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eBay Struggles with Cluttered, Unstructured Data, Deploys Artificial Intelligence Strategy

May 24, 2016

The article on Forbes titled eBay’s Next Move: Artificial Intelligence To Refine Product Searches predicts a strong future for eBay as the company moves further into machine learning. For roughly six years eBay has been working with Expertmaker, a Swedish AI and analytics company. Forbes believes that eBay may have recently purchased Expertmaker. The article explains the logic behind this logic,

“One of the key turnaround goals of eBay is to encourage sellers to define their products using structured data, making it easier for the marketplace to show relevant search results to buyers. The acquisition of Expertmaker should help the company in this initiative, given its expertise in artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data.”

The acquisition of Expertmaker should allow for a more comprehensive integration of eBay’s “noisy data.” Expertmaker’s AI strategy is based in genetics research, and has made great strides in extracting concealed value from data. For eBay, a company with hundreds of millions of listings clogging up the platform, Expertmaker’s approach might be the ticket to achieving a more streamlined, categorized search. If we take anything away from this, it is that eBay search currently does not work very well. At any rate, they are taking steps to improve their platform.

 
Chelsea Kerwin, May 24, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The Kardashians Rank Higher Than Yahoo

May 20, 2016

I avoid the Kardashians and other fame chasers, because I have better things to do with my time.  I never figured that I would actually write about the Kardashians, but the phrase “never say never” comes into play.  As I read Vanity Fair’s “Marissa Mayer Vs. ‘Kim Kardashian’s Ass” : What Sunk Yahoo’s Media Ambitions?” tells a bleak story about the current happenings at Yahoo.

Yahoo has ended many of its services, let go fifteen percent of staff, and there are very few journalists left on the team.  The remaining journalists are not worried about producing golden content, they have to compete with a lot already on the Web, especially “Kim Kardashian’s ass” as they say.

When Marissa Mayer took over Yahoo as the CEO in 2012, she was determined to carve out Yahoo’s identity as a tech company.  Mayer, however, wanted Yahoo to be media powerhouse, so she hired many well-known journalists to run specific niche projects in popular areas from finance to beauty to politics.  It was not a successful move and now Yahoo is tightening its belt one more time.  The Yahoo news algorithm did not mesh with the big name journalists, the hope was that their names would soar above popular content such as Kim Kardashian’s ass.  They did not.

Much of Yahoo’s current work comes from the Alibaba market.  The result is:

“But the irony is that Mayer, a self-professed geek from Silicon Valley, threw so much of her reputation behind high-profile media figures and went with her gut, just like a 1980s magazine editor—when even magazine editors, including those who don’t profess to “get” technology, have long abandoned that practice themselves, in favor of what the geeks in Silicon Valley are doing.”

Mayer was trying to create a premiere media company, but lower quality content is more popular than top of the line journalists.  The masses prefer junk food in their news.

 

Whitney Grace, May 20, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Affinio and the Differences between Useful Data and Fanciful Data

May 17, 2016

I read “Understanding the Cultural Differences Between NASCAR and Formula One Fans [Analysis].” The write up is in a blog post from Affinio. The company describes itself in this way:

Marketing Intelligence that leverages the social graph to understand today’s customer.

The information in the  write up presents clusters of interest between the two fan bases for each of these motor sports. F1 consists of clusters labeled this way:

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To illustrate the differences, Affinio presents a visualization of the Nascar audience:

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The labels strike me as unhelpful; for example, Cluster 14, Cluster 6, etc.

The top interests of the two audiences consist of a collage of small images. I am not sure what each image represents.

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Equally unhelpful is the word clouds for each of the audiences; for example:

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The map showing the geographic area where F1 is popular focuses on a global scale with a centroid in Western Europe. The absence of a hot spot in the Middle East was puzzling. Is Australia as large an F1 market as the UAE in terms of money spent on F1 activities?

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The map for the Nascar market depicts only the US of A. My question, “Why not show a global map?”

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Thinking about this analysis, I have several questions:

  1. A list of dot points would get the message across in a more efficient, possibly less confusing way would it not?
  2. What is analyzed? It seems that the single actionable fact is that the F1 market is global and the Nascar market is local.
  3. What are the data sets used for the analysis?
  4. Why are terms like “Cluster 14” used instead of words?

The most important data from my uninformed vantage point is the money generated by the two types of motor racing.

