Facebook Factoids

July 24, 2014

I enjoyed “Facebook Now Has 1.32 Billion Users, with 30 Percent Only Using It on Their Mobile—and the Average American Spends 40 minutes a Day on the Site.” Why read anything except the headline?

Tucked into this sensational write up was this gem:

The number of people who log in at least once a day on mobile devices was 654 million on average in June, up 14 percent from a year earlier.

The reason I highlighted this item is that it focuses on the problem Facebook poses to Google. Not only do hundreds of millions of people use Facebook on a notebook or desktop computer, Facebook’s mobile cohort is growing.

So what?

Facebook users willingly create content for Facebook. Facebook users willingly provide information to Facebook. Facebook captures implicit data from user behaviors.

Advertisers like this situation.

If Facebook keeps expanding its mobile advertising paw print, the Google will have to find a way to counter or take some steps that might be unpalatable to some folks.

In short, the headline tells a story, but the pressure on Google is not front and center where it should be. And search? Who thinks about that for either Facebook or Google? (My tiny voice says, “I do.”)

Stephen E Arnold, July 24, 2014

Google and Microsoft Shuffle the Deck

July 18, 2014

Each company is using different card tricks.

I see a common theme in the termination of employees at Microsoft and the management redeal at Google.

I read “Beyond 12,500 Former Nokia Employees, Who Else Is Microsoft Laying Off?” I am okay with a Microsoft watcher point out that not just Nokia staff getting the axe. The comment that caught my attention reveals how serious a problem Microsoft faces. Here’s the passage I noted:

Under the new structure, a number of Windows engineers, primarily dedicated testers, will no longer be needed….Instead, program managers and development engineers will be taking on new responsibilities, such as testing hypotheses. The goal is to make the OS team work more like lean startups than a more regimented and plodding one adhering two- to three-year planning, development, testing cycles.

As I understand this, a company almost four decades into its life cycle wants to be “like lean start ups”. I am not sure if my experience is similar to that of other professionals, but working with fewer people does not equal a start up. In a start up, life is pretty crazy. Need a purchase order? Well, someone has to work up that system. Need to get reimbursed for that trade show party? No problem we’ll get a check cut. Over time, humans get tired of crazy and set up routines, systems, and procedures. The thrill of a start up is going to be difficult to emulate at Microsoft.

That’s the core problem. Microsoft has missed or just plain failed with Internet search, unified experiences across devices, online advertising, enterprise search, and improving is core applications. Adding features that a small percentage of users try is not innovation. Microsoft is no longer a start up and firing people will not make it one. Microsoft is an aircraft carrier that takes a long time to turn, to stop, and redirect. Microsoft has to demonstrate to its stakeholders that it is taking purposeful action. Firing thousands of people makes headlines. It does not create new products, services, or meaningful innovations. IBM has decided that throwing billions of dollars at project that “could” deliver big revenue is almost as wild and wooly.

Now to Google. The company reported its quarterly earnings. Cheerleaders for the company point to growth in ad revenue. The New York Times states:

Google’s revenue for the quarter was $15.96 billion, an increase of 22 percent over the year-ago quarter.

Tucked into the article were several comments I marked as indicators of the friction Google faces:

ITEM: “The price that advertisers pay each time someone clicks on an ad — or “cost per click,” in Google talk — dropped 6 percent from the year-ago quarter, largely because of the shift to increased mobile advertising.”

ITEM: “Mobile, however, is something that Facebook seems to have cracked. The social media giant accounted for almost 16 percent of mobile advertising dollars spent around the world last year, eMarketer estimates, up from 9 percent in 2012. Google dropped to a 41.5 percent share of the mobile ad market last year, down from 49.8 percent in 2012.”

ITEM: ““There’s a little bit of concern in the markets that there’s some drunken spending going on,” said Mark Mahaney, an Internet analyst with RBC Capital Markets.”

The New York Times’ article omitted one point I found interesting:

Excluding its cost of revenue, Google’s core expenses in the second quarter jumped 26 percent from last year. Source: http://bit.ly/Uf8JPM.

The Google “core expenses” are creeping up. Amazon has this problem as well. Is there a reason to worry about the online ad giant? Not for me. But the “drunken spending” comments, while clever, have the ring of truth. Then the swift departure of Glass director Babak Parviz (Amir Parviz, Amirparviz, or Parvis) suggests disenchantment somewhere between the self assembly wizard and Goggle management. After a decade of effort, Google has yet to demonstrate that it can create a no advertising revenue stream of significant magnitude for a $60 billion a year company.

