Dark Pools Demystified

February 13, 2017

Have you ever heard of dark pools? You may be hearing more about them as Bitcoin pioneer Jered Kenna and TradeZero offer digital currency dark pool trading. According to this International Business Times article, these two have created the world’s first dark pool exchange for Bitcoin. Their plan is to eventually scale to include other digital currencies. What is a dark pool? It is a private exchange to trade securities in a way where large transactions can occur without impacting the marketing. This means it can be used to avoid adverse price movements. We learned,

The Bitcoin market is less liquid than traditional FX and hence more volatile. Dark pool trading in Bitcoin would be useful to mainstream investors who may want to make large trades in Bitcoin, or use it as a currency hedge without alerting the market to their positions. Kenna, who launched the first US Bitcoin exchange in 2011, brings a wealth of experience to the table. He told IBTimes UK: “Dark pool trading certainly mitigates volatility where individuals making large trades are concerned.

Apparently, the size of the trade one would need to impact the Bitcoin market in is much smaller than what traditional traders experience. Jared Kenna appears to be projecting the future of Bitcoin, and non-traditional currencies in general, to explode. Why else would there be such a need for this kind of service? This is something we will be keeping an eye on, especially as it may come to be more interconnected with Dark Web matters.

Megan Feil, February 13, 2017

IBM Watson PR Tax Excitement

February 10, 2017

In one eight hour period I noticed these rah rah write ups about IBM Watson doing taxes. How timely? What a coincidence that these publications ran stories about yet another Watson achievement. Everything it seems except sustainable revenue.

Here are the write ups I reviewed:

  • Fast Company, “H&R Block’s Watson-Powered Robots Are Here To Help With Your Taxes” stating “Block and IBM say Watson has digested 600 million “data points” from past filings to learn tips and tricks.” I bet those IRS analysts love those “tricks.”
  • TechCrunch, “H&R Block Is Now Using IBM Watson to Find Tax Deductions,” stating “Beginning Sunday, February 5th, H&R Block customers will be able to interact with the new system at the company’s retail locations.” Nifty. Foot traffic for those who want H&R Block to “do” their taxes. In short, no hands on yet, right?
  • New York Times, “IBM Gives Watson a New Challenge: Your Tax Return,” stating “For IBM, the collaboration with H&R Block underlines its strategy in the emerging market for artificial intelligence technology. Watson will touch consumers, but through IBM’s corporate clients.” You may have to pay to view this apparent chunk of marketing collateral. I love the “touch” thing.

You get the idea. A huge PR push for Watson, H&R Block, a promo for a super bowl commercial, and jargon about how smart Watson because it indexes text.

Revenues? Did anyone mention revenues? Cost? Did anyone mention cost? Competitive technology? Did anyone mention competitors? Editorial rigor? Are you nuts? Rigor. What’s that?

Nah. Watson. Weakly.

Stephen E Arnold, February 10, 2017

Dark Web Drug Sales Show No Signs of Slowing

February 10, 2017

Business is apparently booming for Dark Web drug sales. Business Insider published an article that reports on this news: An in-depth new study shows that the online market for illegal drugs is skyrocketing. The study conducted by RAND Europe found the number of transactions on illegal drug sites has tripled since 2013, and revenues have almost doubled. Apparently, most of the shipping routes are within North America. The article tells us,

Elsewhere in the study, researchers found that wholesale transactions (which it categorised as sales worth over $1,000 [£770]) generated a quarter of total revenue for drug marketplaces. That figure was unchanged between 2013 and 2016, though. Cannabis was the most popular drug globally, making up 33% of drug marketplace transactions. But the report looked at sales to Holland specifically and found that it only made up 17% of transactions there. That’s likely because the sale of cannabis is legal in the country through licensed venues, reducing the need for people to use illegal online stores.