My hunch is that the Affino write up wanted to show off visualizations, not substantive and actionable data analysis. In short, is this marketing or is it substance? I will leave the answer to you, gentle reader.

Stephen E Arnold, May 17, 2016

IBM Uses Watson Analytics Freebie Academic Program to Lure in Student Data Scientists

May 6, 2016

The article on eWeek titled IBM Expands Watson Analytics Program, Creates Citizen Data Scientists zooms in on the expansion of the IBM  Watson Analytics academic program, which was begun last year at 400 global universities. The next phase, according to Watson Analytics public sector manager Randy Messina, is to get Watson Analytics into the hands of students beyond computer science or technical courses. The article explains,

“Other examples of universities using Watson Analytics include the University of Connecticut, which is incorporating Watson Analytics into several of its MBA courses. Northwestern University is building Watson Analytics into the curriculum of its Predictive Analytics, Marketing Mix Models and Entertainment Marketing classes. And at the University of Memphis Fogelman College of Business and Economics, undergraduate students are using Watson Analytics as part of their initial introduction to business analytics.”

Urban planning, marketing, and health care disciplines have also ushered in Watson Analytics for classroom use. Great, so students and professors get to use and learn through this advanced and intuitive platform. But that is where it gets a little shady. IBM is also interested in winning over these students and leading them into the data analytics field. Nothing wrong with that given the shortage of data scientists, but considering the free program and the creepy language IBM uses like “capturing mindshare among young people,” one gets the urge to warn these students to run away from the strange Watson guy, or at least proceed with caution into his lair.

Chelsea Kerwin, May 6, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Old Pals Chatting: IDC Expert Chums Up Cognitive Marketing

May 4, 2016

I recall a fellow named Dave Schubmehl. You may recall that name. He was the IDC wizard who ingested my research about open source outfits and then marketed it via Amazon without my permission. Since that go round with my information used without a written agreement with me, I have taken a skeptical view of IDC and its “experts.” I won’t comment on its business practices, administrative acumen, and general ineptitude with regard to publishing a bit of my research as an eight page, $3,500 “analysis.” Yikes. Eight pages at $3,500 for work pumped out on Amazon, the WalMart of the digital world.

I read, therefore, with considerable skepticism “Interview with Rich Vancil: Group VP, Executive Advisory of IDC.” I was not disappointed. Perhaps I should say, my already low expectations were just about met.

The interviewer, according to the interview text, has been an acquaintance of the IDC wizard for decades. Furthermore, the interviewer (obviously an objective type of person) will “meet up to catch up on life outside business.” The article is “old pals chatting.”

What a chat?

I learned that:

The IDC 3rd Platform is a broad term for our present IT industry and economy. It is where 100% of WW IT revenue growth is coming from and it includes the product categories of Mobile; Social; Cloud, and Big Data. The 3rd Platform is eclipsing the 2nd Platform – described broadly as the “last 30 years” of IT, and this has been mainly enterprise computing: Lan / Internet; Client / Server; and premised based infrastructure such as servers, storage, and licensed software.

A third platform. “Platform” is an interesting word. I get the idea of a Palantir platform. I suppose I can get in sync with the Windows 10 platform. But an IDC platform? Well, that’s an idea which would never have floated from the pond filled with mine drainage here in Harrod’s Creek.

A consulting firm is in the business of selling information. A platform exists at outfits like Booz, Allen, McKinsey, and Bain. But the notion that a mid tier outfit has had three platforms intrigues me. When I looked at some of the 1917-1918 reports at Booz, Allen when Ellen Shedlarz ran the information center, the format, the tone, the approach, and the word choice was incorporated in the charm school into which new hires were herded. I could, in a moment of weakness, call Booz, Allen’s systems and methods a platform. But are the words “systems” and “methods” more appropriate?

The other interesting point in the write up was a nifty new diagram which purports to make clear the third platform confection. I know you won’t be able to read the diagram. Buy the report which hopefully is less than the $3,500 slapped on eight pages of my research.

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Source: IDC 2016 at this link. If you find the link dead, just buzz up IDC and order document 01517018. The reports based on my research were 236511, 236514, 236086, and 237410. Buy them all for a mere $14,000.

Notice the blobs. Like another mid tier outfit, blobs are better than numbers. The reason fuzziness is a convenient graphic device is that addled geese like me ask questions; for example:

  • What data are behind the blobs
  • What was the sample size
  • Where did the categories come from like “cognitive marketing”?

