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Further Adventures of Watson: Fantasy Football Time, Fans

August 12, 2015

Short honk: I read “IBM’s Watson Can Now Help You Kick Ass in Fantasy Football.” I don’t anything about fantasy football. I don’t want to know. For me the notion of paying to pick players and then receive a share of money in the pool seems like something that should be regulated and available from Churchill Downs. You may have a different view. IBM sure does.

The write says:

IBM announced it has teamed up with Edge Up Sports, a company that provides analysis for hard-core fantasy sports players, on an app that could help you dominate your league.

The article recycles the glories and wonders of Watson. The article does not discuss revenues, on going development costs, interest on Watson related investments, or Google’s credit card debit analysis. Link is here.

Several questions crossed my mind:

  1. If players have access to Watson, will the system generate equally viable outputs for each player?
  2. Is IBM getting a piece of the action, or is the initiative funded by IBM as a way to make Watson more of a goal scorer?
  3. What are the demographics of fantasy football players? Are these demographics the ones to which IBM hopes to license the Watson technology?

I have no answers. Just hunches.

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2015

Advice for Smart SEO Choices

August 11, 2015

We’ve come across a well-penned article about the intersection of language and search engine optimization by The SEO Guy. Self-proclaimed word-aficionado Ben Kemp helps website writers use their words wisely in, “Language, Linguistics, Semantics, & Search.” He begins by discrediting the practice of keyword stuffing, noting that search-ranking algorithms are more sophisticated than some give them credit for. He writes:

“Search engine algorithms assess all the words within the site. These algorithms may be bereft of direct human interpretation but are based on mathematics, knowledge, experience and intelligence. They deliver very accurate relevance analysis. In the context of using related words or variations within your website, it is one good way of reinforcing the primary keyword phrase you wish to rank for, without over-use of exact-match keywords and phrases. By using synonyms, and a range of relevant nouns, verbs and adjectives, you may eliminate excessive repetition and more accurately describe your topic or theme and at the same time, increase the range of word associations your website will rank for.”

Kemp goes on to lament the dumbing down of English-language education around the world, blaming the trend for a dearth of deft wordsmiths online. Besides recommending that his readers open a thesaurus now and then, he also advises them to make sure they spell words correctly, not because algorithms can’t figure out what they meant to say (they can), but because misspelled words look unprofessional. He even supplies a handy list of the most often misspelled words.

The development of more and more refined search algorithms, it seems, presents the opportunity for websites to craft better copy. See the article for more of Kemp’s language, and SEO, guidance.

Cynthia Murrell, August 11, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


YouTube Wants You to Pay For…YouTube Content?

August 5, 2015

YouTube is free and that is one of the biggest draws for viewers.  Viewers pull the plug on cable and instead watch TV and movies on the Internet or via streaming device.  While YouTube might be free, video streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime offer network television for a fraction of the cable price.  Google wants in on the streaming service game and it is already prepped with YouTube.  Google’s only problem is that it does not have major TV networks signed up.  Slash Gear explains in the article that “YouTube’s Upcoming Paid Service Hasn’t Signed Up TV Networks.”  Cheaper access to network TV is one of main reasons that viewers sign up for a video streaming service, without them YouTube has a problem:

“What is most notable, however, is what is missing: TV networks. And according to sources, YouTube hasn’t at this point signed up any of those networks like NBC and Fox. Those networks would bring with them their popular shows, and those popular shows would bring in viewers. That doesn’t mean the networks will never be brought in — sources said there’s still time for them to get on board, as the rollout isn’t pegged for until later this year.”

Google is currently counting on YouTube stars to power the paid platform, which users will be able to watch ad free.  Without network TV, a larger movie library, and other content, paying for YouTube probably will not have many takers.  Why pay for already free videos, when all you have to do is watch a thirty-second ad?

Whitney Grace, August 5, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph




Online Ads Discriminate

August 3, 2015

In our modern age, discrimination is supposed to be a thing of the past.  When it does appear, people take to the Internet to vent their rage and frustrations, eager to point out this illegal activity.  Online ads, however, lack human intelligence and are only as smart as their programmed algorithm.  Technology Review explains in “Probing The Dark Side of Google’s Ad-Targeting System” that Google’s ad service makes inaccurate decisions when it comes to gender and other personal information.

