Shade Created by Mountainous Stacks of Cash Passing from Google to Washington

December 6, 2016

The article titled Google’s Murky Washington Lobbying Is Making Apple Look Good on Observer points out yet another area of shady activity by Google. In the last five to ten years, Google has led the charge of tech firms into Washington, D.C. Google employees include multiple ex-White House staffers, and vice versa, Google spends tens of millions on lobbying per year (compared to Apple’s measly $5M) and Google donated over a million dollars to various political candidates in 2014 through its PAC. The article presents why this is not ideal:

Google has built significant relationships with the US government – directly through the revolving door of personnel, traditional lobbying, political contributions; and indirectly through trade associations and other advocacy groups. The lack of transparency, especially for a company that specializes in information, is problematic. Google’s very calculated strategy has bought out new critics, including some shareholders. Given the climate Google operates in most people would expect transparency, and instead Google has chosen opacity, which is troubling.

As we know, the American people get very antsy when it comes to the state of our oligarchy. We are keenly aware of the huge amounts of money being passed around, especially when it comes to lobbying. At this point, the only company spending more on lobbying than Google is GE. But what exactly this money buys for Google remains murky, and that should make us all extremely uncomfortable.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 6, 2016

Vk Tops List of Most Popular Websites in Russia

December 2, 2016

For anyone interested in Internet usage outside the U.S., VentureBeat supplies a run-down of the most-used websites in Russia in its piece, “Russia’s Top 10 Websites Include Facebook, Google, Instagram, and YouTube.” Reporter Adrien Henni writes:

Russia’s top 10 websites 2016 ranked by SimilarWeb tell us how Russians are spending their time online. Russia’s top 10 websites of 2016 consist of four social networking sites, three search engines, email, video entertainment, and classifieds.  As opposed to some other markets, domestic sites dominate Russia but international websites still play a major role in the RuNet ecosystem.  This blog walks through the top sites, defining the domestic sites and elaborating on some of the Russian uses of internationally well-known sites. … The ranking has not seen a large shift since last year.

Though the VentureBeat headline emphasizes U.S. sites, the top four entries are Russian. In fact, the most popular site is one we’ve been examining—the Russian answer to Facebook, Vkontakte, a.k.a. VK. The write-up describes the site:

Vkontakte (VK), Russia’s local social media site,  is at the top of the list, making it the most popular website in Russia. This is no surprise with the increasing popularity of social media, not only in Russia but all over the world. Beyond staying connected with friends and family, VK offers entertainment services as well. Users are able to create playlists of videos and music.

Henni does not mention the looser restrictions on things like hate speech, which is apparently one of VK’s major draws (at least for now.) Unsurprisingly, innovative search engine Yandex is second on the list, followed by social-media site Odnoklassniki (OK), and Facebook barely made the list, on the heels of Google and Instagram. See the write-up for details on each site, and how Russians utilize it.

Cynthia Murrell, December 2, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Technology and Never: A Risky Proposition

December 1, 2016

I love the capitalist tool. Forbes does the content marketing thing with a soupçon of MBA craziness and the legacy of a once proud business publication. The write up which caught my attention is “Never Acquire Technology You Understand.” The premise strikes me as ill advised.

The premise of the article is that a person with money to invest should seek far out, unproven, unknown, and high risk technologies. I highlighted this statement:

due to a lack of market and technology insight, these decisions turn into a white elephant–the corporate equivalent of the Bridge to Nowhere.

Got that? Here’s a picture to help you out.


Note the role of “waiters”. Apparently below “developers” are folks who serve others and survive on tips and the hope a big break will come with the order. “Waiters” are really the patient ones at the bottom of the pile.

The write up dips into the notion of a “robo advisor.” There’s social media too. The bulk of the write up describes the three types of individuals involved in doing big things via financial technology or betting money on technology horses.

What strikes me is the conclusion of the write up:

Unless you truly and deeply understand the needs of your audience, it’s best to be patient and then apply a rational litmus test to determine the personality you will present to the marketplace. If you are not a rational Waiter, you may end up in the Valley of Technology as a loss-leading Acquirer and Developer.


