Yahoo Flickr Images: Does Search Work?

August 31, 2014

I think you know the answer if you are a regular reader of Beyond Search.


Finding images is a tedious and time consuming business. I know what the marketing collateral and public relations noise suggests. One can search by photographer, color, yada, yada.

The reality is that finding an image requires looking at images. Some find this fun, particularly if the client is paying by the hour for graphic expertise. For me, image search underscores how primitive information retrieval tools are.

Feel free to disagree.

To test Yahoo Flickr search, navigate to “Welcome to the Internet Archive to the the Commons.” Check out the sample entry to the millions of public domain images.


Darned meaty.

To search the “Commons”, one has to navigate to the Commons page and scroll down to the search box highlighted in yellow in this screenshot:


Enter a query like this one “18th century elocution.”

Here’s what the system displayed:


I then tried this query “london omnibus 1870”.

Here’s what the system displayed:


No omnibuses.

Like many image retrieval systems, the user has to fiddle with queries until images are spotted by manual inspection.

The archive is useful. Finding images in Yahoo Flickr remains a problem for me. I thought Xooglers knew quite a bit about search. You know: Finding information when the user enters a key word or two.

Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2014

The Perks and Pitfalls of a Yahoo/ AOL merger

August 1, 2014

An article on re/code titled Two Years and Still Stuck in a Revenue Rut, Will Yahoo’s Mayer Bite the AOL Bullet? attempts to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the possible merger. The sight of Mayer and AOL’s Armstrong chatting during the Allen & Co. conferences in Sun Valley proved too exciting for some reporters, who jumped to the conclusion that the two old friends were making a deal. While making it very clear that the merger is entirely hypothetical at this point, this article makes an argument for the perks of getting Yahoo and AOL together. The article states,

“AOL and Yahoo have very similar businesses and could easily combine them…Internally at both companies, this is not seen as a completely bad idea — both share numerous advertising overlaps, content overlaps, video overlaps and too many employees doing the same thing. In addition, Mayer could certainly use a decent exec she actually knows well like Armstrong at the top (presumably, him CEO, her chairman).”

However, the article also points out some hedging by Mayer who has made some comments about the possible merger being boring and “backward-looking.” On the other hand, if Mayer wants the Huffington Post, she may have to take AOL along with it. So the article is inconclusive. Will AOL and Yahoo finally get married? Can two Xooglers (former Googlers) make one scion named Revenue?

Chelsea Kerwin, August 01, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Yahoo Acquisitions: A Hunch about Why

May 8, 2014

I read “Yahoo Spent More Than Anyone on Acquisitions in 2013, but Why?” At dinner tonight several colleagues and I discussed Yahoo’s buying spree. The article surmises:

There has to be rhyme and reason for Yahoo to have picked up these companies, even if it was just to keep talent from the likes of Google or Facebook. In the continued push for Yahoo to be more mobile and contextual, we should look forward to a Yahoo stacked with both talent and money in 2014.

That’s a positive view. The thoughts of the ArnoldIT conversation drifted a different direction; for example:

  • Yahoo is taking advantage of the “bet on a bunch of horses.” The notion is that one or more will be winners
  • Yahoo is just doing stuff to demonstrate that it has direction, intent, and purpose. In short, the deals are Wall Street theatre, just way off Broadway
  • The Silicon bubble is a habitat that encourages gorging.

Financial results may shine a light on the actions.

Stephen E Arnold, May 8, 2014

Yahoo and Search

February 24, 2014

Yahoo may not be able to wriggle out of the Microsoft Bing search deal. Microsoft may not be m making much progress in catching Google, and Yahoo may want to swizzle a different spin on Web search. Microsoft’s voice enabled technology seems to be disappointing Ford. The US auto maker may be embracing BlackBerry’s QNX system. Yep, BlackBerry, a stellar outfit in my experience. Microsoft has some issues to resolve particularly if it loses a major account to the shareholder-pleasing Waterloo, Ontario company.

