Editorial Excitement: Will Facebook and Google Struggle with Social Responsibility

December 6, 2017

I noted three interesting news items. Both cast high profile companies as arbiters of social responsibility. The first item is “Facebook Is Banning Women for Calling Men Scum.” The main idea is that those who use the phrase “men are scum” can be banned from Facebook. Seems simple. Phrase identification, phrase look up, phrase on list triggers banning. Some people who have been banned for 30 days object. Interesting.

The second item is “Here’s What YouTube Is Doing to Stop Its Child Exploitation Problem.” The headline makes clear that there is a problem. The Alphabet Google YouTube fix is— wait for it — to use humans to identify socially irresponsible videos. The main point for me is that Alphabet Google’s algorithms cannot do the job. I thought that Google’s artificial intelligence system can develop artificial intelligent systems better than the one that Google created itself. Guess humans still have a role and maybe AI is not exactly able to handle what seems like socially responsible functions.

The third item is “How Trolls Locked My Twitter Account for 10 Days.” Main idea? Twitter’s socially responsible mechanism for making Twitter a better digital place can be exploited.

Net net: These three firms seem to be struggling with the notion of editorial controls, implementing them in an effective manner, and making algorithms work in a socially responsible manner.

Interesting. Traditional publishers have been performing this function for hundreds of years. There are plenty of journalists and publishers looking for work. My hunch is that the Silicon Valley set may prefer to go their own way. Who can learn from traditional publishing procedures? Maybe a smart self learning algorithm?

Well, maybe not yet at least. Jeff Bezos owns a newspaper and presumably has a leg up when it comes to addressing “fake” information.

Stephen E Arnold, December 6, 2017

Filtered Content: Tactical Differences between Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters

December 5, 2017

You may know that Dow Jones has an online search company. The firm is called Factiva, and it is an old-school approach to finding information. The company recently announced a deal with an outfit called Curation. Founded by a former newspaper professional, Curation uses mostly humans to assemble reports on hot topics. Factiva is reselling these services, and advertising for customers in the Wall Street Journal. Key point: This is mostly a manual method. The approach was more in line with the types of “reports” available from blue chip consulting firms.

You may also know that Thomson Reuters has been rolling out machine curated reports. These have many different product names. Thomson Reuters has a large number of companies and brands. Not surprisingly, Thomson’s approach has to apply to many companies managed by executives who compete with regular competitors like Dow Jones but also among themselves. Darwin would have loved Thomson Reuters. The point is that Thomson Reuters’ approach relies on “smart” software.

You can read about Dow Jones’ play here.

You can read about Thomson Reuters’ play here.

My take is that these two different approaches reflect the painful fact that there is not clear path forward for professional publishing companies. In order to make money from electronic information, two of the major players are still experimenting. The digital revolution began, what?, about 40 years ago.

One would have thought that leading companies like Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters would have moved beyond the experimental stage and into cash cow land.

Not yet it seems. The reason for my pointing out these two different approaches is that there are more innovative methods available. For snapshots of companies which move beyond the Factiva and Thomson methods, watch Dark Cyber, a new program is available every Tuesday via YouTube at this link.

Stephen E Arnold, December 5, 2017

Semantic Scholar Expanding with Biomedical Lit

November 29, 2017

Academic publishing is the black hole of the publishing world.  While it is a prestigious honor to have your work published by a scholar press or journal, it will not have a high circulation.  One reason that academic material is blocked behind expensive paywalls and another is that papers are not indexed well.  Tech Crunch has some good news for researchers: “Allen institute For AI’s Semantic Scholar Adds Biomedical Papers To Its AI-Sorted Corpus.”

The Allen Institute for AI started the Semantic Scholar is an effort to index scientific literature with NLP and other AI algorithms.  Semantic Scholar will now include biomedical texts in the index.  There is way too much content available for individuals to read and create indices.  AI helps catalog and create keywords for papers by scanning an entire text, pulling key themes, and adding it to the right topic.

There’s so much literature being published now, and it stretches back so far, that it’s practically impossible for a single researcher or even a team to adequately review it. What if a paper from six years ago happened to note a slight effect of a drug byproduct on norepinephrine production, but it wasn’t a main finding, or was in a journal from a different discipline?

