Can Algorithms Be Designed to Perform Like Trained Dogs?

September 11, 2018

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Trump thinks Google search results are rigged in the article, “Here’s What We Really Know About Google’s Mysterious Search Engine.” Trump claims that Google and other social media search results are rigged for their lack of conservative, right wing views on the networks. The president even warned Facebook, Google, and Twitter that they are treading on thin ice.

Mr. Trump, like some Web site operators receiving minimal traffic, has arrived at this conclusion because of the dominance these platforms have on people’s lives. However does it have any stock? Google claims that it does not pollute its search results, but the company has also shown it does not like the president. After a short explanation about how Google search works, the article moves into information about “Google News’ secret sauce.” Google News has an algorithm that personalizes news results for each user. People and companies can influence the search results with their content, but how much does Google intervene in the results?

We learned:

“Google’s algorithm, particularly for search, is a master algorithm that is applied in real time against each search query as it comes in, according to the company. Although the algorithm itself frequently changes as Google makes tweaks, it is applied identically to each search. If the results differ from person to person, that could be because they may be using a browser in incognito mode, which deletes the cookies and other third-party tracking software. Or they may be searching from a different location, triggering Google’s reflex to return local results. Or they may simply be performing a search slightly later in time than another, said Christo Wilson, a computer science professor at Northeastern University who has studied Google’s search practices for six years.”

We like the idea of a master algorithm? We also believe that filtering information can have interesting consequences.

How political are free systems which display answers to questions? Is it possible for a disgruntled person to tweak wrapper code to return certain results or to down check a certain concept?

Answers to these questions are difficult to evaluate. After two decades of providing ad supported information, why would anyone doubt the objectivity of mathematical recipes?

Woof, woof.

Stephen E Arnold, September 11, 2018

Privacy and Search Take a New Turn

September 10, 2018

For far too long we have been living in the Wild West of search: there are too few rules and personal data has been far too fluid. While we wait for the Googles of the world to change their policies (fat chance!) the time has come to find alternatives for those of us who care about keeping their privacy a top priority. We learned more about this revolution from a Make Use Of story, “Avoid Google and Bing: 7 Alternative Search Engines That Value Privacy.”

According to the story:

“Functionally, SearX is a metasearch engine, meaning it aggregates data from a number of other search engines then provides you with the best mix available. Results from several of the other search engines on this list—including DuckDuckGo, Qwant, and StartPage—are available. You can customize the engines that SearX uses to find results in the Preferences menu.”

Is a new search engine the answer? Probably not likely. In another time, we might point to the idea that the world has room for more search engines, but with the rise of voice search and the amount of money needed to research this type of thing, the odds of a new search engine taking over for Google or the like is very much impossible.

Patrick Roland, September 4, 2018

Four Chrome Extensions for More Efficient Searches

September 7, 2018

Education resource site Educational Technology and Mobile Learning suggests four extensions for the (Google-owned) Chrome browser to better find relevant content in the brief write-up, “4 Tools to Effectively Search the Web.” The write-up specifies:

“In today’s post we are sharing with you four practical Chrome extensions that will enable you to search the web in more efficient and effective ways. More specifically, using these extensions you will be able to easily access and search for scholarly articles, find similar web pages to the page you are currently browsing, initiate a Google search using images, and many more.”

At the top of the list is the Google Scholar extension, which speeds up access to scholarly articles found through Google Scholar search. The next suggestion is TinEye Reverse Image Search, which returns not similar images, but exact matches (complete with potentially valuable context and metadata). Then there are Google Similar Pages and Google’s Search by Image, each of which does what one would imagine.  These tools certainly could be helpful for those who use Chrome.

Cynthia Murrell, September 5, 2018

Semantic Video Search Engine

September 2, 2018

I saw a link to a Semantic Video Search Engine” with the logo of MediaMill attached. Curious I did a bit of exploring and noted a video at this link. I learned that MediaMill is the name of the multimedia search engine. The system “watches” or “processes” a video and then assigns an index term or category to the subject of the video scene; for example a scene with a boat is tagged “boat.”

The function is to identify specific video fragments. The system provides automatic content detection. The goal is to make huge amounts of video data accessible. The video i watched was dated 2009. I located the MediaMill Web site and learned:

MediaMill has its roots in the ICES-KIS Multimedia Information Analysis project (in conjunction with TNO) and the Innovative Research Program for Image processing (IOP). It blossomed in the BSIK program MultimediaN the EU FP-6 program VIDI-Video, the Dutch/Flemish IM-Pact BeeldCanon project, and the Dutch VENISEARCHER project. The MediaMill team is currently funded by the Dutch VIDI STORYproject, the Dutch FES COMMIT program, and the US IARPA SESAME project.

The project’s news ended in 2015. Bing and Google searches turn up a significant amount of academic-oriented information. TREC data, technical papers, and links to the MediaMill Web site abound.

The question becomes:

Why has video search remained a non starter?

