Google and Microsoft Are Fighting. But a Battle May Loom between Coveo and Service Now

March 18, 2021

The 2021 cage match line ups are interesting. The Google – Microsoft dust up is a big deal. Google says Microsoft is using its posture on news as a way to blast rock and roll fog around the egregious security breaches for SolarWinds and Exchange Server.

But that fog could obscure a bout between Coveo (a smart search company) and Service Now (a Swiss Army knife of middleware, including Attivio search. Both companies invoke the artificial intelligence moniker. Both covet enterprise customers. Both want to extend their software into large organizations.

Service Now makes it plans clear in “Service Now Adds New AI and Low-Code Development Features.” The write up states:

[A user conference in Quebec] … also introduces AI Search, underpinned by technology acquired in ServiceNow’s purchase of Attivio. AI Search delivers intelligent search results and actionable information, complementing Quebec’s Engagement Messenger that extends self-service to third-party portals to enable AI search, knowledge management, and case interactions. Also new in Quebec is the aforementioned virtual agent, which delivers AI-powered conversational experiences for IT incident resolution.

From my vantage point, the AI is hand waving. Search has quite a few moving parts, and human involvement is necessary whether smart software is involved or not.

What Service Now has, however, is a meta-play; that is, it offers numerous management services. If properly set up and resourced could reduce the pain of some utility functions. Search is the mother of all utility services.

Coveo is a traditional enterprise search vendor. The company has targeted numerous business functions as likely customers; for example, customer support and marketing.

But niche vendors of utilities have to be like the “little engine that could.”

This may not be the main event like Google versus Microsoft, but it will be an event to watch.

Stephen E Arnold, March 18, 2021

IA Scholar: A Reminder That Existing Online Resources Are Not Comprehensive

March 10, 2021

We spotted this announcement from the Internet Archive in “Search Scholarly Materials Preserved in the Internet Archive.”

IA Scholar is a simple, access-oriented interface to content identified across several Internet Archive collections, including web archives, archive.org files, and digitized print materials. The full text of articles is searchable for users that are hunting for particular phrases or keywords. This complements our existing full-text search index of millions of digitized books and other documents on archive.org. The service builds on Fatcat, an open catalog we have developed to identify at-risk and web-published open scholarly outputs that can benefit from long-term preservation, additional metadata, and perpetual access. Fatcat includes resources that may be useful to librarians and archivists, such as bulk metadata dumps, a read/write API, command-line tool, and file-level archival metadata. If you are interested in collaborating with us, or are a researcher interested in text analysis applications, we have a public chat channel or can be contacted by email at info@archive.org.

I ran several queries. The system is set up to respond to a conference name, but free text entries worked find; for example, NLP. Here are the results:

image

Worth checking out. In my experience people who are “experts” in online often forget that no online service is up to date, comprehensive, and set up to deliver full text. One other point: Corrections to online content are rarely, if ever made. Business Dateline, produced by the Courier Journal and Louisville Times in the early 1980s was one of the first commercial databases to include corrections. Thumbtypers may not care, but that’s the zippy modern world.

Stephen E Arnold, March 10, 2021

Old People, Vaccine Registration, and Online: What Could Be Overlooked by Thumbtypers? The Obvious

March 2, 2021

I heard over talkers on the Pivot podcast explain that old people struggled to use the Internet to register to get a Rona jab. Fascinating. I think I heard one of the stars of the wildly thrilling program express that despite computer expertise, the darned sign up site was difficult to use. Insightful. Then I read “Seniors Seeking Vaccines Have a Problem: They Can’t Use the Internet” in the online superstar New York Times. (Yep, I was able to locate the story online. Get your credit card ready, gentle reader. There is no free lunch provided by the Gray Lady.)

The estimable New York Times stated what the over talkers said; namely:

The chaotic vaccine rollout has come with a maze of confusing registration pages and clunky health care websites. And the technological savvy required to navigate the text alerts, push notifications and email reminders that are second nature to the digital generation has put older adults like Ms. Carlin, who need the vaccine the most, at a disadvantage. As a result, seniors who lack tech skills are missing out on potentially lifesaving shots.

Ms. Carlin is 84, and she is probably not hanging out on Zoom with thumbtypers, but that’s just a guess.

