Google Is Yesterday: Apps, Not Search, the Future

March 10, 2014

I read “Google Searches for role in App Age.” This is a for fee item, so you will need to pony up money or buy a copy of the dead tree edition of the March 10, 2014, Wall Street Journal. If you have a WSJ account, here’s your link, gentle reader, www.wsj.com and click on the “Top Stories in Tech” by Rolfe Winkler. You may want to try this link too. Great name, Rolfe.

The point of the write up for those who have not been watching Google with Murdochesque eye wear is that mobile users use apps. Mobile users are not too hip to the Web search thing.

According the the write up:

On a phone, links to apps often are more useful than Web links. The apps may be tuned for the smaller screen, and tap features of the phone, like knowing a user’s location, to provide more relevant information: the Open Table app can automatically show restaurants nearby.

Be still my heart. The write up points out:

Speaking at a conference last week, Nikesh Arora, Google’s chief business officer, said that while mobile ads are less lucrative than desktop ones today, he believes in the long-term mobile ad revenue “will be a multiple” of desktop ads due to all the extra information smartphones can capture about their users.

Was the WSJ expecting Google to watch as Facebook wormed into the global social app opportunity?

Several observations:

  1. Google is based on doing a better job of Web search than Fast Search & Transfer did
  2. Google is based on an idea developed by GoTo, implemented by Overture, and a once opportunity rich play by Yahoo
  3. The Google train has been chugging down the Web search path for more than a decade. Trains age.

Just as the automobile put the nose lock on trains, Google is working overtime to make sure its momentum does not abate. But an airplane-like breakthrough may be looming.

Will Google be able to generate revenue from its many side ventures so that top line revenue does not suffer erosion? Will Google be able to deal with a business model built on the missteps of Alta Vista, Fast Search’s vision that enterprise search was its future, and Yahoo’s stumbles?

These are interesting questions. Just as Amazon struggles to put lipstick on the pig of its soaring costs, Google seems to be frantically rummaging through its cosmetics drawer and “searching” for a plastic surgeon to make sure it is one compelling creature.

Barges, balloons, bio-engineering—perhaps these are the future of Google or not. Even the WSJ closes its somewhat shallow write up with a nod to Facebook’s “mobile app ads for engagement.” No matter. Search is not dead, but it is increasingly marginalized.

Stephen E Arnold, March 10, 2014

Data.gov: Listing May Be Enough

March 8, 2014

I am all for slipshod work, particularly when delivered by government contractors. Hey, the emphasis is on scope changes and engineering change orders, not on delivering what the wild and crazy statement of work requires.

I was delighted to read the Hacker News thread at http://bit.ly/MW4epC about broken links and missing data sets on Data.gov at www.data.gov. The thread contains a number of interesting comments. These may be evidence that substandard attention to detail suggests digital eczema. Just Bing it.

Examples range from corrected links that fail to odd ball outputs. See, for example, http://1.usa.gov/1qiegkT. There are some gems in the comments; for instance, http://1.usa.gov/1lI1Fqj.

In the early days of www.firstgov.gov, some effort was expended to minimize the number of dead links on US government servers. In the present incarnation as www.usa.gov, there are some interesting changes.

My view is that the dead links are a lesser problem than content that is no longer available and to which the links have been removed. If I were younger, I would suggest that you, gentle reader, look for information about MIC, RAC, and ZPIC contract awards. But I will not.

Stephen E Arnold, March 8, 2014

Infogistics Starts Daxtra

March 7, 2014

Infogistics calls itself a leading company in text analysis, document retrieval, and text extraction for various industries. One would not think that after visiting their Web site that has not been updated since 2005. The company does, however have a new vested interest in DaXtra Technologies, its new endeavor to provide content processing solutions for personnel and human resources applications.

Here is an official description from the Web site:

“For almost a decade we’ve been at the forefront of technology and solutions within our marketplace, giving our customers the competitive edge in their challenge to source the best available jobseekers, and find them quickly. Over 500 organizations, spanning all continents, use our resume analysis, matching and search products – from the world’s largest staffing companies to boutique recruiters, corporate recruitment departments, job boards and software vendors. This global reach is made possible via our multilingual CV technology which can automatically parse in over 25 different languages.”

