November 11, 2013
I want to ask you, gentle reader, “Do you recall the messages that whipped Rome’s citizens into a fury when the death of Germanicus became known?” If you did, you are aware of the value of sponsored content. If you did not, you will find something incredibly new, totally exciting, and probably revolutionary when you read “Marrying Companies and Content.” If the link is dead, you will have to find a content repository like the public library to read the article in the November 11, 2013, New York Times.
The main point of the write up is that since 1947 companies have been sponsoring content. Imagine that! 1947. The article explains that sponsored content is a darned good way to market. I liked this statement in the write up:
“This is not a fad,” he [PR maven at Weber Shandwick] said, pointing out that both corporate money (advertising) and venture money (backing) were pouring into brand publishing. “These guys stand out because they bring a depth of understanding to the economic proposition and know that for it to work, it has to be done right.”
For a more informative view of manipulated information, I suggest a spin through Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda is a useful first step.
To see the consequences of sponsored content, may I suggest:
- Running a query and identifying which hits are accurate, which are disinformation, misinformation, or reformation
- Standing in front of Cuba Libre in Washington, DC, and running a Google query for restaurants on your iPhone
- Considering the “value” of outputs from Jike.com, the Chinese centric search system
- Listening to either Harry Shearer or No Agenda and comparing the information with that in a mass media outlet.
By the way, do today’s college graduates have the tools to identify and remediate malformed information in search results? Is this discussion of Germanicus accurate? Can your colleagues handle ancient history or more timely outputs from a Big Data system?
Stephen E Arnold, November 11, 2013
November 8, 2013
Search companies come and go faster than a person can type in their query into the search box, so when asked to review FindBiometrics’ biopic on “WCC Smart Search And Match” there, at first, does not seem to be anything that sets it apart from another search company.
WCC Smart Search makes the usual claims about a dedicated staff and how they can build a beneficial business solution using their technology. It was not until we got further into the description that WCC Smart Search comes out as a different player in the game:
“Our customers say WCC Smart Search & Match’s flagship product ELISE offers something no other product on the market can – the ability to search through data just as the human mind would. Using such techniques as bi-directional matching, weighted criteria and gliding scales, ELISE delivers ranked, meaningful results. And even better than the human process, ELISE can return those results in under a second – no matter how big the database, or how many!”
They tout that ELISE can return a result no matter what the query is and the search engine can track all the information. ELISE is a multi-modal platform equipped with smart search and comes with a guarantee to return accurate results. ELISE has been deployed in many fields: border control, healthcare, disaster recovery/missing persons, criminal investigation, and enrollment verification. These are some pretty neat claims and if they have already been used in these fields than ELISE might have something that other search products do not.
Whitney Grace, November 08, 2013
November 7, 2013
My Overflight service delivered a gem to me this morning. The hot news concerns an executive shuffle. But deep within the comments about libraries and innovation was this paragraph:
To commemorate this pivotal milestone, the company [ProQuest (UMI)] created a comic book that tells the story in true superhero fashion of how microfilm became the gold standard for information preservation. Eugene B. Power and the Wild Beginnings of UMI is available in print and e-book format.
Fascinating. I recall the joy of searching microfilm when I was but a wee lad. Turning that crank and praying the film did not break added such joy to my studies of William Alabaster’s Elizabethiad. Search was a process that required coordination, scanning, and squinting. Who needs online? What milestone can be passed without a comic book? For fans of WWII, UMI’s origins are quite interesting.
Stephen E Arnold, November 7, 2013
November 7, 2013
Could research on perceptions of trustworthiness make for a new approach to search marketing? The British Psychological Society‘s Research Digest advises, “Want People to Trust You? Try Apologising for the Rain.” A recent study by researchers at Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that people see strangers who apologize for factors beyond their control as more trustworthy than others.
In the researchers’ series of behavioral studies, first came three lab experiments. See the article for details, but in all three participants did rate strangers as more trustworthy when they had apologized for something that could not have been their fault. A field study conducted at a train station on a rainy day seems to confirm this bias.
Writer Christian Jarrett tells us:
“The most compelling evidence came from [Harvard's] Alison Brooks and her colleagues’ fourth and final study in which a male actor approached 65 strangers (30 women) at a train station on a rainy day to ask to borrow their mobile phone. Crucially, for half of them he preceded his request with the superfluous apology: ‘I’m sorry about the rain!’ The other half of the time he just came straight out with his request: ‘Can I borrow your cell phone?’ The superfluous apology made a big difference. Forty-seven per cent of strangers offered their phone when the actor apologised for the rain first, compared with just nine per cent when there was no apology.”
