Google Home Still Knows More

August 21, 2017

Amazon has infiltrated our lives as our main shopping destination.  Amazon is also trying to become our best friend, information source, and digital assistant via Alexa.  Alexa provides a wealth of services, such as scheduling appointments, filling shopping orders, playing music, answering questions, and more.  While Amazon Alexa has a steady stream of users, Ad Week says, “Google Home Is 6 Times More Likely To Answer Your Questions Than Amazon Alexa.”

The company 360i developed software that would determine which digital assistant was more accurate: Google Home or Amazon Alexa.  Apparently Google Home is six times more likely to answer a question than Amazon Alexa.  360i arrived at this conclusion by using their software to ask both devices 3,000 questions.  Alexa won when it came to questions related to retail information, but Google Home won over all with its search algorithms.

It’s relatively surprising, considering that RBC Capital Markets projects Alexa will drive $10 billion of revenue to Amazon by 2020—not to mention the artificial intelligence-based system currently owns 70 percent of the voice market.

Amazon might be the world’s largest market place, so Alexa would, of course, be the world’s best shopping assistant.  The Internet is much larger than shopping and Google scours the entire Web.  What does Amazon use to power Alexa’s searches?

Whitney Grace, August 21, 2017

Google Amps Ads to New Annoying Levels

August 17, 2017

Today, Google is synonymous with search, as they’ve worked very hard to ensure. But search has changed, and not always for the good. One of Google’s hallmark principles at the beginning of their existence was to provide an unbiased search engine with any additions only being to enhance the user experience. Nowadays, though, it seems like Google looks like every other search engine, littered with Ads and flashing videos.

Not impressed with these changes, Wired recently called the search giant out on their recent addition of automatically-playing movie trailers, saying ‘enough is enough’.

Showing a few ads in the image search system isn’t a bad thing. But it shows just how much Google’s thinking has changed. Google’s not a scrappy startup anymore. It’s the world’s most valuable company, and its investors want results. And without much serious competition, the risk of customers bolting for another search engine is pretty low.

Wired is spot on, of course, but what if customers did start trickling out to other search engines that adhere to Google’s original principles and ideologies?

Catherine Lamsfuss, August 17, 2017

Google and Apple Narrow Search Results

August 11, 2017

Remaining relevant means making money in technology and Google and Apple are not about to be outdone by Amazon despite it appears that may be the case. In an effort to stem the potential loss of revenue both Apple and Google are re-engineering their search capabilities to “buttress the value of traditional search.”

According to GeoMarketing, the two tech giants are approaching the same problem from different angles:

In a sense, the battle between the mobile web and apps is a proxy war between Google and Apple.

For Google,

The (Q&A box) fits right in with the current idea of getting direct, personalized responses to queries as opposed to the traditional method of showing infinite hypertext listings based on general popularity. It follows a path that Google has already taken with its search functions, including the automatic addition of the term “near me” into the search box as well as providing searchable menu listings for restaurants and direct bookings to salons and spas.

Apple is focusing on apps rather than search, but with the same end in mind.

As consumers are demanding local results and more organic answers to their search questions, search giants have to continually find ways to accommodate. As long as it results in more revenue, the infinite chase is worth it, we suppose.

Catherine Lamsfuss, August 11, 2017

After Voice, Visual Search Is next Frontier for Search

August 9, 2017

From text to voice, search business has come a long way. If Pinterest co-founder is to be believed, the future of search is visual.

In an interview to BBC Correspondent and published as the video titled Pinterest Co-Founder Says Photos Hold the Future of Search, co-founder Evan Sharp says:

There are billions of ideas on Pinterest and users search an equal number of them on Pinterest. Our primary source of revenue is advertising wherein we help business promote their products and services through Pins

There might be some substance to what Sharp is saying. Google recently revealed Google Lens and Google Deep Dream. While Google Lens helps users to identify and search objects around them, Deep Dream is a creative tool used for creating composite images using various sources. The intent is to encourage users to use visual tools that the company is building.

