April 6, 2013
One of my two or three readers sent me a link to a LinkedIn post in the Information Access and Search Professionals section of the job hunting and consultant networking service. LinkedIn owns Slideshare (a hosting service for those who are comfortable communicating with presentations) and Pulse (an information aggregation service which plays the role of a selective dissemination of information service via a jazzy interface).
The posting which the reader wanted me to read was “How Natural Language Processing Will Change E Commerce Search Forever.” Now that is a bold statement. Most of the search systems we have tested feature facets, prediction, personalization, hit boosting for specials and deals, and near real time inventory updating.
The company posting the information put a version of the LinkedIn information on the Web at Inbenta.
The point of the information is to suggest that Inbenta can deliver more functionality which is backed by what is called “search to buy conversions.” In today’s economy, that’s catnip to many ecommerce site owners who—I presume—use Endeca, Exalead, SLI, and EasyAsk, among others.
I am okay with a vendor like Inbenta or any of the analytics hustlers asserting that one type of cheese is better than another. In France alone, there are more than 200 varieties and each has a “best”. When it comes to search, there is no easy way to do a tasting unless I can get my hands on the fungible Chevrotin.
Search, like cheese, has to be experienced, not talked about. A happy nibble to Alpes gourmet at http://www.alpesgourmet.com/fromage-savoie-vercors/1008.php
In the case of this Inbenta demonstration, I am enjoined to look at two sets of results from a the Grainger.com site. The problem is I cannot read the screenshots. I am not able to determine if the present Grainer.com site is the one used for the “before” and “after” examples.
Next I am asked to look at queries from PCMall.com. Again, I could not read the screenshots. The write up says:
Again, the actual details of the search results are not important; just pay attention that both are very different. But in both cases, wasn’t what we searched basically the same thing? Why are the results so different?
The same approach was used to demonstrate that Amazon’s ecommerce search is doing some interesting things. Amazon is working on search at this time, and I think the company realizes that its system for ecommerce and for the hosted service leaves something out of the cookie recipe.
My view is that if a vendor wants to call attention to differences, perhaps these simple guidelines would eliminate the confusion and frustration I experience when I try to figure out what is going on, what is good and bad, and how the outputs differ:
First, provide a link to each of the systems so I can run the queries and look at the results myself. I did not buy into the Watson Jeopardy promotion because in television, magic takes place in some editing studios. Screenshots which I cannot read nor replicate open the door to similar suspicions.
Second, to communicate the “fix” I need more than an empty data table. A list of options does not help me. We continue to struggle with systems which describe a “to be” future yet cannot deliver a “here and now” result. I have a long and winding call with an analytics vendor in Nashville, Tennessee which follows a similar, abstract path in explaining what the company’s technology does. If one cannot show functionality, I don’t have time to listen to science fiction.
Third, the listing of high profile sites is useful for search engine optimization, but not for making crystal clear the whys and wherefores of a content processing system. Specific information is needed, please.
To wrap up, let me quote from the Inbenta essay:
By applying these techniques on e-commerce website search, we have accomplished the following results in the first few weeks.
- Increase in conversion ratio: +1.73%
- Increase average purchase value: +11%
Okay, interesting numbers. What is the factual foundation of them? What method was used to calculate the deltas? What was the historical base of the specific sites in the sample?
In a world in which vendors and their pet consultants jump forward with predictions, assertions, and announcements of breakthroughs—some simple facts can be quite helpful. I am okay with self promotion but when asking me to see comparisons, I have to be able to run the queries myself. Without that important step, I am skeptical just as I was with the sci-fi fancies of the folks who put marketing before substance.
Stephen E Arnold, April 6, 2013
Sponsored by Augmentext
March 18, 2013
Google Commerce seems to have gone the way of so many other seemingly good ideas from the search giant: it was sent out to the pasture. However, this leaves an interesting wake as we discovered in a recent Virtual Strategy story, “EasyAsk Announces Google Commerce Replacement Program.”
