Declassified CIA Data Makes History Fun

January 26, 2017

One thing I have always heard to make kids more interested in learning about the past is “making it come alive.”  Textbooks suck at “making anything come alive” other than naps.  What really makes history a reality and more interesting are documentaries, eyewitnesses, and actual artifacts.  The CIA has a wealth of history and History Tech shares with us some rare finds: “Tip Of The Week: 8 Decades Of Super Cool Declassified CIA Maps.”  While the CIA Factbook is one of the best history and geography tools on the Web, the CIA Flickr account is chock full of declassified goodies, such as spy tools, maps, and more.

The article’s author shared that:

The best part of the Flickr account for me is the eight decades of CIA maps starting back in the 1940s prepared for the president and various government agencies. These are perfect for helping provide supplementary and corroborative materials for all sorts of historical thinking activities. You’ll find a wide variety of map types that could also easily work as stand-alone primary source.

These declassified maps were actually used by CIA personnel, political advisors, and presidents to make decisions that continue to impact our lives today.  The CIA flickr account is only one example of how the Internet is a wonderful tool for making history come to life.  Although you need to be cautious about where the information comes from since these are official CIA records they are primary sources.

Whitney Grace, January 26, 2017

Google Needs a Time-Out for Censorship, But Who Will Enforce Regulations

January 26, 2017

The article on U.S. News and World Report titled The New Censorship offers a list of the ways in which Google is censoring its content, and builds a compelling argument for increased regulation of Google. Certain items on the list, such as pro-life music videos being removed from YouTube, might have you rolling your eyes, but the larger point is that Google simply has too much power over what people see, hear, and know. The most obvious problem is Google’s ability to squash a business simply by changing its search algorithm, but the myriad ways that it has censored content is really shocking. The article states,

No one company, which is accountable to its shareholders but not to the general public, should have the power to instantly put another company out of business or block access to any website in the world. How frequently Google acts irresponsibly is beside the point; it has the ability to do so, which means that in a matter of seconds any of Google’s 37,000 employees with the right passwords or skills could laser a business or political candidate into oblivion…

At times the article sounds like a sad conservative annoyed that the most influential company in the world tends toward liberal viewpoints. Hearing white male conservatives complain about discrimination is always a little off-putting, especially when you have politicians like Rand Paul still defending the right of businesses to refuse service based on skin color. But from a liberal standpoint, just because Google often supports left-wing causes like gun control or the pro-choice movement doesn’t mean that it deserves a free ticket to decide what people are exposed to. Additionally, the article points out that the supposed “moral stands” made by Google are often revealed to be moneymaking or anticompetitive schemes. Absolute power corrupts no matter who yields it, and companies must be scrutinized to protect the interests of the people.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 26, 2017

The SEO, PPC Baloney Sandwich: Total Search Can Be Dangerous

January 25, 2017

I love the clever folks’ ability to make language do tricks. I read “Unleashing the Potential of ‘Total’ Search.” The write up itself strikes me as a bit of content marketing. The objective is to whip up enthusiasm for a Breakfast Briefing “event.” I am okay with PR. I am not okay with taking a nifty word like search and morphing it into one of those online advertising concepts which confuse and lure the unwary.

image

The SEO and PPC baloney dog. It can be your pal and your meal ticket… if someone bites.

Total search, according to the write up, is “a holistic approach to search marketing which considers SEO [search engine optimization, that old relevance killer] and PPC [pay for click, that buy traffic approach pioneered by GoTo.com years ago] as a single channel.”

Search has a slightly different meaning to some folks here in down home rural Kentucky. Dictionary.com offers this definition:

1. to go or look through (a place, area, etc.)carefully in order to find something missing or lost:

They searched the woods for the missing child. I searched the desk for the letter.

2. to look at or examine (a person, object, etc.)carefully in order to find something concealed:

He searched the vase for signs of a crack. The police searched the suspect for weapons.

3. to explore or examine in order to discover:

They searched the hills for gold.

4. to look at, read, or examine (a record, writing,collection, repository, etc.) for information:

to search a property title; He searched the courthouse for a record of the deed to the land.

TheFreeDictionary.com says:

1. To move around in, go through, or look through in an effort to find something: searched the room for her missing earring; searched the desk for a pen.

