Google: A Good Digital Neighbor

June 20, 2018

Amazon’s retail and technology power daily grows.  The only way to compete with Amazon is to have products, power, money, and exposure.  Other companies have the money and products, while Google has the power and exposure.  With their powers combined, Amazon might start to quack…just a little.  Engadget reports on, “Google Plans To Boost Amazon Competitors In Search Shopping Ads.”

Target, Home Depot, Walmart, Costco, Ulta and other retailers are allowing Google to index their catalogs and will appear in search results.  Instead of getting an ad fee, Google will get a cut from the sale.  The immediate concern is that this will pollute organic search results, but Google will separate the targeted sale searches in a sidebar

Google is selling this package as an anti-Amazon tool:

“The report claims that Google is selling its new anti-Amazon tools on the basis that it is utterly dominant in the search world. Not to mention that, as voice becomes a more important component of people’s lives, Google’s reach here will help beat back Alexa. The project’s genesis was reportedly down to the company noticing that people were image searching products, or asking where they could buy an item. And it wasn’t small numbers of folks, either, but tens of million of people, a big enough market to make anyone excited.”

The brick and mortar retailers can steal back some of their customers by embedding their results in Google searches.  According to the research, most searches start with Google, but they end up on Amazon.  Google has seen a modest 30 percent increase retailer sales in another shopping project, Google Express, and those results could increase with this new endeavor.  Google anti-Amazon sales kit is made for the changing world, where shopping is easier with your voice or from a computer.

Amazon has a reasonable position in the retail market, which could be seen as a positive or a negative, depending on one’s point of view. Google is just trying to be a good digital neighbor. Fences, digital fences.

Whitney Grace, June 20, 2018

Google and the China Market: A Second Phase

June 18, 2018

It’s early in Harrod’s Creek. I read “Google Places a $550 Million Bet on China’s Second Largest E Commerce Player.” The write up was intriguing. Google is apparently interested in turning Avis into Hertz, at least in the Chinese e commerce arena. Also, I recall that Google wanted China’s political leaders to change. I am not sure Avis knocked Hertz out of the Number One spot in car rentals. Also, it seems to me that China has become focused on remaining distinctly Chinese with the added twist of surveillance, filtering, and other interesting information collection methods.

The CNBC “real” news outfit states:

The two tech companies said they would work together to develop retail infrastructure that can better personalize the shopping experience and reduce friction in a number of markets, including Southeast Asia. For its part, said it planned to make a selection of items available for sale in places like the U.S. and Europe through Google Shopping — a service that lets users search for products on e-commerce websites and compare prices between different sellers.

During my trips to China, I entertained myself looking for knock offs or counterfeit goods. For example, one of the individuals serving as my “guide” let me know that I could buy watches similar to those on offer at the Zurich airport shops. I took a look, and to my unpracticed eye, these watches looked pretty good. I did not buy one, however. I am happy with my easy to read Timex.

My hunch is that such goods will be filtered from those offered by the new retail team mates.

The timing is particularly Googley. The US and China are engaging in tariff checker games.

Worth monitoring, particularly if one is engaged in certain branded retail sectors.

Stephen E Arnold, June 18, 2018


Google Language Processing Enters New Phase

June 18, 2018

The buzzword du jour in search and AI is Natural Language Processing (NLP). This next frontier involves utilizing recorded speech to better enhance search and fits right at home with the smart assistants that have been gaining momentum. We learned how Google aims to capitalize off of this trend in a recent Search Engine Journal article, “Google Announces Advances in AI.”

According to the story:

“This algorithm is trained in conversational nuances using Reddit and other sources in order to be able to understand from actual conversations what questions mean…“It’s easier to understand similarities between long questions. But it becomes harder for short questions. The research claims to be able to train a machine to understand differences between short questions.”

Believe it or not, much of these advances from Google have come about because chatbots have actually reached a place of peak potential with NLP. This, according to experts who say that a chatbots ability to process language is far exceeding search at this point. We predict Google will keep making sharp advances in the industry and eventually leave chatbots in the dust. But it’s interesting to see this motivation arise.

Patrick Roland, June 18, 2018


Google: The Maven Tactic

June 16, 2018

Google’s focus on AI is undergoing some very interesting evolutions right out in plain sight. It just so happens to be of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety. A recent government contract gone south has refocused the search giant’s energy in a surprising place, according to a recent American Spectator article, “In Abandoning Project Maven, Google Put Self Over Country.”

The story revolves around Google backing out of a partnership with the Department of Defense over Project Maven.

“Project Maven is an AI-imaging project intended to improve the military’s ability to process images and videos taken by drones. In doing so, drones will be better able to collect information, be more accurate, and thus reduce collateral damage from drone strikes significantly.”

The rub comes from the fact that Google is dropping out of this deal with the US government, but is maintaining its AI programs with China. However, this might not be a case of money over country, as the American Spectator claims. Instead, this could be a shrewd move to actually improve Google’s ethical standing, since it recently promised not to help use AI as a form of weaponry. If that is the case, Google’s tactical move may neutralize its employee-management situation.

