Three Deadlines in October and November Mark Three Strikes on Google

November 11, 2016

The article titled Google Is Getting Another Extension to Counter EU Antitrust Charges on Fortune begs the question, how many more times will the teacher accept the “I need more time” argument? With the potential for over a billion dollar penalty of Google is found guilty, the company is vying for all the time it can get before answering accusations of unfair treatment of rival shopping services through its search results. The article tell us,

The U.S. technology giant was due to respond to the accusations on Thursday but requested more time to prepare its defense. The company now has until Nov. 7, a European Commission spokesman said. “Google asked for additional time to review the documents in the case file. In line with normal practice, the commission analysed the reasons for the request and granted an extension allowing Google to fully exercise its rights of defense,” he said.

If anyone is counting at this point, the case is now 6 years old, meaning it has probably graduated kindergarten and moved into the First Grade. The article does not comment on how many extensions have been requested altogether, but it does mention that another pair of deadlines are looming in Google’s near future. October 26 and October 31 are the dates by which Google must respond to the charges of blocking competitor advertisements and using the Android operating system to suppress rivals.

Chelsea Kerwin, November 11, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Biases: Real, Hoped For, or Imagined?

November 10, 2016

I don’t have a dog in this fight. Here at Beyond Search we point to open source documents and offer comments designed to separate the giblets from the goose feathers. Yep, that’s humor, gentle reader. Like it or not.

The write up “Opinion: Google Is Biased Toward Reputation-Damaging Content” pokes into an interesting subject. When I read the article, I thought, “Is this person a user of Proton Mail?”

The main point of the write up is that the Google relevance ranking method responds in an active manner to content which the “smart” software determines is negative. But people wrote the software, right? What’s up, people writing relevance ranking modules?

The write up states:

Google has worked very hard to interpret user intent when searches are conducted. It’s not easy to fathom what people may be seeking when they submit a keyword or a keyword phrase.

Yep, Google did take this approach prior to its initial public offering in 2004. Since then, I ask, “What changes did Google implement in relevance in the post IPO era?” I ask, “Did Google include some of the common procedures which have known weaknesses with regard to what lights the fires of the algorithms’ interests?”

The write up tells me:

Since Google cannot always divine a specific intention when a user submits a search query, it’s evolved to using something of a scattergun approach — it tries to provide a variety of the most likely sorts of things that people are generally seeking when submitting those keywords. When this is the name of a business or a person, Google commonly returns things like the official website of the subject, resumes, directory pages, profiles, business reviews and social media profiles. Part of the search results variety Google tries to present includes fresh content — newly published things like news articles, videos, images, blog posts and so on. [Emphasis added.]

Perhaps “fresh” content triggers the following relevance components? For example, fresh content signals change and change may mean that the “owner” of the Web page may be interested in buying AdWords. A boost for “new stuff” means that when a search result drifts lower over a span of a week or two, the willingness to buy AdWords goes up? I think about this question because it suggests that tuning certain methods provides a signal to the AdWords’ subsystems of people and code. I have described how such internal “janitors” within Google modules perform certain chores. Is this a “new” chore designed to create a pool of AdWords’ prospects? Alas, the write up does not explore this matter.

The write up points to a Googler’s public explanation of some of the relevance ranking methods in use today. That’s good information. But with the public presentations of Google systems and methods with which I am familiar, what’s revealed is like touching an elephant when one is blind. There is quite a bit more of the animal to explore and understand. In fact “understand” is pretty tough unless one is a Googler with access to other Googlers, the company’s internal database system, and the semi clear guidelines from whoever seems to be in charge at a particular time.

I highlighted this passage from the original write up as interesting:

I’ve worked on a number of cases in which all my research indicates my clients’ names have extremely low volumes of searches.  The negative materials are likely to receive no more clicks than the positive materials, according to my information, and, in many cases, they have fewer links.

Okay, so there’s no problem? If so, why is the write up headed down the Google distorts results path? My hunch is that the assurance is a way to keep Googzilla at bay. The author may want to work at the GOOG someday. Why be too feisty and remind the reader of the European Commission’s view of Google’s control of search results?

