How to End Googles Search Monopoly if You Want To

August 29, 2014

The article on makeuseof titled Help End Google’s Search Monopoly: Use Something Else implores Internet users to consider alternatives for search on the basis of a very simple concept: monopolies are bad. Without a doubt, Google is a monopoly, with the Chinese Baidu in a lagging second place. The amount of power this gives Google is the main target of the article, not Google itself, interestingly. The article states,

“The ball is always in Google’s court – they control the search game. This breeds a culture of tailoring content to what Google wants, with the problem being that nobody really knows what this is. Most “SEO experts” will tell you they know how to get your site ranking highly, but really they have no greater insight into what goes on behind the scenes than you do.

We’re not bitter, that’s not the point of this article.”

They are referring to Panda, Google’s 2011 filter that removed lower quality content websites from searches. This benefitted some sites, but it also had far-reaching negative implications for any number of sites. This is why monopolies are bad, not because Google is inherently evil but because they are making decisions that can affect huge amounts of people and businesses. It may be too late to recommend alternatives like DuckDuckGo, since Google is so ingrained in its users as the only option for search.

Chelsea Kerwin, August 29, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Google Android: Fragmentation? No Fragmentation.

August 22, 2014

I read “There Are 18,796 Distinct Android Devices, According to OpenSignal’s Latest Fragmentation Report.” I noted this factoid in the write up:

18,796 separate Android devices

Several years ago, one of the interchangeable Google mobile engineers emphasized that there was minimal Android fragmentation.

One aspect of this issue is the emergence of open source Android. Has Google lost control of Android and the opportunity to extract high end device revenue in its quest for ads?

At least one Chinese phone outfit is working the angle “Show me the money.” With many distinct Android devices and folks going their own way like Amazon and Samsung, Google does not have a fragmentation problem. Google has competition, confusion, and cash challenges breeding and cross breeding.

I know the Google response, “Trivial.” If Google believes this, will a meta-tactics grind the challengers to disconnected ones and zeros?

Stephen E Arnold, August 22, 2014

Google Barge Scheme Abandoned Without Comment

August 22, 2014

The article on The Portland Press Herald titled Scrap the Mystery: High-tech Vision for Google barge Crumbles in a Heap reports that the mysterious barge that landed in Portland’s harbor on October 10, 2013, has been relegated to the scrap pile. The barge was believed to be intended for an elite showroom for Google’s latest innovations, such as Google Glass. The remaining question is why abandon the project? Google did not comment, but the article states,

“After some digging by reporters on both coasts, Google admitted that it had commissioned the barges to serve as “an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.” When finished, the barge in Portland was to be towed to New York City and opened for an invitation-only crowd of hip and affluent urbanites. Never mind… the structure…was being prepared to leave Portland for an ocean voyage to an undisclosed location….The containers, though, will be disassembled at Turner’s Island and scrapped”

This was a major disappointment for Portland, a disappointment soothed by the half a million dollars in property taxes accumulated on the barge while it sat in the harbor. That money, along with the cost of assembling the containers now headed for use as scrap metal, has many interested parties scratching their heads. Is this a metaphor for the future of Google’s moon shots? A second barge still sitting in San Francisco’s bay might answer that question.

Chelsea Kerwin, August 22, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Google Search Has Been Improved. A Lot.

August 20, 2014

I do a lecture for the police and intelligence community. The focus is on the techniques helpful in finding information that answers a query. If a person types a query into Google, the results are ads, popular hits that others found useful, and search engine optimized content.

Consider looking for a “shotgun suppressor”. Ignore the quotes. Here’s the results from Google.com on August 20, 2014:

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Pictures. Not too many adds. A video.

Where does one buy a shotgun suppressor? Run the query “purchase shotgun suppressor”.

The results are:

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More pictures. Ads. and a couple of companies mentioned several times.

So it is easy to get information about a shotgun suppressor and buy one. Now, do some clicking and you will find that the links include auto mufflers from 2WheelPartsSupply.com and some other results that are off point.

In order to nail the real deal, military grade suppressor, some additional work is required.

When I read “Google Made 890 Improvements To Search Over The Past Year”, I just sighed. The write up is a rah rah for Google. Here’s a passage that I highlighted:

In a Google+ post from Google head of search Amit Singhal, Google shares they have made “more than 890 improvements to Google Search last year alone.” In 2009, Google told us they made between 350 to 400 changes to search and in 2010, they said they made 550 improvements to search in the past year. Google’s Matt Cutts said in a video in 2010 they make one change per day to their core search algorithm. We also know Google tests hundreds of changes in a day but only some of them make the light of day.

