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Smartlogic Brand Has Semantic Nibblers Munching Away

January 25, 2015

http://www.vizualogic.com/smartlogic-product-info

I flipped through my Overflight about Smartlogic and noticed that the company has dropped off the radar in terms of the information services I monitor. A bit of investigation revealed the type of challenge that “Brainware” and “Thunderstone” faced; namely, other companies pick up the “name” and apply it to other services. Brainware found itself sucked into a vortex of unsavory links on YouTube and Thunderstone has become enmeshed in game references. With truncation and soundex routines, near matches are included in results list.

Smartlogic, an indexing software company, finds its “name” used by:

Smartlogic has a blog called “Life with Semaphore,” but it too can be difficult to find. The dates of the last four posts are January 19, 2015, November 28, 2014, November 19, 2014, and October 6, 2014. The frequency suggests to some indexing services that frequent spidering is not required.

From a practical point of view, how does a potential customer looking for an indexing system get to the “right” Smartlogic? Without effort, a “name” can be eroded. Depending on the company’s circumstances, this can be a good thing (Brainware is now part of Lexmark, a printer company) or a not so good thing (Thunderstone’s John Turnbull is posting search related information on LinkedIn fora).

Smartlogic’s name erosion is an indication that content processing vendors can lose control of a “name” without care and feeding of the digital indexing systems. Are there fixes to brand erosion? Yep, use Augmentext techniques and keep messaging on point with appropriate brand cultivation.

Stephen E Arnold, January 25, 2015

Unicorns and Search Satyrs

January 23, 2015

I read with considerable amusement “The Age of Unicorns.” The notion that in the last 12 months or so, we have entered an “age” is pretty darned silly. Toss in the unicorn, and we have the makings of a slam bam, Manhattan analytic levitation.

The premise of the story is that $1 billion valuations are everywhere. I assume that the mythical $1 billion, backed by very real bucks from rich folks and wild eyed VCs, are the unicorns.

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A “real” unicorn and a female venture capitalist. Image source: http://wallpapersinhq.com/79414-white_unicorn/

The Time Warner wizards report:

Today the technology industry is crowded with billion-dollar startups. When Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee coined the term unicorn as a label for such corporate creatures in a November 2013 TechCrunch blog post, just 39 of the past decade’s VC-backed U.S. software startups had topped the $1 billion valuation mark.

The list of the identified unicorns is located at this link. (Relax before browsing this Fortune list. The presentation is designed to boost dwell time and make the user experience similar to visiting a Time Warner cable storefront. I assume the list has 63 companies. If there were more, I couldn’t figure out how to coax the Time Warner/Fortune to display more items. Wow, this was like waiting for the Time Warner cable guy to arrive.)

I identified a handful of search satyrs. In my mind, these are not true unicorns. The search satyr is a breed apart, smaller than the average unicorn, and probably more promiscuous because with each marketing opportunity, the search satyrs behave like chameleons munching peyote buttons.

Search satyrs closing deals for customer support, data management, Big Data (whatever that is), search, content processing, etc. Promiscuous solutions?

My short list includes:

Palantir, which is described as a member of the sector “Big Data”

  • Actifio, also pegged as “Big Data”
  • MongoDB, which is a member of the sector “database software”
  • Sogou, which isthe only occupant of the “search engine” category

What I found interesting is that each of these companies handles big data (whatever that actually means). Each of the companies rely on a database. And each of the companies includes findability tools with their “solution,” “framework,” “product,” or “service.”

In short, these are search satyrs, ready to have a go at any information challenge that has cash and is impressionable to PowerPoints, generalizations, and assorted stories about return on investment, improving an organization’s operation, and solving problems that other firms have found intractable.

In short, these companies are quite a bit alike, but each is positioned in a way that appears to set them apart from their competitors.

