Google Will Not Play Baseball with a Mere Nation State

September 29, 2020

DarkCyber spotted an interesting article called “Google Slams Arbitration System in Australia’s New Media Code.” We have heard that Googlers are fans of college basketball, specifically the NCAA tournament. And some Googlers are true fans of cricket. Baseball? Those crazy rules. No thanks.

The write up reports:

The system being proposed is called ‘binding final-offer arbitration’, referred to in the US as ‘baseball arbitration’.

DarkCyber thinks baseball arbitration works like this:

  1. Side A and Side B cannot agree
  2. Each side writes up a best and final offer
  3. An objective entity picks one
  4. The decision is binding.

Google’s view is that the system is not fair. The write up includes this passage:

Google said it is happy to negotiate fairly and, if needed, see a standard dispute resolution scheme in place. “But given the inherent problems with ‘baseball arbitration’, and the unfair rules that underpin it here, the model being proposed isn’t workable for Google”. [The Google voice is that of Mel Silva, VP, Google Australia and New Zealand.

The issue seems to be that a US company is not going to play ball with a country. Which is more important for citizens of Australia?

Google appears to adopt the position that its corporate interests override the nation state’s. The country — Australia in this case — seems to hold the old fashioned, non Silicon Valley view that its interests are more important.

DarkCyber believes that Googlers will perceive Australia’s intransigence as “not logical.” Google is logical as evidenced by this article “Alphabet Promises to No Longer Bung Tens of Millions of Dollars to Alleged Sex Pest Execs Who Quit Mid-Probe.” Logical indeed.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2020

Microsoft Bing: Assertions Versus Actual Search Results

September 25, 2020

DarkCyber read “Introducing the Next Wave of AI at Scale innovations in Bing.” The write up explains a number of innovations. These enhancements will make finding information via Bing easier, better, faster, and generally more wonderful.

The main assertions DarkCyber noted are:

Smarter suggestions. The idea is that one does not know how to create a search query. Bing will know what the user wants.

More ideas. Bing will display questions other people (presumably just like me) ask. Bing keeps track and shows the popular questions. Yep, popular.

Translations. Send a query with mixed languages, and Bing will answer in your language. No more of that copying and pasting into Google Translate or Freetranslations.org.

Highlighting. This is Bing’s yellow marker. The system will highlight what you need to read. The method? “A zero-shot fashion.” No, DarkCyber does not know what this means. But one can ask Bing, right?

Let’s give Bing a whirl and run the same query against Googzilla.

Here’s a DarkCyber Bing query related to research we are now doing:

Black Sage open source

And here’s the result:

image

Black Sage is an integrator engaged in the development of counter unmanned aerial systems. The firm’s marketing collateral emphasizes that its platform is open. DarkCyber wants to know if the system uses open source methods for compromising a targeted UAS (drone). Bing focuses on a publishing company.

Now Google:

image

The first result from the Google is a pointer to the company. The remainder of the results are crazy and wacky like the sneakers Mr. Brin wore to Washington about a decade ago to meet elected officials. Crazy? Nope, Sillycon Valley.

DarkCyber uses both Bing and Google. Why did Google produce something sort of related to our query and Bing missed the corn hole entirely?

The answer is that Bing does not process a user’s search history as effectively as the Google. All the fancy words from Microsoft cannot alter a search result. DarkCyber is amused by Google and Microsoft. We are skeptical of each system.

Key points:

  • Microsoft is chasing technology instead of looking for efficient ways to tailor results to a user.
  • Microsoft wants to prove that its approach is more knowledge-centric. Google just wants to sell ads. Giving people something they have already seen is fine with Mother Google.
  • Microsoft, like Google, has lost sight of the utility of providing “stupid mode” and “sophisticated mode” for users. Let users select how a query should be matched to the content in the index.

To sum up, Google has a global share of Web search in the 85 percent range. Bing is an also participated player. Perhaps a less academic approach, deeper index, and functional user controls would be helpful?

Stephen E Arnold, September 25, 2020

Google Joins German Retailers in Digitization Project

September 24, 2020

The German Retail Federation (HDE) has teamed up with Google in what looks like a move to outflank Amazon in that country. MNA International shares this tidbit of information in the very brief post, “German Retailers, Google Launch Digitization Program.” The federation reports the pandemic has had a severe impact on Germany’s retail sector. The write-up reports:

“The digitization program consists of different instruments and is intended to accompany participating companies step by step from the classic offline store to a ‘hybrid company,’ both offline and online, according to HDE. ‘The retail trade forms the foundation of our inner cities and makes an essential contribution to social cohesion,’ said Stephan Tromp, deputy managing director of HDE. The aim of the program, which is directed at around 250,000 companies in Germany, is to ‘strengthen the stationary business with the help of online tools and make it fit for the future,’ according to HDE. The existence of up to 50,000 stores in Germany was threatened, HDE warned. Another reason for the digitization program was that many retail businesses in Germany were only digitalized to a limited extent due to a lack of resources.”

