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Amazon: Not the Corner Store? Big Insight

July 21, 2016

I love Amazon almost as much as I love Google. I would have a tough time deciding which of these services warrants more of my affection, trust, and respect. I said to myself “Bummer” when I read “Amazon’s Dominance Is Bad for Your Business.” I recently ordered a paperback from Amazon and noticed that the 150 page monograph was a $1,000, not $10. Anyone could have clicked the incorrect link between the correctly priced volume and the used discounted books. Amazon respected my klutziness, and I think I got my money back after I sent the $1000 paperback back to the outstanding merchant. This firm obviously valued its paperback more highly than the half dozen vendors selling the same paperback for $10. What more could one want? (One of my goslings asked me, “Why does Amazon list certain products at vastly inflated prices? I don’t know. I love Amazon. Love is blind.)

The write up includes a quote allegedly generated by the world’s smartest person, Jeff Bezos; to wit:

“…Amazon should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.”

I like that. Google’s meat eating dinosaur is, after all, dead unless the team solving death brings T Rex back to life. A cheetah is a here and now creature able to snag small, sickly, or inept prey with a batting average a major league player would covet.

The write up also states:

Amazon has done a very good job with search and discovery on mobile,” BloomReach marketing chief Joelle Kaufman said. “They are capturing the lion’s share of mobile revenue. Consumers said they start on a cellphone and they use it as a research tool. But 81 percent want to buy on that laptop/desktop.”

Google, it seems, is an also ran in the shopping search sector. But what about Amazon’s competitors and merchants who do not want to sell their products via Amazon?

The answer is, according to the write up:

There are still a plethora of avenues to make sales through, and portals to gain consumer attention. Despite Amazon’s utter dominance in the U.S. e-retail market, you can still grow your business, and become highly successful along the way. Just remember the importance of content, social media, and a great attitude. If David had submitted to Goliath’s size before the battle had begun, he never would have realized his own strength and capabilities.

This sounds like Google Adwords, Snapchat, and YouTube videos to me? Those work really well for mom and pop merchants (at least for the small number remaining in the good, old USA), small businesses, and unfunded start ups.

Is what’s good for Amazon good for us or was it “What’s good for General Motors is good for the USA”? When will Amazon address the shortcomings I find in Amazon search? Maybe never. If it is not broken, why try to fix it. That’s why suggested prices are irrelevant in the Amazon jungle.

Stephen E Arnold, July 21, 2016

Stepes: Human Translation at Your Fingertips

June 24, 2016

Though today’s machine translation is a convenient way to quickly get the gist of a foreign-language passage, it has its limitations; professionals still turn to human translation services when it counts. A new platform, Stepes Translate, can bridge the gap (at least until algorithms catch up). Its chat-based format makes it as convenient as machine translation, but there is an actual, multi-lingual human at the other end. BusinessWire reports, “Stepes Extends Google Translate Model to Live Human Translation.” The press release explains:

“Stepes Translate uses the familiar side by side interface of machine translation platforms like Google Translate. Anyone requesting translation simply enters their text into the source field. Next, Stepes immediately identifies an appropriate translator from its network of more than 60,000 in-country translators through mobile notification. The translator begins to translate immediately on his/her smartphone while the requesting user can see their progress live. For most requests, the translation is completed within minutes and appears in the target field for the requesting user to see. … Whereas traditional translation software is overly technical and thus not easily accessible to many translators, Stepes’ mobile technology makes translation tools intuitive.”

Stepes can translate more than 100 languages, and offers a 3-tiered pricing based on quality. If you don’t mind a few awkward passages and humorous phrasings, there is the Basic, 10-cents/word plan. If you need to make a good impression, or the document has legal implications, you’ll want to spring for the Premium, 16-cents/word option.

A project of localization firm CSOFT, Stepes Translate is also known as the Social Translation Experiment Project and Eco System. The acronym is also a nod to the European steppes, the region from which sprung hundreds of the world’s major languages. Headquartered in Beijing, CSOFT (or Communications Solutions Of Foreign Trade) was established in 2003. The company attributes their global success to a strong emphasis on customer service.

