May 22, 2013
I read “Pew: 94% Of Teenagers Use Facebook, Have 425 Facebook Friends, But Twitter & Instagram Adoption Way Up.” The main point is that Facebook has what I would call a monopolistic position when it comes to teens and their friends. I am not sure Facebook is the home run play in places like rural Chile, but where there is money, infrastructure, and gizmos, Facebook is on top.
The point which struck me is, “What happens when an outfit is on top?” Revenue accrues and so does attention.
The research which the write up summarizes contains an interesting factoid or two. For example, teens are, if the data are correct, are shifting from online services which use words to online services which use pictures. (Will video be far behind?) Here’s the passage I noted:
Twitter and Instagram are far behind Facebook, but both have made impressive gains. Twitter was used by only 12% of teens in 2011 but more than doubled that to 26% in 2012. with usage of 26% and 11%. Instagram doesn’t appear to have been measured in 2011, so surveyed growth can’t be determined. But it comes in with an impressive third place at 11%.
Several observations are warranted.
First, search is somewhat of a disappointment when one tries to locate specific information in text form. Last night at dinner, a prominent New York attorney said, “It may just be me but I am having more difficulty finding exactly what I am looking for.” The comment bedevils quite a few people. I suggested that the prominent attorney hire a legal researcher. The prominent attorney replied, “I suppose I will have to.” Lesson: Finding information is getting more difficult, not easier. Keep in mind that the problem exists for words. Search is a challenge for some folks, and vendors have been trying to crack the code for 40, maybe 50 years.
Second, what information is embedded in digital images? What “metamessages” are teens sending when a snapshot is launched into the Twitter or Instagram world? More important, what search system is needed to locate and figure out the information in an image? My view is that geocoding and personal information may offer some important clues. But do we have a search system for these content repositories which works for the hapless attorney, a marketer, or a person looking for information about a runaway teen? In my view, not yet, and not by a long shot.
Third, is the shift from text to images by the teen demographic in the study sample a signal that text is losing its usefulness or relevance? The notion that those entering the workforce in a few years wedded to Tweets and snapshots may be an important cultural shift in some parts of the developed world.
The big question remains, “How will one find information to answer a question?” Text search is a problem. The brave new world hinted at in the Pew study poses more findability challenges. I am not sure the current crop of search and content processing challenges can resolve the problem to my satisfaction. The marketers will assert the opposite. The reality is that findability will remain a central problem for the foreseeable future.
Search is most easily resolved by ignoring its problems or reducing the problem to predictive algorithms in a “mother knows best” approach to information. That may work for some, but not everyone.
Stephen E Arnold, May 21, 2013
Sponsored by Augmentext
May 20, 2013
SEO is a hot topic as it is necessary for any marketing and PR plan to take shape. Unfortunately, Search Engine Watch reports that many are taken advantage of by SEO companies. Their recent post, “Moving Forward With a Broken Compass: A Plea to SEOs,” goes as far to say that what these companies deliver is borderline criminal.
The writer of this particular post establishes his ethos at the other end of the spectrum of quality of work delivered. The author describes a time where he went to attend a regular meeting at his client’s conference room but mentions that he never saw past that front conference room.
However, one day was different:
“I was surprised when the client offered to take us for a tour of their entire facility to have us meet the people we had been actually been working for. The client took my co-workers and I around their office complex and warehouses. They introduced us to people we had never before met, stating things like ‘This is Bob from Company X. They didn’t have a job before the work you’ve done for us. We built Bob’s office and the warehouse for his company off the back of what you’ve been doing.’”
Whether SEO delivers what it promises or not, this is beside the point. If you want traffic, buy AdWords.
Megan Feil, May 20, 2013
May 17, 2013
What is going on with search? According to Search Engine Watch in “Kenshoo Global Search Spending Grows 15%, CPCs Drop In Q1” the trends point to global search spending going up, but the costs-per-click are in the doldrums. Kensoo’s Global Search Advertising Trends tracked the search trends and found many positive factors: click-through-rates are up 62%, search spending is 15% up year-over-year, and the total spending is up 32% from 2011. It all looks great, but then the global average CPC dropped $0.39.
It seems the search market is an inevitable seesaw, but what is making it rise and descend so much? Possibly the lack of marketers who have not caught onto mobile. The immediate culprit would be social media, but the just might be a red herring:
“Social media is certainly sucking up all the buzz, but is this what’s depressing CPCs? Not according to Aaron Goldman, CMO of Kenshoo. ‘Social is certainly hot, but we’re not seeing it cannibalize search budgets,’ Goldman said. ‘Rather social is being funded from other channels, such as display and offline.’ He adds that social ad platforms including Facebook Exchange are taking budget from other ad exchanges and networks.”
