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Data From eBay Illustrates Pricing Quirk

June 8, 2015

The next time you go to sell or buy an item, pay attention to the message the price is sending. Discover reports that “The Last Two Digits of a Price Signal Your Desperation to Sell.” Researchers at UC Berkeley’s business school recently analyzed data from eBay, tracking original prices and speed of negotiations. Writer Joshua Gans shares a chart from the report, and explains:

“The chart shows that when the posted initial price is of a round number (the red dots), like $1,000, the average counteroffer is much lower than if it is a non-round number (the blue circles), like $1,079. For example, the graph suggests that you can actually end up with a higher counteroffer if you list $998 rather than $1,000. In other words, you are better off initially asking for a lower price if price was all you cared about. [Researchers] Backus et al postulate that what is going on here is ‘cheap talk’ – that is, an easy-to-make statement that may be true or untrue with no consequences for dishonesty – and not an otherwise reliable signal. There are some sellers who don’t just care about price and, absent any other way of signaling that to buyers, they set their price at a round number. Alternatively, you can think that the more patient sellers are using non-round numbers to signal their toughness. Either way, the last two digits of the price is cheap talk.”

Gans notes that prices ending in “99” are apparently so common that eBay buyers treat them the same as those  ending in round numbers. The team performed a similar analysis on real estate sales data and found the same pattern: properties priced at round numbers sell faster. According to the write-up, real estate agents are familiar with the tendency and advise clients accordingly. Now you, too, can send and receive signals through prices’ last two digits.

Cynthia Murrell, June 8, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Coveo Announces Growth, Success, and an Internal Promotion

June 8, 2015

The article titled Coveo Announces Another Sequential Best Quarter as Its Intelligent Search Apps Upskill Thousands of People on Digital Journal points to increased market demand for its apps. Coveo’s mission is to aid businesses in improving people’s knowledge and ability with Search. Coveo for Salesforce offers customers a hub to resolve the issues that would typically require a customer service rep. The article explains,

Coveo for Salesforce saw rapid adoption, particularly within the high tech and financial services industries, where mid-size to Fortune 500 organizations selected Coveo to scale customer service operations. Coveo for Salesforce – Communities Edition helps customers solve their own cases by proactively offering case-resolving knowledge suggestions and Coveo for Salesforce – Service Cloud Edition helps agents upskill as they engage customers by injecting case-resolving content and experts into the Salesforce UI as they work.”

The article also discusses the promotion of Mike Raley, currently senior director of demand generation, to VP of marketing. That makes him accountable for the company’s international marketing. The article seems like good news, what with the reported “record levels of bookings growth,” but it offers no actual revenues or information about the $30 million in venture funding the company has amassed.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 8, 2014

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


The Unacceptable Planned Obsolescence of the Android

June 5, 2015

The op ed on Tom’s Hardware titled Google Can’t Ignore The Android Update Problem Any Longer inspects the release process for Androids, particularly the Android 5.0 Lollipop and the 5.1 iteration. The problem Google faces with its major upgrade per year schedule is that while the Lollipop garners 9.7 percent of the market, it might be several years before the majority of android users catch up to this version, by which time Google might be releasing Android 8.0 (Snickers? M&M?) The article explains the issues with transitioning,

“Because Android is open source and because so many (essentially) OEM-tweaked “forks” of it exist, a “clean” upgrade path is almost impossible. To have a clean standardized update system would mean all the OEMs would have to agree to abide strictly by Google’s guidelines for what they can and cannot modify on the platform.

However, as soon as Google tries to do something like that, the OEMs usually cry foul that Google is making Android more proprietary.”

Obviously Google does not want to lose the business of those OEMs, either. But the article argues that this is unlikely due to Android and iOS cornering the market. The final point is the weakness in the update system due to users desiring more secure platforms, meaning Android adoption will only lessen.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 5, 2014

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Users Hope SharePoint 2016 Eases Integration Woes

June 4, 2015

SharePoint integration is often mentioned as one of the lowest points of user satisfaction for the whole solution. However, to be fair, SharePoint has very drastically moved away from its very simple start. Its original purpose was document sharing, and probably just Office documents at that. Now the platform is expected to handle any type of file constantly emerging in the fast-moving world of content. IT Business Edge takes a good look at the issue in its article, “Why SharePoint 2016 Needs to Address Integration Shortcomings.”