Microsoft’s and Google’s recent actions make clear that both companies are trying to adapt to realities of today’s market. Both companies are under increasing pressure to “just make it work.” Three card Monte

Stephen E Arnold, July 18, 2014

Hidden from Google: Interesting but Thin

July 15, 2014

I learned about the Web site Hidden from Google. You can check out the service and maybe submit some results that have disappeared. You may not know if the deletion or hiding of the document is a result of the European Right to Be Forgotten action, but if content disappears, this site could be a useful checkpoint.

Here’s what the service looks like as of 9 21 am Eastern on July 15, 2014.


According to the Web site:

The purpose of this site is to list all links which are being censored by search engines due to the recent ruling of “Right to be forgotten” in the EU. This list is a way of archiving the actions of censorship on the Internet. It is up to the reader to decide whether our liberties are being upheld or violated by the recent rulings by the EU.

I noticed that deal old BBC appeared in the list, a handful of media superstars, and some Web sites unknown to me. The “unknown” censored search term is intriguing, but I was not too keen on poking around when I was not sure what I was seeking. Perhaps one of the fancy predictive search engines can provide the missing information or not.

When I clicked on the “source” link sometimes I got a story that seemed germane; for example, http://bbc.in/1xhjKyK linked to one of those tiresome banker misdeed stories. Others pointed to stories that did not seem negative; for example, a guardian article that redirected to a story in Entrepreneur Magazine. http://bit.ly/1jukI7T. Teething pains I presume or my own search ineptness.

I did some clicking around and concluded that the service is interesting but lacks in depth content. I looked for references to the US health care Web sites. I am interested in tracking online access to RFPs, RFQs, and agreements with vendors. These contracts are fascinating because the contractors extend the investigative capabilities of certain US law enforcement entities. Since I first researched the RAC, MIC, and ZPIC contractors, among others, I have noticed that content has become increasingly difficult to find. Content I could pinpoint in 2009 and 2010 now eludes me. Of course, I may be the problem. There could be latency issues when spiders come crawling. There can be churn among the contractors maintaining Web sites. There can be many other issues, including a 21st century version of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. The paw might be connected to an outfit like Xerox or some other company providing services to these programs.

Several questions:

First, if the service depends on crowdsourcing, I am not sure how many of today’s expert searchers will know when a document has gone missing. Unless I had prior knowledge of a Medicare Integrity Contractor statement of work, how would I know I could not find it? Is this a flaw the site will be able to work around.

Second, I am not sure the folks who filled out Google’s form and sent proof of their wants an archive of information that was to go into the waste basket. Is there some action a forgotten person will take when he or she learns he or she is remembered?

Third, the idea is a good one. What happens when Google makes its uncomfortable to provide access to data that Google has removed? Maybe Mother Google is toothless and addled with its newfound interest in Hollywood and fashionable Google Glass gizmos. On the other hand, Google has lots of attorneys in trailers not too far from where the engineers work.

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2014

Will Germany Scrutinize Google Web Search More Closely?

July 14, 2014

Several years ago, I learned a hard-to-believe factoid. In Denmark, 99 percent of referrals to a major financial service firm’s Web site came via Google. Figuring prominently was Google.de. My contact mentioned that the same traffic flow characterized the company’s German affiliate; that is, if an organization wanted Web traffic, Google was then the only game in town.

I no longer follow the flips and flops of Euro-centric Google killers like Quaero. I have little or no interest in assorted German search revolutions whether from the likes of the Weitkämper Clustering Engine or the Intrafind open source play or the Transinsight Enterprise Semantic Intelligence system. Although promising at one time, none of these companies offers an information retrieval that could supplant Google for German language search. Toss in English and the other languages Google supports, and the likelihood of a German Google killer decreases.

I read “Germany Is Looking to Regulate Google and Other Technology Giants.” I found the write up interesting and thought provoking. I spend some time each day contemplating the search and content processing sectors. I don’t pay much attention to the wider world of business and technology.

The article states:

German officials are planning to clip the wings of technology giants such as Google through heavier regulation.

