Google, TikTok, and Seriousness

July 15, 2020

Short form video is in the news. TikTok captivates millions of eyeballs. Many of these eyeballs belong to Americans. Most of these Americans choose not to understand several nuances of “free” 30 second videos created, transmitted, viewed, and forwarded via a mobile device; to wit:

  1. Software for mobile phones can covertly or overtly suck up data and send those data to a control node
  2. Those data can be cross correlated in order to yield useful insights about the activities, preferences, and information flowing into and out of a mobile device equipped with an application. Maybe TikTok does this too?
  3. Those digital data can be made available to third parties; for example, advertising analytics vendors and possibly, just maybe, a country’s intelligence services.

The Information published one of those “we can’t tell you where we got these data but by golly this stuff is rock solid” stories. This one is called “TikTok Agreed to Buy More Than $800 Million in Cloud Services From Google.” Let’s assume that this story about the Google TikTok deal is indeed accurate. We learn:

Last week, though, word surfaced of a buzzy new customer for Google Cloud—TikTok, the app for sharing short videos that is the year’s runaway social media hit. The deal is a lucrative one for Google Cloud, The Information has learned. In a three-year agreement signed in May 2019, TikTok committed to buying more than $800 million of cloud services from Google over that period…

What’s with the Google? Great or lousy business judgment? Does Google’s approach to a juicy deal include substantial discounts in order to get cash in the door? Is the deal another attempt by the Google to get at least some of the China market which it masterfully mishandled by advising the Chinese government to change its ways?

Nope. The new Google wants to grow by locking down multi year contracts. The belief is that these “big deals” will give the Google Cloud the protein shake muscles needed to deal with the Microsofties and the Bezos bulldozer.

New management, new thinking at the GOOG, and there will be more of the newness revealed with each tweak of a two decades old “system.”

At the same time as the Information “real” news story arrived in the DarkCyber news center, a pundit published MBA type write up popped into our “real news” folder. This write up is “The TikTok War.”

Unlike the Information’s story, the Stratechery essay is MBA consultant speak, which is different from “real news.” The point of the 3,900 word consultant report is:

I believe it is time to take China seriously and literally…

There you go: An MBA consulting revelation. One should take China seriously and literally.

Okay. Insight. Timely. Incisive.

From this conclusion, TikTok’s service is no longer appropriate in the US. Banning is probably a super duper idea if I understand the TikTok War. (How does one fight a war by banning digital information? Oh, well, irrelevant question. What’s that truism about ostriches putting their heads in the sand? Also irrelevant.)

Let’s step back and put these two different TikTok articles in a larger context.

The Information wants everyone to know that a mysterious “source” has said that Google has a three year deal with TikTok. This is a surprise? Nope. Google is on the hunt for cash because after Google’s own missteps, it is faced with hard to control costs and some real live “just like Google” competitors; namely, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Netflix. There’s also the mounting challenges of political and social annoyances to add some spice to the Googlers’ day.

The MBA consultant analysis points out that China has to be taken seriously. Prior to TikTok, China was not taken seriously? I suppose TikTok is the catalyst for seriousness. More likely, the TikTok thing evokes MBA consultant outputs to confirm what many people sort of intuit but have not been able to sum up with a “now is the time” utterance.

In my lecture yesterday for the National Cyber Crime Conference, I presented a diagram of how Chinese telecommunications and software systems can exfiltrate information with or without TikTok.

Banning an app is another one of those “Wow, the barn burned and Alibaba built a giant data center where the Milking Shorthorns once stood” moments.

Sourceless revelations about Google’s willingness to offer a deal to a China centric TikTok and MBA consultant revelations that one should take China seriously warrants one response: The ship sailed, returned, built a giant digital port, and has refueled for a return journey. Ban away.

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2020

How Many Ads Can a YouTube Video Hold? Answer: Never Enough

July 10, 2020

We spotted a HackerNews post wondering if the YouTube (free version) was getting more ad love from the merrie band of Googlers.

The answer is, “Absolutely.”

The Google bean counters are well aware of the cost of the “free” video service. Thus, the free video service has to generate cash and more cash so the system can produce infinite cash. That’s logical in a Googley way I think.

In the comments to the original question on HackerNews, an entity named Operyl wrote:

If I understand correctly from a friend, the problem is YouTubers (and YouTube/Google) are currently making _much less_ money per ad. It sounds like more are getting shoved per video to make up for it (iirc, it’s up to YouTube to determine this?).

I don’t know what iirc means, but the rest of the post is clear. More money is needed.

