Love Lost between Stochastic and Google AppEngine

March 30, 2012

Stochastic Technologies’ Stavros Korokithakis has some very harsh words for Google’s AppEngine in “Going from Loving AppEngine to Hating it in 9 Days.” Is the Google shifting its enterprise focus?

Stochastic’s service Dead Man’s Switch got a huge publicity boost from its recent Yahoo article, which drove thousands of new visitors to the site. Preparing for just such a surge, the company turned months ago to Google’s AppEngine to manage potential customers. At first, AppEngine worked just fine. The hassle-free deployments while rewriting and the free tier were just what the company needed at that stage.

Soon after the Yahoo piece, Stochastic knew they had to move from the free quota to a billable status. There was a huge penalty, though, for one small mistake: Korokithakis entered the wrong credit card number. No problem, just disable the billing and re-enable it with the correct information, right? Wrong. Billing could not be re-enabled for another week.

Things only got worse from there. Korokithakis attempted to change settings from Google Wallet, but all he could do was cancel the payment. He then found that, while he was trying to correct his credit card information, the AppEngine Mail API had reached its daily 100-recipient email limit. The limit would not be removed until the first charge cleared, which would take a week. The write up laments:

At this point, we had five thousand users waiting for their activation emails, and a lot of them were emailing us, asking what’s wrong and how they could log in. You can imagine our frustration when we couldn’t really help them, because there was no way to send email from the app! After trying for several days to contact Google, the AppEngine team, and the AppEngine support desk, we were at our wits’ end. Of all the tens of thousands of visitors that had come in with the Yahoo! article, only 100 managed to actually register and try out the site. The rest of the visitors were locked out, and there was nothing we could do.

Between sluggish payment processing and a bug in the Mail API, it actually took nine days before the Stochastic team could send emails and register users. The company undoubtedly lost many potential customers to the delay. In the meantime, to add charges to injury, the AppEngine task queue kept retrying to send the emails and ran up high instance fees.

It is no wonder that Stochastic is advising us all to stay away from Google’s AppEngine. Our experiences with Google have been positive. Perhaps this is an outlier’s experience?

Cynthia Murrell, March 30, 2012

Sponsored by Pandia.com

Fat Apps. What Happened to the Cloud?

February 5, 2012

If it seems like a step backward, that’s because it is: Network Computing declares,  “Fat Apps Are Where It’s At.” At least for now.

Writer Mike Fratto makes the case that, in the shift from desktop to mobile, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Cloud-based applications that run only the user interface on mobile devices are a great way to save space– if you can guarantee constant wireless access to the Web. That’s not happening yet. Wi-Fi is unreliable, and wireless data plans with their data caps can become very expensive very quickly.

Besides, says Fratto, services that aim to place the familiar desktop environment onto mobile devices, like Citrix XenApp or VMware ThinApp, are barking up the wrong tree. The article asserts:

There isn’t the screen real estate available on mobile devices–certainly not on phones–to populate menus and pull downs. . . . But that is how desktop apps are designed. Lots of features displayed for quick access because you have the room to do it while still providing enough screen space to write a document or work on a spreadsheet. Try using Excel as a thin app on your phone or tablet. See how long it takes for you to get frustrated.

So, Fratto proposes “fat apps” as the temporary alternative, applications designed for mobile use with local storage that let you continue to work without a connection. Bloatware is back, at least until we get affordable, universal wireless access worked out.

I am getting some app fatigue. What’s the next big thing?

Cynthia Murrell, February 5, 2012

Sponsored by Pandia.com

Big Data Used to Confirm Bad Science

November 30, 2017

I had thought we had moved beyond harnessing big data and were now focusing on AI and machine learning, but Forbes has some possible new insights in, “Big Data: Insights Or Illusions?”

