Google Quirks Identified

October 3, 2022

Stadia went away. The Hacker News thread “Stadia Died Because No One Trusts Google” included some comments which identified what some perceive as inherent Google defects. My hunch is that these defects can be stretched to cover other Google services, maybe the firm’s approach to advertising and “artificial intelligence.”

Here are a handful of comments which I found interesting:

h0l0cube: Google, Facebook, etc. are victims of early success. They made their billions on low hanging fruit, by throwing a lot of resources at problems with very high demand for a solution that weren’t yet tackled well (e.g. query the internet, keep in touch with friends). So it’s no wonder that in this day in age they are incapable of understanding product market fit, innovating, or competing in a market with competent players and a lower barrier to entry.

vxNsr: Google isn’t especially excited by OS, because their bread and butter is all in the cloud they just don’t have the institutional energy to care about consumer software for the consumer’s sake.

marcinzm: Even Google’s more public attempts at innovation are toys rather than useful products.

bitcharmer: These days their [Google’s] DNA is ads.

chopface: … Googlers just don’t care about people. They care about puzzles and systematicity.

josephg: Every time Google shuts down a product, they hurt their reputation. They’re pissing in the pool that future Google products need to survive. At this point I don’t know if Google can make successful new products because nobody trusts their follow through.

hinkley: IMO, Google died the day they announced they weren’t going to work on anything with less than a billion dollar revenue potential. It sounds like a financially smart thing to do but it cuts your legs out because nobody is doing research anymore, and you select for people with half a billion potential and an eagerness to lie.

Interesting to me, probably not to Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind, definitely not to DeepMind. I can hear this echoing in my mind, “Senator, thank you for the question.”

Stephen E Arnold, October 3, 2022

Amnesty International: Unfriending As an Agent of Change

October 3, 2022

I read “Meta’s Horrendous Role in Facilitating Rohingya Genocide Detailed in New Report.” I am not sure how much of the story is just more of the “Get the Zuck Out of Here” versus objective, dispassionate analysis. You can decide for yourself after you read “The Social Atrocity: Meta and the Right to Remedy for the Rohingya.” You can download the report from Amnesty International at this link.

In the cited article “Meta’s Horrendous…”, I noted this statement:

Meta is being sued for $150 billion by refugees for its role in the violence.

The number is interesting. If the litigation achieves its goal, the Meta outfit (what I call the Zuckbook) will have to write a check. I wonder how much the possible settlement will go to legal eagles?

Another interesting statement in the cited article said:

“Amnesty International’s analysis shows how Meta’s content-shaping algorithms and reckless business practices facilitated and enabled discrimination and violence against the Rohingya,” the report said. “Meta’s algorithms directly contributed to harm by amplifying harmful anti-Rohingya content, including advocacy of hatred against the Rohingya. They also indirectly contributed to real-world violence against the Rohingya, including violations of the right to life, the right to be free from torture, and the right to adequate housing, by enabling, facilitating, and incentivizing the actions of the Myanmar military.”

I noted the word “reckless”, “torture”, and “military.” The word choice suggests that the Zuckbook can be weaponized because its management team was otherwise engaged.

True or false? My hunch is that the litigation will provide an answer. Oh, the payday for the legal eagles involved will feather some nests.

Stephen E Arnold, October 3, 2022

Repeating Ads: Good Business?

October 3, 2022

Ad tiers are a viable way to make streaming services affordable to more viewers, a reality even Netflix and Disney Plus have accepted. There is just one problem. The Verge implores, “Streaming Services Need to Stop Showing Me the Same Ad Over and Over (and Over).” Writer David Pierce describes an annoyance all too familiar to many of us: shows punctuated with the same ad so often one involuntarily memorizes it. A first-world problem to be sure, but maddening none the less. Advertisers bear the brunt of viewer annoyance—too much repetition and viewers may vow never to purchase the now overly familiar product. But it is not advertisers’ fault. The write-up explains:

“There’s a perfectly rational reason for why this happens, by the way. It’s all about ad targeting. Let’s just take my own recent example, CroppMetcalfe. I’m a new homeowner, in the company’s area of service, with a 20-year-old HVAC unit that we know is going to need to be replaced soon. There’s a pretty good chance CroppMetcalfe knows that, too! I’m absolutely the company’s target market. But there aren’t that many people in my exact situation, and Peacock surely promised the company a certain number of ad impressions. If there were a million people who fit the bill, no problem. But if there are 500 of us, and a million impressions to serve, I’m going to get an awful lot of that five-star jingle. Everybody involved has a reason to fix this, too. There’s evidence to show that people who see the same ad over and over and over actually become less likely to buy the thing being advertised, and customers have been complaining about repetitive ads for years. In a Morning Consult survey from last year, 69 percent of respondents said the ads on streaming services were either ‘very repetitive’ or ‘somewhat repetitive.'”

