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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

Instant Reputation: Help for Failing Enterprise Search Vendors

September 16, 2015

I know the economy is booming for marijuana vendors in Colorado. In other business sectors, the economic weights hang heavy.

One sector which has suffered for many years is what I call search and content processing. As a result, many vendors have magically changed from search into something else entirely. My textbook example is Vivisimo, the metasearch and on-the-fly clustering outfit spawned at a university in Pittsburgh. Yes, it is a high tech center. Uber bought a schools’ robotics department.

Vivisimo morphed from clustering and pretty good de-duplication to enterprise search. The search thing was okay but it required lots of fiddling with scripts and there was an annoying limit on the size of the indexes, but, hey, the company was trying. After years of effort and hitting more than $15 million in revenues, Vivisimo and its investors sold the company to IBM. Presto. Chango. Vivisimo became a Big Data outfit.

A single example selected from many search transmogrifications.

I read “I Created a Fake Business and Bought It an Amazing Online Reputation.” This service, which I assume works like a champ, is ideal for the search and content processing sector.

Gasping vendors of proprietary search systems can sign up, create a subsidiary, and charge the marketplace with an outstanding reputation. Imagine the value of Fast Search & Transfer’s indicted executive when he innovates. What about the surge of interest in Fast-Search derived systems, when those are repositioned. Think of the possibilities for these applications:

  • Mid tier consulting firms can shake allegations of hanky panky and enjoy a great reputation
  • Failed webmasters promoting “real” news can join the ranks of the publishers disseminating information via Facebook and Twitter
  • Unemployed sales and marketing professionals can reinvent themselves as something more marketable than a former CEO with a track record of failed companies stapled to an Island cotton shirt

I learned in the write up:

I’m not the first to set up a fake business as a honey pot for fake reviews. In 2013, the New York attorney general’s office went undercover for “Operation Clean Turf.” Pretending to be a fro-yo place in Brooklyn plagued with negative reviews, the office called up “SEO shops” asking for help burnishing its online reputation. Many of them wrote fake reviews, using IP maskers and cheap freelancers abroad. At the end of that investigation, the attorney general fined 19 companies from $2,500 to $100,000 each for breaking business laws. Yes, writing fake reviews is illegal. False advertising is a misdemeanor crime. You can be fined up to $5,000 for it and spend six months in jail, or more if it’s your second offense. Even writing a real review where you don’t reveal that you were compensated to do it violates guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, which is one of the reasons why it wasn’t kosher for Kim Kardashian to pose on Instagram with her favorite morning sickness pills. But lots of people are still doing it. Technology research firm Gartner thinks that 10-15% of all reviews online are fake.

Does this mean that mid tier consulting firms, unemployed middle school teachers, and struggling search vendors will not use the service?

Good question probably best answered by the outfits who have pumped tens of millions of dollars into search and content processing companies.

Stephen E Arnold, September 16, 2015

HP: A Lesson in How to Sell

September 16, 2015

I am not much of a sales person. Hey, I don’t sell because no one in Harrod’s Creek is in the market for an old, fat, half deaf, and poorly sighted Washington, DC escapee.

I did learn something when I read “HP Announces 25K-30K Layoffs as Part of Split.” Hewlett Packard, the creator of the HP way, is going to split itself into two companies. I just heard that this mitosis will reignite innovation at HP. (Doesn’t HP sell printer ink and fund lawsuits targeting those who were silly enough to sell HP a company?) News travels slowly in rural Kentucky.

The misguided approach to sales I had prior to learning about the HP way was to perform the following steps. Let me use the example of my selling a motor scooter. I did:

  1. Clean the scooter
  2. Service the scooter
  3. Fill the scooter with fuel
  4. Get the manuals together in one envelope.

The idea was that I wanted the potential buyer to get a ready-to-roll motor scooter.

Now here’s what I learned about the HP way of sales:

  1. Figure out what parts of a giant company with quarter upon quarter of declining revenue make a Pile A and Pile B
  2. Assure the lawyers that the litigation against Autonomy will continue
  3. Terminate lots of people (the equivalent of my taking the rear wheel off my scooter which is for sale
  4. Appearing on a TV talk show on CNBC saying, “The sale will ignite innovation.”