That seems cut and dried. I also noted this statement:

The German government has always been militant in matters of data protection. In 2013, it warned consumers against using Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system due to perceived security risks, suggesting that it provided a back door for the US National Security Agency (NSA). Of course, this might have had something to do with the fact that German chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the first high-profile victims of NSA surveillance, with some reports saying that the NSA hacked her mobile phone for over a decade.

My view is that search and content processing may be of particular interest. After all, who wants to sit and listen to a person’s telephone calls. I would convert the speech to text and hit the output with one of the many tools available to attach metadata, generate relationship maps, tug out entities like code words and proper names. Then I would browse the information using an old fashioned tabular report. I am not too keen on the 1959 Cadillac tail fin visualizations that 20 somethings find helpful, but to each his or her own I say.

Scrutiny of Google’s indexing might reveal some interesting things to the team assigned to ponder Google from macro and micro levels. The notion of timed crawls, the depth of crawls, the content parsed and converted to a Guha type semantic store, the Alon Halevy dataspace, and other fascinating methods of generating meta-information might be of interest to the German investigate-the-US-vendors team.

My hunch is that scrutiny of Google is likely to lead to increased concern about Web indexing in general. That means even the somewhat tame Bing crawler and the other Web indexing systems churning away at “public” sites’ content may be of interest.

When it comes to search and retrieval, ignorance and bliss are bedfellows. Once a person understands the utility of the archives, the caches, and the various “representations” of the spidered and parsed source content, bliss may become FUD (a version of IBM’s fear, uncertainty and doubt method). FUD may create some opportunities for German search and retrieval vendors. Will these outfits be able to respond or will the German systems remain in the province of Ivory Tower thinking?

In the short term, life will be good for the law firms representing some of the non German Web indexing companies. I wonder, “Is the Google Germany intercept matter included in the young attorneys’ legal education in Germany?”

Stephen E Arnold, July 14, 2014

Introverted Brin Happier Tinkering in Proverbial Garage

July 14, 2014

Well, maybe this was the problem. We learn that one of the creators of social media dud Google+, who also happens to be a Google co-founder, is actually not so social in Techeye.net’s, “Brin: I Am Too Weird for Google+.” The very brief write-up explains:

“Google co-founder Sergey Brin said that it was probably a silly move for him to have worked on the social networking arm Google+. Speaking at Recode’s Code Conference Brin said he’s ‘not a very social person’ and does not like people much. According to the Verge, Brin called himself ‘kind of a weirdo’ and said that he only used Google+ to post pictures of his kids to his family. He now thinks that any previous professional focus on the social network was misguided. ‘It was probably a mistake,’ he said, ‘for me to be working on anything tangentially related to social to begin with.’”

The shy exec now works in what the article calls the company’s “semi-secret skunkworks group,” Google X. The research department is working on such fun and social-free projects as glucose-measuring contact lenses, self-driving cars, and (of course) Google Glass.

Cynthia Murrell, July 14, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Vivint and the Power of Google

July 10, 2014

Always one to look out for its own interests, Google seems to have been at it again. PandoDaily reports, “After Google Bought Nest, it Removed One of the Company’s Biggest Competitors from Search Results.” Smart-thermostat-maker Vivint found itself suddenly cut out of Google search results just two weeks after Google bought smart-thermostat-maker Nest. Though the infraction cited by Google looks to be real (but accidental), Vivint says the punishment was out of proportion, and Google was very unhelpful in getting it straightened out. Reporter James Robinson turned to Foxtail Marketing search specialist Mike Templeton; he writes:

“Templeman found in his research that Vivint was delisted for all but three of the 3300 search terms that were linked to its website, something he said was abnormally severe. Vivint was technically guilty of improper linking, but it didn’t benefit the company.

“Analyzing the site’s traffic information, Templeman says that the offending links seemed to come from banner ads placed for the company’s charity and sport’s sponsorships which weren’t coded properly and therefore came up as paid links to its site, something that Google strictly prohibits. ‘It looks like it was just sloppy marketing practices,’ Templeman says.

“For that mistake, Vivint was wiped from the face of Google for four months. Other companies that have been caught making far more overt attempts to benefit by gaming the system — like Rap Genius, or Overstock.com which offered discounts in exchange for site links — received far lighter punishments, usually just finding themselves bumped down the search results.”