VR and AR are the buzzwords now and soon marketers will be placing virtual ads within these visual mediums to promote their products. Though Google Goggles failed to take off, it was probably because the product was ahead of its time. How about a second take now?

Vishal Ingole, August 9, 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

Smartlogic: A Buzzword Blizzard

August 2, 2017

I read “Semantic Enhancement Server.” Interesting stuff. The technology struck me as a cross between indexing, good old enterprise search, and assorted technologies. Individuals who are shopping for an automatic indexing systems (either with expensive, time consuming hand coded rules or a more Autonomy-like automatic approach) will want to kick the tires of the Smartlogic system. In addition to the echoes of the SchemaLogic approach, I noted a Thomson submachine gun firing buzzwords; for example:

best bets (I’m feeling lucky?)
dynamic summaries (like Island Software’s approach in the 1990s)
faceted search (hello, Endeca?)
model
navigator (like the Siderean “navigator”?)
real time
related topics (clustering like Vivisimo’s)
semantic (of course)
taxonomy
topic maps
topic pages (a Google report as described in US29970198481)
topic path browser (aka breadcrumbs?)
visualization

What struck me after I compiled this list about a system that “drives exceptional user search experiences” was that Smartlogic is repeating the marketing approach of traditional vendors of enterprise search. The marketing lingo and “one size fits all” triggered thoughts of Convera, Delphes, Entopia, Fast Search & Transfer, and Siderean Software, among others.

I asked myself:

Is it possible for one company’s software to perform such a remarkable array of functions in a way that is easy to implement, affordable, and scalable? There are industrial strength systems which perform many of these functions. Examples range from BAE’s intelligence system to the Palantir Gotham platform.

My hypothesis is that Smartlogic might struggle to process a real time flow of WhatsApp messages, YouTube content, and mobile phone intercept voice calls. Toss in the multi language content which is becoming increasingly important to enterprises, and the notional balloon I am floating says, “Generating buzzwords and associated over inflated expectations is really easy. Delivering high accuracy, affordable, and scalable content processing is a bit more difficult.”

Perhaps Smartlogic has cracked the content processing equivalent of the Voynich manuscript.

image

Will buzzwords crack the Voynich manuscript’s inscrutable text? What if Voynich is a fake? How will modern content processing systems deal with this type of content? Running some content processing tests might provide some insight into systems which possess Watson-esque capabilities.

What happened to those vendors like Convera, Delphes, Entopia, Fast Search & Transfer, and  Siderean Software, among others? (Free profiles of these companies are available at www.xenky.com/vendor-profiles.) Oh, that’s right. The reality of the marketplace did not match the companies’ assertions about technology. Investors and licensees of some of these systems were able to survive the buzzword blizzard. Some became the digital equivalent of Ötzi, 5,300 year old iceman.

Stephen E Arnold, August 2, 2017

Palantir Technologies: Recycling Day Old Hash

July 31, 2017

I read “Palantir: The Special Ops Tech Giant That Wields As Much Real World Power as Google.” I noticed these hot buttons here:

“Special ops” for the Seal Team 6 vibe. Check.

“Wields” for the notion of great power. Check.

“Real world.” A reminder of the here and now, not an airy fairy digital wonkiness. Check.

“Google.” Yes. Palantir as potent as the ad giant Google. Check.

That’s quite a headline.

The write up itself is another journalistic exposé of software which ingests digital information and outputs maps, reports, and visualizations. Humans index too. Like the i2 Analyst Notebook, the “magic” is mostly external. Making these Fancy Dan software systems work requires computers, of course. Humans are needed too. Trained humans are quite important, essential, in fact.

The Guardian story seems to be a book review presented as a Gladwell-like revisionist anecdote. See, for example, Done: The Secret Deals That Are Changing Our World by Jacques Peretti (Hodder & Stoughton, £20). You can buy a copy from bookshop.theguardian.com. (Online ad? Maybe?)

