Interesting Behavior: Is It a Leitmotif for Big Tech?

October 18, 2021

A leitmotif, if I remember the required music appreciation course in 1962 is a melodic figure that accompanies a person, a situation, or a character like Brünnhilde from a special someone’s favorite composer.

My question this morning on October 18, 2021, is:

“Is there a leitmotif associated with some of the Big Tech “we are not monopolies” outfits?”

You can decide from these three examples or what Stephen Toulmin called “data.” I will provide my own “warrant”, but that’s what the Toulmin’s model says to do.

Here we go. Data:

  1. The Wall Street Journal asserts that William “Bill” Gates learned from some Softie colleagues suggested Mr. Gates alter his email behavior to a female employee. Correctly or incorrectly, Mr. Gates has been associated with everyone’s favorite academic donor, Jeffrey Epstein, according to the mostly-accurate New York Times.
  2. Facebook does not agree with a Wall Street Journal report that the company is not doing a Class A job fighting hate speech. See “Facebook Disputes Report That Its AI Can’t Detect Hate Speech or Violence Consistently.”
  3. The trusty Thomson Reuters reports that “Amazon May Have Lied to Congress, Five US Lawmakers Say.” The operative word is lied; that is, not tell the “truth”, which is, of course, like “is” a word with fluid connotations.

Now the warrant:

With each of the Big Tech “we’re not monopolies” a high-profile individual defends a company’s action or protests that “reality” is different from the shaped information about the individual or the company.

Let’s concede that these are generally negative “data.” What’s interesting is that generally negative and the individuals and their associated organizations are allegedly behaving in a way that troubles some people.

That’s enough Stephen Toulmin for today. Back to Wagner.

Leitmotifs allowed that special someone’s favorite composer to create musical symbols. In that eminently terse and listenable Der Ring des Nibelungen, Wagner delivers dozens of distinct leitmotiv. These are possible used to represent many things.

In our modern Big Tech settings, perhaps the leitmotif is the fruits of no consequences, fancy dancing, and psychobabble.

Warrant? What does that mean? I think it means one thing to Stephen Toulmin and another thing to Stephen E Arnold.

Stephen E Arnold, October 18, 2021

Amazon and Google: Another Management Challenge

October 18, 2021

There’s nothing like two very large companies struggling with a common issue. I read “Nearly 400 Google and Amazon Employees Called for the Companies to End a $1.2 Billion Contract with the Israeli Military.” Is the story true or a bit wide of the mark? I don’t know. It is interesting from an intellectual point of view.

The challenge is a management to do, a trivial one at that.

According to the write up:

Hundreds of Google and Amazon employees signed an open letter published in The Guardian on Tuesday [presumably October 12, 2021] condemning Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract signed by the two companies to sell cloud services to the Israeli military and government.

Now what?

According to the precepts on the high school science club management method, someone screwed up hiring individuals who don’t fit in. The solution is to change the rules of employment; that is, let these individuals work from home on projects that would drive an intern insane.

Next up for these two giants will be a close look at the hiring process. Why can’t everyone be like those who lived in the dorm with Sergey and Larry or those who worked with Jeff Bezos when he was a simple Wall Street ethicist?

I will have to wait and see how these giant firms swizzle a solution or two.

Stephen E Arnold, October 18, 2021

Amazon AI: Redefines Defensive Driving and Some Rules of the Road

October 8, 2021

For a glimpse of the smart software which cost Dr. Timnit Gebru her role at the Google, check out “Amazon’s AI Cameras Are Punishing Drivers for Mistakes They Didn’t Make.” Now imagine this software monitoring doctors, pilots, consultants, and Amazon product teams. No, not Amazon product teams.

The write up states:

In February, Amazon announced that it would install cameras made by the AI-tech startup Netradyne in its Amazon-branded delivery vans as an “innovation” to “keep drivers safe.”… The Netradyne camera, which requires Amazon drivers to sign consent forms to release their biometric data, has four lenses that record drivers when they detect “events” such as following another vehicle too closely, stop sign and street light violations, and distracted driving.

Smart software then makes sense of the data.

The write up quotes one driver who says:

I personally did not feel any more safe with a camera watching my every move.

Safe? Nope. Hit quotas. I noted:

In June, Motherboard reported that Amazon delivery companies were encouraging drivers to shut off the Mentor app that monitors safety in order to hit Amazon’s delivery quotas.

What’s up?

  1. Get points for showing concern for driver safety
  2. Get the packages out
  3. Have life both ways: Safe and speedy.

Might not work, eh?

Stephen E Arnold, October 8, 2021

AWS and CloudFlare: Doing Some Math, Eating Some Pizza

October 4, 2021

I read “Unroll Thread” and noted an interesting point of information; to wit:

If 1 million people download that 1GB this month, my cost with @cloudflare R2 this way rounds up to 13¢. With @awscloud S3 it’s $59,247.52. THAT is why people are losing their minds over this. Slight correction: $53,891.16. Apologies, the @awscloud pricing calculator LOVES to slip “developer support” onto the tab. 