The article shares:
“The search industry is undergoing an enormous change as the largest companies in the world evolve from simple Keyword Search to a more advanced, semantic Natural Language search model. IBM Watson, Apple Siri, and even Google Internet search are now deploying smarter search algorithms that don’t rely on Keyword Search. Since 2001, EasyAsk has lead the industry in providing the fastest, most accurate search results for online shoppers using Natural Language search that understands the context of the search query.”
Despite some initial fears, this is an exciting time for search. With Google’s flawed Commerce program out of the way, we suspect there will be a rise in others who will pick up the slack. Interestingly, EasyAsk has the early lead in this race and one we suspect they will hold on to. Ever since the company rolled out it’s Quiri (a Siri-like verbal component), we’ve had a feeling this was a hot company on the rise. Now, with Google Commerce gone, we know it’s a fact.
Patrick Roland, March 18, 2013
February 10, 2013
I read “IBM Supercomputer Watson to Help in Cancer Treatment.” I am burned out on the assertions of search, content processing, and analytics vendors. The algorithms predict, deliver actionable information, and answer tough questions. Okay, I will just believe these statements. Most of the folks with whom I interact either believe these statements or do not really care.
Watson, as you may know, takes open source goodness, layers on a knowledge base, and wraps the confection in layers of smart software. I am simplifying, but the reality is irrelevant given the marketing need.
Here’s the passage I noted:
A year ago, a team at Memorial Sloan-Kettering started working with an IBM and a WellPoint team to train Watson to help doctors choose therapies for breast and lung cancer patients. They continue to share their knowledge and expertise in oncology and information technology, beginning with hundreds of lung cancers, the aim being to help Watson learn as much as possible about cancer care and how oncologists use medical data, as well as their experiences in personalized cancer therapies. During this period, doctors and technology experts have spent thousands of hours helping Watson learn how to process, analyze and interpret the meaning of sophisticated clinical data using natural language processing; the aim being to achieve better health care quality and efficiency.
There you go. For the dozens of companies working to create next generation information retrieval systems which are affordable, actually work, and can be deployed without legions of engineers—game over. IBM Watson has won the search battle. Now for the optimists who continue to pump money into decade old search companies which have modest revenue growth, kiss those bucks goodbye. For the PhD students working on the revolutionary system which promises to transform findability, get a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. And Google? Well, IBM knows your limits so stick to selling ads.
IBM is doing it all:
Manoj Saxena, IBM General Manager, Watson Solutions, said:
“IBM’s work with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center represents a landmark collaboration in how technology and evidence based medicine can transform the way in which health care is practiced. breakthrough capabilities bring forward the first in a series of Watson-based technologies, which exemplifies the value of applying big data and analytics and cognitive computing to tackle the industry’s most pressing challenges.”
How different is Watson from the HP Autonomy, Recommind, or even the DR LINK technology? Well, maybe the open source angle is the same. But IBM needs to do more than make assertions and buy analytics companies as the company recycles open source technology in my opinion. I thought IBM was a consulting firm? Here I am wrong again. Watson probably “knew” that after hours of training, tuning, and talking. But in the back of my mind, I ask, “What if those training data are inapplicable to the problem at hand? What if the journal articles are fiddled by tenure seekers or even pharmaceutical outfits or institutions trying to maximize insurance payouts or careless record keeping by medical staff? Nah, irrelevant questions. IBM has this smart system nailed. Search solved. What’s next IBM?
Stephen E Arnold, February 10, 2013
January 14, 2013
Several biotechnology companies raced to release new 2012 products and we were filled in on these new releases by Bio IT World in their recent summary. A few important briefings related to the industry were also described in December Product and News Briefs.
In addition to reporting industry news from big players like IBM and announcing job opportunities, the majority of attention has been places on new products from Linguamatics, PerkinElmer, Titan Software, SoftGenetics, and Optibrium. These were all launched in the final month of 2012; however, most notably, Linguamatics has rolled out version 4.0 of text mining software platform, I2E.
The article discusses how natural language text mining will be opened up to a variety of different users with various needs. Continuing out of this topic, the author states:
“Regardless of how many disparate data sources need to be mined, I2E now has the power to analyze and extract information and knowledge from all of them simultaneously. Linguamatics I2E can now deal with recognition of novel compounds, which will give informaticians, researchers and patent analysts the power to investigate uncharted areas of innovation.”
