YouTube: Serving Consumers or Bullying?

July 26, 2021

Ycombinator included a comment from someone. That comment was flagged. However, the information in the original comment and the observations offered by Ycombinator users are interesting. The information reveals what I characterize as an escalating battle between those who view YouTube videos and YouTube itself. (I am not going to discuss the escalating tension between “creators,” YouTube, and the service

First, the Ycombinator item contains this statement:

YouTube is still not happy. Today when I opened the app on my phone, it still showed me an add. It is infuriating at least. This won’t probably make it, but I needed to share.

So what? The flagged poster subscribed to YouTube and YouTube still displays advertisements.

Second, the comments include the tools which one can use to block YouTube’s charming and highly relevant, on point, information packed advertisements; for example:







uBlock Origin


Third, the fact that YouTube is becoming a cable-tv like operation is interesting as well.

Net net: Do you hear that tick tock? Maybe it is spelled TikTok?

Stephen E Arnold, July 26, 2021

Facebook and Milestones for the Zuck

July 2, 2021

I read “Facebook Reaches $1 Trillion Valuation Faster Than Any Other Company.” The write up reports that the highly esteemed Facebook (WhatsApp and Instagram) have out performed Apple, the Google, the spaceship outfits, and Microsoft. The article reports:

No stranger to breaking records, Facebook has just achieved another: the social media giant’s market cap has exceeded $1 trillion for the first time, reaching the milestone faster than any other company in history.

What has caused this surge in “valuation”? The answer is revealed in “Judge Dismisses Gov’t Antitrust Lawsuits against Facebook.” This separate write up in a news service oh, so close to Microsoft’s headquarters, states:

A federal judge on Monday dismissed antitrust lawsuits brought against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of state attorneys general, dealing a significant blow to attempts by regulators to rein in tech giants. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled Monday that the lawsuits were “legally insufficient” and didn’t provide enough evidence to prove that Facebook was a monopoly.

Concentration is good, it seems. For social media start ups, have you thought about issuing T shirts with the Zuck’s smiling face printed on them? You can update your Facebook page and do some Instagram posts. Don’t overlook WhatsApp as a way to spread the good news. About the T shirts I mean.

Stephen E Arnold, July 2, 2021

Sci-Hub: Is It Evil Personified in Alexandra Elbakyan, a modern Abaddon?

July 1, 2021

If you are not familiar with professional publishing, you may find “Is the Pirate Queen Scientific Publishing in Real Trouble This Time?” particularly fascinating. Founded by Alexandra Elbakyan in 2011, Sci-Hub has become the go to source of academic or professional publishing materials. One key point: Unlike commercial services, Sci-Hub is a freebie. In the world of Disney infused copyright ideas, Mickey Mouse and research about children’s heart disease are not available without paying. Parking at DisneyLand is a bargain compared to the fees assessed for a single two-page document. The kid’s life? Not part of the copyright approach to government funded research.

If you have some experience with the business models of the big outfits running peer-reviewed publications, you will get a kick out of passages like this one:

According to the publishers who brought the case in India, quite a bit. Pirate sites like Sci-Hub “threaten the integrity of the scientific record, and the safety of university and personal data,” a joint statement reads. It goes on to say that sites like Sci-Hub “have no incentive to ensure the accuracy of scientific articles, no incentive to ensure published papers meet ethical standards, and no incentive to retract or correct articles if issues arise.”

My hunch is that most people who explain that “I am an online expert” cannot differentiate between a blog post, a paper on ArXiv, an IEEE pdf, and a full text document from Lexis. In my experience, few online wizards can answer these questions:

  1. Once a research paper is complete, does the author have to pay the publisher of the journal to which the write up is submitted?
  2. Are the “peer reviewers” paid to do the often very, very difficult work of checking that the information in the document is correct, the statistics accurate as far as the reviewers can determine, and the “value” of the document will result in learning, not in harm?
  3. Are the companies running professional publishing operations monopolies or oligopolies?
  4. Are documents in professional publishers’ span of control updated, are errors corrected, are cabals of friendly experts disabused from promoting a graduate student’s, friend’s, or colleague’s write up? Are exchanges of favors among reviewers ignored or denied?
  5. Are errors in online documents corrected after those original documents are posted online?
  6. Are online documents known to be fraudulent or containing non reproducible results removed from repositories?
  7. Are libraries subject to ever increasing fees because those institutions might lose accreditation if research content were not provided to students, researchers, and other staff?
  8. What is the explicit link between tenure at a university and publishing in journals operated by commercial professional publishing companies? Hint: Sword of Damocles and a horse hair.

