About.com Still Running Google Adwords

May 18, 2017

I read “After 18 Years, About.com Is Changing Its Name and Shutting Down Its Website — Its CEO Reveals How It All Went Down.” The main idea is that About.com, a weird list of curated sites by topics, is dead. However, I noted this ad on May 15, 13 days after the struggling About.com took a bullet for the good of current information.

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The ad appeared in a list of search results for sentiment analysis, not market sentiment analysis, but when someone is spending money to promote a terminated Web information service, that someone either is [a] blessed with oodles of cash, [b] oversees a crew of with it managers, or [c] does not know how to turn off Adwords.

Perhaps this approach to fiscal and marketing methods provides some insight into why the About.com Web site slumped to the moist early summer earth? Definitely a plus for the Google sales professional handling the dead company’s account.

Stephen E Arnold, May 18, 2017

Forrester: Enterprise Content Management Misstep

April 14, 2017

I have stated in the past that mid tier consulting firms—that is, outfits without the intellectual horsepower of a McKinsey, Bain, or BCG—generate work that is often amusing, sometimes silly, and once in a while just stupid. I noted an error which is certainly embarrassing to someone, maybe even a top notch expert at mid tier Forrester. The idea for a consulting firm is to be “right” and to keep the customer (in this case Hyland) happy. Also, it is generally good to deliver on what one promises. You know, the old under promise, over deliver method.

How about being wrong, failing, and not delivering at all? Read on about Forrester and content management.

Context

I noted the flurry of news announcements about Forrester, a bigly azure-chip consulting firm. A representative example of these marketing news things is “Microsoft, OpenText, IBM Lead Forrester’s ECM Wave in Evolving Market.” The write up explains that the wizards at Forrester have figured out the winners and losers in enterprise content management. As it turns out, the experts at Forrester do a much better job of explaining their “perception” of content management that implementing content management.

How can this be? Paid experts who cannot implement content management for reports about content management? Some less generous people might find this a minor glitch. I think that consultants are pretty good at cooking up reports and selling them. I am not too confident that mid tier consulting firms and even outfits like Booz, Allen has dotted their “i’s” and crossed their “t’s.”

Let me walk you through this apparent failure of Forrester to make their reports available to a person interested in a report. This example concerns a Forrester reviewed company called Hyland and its OnBase enterprise content management system.

The deal is that Hyland allows a prospect to download a copy of the Forrester report in exchange for providing contact information. Once the contact information is accepted, the potential buyer of OnBase is supposed to be able to download a copy of the Forrester report. This is trivial stuff, and we are able to implement the function when I sell my studies. Believe me. If we can allow registered people to download a PDF, so can you.

The Failure

I wanted a copy of “The Forrester Wave: ECM Business Content Services.” May I illustrate how Forrester’s enterprise content management system fails its paying customers and those who register to download these high value, completely wonderful documents.

Step 1: Navigate to this link for OnBase by Hyland, one of the vendors profiled in the allegedly accurate, totally object Forrester report

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Step 2: Fill out the form so Hyland’s sales professionals can contact you in hopes of selling you the product which Forrester finds exceptional

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Note the big orange “Download Now” button. I like the “now” part because it means that with one click I get the high-value, super accurate report.

Step 3: Click on one of these two big green boxes:

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I tested both, and both return the same high value, super accurate, technically wonderful reports—sort of.

Read more

Google Management: The Book Search Thing

April 13, 2017

I read “How Google Book Search Got Lost.” The write up in Backchannel was interesting to me for two reasons. First, the essay continues the revelations about Google as a balloon with a pinprick. After inflation, the pressure seeps out and one has a deflated balloon. What’s a deflated balloon good for? I suppose I could Ask Heloise, but I don’t care. Second, the analysis ignores the obvious; that is, Alphabet Google is not managed in the sense that GM is managing to develop an electric car or Boeing to use 3D titanium printing to get rid of pesky humans. Google, from its inception, wobbles. Few business schools teach students how to wobble. Bright folks discover this skill on their own, particularly when careening around with money readily available and Silicon Valley vapors in their nostrils.

