Googles Data Police Fail with Creepy Videos

December 13, 2017

YouTube is suffering from a really strange problem lately. In various children’s programming feeds, inappropriate knockoff videos of popular cartoon characters keep appearing. It has parents outraged, as we learned in a Fast Company article, “Creepy Kids Videos Like These Keep Popping Up on YouTube.”

The videos feature things like Elle from “Frozen” firing machine guns. According to the story:

A YouTube policy imposed this year says that videos showing “family entertainment characters” being “engaged in violent, sexual, vile, or otherwise inappropriate behavior” can’t be monetized with ads on the platform. But on Monday evening Fast Company found at least one violent, unlicensed superhero video, entitled “Learn Colors With Superheroes Finger Family Song Johny Johny Yes Papa Nursery Rhymes Giant Syringe,” still included ads. A YouTube spokesperson didn’t immediately comment, but by Tuesday the video’s ads had been removed.

The videos may well draw ire from legislators, as Congress takes an increasingly close look at user-generated content online in the wake of Russian election manipulation.

It feels like they really need to have a tighter rein on content. But it would surprise us if this Congress would impose too much on YouTube’s parent company, Google. With Net Neutrality likely being erased by Congress, the idea of any deeper oversight is unlikely. If anything, we think Google will be given less oversight.

Patrick Roland, December 13, 2017

No More International Google Searches

December 6, 2017

One of the better things about Google is that when you needed to search for results in a different country, all you needed to do was change the domain tag.  Google has decided it does not want to do that anymore shares the Verge in the article, “Google No Longer Lets You Change Domains To Search Other Countries.”

Google, instead, will deliver localized results based on your location.

If you need to access international results, however, the option can be changed on the settings menu on the bottom of google.com.  Yes, you have to look for it, but it is there.  Why does Google want to do this?

Google says it’s making the change because one out of five searches “is related to location,” and the company feels it’s critical to offer local information to provide the best results. The feature seems to be tailored most toward travelers: Google says that if you visit another country, it’ll automatically serve results local to where you’re visiting, then switch back again as soon as you arrive home. Before, if a traveler had kept typing in their home country’s Google domain, they may not have gotten what Google sees as ideal search results.

Before you think this is another way Google is trying to control search content, apparently Alphabet Inc. has already been doing this with YouTube and Gmail.  The procedure has just been carried over to search results, but at least there is a way out of the localized content.

Whitney Grace, December 6, 2017

Alexa Can Name the Tune If You Sing a Bar

November 24, 2017

A brief write-up at MakeUseOf points out a nifty Alexa capability—“How to Search for Songs by Lyrics on Amazon Echo.” Writer Nancy Messieh writes:

One of the Echo’s native features (recently pointed out by Lifehacker) is the ability to search for songs by lyrics. Rather than pulling up a browser on your phone or computer, you can just ask Alexa using the voice command ‘Alexa, what’s the song that goes [lyrics]?’ If Alexa recognizes the song, she’ll let you know the title and artist and will start playing the song immediately. Amazon also recently released a list of the top 50 most requested songs by lyrics through Alexa. The number one song HandClap by Fitz and the Tantrums. Other artists that appear on the list include Justin Timberlake, Journey, Ed Sheeran, and Queen.

The feature can also report the most-searched songs by the city, though so far that list only includes five major cities in the U.S. Perhaps the Echo will add cities as more users take advantage of the search-by-lyrics feature.

Cynthia Murrell, November 24, 2017

Google Leans Left with Climate Search Results

September 13, 2017

Most Google users never think about bias and politics when they search or read suggested pages. Many, though, believe that the average Google user is being sold a bill of goods when searching about climate on Google. A recent WUWT investigation discovered that Google is manipulating the search results to favor left-leaning political ideas. WUWT quotes Google as claiming that their ranking is determined by the following criteria: “High-quality information pages on scientific topics should represent a well established scientific consensus on issues where such consensus exists.” (Section 3.2)

The author goes on to explain,

But the allegations of ‘scientific consensus’ are made only in one field – climate alarmism!  ‘Scientific consensus’ is almost an oxymoron.  The consensus is a decision-making method used outside of science.

Google was set up to be free from bias, but according to their own explanation, they tend to support the most popular opinion which is a dangerous route to take. Would people want a truly impartial system of search, allowing each searcher to evaluate the source for accuracy and ‘scientific consensus’, or do we like to rely on others, and Google, to make the hard decisions for us?

