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

Another Somewhat Obvious Report about Hippy Dippy Learning

December 25, 2020

What’s “hippy dippy”? That’s my code word for expecting students to sit in front of a computing device to learn. When individuals are freed from class and a motivated instructor, the students kick into screw around mode: Games, porn, TikTok, and digital mischief. Am I the only person in rural Kentucky aware of this fact? I don’t think so.

I read with some amusement (short-lived, very short-lived) “Kids Are Failing Online Learning.” The write up reports:

… Students are still struggling with the switch to online learning months after in-person classrooms shuttered.

I noted these factoids:

Around the United States, as grades trickle in, it’s become clear how devastating the switch to remote learning has been for many students. In Austin, early data released to local reporters noted that failing grades had increased by 70%. (A spokesperson for the Austin Independent School District, Cristina Nguyen, said more recently updated data showed the district overall didn’t see a statistically significant increase in failing grades, although secondary schools did see an increase.) One notably detailed report from Fairfax, Va., on first-quarter grades found that F’s had increased from 6% the prior year to 11% this year. The report concluded that there was a “widening gap” among students…

Online has been around for decades. The shift to online learning has made clear that putting students in a classroom with a teacher works better than thumb typing.

Is this dismal report important? Yes, it is. The write up confirms that making a technology shift teaches. Students learn how to excel at displacement activities. Those are okay but may not be helpful in making informed decisions.

Sure, there will be exceptions. Is that why there is an elite in today’s social construct? In person and classroom instruction may reduce the gap between thumb typers who wander and those few who can suck in data and generate high value outputs.

Computing devices are not magical online teaching systems because what students learn may be how to islands of ignorance. The islands, however, each perceive their knowledge empire as comprehensive, robust, and informed.

Stephen E Arnold, December 25, 2020

Fixing the American Internet: Got the Plague? Burn Aromatic Herbs. Works Great, Right?

December 17, 2020

The underfed and poorly compensated research team upon whom I rely is beavering away on a pamphlet about my Arnold’s Laws of Online. Don’t worry. The pamphlet will be a freebie because as I approach 78 not too many people are into people like me who think thumb typing is genuinely stupid.

Here’s a preview:

Online presents the humans and systems using its functionality.

Those who know the difference between a high jumper and Heidegger are likely to want to argue. Spare me. I want to point out that online is not a cause; it is a part of the people and systems which use the technologies required to perform certain tasks. Yep, for those out of work due to disintermediation, you probably get the idea of “efficiency” intuitively.

In this context of this Arnold Law, I want to reference “In 2021, We Need to Fix America’s Internet.” The write up makes some remarkable statements in my opinion. As an old timer better suited to drooling in a long term care facility, I had to muster up the energy to identify this passage as interesting:

As FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wrote for The Verge last March, as many as one in three US households doesn’t have broadband internet access, currently defined as just 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up — which feels like the bare minimum for a remote learning family these days. Even before the pandemic, that statistic might have been shocking; now, it’s the difference between whether millions of schoolchildren can attend classes and do their homework or not. Nearly 12 million children don’t have a broadband connection at home, the Senate Joint Economic Committee reported in 2017. And the “homework gap” hits harder if you’re poor, of course: only 56 percent of households with incomes under $30,000 had broadband as of last February, according to the Pew Research Center.

Let’s assume this paragraph is chock full of semi-real facts. What do we learn about the American Internet? How about these assertions:

  • This is one more example of unethical behavior by a large outfit
  • The Internet has become a way to split the population of the US into haves and have nots in a way which can limit learning, access to jobs, etc.
  • This marketing approach to technology spawns a perception of one thing whilst the reality is quite another; for instance, the SolarWinds’ misstep which makes clear that security theater may be forced to shut down just like local Comedy Clubs.

Fix the American Internet? Why not consider that the “Internet” is a cultural manifestation, not a cause of the culture itself.

Stephen E Arnold, December 17, 2020

Modern Times: How Easy Is It to Control Thumbtypers? Easy

December 8, 2020

Navigate to “The Modern World Has Finally Become Too Complex for Any of Us to Understand.” You may want to read the listing of examples about how complex life has become. Note this sentence which refers to how humanoids accept computer outputs without much thinking:

What was fascinating — and slightly unnerving — was how these instructions were accepted and complied with without question, by skilled professionals, without any explanation of the decision processes that were behind them.

Let’s assume the write up is semi-accurate. The example may provide some insight about the influence, possibly power, online systems have which shape information. In my experience, most people accept the “computer” as being correct. Years ago in a lab testing nuclear materials, I noticed that two technicians were arguing about the output from a mass spec machine. I was with my friend (Dr. James Terwilliger). We watched the two technicians for a moment and noted that when human experience conflicts with a machine output, the discussion becomes frustrating for the humans. The resolution to the problem was to test the sample in another mass spec machine. Was this a fix? Nope.