I learned:

By the end of last week, just 12.3 million Americans ages 75 and older, or 28 percent, had received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Senator Tina Smith, Democrat of Minnesota, who has reintroduced a bill from last year that would allocate money to help get older Americans online, said the government had failed to get out ahead of a preventable crisis by not funding senior agencies sooner.

How many have thumbtyping techno-masters killed in the 70 plus cohort? The estimable New York Times did not provide a number. Come to think of it, I don’t think the Pivot over talkers did either.

Who would have imagined there were individuals unable to use the outstanding Rona registration systems? It’s obvious to know that some functions are hidden behind dots and hamburgers, pages have to be scrolled down to see data, and enjoy the experience of disabled back buttons.

Oh, well, since I am 77, I suppose some in my cohort will be killed by the thumbtyping techno masters. Big deal. When’s the Zoom happy hour start? Where’s the secret party this weekend? Multi-tasking? No Internet connection? No 5G mobile device.

Bummer.

Stephen E Arnold, March 2, 2021

Google and Microsoft in Australia: Ripping the Fabric of Some of the Internet?

February 8, 2021

Australia wants Google to pay for news. Microsoft wants more traffic and advertising revenue. Australia? The front lines of the battle for the Internet? “Microsoft Offers To Break The Web In A Desperate Attempt To Get Somebody To Use Its Widely-Ignored Bing Search Engine” and learned:

The worsening situation over upload filters has obscured the other bad idea of the EU Copyright Directive: the so-called “link tax”, which would require large Internet companies like Google to pay when they use even small amounts of news material. One worrying development in this area is that the idea has spread beyond the EU. As Techdirt reported, Australia is bringing in what amounts to a tax on Google and Facebook for daring to send traffic to legacy news organizations — notably those of Rupert Murdoch.

Yep, from the European Union to Australia the fabric of the Internet is under pressure. Google is concerned, upset even. But Microsoft:

in a desperate attempt to get someone to use its still largely-ignored search engine Bing, Microsoft is apparently willing to throw the Web under the bus. It’s an incredibly short-sighted and selfish move. Sure, it’s legitimate to want to take advantage of a rival’s problems. But not to the extent of causing serious harm to the very fabric of the Web, the hyperlink.

Links under assault? A push to investigate technology monopolies in the US? The SolarWinds’ misstep which reminds one that security is a misty concept? Political turmoil? Covid?

Now links.

Who knew that monetizing links would do “harm to the fabric of the Web”? Quick questions? What’s happening in China and Russia? Whose Internet? Perhaps the Internet has already morphed and the skirmish in Australia may be less than it seems? The tension seems to be removed from the growth sectors for online services? In fact, the dust up seems almost quaint.

Threats, saber rattling, and the effort to preserve the online past are not easily TikTok-able. That could be a problem for the firms and publishers not in the big growth game.

Stephen E Arnold, February 8, 2021

A Thrill for STM Publishers

January 20, 2021

First, there were individual libraries. Then there were consortia. Now there is a country. And the fees? Hmmm.

Scientific journals remain inaccessible behind pay walls, unless you have a subscription. These journals contain useful information that could advance science and other fields, but without a subscription researchers are locked out. India, the second most populous country in the world, announced a solution to academic pay walls. The Indian Express shares the news in: “Govt Proposes To Buy Bulk Subscriptions Of All Scientific Journals, Provide Free Access To All.”

The Indian government announced an open data policy called the “One Nation, One Subscription” policy. All publicly funded research will be freely available and the government plans to buy bulk subscriptions to scientific journals to give every Indian free access. It is predicted the “One Nation, One Subscription” will have a huge impact:

“The ‘One Nation, One Subscription’ policy for scientific journals is a radical move that could prove to be a game changer for the scientific community and individual researchers. There are more than 3,000 to 4,000 high-impact scientific journals, and sources say the government might have to spend a few hundred crore rupees every year to get their bulk subscriptions. But its impact on the scientific research community could be huge, given that access to these journals are highly priced and even big institutions are selective in buying subscriptions.”

Despite being a developing country, India boasts a highly educated populace. India continues to progress forward and advance in technology and other industries. Open access to all scientific journals will help them achieve further achievements in education and technology.

And the fees? Hmmm.

