April 25, 2017
Earlier this year I saw a reference to “the answer company.” I ignored it. Yesterday I saw a link to a podcast with Casey Hall, who is the “head of social media for business communications” at Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters is a publicly traded company with revenues in the $14 billion range. Here’s a Google chart showing how the company has performed over the last few years:
To my untrained eye, it looks as if revenues are down and profits are up. Yikes. How were those cost savings achieved? Perhaps the podcast explains how “the answer company” will boost revenues and continue to generate sustainable returns for stakeholders and, of course, senior management.
The podcast addresses a number of Thomson Reuters’ themes. One, for instance, is the fact that the company has 45,000 employees and a “giant footprint.” As the podcast ground forward, I realized that “the answer company” wants its employees to embrace employee advocacy.
It seems that “the answer company” is trying to communicate with its employees. According to the write up “How Thomson Reuters Earned the Brand as The Answer Company” accompanying the podcast told me:
Thomson Reuters encourages their employees to engage with their network of data scientists, finance, and accounting professionals by sharing the brand’s message. Leveraging their employees’ networks allows them to increase their reach and enhance the authenticity of the message since it’s coming from a real person, the employee. The employee advocacy program also helps with internal communications. Employees engage with each other and share what’s going on in their part of the organization.
Yeah, but, what about explaining “how” Thomson Reuters became “the answer company”? As it turns out, the podcast focused exclusively on “on boarding employees,” which I don’t really understand. Another topic was measuring the impact of the employee advocacy program. I think this means closing sales.
I suppose that Thomson Reuters just decided it needed a new tag line even thought its online services usually require a person to run a search, read a results list, and hunt for the needed information. That’s not answers. That’s work.
I believe that Thomson Reuters licensed the Palantir Technologies’ system in order to have tools which make sense of information. But if the podcast is any indication of how Thomson Reuters became “the answer company,” my thought is that the company is trying social media as a sales tool.
As for answers, one still has to hunt to find out what companies Thomson Reuters owns. One has to run queries on its online legal information systems and then hunt for answers.
Ah, PR. Love it. An article title which does not related to the content of the podcast OR the article.
Stephen E Arnold, April 24, 2017
April 12, 2017
Algorithms have practically changed the way the world works. However, this nifty code also has its limitations that lead to failures.
It is important, for both theoreticians and practitioners, to gain a deeper understanding of the difficulties and limitations associated with common approaches and algorithms.
The whitepaper touches four pain points of Deep Learning, which is based on algorithms. The authors propose remedial measures that possibly could overcome these impediments and lead to better AI.
Eminent personalities like Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk have however warned against advancing AIs. Google in the past had abandoned robotics as the machines were becoming too intelligent. What now needs to be seen is who will win in the end? Commercial interests or unfounded fear?
Vishal Ingole, April 12, 2017
April 11, 2017
Instant messaging service provider WhatsApp is in a quandary. While privacy of its users is of utmost importance to them, where do they draw the line if it’s a question of national security?
In an editorial published in The Telegraph titled WhatsApp Accused of Giving Terrorists ‘a Secret Place to Hide’ as It Refuses to Hand over London Attacker’s Messages, the writer says:“The Government was considering legislation to force online firms to take down extremist material, but said it was time for the companies to “recognise that they have a responsibility” to get their own house in order.
Apps like WhatsApp offer end-to-end encryption for messages sent using its network. This makes it impossible (?) for anyone to intercept and read them, even technicians at WhatsApp. On numerous occasions, WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has come under fire for protecting its user privacy. In this particular incident, the London attacker Ajao used WhatsApp to send message to someone. While Soctland Yard wants access to the messages sent by the terrorist, WhatsApp says its hands are tied.
The editorial also says that social media networks are no more tech companies, rather they are turning into publishing companies thus the onus is on them to ensure the radical materials are also removed from their networks. Who ultimately will win the battle remains to be seen, but right now, WhatsApp seems to have the edge.
