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USDA Research Now Easily Searchable by Public

February 16, 2015

In order to give citizens more access to research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Agricultural Library (NAL) has launched a new, public-facing search engine called PubAg. The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service tells us about the tool in, “NAL Unveils New Search Engine for Published USDA Research.” It looks a lot like a Lucene/Solr system to us; that choice would not be at all surprising. The post tells us:

“PubAg, which can be found at, is a new portal for literature searches and full-text access of more than 40,000 scientific journal articles by USDA researchers, mostly from 1997 to 2014. New articles by USDA researchers will be added almost daily, and older articles may be added if possible. There is no access fee for PubAg.

“Phase I of PubAg provides access for searches of 340,000 peer-reviewed agriculturally related scientific literature, mostly from 2002 to 2012, each entry offering a citation, abstract and a link to the article if available from the publisher. This initial group of highly relevant, high-quality literature was taken from the 4 million bibliographic citations in NAL’s database.”

The agency has worked to make the system easy to use for folks from farmers to academicians. So easy, in fact, that there’s no registration — no user name or password is needed. We’re told that NAL maintains “one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive compilations of agricultural information.” Now they’ve made that wealth of knowledge available to us all.

Cynthia Murrell, February 16, 2015

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Sci Tech Ripple: Lousy Data, Alleged Cover Ups

February 14, 2015

Short honk: I don’t want to get stuck in this tar pit. Read “Are Your Medications Safe?” A professor and some students dug up information that is somewhat interesting. If you happen to be taking medicine, you may not have the full dosage of facts. What’s up? Would the word “malfeasance” be suitable? It is Friday the 13th too.

Stephen E Arnold, February 14, 2015

Google in China: Countries Are Not Getting with the Program

December 29, 2014

Years ago, I pointed out that companies telling countries what to do might not be the path to a bright future in some circumstances. Countries have police, military, agencies, and rules. When an outsider suggests that the approach a country is taking is against the interests of a particular company, some of those in power have long memories.

I read “China’s Great Firewall Attacks Google Once Again, Blocks Any Form of Access to Gmail.” The headline is a bit misleading, probably in a quest to get lots of Google juice.

Firewalls do not attack. Firewalls are configured by people or other systems for a purpose. In this case, if the story is accurate, some human wants to prevent those within China’s datasphere from accessing Gmail. I am not sure this configuration is an “attack.” But with cyber warfare allegations flying around, some online publications just go with the semantic flow.

The write up asserts, one assumes correctly:

Gmail users in China are now finding that Google’s email service is totally inaccessible in the country. While Gmail’s website has been blocked in China since June, along with every other Google service, it had remained usable via IMAP/SMAP/POP in third-party email apps such as Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail. However, this newest crackdown seems to have shut that loophole, with Gmail’s IMAP, SMAP, and POP servers now fully blocked in China.

How does Google mend fences with China? One step forward on this long journey might be to take a look at what some companies are doing to tap into what seems to be a hefty market. Google is good at emulation, but in the case of China, criticism directed at Chinese authorities might be difficult to remove from the Chinese authorities’ index.

Google’s zippy approach to generating ad revenue generates lots of money. Money is often equated with influence in some countries. In China, there may be other more important factors in play.

For 2015, Google has some thinking to do if it wants to keep the China market in the Google tent or at least near the Google tent. On the other hand, too much dependence on China can lead to the YUM Brands problems. Once the money begins to flow, China’s consumer market can shift. Google has a need for ad revenue. What will Google do to pipe China cash into the Googleplex?

Good question, but it should have been asked a decade ago. In my experience, countries don’t change. I have a few examples at hand, but I won’t trot those out. Any TV news program provides ample illustrations of the disconnect between the way things are assumed to be and the way things are in nation states.

When I want to search information in China, you may need to seek alternatives to the Google.

