What Happens When One NOTs Out Web Sites?

April 30, 2012

We learned about Million Short. The idea is that a user can NOT out a block of Web sites. The use case is that a query is passed to the system, and the system filters out the top 1,000 or 100,000 Web sites. We think you will want to check it out. Once you have run some sample queries, consider these questions:

  1. When a handful of Web sites attract the most traffic, is popularity the road to comprehensive information retrieval?
  2. When sites are NOTted out, what do you gain? What do you lose?
  3. How do you know what is filtered from any Web search index? Do you run test queries and examine the results?

Enjoy. If you know a librarian, why not involve that person in your test queries?

Stephen E Arnold, May 1, 2012

Sponsored by PolySpot

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

Apple and Google: Will These Giants Emulate Newspaper Work Flows?

June 18, 2018

With the problem of fake news online, the news itself has often made headlines of late. We’ve noticed a couple different news-related moves from big players: TechCrunch reports on Google’s recent project in, “Google Experiments in Local News with an App Called Bulletin.” We learn that Apple, meanwhile, plans to integrate its recent acquisition, magazine aggregator Texture, into Apple News and an upcoming subscription service in, “Apple Said to Plan a ‘Netflix for News’ in Latest Push” at the Daily Herald.


Google’s Bulletin is a place for members of a community to post local news and event notices.  TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez suspects it’s also another attempt by Google to squeeze into the Social Media space. She observes:

“The move to delve into local news would have Google competing with other services where people already share news about what’s happening locally. Specifically, people tend to tweet or live stream when news is breaking …. Meanwhile, if they’re trying to promote a local event …  it’s likely that they’ll post that to the business’s Facebook Page, where it can then be discovered through the Page’s fans and surfaced in Facebook’s Local app. And if Google aims to more directly compete with local news resources like small-town print or online publishers or Patch, it could have a tougher road. Hyperlocal news has been difficult to monetize, and those who have made it work aren’t likely interested in shifting their limited time and energy elsewhere.”

Over at the Daily Herald, reporters Mark Gurman and Gerry Smith Bloomberg note that Apple cut 20 Texture workers shortly after acquiring the company, but we’re cautioned against reading too much into that. The article notes:

“An upgraded Apple News app with the subscription offering is expected to launch within the next year, and a slice of the subscription revenue will go to magazine publishers that are part of the program, [sources] said. … A new, simplified subscription service covering multiple publications could spur Apple News usage and generate new revenue in a similar manner to the $9.99 per month Apple Music offering.”

Will enough folks pay per month for news, like they do for (other) online entertainment? Perhaps now, when it is prudent to be skeptical, people are willing to pay up to 10 bucks a month for a trusted name.

Next up: Emulation of traditional newspapers editorial processes. Why? Smart software is just so so when it comes to some types of information.

Cynthia Murrell, June 18, 2018


Google: The Maven Tactic

June 16, 2018

Google’s focus on AI is undergoing some very interesting evolutions right out in plain sight. It just so happens to be of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety. A recent government contract gone south has refocused the search giant’s energy in a surprising place, according to a recent American Spectator article, “In Abandoning Project Maven, Google Put Self Over Country.”

The story revolves around Google backing out of a partnership with the Department of Defense over Project Maven.

“Project Maven is an AI-imaging project intended to improve the military’s ability to process images and videos taken by drones. In doing so, drones will be better able to collect information, be more accurate, and thus reduce collateral damage from drone strikes significantly.”

The rub comes from the fact that Google is dropping out of this deal with the US government, but is maintaining its AI programs with China. However, this might not be a case of money over country, as the American Spectator claims. Instead, this could be a shrewd move to actually improve Google’s ethical standing, since it recently promised not to help use AI as a form of weaponry. If that is the case, Google’s tactical move may neutralize its employee-management situation.

Patrick Roland, June 16, 2018

Could Ma Bell Get Her Old Mojo Back?

June 15, 2018

Many years ago I worked on projects for the original AT&T, also Bellcore, and USWest. I am not a bell head, but I understand some of the Maslovian forces at work. Telecommunications utilities want to be monopolies. It seems to be a genetic law embedded in former members of the Young Pioneers and in the bricks and electronics of the Piscataway data center and the Cherry Hill labs.

I want to point out the write up “AT&T completes Acquisition of Time Warner, Inc.” The deal may not be for copper wire and 5ESS switches, but Ma Bell may be gathering her skirts and getting ready to rumble.

The write up states that AT&T has communications, media, international services, and advertising.

What’s missing?

From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, AT&T is one acquisition away from bring back Ma Bell. Either AT&T buys Verizon or Verizon buys AT&T and all will be right with the world. Another angle for revivifying Ma Bell is for an investment bank to purchase both companies and merge them.


Digital services are more efficient and effective when they operate as single source providers.

Judge Green went against the natural order of digital services, and now Bell Telephone is one acquisition away from a most auspicious return. Will that happen? Could that happen?

AT&T just bought Time Warner. Why not deliver a true Bell head solution?

Even Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft would have to rethink their business plans.

One other benefit: Phone calls would connect more quickly and certain types of oversight become much simpler.

I will have to look around for my Young Pioneers baseball cap. I think I had a red, white, and blue one with a Bell logo. None of that death star iconography.

Stephen E Arnold, June 15, 2018

Does Security Sell? Will Security Provide Revenue Lift?

June 14, 2018

Years ago Oracle positioned its enterprise search system as more secure than any other information access available at that time. How did that work out? Do you use SES? Why did Oracle buy Endeca, ostensibly an enterprise search system of sorts? What happened to Triple Hop? Artificial Linguistics? The other search systems Oracle has acquired? My hunch is that security did not sell.

