NLP Noise Almost Swamps a Google Reshuffle

September 20, 2017

Natural language processing. Understanding human utterance. Sensitivity to human emotion. I have heard this before. Does Google have “real” NLP processing for cloud applications? Maybe. The news sites this morning fill my digital skies with chaff about smart software. Is the core technology Google’s or is a third party’s contribution? Google’s innovation track record makes fewer headlines than its legal struggles.

My radar picked up a blip of a more interesting development. Let’s face it. The NLP thing is not exactly a new new thing. Google’s alleged shake up in the team working on the European Union litigation seems to be a “real real” thing.

I noted an article called “Google Shuffles Top Policy Team Amid Ongoing EU Antitrust Row.” I noted this statement:

The staffing shakeup comes as the Alphabet Inc unit negotiates terms in the European Union in the aftermath of a record antitrust fine and big technology companies face rising regulatory scrutiny in the US, including a renewed call for tougher competition enforcement.

So management fancy dancing.

And tucked into the article was this statement:

In the wake of the EU ruling, some Google critics have called on US enforcement agencies to investigate the the company over its dominance in online search. Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner, said in a tweet on Monday that she had visited her counterparts at the US Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission. “Good, constructive cooperation,” Vestager wrote.

NLP is fine, but the management shifts at Google suggest that moe practical considerations related to business practices are evident. NLP is easy to talk about. Dealing with government inquiries may be more difficult.

Stphen E Arnold, September 20, 2017

Google Invests Hefty Sums in Lobbying Efforts

September 19, 2017

Since Microsoft was caught flat-footed by antitrust charges in 1992, the tech industry has steadily increased its lobbying efforts. Now, The Guardian asks, “Why is Google Spending Record Sums on Lobbying Washington?” Writer Johathan Taplin describes some reasons today’s political climate prompts such spending and points out that Google is the “largest monopoly in America,” though the company does its best to downplay that trait. He also notes that Google is libertarian in nature, and staunchly advocates against regulation. Looking forward, Taplin posits:

Much of Google’s lobbying may be directed toward its future business. That will be running artificial intelligence networks that control the transportation, medical, legal and educational businesses of the future. In a speech last Saturday to the National Governor’s Conference, the tech entrepreneur Elon Musk stated: ‘AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive.’ Coming from a Silicon Valley libertarian, this was a rare admission, but Musk went on to say: ‘There certainly will be job disruption. Because what’s going to happen is robots will be able to do everything better than us … I mean all of us.’ Both Google and Facebook pushed back hard against Musk’s remarks, because they have achieved their extraordinary success by working in an unregulated business environment. But now, for the first time in their histories, the possibility of regulation may be on the horizon. Google’s response will be to spend more of its $90 bn in cash on politicians. K Street is lining up to help.

We are reminded that, for many industries, lobbying Congress has long been considered a routine cost of doing business. The tech industry is now firmly in that category and is beginning to outspend the rest. See the article for more details.

Cynthia Murrell, September 19, 2017

SEO Write Up Explains How to Create a Web Page within Google Local

September 18, 2017

Blogger.com may be sitting on the sidelines. An injured thigh muscle maybe? How can a business create a presence in Google results without a Web page?

That’s the question “Local SEO” tries to answer. And answer the question it does.

The write up does a good job of explaining how to create a “free” Web page about your business complete with images.

My thought is that the Google may be enriching its trove of information with free services that foreshadow content creation.

Instead of searching for user-created blog content in Google News via a wonky hidden option, the user created content can just “live” within the Google Local system.

That’s one way to deliver “unified search.” Remember that concept from the universal search assertions from about 10 years ago.

Fragmentation in Google services? What fragmentation? There’s no fragmentation in Android and there is no fragmentation in Google search results as long as one runs separate, serial queries across Google Books, Google News, et al. Oh, and Blogger.com. Perhaps not for long?

