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Google Express Pales in Comparison to Amazon Prime

October 5, 2015

The article on Business Insider titled Google Should Be Very Scared of What Amazon Built, According to Investor Bill Gurley, details Gurley’s comments. Amazon Prime, according to Gurley, is challenging Google’s top dog position by offering inventory in addition to search capabilities. Shopping on Google might seem like a waste of time to many Prime members, who go directly to Amazon to search for what they are looking for. The article explains,

“Over many years, Amazon has built up this logistics framework and their one click feature and their Prime program to the point where the consumer has zero anxiety about the quality of the product, immense trust about the deliverability, down to a day and a half for most people, less than a day for some items. They trust on price. That doesn’t mean they are the absolute lowest price, but people don’t think Amazon’s trying to get ’em.”

Gurley estimates that Amazon may have as many as 90 million Prime Members loyal to their search engine for shopping, and using Google only as a last resort. Google Express, which most of us have never heard of, was Google’s “lame” answer to Amazon Prime, but without the years of planning and creating worldwide distribution centers. However, the article does not address that people use Google for quite a bit more than shopping, and Amazon Prime is limited that way.

Chelsea Kerwin, October 5, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

A Xoogler Predicts Spike in Online Ad Rates

October 2, 2015

Yep, AOL, which is now part of Verizon, is not the world beater it was in the days of CD ROM spam. Today’s AOL top dog is a former Google wizards, officially known as a Xoogler.

The Xoogler makes an interesting observation, faithfully recorded for the Mad Ave types in “Why AOL’s Tim Armstrong Says Advertising Is about to Get Exponentially More Expensive.” I like the word exponentially. It triggers this type of image in my mind:

Think Super Bowl or pre-indictment World Cup ad rates.

The write up reports that wizard Xoogler says:

“Everyone is spending all their time talking about ad blocking right now,” he said. “Everyone should be spending all of their time talking about why consumers feel the need to block ads.”

The fix, therefore, is more money to reach consumers:

“You’re going to have to pay a lot of money to convert someone,” Mr. Armstrong said.

Good news for the Google? Opportunities for other online ad vendors like Facebook?

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2015

Reddit’s Extended Family

October 1, 2015

I have a problem.  I have a Reddit addiction.  My addiction is so bad that I once meant to spend five minutes on the news site, when I ended up spending five hours.  To control my compulsions, I only allow myself to read the first hundred posts and if I have finished my work, the first two hundred.   I am currently in the process to kick the Reddit habit, so I will be a more productive person.  But then I came across this article on Chi-Nese: “20 Great Reddit Alternatives You Should Know.”

Just as I thought I did not have enough Web sites on my RSS feed, now I have these lovely alternatives. Here is the scoop:

“Reddit is the most popular social bookmarking site celebrating 10-year anniversary of existence nowadays. Reddit has accumulated over 16 billion up-votes, over 1 billion comments and over 190 million posts, which are – compared to other Reddit alternatives – enormous numbers.  Despite the fact that Reddit is a website with a massive number of users and posts, below is a list of international Reddit alternatives that have great potential, and are definitely worth a try!”

Most of these Reddit alternatives are in a foreign language (not English), but some of ones to make the list are Hubski, PushedUp, Qetzl,, and 3tags.

I am surprised that Fark did not make the list.  Fark is the “original” Reddit, but it focuses on aggregating outlandish news content.  There goes my productivity!


Whitney Grace, October 1, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Not Hacking, but Trickery, Lost Bitpay Almost $2 Million

September 30, 2015

The article titled How a Clever Hacker Tricked a Major Bitcoin Company Out of $1.8 Million on Motherboard shines a light on the manipulation of BitPay,a Bitcoin payment service, by a clever hacker. Apparently the attacker sent an email from BTC Media CEO David Bailey’s computer to a BitPay CFO requesting his corporate email information, which he readily supplied because the two companies were already in talks about a potential partnership. The article clarifies,

“The insurance claim on the lost funds was denied because BitPay’s computers were never hacked—instead, they just gave away their email passwords in what appears to be a classic phishing scam. Phishing is when an attacker send a scammy email in the hopes that the victim is not savvy enough to trash it immediately. …Several months after the hack, BitPay was reportedly processing more than $1 million in payments every day.”

