Break into Netflixs Stockroom with This Chrome Extension

June 1, 2017

The article titled Search Hidden Netflix Categories and Save Your Favorites With This Extension on LifeHacker calls attention to Netflix’s treasure trove of hidden category codes. Using Netflix often feels like a very limited exercise, especially if you don’t use the DVD service. But part of that is because Netflix is only showing you titles based on what it thinks you will like. The algorithm has its perks, but it can also become a spiral of narrowing cultural interests. The article illumines,

Netflix has a ton of hidden categories codes you can use to find movies and shows you’re into. The aptly-named Chrome extension Netflix Categories helps you find and save the ones you like. The extension adds a button to your Chrome menu bar. Click it and you’ll see a drop down list of categories that you might not find on the Netflix site proper. You can search the categories by name to find something more specific.

What sort of categories are available? Everything under the sun, from “Movies for ages 0 to 2” to “Film Noir” to “Military Documentaries” to “Belgian Movies” to “Korean TV Shows.” These categories offer a great way to branch out and be exposed to content that might unlock new interests. Or they can help to pinpoint an area of interest and see everything that Netflix has to offer on the subject. At any rate, it is a helpful tool to navigate Netflix’s full inventory.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 1, 2017

HonkinNews for May 30, 2017 Now Available

May 30, 2017

This week’s HonkinNews tackles the “three peas in a pod” approach to certain online information. Some might call the approach used by China, Facebook, and Google censorship. HonkinNews understand that certain information should not be available to just anyone. Does censorship work? If the correct information is filtered, censorship is a champ. Google is into the side search business. The idea is not new, but Google’s approach is to use a euphemism for determining if an Adword leads to an actual sale from a retail outlet. Why position context analysis as something really new? Google wants to prove that online ads really work. Of course they do. Artificial intelligence has found its niche in life. Now smart software can name colors. What does one call that color your young child wants? We provide an answer. The Beyond Search team responsible for HonkinNews will be at the TechnoSecurity & Digital Forensics Conference. I know that sounds like a ton of fun. There’s nothing like the party atmosphere of more than 1,000 LE, security, and intel types. HonkinNews will be delivering three lectures/training sessions. Our next program will be on June 13, 2017, unless the Kentucky crowd becomes the guests of South Carolina. You can find the video at this link.

Stephen E Arnold, May 30, 2017

Google: Fateful Advertising Decision

May 19, 2017

Has Google AdWords become indispensable for business? It is beginning to look that way, we learn from the StarTribune’s article, “How Google Decided to Take Ads on the Most Prominent Real Estate on the Web.” New York Times writer Daisuke Wakabayashi describes the company’s incorporation of search-based advertising:

In the 17 years since Google introduced text-based advertising above search results, the company has allocated more space to ads and created new forms of them. The ad creep on Google has pushed ‘organic’ (unpaid) search results farther down the screen, an effect even more pronounced on the smaller displays of smartphones. The changes are profound for retailers and brands that rely on leads from Google searches to drive online sales. With limited space available near the top of search results, not advertising on search terms associated with your brand or displaying images of your products is tantamount to telling potential customers to spend their money elsewhere. The biggest development with search ads is the proliferation of product listing ads, or PLAs. In a departure from its text-based ads, Google started allowing retailers to post pictures, descriptions and prices of products at the top of search results in 2009.

Another change is the ability for advertisers to link to more general search terms; for example, users see ads for a specific Nike design when they search for “running shoes.” The company has also put resources into optimizing ad placement on both computers and mobile devices. It has gotten to the point that many companies accept a Google AdWords initiative as a necessary expense. Can anyone topple Google from this unique marketing tower?

Cynthia Murrell, May 19, 2017

Bitvore: The AI, Real Time, Custom Report Search Engine

May 16, 2017

Just when I thought information access had slumped quietly through another week, I read in the capitalist tool which you know as Forbes, the content marketing machine, this article:

This AI Search Engine Delivers Tailored Data to Companies in Real Time.

This write up struck me as more interesting than the most recent IBM Watson prime time commercial about smart software for zealous professional basketball fans or Lucidworks’ (really?) acquisition of the interface builder Twigkit. Forbes Magazine’s write up did not point out that the company seems to be channeling Palantir Technologies; for example, Jeff Curie, the president, refers to employees at Bitvorians. Take that, you Hobbits and Palanterians.


A Bitvore 3D data structure.

The AI, real time, custom report search engine is called Bitvore. Here in Harrod’s Creek, we recognized the combination of the computer term “bit” with a syllable from one of our favorite morphemes “vore” as in carnivore or omnivore or the vegan-sensitive herbivore.

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Alphabet Google Ad Placement: Unfair Analysis?

May 15, 2017

Let’s ignore the mobile phone click farm which seems to be undetectable. (I know. If it were undetectable, the article “The Bizarre Click Farm of 10,000 Phones That Give Fake Likes to Our Most Beloved Apps.”) My thought is that if the clicks work for likes, perhaps the method works for grinding through Adwords’ messages too.