I plan to try to HP way of sales the next time I sell a vehicle. I am darned confident that potential buyers will be impressed with an unusable vehicle.

I will let you, gentle reader, know how my emulation of the Hewlett Packard approach to sales works out.

In the meantime, why not try the HP method of sales yourself? A sure winner.

Stephen E Arnold, September 16, 2015

Free InetSoft Data Tools for AWS Users

September 14, 2015

Users of AWS now have access to dashboard and analytics tools from data intelligence firm InetSoft, we learn from “InetSoft’s Style Scope Agile Edition Launched on Amazon Web Services for No Extra Cost Cloud-based Dashboards and Analytics” at PRWeb. The press release announces:

“Installable directly from the marketplace into an organization’s Amazon environment, the application can connect to Amazon RDS, Redshift, MySQL, and other data sources. Its primary limitation is a limit of two simultaneous users. In terms of functionality, the enterprise administration layer with granular security controls is omitted. The application gives fast access to powerful KPI reporting and multi-dimensional analysis, enabling the private sharing of dashboards and visualizations ideally suited for individual analysts, data scientists, and small teams in any departmental function. It also provides a self-service way of evaluating much of the same technology available in InetSoft’s commercial offerings, applications suitable for enterprise-wide deployment or embedding into other cloud-based solutions.”

So now AWS users can pick up free tools with this Style Scope Agile Edition, and InetSoft may pick up a customers for its commercial version of Style Scope. The company emphasizes that their product does not require users to re-architect data warehouses, and their data access layer, based on MapReduce principles, boosts performance. Founded in 1996, InetSoft is based in New Jersey.

Cynthia Murrell, September 14, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

A Fun Japanese Elasticsearch Promotion Video

September 10, 2015

Elasticsearch is one of the top open source search engines and is employed by many companies including Netflix, Wikipedia, GitHub, and Facebook.  Elasticsearch wants to get a foothold into the Japanese technology market.  We can assume, because Japan is one of the world’s top producers of advanced technology and has a huge consumer base.  Once a technology is adopted in Japan, you can bet that it will have an even bigger adoption rate.

The company has launched a Japanese promotional campaign and a uploaded video entitled “Elasticsearch Product Video” to its YouTube channel.  The video comes with Japanese subtitles with appearances by CEO Steven Schuurman, VP of Engineering Kevin Kluge, Elasticsearch creator Shay Bannon, and VP of Sales Justin Hoffman.  The video showcases how Elasticsearch is open source software, how it has been integrated into many companies’ frameworks, its worldwide reach, product improvement, as well as the good it can do.

Justin Hoffman said that, “I think the concept of an open source company bringing a commercial product to market is very important to our company.  Because the customers want to know on one hand that you have the open source community and its evolution and development at the top of your priority list.  On the other hand, they appreciate that you’re innovating and bringing products to market that solve real problems.”

It is a neat video that runs down what Elasticsearch is capable of, the only complaint is that bland music in the background.  They could benefit from licensing the Jive Aces “Bring Me Sunshine” it relates the proper mood.

Whitney Grace, September 10, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

IBM Watson and Its Voice

September 8, 2015

i read “IBM Gets Watson to Sound Like Stephen Hawking.” Before I read the write up, I was disconcerted. After I read the article, I was offended. My annoyance comes from the antics of IBM and the approach of the Cnet story.

I reacted negatively to this statement:

What’s moving for me (I’m not sure in which direction) is that Watson sounds distinctly — to my ears, at least — like Stephen Hawking. The syllabic inflections have that British-Transatlantic hybrid thing going on. It’s all a little familiar, all a little like Hawking’s Intel-based vocal projections.

Why cover Watson’s ads? I will answer the question: “There’s not much else about Watson to cover.” Even IBM sidesteps Watson when it describes the wonders of IBM OmniFind Enterprise Search 3.