Okay, run some queries. Has Google improved search, or has Google improved its methods for diffusing ads into results. My experience is that Google is great for information about Dr Dre and pizza. For other types of information, considerable effort is required to unearth useful, on point information.

By the way, the key to finding the shotgun suppressor is to use synonyms like moderator and to approach the problem using another Google service. The content is findable but I am not feeling lucky anymore.

Since everyone is now an “expert” in search, which of the top 10 changes to Google in the last decade ring your bell. How about “universal search”? Ever wonder why books, blogs, non US content are not included in a universal search? Think about it, please.

Stephen E Arnold, August 20, 2014

Google Research Shares Some Key Findings of 2013

August 20, 2014

Google is famous for its very curious research arm, and now the company has published its favorite findings of 2013. We learn of the generous gesture from eWeek’s “Google Shares Research Findings with Scientific World,” where writer Todd R. Weiss discusses reports on the roundup originally posted in a Google Research blog post. It is a very interesting list, and worth checking out in full. What caught my eye were the reports on machine learning and natural language processing. Weiss writes:

“Machine learning is a continuing topic, as seen in papers including … the paper ‘Efficient Estimation of Word Representations in Vector Space,’ which looks at a ‘simple and speedy method for training vector representations of words,’ according to the post.

“’The resulting vectors naturally capture the semantics and syntax of word use, such that simple analogies can be solved with vector arithmetic. For example, the vector difference between “man” and “woman” is approximately equal to the difference between “king” and “queen,” and vector displacements between any given country’s name and its capital are aligned,’ the post read.”

Weiss next turns to natural language processing with the report, “Token and Type Constraints for Cross-Lingual Part-of-Speech Tagging.” He quotes the paper:

“Constructing part-of-speech taggers typically requires large amounts of manually annotated data, which is missing in many languages and domains. In this paper, we introduce a method that instead relies on a combination of incomplete annotations projected from English with incomplete crowd-sourced dictionaries in each target language. The result is a 25 percent error reduction compared to the previous state of the art.”

The article concludes by noting that Google has is no stranger to supporting the research community, pointing to its App Engine for Research Awards program. It also notes that the company grants access to the Google infrastructure to academics for research purposes. Will all this generosity help Google in the PR arena?

Cynthia Murrell, August 20, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

How Google Deals with Some Negativity

August 19, 2014

Google is attempting to swat away yet another pesky legal matter, this time in U.S. federal court over their Android licensing practices. Why won’t this unpleasantness just go away? Yahoo News shares, “Google Seeks to Dismiss U.S. Antitrust Lawsuit Over Android.” Writer Dan Levine reports:

“Two smartphone customers filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Google Inc. in May, arguing that the way Google licenses Android to smartphone companies like Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is unfair to Google’s competitors for search and other mobile services….

“Plaintiff lawyers had argued that Google forces phone manufacturers to set its own search engine as the default on Android phones. Google knows consumers will not go through the trouble of changing those default settings, the lawsuit said, putting competitors at an unfair disadvantage given Android’s global market share.

“‘Google badly wants default search engine status because it results in more paid search-related advertisements,’ the lawsuit said, ‘which are the source of most of its billions and billions of dollars in annual profits.’”

Well, naturally. The question is whether the tactics are legal. Google responded to charges in a court filing, claiming their actions are completely above board. They go so far as to insist their practices foster healthy, legal competition. They do point to customers’ ability to install a different search engine. They also point out that Android-using manufacturers aren’t required to accept Google apps, and that they can even preload competing apps. Ah, bloatware—so much for putting the customer first.

Cynthia Murrell, August 19, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Google Glass Creator Shifts to Amazon

August 15, 2014

As he heads out the Google X door, Google Glass developer Babak Parviz notes that pervasive use of that device (or ones like it) is far from inevitable. In CNet’s “Google Glass Creator: Glass Not Only Answer to Life After Smartphones,” writer Richard Nieva reports on Parviz’s wider viewpoint:

“People are increasingly moving away from desktop computers and latching on to smartphones and tablets, and Glass was born from trying to figure out where the next great platform shift would take us. ‘Google Glass is one answer to that question,’ said Babak Parviz, a director at Google X, at the Wearable Technologies Conference here. ‘It’s not necessarily the definitive answer.’”

