Alphabet Google: Cutbacks in Translation Will Not Change the Business Climate for Alphabet

December 10, 2016

The Alphabet Google thing is twitching its Godzilla like tail again. This time, the effect is more noticeable than the cancellation of Web Accelerator or Orkut. Googzilla has neutered its free online translation service. Of course, I assume the information in “Google Translate Now Has a 5,000 Character Limit.” Remember the good old days of November 2016 when Google announced an improvement in its translation service. Well, lucky are we that the entire service has not be killed off.

The write up I scanned reported:

there is a small counter at the bottom right corner of the text box that counts down the characters as you type them. This means that the maximum number of characters allowed per translation is set at 5,000.

How much text is 5,000 characters? That works out to about 2.15 pages of text in 12 point Times Roman on a default Word page.

What does one do if more text has to be translated? Well, translate in segments, silly.

I have noticed that when feeding Google Translate complex pages in non Roman languages, the Google Translate system was taking longer and returning truncated translations. Now the size limit is enforced and one sees a counter for text like this:


I have a number of translation tools, so the loss of the Google service is no biggie here in Harrod’s Creek. I did give this shift a bit of thought. I have some ideas about why this change has been made.

First, the new financial discipline in effect at Google is going to curtail some services which are not used by large numbers of Google “customers.” I know that amidst that trillion plus searches run on Google each year, a tiny fraction rely need online translations. It is, therefore, logical to allocate computational resources to other activities. The good old days of spending freely to support less popular services is over due to cost controls. Let’s face it. The shift to mobile, the crazy moon shots, and ill fated ventures like Google Fiber don’t produce big bucks. Logical. Go with ad spending, not feel good spending.

Second, the Alphabet Google tips its hand when it kills off products and services like the Google Search Appliance. There is no future in some services. That means that the hassle of charging people to use Translate is not going to generate sufficient money to offset the erosion in the core business of ad sales. The shift to mobile puts more pressure on Google’s only money making business capable of supporting the Alphabet Google system. The costs of slipstreaming ads into Translate is not going to produce enough money to justify the investment. Who at Google wants to run an ad service delivering English to Ukrainian translations when a bonus depends on getting more Ukrainian pizza ads displayed along side the translation results?

Third, the shift from search on a big desktop device to search on a tiny mobile device is a problem. One can have more than two thirds of the queries in the US and more than 90 percent of the queries in the rest of the world. However, when only one or two ads can be shoehorned into the available screen real estate, that’s an earnings problem for the Google. Right now the revenue pump up is chugging along, but the continued robustness of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and other online vendors presages more pressure for the Google.

What’s the common thread running through my three “ideas” or “observations”? The answer is a threat to Google ad model which is predicated on the desktop search model so generously influenced by The only way to keep this dog from getting hit by speeding competitors is to change the kennel set up.

That’s what the shift in the GSA, the thrashing about YouTube, and the crippling of Google Translate signal. The joy ride of the free spending, we can do anything Google is ending. It had to happen. The founders are getting older. The legal hassles are going up. The silly little Facebook thing is now a very big thing chuck full of Xooglers who know how to probe the soft parts of Googzilla.

I am probably wildly off base in my focus on Google and its revenue. Nevertheless, I am willing to go into a part of the undergrowth that some in Harrod’s Creek avoid. The undergrowth, in this case, faces an environmental threat. Google has to find a source of revenue to make up the deltas between revenue from mobile and desktop mobile, tough to control infrastructure cost inflation, and the new product flop to success ratio.

Times are changing. Googzilla is being affected by its environment. Environments can be tough to change. Monocultures can be vulnerable. Very vulnerable.

Stephen E Arnold, December 10, 2016

At Last an Academic Search, but How Much Does It Cost?

December 9, 2016

I love Google.  You love Google.  Everyone loves Google so much that it has become a verb in practically every language.  Google does present many problems, however, especially in the inclusion of paid ads in search results and Google searches are not academically credible.  Researchers love the ease of use with Google, but there a search engine does not exist that returns results that answer a simple question based on a few keywords, NLP, and citations (those are extremely important).

It is possible that a search engine designed for academia could exist, especially if it can be subject specific and allows full-text access to all results.  The biggest problem and barrier in the way of a complete academic search engine is that scholarly research is protected by copyright and most research is behind pay walls belonging to academic publishers, like Elsevier.

