Google and Walmart: More Than a Super Saver Special?

August 23, 2017

I read “Walmart and Google Partner on Voice-Based Shopping.” The main point of the write up is that talking to a device is the way people will buy nylon shirts, dog food, and giant bottles of fizzy drinks. The write up points out the smart Google features and the allure of having a person (a Googley electric vehicle putting the packages in front of a house. (Package poacher alert.)

I noted this passage:

Google Express is also today ditching its membership fees, and now promises free delivery across its retailers in one to three days, as long as customer orders are above each store’s minimums… Google believes its fees were limiting adoption and were particularly cumbersome when it came to enabling voice shopping.

Google may not be as much believing as reacting to data which may suggest that the approach was as tasty as off brand cat food to a persnickety feline. Google. Data. Remember?

The notion of the Google bubble providing a boost to Walmart’s mobilization against Amazon is threaded through the write up.

From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, I thought about three issues:

  1. Amazon is a far greater threat to Google than just product search. Amazon is winning in this particular category if the data I have collected are accurate. A three to one gap seems to loom for the GOOG. I think of the dropped ball with Froogle, and the rest is Amazon’s history.
  2. Google is thinking less like the bold imitator it was when it needed to generate revenue and the Yahoo, Overture, GoTo approach was so darned juicy and semi-available. Now the teaming is a response to a genuine business threat. Yep, Amazon again. Google is reacting in a way that reminds me of a small business that finds itself watching a larger outfit changing the rules of the game and threatening the small business as collateral damage. “We have to do something big, significant” echoes in my mind.
  3. Neither Google nor Walmart are particularly fast moving. The companies share other similarities: Neither has figured out Act 2 in their corporate dramas. Neither believes that what happened to Endeca or Sears can be allowed to happen to them. Neither has been able to spin gold from acquisitions. Are there other parallels? This is a question worth considering.

Net net: The tie up is less about a leapfrog of Amazon and more about what big companies sensing future distress do to come up with a “significant action.”

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 2017

Russia Argues with Encrypted Telegram

August 23, 2017

One reason that the Dark Web flourishes are that if offers people an anonymous, encrypted way to communicate.  Governments dislike encrypted services, especially when they are trying to keep an eye on their citizens.  The Register explains how Russia is unhappy with encrypted messenger service Telegram: “Encrypted Chat App Telegram Warned By Russian Regulator: ‘Comply Or Goodbye.”

One hot argument between governments and their citizens is how much leeway the former has to monitor the latter’s communication.   Russia is one country with a poor history of respecting its people’s privacy.  It currently is very angry with encrypted chat app Telegram.  Communications regulator Roskomnadzor Alexander Zharov stated that Telegram is violating Russian legislation because it is not providing any information about its parent company.

Telegram’s parent company only has to complete a questionnaire with information that will be published in the country’s register of service providers.  It is not an attack on encrypted communication.  If the questionnaire remains unanswered, then Telegram will be banned.

Telegram founder Pavel Durov told newswire Reuters a ban would mean Russian government officials will be entrusting their communications to messenger apps written in other countries.

In playing the nationalism card, Durov cited WhatsApp, Viber, Apple and Google as companies who might carry messages from Russian officials and their friends.

He is skeptical that the regulator is mostly cranky about corporate structure.

The communication bureau and Telegram should stop fighting over the petty red tape.  Playing the nationalist card is a good move on Telegram’s part, but why is it so hard to answer a standard questionnaire?  If Russia’s security and government officials lose their home brewed encryption app, would they turn to something not from Mother Russia?  This is yet another example of why people use the Dark Web over regular Web services.

Whitney Grace, August 23, 2017


Take a Hint Amazon, Bing Is Not That Great

August 22, 2017

It recently hit the new stands that Google Home was six times more likely than Amazon Alexa to answer questions.  The Inquirer shares more about this development in the article, “Google Hoe Is Six Times Smarter Than Amazon’s Echo.”

360i conducted a test using their proprietary software that asked Amazon Alexa and Google Home 3,000 questions.  We don’t know what the 3,000 questions were, but some of them did involve retail information.  Google pulled on its Knowledge Graph to answer questions, while Amazon used Bing for its search.  Amazon currently controls 70% of the voice assistant market and has many skills from other manufacturers.  Google, however, is limited in comparison:

By comparison, Google Home has relatively few smart home control chops, relying primarily on IFTTT, which is limited in what it can achieve and often takes a long time between request and execution.

Alexa, on the other hand, can carry out native skill commands in a second or two.

The downside of the two, however, is that Google is Google and Amazon is just not as good. If Echo was able to access the Knowledge Graph, Google Music, and control Chromecasts, then it would be unassailable.

Amazon Alexa and Google Home are a set of rivals and the facts are is that one is a better shopper and the other better at search.  While 360i has revealed their results, we need to see the test questions to fully understand how they arrived at the “six times smarter” statement?