Jarrett points out a serious flaw with this particular test: its scenarios are not parallel. Instead of changing the approach from an apology about the rain to a standard one like “sorry to bother you” or even an opener like “excuse me,” the control script went right into “can I borrow your phone?” It could well have been the abrupt request that put off participants. Still, this is an interesting premise, and the lab experiments provide compelling evidence. Perhaps a better designed field study will be done. In the meantime, though, anyone looking to manipulate human nature in the pursuit of good first impressions may want to consider these findings.
Cynthia Murrell, November 07, 2013
November 6, 2013
I read “Google Wants to Build Maps That Customize Themselves Based on What They Know about You.” The main point of the write up is that allegedly Google wants to use information about a user’s behavior to figure out what to put on a map. I am okay with this because I use paper maps. Call me old fashioned, but there it is. I wanted to capture this “personalization” item because it supports my argument that objectivity in search results is being redefined. The end of the “individualized Google” or “ig” service does not mean that personalization is losing steam at Google. Personalization is becoming more important as Google works overtime to find a way to keep the ad revenues flowing and growing. The key point is that most users will not know that search results are “shaped.” The notion of some old style yardsticks like precision and recall as ways to determine some of a search system’s attributes is out the window. Shaping raises some interesting questions. Those who don’t care to ponder what happens when information is aggressively filtered using methods that are not disclosed will be just fine. For those who are more sensitive to verification and validation, the effort required to get what I call “clean” and “unfiltered” information goes up. Good for advertisers. Not so good for those who assume that online equates with accuracy, comprehensiveness, and objectivity.
Stephen E Arnold, November 6, 2013
November 6, 2013
If you need a search system and love Java, you will want to read the most recent Xenky Vendor Profile. Dieselpoint is based in Chicago, Illinois. Compared to some search vendors, Dieselpoint keeps a low profile. The profile is available without charge at Xenky’s Vendor Profile page. Be sure to read the caveats for these free profiles. If you want to make a comment or explain a point I missed by a mile, use the comments section of Beyond Search. The profiles are drafts and will not be updated.
Stephen E Arnold, November 6, 2013
November 5, 2013
I am quite interested in Amazon book reviews. For my research, I find that locating specific reviews is quite difficult. One reason is that Amazon’s fab search engine is not set up to meet my approach to information retrieval. I know that Amazon has a number of search systems available, but the method for pinpointing a specific reviewer’s comments about a category of books is, in my opinion, non functional. My hunch is that this crippling of search is by design.
Another reason is that reviews provide a pool of quite useful information about who reads what, the “sentiment” each reviewer expresses in his/her review, and the timing of the review flow. If these factoids are not available to me, my thought is that the data should be. But, hey, what do I know. Amazon is not a search vendor.
I read “Responding to MacKenzie Bezos’s One-Star Slapdown” review of a book about Jeff Bezos called “The Everything Store.” I have not read the book, and I don’t read as a curious human any Amazon reviews. But I do process reviews for other purposes; for example, what is the hobbyhorse a particular reviewer of current political books is riding. I find this type of “hobby” interesting.
First, like any social content stream, the content marketing mentality has taken over. For me, it means that the value of a review is in its syntax and semantics. The “facts” in a review are of zero interest to me. In short, I don’t “trust” any review of any book available on Amazon. The review referenced in the write up from Bloomberg fits in this category. Is there an axe to grind? For sure.
Second, the review is going to do little to halt the buzz about the book. I am waiting for Amazon to “disappear” the book. That would be interesting. In my experience, I have encountered books that become very hard to find or just are not findable. I recall one instance when my Kindle lost a title.
Third, who believes a book anyway? With the spoofing of sci tech data for peer reviewed journals, why would a book about a high profile figure rest on a bedrock of facts. Making sales is the name of the game.
Net net: The one star review is likely to boost sales. That will make some folks at Amazon really happy. So is the criticism of the book valid? Yep, it builds sales. Come to think of it, isn’t this the purpose of Amazon? I will wait for the Washington Post review of The Everything Store.
Stephen E Arnold, November 5, 2013
November 4, 2013
The age old question of “Why Is Website Search So Hard to do Well” was brought up in a recent article with that title published on Biznology.com. The author, Mike Moran, has noticed an interesting trend: more companies are working on improving their website search. He points out that the group of users who are likely to actively engage with a site through searching seems like they would be likely customers.
Besides the obvious reason that users who search have already been disappointed by the site’s navigation to some degree, the author explores other reasons users have been frustrated with search engines on individual Web sites.
