EasyAsk Has a Sticky Search

September 29, 2016

When I first began reading the EasyAsk article, “Search Laboratory: Rock ‘n’ Roll Lab Rats” it has the typical story about search difficulties and the importance about an accurate, robust search engine.   They even include video featuring personified search engines and the troubles a user goes through to locate a simple item, although the video refers to Google Analytics.   The article pokes fun at EasyAsk employees and how they develop the Search Lab, where they work on improving search functions.

One of the experiments that Search Lab worked on is “sticky search.”  What is sticky search?  Do you throw a keyword reel covered in honey into the Web pool and see what returns?  Is it like the Google “I Feel Lucky” button.  None of these are correct.  The Search Lab conducted an experiment where the last search term was loaded into the search box when a user revisited.  The Search Lab tracked the results and discovered:

As you can see, the sticky search feature was used by close-to one third of the people searching from the homepage, but by a smaller proportion of people on other types of page. Again, this makes sense as you’re more likely to use the homepage as a starting point when your intention is to return to a previously viewed product.  We had helped 30% of people searching from our homepage get to where they wanted to go more quickly, but added inconvenience to the other two thirds (and 75% of searchers across the site as a whole) because to perform their searches, rather than just tapping the search box and beginning to type they now had to erase the old (sticky) search term too.

In other words, it was annoying.  Search Lab retracted the experiment, but it was a decent effort to try something new even if the results could have been predicted.  Keep experimenting with search options SearchLab, but keep the search box empty.

Whitney Grace, September 29, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Googley Spin-Offs Underwhelm

September 29, 2016

One might think that starting out as a derivative of one of the most successful companies in the world would be a sure path to profits. Apparently one would be wrong. The Telegraph reports, “Alphabet’s Spin-Offs are Struggling to Repeat the Google Success Story.” Readers will recall that Alphabet was created last year as the holding company for Google and its derivatives, like Calico, Google Capital, Nest, Google Ventures, Verily, and X. Writer James Titcomb explains the logic behind the move:

The theory behind Alphabet, when Page laid it out in August, made sense. Google had become more than just an internet services and advertising company, even though the main internet business still made all the money. Google had set up units such as Calico, a life sciences division trying to eradicate death; Project Loon, which is trying to beam the internet to rural Asia with gigantic space balloons; and Boston Dynamics, which is trying to build humanoid robots.

These ‘moonshots’ weren’t able to realize their potential within the confines of a company focused on selling pay-per-click internet advertising, so they were separated from it. Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s two co-founders, left the everyday running of the internet business to their trusted lieutenant, Sundar Pichai, who had been effectively doing it anyway.

Being liberated from Google, the moonshots were supposed to thrive under the Alphabet umbrella. Have they? The early signs are not good.

The article concedes that Alphabet expected to lose money on some of these derivative projects, but notes that the loss has been more than expected—to the tune of some $3.6 billion. Titcomb examines Nest, Google’s smart-thermostat initiative, as an example; its once-bright future is not looking up at the moment. Meanwhile, we’re reminded, Apple is finding much success with its services division. See the article for more details on each company.

Will Alphabet continue to use Google Search’s stellar profits to prop up its pet projects? Consider that, from the beginning, one of the companies’ winning strategies has been to try anything and run with what proves successful; repeated failure as a path to success. I predict Alphabet will never relinquish its experimental streak.

Cynthia Murrell, September 29, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Microsoft Looks Slightly Desperate Paying People to Use Edge and Bing

September 28, 2016

The article on Business Insider titled Microsoft Will Actually Pay You to Use Its Newest Web Browser shows the evolution of Microsoft’s program from using Bing Rewards to their own Microsoft Rewards. Originally, just using Bing could earn users points towards Starbucks, Amazon, and Hulu, to name a few. Microsoft is now rebranding and expanding the program to incentivize users to spend time on Microsoft Edge, the child of Internet Explorer. The article states,

So long as you’re actively using Microsoft Edge — defined as having the Edge window open and actually using it to browse the web…— you’ll accrue points that can be redeemed for prizes, up to 30 hours’ worth a month. While Windows 10 is on over 350 million active devices, the Edge browser hasn’t quite made the splash that Microsoft had hoped for. Current numbers place Edge usage at just over 4.2% of the overall browser market.