Whitney Grace, January 20, 2020

Google: Doing the Travel Agent Thing

January 13, 2021

Just a brief honk to draw our dear readers’ attention to in interesting development. India’s Zee News tells us, “Now, Book Vistara Flight Ticket Directly from Google.” Yes, one can now purchase a ticket for Vistara, an airline that operates in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates, directly from one’s Google search. The succinct write-up reports:

“Vistara customers can directly search and book Vistara flights on Google through the integrated ‘Book on Google’ feature. Recently the airline adopted the New Distribution Capability (NDC), through a technology partnership with Amadeus, passengers will now be able to book Vistara flights while searching for them on Google. The biggest advantage is that now customers will be able to search and book air tickets, without getting redirected to any other website. Vistara airline is a joint venture of Tata and Singapore airlines.”

Amadeus is a travel technology company and NDC is an XML-based data transmission standard created specifically for airline ticket distribution. Users must log into their Google account to book their flights, which the service uses to manage contact and payment information. Naturally, one also chooses optional upgrades, baggage allowances, and seat selections here. Just one more way Google aims to save users a few clicks—and collect more of their data in the process.

Here’s an idea. Why not do an AirBnB / VBO mash up with some Google secret spices?

Cynthia Murrell, January 13, 2021

Oracle: Dons White Hat and Tries to Lasso the StreamScam Stallion

January 6, 2021

Oracle is only of passing interest to me. I paid attention to Oracle’s search efforts which I think once involved Applied Linguistics, TripleHop, Endeca, and a natural language processing company crafting smart software to replace trained human customer support types. Oh, I did check out Oracle SES. As I recall, the first “s” meant secure. The idea was that Oracle had discovered that most vendors of enterprise search provided systems which were not focused on security. Just getting these overhyped and jargon infused puppies to behave consumed quite a bit of developer, MBA, and ultimately CPA energy.

I read “Oracle Exposes largest CTV Ad Fraud Operation Ever” reminded me of the Oracle Secure Enterprise Search hook: Enterprise search vendors did not provide Oracle-grade security. That was, as it turned out, mostly true. The problem was that organizations purchasing enterprise search were not buying security. The organizations were trying to find a way to deal with the increasing flows of digital information. Prior to the implosion of Delphes, Entopia, and Fast Search & Transfer — tools were not widely available. Today, of course, an enterprising and enthusiastic developer can download or just use a variant of Lucene/Solr. Amazon and IBM support these open source solutions, and developers of proprietary systems like Coveo, Mindbreeze, and others have to put in extra hours on their sales Peloton’s to generate sustainable revenues. Oracle’s run at enterprise search as security disasters went nowhere.

Now Oracle has donned its white hat and is now lassoing or trying to lasso the online advertising sector. In my research, we have encountered numerous reports of online advertising fraud. Making the charges stick to the Google, its subsidiaries, outfits like Facebook, and the third party intermediaries has been difficult. Gobbledygook explanations and intentional complexity are designed to keep those advertising dollars flowing.

The StreamScam is probably the first in a series of oracular pronouncements about alleged fraud: Click, view time, reach, etc., etc. The write up states:

StreamScam perpetrators capitalized on vulnerabilities in the technology used to improve the video viewing experience in CTV. Known as Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI), the technology combines content and ads into a single video stream that can play seamlessly with no delays on end-user devices, such as Roku, AppleTV, and FireTV.

The idea is that advertisers don’t know if online advertising generates sales. Marketers emphasize misty notions of brand and reach. But what’s an advertiser to do? The answer is that newspaper, television, and radio have been replaced among certain desirable market segments by streaming, Twitter, and podcasts. Therefore, a device like a smart TV seems to straddle some of these technology. Put money into connected televisions, YouTube, Facebook, and maybe — just maybe — TikTok.

I agree with “CTV Ad Fraud Schemes Like the One Oracle Exposed Will Become More Common But That Won’t Affect Marketers’ Spend.” I would, however, add a caveat to this write up’s assertion about not impacting what marketers spend and where; to wit: What choice does an advertiser have? Old fashioned direct mail? When the post office worked, that was an option. How about telemarketing? Some desirable demographics don’t answer their mobile’s chirps. What about billboard advertising? Covid and work from home may have reduced the impact of these view enhancing objects of art.