The article begins on a humorous note:

“SharePoint integration must be really hard, judging by this new infographic, “Seven Alcoholic Drinks to Imbibe as Your SharePoint Integration Project Fails.” . . . Why is SharePoint so hard to integrate? There’s the obvious reason, of course: Microsoft’s built it for Microsoft ecosystems with little concern for heterogeneous environments. Still, that’s not the only reason it’s a pain. In fact, SharePoint had integration problems even with other Microsoft solutions, as this 2012 post by an application architect shows.”

There are clearly issues with SharePoint integration, and in light of them, head SharePoint execs are discussing improvements to the 2016 platform. While it will take some time before it is known whether the changes do improve user satisfaction, keep an eye on for the latest updates. Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in search and his Web service gives a good deal of attention to SharePoint. In fact, his dedicated SharePoint feed is a good place to start for the latest need-to-know information.

Emily Rae Aldridge, June 4, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The IBM Watson Ecosystem

June 3, 2015

Short honk: Add to your Watson knowledge. Navigate to “IBM Watson: The Future of Cognitive Computing.” The write up explains the whys and wherefores of IBM’s billion dollar revenue play. But the item I highlighted asks a very good question:

Imagine you could collect all the world’s data , understand it, and use it to help people live, work, and play better. What would you do?

My answer? Google.

The source of the write up is summer up from this statement from PFSK’s Web site:

PSFK provides a new generation of creative minds ideas to live, work and play better. We share over 20 times a day on inspirational  projects, people and passions in topics like arts & culture, design, retail and technology – and we spread these across our social channels and add even more amazing links we find along the way. We bring to life the discussion with the events we run in different cities around the world – and our team of researchers and strategists at PSFK Labs also provide some awesome companies, such as Apple, BMW, Google & Samsung, with trends-led advice.

Definitely a firm with a firm grip on the vagaries of cognitive computing.

Stephen E Arnold, June 2, 2015

SLI Systems Still Struggling

May 26, 2015

Early this year, we reported on the sudden personnel shift over at e-commerce search firm SLI Systems. Now, New Zealand’s National Business Review reports, “SLI Systems Says Second-Half Revenue Will Miss Expectations on Weaker American Sales.” It seems the staff shake-up led to disappointing sales, but the company is confident they will make up ground later this year, after the dust settles. They also cite a weak economy in Brazil as a limiting factor. Reporter Tina Morrison writes:

“Operating revenue will rise to $28 million in the year ending June 30, from $22 million a year earlier, the Christchurch-based company said in a statement. The forecast is lower than the $30.5 million expected by analysts in a Reuters poll. …

“The company is forgoing profits and dividends to fund growth in  the expanding e-commerce market, particularly in the US, and says its software as a service is the second biggest after Oracle to provide online retailers with suggestive search engines. Analysts polled by Reuters before today’s announcement had expected the company’s annual loss to widen to $7 million this year, from $5.7 million last year. It expects to report its annual earnings in late August.”

Founded in 2001, SLI Systems now powers e-commerce on over 800 websites. The company is based in Christchurch, New Zealand, and maintains offices in San Jose, California; London; Melbourne; and Tokyo. Anyone who thinks they can help the company bounce back should note that (as of this writing) SLI is looking for new Sales Directors in Melbourne and San Jose.

Cynthia Murrell, May 26, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

IBM Watson: 75 Industries Have Watson Apps. What about Revenue from Watson?

May 25, 2015

Was it just four years ago? How PR time flies. I read “Boyhood.” Now here’s the subtitle, which is definitely Google-licious:

Watson was just 4 years old when it beat the best human contestants on Jeopardy! As it grows up and goes out into the world, the question becomes: How afraid of it should we be?