Since we started our DarkCyber video series, available on YouTube and Vimeo, we have had an opportunity to monitor how these two services index videos. YouTube, for example, makes the video available in the YouTube index in about a day, sometimes more. Vimeo does not index DarkCyber on a regular schedule. We provide an explicit link to the Vimeo video in our Beyond Search announcement of each week’s video.

It is possible to get a listing of DarkCyber videos on the not-well-known Google Video search service. You can find this index at www.googlevideo.com. Run the query “arnold darkcyber” and you will see a list of DarkCyber videos. Note that these are not in chronological order. In fact, running the “arnold darkcyber” query at different times generates results lists with different items and a similarly jumbled  or non chronological order. Why? Google search does not handle time in its public facing services. For high accuracy time based queries, you will have to use the commercial Google technology. Check out Recorded Future for some additional details.

Searching for video is a difficult task. YouTube search is quirky. For example, search for “hawaii volcano live shipley” and one does not get a link to the current live stream. YouTube provides links to old videos. To find the live stream, one has to click on the picture of Mr. Shipley and then select the live stream. Vimeo has its oddities as well. When I post a DarkCyber to Vimeo, I cannot search for it. The new video just sort of shows up on my Vimeo dashboard but I cannot locate the most recent video with a query. So much for real time.

Exalead tried its hand at video search, enlisting a partner for the effort. The test was interesting, but I heard chatter that the computational demand (think expense) made the project less than attractive.

My hunch is that video search is lousy because of the costs associated with processing video. Even basic rendering is a slog. Imagine the expense of grinding through a day’s worth of YouTube or Vimeo output?

To sum up, nifty video search ideas abound. Academics have a treasure trove of opportunity. But despite the talk about the cloud and the magic of modern technology. Video search remains difficult and mostly unsatisfying.

Maybe that’s why social media sites rely on those posting the video to tell friends where the content resides? Searching for a snippet of video is almost as difficult as wrestling with a Modern Talking Pictures catalog.

Stephen E Arnold, September 2, 2018

 

Phi Beta Iota Interviews Stephen E Arnold about Shaped Web Search Results

August 29, 2018

Robert David Steele, publisher of the Phi Beta Iota blog, interviewed Stephen E Arnold about allegations related to Google search results. The interview reveals that some Web search systems make it possible to modify search results to return specific information. The example Stephen gives comes from the FirstGov.gov US government search system powered in the early 2000s by Fast Search & Transfer.

Steele highlighted this statement from the interview:

“There is not enough money available to start over at Google. After two decades of fixing, tweaking, and enhancing, Google search is sort of chugging along. I think it is complex and swathed like a digital mummy in layers of code.”

You can read the full text of the interview titled “Robert Steele: An Interview with Stephen E. Arnold on Google and Google Search — How the Digital Mummy Might Manipulate Search.”

The three monographs Stephen wrote about Google are no longer in print. However, he does have fair copies (pre publication drafts) of the manuscripts. If you are interested in these reports, write benkent2020 at yahoo dot com.

Kenny Toth, August 29, 2018

Finding Information Is Difficult: How about Books to Read?

August 29, 2018

For a long time, search has been dominated by the big names in the business and when anyone claims they might be a threat to Google or Bing it’s usually laughable. However, niche engines are beginning to really fill a void that the big dogs can’t. We discovered more from a recent Make Use Of story, “The 11 Best Sites for Finding What Books to Read Next.”

The most interesting was about Gnooks, which said:

“Gnooks is probably the simplest of these sites to use. You can enter up to three author’s names, and Gnooks will recommend another author you might like.

We noted:

“The interface is clean and distraction-free, but if you want to find out more about the recommended authors, you’ll have to take your search elsewhere.”

It’s a weird reversal to how the Internet originally felt. Everything was pigeonholed just like this back then and maybe we had something right. Aside from books, there are also niche engines for travel and, our personal favorite, to see what movies are streaming on what sites. This is a welcome service. Niche finding sites remain useful and underscore the limitations of the search superstore approach.

Patrick Roland, August 29, 2018

Internet Search Engines that Reach Past Bing or Google Search

August 27, 2018

An article at Kimallo shares a roster of their ten “Most Valuable Deep Web Search Engines.” Billed as a list of search engines that plumb depths not found in a Google or Bing search, this collection is indeed that. One could wish the Dark Web and the Deep Web were not conflated in the piece’s introduction, but anyone who is fuzzy on the difference can click here for clarification. The list is an assortment of search engines that tap into the Deep and/or Dark Web to different degrees in different ways. Only one, “not Evil,” uses Tor, about which we’re told:

“Unlike other Tor search engines, not Evil is not for profit. The cost to run not Evil is a contribution to what one hopes is a growing shield against the tyranny of an intolerant majority. Not Evil is another search engine in the Tor network. According to its functionality and quality it is highly competitive with the competitors. There is no advertising and tracking. Due to thoughtful and continuously updated algorithms of search it is easy to find the necessary goods, content or information. Using not Evil, you can save a lot of time and keep total anonymity. The user interface is highly intuitive. It should be noted that previously this project was widely known as TorSearch.”