The real news about IBM is not the goal of delivering exaflop computing or curing cancer with Lucene, home brew code, and acquired technology. The news is that IBM continues to dump staff. One can track the cuts at the Endicott Alliance site. The Wall Street wizards swizzle around the fact that IBM has turned in more than a dozen quarters of declining revenue. The hapless licensee of legacy Informix staggers when the fees for support come from Big Blue.

Referencing Stephen Hawking and his “voice” does not make me happy. Ignoring the significant issues at IBM gives me a headache. Maybe Watson has a recipe to remedy these situations. Maybe not.

Perhaps Watson should lose its voice?

Stephen E Arnold, September 8, 2015

Hey, Online Ad Fraud. Exaggerated for Sure

September 8, 2015

With digital information now the Land of Mad Ave, I enjoy thinking about advertising fraud. Hey, online fraud, you are overstated. I read “Widely cited Ad Blocking Study Finding $21.8 Billion Loss Is Incorrect.” Advertising is a pristine discipline. There is no stage magicianship. There is no 17.65 commission. There is no “Let’s do horses on a beach” thinking.

Nevertheless, the write up makes this point to unbelievers:

the study ignored the law of supply and demand. To get to the $21.8 billion dollar figure, it assumed that the blocked ads, if added to the overall pool of ad inventory, would command the same rates as those in a market without them. But in a real world situation, if ad blocking went away, the market would flood with an increased supply of ad inventory, dropping rates for all ads and leading to a much smaller loss figure than $21.8 billion. A word about ad blocking: the term may be a bit of a misnomer. The technology doesn’t “block” existing ads but rather prevents them from ever being served. Advertisers pay for ads when they show up on a web page (called an impression) after being served. So when an ad is “blocked,” the advertiser doesn’t waste any money, but rather doesn’t spend it. This cash remains available to spend on a smaller pool of inventory. Same cash (demand), less inventory (supply), should result in higher prices for ad inventory that remains after blocking. Those extra dollars from higher prices end up in the hands of publishers, the ones supposedly “losing” the $21.8 billion dollars.

I understand. I know that devices which prevent easy fast forwarding through commercial are an anomaly. I know that when ads blare when I open a Web page as I puzzle over the weird “allow or disallow” option are rare birdies. I know that when I think information is distorted by a commercial relationship that I just don’t have the right attitude.

Advertising, skewed search results, and infomercials are not an issue. Relax. Buy ads.

Stephen E Arnold, September 8, 2015

Algorithms Still Need Oversight

September 8, 2015

Many have pondered what might happen when artificial intelligence systems go off the rails. While not spectacular enough for Hollywood, some very real consequences have been observed; the BBC examines “The Bad Things that Happen When Algorithms Run Online Shops.”

The article begins by relating the tragic tale of an online T-shirt vendor who just wanted to capitalize on the “Keep Calm and Carry On” trend. He set up an algorithm to place random terms into the second half of that oft-copied phrase and generate suggested products. Unfortunately, the list of phrases was not sufficiently vetted, resulting in a truly regrettable slogan virtually printed on virtual examples. Despite the fact that the phrase appeared only on the website, not on any actual shirts, the business never recovered its reputation and closed shortly thereafter. Reporter Chris Baranuik writes:

“But that’s the trouble with algorithms. All sorts of unexpected results can occur. Sometimes these are costly, but in other cases they have benefited businesses to the tune of millions of pounds. What’s the real impact of the machinations of machines? And what else do they do?”

Well, one other thing is to control prices. Baranuik reports that software designed to set online prices competitively, based on what other sites are doing, can cause prices to fluctuate day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour. Without human oversight, results can quickly become extreme to either end of the scale. For example, for a short time last December, prices of thousands of products sold through Amazon were set to just one penny each. Amazon itself probably weathered the unintended near-giveaways just fine, but smaller merchants selling through the site were not so well-positioned; some closed as a direct result of the error. On the other hand, vendors trying to keep their prices as high as feasible can make the opposite mistake; the article points to the time a blogger found an out-of-print textbook about flies priced at more than $23 million, the result of two sellers’ dueling algorithms.

