December 4, 2013
I suppose the notion of a biased sample is of little interest to the search and content processing mavens, poobahs, and vendors who want inputs. I just received from SearchBlox a request to provide information via a survey. I have seen survey requests from LinkedIn people, unknown PR types, and search vendors.
Here’s that the SearchBlox email displayed for me:
Are these surveys useful? In my experience, no. The dry stuff presented in Statistics 101 about sample selection is taught for a reason. Results from “please, respond” surveys are easily spoofed, distorted, or plain wrong.
SearchBlox offers a cloud search solution. Last I heard it was based on ElasticSearch’s technology. If you want to know more about a search vendor with no recollection of sampling methodology, navigate to www.searchblox.com.
Stephen E Arnold, December 4, 2013
December 4, 2013
I read “You Are the Query: Yahoo’s Bold Quest to Reinvent Search.” The write up explains that “search” is important to Yahoo. The buzzwords personalization and categorization make an appearance. There is no definition of “search.” So the story suggests that the new direction may be a “feed”, a stream of information. The passage I noted is:
So what is Yahoo building? To wit, the company is working on a new “personalization platform,” according to the LinkedIn profile of one Yahoo senior director. Cris Luiz Pierry, the director who headed up Yahoo’s now-shuttered Flipboard clone Livestand, writes that he is heading up a “stealth project,” and that he is “building the best content discovery and recommendation engine on the Web, across all of our regions.” Pierry also has an in-the-weeds search background, with experience in core Web search, ranking algorithms, and e-commerce software — which may come in handy when dealing with monetization.
A stealth search project. Didn’t Fulcrum Technologies operate in this way between 1983 and its run up to a much needed initial public offering in the early 1990s? Wasn’t the newcomer SRCH2 in stealth mode earlier in 2013?
The hook to the new approach may be nestled within this comment in the article:
That search experience would likely be layered on top of another company’s Web crawler, like Microsoft’s Bing, which took over those operations for Yahoo in 2010, as part of a 10-year deal. (More on that later.) Beginning in 2008.
Indexing the Web is an expensive proposition. No commercial publisher can afford it. Google is able to pull it off via its Yahoo-inspired ad model. Yandex is struggling to find monetization methods that allow it to keep its indexes fresh. But other Web indexers have had to cut back on coverage. Exalead’s Web index is thin gruel. Blekko has lost its usefulness for me. In fact, looking for information is now more difficult that it has been for a number of years.
Another interesting comment in the article jumped off the screen for me; to wit:
We firmly believe that the Search Product of tomorrow will not be anything alike [sic] the product that we are used to today,” says the job description for the search architect. The posting also name-checks Search Direct, Yahoo’s version of Google Instant, as the “first step” in changing the landscape of search. After testing out a few queries on Yahoo’s home page, the feature, which looks up queries without requiring the user to hit “search,” looks to be dormant.
The write up concludes with this speculative paragraph:
Some theories: The company could be planning a Bing exit strategy for 2015 or earlier, and look to partner with another Web crawler, aka Google. Some reports have said Mayer has been cozying up to her former company on that front. Or Yahoo could be rebuilding its own core search capabilities, though that’s the unlikeliest of scenarios because that would be a nightmare for the company’s margins. Or Yahoo could even be beefing up its team just enough to gain more authority within the Bing partnership, in case it wanted to advise Bing on what to do on the back end.
What I find interesting is that the term “search” is not really defined in this write up or most of the information I see that address findability. I am not sure what “search” means for Yahoo. The company has a history of listing sites by categories. Then the company indexed Web sites. Then the company used other vendors’ results. What’s next? I am not sure.
Observations? I have a few:
First, anyone looking for specific information has a tough job on their hands today. In a conversation with two experts in information retrieval, both mentioned that finding historical information via Web search systems was getting more difficult.
Second, queries run by different researchers return different results. The notion of comparative searching is tricky.
Third, with library funding shrinking, access to commercial databases is dwindling. For example, in Kentucky, patrons cannot locate a company news release from the 1980s using public library services.
The article about Yahoo is less about search and more about public relations. Is Yahoo or any vendor able to do something “new” in search? Without defining the term “search,” does it matter to the current generation of experts?
Personally I don’t want to influence a query. I want to locate information that is germane to a query that I craft and submit to an information retrieval system. Then I want to review results lists for relevant content and I want to read that information, analyze the high value information, synthesize it, and move on about my business.
I want to control the query. I don’t want personalization, feeds, or predictive analytics clouding the process. Does “search” mean thinking or taking what a company wants to provide to advance its own agenda?