Cynthia Murrell, June 24, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Bzzz. Bzzz, Hello, Ms. Android, It Is Time to Wake Up.

June 20, 2016

Here in rural Kentucky, I thought the Alphabet Google thing had no chinks in its digital armor. Search. Bingo. Loon balloons. Bingo. YouTube videos of cats. Bingo, bingo.

Then I read an allegedly accurate write up called “Huawei Hedges Bet on Google’s Android, Plans In-House OS.” The subtitle hinted as a fork, not a benign open source fork, but a rootin’, tootin’ go-our-own-way change of direction:

Like Samsung before it, Huawei hopes to have a “Plan B” should Android terms go bad.

China has a way of keeping some people alert. There is the communications dust up with Taiwan. There is the island in the sea thing. Then there is the Apple hassle. The middle kingdom seems to be front and center is food fairs too.

The write up reported:

To spearhead the development of an in-house operating system—and improve its Android skin—Huawei has hired former Apple designer Abigail Brody. The report says that the non-Android OS “isn’t far along” and is a “contingency measure” in case Google’s current Android terms become undesirable to Huawei.

Huawei is the number three smartphone OEM, behind Samsung and Apple. The Chinese company isn’t a huge deal in the West, though—a big portion of those sales come from Huawei’s home turf. Huawei is often seen as being in a position similar to Samsung’s, just at an earlier stage of development. Like Samsung, Huawei is a massive company. It’s the world’s largest telecom equipment manufacturer, and it designs its own SoCs. Now Huawei is taking another page from the Samsung playbook and is trying to develop an Android alternative.

The Alphabet Google thing now has to worry about another outfit nosing into the phone operating system business.

My thought is that South Korea is a bit more business friendly to the US than its neighbors to the north.

I am hoping the Alphabet Google thing does not suffer a challenge to its hegemony. After all, what’s the big deal when a US company suggests to a foreign government that it changes its ways. Look at the big picture, not a mere detail.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2016

Google Changes Its Algorithm Again

May 26, 2016

As soon as we think we have figured out how to get our content to the top of Google’s search rankings, the search engine goes and changes its algorithms.  The Digital Journal offers some insight into “Op-Ed: How Will The Google 2016 Algorithm Change Affect Our Content?”

In early 2016, Google announced they were going to update their Truth Algorithm and it carries on many of the aspects they have been trying to push.  Quality content over quantity is still very important.  Keyword heavy content is negated in favor of pushing Web sites that offer relevant, in-depth content and that better answer a user’s intent.

SEO changes took a dramatic turn with a Penguin uploaded and changes in the core algorithm.  The biggest game changer is with mobile technologies:

“The rapid advancement of mobile technologies is deeply affecting the entire web scenario. Software developers are shifting towards the development of new apps and mobile websites, which clearly represent the future of information technology. Even the content for mobile websites and apps is now different, and Google had to account for that with the new ranking system changes. The average mobile user is very task oriented and checks his phones just to quickly accomplish a specific task, like finding a nearby café or cinema. Mobile-oriented content must be much shorter and concise than web-oriented one. The average web surfer wants to know, learn and explore things in a much more relaxed setting.”

Google wants to clear its search results of what is known as unviable information and offer users a better quality search experience for both their mobile devices and standard desk computers.  Good to know that someone wants to deliver a decent product.

 

Whitney Grace, May 26, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Half of Online News Produced by Just Ten Publishers

May 19, 2016

The wide-open Internet was supposed to be a counterweight to the consolidation of news media into fewer and fewer hands. Now, though, PublishersDaily reports that “10 Publishers Account for Half of All Online News.” The article cites a recent study from SimilarWeb, which examined 2015’s top online news publishers, on both mobile and desktop platforms. Writer Erik Sass summarizes:

“Overall, the top 10 publishers — together owning around 60 news sites — account for 47% of total online traffic to news content last year, with the next-biggest 140 publishers accounting for most of the other half, SimilarWeb found.