The write up concludes with a hope that Google says more about how it handles relevance. Yep, that’s a common request from the search engine optimization crowd.

My view from rural Kentucky is that there are a number of ways to have an impact on what Google presents in search results. Some of these methods exploit weaknesses in the most common algorithms used for basic functions within the Google construct. Other methods are available as well, but these are identified by trial and error by SEO wizards who flail for a way to make their clients’ content appear in the optimum place for one of the clients’ favorite keywords.

Three observations:

  • The current crop of search mavens at Google are in the business of working with what is already there. Think in terms of using a large, frequently modified, and increasingly inefficient system for determining relevance. That’s what the new hires confront. Fun stuff.
  • The present climate for relevance at Google is focused on dealing with the need to win in mobile search. The dominant market share in desktop search is not a given in the mobile world. Google is fragmenting its index for a reason. The old desktop model looks a bit like a 1990s Corvette. Interesting. Powerful. Old.
  • The need for revenue is putting more and more pressure on Google to make up for the mobile user behavior and the desktop user behavior in terms of search. Google is powerful, but different methods are needed to get closer to that $100 billion in revenue Eric Schmidt referenced in 2006. Relevance may be an opportunity.

My view is that Google is more than 15 years down the search road. Relevance is no longer defined by precision and recall. What’s important is reducing costs, increasing revenue, and dealing with the problems posed by Amazon, Facebook, Snapchat, et al.

Relevance is not high on the list of to dos in some search centric companies. Poking Google about relevance may produce some reactions. But not from me. I love the Google. Proton Mail is back in the index because Google allegedly made a “fix.” See. Smart algorithms need some human attention. If you buy a lot of AdWords, I would wager that some human Googlers will pay attention to you. Smart software isn’t everything once it alerts a Googler to activate the sensitivity function in the wetware.

Stephen E Arnold, November 10, 2016

Google Search Tips That Make You Say DUH

November 10, 2016

Unless you are establishing the trends in the search field, then there is room for you to learn new search-related skills.  Search is a basic function in the developed world and is more powerful than typing a word or phrase into Google’s search box.  Google also has more tricks in its toolbox than you might be aware of.  Single Grain published, “Google Like A Pro: 42 Of The Most Useful Google Search Tricks” that runs down useful ways to use the search engine.  Some of them, however, are cheap tricks we have discussed before.

Single Grain runs down the usual Google stats about how many people use the search engine, its multiple services, and the hard to find Advanced Search.  Here is a basic article description:

Here’s a list of 42 of the most useful Google search tricks that’ve probably never thought of—some practical, some just plain fun. Everyone knows how to Google, but by learning how to Google like a pro, you can harness the full power of the search giant and impress your boss and friends alike. Or at least find stuff.

These tips include: calculator, package tracker, stock watcher, tip calculator, conversions, weather, flight tracker, coin flipping, voice search, fact checking, and other tips you probably know.  What I love is that it treats Boolean operators as if they are a brand new thing.  They do not even use Boolean in the article!  Call me old school, but give credit where credit is due.

Whitney Grace, November 10, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Shining a Flashlight in Space

November 9, 2016

A tired, yet thorough metaphor of explaining the dark web is shining a flashlight in space.  If you shine a flashlight in space, your puny battery-powered beacon will not shed any light on the trillions of celestial objects that exist in the vacuum.  While you wave the flashlight around trying to see something in the cosmos, you are too blind to see the grand galactic show hidden by the beam.  The University of Michigan shared the article, “Shadow Of The Dark Web” about Computer Science and Engineering Professor Mike Cafarella and his work with DARPA.

Cafarella is working on Memex, a project that goes beyond the regular text-based search engine.  Using more powerful search tools, Memex concentrates on discovering information related to human trafficking.  Older dark web search tools skimmed over information and were imprecise.  Cafarella’s work improved dark web search tools, supplying data sets with more accurate information on traffickers, their contact information, and their location.

