Who Helps Trash Relevance in Search? INC Has the Answer

December 30, 2017

I read a story in Inc. magazine. The write up’s title is “9 SEO Experts To Follow In 2018.” First, Google is not a person. I think the idea is that a person who wants to buy traffic should pay attention to the GOOG. But I am not sure Google is an expert like the other eight names on the list.

Now my view of search engine optimization is a bit different from that of “experts” in search engine optimization. I think SEO is part of a carnival trick to get people to buy Adwords.

I explain some of the mechanisms in The Google Legacy and Google Version 2: The Calculating Predator. (Alas, out of print, but I sell a rough draft in PDF form. Write benkent2020 at yahoo dot com if you are interested.)

The idea is that people fix up their Web pages to meet Google guidelines. Changes which pass muster produce a boost in traffic. Then usually after a month or so, the changes don’t deliver the traffic. Traffic erodes.

Check with the Google. What’s the fix? More SEO? Nah, just buy Adwords.

When the advertiser grouses that leads aren’t as wonderful as they were perceived to be, what’s the fix?

Give up?

Buy Adwords.

The loop is a nifty one. Lots of SEO “experts” bill clients for changes which may or may not have substantive impact. When whatever impact fizzles, Google is able to suggest Adwords.


My take on the pay for traffic game is that it is evidence of the death of relevance.

Therefore, the eight “experts” are accessories to the termination with extreme prejudice the notion of entering a query and getting results which directly relate to that query.

Call me old fashioned but SEO experts are in cahoots with Google type outfits in the pay for traffic game.

Give me Boolean, precision, and recall.

Sounds crazy right? Just ask an SEO expert. Most will agree. Who cares about relevance and stupid precision and recall?

Well, I do.

Stephen E Arnold, December 30, 2017

You Cannot Search for Info If the Info Is Not Indexed: The Middle Kingdom Approach

December 26, 2017

I noted two items this morning as I geared up to video the next Dark Cyber program. (Dark Cyber is a new series of HonkinNews programs from the creator of this blog, Beyond Search.)

Item one’s title is “China Shuts Down Thousands of Websites in Internet Network Crackdown.” As I understand the article, Chinese authorities remove information to reduce the likelihood that problems will arise from unfettered information access, exchange, and communication. The article quotes one source as saying, “These moves have a powerful deterrent effect.” That’s true to some degree; however, squeezing the toothpaste tube of online content may result is forcing that information into channels which may be more difficult to constrain. Nevertheless, I find the action suggestive that the Wild West days of the Internet are drawing to a close in the Middle Kingdom.

Item two’s title is “China Sentences Man to Five Years in Jail for Running VPN Service.” The main idea is that the virtual private network approach to obfuscating one’s online activities is under scrutiny in China. Apple, as you may recall, removed VPN apps to comply with Chinese guidelines. I noted this passage in the source document:

Wu’s [the fellow who gets to sojourn 60 months in a prison] VPN service reportedly had 8,000 foreign clients and 5,000 businesses. However, he had failed to apply for a state permit. While his isn’t the first sentence since another person was sent to jail for nine months on similar charges, this is the first time that such a dramatic sentence has been approved, raising concerns about the government’s growing interest in controlling information that comes into the country.

What happens if one adds one plus two? The answer is, “You can’t search for information if it is not indexed.” What information in the US accessible indexes is not online.

This weekend I was looking for a story about a Norwich, UK, man who was sentenced to prison and placed on the UK register of sex offenders. The story was not in Google News. I located the story in Bing’s news index. I found this interesting, and you can get the gist of the arrest in the January 2, 2017, HonkinNews “Dark Cyber” program.

Stephen E Arnold, December 26, 2017

Data Analysis Startup Primer Already Well-Positioned

December 22, 2017

A new startup believes it has something unique to add to the AI data-processing scene, we learn from VentureBeat’s article, “Primer Uses AI to Understand and Summarize Mountains of Text.” The company’s software automatically summarizes (what it considers to be) the most important information from huge collections of documents. Filters then allow users to drill into the analyzed data. Of course, the goal is to reduce or eliminate the need for human analysts to produce such a report; whether Primer can soar where others have fallen short on this tricky task remains to be seen. Reporter Blair Hanley Frank observes:

Primer isn’t the first company to offer a natural language understanding tool, but the company’s strength comes from its ability to collate a massive number of documents with seemingly minimal human intervention and to deliver a single, easily navigable report that includes human-readable summaries of content. It’s this combination of scale and human readability that could give the company an edge over larger tech powerhouses like Google or Palantir. In addition, the company’s product can run inside private data centers, something that’s critical for dealing with classified information or working with customers who don’t want to lock themselves into a particular cloud provider.