“The biggest online news publisher for the U.S. audience was MSN, owner of MSN.com, with just over 27 billion combined page views across mobile and desktop, followed by Disney Media Networks, owner of ESPN and ABC News, with 25.9 billion.

“Time Warner, owner of CNN and Bleacher Report, had 14.8 billion, followed by Yahoo with 10.3 billion, and Time, Inc. with 10.2 billion.

“A bit further down the totem poll were CBS Corp., owner of Cnet.com, with 9.9 billion combined page views; NBC Universal, with 9.5 billion; Matt Drudge, with 8.5 billion; Advance Publications, with 8 billion; and Fox Entertainment Group, owner of Fox News, with 7.9 billion.”

Sass goes on to cover page views for specific publications and outlines which outfits are leading in mobile. Interestingly, it seems smaller publishers are doing especially well on mobile platforms. See the write-up for more details.

 

Cynthia Murrell, May 19, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Parts Unknown of Dark Web Revealed in Study

May 13, 2016

While the parts unknown of the internet is said to be populated by terrorists’ outreach and propaganda, research shows a different picture. Quartz reports on this in the article, The dark web is too slow and annoying for terrorists to even bother with, experts say. The research mentioned comes from Thomas Rid and Daniel Moore of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. They found 140 extremist Tor hidden services; inaccessible or inactive services topped the list with 2,482 followed by 1,021 non-illicit services. As far as illicit services, those related to drugs far outnumbered extremism with 423. The write-up offers a few explanations for the lack of terrorists publishing on the Dark Web,

“So why aren’t jihadis taking advantage of running dark web sites? Rid and Moore don’t know for sure, but they guess that it’s for the same reason so few other people publish information on the dark web: It’s just too fiddly. “Hidden services are sometimes slow, and not as stable as you might hope. So ease of use is not as great as it could be. There are better alternatives,” Rid told Quartz. As a communications platform, a site on the dark web doesn’t do what jihadis need it to do very well. It won’t reach many new people compared to “curious Googling,” as the authors point out, limiting its utility as a propaganda tool. It’s not very good for internal communications either, because it’s slow and requires installing additional software to work on a mobile phone.”

This article provides fascinating research and interesting conclusions. However, we must add unreliable and insecure to the descriptors for why the Dark Web may not be suitable for such uses.

 

Megan Feil, May 13, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

IBM Watson, Google DeepMind Is Slicing into Health Care

March 3, 2016

Gentle reader, you may have seen out write ups about IBM Watson and its work to cure cancer and develop innovative recipes for barbeque sauce with tamarind.

I read “Smart Care: How Google DeeepMind Is Working with NHS Hospitals.” The write up points out:

A smartphone app piloted by the NHS could improve communication between hospital staff and help patients get vital care faster.

Yikes, Watson, a phone. Come here I need you will echo in the corridors of these paragons of efficiency throughout Britain.

I learned:

Their research, published in the journal Surgery, showed that half of hospital patients do not get the care they need fast enough, usually because of poor communication, particularly when one team of doctors or nurses hands over to another. In early pilots at St Mary’s Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, where Darzi [former health minister in the Blair government and director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London]  is a consultant surgeon, they found medical staff responded 37% faster when alerted by the Hark app than when they used pagers.

Will an app work cooperatively with IBM Watson? Will DeepMind, the app, keep IBM Watson in the lounge area?

Painful questions for an app to answer or notify in this case of technological innovation.

Stephen E Arnold, March 3, 2016

Google and Page Loading Speed

February 25, 2016

I read “Google Has Slowest Loading Home Page on Mobile Compared to Competitors.” I access the Internet from my desktop boat anchor computers. No cigarette racer for me.

The write up makes a startling claim about the speed and efficiency crazed Alphabet Google thing; to wit:

Google actually has the slowest loading home page on mobile devices compares to its major competitors.

The write up contains actual data to prove this bold assertion for the Googzilla. The top speed is 100, and Yahoo delivers a blistering 95.

