More Poll Excitement: Information Overload

January 5, 2017

I read “Really? Most Americans Don’t Suffer Information Overload.” The main idea is that folks in the know, in the swim, and in the top one percent suffer from too much information. The rest of the ignorance-is-bliss crowd has a different perception.

The write up explains, reports, states:

A new report from the Pew Research Center says that most Americans do not suffer from information overload—even though many of us frequently say otherwise.

What’s up with that?

The write up points out:

Many people complain about the volume of information coming at us. But we want it. Adweek reported earlier this year that the average person consumes almost 11 hours of media per day. That’s everything from text messages to TV programs to reading a newspaper.

Well, the Pew outfit interviewed 1,520 people which is sample approved by those who look in the back of statistics 101 textbooks rely upon. I have no details about the demographics of the sample, geographic location, and reason these folks took time out from watching Netflix to answer the Pew questions, however.

The answer that lots of people don’t suffer from information overload seems wrong when viewed from the perspective of a millennial struggling to buy a house while working as a customer support rep until the automated system is installed.

But wait. The write up informs me:

the recent national election showed that “in a lot of ways people live in small information bubbles. They get information on social media that has been filtered for them. It is filtered by the network they belong to. In a lot of ways, there’s less information and much of it is less diverse than it was in an earlier era.” The public’s hunger for that information is reflected in a study conducted by Bank of America. The bank found that 71 percent of the people they surveyed sleep within arm’s reach of their smartphone. And 3 percent of those people hold their smartphone while they’re in dreamland.

Too much information for me.

Stephen E Arnold, January 5, 2017

Nobody Really Knows What Goes on over Dark Web

December 16, 2016

While the mainstream media believes that the Dark Web is full of dark actors, research by digital security firms says that most content is legal. It only says one thing; the Dark Web is still a mystery.

The SC Magazine in an article titled Technology Helping Malicious Business on the Dark Web Grow says:

The Dark Web has long had an ominous appeal to Netizens with more illicit leanings and interests. But given a broadening reach and new technologies to access this part of the web and obfuscate dealings here, the base of dark web buyers and sellers is likely growing.

On the other hand, the article also says:

But despite its obvious and well-earned reputation for its more sinister side, at least one researcher says that as the dark web expands, the majority of what’s there is actually legal. In its recent study, intelligence firm Terbium Labs found that nearly 55 percent of all the content on the dark web is legal in nature, meaning that it may be legal pornography, or controversial discussions, but it’s not explicitly illegal by U.S. law.

The truth might be entirely different. The Open Web is equally utilized by criminals for carrying out their illegal activities. The Dark Web, accessible only through Tor Browser allows anyone to surf the web anonymously. We may never fully know if the Dark Web is the mainstay of criminals or of individuals who want to do their work under the cloak of anonymity. Till then, it’s just a guessing game.

Vishal Ingole, December 16, 2016

A Crisis of Confidence

December 14, 2016

I remember a time, long ago, when my family was confident that newspapers and TV reporters were telling us most of the objective facts most of the time. We also had faith that, though flawed human beings, most  representatives in Congress were honestly working hard for (what they saw as) positive change. Such confidence, it seems, has gone the way of pet rocks and parachute pants. The Washington Examiner reports, “Fishwrap: Confidence in Newspapers, TV News Hits Bottom.” The brief write-up gives the highlights of a recent Gallup survey. Writer Paul Bedard tells us:

Gallup found that just 20 percent have confidence in newspapers, a 10-point drop in 10 years. TV news saw an identical 10-point drop, from 31 percent to 21 percent. But it could be worse. Of all the institutions Gallup surveyed on, Congress is at the bottom, with just 9 percent having confidence in America’s elected leaders, a finding that is clearly impacting the direction and tone of the 2016 elections. And Americans aren’t putting their faith in religion. Gallup found that confidence in organized religion dropped below 50 percent, to an all-time low of 41 percent.

Last decade’s financial crisis, the brunt of which many are still feeling, has prompted us to also lose faith in our banks (confidence dropped from 49 percent in 2006 to just 27 percent this year). There is one institution in which Americans still place our confidence—the military. Some 73 percent of are confident of that institution, a level that has been constant over the last decade. Could that have anything to do with the outsized share of tax revenue that segment consistently rakes in? Nah, that can’t be it.

