Online Accuracy: The Hollywood Sign Approach

November 24, 2014

I read “Why People Keep Trying to Erase the Hollywood Sign from Google Maps.” The write up underscores the fluidity of the notion about accurate online information. Last time I was in Hollywood, I gave my talk at an intel conference and beat a quick path back to Kentucky. For those who think that life has not been lived until one stands at the base of a giant letter, Google Maps, if the write up is correct, may give you an extra workout. Here’s the passage I noted:

Even though Google Maps clearly marks the actual location of the sign, something funny happens when you request driving directions from any place in the city. The directions lead you to Griffith Observatory, a beautiful 1920s building located one mountain east from the sign, then—in something I’ve never seen before, anywhere on Google Maps—a dashed gray line arcs from Griffith Observatory, over Mt. Lee, to the sign’s site. Walking directions show the same thing.

Obviously in the world of online this is the only instance of information being modified so it does not match reality. I am comforted unlike some folks.

Stephen E Arnold, November 24, 2014

Mozzila and Search Changes: Meh

November 20, 2014

You can read the crashing waves of opinions about Mozilla and its falling out of love with the GOOG. “Firefox Drops Google as Default Search Engine…” presents the new, “real” journalism approach; to wit:

Firefox has lost market share in recent years but is still used by roughly 17 percent of web goers.

Juicy factoid. Small percentage in a world in which traffic and eyeballs matter.

You can get the search engine optimization/inside scoop viewpoint in “Mozilla CEO: It Wasn’t Money — Yahoo Was The Better Strategic Partner For Firefox.” I noted this:

The official line from the Mozilla blog post about the deal helps parse what being a good strategic partner seems to be. It praises Yahoo as being “aligned with our values of choice and independence” — which suggests that Firefox was feeling that Google had become too controlling or wanted more control about what was happening within Firefox. Or, perhaps Mozilla felt Google has been less about supporting the web and more about supporting itself than in the past.

My view is not just tepid; it is indifferent. Monopolistic behaviors are the order of the day. Yahoo is no monopoly. Yandex may have a shot as long it stays on the right side of certain governmental authorities. Baidu is the best of the bunch, but one misstep and I would suggest that life could be viewed through a filter.

As the browser becomes the new operating system, if you are not running what’s mainstream, there may be some challenges ahead. Do you still have an Eagle desktop computer? If so, dig it out, plug in your DEC Rainbow, and let me know how you read this blog post.

Oh, and what about search? It seems to rank right along with the Mozilla attitude toward money in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, November 20, 2014

Ah, History and the 20 Somethings

November 16, 2014

I had a conversation last week with a quite assured expert in content processing. I mentioned that I was 70 years old and would not attending a hippy dippy conference in New York. I elicited a chuckle.

I thought of this gentle dismissal of old stuff when I read “Old Scientific Papers Never Die, They Just Fade Away. Or They Used to.” The main idea of the article seems to be that “old” work can provide some useful factoids for the 20 somethings and 35 year old whiz kids who wear shirts with unclothed female on them. Couple a festive shirt with tattoo, and you have a microcosm of the specialists inventing the future.

Here’s a passage I noted:

“Our [Googlers] analysis indicates that, in 2013, 36% of citations were to articles that are at least 10 years old and that this fraction has grown 28% since 1990,” say Verstak and co. What’s more, the increase in the last ten years is twice as big as in the previous ten years, so the trend appears to be accelerating.

Quite an insight considering that much of the math used to deliver whizzy content processing is a couple of centuries old. I looked for a reference to Dr. Gene Garfield and did not notice one. Well, maybe he’s too old to be remembered. Should I send a link to the 20 something with whom I spoke? Nah, waste of time.

Stephen E Arnold, November 16, 2014

Will Hand-Carved Type and Printing Return to Strasbourg?

November 12, 2014

I am not hip to the ins and outs of France and its financial situation. I assume the country with more than 200 varieties of cheese and almost as many somewhat obscure search and content processing companies is rolling right along.

I was puzzled by this item: “France Signs a Five-Year National Deal with Elsevier.”

The main points seems to that Elsevier, part owner of the outstandingly expensive online service LexisNexis, has signed a deal to provide Elsevier content for what strikes me as a reasonable price: €171 697 159.

The article seems to imply that this is not a good deal:

French research is in disarray. Some universities are on the verge of bankruptcy. Others anticipates four meager years. Strangely enough, money is not the problem. The French State actually gives away several billions each year in the form of tax incentives so that private companies fund research (the “Crédit impôt recherche”). This policy has proven dramatically ineffectual : it is actually nothing more than a tool for tax optimization, that does little if nothing to encourage research.

I have confidence that the French know exactly how to maintain their premier position in education, finance, and linguistic excellence. Elsevier, by the way, has one very happy sales person.

Stephen E Arnold, November 12, 2014

Stanford Finds the First Web Site: Guess Who?

November 9, 2014

I read “Stanford Libraries Unearths the Earliest US Website.” Guess which outfit created the first Web site according to the Stanford Wayback Machine? Give up? It was Stanford. Never heard of the Stanford Wayback? Neither had I. Here’s a link. I suppose the original CERN demo page I saw in the mid 1990s does not count. Well, CERN is obviously not Stanford. Tim Berners who? Next Stanford may discover from its Stanford resources that the university invented fire.