I have a supposition about the “cognitive” thing. The IDC wizard Dave Schubmehl pumped out lots of tweets about IBM cognitive computing. One IDC executive, prior to seeking a future elsewhere, wrote a book about “cognitive” processes. Both of these IDC experts guzzled the IBM Watson lattes somewhere along the cafeteria line.

Back to the interview among two friends. I learned:

MarTech is a big deal. IDC is doing a very careful accounting of this area and we now account for 78 separate product / service categories and literally thousands of vendors. Like any other emerging and fast growth IT category, consolidation will be inevitable. But in the meantime, it makes for a daunting set of choices for the CMO and team.

I like the word daunting. There is nothing like a list of items which are not grouped in a useful manner to set IDC neural pathways abuzz. But the IDC mavens have cracked the problem. The company has produced a remarkable 2015 technology map. Check this out:

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Source: Expert Interview, 2016

I moved forward in the write up. The daunting problem has contributed to what the interviewer describes as “an awesome conference.” I like that “awesome” thing. How does the write up conclude? There is a reference to golf, the IDC professional’s medical history, and this statement:

The best analysts can simplify, simplify. Analysts who try to impress by using big words and complex frameworks…end up confusing their audience and so they become ineffective.

Remarkable content marketing.

Stephen E Arnold, May 4, 2016

Out of the Shadows and into the OpenBazaar

May 2, 2016

If you believe the Dark Web was destroyed when Silk Road went offline, think again!  The Dark Web has roots like a surface weed, when one root remains there are dozens (or in this case millions) more to keep the weed growing.  Tech Insider reports that OpenBazaar now occupies the space Silk Road vacated, “A Lawless And Shadowy New Corner Of The Internet Is About TO Go Online.”

OpenBazaar is described as a decentralized and uncensored online marketplace where people can sell anything without the fuzz breathing down their necks. Brian Hoffman and his crew had worked on it since 2014 when Amir Taaki thought it up.  It works similar to eBay and Etsy as a peer-to-peer market, but instead of hard currency it uses bitcoin.  Since it is decentralized, it will be near impossible to take offline, unlike Silk Road.  Hoffman took over the project from Taaki and after $1 million from tech venture capital firms the testnet is live.

“There’s now a functioning version of OpenBazaar running on the “testnet.” This is a kind of open beta that anyone can download and run, but it uses “testnet bitcoin” — a “fake” version of the digital currency for running tests that doesn’t have any real value. It means the developer team can test out the software with a larger audience and iron out the bugs without any real risk.” If people lose their money it’s just a horrible idea,” Hoffman told Business Insider.”

A new user signs up for the OpenBazaar testnet every two minutes and Hoffman hopes to find all the bugs before the public launch.  Hoffman once wanted to run the next generation digital black market, but now he is advertising it as a new Etsy.  The lack of central authority means lower take rates or the fees sellers incur for selling on the site.  Hoffman says it will be good competition for online marketplaces because it will force peer-to-peer services like eBay and Etsy find new ways to add value-added services instead of raising fees on customers.

 

Whitney Grace, May 2, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

A Partnership or a Sale for Gartner

May 1, 2016

I read an article that confused me. Its title is “Mirum Partners with Forrester to Help Brands Compete with Disruptors like Airbnb and Alibaba.” Forrester is a mid tier consulting firm. The outfit lights up my radar with the lightning over waves and the confusion of blobs in its analyses.

Mirum, on the other hand, is a “global digital agency.” This evokes images in my mind of ad professionals on the beach in Half Moon Bay watching videographers shoot footage of people riding horses through the surf in an inspired attempt to sell a consumer product. Mirum tells me “never to lose my sense of wonder.” Okay. Noted.

Now back to the write up.

Both Forrester and Mirum provide services to other organizations. That means both are consultants moving information around for money. That’s a noble pursuit, but the question is, “Who is paying whom?” Did Forrester sell consulting to Mirum? Did Mirum sell consulting to Forrester? Are both just teaming up in order to pump up their revenues with the idea that a small B&B in Camden, Maine, can compete with Airbnb?

I learned:

J. Walter Thompson digital agency Mirum in APAC has announced that it’s bringing on board Forrester’s Digital Maturity Assessment Tool. The agency believes using the tool will help support its work in trying to help more traditional brands modernize and digitize their businesses, in order to better compete against the new breed of disruptors like Airbnb and Uber.

