Oh, Canada: Censorship Means If It Is Not Indexed, Information Does Not Exist

December 8, 2016

I read “Activists Back Google’s Appeal against Canadian Order to Censor Search Results.” The write up appears in a “real” journalistic endeavor, a newspaper in fact. (Note that newspapers are facing an ad revenue Armageddon if the information in “By 2020 More Money Will Be Spent on Online Ads Than on Radio or Newspapers” is accurate.)

The point of the “real” journalistic endeavor’s write up is to point out that censorship could get a bit of a turbo boost. I highlighted this passage:

In an appeal heard on Tuesday [December 6, 2016] in the supreme court of Canada, Google Inc took aim at a 2015 court decision that sought to censor search results beyond Canada’s borders.

If the appeal goes south, a government could instruct the Google and presumably any other indexing outfit to delete pointers to content. If one cannot find online information, that information may cease to be findable. Ergo. The information does not exist for one of the search savvy wizards holding a mobile phone or struggling to locate a US government document.

The “real” journalistic endeavor offers:

A court order to remove worldwide search results could threaten free expression if it catches on globally – where it would then be subject to wildly divergent standards on freedom of speech.

It is apparently okay for a “real” journalistic endeavor to prevent information from appearing in its information flows as long as the newspaper is doing the deciding. But when a third party like a mere government makes the decision, the omission is a very bad thing.

I don’t have a dog in this fight because I live in rural Kentucky, am an actual addled goose (honk!), and find that so many folks are now realizing the implications of indexing digital content. Let’s see. Online Web indexes have been around and free for 20, maybe 30 years.

There is nothing like the howls of an animal caught in a trap. The animal wandered into or was lured into the trap. Let’s howl.

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2016

Europe and Disinformation: Denmark? Denmark.

December 7, 2016

If you want to catch up on what “Europe” is doing about disinformation, you will want to read “European Union Efforts to Counter Disinformation.” After you have worked through the short document, do a couple of queries on Bing, Google, Inxight, and Yandex for Copenhagen protests. With a bit of work, you will locate a December 4, 2016, write up from the estimable Express newspaper Web site. The story is “WAR ON DENMARK’S STREETS: Migrant Chaos Sparks Clashes between Police and Protestors.” Disinformation, misinformation, and reformation of information are different facets of this issue. However, a growing problem is the absence of information. Locating semi accurate “factoids” is a tough job. “Real” journalists prefer to recycle old information or just take what pops into their mobile phone’s browser. Hey, finding out things is really hard. People are really busy with the Facebook thing. Are you planning a holiday in Denmark where a policeman was shot in the head on December 6, 2016? No quotes because the source is the outstanding Associated Press. That outfit does not want people like me to recycle their factoids. Hey, where’s the story about the car burnings which have been increasing this year? Oh, never mind. If the information is not in Google, it does not exist. Convenient? You bet.

Stephen E Arnold, December 7, 2016

Want to Get Published in a Science Journal? Just Dole out Some Cash

December 7, 2016

A Canadian, Tom Spears has managed to publish a heavily plagiarized paper in a science journal by paying some cash. Getting published in a scientific and medical journal helps in advancing the career. ‘

In an article published by SlashDot titled Science Journals Caught Publishing Fake Research For Cash, the author says:

In 2014, journalist Tom Spears intentionally wrote “the world’s worst science research paper…a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble” — then got it accepted by eight different journals. He did it to expose journals which follow the publish-for-a-fee model, “a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate.

This is akin to students enlisting services of hackers over Dark Web to manipulate their grades and attendance records. However, in this case, there is no need of Dark Web or Tor browser. Paying some cash is sufficient.

The root of the problem can be traced to OMICS International, an India-based publishing firm that is buying publication companies of these medical journals and publishing whatever is sent to them for cash. In standard practice, the paper needs to be peer-reviewed and also checked for plagiarism before it is published. As written earlier, the separation line between the Dark and Open web seems to be thinning and one day will disappear altogether.