Stephen E Arnold, November 9, 2014

Google and Axel Springer: Traffic Means Power

November 6, 2014

In the summer of 2014, Axel Springer acquired 20 percent of the Pertimm-powered Qwant. As you may know, which I profile in my current Information Today article, is a Web search engine with features. Believe me, lots of features. What Qwant does not have is traffic. Google’s Eric Schmidt believes the quirky system is a threat. From my lookout on top of the crest of the hill near the hollow in which I live in rural Kentucky, that strikes me as a very rotten red herring.

Axel Springer now understands the difference between the traffic generated by Qwanta and other Web search engines and the Google if I understand “German Publishing Giant Axel Springer Caves in over Google News Snippets Row.” The article reports:

Announcing the free license for Google yesterday, Axel Springer said that traffic to the sites had declined by nearly 40 percent since Google stopped producing snippets and thumbnails on October 23. It also claimed that traffic to the German sites from Google News was down by almost 80 percent.

You can work through the “real” journalistic approach to this point when you read the original article.

What’s important to me is that Google traffic flows are a powerful tool in Google’s negotiating arsenal. Even if you own a search engine, if you are not in Google, you don’t exist. I wonder how Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl would view this fact.

Stephen E Arnold, November 6, 2014

Harvard and Loeb Digital Library

October 18, 2014

Hungry for a digital version of Fragments of Old Comedy, Volume 1: Diopeithes to Pherecrates? Navigate to this Loeb link. You may want to consider this question from Hacker News’ user Miles:

Why are they charging for access to ebooks, many of which are already in the public domain and available at

I assume the answer is “money.” Harvard’s endowment piggy bank contains about $30 billion, according to US News’s 2013 estimate. Latin and Greek readers are flush with cash. Get with the program. Pony up.

Stephen E Arnold, October 18, 2014

Arnold Steps Away from Online Searcher Magazine

October 13, 2014

After several years of writing librarian-centric articles for Online Magazine and Searcher Magazine, I have decided to become an occasional author for Online Searcher. I will try to update the LinkedIn bibliography of my work before the end of the year. Some of my Online Searcher articles are available directly from Information Today. Online Searcher, as you may know, was formed in a crucible of innovation when Information Today merged its two separate publications.

For now, I will continue to provide articles about enterprise search for Information Today and about knowledge management to KMWorld. I have focused more and more on information issues related to law enforcement and intelligence. Although there is a fuzzy boundary between these two domains, I have decided to shift my efforts to operational intelligence and OSINT. I will not be covering these topics in Beyond Search, which focused on the highlights and lowlights of enterprise information systems. Readers active in law enforcement and intelligence will be able to follow my research in my presentations and webinars for those in these specialized communities. Search vendors and those who purvey wild and crazy for fee information services cannot breathe easily. I will be tracking the commercial findability outfits in Beyond Search until the industry changes or I grow tired of writing about jargon, lateral arabesques, and “intelligent” software.

Stephen E Arnold, October 13, 2014

New York Times: All the News that Fewer Staff Can Produce

October 1, 2014

I read “New York Times Plans Cutbacks in Newsroom Staff.” I summarized the Times’s management decisions about online in this post. The Times has been floundering with new media for decades.

Unfortunately the revenue from online does not make up for advertising sales shortfalls, rising costs for paper and ink, and the old school business model that thrived on newspaper warfare.

The write up reports:

The note also said financial results from the company’s third quarter, which ended Sunday, had improved from a difficult second quarter. Digital advertising is likely to show growth of about 16 percent in the third quarter, the best quarterly performance since 2010, and digital subscriptions are expected to increase by more than 40,000, the largest number of quarterly additions since 2012. But the company’s profitability was lower than during the same period last year as costs increased.

So, farewell “real” journalists. Perhaps the Times should buy America Online and snag Ms. Huffington? Is she the future of “real” journalism? Maybe some of those mid tier consultants can come up with new ideas. (Oh, sorry, the mid tier consulting firms are struggling for revenues as well.) Perhaps a failed webmaster, unemployed middle school teacher, or a self anointed poobah will come to the firm’s rescue for less than a single “real” journalist. Well, there’s always selling write ups via

Stephen E Arnold, October 1, 2014

Russia Asks Nicely…Then

September 27, 2014

I read “Russia Wants Facebook, Google, Twitter to Comply with Censorship Laws “ The idea that a nation state has laws makes sense to me. In my experience, when one does business in another country, common sense suggests that one follow the laws of the land. In Singapore, it is not a great idea to do spray paint marketing of blank concrete walls or spit gum on the sidewalk in front of a government intelligence facility. In China, it sees prudent to figure out how to work within the guidelines of a country not into the type of public complaining that takes place on talking head television shows. In Russia, I would conclude that a “request” is something to which one would attend.

The question is, “Will Facebook, Google, and Twitter get with the program?”

Another question is, “What was Mr. Putin’s nickname in Grozny?”

The write up states:

President Putin signed a law back in July that obliged all web services that are collecting data on Russian citizens to store said data in local datacenters. Of course this is not exactly good news for the likes of Twitter and Google who are storing data in much more open and democratic countries across Europe.

Okay, here are my answers to the two questions above:

Nope and the butcher of Grozny.

I do not want to predict the possible paths for those who ignore the request.

Stephen E Arnold, September 27, 2014

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