But it’s more than that. If you think about it, they are often searching for information that is harder to find–that’s why they fail when they are navigating in the first place. But the biggest issue is expectations. Google sets the searcher’s expectations sky-high because searchers think they are good at search and Google has the comparatively easy job of finding good results among hundreds or thousands of sites all trying to create the right answer. On your website, only one team–maybe just one person–is responsible for that page on your site. It’s unlikely that you have several really good answers for each search result the way you do on the Internet.
It would be interesting to pair his thoughts with data about when users turn to search. Is it always after attempting to navigate the site’s design and organization? And which type of user is more likely to become a customer?
Megan Feil, November 04, 2013
November 4, 2013
A graphic-heavy piece at Search Engine Watch examines “The Secrets Online Searchers Keep [Study].” The write-up examines a recent survey from Ask.com which collected data on consumer search habits. What was that about secrets? Writer Jessica Lee reports:
“What they found out was nearly two-thirds of Americans said they’ve had something to hide with past online searches, with the majority being men and young adults. But what are they hiding, and who are they hiding it from? Research revealed medical conditions were among the top-secret searches, and spouses, adult family members, friends, children, and work colleagues were those left in the dark. Those keeping online activity secret from work mates might be concerned about what they’re doing online on the clock. Sixteen percent said they looked for another job while at work, and 36 percent said they shopped.”
Medical issues, financial issues, buying habits. . . there are many legitimate reasons to obscure research that is none of anyone else’s business. I wonder, though, how the survey presented the who-are-you-hiding-from question. I’d have thought insurance companies, financial institutions, and other corporate entities would have ranked high on the list. Perhaps not enough people yet know companies are collecting this data on us. Or, maybe they just asked about cache-clearing, not about seeking out search engines that refuse to share our data. (While we’re on the subject, I’m beginning to wonder if we are now past respecting privacy for privacy’s sake. It almost seems that a desire to keep one’s own council today implies something shady. But I digress.)
Regarding other search habits, the study also found that 28 percent of those surveyed admitted to searching from their mobile devices while, um, indisposed. Eleven percent even copped to searching while behind the wheel. Lee turns to another study performed this year from Pew Research, which reports on a different search habit—more than half of us (56 percent) have googled ourselves. Simply prudent, if you ask me. Pew respondents were more likely to have “self-searched” if under 50, educated, and possessed of high income.
It is no surprise that search is becoming more and more a part of our lives. Can today’s students imagine what it was like before the world’s knowledge arrived at our fingertips?
Cynthia Murrell, November 04, 2013
November 2, 2013
I read a really big headline with lots of pictures in “iGoogle’s Demise May Toll the Bell for the Personalized Home Page.” I don’t have any big grumble with the write up. Google killed iGoogle. The angle of attack in the story is to explain that iGoogle is a dead service.
The point in the write up I noted was:
iGoogle fell victim to one of the company’s periodic round of service trimming, as Google general manager of global enterprise search Matt Eichner spelled out on Google’s official blog 16 months ago. At the time, Eichner explained that iGoogle was no longer necessary given new app-like interfaces within Google’s Chrome browser and the ChromeOS and Android platforms. The AJAX-based iGoogle used app-like widgets for users to organize and customize information on their iGoogle pages, and Google saw this as redundant.
Okay, received wisdom. I learned a long time ago that I am not good at received wisdom. For the Web surfer and Google clueless, the trimming of services is just another indication of Google’s superior management and technology. Rah, rah.
The problem for me is that Google’s personalization is not dead. What’s been killed is explicit user control over personalization. Google now personalizes information displayed to a user. If you want to see how this works, snag a laptop and get some Google user to log in. Have the person run a query. Then grab your laptop and log into Gmail. Now while you are logged in, run the same query. Check out the content displayed, the ads, and the speed with which the page renders.
If the displays are identical, you are hooked to an evil twin or those two queries have been filtered in an identical way. When I ran this little test in my law enforcement and intel lecture on October 29, 2013, the results were different.
Personalization is important to Google’s ad revenue. It is not important to the user who wants to fiddle with what he or she sees from a Google query.
Personalization is not dead. User control is or on its last legs. How easy is it to find MyYahoo on the newly redesigned Yahoo? Yahoo is moving down the same path I opine.
When you search, are you getting objective results? In my view, if you can’t answer this question backed by your experience and objective test results, you are not sure what Google is doing, just like azure chip consultants, former middle school teachers, and unemployed webmasters. How can you control what is not known or understood?
Stephen E. Arnold, November 2, 2013