DaXtra’s products include DaXtra Capture-a recruitment management software, DaXtra Search, DaXtra Parser-turns raw data into structured XML, DaXtra Components-to manage Web services, and DaXtra Analytics to come in 2014. The company appears to make top of the line personnel software that deletes the confusion in HR departments. What is even better is that the Web site is updated.

Whitney Grace, March 07, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

New MaxxCAT Search Appliance Supports the Rackless

March 5, 2014

Small businesses that employ desktop servers may want to check out MaxxCAT’s latest offering. Virtual-Strategy Magazine announces that “MaxxCAT Brings Search Appliance to Convenient Desktop Form Factor.” They say the idea came from a customer with a desktop server and no rack space; it is nice when companies respond to customer feedback. The press release elaborates:

“The new line of desktop search appliances features a case that is suited for customers needing high performance search but lacking rack space. It is particularly suited to businesses employing tower servers. The new desktop series retains the price and performance MaxxCAT is known for, starting at $2,995 for the 250GB SB-250d capable of handling 2,500 executed Queries Per Minute(QPM). For larger collections or greater performance requirements, the SB-350d is available for $3,995 and features a 500GB index storage size and is capable of handling 5,000 executed Queries Per Minute. Both appliances will come with MaxxCAT’s standard one year of email support and software updates as well as one-year hardware warranty.”

The company is wisely integrating that higher-capacity version, the SB-350d, into its existing education and non-profit programs. Based in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, MaxxCAT launched in 2007. Though its focus is on specialized, high-performance enterprise search appliances, the company also provides integration services and managed hosting. MaxxCAT also prides itself on providing quick and painless deployments—particularly important for small businesses with limited resources.

Cynthia Murrell, March 05, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Predictive Analysis Forms Its Own Vocal Reality Search

March 4, 2014

Did you ever think that predictive analytics would be used to determine the next singing sensation? I did not think so. “SAPVoice: How To Predict A Future Pop Star” from Forbes details how music labels are using data to find star power. The form of predictive analytics is called predictive business. Despite its immaterial aspects, music does contain many data points:

“Her record label, Universal Music Group taps thousands of data points generated daily for the artists it manages that reveal how particular customer segments are responding to them. Managers search a database of a million interview subjects, containing data on everything from where a consumer shops to the new music she prefers. With such tools at hand, YouTube won’t be the only way to find the next stars; scouts will also dig through the data.”

It is not just the music industry tapping into this new resource. Consumer goods, healthcare, technology, and manufacturing are using it to signal red flags and increase efficiency.

SAP steps in with its own predictive business model that focuses on predicting with accuracy, determining the best actions to take based on the data, and act fast on the data results. This approach has paid off for many companies.

Will the singing capitals of the world embrace SAP’s methodology? Don’t some disaffected recording moguls shoot handguns when disaffected? If the software does not deliver value, will there be gunplay at a Las Vegas intersection or maybe Wall Street if it does not pay off in the finance sector?

Whitney Grace, March 04, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Faceted Search Is Now A Common Feature

March 2, 2014

SearchBlox is “Moving From Simple Search To Faceted Search,” says a new press release. The article says that as the amount of data increased, it completed search and users needed a more complex and robust feature. Ecommerce Web sites are touted as popularizing faceted search that returned results based on information attributes or facets on content. Faceted search makes searching smarter and gives users better control of displayed search results.

There are many products that offer faceted search. SearchBlox’s offers some familiar and different features:

“Customers often pose the question around what types of facets are available for display within SearchBlox and what UI is best suited to offer the best facet selection for the end users. SearchBlox, out-of-the-box provides keywords, date, content type and content size facets for display but provides the framework to create a facet without any coding. You can edit our html plug-in within SearchBlox to add or remove facets or even set a different display name for a facet field. You can create term, date or number range faceting on the fly without touching a schema file or any backend. The facets can be specified on the query string and created on the fly to return the right number of values.”

Faceted search is already a common feature on most search engines and has been for over twenty years. Why has it taken so long for a company like SearchBlox to finally make it standard? As a side note, it is also available on Google’s uber expensive Google Search Appliance.