The federation hopes this initiative will make it easy for retailers to move part of their operations online, facilitating their recovery and boosting the economy. We are sure Google has a solid plan to boost its revenue with this program, as well.

Cynthia Murrell, September 24, 2020

Waze: Suffering from the Rona?

September 18, 2020

Less driving and carpooling during the pandemic means less ad revenue for a certain navigation and mapping service. The Verge reports, “Google’s Waze Lays Off 5 Percent of its Workforce, Closes Offices in Asia and Latin America.” For Waze, that five percent represents about 30 folks out of its 555 workers. Those jobs mostly come from the sales, marketing, and partnerships departments. The company hopes to strike a balance by adding a similar number of jobs in technology and engineering in upcoming months. We wish them luck with that. The offices to be shuttered in Malaysia, Singapore, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina also represent a trade-off. Waze plans to focus more on markets in which it had been growing—the US, the UK, France, Brazil, Canada, Italy, and Mexico.

Reporter Andrew J. Hawkins writes:

“As shelter-in-place and working from home become the new norm, fewer people are using Waze for their daily navigation needs. Fewer eyeballs on the app means less advertising revenue for the company. Waze, which was acquired by Google in 2013 for a reported $1.1 billion, has seen a dip in both monthly active users, or the number of customers using the app each month, and driven kilometers, the metric by which the company measures how far its customers drive while using Waze.”

Though Waze’s numbers have been gradually recovering since lockdown restrictions were lifted in some countries, the global weekly driven kilometers dipped by a striking 70 percent in June. As one might imagine, usage the company’s ride-sharing service, Waze Carpool, has also dwindled. We’re told:

“With more people working from home, fewer people are using Waze Carpool to share rides with co-workers or other neighbors who work along a similar route. As a result, Waze is shrinking the number of people who work on its standalone carpooling service. Earlier this year, Waze was on track to cross 1 million monthly carpool trips globally, and now the company is nowhere near that, a spokesperson said.”

DarkCyber finds that completely unsurprising. Hawkins gets much of his information from an email Waze’s CEO Noam Bardin sent to employees, which is reproduced in full at the end of the article. He notes the company is sympathetic to its workers who must say goodbye, and Bardin pledges to help them into the beginning of next year with severances, bonuses, and health insurance.

Cynthia Murrell, September 18, 2020

Google: WFH Engineers with Zero Hands On Real World Knowledge Are an Amusing Group

September 17, 2020

The Google thing is a meh to me. The dumpster fires at YouTube are a source of amazement. Odd ball behaviors in Gmail allow email to appear and disappear with merrie abandon. So be it. We noted “Google, Nobody Asked for a New Blogger Interface”, an interesting essay which tackles a facet of Google we have not paid attention to for years — Blogger.

The write up explains interface changes and behaviors of the editor. Most Blogger users may not care. The author of the TenFourFox Development essay does. As a result, there is a believability and emotion in the write up. Here’s an example:

By switching into HTML view, you lose ($#@%!, stop indenting that line when I type emphasis tags!) the ability to insert hyperlinks, images or other media by any other means other than manually typing them out. You can’t even upload an image, let alone automatically insert the HTML boilerplate and edit it. So switch into Compose view to actually do any of those things, and what happens? Like before, Blogger rewrites your document, but now this happens all the time because of what you can’t do in HTML view. Certain arbitrarily-determined naughtytags(tm) like <em> become <i> (my screen-reader friends will be disappointed).

There’s more, including the clunky workaround the TenFourFox Development author has figured out.

Welcome to the new and improved Google?

Several observations:

  1. Changes at Google often emerge before someone with actual hands on experience is aware of the changes. Don’t you love those rippling changes across time zones from Google search professionals? Same deal. Make a change. Go forth. Catch up later? Maybe. Maybe not.
  2. With less human-to-human Foosball interaction, advice is not shared casually. Consequently young entitled wizards do things and without rules or effective management, stuff happens. Case in point: The introduction of changes without considering 360 degree impacts. What 21 year old thinks beyond a single point of focus: Hey, this works. Not many.
  3. When managers are involved, those individuals often have their sights set on the next big thing; that is, a lateral arabesque to a task that will deliver fame, glory, and a bonus or a promotion. The utility of a change from a user’s perspective is not part of the job description.