Read the Palantir story which stuffed my Talkwalker alert with references to the article. Quite a few bloggers are recycling the Guardian newspaper story. Buzzfeed’s coverage of the Palo Alto company evoked the same reaction. I will come back to the gaps in these analyses in a moment.

The main point of the Guardian’s July 30, 2017, story strikes me as:

Palantir tracks everyone from potential terrorist suspects to corporate fraudsters…child traffickers, and what they refer to as subversives. But it all done using prediction.

Right. Everyone! Potential terrorist suspects! And my favorite “all”. Using “prediction” no less.

Sounds scary. I am not sure the platforms work with the type of reliability that the word “all” suggests. But this is about selling books, not Palantir and similar companies’ functionality, statistical methods, or magical content processing. Confusing Hollywood with reality is easy today: At least for some folks.

Palantir licenses software to organizations. Palantir is an “it,” not a they. The company uses the lingo of its customers. Subversives is one term, but it is more suggestive in my opinion than “bad actor,” “criminal,” “suspect,” or terrorist.” I think the word “tracks” is pivotal. Palantir’s professionals, like Pathfinder, look at deer tracks and nails the beastie. I want to point out that “prediction”—partly the Bayesian, Monte Carlo, and Markovian methods pioneered by Autonomy in the mid 1990s—is indeed used for certain processes. What’s omitted is that Palantir is just one company in the content processing and search and retrieval game. I am not convinced that its systems and methods are the best ones available today. (Check out Recorded Future, a Google and In-Q-Tel funded company for some big league methods. And there are others. In my CyberOSINT book and my Dark Web Notebook I identify about two dozen companies providing similar services. Palantir is one, admittedly high profile example, of next generation information access providers.

The write up does reveal at the end of the article that the Guardian is selling Jacque Peretti’s book. That’s okay. What’s operating under the radar is a book promo that seems to be one thing but is, in the real world, a nifty book promotion.

In closing, the information presented in the write up struck me as a trifle stale. I am okay with collections of information that have been assembled to make it easy for a reader to get the gist of a system quickly. My Dark Web Notebook is a Cliff’s Notes about what one Tor executive suggests does not exist.

When I read about Palantir, I look for information about:

  • Technical innovations within Gotham and Palantir’s other “products”
  • Details about the legal dust up between i2 and Palantir regarding file formats, an issue which has some here and now relevance with the New York police department’s Palantir experience
  • Interface methods which are designed to make it easier to perform certain data analysis functions
  • Specifics about the data loading, file conversion, and pre-processing index tasks and how these impact timeliness of the information in the systems
  • Issues regarding data reconciliation when local installs lose contact with cloud resources within a unit and across units
  • Financial performance of the company as it relates to stock held by stakeholders and those who want the company to pursue an initial public offering
  • What are the specific differences among systems on offer from BAE, Textron, and others with regards to Palantir Gotham?

Each time I read about Palantir these particular items seem to be ignored. Perhaps these are not sufficiently sexy or maybe getting the information is a great deal of work? The words “hash” and “rehash” come to my mind as one way to create something that seems filling but may be empty calories. Perhaps a “real journalist” will tackle some of the dot points. That would be more interesting than a stale reference to special effects in a star vehicle.

NB. I was an adviser to i2 Group Ltd., the outfit that created the Analyst’s Notebook.

Stephen E Arnold, July 31, 2017

Helpful Search Operators for Google Users

July 31, 2017

We have found a resource that can help readers google like never before: GoogleGuide’s article is titled simply, “Search Operators.” Unsatisfied with the information she found at Google’s website, mathematician and search enthusiast Nancy Blachman started GoogleGuide to enlighten us all on advanced Google Search methods. In “Search Operators,” she and colleague Jerry Peek educate us on one exacting approach. They write:

The following is an alphabetical list of the search operators. This list includes operators that are not officially supported by Google and not listed in Google’s online help. Note: Google may change how undocumented operators work or may eliminate them completely. Each entry typically includes the syntax, the capabilities, and an example.