Whitney Grace, August 22, 2017

Fake News Is Here to Stay

August 22, 2017

Morphed pictures and videos were the realms of experts. New tools, however, are making it easier for people with average computer skills to create hyper-realistic content.

As reported by Mashable in an article titled This Scary Video Tool Makes Fake News Look Legit, which says:

Researchers at the University of Washington recently announced a new video-editing tool that they used to superimpose audio — with realistic lip movements — onto a video of former U.S. president Barack Obama, making it appear as though he’s saying whatever they want him to.

The intention of making this tool was to help special effects artists in the entertainment industry. However, as is the case with any other tool, the tool as a test run was to create a fake news content.  Couple this tool with other available tools like Google DeepMind AI and Lyrebird, a single person could be producing a number of fake videos sitting in the dungeon.

Social media platforms are already fighting the menace of fake news. However such tools make their tasks tougher. Facebook, for instance, employs an army of analysts to weed out fake news. Seems like until the problem of fake news or information is going to get worse.

Vishal Ingole, August 22, 2017

Math Professor Alleges Google Has Disappeared His Equations

August 21, 2017

I read “One Statistics Professor Was Just Banned By Google: Here Is His Story.” The Beyond Search goose is baffled. We learned that Salil Mehta’s email and blog are no longer online. I did not that the blog was “ads free.” Hmmm. Even the Beyond Search goose does the Google ads things. We noted this statement:

Now instead of mathematics, reporters have turned to this latest circus nightmare from Google as an example of how they are compounding bad decisions on good people anywhere and at any time. Can they not differentiate me from an evil person?  Can they not see the large and reputable people and institutions that have relied on my work?  Do they have better people who can coach them on how to make decisions with much better taste and finesse?  What’s next, all CEOs and professors and politicians are going to be shut down from social media whenever it is least expected?  Overnight hi-tech lynching squads are a thing of the past.  We can’t have kangaroo courts and hope to lead with moral authority.

Image result for behave

Keep Calm Studio will sell those stressed this excellent poster. Its message is germane to the allegations.

Oh, oh. This passage suggests to me that Google is a circus. But not any circus. A circus that invokes nightmares. Yikes. Google?

The passage does call attention to one of the very tiny issues some people have with smart software. Obviously the algorithm may have a bit of a drift because it is possible for smart software to learn that sites like the Daily Stormer are 0.000001 on the Google Quality Index and quite possible have misconstrued a discussion of statistical methods as problematic. Google is doing its best to stamp out hate speech, but statistical procedures, even when informed by Big Data, can deliver off point results.

The passage suggests that Google management needs a coach. Hey, that was Eric Schmidt’s job, and he did it well. Perhaps the author is unnecessarily critical of a company which makes an engineer into the technical equivalent of Lady Gaga.

The passage also raises the question of Google’s future endeavors. I don’t like to predict what Google will do, and I have mocked those who want to tell Google what to do. If Google asks, I output. If Google does not act, I just note the activity and go back to the pond filled with mine drainage. (It looked nice in the ecliptic gloaming.

I also note the phrase “hi-tech lynching squads.” This word choice will probably cause some types of analytic software to spit out an alert. (Maybe misspelling “high” will slip through the filter. Software, even Google’s, may have some idiosyncrasies.

As the write up moved to its conclusion, I circled in anguished ocher this paragraph:

We are going to be looking back on this time in Google’s history and those of other social media and know that they have done some very immoral and confusing things, and it has hurt their public reputation with decent people who wanted to grow into the next future with them.

I am not too keen on saying that the GOOG has done “immoral and confusing actions.” Here in Harrod’s Creek we are eagerly awaiting our Google Fiber T shirt with the message “Make the Internet More Googley.”

We don’t have any suggestions for rectifying the issue. If the author were a member of law enforcement or an intelligence professional, we can provide a “clean,” “untraceable” identity. But the person whose content disappeared is a professor, and I don’t provide untraceable identities to individuals who are disappeared.

May I suggest a new career? Microsoft Bing / LinkedIn may welcome the posts and the résumé?

Oh, the Daily Stormer is available on the Dark Web. My hunch is that not too many statisticians with disappeared content are into the Dot Onion thing.

Remember. The Beyond Search team is on board with the Google. We also try to stay on the search train if you get my drift because we don’t write articles that make Google look like the people from my high school’s machine shop class.

Stephen E Arnold, August 21, 2017

Google Home Still Knows More

August 21, 2017

Amazon has infiltrated our lives as our main shopping destination.  Amazon is also trying to become our best friend, information source, and digital assistant via Alexa.  Alexa provides a wealth of services, such as scheduling appointments, filling shopping orders, playing music, answering questions, and more.  While Amazon Alexa has a steady stream of users, Ad Week says, “Google Home Is 6 Times More Likely To Answer Your Questions Than Amazon Alexa.”

The company 360i developed software that would determine which digital assistant was more accurate: Google Home or Amazon Alexa.  Apparently Google Home is six times more likely to answer a question than Amazon Alexa.  360i arrived at this conclusion by using their software to ask both devices 3,000 questions.  Alexa won when it came to questions related to retail information, but Google Home won over all with its search algorithms.