The article makes a point of mentioning that for this program to work for users, they can’t just have Microsoft Edge open. They also must use Microsoft Bing as their default search engine. Without that setup, no points for you. Some users might jump at the chance to get paid for doing practically nothing, but others might be less than willing to expose themselves to being tracked by Microsoft. Still others might wince at the idea of giving up their Google default. Microsoft Edge: the broke person’s Google Chrome.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 28, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Key Words and Semantic Annotation

September 27, 2016

I read “Exploiting Semantic Annotation of Content with Linked Data to Improve Searching Performance in Web Repositories.” The nub of the paper is, “Better together.” The idea is that key words work if one knows the subject and the terminology required to snag the desired information.


If not, then semantic indexing provides another path. If the conclusion seems obvious, consider that two paths are better for users. The researchers used Elasticsearch. However, the real world issue is the cost of expertise and the computational cost and time required to add another path. You can download the journal paper at this link.

Stephen E Arnold, September 27, 2016

The Uncertain Fate of OpenOffice

September 27, 2016

We are in danger of losing a popular open-source alternative to the Microsoft Office suite, we learn from the piece, “Lack of Volunteer Contributors Could Mean the End for OpenOffice” at Neowin. Could this the fate of open source search, as well?

Writer William Burrows observes that few updates for OpenOffice have emerged of late, only three since 2013, and the last stable point revision was released about a year ago. More strikingly, it took a month to patch a major security flaw over the summer, reports Burrows. He goes on to summarize OpenOffice’s 14-year history, culminating it the project’s donation to Apache by Oracle in 2011. It appears to have been downhill from there. The article tells us:

It was at this point that a good portion of the volunteer developer base reportedly moved onto the forked LibreOffice project. Since becoming Apache OpenOffice, activity on project has diminished significantly. In a statement by Dennis Hamilton, the project’s volunteer vice president, released in an email to the mailing list it was suggested that “retirement of the project is a serious possibility” citing concerns that the current team of around six volunteer developers who maintain the project may not have sufficient resources to eliminate security vulnerabilities. There is still some hope for OpenOffice, though, with some of the contributors suggesting that discussion about a shutdown may be a little premature, and that attracting new contributors is still possible.

In fact, OpenOffice was downloaded over 29 million times last year, so obviously it still has a following. LibreOffice is currently considered more successful, but that could change if OpenOffice manages to attract a resurgence of developers willing to contribute to the project. Any volunteers?

Cynthia Murrell, September 27, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/



Open Source Log File Viewer Glogg

September 21, 2016

Here is an open source solution for those looking to dig up information within large and complex log files; BetaNews shares, “View and Search Huge Log Files with Glogg.”  The software reads directly from your drive, saving time and keeping memory free (or at least as free as it was before.) Reviewer, Mike Williams tells us:

Glogg’s interface is simple and uncluttered, allowing anyone to use it as a plain text viewer. Open a log, browse the file, and the program grabs and displays new log lines as they’re added. There’s also a search box. Enter a plain text keyword, a regular or extended regular expression and any matches are highlighted in the main window and displayed in a separate pane. Enable ‘auto-refresh’ and glogg reruns searches as lines are added, ensuring the matches are always up-to-date. Glogg also supports ‘filters’, essentially canned searches which change text color in the document window. You could have lines containing ‘error’ displayed as black on red, lines containing ‘success’ shown black on green, and as many others as you need.

Williams spotted some more noteworthy features, like a quick-text search, highlighted matches, and helpful Next and Previous buttons. He notes the program is not exactly chock-full of fancy features, but suggests that is probably just as well for this particular task. Glogg runs on 64-bit Windows 7 and later, and on Linux.

Cynthia Murrell, September 21, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Deusu or Deutsche Suchmaschine

September 20, 2016

An open source Web search system is available. You can locate Deusu at this link. We ran a number of test queries and learned that the index is less robust than Qwant’s and Yandex’s. But it is early days. The results of our queries were okay. A search for “enterprise search” returned the first hit as search engine optimization. There were links to pundits, mavens, and Datastax. Like Unbubble and Giburu, the need for a non US search engine is joined by a number of outfits. The hurdle will be the cost of building and updating a 25 billion page index. It is expensive, and we wish to point out that certain dominant Web search outfits are trimming their indexes in an effort to cut costs. Here are the results of our query on Deusu for “European Web search engine”:


Zero relevant hits in the first page of results.

Stephen E Arnold, September 20, 2016

HonkinNews for September 20, 2016 Available

September 20, 2016

Stories in the Beyond Search weekly video news program “HonkinNews” include LinkedIn’s censorship of a former CIA professional’s post about the 2016 election. Documentum, founded in 1990, has moved to the frozen wilds of Canada. A Microsoft and Nvidia sponsored online beauty contest may have embraced algorithmic bias. Google can write a customer’s ad automatically and may be able to alter users’ thoughts and actions. Which vendors of intelligence-centric software may be shown the door to the retirement home? The September 20, 2016, edition of “HonkinNews”, filmed with old-fashioned technology in the wilds of rural Kentucky is online at this link.