Stephen E Arnold, September 18, 2017

Yandex Adds Deep Neural Net Algorithm

September 18, 2017

One of Google’s biggest rivals, at least in Asia, is Russian search engine Yandex and in efforts to keep themselves on top of search, Yandex added a new algorithm and a few other new upgrades.  Neowin explains what the upgrades are in the article, “Yandex Rolls Out Korolev Neural Net Search Algorithm.”  Yandex named its upgraded deep neural network search algorithm Korolev and they also added Yandex. Toloka new mass-scale crowdsources platform that feeds search results into MatrixNext.

Korolev was designed to handle long-tail queries in two new ways its predecessor Palekh could not.  Korolev delves into a Web page’s entire content and also it can analyze documents a thousand times faster in real time.  It is also designed to learn the more it is used, so accuracy will improve the more Korolev is used.

Korolev had an impressive release and namesake:

The new Korolev algorithm was announced at a Yandex event at the Moscow Planetarium. Korolev is of course named after the Soviet rocket engineer, Sergei Korolev, who oversaw the Sputnik project, 60 years ago, and the mission that saw Yuri Gagarin get to space. Yandex teleconferenced with Fyodor Yurchikhin and Sergey Ryazansky who are currently representing Russia on the International Space Station.

Yandex is improving its search engine results and services to keep on top of the industry and technology.

Whitney Grace, September 18, 2015

Product Search: Hard Numbers or Flights of Fancy?

September 16, 2017

I read “Amazon Shakes Up Search, Again.” I was not aware of Amazon’s shaking up search because there are numerous ways to define the term. The write up narrows “search” to people in three countries who buy products or look for product information online. Ah, good, I think.

My hunch is that the “shake up” is related to the data that suggests Amazon has three times as many product searches than Google. The assertion did not “shake” me up because Google’s product search is not particularly useful. I thought that Froogle had a shot at becoming a daughter-of-Amazon, but the GOOG lost interest. Sure, I can search for a product using Google, but the results are often not what I want. Your mileage may vary.

But back to the write up. I noted some factoids which may be useful to those who are giving talks about product search, those who work for a consulting firm and must appear super smart, or folks like me who collect data, no matter how wild or crazy.

Here we go with the “shake up” from 3,100 consumers in the US, Germany, and the UK:

  • 72 percent use Amazon to research a product before buying the product
  • 51 percent use Amazon as a way to get “alternative ideas”
  • 26 percent use Amazon to get information and price when they plan on visiting a real store
  • 84 percent of “searchers” in the US use Google
  • 71 percent of “searchers” in the US use Amazon
  • 36 percent use Facebook in the US use Amazon
  • 24 percent use Pinterest in the US use Amazon
  • 31 percent use eBay in the US use Amazon
  • 80 percent in the UK use Google
  • 73 percent use Amazon in the UK
  • 9 percent use Bing in France
  • 6 percent us Bing in the UK
  • 6 percent use Bing in Germany
  • 20 percent of searchers use Bing
  • Amazon stocks or “carries” 353 million products. Put aside the idea that percentages usually work on a scale of zero to 100, please:
    • 59 percent are “health and beauty”
    • 57 percent are “music, movies, or games”
    • 55 percent are “books”
    • 52 percent fashion or clothing
    • 46 percent are home appliances
    • 40 percent are furniture and home furnishings
    • 39 percent are toys
    • 34 percent are sports equipment and clothing
    • 26 percent are garden equipment and furniture (?)
    • 26 percent are food and grocery
    • 9 percent are beer, wine and spirits.

So if there are 353 million products and the percentage data are correct, the total percentage of products is 443 percent. I did not the duplicate furniture entry but counted the percentage anyway. Also, there was no value for garden equipment and furniture so I used “26 percent”. Close enough for millennials steeped in new math.

My math teacher (Verna Blackburn) in my freshman year of high school in 1958 had an dunce cap. I think I can suggest one research report author who might have been invited to wear the 24 inch tall cap. The 443 percent would shake up deal Miss Blackburn. She also threw chalk at students when they made errors when solving on the blackboards which were on three walls of her classroom. The fourth wall looked out over asphalt to the smokestacks of the former RG Letourneau mortar factory. Getting math wrong at that outfit could indeed shake up some things.