It’s relatively surprising, considering that RBC Capital Markets projects Alexa will drive $10 billion of revenue to Amazon by 2020—not to mention the artificial intelligence-based system currently owns 70 percent of the voice market.

Amazon might be the world’s largest market place, so Alexa would, of course, be the world’s best shopping assistant.  The Internet is much larger than shopping and Google scours the entire Web.  What does Amazon use to power Alexa’s searches?

Whitney Grace, August 21, 2017

Where Your Names Intersect

August 21, 2017

Google Maps might be the top navigational app in the world, but some apps like can help its users find intersections across the US with a choice of their names.

According to an article published by Forbes titled, “A New Search Engine Finds Quirky Intersections Across the U.S“, the author says: can search for intersections anywhere in the country by name. Plug in two names – say, yours and your spouse’s – and you’ll likely find at least a handful of crossroads somewhere between Hawaii and Florida.

The app in the true sense is just for the novelty. Or probably for some investigator who wants to find out how many intersections exist in the country with a particular name. Apart from a couple of fancy functions for a very very niche audience, the app offers no real utility. Moreover, only a handful of players has so far been able to monetize their navigational apps. Thus the long term viability is still in question.

Vishol Ingole, August 21, 2017

Docurated Expands Salesforce to Broaden Search

August 18, 2017

Enterprise search is growing to make the user experience easier as the demand for everyday use by company employees not deemed ‘data analysts’ is growing. One company slowly making a name for themselves by providing such a service is Docurated.

CMSWire explains their new federated search within Salesforce as the following,

…both sides win with this solution. By delivering content through the native search bar in — the most used feature of the platform — marketing gets to use the most trafficked channel to drive content consumption, while sales receives content in context…Its Content Cloud uses a combination of inputs and analytics about the effectiveness of content, combined with powerful search, to retrieve relevant content…It fully integrates with all existing cloud and on-premises content repositories and tracks versions of content, sharing only the latest and most accurate version within the organization.

We’re seeing this trend continue to grow with more search vendors making the search process more user-friendly and able to work in multiple functions and across applications. While Google is going ad-happy with their user experience, most search companies are realizing Google had the right idea in the beginning and are making strides to duplicate it within enterprise search.

Catherine Lamsfuss, August 18, 2017

Gaze into the Search Crystal Ball

August 17, 2017

The way we consume Internet content has drastically changed.  We are no longer tethered to hulking desk top computers, instead we can browse the Web as easily as drive a car.  It goes without saying that the way we search and consume content will change.  We have already seen changes, such as more ads appearing on movie, social media, and news Web sites.  Google Answers and Google My Business are also affecting how we access content without needing to visit a Web site. Entrepreneur shares predictions for search and content in the article, “How Changes To The Way We Search Will Impact Businesses.”

While the majority of us still type our search queries, the rise of digital assistants has made vocal search gain traction.  Vocal search means that we are using natural language to ask digital assistants queries.  This is actually better for search results, because we tend to simplify questions when we talk and search engines like simple search queries.  Digital assistants also change how we interact/consume our information.  Instead of delving into the results ourselves, we rely on a third-party device to provide it to us.  It will also change how we shop, especially if Amazon or another shopping site has a digital assistant.

Users are also seeking out an “everything-in platform,” where all the services they need from payments, shopping, and even ordering a sandwich are in one application.

Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP don’t take users too far away from the originating platform source, enabling them to return to whatever they were doing before something caught their eye. Solutions like Facebook Store integrate products for an in-platform shopping experience, tightening the gap between product discovery and purchase, while directing users away from Google’s fairly limitless shopping mall of possibilities.

Hyper-personalization might be the creepiest and have the most impact.  Search engines already gather information about us from our queries and then target us with related ads.  However, it can get even worse with beacon technology that can track and recommend services/products to us based on a store we just visited or where we are traveling too.  It will be the capitalist version of Big Brother.

Whitney Grace, August 17, 2017

Google Amps Ads to New Annoying Levels

August 17, 2017

Today, Google is synonymous with search, as they’ve worked very hard to ensure. But search has changed, and not always for the good. One of Google’s hallmark principles at the beginning of their existence was to provide an unbiased search engine with any additions only being to enhance the user experience. Nowadays, though, it seems like Google looks like every other search engine, littered with Ads and flashing videos.

Not impressed with these changes, Wired recently called the search giant out on their recent addition of automatically-playing movie trailers, saying ‘enough is enough’.

Showing a few ads in the image search system isn’t a bad thing. But it shows just how much Google’s thinking has changed. Google’s not a scrappy startup anymore. It’s the world’s most valuable company, and its investors want results. And without much serious competition, the risk of customers bolting for another search engine is pretty low.

Wired is spot on, of course, but what if customers did start trickling out to other search engines that adhere to Google’s original principles and ideologies?

Catherine Lamsfuss, August 17, 2017

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