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Another Robot Finds a Library Home

August 23, 2016

Job automation has its benefits and downsides.  Some of the benefits are that it frees workers up to take on other tasks, cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and quicker turn around.  The downside is that it could take jobs and could take out the human factor in customer service.   When it comes to libraries, automation and books/research appear to be the antithesis of each other.  Automation, better known as robots, is invading libraries once again and people are up in arms that librarians are going to be replaced.

ArchImag.com shares the story “Robot Librarians Invade Libraries In Singapore” about how the A*Star Research library uses a robot to shelf read.  If you are unfamiliar with library lingo, shelf reading means scanning the shelves to make sure all the books are in their proper order.  The shelf reading robot has been dubbed AuRoSS.  During the night AuRoSS scans books’ RFID tags, then generates a report about misplaced items.  Humans are still needed to put materials back in order.

The fear, however, is that robots can fulfill the same role as a librarian.  Attach a few robotic arms to AuRoSS and it could place the books in the proper places by itself.  There already is a robot named Hugh answering reference questions:

New technologies thus seem to storm the libraries. Recall that one of the first librarian robots, Hugh could officially take his position at the university library in Aberystwyth, Wales, at the beginning of September 2016. Designed to meet the oral requests by students, he can tell them where the desired book is stored or show them on any shelf are the books on the topic that interests them.

It is going to happen.  Robots are going to take over the tasks of some current jobs.  Professional research and public libraries, however, will still need someone to teach people the proper way to use materials and find resources.  It is not as easy as one would think.

Whitney Grace, August 23, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

Technology That Literally Can Read Your Lips (Coming Soon)

August 19, 2016

The article on Inquisitr titled Emerging New “Lip-Reading” Technology To Radically Revolutionize Modern-Day Crime Solving explains the advances in visual speech recognition technology. In 1974 Gene Hackman could have used this technology in the classic film “The Conversation” where he plays a surveillance expert trying to get better audio surveillance in public settings where background noise makes clarity almost impossible. Apparently, we haven’t come very far since the 70s when it comes to audio speech recognition, but recent strides in lip reading technology in Norwich have experts excited. The article states,

“Lip-reading is one of the most challenging problems in artificial intelligence so it’s great to make progress on one of the trickier aspects, which is how to train machines to recognize the appearance and shape of human lips.” A few years ago German researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology claim they’ve introduced a lip-reading phone that allowed for soundless communication, a development that was to mark a massive leap forward into the future of speech technology.”
The article concludes that while progress has been made, there is still a great deal of ground to cover. The complications inherent in recognizing, isolating, and classifying lip movement patterns makes this work even more difficult than audio speech recognition, according to the article. At any rate, this is good news for some folks who want to “know” what is in a picture and what people say when there is no audio track.

The article concludes that while progress has been made, there is still a great deal of ground to cover. The complications inherent in recognizing, isolating, and classifying lip movement patterns makes this work even more difficult than audio speech recognition, according to the article. At any rate, this is good news for some folks who want to “know” what is in a picture and what people say when there is no audio track.

 

Chelsea Kerwin, August 19, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

Superior Customer Service Promised through the Accenture Virtual Agent Amelia

August 17, 2016

The article titled Accenture Forms New Business Unit Around IPsoft’s Amelia AI Platform on ZDNet introduces Amelia as a virtual agent capable of providing services in industries such as banking, insurance, and travel. Amelia looks an awful lot like Ava from the film Ex Machina, wherein an AI robot manipulates a young programmer by appealing to his empathy. Similarly, Accenture’s Amelia is supposed to be far more expressive and empathetic than her kin in the female AI world such as Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. The article states,

“Accenture said it will develop a suite of go-to-market strategies and consulting services based off of the Amelia platform…the point is to appeal to executives who “are overwhelmed by the plethora of technologies and many products that are advertising AI or Cognitive capabilities”…For Accenture, the formation of the Amelia practice is the latest push by the company to establish a presence in the rapidly expanding AI market, which research firm IDC predicts will reach $9.2 billion by 2019.”

