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Watson: Will It Be Able to Make Major Government Applications More Intelligent?

June 30, 2015

I recently commented on the 25 percent problem rate in government software. You can find that Beyond Search item at this link. I can relate to companies who want to improve US government software. Go for it.

IBM has a plan which apparently ignores IBM Federal Systems (an outfit which creates, upgrades, and maintains some US government software). The approach focuses on a group of student from the University of Texas at Austin.

The write up states that Lauri Saft, director of the IBM Watson Ecosystem, has this view:

“You don’t program Watson, you teach it. We gave them [the students] the empty shell of Watson and said, ‘Go and come up with ideas you feel would be valuable.’”

The training method was one of Autonomy IDOL’s most important functions. The challenge which IDOL licensees faced, as I understand the system, is that the system can drift unless training and calibration are part of the routine maintenance cycle. For some licensees, the time and cost of the training and calibration were hurdles. Has Watson moved beyond Autonomy’s approach?

I assume the answer is, “Yes.” Therefore, the use of Watson to improve government software by making that software more intelligent should be a home run.

The students in Austin created a Watson app named CallScout. The focus is not on government software as I think of market opportunities. The students are working on a social service program in Texas. The application is customer support solution. That’s good.

My thought was that IBM Federal Systems would be using Watson’s remarkably broad spectrum of capabilities to address issues at the national level, maybe the regional level for Homeland Security or the EPA. I did not expect a local app for social services in Texas.

Perhaps the IBM Federal Systems Watson home run will be announced soon. The incubator with student thing is not likely to boost IBM top line revenues in the way a major US government Watson deal would. But PR is PR, big or small. IBM needs its Federal Systems’ unit to get the Watson revenue flowing. Time is a wastin’ because there are other outfits nosing into this potentially lucrative territory.

Stephen E Arnold, June 30, 2015

How to Succeed in China: Maybe Follow the Rules?

June 27, 2015

I love articles which explain how to do something to anticipated readers who have zero chance to build a business in China. Navigate to “A New Wave of US Internet Companies Is Succeeding in China—By Giving the Government What It Wants.”

I am not sure a degree in business is required to understand this concept. In my experience, when one is in another country, common sense suggests that the government officials expect outsiders to play by the rules. Ever wonder why West Point cadets look so darned polished. Well, consider the downside associated with wearing an Iron Maiden T shirt, soccer trunks, and flip flops?

The write up points out:

“If you want to develop an internet business in Chinese now, you have to be willing to work with the Chinese government, even if that means censoring content or sharing access to your data,” Ben Cavender, principal at the China Market Research Group, told Quartz.

Outfits who have learned this simple lesson, according to the write up, are LinkedIn, Uber, and Evernote. Outfits who have not figured out the calculus of the West Point approach to order include Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Hey, Facebook is trying. I saw a news item revealing that the Facebook top Facebooker learned sort of Chinese. Yippy.

So which companies have “better” managers? Those in the big market or those looking at the big market?

How does this related to search and content processing? I don’t know of too many information access companies dominating the Chinese market. When it comes to cyberOSINT, there is Knowlesys which sort of operates in Hong Kong and does have an office in China.

Class dismissed. Oh, you with the flip flops, may I have a word with you?

Stephen E Arnold, June 27, 2015

You Cannot Search It If It Is Not There: The Wayback in Russia

June 26, 2015

I know that many people believe that a search reveals “all” and “everything” about a topic. Nothing is further from the truth. There are forces at work which wish to ensure that only certain information is available to a person with an Internet connection.

Navigate to “Russia Bans the Internet Archive’s ‘Wayback Machine’.” The Wayback Machine, which once had tie ups with outfits as different as the Library of Congress and Amazon. I found it useful when working as an expert witness to be able refresh my memory on certain Web sites’ presentation of information. I am confident there are other uses of “old information.”

According the write up, Russia is not to keen on the notion of old information. Kenneth Waggner, one of my high school teachers, had Russian language textbooks from the Stalin era. He had marked passages included in one book and excluded from another. If he were correct, the tradition of filtering has a reasonable track record in Russia. Keep in mind that other countries and company and individuals have the same goal: Present only what a smarter, more informed person thinks I should be able to access.

The article states:

By banning access to the Internet Archive, the government is denying Russian Internet users a powerful tool—one that is particularly useful in an environment where websites often disappear behind a state-operated blacklist, as is increasingly true in Russia today.

Governments are like horse races. No one is sure of the winner unless the race is rigged.

Stephen E Arnold, June 26, 2015

The US Government and Software: Some of It Works Maybe

June 25, 2015

I read “Report: Government Software Flawed, Rarely Fixed.” Over the years I have tallied some anecdotes about US government software. Examples range from outputs that come from a pool of demonstration data instead of the actual data from the system to content management systems which cannot manage content.