A research team at Carnegie Mellon University and the International Computer Science Institute built AdFisher, a tool to track targeted third party ads on Google.  AdFisher found that ads were discriminating against female users.  Google offers a transparency tool that allows users to select what types of ads appear on their browsers, but even if you use the tool it doesn’t stop some of your personal information from being used.

“What exactly caused those specific patterns is unclear, because Google’s ad-serving system is very complex. Google uses its data to target ads, but ad buyers can make some decisions about demographics of interest and can also use their own data sources on people’s online activity to do additional targeting for certain kinds of ads. Nor do the examples breach any specific privacy rules—although Google policy forbids targeting on the basis of “health conditions.” Still, says Anupam Datta, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University who helped develop AdFisher, they show the need for tools that uncover how online ad companies differentiate between people.”

The transparency tool only controls some of the ads and third parties can use their own tools to extract data.  Google stands by its transparency tool and even offers users the option to opt-out of ads.  Google is studying AdFisher’s results and seeing what the implications are.

The study shows that personal data spills out on the Internet every time we click a link or use a browser.  It is frightening how the data can be used and even hurtful if interpreted incorrectly by ads.  The bigger question is not how retailers and Google uses the data, but how do government agencies and other institutes plan to use it?

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

Big Data Lake: Are the Data Safe to Consume?

August 2, 2015

I read “The Analytics Journey Leading to the Business Data Lake.” Data lake is one of the terms floating around (pun definitely intended!) to stimulate sales. If one has a great deal of water, one needs a place to put it. Even though water is dammed, piped, used, recycled, and dumped—storage is the key.

Enter EMC, a company which is in the business of helping those with water store it and make use of that substance.

The write up reflects effort. I assume there was a PowerPoint slide deck in the mix. There are some snazzy graphics. Here’s one that caught my eye:


Instead of enterprise search being the go-to enterprise software solution, EMC has slugged in the following umbrella terms:

  • Information ecosystem
  • Business intelligence (perhaps an oxymoron in light of this article)
  • Advanced analytics (obviously because regular analytics just are zippy enough)
  • Knowledge layer (I remain puzzled about knowledge because I have a tough time defining. In fact, I resigned from my for fee knowledge management column because I just don’t know what the heck “knowledge” means.)
  • The unfathomable data lake (yep, pun intended). What’s wrong with the word “storage” or “database” by the way?
  • Master data which is also baffling. Is there servant data too?
  • Machine data. Again I have no clue what this means.

The chart scatters undefined and fuzzy buzzwords like a crazed Jethro Tull, a water soluble blend of Jethro Tull (inventor of the seed drill) and Jethro Tull (the commercially successful and eccentric rock bands).

The write up is important because EMC has sucked in the jargon and assertions once associated with enterprise search and applied them to the dark and mysterious data lake.

I highlighted:

Our data lake is one logical data platform with multiple tiers of performance and storage levels to optimally serve various data needs based on Service Level Agreements (SLA). It will provide a vast amount of structured and unstructured data at the Hadoop and Greenplum layers to data scientists for advanced analytics innovation. The higher performance levels powered by Greenplum and in-memory caching databases will serve mission-critical and real-time analytics and application solutions. With more robust data governance and data quality management, we can ensure authoritative, high-quality data driving all of EMC business insights and analytics driven applications using data services from the lake.

Ah, the Mariana Trench of enterprise information: Governance. Like “knowledge” and “advanced analytics”,  governance has euphony. I think of the water lapping against the shore of Lake Paseco.

So what? Several observations:

  1. This type of “suggest lots” marketing ended poorly for a number of companies who used this type of rhetoric when marketing search
  2. The folks who swallow this bait are likely to find themselves in a most uncomfortable spot
  3. The problems associated with making use of information to improve decision making by reducing risk are not going to be solved by crazy diagrams and unsupported assertions.

EMC has been able to return revenue growth. But the company’s profit margin has flat lined.


I am not sure that increasing the buzzword density in marketing write ups will help angle the red lines to low earth orbit. With better margins, it is much easier to check out the topographic view and see where lakes meet land.

Stephen E Arnold, August 2, 2015

Watson: Following in the Footsteps of America Online with PR, not CD ROMs

July 31, 2015

I am now getting interested in the marketing efforts of IBM Watson’s professionals. I have written about some of the items which my Overflight system snags.