To make matters worse there is currently no way to coordinate ad campaigns across providers, which means the same repeated ads dog viewers from platform to platform. The important question is whether showing the same ad over and over again is a type of online advertising fraud. Annoyance is one thing; sucking down the advertiser’s money for zero payoff or even negative returns is quite another. Pierce offers a couple suggestions. He likes the rare practice of showing one long ad at the beginning of a show and leaving viewers to watch the rest in peace. Then there are ads that display on the pause screen when one has already interrupted oneself. Whatever the solution, it would be best to fix the problem before someone gets sued.

Could this repetition be a form of “soft” fraud?

Cynthia Murrell, October 3, 2022

Microsoft Teams: Ho Ho Ho

September 30, 2022

That Microsoft Teams is something. I refuse to use it. Others have to use it. I am happy with Zoom. I am fortunate. I can dictate what video tool I use. You? No. Too bad. I try not to think about Teams. I admit to sending my son notices of new Teams’ features, and he has a great sense of humor and sends me smiley faces as a reply. I am not sure he is smiling inside, however.

I noted that Teams popped up in a link to a YCombinator discussion “Why Is Microsoft Teams Still So Bad?.” The comments are informative and interesting; for example:

  • Roydivision says: Random crashing.
  • Classified says: Once the bean counters discover that you can make money with a piece of software, the game is over.
  • M4lvin says: In Germany (or maybe whenever the system language is German) Microsoft decided that everyone should have a Ferris wheel and a bezel in their task bar because now it is Oktoberfest in Munich. Seriously? I think we have reached spam-as-an-operating-system.
  • Yawnxyz says: Microsoft product suites are like the Olive Garden of the product world.
  • Cyberge99 says: I think Teams also offers more capabilities to Enterprise users. I’ve been on a few teams calls with people on the call that are not visible in the attendee list.

What’s interesting is that:

  1. People complain but organizations use Microsoft products due to pricing, compliance, institutional momentum, security assertions, familiarity, etc. (Does this mean “monopoly”?)
  2. Microsoft seems to be assembling a communications equivalent to Word; that is, many features, some of which do not work or cannot be located by a user not intimately familiar with the application. (Is this terminal featuritis?)
  3. Microsoft’s assertions to the media are not fact checked; otherwise, the comments in the cited thread might be less creditable. (Does science fiction count as a technology deliverable?)

I found the question interesting, but the comments speak more effectively than an equivalent number of TikToks. Viva Teams!

Stephen E Arnold, September 30, 2022

Will Simplicity Sprint Help Google Contend with iPhone Rise?

September 30, 2022

It appears Android users have just been relegated to the minority in the US, at least for the moment. Apple Insider reports, “There Are More iPhones in Use in the USA than Android Phones.” Writer William Gallagher tells us:

“Counterpoint Research has previously reported that on a quarterly basis, Apple’s sales of the iPhone are growing. New research from Counterpoint discusses the total installed pool of smartphones that are actually in active use — and iPhones now account for just slightly over 50% of actively used smartphones in the States. According to the Financial Times, Counterpoint analysts have said that this is Apple’s highest-ever share of active smartphone users since the original iPhone launch in 2007.”

So, what is Google’s next phone move? Perhaps it will be another “Simplicity Sprint” like the one CEO Sundar Pichai recently launched in the face of dismal productivity numbers: the company’s second-quarter revenue growth was a mere 13%, down from 62% a year before. The project is asking employees for ideas to boost efficiency. Historically, Google has been considered the most worker-centric big tech company (contrast to Amazon, for example). Some have said that culture is changing; perhaps employees will wax nostalgic on their feedback forms.

Whatever the results, writer and programmer Pen Magnet thinks Pichai would do better to consider some factors unique to programming. In “Why Google Employees Don’t Work,” published at Level Up Coding, they write:

“When it comes to productivity, quarterly and yearly figures don’t matter much for huge companies. They have decade-long product-rollout plans. If something is looking bad today, it’s more likely to be rooted in someone’s bad judgment 5 years ago, who is currently out of the blame-game horizon. … As a 2-decade veteran programmer, every time I think of productivity, all I can think of is excellence. In other words, the fastest way to do something is to do it right, no matter how long it takes.”

If that apparent contradiction piques your interest, see the write-up for more discussion. Will Google find a way to better compete with Apple, or will iOS capture more of the upscale US market for mobile phones?

Cynthia Murrell, September 30, 2022

Amazon Strategy: Just Prime the Pump with Low Grade Fuel

September 30, 2022

Have you pulled into a filling station in rural Missouri, filled your tank, and driven into the beauty of the state? Enjoyable, right. At least it was fun until the motor died because the fuel you purchased won’t run in your whale killing, dolphin destroying vehicle with a giant V8 and oversized wheels.

