November 24, 2015
I often find myself at Business Insider, reading about a recent development. That’s why I was intrigued by the article, “Sold! Axel Springer Bets Big on Digital, Buys Business Insider” at re/code. Though for me the name conjures an image of a sensationalistic talk-show host with a bandana and a wide vocal range, Axel Springer is actually a publisher based in Germany, and has been around since 1946. We note that they also own stake in the Qwant search engine, and their website touts they are now the “leading digital publisher in Europe.” This is one traditional publisher that is taking the world’s shift to the digital realm head on.
Writer Peter Kafka sees a connection between this acquisition and Axel Springer’s failed bid to buy the venerable Financial Times. He writes:
“Axel Springer is a Berlin-based publisher best known as the owner of newspapers Die Welt and Bild. In July, it missed its chance to buy the Financial Times, the august, 127-year-old business news publisher, when it was outbid at the last second by Japan’s Nikkei. Business Insider shares very little in common with the FT, other than they both deal with financial topics: While the FT has built out its own digital operations in recent years, it’s a subscription-based business whose stock-in-trade is sober, restrained reporting. Business Insider is a fast-twitch publisher, pitched at readers who’ve grown up on the Web and based on a free, ad-supported business model. While the site was famous for its you-bet-you’ll-keep-clicking headlines and slideshows, it also did plenty of serious reporting; in the last year it has been on an expansion binge, adding a British outpost, a new tech site and a new gambit that’s supposed to create viral content that lives on platforms like Facebook. Today’s transaction appears to link the FT and BI: Industry executives think Springer’s inability to land the Financial Times made them that much hungrier to get Business Insider.”
Perhaps, but this deal may be a wise choice nevertheless. Digital news and information is here to stay, and Business Insider seems to have figured out the format. We’ll see how Axel Springer leverages that know-how.
Cynthia Murrell, November 24, 2015
November 20, 2015
IBM has created a free Paper.li blog that features information about the company: IBM’s InfoSphere Master Data Management Roundup. Besides the general categories of Headlines and Videos, readers can explore articles under Science, Technology, Business, and two IBM-specific categories, #Bluemix and #IBM. If you love to watch as Big Blue gets smaller, you will find this free newspaper useful in tracking some of the topics upon which IBM is building its future.
Oddly, though, we did not spot any articles from Alliance at IBM on the site. Some employees are unhappy with the way the company has been treating its workers, and have launched that site to publicize their displeasure. Here’s their Statement of Principles:
“Alliance@IBM/CWA Local 1701 is an IBM employee organization that is dedicated to preserving and improving our rights and benefits at IBM. We also strive towards restoring management’s respect for the individual and the value we bring to the company as employees. Our mission is to make our voice heard with IBM management, shareholders, government and the media. While our ultimate goal is collective bargaining rights with IBM, we will build our union now and challenge IBM on the many issues facing employees from off-shoring and job security to working conditions and company policy.”
It looks like IBM has more to worry about than sliding profits. Could the two issues be related?
Cynthia Murrell, November 20, 2015
November 12, 2015
Google Books was controversial the moment it was conceived. The concept is simple and effective though: books in academic libraries are scanned and snippets are made available online. People have the ability to search Google Books for specific words or phrases, then they are shown where it is contained within a book. The Atlantic wrote, “After Ten Years, Google Books Is Legal” about how a Second Circuit judge panel ruled in favor of Google Books against the Authors Guild.
The panel ruled that Google Books fell under the terms of “Fair Use,” which as most YouTubers know, is the ability to use a piece of copyrighted content within a strict set of rules. Fair usage includes works of parody, academic works, quotations, criticism, or summarization.
The Authors Guild argued that Google Books was infringing upon its members copyrights and stealing potential profits, but anyone knows that too much of a copyright is a bad thing. It places too many limitations on how the work can be used, harming the dissemination of creative and intellectual thought.
“’It gives us a better senses of where fair use lies,” says Dan Cohen, the executive director of the Digital Public Library of America. They “give a firmer foundation and certainty for non-profits…Of all the parts of Judge Leval’s decision, many people I talked to were happiest to see that it stressed that fair use’s importance went beyond any tool, company, or institution. ‘To me, I think a muscular fair use is an overall benefit to society, and I think it helps both authors and readers,’ said Cohen.”
Authors do have the right to have their work copyright and make a profit off it, which should be encouraged and a person’s work should not be given away for free. There is a wealth of information out there, however, that is kept under lock and key and otherwise would not be accessed with a digital form. Google Books only extends a book’s reach, speaking from one who has relied on it for research.
November 5, 2015
Alphabet Googlers like messages short. Heck, even the Gmail system will display three brief responses to an email. Time is money. Alphabet Googlers don’t have enough of either.