The hacker continued using Bitpay’s executive accounts to request funds, all of which were apparently granted until an employee of the transaction software company, SecondMarket, was notified. The article and court case emphasize that this was not a hacking scenario, just a $1.8 Million phishing scam that people using Craigslist for job searches avoid every day.
Chelsea Kerwin, September 30, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Weekly Watson Watch: Robots Become Socially Adept

September 25, 2015

The Watson promotional campaign is clogging my Overflight alert system. I will try to pick one Watson item from my favorite main frame company each week.

This week’s selection is from MIT Technology Review, whose editors find IBM Watson fascinating. The write up is “IBM Watson to Teach Robots Some Social Skills.” The MIT angle is magnetized by the money spinning Watson’s ability to “better understand and mimic human communication.” The write up focuses on an IBM wizard with the delightful name of Bob High.

The news hook is that an IBM partner used Watson to allow the partner’s robot Nao to speak “with realistic intonation.” The robot was also able to make “appropriate hand gestures during a conversation.”

The article tucks in an interesting comment, which struck me as a bit like Volkswagen’s approach to diesel emissions. Are you ready? Here is the passage I highlighted in a color I call truthful blue:

Speaking with MIT Technology Review after the demo, High admitted that this interaction was prerecorded, because the system doesn’t always work well in noisy environments. But he said the capabilities demonstrated reflected real research.

Ah, a demo. Where’s the beef? The PR hot dog seems to me to have some artificiality within.

I quite like the “real research” phrase. Who wants faux research like the work that creates television shows, flows of PR, and mid tier consultants praising cognitive computing.

I favor the type of research which allows me to buy 100 shares of IBM stock and then watch the value rise. I am not too keen on technology that does not work in a noisy environment. Been in an airport lately? How about under mortar fire? Well, canned responses will work in some cases I assume.

Watson is, as you know, gentle reader, open source, acquired, and home brew technology. Watson is, in my opinion, a good example of how basic search technology is wrapped with numerous other functions in a remarkable series of marketing efforts to generate revenue. We know the IBM Watson marketing people can elicit excitement from big time, “real” journalistic endeavors.

I feel lighthearted this morning. Here are my notes made as I sat on my deck watching the mine drainage stir the yellow green water in the still pond. It is time for a Frostian “you come too”:

  1. Will a drone equipped with two laser-guided AGM-114 Hellfire missiles experience emotion upon release of the ordinance?
  2. Will “love” robots incorporate the technology? Will the stop word list contain, “Take out the garbage” with appropriate intonation and gestures?
  3. Will the technology work in a real world environment like an office? The technology may be useful for some IBM HR applications; for example, a 54 year old employee is RA’d and discusses with a socially adept IBM robot the employee’s impending severance because the employees’ job will be off-shored in four weeks.

Enough old-person humor for this Weekly Watson. For more IBM information, check out Allliance@IBM.

Stephen E Arnold, September 25, 2015

Wall Street Sees Challengers to the Bloomberg Terminal

September 25, 2015

Few industries rely on timely data quite like Wall Street, and the trading platform that has long been the industry favorite has been enjoying that revenue stream for almost 30 years. However, the New York Times now reports that “The Bloomberg Terminal, a Wall Street Fixture, Faces Upstarts.” Writer Nathaniel Popper notes that funds from the popular terminal enable the company’s news endeavors: BusinessWeek and the Bloomberg Business website, it seems, “cost more than they earn.” Will all that fall away if the Bloomberg terminal loses ground to the competition?