Cynthia Murrell, December 14, 2016

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

In Scientific Study Hierarchy Is Observed and Found Problematic to Cooperation

January 8, 2016

The article titled Hierarchy is Detrimental for Human Cooperation on Nature.Com Scientific Reports discusses the findings of scientists related to social dynamics in human behavior. The abstract explains in no uncertain terms that hierarchies cause problems among human groups. Perhaps surprisingly to many millennials, hierarchies actually forestall cooperation. The article explains the circumstances of the study,

“Participants competed to earn hierarchy positions and then could cooperate with another individual in the hierarchy by investing in a common effort. Cooperation was achieved if the combined investments exceeded a threshold, and the higher ranked individual distributed the spoils unless control was contested by the partner. Compared to a condition lacking hierarchy, cooperation declined in the presence of a hierarchy due to a decrease in investment by lower ranked individuals.”

The study goes on to explain that regardless of whether power or rank was earned or arbitrary (think boss vs. boss’s son), it was “detrimental to cooperation.” It also goes into great detail on how to achieve superior cooperation through partnership and without an underlying hierarchical structure. There are lessons to take away from this study in the many fields, and the article is mainly focused on economic metaphors, but what about search vendors? Organization does, after all, have value.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 8, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

US Broadband: Good News or Some Obvious News

December 29, 2015

I read “Home Broadband 2015.” The write up is from Pew, a US research outfit. What’s interesting about Pew is that its results are used by some MBAs, former middle school teachers, and unemployed “real” journalists as evidence about the world. You know. If the US is like this, then Sudan is going to be just the same. I find this a somewhat touching approach to the world’s uptake of online connectivity. Life is just easier to manage if the Pew view is the lens through which one perceives behavior.

Now to the research.

The write up reports:

Three notable changes relating to digital access and digital divides are occurring in the realm of personal connectivity, according to new findings from Pew Research Center surveys. First, home broadband adoption seems to have plateaued. It now stands at 67% of Americans, down slightly from 70% in 2013, a small but statistically significant difference which could represent a blip or might be a more prolonged reality. This change moves home broadband adoption to where it was in 2012.

Okay, plateau is a metaphor for “hit a brick wall”. The implications are likely to be important for those not in the top one percent who want to buy a whizzy new iPhone to figure out what gifts are selling. (If it is not on the shelf, isn’t that a clue?)

The write up says:

Second, this downtick in home high-speed adoption has taken place at the same time there has been an increase in “smartphone-only” adults – those who own a smartphone that they can use to access the internet, but do not have traditional broadband service at home.

Maybe this explains the somewhat energetic efforts of outfits like the Alphabet Google thing to find additional sources of revenue. Loon balloons, self driving autos, and solving death come to mind. Nothing will sell like a pill to cure death. The device shift makes it harder to put ads in front of eye balls not interested in viewing the commercial messages. With home or desktop anchor surfing stagnating, the business models have to be tweaked. Pronto.

Also, I noted:

Third, 15% of American adults report they have become “cord cutters” – meaning they have abandoned paid cable or satellite television service.

This datum suggests to me that there may be some revenue pain for the purveyors of cords.

The write up is long. I had to click eight times to read the summary. The post includes many nifty, pale graphics. These are somewhat difficult to read on the mobile devices which the write up explains are the cat’s pajamas with Star Wars’ characters on the synthetic flannel.

I found the information about non broadband users’ perceptions of what’s important about having a zippy Internet connection. The surprise is that in 2015 40 percent of the sample for this question want to use high speed Internet to access government services.


Hard to read? Too bad.

This makes sense. Have you, gentle reader, attempted to interact with a US government agency in person? Give it a whirl. The problem is that the US government Web sites are not particularly helpful for many situations. Run a query on to see what I mean.

The discussion about cost seems obvious. With the notion of income disparity squeezing air time on TV news from the coverage of the NFL and Lady Gaga, I find the idea that those without resources find broadband too expensive. Okay. Obvious to me, but I think the Pew data make the point. The sky is blue, but wait, let me check a survey to make sure. Those without graduate degrees, jobs or sources of income, and the knowledge required to achieve cash flow are affected by costs. Got it.

The good news is that on page 7 Pew explains its methodology. Most of the hyperbole-infused marketers skip this step. I also found the data table on page 8 of the online report interesting. Let’s have more data tables and less of the dancing around the flat lines and inequality stuff.

Worth reading if one wants some obvious points reiterated. Google and other ad supported services will not work unless the ads flow. That’s the take away for me.