Bummer.

I think that’s how some Amazon employees feel after reading an email explaining that Amazons payroll department is not very good at math. You know. The hard math of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Strike that: Amazon has subtraction and division (maybe divisiveness) under control.

Oops, Amazon Emails Staff with News It Miscalculated Their Compensation” reports what may be “real news”:

A one-time bonus that was part of their compensation package had been miscalculated due to a software error and would be lower than what they had been told … The bonuses had initially been calculated using older, higher stock prices and about 40% of promoted employees this quarter were affected by the error.

No biggie. Just 40 percent of the Amazon happy tribe of Bezos bulldozer drivers.

The lower pay tier workers at the joyful Amazon money factory heard some bad news earlier, according to the write up:

Earlier this month, CEO Andy Jassy said that a $25 minimum wage is unlikely.

Interesting. Perhaps this ineptitude explains why Amazon has been less than revealing in some of its financial reports. The term for this is either inepticity, duplicity, or innumeracy, but that’s just my personal opinion.

What happened to my next day delivery?

Stephen E Arnold, September 30, 2022

Board Games at Microsoft? Maybe Corner Cutting?

September 30, 2022

I noted a write up called “Anonymous Lays Waste to Russian Message Board, Releases Entire Database Online.” The article describes what a merrie band of anonymous, distributed bad actors can do in today’s decentralized, Web 3 world of online games like Cat and Mouse. The article explains that Mr. Putin’s bureaucracy is a big, fat, and easy target to attack. One statement in the article caught my attention; to wit:

For all their reputation on cyber security and hacking, the Russians were careless…. KiraSec has taken down hundreds of Russian websites, Russian banks like alfabank, bank.yandex.ru, pro-Russian terror-leaning websites, Russian pedophile websites, Russian government websites, Russian porn sites and a lot more. The cyber activists also “hacked various Russian SCADAs and ICS, nuking their systems and completely destroying their industrial machines.”

I immediately thought about Microsoft’s Brad Smith suggesting that more than 1,000 programmers worked to make SolarWinds a household word. My thought was that Microsoft itself may share the systems engineering approach used to protect some Russian information assets. The key word is “careless.” Arrogance, indifference, and probably quite terrible management facilitated the loss of Russian data and the SolarWinds’ misstep.

I then spotted in my news headline stream this article from the UK online outfit The Register: “Excel’s Comedy of Errors Needs a New Script, Not New Scripting.” This article points out that Microsoft has introduced a new feature for Excel. I am not an individual who writes everything in Excel, including holiday greetings and lists of government officials names and email addresses. Some are.

Here’s the passage I circled after I printed out the write up on a piece of paper:

Excel is already the single most dangerous tool to give to civilians. You can get things wrong in Word and PowerPoint all day long, and while they have their own security fun you’re not getting things wrong through a series of tiny letterboxes behind which can live the company’s most important numerical data. The Excel Blunder is its own genre of corporate terror: it brings down companies, it breaches data like a excited whale seeking sunlight, it can make a mockery of pandemic control. And because Excel is the only universal tool most users get for organizing any sort of data, the abuses and perversions it gets put to are endless.

What’s the connection between bad actors hacking Russia, Microsoft’s explanation of the SolarWinds’ misstep, and Excel’s new scripting method?

Insecurity appears to be part of the core business process.

No big deal. Some bad actors and a few cyber security vendors will be happy. Others will be “careless” and maybe clueless. That’s Clue the board game, not the motion picture.

Stephen E Arnold, September 30, 2022

Google and Its Smart Software: Marketing Fodder and Investment Compost

September 29, 2022

Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind is “into” smart software. The idea is that synthetic data, off-the-shelf models, and Google’s secret sauce will work wonders. Now this series of words is catnip for AGYD’s marketing and sales professionals. Grrrreat, as Tony the Tiger used to say about a fascinating cereal decades ago. Grrreat!

However, there may be a slight disconnect between the AGYD smart software papers, demonstrations, and biology-shaking protein thing and the cold, hard reality of investment payback. Keep in mind that AGYD is about money, not the social shibboleths in the stream of content marketing.

Google Ventures Shelves Its Algorithm” states:

Google Ventures has mothballed an algorithm that for years had served as a gatekeeper for new investments… GV [Google Ventures] still relies heavily on data. After all, this is the corporate venture arm of Google. But data has been relegated to its original role as aide, rather than arbiter.

I interpreted the report to mean: Yikes! It does not work and Googley humans have to make decisions about investments.

The spin is that the algos are helpful. But the decision is humanoid.

