The FG Snipers Draw a Bead

November 22, 2017

Facebook (hereinafter “F”) and Google (hereinafter “G”) are the part of the new sport FG sniping. Favored by the Guardian and other “real” publishers, F and G are plump, apparently arrogant, and seemingly clueless targets. The horrible companies do not “give back” to the “real” magazines and newspapers which have been eroded by the flow of clicks flowing to F and G.

A fun example of this blood sport appear in “Why Magazine Mogul Tina Brown Is ‘Angry and Upset’ at Google and Facebook.” I highlighted three comments Tina Brown (Oxford graduate and traditional print journalist) allegedly made to a “real” journalist who has gone over to the dark side of online content creation.

Number One:

I [Tina Brown, Oxford graduate] am very angry and upset about the way advertising revenue has been essentially pirated by the Facebook-Google world

Ahoy, mates. Google indexes. “Real” publishers tried this; for example, the New York Times and its fumbling with LexisNexis and its own Jeff Pemberton led initiative decades ago. Google succeeded; the NYT and other “real” publishers failed. Sour grapes?

Number Two:

When you don’t have human beings who have judgment, who have taste, who have a sense of responsibility, you can have any old Russian hacker dishing it out to the American public.

Not just any “human beings.” The “right” type of human being is a trained journalist like those who do the “This Week in Google” podcast perhaps? Plus, last I knew, F and G had human beings. Mr. Brin, for example, allegedly behaved in a human manner with a certain Google Glass marketing maven. The disconnect is that some human beings are more adept at applying technology to content processing and delivering what users want. On the other hand, “real” publishers certain knew how to generate “yellow” journalism and engage in other fascinating human activities.

Number Three:

People don’t know what’s important or where to find it.

To be clear, some people do know what’s important and where to find it. The problem is that People Magazine or the grocery store tabloid the National Enquirer are not much different from “real” newspapers and magazines.

What the issue is, of course, is the fact that traditional publishing has found itself marginalized. The arbiters of taste and judgment from places like Oxford and Yale are a bit overwhelmed because they don’t get traffic or a sufficient number of likes.

Where in the modern economy is the “law” which says that F and G have to give back to the outfits which have failed to adapt to the new world.

I guess Darwinian principles (Darwin was a Cambridge graduate) don’t apply to those Oxford graduates  who wish to enshrine dead tree methods. From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, Darwin (a Cambridge graduate) is alive and well. Just look at those informed individuals living in trailers living by the creek. Also, in forward leaning  places like Palo Alto, one can observe on the way to F and G the lines of SUVs and motor homes which provide safe havens for Facebook posts and Google searches.

Life would be so much better if time stood still. Are F and G clueless? Should large companies “give back”? One could consult Adam Smith I suppose. Oh, Smith was an allegedly unhappy Oxforder. Nasty intellectual environment my economics professor observed as I recall.

Failure can be unpalatable. Zeros and ones leave a bitter after taste on the tongues of some arbiters of taste.

Stephen E Arnold, November 22, 2017

Google Made AI Learning Fun

November 22, 2017

Games that are supposed to be educational and fun usually stink worse than rotten fruit (except for Oregon Trail).  One problem is that these games are not designed by gamers, i.e. people who actually play games!  Another problem is that when gamers do design games they lack the ability to convey in a learnable manner.  Thankfully Google has both gamers and teachers.  According to Engadget, Google has a fun way to learn about AI: “Google Created A Fun Way To Learn Simple AI.”

Google invented the Teachable Machine that teaches users simple ways to learn about AI with only a webcam and microphone.  What is great about the Teachable Machine is that it does not require any coding experience in order to use it.  Anyone from children to adults can use it and it has already been used to do silly and stupid things along with smart and practical uses.

Teachable Machine conveys just how important pattern recognition is becoming in the technology world. It’s used in photo apps to recognize faces and objects, but it also powers supercomputers like IBM’s Watson. Looking ahead, we might eventually be able to use similar machine learning techniques to train our smarthomes. For example, it could automatically turn on your living room lights and TV when it detects you’ve come home. Or a pet feeder could dispense more food when your cat sits in front of it.

It is neat to play around with Teachable Machine and get your computer to do simple commands.  The article ends on a sour and scary note: machine learning technology will always be watching and listening to users to learn more.  Yes, very creepy.

Whitney Grace, November 22, 2017

AI Tech Companies Had Better Watch Their Backs

November 20, 2017

In a case of perhaps getting too big for one’s own britches, there’s a lot of scuttlebutt about how our tech giants are in for a rude awakening, either from the government or competition. We learned more in a US News and World Report story, “Tech Companies Must Regain Trust.”

With all the negative publicity organizations like Facebook and Google have gotten has raised concerns, as we saw in the article:

Google and Facebook are not natural monopolies and ought not to be regulated as such. The history of the internet is a history of defunct giants that once oozed monopolistic power: Netscape, AltaVista, MySpace, AOL, among many others. Unlike constructing a news power grid, dislodging an incumbent does not require investing billions into new infrastructure. In principle, it only requires novel ideas.

