Quote to Note: Facebook Search

August 31, 2014

Facebook has done little public facing work on search. Behind the scenes, Facebookers and Xooglers have been beavering away. A bit of public information surfaced in “Zuckerberg On Search — Facebook Has More Content Than Google.” Does Facebook have a trillion pieces of content. Is that more content than Google has? Nah. But it is the thought that counts:

Here’s the quote I highlighted:

What would it ultimately mean if Facebook’s search efforts are effective–and if Facebook allowed universal use of a post search tool that really worked? It’s dizzying, really. As Zuckerberg said early this year on an earnings call: “There are more than a trillion status updates and unstructured text posts and photos and pieces of content that people have shared over the past 10 years.” Then the Facebook CEO put that figure into context: “a trillion pieces of content is more than the index in any web search engine.” You know what “any web search engine” spells? That’s a funny way of spelling Google.

With Amazon nosing into ads and Facebook contemplating more public search functionality, will Google be able to respond in a manner that keeps its revenues flowing and projects like Loon flying? I wonder what the Arnold name surfer thinks about Facebook? Maybe it is a place to post musings about failed youth coaching?

Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2014

Google and Universal Search or Google Floudering with Search

August 30, 2014

There have been some experts who have noticed that Google has degraded blog search. In the good old days, it was possible to query Google’s index of Web logs. It was not comprehensive, and it was not updated with the zippiness of years past.

Search Engine Land and Web Pro News both pointed out that www.google.com/blogsearch redirects to Google’s main search page. The idea of universal search, as I understood it, was to provide a single search box for Google’s content. Well, that is not too useful when it is not possible to limit a query to a content type or a specific collection.

“Universal” to Google is similar to the telco’s use of the word “unlimited.”

According the to experts, it is possible to search blog content. Here’s the user friendly sequence that will be widely adopted by Google users:

  1. Navigate to the US version of Google News. Note that this can be tricky if one is accessing Google from another country
  2. Enter a query; for example, “universal search”
  3. Click on “search tools” and then click on “All news”image
  4. Then click on “Blogs”


Several observations:

First, finding information in Google is becoming more and more difficult.

Second, obvious functions such as providing an easy way to run queries against separate Google indexes is anything but obvious. Do you know how to zip to Google’s patent index or its book index? Not too many folks do.

Third, the “logic” of making search a puzzle is no longer of interest to me. Increasing latency in indexing, Web sites that are pushed deep in the index for a reason unrelated to the site’s content, and a penchant for hiding information points to some deep troubles in Google search.

Net net: Google has lost its way in search. Too bad. As the volume of information goes up, the findability goes down. Wild stuff like Loon and Glass go up. Let’s hope Google can keep its ad revenue flowing; otherwise, there would be little demand for individuals who can perform high value research.

Stephen E Arnold, August 30, 2014

Google: Authors Not Helping Traffic

August 30, 2014

First, Google removed operators for Boolean queries. Then, Google started suggesting what I wanted. Now, Google does away with authors. These steps improve user experience. In John  Mueller’s Google Plus post I learned:

(If you’re curious — in our tests, removing authorship generally does not seem to reduce traffic to sites. Nor does it increase clicks on ads. We make these kinds of changes to improve our users’ experience.)

No, I am not curious. I know several things. Precision and recall are less and less useful to Google.

What is important is ad revenue. Google wants a way to sell ads to fund projects like Loon, Glass, and drones. Oh, pesky authors anyway.

Stephen E Arnold, August 30, 2014

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:


Pictures. Not too many adds. A video.

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

The results are:


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

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