With more and more GenX and millennials positioning themselves as experts in social media, online ads are necessary complements to influencer campaigns. The Google ad purveyors are reassuring and armed with data illustrating that online ads really do work. Don’t like the Google rep, check out the Facebook pitch with micro and nano targeting that really works better than Googzilla’s approach. Amazon, Apple, yes. Options.

Net net: Ad fraud is endemic. No one survives who documents it. But Oracle has a white hat and maybe will own TikTok some day. There’s gold at the end of the digital rainbow even though one end is in Beijing.

My take: “Whoa, StreamScam! The Lone Oracle is gonna break you down. Right, Don Quixote.” (Tonto is in Covid lockdown.)

Stephen E Arnold, January 6, 2021

Software: Evolving to Non Motility

January 5, 2021

I read a quite interesting essay called “The Great Software Stagnation.” The main idea is that software innovation has slowed. A number of programming languages were identified as examples of greater software innovation and some others as less innovative. The idea is that software has shifted from breakthroughs to incremental improvements.

However, the essay contains several statements which I found thought provoking; for instance:

  • You can’t do research at a startup
  • Megacorps only seem to be interested in solving their own problems in the least disruptive way possible
  • “Maybe the reason progress stopped in 1996 is that we invented everything.”

What if this stagnation, motionless, or non motility is a characteristic of some sort of digital law; for example, the premise of zero gravity articulated by Steve Harmon?

Maybe Newton’s boring laws apply to the digital environment? Maybe there are more of these digital laws waiting to be articulated?

Stephen E Arnold, January 5, 2020

Digital Humanities Is Data Analytics For English Majors

January 4, 2021

Computer science and the humanities are on separate ends of the education spectrum. The two disciplines do not often mix, but when they do wonderful things happen. The Economist shares a story about book and religious nerds using data analytics to uncover correlations in literature: “How Data Analysis Can Enrich The Humanities.”

The article explains how a Catholic priest and literary experts used data analysis technology from punch card systems to modern software to examine writing styles. The data scientists teamed with literary experts discovered correlations between authors, time periods, vocabulary, and character descriptions.

The discoveries point to how science and the humanities can team up to find new and amazing relationships in topics that have been picked to death by scholars. It creates new avenues for discussion. It also demonstrates how science can enhance the humanities, but it also provides much needed data for AI experimentation. One other thing is brings up is how there are disparities between the fields:

“However, little evidence yet exists that the burgeoning field of digital humanities is bankrupting the world of ink-stained books. Since the NEH set up an office for the discipline in 2008, it has received just $60m of its $1.6bn kitty. Indeed, reuniting the humanities with sciences might protect their future. Dame Marina Warner, president of the Royal Society of Literature in London, points out that part of the problem is that “we’ve driven a great barrier” between the arts and STEM subjects. This separation risks portraying the humanities as a trivial pursuit, rather than a necessary complement to scientific learning.”

It is important that science and the humanities cross over. In order for science to even start, people must imagine the impossible. Science makes imagination reality.

Whitney Grace, January 5, 2021

Class Central: Learning in the Time of the Rona

December 30, 2020

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, educators speculated that schools would eventually transition to online learning. Most universities offer online classes and degree programs, but traditional public schools still have not transitioned. When the pandemic hit three was a rush for kids to resume their education and school districts scrambled to assemble online learning platforms.

Most online public education (through no fault of the teachers) stinks worse than cafeteria food, but there are other options for online schooling. With hundreds of online courses available, Class Central organizes all the providers into one catalog. Class Central’s goal is to:

Class Central is a listing of online courses. We aggregate courses from many providers to make it easy to find the best courses on almost any subject, wherever they exist. We focus primarily on free (or free to audit) courses from universities, offered through massive open online course (MOOC) platforms. Whatever you are interested in learning, it is more than likely that our catalog includes a course that will meet your needs. Through Class Central, you can find courses; review courses you’ve taken (and read other people’s reviews); follow universities, subjects and courses to receive personalized updates; and also plan and track your learning.”

In other words, Class Central is like a library catalog of all the courses online combined with Amazon reviews. The coolest thing about Class Central is that it allows you to search through all course offerings by subject. A search for “computer coding” resulted in classes from major universities as well as Udemy, edX, and more.

One of the benefits to Class Central is that is lists whether a course is free or requires a enrollment fee. While there are many free online courses, some services only have a few free lessons before requiring cash or enrollment in the actual institution.

Whitney Grace, December 30, 2020

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