2. To make a careful examination or investigation of; probe: search one’s conscience for the right thing to do.

3. Law To examine (a person or property) for the purpose of discovering evidence of a crime.

Verb transitive

1. To search a place or space in order to find something: searched all afternoon for my wallet.

2. To make a careful examination or investigation: searching for the right words to say.

3. Law To make a search for evidence.

noun

1. An act of searching.

2. Law The examination of a person or property, as by a law enforcement officer, for the purpose of discovering evidence of a crime.

3. A control mechanism on an audio or video player that rapidly advances or reverses the playing of a recording.

I suppose the inclusion of the word “total” allows the word search to become so much more to the wizard who is defining “total search” as marketing and ad buys.

The “total search” write up explains that “We live in a C2B world.” That means, I believe, “consumer to business world.”

Sorry. I don’t live in that world. I live in a world in which finding specific information, determining which information is either accurate or reasonably credible, and then analyzing that information in an effort to become more informed is important.

Presenting off point, inaccurate information is not my cup of tea.

How does one deliver “total search”? Here’s the “answer”:

There are several ways that a brand can realize the full potential of this approach. Some are fairly simple to implement, such as combining keyword research or aligning landing page testing. These can be merged into a single stream of work by your internal teams or agencies and will lead to immediate returns. Others (unifying leadership and introducing one search objective, for example) are likely to be more involved and may require a radical step-change in your organizational structure, driven from the top down. There are many other ways, which, in combination, can bring more benefits than the sum of the individual parts and drive significant incremental gains. Those brands that embrace a Total Search approach will be the ones that will more frequently be able to solve consumers’ problems and ultimately emerge successful.

There you go.

Think about this type of “search” in these three contexts:

  1. Your child is ill. One of the medical researchers at the hospital where doctors are trying to figure out how to address the disease presenting itself use “total search” to determine a course of action. Forget that baloney about precision and recall when searching the medical literature. Go for the content marketed drugs and the information delivered by an online ad. Care much about your child’s health? What’s your answer, gentle reader?
  2. You are involved in an accident. Three parties are involved, but only you have been injured. Your attorney is struggling to determine what coverage your automobile insurance provides. One of the other parties to the accident has decided to sue you even though your semi autonomous automobile was unable to avoid the collision caused by a vehicle hitting your car from behind. The momentum pushed your vehicle into a day care center van. Are you expecting your attorney to use free online Web search systems to locate legal information germane to your particular situation? How do you select your attorney? An ad supported online search?
  3. You are involved in a government project. You have to assemble information about a specific bad actor in a specific location. Your input will have a direct impact on the success or failure of the mission. This means that young men and women may die if you provide information that is not on point, accurate, and valid for that particular action. Are you prepared to rely on digital systems and content manipulated to get you to read information which is swizzled and promoted?

In each of these situations, the silliness and danger associated with “total search” becomes apparent to me. If you think that “total search” is just the ticket for you, you frighten me. A tainted baloney sandwich with slabs of SEO and PPC is not something too appealing to me. You can explain your preference to your ailing child, the attorney muffing your case, and the parents of the young woman who was killed due to your informational ignorance. Unleash your critical thinking, gentle reader.

Stephen E Arnold, January 25, 2017

DuckDuckGo: Nibbling at the Little Toe of Googzilla

January 25, 2017

I like DuckDuckGo. I fire queries at the system and see if there are items I have missed after I have checked out Qwant.com, Unbubble.eu, Giburu.com, Ixquick (now StartPage.com), Exalead Search, Yandex, and, oh, I almost forgot, the Google.

I read “DuckDuckGo Hits Milestone 14 Million Searches in a Single Day.” I learned:

DuckDuckGo revealed it has hit a milestone of 14 million searches in a single day. In addition, the search engine is celebrating a combined total of 10 billion searches performed, with 4 billion searches conducted in December 2016 alone. For a niche search engine that many people don’t know exists, that’s some notable year-over-year growth. Around this same time last year, DuckDuckGo was serving 8–9 million searches per day on average.

Just to keep DuckDuckGo’s achievement in perspective, Internet Live Stats says that Googzilla handles 3.5 billion searches per day. Our research suggests that there is room for Web search systems like DuckDuckGo to grow. About half of those with Internet access don’t run queries. Hey, that Facebook thing is a big deal. Also, there are some folks who are looking to expand their search horizons.

So, on a per day basis 14 million searches for DuckDuckGo and 3.5 billion searches for the GOOG.