The year 2013 carries meaning because it was in fall 2013 that the Silk Road was shut down. This study suggests its closure did not eliminate Dark Web drug sales. As the article alludes to, as cannabis laws may or may not change in the United States, it will be interesting to see how this affects Dark web use and marketplace sales.

Megan Feil, February 10, 2017

IQwest IT Steps Up Its Machine Translation Marketing

February 3, 2017

Machine translation means that a computer converts one language into another. The idea is that the translation is accurate; that is, presents the speaker’s or writer’s message payload without distortion, odd ball syntax, and unintended humor. What’s a “nus”? The name of a nuclear consulting company or a social mistake? Machine translation, as an idea, has been around since that French whiz Descartes allegedly cooked up the idea in the 17th century.

I read two almost identical articles, which triggered by content marketing radar. The first write up appeared in KV Empty Pages as “Finding the Needle in the Digital Multilingual Haystack.” The second article appeared in the Medium online publication as “Finding the Needle in the Digital Multilingual Haystack.”



Notice the similarity. Intrigued I ran a query for IQwest. I noted that the domain name IQwest.com refers to a bum domain name. I did a bit of poking around and learned that there are companies using IQwest for engineering services, education, and legal technologies. The IQwest.com domain is owned by Qwest Communications in Denver.

The machine translation write up belongs to the IQwestIT.com group. No big deal, of course, but knowing which company’s name overlaps with other companies’ usage is interesting.

Now what’s the message in these two identical essays beyond content marketing? For me, the main point is that a law firm can use software translation to eliminate documents irrelevant to the legal matter at hand. For documents not in the lawyer’s native language, machine translation can churn out a good enough translation. The value of machine translation is that it is cheaper than a human translator and a heck of a lot less expensive.

Okay, I understand, but I have understood the value of machine translation since I had access to a Systran based system years ago. Furthermore, machine translation systems have been an area of interest in some of the government agencies with which I am familiar for decades.

The write up states:

building a model and process that takes advantage of benefits of various technologies, while minimizing the disadvantages of them would be crucial. In order to enhance any and all of these solution’s capabilities, it is important to understand that machines and machine learning by itself cannot be the only mechanism we build our processes on. This is where human translations come into the picture. If there was some way to utilize the natural ability of human translators to analyze content and build out a foundation for our solutions, would we be able improve on the resulting translations? The answer is a resounding yes!

Another, okay from me. The solution, which I anticipated, is a rah rah for the IQwest machine translation system. What’s notable is that the number of buzzwords used to explain the system caught my attention; for instance:

  • Classification
  • Clustering
  • N grams
  • Summarization

These standard indexing functions are part of the IQwest machine translation system. That system, the write up notes, can be supplemented with humans who ride herd on the outputs and who interact with the system to make sure that entities (people, places, things, events, etc.) are identified and translated. This is a slippery fish because some persons of interest have different names, handles, nicknames, code words, and legends. Informed humans might be able to spot these entities because no system with which I am familiar is able to knit together some well crafted aliases. Remember those $5,000 teddy bears on eBay. What did they represent?

The write up seems to be aimed at attorneys. I suppose that group of professionals may not be aware of the machine translation systems available online and for on premises installation. For the non attorney reader, the write up tills some familiar ground.

I understand the need to whip up sales leads, but the systems available from Google and Microsoft, to name just two work reasonably well. When those systems are not suitable, one can turn to SDL or Systran, to name two vendors with workable systems.

Net net: My thought is that two identical versions of the same article directed at a legal audience represents a bit of marketing wonkiness. The write up’s shotgun approach to reaching attorneys is interesting. I noticed the duplication of content, and my hunch is that Google’s duplicate detection system did as well.

Perhaps placing the write up in an online publication reaching lawyers would be a helpful use of the information?  What’s clear is that IQwest represents an opportunity for some motivated marketing expert to offer his or her services to the company.