I read “Google Owner Accuses EU of Antitrust About-Face.” The idea is that the European Union is not behaving in a manner acceptable to the Alphabet Googlers. Even worse, the EU is changes its collective mind. I know that governments are supposed to be consistent, but check out the water rights issues for farmers in Nevada. The government can and does changes it mind, often with negative consequences. Think dead cows and wilting crops.
If you try to read the Wall Street Journal story you have have to view the content. If you a dead tree subscribers, dive into your back issues.
I highlighted several points in the real journalist write up:
First, the Alphabet Google thing does not perceive any basis for imposing fines on the friendly search giant.
Second, the non Googley EU officials want to make the case against the Google Alphabet thing global, not just local to the well organized, efficient European Union. Here’s the passage I circled:
The EU warned that Google could face substantial fines and called on the company to use the “same underlying processes and methods” when presenting rival comparison-shopping services on its search page, according to people who have seen the EU’s charge sheet. Fines could theoretically amount to 10% of the company’s revenue, which in 2014 totaled $66 billion.
Third, I put an exclamation point next to this statement:
“If the Commission decides to end the commitment process it must therefore provide reasons for the change in position,” the document says. It argues that the EU “has not provided substantiated reasons as to why it found the January 2014 commitments insufficient.” Google also questions the EU’s legal justification for demanding that Google change its algorithms to treat comparison-shopping rivals equally in search results. To do so, Google argues, the EU would need to show that its results are as essential as a public utility. “The only legal framework that could apply here for a finding of abuse is the framework for a duty to supply,” the document says. “But the [charge sheet] does not (and cannot) establish the legal conditions for such a duty.”
The tone reminded me of Alphabet Google’s suggestions that China get with the Google program. How did that work out?
For me, the most important factoid in the write up is that the Alphabet Google response is about 130 pages long. That’s a lot of words, especially for the very busy Googlers.
Maybe the Alphabet Google reorganization will allow the founders to sit on the sidelines and pay for the legal maneuvers. My hunch is that the EU can make life semi annoying for Alphabet Google.
Stephen E Arnold, November 5, 2015
October 31, 2015
If you are a lucky online maven with free Lexis and Westlaw access, you do not want to waste your time reading “Harvard Law School Launches “Free the Law” Project with Ravel Law To Digitize US Case Law, Provide Free Access.”
But if you pay hard cash to run queries on certain court documents, you may want to pay attention to the Ravel-Harvard plan to provide access to US case law.
Ravel wants to catch the attention of the big guns at Reed Elsevier and Thomson Reuters. I assume the executives at these companies are on top of the Ravel plan to unravel their money machines.
According to the Harvard write up:
Harvard Law School’s collection comprises 40,000 books containing approximately forty million pages of court decisions, including original materials from cases that predate the U.S. Constitution. It is the most comprehensive and authoritative database of American law and cases available anywhere except for the Library of Congress, containing binding judicial decisions from the federal government and each of the fifty states, from the founding of each respective jurisdiction. The Harvard Law School Library—the largest academic law library in the world—has been collecting these decisions over the past two hundred years.
Where there is legal information and the two leading for fee legal online services, my hunch is that there will be some legal eagles taking flight.
According to Techdirt:
Harvard “owns” the resulting data (assuming what’s ownable), and while there are some initial restrictions that Ravel can put on the corpus of data, that goes away entirely after eight years, and can end earlier if Ravel “does not meet its obligations.” Beyond that, Harvard is making everything available to non-profits and researchers anyway. Ravel is apparently looking to make some money by providing advanced tools for sifting through the database, even if the content itself will be freely available.
What will the professional publishing outfits do to preserve their market? I can think of several actions. Sure, litigation is one route. But taking Harvard to court might generate some bad vibes. Perhaps Reed Elsevier and Thomson Reuters will finally bite the bullet, merge, and then buy out Ravel? We have Walgreen Boots, why not LexisWestlaw? Is that a scary Halloween thought? Let the Department of Justice unravel that deal. Don’t lawyers enjoy that sort of challenge.
Stephen E Arnold, October 31, 2015
October 16, 2015
Short honk: I read “Google’s Book Scanning Project Ruled to Be Legal Fair Use.” The legal battles have enriched BMW dealers for years. Here’s the paragraph I highlighted:
The world’s biggest search provider can keep adding to its digital library of millions of books without paying their authors, a U.S. appeals court said, ruling that the effort is “fair use” of published material under copyright law.
My view is that the Alphabet Google thing may have had Books to fry in 2004. Today the company is into a different fare. Alphabet Google does mobile, hot air balloons, and, of course, Glass 2.
Yes, legal eagles will drag this matter back into the courts. But today’s Alphabet is not yesterday’s Google. Next stop? Maybe the Supreme Court.