Big data is a tool that can generate new business insights or it can reinforce a company’s negative aspects.  The article consists of an interview with Christian Madsbjerg of ReD Associates.  It opens with how Madsbjerg and his colleagues studied credit card fraud by living like a fraudster for a while.  They learned some tricks and called their experience contextual analytics.  This leads to an important discussion topic:

Dryburgh: This is really interesting, because it seems to me that big data could be a very two-edged sword. On the one hand you can use it in the way that you’ve described to validate hypotheses that you’ve arrived at by very subjective, qualitative means. I guess the other alternative is that you can use it simply to provide confirmation for what you already think.

Madsbjerg: Which is what’s happening, and with the ethos that we’ve got a truth machine that you can’t challenge because it’s big data. So you’ll cement and intensify the toxic assumptions you have in the company if you don’t use it to challenge and explore, rather than to confirm things you already know.

This topic is not new.  We are seeing unverified news stories reach airwaves and circulate the Internet for the pure sake of generating views and profit.  Corporate entities do the same when they want to churn more money into their coffers than think of their workers or their actual customers.  It is also like Hollywood executives making superhero movies based on comic heroes when they have no idea about the medium’s integrity.

In other words, do not forget context and the human factor!

Whitney Grace, November 30, 2017

The Thing Holding AI Back Is the Thing It Needs Most, Data

November 30, 2017

Here’s an interesting problem: for artificial intelligence and machine learning to thrive, it needs a massive amount of information. However, they need so much data that it causes hiccups in the system. Google has a really interesting solution to this problem, as we learned in the Reuter’s article, “Google’s Hinton Outlines New AI Advance That Requires Less Data.”

The bundling of neurons working together to determine both whether a feature is present and its characteristics also means the system should require less data to make its predictions.

 

The leader of Google Brain said, “The hope is that maybe we might require less data to learn good classifiers of objects, because they have this ability of generalizing to unseen perspectives or configurations of images.

Less data for big data? It’s just crazy enough to work. In fact, some of the brightest minds in the business are trying to, as ComputerWorld said, “do less with more.” The piece focuses on Fuzzy LogiX and their attempts to do exactly what Google is hypothetically saying. It will be interesting to see what happens, but we are betting on technology cracking this nut.

Patrick Roland, November 30, 2017

 

Filtering: Facebook Asserts Filtering Progress

November 29, 2017

i read “Hard Questions: Are We Winning the War on Terrorism Online?” The main point is that Facebook is filtering terrorism related content. Let’s assume that the assertion is correct. Furthermore, let’s assume that private group participants are reporting terror-related content so that information not available to the general Facebook community is devoid of terror related content.

This appears to be a step forward.

My thought is that eliminating the content may squeeze those with filtered messages to seek other avenues of information dissemination. For most people, the work arounds will be unfamiliar.

But options exist, and these options are becoming more widely used and robust. I remind myself that bad actors can be every bit as intelligent, resourceful, and persistent as the professionals working at companies like Facebook.

Within the last four months, the researchers assisting me on the second edition of the Dark Web Notebook have informed me:

  1. Interest in certain old-school methods of online communication has increased; for example, text communication
  2. Encrypted apps are gaining wider use
  3. Peer-to-peer mechanisms show strong uptake by certain groups
  4. Dark Web or i2p communication methods are not perfect but some work despite the technical hassles and latency
  5. Burner phones and sim cards bought with untraceable forms of payment are widely available from retail outlets like Kroger and Walgreens in the US.

Those interested in information which is filtered remind me of underground movements in the 1960s. At the university I attended, the surface looked calm. Then bang, an event would occur. Everyone was surprised and wondered where that “problem” came from. Hiding the problem does not resolve the problem I learned by observing the event.

The surface is one thing. What happens below the surface is another. Squeezing in one place on a balloon filled with water moves the water to another place. When the pressure is too great, the balloon bursts. Water goes in unexpected places.

My view is that less well known methods of communication will attract more attention. I am not sure if this is good news or bad news. I know that filtering alone does not scrub certain content from digital channels.

Net net: Challenges lie ahead. Net neutrality may provide an additional lever, but there will be those who seek to circumvent controls. Most will fail, but some will succeed. Those successes may be difficult to anticipate, monitor, and address.