I highlighted this passage from the analysis/essay:

Google Books has settled into a quiet middle age of sourcing quotes and serving up snippets of text from the 25 million-plus tomes in its database.

The reason is that time and legal hassles turned down the thermostat for Googlers. Who wants to work on a project which lacks the zip of inventing a self driving car or solving death? Not me for sure.

The write up includes a quote from a Googler. I circled this statement as well:

“We’re not focused on shiny features and things that are very visible to users,” says Stephane Jaskiewicz, a Google engineer who has worked on Books for a decade and now leads its team. “It’s more like behind the scenes work and perfecting the technology — acquiring content, processing it properly so that we can view the entire book online, and adjusting the search algorithm.”

Interesting, but I was mildly curious about how this Googler perceives promotion opportunities and compensation as part of the Books deflating balloon. Alas, no light shines on these issues.

I found this statement somewhat reassuring. Google does not evidence sticktoativity:

Maybe the quest to digitize all books was bound to end in disappointment, with no grand epiphany.

The epiphany at Google, as I understand the company’s business focus, is about revenue. Who at Google wants to pump big dough into dealing with figuring out how to deliver Google Book results in a way that sells ads? Who wants to crack the problem of Google’s formidable array of silo indexes? I am not sure a Googler wants to tackle this job because the cost of allow a person to search for a patent, a blog post with possibly relevant prior art, the book thing, and the general Google Web index is going to make Loon balloons and the self driving car guy’s bonus look like a really smart investment.

To put the Google into context, I think about these questions:

  1. Where did Google’s business model come from? What was the legal dust up with Yahoo about prior to the Google IPO?
  2. What manager at Google provided oversight and guidance to Google Books? How many leadership changes took place in the last 15 years?
  3. What was the issue with Kirtas scanners which triggered Google’s own research effort into high speed book scanning and the consequent patents such as US7,508,978? Was this a distraction? A business decision? An example of a science club project? What happened to the scanner whiz Wayne Rosling, Google’s one time vice president of engineering?
  4. How does the management of Google Books mesh with other Google decisions to orphan, abandon, or slow investment in other “interesting” projects; for example, Knol, Web Accelerator, etc.?

I have formulated my own answers to these questions. My thought is that sharper minds than mind may want to dig into these questions.

Google or more accurately Alphabet Google is interesting, and it has left a legacy for other Silicon Valley aspirants to follow. Is this legacy positive or negative? I suppose one could find some information to help answer this question as Google works its way through allegations about its behavior set forth by legal eagles in Europe, the way Google managed Anthony Levandowski, and the interesting search results Google search generates.

I am not sure if a series of searches across Google’s many indexes will be an easy task. There might not be too much information in Google Books or Google Scholar either. That’s too bad. Google’s bid to become the new University Microfilms seems to be a very long shot.

Stephen E Arnold, April 13, 2017

Google: Management Advice

April 12, 2017

I read “Google Co-Founder: Take Chances, Pursue Your Dreams and Silence the Voices.” The headline caught my attention. “Silence the voices” seemed to be an interesting way to approach opportunity. The passage in the write up I highlighted is:

There are a lot of affordances that are such conveniences today that make it easy. But there’s also a global stage that makes it hard,” Brin said. “I would encourage young folks to take chances and pursue their dreams and try to silence out the voices that say, ‘Actually, there are 1,000 start-ups trying to do self-riding bicycles.’”

The “silence the voices” seem to be the voices of dissent. I suppose the statement refers to inner demons, critics, employees who offer ideas conflicting with the top dogs, or the silence of an extreme action.

Yep, management advice from the outfit shaping the business savvy of Marissa Mayer and other bright folks.

Stephen E Arnold, April 12, 2017

Google Management Methods: The Car Thing

April 6, 2017

I like to track Google’s behavior for management insights. I noted what might be a great moment in Google’s management methods. The article “Google Paid Its Self-Driving Car Boss $120 Million and Then He Left for Uber.” The write up told me in sterling journalistic prose:

Embattled engineer Anthony Levandowski collected $120 million from Google, despite involvement with at least one start-up that would ultimately compete with the company, according to new legal filings. Levandowski was already trying to staff up his competing start-up, Otto, while he worked at Google — but he waited until he got his payout to make the details of Otto public, a lawsuit said.

