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Microsoft: Yandex Looking Better than Bing

October 13, 2015

I read “Russia’s Yandex Teams Up with Microsoft for Windows 10.” Microsoft has its work cut out in the search and retrieval sector. The Fast Search & Transfer deal for $1.2 billion, the Powerset technology, the infusion of wizards from Australia, and the wild and crazy promotion for Bing—much activity, questionable payoff.

According to the write up:

Russia’s biggest search engine Yandex said on Tuesday Microsoft would offer it as the default homepage and search tool for Internet browsers across its Windows 10 platform in Russia and several other countries.

I understand the Yandex does a better, no, make that, a much better job indexing content than Bing. In my lectures for professionals engaged in law enforcement and intelligence activities, I show comparisons of output from Bing next to outputs from Yandex. Less Dancing with the Stars and more substance is one way I point up the difference between consumery Bing and Yandex.

According to the write up Microsoft and Yandex have a “strategic cooperation agreement.”

Several observations:

  • Microsoft has talked about search for many years. Its products and services are okay. Outfits like Yandex offer results that are more useful for the types of queries I run. Yandex has been around since 2008. Microsoft leaps into action.
  • Microsoft’s Bing search has evolved along a trajectory I did not foresee. The colors, the pop culture feel, the intrusiveness of Cortana, and the exclusion of content from Microsoft research baffle me.
  • I use Google to locate information about Microsoft’s products and services. That, to me, points to some fundamental problems with Bing.

Net net: Microsoft and search remain and unhappy couple. One question: Will the Microsoft food service people add solyanka to the menu?

Stephen E Arnold, October 13, 2015

Sell Your Soul for a next to Nothing on the Dark Web

October 13, 2015

The article on ZDNet titled The Price of Your Identity in the Dark Web? No More Than a Dollar provides the startlingly cheap value of stolen data on the Dark Web. We have gotten used to hearing about data breaches at companies that we know and use (ahem, Ashley Madison), but what happens next? The article explains,

“Burrowing into the Dark Web — a small area of the Deep Web which is not accessible unless via the Tor Onion network — stolen data for sale is easy to find. Accounts belonging to US mobile operators can be purchased for as little as $14 each, while compromised eBay, PayPal, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and Uber accounts are also for sale. PayPal and eBay accounts which have a few months or years of transaction history can be sold for up to $300 each.”

According to the  Privacy Rights Clearinghouse the most common industries affected by data breaches are healthcare, government, retail, and education sectors. But it also stresses that a high number of data breaches are not caused by hackers or malicious persons at all. Instead, unintended disclosure is often the culprit. Dishearteningly, there is really no way to escape being a target besides living out some Ron Swanson off the grid fantasy scenario. Every organization that collects personal information is a potential breach target. It is up to the organizations to protect the information, and while many are making that a top priority, most have a long way to go.

Chelsea Kerwin, October 13, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Artificial Intelligence: A Jargon Mandala to Understand the Universe of Search

October 12, 2015

I read “Lux: Useful Sankey Diagram on AI.” A Sankey diagram, according to Sankey Diagrams a “Sankey diagram says more than 1,000 pie charts.” The assumption is, of course, that a pie chart presents meaningful data. In the energy sector you can visual flows in complex systems. It helps to have numbers when one is working towards a Sankey map, but if real data are not close at hand, one can fudge up some data.

Here’s the Sankey diagram in the write up:


You can see an almost legible version at this link.

What the diagram suggests is that certain information access and content processing functions flow into data mining, machine learning, and statistics. If you are a fan of multidimensionality, the arrow of time may flow in the reverse direction; that is from data mining, machine learning, and statistics to affective computing, cognitive computing, computational discovery, image and video analytics, language translation, navigation, recommender systems, and speech recognition.

The intermediary state, tinted a US currency green provides intermediating operations or conditions; for example, anomaly detection, collaborative filtering, computer eavesdropping, computer vision, pattern recognition, NLP, path planning, clustering, deep learning, dimensionality reduction, networks graphic models, online reinforcement learning, pattern similarity, probabilistic modeling, regression, and, my favorite, search algorithms.

The diagram, like the wild and crazy chemical imagery for Watson, seems to be a way to:

  1. Collect a number of discrete operations
  2. Arrange the operations into some orderly framework
  3. Allow the viewer to perceive relationships or the potential for relationships among the operations.

