A Clever Take on Google and Fake News

November 8, 2017

I noted this story in the UK online publication The Register: “Google on Flooding the Internet with Fake News: Leave Us Alone. We’re Trying Really Hard. Sob.” The write up points out:

Google has responded in greater depth after it actively promoted fake news about Sunday’s Texas murder-suicide gunman by… behaving like a spoilt kid.

The Google response, as presented in the write up, warranted a yellow circle from my trusty highlighter. The Register said:

Having had time to reflect on the issue, the Silicon Valley monster’s “public liaison for search” and former Search Engine Land blog editor Danny Sullivan gave a more, um, considered response in a series of tweets. “Bottom line: we want to show authoritative information. Much internal talk yesterday on how to improve tweets in search; more will happen,” he promised, before noting that the completely bogus information had only appeared “briefly.”

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The Register story includes other gems from the search engine optimization expert who seems to thrive on precision and relevance for content unrelated to a user’s query; for example, the article presents some “quotes” from Mr. Sullivan, the expert in charge of explaining the hows and whys of fake news:

  • “Early changes put in place after Las Vegas shootings seemed to help with Texas. Incorrect rumors about some suspects didn’t get in…”
  • Right now, we haven’t made any immediate decisions. We’ll be taking some time to test changes and have more discussions.
  • “Not just talk. Google made changes to Top Stories and is still improving those. We’ll do same with tweets. We want to get this right.”

Yep, Google wants to do better. Now Google wants to get “this” right. Okay. After 20 years, dealing with fake content, spoofs, and algorithmic vulnerability is on the to do list. That’s encouraging.

For more Google explanations, check out the Register’s story and follow the logic of the SEO wizard who now has to explain fake news creeping—well, more like flowing—into Google’s search and news content.

Does an inability to deal with fake news hint at truthiness challenges at Googzilla’s money machine? Interesting question from my point of view.

Stephen E Arnold, November 8, 2017

Twitter Customer Support and Access Control

November 6, 2017

I noted that an alleged employee of Twitter allegedly terminated the Twitter account of the alleged real Donald J. Trump. I scanned a number of news stories about this incident. I representative example is “A Rogue Twitter Employee Shut Down Donald Trump’s Account.” Now that’s access control. But what I found intriguing was an article on a Web site charmingly named Weasel Zipper. That site’s story was “Twitter Employee Who Deactivated Trump’s Account Was Not A Full-Time Employee, Rather A Contractor.” Perhaps Weasel Zipper was influenced by the New York Times’ story from November 4, 2017, which offered the “contractor did it” information? Who knows? The interesting angle for me is that Twitter has controls which allow an employee in “customer service” to kill an account. From my point of view, that’s “real” customer service and exemplary access control. What else can Twitter customer support do with regard to users, access, content, and filtering? Probably nothing: Just a fluke in a well-managed company.

Stephen E Arnold, November 5, 2017

Google Management: Doing Better with Burgers

October 30, 2017

With pressure mounting on US search and social media companies to become more “responsible”, I noted that a high priority for Google’s CEO is a cheeseburger emoji. I read a rather tasty article called “Google CEO Makes Fixing Hamburger Emoji His Top Priority.” The write up points out that the Apple cheeseburger emoji has the cheese on top of the meat patty. The Google emoji puts the cheese on the bottom of the meat patty. It is good to know that when serious issues rise up to choke a bureaucracy, senior managers can respond. Management by example, pickle, and lettuce.

Stephen E Arnold, October 30, 2017

Alphabet Google: Accused Again by Ivory Towerians

August 31, 2017

I love the Alphabet Google thing. Big outfits paid me a few nickels and dimes to research the company’s technology and methods between 2002 and 2009. (Yep, the Google Trilogy thing.) After seven years of reading really exciting patent documents and Google technical papers, I shifted gears. Hey, cyber intelligence is for me, I decided. Change of pace. No ad technology in sight.

Now the string “Google” is appearing in my feeds about topics unrelated to online search and content processing, eDiscovery for cyber intelligence, and the musty, somewhat overhyped Dark Web.