  • Actifio, for example, manages data. Dassault, a company that owns Exalead, relies of Actifio. With Actifio, Dassault becomes a single data platform. I thought that Exalead provided this type of functionality when I learned about the use of Exalead to manage a global logistics company disparate apps and data. Oh, well.
  • MongoDB, which is an open source project, is a repackager and services play. The idea is to become the RedHat of information management. You can watch a video about the text search function included in the data management system here.
  • Sogou is Chinese for search dog, not search satyr, but I prefer my translation. The idea is that Sogou is supposed to be a Google killer, presumably more robust than Jike.com which went dark not long ago. Sogue is leaner and meaner than Baidu, the present champ for Web search and assorted oddities included in the index. Will Google rebuild a bridge to China? If the answer is no, maybe Sogou will be a Bigger Dog.

Several observations:

Which of these outfits is likely to generate a payback to their investors? My hunch is that none unless there is some exogenous factor that arrives from an orbit near Jupiter’s.

Which of these outfits will generate a sustainable revenue flow that obviates the need for additional infusions of capital over the next 12 to 18 months? My view is that none of these outfits will pull this off. Again a Drucker discontinuity might save the day, but that strikes me as tough to bet on.

Which of these outfits will displace one of the major players now dominating their business sector? From the hollow here in rural Kentucky, I would edge toward this answer, I would assert, “I am not sure.” Excellence and big money are not locked like protein pairs.

Why, then, are information access systems getting these billion dollar valuations? The short answer is verbal hypnotism, spreadsheet fever, and MBA magic that whips up billions in fantasy revenue before breakfast.

Does my somewhat cautious view jibe with the panting of the Fortune hunters?

Nah. Modern high tech magic is tossing around fairy dust the way TV talking heads output viewpoints.

Stephen E Arnold, January 24, 2015

Enterprise Search: Is Search Big Data Ready?

January 17, 2015

At lunch on Thursday, January 15, 2015, one of my colleagues called my attention to “10 Hot Big Data Startups to Watch in 2015 from A to Z.” The story is by a professional at a company named Zementis. The story appears in or on a LinkedIn page, and I believe this may be from a person which LinkedIn considers a thought leader.

The reason I perked up when my colleague read the list of 10 companies was two fold. First, the author put his company Zementis on the list. Second, the consulting services firm LucidWorks—which I write in this way LucidWorks (Really?)—turned up.

Straight away, here’s the list of the “hot start ups” I am enjoined to “watch” in 2015. I assume that start up means “a newly established business,” according to Google’s nifty, attribution free definition service. “New” means “not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time.” Okay, with the housekeeping out of the way, on to the list:

  • Alpine Data Labs, founded in 2010
  • Confluent, founded in 2014 by LinkedIn engineers
  • Databricks, founded in 2013
  • Datameer, founded in 2009
  • Hadoop, now 10 years old and originally an open source project and not a company but figure 2004
  • Interana, founded in 2014 by former Facebook engineers
  • LucidWorks (Really?), né Lucid Imagination, founded in 2007
  • Paxata, founded in 2012
  • Trifacta, founded in 2012
  • Zementis, founded in 2004

Of these 10 companies, the firms that is not a commercial enterprise is Hadoop. Wikipedia suggests that Hadoop is a set of algorithms based on Google’s MapReduce open source version of code the search giant developed prior to 2004.

Okay, now we have nine hot data startups.

I am okay with Confluent and Interana being considered as new. Now we have seven companies that do not strike me as either “hot” or “new”. These non-hot and non-new outfits are Databricks (two years old), Datameer (four years old), LucidWorks Really? (eight years old), Paxata (three years old), and Zementis (11 years old).

I guess I can see that one could describe five of these companies as startups, but I cannot accept the “new” or “hot” moniker without some client names, revenue data, or some sort of factual substantiation.,

Now we have two companies to consider: LucidWorks Really? and Zementis.

LucidWorks Really? is a value added services firm based on Lucene/Solr. The company charges for its home-brew software and consulting and engineering services. According to Wikipedia, Lucene is:

Apache Lucene is a free open source information retrieval software library, originally written in Java by Doug Cutting. It is supported by the Apache Software Foundation and is released under the Apache Software License.