Alas the article does not share examples of alternatives Parviz has in mind, leaving the curious hanging. It does, though, illustrate that Parviz understands why some criticize the face-mounted computer. The article continues:

“But for all the possible benefits, Parviz is still aware of the danger of making these next-gen devices alienating experiences. ‘As these technologies set in, some of the humanity comes out,” he said. “There’s a balance between what technology allows and what technology takes away.”

Now we know at least one person behind Google Glass seems to understand the challenge of placing such technology in the larger culture. Interestingly, Parviz is now heading to Amazon, a company that has become nearly as keen on product diversity as Google is. Can Parviz help Amazon stay (get) on the right side of culture commentary as he helps it pursue innovative tech? After all, Amazon can’t expect to stay “bulletproof” forever.

Cynthia Murrell, August 15, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Google Investing Billions to Get Billions. Obviously.

August 10, 2014

I read “5 Google Projects That Will Pave the Future.” The title confused me. I think the author wanted me to think that Google was paving the way to the future. What I interpreted the title to mean is that Google wants to cover the future with Google’s own digital macadam.

The point of the write up is that Google is doing some big, speculative projects. Bell Labs used to do this, but without the fanfare. But there is a public relations and marketing battle underway among the giant companies that seek to monopolize markets if not the “future.”

The write up mentions Project Loon (the big balloons that will deliver Internet access to folks without the benefit of non balloon methods), Calico (this is the live forever stuff that recently experienced the departure of a nanotech self assembler due to some differing opinions), robots (mobile, smart gizmos that entrances the folks at DARPA), self driving cars (more time to surf the Web and consume ads in a vehicle), and DeepMind (more of the artificial intelligence hoo hah).

Good stuff for those who consumed science fiction, Star Trek, and Star Wars. The only problem is that those billions have to come from someplace. That’s a point overlooked in the Loon plus four article.

That’s why you will want to read “Dear Google, I Am Writing an Open Letter from the Search Wilderness.” The main point of this write up is that Google is investing considerable time and effort to generate revenue from its traffic. I suppose this is obvious to most Mad Ave types, but it appears to have come as a surprise to the author of this letter.

The passage I highlighted was:

It is now a directory of large public or soon to be public companies, who dominate every inch of our screens. I am sure we have all walked down many high streets with all the same chain stores and brands. This is Google Search today across many of the world’s markets. Gone is the opportunity to explore and unearth gems and engage with individuals on the world’s largest stage where a digital high street could have a thousand specialist shops with ease. There are sophisticated ways and means to search and uncover the unusual, the new and the people who care and services that actually work. But directionally, “Search” heads to the money instantly!

Note the phrase “heads to the money instantly.” Here at Beyond Search, I am indifferent to traffic, PageRank, speed with which Google indexes the content, and anything other than the topics that catch my attention. The reason is that I am retired and this blog is a way to fill time between walking my dogs and napping.

For the author of the letter, Google’s focus on money is, it appears, destroying his business. Well, that’s what happens when one builds on a free service. Personally I think Google can destroy as many businesses as necessary to generate money for:

  • Projects like Loon
  • Flying around to cut deals for Google Glass
  • Replace people like Babak Amirparviz (aka Parviz, Parvis, and Amir Parviz)
  • Paying for Google health care so some Googlers can spend three months in Stanford’s medical facilities
  • Paying for jets
  • Using Steve Ballmer’s running into the wall method to crack into money making television
  • Buying companies to amplify usage behavior capabilities.

These initiatives cost money.

I find the complaining in this open letter like King Lear’s howling in the storm:

Lets face it though, with so few slots its a money page now, not a joy to visit any longer!

Wow. Harsh. Google results are not objective and fun.

Here’s an even more subversive view of Google’s search system which cost billions to develop:

So quite interestingly the guest who has relied on Google to sort his problems and assist in his own search has been guided by Google’s very own algorithm to a hotel or holiday home that is not necessarily the best for him, at the best price or with the best amenities who often stands no chance of communicating with the accommodation provider until he has booked! Pay up and hope for the best as the business has no product knowledge, location familiarity, in depth business knowledge, controls or quality control in place!

And here is a thought that I have never entertained:

The consumer may just look elsewhere and try other search engines, as all he may see are the high street brands, the ones he was overjoyed to have dodged when the web was in its infancy and when Google Search revealed a whole myriad of exciting new places, people and products!

Well maybe.

The point is that Google is essentially operating as a country. The country’s productivity has to go up. In order to pump up the revenue, the altruism and baloney like “do no evil” or “make all the world’s information accessible” are shibboleths for monetization.

What I find interesting is that Google’s business model is not a Google invention. The idea for pay to play came from GoTo.com (Overture.com). Yahoo owned this company. Google was inspired by Overture’s revenue methods and Yahoo settled for some money in a mild dispute about the use of this monetization method.