Stephen E Arnold, September 16, 2017

Bing and Google: The News Battle

September 15, 2017

I read “Bing Battles Google News with Its Own Make-Over.” I noted the alliteration: Bing battle. I immediately thought, “Google Gropes.” Both of these companies are trying to reinvent the newspaper using zeros and ones, not dead trees. Let’s look at some of the points I highlighted:

I noted this statement everyone’s most lovable online ad vendor:

Google redesigned their desktop Google News website. Their [sic] new UI has a clean and uncluttered look.

Microsoft responded. I circled this statement:

Microsoft recently updated their Bing News experience that will help users in finding the most up to date and well-rounded information.

Note that the pivot of both sentences is a subjective assertion: “Clean and uncluttered” for the GOOG, and “most up to date and well rounded.”

Some facts would be useful. I am not sure what “clean” or “uncluttered” means. My recollection is that Einstein’s desk like most “dead tree” newspapers are organized in an eclectic manner. Facts supporting these assertions might be difficult to conjure.

The “most up to date” statement should be easy to back up. What’s the latency of the system? The superlative “most” means that Bing is the top dog in news. Hmmm. I don’t buy this.

My point is that the write up provides a useful idea: Neither Bing nor Google has figured out how to present “news” to each system’s online users. The implicit idea is that “dead tree” methods are of little use. Inspiration comes from each system’s response to what the other system does.

Cold War methods applied to online “news”? That’s what the write signals me.

Let’s step back.

Online users have different reasons for wanting news. Some folks chase sports, which as I recall was the most read section of the “dead tree” newspaper company at which I once worked. Other people have quite different reasons for scanning the news; for example, there are some who read the obituaries, others seek cartoons, and others want the latest on the real housewives.

Bing and Google have to figure out how to meet these diverse needs because the “dead tree” crowd has fallen in the forest.

The write up tells me one thing: Neither Google nor Microsoft has any idea about reinventing what “dead tree” newspapers used to do.

Now what? Shape the news to fit what each company’s filters “decide” is “real news”?

Stephen E Arnold, September 15, 2017

Annoyed Xooglers and Lawyers: A Volatile Mixture

September 15, 2017

Straightaway you will want to read the “real” news story from a “real” newspaper. The write up is “Former Employees Sue Google Alleging Bias against Women in Pay and Promotion.” (The story is online as 5 15 pm Eastern US time on September 14, 2017. Any other time? Who knows? The Guardian, another “real news” outfit jumped on the story as well at this link.)

The main point is in my opinion to help more criticism on the Alphabet Google thing.

I highlighted this passage:

Three female former employees of Alphabet Inc’s Google filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing the tech company of discriminating against women in pay and promotions. The proposed class action lawsuit, filed in California state court in San Francisco, comes as Google is facing an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor into sex bias in pay practices.

Since I am not a woman, I have zero knowledge about what did or did not happen when the GOOG decided what to pay each person. The write up suggests that Google is a throwback because “its treatment of female employees has not entered the 21st century.”

I think the GOOG is an innovative and progressive outfit. The company creates new products and services using multiple tactics. It is socially progressive because, like Walmart, it allows employees to park their campers in the Google parking lots.

The paragraph which raised my eyebrows was this one:

The department [of labor] last month appealed an administrative judge’s July decision that rejected its request for contact information for more than 20,000 Google employees.

My recollection is that Google is on record with a factual statement revealing that collecting certain employee compensation data is a job that is too difficult.

Why can’t regulators and lawyers trust Alphabet Google the way we do in Harrod’s Creek.

Gathering information about a closed domain of employees is tough. Accept the Google fact. And Google is progressive. Some employees are allowed to live in their trucks, emulating a parking policy of Walmart’s.

Stephen E Arnold, September 15, 2017

My Feed Personalization a Step Too Far

September 15, 2017

In an effort to be even more user-friendly and to further encourage a narcissistic society, Google now allows individuals to ‘follow’ or ‘unfollow’ topics, delivered daily to devices, as they deem them interesting or uninteresting. SEJ explains the new feature which is considered an enhancement of their ‘my feed’ which is intended to personalize news.

As explained in the article,

Further advancements to Google’s personalized feed include improved machine learning algorithms, which are said to be more capable at anticipating what an individual may find interest. In addition to highlighting stories around manually and algorithmically selected topics of interest, the feed will also display stories trending in your area and around the world.