Humans are still needed to interpret the data as the algorithms do not know how to interpret the black market economic worth of trafficked people.  His dark web search tools can be used for more than just sex trafficking:

His work can help identify systems of terrorist recruitment; bust money-laundering operations; build fossil databases from a century’s worth of paleontology publications; identify the genetic basis of diseases by drawing from thousands of biomedical studies; and generally find hidden connections among people, places, and things.

I would never have thought a few years ago that database and data-mining research could have such an impact, and it’s really exciting,’ says Cafarella. ‘Our data has been shipped to law enforcement, and we hear that it’s been used to make real arrests. That feels great.

In order to see the dark web, you need more than a flashlight.  To continue the space metaphor, you need a powerful telescope that scans the heavens and can search the darkness where no light ever passes.

Whitney Grace, November 9, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

DuckDuckGo: One Expert Thinks It Is Better Than Google Search

November 8, 2016

I love the stories about Google’s lousy search system. The GOOG is trying to improve search with smart software and providing more third party sponsored links in search results. In my research, I have learned that most Google users focus on getting answers to their questions. The fact that these users are asking questions which are mostly repetitive means that the GOOG can optimize for what works to handle the majority of the queries. Instrumental efficiency for the user, for Google’s network resources, and for Google’s paying customers. Some experts don’t like the direction Google is moving, powered by its data analysis.

One example is spelled out in “How I Quit Using Google Search and Saved a Lot of Time.” I noted:

Now, DDG isn’t an exact replacement for Google, but they’re close. I almost always find what I’m looking for with them [I think the “them” refers to the Google Web search system], but it [I think this means searching] can be more work. The biggest feature I miss is that you can’t specify a search period, such as the last week or year, or a date range. But only a few times in the last year have I been forced to go to Google for a difficult search.

Okay, but Google does offer Google Advanced Search and some old fashioned search box command line instructions. These are not perfect. I agree that Google has some time deficiencies. That lack of “time” functionality may be one contributing reason behind Google’s investment in Recorded Future, an analytics platform designed to perform a range of time centric functions; for example, spider the Dark Web and array events on a timeline with additional analytic reports available with a mouse click.

The write up does not share these “advanced” factoids. I highlighted this statement:

Given the advantages of a Google-free existence, I have to wonder what Google is costing the world economy. If interesting ads cause each Internet user to spend an extra five minutes a day on non-productive shopping, with almost 3 billion Internet users today, that’s 15 billion minutes or over 28,000 person years of productivity every day.

Yes, an example of what I call mid tier consultant reasoning. Make assumptions about “time”. Assign a value. Calculate the “cost.” Works every time; for example, the now cherished IDC estimate of how much time a worker spends looking for information. The idea is that a better search system unleashes value, productivity, and other types of wonderfulness. The problem is that this type of logic is often misleading because the assumptions are specious and the analysis something even a sixth grade baseball statistics fan would doubt. How about them Cubbies?

But the point of the write up is that DuckDuckGo does not traffic in human user data. There are ads, but these ads are different from Google ads. Okay. Fine.

The write up reveals three things about experts doing online search analysis:

  • Ads, regardless of who shows them, pump data back to the source of the ad. The outfit may choose to ignore what works and what doesn’t at its peril. Failed ads do not generate revenue for the advertiser. Hence the advertiser will go elsewhere.
  • Running queries which return on point information is time consuming and often difficult. The reasons range from the mysterious removal of information from indexes to the vagaries of human language. Do you know the exact term to use to locate malware which can be used to compromise an iPhone and the name of the vendor who sells this type of program. Give that a whirl on a single free Web search system.
  • The merging of imprecise information about the “cost” of a search is not convincing. Perhaps the expert should consider the impact of the shift from desktop search to mobile device search. That change will force most free Web search systems to turn some cartwheels and find ways to generate revenue. Fancy functionality is simply not used by 97 percent of online search users. Good enough search is the new normal. Thus, search today is not what search yesterday was perceived to be.