Vishal Ingole, December 7, 2016

 

Bezos Paper Research Item: Report Has Disappeared

December 6, 2016

I read a weird, sort of out-of-time write up from the “real” journalistic outfit the Washington Post. The story is “Pentagon Buries Evidence of $125 Billion in Bureaucratic Waste.” The days of the fun Golden Fleece Award have passed us by. The Washington Post is apparently trying to revivify an interesting series of announcements about expensive, inefficient US government processes. I know the US government is a paragon of efficiency, so I was curious about the hot news which I read on December 5, 2016. If the url doesn’t work, you may have to pay to view the Bezos paper’s content. Don’t hassle me. Contact the big guy at the digital Wal-Mart.

The “news” in the story is that a 2015 report HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE WEB SITE. The capital letters are necessary because the investigative team at the Bezos paper has discovered that a white hot report is no longer findable.

signpost fixed

Guidepost for some real journalists. Helpful and apparently accurate.

Okay, that’s just not true.

The report “Transforming DoD’s Core Business Processes for Revolutionary Change” is available. Just click this DTIC link for the short version and this link for the 140+ page version. Dive into the document which was in preparation for more than a year. The reports appeared in January 2015. It took me exactly 20 seconds to navigate to USA.gov, enter the title of the report, and identify the document in the result list. Sure, the USA.gov search relevance thing is not too good, but the document is indeed online from a unit of the Department of Defense. (I wonder if the intrepid Bezos paper researchers have sought ZPIC and RAC contract information on the US government’s fraud related Web sites. There’s a story there.)

This report was assembled in 2014 and made available in 2015. The Bezos paper rolled out the “Pentagon Buries…” write up on December 5, 2016. That’s a bit like reporting that in 2014 Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz was a reasonably popular rap song. Run the story today and you have a real timely report. That’s “real” journalism.

The DoD fiddles with its Web site frequently. Try and locate details of the 2015 DCGS meeting in Virginia. The information is online, but due to the spiffing up of US government Web sites, content seems to disappear. In some cases like the MIC, RAC, and ZPIC information, a contractor or a clever government Web master moves content from a public folder to a non-public folder. Some bureaucrats are not completely ditzy.

The DoD, however, is another kettle of fish. The agency has to deal with the tanks it does not want yet it continues to receive, the F-35 thing, and the stealth ship which is neither stealthy or ready to take a quick spin to Jeju this afternoon. These expensive projects are difficult to hide. Notice I did not mention my fave US government project, the Distributed Common Ground System available (sort of) in Air Force and Army flavors.

My point is that “investigations” implies something substantive, reasonably new, and not widely known. The “Pentagon Buries…” write up is not new. Its information is widely known even here in rural Kentucky, and I would presume by legions of Beltway Bandits who wonder what the Trumpeteers will do to their highly polished apple carts used to ferry proposals and invoices to the the Department of Defense and assorted sub entities.

In an era during which real journalists at outfits like the Guardian REALIZE THAT FREE WEB SEARCH IS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS, I conclude that the “real” journalists prefer old news to tracking down something of substance which is current. Even my comment about MIC, RAC, and ZPIC contracts is old news. I keep the juicy new stuff to myself.

Because I am not a “real” journalist, I sell information because I am a semi retired consultant. Watch for “Dark Web Notebook.” The monograph contains information not previously collected. Some of the information is “actual factual” just like the podcast by three millennials. Perhaps the Bezos paper will buy a copy? I know better than to put the study on Amazon. I watched the horror of the Schubmehl thing, which tried to hawk eight pages of my research for $3,500 on the digital Wal-Mart. What was that “wizard” thinking? Maybe he could work at the Bezos paper? Might be a good fit.

Stephen E Arnold, December 6, 2016

How Real Journalists Do Research

November 8, 2016

I read “Search & Owned Media Most Used by Journalists.” The highlight of the write up was a table created by Businesswire. The “Media Survey” revealed “Where the Media Look When Researching an Organization.” Businesswire is a news release outfit. Organizations pay to have a write up sent to “real” journalists.

