Google Deflections: After 20 Years of Gnawing, Are Rationalizations Long in the Tooth?

January 15, 2021

Two items snagged my limited attention this morning (January 15, 2021). The first is the write up called “Google Completes Fitbit Acquisition.” The mom-and-pop online ad business has purchased Fitbit. Some government authorities have not officially said, “Hey, okay, Google.” But the mom-and-pop shop has quite a bit of work to do. The digital calendars are brimming with important meetings. I did note this statement in the mom-and-pop shop’s blog post:

This deal has always been about devices, not data…

Yep, I think I have heard this explanation before. But perhaps I am misremembering comments made to me by a no-departed Googler. Yep, Google wants to do devices. Look at the wood the company put behind the Loon balloon. That’s a heck of a device. Oh, there is the “new” Google mobile device. Another horsehide ball knocked aloft.

I also spotted this write up a few minutes ago: “Google Throwing Its Weight Around by Burying Links to Some Commercial News Sites, Experts Say.” Some discontents in Australia apparently believe that the mom-and-pop online information service is discriminating. I circled this passage:

Google has decided to hide some Australian news sites from its search results, in a move that is being interpreted as a response to the Australian Government attempting to make the tech giant pay for original news content.

Google’s ever efficient customer service professionals named A Google Spokesperson allegedly said:

The search algorithm tweak affects a small percentage of users and buries links to some commercial news sites …Every year we conduct tens of thousands of experiments in Google Search…”

Two explanations to the mere country with sheep and coal and a darned good law enforcement apparatus. Maybe I should say, “Excellent enforcement?” Yep, excellent.

Let’s step back. Here are three rationales:

  • We don’t care about data. We care about devices.
  • We make a change only a teeny weensy percentage of our users are affected.
  • We do a lot of testing, and maybe — just maybe — a test affects a user’s experience.

These rationalizations are intended to sound oh-so reasonable. But the one I was disappointed to note excluded from these two articles is the bigly one:

It is easier to say “sorry” than ask for permission.

What else does a mom-and-pop shop need to do to stay in business? Formulate you own answer, gentle reader.

I can’t answer. The dog ate my homework. That excuse is long in the tooth.

Stephen E Arnold, January 15, 2021

Google: Big Is Good. Huge Is Better.

January 15, 2021

I spotted an interesting datum factoid. The title of the article gives away the “reveal” as thumbtypers are prone to say. “Google Trained a Trillion-Parameter AI Language Model” does not reference the controversial “draft research paper” by a former Google smart software person named Timnit Gebru. The point at issue is that smart software can be trained using available content. Bingo, the smart software reflects the biases in the source content.

Pumping up numbers is interesting and begs the question, “Why is Google shifting into used car sales person mode?” The company has never been adept at communicating or marketing in a clear, coherent manner. How many blog posts about Google’s overlapping services have I seen in the last 20 years? The answer is, “A heck of a lot.”

I circled this passage in the write up:

Google researchers developed and benchmarked techniques they claim enabled them to train a language model containing more than a trillion parameters. They say their 1.6-trillion-parameter model, which appears to be the largest of its size to date, achieved an up to 4 times speedup over the previously largest Google-developed language model (T5-XXL).

Got that?

Like supremacy, the trillion parameter AI language model” revolutionizes big.

Google? What’s with the marketing push for the really expensive and money losing DeepMind thing? Big numbers too.

Stephen E Arnold, January 15, 2021

Google: Doing the Travel Agent Thing

January 13, 2021

Just a brief honk to draw our dear readers’ attention to in interesting development. India’s Zee News tells us, “Now, Book Vistara Flight Ticket Directly from Google.” Yes, one can now purchase a ticket for Vistara, an airline that operates in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates, directly from one’s Google search. The succinct write-up reports:

“Vistara customers can directly search and book Vistara flights on Google through the integrated ‘Book on Google’ feature. Recently the airline adopted the New Distribution Capability (NDC), through a technology partnership with Amadeus, passengers will now be able to book Vistara flights while searching for them on Google. The biggest advantage is that now customers will be able to search and book air tickets, without getting redirected to any other website. Vistara airline is a joint venture of Tata and Singapore airlines.”