If this is accurate, I surmise that:

  1. Alphabet Google management reviewed Mr. Levandowski’s performance, spoke to some of his colleagues, and maybe asked a peer or two for some information about Mr. Lewandowski; for example, Is he a team player? Is he moving the ball down the field?
  2. The personnel review, prepared by the smart Googlers, flashed green and someone in management okayed a bonus of $120 million. Most employees have a spending authority limit. Few employees can sign of on $1.2 million and then hit the volleyball court. Accountability in action?
  3. Mr. Lewandowski, if the write up is on the money, was recruiting people and doing other sort of work related things. I assume this involved email, phone calls, and face-to-face interviews. Obviously Mr.  Lewandowski’s activities did not seem untoward.

My observation is that the Google management method involves some procedures which fuzzify what is going on. My thought is that this is the augmented reality, Google Glass approach to management. Errors in perception can be rectified in court.

McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and other blue chip management consulting firms have a great deal to learn from Google. I wonder if a book about Google’s management methods will become available on the Google Play store soon. Here’s hoping.

Stephen E Arnold, April 6, 2017

Alternative (Aka Fake) News Not Going Anywhere

March 29, 2017

The article titled The Rise of Fake News Amidst the Fall of News Media on Silicon Valley Watcher makes a convincing argument that fake news is the inevitable result of the collective failure to invest in professional media. The author, Tom Foremski, used to write for the Financial Times. He argues that the almost ongoing layoffs among professional media organizations such as the New York Times, Salon, The Guardian, AP, Daily Dot, and IBT illustrate the lack of a sustainable business model for professional news media. The article states,

People won’t pay for the news media they should be reading but special interest groups will gladly pay for the media they want them to read. We have important decisions to make about a large number of issues such as the economy, the environment, energy, education, elder healthcare and those are just the ones that begin with the letter “E” — there’s plenty more issues. With bad information we won’t be able to make good decisions. Software engineers call this GIGO – Garbage In Garbage Out.

This issue affects us all; fake news even got a man elected to the highest office in the land.  With Donald Trump demonstrating on a daily basis that he has no interest in the truth, whether, regarding the size of the crowds at his inauguration or the reason he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, the news industry is already in a crouch. Educating people to differentiate between true and false news is nearly impossible when it is so much easier and more comfortable for people to read only what reconfirms their worldview. Foremski leaves it up to the experts and the visionaries to solve the problem and find a way to place a monetary value on professional news media.

Chelsea Kerwin, March 29, 2017

Anonymous Transparency Project Boldly Attacks Google for Secrecy Then Dives Back Under Rug

February 23, 2017

The article on Mercury News titled Secretive Foe Attacks Google Over Government Influence reports on the Transparency Project, an ironically super-secret group devoted to exposing Google’s insane level of influence. Of course, most of us are already perfectly aware of how much power Google holds over our politicians, our privacy, and our daily functions. Across Chrome, Google search, YouTube etc., not a day goes by that we don’t engage with the Silicon Valley Monster. The group claims,

Over the past decade, Google has transformed itself from the dominant internet search engine into a global business empire that touches on almost every facet of people’s lives — often without their knowledge or consent,” the group’s first report said. Another report, based on White House guest logs, cites 427 visits by employees of Google and “associated entities” to the White House since January 2009, with 21 “small, intimate” meetings between senior Google executives and Obama.

While such information may be disturbing, it is hardly revelatory.  So just who is behind the Transparency Project? The article provides a list of companies that Google has pissed off and stomped over on its path to glory. The only company that has stepped up to claim some funding is Oracle. But following the money in this case winds a strange twisted path that actually leads the author back to Google— or at least former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. This begs the question: is there anything Google isn’t influencing?

Chelsea Kerwin, February 23, 2017

Gender Bias in Voice Recognition Software

February 21, 2017

A recent study seems to confirm what some have suspected: “Research Shows Gender Bias in Google’s Voice Recognition,” reports the Daily Dot. Not that this is anything new. Writer Selena Larson reminds us that voice recognition tech has a history of understanding men better than women, from a medical tracking system to voice-operated cars.  She cites a recent study by linguist researcher Rachael Tatman, who found that YouTube’s auto captions performed better on male voices than female ones by about 13 percent—no small discrepancy. (YouTube is owned by Google.)