Scientific studies are being called into question, especially when the tests are funded by corporate entities.  It is important to verify truth from false information as we consume more and more each day.  Tools like Semantic Scholar are key to uncovering the truth.  It is too bad it does not receive more attention.

Whitney Grace, November 29, 2017

 

The FG Snipers Draw a Bead

November 22, 2017

Facebook (hereinafter “F”) and Google (hereinafter “G”) are the part of the new sport FG sniping. Favored by the Guardian and other “real” publishers, F and G are plump, apparently arrogant, and seemingly clueless targets. The horrible companies do not “give back” to the “real” magazines and newspapers which have been eroded by the flow of clicks flowing to F and G.

A fun example of this blood sport appear in “Why Magazine Mogul Tina Brown Is ‘Angry and Upset’ at Google and Facebook.” I highlighted three comments Tina Brown (Oxford graduate and traditional print journalist) allegedly made to a “real” journalist who has gone over to the dark side of online content creation.

Number One:

I [Tina Brown, Oxford graduate] am very angry and upset about the way advertising revenue has been essentially pirated by the Facebook-Google world

Ahoy, mates. Google indexes. “Real” publishers tried this; for example, the New York Times and its fumbling with LexisNexis and its own Jeff Pemberton led initiative decades ago. Google succeeded; the NYT and other “real” publishers failed. Sour grapes?

Number Two:

When you don’t have human beings who have judgment, who have taste, who have a sense of responsibility, you can have any old Russian hacker dishing it out to the American public.

Not just any “human beings.” The “right” type of human being is a trained journalist like those who do the “This Week in Google” podcast perhaps? Plus, last I knew, F and G had human beings. Mr. Brin, for example, allegedly behaved in a human manner with a certain Google Glass marketing maven. The disconnect is that some human beings are more adept at applying technology to content processing and delivering what users want. On the other hand, “real” publishers certain knew how to generate “yellow” journalism and engage in other fascinating human activities.

Number Three:

People don’t know what’s important or where to find it.

To be clear, some people do know what’s important and where to find it. The problem is that People Magazine or the grocery store tabloid the National Enquirer are not much different from “real” newspapers and magazines.

What the issue is, of course, is the fact that traditional publishing has found itself marginalized. The arbiters of taste and judgment from places like Oxford and Yale are a bit overwhelmed because they don’t get traffic or a sufficient number of likes.

Where in the modern economy is the “law” which says that F and G have to give back to the outfits which have failed to adapt to the new world.

I guess Darwinian principles (Darwin was a Cambridge graduate) don’t apply to those Oxford graduates  who wish to enshrine dead tree methods. From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, Darwin (a Cambridge graduate) is alive and well. Just look at those informed individuals living in trailers living by the creek. Also, in forward leaning  places like Palo Alto, one can observe on the way to F and G the lines of SUVs and motor homes which provide safe havens for Facebook posts and Google searches.

Life would be so much better if time stood still. Are F and G clueless? Should large companies “give back”? One could consult Adam Smith I suppose. Oh, Smith was an allegedly unhappy Oxforder. Nasty intellectual environment my economics professor observed as I recall.

Failure can be unpalatable. Zeros and ones leave a bitter after taste on the tongues of some arbiters of taste.

Stephen E Arnold, November 22, 2017

Google Comes with an Olive Branch Because It Is Happy with What It Has and Publishers Should Be Happy Too

November 13, 2017

I read two Google items this morning (November 13, 2017). I found each interesting and useful in plotting Google’s evolution from Backrub to the behemoth it has become by selling ads.

The first item is “Google X’s Chief Business Officer Says You Can Achieve Happiness by Following One Simple Rule.” No, the rule does not mean that one does not reveal whether Google’s super secret Deep Mind is working with the GOOG’s own skunk works. The rule is, if the write up is accurate, “If you really start to appreciate what you have in your life, happiness becomes a much easier task to achieve.”

That’s good to know. I am confident that the people living in vans in Palo Alto are going to enjoy getting cleaned up at the McDonald’s much more. Hey, you can also have an Egg McMuffin after one’s morning ablutions.

The other article is “Google UK Chief Ronan Harris Says Digital Giant Is Not Stealing Advertising from Publishers Telling Editors: We Come in Peace.” I highlighted this passage from the story. The Googler is one Ronan Harris, who is in charge of Google in the UK:

“Every year we share billions of pounds in revenue with publishers globally. We also drove more than 10 billion clicks a month to publisher websites — for free — from Google Search and Google News.

