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A Search Engine for College Students Purchasing Textbooks

August 27, 2015

The article on Life Hacker titled TUN’s Textbook Search Engine Compares Prices from Thousands of Sellers reviews TUN, or the “Textbook Save Engine.” It’s an ongoing issue for college students that tuition and fees are only the beginning of the expenses. Textbook costs alone can skyrocket for students who have no choice but to buy the assigned books if they want to pass their classes. TUN offers students all of the options available from thousands of booksellers. The article says,

“The “Textbook Save Engine” can search by ISBN, author, or title, and you can even use the service to sell textbooks as well. According to the main search page…students who have used the service have saved over 80% on average buying textbooks. That’s a lot of savings when you normally have to spend hundreds of dollars on books every semester… TUN’s textbook search engine even scours other sites for finding and buying cheap textbooks; like Amazon, Chegg, and Abe Books.”

After typing in the book title, you get a list of editions. For example, when I entered Pride and Prejudice, which I had to read for two separate English courses, TUN listed an annotated version, several versions with different forewords (which are occasionally studied in the classroom as well) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. After you select an edition, you are brought to the results, laid out with shipping and total prices. A handy tool for students who leave themselves enough time to order their books ahead of the beginning of the class.

Chelsea Kerwin, August 27, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Yammer Improvements and Changes on the Horizon

August 27, 2015

A few years ago, Yammer was an integral part of SharePoint’s marketing campaign as they sought to persuade users that they were moving toward a focus on social. With the upcoming release of SharePoint 2016, social is still important, although it feels less forced and more natural this time around. There will be changes to Yammer and Redmond Magazine covers it in their article, “Microsoft Announces Yammer Improvements To Come While Deprecating Some Yammer SharePoint Apps.”

The article says:

“Microsoft announced this week that it is working on a more team-oriented Yammer, and it will be bringing along some mobile app improvements, too. Yammer is Microsoft’s enterprise-grade social networking application that’s part of some Office 365 subscription plans. Yammer can be used as a standalone service, but it’s also used with SharePoint Server products and SharePoint Online implementations.”

To stay current on what else may change with the release of SharePoint Server 2016, stay tuned to Stephen E. Arnold is an expert on search and the enterprise. His dedicated SharePoint feed is a great way to stay up to date on the latest new surrounding SharePoint.

Emily Rae Aldridge, August 27, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Enterprise Search: Failure Is a Synonym Whether on the Desktop or a Mobile Device

August 20, 2015

One of my favorite content management services has embraced enterprise search. With content management systems or CMS as they are called by the cognoscenti a source of information technology angst, enterprise search seems to be a complementary topic.

Both “disciplines” purport to make a trucking, chemical, or financial services firm into a more efficient information machine. The reality is persistent cost overruns, mismatches between user needs and what the systems actually deliver, and the deep thrum thrum of pumps outputting red ink.

I read “4 Ways Enterprise Mobile Repeats Intranet Mistakes.” I quite like the title. Four seems to undershoot the mistake score, but enterprise search has only been in the failure business since the early 1980s. My list of “challenges” is in pinball machine score range.

Here are the four mistakes viewed through the eyeballs of a CMS centric source:

  1. No dedicated program with a person who “owns” the project
  2. Regular information technology folks are running the car wash
  3. Those regular information technology folks are not too swift in the “user experience design” department
  4. Regular information technology folks and search experts — heck everyone — does not understand what users need. (I assume there are assorted experts, failed webmasters, unemployed middle school teachers, and out of work journalists who do understand what users need.)

So what’s the fix? How will organizations ever manage? The sky is falling and we have to build a space elevator, right?


The fix involves four actions:

  1. I have to quote this, since I lack the expertise to paraphrase the following: “Find a home within the organization for enterprise mobile leadership, and build up stakeholder engagement, governance, and change management capabilities.” Does this sound like horse features to you? I think this is different; these notions are balderdash. Your mileage may vary.
  2. You whoever you is simply “ensure your IT function operates at a strategic level.” Sure enough, boss.
  3. Beef up your “UXD” capabilities. The notion of UXD is supposed to evoke nifty stuff like unusable iPad apps, odd ball Google cards, and weird three line “hamburger” icons which are too small for my aged and clumsy fingers. I am into user experience; namely, a keyboard, a command prompt, and paper. Obviously I am a loser in the UXD game.
  4. Research what those frontline worker need. Oh, don’t forget to watch a frontline worker do work.

Let’s reflect on these fixes.

In my pre retirement years, I had the opportunity to work with a number of organizations. These ranged from lost in space tractor companies to outfits which were chock full of the smartest people in the world.

I learned that getting tasks completed were difficult. Few people, including the late lamented strategy officers, got much done. The design stuff emerged from marketing departments and most frontline folks ignored marketing departments. I learned that asking someone what they need produces features no one uses.

My hunch is that anyone who tries to implement an enterprise search solution is likely to convert that effort into the same slough of cost overruns, unhappy users, and technological mine fields associated with vanilla enterprise search.