Let’s look at the data in the write up.

The top five ways “real” journalists obtain information is summarized in the table below. I don’t know the sample size, the methodology, or the method of selecting the sample. My hunch is that the people responding have signed up for Businesswire information or have some other connection with the company.

Most Used Method Percent Using
Google 89%
Organization Web site 88%
Organization’s online newsroom 75%
Social media postings 54%
Government records 53%

Now what about the five least used methods for research:

Least Used Method Percent Using
Organization PR spokesperson 39%
News release boilerplate 33%
Bing 8%
Yahoo 7%
Other (sorry but no details) 6%

Now what about the research methods in between these two extremes of most and least used:

No Man’s Land Methods Percent Using
Talk to humans 51%
Trade publication Web sites 44%
Local newspapers 43%
Wikipedia 40%
Organization’s blog 39%

Several observations flapped across the minds of the goslings in Harrod’s Creek.

  1. Yahoo and Bing may want to reach out to “real” journalists and explain how darned good their search systems are for “real” information. If the data are accurate, Google is THE source for “real” journalists’ core or baseline information
  2. The popularity of social media and government information is a dead heat. I am not sure whether this means social media information is wonderful or if government information is not up to the standards of social media like Facebook or Twitter
  3. Talking to humans, which I assume was the go to method for information, is useful to half the “real” journalists. This suggests that half of the “real” news churned out by “real” journalists may be second hand, recycled and transformed, or tough to verify. The notion of “good enough” enters at this point
  4. Love that Wikipedia because 40 percent of “real” journalists rely on it for some or maybe a significant portion of the information in a “real” news story.

It comes as no surprise that news releases creep into the results list via Google’s indexing of “real” news, the organization’s online newsroom, the organization’s tweets and Facebook posts, trade publications which are first class recyclers of news releases, and the organization’s blog.

Interesting. Echo chamber, filter bubble, disinformation—Do any of these terms resonate with you?

Stephen E Arnold, November 8, 2016

 

Computerworld Becomes ComputerWatson

October 22, 2016

I followed a series of links to three articles about IBM Watson. Here are the stories I read:

The publication running these three write ups is Computerworld, which I translated as “ComputerWatson.”

Intrigued by the notion of “news,” I learned:

Watson uses some 50 technologies today, tapping artificial-intelligence techniques such as machine learning, deep learning, neural networks, natural language processing, computer vision, speech recognition and sentiment analysis.

But IBM does not like the idea of artificial intelligence even though I have spotted such synonyms in other “real” news write ups; for example, “augmented intelligence.”

There are factoids like “Watson can read more than 800 pages a second.” Figure 125 words per “page” and that works out to 100,000 words per second which is a nice round number. Does Watson perform this magic on a basic laptop? Probably not. What are the bandwidth and storage requirements? Oh,not a peep.

Computerworld—I mean ComputerWatson—provides a complete timeline of the technology too. The future begins in 1997. Imagine that. Boom. Watson wins at chess.

The “history” of Watson is embellished with a fanciful account of how IBM trained via humans assembling information. How much does corpus assembly cost? ComputerWatson—oh, I meant “Computerworld”—does not dive into investment.

To make Watson’s inner workings clear, the “real” news write up provides a link to an IBM video. Here’s an example of the cartoonish presentation:

image

These three write ups strike me as a public relations exercise. If IBM paid Computerworld to write and run these stories, the three articles are advertising. Who wrote these “news stories”? The byline is Katherine Noyes, who describes herself as “an ardent geek.” Her beat? Enterprise software, cloud computing, big data, analytics, and artificial intelligence.

Remarkable stuff but I had several thoughts:

  1. Not much “news” is included in the articles. It seems to me that the information has appeared in other writings.
  2. IBM Watson is working overtime to be recognized as the leader in the smart software game. That’s okay, but IBM seems to be pushing big markets with no easy way to monetize its efforts; for example, education, cancer, and game show participation.
  3. The Computerworld IBM Watson content party strikes me as eroding the credibility of both outfits.