I read “Yahoo Launches $10 Million Research Effort to Invent a Smarter Siri.” I find the notion that a large company can invent voice search that is “better” than another voice search system interesting. Google has a voice search system, and there are a number of companies eager to make their voice search technology available to Yahoo. But Yahoo apparently has confidence in Carnegie Mellon University, the outfit that delivered Lycos, Vivisimo, and Claritech to information seekers in the past.

According to the Technology Review article:

Ron Brachman, head of Yahoo Labs, says that he expects the InMind project to experiment with apps that are capable of rudimentary conversation—for example, asking a person follow-up questions and making suggestions based on new information. “This is missing from Siri,” he says, adding that although Apple’s personal assistant is impressive, it doesn’t attempt to understand the context in which it is being asked a question: it doesn’t understand what the user is doing or might need at the moment.

With Web search shifting to mobile like iron filings following a magnet, users find typing less facile on a mobile device. Will Yahoo crack the code in five years with the help of the CMU professors and students?

Five years is a long time. Like Facebook and Google, Yahoo may find it more expedient to start buying voice recognition companies and licensing available technology. WhatsApp, a company that Facebook bought in February, promptly said, it would not change. I learned today that Facebook will be adding voice calls to WhatsApp. How long did that “will not change” statement endure? WhatsApp did not have five days.

Yahoo may not have five years.

Stephen E Arnold, February 24, 2014

Yahoo Tops Google on Web Property Roster

February 13, 2014

Anyone convinced of Google’s inevitable Internet dominance should take a gander at the numbers TheNextWeb shares in “comScore: Yahoo Beats Google as Top Web Property in the U.S. for Six Months Straight.” This chart of the top 50 U.S.-based Web properties as of the end of 2013, put together by analytics firm comScore, does indeed show Yahoo ahead of Google (and everyone else) in terms of unique visitors. The very brief write-up notes:

“We went back to make sure, and indeed Yahoo has topped comScore’s list for the last six months straight, starting in July 2013 (before that, it was first way back in May 2011). It’s safe to say that Yahoo’s gold medal is now a trend – an impressive feat given that Yahoo’s numbers exclude Tumblr, which is ranked at #30.”

I want to point out one caveat: the chart only covers desktop access, specifically from “home, work and university locations.” I wonder how the numbers would be different if mobile were included.

Cynthia Murrell, February 13, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Yahoo Attempts to Regain the Search Crown

January 30, 2014

Yahoo has not been the top search engine for a long time and they have focused their energies on other promising projects. CEO Marissa Mayer kept search in the back of her mind when she purchased Aviate, creator of a contextual app search and organization for mobile phone users. Business Insider describes the acquisition in “Yahoo Just Acquired A New Search Product That Could Hurt Google.”

According to the article, contextual search is very important to technology companies and many already have projects concerning the new search trend in development.

What makes contextual or semantic search different? The article states:

“Basically, contextual search differs from the regular search you know on Google by trying to anticipate what you really mean or want based on cues in your past searches or in other stores of data the search tool has access to. It’s not just about matching keywords and ranking incoming links.”

Under Yahoo, Aviate’s product will organize phone apps on the home screen based on its best guess to what the user needs at the moment. Mayer is probably out to solve the app overload problem, where users download hundreds of apps and hardly use any of them. Aviate takes hide and seek out of finding apps. The search product will also locate items before users access other search applications.

Mayer has a good idea. Organize the tools that are supposed to make life easier. It also sounds like she is trying to set up the Yahoo equivalent of the Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store. What will she name it?