Facebook filtering is comparatively easy. Reacting to consequences of filtering may be more difficult. It has taken many years to to achieve the modest victory Facebook has announced. That reaction time, in itself, is a reminder that there is something called a Pyrrhic victory.

Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2017

Stephen E Arnold, November

Semantic Scholar Expanding with Biomedical Lit

November 29, 2017

Academic publishing is the black hole of the publishing world.  While it is a prestigious honor to have your work published by a scholar press or journal, it will not have a high circulation.  One reason that academic material is blocked behind expensive paywalls and another is that papers are not indexed well.  Tech Crunch has some good news for researchers: “Allen institute For AI’s Semantic Scholar Adds Biomedical Papers To Its AI-Sorted Corpus.”

The Allen Institute for AI started the Semantic Scholar is an effort to index scientific literature with NLP and other AI algorithms.  Semantic Scholar will now include biomedical texts in the index.  There is way too much content available for individuals to read and create indices.  AI helps catalog and create keywords for papers by scanning an entire text, pulling key themes, and adding it to the right topic.

There’s so much literature being published now, and it stretches back so far, that it’s practically impossible for a single researcher or even a team to adequately review it. What if a paper from six years ago happened to note a slight effect of a drug byproduct on norepinephrine production, but it wasn’t a main finding, or was in a journal from a different discipline?

Scientific studies are being called into question, especially when the tests are funded by corporate entities.  It is important to verify truth from false information as we consume more and more each day.  Tools like Semantic Scholar are key to uncovering the truth.  It is too bad it does not receive more attention.

Whitney Grace, November 29, 2017

 

The Worlds Wealthiest People Should Fear Big Data

November 24, 2017

One of the strengths that the planets elite and wealthy have is secrecy. In most cases, average folks and media don’t know where big money is stored or how it is acquired. However, that recently changed for The Queen of England, several Trump cabinet members, and other powerful men and women. And they should be afraid of what big data and search can do with their info, as we learned in the Guardian’s piece, “Paradise Papers Leak Reveals Secrets of the World’s Elite Hidden Wealth.”

The story found a lot of fishy dealings with political donors and those in power, Queen Elizabeth having tax-free money in the Caymans and more. According to the story:

At the centre of the leak is Appleby, a law firm with outposts in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. In contrast to Mossack Fonseca, the discredited firm at the centre of last year’s Panama Papers investigation, Appleby prides itself on being a leading member of the “magic circle” of top-ranking offshore service providers.

 

Appleby says it has investigated all the allegations, and found “there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients”, adding: “We are a law firm which advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business. We do not tolerate illegal behaviour.

Makes you wonder what would happen if some of the brightest minds in search and big data got ahold of this information? We suspect a lot of the financial knots this money ties to keep itself concealed would untangle. In an age of increasing transparency, we wouldn’t be shocked to see that happen.

Patrick Roland, November 24, 2017

Amazon: The New Old AT&T

November 22, 2017

I read “AWS Launches a Secret Region for the U.S. Intelligence Community.” The write up does a reasonable job of explaining that Amazon has become a feisty pup in the Big Dog in the upscale Potomac Fever Kennels.

The main idea, as I understand it, is that Amazon is offering online services tailored to agencies with requirements for extra security. Google is trying to play in this dog park as well, but Amazon seems to have the moxie to make headway.

I would point out that there are some facets to the story which a “real” journalist or a curious investor may want to explore; specifically:

  • AT&T of Ashburn fame may be feeling that the attitude of the Amazon youthful puppy AWS is bad news. AT&T with its attention focused on the bright lights of big media may be unable to deal with Amazon’s speed, agility, and reflexes. If this is accurate, this seemingly innocuous announcement with terms like “air gap” may presage a change in the fortunes of AT&T.
  • IBM Federal Systems, the traffic disaster in Gaithersburg, may feel the pinch as well. What happens if the young pup begins to take kibble from that Beltway player? A few acquisitions here and few acquisitions there and suddenly Amazon can have its way because the others in the kennel know that an alpha dog with tech savvy can be a problem?
  • The consulting environment may also change. For decades, outfits like my former employer, the Boozer, have geared up to bathe, groom, and keep healthy the old school online giants like AT&T, Verizon, et al. Now new skills sets may be required for the possible Big Dog. Where will Amazon “experts” come from? Like right now, gentle reader.