We’ll just pin it on a bunch of economic factors that mesh together and form near indecipherable tracings. Bet your dollar that Google will be affected; the Google Glasses won’t be able to protect them from this burn if it continues.
Whitney Grace, May 17, 2013
May 16, 2013
The enterprise search show ended today, May 16. The presentations, except the one by Stephen E Arnold, were scintillating, thought provoking, and solid evidence that enterprise search is the crown jewel of enterprise software systems. Forget the grousing about Fast Search & Transfer, Autonomy, and the millions upon millions poured into outfits trying to generate a profit by licensing software which makes it easy to locate a needed document using a traditional personal computer, a laptop, or a notebook computer. Mobile phones and tablets are, alas, not yet the camels inside the enterprise search tent.
I learned about the importance of knowing what users want. I learned about providing users with systems which auto suggest, display relevant links, and eliminate the annoying task of reading a document to determine if it has useful information for the user.
Progress never stops. I would point out that Stephen E Arnold’s slide showing that precision and recall were making incremental progress over a decade. The flat line was in sharp contrast to his utterly fantastic suggestion that the complexity of modern search systems and their costs were increasing. One Scandinavian business development professional said to Mr. Arnold, “So you think the costs of search are going up like that, like the take off of the jet plane.”
Mr. Arnold, I overheard, said, “Yep, especially when the systems don’t work as advertised, require expensive unbudgeted investments, and produce more complaints than changing the health care dental deductible.” The Scandinavian shook his head in disbelief and wandered off in search of more comforting conversation.
A screen capture from Stephen E Arnold’s anomalous presentation. The cost and complexity curves rise more aggressively than the precision and recall curve. Who needs relevance when modern systems can deliver search without the user’s performing any intellectual effort prior to accepting what a system delivers.
I did come away with three broad thoughts once I cleared my mind of the fog of confusion that Stephen E Arnold’s obfuscation machine delivered.
First, Apple’s and Google’s conferences sell out in a very short time. Perhaps some of those turned away from the Apple and Google events could pick up a few IQ points and simultaneously get the inside dope on the hottest enterprise application — enterprise search? Two enterprise search vendors generated more than $100 million in revenues in the 45 year history of the enterprise search sector’s lifetime. Definitely enterprise search is the go to market. Measured in terms of academics, advisors, and unemployed home economics majors, search is where the action is.
Second, the technology on display was a great refresher for me. I learned about users’ dissatisfaction with search a decade ago. If I understood the presenter, user dissatisfaction is unchanged. About half of those who use an enterprise findability system are not thrilled with the experience. Progress is, it seems, modest. On the other hand, consistency in user opinion helps size the magnitude of the opportunity. I have not attended an enterprise search event for several years. I must admit I don’t think I missed any important developments. The content was, in my opinion, familiar.
Third, the technical bits had to bite and claw to get podium time. The outlier Stephen E Arnold actually used some equations. No other presenter made that mistake. The majority of the presentations focused on management issues. There were variously described as “governance,” “content management,” and planning. For those with an MBA and a love of enterprise search, there are, I concluded, many opportunities for consultants. Several of the folks who sell their expertise pointed out “I am not a technical expert,” “I can’t code,” and my favorite “Enterprise search is just one of the specialties I have.” Ah, billable time for uninformed advice. A career tip.
What’s the future of enterprise search?
One speaker said, “Search is not a good word to use.”
Edward Stephens, Stephen E Arnold’s more intelligent cousin, May 17, 2013
Sponsored by Augmentext
May 16, 2013
Dan Kuznetsky is a trusted authority in enterprise search. He brings his expertise to the topic of search in Big Data in his latest article for ZDNet, “Evolution of Search in Big Data as Told by LucidWorks.”
After a discussion of how LucidWorks is contributing to the open source community through its participation in the Apache Software Foundation, Kuznetsky goes on to explore this interesting development model:
“LucidWorks is one of a growing number of technology companies that are building products based upon open-source software that was created in products hosted by the Apache Software Foundation. It is fascinating how they are cooperating to build the basic technology and then focusing on different competitive market niches. Each time I mentioned what I thought was a competitor, the folks from LucidWorks pointed out that those companies are partners that are trying to use their individual strengths together to serve the market. This is an area that is worth watching.”
Kuznetsky hit on the strength of LucidWorks and the rest of the value-added open source market. Innovation is encouraged, many benefit, but each company finds a niche that makes it profitable, but also useful. In this way, innovation is encouraged, open source development is encouraged, and users benefit from continuous improvement and support for the solutions in which they invest. Sounds like a win-win.
Emily Rae Aldridge, May 16, 2013
May 14, 2013
A Business Wire press release caught our eyes recently as it announced the distribution of LucidWorks Search with the MapR Platform for Apache Hadoop. “MapR Technologies Distributes Enterprise-Grade Search with Hadoop Platform” shares that now customers will have predictive analytics, search, discovery and advanced database operations at their fingertips on a single platform.