Now Apple is betting that its secure Apply phone will cruise along, sucking up the majority of the profits from mobile phones. The company has determined that engineers working for vendors focused on law enforcement and intelligence agencies will no longer be able to use the connection and charging port to hack into a mobile device.

Who knows? Maybe Apple can make security generate big revenue flows and juicy profits?

Apple to Close iPhone Security Hole That Police Use to Crack Devices” explains that Apple will close a “technological loophole.” The move may rekindle the push from some law enforcement and intelligence professionals for a way to unlock bad actors’ iPhones.

Our weekly video DarkCyber described products available from Grayshift and has mentioned Cellebrite in our weekly reports.

Our view is that considerable discussion and legal fireworks will ensue. Compromise? Nope, that’s an approach not too popular in some circles. Are companies governments? Can governments impact how companies do business.

This is a major issue, and the outcome is not as clear as the information about China’s surveillance actions. How has Apple adapted to China’s rules? How is Apple adapting the US laws?

Interesting days ahead.

Stephen E Arnold, June 14, 2018

Google: Arm Wrestling with Oneself

June 13, 2018

A typical fiction trope is human vs. creation. The most famous work with this concept is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, followed closely by an endless science-fiction list that deals with humans vs. robots. While most humanity vs. creation stories focus on a dystopic future, the real life drama focus h job replacement and human skill obsolescence. The New York Times reports that “Early Facebook And Google Employees Form Coalition To Fight What They Built.”

Former Google and Facebook employees banded together to form the Center for Humane Technology. Partnering with Common Sense Media, the Center for Humane Technology’s purpose is to educate parents, students, and teachers about the social media’s dangers. The Center for Humane Technology’s founders built the social media technologies and companies, so they know what Facebook and Google are made of and the their potential health dangers.

“The effect of technology, especially on younger minds, has become hotly debated in recent months. In January, two big Wall Street investors asked Apple to study the health effects of its products and to make it easier to limit children’s use of iPhones and iPads. Pediatric and mental health experts called on Facebook last week to abandon a messaging service the company had introduced for children as young as 6. Parenting groups have also sounded the alarm about YouTube Kids, a product aimed at children that sometimes features disturbing content.”

Among the members are Dave Morin, Justin Rosenstein, Lynn Foxx, Jim Steyer, and Tristan Harris. Inspired by anti-drug campaigns, the Center for Humane Technology aims to understand the affect technology has on children’s brains. They also plan to lobby Congress to curtail tech companies’ power.

Now there’s a subplot. “Inventor Says Google Is Patenting Work He Put in the Public Domain” asserts that Google took another’s work and seeks to obtain a patent for a compression system and method. Both Facebook and Google appear to have adopted some of the open source technology.

Is Google arm wrestling itself? What happens if it loses the contest?

Whitney Grace, June 13, 2018

Talking to Software: Policeware Vendors Ignored This Next Big Thing

June 9, 2018

On the flight from somewhere in Europe to Kentucky, I reflected on the demonstrations, presentations, and sales pitches to which I was exposed at a large international law enforcement and intelligence conference.

I realized that none of the presenters or enthusiastic marketers tried to tell me about chatbots. The term refers to a basket of technologies that allow a user to ignore tapping or keyboarding to get actionable information.

When the flight landed, I noted a link in my feed stream to “Chatbots Were the Next Big Thing: What Happened?” My personal experience from four days of talking to humans and listening to explainers was that chatbots were marginalized, maybe left in the office file cabinet.

The write up states:

…Who would monopolize the field, not whether chatbots would take off in the first place:

“Will a single platform emerge to dominate the chatbot and personal assistant ecosystem?”

One year on, we have an answer to that question.


Because there isn’t even an ecosystem for a platform to dominate.

That seems clear.

The write up points out that chatbots were supposed to marginalize applications. One of the more interesting items of information in the article is a collection of chatbots stuck for an answer.

Net net: Like quantum computing, smart software has potential. But technologies with potential have been just around the corner for many years.

Marketing, confident assertions, and bold predictions are one thing. Delivering high value results remains a different task.

Stephen E Arnold, June 9, 2018

Want Info about a Small Town? Hit the Library

June 6, 2018

For many, libraries are obsolete, deader than a Peruvian mummy. This is true for some, but if you live in a small town then libraries are far from dead. Big news outlets cover global issues, so they skip over small town stories. Small towns, however, still have news and the residents want to read it. Where do they go to get information when local newspapers dried up? They go to the local library. The Atlantic shares the story, “The Libraries Bringing Small-Town News Back To Life” and how the US’s smaller cities still rely on libraries as information centers.

Libraries have seen their budgets slashed, branches closed down, and the librarian profession has been traded for para-professionals. Yet people still go to libraries and even trust librarians over journalists and other news sources. Why? Librarians also understand the importance of accurate information and their sources.

Librarians have picked up the slack where local news sources fail or disappeared. In some towns, being a news source has increased participation at libraries. The write up stated:

“Various types of community building are happening across the nation. In some cities, libraries are partnering with established news sources, teaming up in Dallas to train high schoolers in news gathering or hosting a satellite studio in Boston for the public radio station WGBH. In San Antonio, the main library offers space to an independent video news site that trains students and runs a C-SPAN-style operation in America’s seventh-biggest city. (That site was the only video outlet covering a mayoral debate last year in which the incumbent mayor’s comments on poverty became a national story—and may have contributed to her electoral defeat.)”

Where once libraries use to store information, they are turning into the information source. They are also reinforcing important information literacy skills, which are in desperate need as fake news and instant search weakens people’s judgment skills.

Whitney Grace, June 6, 2018

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