Silicon Valley Hubris

November 1, 2017

Are today’s big tech companies leading our culture down foolish paths? Writer Scott Hartley at Quartz declares, “Silicon Valley Is Suffering from an Icarus Complex.” After briefly summarizing the story of Daedalus and Icarus, Hartley extrapolates that, today, the same examples of hubris would be cast as a pair of tech entrepreneurs, lauded for their bold wing-building initiative and attracting eager investors. He observes:

The Greeks distinguished between craftsmanship, known as technae, and knowledge, known as espisteme. But today we conflate doing with knowing: We believe that doers are wise, when perhaps they are only clever. Silicon Valley is so obsessed with crafting new wings—to harness the power of the Gods and tame the heavens—that it has overlooked the notion that cleverness is not necessarily wisdom. The ability to harness technology alone may be clever, but it isn’t wise unless it is contextualized within a greater human need. For example, someone might design the cleverest new system to optimize ad delivery—but few of us would call such an entrepreneur sagacious or wise. We might justly lionize them for their capitalistic prowess or for their ability to abstract value from the ever-tightening mechanics of how pixels are dangled before us like candy—but we wouldn’t call them a ‘genius.’ We require great technologists and clever doers, but we require those who question, probe, and seek to contextualize our advances in equal measure.

Yes. Just because we can “reinvent every human process with something mechanistic,” as he puts it, does not mean we should. We need more wise minds to consider what technology goals are worthy, and fewer who would pursue anything they can devise to make a buck, regardless of the consequences to society as a whole.

Cynthia Murrell, November 1, 2017

Crowd Wisdom Adjusted to Measure Information Popularity

June 2, 2017

The article on ScienceDaily titled In Crowd Wisdom, the ‘Surprisingly Popular’ Answer Can Trump Ignorance of the Masses conveys the latest twist on crowd wisdom, or efforts to answer questions by asking many people rather than specialists. Unsurprisingly, crowd wisdom often is not very wise at all, but rather favors the most popular information. The article uses the example of asking various populations whether Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania. Those who answered yes also believed that others would agree, making it a popular answer. The article goes on to explain,

Meanwhile, a certain number of respondents knew that the correct answer is “no.” But these people also anticipated that many other people would incorrectly think the capital is Philadelphia, so they also expected a very high percentage of “yes” answers. Thus, almost everyone expected other people to answer “yes,” but the actual percentage of people who did was significantly lower. “No” was the surprisingly popular answer because it exceeded expectations of what the answer would be.

By measuring the perceived popularity of a given answer, researchers saw errors reduced by over 20% compared to straightforward majority votes, and by almost 25% compared to confidence-weighted votes. As in the case of the Philadelphia question above, those who predicted that they were in the minority deserve the most attention because they had enough information to expect that many people would incorrectly vote yes. If you take away nothing else from this, let it be that Harrisburg, not Philly, is the capital of Pennsylvania.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 2, 2017

Mobile App Usage on the Rise from 34% of Consumer Time in 2013 to 50% in 2016

February 24, 2017

Bad news, Google. The article titled Smartphone Apps Now Account for Half the Time Americans Spend Online on TechCrunch reveals that mobile applications are still on the rise. Throw in tablet apps and the total almost hits 60%. Google is already working to maintain relevancy with its In Apps feature for Androids, which searches inside apps themselves. The article explains,

This shift towards apps is exactly why Google has been working to integrate the “web of apps” into its search engine, and to make surfacing the information hidden in apps something its Google Search app is capable of handling.  Our app usage has grown not only because of the ubiquity of smartphones, but also other factors – like faster speeds provided by 4G LTE networks, and smartphones with larger screens that make sitting at a desktop less of a necessity.

What apps are taking up the most of our time? Just the ones you would expect, such as Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, and Google Maps. But Pokemon Go is the little app that could, edging out Snapchat and Pinterest in the ranking of the top 15 mobile apps. According to a report from Senor Tower, Pokemon Go has gone beyond 180 million daily downloads. The growth of consumer time spent on apps is expected to keep growing, but comScore reassuringly states that desktops will also remain a key part of consumer’s lives for many years to come.

Chelsea Kerwin, February 24, 2017

 

Tips for Finding Information on Reddit.com

February 23, 2017

I noted “The Right Way to Search Posts on Reddit.” I find it interesting that the Reddit content is not comprehensively indexed by Google. One does stumble across this type of results list in the Google if one knows how to use Google’s less than obvious search syntax. Where’s bad stuff on Reddit? Google will reveal some links of interest to law enforcement professionals. For example:

image

Bing does a little better with certain Reddit content. To be fair, neither service is doing a bang up job indexing social media content but lists a fraction of the Google index pointers. For example:

image

So how does one search Reddit.com the “right way.” I noted this paragraph:

As of 2015, Reddit had accumulated over 190 million posts across 850,000 different subreddits (or communities), plus an additional 1.7 billion comments across all of those posts. That’s an incredible amount of content, and all of it can still be accessed on Reddit.