Ah, ha. A tool. And for which prospects? The answer is Asian markets. Too bad for the B&B in Camden.

My hunch is that Forrester has a service and Mirum is going to try to sell it. I further assume that if and when Mirum makes some sales, both Mirum and Forrester will chop off some of the prime rib.

Why doesn’t Forrester market its own products? Why does Forrester use blobs instead of hard analytics in its gentle waves? From Harrod’s Creek, it appears that making sales directly might be too hard for the mid tier folks. Hence, a partnership.

Stephen E Arnold, May 1, 2016

Research Outlines Overview of Dark Web Landscape

April 27, 2016

The Dark Web continues to be a subject of study. Coin Desk published an article, Bitcoin Remains Most Popular Digital Currency on Dark Web, reporting on a study from two professors in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. Their research found that Dark Web sites offered illegal goods and services in 12 categories, such as arms, drugs, and finance. As may be expected, the results revealed bitcoin to be the preferred digital currency of hidden-services commerce. We learned,

“The report, “Cryptopolitik and the Darknet,” which appeared in the February-March edition of Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, analyzed about 300,000 web addresses, identifying 5,205 live websites, out of which 2,723 were classified as illicit with a “high degree of confidence.” Of those, each was placed in one of twelve categories, including drugs, arms, and finance. The drugs category was the most frequently identified, with 423 websites, followed by finance with 327 websites. 1,021 websites were categorized as “other” by the research team. Among the financial websites identified as illicit, there were three categories: bitcoin-based methods for money-laundering, stolen credit card numbers and trade in counterfeit currency.”

In addition to this overview of the Dark Web landscape, the article also points out previous research which pokes holes in the conceptualization of the Dark Web as completely anonymous. An attack costing $2,500 is the price of busting a bitcoin user. Playing defense, a coin-mixing service called CleanCoin, helps bitcoin users remain traceless. What will be the next move?

 

Megan Feil, April 27, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Content Marketers at Risk

April 19, 2016

I read “Goldman Sachs Leads a $30 million Round for Persado’s AI-Based, Automated Copywriting Service.” My first reactions:

  1. Search engine optimization wizards will have a tool to increase the flow of baloney search and content marketing to people who write blogs
  2. Journalists, who have been subject to reduction in force actions, may face fierce competition from a smart software
  3. Teachers of college composition will have a tough time figuring out if the student essays are coming from fraternity and sorority reference files or from a cloud based writing service.

According to the write up, the service is a “cognitive one.” Poor IBM. The company wants Watson to be the cognitive champion. Now an outfit which uses software to create articles has embraced the concept. I noted:

The company [Persado] has cataloged 1 million words and phrases that marketers use in their copy, and scored those words based on sentiment analysis and the structure of marketing pitches defined by a message’s format, linguistic structure, description, emotional language, and its actual call to action. The software can create a message, optimize its language, and then translate that message into any of 23 language…

There is a bright side. IBM could purchase Persado and then use the system to flog its confection of Lucene, acquired technology, and home brew code into a system which tirelessly promotes IBM.

Stephen E Arnold, April 19, 2016

The Marketing Case for Value from Dark Web

April 19, 2016

For marketers crying for more user data, the Dark Web may present a challenge — or not. A longread article, Bitcoin Remains Most Popular Digital Currency on Dark Web from Coin Desk reiterates the landscape of the Dark Web is more nuanced than the headlines screaming cybercrime suggest. Despite the inability to know users’ locations, identities and interests, which may worry marketers, several points are raised asking marketers if there is possibility for value in the Dark Web. Explaining more about the potential benefits to marketing and sales, cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs is quoted,

“‘Plenty of would-be, legitimate consumers come from regions of the world where perhaps governments don’t want their consumers visiting certain places or buying certain items. And for those consumers, [the Dark Web] can be a boon, and potential positive for retailers and marketers,’ Krebs writes in an e-mail. Krebs goes on to say that much of the supposed danger posed by the Dark Web is nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to cybersecurity.”

This useful piece not only provides insights into how the marketing industry views Tor, but also serves as a handy layman’s guide to Dark Web (synonymous with darknet and dark net) terminology and a brief history. Additionally, the founder of Adland presents an interesting case for opening a .onion site to complement a site on the Surface Web, or the “regular” internet.

 

Megan Feil, April 19, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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