Struggling with some of the answers? No surprise. Like the pharmaceutical industry and those engaged in SMS spam services, certain information about business methods are not disclosed. And if revealed, the business processes are denied. If you want example, just watch reruns of the investigations of some of the high profile high technology companies testifying before the US Congress.

This “information wants to be free” baloney is not the way “real” online works. Here’s an example. I was asked to submit a version of my law enforcement centric report about Amazon’s policeware. Some person contacted me via LinkedIn and said a draft was due in December 2019. I said, “My report is not for academics. I don’t care if you publish it, just leave me out of the professional publishing razzle dazzle.” I pointed out that I was not an academic; I was not changing anything in the manuscript; and I was not sure if the information in my report would make any sense whatsoever to the handful of people who might read the collection of essays.

I forget about the write up: I never filled out any online forms; I never sent a bill of $1.00 (because I have a policy of getting paid for some of my research); and I routed email from the person who asked me to submit a chapter and the assorted youthful folks at the European publishing company to the Junk folder on my systems.

And what did I receive a couple of days ago? I got an email addressed to “Dear Professor Arnold.” The email wanted me to promote my chapter and the book. Okay, this blog posts is promoting the chapter. Helpful, right? Some of these outfits cannot differentiate between a PhD program drop out and a real live PhD driving for Uber. Keen powers of discrimination for sure.

Net net: Alexandrea Elbakyan, who is a student in everyone’s favorite country, is the enemy. Courts in several countries have determined that Ms. Elbakyan is a threat to learning, knowledge sharing, and “way” research content is to be made available. Yep, Elsevier is waiting for its $15 million check from Ms. Abaddon. Oh, sorry. I meant Ms. Elbakyan.

Stephen E Arnold, July 1, 2021

Is Google Really, Really Killing the Ad Industry?

June 16, 2021

I read “Google Is Also Killing Ad Industry like Apple.” There’s a caveat after this somewhat bold headline:

[Google] promises to put an end to personalized ads starting with Android 12

The write states:

Close to 80% of its revenue comes from advertising. But with pressure from regulators and consumers, Google had no choice but to follow Apple’s lead to protect users’ privacy and data.

Okay, the Google is reacting to what seems like on going legal hassles. Is Google “like Apple”? Well, Apple has diversified its revenue stream. The hardware, the App Store, the subscription businesses, and the other bits and pieces of the company that turn a buck are more robust than Google’s model.

Yep, that’s 80 percent advertising, and it is smart. Well, sort of smart. Some of the ads we’ve have been monitoring on YouTube and our Google Web search results pages seem a bit off the mark for whoever Google thinks “I” am. We love seeing ads for discounted auto insurance, Grammarly to improve the entity’s writing, and blandishments to consume a vegan health drink. Not exactly a cohesive line up of messages, but Google thinks we watch yacht videos, hacker and stolen software videos, and search for weaponized drone manufacturers. Normal stuff for the smart Google system.

That’s the problem. The 80 percent is based on some pretty crazy real life, rules based, and human tuned systems and methods. By virtue of zero meaningful regulation, the Google has become the embodiment of online advertising. Banners, personalized, scammy, whatever Google is there.

What if users opt out of Google data collection?

What difference will that make? The Floc you crowd believes that privacy is Job 1 at the Google. The cheerleaders for the weird “rumble” or “bumble” bundle think that subscriptions are the way to go. Google believes that its solving death and smart auto technology will become big winners. Then there’s the licensing opportunity for DeepMind’s smart software. Those who aren’t keen on saying, “We’ve got the secret sauce for artificial general intelligence” are gone or heading out the door. The AI ethics negative Nellies are history as well.

The problem is the 80 percent thing.

The write up has an answer:

As predicted, Google gave in to pressure from regulators and its users to implement these changes. However, it will be interesting to see, how Google will sustain these changes let alone other third-party ad providers. But only the future will tell how will these changes affect independent and small business owners as Facebook fears. Google recently introduced FLOC (Federated Learning Of Cohorts) an alternative method to replace the third-party cookies on Chrome which makes it difficult for advertisers to track user’s web activities to serve targeted ads. This FLOC will enable interest-based advertising on the web without letting advertisers know your identity. Probably, Google’s alternate solution to the Android app’s future personalized ads will probably reminiscent of FLOC. Overall, this is a welcome change from Google.