That seems like a great way to keep people current on topics ranging geographically, politically and culturally, but with the addition of ‘follow’ or ‘unfollow’, once again, individuals can reduce their world to a series of pop-star updates and YouTube hits. Isn’t it an oxymoron to both suggest topics and stories in an effort to keep an individual informed of the world around them, and yet allow them to stop the suggestions are they appear boring or lack familiarity? Now, Google, you can do better.

Catherine Lamsfuss, September 15, 2017

Another Captain Obvious or Fanciful Thinking: Silicon Valley and the US Government in Conflict?

September 13, 2017

I read “There’s Blood In The Water In Silicon Valley.” The main idea is that Sillycon Valley is too big for its Air birds. The US government, riding its white horse and wearing its shining armor, will ride to the rescue of the citizens, nay, the country.

The write up tells me in “real news” tones:

The new corporate leviathans that used to be seen as bright new avatars of American innovation are increasingly portrayed as sinister new centers of unaccountable power, a transformation likely to have major consequences for the industry and for American politics.

There you go. “Leviathans.” “Sinister.” “Unaccountable.” “Power.”

Objective, dispassionate, the real world exposed.

The bad guys are Amazon, Facebook, Google, and any other Sillycon Valley outfits doing what companies do.

From my vantage point in the high-tech center of the mid South, I am not sure I see these outfits as doing anything different from what other big outfits do; for example:

  • Big pharma and its pricing tactics
  • GM and its auto engineering methods
  • Too-big-to-fail banks doing their fancy dancing.

Need I go on.

The business set up in the US is not going to be changed quickly or significantly in my opinion. There are some reasons I hold this view, no matter what “real journalism” outfits asserts. Here are some of my factoids:

  1. The US government bureaucracy does not move quickly. Certain changes in bureaucratic behavior are slowed because of the revolving door between US government and industry, government workers interest in advancing their careers via lateral arabesques and the quest for grabbing the brass ring of the SES (senior executive service)
  2. Lobbyists and influencers have an old-fashioned tin-can-and-string communication method between those who pay the lobbyists and those who make the laws and, to some extent, influence how they are interpreted in US government entities
  3. Political considerations command the attention of those within and outside the US government. There are jobs at stake, and having Amazon shut down one of its nerve centers to move to more favorable climes is a bit of a concern in many circles.

And there are other factors ranging from those who own stock in the evil Sillycon Valley companies to the desire to get one’s kid a job at an outfit like Facebook or Google.

My thought is that outfits like Equifax may warrant more attention than the Sillycon Valley bros. But “real news” outfits set the agenda, right? Maybe. Sillycon Valley is one facet of the “business as usual” methods employed through many standard industrial code sectors.

Here’s a thought? Why not suggest that outfits like Equifax are regulated by a government agency. The Amazons, Facebooks, and Googles have lots of oversight compared to the controls placed on the US credit bureaus.

Why not ride on over to Equifax and sparkle in the sun?

Stephen E Arnold, September 13, 2017

Google Leans Left with Climate Search Results

September 13, 2017

Most Google users never think about bias and politics when they search or read suggested pages. Many, though, believe that the average Google user is being sold a bill of goods when searching about climate on Google. A recent WUWT investigation discovered that Google is manipulating the search results to favor left-leaning political ideas. WUWT quotes Google as claiming that their ranking is determined by the following criteria: “High-quality information pages on scientific topics should represent a well established scientific consensus on issues where such consensus exists.” (Section 3.2)

The author goes on to explain,

But the allegations of ‘scientific consensus’ are made only in one field – climate alarmism!  ‘Scientific consensus’ is almost an oxymoron.  The consensus is a decision-making method used outside of science.

Google was set up to be free from bias, but according to their own explanation, they tend to support the most popular opinion which is a dangerous route to take. Would people want a truly impartial system of search, allowing each searcher to evaluate the source for accuracy and ‘scientific consensus’, or do we like to rely on others, and Google, to make the hard decisions for us?

Catherine Lamsfuss, September 13, 2017

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