The other nine entries include people-prying tools pipl and mylife; metasearch engines Yippy, Fazzle, and privacy-centric DuckDuckGo; SurfWax, which seeks to turn search into a “visual process”; StartPage, another platform emphasizing privacy; the Wayback Machine, an archive of open web pages; and Google Scholar, which can be configured to access the NSCU Libraries’ databases and journal subscriptions. I’ll add that Beyond Search pointed out Ichidan last autumn, a search engine designed to look up sites hosted through the Tor network. Though one should not rely on the Kimallo article to distinguish between these general Web classifications, anyone who would like to go beyond the reach of Bing or Google may want to explore these options.

One question: Do metasearch systems go “beyond” Google? Some here at Beyond Search believe metasearch engines are recyclers, not indexes which point to content not included in primary spidering and indexing systems.

Cynthia Murrell, August 27, 2018

Web Search with Privacy: SearX

August 24, 2018

For far too long we have been living in the Wild West of search: there are too few rules and personal data has been far too fluid. While we wait for the Googles of the world to change their policies (fat chance!) the time has come to find alternatives for those of us who care about keeping their privacy a top priority. We learned more about this revolution from a Make Use Of story, “Avoid Google and Bing: 7 Alternative Search Engines That Value Privacy.”

According to the story:

“Functionally, SearX is a metasearch engiyne, meaning it aggregates data from a number of other search engines then provides you with the best mix available. Results from several of the other search engines on this list—including DuckDuckGo, Qwant, and StartPage—are available. You can customize the engines that SearX uses to find results in the Preferences menu.”

Is a new search engine the answer? Probably not likely. In another time, we might point to the idea that the world has room for more search engines, but with the rise of voice search and the amount of money needed to research this type of thing, the odds of a new search engine taking over for Google or the like is very much impossible. There are other privacy centric Web search systems; for example, Unbubble.

The question becomes, “Are these systems private, or are the data available to authorities with the proper documentation?” Marketing is different from privacy for some people.

Patrick Roland, August 24, 2018

DuckDuck Go and Its View of Google

August 16, 2018

A post at the Search Engine Journal reproduces a series of tweets—“DuckDuckGo Blasts Google for Anti-Competitive Search Behavior,” they report. Writer Matt Southern introduces the captured tweets, noting that DuckDuckGo seems to have been prompted by the record $5 billion fine recently levied on Google by the EU for antitrust violations. Here’s what DuckDuckGo had to say about specific ways Googley practices have affected them:

“We welcome the EU cracking down on Google’s anti-competitive search behavior. We have felt its effects first hand for many years and has led directly to us having less market share on Android vs iOS and in general mobile vs desktop.

We noted:

“Up until just last year, it was impossible to add DuckDuckGo to Chrome on Android, and it is still impossible on Chrome on iOS. We are also not included in the default list of search options like we are in Safari, even though we are among the top search engines in many countries.

And this statement was interesting:

“The Google search widget is featured prominently on most Android builds and is impossible to change the search provider. For a long time it was also impossible to even remove this widget without installing a launcher that effectively changed the whole way the OS works. Their anti-competitive search behavior isn’t limited to Android. Every time we update our Chrome browser extension, all of our users are faced with an official-looking dialogue asking them if they’d like to revert their search settings and disable the entire extension.”

Google owns the domain Duck.com, which redirects to the Google home page and may confuse some DuckDuckGo users. Southern notes the privacy-centric search engine continues to dog Google on Twitter; for example, they recently called it a “myth” that users cannot be tracked when using (Google-owned) Chrome in Incognito mode and linked to a post that details why their process is far more effective at protecting user privacy. I suggest the curious navigate to that resource for the technical details.

BeyondSearch believes that DuckDuckGo is a metasearch system with some unique content. Depending on one’s point of view, there may be significant differences between DuckDuckGo and primary Web indexing systems like Exalead, Qwant, or Yandex. Running the same query on different systems is often a useful way to get a sense of what is in an index and what is not.

Cynthia Murrell, August 14, 2018

 

Code Search Capability Offers New Options

August 13, 2018

The days of sifting through code like a panhandler looking for a sparkly gold nugget are over. Innovative technologies and groundbreaking partnerships are making the infinite numbers of binary code just as searchable as any word combo in Google. One such pairing recently came across our desk in a blog post from Elastic, “Welcome Insight.io to the Elastic Team.”

According to the report:

”Code search capability also aligns with our vision for solutions-based offerings: by using and combining components of the Elastic Stack in a very precise way, we can deliver focused and intuitive experiences that solve specific pain points, with little to no overhead for the user. This enables delightful user experiences right out-of-the-box, with the initial hurdles and optimizations already taken care of.”

These two will make for a powerful partnership thanks to code search, but they are far from the only ballgame in town. In fact, some familiar names are popping up in this realm, including Bing, who has been dying for an angle to beat out Google for years. Jumping into code search early might just be that niche, which would be a shocking turnabout for the red headed step child of search. Worth a watch.

Patrick Roland, August 13, 2018

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