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Google: Is This an X Lab for Real Journalists

June 23, 2015

I have a colleague who retired. The newspaper for which he worked continued to make like interesting for those over the age of 55. I assume that other real journalists have discovered that the appetite for those born after 1950 is changing. Bring on the younger journalism grads. YouTube savvy? Great. A high traffic blog about veganism? Come on down. A Web site which is magnet for python programmers? Hey, want to work for us?

When I read “Introducing the News Lab,” I had two different thoughts:

  1. What a great idea
  2. Quite a pool of unemployed, under employed, and want to be professionals to tap
  3. How many publishers are like hungry bass in a big lake at a fishing tournament?
  4. How many journalists know how to make Google’s system sing and dance like a top billing at a vaudeville show?

According to the write up:

It’s hard to think of a more important source of information in the world than quality journalism. At its best, news communicates truth to power, keeps societies free and open, and leads to more informed decision-making by people and leaders. In the past decade, better technology and an open Internet have led to a revolution in how news is created, distributed, and consumed. And given Google’s mission to ensure quality information is accessible and useful everywhere, we want to help ensure that innovation in news leads to a more informed, more democratic world.

There you go. What about the right to be forgotten, filtering, predictive search results, and ads? Once again I am mashing up the math club’s manifesto with reality.

The idea is that the journalists embracing the GOOG will use the GOOG to produce content. I learned:

There’s a revolution in data journalism happening in newsrooms today, as more data sets and more tools for analysis are allowing journalists to create insights that were never before possible. To help journalists use our data to offer a unique window to the world, last week we announced an update to our Google Trends platform. The new Google Trends provides journalists with deeper, broader, and real-time data, and incorporates feedback we collected from newsrooms and data journalists around the world. We’re also helping newsrooms around the world tell stories using data, with a daily feed of curated Google Trends based on the headlines of the day, and through partnerships with newsrooms on specific data experiments.

The attentive reader will notice that I have removed the numerous links in the article. Clicking around in the middle of an important article is not something I do nor encourage.

Will the News Lab deliver the benefits journalists expect and the benefit some folks need? Will Google “put wood behind” this initiative or will it suffer the same fate as Web Accelerator? Will the service generate more magnetism than the many news efforts nosing into the datasphere? Will publishers jump with glee because Google empowers new content?

No answers yet.

Stephen E Arnold, June 23, 2015

Publishers Want to Dejuice Apple, Squash It

June 22, 2015

I read “Publishers Slam Apple over Presumptuous News App Conditions.” Publishers presumptuous? I know of one publisher who used my research and marketed it on Amazon without my permission. Was that presumptuous of IDC and its wizard Dave Schubmehl?

According to the write up:

Publishers are up in arms following an email from Apple about inclusion in the firm’s upcoming News application and the kind of conditions that will be imposed. The email said that participants are presumed to have accepted Apple’s terms unless they explicitly opt out. It’s the old opt-out over opt-in thing.

Yes, up in arms. I can see the publishers at the New York Athletic Club wielding their squash rackets with malice. My goodness, what a chilling thought. What if those white clad clubsters were to descend on the Apple store in Manhattan and threaten the geniuses?

My fears subsided when I read:

The service will draw content from publicly available RSS feeds, and it is possible that Apple will be challenged, according to one expert, but not in any really meaningful way.

My concern for a Squash Assault receded. Publishers may have to retire to the Yacht Club to find another option.

Stephen E Arnold, June 22, 2015

Big Data and Old, Incomplete Listicles

June 19, 2015

I enjoy lists of the most important companies, the top 25 vendors of a specialized service, and a list of companies I should monitor. Wonderful stuff because I encounter firms about which I have zero information in my files and about which I have heard nary a word.

An interesting list appears in “50 Big Data Companies to Follow.” The idea is that I should set up a Google Alert for each company and direct my Overflight system to filter content mentioning these firms. The problem with this post is that the information does not originate with Datamation or Data Science Center. The list was formulated by Sand in a story called “Sand Hill 50 “Swift and Strong” in Big Data.” The list was compiled prior to its publication in January 2014. This makes the list 18 months old. With the speed of change in Big Data, the list in my opinion is stale.

A similar list appears in “CRN 50 Big Data business Analytics Companies,” which appears on the Web site. This list appears to date from the middle of 2014, which makes it about a year old. Better but not fresh.

I did locate an update called “2015 Big Data 100: Business Analytics.” Locating a current list of Big Data companies was not easy. Presumably my search skills are sub par. Nevertheless, the list is interesting.

Here are some firms in Big Data which were new to me:

  • Guavas
  • Knime
  • Zoomdata

But the problem was that the CRN Web site presented only 46 vendors, not 100.


  • Datamation is pushing out via its feed links to old content originating on other publishers’ Web sites
  • The obscurity of the names in the list is the defining characteristic of the lists
  • Getting a comprehensive, current list of Big Data vendors is difficult. Data Science just listed 15 companies and back linked to Sand Hill. CRN displayed 46 companies but forced me to click on each listing. I could not view the entire list.

Not too useful, folks.

Stephen E Arnold, June 19, 2015

The Digital Gutenbergs Spur Their Chargers. Giddyap.