You can believe in Loon. I believe in what Google does after 15 years: Sell ads. Last time I checked, the folks with the money can buy lots of ads. Folks who cannot afford to advertise need to find their future elsewhere.

If some Web sites get zero traffic, well, get on that social media tsunami. Google has a mission to deliver revenues and profits every 90 days. That mission does not necessarily coincide with that of others. If you are unfamiliar with this Google process, find and MBA and ask.

Stephen E Arnold, August 10, 2014

Fortune, Google, and the Seven Deadly Sins

August 6, 2014

I read a darned amazing article at Fortune.com. The story is “The Seven Deadly Sins of Googling.” The article is not about Google. The article is about the humans who use Google.

What I find interesting is that Fortune has reached into the world of cardinal sins. Instead of the ethics embraced by folks, Fortune hooks SALIGIA to using an ad supported online service.

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“I don’t have much time. Please, don’t confuse me with facts,” says the modern MBA. Image source: http://gargoyle-statues.hubpages.com/hub/3-Types-of-Gargoyle-Statues-For-Your-Garden 

I find the linkage fascinating because it illustrates the type of analysis that seems to be sophisticated with the so called search expertise of Fortune readers, executives, and writers.

I liked the envy section. The article states:

Envy: When you’re jealous of someone else’s Google results. Social media can lead to envy. It can lead, possibly, to depression. In a 2013 study, University of Michigan researchers Ethan Kross and Philippe Verduyn texted people while they were using Facebook, and found that as time on Facebook increased, a person’s mood and overall satisfaction with their lives declined. In other words, Facebook can make you jealous. It can make you feel more alone than connected. Kross and Verduyn didn’t look at other social media networks, but it’s fair to say that looking through lists of other people’s accolades, impressive resumes, and social media clout can just as easily turn you green around the ears.

I found this amusing, although I am not certain that Fortune intended the write up to be funny, even Onionesque.

The meshing of the Seven Deadly Sins with lousy research skills is an example of faux intellectualism. Another recent example is an IDC report that uses the phrase “knowledge quotient” in its title. The reference to cardinal sins sounds good and seems  to make sense. “Knowledge quotient” seems to make sense until one looks at how the phrase was used 40 years ago, then the jargon is almost meaningless and little more than an attempt to sound intelligent.

I am encouraged that Fortune is, to some degree, thinking about the dependence business professionals have on the results from a Google query. I am troubled that the information presented is superficial.

There are some important questions to be answered; for example:

  1. What are the searching and online information behaviors of Fortune readers?
  2. What specific methods do Fortune readers use to obtain online information?
  3. What do Fortune readers do to verify the information obtained online?
  4. What additional research does a Fortune reader do when searching for information?

Answering these questions would provide more useful information. But in the pursuit of Web site traffic, many “real” journalists and publications embrace the listicle.

Is this the 8th deadly sin? Superficiality.

Stephen E Arnold, August 6, 2014

More European Accusations Against Google

August 6, 2014

Despite its previous European legal woes, Google is retains its manipulative ways, at least according to Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer, a prominant German media company. Neowin shares with us these latest allegations in, “CEO of European Publishing Giant Accuses Google of Downgrading Rivals’ Search Results.”

Writer Andy Weir reports on a recent BBC radio show, during which both Döpfner and Google communications VP Rachel Whetstone spoke about the issue. Döpfner insisted that Google regularly finesses its search results to its advantage, pointing to one particular algorithm change he says led to a 70% decrease in his company’s site traffic. Whetstone admits that “sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t” promote Google’s products over those of the competition in search results. (Yet she insists their “don’t be evil” motto, which began as “don’t let money affect your search rankings,” remains intact.)

The part that really caught my eye, though, had to do with the European Commission’s curious reaction. Weir writes:

[Döpfner] added that the European Commission’s proposal to deal with this – in response to numerous complaints from businesses large and small across Europe – will simply “make things worse” for companies. As part of that proposal, he said that Google would still be able to downgrade its rivals results, but would be forced to provide advertising space which companies could buy, in order to position their results more prominently against those of Google’s own products.

“This is a very strange proposal,” he continued. “I would call that ‘protection money’. I mean, it is basically the business principles of the Mafia – you say ‘either you pay, or we shoot you’. I think that is not the solution for the problem.”

I can see the reasoning there. Not surprisingly, though, Whetstone disagreed with the comparison.

Cynthia Murrell, August 06, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

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