I would point out that the “all” is not accurate. There is a body of content deleted by moderators, including some of Reddit.com’s top dogs, which has been removed from the site.

Reddit offers some search syntax to help the researcher locate what is indexed by Reddit.com’s search system. The write up pointed to these strings:

  • title:[text] searches only post titles.
  • author:[username] searches only posts by the given username.
  • selftext:[text] searches only the body of posts that were made as self-posts.
  • subreddit:[name] searches only posts that were submitted to the given subreddit community.
  • url:[text] searches only the URL of non-self-post posts.
  • site:[text] searches only the domain name of non-self-post posts.
  • nsfw:yes or nsfw:no to filter results based on whether they were marked as NSFW or not.
  • self:yes or self:no to filter results based on whether they were self-posts or not.

The article contains a handful of other search commands; for example, Boolean and and or. How does one NOT out certain words. Use the minus sign. The word not is apparently minus sign appropriate for the discerning Reddit.com searcher.

Stephen E Arnold, February 23, 2017

Upgraded Social Media Monitoring

February 20, 2017

Analytics are catching up to content. In a recent ZDNet article, Digimind partners with Ditto to add image recognition to social media monitoring, we are reminded images reign supreme on social media. Between Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram, messages are often conveyed through images as opposed to text. Capitalizing on this, and intelligence software company Digimind has announced a partnership with Ditto Labs to introduce image-recognition technology into their social media monitoring software called Digimind Social. We learned,

The Ditto integration lets brands identify the use of their logos across Twitter no matter the item or context. The detected images are then collected and processed on Digimind Social in the same way textual references, articles, or social media postings are analysed. Logos that are small, obscured, upside down, or in cluttered image montages are recognised. Object and scene recognition means that brands can position their products exactly where there customers are using them. Sentiment is measured by the amount of people in the image and counts how many of them are smiling. It even identifies objects such as bags, cars, car logos, or shoes.

It was only a matter of time before these types of features emerged in social media monitoring. For years now, images have been shown to increase engagement even on platforms that began focused more on text. Will we see more watermarked logos on images? More creative ways to visually identify brands? Both are likely and we will be watching to see what transpires.

Megan Feil, February 20, 2017

 

Give a Problem, Take a Problem

February 3, 2017

An article at the Telegraph, “Employees Are Faster and More Creative When Solving Other People’s Problems,” suggests innovative ways to coax creative solutions from workers. Writer Daniel H. Pink describes three experiments, performed by New York University’s Evan Polman and Cornell’s Kyle Emich. The researchers found that, when posed with hypothetical scenarios, participants devised more creative solutions when problems were framed as being someone else’s. But why? Pink writes:

Polman and Emich build upon existing psychological research showing that when we think of situations or individuals that are distant – in space, time, or social connection – we think of them in the abstract. But when those things are close – near us physically, about to happen, or standing beside us – we think about them concretely. Over the years, social scientists have found that abstract thinking leads to greater creativity. That means that if we care about innovation we need to be more abstract and therefore more distant. But in our businesses and our lives, we often do the opposite. We intensify our focus rather than widen our view. We draw closer rather than step back. That’s a mistake, Polman and Emich suggest. ‘That decisions for others are more creative than decisions for the self… should prove of considerable interest to negotiators, managers, product designers, marketers and advertisers, among many others,’ they write.

The article goes on to supply five practical suggestions this research has for business. For one, organizations can recruit independent directors to bring in more objective points of view. Pink also suggests keeping firms loosely structured, and bringing together peers from different fields to exchange ideas. On the individual level, he advises finding a “problem-swapping partner” with whom you can trade perspectives. Finally, workers can create psychological distance between themselves and their projects by imagining they’re helping out someone else.

Pink acknowledges a couple of caveats to this approach. For one, many tasks actually do require concrete thinking and laser focus; it is important to recognize them. Also, the business world is not currently structured to take advantage of this quirk of the human psyche. The article points to the growth of crowd-sourcing techniques as evidence that factor may change. Perhaps… but group think brings its own issues, like the potential for discounting experience and specialized skill sets, for example. To whom shall we turn for a fresh perspective on that problem?