Patrick Roland, June 16, 2018

Google: Arm Wrestling with Oneself

June 13, 2018

A typical fiction trope is human vs. creation. The most famous work with this concept is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, followed closely by an endless science-fiction list that deals with humans vs. robots. While most humanity vs. creation stories focus on a dystopic future, the real life drama focus h job replacement and human skill obsolescence. The New York Times reports that “Early Facebook And Google Employees Form Coalition To Fight What They Built.”

Former Google and Facebook employees banded together to form the Center for Humane Technology. Partnering with Common Sense Media, the Center for Humane Technology’s purpose is to educate parents, students, and teachers about the social media’s dangers. The Center for Humane Technology’s founders built the social media technologies and companies, so they know what Facebook and Google are made of and the their potential health dangers.

“The effect of technology, especially on younger minds, has become hotly debated in recent months. In January, two big Wall Street investors asked Apple to study the health effects of its products and to make it easier to limit children’s use of iPhones and iPads. Pediatric and mental health experts called on Facebook last week to abandon a messaging service the company had introduced for children as young as 6. Parenting groups have also sounded the alarm about YouTube Kids, a product aimed at children that sometimes features disturbing content.”

Among the members are Dave Morin, Justin Rosenstein, Lynn Foxx, Jim Steyer, and Tristan Harris. Inspired by anti-drug campaigns, the Center for Humane Technology aims to understand the affect technology has on children’s brains. They also plan to lobby Congress to curtail tech companies’ power.

Now there’s a subplot. “Inventor Says Google Is Patenting Work He Put in the Public Domain” asserts that Google took another’s work and seeks to obtain a patent for a compression system and method. Both Facebook and Google appear to have adopted some of the open source technology.

Is Google arm wrestling itself? What happens if it loses the contest?

Whitney Grace, June 13, 2018

Google Search Evaluator Handbook

June 12, 2018

How does Google shape search results? The pay to play search giant allegedly has a guide for individuals who interact with the automated search system. The information appears at this link. The information dates to 2017. There may be a revision or additional instructional material online. If we come across that information, we will post the link in Beyond Search.

The information is described as “Search Quality Rating System.” A sample from the table of contents for the documentation appears below:


search evaluation 1

An example of the information provided to the human making quality decisions appears below:


Here’s the guidance for queries about kittens:


In my first Google monograph (The Google Legacy, 2004), I gathered about 100 factors allegedly used to determine “quality” of Google search results. What I found interesting is that Google’s listing has many more entries than I identified 14 years ago.

Quality, it seems, is more difficult to pinpoint today. The rules for relevance, however, seem to have been marginalized.

I do know that in order to obtain useful results from Google, I have to craft my queries carefully. In fact, creating a query for an old school Boolean system is easier to do. Google has added on to what was essentially a key word system by wrapping layers of software around an ageing core.

Worth spending a few minutes with the document in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, June 12, 2018

Google: Allegations of a Disturbing Kind

June 11, 2018

In a pointed allegation, one online filmmaker cuts Google no slack for an unintended leak of his content. BBC News reports, “Google ‘Stole My Videos”, Says Film-Maker Philip Bloom.” Bloom, who expects to be paid for his footage, is understandably upset to see his hard work loose on the Internet. It seems an executive at Google used some 73 seconds of Bloom’s work in a thought-experiment video, called “the Selfish Ledger,” meant for limited internal viewing that was somehow leaked online. (How that person accessed the footage in the first place is unclear here.) Whether such internal usage, if successfully kept in-house, counts as fair-use seems ambiguous. Writer Leo Kelion tells us:

“The technology company used material from more than half a dozen of Philip Bloom’s films to make a provocative presentation about ways it could exploit users’ data in the future. Mr Bloom makes a living from selling rights to his footage, among other activities. Google insisted that it took copyright law seriously. It said that the ‘thought-experiment’ video had been intended to be seen by only a handful of people. It was made in 2016 by the head of design at X, Google’s research and development division.

Google added that the executive had now been reminded about its strict copyright rules. However, despite being aware of Mr Bloom’s claim since last Friday, the technology company declined to say whether it now intended to make a payment.”

I wouldn’t say either, if I were Google. It is hard to see, from the little information we have here, how much damage may have been done to Bloom or whether Google can be held legally liable. The clamor certainly cannot be helping their PR department, though, especially since folks were already criticizing the corporate video itself; The Verge called it an “unsettling vision of Silicon Valley social engineering.” In fact, it was that Verge article that brought Bloom’s attention to the matter in the first place, Kelion writes. For its part, Google insists the “unsettling” video in no way represents their actual philosophy and, meanwhile, has reminded the responsible party of the importance of respecting copyrights. Bloom remains unsatisfied.

