The Addiction Analogy: The Cancellation of Influencer Rand Fishkin

May 5, 2021

Another short item. I read a series of tweets which you may be able to view at this link. The main idea is that an influencer was to give a talk about marketing. The unnamed organizer did not like Influencer Fishkin’s content. And what was that content? Information and observations critical of the outstanding commercial enterprises Facebook and Google. The apparent points of irritation were Influencer Fishkin’s statements to the effect that the two estimable outfits (Facebook and Google) were not “friendly, in-your-corner partners.” Interesting, but for me that was only part of the story.

Here’s what I surmised from the information provided by Influencer Fishkin:

  1. Manipulation is central to the way in which these two lighthouse firms operate in the dark world of online
  2. Both venerated companies function without consequences for their actions designed to generated revenue
  3. The treasured entities apply the model and pattern to “sector after sector.”

Beyond Search loves these revered companies.

But there is one word which casts a Beijing-in-a-sandstorm color over Influencer Fishkin’s remarks. And that word is?

Addiction

The idea is that these cherished organizations use their market position (which some have described as a monopoly set up) and specific content to make it difficult for a “user” of the “free” service to kick the habit.

My hunch is that neither of these esteemed commercial enterprises wants to be characterized as purveyor of gateway drugs, digital opioids, or artificers who put large monkeys on “users” backs.

That’s not a good look.

Hence, cancellation is a pragmatic fix, is it not?

Stephen E Arnold, May 5, 2021

Selective YouTube Upload Filtering or Erratic Smart Software?

May 4, 2021

I received some information about a YouTuber named Aquachiggers. I watched this person’s eight minute video in which Aquachigger explained that his videos had been downloaded from YouTube. Then an individual (whom I shall described as an alleged bad actor) uploaded those Aquachigger videos with a the alleged bad actor’s voice over. I think the technical term for this is a copyright violation taco.

I am not sure who did what in this quite unusual recycling of user content. What’s clear is that YouTube’s mechanism to determine if an uploaded video violates Google rules (who really knows what these are other than the magic algorithms which operate like tireless, non-human Amazon warehouse workers). Allegedly Google’s YouTube digital third grade teacher software can spot copyright violations and give the bad actor a chance to rehabilitate an offending video.

According to Aquachigger, content was appropriated, and then via logic which is crystalline to Googlers, notified Aquachigger that his channel would be terminated for copyright violation. Yep, the “creator” Aquachigger would be banned from YouTube, losing ad revenue and subscriber access, because an alleged bad actor took the Aquachigger content, slapped an audio track over it, and monetized that content. The alleged bad actor is generating revenue by unauthorized appropriation of another person’s content. The key is that the alleged bad actor generates more clicks than the “creator” Aquachigger.

Following this?

I decided to test the YouTube embedded content filtering system. I inserted a 45 second segment from a Carnegie Mellon news release about one of its innovations. I hit the upload button and discovered that after the video was uploaded to YouTube, the Googley system informed me that the video with the Carnegie Mellon news snip required further processing. The Googley system labored for three hours. I decided to see what would happen if I uploaded the test segment to Facebook. Zippity-doo. Facebook accepted my test video.

What I learned from my statistically insignificant test that I could formulate some tentative questions; for example:

  1. If YouTube could “block” my upload of the video PR snippet, would YouTube be able to block the Aquachigger bad actor’s recycled Aquachigger content?
  2. Why would YouTube block a snippet of a news release video from a university touting its technical innovation?
  3. Why would YouTube, create the perception that Aquachigger be “terminated”?
  4. Would YouTube be allowing the unauthorized use of Aquachigger content in order to derive more revenue from that content on the much smaller Aquachigger follower base?

Interesting questions. I don’t have answers, but this Aquachigger incident and my test indicate that consistency is the hobgoblin of some smart software. That’s why I laughed when I navigated to Jigsaw, a Google service, and learned that Google is committed to “protecting voices in conversation.” Furthermore:

Online abuse and toxicity stops people from engaging in conversation and, in extreme cases, forces people offline. We’re finding new ways to reduce toxicity, and ensure everyone can safely participate in online conversations.

I also learned:

Much of the world’s internet users experience digital censorship that restricts access to news, information, and messaging apps. We’re [Google] building tools to help people access the global internet.

Like I said, “Consistency.” Ho ho ho.