Integrating LucidWorks technology with MapR beefs up the added value that LucidWorks Search offers as far as security, connectivity and user management. Additionally, MapR announced that the M7 Edition is available; this combines unprecedented Hadoop and NoSQL capabilities together in one platform.
According to Ben Woo, managing director, Neuralytix:
“Integrating search capabilities into Hadoop is an important milestone for the industry and represents tremendous opportunity for customers to find new insight and derive value from Big Data. This is an enormous step forward especially in time-sensitive processes such as fraud detection where Big Data must be searched as it streams into the enterprise.”
MapR’s chief application architect tells us that using search and big data is not just about analyzing social media content and Web traffic. We wonder…big data and search: has the holy grail (or one of them) been found?
Megan Feil, May 14, 2013
May 7, 2013
Some of the UK newspapers pop up boxes wanting me to subscribe. Nice try, but I don’t follow too much of the England, Ireland, Scotland action. As fascinating as the Cotswolds may be, most of the business news from England is a bit depressing and irrelevant to life here in Harrod’s Creek. My subscribing to the major UK dailies online is simply not yet compelling. But once in a while an information truffle comes to my attention.
Economy Watch presented this somewhat troubling picture of England’s economy. For a discussion of the data, please, navigate to http://www.economywatch.com/world_economy/england/.
I did notice in one of my Overflights this story, however: “Barclays Capital Accused in Autonomy Lawsuit.” (If the link goes bad, you will have to hunt around for the story or look at a hard copy of the paper in a library.)
The main idea is that HP spent $11 billion for Autonomy. A short time later, HP wrote off about $9 billion, making the deal for Autonomy apparently worth $2 billion. Here’s was the Telegraph said about a shareholder lawsuit which named the top brass of HP among others as allegedly responsible for the misstep:
“HP’s financial advisor, Barclays, was conflicted in advising the board while simultaneously underwriting the financing of the deal,” the lawsuit states. “Compounding the problem, after the acquisition closed, HP’s fiduciaries misrepresented the facts to conceal their own failings,” it [the shareholder lawsuit] added.
What I find interesting is that the difference between what HP paid and at what the write down pegs the “value” is still a hefty number for a search and content processing company. Autonomy was the pre-eminent search vendor, and it did a good job of surviving and growing as other vendors failed. Consider that Autonomy survived and reach nearly $1 billion in revenues as Convera, Entopia, Delphes, Siderean and others disappeared.
My view is that Autonomy’s success continues to give venture firms and entrepreneurs hope that an enterprise search, business intelligence, or content analytics firm can deliver hundreds of millions in revenue. Since the roll up wave of the high profile search vendors has come and gone, the companies which want to fill the void look at the Autonomy deal as a benchmark.
What I find interesting is that like the Microsoft purchase of Fast Search & Transfer, the big European deals have been dogged by by questions about the financial underpinnings of the company. The smaller deals—Dassault”s purchase of Exalead, IBM’s deal for Vivisimo, Lexmark’s one-two deals for Brainware and ISYS Search Software, and Oracle’s acquisition of Endeca—have been largely without excitement. The search “technology” has morphed into functions which enhance the owners’ enterprise systems. I would note that most of these acquired search technologies were aging at the time of the buyouts in my opinion. ISYS, I believe, dates from the late 1980s.
Are some companies unable to manage, value, and leverage their search acquisitions? I was reminded yesterday that 20 somethings and slick MBAs have figured out how to make money from search. I listened, of courser. But in the back of my mind, it seems that most of the still standing search vendors are in the business of raising money. Making sales and growing a business, for some, is a secondary activity.
Which enterprise search vendors are demonstrating organic growth and generating sufficient cash to support and enhance their products? When I think about the mad rush to convert search technology into something to tackle big data or mine nuggets in real time data, I wonder if a “willing suspension of disbelief” is the defining characteristic of those who pump millions upon millions into search and content processing.
Technology is enhanced by marketing. Smart money seems to believe the public relations. The actual financial performance drifts to a secondary role.
Who’s affected? According to the shareholders, executives and bankers. Here’s the phrase in the estimable Telegraph’s lingo: “disastrous purchase of Autonomy.”
Disastrous is a colorful notion when applied to enterprise search and its related disciplines, isn’t it?
Stephen E Arnold, May 7, 2013
Sponsored by Augmentext
May 6, 2013
A recent report from AdGooRoo highlights the ongoing Bing-Google faceoff, revealing some surprises alongside results we could have anticipated. Search Engine Journal informs us, “AddGooRoo Report Pits Bing Ads Against Google AdWords in Six U.S. Verticals.” The study compared 2012-third-quarter results of Google‘s AdWords with those of Bing Ads offered by the hybrid Yahoo-Bing network, and shows Google’s competition gaining ground. The article tells us:
“It is a given in 21st century America that web surfers are going to use Google’s high powered, ever present search engine to look for something on the internet. Web surfers at home and SEO professionals in the workplace know this fact, and the statistics prove it. Google handles two-thirds of search queries in the U.S. each year, but there is competition that could be growing.