In short, skip the wild and crazy presentations by search and content processing vendors about how search enables broader and, hence, more valuable activities. Search is relegated to an entry in the intermediating column of the Sankey diagram.

My thought is that some folks will definitely love the idea that the many different specialties of content processing can be presented in a mandala which invites contemplation and consideration.

The diagram makes clear that when a company wants to know what one can do with the different and often clever operatio0ns one can perform with content, the answer may be, “Make a poster and hang it on the wall.”

In terms of applications, the chart makes quite explicit that some clever team will have to put the parts in order. Does this remind you of building a Star Wars character from Lego blocks.

The construct is the value, not the individual enabling blocks.

Stephen E Arnold, October 12, 2015

Web Site Search Goes Camping

October 12, 2015

It is a common fact that if you are a major retailer and your Web site’s search function is horrible, you are losing millions of dollars in sales.  Cabela’s is the world’s largest marketer of hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor merchandise decided to upgrade their Web site with GroupBy says PR Newswire in the press release, “Cabela’s And GroupBy Partner To Improve Site Search.”

With GroupBy’s advice, Cabela’s has made a good choice:

“After careful evaluation, Cabela’s selected Searchandiser to replace their Oracle Endeca site search, as they required a robust solution that would deliver accurate search results and an improved user experience for their customers. ‘At Cabela’s we strive to continually improve our customer experience and search relevance is an opportunity area we have identified,’ said Scott Johnstone, Cabela’s Technology Partner Relationship Manager.  ‘To that end, we are partnering with GroupBy Inc. to leverage their merchandising tools, search expertise and the underlying technology.’”

As Cabela’s market expands, with Searchandiser creates a better online shopping experience for users with more secure transactions.  Any outdoor enthusiast with tell you that equipment is vital for a good adventure.   As more people are heading outside to experience the great outdoors, they rely on a decent Web site to order their supplies and gear.  Cabela’s is set to meet the new surge with better searching functionalities.

Whitney Grace, October 12, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Privacy Centric Hulbee Secures $9 Million

October 10, 2015

You can search the Web and, in theory, not be tracked. Navigate to Hulbee and enter your query. You may want to do some exploratory clicking to figure out how Hulbee is helping you find the information you want. You can set your default search engine if you use the Alphabet Google Chrome beastie.


According to “Hulbee Bags $9M To Grow Its Pro-Privacy Search Engine,” the system is a Swiss based semantic search company. The write up points out:

It also has its own ad system, rather than bolting on a third party ad network. And again here it’s taking a non-tracking approach. Ads on Hulbee are targeted based on the search query, according to CEO Andreas Wiebe, so there’s no geotargeting or cumulative tracking. (Although users can specify their region in order to ensure more relevant search results, so it may have basic country data. And once you step off Hulbee and onto whatever website you were trying to find chances are their ad networks will start tracking you, unless you’re running an ad blocker…)

Yep, privacy is job one for advertising. Take a moment to explore this system. You may want to compare its output to that of Ixquick and Unbubble, two other privacy oriented outfits.

Stephen E Arnold, October 10, 2015

Savanna Offers Simplistic Search and Analytics

October 9, 2015

Thetus Corporation created Savanna, a collaborative all-source analysis platform based in a Web-browser.  The company just released a brand new 4.5 upgrade to Savanna and it is guaranteed to keep users ahead of the competition with insightful information and business connections.  Savanna 4.5 comes with some great improvements to search, upload and content management, and new ways to work with structured data.  Virtual Strategy Magazine shares the details about the upgrade in “Savanna 4.5 Provides For Meaningful Analysis In Minutes.”

The most talked about feature in the upgrade is the new meaningful analysis:

“New avenues for structured data visualization in Savanna 4.5 allow analysts to uncover new connections between data, deepening their analysis and bringing new insights. The ongoing improvements to Savanna refine the analysis process by making it easy for analysts to search for and manage content, enhancing the overall Savanna experience. Licensed Savanna customers can expect new updates and enhancements on a regular basis.”

Also included in the upgrade is a more intuitive search layout with improved filters for content and source selection, more options to customize a timeline’s appearance, more options for structured data visualization, and integrated upload capabilities with faster upload and better classification.

Some of the new features are standard options in other analytics software, but Thetus has a good track for new business insights with its software.