Cynthia Murrell, February 3, 2017

Penn State Research Team Uses Big Data to Explore Crime Rates

February 2, 2017

The article on E&T titled Social Media and Taxi Data Improve Crime Pattern Picture delves into a fascinating study that uses big data involving taxi routes and social media location labels from sites like Foursquare to discover a correlation between taxis, locations of interest, and crime. The study was executed by Penn State researchers who are looking for a more useful way to estimate crime rates rather than the traditional approach targeting demographics and geographic data only. The article explains,

The researchers say that the analysis of crime statistics that encompass population, poverty, disadvantage index and ethnic diversity can provide more accurate estimates of crime rates … the team’s approach likens taxi routes to internet hyperlinks, connecting different communities with each other… One surprising discovery is that the data suggests areas with nightclubs tend to experience lower crime rates – at least in Chicago.  The explanation may be that it reflects people’s choices to be there.

This research will be especially useful to city planners interested in how certain spaces are being used, and whether people want to go to those spaces. But the researcher Jessie Li, an assistant professor of information sciences, explained that while the correlation is clear, the underlying cause is not yet known.

Chelsea Kerwin, February 2, 2017

 

Gallup Survey Shows American Faith in Almost All Institutions Waning Except Military

December 17, 2016

The article on The Washington Examiner titled Fishwrap: Confidence in Newspapers, TV News Hits Bottom relays a Gallup survey that shows Americans trust in media slipping to a new low. The focus of the survey was general loss of confidence in various institutions such as churches, banks, big business, and Congress. The article translates the findings,

Overall, said Gallup’s analysis, “Confidence in banks — which took a hit amid the bursting housing bubble in 2007 and 2008, and dropped further after the ensuing financial crisis — fell the most, plunging from 49% in 2006 to 27% now. Confidence in organized religion, which has felt the effects of the scandals enveloping the Catholic Church, dropped from 52% to 41%, one point below last year’s previous low of 42%.

TV news, print news, and Congress saw the greatest falls of about 10%, perhaps unsurprisingly given the lackluster diplomatic skills of our current Congress and the outright failure of the media to properly vet and address the presumptive Republican nominee. Interestingly, the scandals involving General Petraeus as well as those surrounding the military’s failure to manage sexual assault of its female members over the last few years have done nothing to diminish that institution in the eyes of the public. It stands solid and unshakeable at 73%.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 17, 2016

Android Has No Competition in Mobile OS Market

November 23, 2016

Google’s Android OS currently powers 88% of the smartphones in the world, leaving minuscule 12.1 percent to Apple’s iOS and the remaining 0.3 percent for Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS and Tizen.

IBTimes in an article titled Android Rules! 9 out of Every 10 Phones Run Google’s OS says:

Google’s Android OS dominated the world by powering 88 percent of the world’s smartphone market in the third quarter of 2016. This means 9 out of every 10 mobile phones in the world are using Android, while the rest rely on iOS or other mobile OS such as BlackBerry OS, Tizen and Windows Phone.

The growth occurred despite the fact that smartphone shipments are falling. China and Africa which were big markets have been performing poorly since last three-quarters. Android’s gain thus can be attributed to the fact that Android is an OpenSource system that can be used by any device manufacturer.

Despite being the clear leader, the mobile OS is full of bugs and other inherent problems, as the article points out:

Android platform is getting overcrowded with hundreds of manufacturers, few Android device vendors make profits, and Google’s new Pixel range is attacking its own hardware partners that made Android popular in the first place.

At present, Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo are the leading Android phone makers. However, Google recently unveiled Pixel, its flagship phone for the premium category. Does it mean that Google has its eyes set on the premium handset category market? Only time can tell.

Vishal Ingole, November 23, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Big Data: Stunners from Researchers

November 18, 2016

I read “Big Data Shows People’s Collective Behavior Follows Strong Periodic Patterns.” May I suggest you sit down, take a deep breath, and contemplate a field of spring flowers before you read these findings. I am not kidding. Hot stuff, gentle reader.

According to the write up,

New research has revealed that by using big data to analyze massive data sets of modern and historical news, social media and Wikipedia page views, periodic patterns in the collective behavior of the population can be observed that could otherwise go unnoticed.

Here are the findings. I take no responsibility for the impact of these Big Data verified outputs. You are on your own. You now have your trigger warning about the findings from online news, newspapers, tweets, and Wikipedia usage. The findings are:

  • “People’s leisure and work were regulated by the weather with words like picnic or excursion consistently peaking every summer in the UK and the US.”
  • Diet, fruits, foods, and flowers were influenced by the seasons.
  • Measles surface in the spring
  • Gooseberries appear in June. (Well, maybe not in Harrod’s Creek.)
  • Football and Oktoberfest become popular in the fall. (Yep, October for Oktoberfest, right?)
  • People get depressed in the winter.

Now you have it. Big Data delivers.

Stephen E Arnold, November 18, 2016

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