Apache offers this about Solr:

Solr is the popular, blazing-fast, open source enterprise search platform built on Apache Lucene. [Lucene is a trademark of Apache it seems]

As Elasticsearch’s success in combining several open source products as a mechanism for accessing large datasets shows, it is possible to use Lucene as a query tool for information. But, and this is a large but, both the thriving Elasticsearch and LucidWorks Really? are search and retrieval systems. Yep, good old keyword search with some frosting tossed in by various community members and companies repackaging and marketing special builds of what is free software. LucidWorks has been around for eight years. I have trouble perceiving this company and its repositionings as “new”. The Big Data label seems little more than a marketing move as the company struggles to generate revenues.

Now Zementis. Like Recorded Future (funded by the GOOG and In-Q-Tel), Zementis is in the predictive analytics game. The company focuses on “holistic and actionable customer insight across all channels.” I did not include this company in my CyberOSINT study because the company seems to focus on commercial clients like retail stores and financial services. CyberOSINT is an analysis of next generation information access companies primarily serving law enforcement and intelligence entities.

But the deal breaker for me is not the company’s technology. I find it difficult to accept that a company founded 11 years ago is new. Like LucidWorks Really?, the label start up has more to do with the need to find a positioning that allows the company to generate sales and sustainable revenue.

These are essential imperatives. I do not accept the assertions about new, startup, and, to some degree, Big Data.

Furthermore, the inclusion of a project as a startup just adds evidence to support this hypothesis:

The write up is a listicle with little knowledge value. See http://amzn.to/1rUoQyn.

Why am I summarizing this information? The volume of disinformation about companies engaged in next generation information access are making the same marketing mistakes that pushed Delphes, Fast Search & Transfer, Entopia, Fulcrum Technology, iPhrase, and other hype oriented vendors into a corner.

Why not explain what a product does to solve a problem, offer specific case examples, and deal in concrete facts?

I assume that is just too much for the enterprise search and content processing “experts” to achieve in today’s business climate. Wow, what a confused listicle.

Stephen E Arnold, January 17, 2015

Elsevier: On the Road to Mendeley

January 12, 2015

Academe once made hoots about pumping ads to young adults. Times have changed. Elsevier wants to pump ups its advertising to students. “Elsevier Acquires Newsflo To Add Media Monitoring To Its Academic Research Tool Mendeley” explains that Elsevier has

acquired Newsflo, a bespoke media monitoring service that enables academics to get ‘impact’ analytics for their published research, thus helping academic institutions keep track of media coverage and social media mentions, as an additional metric to more traditional citations.

According to TechCrunch:

Launched in 2012, Newsflo’s academic-specific media monitoring service tracks over 55,000 English-speaking media sources, based on feeds from 20 or so countries, and plans to add more sources and languages post-acquisition. Its pitch to the academic institutions who subscribe to the service is that it enables them to provide additional evidence of the ‘societal impact’ of their research, something that can also be touted when competing for funding and attracting students.

My thought is that Elseveir may find ways to use the technology in other products and services if—and this is the key to the deal—if the system pumps up revenue. Elsevier faces some challenges in its core products, and the company is obviously learning about tracking and advertising. Let’s see. GoTo.com got into this business a couple of decades ago.

Quick reaction from a sci-tech publishing which charges some authors to put their content in journals. The journals used to be marketed to libraries, which have had to make hard choices like retain staff or buy expensive sci-tech journals.

Stephen E. Arnold, January 13, 2015

Basis Tech: A Search Vendor

January 10, 2015

Yep, I saw it on a Google Adword pitch. Basis, once the provider of some of Fast Search & Transfer’s translation functionality, has expanded its offerings. In addition to Asian language translate, the company offers Big Text analytics, entity extraction, and, of course, keyword retrieval.