I have gathered a handful of gems from the past week or so. As you peruse these items, remember several facts:

  • Watson is Lucene, home brew scripts, and acquired search utilities like Vivisimo’s clustering and de-duplicating technology
  • IBM said that Watson would be a multi billion dollar business and then dropped that target from 10 or 12 Autonomy scale operations to something more modest. How modest the company won’t say.
  • IBM has tallied a baker’s dozen of quarterly reports with declining revenues
  • IBM’s reallocation of employee resources continues as IBM is starting to run out of easy ways to trim expenses
  • The good old mainframe is still a technology wonder, and it produces something Watson only dreams about: Profits.

Here we go. Remember high school English class and the “willing suspension of disbelief.” Keep that in mind, please.

ITEM 1: “IBM Watson to Help Cities Run Smarter.” The main assertion, which comes from unicorn land, is: “Purple Forge’s “Powered by IBM Watson” solution uses Watson’s question answering and natural language processing capabilities to let users  ask questions and get evidence-based answers using a website, smartphone or wearable devices such as the Apple Watch, without having to wait for a call agent or a reply to an email.” There you go. Better customer service. Aren’t government’s supposed to serve its citizens? Does the project suggest that city governments are not performing this basic duty? Smarter? Hmm.

ITEM 2: “Why I’m So Excited about Watson, IBM’s Answer Man.” In this remarkable essay, an “expert” explains that the president of IBM explained to a TV interviewer that IBM was being “reinvented.” Here’s the quote that I found amusing: “IBM invented almost everything about data,” Rometty insisted. “Our research lab was the first one ever in Silicon Valley. Creating Watson made perfect sense for us. Now he’s ready to help everyone.” Now the author is probably unaware that I was, lo, these many years ago, involved with an IBM Herb Noble who was struggling to make IBM’s own and much loved STAIRS III work. I wish to point out that Silicon Valley research did not have its hands on the steering wheel when it came to the STAIRS system. In fact, the job of making this puppy work fell to IBM folks in Germany as I recall.

ITEM 3: “IBM Watson, CVS Deal: How the Smartest Computer on Earth Could Shake Up Health Care for 70m Pharmacy Customers.” Now this is an astounding chunk of public relations output. I am confident that the author is confident that “real journalism” was involved. You know: Interviewing, researching, analyzing, using Watson, talking to customers, etc. Here’s the passage I highlighted: “One of the most frustrating things for patients can be a lack of access to their health or prescription history and the ability to share it. This is one of the things both IBM and CVS officials have said they hope to solve.” Yes, hope. It springs eternal as my mother used to say.

If you find these fact filled romps through the market activating technology of Watson, you may be qualified to become a Watson believer. For me, I am reminded of Charles Bukowski’s alleged quip:

The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence.

Stephen E Arnold, July 31, 2015

Bing Is Very Important, I Mean VERY Important

July 31, 2015

The online magazine eWeek published, “What The Bing Search Engine Brings To Microsoft’s Web Strategy” and it explains how Bing spurs a lot of debate:

“Some who don’t like the direction in which Google is going say that Bing is the search engine they prefer, especially since Microsoft has honed Bing’s ability to deliver relevant results. Others, however, look at Bing as one of many products from Microsoft, which is still seen as the “Evil Empire” in some quarters and a search platform that’s incapable of delivering the results that compare favorably with Google. Bing, introduced six years ago in 2009, is still a remarkably controversial product in Microsoft’s lineup. But it’s one that plays an important role in so many of the company’s Internet services.”

Microsoft is ramping up Bing to become a valuable part of its software services, it continues its partnership with Yahoo and Apple, and it will also power AOL’s web advertising and search.  Bing is becoming a more respected search engine, but what does it have to offer?

Bing has many features it is using to entice people to stop using Google.  When searching a person’s name, search results display a bio of the person (only if they are affluent, however).  Bing has a loyalty program, seriously, called Bing Rewards, the more you search on Bing it rewards points that are redeemable for gift cards, movie rentals, and other items.

Bing is already a big component in Microsoft software, including Windows 10 and Office 365.  It serves as the backbone for not only a system search, but searching the entire Internet.  Think Apple’s Spotlight, except for Windows.  It also supports a bevy of useful applications and do not forget about Cortana, which is Microsoft’s answer to Siri.

Bing is very important to Microsoft because of the ad revenue.  It is just a guess, but you can always ask Cortana for the answer.

