Google and Search: More Churn Turmoil

April 4, 2018

I read “John Giannandrea, Head of Google’s Cornerstone Web-Search Unit, Steps Down.” I found the phrase “steps down” amusing. I think the wizard went to the Apple orchard. Since Mr. Giannandrea ran search, Google search has become less useful to me. Now I have to use multiple search systems to locate what I think are slam dunk queries. Nope. I get some pretty off the wall Google search results.

Two points jumped out of this story for me.

First, Google is forced to go back to one of the early Googlers from the AltaVista.com team. (I did some work for an outfit called PersimmonIT, which was a provider to AltaVista.com.) What’s interesting is that Jeff Dean is one of the really old Google guard. I know he’s bright and capable but that begs this question: “Aren’t their younger, smarter, and as or more capable professionals to get the over hyped Google artificial intelligence operation underway.” I can suggest at least one candidate from the DeepMind team. But, hey, who really cares?

Second, search must be pretty broken. The job has fallen to another old timer at the GOOG. Same question: “Aren’t there younger, more with it technical wizards who can handle the massively complex, software wrapped, advertising centric systems? (Yep, systems because there is “regular” search and “mobile” search. Two search systems are part of the index puzzle Google has built over the years.) Plus, do you remember Google’s “universal” search which, as aBearStearns’ legend has it, was cooked up over a weekend to deal with a PR problem triggered by an analyst’s report to which yours truly contributed. You know “universal.” One query gets you blog content,  new Web sites, Google Books, Google Scholar, yada yada. That doesn’t exist and probably will never come to pass for some pretty good reasons. But saying something is just as good as delivering I assume.)

Net net: Google is now a mature company. The founders have distanced themselves from the legal troubles in which the company is mired. The company is caught in the Silicon Valley backlash. The Oracle Jave thing is a Freddie Kruger thing for the GOOG. Management change is a companion to the craziness which seems to characterize some units of the company.

I wonder if a query launched from a desktop computer will return on point results in the near future. I sure hope so.

Stephen E Arnold, April 4, 2018

Facebook Wants to Do Better

April 4, 2018

The company seems to be unable to cook up ways to do better. If “Do You Think Facebook Is Good for the World?” is accurate, Facebook wants its “users” to provide the company with ideas. Mr. Zuckerberg wants to “fix Facebook.” What did Alexis de Tocqueville say about voting in a “democracy”? Was it the triumph of the average? Perhaps Facebook will share the results of its survey.

Stephen E Arnold, April 4, 2018

Silicon Valley Management Method: Has Broflow Replaced Workflow?

March 23, 2018

In early March, we noted a story about Silicon Valley and evil. “How Silicon Valley Went from ‘Don’t Be Evil’ to Doing Evil” reported about the “bro” culture and a casual approach to customer privacy. There was a nod to fake news too. We noted this statement:

“[A] handful of companies or concentrated in one or two regions. The great progress in the 1980s and 1990s took place in a highly competitive, and dispersed, environment not one dominated by firms that control 80 or 90 percent of key markets. Not surprisingly, the rise of the oligarchs coincides with a general decline in business startups, including in tech.”

Today we noted “Here is How Google Handles Right to Be Forgotten Requests.” We found this passage suggestive:

Witness statements submitted by Google “legal specialist” Stephanie Caro (who admitted: “I am not by training a lawyer”) for both trials explained: “The process of dealing with each delisting request is not automated – it involves individual consideration of each request and involves human judgment. Without such an individual assessment, the procedure put in place by Google would be open to substantial abuse, with the prospect of individuals, or indeed businesses, seeking to suppress search results for illegitimate reasons.”

No smart software needed it seems. And the vaunted technical company’s workflow with regard to removal requests? Possibly “casual” or “disorganized.”

When considered against the backdrop of Facebook-Cambridge Analytics, process seems less important than other tasks.

Perhaps some management expert will assign the term “bro-flow” to the organizational procedures implemented by some high profile technology firms?

Stephen E Arnold, March 23, 2018

 

Patrick Roland, March 9, 2018

Alphabet Google: The Personnel Slide Down Continues

March 9, 2018

Google is one of the top technology companies in the world and their services are employed on nearly every computer, phone, and tablet. Google is at the most innovative when it comes to developing new technology, but a former Google insider said the opposite. Steve Yegge writing for Medium explains his Google experience in his article, “Why I Left Google To Join Grab.”