Vishal Ingole, April 11, 2017
March 29, 2017
The article titled The Rise of Fake News Amidst the Fall of News Media on Silicon Valley Watcher makes a convincing argument that fake news is the inevitable result of the collective failure to invest in professional media. The author, Tom Foremski, used to write for the Financial Times. He argues that the almost ongoing layoffs among professional media organizations such as the New York Times, Salon, The Guardian, AP, Daily Dot, and IBT illustrate the lack of a sustainable business model for professional news media. The article states,
People won’t pay for the news media they should be reading but special interest groups will gladly pay for the media they want them to read. We have important decisions to make about a large number of issues such as the economy, the environment, energy, education, elder healthcare and those are just the ones that begin with the letter “E” — there’s plenty more issues. With bad information we won’t be able to make good decisions. Software engineers call this GIGO – Garbage In Garbage Out.
This issue affects us all; fake news even got a man elected to the highest office in the land. With Donald Trump demonstrating on a daily basis that he has no interest in the truth, whether, regarding the size of the crowds at his inauguration or the reason he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, the news industry is already in a crouch. Educating people to differentiate between true and false news is nearly impossible when it is so much easier and more comfortable for people to read only what reconfirms their worldview. Foremski leaves it up to the experts and the visionaries to solve the problem and find a way to place a monetary value on professional news media.
Chelsea Kerwin, March 29, 2017
March 6, 2017
In the new digital assistant line up, Alexa responds better than Cortana and Siri, because it can provide better and more intelligent services that the smartphone based app. As an Amazon product, as with Amazon Web Services, developers can learn how to build apps and other products for Alexa. The question is how to get started? HeroTurko created a learning tutorial for interested Alexa developers and it can be checked out at, “Amazon Alexa Development From Beginner To Intermediate.”
Voice-based apps are a growing sector in the technology industry and will only get bigger as the demand for voice-controlled technology increases. The tutorial is designed to teach developers how to design voice apps and then launch them on the Amazon Echo. Building your Alexa skills is a necessary step, so the course says, to get an edge on the voice app market:
The biggest industries in technology are surrounded by AI, Bots, and Voice technology. Voice technology I believe will be the new 21st user interface that will not only understand basic commands, but will be so smart to understand anything you tell it. This is why Amazon is making a big bet with Alexa, which it plans to generate close to $11 billion dollars by 2020. They know something about Amazon Echo, which is why now is the best time to learn these skills before the mainstream starts developing applications. We all know the story about apps for the smartphones, this is the same thing.
This course contains over 50 lectures and 1.5 hrs of content. It’s designed for beginners to play with new platforms in the voice space. You’ll learn the tools needed to build the Alexa Skills, how Alexa Skills work, and publish a skill to Amazon’s Alexa store.
Learning how to use Alexa is the precursor to designing other voice app and will probably segway into NLP. If you want to learn where the IT market is going beyond machine learning and artificial intelligence, this is one of the places to start.
Whitney Grace, March 6, 2017
March 1, 2017
Today we are introducing changes to Beyond Search. We are approaching 10 years of daily publication and in that time enterprise search and content processing has undergone a significant change. Enterprise search is no longer exciting. In fact, a number of companies have pivoted to different services. Search has become for many a utility at best or a ho-hum solution. Web search has degraded to the lowest common denominator of generating revenue via ads. The handful of “objective” Web search systems walk a perilous cliff edge between paying their bills and providing an index to a subset of publicly accessible content. We will continue to cover important items in Beyond Search, but we are shifting our focus to products and services related to voice-centric information access.
The Beyond Alexa blog is in its formative stages. We have started to flow content into this new service. It will include Augmentext-type stories (for information follow the link), special articles, short videos on voice related topics, and inclusions (a fancy word for sponsored content or in my lingo, ads with information value). The idea is that Alexa has become an interesting product niche, but the impact of voice-related information access is now changing rapidly. Frankly it is more dynamic than the decades old keyword search business.
You can view the alpha version of Beyond Alexa at this link. As we ramp up the service, we will have other announcements about the service. We passed the 15,000 article milestone in Beyond Search last year. Since early 2008, we have tracked the keyword centric approach to finding and making sense of information. Our changing focus reflects the fact that I wrote about years ago in Searcher Magazine. Keyword search linked to a keyboard, if not dead, was headed for marginalization.
