads. We learn:

“The report, Google Market Share Report for Personal Finance, focuses on three primary areas of personal finance: consumer banking, credit cards and personal investing, along with nine underlying market sectors to reveal that non-bank websites are dominating Google across all sectors. For example, non-banks hold 90% of the market share for cash back credit cards and for rewards credit cards, with NerdWallet owning the large percentage of both categories at 19.62% and 24.92% respectively.”

The study observes that, though organic search drive more than five times the ROI than paid search in the financial market, most banks put little value on organic search. NerdWallet, of course, is a financial information and comparison site. It is a good illustration of the sort of site that is edging banks out of search results. The write-up continues:

“The competitive SEO landscape has evolved and encompasses more than just traditional offline competitors, including publishers, aggregators, comparison sites, government sites and others.
Many of the websites have long-form content clearly organized by topic areas. For example, Bankrate’s long-form content has helped it capture more than 29% of the organic search market share for keywords examined. The websites offer a range of free, interactive online tools and calculators (i.e. financial literacy scoring tools, free credit score tools, free credit reports, and free credit monitoring) that are not only helpful to site visitors, but offer backlinks to other websites to increase SEO visibility.”

Terakeet used its own proprietary search-engine market-share analysis tool, Carina, to crunch the data. Founded in 2001, the private SEO company is headquartered in Syracuse, New York.

Cynthia Murrell, March 26, 2021

Brin Balloons His Bet on Buoyancy

March 22, 2021

I spotted the story “Is Sergey Brin Really Building the World’s Biggest Aircraft? Here’s Everything We Know.” Darned uplifting. The drift of the write up is:

… the ninth richest person in the world’s focus has been on exactly that: building a giant “sky yacht.”

As the IRS might term it, this is a hobby.

The write up explains:

… the LTA [Lighter Than Air] website states only humanitarian goals: “LTA airships will have the ability to complement — and even speed up — humanitarian disaster response and relief efforts, especially in remote areas that cannot be easily accessed by plane and boat due to limited or destroyed infrastructure.

Ah, ha. Tax deduction maybe?

How big you ask?

At this size [650 feet or two soccer pitches], the flying machine would definitely be the world’s largest aircraft today — although it would still be smaller than the ill-fated Hindenburg zeppelin of the 1930s, which was 804 feet long. For context, that’s more than three times the length of a Boeing 747 and more than four times the length of your typical Goodyear Blimp.

Several observations:

  • The write up does not explore the Loon balloon initiative. It drifted into oblivion by the way.
  • The airship’s size is bigger than Roman Abramovich’s Solaris super yacht which is about 200 feet smaller in the length department. But the ship is fungible; the balloon is plein d’air chaud.
  • The science club project will prove that buoyancy is a verifiable phenomenon.

Soon the uplifting impact of the world’s largest humanitarian balloon will cast its long shadow over the land. Quick question: Will Mr. Abramovich undertake an even larger inflatable object with a possible tax deduction. Solaris is difficult to shape into tax benefit, but it could be done with surplus Loon balloons.

Stephen E Arnold, March 22, 2021

Facebook WhatsApp, No Code Ecommerce, and Google: What Could Go Wrong?

March 5, 2021

The Dark Web continues to capture the attention of some individuals. The little secret few pursue is that much of the Dark Web action has shifted to encrypted messaging applications. Even Signal gets coverage in pot boiler novels. Why? Encrypted messaging apps are quite robust convenience stores? Why go to Ikea when one can scoot into a lightweight, mobile app and do “business.” How hard is it to set up a store, make its products like malware or other questionable items available in WhatsApp, and start gathering customers? Not hard at all. In fact, there is a no code wrapper available. With a few mouse clicks, a handful of images, and a product or service to sell, one can be in business. The developer – an outfit called Wati – provides exactly when the enterprising marketer requires. None of that Tor stuff. None of the Amazon police chasing down knock off products from the world’s most prolific manufacturers. New territory, so what could go wrong. If you are interested in using WhatsApp as an ecommerce vehicle, you can point your browser to this Google Workspace Marketplace. You will need both a Google account and a WhatsApp account. Then you can us “a simple and powerful Google Sheet add-on to launch an online store from Google Sheets and take orders on WhatsApp.” How much does this service cost? The developer asserts, “It’s free forever.” There is even a video explaining what one does to become a WhatsApp merchant. Are there legitimate uses for this Google Sheets add on? Sure. Will bad actors give this type of service a whirl? Sure. Will Google police the service? Sure. Will Facebook provide oversight? Sure. That’s a lot of sures. Why not be optimistic? For me, the Wati wrapper is a flashing yellow light that a challenge to law enforcement is moving from the Dark Web to apps which are equally opaque. Progress? Nope.