Who cares about alternative free Web search systems? The truth is that those who long for the good old days of Google may have to wake up and check out the new dawn. Misinformation, disinformation, filtered information are the norm. No advanced search system on the planet can provide pointers to high value content, accurate content on a consistent basis.

Stephen E Arnold, November 8, 2016

Iceland Offers the First Human Search Engine

November 8, 2016

Iceland is a northern country that one does not think about much.  It is cold, has a high literacy rate, and did we mention it was cold?  Despite its frigid temperatures, Iceland is a beautiful country with a rich culture and friendly people.  shares just how friendly the Icelanders are with their new endeavor: “Iceland Launches ‘Ask Guðmundur,’ The World’s First Human Search Engine.”

Here is what the country is doing:

The decidedly Icelandic and truly personable service will see special representatives from each of Iceland’s seven regions offer their insider knowledge to the world via Inspired By Iceland’s social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and YouTube).   Each representative shares the name Guðmundur or Guðmunda, currently one of the most popular forenames in the country with over 4,000 men and women claiming it as their own.

Visitors to the site can literally submit their questions and have them answered by an expert.  Each of the seven Guðmundurs is an Icelandic regional expert.  Iceland’s goal with the human search engine is to answer’s the world’s questions about the country, but to answer them in the most human way possible: with actual humans.

A human search engine is an awesome marketing campaign for Iceland.  One of the best ways to encourage tourism is to introduce foreigners to the locale people and customs, the more welcoming, quirky, and interesting is all the better for Iceland.  So go ahead, ask Guðmundur.

Whitney Grace, November 8, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The Semantic Web: Clarified and Mystified

November 4, 2016

Navigate to “Semantic Web Speculations.” After working through the write up, I believe there are some useful insights in the write up.

I highlighted this passage:

Reaching to information has been changed quite dramatically from printed manuscripts to Google age. Being knowledgeable less involves memorizing but more the ability to find an information and ability to connect information in a map-like pattern. However, with semantic tools become more prevalent and a primary mode of reaching information changes, this is open to transform.

I understand that the Google has changed how people locate needed information. Perhaps the information is accurate? Perhaps the information is filtered to present a view shaped by a higher actor’s preferences? I agree that the way in which people “reach” information is going to change.

I also noted this statement:

New way of being knowledgeable in the era of semantic web does not necessarily include having the ability to reach an information.

Does this mean that one can find information but not access the source? Does the statement suggest that one does not have to know a fact because awareness that it is there delivers the knowledge payload?

I also circled this endorsement of link analysis, which has been around for decades:

It will be more common than any time that relations between data points will have more visibility and access. When something is more accessible, it brings meta-abilities to play with them.

The idea that the conversion of unstructured information into structured data is a truism. However, the ability to make sense of the available information remains a work in progress as is the thinking about semantics.

Stephen E Arnold, November 4, 2016

Genetics Are Biased

November 4, 2016

DNA does not lie. DNA does not lie if conducted accurately and by an experienced geneticist.  Right now it is popular for people to get their DNA tested to discover where their ancestors came from.  Many testers are surprised when they receive their results, because they learn their ancestors came from unexpected places.  Black Americans are eager to learn about the genetics, due to their slave ancestry and lack of familial records.  For many Black Americans, DNA is the only way they can learn where their roots originated, but Africa is not entirely cataloged.

According to Science Daily’s article “Major Racial Bias Found In Leading Genomics Database,” if you have African ancestry and get a DNA test it will be difficult to pinpoint your results.  The two largest genomics databases that geneticists refer to contain a measurable bias to European genes.  From a logical standpoint, this is understandable as Africa has the largest genetic diversity and remains a developing continent without the best access to scientific advances.  These provide challenges for geneticists as they try to solve the African genetic puzzle.

It also weighs heavily on black Americans, because they are missing a significant component in their genetic make-up they can reveal vital health information.  Most black Americans today contain a percentage of European ancestry.  While the European side of their DNA can be traced, their African heritage is more likely to yield clouded results.  On a financial scale, it is more expensive to test black Americans genetics due to the lack of information and the results are still not going to be as accurate as a European genome.