That’s why we want to explore “beyond” Alexa, Amazon’s odd little voice activated box which does a bang up job of providing the temperature and almost friction free impulse shopping. We think there’s more “beyond” Alexa. We want to explore the new world of ubiquitous and Teflon-slick information access.
Stephen E Arnold, March 1, 2017
March 1, 2017
Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have dedicated a portion of their fortune to philanthropy issues through their own organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Tech Crunch shares that one of their first acquisitions is to support scientific research, “Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Acquires And Will Free Up Science Search Engine Meta.”
Meta is a search engine dedicated to science research papers and it is powered by artificial intelligence. Chan and Zuckerberg plan to make Meta free in a few months, but only after they have enhanced it. Once released, Meta will help scientists find the latest papers in their study fields, which is awesome as these papers are usually blocked behind paywalls. What is even better is that Meta will also assist funding organizations with research and areas with potential for investment/impact. What makes Meta different from other search engines or databases is quite fantastic:
What’s special about Meta is that its AI recognizes authors and citations between papers so it can surface the most important research instead of just what has the best SEO. It also provides free full-text access to 18,000 journals and literature sources.
Meta co-founder and CEO Sam Molyneux writes that “Going forward, our intent is not to profit from Meta’s data and capabilities; instead we aim to ensure they get to those who need them most, across sectors and as quickly as possible, for the benefit of the world.
CZI invested $3 billion dedicated to curing all diseases and they already built the Biohub in San Francisco for medical research. Meta works like this:
Meta, formerly known as Sciencescape, indexes entire repositories of papers like PubMed and crawls the web, identifying and building profiles for the authors while analyzing who cites or links to what. It’s effectively Google PageRank for science, making it simple to discover relevant papers and prioritize which to read. It even adapts to provide feeds of updates on newly published research related to your previous searches.
Meta is an ideal search engine, because it crawls the entire Web (supposedly) and returns verified information, not to mention potential research partnerships and breakthroughs. This is the type of database researchers have dreamed of for years. Would CZI be willing to fund something similar for fields other than science? Will they run into trouble with other organizations less interested in philanthropy?
Whitney Grace, March 1, 2017
March 1, 2017
Law enforcement’s focus on the Dark Web seems to be paying off, as we learn from the write-up, “Finland: Dark Web Drug Operation Exposed” at Hetq, an outlet of the Association of Investigative Journalists. In what was described as Finland’s largest drug bust, authorities seized over a million dollars’ worth of narcotics from a network selling their wares on the Dark Web. We learn:
The network is alleged to have imported €2 million (US$ 2.2 million) worth of drugs between 2014 and 2016, selling them on the dark web site Silkkitie. More than 40 kilograms of powdered narcotics, such as amphetamine, heroin and cocaine, as well as 40,000 ecstasy tablets and 30,000 LSD blotters were smuggled into Finland from the Netherlands and Germany, and then sold on the site. …
As part of the investigation, customs officers in April seized at least €1.1 million worth of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA and ecstasy in the coastal town of Kustavi. The same month, police arrested three Finnish citizens.
The write-up notes that Silkkitie users communicated through encrypted messages under pseudonyms, and that Bitcoin was the currency used. We’re also reminded that Silkkitie, a.k.a. Valhalla, is one of the Dark Web’s most popular drug marketplaces. The Finnish site was launched in 2013.
Cynthia Murrell, March 1, 2017
February 26, 2017
I read some of the Facebook manifesto. About half way through the screed I thought I was back in a class I audited decades ago about alternative political structures. That class struck me as intellectual confection, a bit like science fiction in 1962. The Facebook manifesto shared some ingredients, but it is an altogether different recipe for a new type of political construct. Facebook, not Google, is the big dog of information control. Lots of folks will not be happy; for example, traditional “real” journalists who want to pull the info-yarn and knit their vision of the perfect muffler and other countries who want to manage their information flows.