I am not too sharp at the math thing, but at first glance it sure looks to me that Cloudflare is less costly for this type of data transfer. What’s the multiplier? Sure looks to be more that twice. On second glance, that difference is a tiny bit closer to a lot more.

Several questions:

  • Will the author seek a business analysis role at AWS?
  • Will either AWS or Cloudflare clarify the analysis?
  • Has no other person or certified cloud professional noticed the minor discrepancy?

Interesting indeed.

Stephen E Arnold, October 4, 2021

Amazon Investigates Bribery Allegations in India

September 30, 2021

If it did happen, Amazon had nothing to do with it. That is presumably the message the company would like us to take from its investigation. TechCrunch reports, “Amazon Starts Probe Over Bribe to Gov’t Officials by its Lawyers in India, Report Says.” Writer Manish Singh tells us:

“Amazon has launched an investigation into the conduct of its legal representatives in India following a complaint from a whistleblower who alleged that one or more of the company’s reps had bribed government officials, Indian news and analysis outlet the Morning Context reported on Monday. The company is investigating whether legal fees financed by it was used for bribing government officials, the report said, which cited unnamed sources and didn’t identify the government officials. Amazon has placed Rahul Sundaram, a senior corporate counsel, on leave, the report (paywalled) added. In a statement to TechCrunch, an Amazon spokesperson said the company has ‘zero tolerance’ for corruption, but didn’t comment on the investigation.”

Singh reminds us that India is an important market for Amazon, where the company has invested billions of dollars and has been expanding aggressively. All is not going smoothly. The company is currently under an antitrust investigation in that country and Reuters recently reported it had misrepresented its relationships with major vendors and worked to circumvent India’s foreign investment regulations. To literally add insult to injury, Singh writes:

“A top-level executive at the company … was summoned and questioned earlier this year by local police over allegations that one of its political dramas on Prime Video hurt religious sentiments and caused public anger. The company later issued a rare apology to users in India over the nine-part mini series.”

An apology, no matter how rare, might not be enough to get Amazon out of this. But not to worry. We are sure the company will be able to pay any fines levied against it without breaking a sweat.

Cynthia Murrell, September 30, 2021

Amazon: How Is That Video Streaming Thing Working Out?

September 7, 2021

What could be easier? Let people sign up and pump content to people interested in live streams of games, wanna-be go-go performers, and individuals sitting in an inflate-a-pool doing whatever. What could go wrong?

In my lectures about Amazon and the Bezos bulldozer, I highlight a few of the more intriguing activities the DarkCyber research team has observed; to wit:

  • A Ukrainian pole dancer live streaming a kids’ pole dancing event
  • A former exotic performer riding an electric Segway bicycle wearing absolutely minimal clothing and a colorful bike helmet, a backpack, and high tops
  • A person explaining how to avoid being cheated when playing card games with others who are into real time streaming
  • First-run motion pictures not on Amazon Prime
  • Individuals who paint their bodies in real time to mimic comic book and anime characters.

Yeah, there’s more, but you get the idea.

Now Amazon faces a hitch in its long pre-rolls, its “finder” interface, and its difficulties figuring out if ibabyrainbow is out of bounds.

I read “Twitch Finally Issues Official Statement to Streamers About the ‘Hate Raids’ Issue.” The main idea is that Twitchies are using comments to post negative comments and other possibly objectionable content objects to a “creator’s” chat.

The key passage in the write up for me was this statement:

To say that Twitch is now in disrepute is a massive understatement. Despite being the world’s arguably largest streaming platform, Twitch is not only losing viewers but also a few big-name creators that made their name there.

Defeating the Redmond outfit for JEDI and challenging NASA are possibly easier tasks.

Streamers who do hate — Streamers who boycott via #ADayOffTwitch — Streamers who coined the tag #TwitchDoBetter. Will Sagemaker come to the rescue?

Stephen E Arnold, September 7, 2021

Amazon Search: Just Outstanding

September 2, 2021

Authors at Paste Magazine are dedicated to assembling lists of the best streaming content from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other services. They know almost as much about these content libraries as their developers. The title in Paste Magazine’s article, “Amazon Prime Video’s Library Is Not Genuinely Impossible To Browse” says it all.

It is notoriously difficult to browse Amazon Prime’s content library and the problem was noted in 2018. Amazon Prime’s library contains a lot of content, much of it is considered unwatchable. The only way to locate anything is searching by its proper name, but users who want to browse films like physicals libraries and video stores of yore are abandoned.

Amazon Prime has also hidden its search function, instead it wants users to work around this road block:

It quickly becomes apparent that there is no obvious way to view that full list of sci-fi movies, suggesting that Amazon doesn’t want consumers to be able to easily find that kind of information—its user experience is built around you choosing one of the small handful of suggested films, or knowing in advance what you want to see and then specifically searching it out. However, it is possible to see the full list—in order for it to display, you just have to click on any specific sci-fi film, look at the movie’s genre tags, and click on the words “science fiction” once again.”