This groundbreaking research by Dr. O’Connor and his team clearly underscores the need for greater diversity in today’s genomic databases,’ says UM SOM Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who is also Vice President of Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko Bowers Distinguished Professor at UM SOM. ‘By applying the genetic ancestry data of all major racial backgrounds, we can perform more precise and cost-effective clinical diagnoses that benefit patients and physicians alike.

While Africa is a large continent, the Human Genome Project and other genetic organizations should apply for grants that would fund a trip to Africa.  Geneticists and biologists would then canvas Africa, collect cheek swabs from willing populations, return with the DNA to sequence, and add to the database.  Would it be expensive?  Yes, but it would advance medical knowledge and reveal more information about human history.  After all, we all originate from Mother Africa.

Whitney Grace, November 4, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

MicroSearch: A Specialized Video Search System for Academic Content

November 3, 2016

I am not sure if the Alphabet Google thing will be down with this new video search system over the long haul. If you want a different way to locate academic videos, you will want to explore MicroSearch’s system. MicroSearch says that it is “a boutique search engine company, providing private, secure video and document cloud storage as well as custom search services.”

I learned about this service in “University Videos on YouTube Get Custom Search.” You can explore the system at http://universityvideos.org/Home. The search system is at this link.

image

According to the write up, the system aggregates university videos and:

includes a video player that shows the video playing on the left and a transcript tracking with the video on the right. Clicking into another sentence in the transcript jumps the user to that part of the video.

I highlighted this passage:

The service also includes a search tool that allows the user to search on transcript contents, title, description, duration, category, tags, YouTube channel and year uploaded. The same fields are available as metadata, when search results are displayed and downloaded as an Excel export file. An advanced search feature lets the user enter a few letters into the transcription field and then click on an Index button next to the field to obtain a window that displays all of the terms with that series of letters.

Our test queries suggested that the system is less wonky than Google’s video search. The fact that Google is splitting its text index into one part for mobile and one part for traditional desktop search makes clear that search at Google is a work in progress. With a new search system for a segment of YouTube videos, one can conclude that YouTube video search is not a home run for some users.

Perhaps more attention on search and less on Loon balloons might solve the problem. On the other hand, Alphabet Google can simply block developers of “better mousetraps” and move forward with its online advertising programs and projects like solving death. Search is for revenue and maybe not for finding relevant content?

Stephen E Arnold, November 3, 2016

Job Hunting in Secret Is Not So Secret

November 3, 2016

While the American economy has recovered from the recession, finding a job is still difficult.  Finding a new job can be even harder has you try to be discreet while handling emails, phone calls, and Web traffic under the radar.  A bit of advice is to not search for jobs while at your current position, but that is easier said than done in many respects.  Social media is a useful job seeking tool and LinkedIn now offers a job search incognito mode.  SlashGear discusses the new mode in the article, “LinkedIn’s Open Candidates Feature Helps You Find A Job In Secret.”

The Open Candidates feature allows LinkedIn users to search for a new job while hiding their job search activity from their current employer.  It will try to hide your job search activity, while at the same time it will add a new search feature for recruiters that displays profiles of people who have listed themselves under the Open Candidates feature.  The hope is that it will bring more opportunity to these people.

However, nothing is ever secret on the Internet and LinkedIn can only do its best to help you:

While the new feature will probably be welcome by people who would prefer to carry out a job search while ruffling as few feathers as possible, LinkedIn does warn that even it will try to prevent your current employer from seeing that you’ve listed yourself as an Open Candidate, it can’t guarantee that it will be able to identify all of the recruiters associated with your company.  In other words, use at your own risk.

If you work in a company that tracks your online social life or for a tech organization, you will have difficulty using this feature.  LinkedIn and Microsoft employees will definitely need to use the first piece of advice, search for a new job on your personal computer/device using your own Internet.

Whitney Grace, November 3, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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