For that reason, YouTube throttling, ad injection, and irrelevant search results seem to be the new normal. Don’t you love entering a query with a phrase in quotes. Google happily displays results with a required word excluded from the results list. Hey, those are really unhelpful fixes in my opinion. The policies burn through the ad inventory and annoy “customers”, don’t they? No. I think I understand.

Net net: DarkCyber has concluded that work from home engineers with zero hands on, real world knowledge are an amusing group. Just another task for the affable Google senior management to tackle. Unfortunately disconnects in Blogger are examples of an interior deterioration of bits and basics. That’s not amusing.

Stephen E Arnold, September 17, 2020

Google Bert: Why Not Apply Method to Advertising?

September 17, 2020

DarkCyber noted  this story: “Google Accused of Allowing Scammers to Display Fake Adverts for Debt Help Online.” The main point is that questionable advertisements continue to appear for some Google users. Google needs advertising revenue to pay to keep the plumbing shipshape. Extra money is needed to fund noble projects like the Loon balloon and solving death.

Does Google have a potential solution?

Google Using Language AI Model to Match Stories with Fact Checks” raises the possibility that the company can. The write up reports:

Google is now leveraging BERT, one of its language AI models, in full coverage news stories to better match stories with fact checks and better understand what results are most relevant to the queries posted on Search. The more advanced AI-based systems like BERT-based language capabilities can understand more complex, natural-language queries.

But maybe not?

The article points out:

Google has more than 10,000 search quality raters, people who collectively perform millions of sample searches and rate the quality of the results.

DarkCyber thinks there may be another reason for faulty advertising screening.

That reason is money. Google needs cash and laying off people, automating, and fending off Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft is expensive. Maybe any advertising is judged differently from other types of content.

Stephen E Arnold, September 17, 2020

Apple, Google Make it Easier for States to Adopt Virus Tracing App

September 12, 2020

Google and Apple created an app that would, with the cooperation of state governments, aid in tracing the spread of the coronavirus and notify citizens if they spent time around someone known to have tested positive. It is nice to see these rivals working together for the common good. So far, though, only a few states have adopted the technology. In order to encourage more states to join in, AP News reveals, “Apple, Google Build Virus-Tracing Tech Directly into Phones.” Reporter Matt O’Brien writes:

“Apple and Google are trying to get more U.S. states to adopt their phone-based approach for tracing and curbing the spread of the coronavirus by building more of the necessary technology directly into phone software. That could make it much easier for people to get the tool on their phone even if their local public health agency hasn’t built its own compatible app. The tech giants on Tuesday launched the second phase of their ‘exposure notification’ system, designed to automatically alert people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus. Until now, only a handful of U.S. states have built pandemic apps using the tech companies’ framework, which has seen somewhat wider adoption in Europe and other parts of the world.”

In states that do adopt the system, iPhone users will be prompted for consent to run it on their phones. Android users will have to download the app, which Google will auto-generate for each public health agency that participates. Early adopters are expected to be Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington D.C. Virginia was the first to use the framework to launch a customized app in early August, followed by North Dakota, Wyoming, Alabama, and Nevada. O’Brien describes how it works:

“The technology relies on Bluetooth wireless signals to determine whether an individual has spent time near anyone else who has tested positive for the virus. Both people in this scenario must have signed up to use the Google-Apple technology. Instead of geographic location, the app relies on proximity. The companies say the app won’t reveal personal information either to them or public health officials.”

This all sounds helpful. However, the world being what it is today, we must ask: does this have surveillance applications? Perhaps. Note we’re promised the app won’t “reveal” personal data, but will it retain it? If it does, will agencies be able to resist this big, juicy pile of data? Promises about surveillance have a way of being broken, after all.

Cynthia Murrell, September 12, 2020

Google: Putting Ads First. Users, Please, Step to the Rear of the Bus

September 9, 2020

DarkCyber spotted this item on the Google Chrome support page: “Can’t disable Chrome Mobile video autoplay. Have set to Blocked in Site Settings; still autoplaying.” The idea is that a person checking out a video on YouTube, for example, will be subjected to a stream of videos that just play. This is a variant of the Energizer Bunny, except that those batteries don’t die. The autoplay bunny is an almost forever thing. There are some amusing and interesting comments from users at the back of the digital bus; for instance:

You need to disable java feature in settings. Chrome forcing user playing videos in background for monetary reasons.