My take is that IQwest offers a business process for reducing costs for litigation related document processing. The translation emphasis is okay, but the idea of making a phone call and getting the job done is what differentiates IQwest from, for example, the GOOG. I remember Rocket Docket. A winner. When I looked at that “package,” the attorneys with whom I spoke did not care about what was under the hood. The hook was speed, reduced cost, and more time to do less dog work.

But the lawyers may need to hurry. “Lawyers Are Being Replaced by Machines That Read.” Dragging one’s feet technologically and demanding high salaries despite a glut of legal eagles may change the game and quickly.

Plus, keep in mind FreeTranslations.org. You can get voice translations as well as text translations. The increasingly frugal Google has trimmed its online translation service. Sigh. The days of pasting lengthy text into a box is gone like a Loon balloon drifting away from Sri Lanka.

There are options, gentle reader.

Stephen E Arnold, February 3, 2017

Give a Problem, Take a Problem

February 3, 2017

An article at the Telegraph, “Employees Are Faster and More Creative When Solving Other People’s Problems,” suggests innovative ways to coax creative solutions from workers. Writer Daniel H. Pink describes three experiments, performed by New York University’s Evan Polman and Cornell’s Kyle Emich. The researchers found that, when posed with hypothetical scenarios, participants devised more creative solutions when problems were framed as being someone else’s. But why? Pink writes:

Polman and Emich build upon existing psychological research showing that when we think of situations or individuals that are distant – in space, time, or social connection – we think of them in the abstract. But when those things are close – near us physically, about to happen, or standing beside us – we think about them concretely. Over the years, social scientists have found that abstract thinking leads to greater creativity. That means that if we care about innovation we need to be more abstract and therefore more distant. But in our businesses and our lives, we often do the opposite. We intensify our focus rather than widen our view. We draw closer rather than step back. That’s a mistake, Polman and Emich suggest. ‘That decisions for others are more creative than decisions for the self… should prove of considerable interest to negotiators, managers, product designers, marketers and advertisers, among many others,’ they write.

The article goes on to supply five practical suggestions this research has for business. For one, organizations can recruit independent directors to bring in more objective points of view. Pink also suggests keeping firms loosely structured, and bringing together peers from different fields to exchange ideas. On the individual level, he advises finding a “problem-swapping partner” with whom you can trade perspectives. Finally, workers can create psychological distance between themselves and their projects by imagining they’re helping out someone else.

Pink acknowledges a couple of caveats to this approach. For one, many tasks actually do require concrete thinking and laser focus; it is important to recognize them. Also, the business world is not currently structured to take advantage of this quirk of the human psyche. The article points to the growth of crowd-sourcing techniques as evidence that factor may change. Perhaps… but group think brings its own issues, like the potential for discounting experience and specialized skill sets, for example. To whom shall we turn for a fresh perspective on that problem?

Cynthia Murrell, February 3, 2017

Composite Software: From Search to Data Virtualization

January 30, 2017

I was deleting some of the old enterprise search and content processing data I had gathered over the years. I came across a text file which noted that Cisco Systems bought Composite Software in 2013. My recollection was that I had a screen shot of Composite’s search and retrieval interface. I dug around and located this graphic:

screen shot

Composite was founded in 2008, and at that time it was positioning its technology as an enterprise search solution. I was no longer compiling information for my Enterprise Search Report, which had devolved to a content management type outfit.

I did have in my files this diagram of what Composite’s search system morphed into:


Search is still in the architecture but it is called a Query Engine and includes traditional search functions; for example, a federation component, rules (which are very expensive to maintain in my experience), metadata, and editorial management now called “Governance.”

What’s interesting to me is that Composite figured out that search was not exactly a booming business. The company wrapped itself in next-generation features like Discovery and an Endeca-type “Studio” to create interfaces.