Let’s ignore the cyber attack how to write ups posted to YouTube. For more information, navigate to “Cyber Attack Guides Promoted on YouTube.”

What’s interesting to me this fine day is the article “Look What Happens When You Type Donald Trump Office into Google.” The notion of delivering information which answers a question seems to be a challenge for Google. I learned:

Vladimir Putin appears as the first name when typing in Donald Trump office into the search engine. He also appears alongside Melania Trump and Kellyanne Conway, neither of whom can count themselves as being in the president’s office either.

Alphabet Google faces some interesting challenges. My view is that Google search seems to be fraying. The loose threads are not at the edges. The unravelings are evident in a number of basic functions; for example, objectivity, precision, and recall.

Maybe I am incorrect? On the other hand, maybe not?

Stephen E Arnold, May 15, 2017


USAFacts Centralizes Access to Data on Government Spending

May 12, 2017

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s recent project was inspired by his wife, Connie, who wished him to practice more philanthropy. Wouldn’t it help to know what our government is already doing  with its (our) money, he wondered? Out of this question has sprung USAFacts, a website that serves up “federal, state, and local data from over 70 government sources.” I appreciate the presentation, which ties data to four specific directives embedded in the Preamble to our Constitution. For example, the heading Establish Justice and Ensure Domestic Tranquility leads to stats on Crime and Disaster, Safeguarding Consumers and Employees, and Child Safety and Social Services. Tying such information to our founding document will prompt many to consider these data points in a more thoughtful way.

The site’s About page describes its team’s approach and methodology. The effort has not been easy; we’re told:

With his business background, Steve searched for solid, reliable, impartial numbers to tell the story… but eventually realized he wasn’t going to find them. He put together a small team of people – economists, writers, researchers – and got to work.

We soon discovered that dealing with something as big and complex as government – with its more than 90,000 jurisdictions and 23 million employees – required an organizing framework. What better place to look than the Constitution, and, more specifically, the preamble to the Constitution? … While we don’t make judgments about policy, we all agree on the broad purposes of government as laid out in the preamble to the Constitution.

Still, in beta, USA Facts is partnering with academic institutions like the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, the Penn Wharton Budget Model, and Lynchburg College. They are working to document their process and controls, and plan to have their methods reviewed by a “prominent” accounting firm for accuracy. We look forward to watching this project grow.

Cynthia Murrell, May 12, 2017

Sci-Tech Queries Versus Google Queries

May 8, 2017

I saw a reference to an academic paper. Its title is “Academic Search in Response to Major Scientific Events.” The main point is that Web searchers, based on Google Trend data, are “bursty” and demonstrate “surging interests.” The sci-tech crowd like college professors in search of tenure use a “gradually growing search pattern.”

My thought when I read the write up was that more than half of Google’s online traffic comes from mobile devices; for example, “Where can I buy a pizza?”-type queries. The academics, based on the information in the write up, paw through journal literature using more traditional methods. I have used the phrase “boat anchor” computers to characterize “real” academic research.

The write up does not address mobile queries, which seems to me to be important. I am fuzzy on how Google hooks mobile queries delivered via voice, apps, and icons on a pixel with its Google Trend data. And about that Google Trend data. Is it accurate as Google works overtime to distribute ads in more places as users’ displays on mobile devices are small compared to the boat anchor gizmos.

The other point I hoped would be addressed is the role of personalization in Google queries. In this week’s HonkinNews, we give the example of searching for “filters.” Google’s smart and invasive system delivered Bloom filters, not water filters. We wanted information about water filters. Helpful.

My thought is more focused data collection is necessary by the researchers. Three word queries. Hasn’t that been the norm for a while?

Stephen E Arnold, May 8, 2017

Revealing the Google Relevance Sins

May 2, 2017

I was surprised to read “Google’s Project Owl”. Talk about unintended consequences. An SEO centric publication reported that Google was going to get on the stick and smite fake news and “problematic content.” (I am not sure what “problematic content” is because I think a person’s point of view influences this determination.”

The write up states in real journalistic rhetoric:

Project Owl is Google’s internal name for its endeavor to fight back on problematic searches. The owl name was picked for no specific reason, Google said. However, the idea of an owl as a symbol for wisdom is appropriate. Google’s effort seeks to bring some wisdom back into areas where it is sorely needed.

Right, wisdom. From a vendor of content wrapped in pay to play advertising and “black box” algorithms which mysteriously have magical powers on sites like Foundem and the poor folks who were trying to make French tax forms findable.