June 18, 2015

Forget the mom and pop app. A couple of big outfits are going to select and present information you will consume. Choice? Well, for those who are [a] busy, [b] unable to read, and [c] those with short attention spans—your life is going to be just peachy.

The first rumble comes from lovable Apple. Navigate to “Apple Inc. To Hire Journalists For Curated Content On News App.” I highlighted this passage:

Apple’s decision to hire journalists is the latest example of fusion between news media and tech companies. In the last few years, many social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, have hired editors and reporters from high profile news media, such as NBC and News Corp. Recently, Snapchat also hired reporters from CNN, and The Verge, a tech site.

The article reminded me that Facebook is ambling down a content path as well.

The next it is that the recruiting tool LinkedIn is going to use humans to “tailor news.” The details, which I assume are spot are, appear in “LinkedIn Brings Back Human Editors to Tailor News to You.” I circled this statement:

But to compete with these other products, Kothari knows that Pulse must offer something different. It’s the “world’s first personalized business news digest,” he says. More importantly, perhaps, LinkedIn’s Pulse is bringing back human editors, not just algorithms, to tailor the news you see to what it already knows about you. And yet it may not be alone—Apple is reportedly planning to curate news with the help of humans, too.

Also, the GOOG, already armed with APIs and the warm and fuzzy news service is taking another baby step into content as well. The story I printed out is called “A New Window into Our World with Real Time Trends.” Yep, just family because it is “our world.” Google says:

On the new, you’ll find a ranked, real-time list of trending stories that are gaining traction across Google. In addition to Search, we now look at trends from YouTube and Google News and combine them to better understand what topics and stories are trending across the web right now. The redesigned homepage is now available in 28 countries around the world, and we’ll continue to add more locations in the coming months.

What’s the impact of these digital Gutenberg twirls?

My initial reaction is that and similar services will be doing some talking with their investors. Whatever money these news recyclers have is probably not going to be enough to deal with the Apples, Facebooks, Googles, and LinkedIns of the world. Heck, LinkedIn may need more dough too.

Second, are there enough readers to allow each of these services to meet the expectations of the spreadsheet jockeys who project revenues? My hunch is that the answer is, “Nope.” More concentration ahead I opine.

And, third, what about the old line publishing companies which continue to pretend that their products and services are exactly what the market wants? More pain and not much gain I assume.

Exciting times for the digital Gutenbergs? Too bad my study Google: The Digital Gutenberg is out of print. If you are curious about this trend, let me know and I will spin up a PDF of that original study. Write

Stephen E Arnold, June 18, 2015

What Twitter Should Do: The New York Times Opines with Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda Ideas

June 14, 2015

Well, advice from the gray lady about what a digital company should do is fascinating. Frankly, I would be more inclined to go with Snoop Dogg than a newspaper which seems to have made floundering and gesticulating its principal business strategy since Jeff Pemberton walked out the door 40 years ago.


Navigate to “for Twitter, Future Means Here and Now.” Keep in mind that this link may require you to pay money or go on an Easter Egg Hunt for locate a hard copy of the newspaper. Not my problemo, gentle reader. It is the dead tree New York Times’ approach to information.

Here’s one of the passages I circle in yellow and then put a black Sharpie exclamation point next to the sentences:

Twitter, as a service, is many things to many people at different times. It is one of the world’s best sources for news and for jokes about news, a playground for professional networking, and a haven for that most human of pastimes, idle gossip. But because the service offers so many uses, Twitter, as a company, has had trouble focusing on one purpose for which it should aim to excel. The lack of concentration has damaged its prospects with users, investors and advertisers. Choosing a single intent for Twitter — and working to make that a reality — ought to be the next chief’s main task. Among the many uses that Twitter fulfills as a social network, there is one it is uniquely suited for: as a global gathering space for live events. When something goes down in the real world — when a plane crashes, an earthquake strikes, a basketball game gets crazy, or Kanye West hijacks an awards show — Twitter should aim to become the first and only app that people load up to comment on the news.

There you go. Make Twitter into a human intermediated version of the New York Times, lite edition. More data, less filling, and you trim your IQ as well.

I find that journalistic enterprises in the midst of revenue, profit, and innovation swamps have advice to give to digital companies fascinating. I wonder if the gray lady assumes that the stakeholders, Twitter management, and the advisers to the firm have failed to craft options, ideas, tactics, and strategies.

My hunch is that like many Internet centric communication services one rides a curve up due to novelty and apparent utility. Then a new thing comes along like WhatsApp or Jott, and the potential users of the older service just surf newness. Once the cachet fades, a phenomenon with which the New York Times may be familiar, the options just don’t deliver.

Amusing to me, however.

Stephen E Arnold, June 14, 2015

Short Honk: Snowden Document Inventory

June 12, 2015

Short honk: Curious about Snowden documents? If so, navigate to “Snowden Doc Search.” The site provides a snippet and some tags. We have seen other Snowden collections, but we view these with skepticism and indifference. You, gentle reader, may find the approach just what you need as a source of jargon and milspec graphics.

