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Lousy Backlog? Sell with Interesting Assertions.

September 19, 2016

If you are struggling to fill the sales pipeline, you will feel some pressure. If you really need to make sales, marketing collateral may be an easy weapon to seize.

I read “Examples of False Claims about Self-Service Analytics.” The write up singles out interesting sales assertions and offers them up in a listicle. I loved the write up. I lack the energy to sift through the slices of baloney in my enterprise search files. Therefore, let’s highlight the work the brave person who singled out eight vendors’ marketing statements as containing what the author called “false claims.” Personally I think each of these claims is probably rock solid when viewed from the point of view of the vendors’ legal advisers.

Here are three examples of false claims about self service analytics. (For the other five, consult the article cited in the preceding paragraph.) Keep in mind that I find these statements as good as the gold for sale in the local grocery in Harrod’s Creek. Come to think of it the gold is foil wrapped around a lousy piece of ersatz chocolate. But gold is gold sort of.

Example 1 from Information Builders. Information Builders loves New York. The company delivers “integrated solutions for data management.” Here’s the item from the article which contains a “false claim.”

Self-service BI and analytics isn’t just about giving tools to analysts; it’s about empowering every user with actionable and relevant information for confident decision-making. (link). Self-service Analytics for Everyone…Who’s Everyone? Your entire universe of employees, customers, and partners. Our WebFOCUS Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics platform empowers people inside and outside your organization to attain insights and make better decision.

I see a subject verb agreement error. I see a semicolon which puts me on my rhetorical guard. I see the universal “everyone”. I see the fact that WebFOCUS empowers.

What’s not to like? Information Builders is repeating facts which I accept. The fact that the company is in New York enhances the credibility of the statements. Footnotes, evidence? Who needs them?

Example 2 from SAP, the outfit that delivered R3 to Westinghouse and Trex to the enterprise search market. Here’s the “false assertion” which looks as solid as a peer reviewed journal containing data related to drug trials. Remember. This quote comes from the source article. I believe absolutely whatever SAP communicates to me. Don’t you?

This tool is intended for those who need to do analysis but are not Analysts nor wish to become them.

Why study math, statistics, and related disciplines? Why get a degree? I know that I can embrace the SAP way (which is a bit like the IBM way) and crunch numbers until the cows return to my pasture in Harrod’s Creek. Who needs to worry about data integrity, sample size, threshold settings, and algorithmic sequencing? Not me. Gibraltar does not stand on such solid footing as SAP’s tool for those who eschew analysts and does not want to wake up like Kafka’s protagonist as an analyst.

Example 3 from ZoomData, a company which has caught the attention of some folks in the DC area. I love those cobblestones in Reston too.

ZoomData brings the power of self-service BI to the 99%—the non-data geeks of the world who thirst for a simple, intuitive, and collaborative way to visually interact with data to solve business problems.

To me this looks better than the stone tablets Moses hauled down from the mountain. I love the notion of non geeks who thirst for pointing and clicking. I would have expressed the idea as drink deep of data’s Empyrean spring, but I am okay with the split infinitive “to visually interact” because the statement is a fact. I tell you that it is a fact.

For the other five allegedly false assertions, please, consult the original article. I have to take a break. When my knowledge is confirmed in these brilliant assertions, I need a moment to congratulate myself on my wisdom. Wait. I am an addled goose. Maybe these examples really are hog wash? Because i live in rural Kentucky, I will step outside and seek inputs from Henrietta, my hog.

Stephen E Arnold, September 19, 2016

OpenText: Content Marketing or Real News?

September 18, 2016

When I knew people at the original Malcolm Forbes Forbes, I learned that stories were meticulously researched and edited. I read “Advanced Analytics: Insights Produce New Wealth.” I was baffled, but, I thought, that’s the point.

The main point of the write up pivots on the assertion that an “insight” converts directly to “wealth.” I am not sure about the difference between old and new wealth. Wealth is wealth in my book.

The write up tells me:

Data is the foundation that allows transformative, digital change to happen.