Though no one is accusing the tech industry of purposely rendering female voices less effective, developers probably could have avoided this problem with some forethought. The article explains:

’Language varies in systematic ways depending on how you’re talking,’ Tatman said in an interview. Differences could be based on gender, dialect, and other geographic and physical attributes that factor into how our voices sound. To train speech recognition software, developers use large datasets, either recorded on their own, or provided by other linguistic researchers. And sometimes, these datasets don’t include diverse speakers.

Tatman recommends a purposeful and organized approach to remedying the situation. Larson continues:

Tatman said the best first step to address issues in voice tech bias would be to build training sets that are stratified. Equal numbers of genders, different races, socioeconomic statuses, and dialects should be included, she said.

Automated technology is developed by humans, so our human biases can seep into the software and tools we are creating to supposedly to make lives easier. But when systems fail to account for human bias, the results can be unfair and potentially harmful to groups underrepresented in the field in which these systems are built.

Indeed, that’s the way bias works most of the time—it is more often the result of neglect than of malice. To avoid it requires realizing there may be a problem in the first place, and working to avoid it from the outset. I wonder what other technologies could benefit from that understanding.

Cynthia Murrell, February 21, 2017

The Current State of Enterprise Search, by the Numbers

February 17, 2017

The article and delightful Infographic on BA Insight titled Stats Show Enterprise Search is Still a Challenge builds an interesting picture of the present challenges and opportunities surrounding enterprise search, or at least alludes to them with the numbers offered. The article states,

As referenced by AIIM in an Industry Watch whitepaper on search and discovery, three out of four people agree that information is easier to find outside of their organizations than within. That is startling! With a more effective enterprise search implementation, these users feel that better decision-making and faster customer service are some of the top benefits that could be immediately realized.

What follows is a collection of random statistics about enterprise search. We would like to highlight one stat in particular: 58% of those investing in enterprise search get no payback after one year. In spite of the clear need for improvements, it is difficult to argue for a technology that is so long-term in its ROI, and so shaky where it is in place. However, there is a massive impact on efficiency when employees waste time looking for the information they need to do their jobs. In sum: you can’t live with it, and you can’t live (productively) without it.

Chelsea Kerwin, February 17, 2017

Investment Group Acquires Lexmark

February 15, 2017

We read with some trepidation the Kansas City Business Journal’s article, “Former Perceptive’s Parent Gets Acquired for $3.6B in Cash.”  The parent company referred to here is Lexmark, which bought up one of our favorite search systems, ISYS Search, in 2012 and placed it under its Perceptive subsidiary, based in Lenexa, Kentucky. We do hope this valuable tool is not lost in the shuffle.

Reporter Dora Grote specifies:

A few months after announcing that it was exploring ‘strategic alternatives,’ Lexmark International Inc. has agreed to be acquired by a consortium of investors led by Apex Technology Co. Ltd. and PAG Asia Capital for $3.6 billion cash, or $40.50 a share. Legend Capital Management Co. Ltd. is also a member of the consortium.

Lexmark Enterprise Software in Lenexa, formerly known as Perceptive Software, is expected to ‘continue unaffected and benefit strategically and financially from the transaction’ the company wrote in a release. The Lenexa operation — which makes enterprise content management software that helps digitize paper records — dropped the Perceptive Software name for the parent’s brand in 2014. Lexmark, which acquired Perceptive for $280 million in cash in 2010, is a $3.7 billion global technology company.

If the Lexmark Enterprise Software (formerly known as Perceptive) division will be unaffected, it seems they will be the lucky ones. Grote notes that Lexmark has announced that more than a thousand jobs are to be cut amid restructuring. She also observes that the company’s buildings in Lenexa have considerable space up for rent. Lexmark CEO Paul Rooke is expected to keep his job, and headquarters should remain in Lexington, Kentucky.

Cynthia Murrell, February 15, 2017

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