The article leads with a table listing the search operators next to the relevant Google service: Web search, image search, groups, etc., which can be cross-referenced with the alphabetical list. Operator functions include useful tasks like searching for specific pages by title, discovering who has linked to a certain website and restricting searches by file type. The team even concludes with a set of exercises for practice with the operators. Check it out to make your internet searches even more efficient.

Cynthia Murrell, July 31, 2017

The EU Takes on Google in Landmark Case

July 31, 2017

It seems like Google is everyone’s favorite punching back, especially when it comes to anti-trust and monopolizing. Recently the EU has decided to take on the behemoth with a series of crushing fines.

One allegation is that Google is preferring its own shopping service when users search for products. The EU claims this violates antitrust laws although no such case has ever been tried.

Fortune.com explains why this is such a momentous case:

The legal battles will also provide helpful markers for the fast-moving tech industry and regulators struggling to impose old rules on new markets and dominant social platforms, said economist, Georgios Petropoulos. ‘We need some decisions on what is good and what is bad. All these will provide more clarity on how this market works,’ said Collyer Bristow lawyer, Stephen Critchley.

Surely, the US and others are keeping a close eye on how these cases unfold. Could Google, as it is known today, be forced to drastically change how they operate? What might this mean for other search engines?

Catherine Lamsfuss, July 31, 2017

A Wonky Analysis of Search Today: The SEO Wizard View

July 24, 2017

I read what one of my goslings described as a “wonky” discussion of search. You will have to judge for yourself, gentle reader. In an era of fake news, I am not sure what to make of a semi factual, incomplete write up with the title “How Search Reveals the World.” Search does not reveal “the world”; search provides some — note the word “some” — useful information about the behaviors of individuals who run queries or make use of systems like the oh, so friendly Amazon Alexa.

I learned that there are three types of search, and I have to tell you that these points were not particularly original. Here they are:

  • Navigational search queries. Don’t think about Endeca’s “guided navigation.” Think about Google Maps, which is going to morph into a publishing platform, a fact not included in the write up which triggered ruffled gosling feathers
  • Information search queries. Ah, now we’re talking. A human types 2.4 words in a search box and feels lucky or just looks at the first few hits on the first search page. Could these hits be ads unrelated or loosely related to the user’s query? Sure, absolutely.
  • Transactional search queries. I am not sure what this phrase “transactional search queries” means, but that’s not too surprising. The confusion rests with me when I think of looking for a product like a USB C plug on Amazon versus navigating to my bank’s fine, fine Web site and using a fine, fine interface to move money from Point A to Point B. Close enough for horseshoes.

image

Skimming the surface is good for seaplanes but not a plus for an analysis of search and retrieval.

But the most egregious argument in the write up is that search becomes little more than a rather clumsy manipulative tool for “marketers, advertisers, and business owners.” Why clumsy? The write up is happily silent about Facebook’s alleged gaming of its system for various purposes. Filtering hate speech, for example, seems admirable until someone has to define “hate speech.” Filtering live streaming of a suicide or crime in progress is a bit more problematic. But search is a sissy compared with the alleged Facebook methods. With marketers looking to make a buck, Facebook seems to slip the pager mâché noose of the write up’s argument.

But there is a far larger omission. One of the most important types of search is “pervasive, predictive search.” The idea is a nifty one. Using various “signals” a system presents information automatically to a user who is online and looking at an output. No specific action on the part of the user is required. The user sees what he or she presumably wants. Search without search! The marketer’s Holy Grail.

There are some important components of this type of search.

Perhaps an SEO expert will explain them instead of recycling old information and failing to define 33 percent of the bedrock statements. But that may be a bridge to far for those who would try to manipulate the systems and methods of some of the providers of free, ad supported search systems. The longest journey begins with a single step. Didn’t an SEO expert say that too?

Stephen E Arnold, July 24, 2017

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