He allegedly added:

And as more and more people interact with news in different ways, we need to take advantage of new digital tools and capabilities to develop new experiences and sustainable business models. “We’re eager to partner with you to create them.  To work with you to tackle the challenges head on, because having a healthy media ecosystem is crucial to your business, to ours and to society.

Yep, Google comes in peace to those who have spent 40 days and nights wandering in the wilderness. Let’s party, friends!

Stephen E Arnold, November 13, 2017

Great Moments in Publishing: The Gray Lady on Tor

October 28, 2017

I read “The New York Times Is Now a Tor Onion Service.” Interesting. Tor attracts about three million users per month.

image

Source: https://metrics.torproject.org/userstats-relay-country.html

I found the decision a bit of a surprise. Increasing censorship squeezes some individuals to “hidden” information services. I am aware of the data which suggests that Tor and other hidden services are used for good purposes. For a run down on nine benefits, review “9 Things You Probably Don’t Know about Positive Uses of the Dark/Deep Web.” [I corrected the misspelling of “probable” in the title.]

On the other hand, other individuals use hidden services for less sunlight and happiness type activities. See, for example, “Dark Web Browser Tor Is Overwhelmingly Used for Crime, Says Study.”

The New York Times wants traffic and subscribers.

I will be watching for a surge in New York Times revenue and a spate of new Dark Web services. The Dark Web does offer online advertising. Perhaps this will be a new frontier for the newspaper. For more information about our most recent monograph, check out the description of Dark Web Notebook.

Stephen E Arnold, October 28, 2017

Amazon on the Bezos Hot Seat?

October 26, 2017

I read “Amazon Key Is Silicon Valley at Its Most Out of Touch.” The article appeared in a newspaper which I believe is owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Independent journalism is alive and well in Washington, DC. The angle for the story is that one can buy an Amazon product which only an Amazon “delivery person” can open. Even better the gizmo will make a video. The goal is to eliminate the Amazon boxes piled outside of doors. I have heard that in some neighborhoods, people help themselves to these Amazon boxes with the smiling arrow logo. I noted this passage from the write up which seems to be a Bezos supported criticism of Bezos’ latest and greatest idea:

Amazon wants to let strangers into your house and train a surveillance camera on your front door. Oh, and they’d like you to pay them $250 for the privilege.

I also highlighted this passage:

Yes, I do value convenient deliveries, but I value my security more — better to strategize around postal schedules than be assaulted by a person hiding in one’s home! And while I dislike rained-upon packages, I prioritize privacy enough that I’m loath to install a corporate-controlled surveillance apparatus inside my house.

Independence is good. What if the company requires the Amazon Key? I suppose there are other newspapers eager to hire independent thinkers who criticize the do no wrong Amazon thing. No one in Washington gets fired for rowing the canoe against the Potomac currents.

Stephen E Arnold, October 26, 2017

Facebookand Publishing

October 23, 2017

Print publishing has slowly been circling the drain as revenue drops (at least depending on what type of publishing you are in).  Some publishers have tried going totally digital, hoping that online subscriptions and ads would pay the bills, but Google and Facebook are siphoning off the source.  The Next Web shares more of how publishers are struggling in the article, “Publishers Need To Learn From Mega Platforms Like Facebook.”

Like many smart companies, publishers have joined social media and hoped to build their brand image on them.  Publishers, however, have learned that Facebook and other social media platforms keep changing their requirements.  The article compares it to a type of Darwinian survival of the fittest.  The publishing companies with deep pockets are surviving by investments and smart digital upgrades.

Jeff Bezos is used as an example because he has turned video streaming as one of Amazon’s main profit generators.  The suggestion is that publishers follow suit with video and then live video streams.  The comments sections in these videos create an ongoing dialogue with viewers (while at the same time allowing trolls).  It turns out that commoditized content on social media is not the way to go.

Publishers need to instead concentrate on building their own platform apparently:

This is the perfect time for publishers to take control of their platforms and the video streams that will drive the next phase of the digital content revolution. With advances in live video programming and the speed with which original content can be created, publishers can greatly enhance what they already do and know, and monetize it through changes in advertising models that fuel online media platforms as well as live-streaming video platforms.