The sale of the company as a “data virtualization” vendor to Cisco took place in July 2013. According to a ZDNet write up, Cisco paid about $180 million for the five year old company. What I found interesting was the description of Composite in “

Composite provides software that connects different kinds of data on a network, including cloud and big data sources, and consolidates it as if it were in one place. In doing so, it allows companies to better visualize their data in order to make more accurate real-time decisions.

One would not know that Composite was an enterprise search vendor which pulled of a successful repositioning. Then Composite was able to sell the company to Cisco Systems, which had dabbled in search before this deal went down. At one time, I thought that Cisco would embrace open source search software.

Net net: Cisco got a search system for a fraction of the price HP paid for Autonomy. Composite is one of a small number of search vendors able to recognize the dead end that plain old search became. That’s important because slapping the word “semantic” on a keyword search system and shopping for a buyer may not be very productive.

In fact, it raises the question, “Why are some enterprise search vendors still pitching search?” Composite’s approach suggests that there are other ways to package keyword search and add some sizzle to what otherwise may be a cold chunk of stew meat.

Stephen E Arnold, January 30, 2017

IBM Watson: Inventing a Distilled Rum

January 29, 2017

I think this write up has some drops of truth in it. I wanted to check with a former MADD volunteer, but the email address wobbled and then fell against a light pole. The title was arresting: “IBM Watson Bottles ‘Holiday Spirit’ with New RUM Created Using Artificial Intelligence.” The source? The “real” news outfit the UK Mirror.

The write up explained that Watson allegedly “produces beverage based on social media posts.” I learned:

“Holiday Spirit” is claimed to be the world’s very first data-distilled rum and was created using IBM Watson. The supercomputer analyzed data from social media posts in order to produce a bespoke rum “that tastes like a holiday”. “In just six hours Watson was able to read 15 million posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter relating to holidays – and find the predominant emotions and concepts in those posts,” explained Joe Harrods, big data analyst and AI expert, who works closely with Watson.

The idea was that Watson guzzled 5,000 rum reviews. Then Watson demonstrated that it was in control of its faculties by “matching emotions from the reviews with ingredients.” Finally Walked a straight line to a master blender who concocted liquor, hooch, booze, or nectar that

has a subtle vanilla flavor, medium sweetness, hints of coconut and is naturally caressed with cinnamon and allspice.

So what? Here’s the results of the breathalyzer test:

“There’s no reason that this ‘taste sensation’ couldn’t be recreated for all kinds of experiences and emotions. We’ve already seen robot bartenders that can mix custom cocktails for every different punter based on their personality…

I am delighted that I have never had a drink of alcohol. I wonder if the same might be said of Watson or possibly the marketer who blended this knock out punch for artificial intelligence. What was that question? Oh, right. I remember: “Watson, when will you generate enough money to make IBM stakeholders happy.”

After 10 consecutive quarters of declining revenue, Holiday Spirit may be in short supply.

Stephen E Arnold, January 29, 2017

Semantic Search and Old Style Marketing

January 27, 2017

I read “It Used to Be So Easy to Get Google to Love You Now Not So Much.” I find it amusing that marketing methods which are ineffectual are still used in Google’s mobile oriented, buy-ad world. Here’s a great example from a small company trying to become a headliner.

Years ago I worked on a US government project. I developed a system which manipulated certain Web search systems’ indexing. It seems to me that one outfit has tried to emulate the DNA of my method. You can see the example of content marketing which is designed to polish a halo for a company involved in indexing. Yep, I know indexing is not exactly what makes the venture capitalists’ heart pound. But indexing has a long tradition of being

  1. Expensive
  2. Labor intensive if one wants to deliver precision and recall in search results
  3. Intellectually demanding, particularly when smart software goes off the rails so often
  4. Tough to make magnetic.

The write up “Searching with Semantic Technology” summarizes a write up in a “thought leader” publication. There is a parental reminder to remember how important indexing is. There is a concluding statement which explains that natural language processing plays a role in delivering search results. The buzzword “semantic” is repeated.