The Google is “real” news, covered by a “real” newspaper. The most recent “Be woke about Google” write up is “Scholar Says Google Criticism Cost Him Job: ‘People Are Waking Up to Its Power‘.”

I highlighted these statements from the “real” newspaper’s article:

Every second of every day Google processes over 40,000 search queries – that’s about 3.5bn questions a day or 1.2trn a year. But there’s one question that Google apparently doesn’t want answered: is Google a monopoly?
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“Everyday I see people waking up to the power of Google, Facebook and Amazon. We have to do something as a people, we have to do something through our government and address the power of these companies.
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Google said it would “not be a fair characterization at all”, to blame Google for the decision. “I can confirm that our funding levels for 2017 have NOT changed as a result of NAF’s June post, nor did Eric Schmidt ever threaten to cut off funding because of it,” a spokeswoman said via email.
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“Google is a very sophisticate [sic] team of people. They know how to spend their money and wield their influence in ways that usually get them what they want.

Yep, a he-said, she-said.

Several observations:

  1. Google is a bunch of moving parts. Based on my watching the company from Harrod’s Creek, I find it interesting that a concrete cause and effect relationship exists between a Google “action” and a management tactic. Google, like Microsoft, is more like a bunch of kayaks in a lake, not a speedboat racing to a rendezvous.
  2. The Guardian and some other European “real” news outfits are eager to punch Googzilla in the nose. Yep, there are some sore losers because Quaero (remember that effort to nuke the GOOG) flopped. If you relish European search, give Unbubble, Giburu, or Qwant a try. That will work out really well for in depth research.
  3. Google has not been particularly secretive about what it does. I recall telling a couple of Googlers that Google spat out high value information somewhat promiscuously. Guess what? None of the poobahs cared. I am not sure any of those with whom I shared this insight listened.

Net net: Google has been doing the Google thing since the company had to generate revenue. The company looked around, found inspiration in Yahoo’s GoTo/Overture model, and has been chugging along the same path for a couple of decades.

The idea of getting woke may sell newspapers, but it is old news and insight into how little “real” journalists and scholars think about the behaviors of large scale information systems. Goggle chugs along.

What’s the “real story”? For me, more attention paid to inventions which don’t make sense, ineffectual tactics which attempt to thwart Facebook’s social hegemony and Amazon’s retail juggernaut, and generating sustainable revenue from something other than advertising.

But these are not as nifty as a big, semi-chaotic company’s making life tough for an academic “team.”

Collateral damage, maybe?

Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2017

The Tech Unicorn Ploy

August 28, 2017

This should not come as much of a surprise— Business Insider reports, “Nearly Half of Tech ‘Unicorns’ Rely on Tricky Math to Land Imaginary Valuations.” So dubbed because they were once rare, “unicorn” startups are ones that have achieved valuations of at least a billion dollars. That is “billion” with a “b.” According to a pair of business professors (from the UBC Sauder School of Business and the Stanford  Graduate School of Business), there are now more than 200 such “rare” prospects globally. Why the apparent boom in unicorn birth rates? Citing a recent study put out by the above-mentioned professors, reporter Alex Morrell writes:

Many of [these startups] are using creative financing maneuvers to conjure imaginary valuation figures that don’t hold up to scrutiny, according to the UBC/GSB study, which examined 116 unicorns. It turns out, when you adjust the valuations to account for guarantees provided to preferred shareholders that dilute the value of common shares, nearly half of unicorns lose their coveted $1 billion status.

The article links to an interview with Will Gornall, the professor from UBC Sauder, that explains how he and co-researcher Ilya Strebulaev re-evaluated purported unicorns to discount the influence of such preferred-shareholder guarantees. They found nearly half sported fake horns, with 11% having been valued at more than twice their fair values. The article continues:

Here’s how it works: In later funding rounds, startups will negotiate a higher share price, but as part of the bargain they guarantee their investors certain protections — such as earning a minimum return on their money or guaranteeing they’ll be paid out in full before all other shareholders. ‘Specifically, we found that 53 per cent of unicorns gave their most recent investors either a return guarantee in IPO (14%), the ability to block IPOs that did not return most of their investment (20%), seniority over all other investors (31%), or other important terms,’ Gornall said. Even though this sort of thing has become normal, valuations haven’t caught up to the fact that providing additional protections to senior shareholders lessens the value of common shareholders. Treating the shares equally can significantly inflate the overall value of the company.