Stephen E Arnold, December 29, 2015

Ericsson Reveals the Future: Good News for AI, Bad News for Smartphones

December 14, 2015

The sample was 100,000 people. That’s a lot. I have no clue how these folks were selected or how the data were analyzed. I do know the sponsor, Ericsson. As you may know, has realigned itself and as a result has its shares trading at about $US9.00 as I write this post. Revenues and profits have been flat. I once owned a Sony Ericsson mobile phone. Exciting  in a Swedish sort of way.

I read “Smartphones to Die Out ‘within Five Years’, Says New Study.” The main point of the study is to outline the future based on survey results.

The most interesting finding was that smartphones are going to be gone geese in 60 months. I find this an interesting statement. I am not sure how I will make a telephone call when I am in some far flung country to check on my beloved dogs, Max and Tess. According to the write up’s interpretation of the Ericsson survey data, the answer is artificial intelligence. Well, okay.

The write up also presented the 10 trends for 2016. Sigh. It is that time of year when pundits, struggling commercial enterprises, and mid tier consultants display their fortune telling expertise.

Here are the top 10 trends. Be aware that I don’t know what some of these expressions mean, and I am not too motivated to figure out the gobbledygook. You, gentle reader, may have the gumption to tackle the notion of “internables.” I don’t.

The Ericsson predictions are:

  1. The lifestyle network effect. No clue.
  2. Streaming natives. Geofeedia will celebrate this I believe.
  3. AI ends the screen age. Er, how am I going to get information?
  4. Virtual gets real. No reference to the adult industry which may be the one to watch.
  5. Sensing homes. Ah, ha. Nest and Watson in the fridge. Well, maybe.
  6. Smart commuters. Will these folks ride in Uber, autonomous vehicles, or hyperloops? Here in rural Kentucky, mules and automobiles are like to remain popular modes of transportation. Commuters riding mules may want to keep their wits about them when moving down the information superhighway.
  7. Emergency chat. Yep, 911 is a bit of a mess as a form of emergency chat.
  8. Internables. No clue.
  9. Everything gets hacked. “Everything.” Those categorical affirmatives are slippery. One exception and the argument is revealed as specious.
  10. Netzien journalists. Oh, like this blog?

I have some—well, actually dozens—of observations. Let me highlight a couple.

First, devices are likely to be needed. If my Samsung refrigerator functions as a phone, isn’t the Samsung refrigerator just a larger version of bloated smartphones?

Second, sixty months is not very long. Watson will just be building up steam, and the Alphabet Google thing will be in court. Amazon will be tangled in trucks, drones, and legal hassles. For the unencumbered company like an Ericsson, perhaps these trends will revitalize the firm’s organic growth. Buying stuff from Nortel and Microsoft does not seem to be providing much lift.

Stephen E Arnold, December 14, 2015

More Bad News for Traditional TV

November 17, 2015

Traditional TV is in a slow decline towards obsoleteness.  With streaming options offering more enticing viewing options with less out of pocket expenses and no contracts, why would a person sign on for cable or dish packages that have notoriously bad customer service, commercials, and insane prices?  Digital Trends has the most recent information from Nielsen about TV viewing habits, “New Nielsen Study On Streaming Points To More Bad News For Traditional TV.”

Pay-for-TV services have been on the decline for years, but the numbers are huge for the latest Nielsen Total Audience report:

“According to the data, broadband-only homes are up by 52 percent to 3.3 million from 2.2 million year over year. Meanwhile, pay-TV subscriptions are down 1.2 percent to 100.4 million, from 101.6 million at this time last year. And while 1.2 percent may not seem like much, that million plus decline has caused all sorts of havoc on the stock market, with big media companies like Viacom, Nickelodeon, Disney, and many others seeing tumbling stock prices in recent weeks.”

While one might suggest that pay-for-TV services should start the bankruptcy paperwork, there has been a 45% rise in video-on-demand services.  Nielsen does not tabulate streaming services, viewership on mobile devices, and if people are watching more TV due to all the options?

While Nielsen is a trusted organization for TV data, information is still collected view paper submission forms.  Nielsen is like traditional TV and need to update its offerings to maintain relevancy.