Yegge loved Google and still considered it to be one of the best places in the world to work, but he left for some good reasons:

“The main reason I left Google is that they can no longer innovate. They’ve pretty much lost that ability. I believe there are several contributing factors, of which I’ll list four here. First, they’re conservative…Second, they are mired in politics, which is sort of inevitable with a large enough organization; the only real alternative is a dictatorship, which has its own downsides. Third, Google is arrogant…But fourth, last, and probably worst of all, Google has become 100% competitor-focused rather than customer focused.”

Google has reached the apex of its innovative spirit and has gone the way over all corporations and, arguably, politicians. Google has grown so big and powerful, hires the top players in the field, and controls so many products/services that it does not want to lose face, its employees have ego problems, and they serve the almighty dollar. It is a repetitious pattern that has been playing out for ages. One of the greatest examples was the British Empire. The British Empire became so big and powerful that the resources were spread too thin, the ruling parties were arrogant, the subjects suffered, and those in power never wanted it to change. It sounds like Google, does it not?

Yegge then talked about the new endeavor called Grab and stresses the importance of keeping your ear to the ground in order to make and grow a business. Google has gotten too big, but it still has a lot of powerful and it will be awhile before it falls. Another company will pick up the slack. Someone always does.

Whitney Grace, March 9, 2018

AI Speed Bumps

March 5, 2018

If you read anything about artificial intelligence these days, it’s usually about how efficiency will go through the roof because of it. Either that, or how it’s the most destructive invention since the nuclear bomb. Both of those might be a moot point because the science behind AI is being seriously questioned. This came from a recent Science Magazine story, “Missing Data Hinders Replication of Artificial Intelligence Studies.”

According to the piece:

“The booming field of artificial intelligence (AI) is grappling with a replication crisis, much like the ones that have afflicted psychology, medicine, and other fields over the past decade. AI researchers have found it difficult to reproduce many key results, and that is leading to a new conscientiousness about research methods and publication protocols.”

The source stems from scientists’ need to publish quickly and get the upper hand in a competitive field. That means algorithms are not tested in every situation and that cracks begin to form in their theories. This feels like a growing pain for this rapidly expanding field. This comes on the heels of another study that claims we are thinking about AI all wrong. We humans tend to think of AI as working like a human brain, but it works like something totally different. We suddenly don’t have a lot of faith that scientists will get to the bottom of what that is, exactly.

As an example, the dust up between Elon Musk and Steven Pinker does little to reassure neutral observers about smart software.

Patrick Roland, March 5, 2018

Governance: Now That Is a Management Touchstone for MBA Experts

February 27, 2018

I read “Unlocking the Power of Today’s Big Data through Governance.” Quite a lab grown meat wiener that “unlocking,” “power,” “Big Data,” and “governance” statement is that headline. Yep, IDG, the outfit which cannot govern its own agreements with the people the firm pays to make the IDG experts so darned smart. (For the back-story, check out this snapshot of governance in action.)

Image result for wishful thinking

What’s the write up with the magical word governance about?

Instead of defining “governance,” I learn what governance is not; to wit:

Data governance isn’t about creating a veil of secrecy around data

I have zero idea what this means. Back to the word “governance.” Google and Wikipedia define the word in this way:

Governance is all of the processes of governing, whether undertaken by a government, market or network, whether over a family, tribe, formal or informal organization or territory and whether through the laws, norms, power or language of an organized society.

Okay, governing. What’s governing mean? Back to the GOOG. Here’s one definition which seems germane to MBA speakers:

control, influence, or regulate (a person, action, or course of events).

The essay drags out the chestnuts about lots of information. Okay, I think I understand because Big Data has been touted for many years. Now, mercifully I assert, the drums are beating out the rhythm of “artificial intelligence” and its handmaiden “algos,” the terrific abbreviation some of the marketing jazzed engineers have coined. Right, algos, bro.

What’s the control angle for Big Data? The answer is that “data governance” will deal with:

  • Shoddy data
  • Incomplete data
  • Off point data
  • Made up data
  • Incorrect data

Presumably these thorny issues will yield to a manager who knows the ins and outs of governance. I suppose there are many experts in governance; for example, the fine folks who have tamed content chaos with their “governance” of content management systems or the archiving mavens who have figured out what to do with tweets at the Library of Congress. (The answer is to not archive tweets. There you go. Governance in action.)