Whitney Grace, March 02, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Revised Search Tips For 2014

February 28, 2014

If you need to revamp how search engines find your Web site, the Site Search Today, blog of SLI Systems, reports that “The New Big Book Of Site Search Tips 2014 Has Launched!” The Big Book of Search Tips was written in 2012, while some findable methods have remained the same, others have changed like the face of the iPhone. The new version was written for ecommerce Web sites and includes new search tips, such as:

“Well, for one we found that mobile shopping has come so far in the last couple years – what used to account for 7% of total eCommerce sales in 2011 is now estimated to contribute to 16% of total eCommerce sales. This points to the growing comfort that people feel in making purchases on a mobile device. It’s becoming increasingly important to offer a user-friendly shopping experience.”

The book is advertised to help decrease bound rates, optimize mobile visits, higher conversions, and making mobile search more powerful. It also has tips on improving social media integration, citing how Web sites like Pinterest and Facebook boosted holiday sales. There are hundreds of Web sites that deal with improving ecommerce Web sites, but a company going to the trouble of publishing a book makes it worthwhile to glance over.

Whitney Grace, February 28, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Watson to Developers: I Challenge You.

February 27, 2014

I try not to think about Watson, the IBM super smart, game winning, billion dollar baby. I don’t bring it up in conversations, and I try not to think about how home brew code and open source search technology can outgun any other information access system on the planet. Please, spare me. Every search vendor with whom I come in contact pitches the same old mantra: Better, Faster, Smarter, Better Value.

I read “IBM Is Challenging Developers to Insert Watson into Mobile Apps.” Wow, quite a write up. The main point in my view is that mobile developers stand to make a pile of money when they integrate Watson into their mobile applications. I suppose IBM is indifferent to the core problem of mobile apps; to wit: Apps have recreated the wild and crazy world of the early days of computing. There is no easy way to locate an app. There is no way of knowing if the app is goodware or badware. There is no easy way to figure out how much user information is sucked from the app or what happens to that information if it is gobbled. How easy is it to find an app? Well, go looking for a ringtone. Let me know how that turns out for you.

IBM’s role in mobile computing is easy to sum up: IBM is not a factor in my mobile world. To change that, IBM is issuing a “developer challenge.” The article asserts:

Over the next three months, IBM will host its Watson Mobile Developer Challenge to find the best ideas for mobile apps that can take advantage of Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities. Three winners will join the IBM Ecosystem program and receive assistance from Big Blue to turn their ideas into commercial applications. But IBM stands to gain just as much from this as the winners do.

I anticipate that developers will make money in 2014 is several somewhat old fashioned ways:

  1. Developers sell their services to anyone without the expertise to build a mobile application. Companies with in house development teams will hired contractors because in many organizations, staff are unable to do or complete work due to incessant meetings, reorganization, or Dilbert-type issues
  2. Individual developers will code up a solution and hope to hit a home run. For the WhatsApp team, the method worked well. For most independent developers, the app is a way to either sell contract programming or get hired by a large firm in desperate need of developers because incessant meetings, reorganization, or Dilbert-type issues trigger a Parkinson’s Law response
  3. College students code an app in order to pass a course. Some professors may jump at the chance to turn a class loose on a coding challenge like Watson’s. Others may leave it in the hands of the student to find something to fill time between classes and hanging out with pals.
  4. Small development shops create apps that solve a problem and generate revenue from the established base of mobile customers for Android and Apple devices. Platforms with less traction like Windows Phone gizmos are likely to be attractive to a small percentage of small development shops if the app leads to more project work.
  5. A growing number of developers create an app in order to bilk money from users. I am not too enthused about this group, but it is possible that IBM’s challenge could attract some individuals who see a Watson app as a low friction way into a corporate environment.
  6. Some developers (maybe some are former IBM staff or contractors?) may code a Watson app because of loyalty, a way to establish contacts at IBM, or as a way to obtain first hand knowledge of what working with the Watson outfit requires.

I think that a challenge is likely to be somewhat disappointing for IBM. One of the three “winners” may get a brass ring, but the big question is, “Why doesn’t IBM’s existing developer program work for Watson?” The answer to this question, in my view, is quite important.