Whitney Grace, November 17, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

How to Search the Ashley-Madison Data and Discover If You Had an Affair Too

August 26, 2015

If you haven’t heard about the affair-promoting website Ashley Madison’s data breach, you might want to crawl out from under that rock and learn about the millions of email addresses exposed by hackers to be linked to the infidelity site. In spite of claims by parent company Avid Life Media that users’ discretion was secure, and that the servers were “kind of untouchable,” as many as 37 million customers have been exposed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a huge number of government and military personnel have been found on the list. The article on Reuters titled Hacker’s Ashley Madison Data Dump Threatens Marriages, Reputations also mentions that the dump has divorce lawyers clicking their heels with glee at their good luck. As for the motivation of the hackers? The article explains,

“The hackers’ move to identify members of the marital cheating website appeared aimed at maximum damage to the company, which also runs websites such as, causing public embarrassment to its members, rather than financial gain. “Find yourself in here?,” said the group, which calls itself the Impact Team, in a statement alongside the data dump. “It was [Avid Life Media] that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.”

If you would like to “find yourself” or at least check to see if any of your email addresses are part of the data dump, you are able to do so. The original data was put on the dark web, which is not easily accessible for most people. But the website Trustify lets people search for themselves and their partners to see if they were part of the scandal. The website states,

“Many people will face embarrassment, professional problems, and even divorce when their private details were exposed. Enter your email address (or the email address of your spouse) to see if your sexual preferences and other information was exposed on Ashley Madison or Adult Friend Finder. Please note that an email will be sent to this address.”

It’s also important to keep in mind that many of the email accounts registered to Ashley Madison seem to be stolen. However, the ability to search the data has already yielded some embarrassment for public officials and, of course, “family values” activist Josh Duggar. The article on the Daily Mail titled Names of 37 Million Cheating Spouses Are Leaked Online: Hackers Dump Huge Data File Revealing Clients of Adultery Website Ashley Madison- Including Bankers, UN and Vatican Staff goes into great detail about the company, the owners (married couple Noel and Amanda Biderman) and how hackers took it upon themselves to be the moral police of the internet. But the article also mentions,

“Ashley Madison’s sign-up process does not require verification of an email address to set up an account. This means addresses might have been used by others, and doesn’t prove that person used the site themselves.”

Some people are already claiming that they had never heard of Ashley Madison in spite of their emails being included in the data dump. Meanwhile, the Errata Security Blog entry titled Notes on the Ashley-Madison Dump defends the cybersecurity of Ashley Madison. The article says,

“They tokenized credit card transactions and didn’t store full credit card numbers. They hashed passwords correctly with bcrypt. They stored email addresses and passwords in separate tables, to make grabbing them (slightly) harder. Thus, this hasn’t become a massive breach of passwords and credit-card numbers that other large breaches have lead to. They deserve praise for this.”

Praise for this, if for nothing else. The impact of this data breach is still only beginning, with millions of marriages and reputations in the most immediate trouble, and the public perception of the cloud and cybersecurity close behind.


Chelsea Kerwin, August 26, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Geofeedias Political Action

August 20, 2015

The presidential election is a little over a year away and potential presidential candidates are starting on their campaign trails.  The Republican and Democratic parties are heating up with the GOP debates and voters are engaging with the candidates and each other via social media.   The information posted on social media is a gold mine for the political candidates to learn about the voters’ opinions and track their approval rating.  While Twitter and Facebook data is easy to come by with Google Analytics and other software, visual mapping of the social media data is a little hard to find.

To demonstrate its product capabilities, Geofeedia took social media Instagram, fed it into its data platform, and shared the visual results in the blog post, “Instagram Map: Republican Presidential Debate.”  Geofeedia noted that while business mogul Donald Trump did not fare well during the debate nor is he in the news, he is dominating the social media feeds:

“Of all social content coming out of the Quicken Loans Center, 93% of posts were positive in sentiment. The top keywords were GOP, debate, and first, which was to be expected. Although there was no decided winner, Donald Trump scored the most headlines for a few of his memorable comments. He was, however, the winner of the social sphere. His name was mentioned in social content more than any other candidate.”

One amazing thing is that social media allows political candidates to gauge the voters’ attitudes in real time!  They can alter their answers to debate questions instantaneous to sway approval in their favor.  Another interesting thing Geofeedia’s visual data models showed is a heat map where the most social media activity took place, which happened to be centered in the major US metropolises.  The 2016 election might be the one that harnesses social media to help elect the next president.  Also Geofeedia also has excellent visual mapping tools.

Whitney Grace, August 20, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


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