Cynthia Murrell, June 11, 2018

Google, Insubordination, and Policies

June 10, 2018

Are we reading this right? It almost seems as if this campaign is very directly urging certain workers to be insubordinate; Recode reports, “Google Employees Are Being Targeted With This Ad Urging Them To Consider Their Role In Making Search Rankings More Fair.” The group behind the social-media ads is called Focus on the User, and is spearheaded, significantly, buy Yelp and TripAdvisor. The video, promoted on social media, very specifically targets Google employees and their own personal ethics on the matter of fairness in search rankings. Reporter Shirin Ghaffary writes:

“The video claims that Google gives ‘preferential treatment to some of its own content’ such as local listings. (Thus the interest from Yelp and TripAdvisor.) The argument: Instead of Google showing the most relevant results, the company sidesteps its own algorithm to show you only ‘what Google wants you see’ — which is often Google’s own content. It’s an issue that Yelp has taken up publicly with the search giant for years; it recently filed a complaint with the EU’s antitrust watchdog. Google, though, is still Google: Massive, profitable and growing. Google has publicly denied similar claims. But the video calls for Google employees to ‘share this message and discuss it with your colleagues’ — and to bring it up at all-hands meetings.”

This is an interesting approach; we wonder if it will work. Ghaffary points to recent employee protest and even resignations in the face of Google’s military-related endeavors, so perhaps this appeal to the underlings will make some difference.

We also found interesting two developments for the online ad giant.

First, the company issued policies that seem to assure anyone interested about Google and the military. “In Wake of Project Maven Backlash, Google Unveils New AI Policies,” I learned:

In a blog post, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company won’t stop working with the military entirely: It will still potentially work with the armed forces on areas including cybersecurity, recruitment and training, veterans’ healthcare and search and rescue. Google is widely seen as a potential contender for a massive contract to move Defense Department systems to cloud servers.

So we are or we aren’t?

The second item is that Google does quite a bit of government work. The details appear in “The Ties between Silicon Valley and the Military Run Deep.” For a “real” journalism outfit, I found the omission of Google’s team up with In-Q-Tel to help fund Recorded Future interesting.

Net net: What’s true? What’s a policy? What’s government work?

Answer: Money, influence, and a way to capture business which will block competitors like Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, and many others from extending their technology in agencies struggling to tap into simpler, more effective technologies.

The problem is that no one wants to just be up front about the revenue potential, the competitive stakes on the table, and the influence certain projects deliver.

Ever wonder who designed the US Navy? Worth checking out to understand how contracts and projects can cascade through the decades and pose competitive barriers for many other firms.

Yep, some companies listen to their employees and then move forward. Like an aircraft carrier. Do you have the answer to the Navy question in hand?

Cynthia Murrell, June 10, 2018

Musicians And Small Business Can Influence Google Search

June 8, 2018

One of the problems with being a musicians is building and growing a fan base. The only way to grow a fan base is to get your name out there. Other than playing gigs, distributing music online is the best way, then musicians face the problem of getting their content to appear in search results. Search Engine Journal reports that, “Google Allows Musicians To Post Directly To Search Results” that could be a new benefit for the budding superstar.

Using the Google Posts, musicians and small businesses can publish short updates that will appear at the top of Google search results. This feature was first developed for musicians in pop and electronic dance music genres, but now it is widely available to all musicians and it is accessible through the Knowledge Panel.

Here is how it works:

“Updates from musicians will appear within their respective Knowledge Panel, which typically shows up when the artist’s name is searched for specifically. Musicians will be able to publish text, images, videos, and GIFs. A blue checkmark will indicate when the updates are from a verified musician. This feature is now live in Google search results worldwide.”

Being at the top of Google search results is a boon for small businesses and budding musicians. It will attract more customers and people to a growing fan base.

Whitney Grace, June 8, 2018

Will Google Bring Order to Its Many Services?

June 8, 2018

Once upon a time we used to live without Google. Now we can’t live without it. We use Google for everything from email to entertainment, but are we really using all of Google’s services and apps? Apparently not! According to Pandroid’s article there are: “100+ Google Apps That You Didn’t Know Exist” we are not using and we should be using them.

I learned:

“You might be surprised to learn that Google has 160 Android Apps on the Google Play Store, many of which you probably never knew existed. We compiled a full (yet compact) list, sorting the results by rating volume (ascending) to help surface the lesser known apps.”

When it comes to apps we automatically think about the Apple iPhones and any Android apps are pre-installed or only meant for internal use. That is a wrong assumption. Android phones have a wide assortment of apps that range from fun to useful.

The first on the list is called Voice Actress and assists users who have difficulty with a touch screen. The last app on the list is YouTube, which we all know what that is (If you do not, then I suggest heading back under your rock and making a channel about living under one). There are map apps, text to speech apps, photo editing, an app to make short cartoons, Google Hangouts, foreign language assistance, and many more. These apps all center on Google, but who knew that Google had so many useful and useless services? We all do now!

Whitney Grace, June 8, 2018

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