The article suggests a “definitive data governance program.” Right. If one cannot deal with backfiles, changes to the data in the archives, and the new flows of data—how does one do the “definitive governance program” thing? The answer is, “Generate MBA baloney and toss around buzzwords.” Check out the list of tasks which, in my experience, are difficult to accomplish when resources are available and the organization has a can-do attitude:

  • Document data and show its lineage.
  • Set appropriate policies, and enforce them.
  • Address roles and responsibilities of everyone who touches that data, encouraging collaboration across the organization.

These types of tasks are the life blood of consultants who purport to have the ability to deliver the near impossible.

What happens if we apply the guidelines in the Governance article to the data sets listed in “Big Data And AI: 30 Amazing (And Free) Public Data Sources For 2018.” In my experience, the cost of normalizing the data is likely to be out of reach for most organizations. Once these data have been put in a form that permits machine-based quality checks, the organization has to figure out what questions the data can answer with a reasonable level of confidence. Getting over these hurdles then raises the question, “Are these data up to date?” And, if the data are stale, “How do we update the information?” There are, of course, other questions, but the flag waving about governance operates at an Ivory Tower level. Dealing with data takes place with one’s knees on the ground and one’s hands in the dirt. If the public data sources are not pulling the hay wagon, what’s the time, cost, and complexity of obtaining original data sets, validating them, and whipping them into shape for use by an MBA?

You know the answer: “This is not going to happen.”

Here’s a paragraph which I circled in Oscar Mayer wiener pink:

One of the more significant, and exciting, changes in data governance has been the shift in focus to business users. Historically, data has been a technical issue owned by IT and locked within the organization by specific functions and silos. But if data is truly going to be an asset, everyday users—those who need to apply the data in different contexts—must have access and control over it and trust the data. As such, data governance is transforming from a technical tool to a business application. And chief data officers (CDOs) are starting to see the technologies behind data governance as their critical operating environment, in much the same way SAP serves CFOs, and Salesforce supports CROs. It is rare to find an opportunity to build a new system of record for a market.

Let’s look at this low calorie morsel and consider some of its constituent elements. (Have you ever seen wieners being manufactured? Fill in that gap in your education if you have not had the first hand learning experience.)

First, business users want to see a pretty dashboard, click on something that looks interesting in a visualization, and have an answer delivered. Most of the business people I know struggle to understand if the data in their system is accurate and limited expertise to understand the mathematical processes which churn away to display an “answer.”

The reference to SAP is fascinating, but I think of IBM-type systems as somewhat out of step with the more sophisticated tools available to deal with certain data problems. In short, SAP is an artifact of an earlier era, and its lessons, even when understood, have been inadequate in the era of real time data analysis.

Let me be clear: Data governance is a management malarkey. Look closely at organizations which are successful. Peer inside their data environments. When I have looked, I have seen clever solutions to specific problems. The cleverness can create its own set of challenges.

The difference between a Google and a Qwant, a LookingGlass Cyber and IBM i2, or Amazon and Wal-Mart is not Big Data. It is not the textbook definition of “governance.” Success has more to do with effective problem solving on a set of data required by a task. Google sells ads and deals with Big Data to achieve its revenue goals. LookingGlass addresses chat information for a specific case. Amazon recommends products in order to sell more products.

Experts who invoke governance on a broad scale as a management solution are disconnected from the discipline required to identify a problem and deal with data required to solve that problem.

Few organizations can do this with their “content management systems”, their “business intelligence systems,” or their “product information systems.” Why? Talking about a problem is not solving a problem.

Governance is wishful thinking and not something that is delivered by a consultant. Governance is an emergent characteristic of successful problem solving. Governance is not paint; it is not delivered by an MBA and a PowerPoint; it is not a core competency of jargon.

In Harrod’s Creek, governance is getting chicken to the stores in the UK. Whoops. That management governance is not working. So much in modern business does not work very well.

Stephen E Arnold, February 27, 2018

Google: What We Have Here Is a Failure to Innovate

February 23, 2018

Google is one of the top technology companies in the world and their services are employed on nearly every computer, phone, and tablet. Google is at the most innovative when it comes to developing new technology, but a former Google insider said the opposite. Steve Yegge writing for Medium explains his Google experience in his article, “Why I Left Google To Join Grab.”