The logic escapes me. The squirrels in Harrod’s Creek come and go. Change seems to be baked into squirreldom. The focus is “the capitalist tool,” and I accept that the notion of changing one’s business can be difficult. The examples are easy to spot: IBM is trying to change into a Watson powered sustainable revenue machine. HP is trying to change from a conglomeration of disparate parts into a smaller conglomeration of disparate parts. OpenText is trying to change from a roll up of old school search systems into a Big Data wealth creator. Tough jobs indeed.

I learned that visualization is important for business intelligence. News flash. Visualization has been important since a person has been able to scratch animals on a cave’s wall. But again I understand. Predictive analytics from outfits like Spotfire (now part of Tibco) provided a wake up call to some folks.

The write up informs me:

While devices attached to the Internet of Things will continue to throw out growing levels of structured data (which can be stored in files and databases), the amount of unstructured data being produced will also rise. So the next wave of analytics tools will inevitably be geared to dealing with both forms of information seamlessly, while also enabling you to embed the insights gleaned into the applications of your choosing. Now that’s innovation.

Let’s recap. Outfits need data to change. (Squirrels excepted.) Companies have to make sense of their data. The data come in structured and unstructured forms. The future will be software able to handle structured and unstructured data. Charts and graphs help. Once an insight is located, founded, presented by algorithms which may or may not be biased, the “insights” will be easy to put into a PowerPoint.

BAE Systems’ “Detica” was poking around in this insight in the 1990s. There were antecedents, but BAE is a good example for my purpose. Palantir Technologies provided an application demo in 2004 which kicked the embedded analytics notion down the road. A click would display a wonky circular pop up, and the user could perform feats of analytic magic with a mouse click.

Now Forbes’ editors have either discovered something that has been around for decades or been paid to create a “news” article that reports information almost as timely as how Lucy died eons ago.

Back to the premise: Where exactly is the connection between insight and wealth? How does one make the leap from a roll up of unusual search vendors like Information Dimension, BRS, Nstein, Recommind, and my favorite old time Fulcrum Technologies produce evidence of the insight to wealth argument. If I NOT out these search vendors and focus on the Tim Bray SGML search engine, I still don’t see the connection. Delete Dr. Bray’s invention. What do we have? We have a content management company which sells content management as governance, compliance, and other consulting friendly disciplines.

Consultants can indeed amass wealth. But the insight comes not from Big Data. The wealth comes from selling time to organizations unable to separate the giblets from the goose feathers. Do you know the difference? The answer you provide may allow another to create wealth from that situation.

One doesn’t need Big Data to market complex and often interesting software to folks who require a bus load of consultants to make it work. For Forbes, the distinction between giblets and goose feathers may be too difficult to discern.

My hunch is that others, not trained in high end Manhattan journalism, may be able to figure out which one can be consumed and which one can ornament an outfit at an after party following a Fashion Week showing.

Stephen E Arnold, September 18, 2016

Automated Tools for Dark Web Data Tracking

September 15, 2016

Naturally, tracking stolen data through the dark web is a challenge. Investigators have traditionally infiltrated chatrooms and forums in the effort—a tedious procedure with no guarantee of success. Now, automated tools may give organizations a leg up, we learn from the article, “Tools to Track Stolen Data Through the Dark Web” at GCN. Reporter Mark Pomerleau informs us:
“The Department of Veterans Affairs last month said it was seeking software that can search the dark web for exploited VA data improperly outside its control, distinguish between VA data and other data and create a ‘one-way encrypted hash’ of VA data to ensure that other parties cannot ascertain or use it. The software would also use VA’s encrypted data hash to search the dark web for VA content. We learned:

Some companies, such as Terbium Labs, have developed similar hashing technologies.  ‘It’s not code that’s embedded in the data so much as a computation done on the data itself,’ Danny Rogers, a Terbium Labs co-founder, told Defense One regarding its cryptographic hashing.  This capability essentially enables a company or agency to recognize its stolen data if discovered. Bitglass, a cloud access security broker, uses watermarking technology to track stolen data.  A digital watermark or encryption algorithm is applied to files such as spreadsheets, Word documents or PDFs that requires users to go through an authentication process in order to access it.

We’re told such watermarks can even thwart hackers trying to copy-and-paste into a new document, and that Bitglass tests its tech by leaking and following false data onto the dark web. Pomerleau notes that regulations can make it difficult to implement commercial solutions within a government agency. However, government personnel are very motivated to find solutions that will allow them to work securely outside the office.