The behavior demonstrated how humans flounder to deal with machine outputs. These are either accepted or result in behavior that will not answer the question: “Okay, which output is accurate?”

The incident illustrates that humans may not like to take guidance from another human, but guidance from a “computer” is just fine. And when the output conflicts with experience, humans appear to manifest some odd ball behavior.

Here’ are two questions:

How does a user / consumer of online information know if the output is in context, accurate, verifiable?

If the output is not, then what does the human do? More research? Experimentation? Ask a street person? Guess? Repeat the process (like the confused lab techs)?

This is not complexity; this is why those who own certain widely used systems control human thought processes and behaviors. Is this how society works? Are one percenters exempt from the phenomenon? Is this smart software or malleable human behavior?

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2020

Shocker: Online Learning Teaches Little

December 1, 2020

I may be misunderstanding “Failing Grades Spike in Virginia’s Largest School System as Online Learning Gap Emerges Nationwide,” but I think the main idea is that online learning does not teach the way students-teachers in an old-fashioned class do. You will have to pay to read this most recent report from a Captain Obvious “real news” outfit.

Back to the “news” flash.

The write up states:

But one Fairfax high school teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the school system, said he is doing all of these things — and still, 50 to 70 percent of his 150 students are achieving D’s and F’s, whereas before they had earned B’s and C’s.

There you go. We’re teaching students something, just not what the school hopes will be learned. What subject do students learn? Inattention perhaps.

Another factoid. Sit down and take a deep meditative breath before reading:

Younger Fairfax students are struggling more than older ones: The percentage of middle-schoolers receiving at least two F’s quadrupled, while the percentage of high-schoolers scoring at least two F’s increased by 50 percent. The percentage of students with disabilities earning at least two F’s, meanwhile, more than doubled, while the percentage of children for whom English is a second language receiving at least two F’s rose by 106 percent to account for 35 percent of all children in this group. Among racial groups, Hispanic students were most affected: The percentage of these students with at least two F’s jumped from 13 to 25 percent. Comparing grades achieved in past years with grades this year showed that the drop in passing grades is significant and unprecedented.

Had enough? I haven’t. Several observations:

  1. Traditional educational methods evolved toward a human “teacher” presenting information.
  2. Students were monitored and tested.
  3. Peer pressure operated in a social setting like an old-fashioned school room.
  4. Peer mediated instruction took place in non-class settings; for example, at a lunch table or talking with a friend at a school locker.
  5. Old-fashioned family structures often reinforced “learning.” Example: Consequences if lessons were not completed.

Thumb typers now have to face up to a reality in which their expertise at inattention creates a false sense of knowledge.

The problem is that moving learning to Zoom or some other online platform has a shallow experiential pool. Traditional education benefits from a long history. Maybe online will catch up, but if the students are ill prepared, inattentive, and unable to draw upon a knowledge framework — not likely.

Anyone ready for the new Dark Ages? Whoops. News flash. We are in them. Plague, social unrest, and students who are not acquiring equipment for reading.

Hey, everyone has a smartphone. What could go wrong? TikTok and YouTube autosuggest are just super.

Stephen E Arnold, December 1, 2020

The Internet of Infomercials: Datasphere Thumbtypers Fret

November 30, 2020

I found “The Ad-Based Internet Is About to Collapse. What Comes Next?” interesting because of two points. The first was this passage:

For example, even as the value of the digital ad industry was continuing to rise, the average clickthrough rate on Google’s display ads fell to 0.46% in 2018, ad fraud was expected to jump 21% to $42 billion in 2019, and a Google study found 56% of its display ads may not even be seen by a human. These stats suggest the product being sold is not nearly as effective or valuable as many purchasers of digital ads believe it to be.

Massive hucksterism. Got it.

And how about a fix to the Internet of Infomercials? Try this:

Logic editor Ben Tarnoff suggests that the proper organizational structure would depend on the scale of the service. In some cases, cooperatives would be ideal.

Several observations:

  1. The author is describing external characteristics of online information, not the dynamics of the datasphere
  2. Cooperation is an interesting idea; however, in a datasphere, cooperation is not the “it takes a village” fairy tale

The nature of online is now being considered by thumbtypers. News flash: It’s too late to pull disconnect. Goldfish in a fish bowl accept their environment as the norm. Replace the glass container with zeros and ones and what do you get? Fish in one environment trying to figure out another environment without the means to figure out what’s TikTok-ing, Parler-ing, and Facebook-ing.

Stephen E Arnold, November 30, 2020

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