Here’s the evidence, if one can call a Google ad “evidence”:

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We strongly support diversification by keyword centric search systems. Without continued innovation, search vendors would not be able to crack tough problems; for example, customer support, business intelligence, and knowledge management. Each of these buzzwords is fascinating, and I am not confident I can define them.

Stephen E Arnold, January 10, 2014

Amazon and Its Management Approach

January 6, 2015

I find that analyses of high-tech company management gyrations quite entertaining. Once a company is successful, does it not follow that other projects will be successful? Aren’t managers of high-tech wonders able to manage other businesses owned by their employer? I hear a Greek khoroos intoning, “True, true, true.”

Within the conventions of Greek drama as understood by one of my somewhat addled high school teachers, “Stuff then happens.”

Following Fire Phone Flop, Big Changes at Amazon’s Lab126” captures one of these moments in the Amazon melodrama, “As Profitability Remains Elusive.” (Will this become a CNBC reality show?)

The article explains that the Fire Phone was a failure. Okay, got that. The management fix is to shuffle some senior managers. The issue of having a 3,000 person research outfit is ignored, which is a Silicon Valley tradition—Hop over the underlying question, “Who was managing this operation from Amazon’s headquarters?”

Therefore, management change commences.

The most interesting part of the write up was this quote:

As Bezos has told employees there in the past, his goal is to make it so Lab126 can take a hardware product from ideation to market in just months, a cycle as ruthlessly efficient as the company’s retail operations.

The assumption that if one thing works (selling like Wal-Mart) then making hardware will work too. Barnes & Noble has demonstrated its acumen with what I call “the Nook cook.” Failures are like bad burritos. Reheating a bad burrito does not improve the burrito. Now Amazon is emulating Barnes & Noble and adding the zesty seasoning of assuming that success in one business automatically triggers success in another, unrelated business. Pizza Hut has a pretzel pizza. Amazon has a Nook Fire.

What’s next? Maybe Amazon should buy Yahoo and stir it into the mix.

Stephen E Arnold, January 6, 2014

Yahoo: The Ghosts of Christmas Past

January 2, 2015

I read “The Day Marissa Mayer’s Honeymoon at Yahoo Ended.” The write up did not mention Ms. Mayer’s penchant for arriving late. That’s a plus. The article states:

Why was Mayer throwing away all the goodwill she had earned with a series of policies that were, at best, poorly rolled out and badly explained to employees or, at worst, plain mistakes. They wondered, more seriously than at any time since she joined, if Mayer was actually up for the job of saving Yahoo.

What Ms. Mayer did, however, as many in attendance will recall, was read a children’s book. The article points out:

No one understood what Mayer was trying to say.

The article walks through a number of interesting managerial actions, including the variation on Neutron Jack’s winnowing of the troops in GE’s business units. Yep, he actually yelled in the meeting I had the thrill of attending. He also turned red. I know that fear was part of the method. Did not work for me, however.

The article provides a useful list of Googley actions that used to work at the GOOG. At Yahoo, the shadow of Semel created a different ethos. Resignation? Indifference? I am not sure.

If you want more about missteps, you will be interested in the book the article promotes. Why not advertise on Yahoo?

In my opinion, Yahoo is wending its way to the same fate that befell Lycos. Is there a Marley amongst the Yahooligans?

Stephen E Arnold, January 2, 2015

If an IDC Tweet Enters the Social Stream, Does Anyone Care? I Do Not.

December 31, 2014

This is a good question. The Twitter messages output by Beyond Search are automated. We know that most of these produce nothing substantive. But what about Tweets by an IDC search expert like Dave Schubmehl. You may recognize the name because he sold a report with my name on it for $3,500 on Amazon without my permission. Nifty. I don’t think of myself as a brand or fame surf board, but it appears that he does.

My Overflight system noted that since September 22, 2014, Mr. Schubmehl or an IDC software script generated 198 tweets if I counted correctly. There were quite a few tweets about BA Insight, a search vendor anchored in Microsoft SharePoint. I ask, “Is BA Insight paying for IDC to promote the brand?” I know that there may have been some brushes with IDC in the past. Whether for free or for fee, Mr. Schubmehl mentions BA Insight a half dozen times.