Stephen E Arnold, December 4, 2013
November 27, 2013
The subtitle is the keeper, however: “No, I’m not insane.” The insane person is Wim Nijmeijer or Nicky Singh. Interesting semantic connection to either entity I believe. I learned this “insanity” stuff in a candidate chunk of possible PR ersatz http://goo.gl/ogVgIe. Since the publication of the New York Times’ story about Vocus and its PR spam, I have started a collection of search vendor messaging that may be a trifle light in the protein department.
Here’s the passage I noted:
Today Coveo announced that it will lead a session at Search Solutions 2013 on Wednesday, November 27 in London, UK.
No problem except that Coveo itself announces that its staff will explain the nuances behind “No, I’m not insane.” A third party “voice” might help.
There were some supporting “facts”. Here’s an example of a fact:
The reality is that many enterprise search implementations are far from simple, and often match the complexity of the systems they need to interface with. Coveo understands the complexity and challenges of enterprise search. Our revolutionary Search & Relevance Technology securely connects with all of an organization’s systems, and harnesses big, fragmented data from any combination of cloud, social and on-premise systems — without complex integrations.
Okay. Okay, well, “facts” may be too strong a word. I think the “revolutionary” and the “all” are going to be tough for me to accept. In a large organization, figuring out what not to make available can be time consuming in my experience. Toss is the information that will cause the company to feel a bit of heat, and you have some heavy lifting.
For instance, is “all” possible in today’s regulated environment. What about employee medical records, documents related to secret contracts and research work, salary information, clinical trial data, information related to a legal matter, and “any combination of cloud, social, and on premises systems”? Insane? Okay.
Well, maybe Coveo can deliver?
- On a conference call with an enterprise search vendor, I pointed out that marketing enterprise solutions has changed. Hyperbole and cheerleading have replaced the more mundane information that answers such questions as, “Will this system work?” There continues to be skepticism in some circles about the claims of search vendors.
- Sending messages about oneself are interesting but even Paris Hilton and Lady Gaga employ publicists. Sure, Lady Gaga uses a drone dress to get media coverage, but she doesn’t issue a news release that says, “No, I’m not insane.”
- Enterprise search groups on LinkedIn are struggling with the question, “Why do vendors get fired?” The reason goes back to the days of Verity. That company charted the course that many vendors wittingly or unwittingly followed; that is, promise absolutely anything to get the job. The legacy of Verity’s mind boggling complexity are marketing assertions that enterprise search works and can be up and running in a day.
Not even Google can make that eight hour assertion stick for the new Google Search Appliance with 100 percent confidence in my experience.
Anyway, by the time you read this, the lecture “No, I’m not insane” by a Coveo expert will be over. I suppose I can catch the summary in the Guardian. Stop the presses.
Stephen E Arnold, November 27, 2013
November 11, 2013
The article on ClickZ titled Alice Through the Looking Glass: Augmented Reality in the Real World introduces a new discipline that involves capturing vision behavior. The author cites both Google Glass and Qualcomm Vuforia as technologies capable of Augmented Reality (AR). They are capable of capturing the user’s vision and as a result, of improving his or her engagement. The article explains,
“Like Alice Through The Looking Glass, we become visitors navigating through the real AR world, which is not unlike charting visitor conversion paths in a website from the home page to the checkout confirmation page. The basic idea of augmented reality is to superimpose graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real-world environment in real-time.”
How is this useful in business? The author explains his testing and research with a thorough example, following a user of AR through a store, seeing what they spend time looking at, (the longer they look, the higher their engagement levels) and then perhaps offering discount at checkout for sharing the image of the product they are purchasing. The research has been effective in real-world usage of AR, citing sporting goods purchases, movie tickets sold, and games purchased. It is easy to see how this technology might be a very powerful resource for marketing through the customer, but what has yet to be explained it how one might search the data being compiled.
Chelsea Kerwin, November 11, 2013
November 7, 2013
Could research on perceptions of trustworthiness make for a new approach to search marketing? The British Psychological Society‘s Research Digest advises, “Want People to Trust You? Try Apologising for the Rain.” A recent study by researchers at Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that people see strangers who apologize for factors beyond their control as more trustworthy than others.
In the researchers’ series of behavioral studies, first came three lab experiments. See the article for details, but in all three participants did rate strangers as more trustworthy when they had apologized for something that could not have been their fault. A field study conducted at a train station on a rainy day seems to confirm this bias.
Writer Christian Jarrett tells us:
“The most compelling evidence came from [Harvard's] Alison Brooks and her colleagues’ fourth and final study in which a male actor approached 65 strangers (30 women) at a train station on a rainy day to ask to borrow their mobile phone. Crucially, for half of them he preceded his request with the superfluous apology: ‘I’m sorry about the rain!’ The other half of the time he just came straight out with his request: ‘Can I borrow your cell phone?’ The superfluous apology made a big difference. Forty-seven per cent of strangers offered their phone when the actor apologised for the rain first, compared with just nine per cent when there was no apology.”