Amadeus is a travel technology company and NDC is an XML-based data transmission standard created specifically for airline ticket distribution. Users must log into their Google account to book their flights, which the service uses to manage contact and payment information. Naturally, one also chooses optional upgrades, baggage allowances, and seat selections here. Just one more way Google aims to save users a few clicks—and collect more of their data in the process.

Here’s an idea. Why not do an AirBnB / VBO mash up with some Google secret spices?

Cynthia Murrell, January 13, 2021

The Shallowness of Search Engine Optimization: Just Buy Google Ads for Traffic

January 8, 2021

Google is in the business of selling online advertisements and playing the role of a digital real estate broker for a commission, of course, of course. Therefore, any information about how to get Google traffic for free is only mildly interesting. An entire industry of search engine optimization experts explain how to achieve the impossible: Avoid buying Google online ads. The ploy of SEO leads in one direction only; that is, the SEO professional eventually utters the words, “You need to buy Google advertising.” Free only goes so far like the charges for storage to an unsuspecting user of Gmail learns.

So what do I make of “What We Know About Google’s Passage Indexing”? Not much. The write makes clear the tissue thin thought about traffic tricks. How does one respond to Google’s indexing of paragraphs? Do nothing. How does Google’s indexing for meaning impact authors? Not at all. Why did Google make the announcement? Maybe marketing.

In my opinion, the notion of Google Passages feeds the SEO sector and greases the skids for selling more ads. When the free stuff doesn’t deliver clicks, what’s the fix?

Buy Google ads. SEO experts become a sales force for the GOOG.

Simple in my opinion. A purloined letter tactic which has demonstrated remarkable durability.

Stephen E Arnold, January 8, 2021

Google: A Rose by Any Other Name Could Be Fully Autonomous

January 7, 2021

I spotted an interesting article called “Waymo Shelves Self Diving Term for Its Technology to Shore Up Safety.” The write up explains:

Waymo will call its technology “fully autonomous” to create, what it believes, is an important distinction. The company’s argument rests entirely on how the public perceives “self-driving” as a term.

As Google tries to solve the “problem” or respond to the “opportunity” for vehicles in which humans can play with their mobile devices instead of driving is bigly. I want to point out that Google and the others pitching this nirvana for motorists and advertisers have not solved some of the tricky issues. Crashing a car due to road markers? Mistaking a small dog as a puddle? These are not “problems”; they are outliers. Black sheep get hit by smart software too.

The fix is not the lingo. The fix is to begin to change the roadways to make the “opportunity” less fraught. How’s Google doing solving death and handling its labor “opportunity”? Yeah. Quantum supremacy too.

Stephen E Arnold, January 7, 2021

Alphabet Google Management Excitement

January 4, 2021

I read that Alphabet Google employees are into unionization. Does anyone remember the Pullman strike, the unrest, and the Federal troops? Sometimes I wonder if the Giant Science Club remembers history, even its own.

The news reports are flowing rapidly into my newsreader. “Google, Alphabet Employees Seek to Form a Union” is representative. I noted this statement in the write up:

“This is historic—the first union at a major tech company by and for all tech workers,” Dylan Baker, a software engineer at Google, said in a statement. “We will elect representatives, we will make decisions democratically, we will pay dues, and we will hire skilled organizers to ensure all workers at Google know they can work with us if they actually want to see their company reflect their values.”

For several years I have used the term “HSSCMM” which is shorthand for high school science club management method. The idea is that those “elite” in a high school science club were better, smarter, more charismatic, and worthy than someone who worked after school stacking paper in a distributor warehouse or who perspired in athletic practice. Shudder. Plebeians, modern day occupants on the lower rungs of the Great Chain of Being, and dumber humanoids. (Yes, I was a member of the high school science club, and I bought into this stuff but now I am slightly more mature. How much? To be frank, not too much.)


The scala naturae: You too can climb the staircase to the country club of science.