I wonder, “What other AGYD algos don’t deliver what users, advertisers, and Googlers expected?”

Google listens to those with lots of money at risk. Does Google listen to other constituencies? Did Google take the criticism of its smart software to heart?

My hunch is that the smart software is lingo perfect for marketing outputs. Some of the outputs of the smart software are compost, rarely shown to the public and not sniffed by too many people. Will Tony the Tiger inhale and growl, “Grrreat”? Sure, sure, Tony will.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2022

Innovation at the Tweeter Thing: Going in Circles?

September 29, 2022

It looks like Twitter may be infected with feature-it is, an unfortunate condition that afflicts most social-media platforms sooner or later. Gizmodo reports, “Twitter Circles Have Arrived, and Here’s How To Use Them.” Seemingly channeling the ghost of Google Plus, the tool allows users to restrict a tweet to a certain set of users. Writer David Nield tells us:

“Unlike the edit option, Circles isn’t exclusive to Twitter Blue subscribers, and everyone should be able to access the feature now (or in the very near future). The idea is that maybe you don’t want all of the friends, family, colleagues, strangers, bots and brand accounts that follow you on Twitter to see everything you post. Perhaps you want some tweets—your opinions on obscure folk music of the early 2000s, for example—to only reach a limited audience. That’s where Twitter Circles comes in, and the feature isn’t difficult to use. Unlike the Google Plus implementation, Twitter is only giving users one circle, at least for now. No doubt the hope is that it will get people to tweet more: Something private that you might have previously hesitated to share can now be posted to the timelines of a private and select group of people.”

Of course, boosting traffic is in Twitter’s best interests. We learn users cannot opt out of a Circle they’d like to avoid, unless they are willing to mute, block, or unfollow the sender. Again, no real surprise there. Nield describes how to use Twitter Circle on both mobile and desktop, complete with screenshots, so interested readers can see the write-up for those details.

Cynthia Murrell, September 30, 2022

Microsoft Viva: Live to Work, Work to Live

September 29, 2022

I read about a weird Microsoft innovation. No, it’s not about security. No, it’s not about getting a printer to work in Windows 11. No, it’s not about the bloat in Microsoft Edge. And — at least not yet — it’s not about the wild and extremely wonderful world of Microsoft Teams.

The title of the article in Computerworld is “Microsoft Viva Enhancements Address Employee Disconnect in Hybrid Work Environments.” After explaining why humans invented an office or factory to which employees went to complete tasks, the author provides to illustrate why the work from home approach is not a productivity home run. Employees like to get paid and fiddle around. Work is often hard. (I did spot one Italian government employee sitting in a one room office in Sienna doing absolutely nothing. I checked on the fellow three times over three days. Nothing. No visitors. No phone buzzing. Not even a computer in site. Now that’s a reliable worker… doing nothing with style.)

Let’s get to the Microsoft inventions, shall we?

The product/service is Microsoft Viva and it has the usual Redmond touch. There is Viva Pulse and there is Viva Amplify.

What’s up?

According to the write up:

Viva Pulse is designed to enable managers and team leaders to seek regular and confidential feedback on their team’s experience, using smart templates and research-backed questions to help managers pinpoint what’s working well, where to focus, and what actions could be undertaken to address team needs.

And next up:

Viva Amplify is meant to improve communication between leaders and employees. The app centralizes communications campaigns, offers writing guidance to improve message resonance, enables publishing across multiple channels and distribution groups in Microsoft 365, and provides metrics for improvement.

Other extensions may be Viva Answers, Viva Leadership Corner, Viva Engage, and my personal favorite People in Viva.

These products include Microsoft smart software which will perform such managerial magic as answer employee questions. Also the systems will put “collective knowledge to work for all employees.” (I love categorical affirmatives, don’t you. So universal.) There will be a Leadership Corner where employees “can interact directly with leadership, share ideas and perspectives, participate in organization initiatives, and more.”

Okay, I can’t summarize any more.

My take on this is that Microsoft got a group of 20 somethings together, possibly in a coffee shop, and asked them to conjure up a way for employees working on a project in their jammies to communicate. The result is Viva, and it will be pitched by certified partners to big customers as a productivity enhancement tool. If I were trying to sell this to a government agency, I would say, “This is an umbrella under which Teams can operate. Synergy. Shazam! Oh, the first year is free when you renew your existing Microsoft licenses.”

My concern is that the:

  • Viva construct will expand the attack service for bad actors
  • The numerous moving parts will not move in the way users expect
  • Managers will find learning the constantly updating Viva components time consuming and just go walk to phone calls and managing by walking around.

Great innovation? Hardly. To Microsoft, however, this is the equivalent to discovering a new thing to sell and distract people from some of Microsoft’s more interesting issues. Example: Security challenges.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2022

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