Stephen E Arnold, June 12 2015

Flaws in the Peer Review System

June 2, 2015

The article titled Does Peer Review Do More Harm Than Good? on Maclean’s explores the issues facing today’s peer review system. Peer review is the process of an expert looking over a scientific paper before it is published in order to double check the findings. It is typically unpaid and as a result, can take a long time. In an effort to solve the wait time problem, some journals started offering “fast tracking” or a hefty fee that would guarantee a quick turnaround for peer review. The article quotes Professor Alex Holcombe on the subject,

“It ran contrary to many of the scientific values that I hold dear,” says Holcombe, “which is: What appears in scientific journals is determined not by money, but rather the merit of the actual science.” He says fast-tracking is a formula for taking shortcuts—such tight timelines may force reviewers and editors to make decisions without proper scrutiny—and worries it will jeopardize reviewers’ neutrality.”

The article goes on to compare peer review to democracy- the best of all evils. But now predatory journals are posing as legitimate academic journals in an attempt to get money out of desperate-to-publish scientists. Not only is this exploitative, it also leads to bad science getting published. For scientists, the discrepancies may be obvious, but the article points out that journalists and politicians might not know the difference, leading to the spread of “crackpot views” without a base in science.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 2, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Short Honk: Burying Stories? Impossible or Not?

June 1, 2015

Short honk: I read this item: “Slashdot Burying Stories About Slashdot Media Owned SourceForge.” The idea is that publications have to have an editorial policy. In this article, it seems that one popular next generation news aggregator is making some interesting choices. According to the article,

If you’ve followed any tech news aggregator in the past week, you’ve probably seen the story about how SourceForge is taking over admin accounts for existing projects and injecting adware in installers for packages like GIMP. For anyone not following the story, SourceForge has a long history of adware laden installers, but they used to be opt-in. It appears that the process is now mandatory for many projects.

The write up concludes:

In that vein, it’s funny to see Slashdot (which is owned by the same company as SourceForge) also attempting to destroy their own brand. They’re the only major tech news aggregator which hasn’t had a story on this, and that’s because they’ve buried every story that someone submits. This has prompted people to start submitting comments about this on other stories.

If accurate, filtering happens at publications large and small. It even happens at Beyond Search. We don’t report some of the crazier assertions made by search and content processing companies. Example: a “new” search system that displays results at page thumbnails or “breakthroughs” in natural language processing. Sorry.

Stephen E Arnold, June 1, 2015

Legal Aquisition Ahead? For Sure, for Sure

June 1, 2015

I read, along with Reed Elsevier and Thomson Reuters executives, the article with this click attractive title: “Westlaw and Lexis Nexis: Are Your Days Numbered Yet?” The answer is, “Nope.” Legal eagles, the government, and Trump-wealthy online surfers will continue to use LexisNexis and Westlaw for a while.

The article references new online services which are trying to offer alternatives at a lower cost. mentioned in the write up is Casetext at I expected to see a reference to Fastcase at and maybe a pointer to Fastcase buying LexisNexis’ Collier TopForm & File.

My hunch is that legal information is getting more difficult to locate. Verify this by looking for information related to the MIC, RAC, and ZPIC matters in US government Web sites like and in the commercial legal information services. I found this research a challenge.

If Casetext has some oomph, I assume Reed and Thomson will acquire the company. Online legal research has a certain predictability inherent it its business model.

Stephen E Arnold, June 1, 2015


The US Government and Its Colors: Newspaper Gets Excited

May 29, 2015

I am not sure why the Washington Post content is catching my attention. I don’t look for information about the colors which the US government says are acceptable. The Bezos newspaper does find this subject important. Navigate to “The US Government Has 650 Official Colors. Can You Tell Them Apart?” The answer to the question is, “Nah. Don’t care.” I was looking for information about search and content processing yesterday, May 29.

Somehow “search” and “color” aimed me at a color article. The write up includes a link to the panoply of colors. But the keystone of the write up is a test. No, I am not kidding. There are color swatches and click boxes. The idea is to figure out which color denotes a mail box. I know I spot mail boxes by driving into the post office parking lot and looking for the boxes which have a slot for the mail. I am not sure I process the color because I have learned that the post office in Harrod’s Creek has one box with a  slot in front of the house trailer which serves as the official USPS facility. I don’t know the color of the trailer either.

Here’s what the test looks like:


So what?

Question 5 asks, “Which of these is described as Public Building Standard?” The answer is green.


My recollection of my government work is different. The White House is sort of creamy white.

The GSA building is stone tan and gray.

Justice is sort of light gray.

The CIA has no color which I can recall because I have no memory of the facility.


How many green government buildings do you recall? Even Ft. Knox paints it buildings a sort of yellow white.

The point is that there are some stories which warrant coverage; for example, the valuation of Temis, which was acquired by an Italian outfit at a price which is stunningly low. How about tackling the China-Indonesia matter? What about the US budget?

But color? The only thing the story did not include was a link to Amazon so I could buy some paint to daub on my print out of this story. As the story itself points out:

Right. That dull beige is 34554, the color of mediocrity.

There you go. Journalism and reportage uses the word “mediocrity.”

Stephen E Arnold, May 29, 2015

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