Jarrett points out a serious flaw with this particular test: its scenarios are not parallel. Instead of changing the approach from an apology about the rain to a standard one like “sorry to bother you” or even an opener like “excuse me,” the control script went right into “can I borrow your phone?” It could well have been the abrupt request that put off participants. Still, this is an interesting premise, and the lab experiments provide compelling evidence. Perhaps a better designed field study will be done. In the meantime, though, anyone looking to manipulate human nature in the pursuit of good first impressions may want to consider these findings.
Cynthia Murrell, November 07, 2013
November 6, 2013
I read “Google Wants to Build Maps That Customize Themselves Based on What They Know about You.” The main point of the write up is that allegedly Google wants to use information about a user’s behavior to figure out what to put on a map. I am okay with this because I use paper maps. Call me old fashioned, but there it is. I wanted to capture this “personalization” item because it supports my argument that objectivity in search results is being redefined. The end of the “individualized Google” or “ig” service does not mean that personalization is losing steam at Google. Personalization is becoming more important as Google works overtime to find a way to keep the ad revenues flowing and growing. The key point is that most users will not know that search results are “shaped.” The notion of some old style yardsticks like precision and recall as ways to determine some of a search system’s attributes is out the window. Shaping raises some interesting questions. Those who don’t care to ponder what happens when information is aggressively filtered using methods that are not disclosed will be just fine. For those who are more sensitive to verification and validation, the effort required to get what I call “clean” and “unfiltered” information goes up. Good for advertisers. Not so good for those who assume that online equates with accuracy, comprehensiveness, and objectivity.
Stephen E Arnold, November 6, 2013
November 5, 2013
I am quite interested in Amazon book reviews. For my research, I find that locating specific reviews is quite difficult. One reason is that Amazon’s fab search engine is not set up to meet my approach to information retrieval. I know that Amazon has a number of search systems available, but the method for pinpointing a specific reviewer’s comments about a category of books is, in my opinion, non functional. My hunch is that this crippling of search is by design.
Another reason is that reviews provide a pool of quite useful information about who reads what, the “sentiment” each reviewer expresses in his/her review, and the timing of the review flow. If these factoids are not available to me, my thought is that the data should be. But, hey, what do I know. Amazon is not a search vendor.
I read “Responding to MacKenzie Bezos’s One-Star Slapdown” review of a book about Jeff Bezos called “The Everything Store.” I have not read the book, and I don’t read as a curious human any Amazon reviews. But I do process reviews for other purposes; for example, what is the hobbyhorse a particular reviewer of current political books is riding. I find this type of “hobby” interesting.
First, like any social content stream, the content marketing mentality has taken over. For me, it means that the value of a review is in its syntax and semantics. The “facts” in a review are of zero interest to me. In short, I don’t “trust” any review of any book available on Amazon. The review referenced in the write up from Bloomberg fits in this category. Is there an axe to grind? For sure.
Second, the review is going to do little to halt the buzz about the book. I am waiting for Amazon to “disappear” the book. That would be interesting. In my experience, I have encountered books that become very hard to find or just are not findable. I recall one instance when my Kindle lost a title.
Third, who believes a book anyway? With the spoofing of sci tech data for peer reviewed journals, why would a book about a high profile figure rest on a bedrock of facts. Making sales is the name of the game.
Net net: The one star review is likely to boost sales. That will make some folks at Amazon really happy. So is the criticism of the book valid? Yep, it builds sales. Come to think of it, isn’t this the purpose of Amazon? I will wait for the Washington Post review of The Everything Store.
Stephen E Arnold, November 5, 2013
October 31, 2013
I spoke with a colleague after my webinar about Google’s “bulletproof vest.” After some small talk about the difficulty some folks having getting actionable information from online services, my colleague asked, “Have you seen ‘Forrester Is Failing Marketers with BS Data about Facebook’”?
After the call I located the article which appeared in Business Insider. I am not sure who owns Business Insider and I don’t know anything about the author of the write up. What was clear to me is that a mid tier consulting firm sure annoyed at least one person.
How did the annoyance surface?
The cause, it seems, was a report by the upscale Forrester consultancy. The write up works through some snippets and methodological observations. The main point of the write up, in my opinion, was:
The Forrester analyst who produced this appeared to have an axe to grind long before they ever got the “data” quoted in this report. The report says: “A handful of notable brands have drawn first blood, announcing they’re leaving Facebook entirely.” The analyst’s endnotes cite only one company, namely General Motors, who (a) did NOT say in May 2012 they were leaving entirely but were just stopping Facebook paid media, and (b) over six months ago said they were also returning to buy Facebook ads once more.