The article wraps up with a mention of DARPA’s  Memex search engine, designed to plumb the even-more-extensive deep web. Law enforcement is currently using Memex, but the software is expected to eventually make it to the commercial market.

Cynthia Murrell, September 15, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

SAP In Memory: Conflicts of Opinion

September 13, 2016

I was surprised by the information presented in “SAP Hana Implementation Pattern Research Yields Contradictory Results.” My goodness, I thought, an online publication actually presents some ideas that a high profile system may not be a cat fully dressed in pajamas.

The SAP Hana system is a database. The difference between Hana and the dozens of other allegedly next generation data management solutions is its “in memory, columnar database platform.” If you are not hip to the lingo of the database administrators who clutch many organizations by the throat, an in memory approach is faster than trucking back to a storage device. Think back to the 1990s and Eric Brewer or the teens who rolled out Pinpoint.

The columnar angle is that data is presented in stacks with each item written on a note card. The mapping of the data is different from a row type system. The primary key in a columnar structure is the data, which maps back to the the row identification.

The aforementioned article points to a mid tier consulting firm report. That report by an outfit called Nucleus Research. Nucleus, according to the article, “revealed that 60 percent of SAP reference customers – mostly in the US – would not buy SAP technology again.” I understand that SAP engenders some excitement among its customers, but a mid tier consulting firm seems to be demonstrating considerable bravery if the data are accurate. Many mid tier consulting firms sand the rough edges off their reports.

The article then jumps to a report paid for by an SAP reseller, which obviously has a dog in the Nucleus fight. Another mid tier research outfit called Coleman Parks was hired to do another study. The research focused on 250 Hana license holders.

The results are interesting. I learned from the write up:

When asked what claims for Hana were credible, 92% of respondents said it reduced IT infrastructure costs, a further 87% stated it saved business costs. Some 98% of Hana projects came in on-budget, and 65% yet to roll out were confident of hitting budget.

Yep, happy campers who are using the system for online transactional processing and online analytical processing. No at home chefs tucking away their favorite recipes in Hana I surmise.

However, the report allegedly determined what I have known for more than a decade:

SAP technology is often deemed too complex, and its CEO Bill McDermott has been waging a public war against this complexity for the past few years, using the mantra Run Simple.

The rebuttal study identified another plus for Hana:

“We were surprised how satisfied the Hana license holders were. SAP has done a good job in making sure these projects work, and rate at which has got Hana out is amazing for such a large organization,” said Centiq director of technology and services Robin Webster. “We had heard a lot about Hana as shelfware, so we were surprised at the number saying they were live.”

From our Hana free environment in rural Kentucky, we think:

  1. Mid tier consulting firms often output contradictory findings when reviewing products or conducting research. If there is bias in algorithms, imagine what might luck in the research team members’ approaches
  2. High profile outfits like SAP can convince some of the folks with dogs in the fight to get involved in proving that good things come to those who have more research conducted
  3. Open source data management systems are plentiful. Big outfits like Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Oracle find themselves trying to generate the type of revenue associated with proprietary, closed data management products at a time when fresh faced computer science graduates just love free in memory solutions like Memsql and similar solutions.

SAP mounted an open source initiative which I learned about in “SAP Embraces Open Source Sort Of.” But the real message for me is that one can get mid tier research firms to do reports. Then one can pick the one that best presents a happy face to potential licensees.

Here in Harrod’s Creek, the high tech crowd tests software before writing checks. No consultants required.

Stephen E Arnold, September 13, 2016

Ads Appear Here, There, and Everywhere Across Google Landscape

September 12, 2016

The article on CNN Money titled Google Is Going to Start Showing You More Ads discusses the surge in ads that users can expect to barely notice over the coming weeks and months. In efforts to ramp up mobile ad revenue to match the increasing emphasis on mobile search, Google is making mobile ads bigger, more numerous, and just more. The article explains,

Google will be simplifying the work flow for businesses to create display ads with images. The company says advertisers need to “simply provide headlines, a description, an image, and a URL,” and Google will automatically design ads for the business. Location-based ads will start showing up on Google too. If you search for “shoe store” or “car repair near me,” ads for local businesses will populate the search results… The changes come as Google is trying to stay ahead of customers’ changing demands.