Elsevier is a notorious academic publisher because it provides great publication and it is also expensive to subscribe to it digitally.  The Mendeley Blog shares that Elsevier has answered the academic search engine cry: “Introducing Elsevier DataSearch.”  The Elsevier DataSearch promises to search through reputable information repositories and help researchers accelerate their work.

DataSearch is still in the infant stage and there is an open call for beta testers:

DataSearch offers a new and innovative approach.  Most search engines don’t actively involve their users in making them better; we invite you, the user, to join our User Panel and advise how we can improve the results.  We are looking for users in a variety of fields, no technical expertise is required (though welcomed).  In order to join us, visit and click on the button marked ‘Join Our User Panel’.”

This is the right step forward for any academic publisher!  There is one thing I am worried about and that is: how much is the DataSearch engine going to cost users?  I respect copyright and the need to make a profit, but I wish there was one all-encompassing academic database that was free or had a low-cost subscription plan.

Whitney Grace, December 9, 2016

Yahoo Freedom of Information Case Punted Back to Lower German Courts

December 9, 2016

The article on DW titled Germany’s Highest Court Rejects Yahoo Content Payment Case reports that Yahoo’s fight against paying publishers for publishing their content has been sent back to the lower courts. Yahoo claims that the new copyright laws limit access to information. The article explains,

The court, in the western city of Karlsruhe, said on Wednesday that Yahoo hadn’t exhausted its legal possibilities in lower courts and should turn to them first. The decision suggests Yahoo could now take its case to the civil law courts. The judges didn’t rule on the issue itself, which also affects rival search engine companies…. Germany revised its copyright laws in August 2013 allowing media companies to request payment from search engines that use more than snippets of their content.

The article points out that the new law fails to define “snippet.” Does it mean a few sentences or a few paragraphs? The article doesn’t go into much detail on how this major oversight was possible. The outcome of the case will certainly affect Google as well as Yahoo. Since its summer sale of the principal online asset to Verizon, a new direction has emerged. Verizon aims to forge a Yahoo brand that can compete in online advertising with the likes of Google and Facebook.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 9, 2016

The Data Sharing of Healthcare

December 8, 2016

Machine learning tools like the artificial intelligence Watson from IBM can and will improve healthcare access and diagnosis, but the problem is getting on the road to improvement.  Implementing new technology is costly, including the actual equipment and training staff, and there is always the chance it could create more problems than resolving them.  However, if the new technology makes a job easier and resolves situations then you are on the path to improvement.  The UK is heading that way says TechCrunch in, “DeepMind Health Inks New Deal With UK’s NHS To Deploy Streams App In Early 2017.”

London’s NHS Royal Free Hospital will employ DeepMind Health in 2017, taking advantage of its data sharing capabilities.  Google owns DeepMind Health and it focuses on driving the application of machine learning algorithms in preventative medicine.  The NHS and DeepMind Health had a prior agreement in the past, but when the New Scientist made a freedom of information request their use of patients’ personal information came into question.  The information was used to power the Streams app to sent alerts to acute kidney injury patients.  However, ICO and MHRA shut down Streams when it was discovered it was never registered as a medical device.

The eventual goal is to relaunch Streams, which is part of the deal, but DeepMind has to repair its reputation.  DeepMind is already on the mend with the new deal and registering Streams as a medical device also helped.  In order for healthcare apps to function properly, they need to be tested:

The point is, healthcare-related AI needs very high-quality data sets to nurture the kind of smarts DeepMind is hoping to be able to build. And the publicly funded NHS has both a wealth of such data and a pressing need to reduce costs — incentivizing it to accept the offer of “free” development work and wide-ranging partnerships with DeepMind…

Streams is the first step towards a healthcare system powered by digital healthcare products.  As already seen is the stumbling block protecting personal information and powering the apps so they can work.  Where does the fine line between the two end?

Whitney Grace, December 8, 2016

The Information Not Accuracy Age

December 7, 2016

The impact of Google on our lives is clear through the company’s name being used colloquially as a verb. However, Quantum Run reminds us of their impact, quantifiable, in their piece called All hail Google. Google owns 80% of the smartphone market with over a billion android devices. Gmail’s users tally at 420 million users and Chrome has 800 million users. Also, YouTube, which Google owns, has one billion users. An interesting factoid the article pairs with these stats is that 94% of students equate Google with research. The article notes:

The American Medical association voices their concerns over relying on search engines, saying, “Our concern is the accuracy and trustworthiness of content that ranks well in Google and other search engines. Only 40 percent of teachers say their students are good at assessing the quality and accuracy of information they find via online research. And as for the teachers themselves, only five percent say ‘all/almost all’ of the information they find via search engines is trustworthy — far less than the 28 percent of all adults who say the same.

