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Beyond Google, How to Work Your Search Engine

August 28, 2015

The article on Funnelback titled Five Ways to Improve Your Website Search offers tips that may seem obvious, but could always stand to be reinforced. Sometimes the Google site:<url> is not enough. The first tip, for example, is simply to be helpful. That means recognizing synonyms and perhaps adding an autocomplete function in case your site users think in different terms than you do. The worst case scenario is search is typing in a term and yielding no results, especially when the problem is just language and the thing being searched for is actually present, just not found. The article goes into the importance of the personal touch as well,

“You can use more than just the user’s search term to inform the results your search engine delivers… For example, if you search for ‘open day’ on a university website, it might be more appropriate to promote and display an ‘International Open Day’ event result to prospective international students instead of your ‘Domestic Student Open Day’ counterpart event. This change in search behavior could be determined by the user’s location – even if it wasn’t part of their original search query.”

The article also suggests learning from the search engine. Obviously, analyzing what customers are most likely to search for on your website will tell you a lot about what sort of marketing is working, and what sort of customers you are attracting. Don’t underestimate search.

Chelsea Kerwin, August 28, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Admits to Being a Copycat

August 28, 2015

In elementary school one of the biggest insults a child could throw a their fellow classmate was the slur “copycat.”  All children want to create original work, but when they feel their skills are subpar the work of another student their feel is superior.  Tossing in the old adage that “copying is the sincerest form of flattery” gives way to arguments about patents, theft, and even time outs for those involved.  The Techdirt podcast discussed copying in a recent episode and how big tech companies simply copy the ideas of their rivals and put their on name on it.  The biggest copycat they could find was Google: “The Failure of Google Plus Should Be A Reminder That Big Companies Very Rarely Successfully ‘Copy’ Startups.”

Techdirt points out the fallacy with big companies trying to steal the little startup’s idea:

“As we’ve discussed, in the rare cases when “copying” succeeds, it’s because the second company doesn’t really copy, but actually comes up with a better product, which is something we should celebrate. When they just copy, they tend to only be able to copy the superficial aspects of what they see, rather than all the underlying tacit thinking that makes a product good.”

The article discusses how Google finally admitted that Google Plus was a copy of Facebook, because they search mogul was fearful of losing profit, users, and Web traffic.  The biggest problem that Google Plus had was that it was “forced” on people, like the Star Trek Borg assimilating unsuspecting planets.  Okay, maybe that is a bit of a drastic comparison, but startups are still fearful of their ideas being assimilated by the bigger companies.  This is when the patent topic comes in and whether or not to register for one.

There is good news for startups: “if a startup is doing something really amazing and innovative that people actually want, you can almost always guarantee that (1) the big companies will totally miss the boat for way too long and (2) once they finally wake up, be clumsy and ridiculous in their attempts to copy.”

Also Techdirt sums everything up in an eloquent paragraph that explains the logic in this argument:

“People think it’s easy to copy because copying seems like it should be easy. But it’s not. You can only copy the parts you can see, which leaves out an awful lot of understanding and tacit knowledge hidden beneath the surface. It also leaves out all the knowledge of what doesn’t work that the originator has. And, finally, it ignores the competing interests within a larger business that make it much harder for those companies to innovate.”

In other words, do not worry about Borg assimilation if your startup has a good idea, but do be on the defensive and arm yourself with good weapons.

Whitney Grace, August 28, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Facebook and the Young at Heart Spells Trouble for Alphabet

August 26, 2015

Poor old Google. Imagine. Hassles with Google Now. Grousing from the no fun crowd in the European Commission. A new contact lens business. Exciting stuff.

Then the Googlers read “Facebook’s New Moments App Now Automatically Creates Music Videos From Your Photos.” The idea is that one or two of the half billion Facebookers who check their status multiple times a day can make a movie video automatically.

Sounds good.

But instead of doing the professional video production thing, the video is created from the one’s shared photos.

I wonder how many of the young at heart will whip up and suck down videos of [a] children, [b] pets, [c] vacations, [d] tattoos (well, maybe not too many tattoos).

The idea is

With the update, Facebook Moments will automatically create a music video for any grouping of six or more photos. You can then tap this video in the app to customize it further by changing the included photos and selecting from about a dozen different background music options. When you’re finished making your optional edits to this video, one more tap will share the video directly to Facebook and tag the friend or friends with whom you’re already sharing those photos. The option to automatically create a video from your shared photos also makes Facebook Moments competitive with similar services like Flipagram, or those automatically created animations that Google Photos provides through its “Assistant” feature, which also helpfully builds out stories and collages.

Google may apply its Thought Vector research to the problem. The question is will Alphabet be able to spell success from its social services. Why would a grandmother care about a music video of a grandchild when there were Thought Vectors, Loon balloons, and eternal life to ponder?