I am not too afraid. If I were the president of IBM, I would be fearful. Watson was supposed to be well on its way north of $1 billion in revenue. If I were the top wizards responsible for Watson, I would be trepedatious . If I were a stakeholder in IBM, I would be terrified.

But Watson does not frighten me. Watson, in case you do not know, is built from:

  1. Open source search
  2. Acquired companies’ technology
  3. Home brew scripts
  4. IBM bit iron

The mix is held together with massive hyperbole-infused marketing.

The problem is that the revenue is just not moving the needle for the Big Blue bean counters. Please, recall that IBM has reported dismal financial results for three years. IBM is buying back its stock. IBM is selling its assets. IBM is looking at the exhaust pipes of outfits like Amazon. IBM is in a pickle.

The write up ignores what I think are important factoids about IBM. The article asserts:

The machine began as the product of a long-shot corporate stunt, in which IBM engineers set out to build an artificial intelligence that could beat the greatest human champions at Jeopardy!, one that could master language’s subtleties: rhymes, allusions, puns….It has folded so seamlessly into the world that, according to IBM, the Watson program has been applied in 75 industries in 17 countries, and tens of thousands of people are using its applications in their own work. [Emphasis added]

How could I be skeptical? Molecular biology. A cook book. Jeopardy.

Now for some history:

Language is the “holy grail,” he said, “the reflection of how we think about the world.” He tapped his head. “It’s the path into here.”

And then the epiphany:

Watson was becoming something strange, and new — an expert that was only beginning to understand. One day, a young Watson engineer named Mike Barborak and his colleagues wrote something close to the simplest rule that he could imagine, which, translated from code to English, roughly meant: Things are related to things. They intended the rule as an instigation, an instruction to begin making a chain of inferences, each idea leaping to the next. Barborak presented a medical scenario, a few sentences from a patient note that described an older woman entering the doctor’s office with a tremor. He ran the program — things are related to things — and let Watson roam. In many ways, Watson’s truest expression is a graph, a concept map of clusters and connective lines that showed the leaps it was making. Barborak began to study its clusters — hundreds, maybe thousands of ideas that Watson had explored, many of them strange or obscure. “Just no way that a person would ever manually do those searches,” Barborak said. The inferences led it to a dense node that, when Barborak examined it, concerned a part of the brain…that becomes degraded by Parkinson’s disease. “Pretty amazing,” Barborak said. Watson didn’t really understand the woman’s suffering. But even so, it had done exactly what a doctor would do — pinpointed the relevant parts of the clinical report, discerned the disease, identified the biological cause. To make these leaps, all you needed was to read like a machine: voraciously and perfectly.

I have to take a break. My heart is racing. How could this marvel of technology be used to save lives, improve the output of Burger King, and become the all time big winner on the the Price Is Right?

Now let’s give IBM a pat on the back for getting this 6.000 word write up in a magazine consumed by those who love the Big Apple without the New Yorker’s copy editors poking their human nose into reportage.

From my point of view, Watson needs to deliver:

  1. Sustainable revenue
  2. Demonstrate that the system can be affordable
  3. Does not require human intermediaries to baby sit the system
  4. Process content so that real time outputs are usable by those needing “now” insights
  5. Does not make egregious errors which cause a human using Watson to spend time shaping or figuring out if the outputs are going to deliver what the user requires; for example, a cancer treatment regimen which helps the patient or a burrito a human can enjoy.

Hewlett Packard and IBM have managed to get themselves into the “search and content processing” bottle. It sure seems as if better information outputs will lead to billions in revenue. Unfortunately the realty is that getting big bucks from search and content processing is very difficult to do. For verification, just run a query on Google News with these terms: Hewlett Packard Autonomy.

The search and content processing sector is a utility function. There are applications which can generate substantial revenue. And it is true that these vendors include search as a utility function.

But pitching smart software spitballs works when one is not being watched by stakeholders. Under scrutiny, the approach does not have much of a chance. Don’t believe me? Take your entire life savings and buy IBM stock. Let me know how that works out.