For those who are looking for a better gig than implementing content management systems and enterprise search systems, the mobile thing dusted with user experience malarkey will remain marginalized or just ignored.

Install Elasticsearch. Use prebuilt templates. Move on. Senior management won’t care. Users won’t care. Maybe if a search project comes in under budget someone in accounting will be happy with enterprise search for once.

Stephen E Arnold, August 20, 2015

Traditional Web Sites? The Second String

August 19, 2015

The Google – sorry, the Alpha Bet or Phab outfit – has spoken. Listen up, people. Navigate to “Are Desktop Sites Still Necessary? No, Says Google’s Mueller.” Phab wants to alpha surf on the mobile device thing.

I learned:

…Going mobile-first or mobile-only wouldn’t hurt a page’s rank, even in desktop search results. “I think what I’d try to make sure is that it still works on desktop and that it doesn’t show an error on desktop, but rather someone on desktop can still access it,” Mueller said. “What generally happens is, we will just include the mobile site in our search results, like any other site, and we will present it to desktop users.”

However, the write up includes this blast from the past approach:

“I usually have five to seven windows open at one time and I’ll be hopping from one thing to the next,” she adds. “Having multiple screens up – that’s tricky on a phone. You’re looking to move in and out of apps, and that’s not user-friendly, but at some point, will it be easier to do on a phone? Maybe [Mueller’s] statement can lead to that question: how could we get there and what are the things we find we still need our desktops for?”

Do not do as the phab folks do. Do as the phab outfit says.

Stephen E Arnold, August 19, 2015

Compare Trump to Lincoln with Watson Personality Insights

August 19, 2015

IBM’s Watson is employing its capabilities in a new and interesting way: BoingBoing asks, “What Does Your Writing Say About You? IBM Watson Personality Insights Will Tell You.” The software derives cognitive and social characteristics about people from their writings, using linguistic analytics. I never thought I’d see a direct, graphically represented comparison between speeches of Donald Trump and Abe Lincoln, but there it is. There are actually some similarities; they’re both businessmen turned politicians, after all. Reporter Andrea James shares Watson’s take on Trump’s “We Need Brain” speech from the recent Republican primary debate:

“You are a bit dependent, somewhat verbose and boisterous. You are susceptible to stress: you are easily overwhelmed in stressful situations. You are emotionally aware: you are aware of your feelings and how to express them. And you are prone to worry: you tend to worry about things that might happen. Your choices are driven by a desire for efficiency. You consider both independence and helping others to guide a large part of what you do. You like to set your own goals to decide how to best achieve them. And you think it is important to take care of the people around you.”

For comparison, see the write-up for the analysis of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (rest assured, Lincoln does come out looking better than Trump). The article also supplies this link, where you can submit between 3500 and 6000 words for Watson’s psychoanalysis; as James notes, you can submit writing penned by yourself, a friend, or an enemy (or some random blogger, perhaps.) To investigate the software’s methodology, click here.

Cynthia Murrell, August 19, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Search Your Yahoo Mail? Yeah, Right

August 19, 2015

While Web site search used to be considered the worst before Google released a high-performing search widget, the title now officially goes to email search.  Nobody wants to search through their email to find a missing email and you are doomed if you even think about using a mail application such as Outlook or Apple Mail.   In part of its rebranding effort, Yahoo is taking measures to fix email search, says the New York Times in “Yahoo Tweaks Email To Make Search More Personal.”

Yahoo has been working for a year to improve email search and now Yahoo mail has implemented the changes.  It now offers auto complete and suggestions when a search term is typed into the query box.  It will also index attachments and links included in emails, so users do not have to find the actual email they were in.  The sorting options have also been updated and social media accounts can now be synced.

The changes are small and the auto complete/suggestions usually revert to basic keyword suggestions, but it is a step in the right direction.  Yahoo does not want to overhaul the mail system too quickly, because, as anyone knows, too many changes at once are upsetting to users.

“Instead, Yahoo is subtly making changes. Last month, for example, it added a small plus button to the bottom right of the window used to compose emails. If you click on that button, you can drag and drop photos and documents from your email archive, pull in an animated GIF from Yahoo’s Tumblr social network, or add the results of a web search.”

Yahoo made a good business choice and is working to improve its email and other applications.  It will be interesting to watch the changes unfold.

Whitney Grace, August 19, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Android: No Fragmentation, You Haters

August 7, 2015

I posted a story in Beyond Search a couple of years ago called “Google Asserts No Android Fragmentation.” One of the readers of that story posted this comment on April 12, 2012. I don’t know Mr. Juliano, and I assume he is, like any other reader of Beyond Search, a person on superior intellect and insightful analyses. He wrote (an I leave his post uncorrected since one doesn’t fiddle with an expert’s statements):

There is no such thing as fragmentation on Android. I bought an android phone and it came with whatever OS version it came with (I have no idea what version it is) nor do I care what version it is. All I care is that it works. Compared to Apple, it does circles around iOS. “fragmentation” only seems to matter to developers (i personally believe this is just made up by apple shills to try to discredit android since it has overtaken iOS devices world wide).