What’s that behind Amelia, you ask? Looks like a parade of consultants ready and willing to advise the hapless executives who are so overwhelmed by their options. The Amelia AI Platform is being positioned as a superior customer service agent who will usher in the era of digital employees.

Chelsea Kerwin, August 17, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

SEO Is a Dirty Web Trick

August 17, 2016

Search engine optimization is the bane of Web experts.  Why?  If you know how to use it you can increase your rankings in search engines and drive more traffic to your pages, but if you are a novice at SEO you are screwed.  Search Engine Land shares some bad SEO stories in “SEO Is As Dirty As Ever.”

SEO has a bad reputation in many people’s eyes, because it is viewed as a surreptitious way to increase traffic.  However, if used correctly SEO is not only a nifty trick, but is a good tool.  As with anything, however, it can go wrong.  One bad SEO practice is using outdated techniques like keyword stuffing, copying and pasting text, and hidden text.  Another common mistake is not having a noindex tag, blocking robots, JavaScript frameworks not being indexed.

Do not forget other shady techniques like the always famous shady sales, removing links, paid links, spam, link networks, removing links, building another Web site on a different domain, abusing review sites, and reusing content.  One thing to remember is that:

“It’s not just local or niche companies that are doing bad things; in fact, enterprise and large websites can get away with murder compared to smaller sites. This encourages some of the worst practices I’ve ever seen, and some of these companies do practically everything search engines tell them not to do.”

Ugh! The pot is identifying another pot and complaining about its color and cleanliness.

 

Whitney Grace, August 17, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

Why Search Does Not Change Too Much: Tech Debt Is a Partial Answer

August 12, 2016

I read “The Human Cost of Tech Debt.” The write up picks up the theme about the amount of money needed to remediate engineering mistakes, bugs, and short cuts. The cost of keeping an original system in step with newer market entrants’ products adds another burden.

The write up is interesting and includes some original art. Even though the art is good, the information presented is better; for example:

For a manager, a code base high in technical debt means that feature delivery slows to a crawl, which creates a lot of frustration and awkward moments in conversation about business capability.  For a developer, this frustration is even more acute.   Nobody likes working with a significant handicap and being unproductive day after day, and that is exactly what this sort of codebase means for developers. Each day they go to the office knowing that it’s going to take the better part of a day to do something simple like add a checkbox to a form.  They know that they’re going to have to manufacture endless explanations for why seemingly simple things take them a long time.  When new developers are hired or consultants brought in, they know that they’re going to have to face confused looks, followed by those newbies trying to hide mild contempt.

My interest is search and content processing. I asked myself, “Why are search and retrieval systems better than they were in 1975. When I queried the RECON system, I was able to find specific documents which contained information matching the terms in my query. Four decades ago, I could generate a useful result set. The bummer was that the information appeared on weird thermal printer paper. But I usually found the answer to my question in a fraction of the time required for me to run a query on my Windows machine or my Mac.

What’s up?

My view is that search and retrieval tends to be a recycling business. The same basic systems and methods are used again and again. The innovations are wrappers. But to make search more user friendly, add ons look at a user’s query history and behind the scenes filter the results to match the history.

The shift to mobile has been translated to providing results that other people have found useful. Want a pizza? You can find one, but if you want Cuban food in Washington, DC, you may find that the mapping service does not include a popular restaurant for reasons which may be related to advertising expenditures.

We ran a series of queries across five Dark Web search and retrieval systems. None of the systems delivered high precision and high recall results. In order to find certain large sites, manual review and one-at-a-time clicking and review were needed to locate what we were querying.

Regular Web or Dark Web. Online search has discarded useful AND, OR, NOT functions, date and time stamps, and any concern about revealing editorial or filtering postures to a user.

Technological debt explains that most search outfits lack the money to deliver a Class A solution. What about the outfits with oodles of dough and plenty of programmers? The desire and need to improve search is not a management priority.

Some vendors mobile search operates from a vendor’s copy of the indexed sites. Easy, computationally less expensive, and good enough.

Tech debt is a partial explanation for the sad state of online search at this time.