Apparently, cybercondria is a thing. The article correctly points to the content housed on the deep web and the Dark Web as untouched by Google. The major question sparked by this article is that we now have to question the validity of all the fancy numbers Quantum Run has reported.

Megan Feil, December 7, 2016

Google Search Results Are Politically Biased

December 7, 2016

Google search results are supposed to be objective and accurate.  The key phrase in the last sentence was objective, but studies have proven that algorithms can be just as biased as the humans who design them.  One would think that Google, one of the most popular search engines in the world, who have discovered how to program objective algorithms, but according to the International Business Times, “Google Search Results Tend To Have Liberal Bias That Could Influence Public Opinion.”

Did you ever hear Uncle Ben’s advice to Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  This advice rings true for big corporations, such as Google, that influence the public opinion. conducted a study the discovered searches using political terms displayed more pages with a liberal than a conservative view. What does Google have to say about it?

The Alphabet-owned company has denied any bias and told the Wall Street Journal: ‘From the beginning, our approach to search has been to provide the most relevant answers and results to our users, and it would undermine people’s trust in our results, and our company, if we were to change course.’  The company maintains that its search results are based on algorithms using hundreds of factors which reflect the content and information available on the Internet. Google has never made its algorithm for determining search results completely public even though over the years researchers have tried to put their reasoning to it.

This is not the first time Google has been accused of a liberal bias in its search results.  The consensus is that the liberal leanings are unintentional and is an actual reflection of the amount of liberal content on the Web.

What is the truth?  Only the Google gods know.

Whitney Grace, December 7, 2016

Shade Created by Mountainous Stacks of Cash Passing from Google to Washington

December 6, 2016

The article titled Google’s Murky Washington Lobbying Is Making Apple Look Good on Observer points out yet another area of shady activity by Google. In the last five to ten years, Google has led the charge of tech firms into Washington, D.C. Google employees include multiple ex-White House staffers, and vice versa, Google spends tens of millions on lobbying per year (compared to Apple’s measly $5M) and Google donated over a million dollars to various political candidates in 2014 through its PAC. The article presents why this is not ideal:

Google has built significant relationships with the US government – directly through the revolving door of personnel, traditional lobbying, political contributions; and indirectly through trade associations and other advocacy groups. The lack of transparency, especially for a company that specializes in information, is problematic. Google’s very calculated strategy has bought out new critics, including some shareholders. Given the climate Google operates in most people would expect transparency, and instead Google has chosen opacity, which is troubling.

As we know, the American people get very antsy when it comes to the state of our oligarchy. We are keenly aware of the huge amounts of money being passed around, especially when it comes to lobbying. At this point, the only company spending more on lobbying than Google is GE. But what exactly this money buys for Google remains murky, and that should make us all extremely uncomfortable.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 6, 2016

On Accountability for Search Engine Content

December 6, 2016

For better or worse, Google and, to a lesser extent other Internet search engines, shape the way many people view the world. That is a lot of power, and some folks are uneasy about allowing those companies to wield it without some sort of oversight. For example, MIT Technology Review asks, “What’s Behind Google’s Secretive Ad-Blocking Policy?” At the heart of the issue is Google’s recent decision to ban ads for payday loans, a product widely considered to be predatory and currently under investigation by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Reporter Elizabeth Woyke observes that such concerns about gate-keeping apply to other major online companies, like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Baidu. She writes:

Consumers might not realize it, but Google—and other ad-supported search engines—have been making editorial decisions about the types of ads they will carry for years. These companies won the right to reject ads they consider objectionable in 2007, when a Delaware district court ruled that constitutional free-speech guarantees don’t apply to search engines since they are for-profit companies and not ‘state actors.’ The decision cited earlier cases that upheld newspapers’ rights to decide which ads to run.

Google currently prohibits ads for ‘dangerous,’ ‘dishonest,’ and ‘offensive’ content, such as recreational drugs, weapons, and tobacco products; fake documents and academic cheating services; and hate-group paraphernalia. Google also restricts ads for content it deems legally or culturally sensitive, such as adult-oriented, gambling-related, and political content; alcoholic beverages; and health care and medicine. It may require additional information from these advertisers and limit placement to certain geographical locations.”