Now in my own albeit uninformed experience, Yahoo loads slowly or not at all. Yahoo Mail is particularly snailish and unpredictable. The fix is to access dear old Yahoo via a Google search. I click on the Mail link in the Google results, and this often makes the recalcitrant purple people eater “work.”

Now the “test” was performed on mobile devices. I am not sure what devices, how many tests were run, and what mobile services were used to access the tested systems.

The write up seems a bit fluffy, but, heck, I read it. That’s the point. The information may be secondary to the click and the ads. One must not forget the ads.

Stephen E Arnold, February 25, 2016

EasyAsk Unveils Mobile Shopping Solution Through Semantic Search

February 15, 2016

The announcement on PRWeb titled EasyAsk Introduces EasyAsk Voice Shopper Uniting Voice and Mobile for a Revolutionary Shopping Experience pairs shopping with semantic technology. According to the article, users will be able to hold a conversation with the EasyAsk search engine that will lead to the relevant and ideal product for the user. The article says,

“EasyAsk Voice Shopper creates a new paradigm for mobile shopping by allowing customers to have a conversation with a mobile commerce site or app, just like speaking with a sales associate. Having evolved from over 15 years of natural language research and development, the EasyAsk conversational search engine powers the conversation with the customer, combining an understanding of the shopper’s intent with the deep knowledge of retailer’s products and merchandising objectives to deliver the right products.”

The emphasis on mobile shopping is due to the research showing the low mobile shopping conversion rate of only 0.80%, most likely due to the pain-in-the-neck that is mobile shopping! Who hasn’t switched from their phone to their computer after clicking an email link for a cute pair of sneakers? In a perfect world, this new service would be like speaking to a real person. But unless I am mistaken, it will probably feel more like any number of voice menus that people find themselves shouting at to be understood.

 

Chelsea Kerwin, February 15, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Myanmar in Mobile: A Reminder of How Easy It Is to Make Assumptions

January 25, 2016

I suggest you read the write up “The Facebook Loving Farmers of Myanmar.” Useful information. You can work through the article and get a sense of the importance of connectivity to farmers in a region which is quite a bit different from Silicon Valley and Route 128.

I want to highlight two points which I noted. My hunch is that these will be different from many other folks’ reaction to the article.

The first point is a reference to the failure of the “one laptop per child” thing cooked up by someone in the US of A’s right coast. Here’s the quote I highlighted:

But the more we probe, the less justifiable the Samsung premium becomes. The Chinese phones are cheap but capable. I wonder if this makes Negroponte happy. His one laptop-per-child dream was never fully realized but one smartphone-per-human—far more capable and sensible than a laptop, in many ways—has most certainly arrived. I take notes.

The point is that traditional desktops and laptops are not what has captured the attention of the farmers of Myanmar. The shift to phones, Chinese phones in particular, can be described as a miss, a big miss for the “one laptop per child” idea. How many other high tech beliefs are going to be shown to be just wrong enough? This, for me, is a reminder that what seems obvious to those on the left and right coasts in the United States are pitching the equivalent of snowshoes to people who live where it does not snow.

The second point I circled was:

I realize then that smartphone tech crossed the Good Enough threshold years ago.

What if the money pumped into improving smartphones by making them bigger, smaller, in different colors, etc. is a living, breathing example of diminishing returns. No mater what the phone designers and manufacturers cook up, the pay back will keep getting smaller. Apple is becoming mobile dependent. Google is becoming mobile dependent. What if these investments creep toward lower and lower returns. In a lousy economic environment, could there be financial trouble ahead for these and allied companies?

My hunch is that there are more farmers in Myanmar type folks than there are those who can get hired at the likes of the sparkling tech citadels on the left and right coast of the US, the silicon fen, and the other confections of techno-wizardry.

The one laptop per child play was not just wrong by a little; it was wrong by a mile unless Google knows something the folks in Myanmar do not. See “Google Donates More Than $5 Million to Give Chromebooks to Refugees.”

Stephen E Arnold, January 25, 2016

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