Google claims in the article that the increase is already showing strong results for advertisers, which click-through rates (CTR) up 20%. But it is hard to believe. As ads flood the space between articles, search results, and even Google Map directions, they seem to be no more significant than an increase in white noise. If Google really wants to revolutionize marketing, they are going to need to dig deeper than just squeezing more ads in between the lines.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 12, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/


Revolving Door Hires at Google

September 7, 2016

It looks like Google has determined the best way to address its legal challenges in Europe is to infiltrate and influence its governments. The Guardian reports, “Google: New Concerns Raised About Political Influence by Senior ‘Revolving Door’ Jobs.” The personnel-based tactic has apparently worked so well in the U.S. that Google is applying it to the European arena. Writer Jamie Doward cites research by the the Google Transparency Project, a venture of the Campaign for Accountability (CfA), when she writes:

New concerns have been raised about the political influence of Google after research found at least 80 ‘revolving door’ moves in the past decade – instances where the online giant took on government employees and European governments employed Google staff. … The CfA has suggested that the moves are a result of Google seeking to boost its influence in Europe as the company seeks to head off antitrust action and moves to tighten up on online privacy.

The article gets into specifics on who was hired where and when; navigate to it for those details. In sum, Doward writes:

Overall, the research suggests that Google, now part of parent company Alphabet Inc, has hired at least 65 former government officials from within the European Union since 2005.

During the same period, 15 Google employees were appointed to government positions in Europe, gaining what the CfA claims are ‘valuable contacts at the heart of the decision-making process’.

Anne Weisemann, CfA executive director, points to Google’s success influencing the U.S. government as a driving factor in its EU choices. She notes Google spends more to lobby our federal government than any other company, and that Google execs grace the White House more than once a week, on average. Also, CfA points to more than 250 of these “revolving door” appointments Google has made in the U.S.

For its part, Google claims it is just hiring experts who can answer government officials’ many questions about the Internet, about their own business model, and the “opportunity for European businesses to grow online.” There’s no way that could give Google an unfair advantage, right?

The article concludes with a call to reevaluate how government officials view Google—it is now much more than a search engine, it is a major political actor. Caution is warranted as the company works its way into government-run programs like the UK’s National Health Service and school systems. Such choices, ones that can affect the public on a grand scale, should be fully informed. Listening to Google lobbyists, who excel at playing on politicians’ technical ignorance, does not count.

Cynthia Murrell, September 7, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Watson Ads for Branded Answers to the Little Questions of Life

September 6, 2016

Here is a potent new way for brands to worm their way into every aspect of consumers’ lives. “IBM Watson Is Now Offering AI-Powered Digital Ads That Answer Consumers’ Questions,” we learn from AdWeek. Watson Ads will hook users up with answers to their everyday questions—answers supplied by advertisers. Apparently, IBM’s Weather-Company acquisition supplied the tools behind this product. Writer Christopher Heine explains:

IBM’s relatively new ownership of The Weather Company’s digital properties is coming into play in a serious fashion: Watson Ads will first appear on Weather.com, the Weather mobile app and the company’s data-driven WeatherFX platform. Later, IBM plans to allow them to appear on third-party properties.

Campbell Soup Company, Unilever and GSK Consumer Healthcare are some of the brands that will run the ads in the coming days. Watson Ads’ pricing details were not disclosed.

Jeremy Steinberg, global head of sales, The Weather Company, described how they work, stating that ‘machine learning and natural-language capabilities will allow it to provide accurate responses. What we’re doing is moving away from keyword searches and towards more natural language and well-reasoned answers.

Heine outlines Campbell’s plan as an example—their Watson Ads will present “Chef Watson,” the helpful AI which suggests recipes based on criteria like available ingredients, the time of day, and what the weather is like. Those recipes will be pulled from Campbell’s existing site Campbell’s Kitchen. Not surprisingly, their ingredient lists rely heavily on Campbell’s product line (which goes well beyond soup these days).