I thought of this post when I read “One Look at This Ridiculous Diagram Tells You Why the Android Business Is Such a Disaster Right Now.” I assume that this Business Insider article was written by an individual lacking the discernment of Mr. Juliano. Let me show you a tiny version of the “diagram.”


The point is that there are lots and lots of different colors in the chart. I particularly like the motif of the lower right hand quadrant.

The write up states:

That [the fragmentation visualization] is a ridiculous number of different Android devices. (Apple, by comparison, has about four different iPhones for sale at any one time.) Nobody needs that level of choice.

The write up references brand fragmentation. Plus the article includes a quote to note:

Android companies need to concentrate on making one or two really excellent phones and tablets and let the devil take the hindmost. Because the current strategy ‚ throwing crap at the wall and seeing what sticks — is obviously failing.

We have, therefore, an honest difference of opinion. On one side, we have the informed Beyond Search reader. On the other, we have the Business Insider write up.

I will leave it to you to figure out whether Google has fumbled the Android ball. Like the Google European Community market dominance legal matter, perhaps the Google is demonstrating that it may have some issues with its mobile “strategery”.

Stephen E Arnold, August 7, 2015

Hey Google Doubters, Burn This into Your Memory

August 6, 2015

It has been speculated that Google would lose its ad profits as mobile search begins to dominate the search market but Quartz tells a different story in the article, “Mobile Isn’t Ruining Google’s Search Business After All.”  Google’s revenue continues to grow, especially with YouTube, but search remains its main earner.

According to the second-quarter earnings, Google earned $12.4 billion in Google Web sites, a $1.5 billion increase from last year.  Google continues to grow on average $1.6 billion per quarter.  Being able to maintain a continuous growth proves that Google is weathering the mobile search market.  Here is some other news, the mobile search revolution is now and not in the future.

“That is, if mobile really was going to squeeze Google’s search advertising business, we probably would have already seen it start by now. Smartphone penetration keeps deepening—with 75% saturation in the US market, according to comScore. And for many top media properties, half of the total audience only visits on mobile, according to a recent comScore report on mobile media consumption.”

There are new actions that could either impede or help Google search, such as deep linking between apps and the Web and predictive information services, but these are still brand new and their full effect has not been determined.

Google refuses to be left behind in the mobile search market and stands to be a main competitor for years to come.

Whitney Grace, August 6, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Humans Screw Up the Self-Driving Car Again

August 5, 2015

Google really, really wants its self-driving cars to be approved for consumer usage.  While the cars have been tested on actual roads, they have also been accompanied by car accidents.  The Inquirer posted the article, “Latest Self-Driving Car Crash Injures Three Google Employees” about how the public might not be ready for self-driving vehicles.  Google, not surprisingly, blames the crash on humans.

Google has been testing self-driving cars for over six years and there have been a total of fourteen accidents involving the vehicles.  The most recent accident is the first that resulted in injuries.  Three Google employees were using the self-driving vehicle during Mountain View, California rush hour traffic on July 1. When the accident occurred, each of the three employees were treated for whiplash.  Google says that its car was not at fault and a distracted driver was at caused the accident, which is also the reason for the other accidents.

While Google is upset, the accidents have not hindered their plans, they have motivated them to push forward.  Google explained that:

“ ‘The most recent collision, during the evening rush hour on 1 July, is a perfect example. The light was green, but traffic was backed up on the far side, so three cars, including ours, braked and came to a stop so as not to get stuck in the middle of the intersection.  After we’d stopped, a car slammed into the back of us at 17 mph? ?and it hadn’t braked at all.’ ”

Google continues to insist that human error and inattention are ample reason to allow self-driving cars on the road.  While it is hard to trust a machine with driving a weapon going 50 miles per hour, why do we trust people who have proven to be poor drivers with a license?

Whitney Grace, August 5, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Instagram’s Search Feature Is A Vast Improvement

July 27, 2015

Instagram apparently knows more about your life than you or your friends.  The new search overhaul comes with new features that reveal more information than you ever expected to get from Instagram. VentureBeat reviews the new search feature and explains how it works: “Hands-On: Instagram’s New Search And Explore Features Are A Massive Improvement.”

Many of the features are self-explanatory, but have improved interactivity and increased the amount of eye candy.

  • Users can Explore Posts, which are random photos from all over Instagram and they can be viewed as a list or thumbnails.
  • The Discover People feature suggests possible people for users to follow. According the article, it dives deep into your personal social network and suggests people you never thought Instagram knew about.
  • Curated Collections offer content based off pre-selected categories that pull photos from users’ uploads.

Trending tags is another new feature:

“Trending Tags is Instagram’s attempt at gauging the platform’s pulse. If you’ve ever wondered what most people on Instagram are posting about, trending tags has the answer. These seemed very random and oddly insightful.”

Instagram is quickly becoming a more popular social media platform than Facebook and Twitter for some people.  Its new search feature makes it more appealing to users and increases information discovery.  Be sure that you will be spending hours on it.

Whitney Grace, July 27, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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