Primer is sitting pretty with $14.7 million in funding (from the likes of Data Collective, In-Q-Tel, Lux Capital, and Amplify Partners) and, perhaps more importantly, a contract with In-Q-Tel that connects them with the U.S. Intelligence community. We’re told the software is being used by several agencies, but that Primer knows not which ones. On the commercial side, retail giant Walmart is now a customer. Primer emphasizes they are working to enable more complex reports, like automatically generated maps that pinpoint locations of important events. The company is based in San Francisco and is hiring for several prominent positions as of this writing.

Cynthia Murrell, December 22, 2017

Search System from UAEU Simplifies Life Science Research

December 21, 2017

Help is on hand for scientific researchers tired of being bogged down in databases in the form of a new platform called Biocarian. The Middle East’s ITP.net reports, “UAEU Develops New Search Engine for Life Sciences.” Semantic search is the key to the more efficient and user-friendly process. Writer Mark Sutton reports:

The UAEU [United Arab Emirages University] team said that Biocarian was developed to address the problem of large and complex data bases for healthcare and life science, which can result in researchers spending more than a third of their time searching for data. The new search engine users Semantic Web technology, so that researchers can easily create targeted searches to find the data they need in a more efficient fashion. … It allows complex queries to be constructed and entered, and offers additional features such as the capacity to enter ‘facet values’ according to specific criteria. These allow users to explore collated information by applying a range of filters, helping them to find what they are looking for quicker.

Project lead Nazar Zaki expects that simplifying the search process will open up this data to many talented researchers (who don’t happen to also be computer-science experts), leading to significant advances in medicine and healthcare. See the article for on the Biocarian platform.

Cynthia Murrell, December 21, 2017

If You Want Search Engines to Eliminate Fake News, Cautiously Watch Russia

December 21, 2017

There is a growing rallying cry for social media and search to better police fake news. This is an admirable plan, because nobody should be misled by false information and propaganda. However, as history has told us, those in charge of misinformation and propaganda can often use changes like this to their advantage. Take, for example, the recent Motherboard story, “How Russia Polices Yandex, Its Most Popular Search Engine,” which detailed how Russia aimed to get rid of its “fake news” but really only encourages more of it.

The story says,

This year, the “news aggregator law” came into effect in Russia. It requires websites that publish links to news stories with over one million daily users (Yandex.News has over six million daily users) to be responsible for all the content on their platform, which is an enormous responsibility.


‘Our Yandex.News team has been actively working to retain a high quality service for our users following new regulations that impacted our service this past year,’ Yandex told Motherboard in a statement, adding that to comply with new regulations, it reduced the number of sources that it aggregated from 7,000 to 1,000, which have official media licenses.’

In short, since the government oversees part of Yandex, the government can make it harder to publish stories that are not favorable to itself. It’s food for thought, especially to the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world calling for more government oversight in social media. You might not get exactly what you hoped for when a third party starts calling the shots.

Patrick Roland, December 21, 2017

Analyze the JFK Files to Your Hearts Content

December 20, 2017

History buffs, especially those interested in the JFK assassination, may want to check this out—“Research the JFK Files for Free with Logikcull.” Since the National Archives’ release of previously classified documents on the matter, eDiscovery firm Logikcull has uploaded them to their platform. They invite anyone interested to delve into the data and help make sense of it, using their software. It is a crowd-sourced project around a matter of great public interest that happens to expose potential users to their platform’s abilities—well-played. The post specifies:

The files are, of course, a mess. They are disorganized, incomplete, voluminous, and cobbled together from dozens of different sources. That is, they’re just like the files you’d find in any other document-intensive investigation. And, thankfully, we have eDiscovery software that is designed to help you make order and insight out of just such a mess. … To help researchers, journalists, JFK enthusiasts, concerned members of the public, and the like, we’ve uploaded the documents from the JFK Files into Logikcull, allowing you to apply Logikcull’s state-of-the-art discovery technology to the nearly 3,000 records released by the government. You can use Logikcull to cull through the junk and focus in on the documents that most interest you, to build complex, powerful searches with ease, and flag documents with tags of your choosing. There’s no need to flip through the documents declassified page by declassified page.

To get in on the sleuthing, readers are told to send an email to marketing@logikcull.com with the subject, “JFK Research Account,” and to specify their name, title, and company. It will be interesting what connections and conclusions this project turns up.