(T)ech companies themselves can do a lot themselves in order not to actively invite onerous regulation. If they can invest in editorial judgment and quality control, crack down on bots and increase the transparency of their advertising schemes, the political case for new rules will become much weaker.

It’s a moment we will look back on and see as a watershed moment. Clearly, tech companies need better policing. Now is the moment they decide whether it will be themselves who make the change. Otherwise, the Googles and Facebooks of the world will suffer either from government regulation or from competition doing the job in question better.

Patrick Roland, November 20, 2017

Google and Its Plague of Evil Unicorns

November 17, 2017

Real journalists are Google’s picadors. I read “Inside Google’s Struggle to Filter Lies from Breaking New.” I almost feel the bull’s pain. “Who are these pointy word wielders anyway?”

The answer is Bloomberg, the “real” news outfit.

I learned from the write up:

“Evil unicorns” — a term some Google engineers once coined, according to a former executive — are unverified posts on obscure topics, full of lies.

Okay. The write up added:

For years, Google fought and won a similar battle with spammers, content farms and so-called search engine optimization experts over which web pages should be shown at the top of search results. But these latest web manipulators are causing greater havoc by targeting a slightly different part of Google — its real-time news and video results. They’re exploiting a weakness that cuts to the core of Google’s main proposition: Delivering trusted information online.

I like the assumption that Google results were different somehow in the past. Ah, the fog of memory and time.

I noted this statement:

…vetting news sources is an unwelcome task. Critics have ripped into Google and Facebook for categorizing certain publications, and not others, as news. It’s a political mire Google’s search unit is very reluctant to wade into.

Well, who can vet news? Maybe “real” journalists? Of course.

Stephen E Arnold, November 17, 2017

Toronto Is the City of the Future

November 17, 2017

Canada is regarded as a calm, nice country that enjoys hockey and maple syrup.  It is not seen as a technology bastion, but Google’s Larry Page decided to make Toronto a digital innovation says the San Francisco Gate in “Larry Page’s Urban Innovation Unit Picks Toronto For First Digital Neighborhood.”

Page dubbed Toronto is now dubbed the “city of the future” (sorry Disney and Tomorrowland).  Alphabet Inc. and Waterfront Toronto plan to build a technology-friendly community along Lake Ontario.  The city will incorporate green energy systems, self-driving transportation, and construction techniques that will lower housing costs.  The new city of the future has been on the drawing board for ten years.  With its construction, Eric Schmidt expressed that the goal is it will improve human lives.

Sidewalk Toronto will dedicate $50 million to planning the project, which will begin with a new neighborhood called Quayside and eventually extend into the Eastern Waterfront, more than 800 acres in one of North America’s largest undeveloped urban parcels. Google’s Canadian headquarters will relocate to the development from the west end to support the project.

Toronto is in the midst of a technology boom, startups are popping up all over the place, and AI research has received increased funding from the government.  The hope is that the new community will help combat the city’s housing crunch.

All we can do is wait and see if Toronto really does become a model city for the future.

Whitney Grace, November 17, 2017

Palantir and Google: Surprising Allegation from St Louis

November 16, 2017

I read “Thiel Gave Money to Missouri Attorney General Going after Google.” The article reports:

Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who backed Donald Trump’s presidential run, gave $300,000 to a political campaign of Josh Hawley, the Missouri attorney general who opened an antitrust investigation into Google this week.

My reaction was, “Is there a connection between this donation and the investigation of Google by Josh Hawley, the Missouri attorney general?”

The article appears to make this connection. I am not so quick to seize upon this implication. From my point of view, without more factual information, the story leaves me as cold as a catfish pulled from the Crooked River.

Stephen E Arnold, November 16, 2017

Google Tries to Explain How to Make Another Google

November 15, 2017

Here’s the headline which snagged my attention: “How to Build the Next Google, According to a Google Executive.” In my three monographs about Google, I learned that Google was a result of several missteps and circumstances which Sergey Brin and Larry Page were able to seize upon. The exogenous factors I documented included:

  • The Clever method which IBM did nothing to commercialize
  • AltaVista’s unhappy campers who were looking for new gig
  • Yahoo and other “search” services bumbling and portal craziness
  • An understanding university
  • A vision for making information accessible on Web servers to users with modest expectations for precision, recall, timeliness, etc.

Google was in the right place at the right time, and it was able to obtain some cash from a Silicon Valley money guru. The company’s efforts to sell itself were going nowhere until the bright idea for standing on the shoulders of GoTo, Overture, and Yahoo ignited the online ad money machine. The rest, after the 2004 settlement with Yahoo over an intellectual property issue, has become the success story MBAs love. Well, it was until Facebook came along.

The Fortune article disappointed me. The Google story was not complete in my opinion. The scalable business model referenced in the article was not Google’s. Google emulated the pay for play and perfected putting ads in front of people who used certain key words. As I stated, this was the GoTo (later Overture) revolution.

The write up reports:

The idea of changing the world isn’t at odds with making a buck, Felten (a Googler) said. In fact, the latter is usually necessary. “If you want to solve really large problems in the world, unless it’s a sustainable business, it probably won’t scale,” she said. “So, finding those things where there’s both profit and purpose is sort of our sweet spot.”