I thought about my “here we go again” reaction when I read “Facebook Plans to Rewire Your Life. Be Afraid.” Sorry, I am not afraid. Maybe when I was a bit younger, but 74 years of “innovative” thinking have dulled my senses. The write up which is from the “real” journalism outfit Bloomberg is more sensitive than I am. If you are a Facebooker, you will be happy with the Zuck’s manifesto. If you are struggling to figure out what is going on with hundreds of millions of people checking their “friends” and their “likes,” you will want to read the “real news” about Facebook.
Spoiler: Facebook is a new type of country.
The write up “reports”:
Facebook — launched, in Zuckerberg’s own words five years ago, to “extend people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships” — is turning into something of an extraterritorial state run by a small, unelected government that relies extensively on privately held algorithms for social engineering.
Yep, the same “we can do it better” thinking has infused many other high technology companies. Some see the attitude as arrogance. I see the approach as an extension of a high school math team. No one in the high school cares that much about the boys and girls who do not struggle to understand calculus. Those in the math club know that the other kids in the school just don’t “get it.”
The thinking has created some nifty technology. There’s the GOOG. There’s Palantir. There’s Uber. No doubt these companies have found traction in a world which seems to lack shared cultural norms and nation states which seem to be like a cookie jar from which elected officials take handfuls of cash.
The write up points out:
As for the “rewired” information infrastructure, it has helped to chase people into ideological silos and feed them content that reinforces confirmation biases. Facebook actively created the silos by fine-tuning the algorithm that lies at its center — the one that forms a user’s news feed. The algorithm prioritizes what it shows a user based, in large measure, on how many times the user has recently interacted with the poster and on the number of “likes” and comments the post has garnered. In other words, it stresses the most emotionally engaging posts from the people to whom you are drawn — during an election campaign, a recipe for a filter bubble and, what’s more, for amplifying emotional rather than rational arguments.
The traditional real journalists are supposed to do this job. Well, that’s real news. The New York Times wants to be like Netflix. Sounds great. In practice, well, the NYT is a newspaper with some baggage and maybe not enough cash to buy a ticket to zip zip land.
The real news story makes an interesting assertion:
It’s absurd to expect humility from Silicon Valley heroes. But Zuckerberg should realize that by trying to shape how people use Facebook, he may be creating a monster. His company’s other services — Messenger and WhatsApp — merely allow users to communicate without any interference, and that simple function is the source of the least controversial examples in Zuckerberg’s manifesto. “In Kenya, whole villages are in WhatsApp groups together, including their representatives,” the Facebook CEO writes. Well, so are my kids’ school mates, and that’s great.
But great translates to “virtual identify suicide.”
The fix? Get those billion people to cancel their accounts. Yep, that will work in the country of Facebook. I am, however, not afraid. Of course, I don’t use Facebook, worry about likes, or keep in touch with those folks from that audited class.
From my point of view, Facebook and Google to a lesser extent have been chugging along for years. Now the railroad want to lay new track. Your farm in the way? Well, there is a solution. Build the track anyway.
Stephen E Arnold, February 26, 2017
February 7, 2017
The article titled The Best Cities in the World for Book Lovers on Quartz conveys the data collected by the World Cities Culture Forum. That organization works to facilitate research and promote cultural endeavors around the world. And what could be a better measure of a city’s culture than its books? The article explains how the data collection works,
Led by the London mayor’s office and organized by UK consulting company Bop, the forum asks its partner cities to self-report on cultural institutions and consumption, including where people can get books. Over the past two years, 18 cities have reported how many bookstores they have, and 20 have reported on their public libraries. Hong Kong leads the pack with 21 bookshops per 100,000 people, though last time Buenos Aires sent in its count, in 2013, it was the leader, with 25.
New York sits comfortably in sixth place, but London, surprisingly, is near the bottom of the ranking with roughly 360 bookstores. Another measure the WCCF uses is libraries per capita. Edinburgh of all places surges to the top without any competition. New York is the only US city to even make the cut with an embarrassing 2.5 libraries per 100K people. By contrast, Edinburgh has 60.5 per 100K people. What this analysis misses out on is the size and beauty of some of the bookstores and libraries of global cities. To bask in these images, visit Bookshelf Porn or this Mental Floss ranking of the top 7 gorgeous bookstores.
Chelsea Kerwin, February 7, 2017