Oh, I remember. Dave Schubmehl, the fellow who tried to sell on Amazon reports containing my research without my consent, was hooked up with IDG. I have lost track of the wizard, but I do recall the connection. More information is here.

Yep, credibility for possible content marketing and possible presentation of “news” as marketing collateral. Fascinating. Perhaps I should ask Watson: “What’s up?”

Stephen E Arnold, October 22, 2016

The Thrill of Rising Yahoo Traffic

October 21, 2016

I love the Gray Lady. The Bits column is chock full of technology items which inspire, excite, and sometimes implant silly ideas in readers’ minds. That’s real journalism.

Navigate to “Daily Report: Explaining Yahoo’s Unexpected Rise in Traffic.”

The write up pivots on the idea that Internet traffic can be monitored in a way that is accurate and makes sense. A click is a click. A packet is a packet. Makes sense. The are the “minor” points of figuring out which clicks are from humans and which clicks are from automated scripts performing some function like probing for soft spots. There are outfits which generate clicks for various reasons including running down a company’s advertising “checkbook.” There are clicks which ask such questions as, “Are you alive?” or “What’s the response time?” You get the idea because you have a bit of doubt about traffic generated by a landing page, a Web site, or even an ad. The counting thing is difficult.

The write up in the Gray Lady assumes that these “minor” points are irrelevant in the Yahoo scheme of themes; for example:

an increased number of people were drawn to Yahoo in September. The reason may have been Yahoo’s disclosure that month that hackers stole data on 500 million users in 2014.

“People”? How do we know that the traffic is people?

The Gray Lady states:

Yahoo’s traffic has been declining for a long time, overtaken by more adept, varied and apparently secure places to stay on the internet.

Let’s think about this. We don’t know if the traffic data are counting humans, software scripts, or utility functions. We do know that Yahoo has been on a glide path to a green field without rocks and ruts. We know that Yahoo is a bit of a hoot in terms of management.

My hunch is that Yahoo’s traffic is pretty much what it has been; that is, oscillating a bit but heading in for a landing, either hard or soft.

Suggesting that Yahoo may be growing is interesting but unfounded. That traffic stuff is mushy. What’s the traffic to the New York Times’s pay walled subsite? How does the Times know that a click is a human from a “partner” and not a third party scraping content?

And maybe the traffic spike is a result of disenchanted Yahoo users logging in to change their password or cancel their accounts.

Stephen E Arnold, October 21, 2016

Dark Web for Sci-Tech Content without the Big Fees

October 11, 2016

Publishers are not happy. Sci-Hub, a Dark Web portal provides free access to 58 million academic papers and articles that usually are sold through costly subscriptions and pay walls in the real world.

In an article that appeared on ExpressVPN titled 9 Must-See .onion Sites from the Depths of the Dark Web, the author says that –

This (Sci-Hub) gives underfunded scientific institutions, as well as individuals, unprecedented access to the world’s collective knowledge, something certain to boost humankind’s search for an end to diseases, droughts, and hunger.

Sci-Hub is brainchild of Alexandra Elbakyan a Kazak girl who wanted free access to academic literature without having to worry about money.

According to Science Magazine, everybody from students, scholars, researchers to underfunded universities are accessing the pirated academic literature.

How will publishers respond? We assume there will be meetings, legal actions, more meetings, hand waving, and attempts to convince Ms. Elbakyan to do her online system the old fashioned way: Charge universities as much as humanly possible. If these procedures fail, Ms. Elbakyan may want to be accompanied by former Kazak Olympic wrestlers and at least one legal eagle as she wends her way through life.

Vishal Ingole, October 11, 2016

Investigating a Palantir Founder: Is This a Good Idea?

September 29, 2016

I like the idea of researching technology and companies. I like to know something about the founders, but I am not too interested in their hobbies, the name of their dog, or how they spend their vacation days.