Observations:

  • YouTube ads are more and more annoying. The fix obviously is to pay Google money. Most of the annoying ads go away. Google is discovering subscriptions. Undoubtedly Google will think subscription revenues for other services just like BMW and its heated steering wheel stroke of genius. German logic, of course. Ever read Kant? Congruent indeed.
  • The YouTube ads are increasingly irrelevant when I check out some YouTube videos. I love the tours of the Incan ruins. Ads about all sorts of things unrelated to Peruvian stone work appear. Therefore, the famous smart algorithm is just spewing ads to burn up inventory is one thought which crossed my mind.
  • The autoplay of post viewing content are interesting as well. How many of those ads are viewed BEFORE the YouTube user identifies which tab is playing the pitch to go Adobe? My hunch. Zero if these startled views are like me.

Net net: Those grousing about Google’s monetization quest have not seen anything yet. Why? The cost hole for the Google is probably close to infinite as long as there are former TikTok users looking for a home. Infinite costs can only be offset by infinite revenue. That too is logic worthy of a Google flashing logo pin.

Stephen E Arnold, July 9, 2020

YouTube Deletes Raw Videos of Aged Electronics Repair

July 9, 2020

A loyal fan of DarkCyber sent me a link to a video called “Youtube DELETED Jordan Pier’s Electronics Repair Channel!” For those hip to the zippity dippity world of Silicon Valley and Googley decisions, the decision makes perfect and logical sense.

Jordan Pier and his disgusting old electronics represent the past which must be removed. I think of vintage electronics in the same terms I frame statues of people whose names I don’t know.

Imagine. Rip open a wooden box. Expose disgusting and old fashioned capacitors. Wires have fabric on them some time. Bare wires should be sealed in epoxy so an independent repair person can just watch YouTube videos, not make them.

DarkCyber understands that digital and unrepairable electronics are the future. What if your beloved smart Pixel phone goes to the digital grave yard. Throw it out. Don’t even think about repairing that device or your MacBook Air or your friend’s father’s John Deere tractor.

Take those offensive repair videos down. Snuff out information about the past. Stalin would be proud. Naked electronics require revisionist action.

Stephen E Arnold, July 8, 2020

Secrets of Popular YouTube Videos Revealed. Are You Excited!

July 8, 2020

We found “Analysis of YouTube Trending Videos of 2019 (US)” amusing. Here are several of the chucklers we spotted:

First, hot YouTube videos use CAPITAL letter in TITLES.

Second, here are the words you need to use in your YouTube titles and descriptions:

Third, use emojis. The fire emoji is a “hot” addition.

Fourth, rely on “official” as in “official video.” What if the video is not official? Hey, what is this a courtroom. You just need to pass Judge Google, and you are good to go with rehab ads, wonky food info, and nifty fashion ideas.

Fifth, your video title must be 36 to 64 characters. Something like “Macbeth” would suck as a YouTube click magnet.

Sixth, when do you publish your video? Saturday is for losers, gentle reader.

There’s more astounding insights. You are officially ON YOUR OWN.

Stephen E Arnold, July 8, 2020

The Legacy of HP Management Expertise: Quibi

July 1, 2020

When I hear the name “quibi”, I think of Hewlett Packard in the era of Meg Whitman. My focus narrows to some interesting decisions by the Board of Directors, a somewhat high-profile acquisition, a vendetta which targets a feisty computer scientist, and a great big lawsuit. The lawsuit by the way is of the variety that is likely to be a source of income for attorneys for years to come. You know the litigation matter: Meg Whitman’s former outfit and the Cambridge engineer/scientist Mike Lynch. I will name the word: Autonomy.

I read “The Fall of Quibi: How Did a Starry $1.75bn Netflix Rival Crash So Fast.” What’s interesting about this “real” newspaper’s “real” news story is that it mostly misses the boat or, at the very list, trips over the step when boarding the tube.

The article identifies what anyone listening to chatter in the line up to buy a Starbuck’s confection knows: Short videos, free for some people, no one cares, and an oddball selection of content without programs like Cheers or Seinfeld.

What catches the attention of would be financiers is the number $1.75 billion. What catches the attention of those with Hollywood in their DNA is the name Jeffrey Katzenberg. What catches the attention of the DarkCyber research team is the co Big Dog Meg Whitman.

The “real” news story cares little about Ms. Whitman and her management “successes.” I assume that those researching the story were unaware that some individuals with first hand information about her management expertise were just too difficult to reach. What’s the distance? Maybe a mile, maybe less.

The write up states:

Notionally, Quibi endeavored to industrialize a new frontier of television: short-form narratives – that is, episodes of 15 minutes or less – at its shortest and most expansive.

Okay.

