Craigslist Is Shooting Itself in the Foot by Shunning Search

December 6, 2017

Craigslist is legendary as a way to find things, sell things, get jobs and meet people. But, it’s aim is to do so locally. Recently, some search engines started allowing users to search all of Criagslist, but it won’t last and that’s a shame. We learned this from a Search Engines List article, “How to Search All of Craigslist.”

According to the story, there are several new search tools on the market:

All these sites work roughly the same way. They provide a simple front end with either a series of selections to choose from or a search engine box. You can use them to search Craigslist, and sometimes other classified advert websites, without having to drill down into your city or area.


Use these services while you can, though. Unfortunately, Craigslist is cracking down on scrapers and websites that crawl its website. It has already blocked a number of the more popular Craigslist crawlers and will likely block more as time goes on. In the meantime, all those websites in the links I provided are currently working fine (as of January 2017).

This is a real shame. With a national and international reach that this technology serves, Craigslist should be embracing it, not shutting it down. Something like this could turn Craigslist into the next eBay.

Patrick Roland, December 6, 2017

Thomson Reuters Pays for Sales Calls?

December 3, 2017

Navigate to this Thomson Reuters’ Web page. The eDiscovery unit of the professional publishing company is paying $50 for a sales meeting. I learned about this because Thomson Reuters is using Google advertising to snag potential customers who run queries for “ediscovery.”


You won’t get cash money, but you get an Amazon gift card. There are some caveats, of course. You have to fill out a form and attend a meeting. I assume that Thomson Reuters wants to pay real live attorneys to listen to whatever the TR Legal Solutions professional has to say. Such a deal. I wonder if eDiscovery leads are that difficult to surface. My hunch is that when a top law firm sells out or closes up shop, the pool of eDiscovery prospects is roiled. Remarkable. If the link doesn’t resolve, a senior manager may have been as stunned as I was. Paying cash to lawyers to listen to a sales presentation. Yikes.

Stephen E Arnold, December 3, 2017

IBM Can Train Smart Software ‘Extremely Fast’ an IBM Wizard Asserts

November 30, 2017

Short honk: If you love IBM, you will want to read “AI, Cognitive Realities and Quantum Futures – IBM’s Head of Cognitive Solutions Explains.” The article contains extracts of an IBM wizard’s comments at a Salesforce event. Here’s the passage I noted:

What we find is we always start with POCs, proof of concept. They can be small or large. They’re very quick now, because we can train Watson our new data extremely fast.

If this is true, IBM may have an advantage over many other smart software vendors. Why? Gathering input data, formatting that data into a form the system’s content processing module can handle, and crunching the data to generate the needed indexes takes time and costs a great deal of money. If one needs to get inputs from subject matter experts, the cost of putting engineers in a room with the SMEs can be high.

It would be interesting to know the metrics behind the IBM “extremely fast” comment. My hunch is that head-to-head tests with comparable systems will reveal that none of the systems have made a significant breakthrough in these backend and training processes.

Talk is easy and fast; training smart software not so much.

Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2017

KFC: Colonel Faraday Sanders Is Not Online

November 26, 2017

I am proud to live in Kentucky. We have the University of Louisville occupying investigators’ time and energy. We have the exciting West End, which generates quite a bit of news each week. We have the Kentucky Fried Chicken (yum, yum, yum) Faraday cage milestone.

Here in Harrod’s Creek, the gang of geriatric squirrel hunters usually talks about Senator Mitch McConnell’s struggles or the Rand Paul fight with his neighbor. This morning, one of the tobacco chewing professionals drew my attention to “KFC Offering $10K ‘Internet Escape Pod’ Ahead of Cyber Monday.”

I am okay with the notion of Faraday cages, bags, and rooms. I have a Faraday bag myself. I stick my mobile phone in the bag and enjoy annoyance free drives to and from Lexington. (I use the UK library, gentle reader. The U of L makes me nervous when I think of the late, lamented president, the most wonderful basketball coach in the world, and an athletic director whose income makes some investment bankers envious.)

The write up informed me:

KFC’s Escape Pod is just one of several items the chicken chain made available on its new KFC Ltd. online shopping platform, which launched in July. Another collection of merchandise will reportedly be made available in early December, when it will become even more apparent that the executives at KFC have lost all interest in selling us chicken anymore.

What’s this $10,000 item look like? Here you go:


Kentucky deserves its reputation as an innovation center.

Nothing like a Faraday tent to make your chicken eating free of mobile phone calls. It also prevents an owner from uploading a picture of this odd ball product to Facebook.

Well, maybe not. KFC is making Kentucky great again!

Stephen E Arnold, November 26, 2017

Traveling Content: What? No Border Control?

November 25, 2017

I read “Understanding the Content Journey.” Frankly I was left with a cold fish on my keyboard. I shoved the dead thing aside after I learned:

The next major disruption for marketers will be in the form of embedded machine learning capabilities that augment and automate the content journey — making content more intelligent.

Okay, marketers, how are you going to make content smarter, more intelligent. Indexing, manual tags, plugging into the IBM Watson smart thing, or following the precepts of search engine optimization.