I read “MuckRock & Vice Announce Fellowship to Investigate Peter Thiel.” If the write up is accurate, which for the purposes of this blog post, is the operative assumption, I have a question: “Will this effort backfire?”

I understand that law enforcement and certain government agencies need to develop profiles and bubble gum cards about people of interest. When a person runs for a political office, journalists like to dig into the candidates’ past. But a lawyer and entrepreneur? Interesting.

The write up informed me:

I’m [author of the article cited above] not so sure how much Thiel-related info is really FOIA-able, this may put to the test Thiel’s stated claim that he wasn’t against journalism that made him look bad, in funding lawyer Charles Harder to sue Gawker into oblivion, but rather to “send a message” about protecting privacy. Of course, when you try to silence the press, there’s always a chance that the press decides to turn an even bigger spotlight on you.

Fascinating maneuver by MuckRock and Vice. I wonder if these outfits understand how tools like Palantir Gotham work, the tools’s capabilities, and the unintended consequences of collecting information about one of the beloved professionals involved in PayPal?

Worth monitoring from afar. Those lucky fellowship winners may learn quite a bit from the exercise. Did I mention that I wanted to monitor the trajectory of this “real news” adventure from afar. Really afar.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2016

Harvard: Does the University Sell What the Customer Wants?

September 22, 2016

I know that online facilitates many functions. One can look up information. One can make up information and disseminate it so the information becomes “accurate.” One can take money and combine many functions in one glorious paean to academic integrity and scholarly research.

Consider fat and sugar. The Harvard crowd prefers kale and spring water, but for the moment consider these two essential components of many university commissaries.

Why am I linking online and the complements of chocolate and salt? The answer is my reaction to “Sugar Industry Secretly Paid for Favorable Harvard Research.” For the moment, let’s assume that this article is spot on. Hey, if something is online, that something is accurate, factual, and dead right. Well, that is what Jasper and Olli, along with the rest of the Beyond Search barn yard crew believe.

The write up informed me:

As nutrition debates raged in the 1960s, prominent Harvard nutritionists published two reviews in a top medical journal downplaying the role of sugar in coronary heart disease. Newly unearthed documents reveal what they didn’t say: A sugar industry trade group initiated and paid for the studies, examined drafts, and laid out a clear objective to protect sugar’s reputation in the public eye.

Hmmm. “Paid for” means content marketing. Search engine optimization undermines precision and recall. The mobile crowd is not into either of these yardsticks. But folks who like Twinkies can relate to sugar and fat. Now it seems that fat may be slightly less problematic for the waistline than sugar.

The write up told me:

Kearns [an expert who found the pay for brains’ play] said the papers, which the trade group later cited in pamphlets provided to policymakers, aided the industry’s plan to increase sugar’s market share by convincing Americans to eat a low-fat diet.

Yep, death. I suppose that if a few people die because of flawed research data that’s okay. Harvard has many initiatives to help those who have issues. However, Harvard does like to take care of itself and its available cash and assorted reserves.

Another maven’s comment received the fatty yellow highlight for this passage:

Marion Nestle, a nutrition expert at New York University who was not involved in the paper, said she’s still not convinced by those who argue that “sugar is poison” — a person’s total calorie consumption could matter more. But she called the UCSF findings a “smoking gun” — rare, hard evidence of the food industry meddling in science. “Science is not supposed to work this way,” she wrote in an accompanying commentary. “Is it really true that food companies deliberately set out to manipulate research in their favor? Yes, it is, and the practice continues,” Nestle added, noting that Coca-Cola and candy makers have both tried recently to influence nutrition research.

I am confident that Harvard can explain its venturing into the esteemed field of content marketing. I love that Harvard athletic program too. But I am even more fond of Harvard research than I was before learning about pay to play. I need a kale sandwich and a bottle of spring water. 23 skidoo to integrity in academe.

Stephen E Arnold, September 22, 2016

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