The title says, “Buy stuff you don’t understand.” The conclusion says, “Sit tight.”

Forbes’ editors must have a deeper understanding of logic than I do. I thought that the approach of the smart money folks I used to work with followed some slightly different ideas; for example, diversification, allocation of a specific percentage to higher risk investments, and understand what you are dumping money into.

Errors in search and content processing companies are one example. Think of the dozens of investment firms which do not and did not understand the revenue potential of an information access company. In search, for example, a handful of companies have survived and most of the big name firms gen3rated a payoff when the company was sold to another firm. As standalone businesses, most search and content processing companies have not been home runs. The handful of high fliers has captured headlines due to financial improprieties or allegations of fancy dancing.

MBAs like to make money via flips or deals. Understanding a business is often not a prerequisite. Hey, it’s other people’s money. For those with some money, prudence makes sense. If something cannot be understood, the risks might be high. Do MBAs like wiring, side deals, and crazy double talk to get paid to be wizards?

Do dangerous technologies have a downside? Why not invest in fuel pool cleanups and let me know how that works out for you? You can even lend a hand. Oh, wear protective clothing. Some things which people don’t understand can have non financial consequences.

Stephen E Arnold, December 1, 2016

Could AI Spell Doom for Marketers?

December 1, 2016

AI is making inroads into almost every domain; marketing is no different. However, inability of AI to be creative in true sense may be a major impediment.

The Telegraph in a feature article titled Marketing Faces Death by Algorithm Unless It Finds a New Code says:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most-hyped topics in advertising right now. Brands are increasingly finding that they need to market to intelligent machines in order to reach humans, and this is set to transform the marketing function.

The problem with AI, as most marketers agree is its inability to imitate true creativity. As the focus of marketing is shifting from direct product placement to content marketing, the importance of AI becomes even bigger. For instance, a clothing company cannot analyze vast amounts of Big Data, decipher it and then create targeted advertising based on it. Algorithms will play a crucial role in it. However, the content creation will ultimately require human touch and intervention.

As it becomes clear here:

While AI can build a creative idea, it’s not creative “in the true sense of the word”, according to Mr Cooper. Machine learning – the driving technology behind how AI can learn – still requires human intelligence to work out how the machine would get there. “It can’t put two seemingly random thoughts together and recognize something new.

The other school of thought says that what AI lacks is not creativity, but processing power and storage. It seems we are moving closer to bridging this gap. Thus when AI closes this gap, will most occupations, including, creative and technical become obsolete?

Vishal Ingole, December 1, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Microsoft: On the Bandwagon Singing Me Too

November 30, 2016

In my dead tree copy of the November 21, 2016, New York Times (which just report a modest drop in profits), I read a bit of fluff called “Microsoft Spends Big to Build a Computer Out of Science Fiction.” (If you have to pay to view the source, don’t honk at Beyond Search. Let your favorite national newspaper know directly.)

The main point of the PR piece was to make clear that Microsoft is not lagging behind the Alphabet Google thing in quantum computing. Also, Microsoft is not forking over a measly couple of hundred bucks. Nope, Microsoft is spending “big.” I learned from the write up:

There is a growing optimism in the tech world that quantum computers, super powerful devices that were once the stuff of science fiction, are possible — and may even be practical.

I think “spending” is a nice way to say “betting.”

I learned:

In the exotic world of quantum physics, Microsoft has set itself apart from its competitors by choosing a different path. The company’s approach is based on “braiding” particles known as anyons — which physicists describe as existing in just two dimensions — to form the building blocks of a supercomputer that would exploit the unusual physical properties of subatomic particles.

One problem. The Google DWave gizmos are not exactly ready for use in your mobile phone. The Microsoft approach is the anyon, and it is anyone’s guess if the Microsofties can make the gizmo do something useful for opening Word or, like IBM, treat cancer or, like Google, “solve death.”

Where on the journey to the anyon is Microsoft? It seems that this sentence suggests that Microsoft is just about ready to start thinking about planning a trip down computing lane:

Once we get the first qubit figured out, we have a road map that allows us to go to thousands of qubits in a rather straightforward way,” Mr. Holmdahl [a Microsoftie who has avoided termination] said.