Stephen E Arnold, March 5, 2021

Saudi Influence in Silicon Valley

March 5, 2021

Data scientist Vicki Boykis noticed many of the cool kids in tech have something in common—Uber, WeWork, Flexport, Slack, MapBox, and DoorDash have all received financing from Vision Fund, a venture capital firm run by Japanese holding company SoftBank. The firm does not exactly advertise it, at least in the US, but one of its major contributing partners is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Boykis considers the implications on her blog, Normcore Tech, in “Silicon Valley Runs on Saudi.” She ponders:

“What does it mean for relentlessly forward-looking companies like Slack, who publish effusive blog posts about diversity and collaborative leadership, to be fueled in part by money from a government that only recently allowed women to drive, and has a record of flogging bloggers who disagree with the regime? Even probably more importantly, what does it mean for members of the Saudi Public Wealth Fund to be on the boards of these companies and directly calling the shots? As I’ve written about before, being on the board, particularly if you have money, has influence.”

Few have more money than the Saudi crown prince, who has taken a personal interest in US tech companies and invested a huge chunk of personal change into the Vision Fund. The write-up shares some photos of him palling around with Silicon Valley nobility. Boukis writes:

“But of course, it doesn’t hurt that Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the one who made the decision to pledge $45 of the initial $92 billion into fund, is making all the right noise in Silicon Valley. MBS has been making a ton of noise lately about modernizing Saudi Arabia, including starting a long-term investment project out of oil, restricting the power of the religious police, and giving women the ability to drive. On the surface, it all looks great, particularly when he engages with Silicon Valley.”

Below the surface, however, we cannot know what decisions have been informed by Saudi values. True, the Crown Prince is a progressive—compared to others in Saudi Arabia. That is not saying much. It looks like his influence is waning a bit, we’re told, but other nations are taking an interest in Silicon Valley—like Kazakhastan. Not better. We know tech companies need funding. So go where the money is.

Cynthia Murrell, March 5, 2021

Google Gets into Insurance

March 3, 2021

Worrying about the relevance of search results? You probably should. The online ad giant is facing some big problems. And what do giant corporations do when their core business faces competitive, legal, employee, management, and customer pressure?

Give up.

Here’s the answer: Sell insurance.

Google Rolls Out First of Its Kind Cyber Insurance Program for Cloud Customers” reports:

Google LLC has teamed up with two major insurers to develop a cyber security insurance offering that will provide Google Cloud customers who sign up with coverage against cyber attacks.

Ask an actuary. Is insurance a good business? Listen to the answer… carefully.

The article notes:

The Risk Manager tool is available to Google Cloud customers by request. As for the cyber insurance coverage against data breaches, it will initially be offered to organizations in the U.S.

There are several implications of this deal. But it is early days, and one cannot purchase insurance to cover a ride in a Waymo infused vehicle directly from the GOOG yet.

The thoughts which ran through my mind after reading the news story were:

  1. Is Google cashing in on SolarWinds’ paranoia?
  2. Does selling insurance for cloud services suggest that cloud services are a big fat bad actor target which cannot be adequately protected?
  3. Will Google insure homes, yachts, and health?
  4. Has Google run out of ideas for generating revenue from its home brew and me too technology?

I have no answers, just hunches.

The Google has looked backwards to bottomry contracts shaped in Babylon. When did this insight dawn? Round about 4,000 before common era (that’s AD in thumbtyper speak).

Will Google innovate with stone flaking methods and sell non fungible tokens for these artifacts?

Stephen E Arnold, March 3, 2021

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