Stephen E Arnold, August 26, 2015

Alphabet Google: EU Spells Trouble

August 24, 2015

You will need a copy of the dead tree edition of the Wall Street Journal or one of those nifty for fee accounts. Navigate to “EU Deepens Antitrust Investigation into Google’s Practices.” Do not complain to me if the link is dead. Buy a newspaper. The practices of newspapers are above reproach—mostly.

The point of the write up is that the “bloc” (Cold Warish term, no?) wants information about Google’s advertising contract practices. Yikes. Actual contracts. I don’t recall getting a contract for the Adsense ads which grace this blog.

Anyway the “real” newspaper reported:

The European Commission, the bloc’s competition watchdog, has sent out questionnaires to companies requesting more detailed information into Google’s business practices in those areas, according to two documents seen by The Wall Street Journal. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment. The European Commission didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Well, without verification why question the accuracy of the report?

Shift gears to Alphabet. What can Alphabet Google spell with its new Scrabble letters? I could go for, “We use algorithms.” I also like, “Please, ask the new CEO.”

Stephen E Arnold, August 24, 2015

The Recursion of Google Forgottenness

August 23, 2015

Short honk: Legal decisions are delightful. I read “Google Ordered to Remove Links to Stories about Google Removing Links to Stories.” The write included this statement:

One obvious question about this kind of recursive request is whether it is recursive itself—in other words, whether news stories that report on this latest removal including details of the criminal offence will also face de-listing from Google’s search results.

What happens if a student writes about a removal, citing examples of stories removed. I bet a 15 year old would mesh nicely with the prison population. The cell mate might ask, “What are you in for, pal?”

The answer, “Research.” I love this legal wizardry. No wonder Messrs Brin and Page did the alphabet thing. How else might one spell, “Wacky”?

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 2015

Google Does the Tweet Thing

August 22, 2015

I read “Google Integrates Twitter into Its Desktop Search Results.” Meaty stuff.

But, dear, struggling Twitter. You keep trying. Users in hot spots like Sillycon Valley and public relations outfits in New York love the tweeter. Messages about the next big thing, a sleek baby unicorn, and the antics of a media star lubricate the modern world.

Here in Harrod’s Creek, where the failed middle school teachers work at the filling station and where failed webmasters moonlight as fry cooks at the eatery on the Ohio River, the tweeter is not such a big deal.

Consider me: Old, wheezing, and staring at a limited horizon. When I run a query for predictive analytics or dumps about philanderers, I just want an objective list of search results. Links to research papers and presentations about LaPlacian methods applied to mundane data problems are what I need to fry squirrel, kick back, snack, and read.

Now my results will be peppered with information from the tweeter thing. Is this an advance?

I suppose for those who ego surf like certain media stars with lots of children and ad sales reps gathering data to prove their campaigns’ value, the blend of search results and twitter peeps is a thrilling prospect.

The new Google is enchanted with the value of the tweeters’ toots. I understand the Twitter thing. It is the new Google that puzzles me.

Ah, back to revenue. Maybe? Maybe not. More relevant search results. Maybe not.

Stephen E Arnold, August 22, 2015

Facebook and News: Should Google Worry?

August 20, 2015

I read “Facebook Has Taken Over from Google As a Traffic Source for news.” In my experience, data about online traffic can be a slippery fish. What’s a unique? Is a visitor a human or a software script? Did the log file overwrite itself? Did the administrator dutifully make copies of log files just in the off chance that one of those FAA super redundant computers finds a way to crash?

Now to the write up. Here’s the passage I highlighted:

according to new numbers from the traffic-analytics service, Facebook is no longer just vying with Google but has overtaken it by a significant amount.’s chief technical officer Andrew Montalenti said in an interview with Fortune that the company’s latest estimates show that social-media sources (of which Facebook is by far the largest) accounted for about 43% of the traffic to the network of media sites, while Google accounted for just 38%.

Let’s assume that these data points are accurate?

Google’s revenue is the golden goose which continues to lay eggs like Loon balloons, self driving cars, and solving death. If Facebook continues to siphon traffic and, therefore, revenue from Google, excitement will ensue.

Stephen E Arnold, August 20, 2015

Geofeedias Political Action

August 20, 2015

The presidential election is a little over a year away and potential presidential candidates are starting on their campaign trails.  The Republican and Democratic parties are heating up with the GOP debates and voters are engaging with the candidates and each other via social media.   The information posted on social media is a gold mine for the political candidates to learn about the voters’ opinions and track their approval rating.  While Twitter and Facebook data is easy to come by with Google Analytics and other software, visual mapping of the social media data is a little hard to find.

To demonstrate its product capabilities, Geofeedia took social media Instagram, fed it into its data platform, and shared the visual results in the blog post, “Instagram Map: Republican Presidential Debate.”  Geofeedia noted that while business mogul Donald Trump did not fare well during the debate nor is he in the news, he is dominating the social media feeds:

“Of all social content coming out of the Quicken Loans Center, 93% of posts were positive in sentiment. The top keywords were GOP, debate, and first, which was to be expected. Although there was no decided winner, Donald Trump scored the most headlines for a few of his memorable comments. He was, however, the winner of the social sphere. His name was mentioned in social content more than any other candidate.”