The write up states:

According to Veracode’s annual software security report just 24 percent of government sector software was found to be compliant — the lowest rate among seven sectors Veracode studied.  The report suggests that one reason could be government’s frequent use of scripting and older languages such as ColdFusion, which can lead to more vulnerabilities. When it comes to fixing those vulnerabilities, government again had the lowest rate at just 27  percent. Veracode looked 34 industries in all, grouped into seven sectors: government, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, retail and hospitality, technology and “other.”

In the wake of the recent security issues at a certain US government agency, the challenge is now national news.

Stephen E Arnold, June 25,2015

Short Honk: Snowden Document Inventory

June 12, 2015

Short honk: Curious about Snowden documents? If so, navigate to “Snowden Doc Search.” The site provides a snippet and some tags. We have seen other Snowden collections, but we view these with skepticism and indifference. You, gentle reader, may find the approach just what you need as a source of jargon and milspec graphics.

Stephen E Arnold, June 12 2015

IBM Elevates Tape Storage to the Cloud

June 9, 2015

Did you think we left latency and bad blocks behind with tape storage? Get ready to revisit them, because “IBM Cloud Will Reach Back to Tape for Low-Cost Storage,” according to ComputerWorld. We noticed tape storage was back on the horizon earlier this year, and now IBM has made it official at its recent Edge conference in Las Vegas. There, the company was slated to present a cloud-archiving architecture that relies on a different storage mediums, including tape, depending on an organization’s needs. Reporter Stephen Lawson writes:

“Enterprises are accumulating growing volumes of data, including new types such as surveillance video that may never be used on a regular basis but need to be stored for a long time. At the same time, new big-data analytics tools are making old and little-used data useful for gleaning new insights into business and government. IBM is going after customers in health care, social media, oil and gas, government and other sectors that want to get to all of their data no matter where it’s stored. IBM’s system, which it calls Project Big Storage, puts all tiers of storage under one namespace, creating a single pool of data that users can manage through folders and directories without worrying about where it’s stored. It incorporates both file and object storage.”

A single pool of data is good. The inclusion of tape storage in this mix is reportedly part of an attempt to undercut IBM’s cloudy competitors, including AWS and Google Cloud. Naturally, the service can be implemented onsite, as a cloud service, or as a hybrid. IBM hopes Big Storage will make cloud pricing more predictable, though complexity there seems inevitable. Tape storage is slower to deliver data, but according to the plan only “rarely needed” data will be stored there, courtesy of IBM’s own Spectrum Scale distributed storage software. Wisely, IBM is relying on the tape-handling experts at Iron Mountain to run the tape-based portion of the Big Storage Project.

Cynthia Murrell, June 9, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


The Public Living Room

June 6, 2015

While much of the information that libraries offer is available via the Internet, many of their services are not.  A 2013 Gallup survey showed that over 90 percent of Americans feel that libraries are important to their communities.  The recent recession, however, forced local governments to cut library funding by 38 percent and the federal government by 19 percent.  Some library users see the “public living room” (a place to read, access computers, research, play games, etc.) as a last bastion for old technology and printed material.

Alternet’s article. “Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever In The Age Of Google” highlights a new book by John Palfrey called BiblioTech that discusses how libraries can maintain their relevancy and importance in communities.  Palfrey’s biggest argument is that humans are creating huge amounts of data, which is controlled by big and small tech companies.  These companies are controlling what information is available for consumption, while libraries offer people the ability to access any type of information and free of charge.

Palfrey offers other reasons to continue using libraries: print and ink archives are more reliable than digital, how physical, communal space is important for communities and education, and how librarians are vital components.

“These arguments, however, rely too heavily on the humans-are-better-than-technology rationale where “better” is measured by technological rather than humanistic standards. If librarians have a higher success rate than Amazon’s algorithm at recommending books, this might not be true forever. Does that mean we won’t need librarians at some point? No, the dilemma of disappearing libraries is not just about efficiency, it’s also about values. Librarians recommend books because they are part of a community and want to start a discussion among the people they see around them—to solve the world’s problems, but also just to have a conversation, because people want to be near each other. The faster technology improves and surpasses human capability, the more obvious it becomes that being human is not merely about being capable, it’s about relating to other humans.”

Palfrey’s views are described as ideological and in many ways they are.  Politicians cut funding, because they view libraries as archaic institutions and are blinded when it comes to the inequity when it comes to information access. Libraries indeed need a serious overhaul, but unlike the article explains, it is not simply updating the buildings and collections.  It runs more along the lines of teaching people the importance of information and free information access.