Stephen E Arnold, January 25, 2017

Bing Gets Nostalgic

January 25, 2017

In my entire life, I have never seen so many people who were happy to welcome in a New Year.  2016 will be remembered for violence, political uproar, and other stuff that people wish to forget.  Despite the negative associations with 2016, other stuff did happen and looking back might offer a bit of nostalgia for the news and search trends of the past year.  On MSFT runs down a list of what happened on Bing in 2016,“Check Out The Top Search Trends On Bing This Past Year.”

Rather than focusing on a list of just top searches, Bing’s top 2016 searches are divided into categories: video games, Olympians, viral moments, tech trends, and feel good stories.  More top searches are located over at Bing page.  However, on the top viral trends it is nice to see that cat videos have gone down in popularity:

Ryder Cup heckler

Villanova’s piccolo girl

Powerball

Aston Martin winner

Who’s the mom?

Evgenia Medvedeva

Harambe the gorilla

#DaysoftheWeek

Cats of the Internet

Pokemon Go

On a personal level, I am surprised that Harambe the gorilla outranked Pokemon Go.  Some of these trends I do not even remember making the Internet circuit and I was on YouTube and Reddit for all of 2016.  I have been around enough years to recognize that things come and go and 2016 might have come off as a bad year for many, in reality, it was another year.  It also did not forecast doomsday.  That was back in 2000, folks.  Get with the times!

Whitney Grace, January 25, 2017

Searchy Automates Your Search Parameters

January 25, 2017

The article on FileForum Beta News titled Searchy for Windows 0.5.1 promises users the ability to gain more control over their search parameters and prevent wasted time on redundant searches.  By using search scopes, categories, and search templates, Searchy claims to simplify and organize search. The service targets users who tend to search for similar items all day, and makes it easier for those users to find what they need without all that extra typing. The article goes into more detail,

Your daily routine consists of lots repetitive searches? With Searchy you can automate that. Just write a template for similar search queries and stop typing the same things over and over… Search using Google’s and Bing’s web, image, video and news search engines. Often performing searches on same websites? Spending much time on advanced search filters in Google or Bing? Searchy will simplify that too. Just add scopes for the websites and search filters, and use them like a boss.

Searchy was developed by freelance developer Alex Kaul, who found that entering the same phrase over and over in Google was annoying. By automating the search phrase, Searchy enables users to skip a step. It may be a small step, but as we all know, a small task when completed one hundred times a day becomes a very large and tiresome one.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 25, 2017

Hacks to Make Your Google Dependence Even More Rewarding

January 24, 2017

The article on MakeUseOf titled This Cool Website Will Teach You Hundreds of Google Search Tips refers to SearchyApp, a collection of tricks, tips, and shortcuts to navigate Google search more easily. The lengthy list is divided into sections to be less daunting to readers. The article explains,

What makes this site so cool is that the tips are divided into sections, so it’s easy to find what you want. Here are the categories: Facts (e.g. find the elevation of a place, get customer service number,…) Math (e.g. solve a circle, use a calculator, etc.), Operators (search within number range, exclude a keyword from results, find related websites, etc.), Utilities (metronome, stopwatch, tip calculator, etc.), Easter Eggs (42, listen to animal sounds, once in a blue moon, etc.).

The Easter Eggs may be old news, but if you haven’t looked into them before they are a great indicator of Google’s idea of a hoot. But the Utilities section is chock full of useful little tools from dice roller to distance calculator to converting units to translating languages. Also useful are the Operators, or codes and shortcuts to tell Google what you want, sometimes functioning as search restrictions or advanced search settings. Operators might be wise to check out for those of us who forgot what our librarians taught us about online search as well.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 24, 2017

Indexing: The Big Wheel Keeps on Turning

January 23, 2017

Yep, indexing is back. The cacaphone “ontology” is the next big thing yet again. Folks, an ontology is a form of metadata. There are key words, categories, and classifications. Whipping these puppies into shape has been the thankless task of specialists for hundreds if not thousands of years. “What Is an Ontology and Why Do I Want One?” tries to make indexing more alluring. When an enterprise search system delivers results which are off the user’s information need or just plain wrong, it is time for indexing. The problem is that machine based indexing requires some well informed humans to keep the system on point. Consider Palantir Gotham. Content finds its way into the system when a human performs certain tasks. Some of these tasks are riding herd on the indexing of the content object. IBM Analyst’s Notebook and many other next generation information access systems work hand in glove with expensive humans. Why? Smart software is still only sort of smart.