Whitney Grace, January 30, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Startup Aviate Acquired by Yahoo for Homescreen Improvements

January 27, 2014

The article titled Yahoo Announced That It Has Acquired “Intelligent Homescreen” Startup Aviate on TechCrunch delves into Marissa Mayer’s opening words at the Consumer Electronics Show, where the Yahoo CEO was a keynote speaker. Mayer promises that Yahoo’s intention is to make homescreens “smarter and more personalized.” Her comments are outline in a Yahoo blog post where Aviate’s work in auto-categorizing apps to bring the relevant ones to the surface. “By using signals to understand your context – WIFI, GPS, Accelerometer, Time, etc – Aviate automatically surfaces information at the moment it’s useful.” The article mentioned that the Aviate team will most likely join Yahoo.

The article also states:

“Note that Aviate is an Android product, and the blog post says Yahoo plans to make it “a central part of our Android-based experiences in 2014 (and beyond)” — not, it seems, on iOS. When it was independent, Aviate did tell us that it had iOS plans, but I’m guessing its capabilities would be significantly limited.”

The service could be the new clippy or the adaptive menu system that Microsoft uses. By that I mean it could be sometimes helpful, possibly annoying. The article did mention that Yahoo intends to make Aviate a “central” aspect of their plans for their work with Android in the future.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 27, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Microsoft Earns Yahoo More Money Than Realized

December 26, 2013

Yahoo is pulling itself out of the red and is back on track to becoming a popular search engine and Web service. According to the ZDNet  article, “Yahoo Says Microsoft Search Providing 31 Percent Of Revenues,” Microsoft is the reason why. Yahoo credits the 31% gain in its quarterly summary to its partnership with Microsoft. Yahoo claimed Microsoft only brought them 10% in sales from a previous statement. It has most definitely changed!

Yahoo and Microsoft signed a ten-year deal, where Microsoft would power Yahoo’s search and become the ad sales force for Microsoft’s premium properties.

The article states:

“Over the past year, Yahoo has been seeking a way to get out of the deal, claiming the company hasn’t found it financially lucrative. Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer supposedly also has sought Microsoft’s pending change in CEO as a possible loophole for getting out of the deal earlier than expected. As SearchEngineLand noted, there is a clause which would allow Yahoo to exit early from the partnership in 2015 if the revenue-per-share threshold vs. the market leader (Google) doesn’t pass muster.”

Microsoft would like the deal to continue past the ten-year agreement, but both companies failed to provide comment in the article. In a prior article from ZDNet, Yahoo might be building a new search/personalization technology to relaunch itself as its own search provider. Yahoo may not want to break the deal now, especially if they are working on a secret project. They will need the money to fund research and development if they want to stand a chance against Microsoft.

Whitney Grace, December 26, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Yahoo Snaps Up NLP Startup SkyPhrase

December 13, 2013

There is more NLP excitement at Yahoo, we learn from TechCrunch‘s piece, “Yahoo Acquires Natural Language Processing Company SkyPhrase to Help Drive Intent Identification.” Writer Darrell Etherington reports that SkyPhrase will be integrated into Yahoo’s office in New York.

The article observes:

“Back in October, we covered SkyPhrase, and noted specifically that its NLP tech could be used to advance fantasy sports, which is of course an area where Yahoo excels and has a considerable investment already. The company has created an app that makes it easy for fantasy football players to search through stats and find only those relevant to making picks and monitoring their team, which would be very handy integrated directly into Yahoo’s fantasy sports products.

“[…] In October, the entrepreneur and cognitive scientist said that what he really hoped to accomplish with the company was to make NLP tech useful to as much of the world as possible via tailoring it to specific verticals in a way that’s easy for everyday users to access, and to make it easier for third-party partners to build NLP-powered interfaces for their own products, data and services.”

Sounds great! Unfortunately, laments Etherington, Yahoo is more likely to task its new acquisition with improving Yahoo’s products than with spreading the wealth of their third-party-friendly NLP. He notes that Yahoo has been focusing on mobile functionality, and that SkyPhrase’s tech can help with that.