The article relates:

“Bloomberg has sustained several challenges to its dominant market position, fending off smaller competitors hoping to bite off a corner of its business. And it has the cash reservoirs to wage a vigorous defense this time around. But Bloomberg’s own history shows that it is not easy to maintain a profitable market position like the one it has held for more than two decades. Bloomberg rose to prominence in the 1990s by nimbly replacing earlier Wall Street data companies — like Quotron and Telerate — that failed to change quickly enough to protect their longtime market dominance. Morgan Downey, the former Bloomberg executive who is building Money.Net, said he decided to leave Bloomberg in late 2013 and create a low-cost challenger after seeing how slowly Bloomberg was changing and how many of the company’s clients wanted a cheaper alternative.”

Cheaper, it seems, is the key word here. Firms are under pressure to cut costs amid new regulations and shifting markets; they are now eyeing lower-cost alternatives to the Bloomberg terminals, which run about $25,000 per year each. See the article for more on the competition, like Money.Net and chat provider Symphony.

What of Thomson Reuters? According to the article, that company’s terminal sales in the U.S. continue to disappoint, though they have done well in certain niche markets. Their terminals, we’re told, are “not notably cheaper than Bloomberg’s.” Will the upstarts topple both venerable firms?

Popper reports stockbrokers have been complaining about Bloomberg’s terminal pricing and lack of innovative product design. Then again, retired New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is said to be taking a more active role in the company. Perhaps with his efforts, it will manage to fend off the challengers. For now.

Cynthia Murrell, September 25, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Harsh Criticism of Yahoo

September 24, 2015

Kill dear old Yahoo? IBTimes reports on some harsh words from an ivory-tower type in, “NYU Professor: Yahoo Ought to Be ‘Euthanised’ and Marissa Mayer’s Pregnancy Saved her Job.” It seems marketing professor Scott Galloway recently criticized the company, and its famous CEO, in a televised Bloomberg interview. In his opinion, any website with Yahoo’s traffic should be rolling in dough, and the company’s struggles are the result of mismanagement. As for his claim that the “most overpaid CEO in history” only retains her position due to her pregnancy? Reporter Mary-Ann Russon writes:

“Galloway says that Yahoo would not be willing to face the public backlash that would come from firing a woman in such a position of power who has just announced she is pregnant.

“This is not a stretch since there are still far fewer women in leadership positions than men – as of March 2015, only 24 of the CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women – and the issue with how companies perceive family planning remains a sore point for many career-minded women (Read: Gamechangers: Why multimillionaire ‘mom’ Marissa Mayer is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t).

“However, Galloway also pointed the finger of blame for Yahoo’s woes at its board, which he said has been a ‘lesson in poor corporate governance,’ since there have been five CEOs in the last seven years.”

Though Yahoo was a great success around the turn of the millennium, it has fallen behind as users migrate their internet usage to mobile devices (with that format’s smaller, cheaper ads). Though many still use its free apps, nowadays most of Yahoo’s revenue comes from its Alibaba investment.

So what does Galloway recommend? “It should be sold to Microsoft,” he declared. “We should put a bullet in this story called ‘Yahoo’.” Ouch. Can Yahoo reverse their fortunes, or is it too late for the veteran Internet company?

Cynthia Murrell, September 24, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Cloud Excitement: What Is Up?

September 21, 2015

I noted two items about cloud services. The first is summarized in “Skype Is Down Worldwide for Many Users.” I used Skype last week one time. I noted that the system was unable to allow my Skype conversationalist to hear me. We gave up fooling with the systems, and the person who wanted to speak with me called me up. I wonder how much that 75 minute international call cost. Exciting.

I also noted that Amazon went offline for some of its customers on September 21, 2015. The information was in “Amazon Web Services Experiences Outages Sunday Morning, Causing Disruptions On Netflix, Tinder, Airbnb And More.”