Stephen E Arnold, December 29, 2014

FCC and Digital Content: Groundhog Day Time

December 20, 2014

Let’s assume, just for Saturday fun, that “FCC Mysteriously Lost Hundreds of Thousands Net Neutrality Comments” is accurate. One question:

Do the FCC and IRS share the same chief technical organization?

Fascinating and I visualize a groundhog rolling its eyes.

Stephen E Arnold, December 20, 2014

Google: Not Yet the Conquistador of Spanish News

December 11, 2014

I have zero idea if this is a tire change on Google’s run to the trophy at el Gran Premio de España or a spin out. (By the way, I don’t care.)

Here’s the write up from my favorite pro physical punishment news outlet: “Google’s rough time in Europe continues with closure of Google News Spain.”

If accurate, some publishers in Spain are throwing roses because the GOOG has turned off its Spanish Google News service. Olé. If I understand the situation, the Google would have to pay a “tax” to use story links. Olé.

I noted this passage:

The move is likely to mean a huge drop in traffic for many of the Spanish media outlets that regularly appear on Google’s news site in the country, a situation that could ultimately lead to a climb-down by the Spanish government.

“Likely” strikes me a limp word. Anyone recall how quickly a certain German news and information company did an about face when its traffic cratered? Well, I do. Axel Springer, which owns it own Google goblin in the somewhat fascinating logic of Google’s senior managers, now understands what traffic means. Stated simply, if one’s Web page or Web whatever is not in the Google index, that Web whatever does not exist for most of the Internet world. Is this a monopoly position? What about that one click away from another search system? Is that baloney? Is Mr. Vanderbilt proud of Google from his perch in capitalist heaven? Will Spain get the message?

Yep, eventually. Anyway the news outlets can work hard to get big time traffic from Exalead Search or Yahoo. (Remember the yodel?)

I wonder if Google questions why pesky countries cannot understand the Google way. Nah.

Stephen E Arnold, December 11, 2014

The EU Parliament and How Google Works

November 28, 2014

The search engine optimization crowd is definitely excited about calls to break up the Google. You will want to read (when sitting down, of course) “Oh No They Didn’t: European Parliament Calls For Break Up Of Google.” I am not sure if this write up is about the vision of search in Europe or the view of the search engine optimization brigands.

The idea in Europe has to do with memories of big companies and the difficulty ruling bodies have of controlling them. Think IG Farben and certain US outfits in the second world war. I assume the learnings from the Quaero investment and the market success of Dassault Exalead’s Internet search system and the more recent Quixotic, the adrenaline pumping Sinequa, and other European search efforts has made one fact clear: Google is the go to search system by a wide margin. How about 95 percent of the search traffic in Denmark, for example?

For the SEO crowd, the notion of splitting up Google is obviously a new idea. The write up states:

It’s clear there’s a lot of frustration — even exasperation — behind this vote and Europe’s seeming inability to date to “do anything about Google.” Europe has been unable to produce home-grown competitors that can challenge the online hegemony of internet companies such as Google and Facebook. The company’s PC market share is much higher in Europe than in the US and Android is the dominant smartphone operating system there by far.

Like an American pro football competition, there is a winner and Europe does not like the outcome. The SEO crowd owes its livelihood to Google’s indifference to objective search results. Don’t tip the apple cart, please.

In the view of the SEO crowd:

It’s very unlikely that the European Commission will actually try to “unbundle” Google’s search engine from the rest of the company. However it’s possible that in Europe Google will be compelled to unbundle its privacy policy and won’t be able to combine data-sets for personalization and ad-targeting purposes. We will also probably see some effort to curb Google’s control over Android as well.

I find it fascinating that the lessons of online are one that have not yet been learned by either regulators or the search engine optimization wizards. The only thing missing is a for fee analysis of the search scene by one of the mid tier consulting outfits. Dave Schubmehl, are you at your iPhone’s touch screen keyboard.

Oh, no. Oh, yes. How Google works is the issue.