Got it? But 80 percent of $196 billion is a lot of smart auto and smart software licensing deals. Therefore, Steve Ballmer’s one trick pony observation is proving to be accurate or at least more accurate than Mr. Ballmer’s basketball team’s free thrown shooting percentage.

Stephen E Arnold, June 16, 2021

Great Moments in PR: Google and France June 2021

June 14, 2021

I am not sure what percentage of Alphabet Google’s annual revenue $268 million represents. My old handheld calculator balks at lots of numbers. I am more of a 00 or 000 kind of old timer. France believes that this figure is fair and appropriate for alleged missteps by the mom and pop online ad company.

I found the article “Google to Improve Ad Practices after Being Slapped with $268 Million Fine” interesting. In fact, I circled in True Blue this passage:

Following the results of this investigation, Google has decided to reach a settlement with the French antitrust authority. As a part of this settlement, the tech giant will have to improve its ad services to offer better interoperability with other platforms, and will also pay a $268 million fine.

Yep, the do better assurance. What was the alleged saying bandied about when Messrs. Brin and Page were roller blading around the Mountain View offices? I think it was this one:

It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.

A slight edit yields:

It’s easier to pay the find than make specific commitments.

Stephen E Arnold, June 14, 2021

Western Union And Wise Boost Google Pay

June 11, 2021

Western Union and Wise are trusted money wiring services and the companies have teamed with Google Pay. Tech Moran explores the new business team up in the story, “Google Pay Partners With Western Union And Wise To Launch An International Money Transfer Service.”

Wise and Western Union are now integrated parts of Google Pay. Google Pay is only available in the US. Customers can now transfer money through the Google Pay app to Singapore and India. Using Wise’s international services, Google Pay will not be available to eighty countries and Western Union connects the app to two hundred countries by the end of 2021.

In order to send money to India or Singapore, the Google Pay app will give customers the option to send money via Western Union or Wise. Google Pay selected Singapore and India as test countries due to the amount of remittance payments sent there from the US senders.

COVID increased the amount of money sent through online payments, but demands for remittance services have decreased since 2019:

“The Covid 19 pandemic has led to an increase in online payments though generally there is a drop in overall remittances flows as the money migrants sent has declined up to 14 percent from 2019.This is occasioned by worsening economic conditions and employment levels in migrant-hosting countries as revealed by the World Bank.”

Remittance services have an advantage over online payments in that they do not require an online account to receive or send money. Are there implications for enforcement officials working in the cyber crime space? Oh, some.

Whitney Grace, June 11, 2021

What Is Cloud Computing? It May Be Timesharing REbranded

June 1, 2021

I have been around long enough to watch hot trends come and go. Then years or decades later the “old” new thing returns. “Nvidia Is Renting Out Its A.I. Superpod Platform for $90K a Month” states:

Nvidia is looking to make work and development in artificial intelligence more accessible, giving researchers an easy way to access its DGX 2 supercomputer. The company announced that it will launch a subscription service for its DGX Superpod as an affordable way to gain entry into the world of supercomputers.

Does this sound like timesharing to you? It does to me. And what about those automatic upticks in charges? It is too early to tell, but my hunch is that there will be “peak times,” data transfer thresholds, and a taxi meter method applied to some user actions. I hope I am wrong, but, hey, timesharing business models have been around since — what? — the 1950s. That is long enough for those thrilling moments after opening a timesharing invoice to become one of the benefits of this “new” but “old” approach to computing.

Will the Nvidia supercomputing deals include a white coat? One tip: If you tour the superpod data facility, take a sweater.

Stephen E Arnold, June 1, 2021

Palantir: Pay Us in Bitcoin

May 19, 2021

I spotted an interesting article called “Palantir Technologies Accepts Bitcoin Payments, Might Hold on Balance Sheet.” Bitcoin is the poster child for digital currency. In some circles, Bitcoin evokes thoughts of money laundering and cyber crime. The write up points out in response to a question about crypto currency on the balance sheet:

Palantir’s CFO, David Glazer said, ‘The short answer is yes. We’re thinking about it and we’ve even discussed it internally. If you take a look at our balance sheet there’s $2.3 billion in cash at quarter-end including $151 million in cash flow in Q1. So it’s definitely on the table from a treasury perspective as well as other investments as we look across our business and beyond. Glazer went on to note that “in terms of accepting bitcoin from our customers, we do accept it as a form of payment. We’re open for business there.”