Overall, this website offered a nice summary of some new products with Linguamatics offering some developments worth noting in the land of natural language processing. We shall see what 2013 holds.
Megan Feil, January 14, 2013
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Beyond Search
December 19, 2012
Explore Consulting recently published, “EasyAsk Partners with Explore Consulting to Help Fusion Beads – a NetSuite e-Commerce Site- to Improve Search and Navigation,” a news release announcing a new partnership offering e-retail customers an improved shopping experience.
According to the article, EasyAsk, a provider of natural language solutions technology, and Explore Consulting have partnered to deliver natural language e-commerce solutions to retailers using the NetSuite e-commerce platform. This platform ensures that all page content is search friendly and maintains centralized data.
The article states:
“After selecting NetSuite as a new e-commerce platform, Fusion Beads turned to Explore Consulting and EasyAsk because they wanted to make it easier for their customers to navigate the wide range of products offered through their website – more than 50,000 items. Not only does Fusion Beads offer a lot of products, but they also catalog a tremendous amount of product and project data to ensure their customers are getting what they need. With the EasyAsk solution, Fusion Beads can now configure down to the item level the product attributes that should be used for search and navigation from over 600 custom item fields they currently use.”
This new partnership allows Fusion Beads and other companies the ability to maintain website information automatically with improved search and navigation.
Jasmine Ashton, December 19, 2012
November 16, 2012
The Stock Blog posts its perspective on Oracle’s purchase of RightNow Technologies in “Oracle’s RightNow Bid could Breed More SaaS M&A.” The brief write up explains:
“Companies in the software-as-a-service business were higher on speculation that Oracle‘s acquisition of RightNow announced Monday means more M&A [mergers and acquisitions]in the industry.
“Oracle (ORCL) said it would pay $43 per share, which amounts to an enterprise-value-to-revenue multiple of 5.5x compared to a 4.5x average multiple for a basket of SaaS companies, according to FBR Capital Markets. FBR says Oracle’s diversified software and hardware portfolio ‘positions the company well to weather the uncertain economic climate. We believe Oracle’s engineered systems (Exadata and Exalogic) strategy, coupled with Fusion Applications, should allow the company to take market share from its rivals, namely IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and SAP. We reiterate our Outperform rating and $38 price target.’”
Interesting. The piece goes on to note some other players in the Software as a Service and customer service markets. It also mentions that RightNow’s earnings look healthy. Well, that’s good.
But what about RightNow’s natural language processing? We want to know what Oracle ultimately plans to do with the technology behind RightNow CX, the company’s cloud-hosted customer experience suite. Currently, information about the product is available here, at Oracle’s site. RightNow was founded in 1997, and is headquartered in Bozeman, Montana.
Cynthia Murrell, November 16, 2012
August 14, 2012
The New York Times has published an extensive account of the natural-language tragedy, “Goldman Sachs and the $580 Million Black Hole.” The five page article is a very interesting read. The gist, though, is simple enough: Goldman Sachs failed to look out for their client’s best interests. What a surprise.
You have probably heard of the natural language software NaturallySpeaking, developed by Dragon Systems. Dragon Systems is, at heart, the enterprising Jim and Janet Baker, who spent almost twenty years building their innovative software and their company. In fact, their work is considered to have advanced speech technology much faster than anyone expected. Some of it might even have made its way into Apple’s Siri.
When it came time to reap their rewards, the pair turned to Goldman Sachs for advice on the over-half-billion-dollar deal. Back in 1999, it still seemed like a good idea to trust the prominent investment firm. It wasn’t. Reporter Loren Feldman summarizes the trouble:
“With Goldman Sachs on the job, the corporate takeover of Dragon Systems in an all-stock deal went terribly wrong. Goldman collected millions of dollars in fees — and the Bakers lost everything when Lernout & Hauspie was revealed to be a spectacular fraud. . . . Only later did the Bakers learn that Goldman Sachs itself had at one point considered investing in L.& H. but had walked away after some digging into the company.
“This being Wall Street, a lot of money is now at stake. In federal court in Boston, the Bakers are demanding damages, including interest and legal fees, that could top $1 billion.”