Even though Vivint’s place in Google’s results was eventually restored, being away for four months can have a serious impact on a company’s long-term standing. Robinson ponders the implications of Vivint’s tale, “whether deliberate sabotage” or not: Google simple wields a scary amount of power in the marketplace. As it continues to diversify, it will find more and more types of competitors to squash.

Cynthia Murrell, July 10, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Quote to Note: The Curse of Smart People

July 7, 2014

Here’s a gem. The source is “Google Employee Blows the Whistle on Search Giant’s Problem with Over-Confident ‘Geek Types Living in a Bubble‘.

The quote is from Avery Pennarun, a Googler (maybe soon to be a Xoogler) who allegedly said:

Smart people have a problem especially when you put them in large groups. That problem is an ability to convincingly rationalize nearly anything.

I must admit that here in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, rationalizations are not as popular as brawls and shouting.

I don’t understand the “Impostor Syndrome”, but I accept that I don’t get quite a few aspects of the modern world.

I would be happy if search results were focused on precision, recall, and similar old-fashioned ideas. I wonder if the Googlers in Mountain View have ever walked around East Palo Alto and checked out the housing, the stores, and the quality of life? Does a Google Maps search show details in East Palo Alto? Cuba Libre in Washington, DC, was unfindable and it was only a couple of blocks from Google’s DC office.

Stephen E Arnold, July 7, 2014

Google and Amazon: The Cost Challenged Prepare to Squabble

July 7, 2014

I read “Inside Google’s Big Plan to Race Amazon to Your Door.” The US of A is a big place. Making money with to-my-door deliveries is an interesting business proposition. Amazon floated the idea of drones dropping boxes in my yard and has some United States Postal Service trucks putting Amazon boxes on my brick mailbox on Sunday.

Well, Google wants to “race” Amazon. Like an F 1 team, racing can be expensive, very expensive.

The write up does not dwell on costs, preferring to point out:

Google is the undisputed king of search in all but one lucrative and vital category: Product searches.

I also noticed this passage:

Unlike Amazon, Google does not operate its own giant warehouses or store inventory for more than a few hours. Instead, it fulfills customer orders by picking up items from nearby retail stores. So rather than compete directly against retailers like Amazon does, Google is attempting to position itself as an ally. Shoppers in cities where the service is available — mainly areas around San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City for now — visit a dedicated Google Shopping Express website where they can choose to buy goods like groceries, cameras and clothing from a selection of retail partners.

How many of those partners are willing and able to provide same day delivery. In Harrod’s Creek, some of the “we deliver” pizza joints don’t deliver to some locations not on a paved road or in a specific zip code. Will merchants change their tune when the GOOG is involved?

I also underlined the “me too” approach of Google in its battle with Amazon:

Eventually, Google plans to launch a flat-fee membership model similar to Amazon Prime…

In addition to consolidation of shopping, Google wants to be just like Amazon. The innovation is difficult for me to spot. I recall the Google Catalog project. The idea was to scan pages of printed catalogs. Now that did not seem like a particularly useful service. Google killed it. Then there was Froogle, and it disappeared. Now I think there is Google shopping, but I don’t use the service because I browsed pages and pages of non store listings. I recall that the service was not helpful to me.

Google’s approach is to be a partner. Okay, sounds good. Here’s the passage I dog earred:

Google has assembled a respectable group of partners to the program. Several of them say participating in the Google Shopping Express program gives them a way to evaluate whether it’s more cost effective to offer same-day and next-day delivery themselves, through a partner or whether they should at all.

Google “assembled” a group of college and university partners. How has that worked out?

Several observations:

First, both Amazon and Google have a cost control problem. The massive spending is hoped to turn into piles of money. My hunch is that when the costs become greater than the income, both Amazon and Google will have to find a way to produce the returns investors want. The bubble economy in the US may put increased pressure on Amazon and Google to generate better returns. Someone has to pay for the rising investments both companies are making.

Second, Google is less diversified in terms of its revenue than Amazon. As Steve Ballmer said years ago, Google is a one trick revenue pony. Generating meaningful revenue streams from the Overture/GoTo/Yahoo pay to play model is not as interesting to me as search shifts from the desktop to mobile devices. Google has to amp up its revenue. Amazon does too; hence, Amazon is doing some interesting things to publishers, for example. The objective is money, not stroking the publishers.