The search function is worse than that available in a medieval scriptorium. When users return to certain genre pages and browse the supposed complete list, the same twenty-one movies continuously reload.

Amazon Prime has thousands of titles and is designed by a high tech company, yet it cannot fix its search function? Why does Amazon, an important company that is shaking the film and television industry, not offering its users the best of the best when it comes to search? Amazon did A9, it sucked in Lucid Imagination “experts,” it intruded on Elastic search territory. And now search doesn’t work the way users expect. Has another high-tech outfit become customer hostile or just given up making search useful?

Whitney Grace,September 1, 2021

Amazon: Can the Bezos Bulldozer Pull Off a JEDI Play in the EU?

August 31, 2021

The Bezos bulldozer is a wonderful construct, and it is uniquely American. For those who do not follow the path of the machine as it grinds forward, Amazon made a case to rip from the grasp of Microsoft the JEDI contract. Now the mom-and-pop seller of books has an opportunity to rework the landscape of an EU fine in the neighborhood of a billion dollars. My goodness, it takes less than a day for the ecommerce store to generate one billion in cash. Painful? For sure.

You can read about this fine in “Europe: Amazon Slapped with Record-Breaking Privacy Fine.” The article characterizes the levy as an “enormous bite.” Yep, one day of revenue is painful indeed. Game changer? Nope.

The question is, “Why not?” With each “punishment” it becomes more and more clear that there is little incentive for certain large technology companies to change their business strategy or practices. After decades of business as usual, change becomes more and more difficult for both regulators and the business constructs. Who’s running the show? Obviously not the regulators.

Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2021

Amazon AWS: Personalization? What Is That? Who Cares?

August 23, 2021

I read the impassioned “AWS Doesn’t Know Who I Am. Here’s Why That’s A Problem.” The individual appears to perceive himself as an Amazon-savvy professional.  I learned:

My name is Ben Kehoe. I’m an AWS Serverless Hero. I’ve spoken at re:Invent. I meet regularly with teams across AWS. I’m followed by @awscloud on Twitter. But AWS doesn’t know who I am.

There are examples of services which pay attention to the “identity” or “alleged identity” of a user. These are helpful examples, and I liked the inclusion of Microsoft GitHub as an outfit who appears to care about an individual’s or a persona’s identity.

The write up includes the many tokens used to keep track of an AWS user or account. There is, it seems, no meta-token basket. Thus, instead of being a single entity, there are many separate AWS entities.

Several thoughts occurred to me:

  1. Fragmenting makes it easier to assess fees on hard-to-track services one part of an entity incurs. Why make it easy to manage AWS fees?
  2. Like security, Amazon AWS shifts the burden from the utility to the person, entity, or software process. My hunch is that the approach allows AWS to say, “Not our problem.”
  3. Amazon and AWS require that users and entities recognize that the company is, in effect, a person. Most people forget that a commercial enterprise may have more rights than a humanoid.

Net net: Amazon has no incentive to care about anyone, including Ben Kehoe unless the corporate person benefits in my opinion. Humans want to be perceived as unique. AWS is not mom. Thus, the problem is not Amazon’s.

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 2021

Truth and Justice the Amazon Apple Way

August 3, 2021

At the request of its good friend Amazon, Apple has come down on the side of preserving flawed and biased guidance. Mashable tells us that “Apple Boots App that Called BS on Fake Amazon Reviews from App Store.” Reporter Jack Morse writes:

“Publicly calling out frauds has always been a risky proposition. That reality came crashing down hard Friday for an app designed to spot fake Amazon reviews, after Apple kicked it out of its App Store. Apple confirmed in a statement that it removed the app after Amazon reached out. The news of Fakespot’s outing was first reported by The Verge. We reached out to Apple, Amazon, and Fakespot to confirm the Verge’s reporting. An Apple spokesperson provided a statement, attributed to the company, which says Amazon kicked off the inter-company beef early in June. It also insists that Apple attempted to give both parties time to work things out.”

Apple frames the issue as a matter of intellectual property rights, and insists it tried to work with Fakespot before removing the app. Saoud Khalifah, Fakespot’s founder and CEO, disagrees. He stated in a phone interview:

“Apple are claiming that they gave us a notice that they are going to take us down, but these are all template emails that seem to be from a robot. Anyone would be disappointed with this whole process, especially when your livelihood depends on it.”

Amazon claims Fakespot spreads misleading information, harms its sellers’ businesses, and even makes for security risks. Sure. The app attracted attention in 2019 when it reported a surge in fake reviews around the much-hyped Amazon Prime Day. The existence of fake reviews is a known problem, one the FTC has taken action against. We are also reminded of all the counterfeit products that plague the commerce site and the fake reviews that keep them moving. Nevertheless, Apple has decided it is Fakespot who is in the wrong here. Ah, capitalism at its finest.

Cynthia Murrell, August 2, 2021

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