Some of the early investors in Palantir are enthused about digital currency. Business Insider reported that: announced on Tuesday that it would launch a crypto exchange called Bullish.  It’s landed over $10 billion in backing from Peter Thiel, Mike Novogratz, Louis Bacon, and Nomura.  Novogratz said that Bullish’s scale and’s experience would make it “a formidable player.

Significant moves indeed. However, in the back of my mind is the thought that Bitcoin facilitates certain types of illegal activity. But that’s just my speculation.

Stephen E Arnold, May 19, 2021

Clarivate Buys ProQuest

May 18, 2021

I don’t want to go into the history of commercial database producers. (Those readings about Oliver Cromwell in my British history class were orders of magnitude more exciting.)

ProQuest Bought by Clarivate in $5.3bn Deal” reports:

London-based Clarivate said the acquisition would establish it as “a premier provider of end-to-end research intelligence solutions” and significantly expand its content and data offerings.

Clarivate describes itself this way:

Together, we can create a better tomorrow.

The firm uses these phrases to communicate its business:

Every drop of potential needs to be squeezed from your IP

Make critical decisions with speed and certainty

Innovation in focus

Human ingenuity can change the world and improve our future

Accelerating innovation with actionable information and insights

If you are still unsure what the firm does, you will need to check the About page on the company’s Web site. Oh, sorry. There is no “About” page for Clarivate. A profile of the firm, which is assumed to be a household work, is available at this link.

ProQuest warrants its own Wikipedia entry which explains that

ProQuest LLC is an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based global information-content and technology company, founded in 1938 as University Microfilms by Eugene B. Power. ProQuest provides applications and products for libraries. ProQuest started as a producer of microfilm products, then became an electronic publisher, and later grew through acquisitions. Today, the company provides tools for discovery and citation management,[example needed] and platforms that allow library users to search, manage, use, and share research.

Net net: For fee online information access appears to mesh with the increased interest in subscription services. Challenges exist; for example, individuals like Sci Hub’s founder Alexandra Elbakyan and university professionals who can go off the reservation and present content outside of the peer reviewed journals, Dark Web archives, and customers mindful of the cost associated with an online for fee search may look for relevant information on Medium or Substack type services. My view is that this is a sale by ProQuest’s owner Cambridge Scientific Abstract comparable to Bill Ziff’s legendary deals.

Stephen E Arnold, May 18, 2021

Believe It or Not: The First AI to Surpass Humans

May 12, 2021

Say what you will about other aspects of Google, you have to hand it to the company’s research arm. Developers at Google Brain, DeepMind, and the University of Toronto have developed the reinforcement-learning AI DreamerV2. According to Analytics India Magazine, “Now DeepMind’s New AI Agent Outperforms Humans” as measured by the Atari benchmark. The tech evolved from last year’s Dreamer agent created by the same team. It uses a world model, an approach that is more adept at forming generalizations than traditional trial-and-error machine learning processes. World models have not been as accurate as many other algorithms, however. Until now. Reporter Ambika Choudhury writes:

“Dreamer learns a world model from the past experience and efficiently learns far-sighted behaviors in its latent space by backpropagating value estimates back through imagined trajectories. DreamerV2 is the successor of the Dreamer agent. … This new agent works by learning a world model and uses it to train actor-critic behaviors purely from predicted trajectories. It is built upon the Recurrent State-Space Model (RSSM) — a latent dynamics model with both deterministic and stochastic components — allowing to predict a variety of possible futures as needed for robust planning, while remembering information over many time steps. The RSSM uses a Gated Recurrent Unit (GRU) to compute the deterministic recurrent states. DreamerV2 introduced two new techniques to RSSM. According to the researchers, these two techniques lead to a substantially more accurate world model for learning successful policies: [a] The first technique is to represent each image with multiple categorical variables instead of the Gaussian variables used by world models; [b] *The second new technique is KL balancing. This technique lets the predictions move faster toward the representations than vice versa.”

See the write-up for a chart of DreamerV2’s performance compared to previous world models. And all this on a single GPU. Curious readers can check out the team’s paper here. We believe.

Cynthia Murrell, May 12, 2021

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