Yep, get those qubits working and then one can solve problems in quantum physics or perhaps get Microsoft Word’s auto numbering system to work. Me too, me too. Do you hear the singing? I do.

Stephen E Arnold, November 30, 2016

Web Search Engine Market Share: Some Surprises

November 29, 2016

Did you know that the Excite search engine, owned by IAC Corporation, still operates the Web site in the US, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK? I must admit neither my goslings or I knew this fact. I was prompted to check out excite after I read “Is Bing A Thing? The Answer: It Depends.”

The write up points out that Google has a global desktop Web search share of 75.2 percent. Google’s share of the mobile table search engine market is 94.18 percent. The data appeared in these two charts.




Bing commands 1.26 percent of the mobile table search market which lags behind Yahoo’s 3.51 percent. In the back of my mind, a tiny voice says that Microsoft provides Yahoo search with search.

The second surprise after the data stunned me, was this series of statements:

What differences in search algorithms do Bing and Google have? According articles from HubSpot and Ignite Visibility, here are a few:

  • Bing favors factually relevant results over socially relevant sites
  • Bing places more weight on only websites with official domain names like .gov or .edu
  • Bing places more emphasis on social media signals
  • Bing still considers keywords used in page title, meta tags, and meta keyword field

Well, well, well. Bing is into facts despite its stake in Facebook.

Are the data accurate? Well, the Google mobile search market strikes me as unreasonably low.

Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2016



Wisdom from the First OReilly AI Conference

November 28, 2016

Forbes contributor Gil Press nicely correlates and summarizes the insights he found at September’s inaugural O’Reilly AI Conference, held in New York City, in his article, “12 Observations About Artificial Intelligence from the O’Reily AI Conference.” He begins:

At the inaugural O’Reilly AI conference, 66 artificial intelligence practitioners and researchers from 39 organizations presented the current state-of-AI: From chatbots and deep learning to self-driving cars and emotion recognition to automating jobs and obstacles to AI progress to saving lives and new business opportunities. … Here’s a summary of what I heard there, embellished with a few references to recent AI news and commentary.

Here are Press’ 12 observations; check out the article for details on any that spark your interest: “AI is a black box—just like humans”; “AI is difficult”; “The AI driving driverless cars is going to make driving a hobby. Or maybe not”; “AI must consider culture and context”; “AI is not going to take all our jobs”; “AI is not going to kill us”; “AI isn’t magic and deep learning is a useful but limited tool”; “AI is Augmented Intelligence”; “AI changes how we interact with computers—and it needs a dose of empathy”; “AI should graduate from the Turing Test to smarter tests”; “AI according to Winston Churchill”; and “AI continues to be possibly hampered by a futile search for human-level intelligence while locked into a materialist paradigm.”

It is worth contemplating the point Press saved for last—are we even approaching this whole AI thing from the most productive angle? He ponders:

Is it possible that this paradigm—and the driving ambition at its core to play God and develop human-like machines—has led to the infamous ‘AI Winter’? And that continuing to adhere to it and refusing to consider ‘genuinely new ideas,’ out-of-the-dominant-paradigm ideas, will lead to yet another AI Winter? Maybe, just maybe, our minds are not computers and computers do not resemble our brains?  And maybe, just maybe, if we finally abandon the futile pursuit of replicating ‘human-level AI’ in computers, we will find many additional–albeit ‘narrow’–applications of computers to enrich and improve our lives?

I think Press is on to something. Perhaps we should admit that anything approaching Rosie the Robot is still decades away (according to conference presenter Oren Etzioni). At this early date, we may do well to accept and applaud specialized AIs that do one thing very well but are completely ignorant of everything else. After all, our Roombas are unlikely to attempt conquering the world.

Cynthia Murrell, November 28, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

EasyAsk Guarantees Revenue Boost with Its eCommerce Search System

November 26, 2016

I read “How EasyAsk Will Help You Drive 23 to 121% Higher eCommerce Revenues: Guaranteed.” The headline is quite different from most search vendors’ announcements. Search vendors, in my experience, do not guarantee anything: Uptime, fees, performance. EasyAsk, a natural language search technology vendor, is guaranteeing more eCommerce revenues. Like most information available online, I assume that the facts are correct.