Whitney Grace, October 9, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Amazon Updates Sneaker Net

October 8, 2015

I remember creating a document, copying the file to a floppy, and then walking up one flight of steps to give the floppy to my boss. He took the floppy, loaded it into his computer, and made changes. A short time later he would walk down one flight of steps, hand me the floppy with his file on it, and I would review the changes.

I thought this was the cat’s pajamas for two reasons:

  1. I did not have to use ledger paper, sharpen a pencil, and cramp my fingers
  2. Multiple copies existed so I no longer had to panic when I spilled my Fresca across my desk.

Based on the baloney I read every day about the super wonderful high speed, real time cloud technology, I was shocked when I read “Snowball’s Chance in Hell? Amazon Just Launched a Physical Data Transfer Service.” The news struck me as more important than the yap and yammer about Amazon disrupting cloud business and adding partners.

Here’s the main point I highlighted in pragmatic black:

A Snowball device is ordered through the AWS Management Console and is delivered to site within a few days; customers can order multiple devices and devices can be run in parallel. Described as coming in its “own shipping container” (it doesn’t require packing or unpacking) the Snowball is entirely self-contained, complete with 110 Volt power, a 10 GB network connection on the back and an E Ink display/control panel on the front. Once received it’s simply a matter of plugging the device in, connecting it to a network, configuring the IP address, and installing the AWS Snowball client; a job manifest and 25 character unlock code complete the task. When the transfer of data is complete the device is disconnected and a shipping label will automatically appear on the E Ink display; once shipped back to Amazon (currently only the Oregon data center is supporting the service, with others to follow) the data will be decrypted and copied to S3 bucket(s) as specified by the customer.

There you go. Sneaker net updated with FedEx, UPS, or another shipping service. Definitely better than carrying an appliance up and down stairs. I was hoping that individuals participating in the Mechanical Turk system would be available to pick up an appliance and deliver it to the Amazon customer and then return the gizmo to Amazon. If Amazon can do Etsy-type stuff, it can certainly do Uber-type functions, right?

When will the future arrive? No word on how the appliance will interact with Amazon’s outstanding search system. I wish I knew how to NOT out unpublished books or locate mysteries by Japanese authors available in English. Hey, there is a sneaker net. Focus on the important innovations.

Stephen E Arnold, October 8, 2015

Compare Cell Phone Usage in Various Cities

October 8, 2015

Ever wonder how cell phone usage varies around the globe? Gizmodo reports on a tool that can tell us, called ManyCities, in their article, “This Website Lets You Study Cell Phone Use in Cities Around the World.” The project is a team effort from MIT’s SENSEable City Laboratory and networking firm Ericsson. Writer Jamie Condliffe tells us that ManyCities:

“…compiles mobile phone data — such as text message traffic, number of phone calls, and the amount of data downloaded —from base stations in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Hong Kong between April 2013 and January 2014. It’s all anonymised, so there’s no sensitive information on display, but there is enough data to understand usage patterns, even down the scale of small neighbourhoods. What’s nice about the site is that there are plenty of intuitive interpretations of the data available from the get-go. So, you can see how phone use varies geographically, say, or by time, spotting the general upward trend in data use or how holidays affect the number of phone calls. And then you can dig deeper, to compare data use over time between different neighbourhoods or cities: like, how does the number of texts sent in Hong Kong compare to New York? (It peaks in Hong Kong in the morning, but in the evening in New York, by the way.)”

The software includes some tools that go a little further, as well; users can cluster areas by usage patterns or incorporate demographic data. Condliffe notes that this information could help with a lot of tasks; forecasting activity and demand, for example. If only it were available in real time, he laments, though he predicts that will happen soon. Stay tuned.

Cynthia Murrell, October 8, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Restlet Promotes Paul Doscher to the Cloud

October 8, 2015

What has Paul Doscher been up to?  We used to follow him when he was a senior executive over at LucidWorks, but he has changed companies and is now riding on clouds.  PRWeb published the press release “Restlet Appoints Paul Doscher As New CEO To Accelerate Deployment Of Most Comprehensive Cloud-Based API Platform.”  Doscher is the brand new president, CEO, and board member at Restlet, leading creators of deployed APIs framework.  Along with LucidWorks, Doscher held executive roles at VMware, Oracle, Exalead, and BusinessObjects.