Overvaluation can, of course, help a startup attract funding, talent, and customers. For employees, however, such tactics can end up devaluing their compensation packages. Both workers and investors should be wary of over-valuation trickery.

Cynthia Murrell, August 28, 2017

Google: The Diversity Mix Up

August 7, 2017

Update August 8, 2017: The alleged author of the alleged essay about the alleged anti-diversity in the alleged area of the US known as “Silicon Valley” has allegedly been terminated. The alleged action means that the alleged individual is available for alleged “work”. None of that “rest and vest” malarky. See “Google Fires Author of Divisive Memo an Gender Differences.” Alleged gender differences do not allegedly exist. Allegedly that’s good to know before writing an essay and posting it so that alleged management practices are allegedly committed to a distribution system. This alleged activity is allegedly “real” news. Ah, science clubs. Ever entertaining.

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Update 2 August 8, 2017: Sundar Pichai, the fellow who is handling assorted hot tater tots for the Alphabet Google thing issued a memo called “Note to Employees from Sundar Pichai.” The write up said:

“This has been a very difficult time.”

Hey, great insight. That’s what makes Google a smart company. Well, sort of smart if one discounts the dust up in the European Union, the solving of death thing, and telling China it had to change. The point of the write up is that suggesting anyone who is biologically disadvantaged when a colleague is a bad thing. I noted this statement because I am stupid and I have to be told things multiple times. (Right, mom? Right, dad?)

“The pas few days have been very difficult for many at the company, and we need to find a way to debate issues on which we might disagree—while doing so in line with our Code of Conduct.”

There is nothing like a Code of Conduct? I wonder if Margrethe Vestager has a copy of that document?

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Beyond Search noted the diversity excitement at Alphabet Google, the legions of Google users, and the handful of folks who dare to take a stance against Google. Beyond Search has characterized Google-type companies as semi-adult science clubs. None of the write ups listed below reference this prescient and accurate parallel:

The Motherboard story about “Internal Viral.

The screed itself

The write up wanting empathy, just not for the author of the screed.

News flash. The likelihood of change is like a calculus problem with a student who is not into zero but not zero.

Our view in Harrod’s Creek is that one who does not comprehend the value of the Google-type of approach to actual practice and the subsequent PR infused activity may want to steer clear of a Google-type of company.

What is interesting is that this is another example of the increasing vulnerability of Alphabet Google. I could be like Elizabeth Barrett Browning and count the ways, but I will not. Ms. Barrett Browning was secretive and I thought that she might have been interested in laudanum. If true, she might have lifted a languorous hand to add to the Google diversity discussion.

But maybe not. She was into whipping up excitement for Italian politics, which may have been a comparatively more important topic.

The science club like thinker will reject Ms. Barrett-Browning’s interest. One cannot count, measure, or weigh passion. Interesting but not scientific. Talking is not counting, calculating, or analyzing real things, is it? Consider addomg emotional intellingence to screed’s about Google-like management methods and staff selection processes? Nah.

Stephen E Arnold, August 7, 2017

Google Develops a Job-Hunt Feature

July 17, 2017

Does the process of searching for a job really need an innovative update? Apparently, Google believes so, as  Quartz reports in, “Google Is Testing a Job-Search Feature that Could Rival LinkedIn—and Facebook.” Writer Joon Ian Wong cites SEO consultant Dan Shure, who stumbled upon an apparent test-run of the feature. We learn:

Dan Shure apparently triggered the feature by entering ‘jobs online’ in the Google search box. This returns a specially formatted box containing a list of jobs above the main search results. Clicking these jobs leads to a portal where users can select tabs to display jobs by title, city, employer, and more. The page also shows jobs by industry, including health care, advertising and marketing, and retail. The jobs listed are attributed to third-party job sites, such as Internships.com and Catholic Jobs Online. …

 

The broad base of jobs available on the search feature suggests Google is going after the same general jobs market as Facebook is, with its own jobs function. LinkedIn is better known for its white-collar listings, but it, too, has been trying to cater to workers of all types, including blue-collar workers (paywall), in recent years.