Intelligent content comes from intelligent people. Machines can and do write about sports scores, financial reports, and other information which lends itself to relatively error free parsing.

None of these issues struck me as germane to the “content journey.” What I learned was that intelligent content has several facets; for instance:

  1. Content ideation and search. What is content ideation? Search is a buzzword which is less clear than words like “mother” and “semantics.” (At least for “mother”, everyone has one. For semantics, I am not sure marketers have the answer.
  2. Content creation. I think this means writing. Most writing is just okay. Most college students once received average grades. Today, everyone gets a blue ribbon. Unfortunately writing remains difficult for many. I assume that content creation is different and, therefore, easier. One needs “content ideation” and Bing or Google.
  3. Content management. Frankly I have zero idea what content management means. The organizations with which I am familiar often have one or maybe multiple content management systems. In my experience, these are expensive beasties, and they, like enterprise search, generate considerable user hostility. The idea is to slap a slice and dice system on top of whatever marketers “write” and reuse that content for many purposes. Each purpose requires less and less of the “writing” function I believe.
  4. Content personalization. Ah, ha. Now I think I understand. A person needs an answer. A customer facing online support system will answer the person’s questions with no humans involved. That’s a close cousin to Facebook and Google keeping track of what a user does and then using that behavior to deliver “more like that.” Yes, that’s true “content ideation.” Reduce costs and reinforce what the user believes is accurate.
  5. Content delivery. That’s easy for me to understand. One uses social media or search engines to get the fruits of “content ideation” to a user. The only hitch is that free mechanisms are not reliable. The solution, from my perspective, is to buy ads. Facebook, Google, and other online ad mechanisms match the words from the “content ideation” with what the systems perceive is the user’s information need. Yep, that works well for research, fact checking, and analyzing a particular issue.
  6. Content performance. Now we come to metrics, which means either clicks or sales. At this point we are quite far from “content ideation” because the main point of this write up is that one only writes what produces clicks or sales. Tough luck, Nietzsche.

Net net: I am not sure if this write up would have received a passing grade from my first English 101 professor, a wacky crank named Dr. Pearce. For me, “content ideation” is more than making up a listicle of buzzwords.

But what about the journey? Well, that trope was abandoned because silliness rarely gets from Point A to Point B.

Pretty remarkable analysis even in our era of fake news, made up facts, specious analysis, and lax border controls.

Stephen E Arnold, November 25, 2017

Google: Headphones and Voice Magic

November 23, 2017

I read two interesting articles. Each provides some insight into Google’s effort to put the NLP and chatbot doggies in an Alphabet corral.

The first article is “Google SLING: An Open Source Natural Language Parser.” To refresh your memory, “SLING is a combination of recurrent neural networks and frame based parsing.”

The second article is “Google Introduces Dialogflow Enterprise Edition, a Conversational Apps Building Platform.” The idea is to provide “a platform for building voice and text conversational applications.”

Both are interesting because each seems to be “free.” I won’t drag you, gentle reader, through the consequences of building a solution around a “free” Google service. One Xoogler watches me like a hawk to remind me that Google doesn’t treat people in a will of the wisp way. Okay. Let’s move on, shall we?

Both of these systems advance Google’s quest to become the Big Dog of where the world is heading for computer interaction. Both are germane to the wireless headphones Google introduced. These headphones, unlike other wireless alternatives, can translate. Hence, the largesse for free NLP and voice freebies.

I read “Trying Out Google’s Translating Headphones” informed me that:

The most important thing you should know about Pixel Buds is that their full features only work with Google’s newest smartphone, the Pixel 2.

Is this vendor lock in?

I learned from the write up:

To be honest, it’s not exactly real-time. You call up the feature by tapping on your right earbud and asking Google Assistant to “help me speak” one of 40 languages. The phone will then open the Google Translate app. From there, the phone will translate what it hears into the language of your choice, and you’ll hear it in your ear.

Not quite like Star Trek’s universal translator, suggests the article. I noted this statement:

it’s worth realizing that the Pixel Buds are more than just a pair of headphones. They’re an early illustration of what we can expect from Google, which will try to make products that stand out from the pack with unusual artificial intelligence services such as translation.

A demo. I suppose doing the lock in tactic with a demo is better than basing lock in on vaporware.

Then there are the free APIs. These, of course, will never go away or cost too much money. The headphones are $159. The phone adds another $649.

Almost free.

Stephen E Arnold, November 23, 2017

AI Tech Companies Had Better Watch Their Backs

November 20, 2017

In a case of perhaps getting too big for one’s own britches, there’s a lot of scuttlebutt about how our tech giants are in for a rude awakening, either from the government or competition. We learned more in a US News and World Report story, “Tech Companies Must Regain Trust.”

With all the negative publicity organizations like Facebook and Google have gotten has raised concerns, as we saw in the article:

Google and Facebook are not natural monopolies and ought not to be regulated as such. The history of the internet is a history of defunct giants that once oozed monopolistic power: Netscape, AltaVista, MySpace, AOL, among many others. Unlike constructing a news power grid, dislodging an incumbent does not require investing billions into new infrastructure. In principle, it only requires novel ideas.