Third, I am weary of spending more and more time working around ads, search engine optimization content, and plain old flawed information. The Google engine does me no favors when my alert for the phrase “enterprise search” returns a pointer to an SEO outfit that does business as TopSEO. Pure garbage in my opinion.

Net net: Innovation is now enshrined as imitation. That’s okay. We know how the Italian inventor Tesla ended up. Fascinating 21st century business creativity. Oh, by the way, I don’t need same day delivery. I like to go to the farmers’ market.

Converting Amazon and Google to a digital WalMart leaves me cold.

Stephen E Arnold, July 7, 2014

Google Orkut: A Social Network Pioneer

July 2, 2014

Now that I have some free time in my golden years, I enjoy going through my archive of search and content processing content. I read in “Google Shutters Orkut, Its First Crack at a Social Network.” The write up provides some history; to wit:

Ten years ago, Orkut was Google’s first foray into social networking. Orkut Büyükkökten created the site using Google’s notion of “20 percent time”—that employees could dedicate a fifth of their work week to developing projects not directly related to their work (as long as those projects were cool, and could become Google projects). Orkut, launched a month before Facebook and five months after MySpace, has what most social-networking sites have: profile pages, photos, groups (called “communities”), and apps. And even through two redesigns, it retained some vestiges of the MySpace era, such as themes and a more prominently displayed list of friends.

Intrigued by the reference to “before Facebook”, I dipped into my archive of search goodness and spotted some interesting factoids about Orkut. Frankly speaking, I don’t think even the most intrepid Beyond Search reader cares too much about search and content processing history. I find the past fascinating because the present state of online services leaves me with indigestion.

Let me highlight some nuggets from my Google Orkut file. None of these made the cut for my first study of Google, published a decade ago as The Google Legacy by a defunct publishing company somewhere in merrie olde England.

ITEM: Litigation between Affinity Networks and Google about the Orkut service and some of its code and functions. I lost track of the lawsuit in 2005, but it would not surprise me if it is still alive and kicking. You can get a sense of dispute by scanning this Justia document. Innovation is an interesting business for Google.

ITEM: In 2005, Information Week ran a story which I assume is semi accurate. “Brazilian Police Bust Dope Ring Built Around Google’s Orkut” asserted:

Police in Brazil arrested a gang of drug dealers who were using Google’s popular Orkut social networking site to sell ecstasy and marijuana…

I recall learning at one of the police and intel conferences that Orkut was a go to service in Brazil for some fascinating activities. As Facebook was ramping up with college students, Orkut seemed to be appealing to a different type of social network maven.

ITEM: “Intermediary Liability in Latin America” reported in 2010 that Google faced in 2010 “faces at least 600 lawsuits in Brazil. The most famous of those cases was filed by two Brazilian teenagers against the Google-owned social networking site Orkut over dirty jokes that allegedly offended them.”

Orkut is a gone goose. For some, the announcement will be bittersweet.

Stephen E Arnold, July 1, 2014

Google and Disappearing Locations in Satellite Imagery

June 29, 2014

I am okay with information disappearing. Whether it is a pointer or the actual content, information is fluid. When doing routine updates of my information about enterprise search vendors, I come across file not found errors or documents that are different from the ones I previously accessed. Some content has vaporized, the target page displaying a blank white screen. A recent example of this is information about the Aerotext entity extraction system now owned by an outfit called Rocket.

I read with some interest “Erasing Your Home from Google Maps Is Way Easier Than You Think.” As satellite imagery for public access creeps toward higher resolution, certain locations require blurring. The article explains how you can “blur” your property in a Google Maps’ image. I learned:

The process is relatively simple. First go to Google Maps and enter your home address (or the address of whatever you want blurred). Enter ?street view” mode by dragging the little man on the right side of the screen to the spot you want blurred. Once there, hit the ?Report a problem” button on the lower-right corner of the screen. It will pull up a page where you can specify whatever image you want to have blurred.

The write up explains how a criminal can use online imagery. The list is incomplete, but it may create more awareness of the consequences of not knowing what one does not know.

How is this relevant to search? Well, if it is incorrect, altered, or not there, it is tough to make certain types of informed decisions. Ignorance can be bliss as long as those who are ignorant are not making certain types of decisions that require precise, current, and accurate information.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2014

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