Kenny Toth, September 20, 2016

Why European Start Ups Are Non Starters at Scale

September 17, 2016

I read an interesting and probably irritating article “Why European Startups Fail to Scale.” I was sufficiently intrigued with the premise of the essay to send it to some executives at European start ups which have failed to scale. Nota bene: None of these managers wrote me back which suggests that the content of the article was not germane to their firms’ commercial success.

I learned from the article:

European startups fail to recognize that when they expand to a new market they have to adjust themselves to the rules, standards and requirements of that specific market.

Interesting idea. I have noticed in my own experience that companies from some countries struggle when they try to sell their search systems to the US government. The procurement process and some of the regulations make no sense. What’s interesting is that in some European countries one must have a receipt for utilities before being able to rent an apartment makes perfect sense. The notion that a software vendor’s code must be verified to be backdoor free makes zero sense to European vendors who want to take money from the US government.

The write up points out:

No matter if the startup was located in Western, Central, or Eastern Europe somehow most people did not understand that there could be fundamental differences between themselves and consumers inside this new market they were planning to enter.

How does one address this issue? The write up offers some suggestions; for example:

you need to optimize your product for your new markets.

Seems obvious. Another tip is that the company trying to cash in on the exciting US market should have a value proposition and pricing scheme suitable for the savvy American buyer.

The US, unlike some countries, is big. It is, therefore, expensive to advertise “on social media or search engines.”

Whereas a lot of B2C companies in Eastern Europe are talking about Euro cents, in the US a click might cost several Dollars.

The idea I highlighted in grammar gray was:

text is far more important. Whereas Europeans are lenient to typo’s or faulty grammar, Americans are not and expect to be addressed in the catchiest way possible.

How have search engines from Europe managed in the US market? Let me highlight several examples from my historical archives:

  • Antidot. Announced a footprint in San Francisco a couple of years ago. The traces of the company are faint.
  • Autonomy. Sold to HP for $11 billion after more than a decade in business. Since the sale, Autonomy has been a legal and M&A football engaged in continuous knock abouts
  • Fast Search & Transfer. The founder ended up in legal hot water because of some tiny math errors resulting in allegedly misstating revenue. Microsoft ignored these gaffes and paid $1.2 billion for the system.
  • Exalead. Made a splash and ended up selling to Dassault. Largely invisible in the US market after a run at the US government market and the usual commercial targets.
  • Pertimm. Dabbled in the US market and ended up forging a deal with a European company for a Euro centric search system.
  • Sinequa. Announced a push into the US a year or two ago. No one seemed to notice.

At this time, the major success seems to be Elastic, the open source search vendor. One assumes that the European search vendors who have failed to gain traction in the US market would emulate this firm. But if a European search vendor does not acknowledge that Elastic is doing something that works, why change?

Some European search vendors and “experts” are pitching governance and indexing. These are two market segments which strike me as either difficult to sell or very narrow. Change and sustainable may be difficult to achieve regardless of the lipstick applied for the theater of marketing.

Stephen E Arnold, September 17, 2016

Enterprise Technology Perspective on Preventing Security Breaches

September 16, 2016

When it comes to the Dark Web, the enterprise perspective wants solutions to prevent security breaches. Fort Scale released an article, Dark Web — Tor Use is 50% Criminal Activity — How to Detect It, speaking to this audience. This write-up explains the anonymizer Tor as The Onion Router, a name explained by the multiple layers used to hide an IP address and therefore the user’s identity. How does the security software works to detect Tor users? We learned,

There are a couple of ways security software can determine if a user is connecting via the Tor network. The first way is through their IP address. The list of Tor relays is public, so you can check whether the user is coming from a known Tor relay. It’s actually a little bit trickier than that, but a quality security package should be able to alert you if user behaviors include connecting via a Tor network. The second way is by looking at various application-level characteristics. For example, a good security system can distinguish the differences between a standard browser and a Tor Browser because among other things,Tor software won’t respond to certain history requests or JavaScript queries.

Many cybersecurity software companies that exist offer solutions that monitor the Dark Web for sensitive data, which is more of a recovery strategy. However, this article highlights the importance of cybersecurity solutions which monitor enterprise systems usage to identify users connecting through Tor. While this appears a sound strategy to understand the frequency of Tor-based users, it will be important to know whether these data-producing software solutions facilitate action such as removing Tor users from the network.

Megan Feil, September 16, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

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