But Mr. Schubmehl is fascinated with IBM. He generated tweets about Watson, IBM “insights”, and IBM training 149 times. Perhaps IDC and Mr. Schubmehl should apply to be listed in the TopSEOs’ list?

Do McKinsey, Bain, and BCG consultants hammer out tweets about Watson? I suppose if the client pays. Is IDC and search expert Mr. Schubmehl in the pay-to-play business? If not, he has considerable affection for the IBM and its Watson system, which is supposed to be a $10 billion business in four or five years. I wonder how that will work out in a company that is playing poker with its financial guidance for the next fiscal year.

Stephen E Arnold, December 31, 2014

LucidWorks (Really?) Wants to Kill Splunk (Really?)

December 22, 2014

Let’s hear it for originality. LucidWorks (really?) is not content to watch Elasticsearch’s lead in the open source enterprise search sector. LucidWorks (really?) seeks to distinguish itself in committing metaphorical murder of Splunk, one of the go-to log file centric solutions. What makes life more interesting is that the murder, which seems quite improbably, is patricide. The president of LucidWorks (really?) is a former Splunk employee.

Now that’s the stuff of Greek tragedy recast as Silicon Valley silliness. Navigate to “Lucid Woks Preps Solr Stack as Splunk Killer.” Note that LucidWorks (really?) is not yet a Splunk or anything else Richard Speck. If Recorded Future-type systems were to process this statement, I am not sure it would warrant more than a two percent probability. But here’s the plan:

SiLK “is a solution that relies on open core components that organizations can use to manage log data at scale,” said Will Hayes, LucidWorks chief product officer.The SiLK package combines Apache Lucene/Solr with a number of open-source analysis tools, namely Apache Flume, LogStash and Kibana.

LucidWorks will play catch up to Elasticsearch’s open source offering. Why catch up when you can try semantically questionable marketing ploys?

I think the dearth of marketing creativity is illustrative of the absence of fresh ideas at LucidWorks (really?). One thing is certain: use of the term “murder” will mark LucidWorks (really?) in an interesting way.

Hitting revenue targets, retaining staff, and innovating would be my preferred approach to this open source enterprise search company’s future. But if murder is the company’s game, “Book ‘em, Dan O. Marketing silliness.”

Stephen E Arnold, December 22, 2014

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Coveoed Up with End of Week Marketing

December 22, 2014

I am the target of inbound marketing bombardments. I used to look forward to Autonomy’s conceptual inducements. In fact, in my opinion, the all-time champ in enterprise search marketing is Autonomy. HP now owns the company, and the marketing has fizzled in my opinion. I am in some far off place, and I sifted through emails, various alerts, and information dumped in my Overflight system.

I must howl, “Uncle.” I have been covered up or Coveo-ed up.

Coveo is the Canadian enterprise search company that began life as a hard drive search program and then morphed into a Microsoft-centric solution. With some timely venture funding, the company has amped up its marketing. The investor have flown to Australia to lecture about search. Australia as you may know is the breeding ground for the TeraText system which is a darned important enterprise application. Out of the Australia research petri dish emerged Funnelback. There was YourAmigo, and some innovations that keep the lights on in the Google offices in the land down under.

Coveo sent me email asking if my Google search appliance was delivering. Well, the GSA does exactly what it was designed to do in the early 2000s. I am not sure I want it to do anything anymore. Here’s part of the Coveo message to me:

Hi,

Is your Search Appliance failing you? Is it giving you irrelevant search results, or unable to search all of your systems? It’s time you considered upgrading to the only enterprise search platform that:

  • Securely indexes all of your on-premise and cloud-based source systems
  • Provides easy-to-tune relevance and actionable analytics
  • Delivers unified search to any application and device your teams use

If I read this correctly, I don’t need a GSA, an Index Engines, a Maxxcat, or an EPI Thunderstone. I can just pop Coveo into my shop and search my heart out.