The only hitch in the git along is that the effort to trigger a Web search system using this abstract, keyword, and allegedly critical comment is that it is old and no longer works very well.

Why? Let me point out:

  1. Queries come from mobile device users. Some topics don’t lend themselves to mobile methods. It follows that methods based in whole or in part on the methods I developed and explained in my articles over the years are a bit like multiple Xerox copies of an original document. Faded and often useless.
  2. The jargon problem plagues those with niche capabilities. I pointed out in my cacaphone write up and compilation of buzzwords that most folks don’t have a clue what words mean. A good example is “semantic,” a term which has been devalued and applied to everything from marketing search engines to metasearch engines and more.
  3. The Web indexing systems have shifted over the years from reliance of a handful of proven indexing methods to wrappers of code which act “smart.” Results lists are essentially unpredictable today. Spoofing with words is a bit like shooting a handgun at the ocean in the hope of killing a fish.

For more information on an old system which doesn’t work very well anymore, navigate to www.augmentext.com. For more examples of marketing material which uses an ineffectual method to add razzle dazzle to a capability which is at best boring and more often of minimal interest, read the blog which serves as the home to this “insight.”

Kenny Toth, January 27, 2017

Looking for Insight and Universal Search: Dip in the Insightpool

January 26, 2017

I read “Insightpool Launches World’s Largest Influencer Search Engine.” I think I know what an influencer is. That is a person to whom others turn for guidance, insight, a phone call, or invitations to parties. I also know what an “influence peddler” is. That’s a person who delivers introductions, pressure, content marketing in various forms, and maybe for enough cash a good word to a really important person.

How does one find these folks? Easy. Use the University search system for influencers.

I learned:

With Universal Search, brand marketers can search for influencers across 100 social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other niche social communities such as Yelp!, Reddit, and Weibo. Additionally, they can view key insights by influencer segment to understand follower size and reach, conversation sentiment, frequency of activity and other characteristics. Marketers not only save significant time in selecting the right influencer, but also gain more detailed information about the influencers most likely to actively engage in their strategic campaigns. This leads to higher performance and conversions.

Okay. This is slightly different from getting a meeting with a senator’s administrative aide or wrangling a face to face with one of Google’s vice presidents of engineering.

The top influencer at Insightpool said:

“This is the largest influencer database on the planet. Other influencer platforms offer fewer than 100,000 at most. The real benefit with Universal Search lies in its pure simplicity — using a familiar search bar to find the most relevant influencers. It used to take days to identify the right people for a campaign. Now it takes seconds.”

You can run your queries using the “influencer marketing platform.” Tap into a search system that

blends together our mission of connecting brands and people on social media. We are not just an intelligent Influencer Marketing platform, we are not just a tech company, we are creators and innovators dedicated to revolutionizing the way brands build relationships and create measurable results through social channels. Since inception in 2013, our customers have helped refine the product roadmap, which has dramatically expanded to pioneering concepts such as identification, prediction, automated social drip marketing campaigns, nurturing and creating measurable insights that give brands results and revenue.

There you go. A search engine for those who want real information.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2017

The SEO, PPC Baloney Sandwich: Total Search Can Be Dangerous

January 25, 2017

I love the clever folks’ ability to make language do tricks. I read “Unleashing the Potential of ‘Total’ Search.” The write up itself strikes me as a bit of content marketing. The objective is to whip up enthusiasm for a Breakfast Briefing “event.” I am okay with PR. I am not okay with taking a nifty word like search and morphing it into one of those online advertising concepts which confuse and lure the unwary.


The SEO and PPC baloney dog. It can be your pal and your meal ticket… if someone bites.

Total search, according to the write up, is “a holistic approach to search marketing which considers SEO [search engine optimization, that old relevance killer] and PPC [pay for click, that buy traffic approach pioneered by GoTo.com years ago] as a single channel.”