Whitney Grace, June 7, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The US Government and Its Colors: Newspaper Gets Excited

May 29, 2015

I am not sure why the Washington Post content is catching my attention. I don’t look for information about the colors which the US government says are acceptable. The Bezos newspaper does find this subject important. Navigate to “The US Government Has 650 Official Colors. Can You Tell Them Apart?” The answer to the question is, “Nah. Don’t care.” I was looking for information about search and content processing yesterday, May 29.

Somehow “search” and “color” aimed me at a color article. The write up includes a link to the panoply of colors. But the keystone of the write up is a test. No, I am not kidding. There are color swatches and click boxes. The idea is to figure out which color denotes a mail box. I know I spot mail boxes by driving into the post office parking lot and looking for the boxes which have a slot for the mail. I am not sure I process the color because I have learned that the post office in Harrod’s Creek has one box with a  slot in front of the house trailer which serves as the official USPS facility. I don’t know the color of the trailer either.

Here’s what the test looks like:


So what?

Question 5 asks, “Which of these is described as Public Building Standard?” The answer is green.


My recollection of my government work is different. The White House is sort of creamy white.

The GSA building is stone tan and gray.

Justice is sort of light gray.

The CIA has no color which I can recall because I have no memory of the facility.


How many green government buildings do you recall? Even Ft. Knox paints it buildings a sort of yellow white.

The point is that there are some stories which warrant coverage; for example, the valuation of Temis, which was acquired by an Italian outfit at a price which is stunningly low. How about tackling the China-Indonesia matter? What about the US budget?

But color? The only thing the story did not include was a link to Amazon so I could buy some paint to daub on my print out of this story. As the story itself points out:

Right. That dull beige is 34554, the color of mediocrity.

There you go. Journalism and reportage uses the word “mediocrity.”

Stephen E Arnold, May 29, 2015

France Cooks Boeuf Google Be Gone

April 19, 2015

I read “French Senate Backs Bid to Force Google to Disclose Search Algorithm Workings.” The Google is going to be Googley. My hunch is that the GOOG will take the approach of a trois etoile chef and keep some of the ingredients in a classic French dish under wraps. The French Senate, on the other hand, may concoct a dish, like revenge, best served cold, Boeuf Google Be Gone. Will French online users kick their Google habit? Perhaps France will embrace Dassault Exalead or Qwant? Will the groups which annoyed Caesar prevail?

Stephen E Arnold, April 19, 2015

Enterprise Search: Mixed Messages from a Perpetual Confusion Machine

April 5, 2015

I read “Enterprise Search: The Answer to All Our Problems or Technology That Most Users Neither Need Nor Want?” The write up comes from Australia, a country with a long and quite interesting history of information retrieval. I have written about the contributions of Dr. Ron Sacks Davis, an individual whom most North American search vendors, ignore. Some of these vendors reinvented Dr. Sacks Davis’ wheels, but that is the norm in the “new” and “revolutionary” world of search and content processing. Today you can tap Funnelback, a product losing a bit of marketing steam in the last six months, to scratch your information access itch. And there are other Australian milestones to consider; for example, YourAmigo, which is now applying its technology to the search engine optimization problem.

The article which has New South Wales government spin mentions several of the enterprise search marketers’ favorite truisms; for example, find information wherever it resides and boost productivity (yep, that works in a government entity).

What I found interesting about the article is that it states, quite clearly, that “most employees don’t need or want to search for information enterprise wide.” Okay, that jibes with my team’s research. The write up states:

Most employees within these organizations work within a few discrete areas of the business and know exactly where the information they need to do their job is kept. They locate records by navigating structured network drives, document stores etc. One member of the group commented that it is interesting that employees will happily search for information online but prefer to browse for information at work. There are some ‘power users’ within these organizations who either already use or would benefit from the implementation of enterprise search technologies.

The issue, as I think about this statement is cost. Why spend massive sums to benefit a small percentage of a workforce? I think this question strikes at the heart of value, knowledge, and access assumptions.

The article points out that incoming information is classified by enterprise search systems. My take is that this is a useful function. Enterprise search, according to the article, “could be used to facilitate retention and disposal.” After decades of effort, the idea that one can eliminate digital information in order to perform a records management function strikes me as surprising. Does the statement imply that New South Wales does not have a records management system despite massive investments in content management technology.

Notice that the write up has blended enterprise search which means the user looks for content with indexing new information and disposing of old information. I find the mixture a compound with potent confusion power.

Net net: The article makes it clear that enterprise search is not exactly what some people want. Nevertheless, enterprise search performs various information functions which could—note the conditional—have some upsides.

Little wonder why marketers pitching enterprise search benefits talk in circles. The customers themselves are chasing information kangaroos. My question, “Are government entities world wide behaving in a similar fashion?” Fascinating.

Stephen E Arnold, April 5, 2015

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