By the time the matter is resolved, will millennials notice whether books are searchable on the Google from their mobile phone? My hunch is that the Google Books project reaches back to the era when the Alphabet Google thing was still thinking fond thoughts about academic endeavors. Today, the Alphabet Google thingy may be preoccupied with thoughts about revenue, Facebook, and the annoyances of querulous European authorities.
Stephen E Arnold, October 16, 2015
October 11, 2015
Ah, Hewlett Packard. A source of interesting news is the company. I read “Judge Rejects HP Settlement of Shareholders’ Suit over Aruba Merger.” I think it is my perception at work. When I think about HP, the word that comes to mind is litigation. The Autonomy dust up is difficult for me to block. Years ago, I think there were some Board of Directors’ pranks and then there was the thrill of the Digital Equipment acquisition. Ah, AltaVista. More memories.
In this article I learned:
The lawsuit stemmed from H-P’s $2.7 billion purchase of Aruba Networks. It was brought on behalf of Aruba shareholders, but Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster said the proposed settlement offered them little of value. The agreement called for H-P to disclose additional information about the sale process and pay the plaintiffs’ lawyers a fee of $387,500. Such so-called disclosure-only settlements, in which the only money paid goes to lawyers who bring the suits, are now the norm in the litigation that follows nearly every corporate merger.
I think the idea is that not much productive comes from these deals. HP now has an opportunity to embiggen opportunities for various legal eagles.
HP and its acquisition methods appear to be where the action is at company these days. What about technology? What about Autonomy’s DRE and IDOL systems? I don’t hear too much.
Stephen E Arnold, October 11, 2015
October 2, 2015
As the weekend hurtles toward me, it is time for another chapter of the HP Autonomy saga to become available. I read “The Ex-CEO of the Company HP Disastrously Bought for $11 Billion Is Now Suing HP for $150 Million.”
I assume the information is accurate. As I understand Michael Lynch’s effort to sue HP for money. Also, Autonomy’s CEO may want HP professionals to stop trashing Michael Lynch.
Readers of this blog know that I am skeptical of HP’s handling of the Autonomy matter. Yep, before hitting the beach of the lake filled with mine drainage, I actually did some work for the DRE/IDOL inventor. The experience was pretty positive, organized, and professional.
Why did HP which paid $11 billion for Autonomy find the deal unappetizing?
Spending $11 billion for a company and then wanting the money back may work when complaining about the food at the Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, burger joint.
Those rural Kentucky treats cost $3.50. Overpriced? You bet. But people choose to go to the restaurant. People choose what to order.
But Autonomy is not a hamburger and the idea that seller, like the dive down the hollow, will a refund may not apply to a multi billion dollar rump roast.
I learned this about Michael Lynch’s legal move:
Lynch and team also maintain that “Autonomy was the victim of political infighting within HP” and that at one point, according to emails, HP’s head of human resources gave him a toy shield “in order to fend off all the attacks.”
Another point I noticed is this professional and well intentioned comment from the article:
An HP spokesperson told us: “Mike Lynch’s lawsuit is a laughable and desperate attempt to divert attention from the $5 billion lawsuit HP has filed and the ongoing criminal investigation. HP anxiously looks forward to the day Lynch and Hussain will be forced to answer for their actions in court.”
But the write up contained this statement attributed to Michael Lynch. This is a great description of MBAs and wizards who disagree among themselves:
Evidence shows that at the time of the acquisition, HP was in chaos. Before going ahead with the acquisition they discussed firing their CEO. They then tried to abort the deal after closing, ultimately did fire the CEO, and generally fought amongst themselves like cats in a sack, causing Autonomy to disintegrate.
Apt. Cats in a sack. The HP senior managers warrant a question: Alley cats or jungle cats?
Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2015
October 2, 2015
The article on Reuters titled France Rejects Google Appeal on Cleaning Up Search Results Globally explores the ramifications of Europe’s recently passed Right to be Forgotten law. The law stipulates that search engines be compelled by requests to remove information. Google has made some attempts to yield to the law, granting 40% of the 320,000 requests to remove incorrect, irrelevant, or controversial information, but only on the European version of its sites. The article delves into the current state of affairs,
“The French authority, the CNIL, in June ordered Google to de-list on request search results appearing under a person’s name from all its websites, including Google.com. The company refused in July and requested that the CNIL abandon its efforts, which the regulator officially refused to do on Monday…France is the first European country to open a legal process to punish Google for not applying the right to be forgotten globally.”
Google countered that while the company was happy to meet the French and European standards in Europe, they did not see how the European law could be globally enforced. This refusal will almost certainly be met with fines and sanctions, but that may be the least of Alphabet Google’s troubles considering its ongoing disapproval by Europe.