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2016

These Are the False Records of the Starship Google

August 12, 2016

Star Trek technology was/is designed by prop masters and special effects artists based on preconceived notations of the time.  The original Trek series ran on analog, while the franchise reboot has holograms and streamlined ships free of the 1960s “groovy” design.  Google wants to make Star Trek technology a reality and in manner ways they have with a search engine and a digital assistant that responds to vocal commands.  Is Google getting too big for its britches, however?  STAT asked the question in its story, “’Silicon Valley Arrogance’?  Google Misfires As It Strives To Turn Star Trek Fiction Into Reality.”

Google wanted to create the Star Trek tricorder, a handheld computer that records, scans, and processes any type of data from soil samples to medical information.  Google created a biotech venture, Verily Life Sciences, to invent a cancer scanning tricorder, but the project is not doing so well.  The cancer tricorder is only one example of Google’s misfire in medical technology.  Verily appears to be working on projects that are more in the realm of science fantasy and are used as marketing devices to promote Google as the “technology company of the future.”

Google wants to maker new scientific inroads in medical technology, pulling on their expertise with big data and their initiative:

“’Part of the Silicon Valley ethos is about changing the world, about disruptive technology, about ignoring existing business models,’ and ‘taking on grand challenges,’ …

‘That’s admirable,’…but in Verily’s case, ‘it also feels pretty quixotic.’”

Fantasy drives innovation, which is why science fiction series like Star Trek are inspiration.  Much of the technology from the original Trek series and later installations are available now, but we are still far from making everything from the show a reality.  We should not halt experimentation on new technology, but big claims like Google’s are probably best kept silent until there is a working prototype.

 

Whitney Grace, August 12, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

USAGov Wants More Followers on Snapchat

August 12, 2016

The article on GCN titled Tracking the Ephemeral: USAGov’s Plan for Snapchat portrays the somewhat desperate attempts of the government to reach out to millennials. Perhaps shocking to non-users of the self-immolating picture app, Snapchat claims over a hundred million active users each day, mostly comprised of 13 to 34 year olds. The General Service Administration of USAGov plans to use Snapchat to study the success of their outreach like how many followers they receive and how many views their content gets. The article mentions,

“And while the videos and multimedia that make up “Snapchat stories” disappear after just 24 hours, the USAGov team believes the engagement metrics will provide lasting value. Snapchat lets account owners see how many people are watching each story, if they watch the whole story and when and where they stop before it’s over — allowing USAGov to analyze what kind of content works best.”

If you are wondering how this plan is affected by the Federal Records Acts which stipulates documentation of content, GSA is way ahead of you with a strategy of downloading each story and saving it as a record. All in all the government is coming across as a somewhat clingy boyfriend trying to find out what is up with his ex by using her favorite social media outlet. Not a great look for the US government. But at least they aren’t using ChatRoulette.

 

Chelsea Kerwin, August 12, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

The Automated Library Robot

August 11, 2016

Libraries have evolved from centers that allow people to borrow books and conduct research to a one-stop shop for Internet usage.  People love to say that libraries are useless and only archive outmoded knowledge, but they still provide useful services for people and cannot be easily replicated with a machine.  Science Daily shares that “High-Tech Librarian Knows Its Books” and relates how robotics are entering libraries.

No, an automated machine is not replacing librarians, but one of the biggest problems that libraries face are disorderly books. It is the bane of libraries everywhere and it makes librarians want to weep when a clean, orderly shelf is messed up within minutes by a lackadaisical hands.  It takes a lot of hours and staff to keep shelves in order, time that could be better spent doing something else:

“At A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research, researchers Renjun Li, Zhiyong Huang, Ernest Kurniawan, and Chin Keong Ho are designing robots that can relieve librarians of many menial tasks, while enhancing searching and sorting of books. Their latest project is an autonomous robotic shelf scanning (AuRoSS) platform that can self-navigate through libraries at night, scanning RFID tags to produce reports on missing and out-of-sequence books.”

Taking away this task will save some time and even locate missing materials with (perhaps) more accuracy than a human.  Robots will not be destroying this sacred institution of knowledge, only improving it.  Budget crunches are a bigger problem for libraries than being replaced by robots.