“A recent report from AdGooRoo sought to gauge the success of the Yahoo! Bing network in gaining market share against Google. Few web users even realize that the Yahoo! Bing network accounts for nearly one-third of the search queries in the U.S., representing the next largest share of the market behind Google.”
AdGooRoo compared the performance of paid search in six areas (aka verticals): retail, financial services, travel, education, computer/internet, and business to business. In the realm of ad impressions (how often an ad is displayed), BingAds actually outperformed AdWords in the financial-services vertical. Analysts suspect the popularity of that topic at Yahoo‘s and MSDN‘s sites, both of which redirect to Bing, boosted the numbers. It is no surprise that Google still leads handily in retail, but BingAds came close in the remaining verticals.
The picture changes when we consider the all-important click-through rate, however. AdWords still crushes the competition there in every column. Writer Federico Einhorn says analysts attribute the lead to a superior ad-serving system, but notes it could also have to do with Google’s enhanced customization controls, implemented earlier this year. Whatever the case, this is an exercise in “you get what you pay for;” the study found that advertisers pay more per click with AdWords than with Bing Ads. Not surprisingly, many advertisers subscribe to both systems. That is probably a good call.
Cynthia Murrell, May 06, 2013
HP, Autonomy, and a Context Free Expert Output about Search: The Bet on a Horse Approach to Market Analysis
May 4, 2013
I don’t think too much about:
- Azure chip consultants. You know, these are the firms which make a living from rah rahs, buzzwording, and pontification to sell reports. (I know. I labored at a non-azure chip outfit for what seems like decades. Experience is a good instructor. Oh, if you are a consultant, please, complain about my opinion using the comments section of this free blog.)
- Hewlett Packard. I recall that the company used to make lab equipment which was cool. Now I think the firm is in some other businesses but as quickly as I latch on to one like the Treo and mobile, HP exits the business. The venerable firm confuses my 69 year old mind.
- Autonomy. I think I did some work for the outfit but I cannot recall. Age and the lifestyle in rural Kentucky takes a toll on the memory I admit.
Nevertheless, I read “HP’s Autonomy Could Face Uphill Battle In Data Market.” There were some gems in the write up which I found amusing and illustrative of the problems which azure chip consulting firms and their experts have when tackling certain business issues.
The main idea of the write up for “investors” is that HP faces “challenges.” Okay. That’s a blinding insight. As you may recall, HP bought Autonomy for $11 billion and then a few months later roiled the “investors” by writing off billions on the deal. That was the mobile phone model, wasn’t it?
The write up then pointed out:
HP wanted Autonomy to jump-start its move into software and cloud-based computing. Autonomy is the No. 1 provider of search and retrieval software that companies use to find and share files and other information on their websites and document management systems.
Okay. But that too seems obvious.
Now here comes the kicker. The expert outfit providing inputs to the reporter doing the bull dog grip on this worn out bone is quoted as saying:
“Software license revenue (in this market) isn’t growing at the same rate as before, and we are beginning to see the rise of some new technologies, specifically content analytics and unified information access,” Schubmehl said. These new types of software can be used with types of business analytics software, business intelligence software and other software to help enterprises do a better job of locating specific information, he says, which is the job of search retrieval software.
I don’t know much about IDC but what strikes me from this passage is that there are some assertions in this snippet which may warrant a tiny bit of evaluation.
Will context free analyses deliver a winner? Will there be a Gamblers Anonymous for those who bet on what journalists and mid tier (second string) consultancies promulgate? For more about Gamblers Anonymous navigate to http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/
May 3, 2013
My Overflight for search vendors generated an odd “recent” update. The item originated from Chrlettestuvv’s Blog. The story pointed to an item called “SAIC’s TeraText Solutions Signs Strategic Alliance Agreement with HP.” The source was an “article from Software Industry Report, August 1, 2005.
HP apparently needed something more than TeraText, which shared some similarities with the now forgotten iPhrase and anticipated features in MarkLogic Server today. I find these search- and content-processing related tie ups interesting.
Each time I recall one or some glitch in the Internet surfaces a partner factoid, I am more confident that search vendors and some growth hungry large corporations move from speed dating to speed dating activity. Do the engagements lead to marriages? Sometimes I suppose. Other times the companies, like boy friends and girl friends in high school, the couples just drift apart.
Search, however, remains mostly unchanged.
Stephen E Arnold, May 3, 2013
Sponsored by Augmentext