Restlet hot its start as an open source project by Jerome Louvel.  Doscher will be replacing Louvel as the CEO and is quite pleased about handing over the reins to his successor:

“ ‘I’m extremely pleased that we have someone with Paul’s experience to grow Restlet’s leadership position in API platforms,’ said Louvel. ‘Restlet has the most complete API cloud platform in the industry and our ease of use makes it the best choice for businesses of any size to publish and consume data and services as APIs. Paul will help Restlet to scale so we can help more businesses use APIs to handle the exploding number of devices, applications and use cases that need to be supported in today’s digital economy.’ ”

Doscher wants to break down the barriers for cloud adoption and take it to the next level.  His first task as the new CEO will be implementing the API testing tools vendor DHC and using it to enhance Restlet’s API Platform.

Restlet is ecstatic to have Doscher on board and Louvel is probably heading off to a happy retirement.

Whitney Grace, October 8, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Watson Weekly: Chasing Sales via Ads. Forget Thought Leadership

October 6, 2015

I was exploring the topics business intelligence and Big Data. I was intrigued by “Is Thought Leadership a Waste of Money?” My reaction was, “Nope, thought leadership is good.” Who wants to fool around with regular marketing methods.

What’s the write up say?

I highlighted this passage from a person who does not know about the genesis of Strategy & Business and the somewhat addled Booz, Allen executive who wanted a BAH branded Economist to generate revenue:

Once upon a time back in 1994, Joel Kurtzman, the then-editor-in-chief of Strategy & Business, coined the term “thought leader” as a means for identifying people within the business marketplace that merited our attention. Thought leaders were the individuals within their respective industries who offered fresh, creative ideas and commentary on industry problems and trends. Two decades later, much of today’s thought leadership has gone from original to repetitive. It’s not that business leaders, C-level executives, or entrepreneurs don’t have great ideas or valuable insights. The problem is a bit more complex.

But here’s the shocker. Strategy & Business was a reaction by Booz, Allen & Hamilton to publications and marketing campaigns mounted by other blue chip consulting firms.

Advertising, at least for blue chip firms, was somewhat low brow. The notion of pumping drivel into the in boxes of Fortune 1000 executives was also distasteful. Today advertising is the cat’s pajamas.

IBM is proving that nothing beats banging one’s own drum even if no one knows what the band is playing.

I opened my dead tree edition of the New York Times this morning )October 6, 2015), and what did I see? The work of Ogilvy & Mather? Sure looks like it. Big ad buy. Big images. Big assertions.

Cognitive computing via Watson. Yikes, where is the smarter planet? I did some poking around and came across “Tangled Up in Big Blue: IBM Replaces Smarter Planet With … Bob Dylan.”

IBM began to realize that the message of Smarter Planet — basically that computing is and will be integral to everything, as manifested in innovations such as smart power grids and connected cars — is no longer a differentiator for the business, explained Mr. Iwata. The emerging pattern, as harnessed and fostered by its Watson technology, is that these super computing capabilities can be built into anything digital because they live in the cloud.

IBM’s senior vice president of marketing Jon Iwata allegedly said:

“This will resonate strongly with not only our current clients but…companies and decision makers and software developers who aren’t currently IBM clients.”

The result in the dead tree newspapers I saw presented page upon page of IBM Watson marketing. Here are some of the pages from this morning’s print campaign in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal:

ibm ad

The massive ad campaign reveals that Watson consists of 100 million lines of code. No comment about bugs counts, however.

Obviously, this snapshot is too small to read. Put down your smartphone and buy the dead tree newspapers. Here are the themes I noted:

  1. Buzzwords
  2. Components that you, gentle reader, can assemble like Potassium ferrocyanide in chem lab when the teacher is inattentive
  3. Images of youthful, diverse people who are obviously into Watson
  4. Copy, lots of copy.

The information recycles that which is available on the IBM Watson Web site. The difference is that the multi page ads are the equivalent of a Bunker Buster dropped into the somewhat indifferent world of search and content processing. How will the likes of minnows like Coveo, dtSearch, Elasticsearch (now Elastic), Recommind, Sinequa, legions of business analytics firms, the specialists pitching everything from indexing (Smartlogic) to semantics (SenseBot), and all manner of information access vendors scattered across a somewhat Martian like landscape. Sure, there may be water, but can one survive on the stuff?

