20 Years Ago: Primus Knowledge Solutions

March 20, 2023

Note: Written by a real-live dinobaby. No smart software involved.

I am not criticizing Primus Knowledge Solutions (acquired by ATG in 2004 and then Oracle purchased ATG in 2011). I would ask that you read this text and consider what was marketed in 2003. The source is a description of Primus’ Answer Engine which was once located at dub dub dub primus.com/products/answerEngine:

Primus Answer Engine helps companies take full advantage of the valuable content that already exists in corporate documents and databases. Using proprietary natural language processing, Answer Engine delivers quick, relevant answers to plain English questions by bringing widespread corporate knowledge to support, agents, as well as to customers, partners, and employees via the web.

What “features” did the system provide two decades ago? The fact sheet I picked up at a search conference in 2003 told me:

  • Natural language processing
  • Scalability
  • Database integration
  • All major document types
  • Insightful reporting
  • Customizable interface
  • Centralized administration.

The system can suggest questions and interprets these or other questions and returns a list of answers found in a company’s online documents. This allows users to view the answer in context if desired.

I mention Primus because it is one example from dozens in my files about NLP technology.

Several observations/questions:

  • Where is Oracle in the ChatGPT derby? May I suggest this link for starters.
  • Isn’t the principal difference between Primus and other NLP “smart software” users are chasing ChatGPT type systems, not innovators outputting marketing words?
  • Are issues like updating training models and their content, biases in the models themselves, and the challenge of accurate, current data enjoying the 2003 naïveté?

Net net: ChatGPT is just one manifestation of innovators’ attempts to deal with the challenge of finding accurate, on-point, and timely information in the digital world. (This is a world I call the datasphere.)

Stephen E Arnold, March 20, 2023

OSINT Analysts Alert: Biases Distilled to a One Page Cheat Sheet

March 20, 2023

Toward Parsimony in Bias Research: A Proposed Common Framework of Belief-Consistent Information Processing for a Set of Biases” is an academic write up. Usually I ignore these for two reasons: [a] the documents are content marketing designed to get a grant or further a career and [b] the results are non reproducible.

The write up, despite my skepticism of real researchers, contains one page which I think is a useful checklist of the pitfalls into which some people may happily [a] tumble, [b] live in, and [c] actively seek.

I know this image is unreadable, but I wanted to provide it with a hyperlink so you can snag the image and the full document:


Excellent work.

Stephen E Arnold, March 20, 2023

Rights Issues: How Can Money Be Extracted from Content?

March 20, 2023

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I gave up on “real” publishers when the outfits with which I was working in Sweden and the UK went to the big printing press in the multiverse. Yep, failure. I am mindful about image rights too, but that doesn’t mean my Craiyon.com images or the clip art I have in my files from the years of CD-ROMs with illustrations that were “free to use.” Ho ho ho on that marketing blather.

I want to call attention to two news items and then offer a comment or two not presented by other dinobabies watching the wide, wild, wonderful world of digital information.

The first item is the Italian government’s conclusion that the illustration by Leonardo d Vinci is not in the public domain. I used to have a T shirt I bought in Florence with the image on the overpriced, made-in-China garment. I wonder if that shop on the bridge near the secret passage some big wheel used in the 16th century? I would assume that the Italian government has hoovered these and converted them to recycling fodder. You can read about this in the article “Italy Decides That Leonardo da Vinci’s 500 Year Old Works Are Not In The Public Domain.” The subtitle of the write up is “from the locking-up-in-the-public-domain department.” The story reports:

According to the Italian Cultural Heritage Code and relevant case law, faithful digital reproductions of works of cultural heritage — including works in the Public Domain — can only be used for commercial purposes against authorization and payment of a fee. Importantly though, the decision to require authorization and claim payment is left to the discretion of each cultural institution (see articles 107 and 108). In practice, this means that cultural institutions have the option to allow users to reproduce and reuse faithful digital reproductions of Public Domain works for free, including for commercial uses. This flexibility is fundamental for institutions to support open access to cultural heritage.

The operative word is “fee.”