Stephen E Arnold, May 4, 2021

Great Moments in Censorship: Beethoven Bust

May 3, 2021

I noted a YouTube video called “Five Years on YouTube.” Well, not any longer. A highly suspect individual who has the gall to teach piano was deemed unacceptable. Was this a bikini haul by YouTube influencer/sensation Soph Mosca, who recently pointed out that reading a book was so, well, you know, ummm hard. Was it a pointer to stolen software like this outstanding creators’ contributions who seem little troubled by YouTube’s smart software monitoring system:

image

Nope, the obviously questionable piano teacher with 29,000 people who want to improve their piano skills is a copyright criminal type.

Watch the video. Notice the shifty eyes. Notice the prison complexion. Notice the poor grammar, enunciation, and use of bad actor argot.

Did you hear these vile words:

  • Beethoven
  • APRA_CS, ECAD_CS, SOCAN, VCPMC_CS
  • Upsetting.

And the music? I think Beethoven is active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media channels. He is protected by the stalwarts at Amazon, Apple, and Google. Did he really tweet: “Persecute piano teachers”?

What’s he have to say about this nefarious person’s use of notes from the Moonlight Sonata?

Asking Beethoven is similar to asking Alexa or Siri something. The truth will be acted upon.

I think smart software makes perfect decisions even though accuracy ranges from 30 percent to 90 percent for most well crafted and fiddled models.

Close enough for horse shoes. And piano teachers! Ban them. Lock them up. Destroy their pianos.

Furthermore the perpetrator of this crime against humanity ifs marina@thepianokeys.com. If you want to help her, please, contact her. Beyond Search remembers piano teachers, an evil brood. Ban them all, including Tiffany Poon and that equally despicable Dame Mitsuko Uchida who has brazenly performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto K. 271.

Cleanse the world of these spawn of Naamah.

Stephen E Arnold, May 3, 2021

Common Sense: Unlikely When It Comes to Software for Thumbtypers

April 28, 2021

Here is some intriguing research we should all probably consider. Sometimes, the best solution to a design problem is to remove something instead of piling more features on. However, Scientific American reports, “Our Brain Typically Overlooks this Brilliant Problem-Solving Strategy.” Perhaps the Microsoft Teams’ professionals might find value in a reduced-features approach to software. Just a suggestion.

Balance bikes that eliminate pedals instead of sporting training wheels for kids learning to ride. The elimination of traffic lights and road signs for safer streets. Solutions like these can be startling because they involve deletions instead of additions. Who would’ve thought? A pair of researchers at the University of Virginia tested their suspicion that humans tend to add elements instead of to removing them and that there is a psychological explanation. They conducted a series of observational studies that seem to confirm their hypothesis; see the write-up for those interesting details. Reporter Diana Kwon writes:

“These findings, which were published today in Nature, suggest that ‘additive solutions have sort of a privileged status—they tend to come to mind quickly and easily,’ says Benjamin Converse, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia and a co-author of the study. ‘Subtractive solutions are not necessarily harder to consider, but they take more effort to find.’ The authors ‘convincingly demonstrate that we tend to not consider subtractive solutions as much as additive ones,’ says Tom Meyvis, a consumer psychologist at New York University, who was not directly involved in the study but reviewed it and co-authored a commentary about it in Nature. While the propensity for businesses and organizations to opt for complexity rather than simplification was previously known, the novelty of this paper is that it shows that people tend toward adding new features, ‘even when subtracting would clearly be better,’ he adds. Meyvis also notes that other reasons for this effect may be a greater likelihood that additive solutions will be appreciated or the so-called sunk-cost bias, in which people continue investing in things for which time, money or effort has already been spent.”

Does this bias against subtraction cross cultures? Is it present in childhood or do we grow into it? Several questions remain to be investigated. Meanwhile, the researchers hope their findings will encourage all of us, whatever our field, to consider subtraction as well as addition when we go to make improvements or solve design problems. We might just find brilliant solutions we would otherwise have overlooked.

Cynthia Murrell, April 28, 2021

You Buy a Newspaper, and Then You Read This: Will the Bezos Bulldozer Change Direction?

April 27, 2021

Jeff Bezos (via assorted financial entities) gained control of the Washington Post. MBAs can quibble about “gained control”, the idea of buying a newspaper, and associating the publication with the mom-and-pop online store. That’s okay.

Navigate to “How Big Tech Got So Big: Hundreds of Acquisitions.” Now visualize yourself as the world’s richest man and an individual who may be the smartest person in any room into which he wanders. Then read this passage from your newspaper:

You may have recognized many of these acquired companies, like Zappos, IMDb, Twitch and Goodreads — all owned by Amazon.