Such observations clearly mean that consumers should be very wary about online prices. The bigger takeaway, though, is that we’re far from ready to hand algorithms the reigns of our world without sufficient human oversight. Not yet.

Cynthia Murrell, September 8, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Freedom Versus Fear

September 4, 2015

The Ashley Madison data breach has understandably been getting a lot of press, but what does it portend for the future of the Internet? Computerworld’s Tech Decoder predicts far-reaching consequences in, “Here’s Why the Dark Web Just  Got a Lot Darker.” Security experts predict a boom in phishing scams connected to this data breach, as well as copycat hackers poised to attack other (more legit) companies.

Reporter John Brandon suspects such activity will lead to the government stepping in to create two separate Internet channels: one “wild and unprotected” side and a “commercial” side, perhaps sponsored by big-name communications companies, that comes with an expectation of privacy. Great, one might think, we won’t have to worry if we’re not up to anything shady! But there’s more to it. Brandon explains:

“The problem is that I’m a big proponent of entrepreneurship. I won’t comment on whether I think Ashley Madison is a legitimate business. … However, I do want to defend the rights of some random dude in Omaha who wants to sell smartphone cables. He won’t have a chance to compete on the ‘commercial’ side of the Internet, so he’ll probably have to create a site on the unprotected second-tier channel, the one that is ‘free and open’ for everyone. Good luck with that.

“Is it fair? Is it even (shudder) moral? The commercial side will likely be well funded, fast, reliable, government-sanctioned, and possibly heavily taxed. The free side will be like drinking water at the local cesspool. In the end, the free and open Internet is that way for a reason. It’s not so you can cheat on your wife. Frankly, people will do that with or without the Internet. The ‘free and open’ bit is intended to foster ideas. It’s meant to level the playing field. It’s meant to help that one guy in Omaha.”

Yes, security is important, but so is opportunity. Can our society strike a balance, or will fear reign? Stay tuned.

Cynthia Murrell, September 4, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Dark Web Drug Trade Unfazed by Law Enforcement Crackdowns

September 3, 2015

When Silk Road was taken down in 2013, the Dark Web took a big hit, but it was only a few months before black marketers found alternate means to sell their wares, including illegal drugs.  The Dark Web provides an anonymous and often secure means to purchase everything from heroin to prescription narcotics with, apparently, few worries about the threat of prosecution.  Wired explains that “Crackdowns Haven’t Stopped The Dark Web’s $100M Yearly Drug Sale,” proving that if there is a demand, the Internet will provide a means for illegal sales.

In an effort to determine if the Dark Web have grown to declined, Carnegie Mellon researchers Nicolas Cristin and Kyle Soska studied thirty-five Dark Web markets from 2013 to January 2015.  They discovered that the Dark Web markets are no longer explosively growing, but the market has remained stable fluctuating from $100 million to $180 million a year.

The researchers concluded that the Dark Web market is able to survive any “economic” shifts, including law enforcement crackdowns:

“More surprising, perhaps, is that the Dark Web economy roughly maintains that sales volume even after major disasters like thefts, scams, takedowns, and arrests. According to the Carnegie Mellon data, the market quickly recovered after the Silk Road 2 market lost millions of dollars of users’ bitcoins in an apparent hack or theft. Even law enforcement operations that remove entire marketplaces, as in last year’s purge of half a dozen sites in the Europol/FBI investigation known as Operation Onymous, haven’t dropped the market under $100 million in sales per year.”

Cristin and Soska’s study is the most comprehensive to measure the size and trajectory of the Dark Web’s drug market.  Their study ended prematurely, because two Web sites grew so big that the researchers’ software wasn’t able to track the content.  Their study showed that most Dark Web vendors are using more encryption tools, they make profits less $1000, and they are mostly selling MDMA and marijuana.

Soska and Cristin also argue that the Dark Web drug trade decreases violence in the retail drug trade, i.e. it keeps the transactions digital than having there be more violence on the streets.  They urge law enforcement officials to rethink shutting down the Dark Web markets, because it does not seem to have any effect.

Whitney Grace, September 3, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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