In short, this article states facts. But like many “real” news stories, there are deeper and possibly quite significant changes taking place. I wonder if anyone cares about these downstream changes.

Leftover telecom turkey anyone?

Stephen E Arnold, November 22, 2017

A Clever Take on Google and Fake News

November 8, 2017

I noted this story in the UK online publication The Register: “Google on Flooding the Internet with Fake News: Leave Us Alone. We’re Trying Really Hard. Sob.” The write up points out:

Google has responded in greater depth after it actively promoted fake news about Sunday’s Texas murder-suicide gunman by… behaving like a spoilt kid.

The Google response, as presented in the write up, warranted a yellow circle from my trusty highlighter. The Register said:

Having had time to reflect on the issue, the Silicon Valley monster’s “public liaison for search” and former Search Engine Land blog editor Danny Sullivan gave a more, um, considered response in a series of tweets. “Bottom line: we want to show authoritative information. Much internal talk yesterday on how to improve tweets in search; more will happen,” he promised, before noting that the completely bogus information had only appeared “briefly.”

image

The Register story includes other gems from the search engine optimization expert who seems to thrive on precision and relevance for content unrelated to a user’s query; for example, the article presents some “quotes” from Mr. Sullivan, the expert in charge of explaining the hows and whys of fake news:

  • “Early changes put in place after Las Vegas shootings seemed to help with Texas. Incorrect rumors about some suspects didn’t get in…”
  • Right now, we haven’t made any immediate decisions. We’ll be taking some time to test changes and have more discussions.
  • “Not just talk. Google made changes to Top Stories and is still improving those. We’ll do same with tweets. We want to get this right.”

Yep, Google wants to do better. Now Google wants to get “this” right. Okay. After 20 years, dealing with fake content, spoofs, and algorithmic vulnerability is on the to do list. That’s encouraging.

For more Google explanations, check out the Register’s story and follow the logic of the SEO wizard who now has to explain fake news creeping—well, more like flowing—into Google’s search and news content.

Does an inability to deal with fake news hint at truthiness challenges at Googzilla’s money machine? Interesting question from my point of view.

Stephen E Arnold, November 8, 2017

What Will Marketers Do When Google Goes Away?

November 6, 2017

Wait, do not panic!  Google is still around to help you search for restaurants, test answers, and cat GIFs.  Keep your towel handy, however, because Mark Schaefer at Business Grow has some mighty interesting information about SEO and other Internet marketing strategies in, “What Happens To Your Marketing Effort When Google Search Goes Away?”  Schaefer makes a clever point in the article’s introduction that consumers are searching for reliable answers to their queries, but businesses are trying to be the number one answer or top search result at any given time.

It might be that search results are going away.  Where are they going?  Technically, search results will still exist, but voice search tools like Siri and Alexia will be the game changer.  Schaefer said that no one has invented a vocal search marketing strategy yet.  Smart speakers are one of the latest tech gadgets and eventually, they may become indispensable modern tools, like indoor plumbing, electricity, and the Internet.  So what will happen?

From a marketing standpoint, the idea that fascinates me is that increasingly, these speakers will be the “economic on-ramp” for commerce, as Google search is now. However, Amazon will try to direct you to the Amazon eco-system and Apple will try to keep you in the Apple eco-system. This is where the real battleground will be.

 

Who will “own” or partner with the Wal-Mart eco-system?  Will we choose a car in the future due to the brand of smart speaker we like best?  Will one part of our home be controlled by Google, another part by Amazon, while an Apple device plays out TV and music?

Marketers are going to need to find a new way to advertise their wares.  Looking back at history, this is not new.  The same happened with radio, TV, and then the Internet.  Smart speaker “airspace” is brand new, but the concept of marketing on the new territory is not.

Whitney Grace, November 6, 2017

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