Here’s a promising factoid, courtesy of a Murdoch-owned “real” news outfit:

Meanwhile, several unflattering reports have depicted internal strife behind the scenes. The Wall Street Journal detailed longstanding friction between Katzenberg and Whitman’s working relationship.

DarkCyber believes that there is a ton of useful information floating around about Quibi. There’s a gold mine of information about Ms. Whitman and her approach to guiding a business. There’s even information available to put some meat on the bones of the launch during the pandemic.

What do we get? “Real” news.

Stephen E Arnold, July 1, 2020

When You Were a Young Millionaire, Did You Write This Way?

June 29, 2020

I read “Mixer Co-Founder on Microsoft Pulling the Plug, Twitch’s Market Power, and His Startup Journey.” DarkCyber looks at the universes of live streaming services from our observation post in rural Kentucky.

Games are not an all-encompassing world. The travails of Dr. Disrespect, the odd-ball world of ManyVids, or individuals who haunt NoAgendaStream.com.

These services create an opportunity for bad actors, malefactors, and Dr. Jekylls to sell contraband, engage in questionable transactions, and pass messages mostly off the radar of the local country sheriff in Tennessee.

What caught our attention in the GeekWire article was this passage:

“Ultimately, the success of Partners and streamers on Mixer is dependent on our ability to scale the service for them as quickly and broadly as possible. It became clear that the time needed to grow our own livestreaming community to scale was out of measure with the vision and experiences we want to deliver to gamers now, so we’ve decided to close the operations side of Mixer and help the community transition to a new platform.”

The young millionaire and digital nabob may want to consider a job in public relations if he is snubbed by an interesting government agency.

Notable phrases:

  • Ultimately
  • success is dependent
  • vision and experiences
  • we’ve decided
  • operations side
  • help the community
  • transition
  • a new platform.

Yeah, typical 20 something blog speak.

The conclusions we have reached in the DarkCyber intelligence and forecasting center are:

First, Azure couldn’t deliver. If the Softie’s cloud thing can do JEDI, should Azure deliver streaming games? Sure, but it does not.

Second, Microsoft has been friends sort of with Facebook. Does Facebook have a more resilient, agile, responsive, and efficient video service? Facebook may aspire to be social YouTube, but it has a bit of distance to travel.

Third, Microsoft’s mix up with Mixer makes clear that the me to approach to innovation and the blenderized approach to management at Microsoft cannot tap a hot new sector any better than it can update Windows 10.

Net net: DarkCyber is thinking that on our list of soon-to-be-cold technical dinosaurs, Microsoft may find itself making big plans with Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Oracle, among others.

As for the young millionaire, after the election there may be a need for a person with wordsmithing skills, the vocabulary of a millennial lawyer, and the sentence structure of Cicero without the flair unfortunately.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2020

xx

Microsoft LinkedIn: An Infusion of Skype or Zune?

June 15, 2020

Skype mostly worked. Then the interface became more like Bob’s. The JEDI knight of updates tries to be on the cutting edge of technology. Despite early attempts at video interactions, Microsoft has managed to remain a few paces off the lead. TechRepublic shares the late party invitation addressed to Microsoft’s professional social media platform: “LinkedIn Unveils New Virtual Events Feature For Communities To Stay Connected During COVID-19.”

LinkedIn’s new teleconferencing feature is Virtual Events and it allows organizations to connect in real time, so it is basically the same as Zoom. Does Microsoft want those looking for a job or consulting gigs to make the shift from Zoom or the interesting Google services? We noted:

“Rishi Jobanputra, head of product for Linkedin pages, said Virtual Events allows brands to target a specific audience and design a more personalized experience while making it easier for brands to share and archive their video content so users can easily find it. This not only extends the shelf life of the event but also allows organizations to target industries with content that may have may have been missed.”

LinkedIn is also integrating the Pages, LinkedIn Live, and Events so they will seamlessly fit together.

Several big companies have already successfully used Virtual Events, when in-person events were forced to cancel. But some virtual conferences, meetings, and hook ups have not delivered. Human interaction remains popular among many people; for example, those without sufficient bandwidth, a computing device, or an interest in the virtual world of experience.

Worth monitoring? Perhaps the events will be on Twitch or Microsoft’s Mixer? Wait! Isn’t Mixer a virtual meeting operation too?

Okay, Zune that and out.

Whitney Grace, June 15, 2020

DarkCyber for June 9, 2020, Is Now Available: AI and Music Composition

June 9, 2020

The DarkCyber for June 9, 2020, presents a critical look at music generated by artificial intelligence. The focus is the award-winning song in the Eurovision AI 2020 competition. The interview discusses the characteristics of AI-generated music, its impact on music directors, how professional musicians deal with machine-created music, and the implications of non-numan music. The program is a criticism of the state-of-the-art for smart software. Instead of focusing on often over-hyped start ups and large companies making increasingly exaggerated claims, the Australian song and the two musicians make clear that AI is a work in progress. You can view the video at https://vimeo.com/427227666.