What’s happening at the Google is that the Googlers have not internalized the fact that Alphabet Google is set up like a medieval barony or a Silicon Valley caste system. With this understanding, which took more than two decades to gestate, may be a legal revolt. The mini revolt could mature into a putsch too. The plebeians are joining together. Like union actions of yore, a large number of Googlers can become quite problematic for those at the top of the Great Chain of Being.

One thing is clear: The HSSCMM is not to administrative device some of the club’s elite thought it would be. Is this why Messrs. Brin and Page exited before the Great Awakening?

Stephen E Arnold, January 4, 2021

Why Google Misses Opportunities: A Report Delivered by the Tweeter Thing

January 1, 2021

Here’s a Twitter thread from a Xoogler who appears to combine the best of the thumb typer generation with the bittersweet recognition of Google’s defective DNA. In the thread, the Xoogler allegedly a real person named Hemant Mohapatra reveals some nuggets about the high school science club approach to business on steroids; for example:

  • Jargon. Did you know that GTM seems to mean either “global traffic management” or “Google tag manager” or Guatamala? Tip: Think global traffic management an a Google’s Achilles’ heel.
  • Mature reaction when a competitor aced out the GOOG. The approach makes use of throwing chairs. Yep, high school behavior.
  • Lots of firsts but a track record of not delivering what the customer wanted. Great at training, not so good in the actual game I concluded.
  • Professionalism. A customer told the Google whiz kids: “You folks just throw code over the fence.” (There’s the “throw” word again.)
  • Chaotic branding. (It’s good to know even Googlers do not know what the name of a product or service is. So when a poobah from Google testifies and says, “I don’t know” in response to a question, that may be a truthful statement.

Did the Xoogler take some learnings from the Google experience? Sure did. Here’s the key tweeter thing message:

My google exp reinforced a few learnings for me: (1) consumers buy products; enterprises buy platforms. (2) distribution advantages overtake product / tech advantages and (3) companies that reach PMF & then under-invest in S&M risk staying niche players or worse: get taken down.

The smartest people in the world? Sure, just losing out to Amazon and Microsoft now. What’s this tell us. Maybe bad genes, messed up DNA, a failure to leave the mentality of the high school science club behind?

Stephen E Arnold, January 1, 2021

Finding Google Maps: Sundar Pichai, I Presume?

December 31, 2020

The Google is not getting the respect it once assumed was its droit du seigneur. A recent example is this comment from “Google Maps’ Moat is Evaporating”:

I suspect we’re at the tail end of the golden era for Google Maps. They appear, to me, to be acting from a place of fear and conservatism rather than innovation.

The Google service under the microscope is Google’s ever-so-helpful implementation of a former Sun Microsystems’ observation that when one drives a car with zippy map technology, the map will show you where a gas station is.

That seems quaint now with maps everywhere, even when one does not want them; for example, in a Google search result for certain types of information like C-UAS methods or FPAAs.

The write up strikes me as gleeful in a way. Hey, Google, you are losing it.

Here’s an example:

The trouble is, Google isn’t the only game in town anymore. If they keep alienating their customers and pursuing a proprietary data strategy at all costs, they’re going to continue to lose ground to competition while spending more than ever just to tread water.

Yikes, competition, once thought to be extinct at the GOOG.

Then the cow analogy, an animal some view as sacred:

If Google doesn’t start taking the Google Maps Platform seriously, they’ll slowly but surely find themselves alone on an island of inferior, less frequently updated, and expensive-to-maintain proprietary data. A new generation of innovative apps built on top of OSM will feast like piranhas on a cow treading water.

What’s the cost of digital maps lost in the corporate wilderness? Navigate to “Google Maps Changes a Route after the Drama of Young People Lost on a Ghost Road.” With no local businesses buying ads, resources are better directed elsewhere. Sounds plausible to me, but I am not young, lost, or on a ghost road.

The author may want to make sure the Google cow does not have swim fins.