Chelsea Kerwin, October 02, 2015
September 26, 2015
I don’t play baseball anymore. I did. I was okay, but one of the fellows who lived in my neighborhood in central Illinois played very well. He played everyday. After a stellar high school career, he became a fielder in the major leagues. The pressure was too much. He made bad decisions. He tried to claw back to the starting rotation. Instead of swinging with the relaxed, fluid motion I recalled from our days of playing together, he tried to hit a home run every time at bat. His confidence dwindled away, and he became a person who did not perform. Last I heard, he had fallen victim to his inner demons and was searching for a panacea. But, in my opinion, he struck out. Bad management.
Definition of panacea:
noun 1. a remedy for all disease or ills; cure-all. 2. an answer or solution for all problems or difficulties:
I thought about this person when I read “Deal Divided H-P Leaders” in the September 26, 2015, Wall Street Journal. You may need to pay to access this article which is available at as “Hewlett Packard’s Then Chairman Ray Lane Tried to Quash Autonomy Acquisition.”
The main point of the write up is that HP wanted a panacea, and the senior management of HP thought Autonomy, a search and content processing company, was the answer to HP’s revenue challenges.
The Wall Street Journal points out that the Chairman of the Board of Directors was supportive of the multi billion dollar deal and then wanted to kill the deal.
Also, the WSJ identifies what I would call a “management” problem; to wit:
HP missed other red flags in assessing the Autonomy deal. In 2013, the Journal reported that outside auditors for Autonomy had noted that an Autonomy executive had alleged improper accounting practices at the company [Autonomy]. However, HP executives briefed on the allegations hadn’t passed them along to HP’s Board or to Mr. Apotheker [president and Autonomy deal supporter].
The Wall Street Journal article includes a point I made in my 2003 analysis of Autonomy, a version of which appeared in the first edition of the Enterprise Search Report.
Revenues from software which allows employees to locate information germane to work activities has for decades faced a major hurdle; namely, making sales and keeping customers. The problem, which persists today, is that enterprise search vendors have a tough time making basic key word search command the type of license fees and corporate commitment which enterprise resource planning, accounting, and compliance-related systems demand.
Enterprise search vendors have, again for decades, explained that search and retrieval was something more than finding a needed document. The buzzwords used for decades invoke “knowledge management,” “business intelligence,” and “customer support.” Each of these is baloney, but enterprise search vendors trapped. Making search work in the fast changing content environments in which organization operate was a tough technical problem. The costs of engineering fixes was uncontrollable, and, not surprisingly, enterprise search vendors layered on additional functions in an effort to make sales, charge more, and stay in business.
Autonomy, along with IBM and OpenText, were firms which grew search via acquisition. Autonomy was perhaps the most successful of the roll up tacticians. The firm acquired Verity, a system which dated from the 1980s and added it to Autonomy’s earlier video management acquisitions, document management acquisitions, and other bits and pieces accumulated since Autonomy opened for business in the late 1990s.
Each acquisition added revenue to Autonomy’s financial reports and the customers of these acquisitions became candidates for other Autonomy products. At the time of the HP purchase decision, Autonomy had about six or seven times the revenue of Endeca, another late 1990s search vendor. (Oracle bought Endeca for $1.1 billion in 2011. Other search vendors sold in the 2008 t0 2014 period traded from much lower purchase prices; for example, IBM bought Vivisimo for $20 million, a figure which was equivalent to one year Vivisimo revenues.)
HP did not, in my opinion, understand that search and retrieval was a business that broke the backs of many bright MBAs and whiz kid engineers. HP assumed that its management team would triumph in generating billions from Autonomy’s core technology. I think some of Autonomy’s innovations are important, but I know that Autonomy was able to generate six or seven times the revenue of the number two search vendor in 2011 because it managed a portfolio of content processing companies and did a pretty good job of generating revenue from lines of business ADJACENT to search and retrieval.
HP wanted the 1990s technology of Autonomy to generate billions. HP quickly learned that its view of Autonomy did not match what Autonomy’s management team built.
I am not sure how bright folks at HP could not look at the failures of Convera, Delphes, Entopia, Siderean, and other search vendors and not ask, “What’s different about search?”
HP wanted a panacea. HP demonstrates the type of problem my friend who became a major league player had and still has. In the big leagues, swinging for the fences, seeking a silver bullet, and looking for a quick fix is easy. Finding a fix for a company with problematic business models and conflicting management views is very difficult.
What does the HP experience suggest? After decades of enterprise search hyperbole, reality is different from the word picture sales professionals create in the minds of those whose desperation clouds their thinking.
My view is that HP has struck out. Bad management in my opinion.
Stephen E Arnold, September 26, 2016