 

Whitney Grace, August 11, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

Battle of the Maps

August 10, 2016

Once upon a time Mapquest.com used to be the best map Web site on the Internet, then came along Google Maps and then Apple Maps unleashed its own cartography tool.  Which is the better GPS tool?  Justin Obeirne decided to get to the bottom and find which application is better.  He discussed his findings in “Cartography Comparison: Google Maps And Apple Maps.”

Both Google and Apple want their tool to be the world’s first Universal Map, that is the map most used by the world’s population.  Google Maps is used by one billion of the world’s population, but Apple Maps has its fair share of users too.  These tools are not just mere applications, however, they are powerful platforms deployed in many apps as well.

These maps have their differences: colors, styles, and even different types of maps.  The article explains:

“At its heart, this series of essays is a comparison of the current state of Google’s and Apple’s cartography. But it’s also something more: an exploration into all of the tradeoffs that go into designing and making maps such as these.  These tradeoffs are the joy of modern cartography?—?the thousands of tiny, seemingly isolated decisions that coalesce into a larger, greater whole.  Our purpose here is not to crown a winner, but to observe the paths taken?—?and not taken.”

After reading the article, take your pick and decide which one appeals to you.  From my experience, Google Maps is more accurate and prone to have the most updated information.  Apple makes great technology, but cartography really is not their strongest point.

 

Whitney Grace, August 10, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

Technology: The New Dr. Evil in the Digital Dark Age

August 9, 2016

When I ride my mule down the streets of Harrod’s Creek, I marvel at the young folks who walk while playing with their mobile phones. Heading home after buying oats for Melissa, I look forward to my kerosene lamps.

Technology does not frighten me. I find technology and the whiz kids amusing. I read “Technology Is Now Pop Culture’s Favorite Enemy.” Goodness. I find gizmos and bits fun. The write up suggests that fun loving, top one percenters in education and wealth are finding themselves at the wrong end of a varmint trap.

I find it interesting that technology, which some folks in big cities believe is the way out of a gloomy tunnel, is maybe not flowers, butterflies, and rainbows. (The unicorns have taken to the woods it seems. No unicorns at the moment.)

I learned:

The ubiquitous nature of futuristic technology has lead to an exponential increase in our distrust of each other and the products we use, but most interesting, has taken away some of the blame from government bodies and corporations. We no longer fear agency bodies as much as we fear the physical technology they use.

That seems harsh. I like the phrase, “We’re from the government and here to help you.” Don’t you?

The write up adds a philosophical note:

Despite us being more savvy of how to use social media or despite us having a better understanding of how computers work in general, most of us still aren’t fluent in how it all fits together. We give so much of ourselves over to our devices, and we don’t ask for much in return. When we give something that inanimate that much control over us, it’s terrifying to think that we’re willingly giving up our freedom.

Let’s think about technology in terms of public Web search. One plugs a query into a system. The system returns a list of results; that is, suggestions where information related to the query may be found.

But what is happening is that the person reviewing the outputs does not have to ask, “Are these results accurate? Are they advertising? Are they comprehensive?” There is another question as well, “Is the information objective?” And what about, “Is the information accurate; that is, verifiable?”

The search systems perform another magic trick. The user becomes a content input. This means that the person with access to the queries as a group or the query subset related to a particular individual has new information. In my experience, knowledge is power, and the folks using the search system do not generally have access to this information.

Asymmetry results. The technology outfits offering service have more information than the users. Search does more to illuminate the dark corners of those using the search system than the results of a search illuminate the user’s mind.

Without the inclination to figure out what’s valid and what’s not or lacking the expertise to perform this type of search results vetting, the users become the used.

That sounds philosophical but there is a practical value to the observation. Without access and capability, the information presented becomes a strong influence on how one thinks, views facts, and has behavior influenced.

My thought is, “Welcome to the medieval world.” It is good to be a king or a queen. To be an information peasant is the opposite.

Giddy up, Melissa. Time to be heading back to the digital hollow to think about the new digital Dr. Evil.

Stephen E Arnold, August 9, 2016

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