IBM is skipping the thought leader thing and going right to big buck advertising. I can imagine this scenario taking place in Joe Coffee’s. The IBM marketing team is meeting with the ad agency’s equivalent of Bindy Irwin. The scene is a hip coffee shop near the Watson office in Manhattan.

IBM Watson Wizard (IWW): We need something big to get this Watson bandwagon rolling?

Mad Ave Ad Exec (MAAE): Yes, big. We need to do big.

IWW: Let’s brainstorm here? Do you want another cappuccino with the neat latte art?

MAAE: Sure, sure. But make mine a macchiato.

[IBM Watson executive returns with more cappuccino and one artisan cafe macchiato.]

IWW: Who wants the macchiato? What have you got for me?

MAAE: Okay, we have been talking while you were standing on line? By the way, do you want one of us to pay for the coffee?

IWW: Nah, we’ve got more than a billion to burn. Let’s get to it.

MAAE: Here’s the idea. Imagine putting the Watson cognitive computing message in front of every, and I mean every, New York Times and Wall Street Journal reader. We warm up with some Monday Night Football buys and then, bang, we hit the buyers with the message, “Cognitive computing.”

IWW: Well, print? What about viral videos? What about social media?

MAAE: We will do that. We can pay some mid tier consulting types to send out Watson tweets?

IWW: But that did not get any traction?

MAAE: Tweets are good. We need to provide a big bang to make the tweet thing happen.

IWW: What’s the message?

MAAE: We were thinking think. But 21st century style. We want to go with outthink thing.

IWW: Out think. I like it.

MAAE: Now picture this. You know how everyone learned about chemical symbols in high school?

IWW: Yes, but I got a D.

MAAE: No problem. Here’s the picture. [Ad person grabs napkin and sketches a hexagon with a happy face.

ibm happy face

We show the components of the Watson system as little chemical symbols with codes in them.

IWW: Symbols? Codes? It looks like a happy face with an F in it.


MAAE: Grab your mental iPhone. Snap this happy icon with the Fd. You see “face detection.” Fd. Crystal clear. Non verbal. Immediate.

IWW: I don’t understand.

MAAE: Work with me on this. We make a list of the APIs and the buzzwords and put them into a graphic. We call the page “IBM Watson is the platform for cognitive business.”

IWW: Oh, like the structures computational chemists use to visualize complex constructs?

MAAE: What’s a computational structure whatever? I know a happy face thing with a hexagon. This gets the message across. Zap. Like an Instagram, right?

IWW: I get it. I get it.

MAAE: You like it, right? Big bang. Big splash. Big message but simple, clear, easy to grasp.

IWW: How many New York Times and Wall Street Journal readers know what API means?

MAAE: We’ve grab the upside. Wait for it. We will hook the Watson cognitive thing with a superstar. We are thinking Bob Dylan.

IWW: Bob Dylan. I remember him. Butwasn’t there some talk about drugs, political activism, maybe something with Croatia in France?

MAAE: Ancient history and myth. He’s an icon. Picture this. Bob Dylan becomes the image of cognitive computing. Can’t miss. Cannot miss. Winner. We become the messaging for API. Watson APIs will be huge. The chatter about text extraction, image tagging, and concept expansion. Deafening.

IWW: Wow, that sounds almost as powerful as the Jeopardy game show promotion. I really liked that game show thing. Watson won too.

MAAE: Right. That’s the value of post production. Now. One final point. Jules here came up with a great idea while you were waiting on line. We take the rock solid facts about Watson. Jules thinks this was your idea, and it is a great one. Watson. Only 100 million lines of code, you know, more than in a Volkswagen-type fuel emission system. We sprinkle these facts under a headline like “A cognitive business is a business that thinks.” Stir in Dylan and you can write your own ticket in this cognitive computing thing.

IWW: But what about outthink thing? You said the new hook was outthink.

MAAE: Yes, yes, outthink is the glue. Cognitive API outthink. Huge. I will send a contract over to you later today.

IWW: Do you think we will make any sales?

MAAE: Sales? Sure, sure. Winner. Be sure to turn around that contract. We need to get rolling like a rolling stone. Winner.

What other boosters did Watson receive on October 6, 2015. Well, the IBM Big Blue Boss is on CNBC. Not as perky as Bindy, but pretty excited about granting CNBC an exclusive.

One question: What about revenues? You know three years of declining revenue.

Stephen E Arnold, October 6, 2015





Stephen E Arnold, October 6, 2015

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