Search has a slightly different meaning to some folks here in down home rural Kentucky. Dictionary.com offers this definition:

1. to go or look through (a place, area, etc.)carefully in order to find something missing or lost:

They searched the woods for the missing child. I searched the desk for the letter.

2. to look at or examine (a person, object, etc.)carefully in order to find something concealed:

He searched the vase for signs of a crack. The police searched the suspect for weapons.

3. to explore or examine in order to discover:

They searched the hills for gold.

4. to look at, read, or examine (a record, writing,collection, repository, etc.) for information:

to search a property title; He searched the courthouse for a record of the deed to the land.

TheFreeDictionary.com says:

1. To move around in, go through, or look through in an effort to find something: searched the room for her missing earring; searched the desk for a pen.

2. To make a careful examination or investigation of; probe: search one’s conscience for the right thing to do.

3. Law To examine (a person or property) for the purpose of discovering evidence of a crime.

Verb transitive

1. To search a place or space in order to find something: searched all afternoon for my wallet.

2. To make a careful examination or investigation: searching for the right words to say.

3. Law To make a search for evidence.


1. An act of searching.

2. Law The examination of a person or property, as by a law enforcement officer, for the purpose of discovering evidence of a crime.

3. A control mechanism on an audio or video player that rapidly advances or reverses the playing of a recording.

I suppose the inclusion of the word “total” allows the word search to become so much more to the wizard who is defining “total search” as marketing and ad buys.

The “total search” write up explains that “We live in a C2B world.” That means, I believe, “consumer to business world.”

Sorry. I don’t live in that world. I live in a world in which finding specific information, determining which information is either accurate or reasonably credible, and then analyzing that information in an effort to become more informed is important.

Presenting off point, inaccurate information is not my cup of tea.

How does one deliver “total search”? Here’s the “answer”:

There are several ways that a brand can realize the full potential of this approach. Some are fairly simple to implement, such as combining keyword research or aligning landing page testing. These can be merged into a single stream of work by your internal teams or agencies and will lead to immediate returns. Others (unifying leadership and introducing one search objective, for example) are likely to be more involved and may require a radical step-change in your organizational structure, driven from the top down. There are many other ways, which, in combination, can bring more benefits than the sum of the individual parts and drive significant incremental gains. Those brands that embrace a Total Search approach will be the ones that will more frequently be able to solve consumers’ problems and ultimately emerge successful.

There you go.

Think about this type of “search” in these three contexts:

  1. Your child is ill. One of the medical researchers at the hospital where doctors are trying to figure out how to address the disease presenting itself use “total search” to determine a course of action. Forget that baloney about precision and recall when searching the medical literature. Go for the content marketed drugs and the information delivered by an online ad. Care much about your child’s health? What’s your answer, gentle reader?
  2. You are involved in an accident. Three parties are involved, but only you have been injured. Your attorney is struggling to determine what coverage your automobile insurance provides. One of the other parties to the accident has decided to sue you even though your semi autonomous automobile was unable to avoid the collision caused by a vehicle hitting your car from behind. The momentum pushed your vehicle into a day care center van. Are you expecting your attorney to use free online Web search systems to locate legal information germane to your particular situation? How do you select your attorney? An ad supported online search?
  3. You are involved in a government project. You have to assemble information about a specific bad actor in a specific location. Your input will have a direct impact on the success or failure of the mission. This means that young men and women may die if you provide information that is not on point, accurate, and valid for that particular action. Are you prepared to rely on digital systems and content manipulated to get you to read information which is swizzled and promoted?

In each of these situations, the silliness and danger associated with “total search” becomes apparent to me. If you think that “total search” is just the ticket for you, you frighten me. A tainted baloney sandwich with slabs of SEO and PPC is not something too appealing to me. You can explain your preference to your ailing child, the attorney muffing your case, and the parents of the young woman who was killed due to your informational ignorance. Unleash your critical thinking, gentle reader.

Stephen E Arnold, January 25, 2017

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