Catherine Lamsfuss, September 13, 2017

Google as Art Teacher

August 3, 2017

A recent Google improvement focuses on art, we learn from “Google’s Improved Search Seeks to Make Us All Art Experts” at CNet. Now, results of art-related Google searches will be packed with relevant information and, in many cases, high-resolution images. Museums around the world have been working with Google to enable these features. Reporter Zoey Chong cites a blog post from the company as she writes:

The new feature — mildly reminiscent of the travel guide tab that comes up when you search a city or country — is the result of a collaboration between Google’s Arts and Culture team and its search engineers. When you search for an artist like Gustav Klimt, for example, an interactive panel pops up that allows you to see an overview of the artist, his works, as well as where you can find them. Some pieces can also be viewed in high-resolution. Google said this is made possible with the Art Camera, a custom-made robotic camera to digitize artworks. A fleet of these cameras travels around the world and cultural institutions can use them digitally preserve and share artworks online. Google has also implemented similar features on Street View. If you navigate around museums, you can click on a painting to see it in high-resolution or to understand more information, which Google said is provided by the museums.

A short video embedded in the article demonstrates how this looks in Street View. Chong tried the feature out with works at the National Gallery Singapore, and reports that not every piece of artwork she virtually viewed has more information available; that is because the museums get to decide how much they wish to share online. The company reports that, on their platform, over 500 million searches a month are art-related.

Cynthia Murrell, August 3, 2017

Google Develops a Job-Hunt Feature

July 17, 2017

Does the process of searching for a job really need an innovative update? Apparently, Google believes so, as  Quartz reports in, “Google Is Testing a Job-Search Feature that Could Rival LinkedIn—and Facebook.” Writer Joon Ian Wong cites SEO consultant Dan Shure, who stumbled upon an apparent test-run of the feature. We learn:

Dan Shure apparently triggered the feature by entering ‘jobs online’ in the Google search box. This returns a specially formatted box containing a list of jobs above the main search results. Clicking these jobs leads to a portal where users can select tabs to display jobs by title, city, employer, and more. The page also shows jobs by industry, including health care, advertising and marketing, and retail. The jobs listed are attributed to third-party job sites, such as Internships.com and Catholic Jobs Online. …

 

The broad base of jobs available on the search feature suggests Google is going after the same general jobs market as Facebook is, with its own jobs function. LinkedIn is better known for its white-collar listings, but it, too, has been trying to cater to workers of all types, including blue-collar workers (paywall), in recent years.

Wong notes the company has also been developing Google Hire, a recruitment-management tool for the employer side, but with no fanfare. So it does seem that Google is stepping into the job-hunt & worker-search arena. Can it compete with LinkedIn, the niche’s veteran?

Cynthia Murrell, July 17, 2017

Google Ups the Ante for Local SEO

July 14, 2017

Google is now allowing small businesses to insert content directly into search results. The content can be a special event or anything related to business that will appear as featured snippet in the carousel.

As reported by The Verge in an article titled Local Businesses Can Now Feature Content Directly in Google Search Results, the author says:

The new posts show up below the company card in search results, where information like the location, phone number, web address, and hours of the company are already aggregated. The Posts feature is available starting today for verified companies using Google My Business.

As more business move their marketing activities online, it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to reach out to their customers. Google, being the leader in this space does not want local business to miss out on this and is rolling out services like these for small businesses.

Digital marketing already is too competitive for small businesses with limited budgets. With these changes, Google expects that local businesses will try to introduce digital marketing into their marketing mix. Google gains by procuring data of local businesses. What else does it want?

Vishal Ingole July 14, 2017

Salesforce Einstein and Enterprise AI

May 5, 2017

One customer-relationship-management (CRM) firm is determined to leverage the power of natural language processing within its clients’ organizations. VentureBeat examines “What Salesforce Einstein Teaches Us About Enterprise AI.” The company positions its AI tool as a layer within its “Clouds” that brings the AI magic to CRM. They vow that the some-odd 150,000 existing Salesforce customers can deploy Einstein quickly and easily.

Salesforce has invested much in the project, having snapped up RelatelQ for $390 million, BeyondCore for $110 million, Predicition IO for $58 million, and MetaMind for an undisclosed sum. Competition is fierce in this area, but the company is very pleased with the results so far. Writer Mariya Yao cites Salesforce chief scientist Richard Socher as she examines:

The Salesforce AI Research team is innovating on a ‘joint many-task’ learning approach that leverages transfer learning, where a neural network applies knowledge of one domain to other domains. In theory, understanding linguistic morphology should also accelerate understanding of semantics and syntax.