The second item is about Internet Archive, a controversial outfit from the point of view of some publishers. The idea is that Internet Archive offers electronic books for free. Free, not fee, is an important concept. Publishers, writers, agents, book cover artists, and probably a French bulldog or two want to get a piece of the money generated by charging for electronic books. Look Amazon does it, and publishers are not thrilled. But there is some money paid out which is going the right direction.

The report I read is “The Internet Archive Is a Library.” Libraries and publishers have a long history. On one hand, publishers love to sell books to libraries. On the other hand, libraries are not turning cartwheels because libraries loan eBooks and other digital artifacts to patrons. As long as the money streams flow, publishers and rights holders are semi-happy, a bit like a black sheep of the family getting a few bucks when Uncle Tom goes to the big printing shop in the sky where my defunct publishers hopefully work setting type by hand.

The article says:

Despite its incredible library collections, which serve the needs of millions of people, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons Inc., and Penguin Random House assert that the Internet Archive is not a real library.

If one is not a real library, that institution must pay for books. That seems clear to the publishers. I have wondered why the US Library of Congress was not moving in the same direction as the Internet Archive. Oh, well. What about the Special Library Association? Yeah, oh, well. And the American Library Association in concert with Harvard or Stanford? Oh, well.

So the Internet Archive is in jeopardy.

Several observations:

  1. Entities which could have assumed this job in concern with Internet Archive could have been more proactive. They weren’t, so here we are.
  2. Publishers are hungry for revenue, almost any type of revenue stream will do. Why not extract money from an outfit trying to perform a useful library-type function? Sorry, we want money and people can buy information from us summarizes the position of some publishers on earth and possibly in the big printing facility amidst the stars.
  3. Legal eagles love books. Plus those folks sometimes buy books to decorate their offices in the event a meeting is required in a suitably classy environment. Do lawyers read these books? Maybe, but I think professional publishers sell online content to them. Thus, in today’s world it makes sense for lawyers to determine what is a library and what is not, what content is free and which is not. I think I understand, but I am not going to call my attorney because I have to pay in 15 minute increments.

Net net: Libraries are for many negative spaces. Some books present information which is bad; therefore, ban or burn the books. Now we can defund regular libraries and shut down the online outfits. Publishers may be thrilled. Others may not care. I like libraries, but dinobabies don’t have influence. I am glad I am old.

Stephen E Arnold, March 20, 2023

Amazon Sells What Sells: Magazines and Newspapers Apparently Do Not Sell Well

March 17, 2023

I read “Amazon Will Discontinue Newspaper and Magazine Subscriptions in September.” The write up reports that Amazon is “abandoning the Kindle for Periodicals … [a] the Kindle Newsstand.” But that’s not all:

Amazon is trying to convince publishers to submit their newspapers and magazines to Prime Reading or Kindle Unlimited, but it remains to be seen if this will happen.

My understanding is that publishers have to give up more content and get less money. The idea is not particularly new. In the early days of the full text online commercial databases, money went into a pool and the money was distributed based on the full text online prints. If a publisher’s content attracted no online prints of the full text, zero money for that publisher.

Also, the early days of selling subscriptions online experienced some user pushback. The reason was that magazine readers wanted a fungible copy. Times change. Now no one wants fragments of dead trees in their in box. (Remember the good old days when publishers of some magazines would give away current copies of their publications to those boarding the Eastern Airlines shuttles from New York to Boston and New to DC and the reverse trips.)

Magazines were a good business once. Now magazines and newspapers are a tough sell. Even new angles like the Monocle outfit are into conferences, swag, and audio programs in an effort to woo subscribers and keep the 20,000 or so the company has amassed.

What’s the Amazon decision suggest to me? Here are my reactions this rainy morning in rural Kentucky:

  1. How are the other magazine and newspaper resellers doing? Apple, Scribd, Zinio, and a few others are in the game and provide some options, maybe not attractive, but options nevertheless.
  2. Will the Monocle model or variations of it become the model for revenue best practices? The New York Times dabbles in swag, podcasts, and moving beyond news into what I call MBA type reports. I used to subscribe to the dead tree edition, but the home delivery was so terrible I cancelled. The online version stories in which I am interested is endlessly recycled in blogs and Twitter statements, I am okay with the crazy Lady ruining my breakfast with non-delivery.
  3. With many people struggling to figure out what information online is accurate and what is quasi-accurate, or what is weaponized, I think some knowledge problems await. Newspapers, like the one for which I worked, were organizations which had editorial policies, some guidelines, quite a few people who tried to deliver timely, accurate, informative news and reports.