Founded in 2004 and based in San Francisco, Logikcull serves organizations from the US Government to Fortune 500 companies. They also happen to be hiring as of this writing.

Cynthia Murrell, December 20, 2017

Compare Two Devices Within Google Search Results

December 18, 2017

Is Google chasing Consumer Reports now?  A very brief write-up at Android Police reveals, “Google Search Can Now Compare Specifications Between Devices and Highlight Differences.” Reporter Corbin Davenport writes:

Google occasionally adds new features to its web search or makes design changes, sometimes without a public announcement. Most recently, Google began rolling out a rounded interface to the mobile search. Now, the company appears to be testing a new comparison feature. For some users, searching for two devices with ‘vs’ in the middle (for example, ‘Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL’) brings up a new comparison chart. A few rows are visible on the main results, and tapping the blue button expands it to show every detail. There’s even a mode to highlight differences between the two. It doesn’t seem to work with three or more devices, only two.

I cannot say whether the feature has been rolled out across the board as of this writing, but it did work on my Android phone. What else does Google have up its sleeve?

Cynthia Murrell, December 18, 2017


Personalizing a Chromebook Search Takes Some Elbow Grease

December 8, 2017

Chromebooks are a great laptop and cost a fraction of the price of an Apple or a Microsoft PC.  There is a learning curve for new users to Chromebooks, because they lack the familiar PC and Apple interfaces.  With a little elbow grease, however, and research any Chromebook user can become an expert.  The Verge shares a how-to article, “How To Customize Your Google Chrome And Chromebook Searches” that can get new users started.

The Chromebook OS lacks customization options, especially when it comes to search.  There is a little-known feature in Chrome OS that allows users to customize their search options.  What is great about this option is that it syncs customization across all Chrome browser you use.

The article provides a step by step guide on how to activate the search customization option and also includes some tips on how to improve you search overall.

Those customizations aren’t just limited to the Google search bar on Chromebooks. Basically, as long as you’re logged into Chrome, your customizations for the search bar will sync across to any Chrome Browser you’re using. So whether you use a Chromebook or just use the Chrome browser, here’s how to supercharge your searches for the stuff you use most often.

Read the article and learn how your Chromebook functions with search.  The learning curve is small and it will be well worth it.

Whitney Grace, December 8, 2017

Google and Amping the Pressure in the Ad Fire Hose

December 7, 2017

Screen real estate for mobile devices is limited. The number of queries on desktop boat anchor computers has flat lined, even for “real” researchers. What’s the fix?

A partial answer may appear in “Improving Search and Discovery on Google.” I learned from the write up:

  • More related searches. Google helps a busy person consider alternative ways of obtaining needed information.
  • Featured snippets. Google decides what’s important so a busy person does not have to think or assess too much.
  • Knowledge panels. Google helps a user obtain “real” knowledge. No thinking required.

Each of these search boosters allow Google to line up and display more advertising. Each time one clicks or swipes, Google obtains another item of data to allow its system to “predict” what a user wants and needs.

Now that’s relevance. Ads and feedback.

Why? To the user, search is just “there.” To Google, it’s a way to consume that Adwords inventory in my opinion.

Relevance? What could be more relevant than information which makes thinking easy?

Keep the money flowing in I say.

Stephen E Arnold, December 7, 2017

Neural Network Revamps Search for Research

December 7, 2017

Research is a pain, especially when you have to slog through millions of results to find specific and accurate results.  It takes time and lot of reading, but neural networks could cut down on the investigation phase.  The Economist wrote a new article about how AI will benefit research: “A Better Way To Search Through Scientific Papers.”

The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence developed Semantic Search to aid scientific research.  Semantic Search’s purpose is to discover scientific papers most relevant to a particular problem.  How does Semantic Scholar work?

Instead of relying on citations in other papers, or the frequency of recurring phrases to rank the relevance of papers, as it once did and rivals such as Google Scholar still do, the new version of Semantic Scholar applies AI to try to understand the context of those phrases, and thus achieve better results.

Semantic Scholar relies on a neural network, a system that mirrors real neural networks and learns by trial and error tests.  To make Semantic Search work, the Allen Institute team annotated ten and sixty-seven abstracts.  From this test sample, they found 7,000 medical terms with which 2,000 could be paired.  The information was fed into the Semantic Search neural network, then it found more relationships based on the data.  Through trial and error, the neural network learns more patterns.

The Allen Institute added 26 million biomedical research papers to the already 12 million in the database.  The plan is to make scientific and medical research more readily available to professionals, but also to regular people.

Whitney Grace, December 7, 2017

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