Stephen E Arnold, May 25, 2015

Keeping Track of Rockets

May 23, 2015

I have an Overflight for AeroText, which is located at 77 Fourth Avenue, in Waltham, Massachusetts. The company offers a search system. I noted that Rocket Software is located at 77 4th Avenue in Waltham, Massachusetts. Ergo: AeroText is now Rocket Software.

What makes this interesting to me is that Overflight snagged a number of references to a software component causing some consternation. I ran a query for “rocket search” on the GOOG and noted these results:


What jumps out is that there are no links to the Waltham-based outfit and there are quite a few links to information about removing what one outfit (ScarebearSoftware) called a virus. The software in question is “Rocket Search.”

My point is that vendors of search and content processing software have to name their products so that individuals interested in legitimate content processing systems can actually find the company.

In the past, I have commented about Brainware being usurped by an outfit keen to pump YouTube videos out with corresponding erosion of the Brainware “brand.” Brainware is not part of Lexmark, and I don’t think too many folks remember Brainware, trigrams, and the convoluted history of the company. Thunderstone in Cleveland has suffered a similar fate. Thunderstone is for all intents and purposes now associated with games, not search. And there are other examples.

The most recent instance of a vendor losing control of a brand was, until now, Smartlogic. An outfit in Baltimore has encroached on the conceptual real estate and Smartlogic’s Semaphore product name is now lovingly gazed upon by a German outfit with a variant of Smartlogic’s product moniker Semafora at

Now Rocket Software, a company eager to become a mover and shaker in search, faces the malware and virus association.

How does one remediate this problem. First, vendors have to pay attention to the name itself. Second, search vendors have to protect their “semantic real estate.” Third, search vendors have to communicate meaningful, high value information.

Ignoring these suggestions leads to brand erosion. Who can license a product if it cannot be found in Bing, Google, or Yandex? Augmentext can help remediate this type of problem, but it is easier and cheaper to head off invisibility and confusion before they gallop through the indexes churning up semantic mud.

I assume it is difficult to see a path forward when there is spatter on one’s eye glasses.

Stephen E Arnold, May 23, 2015

Decrease from TrueVue

May 21, 2015

The article on Business Insider titled Google Has a New and Unexpected Explanation for Its Falling Ad Rates places the blame on Youtube’s “TrueView” video ads. For some time there has been concern over Google’s falling cost-per-click (CPC) money, the cash earned each time a user clicks on an ad. The first quarter of this year has CPC down 7%. The article quotes outgoing Google CFO Patrick Pichette on the real reason for these numbers. He states,

“TrueView ads currently monetize at a lower rate than ad clicks on  As you know, video ads generally reach people earlier in the purchase funnel, and so across the industry, they tend to have a different pricing profile than that of search ads,” Pichette explained. “Excluding the impact of YouTube TrueView ads, growth in Sites clicks would be lower, but still positive and CPCs would be healthy and growing Y/Y,” Pichette continued.

It is often thought that the increasing dependence on mobile internet access through smartphones is the reason for falling CPC. Google can’t charge as much for mobile ads as for PC ads, making it a logical leap that this is the area of concern. Pichette offers a different view, and one with an entirely positive spin.
Chelsea Kerwin, May 21, 2014

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at


Glass: A Family

May 18, 2015

Forget YouTube search, which is allegedly going to get better real soon.

Navigate to “Google Glass Tipped to Become Product Family.” I learned:

We also get some clues from the new Glass team description, which reads: “The Google Glass division is a world-class team focused on the cutting edge of hardware, software, and industrial design.” It continues: “It is charged with pioneering, developing, building, and launching smart eyewear and other related products in line with Google’s ambitious and visionary objectives.

If I have an Apple Watch and ride around in an autonomous auto or snag an Uber ride, tell me again why I need to wear another gadget over my trifocals. How will that work? I suppose I can wear the new design instead of my trifocals. Wait! Then I would not be able to see my Apple Watch or the Uber car. I am excited.

Stephen Arnold, May 18, 2015

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