I don’t pay much attention to Facebook. I pay even less attention to the antics of the mid tier consulting companies. What I do pay attention to includes:
- The difficulty I have in figuring out what data are accurate and what data are public relations
- The motivation for certain somewhat snappy analyses. I am not sure if it is a brilliant insight, a desire to outwit Google’s pandas and penguins, or a signal that someone hired a person who just misunderstands certain business facts, events, or models.
- The foam whip up following a flashy report. Folks appear to care a great deal about Facebook, its revenue, and its importance in the advertising world. I suppose my surprise is a result of my living in rural Kentucky, far from the hip hop of Madison Avenue.
Take a look at the write up in Business Insider. Chase down a copy of the Forrester report. Look at Facebook’s financials in today’s frothy investment pool.
I have a simple question. Why do I have to use www.seekky.com to locate information in non English social media. Perhaps the experts should focus on systems that make it easy to use these Facebook-type services? Just a thought. I am delighted the “BS” does not refer to Beyond Search.
Stephen E Arnold, October 31, 2013
October 27, 2013
I was checking some search related content, and I came across a fascinating advertisement inserted into a Web site operated by Marcus P. Zillman. Here’s the Web page and the ad:
I had a difficult time figuring out if Marcus Zillman – eSolutions architect, international Internet expert, author, keynote speaker and corporate consultant—was Content Analyst or if Content Analyst was Marcus Zillman’s outfit.
I figured out the page, but for a casual researcher, is the juxtaposition misleading? Jarring? Confusing?
I am used to seeing Attivio ads in the most surprisingly contexts. Now I find Content Analyst following the same path. I suppose it generates sales, but I find the trend fascinating. Perhaps I should advertise my dog Tess, pictured on this blog, on Mr. Zillman’s Web site. She would most certainly benefit from association with a person who is an “eSolutions architect, international Internet expert, author, keynote speaker and corporate consultant.”
Stephen E Arnold, October 27, 2013
October 24, 2013
Generalizations are terrible. Generalization can be useful. I read “Why Being a Thinker Means Pocketing Your Smartphone.” The story appeared on the CNN Web site. I find this amusing, since CNN is associated in my mind with content delivery for those with some sort of dependence on TV filtered information. The key point in the write up struck me as:
“You can’t make headway without thinking about a problem for a long time, in collaboration with smart researchers from different fields, as well as reading a lot,” says epidemiologist Caroline Buckee, one of CNN’s 10 Thinkers for 2013. “But sometimes that hard work reaches fruition or comes together at a random time once you have let thoughts settle down.” We know this — as surely as that 20th-century magnate knew it — and yet we regularly ignore the advice. We surf the Web; we scan news on our phones; we keep our minds digitally occupied in a million ways. When we have a few minutes of down time now, we pull out our mobile devices instead of daydreaming.
The statement is only partially correct. Let me narrow the focus to behavior influenced by uncertainty about what actions to take and the insecurity generated by not having a product or service that people want to pay for.,
Think about your last interaction with a vendor of search, content processing, and analytics. How did the interaction flow? I have noticed since the summer vacations ended and management of search vendors focused on making money that two words characterize many behaviors of the senior management of search and content processing companies. The two words?
Frazzled and Scared
What do I mean?
Here are some recent example:
- Information promised on a specific date has not been provided six weeks later. The fact that the information was needed for a potential investor adds to the spice of the incident.
- A statement “We will meet at the X conference” became three weeks later, “We are traveling outside the United States”
- An assurance that customer support would provide an activation key to a search system generated four additional assurances. But no key arrived.
At a recent conference, I noticed:
- A vendor who beamed when a colleague and I approached the booth. The vendor launched into a series of questions about budget, decision time, and internal staffing capabilities. When I pointed out that I did analyses for my clients, the vendor turned off the charm and moved to another “fish”
- Four vendors in four consecutive presentations said, “We do real time content processing of all information.”
- One company president had beads of perspiration on his forehead as he talked on his mobile phone in a corner of the booth. He looked fearful.
Based on the information in our Overflight system, a number of search and content processing vendors are no longer updating their blogs with regular posts of a substantive nature. The flow of emails about free webinars and new products is on the rise. I received a half dozen on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. For example:
Might you have a few minutes for a call with Mike Schmitt, Senior Director of Product Management for Astute Networks, to discuss the paper and its findings? It is interesting how even today, smart IT executives are still thinking about storage cost only in terms of the device, vs. the extended consequence it has across performance and productivity, as well as business flexibility and agility.
The “paper” is one of those azure chip, toot toot things. Sigh.
I also am inundated with messages about the “crisis” in search, the lack of traffic to search vendors’ Web sites, and the death of “leads”.
Perhaps the search and content processing companies should step back, take a deep breath, and consider the impact of wild and crazy statements, odd duck behavior at trade shows, and a panhandler’s approach to revenue generation.