Wong notes the company has also been developing Google Hire, a recruitment-management tool for the employer side, but with no fanfare. So it does seem that Google is stepping into the job-hunt & worker-search arena. Can it compete with LinkedIn, the niche’s veteran?

Cynthia Murrell, July 17, 2017

Mistakes to Avoid to Implement Hadoop Successfully

July 7, 2017

Hadoop has been at the forefront of Big Data implementation methodologies. The journey so far has been filled with more failures than successes. An expert thus has put up a list of common mistakes to avoid while implementing Hadoop.

Wael Elrifai in a post titled How to Avoid Seven Common Hadoop Mistakes and posted on IT Pro Portal says:

Business needs specialized skills, data integration, and budget all need to factor into planning and implementation. Even when this happens, a large percentage of Hadoop implementations fail.

For instance, the author says that one of the most common mistakes that most consultants commit is treated Hadoop like any other database management system. The trick is to treat data lake like a box of Legos and start building the model with one brick at a time. Some other common mistakes include not migrating the data before implementation, not thinking about security issues at the outset and so on. Read the entire article here.

Vishol Ingole, July 7, 2017

IBM Bans Remote Work

June 22, 2017

The tech blog SiliconBeat reveals a startling development in tech-related employment in, “IBM: So Much for Working from Home.” Thousands of professionals who have built their lives around their remote-work arrangements are now being required to come into the office. For many, the shift would mean packing up and moving closer to one of the company’s locations. As writer Rex Crum puts it:

That’s right. Find your way to an office cubicle, or hit the bricks. The Wall Street Journal reported that IBM began instituting the new you-can’t-work-from-home policy this week, and that the company is ‘quietly dismantling’ the program that has been in place for decades. The Journal said the retrenchment on its employees working remotely was being done so that IBM could ‘improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work.’ It also happens to be taking place not long after IBM reported its 20th-straight quarter of declining year-over-year revenue. Legendary all-time investor Warren Buffett also said this month that Berkshire Hathaway has cut its holdings in IBM by one-third from the 81 million shares the company owned earlier this year.

But will herding all their talent into their buildings really solve IBM’s financial woes? Not according to this Forbes article. Crum recalls that Yahoo made the same move in 2013, when Marissa Mayer put a stop to remote work at that company. (How has that been going?) Will more organizations follow?

Cynthia Murrell, June 22, 2017

Editorial Controls and Data Governance: A Rose by Any Other Name?

June 16, 2017

I read “Why Interest In “Data Governance” Is Increasing.” The write up uses a number of terms to describe what I view as editorial controls. The idea in my experience is that an organization decides what it okay and not okay with regards to the information it wants to process. The object is to know what content will be processed before the organization kick starts indexing, metadata tagging, or text analysis.

The organization then has to figure out and implement the rules of the game. Questions like “What do we do when entities are not recognized?” and “Who goes through the exceptions file?” must be answered. Rules, procedures, processes, and corrective actions have to be implemented in the work flow. One cannot calculate costs, headcount, or software expenses unless one knows what’s going to happen.

The write up explains that data governance is important. I agree. The write up hooks the notion of editorial controls and editorial process to a number of buzzwords. I don’t think this type of jargon catalog is particularly helpful. Jargon distracts some people from focusing on Job One; that is, putting appropriate controls in place before nuking the budget or creating the type of editorial craziness which Facebook and Google are now trying to contain and manage.

The notion that an organization has to perform “data program management” is fine. But this is nothing more than hooking the editorial rules of the road to the responsibilities of the people who have to set up, oversee, and change the work flow.

Jargon does not help implement editorial controls. Clear thinking and speaking do.

Stephen E Arnold, June 16, 2017

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