Imagine! Monetary reasons. Is the Google taking steps to get in front of the impending legal tussles looming from states, national governments, and now, maybe, users?

Oh, one more comment from a user who does not matter in the here and now Google context:

I hate that I have also had to leave Chrome but I can’t stand the autoplay videos.  I want to be able to choose what I want to read and what I want to listen/watch.  Will retire Chrome until it is fixed.

The driver of the chrome Google bus may say, “Pipe down or you will be banned.”

Would Google say that to a user?

Stephen E Arnold, September 9, 2020

Google Decides It Is Time To Play Cards

September 8, 2020

Innovation is part of Google’s mantra. Alphabet Inc. never stops developing ideas, especially when it comes to improving its trademark product: search. Mobile search and having seamless access between mobile and desktop devices is a key selling feature. Google decided to improve its activity cards feature says Engadget in the article, “Google Promises Better Search Results For Recipes, Jobs, And Shopping.”

The activity cards feature allows users to continue searches they started on mobile devices. The feature works like this:

“Let’s say you’re looking for iPad accessories. The shopping card will display products that you’ve been researching, and even some that you haven’t explicitly searched for. If they were featured in a review or a guide, Google might surface them in the card. That could help you to compare all of your options and reach a decision.

The jobs card could make it easier for you to keep on top of new openings in your field. It’ll display relevant job listings that have popped up since you last searched, so you don’t necessarily have to trawl through the same ones over and over.”

The recipe cards work similar by keeping content on searched for recipes updated. The activity cards act like personalized RSS feeds centered on specific topics: jobs, search, shopping, and recipes. They offer a unique and customizable browsing and search option.

However, their subject reach is limited. Dozens of other apps provide the same service, but they are not limited to four topics. The only special thing about Google’s activity cards is the Google name.

How about customizing activity cards so Google users can get the most out of this feature.

Whitney Grace, September 8, 2020

Google: We Are the Web. You Really Did Not Know, Did You?

August 31, 2020

Years ago I wrote three monographs about Google. The publisher, now defunct, sold these books after I recycled research paid for and delivered to several clients. The books explored the technologies was developing to redefine what in 2004 to 2008 was the World Wide Web. I included diagrams of a Google walled garden. I explained how Google’s page reconstruction inventions cobbled together data from different sources to create a Google version of content. Heck, I even included the dossier example from a Google patent.

The figure comes from US20070198481. Note that the machine generated dossier includes nicknames, contact information, ethnicity, and other interesting items of information culled from multiple sources and presented in a police report format. The “Maps and Pictures” label is linked to Google Maps.

image

The patent drawing presented a photo, key facts, and other information about an entity (in this case a person Michael Jackson, the songster). No one paid much attention. One book was circulated within a government agency, but the “real” journalists who requested review copies did zippo with the information.

I spotted a post on Slashdot titled “Brave Complains Google’s Newly Proposed Web Bundles Standard Would Make URLs Meaningless.” Welcome to the reality of the walled garden concept I explained about 15 years ago. The Slashdot post is here and the Brave post is here.

The hiding of PDF urls was one “enhancement” Google introduced several years ago. Researchers who need to document the location of a source document have to use services like URL Clean in order to identify the source of a document, including documents created by US government agencies like DARPA and the CIA. Hey, that’s helpful, Google.

The url masking was little more than an experiment, and it provided the Google with useful data which allows the next “walled garden” architectural enhancement to be scheduled.

Urls from Google are the source.

Why the time lag of a decade? Despite the perception that Google is a disorganized, chaotic outfit, there are some deeper trends which persist through time. These Brin-Page ideas, like the Elliott wave theory, Google becoming the Web is reaching another crest.

Is it too late? Gentle reader, it was too late a decade ago. A lack of meaningful regulation and the emergence of an information monoculture has ceded provenance to Google and a handful of other companies. One does not live in a country. One lives in a dataverse owned, shaped, and controlled by a commercial enterprise.

That’s why it makes zero difference what government officials try to do, the Google is in place and simply enhancing its walled garden, its revenue capability, and its control. Since few online consumers know how to vet sources and validate information, why not trust Google?

And where do the regulators get their information? Why from Google, of course. Logical. And logic is right.

Stephen E Arnold, September 3, 2020

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