Stephen E Arnold, December 30, 2020

Google Pins HR Hopes on New Executive

December 29, 2020

Perhaps this move will help Google recover some much-needed goodwill. The Times Union reports, “Google Hires New Personnel Head Amid Rising Worker Tensions.” The company has hired Fiona Cicconi, formerly the executive VP of HR at pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. One major challenge for Cicconi will be overseeing Google’s roughly 130,000 employees as most continue to work from home until anywhere from July until September of next year. She will also have to make their transition back to Googley offices around the world as smooth as possible. But working around the pandemic may be the least of her worries. Writer Michael Liedtke reminds us:

“She is also walking into a company that has seen its relationship with its workforce change dramatically in the past few years as more employees have become convinced that it has strayed far away from the ‘Don’t Be Evil’ motto that co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin embraced in its early years. In 2018, thousands of Google employees walked off the job and staged public protests in a backlash spurred by concerns about how the company had been handling sexual harassment claims against top executives and managers. Google has also faced employee outrage about potential bids on military contracts and, more recently, the murky circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of a respected artificial intelligence scholar, Timnit Gebru. After a dispute over a research paper examining the societal dangers of an emerging branch of artificial intelligence, Gebru said Google fired her earlier this month. Google maintains the company accepted her offer to resign. The rift incensed hundreds of Google employees who have signed a public letter of protest.”

Google has apologized for the way it treated Gebru, but hard feelings linger. We hope Cicconi will be able to help the company maintain a better relationship with its many employees, but the head of personnel can only do so much. The rest depends on other executives behaving well. Will the culture change?

Cynthia Murrell, December 29, 2020

Google and Its Smart Software

December 28, 2020

I spotted “What AlphaGo Can Teach Us About How People Learn.” The subtitle is Google friendly:

David Silver of DeepMind, who helped create the program that defeated a Go champion, thinks rewards are central to how machines—and humans—acquire knowledge.

The write up contains a number of interesting statements. You will want to work through the essay and excavate those which cause your truth meter to vibrate with excitement. I noted this segment:

I don’t want to put a timescale on it [general artificial intelligence], but I would say that everything that a human can achieve, I ultimately think that a machine can. The brain is a computational process, I don’t think there’s any magic going on there.

I noted the “everything.” That’s an encompassing term. In fact, the term “everything” effectively means the old saw from Paradise Lost”

O sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams, That bring to my remembrance from what state I fell; how glorious once above thy sphere; Till pride and worse ambition threw me down, Warring in heaven against heaven’s matchless King. (IV, 37–41)

I also noted this Venture Beat write up called “DeepMind’s Big Losses and the Questions around Running an AI Lab.” The MBA speak cannot occlude this factoid (which I assume is close enough for horse shoes):

According to its annual report filed with the UK’s Companies House register, DeepMind has more than doubled its revenue, raking in £266 million in 2019, up from £103 million in 2018. But the company’s expenses continue to grow as well, increasing from £568 million in 2018 to £717 in 2019. The overall losses of the company grew from £470 million in 2018 to £477 million in 2019.

Doing “everything” does seem to be expensive. It was expensive for IBM to get Watson on the Jeopardy show. Google has pumped money into DeepMind to nuke a hapless human Go player.

I also noted this write up: “Google Told Scientists to Use a Positive Tone in AI Research, Documents Show.” I noted this passage:

Four staff researchers, including the senior scientist Margaret Mitchell, said they believe Google is starting to interfere with crucial studies of potential technology harms.

Beyond Search believes that these write ups make clear:

  1. Google is in the midst of a public relations offensive. Perhaps it is more of a singularity than Google’s announcements about quantum computing. My hunch is that Timnit Gebru’s experience may be an example of Google-entanglement.
  2. Google is trotting out the big dogs to provide an explainer about “everything.” Wait. Isn’t that a logical impossibility like the Godel thing?
  3. Google is in the midst of another high school science club management moment. The effort is amusing in a high school science club way.

Net net: My take is that Google announced that it would “solve death.” This did not happen. “Everything”, therefore, is another example of the Arnold Law of Online: “Online fosters a perception that one is infallible, infinite, and everlasting.” Would anyone wager some silver on the veracity of my Law?

Stephen E Arnold, December 28, 2020

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