The write up dances around the need for spending money on indexing. The write up prefers to confuse a person who just wants to locate the answer to a business related question without pointing, clicking, and doing high school research paper dog work. I noted this passage:

Think of an ontology as another way to classify content (like a taxonomy) that allows you to identify what the content is about and how it relates to other types of content.

Okay, but enterprise search generally falls short of the mark for 55 to 70 percent of a search system’s users. This is a downer. What makes enterprise search better? An ontology. But without the cost and time metrics, the yap about better indexing ends up with “smart content” companies looking confused when their licenses are not renewed.

What I found amusing about the write up is that use of an ontology improves search engine optimization. How about some hard data? Generalities are presented, not instead of some numbers one can examine and attempt to verify.

SEO means getting found when a user runs a query. That does not work too well for general purpose Web search systems like Google. SEO is struggling to deal with declining traffic to many Web sites and the problem mobile search presents.

But in an organization, SEO is not what the user wants. The user needs the purchase order for a client and easy access to related data. Will an ontology deliver an actionable output. To be fair, different types of metadata are needed. An ontology is one such type, but there are others. Some of these can be extracted without too high an error rate when the content is processed; for example, telephone numbers. Other types of data require different processes which can require knitting together different systems.

To build a bubble gum card, one needs to parse a range of data, including images and content from a range of sources. In most organizations, silos of data persist and will continue to persist. Money is tight. Few commercial enterprises can afford to do the computationally intensive content processing under the watchful eye and informed mind of an indexing professional.

Cacaphones like “ontology” exacerbate the confusion about indexing and delivering useful outputs to users who don’t know a Boolean operator from a SQL expression.

Indexing is a useful term. Why not use it?

Stephen E Arnold, January 23, 2017

Obey the Almighty Library Laws

January 23, 2017

Recently I was speaking with someone and the conversation turned to libraries.  I complimented the library’s collection in his hometown and he asked, “You mean they still have a library?” This response told me a couple things: one, that this person was not a reader and two, did not know the value of a library.  The Lucidea blog discussed how “Do The Original 5 Laws Of Library Science Hold Up In A Digital World?” and apparently they still do.

S.R. Ranganathan wrote five principles of library science before computers dominated information and research in 1931.  The post examines how the laws are still relevant.  The first law states that books are meant to be used, meaning that information is meant to be used and shared.  The biggest point of this rule is accessibility, which is extremely relevant.  The second laws states, “Every reader his/her book,” meaning that libraries serve diverse groups and deliver non-biased services.  That still fits considering the expansion of the knowledge dissemination and how many people access it.

The third law is also still important:

Dr. Ranganathan believed that a library system must devise and offer many methods to “ensure that each item finds its appropriate reader”. The third law, “every book his/her reader,” can be interpreted to mean that every knowledge resource is useful to an individual or individuals, no matter how specialized and no matter how small the audience may be. Library science was, and arguably still is, at the forefront of using computers to make information accessible.

The fourth law is “save time for the reader” and it refers to being able to find and access information quickly and easily.  Search engines anyone?  Finally, the fifth law states that “the library is a growing organism.”  It is easy to interpret this law.  As technology and information access changes, the library must constantly evolve to serve people and help them harness the information.

The wording is a little outdated, but the five laws are still important.  However, we need to also consider how people have changed in regards to using the library as well.

Whitney Grace, January 23, 2017

Elasticsearch: Security Assertions

January 20, 2017

I read “MongoDB Hackers Set Sights on ElasticSearch Servers with Widespread Ransomware Attacks.” According to the write up, more than 2,400 ElasticSearch services were “affected by ransomware in three days.”

“Attackers are finding open servers where there is no authentication at all. This can be done via a number of services and tools. Unfortunately, system admins and developers have been leaving these unauthenticated systems online for a while and attackers are just picking off the low hanging fruit right now.”

The write up explained:

ElasticSearch is a Java-based search engine, commonly used by enterprises for information cataloguing and data analysis.

What’s the remediation? One can pay the ransom. We suggest that Elastic cloud users read the documentation and implement the features appropriate for their use case.

Stephen E Arnold, January 20, 2017

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