Skip a few lines:

But the majority of acquisitions involved small start-ups with
valuable patents or talented engineers…

And this passage:

But now, as the tech giants grow more powerful, critics who accused these companies of using monopoly power to weaken competitors have also called for more scrutiny, saying the acquisitions are not rooted in innovation but total market control — part of a tactic known as “copy, acquire, kill” — to eliminate competition…

Continuing with:

To enter the grocery arena, the company acquired Whole Foods Market and its distribution channels and retail locations in one $13.7 billion-dollar gulp. Amazon wanted to be a bigger player in the “Internet of Things,” so it swallowed up several home security companies and the home router company Eero. And as the company dived into the autonomous vehicle industry, it chose start-ups in that space, too. [Want to borrow that e-book from the library? Sorry, Amazon won’t let you.] Amazon is everywhere: in your television with Prime Video, in your ears with its Echo smart speaker, and behind the websites and apps you use every day. In 2020, the company made $386 billion in revenue.  The company shows no signs of slowing, with additional acquisitions that included robotics companies to assist workers and artificial intelligence to grow the capabilities of its Alexa virtual assistant service. Amazon executives have said the company is just a small part of the overall retail industry.

In your hypothetical guise of the world’s richest person, what do you do?

[a] Ignore

[b] Make a call to someone who can talk to someone about the story

[c] Pull a lever on the bulldozer and change direction

[d] Other? Explain: _______________________________

Business strategies with examples from one’s employer can be interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, April 27, 2021

Apple and Facebook: Maybe Regular Governmental Regulations Do Not Work for These Outfits?

April 26, 2021

I read “How Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook Became Foes.” The dust up is about user tracking. It is not explicitly about making money, acting in a manner which helps customers, or conforms to the expectations of some people. The NYT article is interesting, but it ignored a point I think is important. I will get to what is in my opinion an important omission in a moment.

First, the write up states:

At the center of the fight are the two C.E.O.s. Their differences have long been evident. Mr. Cook, 60, is a polished executive who rose through Apple’s ranks by constructing efficient supply chains. Mr. Zuckerberg, 36, is a Harvard dropout who built a social-media empire with an anything-goes stance toward free speech.

Then some history:

Mr. Cook decided to distance Apple from Facebook, the people said. While Mr. Cook had raised privacy as an issue as early as 2015, he ramped that up in 2018. Apple also unveiled a new corporate motto: “Privacy is a fundamental human right.”

And allegedly Mr. Zuckerberg’s current position:

But Mr. Zuckerberg has also been blunt about Facebook’s feelings on Apple. “We increasingly see Apple as one of our biggest competitors,” he said in an earnings call this year.

No problem but the omission is that the antics of two monopolies are no longer amusing. The US government as well as organizations like the EU have been unable to constrain either firm. This is a failure for three reasons:

  1. These are monopolies and the jousting is simply an effort to allow one company to win.
  2. Neither company cares about customers. Facebook sucks data and enables a Cambridge Analytica thought process and Apple makes it impossible for “customers” to have confidence that their purchases are theirs or that their devices can be fixed. Both approaches are anti-consumer.
  3. Both companies manipulate to thrive. Both use Orwellian type lingo to further the illusion that these firms are more than money generating constructs operating with personal antipathies, biases, and as supra-governments.

Quite an omission if my hypotheses are on the money.

Stephen E Arnold, April 26, 2021

Email Marketers Get a Wake Up Call from Amazon

April 26, 2021

Email marketing. Decent business. Not too exciting. Wrong.

Amazon Is Loosening Its Grip on Customers and Letting Some Sellers Reach Out to Them” suggests that some email marketing agencies either have a challenge or an opportunity. The write up states:

Amazon began piloting a tool that enables U.S. companies that are part of its Brand Registry program to email marketing materials to shoppers who have opted to “follow” their brands. These companies can then notify those shoppers when they launch a new product or promotion.

A small and logical start. However, a question not frequently asked is:

How many email addresses does Amazon have?

Amazon does not say, but it does have some information flows which can be filtered to provide email addresses. The metadata for each “object” can provide the type of hooks of interest to those needing to do direct marketing.

I will review some of Amazon’s sources of data in my lecture on April 28, 2021, at the National Cyber Crime Conference. I have a diagram assembled from open source information. Combined with the AWS cross correlation capability, Amazon’s email baby step could lead to a marathon runner’s stride. I offer a for fee, non law enforcement/intelligence professional version of this lecture. You can inquire about the information by writing benkent2020 at yahoo dot com. Just put Amazon in the subject line.