Stephen E Arnold, November 28, 2014

Will Hand-Carved Type and Printing Return to Strasbourg?

November 12, 2014

I am not hip to the ins and outs of France and its financial situation. I assume the country with more than 200 varieties of cheese and almost as many somewhat obscure search and content processing companies is rolling right along.

I was puzzled by this item: “France Signs a Five-Year National Deal with Elsevier.”

The main points seems to that Elsevier, part owner of the outstandingly expensive online service LexisNexis, has signed a deal to provide Elsevier content for what strikes me as a reasonable price: €171 697 159.

The article seems to imply that this is not a good deal:

French research is in disarray. Some universities are on the verge of bankruptcy. Others anticipates four meager years. Strangely enough, money is not the problem. The French State actually gives away several billions each year in the form of tax incentives so that private companies fund research (the “Crédit impôt recherche”). This policy has proven dramatically ineffectual : it is actually nothing more than a tool for tax optimization, that does little if nothing to encourage research.

I have confidence that the French know exactly how to maintain their premier position in education, finance, and linguistic excellence. Elsevier, by the way, has one very happy sales person.

Stephen E Arnold, November 12, 2014

Palantir: Now an Enterprise App Developer

September 30, 2014

I read “Hush Hush Data Firm Palantir Snags ICE Case Tracking Deal.” Palantir may be moving from supporting intelligence agencies to the market sector dominated by government contractors like SRA, Booz Allen Hamilton, and CACI.

The article states:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has awarded secretive data-mining firm Palantir a $42 million contract to redo the investigation agency’s failed case filing system.

The challenge will be to make a case management system work in a manner that satisfies the statement of work. Other case management efforts have crashed and burned.

Palantir appears to be working with a tough mandate: On time and on budget delivery. As you may know, the notion of on time and on budget is only valid until the first scope change rolls down the timeline.

Are flaws in case management systems unusual. Nah. The article reveals:

The Justice Department inspector general last week released a report on the FBI’s new case management system, Sentinel, assailing its searching and indexing features for slowing the investigations of special agents and the productivity levels of evidence technicians.

Why are case management systems problematic? I can identify a number of reasons, but it will be more entertaining if I wait for news about the Palantir project’s path.

Stephen E Arnold, October 17, 2014

NSA Catalog Available

September 27, 2014

Short honk: I you want a copy of National Security Agency 2014 Technology Catalog: Technology Transfer Program, you can download it for now from this link. If found pages 26 to 40 fascinating. Will IDC issue its own version of this document, using its surfing technical demonstrated by Dave Schubmehl with my content? I will keep my eye open.

Stephen E Arnold, September 27, 2014

Federal Agencies Perpetually Battle Connectivity Loss

September 24, 2014

This may be stating the obvious, but ComputerWorld declares that “IT Outages Are an Ongoing Problem for the U.S. Government.” The article cites a recent report sponsored by Symantec and performed by MeriTalk, which runs a network for government IT workers. Though the issues that originally plagued were their own spectacular kettle of fish, our federal government’s other computer networks are no paragons of efficiency. Writer Patrick Thibodeau tells us:

“Specifically, the survey found that 70% of federal agencies have experienced downtime of 30 minutes of more in a recent one-month period. Of that number, 42% of the outages were blamed on network or server problems and 29% on Internet connectivity loss….

“The report is interesting because it surveys two distinct government groups, 152 federal ‘field workers,’ or people who work outside the office, and 150 IT professionals. Because the field workers are outside the office, some of the outages may be the result of local connectivity problems at either a hotel, home or other remote site. But, overall, the main reason for loss of access to data was a government outage.”

The write-up goes on to note that most workers can go on with their tasks via some other method, like by telephone (48%), through their personal devices (33%), or with some other workaround like Google Apps (24%). Imagine how much more efficient government workers could be if they were not frequently required to get creative just to do basic parts of their jobs.

Cynthia Murrell, September 24, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

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