The fact that even the write up says:

So, yeah, IBM is smart to get on this movement early because Google, a whole lot of startups, and potentially other cloud providers such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services also realize that the future is in advanced computing capabilities delivered as services. And although Watson got a lot of attention by winning Jeopardy! in 2011, it’s going to need a lot more — in the form of developers — to win at this game.

Game, yes, Jeopardy for developers. IBM may inadvertently be signaling that Watson is struggling. The goal is $10 billion for Watson. But what is the goal of a Watson developers? Maybe write a money maker for Android or iOS? Get hired at Apple or Google? Get venture funding and create a WhatsApp and sell out to a big company for lots of money?

Plug in your perception of the payoff. Does it include coding for Watson? My hunch is that IBM will have to do more than run a 12 week challenge to achieve traction for Watson as the killer mobile app enabler. Disagree? I don’t really care, but you can post your push back using the comments section of the blog. Just don’t spam me like one journalist who keeps telling me his write ups are “interesting.” I assure you, gentle reader, that only I determine what’s interesting to me.

A Watson challenge is definitely not interesting.

Stephen E. Arnold, February 27, 2014

Travel Search Site Skyscanner Celebrates Rapid Growth

February 26, 2014

Their name certainly fits their goal: “Skyscanner aims to be World’s Top Search Site,” announces the Scotsman. According to the piece, Skyscanner has just doubled its revenue and is adding 100 new employees to its already 500-strong workforce. They are nipping at the heels of the Priceline-owned Kayak and the China-focused Qunar. Will Expedia and Orbitz be next? Writer Terry Murden informs us:

“[Skyscanner] broadened from a flight comparison site into a general travel search engine by acquiring Barcelona-based hotel search company Fogg. This, together with Skyscanner’s car rental services, helped move it into the wider search engine sector.

“Secondary investment by US-based Sequoia Capital in October, which valued Skyscanner at $800 (£500m), gives the company access to a deeper pool of expertise. The firm has made a rapid entry into the Americas, including the Canadian, Latin American and US markets. Last year saw a 119 per cent year-on-year increase in unique monthly visitors in the region.

“Skyscanner opened a Miami hub for the Americas, established new offices in Glasgow and Barcelona and expanded in Edinburgh, Beijing and Singapore.”

The company attributes its most successful year so far to two things: its mobile push and market growth, especially in the Far East. CFO Shane Corstorphine is confident that the platform his company has built will support continued growth. Founded in 2003, Skyscanner is based in Edinburgh.

Cynthia Murrell, February 26, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Silobreaker Profiled

February 26, 2014

One of our favorite data outfits has been profiled at the British legal news site The Lawyer in, “The London Startup Giving Meaning to Big Data.” Our own Stephen E. Arnold did an extensive interview with the firm’s director Mats Bjore last November for his excellent Search Wizards Speak series. Though much more brief than his piece, the Lawyer write-up emphasizes one of this company’s key advantages—its commitment to connecting the dots between data sources. That focus has led clients to seek out Silobreaker for data-related security work. We’re told:

“Silobreaker did not specialise in cyber security from the start. Rather, cyber security came to it in the form of some of the largest US hardware and software companies looking to gain insight into threat intelligence data they had gathered.

“The company believes that because many organisations operate in siloed environments there is a disconnect between data sources – customer or financial information, social media data, market analyses and so on. Companies and governments need to inject some sense into their information by bringing all those sources together.

“[…]Co-founder and CEO Kristofer Månsson says, ‘Governments and companies need us to give the information they have some context. The services we provide – geopolitical analysis, monitoring of global events or situational awareness through social media, for example – are not part of a cyber security company’s traditional offering. But we’re still a cyber company by association because of what we do.’”

Besides Silobreaker’s skilled and effective data integration, we also like them for their constant innovation and their ability to see things from the end-user’s perspective. Even greater praise: The ArnoldIT team uses Silobreaker for our intelligence-related work. Launched in 2005, Silobreaker is headquartered in London. They serve clients in corporate, government, military, and financial services realms.

Cynthia Murrell, February 26, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

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