One amazing thing is that social media allows political candidates to gauge the voters’ attitudes in real time!  They can alter their answers to debate questions instantaneous to sway approval in their favor.  Another interesting thing Geofeedia’s visual data models showed is a heat map where the most social media activity took place, which happened to be centered in the major US metropolises.  The 2016 election might be the one that harnesses social media to help elect the next president.  Also Geofeedia also has excellent visual mapping tools.

Whitney Grace, August 20, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Alphabet: Spelling Lemonade in the Harvard Yard

August 19, 2015

Talk about Mad Magazine and I think of the Harvard Business Review. For me, working through an issue, scanning the Web site, and listening to the stunning HBR podcast deliver a trifecta of amusement.

Consider “Alphabet Isn’t a Typical Conglomerate.” The write up is an explanation of how darned great the LingTemcoVought-ization of the Google is. Two companies. Google does the “all the world’s information” defined by online advertising; the other—Alphabet or Alpha bet or Phab— does the math and science fair projects. I know. I know. I should be excited about Loon balloons, self driving autos which even Volvo is working on—What, Volvo for goodness sakes), and solving the thorny problem of eternal life in a recreation of Juan Ponce de León’s epic adventure. I call him Ponce the Pointless.

Does Ponce remind you of anyone? Maybe a senior Google — oops, Alphabet — manager?

The write up focuses on such Harvard Yard favorites as a long time horizon, the importance of a company as a “talent magnet” from which start ups poach wizards, a “wake up call” to outfits like Amazon and Facebook, and a “catalyst to unleash the next wave of Google caliber companies in different industries.”

Sounds great. What could possibly go wrong as long as the ad revenue continues to burble.

Here in Harrod’s Creek, where the mine drainage gurgles into the pond which one attracted ducks, we think about revenue, organic revenue, lots of filthy lucre. The idea is that investments should have an upside for stakeholders. I am reluctant to point out these minor details:

  1. Google’s core business model was the online advertising approach of which became Overture which Yahoo bought. Prior to the IPO, the Alphabet kids worked out a deal with Yahoo to sail unencumbered into IPO land. Why worry about that legal settlement now? Google’s money machine was not exactly an original idea.
  2. Since the days of Backrub and fiddling around with the Clever system and method, the Google has not created a revenue stream which can lessen the firm’s dependence on online advertising. The vaunted innovation of Google applies to Chubby and Big Table, but in the diversification of revenue there has been much smoke and very little fire. Why will another corporate reorg unleash substantial new revenue streams? Hope springs eternal I suppose. What’s the problem with 95 percent of Phab’s revenue coming from online advertising? What could possible go wrong other than Facebook’s annoying presence?
  3. Google’s technological innovations do not seem that original to me. The death thing has been done and the departure of Amir Parviz, the nanotech protein wizard, progress seems slow. The tethered balloon seems tame compared to ultra light aircraft endlessly circling. The self driving car? Did I mention Volvo?

To sum up, the Alpha bet or the Phab folks may be doing the knee jerk “let’s buy Motorola” jive. How did that work out anyway? Long shots are fun. Long shots excite experts. Long shots are math and science club projects on a grand scale.

Why not do something slightly more exciting than sell online ads and deliver irrelevant search results? There is no need to make alpha bets and suggest that the idea is just Phab-ulous.

The Harvard Business Review, on the other hand, is finding a way to present lemonade with a twist of spin. That’s a good use of the alphabet. Will the European Commission get with the Phab0ulous new program?

Stephen E Arnold, August 19, 2015

Traditional Web Sites? The Second String

August 19, 2015

The Google – sorry, the Alpha Bet or Phab outfit – has spoken. Listen up, people. Navigate to “Are Desktop Sites Still Necessary? No, Says Google’s Mueller.” Phab wants to alpha surf on the mobile device thing.

I learned:

…Going mobile-first or mobile-only wouldn’t hurt a page’s rank, even in desktop search results. “I think what I’d try to make sure is that it still works on desktop and that it doesn’t show an error on desktop, but rather someone on desktop can still access it,” Mueller said. “What generally happens is, we will just include the mobile site in our search results, like any other site, and we will present it to desktop users.”

However, the write up includes this blast from the past approach:

“I usually have five to seven windows open at one time and I’ll be hopping from one thing to the next,” she adds. “Having multiple screens up – that’s tricky on a phone. You’re looking to move in and out of apps, and that’s not user-friendly, but at some point, will it be easier to do on a phone? Maybe [Mueller’s] statement can lead to that question: how could we get there and what are the things we find we still need our desktops for?”

Do not do as the phab folks do. Do as the phab outfit says.

Stephen E Arnold, August 19, 2015

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