Net net: Amazon can sell cheap stuff like Temu.com. The company does not seem to have the magic touch when it comes to magazines and newspapers. Remarkable but not surprising. The cloud of unknowing is expanding.

Stephen E Arnold, March 17. 2023

Real News Professional Employs Ad Hominem Method with Flair

March 17, 2023

I love “real news” output by Silicon Valley-savvy professionals. I read a good article called “Elon Musk Is An Angry Man Who turns on Everybody, Says Longtime Tech Journalist Kara Swisher.

I found the article interesting because it appeared in a Silicon Valley “real news” organ call BGR, which is acronym speak for Boy Genius Report. The article is a commentary on another Silicon Valley type of “real news” professional. I think this is meta-meta news. It is similar to podcasters, who are “real journalists” interviewing a colleague who is also a “real news” professional. The silly idea of interviewing an informed person who is NOT a colleague is just too darned dull. The trend is that “real journalists” are the best experts to discuss a particular topic. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Ignore someone who works at a research center, a government agency responsible for policy in a specific area, an individual who publishes in non-news publications like a peer-reviewed journal, or a person recognized for excellence by some semi-respected outfit like the ACM or American Chemical Society, among others. Nope. Nope. Nope. Dull.

The write up includes this statement from Ms. Swisher’s podcast On. I am not sure if this is a direct quote about Mr. Musk. The context is that noted biographer Walter Isaacson is writing a book about Mr. Musk. Here’s the passage from the BGR article:

Swisher, in her podcast, went on to warn that Musk will almost certainly “turn on” Isaacson. “There’s nobody he won’t turn on,” she said, “unless he gets some help. And I wish he would.” In response to a question about whether she’s sick of talking about Musk at this point, though, she acknowledged that she isn’t, given his involvement in everything from defense to innovation, space, and cars. “He’s the Thomas Edison of the day, so no.”

Okay, is Ms. Swisher attacking the man Elon Musk, praising his Tesla and SpaceX innovations, or trying to have a bento box of Silicon Valley expert outputs?

I am voting for the ad hominen angle. I am not sure about the Tesla thing because — the full self driving — is not something I plan to test on Kentucky’s gravel roads. The bento box? That has some value in my judgment. What’s next in real journalism from Silicon Valley?

The University of Texas at El Paso provides a handy list of an additional 145 rhetorical techniques which can be applied to Silicon Valley “real news” generation. More podcasts provide an opportunity to try some of these out on Elon Musk type topics; for example, 141 “We have to do something” or 105. prosopology which is the reciting the names of those killed by Mr. Musk’s smart driving system.

Will the Musk – Swisher tension evolve into Silicon Valley’s variation of the Jack Benny – Fred Allen feud. That went on for years. There is so much innovation in Silicon Valley; for example, the Sundar and Prabhakar Comedy Show. Advertisers will battle to fund these programs.

Stephen E Arnold, March 17, 2023

The Gray Lady: Calling the Winner of the AI Race

March 17, 2023

Editor’s Note: Written by a genuine dinobaby with some editorial inputs from Stephen E Arnold’s tech elves.

I love it when “real journalists” predict winners. Does anyone remember the Dewey thing? No, that’s okay. I read “How Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant Lost the AI Race.” The title reminds me of English 101 “How to” essays. (A publisher once told me that “how to” books were the most popular non fiction book type. Today the TikTok video may do the trick.)

The write up makes a case for OpenAI and ChatGPT winning the smart software race. Here’s a quote I circled:

The excitement around chatbots illustrates how Siri, Alexa and other voice assistants — which once elicited  similar enthusiasm — have squandered their lead in the A.I. race.

Squandering a lead is not exactly losing a race, at least here in Kentucky. Races can be subject to skepticism, but in the races I have watched, a horse wins, gets a ribbon, the owner receives hugs and handshakes, and publicity. Yep, publicity. Good stuff.