My view of the initiative and the real journalistic write up is typical of what folks in Harrod’s Creek think about Left Coast types:

  1. The write up underscores the fact that Google’s quality function, which I wrote about in my three Google monographs, does not work. What determines the clever PageRank method? Well, a clever way to determine a signal of quality. Heh heh. Doesn’t work.
  2. Google is now on the hook to figure out what content is problematic and then find a way to remove that content from the Google indexes. Yep, not one index, but dozens. Google Local (crooked shops, anyone), YouTube (the oodles of porn which is easily findable by an enterprising 12 year old using the Yandex video search function), news (why are there no ads on Google News? Hmmm.), and other fave services from the GOOG.
  3. Relevance is essentially non existent for most queries. I like the idea of using “authoritative sources” for obscure queries. Yep, those Lady Gaga hits keep on rocking when a person searches for animal abuse and meat dresses.

Let me boil this down.

If a person relies on a free, ad supported Web search system for information, you may be getting a jolt from which your gray matter will not recover.

What’s the fix? I know the write up champions search engine optimization and explaining how to erode relevance for a user’s online query. But I am old fashioned. Multiple sources, interviews, reading of primary sources, and analytical thinking.

Hey, boring. Precision and recall are sure less fun than relaxing queries to amp up the irrelevance output.


Stephen E Arnold, May 2, 2017

Keyword Search vs. Semantic Search for Patent Seekers

April 26, 2017

The article on BIP Counsels titled An Introduction to Patent Search, Keyword Search, and Semantic Searches offers a brief overview of the differences between keyword, and semantic search. The article is geared towards inventors and technologists in the early stages of filing a patent application. The article states,

If an inventor proceeds with the patent filing process without performing an exhaustive prior art search, it may hamper the patent application at a later point, such as in the prosecution process. Hence, a thorough search involving all possible relevant techniques is always advisable… Search tools such as ‘semantic search assistant’ help the user find similar patent families based on freely entered text.  The search method is ideal for concept based search.

Ultimately the article fails to go beyond the superficial when it comes to keyword and semantic search. One almost suspects that the author (BananaIP patent attorneys) wants to send potential DIY-patent researchers running into their office for help. Yes, terminology plays a key role in keyword searches. Yes, semantic search can help narrow the focus and relevancy of the results. If you want more information than that, you may want to visit the patent attorney. But probably not the one that wrote this article.

Chelsea Kerwin, April 26, 2017

Google Search Quality: Heading South?

April 25, 2017

Forbes, the capitalists tool, ran this article or sponsored content on April 17, 2017: “Is Google’s Search Quality Starting to Decline?” My first reaction was the question, “Compared to what? Precision and recall scores? Other free, ad supported Web search systems? Looking up information in a commercial database?

My questions were just off base or from another dimension.

The capitalist tool does not fool around when it comes to explaining why something is good or bad. The capitalist tool walks like Commodore Vanderbilt; that is, somewhat unsteadily in his dotage.

I learned from the capitalist tool:

Individual users, companies and organizations, and even governments have stepped up to blame Google for not providing quality results.

The “quality” idea comes from Search Engine Land, a publication which embraces Web search and search engine optimization. That orientation is okay with me, but it has very little to do with relevance. There is that annoying precision calculation. Plus, there is the equally annoying recall calculation. Some die hards actually create a statistically valid sample and attempt to determine if results from queries delivered the information the person running the query expected. There are library schools and researchers who worry about these silly methods. Not so much with the SEO crowd.

Back to the argument in the capitalist tool. I highlighted this passage:

users have always had the ability to report offensive auto complete suggestions, but now, Google has made the process more visible and immediate. In an even bigger push, Google has employed more than 10,000 independent contractors to serve as “quality raters,” responsible for identifying and flagging inaccurate and offensive material including fake news, for various search queries.

Ah, Google’s quality scores determined by Google’s smart software and its well crafted algorithms are no longer enough? Well, that’s a surprise. I thought the fake news, the mismatched ads, and the relaxation of queries to make that ad inventory shrink more rapidly were not much of an issue. Well, there is that push back from outfits like AT&T, but what’s a few cancelled ads from a minnow like AT&T.

The capitalist tool knows where it’s next Whopper is coming from. I circled this statement:

It’s important to realize just how sophisticated Google is, and how far it’s come from its early stages, as well as the impossibility of having a “perfect” search platform. Humans are flawed creatures, and our actions are what are dictating the shape of search. We can patchwork some of these problems, but the Google search quality crisis won’t disappear overnight, and can’t be blamed for being anything more than the byproduct of a sufficiently sophisticated machine designed to serve us.

Interesting idea—blame.

My takeaway from this scintillating analysis is that the capitalist tool needs to do a few queries about “quality”. Just a thought. By the way, the databases to use will not be part of the result set. Google partitions its indexes so that a research has to run queries across different Google silos. Also, commercial databases are likely to provide more comprehensive results from sources Google does not index. Hey, who cares about this precision and recall stuff when writing about offensive answers to queries, Google’s auto complete mechanism, rich snippets, and popularity?

Not too many at Forbes I surmise. Maybe SEO is search to these smart people who can demystify SEO and mystify information retrieval.

Stephen E Arnold, April 25, 2017

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