Whitney Grace, July 31, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph



Finnish Content Discovery Case Study

July 31, 2015

There are many services that offer companies the ability to increase their content discover.  One of these services is Leiki, which offers intelligent user profiling, context-based intelligence, and semantic SaaS solutions.  Rather than having humans adapt their content to get to the top of search engine results, the machine is altered to fit a human’s needs.  Leiki pushes relevant content to a user’s search query.  Leiki released a recent, “Case Study: Lieki Smart Services Increase Customer Flow Significantly At Alma Media.”

Alma Media is one of the largest media companies in Finland, owning many well-known Finnish brands.  These include Finland’s most popular Web site, classified ads, and a tabloid newspaper.  Alma Media employed two of Leiki’s services to grow its traffic:

“Leiki’s Smart Services are adept at understanding textual content across various content types: articles, video, images, classifieds, etc. Each content item is analyzed with our semantic engine Leiki Focus to create a very detailed “fingerprint” or content profile of topics associated with the content.

SmartContext is the market leading service for contextual content recommendations. It’s uniquely able to recommend content across content types and sites and does this by finding related content using the meaning of content – not keyword frequency.

SmartPersonal stands for behavioral content recommendations. As it also uses Leiki’s unique analysis of the meaning in content, it can recommend content from any other site and content type based on usage of one site.”

The case study runs down how Leiki’s services improved traffic and encouraged more users to consume its content. Leiki’s main selling point in the cast study is that offers users personal recommendations based on content they clicked on Alma Media Web sites.  Leiki wants to be a part of developing Web 3.0 and the research shows that personalization is the way for it to go.

Whitney Grace, July 31, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

An Obscure Infographic About London Coffee Shops

July 29, 2015

Here’s a unique pair of graphics, particularly of interest for anyone who can see themselves enjoying a cup of joe in London. Gizmodo presents “A Taxonomy of Hip Coffee Shop Names.” The infographic from Information is Beautiful lays out London’s hipster coffee shops by both naming convention and location. Both charts size their entries by popularity– the more popular a shop the bigger disk (coaster?) its name sits upon. The brief write-up sets the scene:

“As you walk down the sidewalk, you see a chalkboard in the distance. As you step a little closer, you smell the deep musk of coffee emanating from an artfully distressed front door. Out steps a man with a beard, a Mac slung under his arm, sipping from small re-useable flat white-sized cup. You’ve stumbled across another hip coffee shop. Now, what’s it called?

“Information is Beautiful … breaks the naming structure down by type: there are ones themed around drugs, chatter, beans, brewing, socialism and more. But they all share one thing in common: they sound just like they could be hand-painted above that scene you just saw.”

So, if you like coffee, London, hipsters, or taxonomy-graphics, take a gander. From Alchemy to Maison d’être to Window, a shop or two are sure to peak the curiosity.

Cynthia Murrell, July 29, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Web Sites Going The Way Of The Dodo

July 24, 2015

Apps are supposed to replace Web sites, but there is a holdup for universal adoption. Search Engine Watch explains why Web sites are still hanging tight and how a new Google acquisition might be a game changer: “The Final Hurdle Is Cleared-Apps Will Replace Web Sites.”  The article explains that people are “co-users” of both apps and classic Web sites, but online browsers are still popular.  Why is that?

Browsers are universal and can access any content with a Web address.  Most Web sites also do not have an app counterpart, so the only way to access content is to use the old-fashioned browser.  Another issue is that apps cannot be crawled by search engines, so they are left out of search results. The biggest pitfall for apps is that they have to be downloaded in order to be accessed, which takes up screen space and disk space.

A startup has created a solution to making apps work faster:

“Agawi has developed a technology to stream apps, just like Netflix streams videos. Instead of packaging the entire app into a single, large file for the user to download, the app is broken up into many small files, letting users interact with small portions of the app while the rest of it is downloading.  In the short term, it appears that Google wants to deploy Agawi for users try an app before downloading the full version.”

Google acquired Agawi, but do not expect it to be accessible soon.  Google enjoys putting its own seal of approval on all acquisitions and making sure it works well.  Mobile device usage is increasing and more users are moving towards using them over traditional computers.  Search marketers will need to be more aware than ever about how search engines work with apps and encourage clients to make an app.


Whitney Grace, July 24, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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