Kenny Toth, June 9, 2020

Astronaut: Fly Blind into the Video Universe

June 4, 2020

Like unwatched videos? Have a short attention span? We have a suggestion.

Astronaut.io. The service is an intriguing, if potentially bewildering, time killer. The site asks users to imagine they are astronauts, peering on people’s fleeting moments through the window. Then, against a view of Earth from space, they stream random, obscure YouTube videos in 10-second bites until one’s serendipity meter is full. In Wired’s piece, “Watch a Surprisingly Touching Stream of Unwatched YouTube Videos,” writer Liz Stinson explains:

“Scenes from a high school weight lifting competition might follow a birthday party in Texas that follows a man in Russia repairing his motorbike. You never know what to expect, yet the videos share something in common. Andrew Wong and James Thompson created an algorithm that seeks videos fitting specific criteria: uploaded within the past week, with generic file names (IMG, MOV WMV) as titles, and zero views. The result is a fascinating glimpse at the mundane, perplexing, and oftentimes sweet events of everyday life. … One video seamlessly follows another with no buffering. Wong coded three players into the website, allowing two videos to buffer as the third played. This creates a smooth vignette effect where you glean just a bit of context about each clip. Videos last no more than 10 seconds and often change just as you begin to care (a button at the bottom of the page lets you linger on a video). That can be frustrating, but ephemerality was key.”

Wong compares the effect to glimpsing images out a train window just long enough to pique one’s curiosity. Stinson observes that most makers of these untitled, little-viewed videos probably never expected anyone but their nearest and dearest to see them. She writes:

“The tension between the uneasiness of this benign voyeurism and the sensation of feeling connected to a stranger is what makes Astronaut.io so wonderful.”

Perhaps. It can certainly capture the attention. Check it out, and see if the poetic effect is for you.

Cynthia Murrell, June 4, 2020

Facial Recognition: A Partial List

June 3, 2020

DarkCyber noted “From RealPlayer to Toshiba, Tech Companies Cash in on the Facial Recognition Gold Rush.” The write up provides two interesting things and one idea which is like a truck tire retread.

First, the write up points out that facial recognition or FR is a “gold rush.” That’s a comparison which eluded the DarkCyber research team. There’s no land. No seller of heavy duty pants. No beautiful scenery. No wading in cold water. No hydro mining. Come to think of it, FR is not like a gold rush.

Second, the write up provides a partial list of outfits engaged in facial recognition. The word partial is important. There are some notable omissions, but 45 is an impressive number. That’s the point. Just 45?

The aspect of the write the DarkCyber team ignored is this “from the MBA classroom” observation:

Despite hundreds of vendors currently selling facial recognition technology across the United States, there is no single government body registering the technology’s rollout, nor is there a public-facing list of such companies working with law enforcement. To document which companies are selling such technology today, the best resource the public has is a governmental agency called the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Governments are doing a wonderful job it seems. Perhaps the European Union should step forward? What about Brazil? China? Russia? The United Nations? With Covid threats apparently declining, maybe the World Health Organization? Yep, governments.

Then, after wanting a central listing of FR vendors, this passage snagged one of my researcher’s attention:

NIST is a government organization responsible for setting scientific measurement standards and testing novel technology. As a public service, NIST also provides a rolling analysis of facial recognition algorithms, which evaluates the accuracy and speed of a vendor’s algorithms. Recently, that analysis has also included aspects of facial recognition field like algorithmic bias based on race, age, and sex. NIST has previously found evidence of bias in a majority of algorithms studied.

Yep, NIST. The group has done an outstanding job for enterprise search. Plus the bias in algorithms has been documented and run through the math grinding wheel for many years. Put in snaps of bad actors and the FR system does indeed learn to match one digital watermark with a similar digital watermark. Run kindergarten snaps through the system and FR matches are essentially useless. Bias? Sure enough.

Consider these ideas:

  • An organization, maybe Medium, should build a database of FR companies
  • An organization, maybe Medium, should test each of the FR systems using available datasets or better yet building a training set
  • An organization, maybe Medium, should set up a separate public policy blog to track government organizations which are not doing the job to Medium’s standards.

There is an interest in facial recognition because there is a need to figure out who is who. There are some civil disturbances underway in a certain high profile country. FR systems may not be perfect, but they may offer a useful tool to some. On the other hand, why not abandon modern tools until they are perfect.

We live in an era of good enough, and that’s what is available.

Stephen E Arnold, June 3, 2020

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