Another Watson Ads client is GSK Consumer Healthcare, which plans to use the tech to help users make better real-time health decisions—a worthy project, I’ll admit. I am curious to see how Unilever, and other companies down the line, will leverage their digital voices of authority. See the article for more details on the project.

Cynthia Murrell, September 6, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Thunderstone Gets an Upgrade

September 1, 2016

Pokémon Go is the latest mobile gaming craze and all of the players want to have a Pikachu as their main Pokémon.  Eventually players will evolve their Pikachu into the more powerful Raichu using candy and stardust, but old school Pokémon gamers know that the true way to evolve a Pikachu is with a Thunderstone.  The hardest part of evolving a Pikachu, however, was finding the actual Thunderstone.  Compulsive searchers have their own difficulties trying to find their information and other related content in their systems.  There is a software search solution coincidentally named Thunderstone and it recently went through an upgrade: “Thunderstone Releases Version 16.”

Thunderstone’s newest release includes updates that improve search quality across the board: intranets, aggregators, and public facing Web sites.  There also are more authorization options for better security, including a central authentication service and negotiate Kerberos option.  Perhaps the biggest upgrade is the following:

Simplified crawl configuration

  • Sitemaps allowing easier crawling of sites where URLs are not easily determined from a crawl.
  • XML/XSL site support by applying stylesheets to sites that deliver content via XML and XSL instead of HTML; the searchable text is better identified.
  • Proxy Auto-config (PAC) file support which makes it easier to index and crawl enterprises composed of different networks with varying proxy rules: the same config files used by browsers may now be used at crawl time.

The Ajax crawlable URL scheme from Google is supported, allowing Ajax based dynamic sites that support it to be crawled and indexed more effectively.”

Thunderstone now packs a more powerful punch for search quality and returning results.  Now if only finding Cubone could be improved as well.

Whitney Grace, September 1, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Google Offers Free Cloud Access to Colleges

August 29, 2016

Think Amazon is the only outfit which understands the concept of strategic pricing, bundling, and free services? Google has decided to emulate such notable marketing outfits as ReedElsevier’s LexisNexis and offering colleges a real deal for use of for-fee online services. Who would have thought that Google would emulate LexisNexis’ law school strategy?

I read “Google Offers Free Cloud Access to Colleges, Plays Catch Up to Amazon, Microsoft.” I reported that a mid tier consulting firm anointed Microsoft as the Big Dog in cloud computing. Even in Harrod’s Creek, folks know that Amazon is at least in the cloud computing kennel with the Softies.

According to the write up:

Google in June announced an education grant offering free credits for its cloud platform, with no credit card required, unlimited access to its suite of tools and training resources. Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud services both offer education programs, and now Google Cloud wants a part in shaping future computer scientists — and probably whatever they come up with using the tool.

The write up points out:

Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud services offer an education partnership in free trials or discounted pricing. For the time being, Microsoft Azure’s education program is not taking new applications and “oversubscribed,” the website reads. Amazon Web Services has an online application for its education program for teachers and students to get accounts, and Google is accepting applications from faculty members.

How does one avail oneself of these free services. Sign up for a class and hope that your course “Big Band Music from the 1940’s” qualifies you for free cloud stuff.

Stephen E Arnold, August 29, 2016

Defining AI, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning

August 28, 2016

Confused about the jargon marketing professionals hose at you? No need. Navigate to “AI vs Deep Learning vs Machine Learning.” The truth is revealed. Here’s what my take on the definitions is:

  • Artificial intelligence is an umbrella term. One can use it for almost any sales pitch.
  • Deep learning. This is pattern recognition with human inputs.
  • Machine learning is pretty much like deep learning.

There are some other concepts may be found in search and content processing vendors’ slideshows, sale pitches, and marketing collateral; for example:

  • Cognitive computing
  • Semantics
  • Natural language processing.

What do these terms mean? I have no idea. I understand counting entities and using methods to perform query expansion. On a good day, I can name a couple of ways to perform clustering.

This buzzword blizzard just confuses me. Most Star Trek systems require rules and human crafted training. Then every once in a while one has to retrain the smart software. Progress in marketing is outpacing progress in some of the technology described by marketers.

Stephen E Arnold, August 28, 2016

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