Launched in 2011, SkyPhrase has built its algorithms around research performed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute by Cassimatis and some of his grad students. The startup received funding from investment firm Breakout Labs, which invests in breakthrough advances. Let us hope that Yahoo’s rulership does not dim SkyPhrase’s unique potential.

Cynthia Murrell, December 13, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Are Yahoo and PRWeb Confusing SEO and Enterprise Search?

November 21, 2013

I get a Yahoo Alert. My single Alert  topic is “enterprise search.” I want a bound phrase match. Like the other alert services I use, there are usually some obvious “false hits.” A “false hit” is an off topic story. The problem with key word alerts is that words have different meaning. A story with the word “search” for a new president often turns up with a story about Oracle’s Secure Enterprise Search system. Most of these “false hits” are easily ignored. Another problem is that some “experts” want a user to see something, so the query is relaxed. That’s a problem for me. For you, maybe not. For spammers, relaxation means more content baloney whether generated by an azure chip consultant, search engine optimization maven, or an organization desperate for visibility. In case you have not noticed, traffic to most Web sites is undergoing quite a change. One Web site owner told me, “We averaged 250,000 uniques a month in 2012. This year we are down to 48,000. What am I going to do?”

Go out of business? Change your Web site? Get a different job?

Perhaps the answer is, “Anything.

Desperation generates some darned interesting business actions in my experience.

There is another problem, particularly with the word “search.” I am interested in enterprise search, and I want to learn about new, substantive information related to information retrieval. The poor word “search” has been sucked dry of meaning. The wispy husk carries zero meaning. For most people search means Google or taking what an app delivers.

I noticed in my Yahoo Alert this morning these two items listed as the number one and number two most relevant stories for me:


Both of these are about an outfit that delivers search engine optimization services. The problem is that this sense of the word “search” is of little interest to me.

What is more interesting is that the outfit generating these items for Yahoo is called PRWeb. I don’t know much about PRWeb. My hunch is that one of the PR professionals I have used over the years knows about this firm.

I wanted to capture several thoughts about what I call “alert corruption.”

File:Gustave Dore Inferno1.jpg

Lost and desperate for relevance. Those in the woods are probably evil. See Canto One of the Divine Comedy.

First, Yahoo is not doing a particularly good job providing me with new information about enterprise search. Today I saw items related to OpenText, an outfit that owns a number of search engines. The story, however, talks about enterprise information management. I do not know what that phrase means. There was a story about Imprezzo, a company that purports to “overcome the problem of traditional text based search.” Well, maybe that is worth a look. Of the five items sent me, one was possibly of interest. Does a score of 20 percent warrant a pass or a fail.

Second, four of the items in the Yahoo Alert were from the PRWeb outfit. One thing is certain. PRWeb can get its clients’ content into the Yahoo system. The problem is that two of these stories are about practices that I find like tight shoes. I suppose the shoes look okay but I am uncomfortable. But SEO outfits and those who assist them make me uncomfortable. A buck is a buck, but content manipulation is like wearing small shoes that are damp.

Third, after 40 or 50 years of search innovation, endless surveys from outfits like azure chip consultants and morphing vendors like BA Insight, Smartlogic, and LucidWorks, I am not sure if significant information retrieval progress is evident. One would think that Yahoo would tap some super sophisticated new technology to filter out baloney, deliver on point alerts, and work with vendors who exercise some judgment about what passes for search related content.

My hunch is that PR is in a bit of a sticky wicket. It joins content management, governance, search, and Big Data. These disciplines have to find some way to call attention to themselves. Perhaps these “legitimate” disciplines should emulate the search engine optimization crowd. Visibility without a thought about precision and recall is their game.

I would like to receive alerts that actually match the string “enterprise search.” I think that is just too much for those who think that a user absolutely must have a “hit” whether that item is relevant or not.

Search and marketing may be a match made in heaven. Those who are interested in precision and recall occupy one of Dante’s less salubrious regions.

Stephen E Arnold, November 21, 2013

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