The write up reports or opines:

Many of the big tech companies are now racing to come up with responses to ChatGPT.

Is this me-too innovation? My thought is that the article is not a how-to; it’s an editorial opinion.

My reaction to the story is that the “winner” is the use of OpenAI type technology with a dialogue-type interface. The companies criticized for squandering a lead are not dead in their stable stall. Furthermore, smart software is not new. The methods have been known for years. What’s new is that computational resources are more readily available. Content is available without briar patches like negotiating permissions and licenses to recycle someone else’s data. Code libraries are available. Engineers and programmers are interested in doing something with the AI Lego blocks. People with money want to jump on the high speed train even if the reliability and the destination are not yet known.

I would suggest that the Gray Lady’s analysis is an somewhat skewed way to point out that some big tech outfits have bungled and stumbled.

The race, at least here in Harrod’s Creek, is not yet over. I am not sure the nags are out of their horse carriers yet. Why not criticize in the context of detailed, quite specific technical, financial, and tactical factors? I will answer my own question, “The Gray Lady has not gotten over how technology disrupted the era of big newspapers as gatekeepers.”

How quickly will the Gray Lady replace “real journalists” (often with agendas) with cheaper, faster software.

I will answer my own question, “Faster than some of the horses running in the Kentucky Derby this year.”

Stephen E Arnold, March 17, 2023

The Google: Is Thinking Clearly a Core Competency at the Company

March 16, 2023

Editor’s Note: This short write up is the work of a real, semi-alive dinobaby, not smart software.

The essay “The Nightmare of AI-Powered Gmail Has Arrived.” The main point of the article is that Google is busy putting smart software in a number of its services. I noted this paragraph:

Google is retrofitting its product line with AI. Last month, it demonstrated its take on a chatty version of its search engine. Yesterday, it shared more details about AI-assisted Gmail and Google Docs. In Gmail, there are tools that will attempt to compose entire emails or edit them for tone as well as tools for ingesting and summarizing long threads.

Nope. Not interested.

google mgmt 7

The image of three managers with their hair on fire was generated by https://scribblediffusion.com/. My hunch is that a copyright troll will claim the image as their clients’ original work. I sticking with the smart software as the artist.

I underlined this statement as well:

Most interesting are the ways in which these features seem to be in conflict with one another.

What’s up?

  1. A Code Red at Google and suggestions from senior management to get in gear with smart software
  2. Big boy Microsoft continued to out market the Google (not too tough to do in my opinion)
  3. The ChatGPT juggernaut continued to operate like a large electro-magnet, pulling users from folks who has previously accrued significant experience with large language models.

The write up makes one point in my opinion. Google’s wizards are not able to think clearly. As the article concludes:

For example, in offices already burdened by inefficient communication and processes, it’s easy to see how reducing the cost of creating content might produce weird consequences and externalities. Tim can now send four times as many emails as he used to. Does he have four times as much to say?

Net net: Wow, the Google. The many and possibly overlapping smart services remind me of the outputs from a high school science club struggling to get as many Science Fair project done in the final days before the judging starts. Wow, the Google.

Stephen E Arnold, March 16, 2023

RightHub: Will It Supercharge IP Protection and Violation Trolls?

March 16, 2023

Yahoo believe it or not displayed an article I found interesting. The title was “Copy That: RightHub Wants To Be the Command Center for Intellectual Property Management.” The story originated on a Silicon Valley “real news” site called TechCrunch.

The write up explains that managing patent, trademark, and copyright information is a hassle. RightHub is, according to the story:

…something akin to what GoDaddy promises in the world of website creation, insofar as GoDaddy allows anyone to search, register, and renew domain names, with additional tools for building and hosting websites.

I am not sure that a domain-name type of model is going to have the professional, high-brow machinery that rights-sensitive outfits expect. I am not sure that many people understand that the domain-name model is fraught with manipulated expiry dates, wheeling and dealing, and possibly good old-fashioned fraud.

The idea of using a database and scripts to keep track of intellectual property is interesting. Tools are available to automate many of the discrete steps required to file, follow up, renew, and remember who did what and when.