Too bad Fortune did not probe into the exogenous factors which allowed Google to generate billions. But in the world of business mythmaking and the “you can do it” advice sought by would be billionaires, cooking up tips which provide the path to success is okay.

By the way, after 20 years, what percentage of Google’s revenues come from the GoTo, Overture, Yahoo online advertising model? Look it up, gentle reader. That means that Google itself has not been able to move beyond the Steve Ballmer analysis of a “one trick pony.” High school science projects do not seem to become scalable businesses. I admit there may be some buyers for the solution to death. But that seems to be just out of reach like Loon balloons providing comprehensive mobile service to the island of Puerto Rico.

Note to Googlers and Xooglers: Put your comments in the comments section of this blog. Don’t email me unless you have read The Google Legacy, Google Version 2, and Google: The Digital Gutenberg. Just a modest request.

Stephen E Arnold, November 15, 2017

Microsoft Does Not Make Renault Go Vroom Vroom

November 15, 2017

In the formula one racing world, Renault was performing poorly.  Then Google stepped in, poured its artificial intelligence technology into Renault’s gas tanks, and bragged about how the formula one team is underperforming.  In a PR blunder, The Register shares how Microsoft boasted about helping Renault in last place, “Microsoft’s AI Is So Good It Steered Renault Into Bottom Of The F1 League.”

We all know that Microsoft likes to be the best of the best and they like to brag about their success, but sometimes the company really needs to keep its mouth shut.  Microsoft sang its own praises when it explained how they helped the Renault Formula 1 racing team achieve its current seventh-place standing.  How did they help achieve this honor?  By using none other than Azure Machine Learning, Stream Analytics, Dynamics 365, and other Microsoft software to bolster the racing team.

Renault said that being seventh is “pole position in our world.”  They employ Microsoft’s technology to analyze data from thousands of sensor channels and to analyze vehicle performance.

The idea, says Microsoft, is to use the machine learning to perform calculations and analysis that would otherwise take up the time of a team of engineers.

 

Additionally, the Windows giant says the Renault design team is using its HoloLens augmented reality platform to study and improve car and engine designs – something that d’Imbleval sees not only more successful Formula One teams, but also the fans themselves, taking up in the coming years.

The article then explains that in the future fans will be able to wear HoloLens and have access to the same data as the drivers.  Interesting thought, but Nascar is already doing something similar.  Also bragging about the seventh place is not the best way to upset your software Microsoft.

Whitney Grace, November 15, 2017

Google Comes with an Olive Branch Because It Is Happy with What It Has and Publishers Should Be Happy Too

November 13, 2017

I read two Google items this morning (November 13, 2017). I found each interesting and useful in plotting Google’s evolution from Backrub to the behemoth it has become by selling ads.

The first item is “Google X’s Chief Business Officer Says You Can Achieve Happiness by Following One Simple Rule.” No, the rule does not mean that one does not reveal whether Google’s super secret Deep Mind is working with the GOOG’s own skunk works. The rule is, if the write up is accurate, “If you really start to appreciate what you have in your life, happiness becomes a much easier task to achieve.”

That’s good to know. I am confident that the people living in vans in Palo Alto are going to enjoy getting cleaned up at the McDonald’s much more. Hey, you can also have an Egg McMuffin after one’s morning ablutions.

The other article is “Google UK Chief Ronan Harris Says Digital Giant Is Not Stealing Advertising from Publishers Telling Editors: We Come in Peace.” I highlighted this passage from the story. The Googler is one Ronan Harris, who is in charge of Google in the UK:

“Every year we share billions of pounds in revenue with publishers globally. We also drove more than 10 billion clicks a month to publisher websites — for free — from Google Search and Google News.

He allegedly added:

And as more and more people interact with news in different ways, we need to take advantage of new digital tools and capabilities to develop new experiences and sustainable business models. “We’re eager to partner with you to create them.  To work with you to tackle the challenges head on, because having a healthy media ecosystem is crucial to your business, to ours and to society.

Yep, Google comes in peace to those who have spent 40 days and nights wandering in the wilderness. Let’s party, friends!

Stephen E Arnold, November 13, 2017

Russian Meddling Across Platforms

November 13, 2017

During our last presidential election, Russia sowed American division through online propaganda appearing well beyond Facebook. An article in Ubergizmo reports, “Google Finds Evidence of Russia-Linked Ads on Search, YouTube, and Gmail.”  Leave it to the search company to find these clues. Writer Adnan Farooqui tells us:

The Washington Post reports that Google has discovered evidence that a campaign by the Russian government spread propaganda through advertising on its platforms. A recent report revealed that Twitter had uncovered similar ads as well. The scribe mentions that Google’s investigation into the matter is in early stages for now. It’s said to be in the process of separating ads from legitimate Russian sources from the ones used to spread propaganda.

For its part, Google assures us they are working with researchers and with other companies to investigate ways bad actors have abused the Google ecosystem. They also emphasize their “strict” policies on targeted advertising; political ads cannot be targeted by race or religion, for example. Will their efforts be enough to stop foreign interference in its tracks?

Cynthia Murrell, November 13, 2017

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