Not only did Goldman direct their own dollars away from L.& H., the suit alleges, they also failed to scrutinize L.& H. for their client when Dragon’s CFO pointed out troubling signs. I turns out that the person in charge of such investigations had left Goldman and not been replaced. Oops. That didn’t keep Goldman from keeping the $5 million consultation fee. Naturally.
Meanwhile, companies who picked up pieces of the Bakers’ technology at auction after L.& H. fell have gone on to develop them into lucrative commodities. The couple was left with neither their invention nor any fraction of the money it was worth.
The case is expected to be decided sometime this November. Feldman burrowed into the wealth of legal filings surrounding the case to craft this article. He has found eye-opening insights into Goldman Sachs’ culture and practices. The piece is worth reading for that reason alone.
It is also a moving tale about a tech- and language-savvy couple who put in the time, effort, passion, and smarts to build their business, and who are now fighting to regain what is rightfully theirs. I wish them luck.
Cynthia Murrell, August 14, 2012
July 19, 2012
The study mentioned in the article, “Piper Jaffray ‘Street Test’ of Google vs. Siri Misses the Point,” was completed by Piper Jaffray and gave Google a “B+” and Siri a mere “D.” However, the author of the SEL article argues that the comparison is “apples to oranges” because Siri is not a search engine and should not be judged as such. The article goes on to explain:
“Siri’s mission isn’t to ‘organize all the world’s information.’ Rather Siri has a much more narrow range of functions as an ‘intelligent assistant.’ True, one of those functions is to deliver information in certain circumstances. But nobody involved with Siri would likely argue that it’s a substitute for Google in all but a handful of situations.
That’s mainly because Siri has a quite limited range of datasets that it’s working with, which are admittedly being expanded in iOS 6.”
The arguments continue throughout the article about the fundamental errors of the study and the true capabilities purposes of the two programs.
Yikes. We thought the point of these programs was simply churning shares and getting coverage. What’s with this accuracy stuff? How quickly folks forget the Madoffs and the JP Morgan misstep.
Andrea Hayden, July 19, 2012
Sponsored by IKANOW
July 9, 2012
Wikipedia is a go to source for quick answers outside the classroom, but many don’t realize Wiki is an ever evolving information source. Geekosystem’s article “Wikistats Show You What Parts Of Wikipedia Are Changing” provides a visual way to see what is changing within Wikipedia.
The performance program was explained as:
“Utilizing technology from Datasift, a social data platform with a specialization in real-time streams, Wikistats lists some clear, concise information you can use to see how Wikipedia is flowing and changing out from under you. Using Natural Language Processing, Wikistats is able to suss realtime trends and updates. In short, Wikistats will show you what pages are being updated the most right now, how many edits they get by how many unique users, and how many lines are being added vs. how many are being deleted.”
Enlightenment was gained when actually viewing the chart below:
This program calculates well defined reports on Wikipedia’s traffic, and Wiki frequenters might find the above chart surprising. The report in this case shows the reality that Wikipedia is an over flowing pool of information.
We are not saying Wikipedia is unreliable, but one should never solely rely on one information source. The chart simply provides a visual way to see what is changing within Wikipedia and help users understand how data flows. This programs potential for real time use on other sites could be tremendous.
Jennifer Shockley, July 9, 2012
July 2, 2012
Inteltrax, the data fusion and business intelligence information service, captured three key stories germane to search this week, specifically, what’s new with some of the biggest names in the business.
One rising company is bringing bright minds together, as we found in the story, “Lexalytics Conference Tackles Future of Analytics.”
“Latest Angoss Software Targets Unstructured Data” shows how a company not used to making waves in big data is doing just that in a major way.
Finally, “Digital Reasoning Leads in Partnerships,” shows one of the brightest minds in the business teaming with other smart companies to form a big data hydra head.
Big data is moving fast and the companies within the industry look like an atom smasher at times, they are going so quick. Look here to find the breakdown of every move and news bit for analytics.
Follow the Inteltrax news stream by visiting www.inteltrax.com
Patrick Roland, Editor, Inteltrax.
July 2, 2012