The Internet is more than video, however.  Podcasts and articles are still viable content too.  It might be time to double think your career if you are a social media manager.

Whitney Grace, October 23, 2017

Dow Jones: Fake News As a Training Error

October 11, 2017

In the dead tree edition of the Wall Street Journal, I read an interesting but all too brief article; to wit: “Dow Jones Publishes Errant Headlines in Systems Snafu.” The main point is that Dow Jones pushed out “nearly 2,000 dummy headlines and articles.” The company, of course, is sorry, very sorry. The “false headlines” were disappeared. The small item on page B 5 at the bottom of the page of newsprint included this statement on October 11, 2017:

I take today’s inadvertent and erroneous publication of testing materials extremely seriously.

Fake news. Nah, just a digital flub from the proud Murdoch outfit. Mistakes happen. Perhaps the Dow Jones engine will factor in this human response when it next excoriates Silicon Valley outfits who stub their toes.

Oh, if you are looking for the story online, you have to search Google News for “fake news” and follow the links to everyone except the Wall Street Journal. Google does point to this item on the dowjones.com Web site. The publicist does not include the mea culpa, which I find interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, October 11, 2017

Medieval Thoughts in a Mobile Smart Bubble

October 6, 2017

I read two articles this morning when the recalcitrant Vodaphone network finally decided that resolving links from Siena, Italy, was okay today. Yesterday the zippy technology did not work as Sillycon Valley wizards and “real” journalists expect.

The first write up is one of those “newspapers should be run by “real” journalists operating from a rock-solid, independent position as gatekeepers of the “truth.” You can draw your own conclusion about this “real” journalistic cartwheel by reading “If Journalists Take Sides, Who Will Speak Truth to Power?

I noted this passage:

The essential argument was recently laid out by an outlet called 888.hu: “The international media, with a few exceptions, generally write bad things about the government because a small minority with great media influence does everything to tarnish the reputation of Hungary in front of the world – prestige that has been built over hundreds of years by patriots.”

The “real” Guardian newspaper presents opinion and news by blending observations, mixed sources, and “news.” Technology, zeros and ones, facts experts accept in order to win a grant, get tenure, or prove merit.

Navigate to “The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions.

Your are correct: medievalism meets “real” journalism. The argument in this “real” hard technology write up is that baloney, hoohah, and sci-fi has made “articiiial intelligence” into today’s boogeyman.

Chill out because those touting smart software and those who are afraid that a “real” Terminator will jump out of a police flying patrol car with Robocop are are coming to your city, village, or mud hut.

As readers of Beyond Search will be able to verify, I have poked fun at Technology Review for recycling the Watson confection with little or no critical analysis. I have also had a merry time commenting about the disconnect between the monopolistic systems which define “facts” and the old school journalists who flop between infatuation and odd ball criticism of the services which have captured their attention.

The reality is that artificial intelligence has been taking baby steps for decades. Computing power, data, and well-known numerical recipes can be combined to permit marketers to do what they have been doing for many years: Identify what’s hot and deliver more of that hotness in order to generate money via ads or provide services for which companies and governments will pay.

The notion that technology generates hyperbole is the stuff of entrepreneurs’ dreams. Today’s smart software is little more than making available some of the less crazy ideas from Star Trek.

Let me cite an example from “Seven Deadly”:

machine learning is very brittle, and it requires lots of preparation by human researchers or engineers, special-purpose coding, special-purpose sets of training data, and a custom learning structure for each new problem domain.

I am interested in watcching people struggle to make an app for adding ringtons to an Android mobile phone work. I am interested in watching people struggle with laptops which combine a keyboard and a touchscreen. I am interested in the conflation of news, opinion, facts, “weaponized” information, shaped data to sell ads, and online services providing a user what the user “really wants.”

AI raises some interesting challenges. First, for those “real” newspapers and magazines, I hope that more criticcal thinking is applied to the “real” story. I hope that regulators do more than flop around like a fish dumped on the dock. I hope that smart software can remediate some of the problems humans seem to be manufacturing with more efficiency than Kia implements on its assembly lines.

What’s the “truth” in the Guardian “real” news story, opinion, blog quoting write up. What’s the path forward for a champion of IBM Watson and the richly funded MTI IBM AI lab?

These are big issues. Digital Svanarola’s? Maybe not.

Stephen E Arnold, October 6, 2017

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