Yegge loved Google and still considered it to be one of the best places in the world to work, but he left for some good reasons:

“The main reason I left Google is that they can no longer innovate. They’ve pretty much lost that ability. I believe there are several contributing factors, of which I’ll list four here. First, they’re conservative…Second, they are mired in politics, which is sort of inevitable with a large enough organization; the only real alternative is a dictatorship, which has its own downsides. Third, Google is arrogant…But fourth, last, and probably worst of all, Google has become 100% competitor-focused rather than customer focused.”

Google has reached the apex of its innovative spirit and has gone the way over all corporations and, arguably, politicians. Google has grown so big and powerful, hires the top players in the field, and controls so many products/services that it does not want to lose face, its employees have ego problems, and they serve the almighty dollar. It is a repetitious pattern that has been playing out for ages. One of the greatest examples was the British Empire. The British Empire became so big and powerful that the resources were spread too thin, the ruling parties were arrogant, the subjects suffered, and those in power never wanted it to change. It sounds like Google, does it not?

Yegge then talked about the new endeavor called Grab and stresses the importance of keeping your ear to the ground in order to make and grow a business. Google has gotten too big, but it still has a lot of powerful and it will be awhile before it falls. Another company will pick up the slack. Someone always does.

Whitney Grace, February 23, 2018

Facebook and Google: Set Up a Standards Entity

January 25, 2018

Ah, governance. A murky word which means figuring out the rules of the road. Tough job.

I read “UK Advertisers urge Facebook and Google to Set Up Standards Body.” The idea is interesting. It reminds me of the hapless part time teacher who was supposed to manage my high school science club. Shortly before one of the wags ignited a smoke bomb in chemistry class, our science club was asked to stop playing pranks. Yep, that notion lasted less than 24 hours.

I think of Facebook, Google, and some other outfits as high school science and math clubs whose DNA is now more mature—just with niftier technology.

The write up ignores what I perceive as the basis of some interesting corporate behavior. I learned from the article:

Advertisers have called on Facebook and Google to establish an independent body to regulate and monitor content on both of their platforms.

Okay, both companies are supposed to generate a return for their shareholders. Both companies are not too keen on people not working in a sufficiently advanced field offering suggestions. This is similar to the concierge of a fancy hotel telling the bank president financing the outfit what to have for breakfast.

The write up opined in a “real” news way:

Google and Facebook should “thrash out some common principles” over content moderation and removal that could be adopted and enforced by an independent body, which they would fund, he [Phil Smith, director general of the Incorporated Society of British Advertiser or ISBA] said.

The write up reported:

Mr Smith, a former marketing director of Kraft, said advertisers expect the big technology companies to take action because consumers are becoming skeptical of digital advertising. “Our consumer research tells us that digital advertising is intrusive and not being trusted,” he said. Consumers “know that television advertising is regulated in some way – both the advertising and the content – but they don’t believe that to be the case in any respect when it comes to digital”.

Yep, great idea.

I believe that regulators are interested in paying more attention to Facebook and Google. I would toss Amazon and Apple into the basket as well.

However, the interest is less about sales and more about tax revenue.

How would a regulatory body go about making a modification to an automated algorithm which reacts to what users do in real time?

Facebook and Google operate in interesting ways; regulatory authorities may not be into the “interesting” thing.

Stephen E Arnold, January 25, 2018

Palantir Awaits a Decision on its US Army Matter

October 28, 2016

More information is available about the Palantir – US Army legal matter. You can find the write up at this link. The decision, according to Bloomberg, may arrive on Monday, October 31, 2016. Palantir awaits its trick or treat day.

Kenny Toth, October 28, 2016

Governance for Big Data. A Sure Fire Winner for Consultants

July 28, 2016

I read “What’s Next for Big Data Analytics?” I didn’t know the answer to this question, and I still don’t. The angle of attack is common sense. Companies with experience is dealing with digital information often have viewpoints different from the marketing collateral produced by their colleagues. This write up seems to fall in the category of Mr. Bush’s request, “Please, clap.”

The idea is that an organization has to have information policies. That sounds like consultant speak. Most organizations struggle to figure out what their company party policies are. Digital data policies are one of those tasks that senior managers allow others to wrestle to the ground and get a tap out.

The write up includes a number of diagrams. I highlighted this one:

image

The red area is the governance and management thing. Good luck with that. Companies need revenue. Big Data is supposed to deliver. If not, those policies and governance meeting minutes along with the consultants who billed big bucks for them are going to the shredder in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, July 28, 2016

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