(T)ech companies themselves can do a lot themselves in order not to actively invite onerous regulation. If they can invest in editorial judgment and quality control, crack down on bots and increase the transparency of their advertising schemes, the political case for new rules will become much weaker.

It’s a moment we will look back on and see as a watershed moment. Clearly, tech companies need better policing. Now is the moment they decide whether it will be themselves who make the change. Otherwise, the Googles and Facebooks of the world will suffer either from government regulation or from competition doing the job in question better.

Patrick Roland, November 20, 2017

Ichan Makes It Easier to Access the Dark Web

November 17, 2017

A new search engine for the Dark Web may make that shady side of the Internet accessible to more people. A piece at DarkWebNews introduces us to “Ichidan: A New Darknet Search Engine.” Writer Richard tells us:

Ichidan is a brand new darknet search engine platform that lets users search and access Tor-powered ‘.onion’ sites. The format and interface of the platform bear much similitude with the conventional search engines like Bing and Google. However, the darknet search engine has been designed with an entirely different purpose. While Google was created with the aim of collecting user information and analyzing the behavior across several platforms, Ichidan specifically aims to render selfless services to the users who access the darknet and are looking for some particular Tor site to get the necessary information. Owing to its simplicity and ease of use, the darknet search engine has now managed to be an incredibly helpful tool for individuals using the dark web. Security research professionals, for instance, are quite happy with the services of this new darknet search engine.

The article notes that one way to use Ichan seems to be to pinpoint security vulnerabilities on Dark Web sites. A side effect of the platform’s rise is, perhaps ironically, its revelation that the number of Dark Web marketplaces has shrunk dramatically. Perhaps the Dark Web is no longer such a good place for criminals to do business as it once was.

Cynthia Murrell, November 17, 2017

Proprietary Software Cheats Users

November 16, 2017

Cory Doctorow is an outspoken defender of net neutrality, technology education, and user rights.  He has written and spoken about these subjects and shares his opinion on BoingBoing.  The science-fiction magazine Locus recently published one of his new essays,“Cory Doctorow: Demon-Haunted World.”  Doctorow discusses how software can be programmed to take out the human factor of like and steer things in favor of corporations who want to gobble down dollars.

Cheating is a well-established enterprise that originated long before the digital revolution, but it is getting smarter as technology advances.  While in the past it was cheating was more of a danger from outside forces, it is now nestled within the very things we own.

The software allows companies and literally anyone with the know how to cheat you out of money or precious time.  Rather than cheat en masse, the cheating is coming to your home because it is so much easier to infiltrate the individual now.  Even scarier is when he uses an alchemy metaphor, explaining how alchemists were cut-rate lab technicians who believed spirits, God, and demons influenced their experiments.  The technology used for cheating has a similar demonic presence and that is not even the worst factor.

Doctorow pulls out his trump card when he explains how outdated technology laws from the 20th century still had standing today when it is more than obvious they need to be repealed:

What’s worse, 20th-century law puts its thumb on the scales for these 21st-century demons. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (1986) makes it a crime, with jail-time, to violate a company’s terms of service. Logging into a website under a fake ID to see if it behaves differently depending on who it is talking to is thus a potential felony, provided that doing so is banned in the small-print clickthrough agreement when you sign up.


Then there’s section 1201 of the Digital Millen­nium Copyright Act (1998), which makes it a felony to bypass the software controls access to a copy­righted work. Since all software is copyrightable, and since every smart gadget contains software, this allows manufacturers to threaten jail-terms for anyone who modifies their tractors to accept third-party carburetors (just add a software-based check to ensure that the part came from John Deere and not a rival), or changes their phone to accept an independent app store, or downloads some code to let them choose generic insulin for their implanted insulin pump.

Follow Doctorow’s advice, read, test, learn, and just combat ignorance.

Whitney Grace, November 16, 2017

Russian Meddling Across Platforms

November 13, 2017

During our last presidential election, Russia sowed American division through online propaganda appearing well beyond Facebook. An article in Ubergizmo reports, “Google Finds Evidence of Russia-Linked Ads on Search, YouTube, and Gmail.”  Leave it to the search company to find these clues. Writer Adnan Farooqui tells us:

The Washington Post reports that Google has discovered evidence that a campaign by the Russian government spread propaganda through advertising on its platforms. A recent report revealed that Twitter had uncovered similar ads as well. The scribe mentions that Google’s investigation into the matter is in early stages for now. It’s said to be in the process of separating ads from legitimate Russian sources from the ones used to spread propaganda.

For its part, Google assures us they are working with researchers and with other companies to investigate ways bad actors have abused the Google ecosystem. They also emphasize their “strict” policies on targeted advertising; political ads cannot be targeted by race or religion, for example. Will their efforts be enough to stop foreign interference in its tracks?

Cynthia Murrell, November 13, 2017

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