In practice, Socher and his deep learning research team have been able to achieve state-of-the-art results on academic benchmark tests for main entity recognition (identifying key objects, locations, and persons) and semantic similarity (identifying words and phrases that are synonyms). Their approach can solve five NLP tasks — chunking, dependency parsing, semantic relatedness, textual entailment, and part of speech tagging — and also builds in a character model to handle incomplete, misspelled, or unknown words.

Socher believes that AI researchers will achieve transfer learning capabilities in more comprehensive ways in 2017 and that speech recognition will be embedded in many more aspects of our lives. ‘Right now, consumers are used to asking Siri about the weather tomorrow, but we want to enable people to ask natural questions about their own unique data.’

That would indeed be helpful. The article goes on to discuss the potentials for NLP in the enterprise and emphasizes the great challenge of implementing solutions into a company’s workflow. See the article for more discussion. Based in San Francisco, Salesforce was launched in 1999 by a former Oracle executive.

Cynthia Murrell, May 5, 2017

Revealing the Google Relevance Sins

May 2, 2017

I was surprised to read “Google’s Project Owl”. Talk about unintended consequences. An SEO centric publication reported that Google was going to get on the stick and smite fake news and “problematic content.” (I am not sure what “problematic content” is because I think a person’s point of view influences this determination.”

The write up states in real journalistic rhetoric:

Project Owl is Google’s internal name for its endeavor to fight back on problematic searches. The owl name was picked for no specific reason, Google said. However, the idea of an owl as a symbol for wisdom is appropriate. Google’s effort seeks to bring some wisdom back into areas where it is sorely needed.

Right, wisdom. From a vendor of content wrapped in pay to play advertising and “black box” algorithms which mysteriously have magical powers on sites like Foundem and the poor folks who were trying to make French tax forms findable.

My view of the initiative and the real journalistic write up is typical of what folks in Harrod’s Creek think about Left Coast types:

  1. The write up underscores the fact that Google’s quality function, which I wrote about in my three Google monographs, does not work. What determines the clever PageRank method? Well, a clever way to determine a signal of quality. Heh heh. Doesn’t work.
  2. Google is now on the hook to figure out what content is problematic and then find a way to remove that content from the Google indexes. Yep, not one index, but dozens. Google Local (crooked shops, anyone), YouTube (the oodles of porn which is easily findable by an enterprising 12 year old using the Yandex video search function), news (why are there no ads on Google News? Hmmm.), and other fave services from the GOOG.
  3. Relevance is essentially non existent for most queries. I like the idea of using “authoritative sources” for obscure queries. Yep, those Lady Gaga hits keep on rocking when a person searches for animal abuse and meat dresses.

Let me boil this down.

If a person relies on a free, ad supported Web search system for information, you may be getting a jolt from which your gray matter will not recover.

What’s the fix? I know the write up champions search engine optimization and explaining how to erode relevance for a user’s online query. But I am old fashioned. Multiple sources, interviews, reading of primary sources, and analytical thinking.

Hey, boring. Precision and recall are sure less fun than relaxing queries to amp up the irrelevance output.

Tough.

Stephen E Arnold, May 2, 2017

Search Pinterest Pictures Without Pinterest

April 25, 2017

Pinterest is the beloved social media network, where users can post pictures, make comments, get decorating ideas, and recipes.  However, Recode tells us about a new implausible Google Chrome extension: “Pinterest Will Now Let You Search For Products Using Any Image You Find Online-Without Visiting Pinterest.”  Pinterest just launched a new Google Chrome extension that allows users to save images seen online as they browse.  The extension will work like this:

The new tool lets you select an item in any photograph online, and ask Pinterest to surface similar items using its image recognition software.  For example: If you see an image of sunglasses you like on Nordstrom.com, you could use the extension to browse similar glasses from Pinterest without ever leaving Nordstrom’s website.  If you click on one of the search results, you’ll then be taken to Pinterest.

Pinterest wants to leverage itself as an image search engine for all images, in real life and on the Internet.  Evan Sharp, Pinterest co-founder, said that users, should not “..have to put their thoughts into words to find great ideas.”  Visual search technology already exists, but only on Pinterest’s Web site.

Whitney Grace, April 25, 2017

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