Several observations are warranted:

  • What happened to automatic failover, redundancy, and distributed computing? I assumed that Google’s loss of data in its Belgium data center was a reminder that marketing chatter is different from actual data center reality. Guess not?
  • Whom or what will be blamed? Amazon will have a run at the Ashburn, Virginia nexus. Microsoft will probably blame a firmware or software update. The cause may be a diffusion of boots on the ground technical knowledge. Let’s face it. These cloud services are complicated puppies. As staff seek their future elsewhere and training is sidestepped, the potential for failure exists. The fix-it-and-move on approach to engineering adds to the excitement. Failure, in a sense, is engineered into many of these systems.
  • What about the promise of having one’s data in the cloud so nothing is lost, no downtime haunts the mobile device user, and no break in a seamless user experience occurs? More baloney? Yep, probably.

Net net: I rely on old fashioned computing and software methods. I think I lost data about 25 years ago and went offline never. Redundancy, reliability, and fail over take work gentle reader, not marketing and advertising.

How old school. The reason my international call took place was a result of my having different mobile telephony accounts plus an old Bell head landline. Expensive? Sure, but none of this required me to issue a news release, publicize how wonderful my cloud system was, and the egg-on-the-face reality of failure.

Stephen E Arnold, September 21, 2015

Big Data, Gartner Hype Cycle, and Generating Revenues

September 21, 2015

I read “Big Data Falls Off the Hype Cycle.” Fascinating. A term without definition has sparked ruminations about why a mid tier consulting firm does not define Big Data as hyperbole.

The write up states:

“Big Data” joins other trends dropped into obscurity this year including:  decision management, autonomous vehicles, prediction markets, and in-memory analytics.  Why are terms dropped?

The article scoots forward to answer this question. The solution for those of you familiar with a multiple choice test include:

Sometimes because they are too obvious.  For example in-memory analytics was dropped because no one was actually pursuing out-of-memory analytics.  Autonomous vehicles because “it will not impact even a tiny fraction of the intended audience in its day-to-day jobs”.  Some die and are forgotten because they are deemed to have become obsolete before they could grow to maturity.  And Big Data, well, per Gartner “data is the key to all of our discussion, regardless of whether we call it “big data” or “smart data.” We know we have to care, so it is moot to make an extra point of it here.”

The write up then offers:

When I first took a stab at making a definition I concluded that Big Data was really more about a new technology in search of a problem to solve.  That technology was NoSQL DBs and it could solve problems in all three of those Vs.  Maybe we should have just called it NoSQL and let it go at that. Not to worry.  I’m sure that calling things “Big Data” will stick around for a long time even if Gartner wants us not to.

I have a different take. My hunch is that the hype cycle is a marketing and lead generation vehicle for a mid tier consulting firm. When the leads no longer flow and the “objective studies” no longer sell, a fresh approach is needed.

Big Data as a concept is no longer hype. That’s reassuring. Perhaps progress is retarded by buzzwords, jargon, and thrashing for revenues?

Stephen E Arnold, September 21, 2015

Google Play Serves as Make Up Letter from Google to China

September 18, 2015

The article titled Google’s Return to China Won’t Be Easy on VentureBeat discusses Google’s ambitions to revisit China with the help of Google Play, its Android mobile operating system app store. If you don’t remember, about five years ago Google refused to self-censor search results and pulled its services from China to boot. But Google can’t help looking longingly over its shoulder at the world’s largest Internet market. The article explains,

“Apple Inc complies with local laws and made $13.2 billion last quarter in Greater China…, making it its second-biggest market. Some in the industry doubt whether Google can use the Play store to help get its other services into China as domestic rivals are now well established and Google would have to comply with Chinese law. That would mean storing all data in China, and meeting information access and censorship requests, a thorny issue, particularly if the U.S. government gets involved.”

Obviously, China did not heed Google’s advice on reforming its approach to business and government oversight. Some argue that the focus on Google Play may make the movement toward China less threatening to Chinese regulators than their other services like search and Gmail. The article suggests the possibility that the lapse in Google’s presence in the market may be fatal to them there. The niche market has been working just fine, thank you very much, many mobile players believe. At any rate, Google’s hopes are a long shot unless they are willing to do it the Chinese way.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 18, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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