But domain name processes as a touchstone.

Sorry. I think that the service will embrace a number of sub functions which may be of interest to some people; for example, enforcement trolls. Many are using manual or outmoded tools like decades old image recognition technology and partial Web content scanning methods. If RightHub offers a robust system, IP protection may become easier. Some trolls will be among the first to seek inspiration and possibly opportunities to be more troll-like.

Stephen E Arnold, March 16, 2023

Tweeting in Capital Letters: Surfing on the SVB Anomaly

March 16, 2023

Like a couple of other people, I noted the Silicon Valley Bank anomaly. I have a hunch that more banking excitement is coming. In fact, one intrepid social media person asked, “Know a bank I can buy.” One of the more interesting articles about the anomaly (I use this word because no other banks are in a similar financial pickle. Okay, maybe one or two or 30 are, but that’s no biggie.)

VC Podcast Duo Faces (sic) Criticism for Frantic Response to Silicon Valley Bank Collapse” reports:

The pair [Jason Calcanis (a super famous real journalist who is now a super wealthy advisor to start ups) and David Sacks (a super famous PayPal chief operating officer and a general partner in Craft Ventures)] were widely mocked outside of their circle of followers after the government stepped in and swiftly stabilized SVB. Note: Italics present a little information about the “duo.”

The story quotes other luminaries who are less well known in rural Kentucky via the standard mode of documentation today, a Tweet screenshot. Here it is:


The tweet suggests that Messrs. Calcanis and Sacks were “panicked” and tried to spread that IBM sauce of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

To add a dollop of charm to the duo, it appears that Mr. Calcanis communicated in capital letters. Yes, ALL CAPS.

The article includes this alternative point of view:

Nevertheless, supporters of the pair continued to lavish praise and credit them with helping to avert further financial chaos. “Plot twist: @Jason and @DavidSacks saw the impeding doom and rushed to a public platform to voice concerns and make sure our gov’t officials saw the 2nd and 3rd order effects,” another Twitter user wrote. “They and other VC’s might’ve saved us all.”

I find the idea that venture capitalists “saved us all.” The only phrase missing is “existential threat.”

When Messrs. Calcanis and Sacks make their next public appearance, will these astute individuals be wearing super hero garb? The promotional push might squeeze more coverage about saving us all. (All. Quite comprehensive when used in a real news story.)

Stephen E Arnold, March 16, 2023

Ethical AI: Let Us Not Take Our Eye Off the Money Ball, Shall We?

March 15, 2023

What full-time job includes an automatic ejection seat?

Flying an F 35? Yes.

Working on ethical and responsible smart software? Yes. A super duper ejection module too.

I wonder if Google’s enabling of the stochastic parrot conference and the Dr. Timnit Gebru incident made an impression on Microsoft? Hmmm. I the information in “Microsoft Just Laid Off One of Its Responsible AI Teams” is accurate, Microsoft’s management has either [a] internalized the Google approach or [b] missed the memorandum describing downstream effects of deprecating “responsible AI.”


The image above was output by craiyon.com. True, one of the Beyond Search researchers added the evil red eye and the pile of cash. We think the evil eye and the money illustrate where ethical behavior ranks among the priorities of some senior executives.

The write up by two of the Land of Bank Crashes favorites reports:

Microsoft laid off its entire ethics and society team within the artificial intelligence organization as part of recent layoffs that affected 10,000 employees across the company … The move leaves Microsoft without a dedicated team to ensure its AI principles are closely tied to product design …

The article is about 1,500 words, and I suggest you work through the essay/news/chest thumper.

Several observations:

  1. The objective is control, not ethical control. Just control.
  2. Smart software knows how to string together words, not what the words connote.
  3. MBAs with incentive plans view ethics as an interesting concept but one with the appeal of calculating their bonuses on an Amiga computer.

Net net: What exactly is the news about a big tech company trimming its ethics professionals? I thought it was standard operating procedure.

PS. I admire the begging for sign up pleas as well. Classy for some “real news” write ups. Ejection seat activated.

Stephen E Arnold, March 15, 2023

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