I highlighted this statement:

Within 90 days of the EasyAsk implementation, 95% of internal searches were returning the right results – nearly eliminating the dreaded no-results pages. The results have been outstanding;

  • Search conversion has increased by 54%
  • Revenue from search has seen a boost of over 71%
  • Transactions are up 81%

Unlike SOLR, EasyAsk offers powerful merchandising tools that are intuitive, easy-to-use and maintained by business users instead of programmers.

Now the “guarantee” part:

We [EasyAsk] will contractually guarantee that EasyAsk will drive at least 20% more revenue from search.

Here’s how:

  • We will take a baseline benchmark measuring revenue, conversion rate and average transactions on your existing search engine.
  • We will work with you to deploy and implement EasyAsk’s eCommerce suite to provide you with advanced Natural Language semantic search and merchandising.
  • Within 90 days of implementation, we will perform a new benchmark that measures revenue, conversion rate and average transactions and compare them with the original baseline. EasyAsk will contractually guarantee to drive at least 20% more revenue.

The write up explains that there is no risk to the eCommerce vendor who embraces EasyAsk.

There you go. A New Year’s gift which is six weeks early.

Stephen E Arnold, November 26, 2016

Alphabet Google: AI Acceleration

November 24, 2016

The Alphabet Google thing is upping the amps in its quest to be the big dog in artificial intelligence. After years of IBM public relations Watsonage, the GOOG wants the world to know that it is the leader in smart software. There is some news zipping around the fact checked, ever accurate online information sources; for example:

How does one know that Google’s smart software is really smart and not a response to the IBM Watson assertions?

Easy question. Google will make online demos available at AI Experiments, a new Web site.


You can “explore machine learning by playing with pictures, language, music, code, and more.” You can “visualize high dimensional space” which is not an easy trick for some folks here in rural Kentucky. Also, you can see “what neural networks see.” Well, sort of. If you are a coder, you can submit your smart software using Google goodies as well.

My recollection is that Google has been doing smart software for almost two decades. What’s new is the PR-ification of Google’s effort to reduce costs, create new services, and remain the top technology dog.

And what about search? Hey, that’s not part of the agenda unless you count Google’s intent to become the travel question answering machine. Precision, recall, relevance — Google has that baked in along side its ads.

Stephen E Arnold, November 24, 2016

In Connected World, Users Are Getting Reared as Slaughter Animals

November 22, 2016

Yahoo, Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, Instagram and Microsoft all have one thing in common; for any service that they provide for free, they are harnessing your private data to be sold to advertisers.

Mirror UK recently published an Op-Ed titled Who Is Spying on You? What Yahoo Hack Taught Us About Facebook, Google, and WhatsApp in which the author says:

Think about this for a second. All those emails you’ve written and received with discussions about politics and people that were assumed to be private and meant as inside jokes for you and your friends were being filtered through CIA headquarters. Kind of makes you wonder what you’ve written in the past few years, doesn’t it?

The services be it free email or free instant messaging have been designed and developed in such a way that the companies that own them end up with a humongous amount of information about its users. This data is sugarcoated and called as Big Data. It is then sold to advertisers and marketers who in the garb of providing immersive and customized user experience follow every click of yours online. This is akin to rearing animals for slaughtering them later.

The data is not just for sale to the corporates; law enforcement agencies can snoop on you without any warrants. As pointed out in the article:

While hypocritical in many ways, these tech giants are smart enough to know who butters their bread and that the perception of trust outweighs the reality of it. But isn’t it the government who ultimately ends up with the data if a company is intentionally spying on us and building a huge record about each of us?

None of the tech giants accept this fact, but most are selling your data to the government, including companies like Samsung that are into the hardware business.

Is there are a way that can help you evade this online snooping? Probably no if you consider mainstream services and social media platforms. Till then, if you want to stay below the radar, delete your accounts and data on all mainstream email service providers, instant messaging apps, service providing websites and social media platform.

Vishal Ingole, November 22, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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