How do I know?

Easy. The mid tier consulting firm Gartner has identified Coveo as “the most visionary leader” in enterprise search. I am not sure about the methods of non-blue chip consulting firms. I assume they are objective and on a par with the work of McKinsey, Bain, Booz, Allen, and Boston Consulting Group. I have heard that some mid tier firms take a slightly different approach to their analyses. I know first hand that one mid tier firm recycled my research and sold my work on Amazon without my permission. I don’t recall that happening when I worked at Booz, Allen, though. We paid third parties, entered into signed agreements, and were upfront about who knew what. Times change, of course.

Another message this weekend told me that Coveo had identified five major trends that—wait for it—“increase employee and customer proficiency in 2015.” I don’t mean to be more stupid than the others residing in my hollow in rural Kentucky, but what the heck is “customer proficiency”? What body of evidence supports these fascinating “trends.”

The trends are remarkable for me. I just completed CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access. The monograph will be available in early 2015 to active law enforcement, security, and intelligence professionals. If you qualify and want to get a copy, send an email to benkent2020 at yahoo dot com. I was curious to see if the outlook my research team assembled from our 12 months of research into the future of information access matched to Coveo’s trends.

The short answer is, “Not even close.”

Coveo focuses on “the ecosystem of record.” CyberOSINT focuses on automated collection and analytics. An “ecosystem of record” sounds like records management. In 2015 organizations need intelligence automatically discovered in third party, proprietary, and open source content, both historical and real time.

Coveo  identifies “upskilling the end users.” In our work, the focus is on delivering to either a human or another system outputs that permit informed action. In many organizations, end users are being replaced by increasingly intelligent systems. That trend seems significant in the software delivered by the NGIA vendors whose technology we analyzed. (NGIA is shorthand for next generation information access.)

Coveo is concerned about a “competent customer.” That’s okay, but isn’t that about cost reduction. The idea is to get rid of expensive call center humans and replace them with NGIA systems. Our research suggests that automated systems are the future, or did I just point that out in the “upskilling” comment.

Coveo is mobile first. No disagreement there. The only hitch in the git along is that when one embraces mobile, there are some significant interface issues and predictive operations become more important. Therefore, in the NGIA arena, predictive outputs are where the trend runway lights are leading.

Coveo is confident that cloud indexes and their security will be solved. That is reassuring. However, the cloud as well as on premises’ solutions, including hybrid solutions, have to adopt predictive technology that automatically deals with certain threats, malware, violations, and internal staff propensities. The trend, therefore, is for OSINT centric systems that hook into operational and intel related functions as well as performing external scans from perimeter security devices.

What I find fascinating is that in the absence of effective marketing from vendors of traditional keyword search, providers of old school information access are embracing some concepts and themes that are orthogonal to a very significant trend in information access.

Coveo is obviously trying hard, experimenting with mid tier consulting firm endorsements, hitting the rubber chicken circuit, and cranking out truly stunning metaphors like the “customer proficiency” assertion.

The challenge for traditional keyword search firms is that NGIA systems have relegated traditional information access approaches to utility and commodity status. If one wants search, Elasticsearch works pretty well. NGIA systems deliver a different class of information access. NGIA vendors’ solutions are not perfect, but they are a welcome advance over the now four decades old approach to finding important items of information without the Model T approach of scanning a results list, opening and browsing possibly relevant documents, and then hunting for the item of information needed to answer an important question.

The trend, therefore, is NGIA. An it is an important shift to solutions whose cost can be measured. I wish Mike Lynch was driving the Autonomy marketing team again. I miss the “Black Hole of Information”, the “Portal in a Box,” and the Digital Reasoning Engine approach. Regardless of what one thinks about Autonomy, the company was a prescient marketer. If the Lynch infused Autonomy were around today, the moniker “NGIA” would be one that might capture of Autonomy’s marketing love.

Stephen E Arnold, December 23, 2014

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