Stephen E Arnold, April 26, 2021

Verizon in Baby Bell Mode

April 22, 2021

When most users have already moved on, why bother to fix what’s broken? We suspect that is what Verizon is thinking as we read the piece, “Of Course Yahoo Answers Is Shutting Down—Just Look at Its Vile ‘Trending’ Section’” at TNW. We learn that Yahoo Answers will completely shut down by May 4, and users have until April 20 to post any questions or answers. Users’ data will be downloadable until June 30. Reporter Ivan Mehta writes:

“It’s not hard to guess why the site is shutting down. Over the years, it has lost relevance and people have moved to other question-answer platforms such as Quora [and Reddit]. As The Verge and USA Today noted, Yahoo Answers has become a home for far-right conspiracies. In a note sent to its users, Yahoo admitted that the site has ‘become less popular over the years as the needs of our members have changed.’ Take a look at the current trending section and question suggestions. It’s filled with hateful garbage trying to rile up people. And the answers to those questions read like they’ve been generated by a trolling bot farm.”

See the write-up for its sample of said hateful garbage. Better moderation may have saved the site, but that ship has sailed. Mehta muses that the current kerfuffle around Section 230 may have helped convince Verizon to shutter the site. Best to avoid being entangled in that turmoil, especially if one’s site is awash in problematic content.

Cynthia Murrell, April 22, 2021

Financial Warfare: Another View of FinTech

April 21, 2021

I usually ignore articles about big finance and international wheeling and dealing. I did read “China’s Digital Yuan Displaces the Dollar.” The headline struck me as misleading and somewhat deceptive. You will have to read the original write up and make your own decision.

I am not going to walk through the argument and the facts supporting the point of view in the essay. I will cite one interesting passage:

The $16 trillion of offshore dollar deposits at international banks won’t turn into the equivalent amount of Chinese Yuan. Instead, that $16 trillion will shrink to a small fraction of its present volume, because the Big Tech/fintech revolution will make them redundant. Instead, as Morgan Stanley analysts explained this week, “banks will lose their deposit base” as digital currencies replace their most basic functions.

Let’s assume that this assertion is correct.

From an intelligence perspective, consider these questions:

  1. What’s the impact of the US printing dollars to cover Covid et al?
  2. What happens if China takes direct action to add Taiwan to its collection of entities?
  3. What happens if Russia annexes Ukraine?
  4. What happens if these events occur at the same time?

I try to stick to online information in this blog. Therefore, one final question:

What happens if the cyber attacks based on SolarWinds, Exchange Server, Pulse Secure, and similar entities move into a new phase of active aggression?

Maybe Texas power problems on steroids? Thumbtyping and sucking down YouTube and TikTok content might become problematic. ATMs are online devices and possibly vulnerable.

Stephen E Arnold, April 21, 2021

Oracle Matches One Amazon AWS Capability: Bringing Order to Chaos

April 19, 2021

In 2018, I started noticing more Amazon AWS support for ServiceNow. ServiceNow is a company which uses cloud technology to help its customers manage digital workflows for enterprise operations. Amazon revealed in 2018 “How to install and configure the AWS Service Management Connector for ServiceNow,” the procedure which some AWS customers had mastered before the blog post gave its stamp of approval.

Oracle Integrates ServiceNow into its Cloud Infrastructure” makes it clear that the much loved database vendor is doing what AWS did in 2018. The article reports:

Oracle has announced the integration of ServiceNow into its Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. The integration means enterprise customers have the ability to access and manage OCI (Oracle Cloud Infrastructure) resources via their existing ServiceNow service portal and the ITOM (ServiceNow IT Operations Management) Visibility application, which will give them a single dashboard to manage their public cloud resources from Oracle and other cloud providers.

Legacy Oracle customers like government agencies are likely to find the integration helpful. At one time, the likes of Amazon itself and Google might have been over the moon. Both of these cloud giants jettisoned Oracle technology and have moved in other directions.

A ServiceNow VP spins the Oracle move this way:

“With this integration, ServiceNow and Oracle are making it seamless for enterprises to unlock productivity for distributed teams to deliver products and services faster, access powerful business insights and create great experiences for employees, wherever they may be,” says ServiceNow’s vice president & general manager of Operations Management & Data Foundations, Jeff Hausman.  Joint customers leveraging the Now Platform and OCI will get the best of both worlds, a seamless experience that maximizes the value of cloud investments and the ability to harness the power of artificial intelligence for proactive operations.”

Many buzzwords like seamless, unlock productivity, business insights, experiences which are “great”, value, proactive, and of course artificial intelligence.

The winner may be ServiceNow. For Oracle, I am not sure yet. Maybe on deck to enter the cross cloud de-chaosizing work now going on in many organizations.

Stephen E Arnold, April 19, 2021

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