Legal experts, understandably, tend to be skittish about ceding this role to corporations. How far, and in which directions, will they be allowed to restrict content? Will they ever be required to restrict certain content that could cause harm? And, where do we as a society draw those lines? One suggestion that seems to make sense is a call for transparency. That way, at least, users could tap into the power of PR to hold companies accountable. See the write-up for more thoughts on the subject from legal minds.

Cynthia Murrell, December 6, 2016

Search Competition Is Fiercer Than You Expect

December 5, 2016

In the United States, Google dominates the Internet search market.  Bing has gained some traction, but the results are still muddy.  In Russia, Yandex chases Google around in circles, but what about the enterprise search market?  The enterprise search market has more competition than one would think.  We recently received an email from Searchblox, a cognitive platform that developed to help organizations embed information in applications using artificial intelligence and deep learning models.  SearchBlox is also a player in the enterprise software market as well as text analytics and sentiment analysis tool.

Their email explained, “3 Reasons To Choose SearchBlox Cognitive Platform” and here they are:

1. EPISTEMOLOGY-BASED. Go beyond just question and answers. SearchBlox uses artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning models to learn and distill knowledge that is unique to your data. These models encapsulate knowledge far more accurately than any rules based model can create.

2. SMART OPERATION Building a model is half the challenge. Deploying a model to process big data can be even for challenging. SearchBlox is built on open source technologies like Elasticsearch and Apache Storm and is designed to use its custom models for processing high volumes of data.

3. SIMPLIFIED INTEGRATION SearchBlox is bundled with over 75 data connectors supporting over 40 file formats. This dramatically reduces the time required to get your data into SearchBlox. The REST API and the security capabilities allow external applications to easily embed the cognitive processing.

To us, this sounds like what enterprise search has been offering even before big data and artificial intelligence became buzzwords.  Not to mention, SearchBlox’s competitors have said the same thing.  What makes Searchblox different?  The company claims to be more inexpensive and they have won several accolades.  SearchBlox is made on open source technology, which allows it to lower the price.  Elasticsearch is the most popular open source search software, but what is funny is that Searchblox is like a repackaged version of said Elasticsearch.  Mind you are paying for a program that is already developed, but Searchblox is trying to compete with other outfits like Yippy.

Whitney Grace, December 5, 2016

Google Versus Amazon: And the Price War?

December 2, 2016

I read “How Google Is Challenging AWS.” The factoids and the analysis weave together the cloud-smart software boomlet. Both companies want to generate big money, be recognized as leaders in artificial intelligence, and dominate the “cloud.”

There are some differences between the two outfits. The Google is a company based

Here’s the passage I highlighted:

To be sure, Google’s success is not assured: the company still has to grapple with a new business model — sales versus ads — and build up the sort of organization that is necessary for not just sales but also enterprise support. Both are areas where Amazon has a head start, along with a vastly larger partner ecosystem and a larger feature set generally. And, of course, AWS has its own machine learning API, along with IBM and Microsoft. Microsoft is likely to prove particularly formidable in this regard: not only has the company engaged in years of research, but the company also has experience productizing technology for business specifically; Google’s longstanding consumer focus may at times be a handicap. And as popular as Kubernetes may be broadly, it’s concerning that Google is not yet eating its own dog food. Still, Google will be a formidable competitor: its strategy is sound and, perhaps more importantly, the urgency to find a new line of business is far more pressing today than it was in 2006.

The MBA analysis covers the waterfront: References to trial balloons, buzzwords, and Google’s techno-prowess.

I did note one omission: The old-fashioned concept of price war. Google depends on advertisers to funds its attempts to generate new revenues, conquer unspoiled markets, and achieve Sillycon Valley greatness. Amazon, on the other hands, gets people to pay Amazon to reduce its administrative burden for its plumbing. Customers buy products and services from Amazon, which is a reworking of the big box store into a digital WalMart.

Yet the price war appears to be simmering. Who will back their horse to the finish: Advertisers who want a measurable return on ads in the murky, somewhat opaque world of online clicks? Customers who want to buy laundry detergent?

Harrod’s Creek remembers the gasoline price wars of yore. We remember them fondly. Perhaps the battle between Sillycon Valley and Seattle will evoke similar thoughts a few years down the line. Disruptions can be fun too.

Stephen E Arnold, December 2, 2016


Stephen E Arnold,

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