Google Quirks Identified

October 3, 2022

Stadia went away. The Hacker News thread “Stadia Died Because No One Trusts Google” included some comments which identified what some perceive as inherent Google defects. My hunch is that these defects can be stretched to cover other Google services, maybe the firm’s approach to advertising and “artificial intelligence.”

Here are a handful of comments which I found interesting:

h0l0cube: Google, Facebook, etc. are victims of early success. They made their billions on low hanging fruit, by throwing a lot of resources at problems with very high demand for a solution that weren’t yet tackled well (e.g. query the internet, keep in touch with friends). So it’s no wonder that in this day in age they are incapable of understanding product market fit, innovating, or competing in a market with competent players and a lower barrier to entry.

vxNsr: Google isn’t especially excited by OS, because their bread and butter is all in the cloud they just don’t have the institutional energy to care about consumer software for the consumer’s sake.

marcinzm: Even Google’s more public attempts at innovation are toys rather than useful products.

bitcharmer: These days their [Google’s] DNA is ads.

chopface: … Googlers just don’t care about people. They care about puzzles and systematicity.

josephg: Every time Google shuts down a product, they hurt their reputation. They’re pissing in the pool that future Google products need to survive. At this point I don’t know if Google can make successful new products because nobody trusts their follow through.

hinkley: IMO, Google died the day they announced they weren’t going to work on anything with less than a billion dollar revenue potential. It sounds like a financially smart thing to do but it cuts your legs out because nobody is doing research anymore, and you select for people with half a billion potential and an eagerness to lie.

Interesting to me, probably not to Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind, definitely not to DeepMind. I can hear this echoing in my mind, “Senator, thank you for the question.”

Stephen E Arnold, October 3, 2022

Will Simplicity Sprint Help Google Contend with iPhone Rise?

September 30, 2022

It appears Android users have just been relegated to the minority in the US, at least for the moment. Apple Insider reports, “There Are More iPhones in Use in the USA than Android Phones.” Writer William Gallagher tells us:

“Counterpoint Research has previously reported that on a quarterly basis, Apple’s sales of the iPhone are growing. New research from Counterpoint discusses the total installed pool of smartphones that are actually in active use — and iPhones now account for just slightly over 50% of actively used smartphones in the States. According to the Financial Times, Counterpoint analysts have said that this is Apple’s highest-ever share of active smartphone users since the original iPhone launch in 2007.”

So, what is Google’s next phone move? Perhaps it will be another “Simplicity Sprint” like the one CEO Sundar Pichai recently launched in the face of dismal productivity numbers: the company’s second-quarter revenue growth was a mere 13%, down from 62% a year before. The project is asking employees for ideas to boost efficiency. Historically, Google has been considered the most worker-centric big tech company (contrast to Amazon, for example). Some have said that culture is changing; perhaps employees will wax nostalgic on their feedback forms.

Whatever the results, writer and programmer Pen Magnet thinks Pichai would do better to consider some factors unique to programming. In “Why Google Employees Don’t Work,” published at Level Up Coding, they write:

“When it comes to productivity, quarterly and yearly figures don’t matter much for huge companies. They have decade-long product-rollout plans. If something is looking bad today, it’s more likely to be rooted in someone’s bad judgment 5 years ago, who is currently out of the blame-game horizon. … As a 2-decade veteran programmer, every time I think of productivity, all I can think of is excellence. In other words, the fastest way to do something is to do it right, no matter how long it takes.”

If that apparent contradiction piques your interest, see the write-up for more discussion. Will Google find a way to better compete with Apple, or will iOS capture more of the upscale US market for mobile phones?

Cynthia Murrell, September 30, 2022

Google and Its Smart Software: Marketing Fodder and Investment Compost

September 29, 2022

Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind is “into” smart software. The idea is that synthetic data, off-the-shelf models, and Google’s secret sauce will work wonders. Now this series of words is catnip for AGYD’s marketing and sales professionals. Grrrreat, as Tony the Tiger used to say about a fascinating cereal decades ago. Grrreat!

However, there may be a slight disconnect between the AGYD smart software papers, demonstrations, and biology-shaking protein thing and the cold, hard reality of investment payback. Keep in mind that AGYD is about money, not the social shibboleths in the stream of content marketing.

Google Ventures Shelves Its Algorithm” states:

Google Ventures has mothballed an algorithm that for years had served as a gatekeeper for new investments… GV [Google Ventures] still relies heavily on data. After all, this is the corporate venture arm of Google. But data has been relegated to its original role as aide, rather than arbiter.

I interpreted the report to mean: Yikes! It does not work and Googley humans have to make decisions about investments.

The spin is that the algos are helpful. But the decision is humanoid.

I wonder, “What other AGYD algos don’t deliver what users, advertisers, and Googlers expected?”

Google listens to those with lots of money at risk. Does Google listen to other constituencies? Did Google take the criticism of its smart software to heart?

My hunch is that the smart software is lingo perfect for marketing outputs. Some of the outputs of the smart software are compost, rarely shown to the public and not sniffed by too many people. Will Tony the Tiger inhale and growl, “Grrreat”? Sure, sure, Tony will.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2022

Google: Fraying Comes with Graying

September 28, 2022

At a conference last week, I had to work hard to avoid getting annoyed at 20 somethings: Fiddling with mobiles, looking bored, and tapping on laptops. I stayed on course.

Not at the Google apparently. “Google CEO Pichai Tells Employees Not to ‘Equate Fun with Money’ in Heated All-Hands Meeting.” I have zero idea if this news story is spot on, nor do I care. The factoids might be disinformation bought and paid for by a disgruntled lobbying or a person unhappy with Google’s objective search results spiel.

But the write up is entertaining and it is suggestive, at least to me.

First, I chuckled at the “heated” all hands meeting. I have heard that in the Brin Page do no evil era, meetings were often fun. Heck, I have reasonably accurate information about Mr. Brin’s arriving at a meeting with Sumner Redstone. Mr. Brin exuded fun because he had been roller blading and arrived with skates on and fruit bootin garb. Mr. Redstone was not amused too much. If the write up’s headline reflects reality and not a quest for clicks, “heated” does not refer to sweaty wizards. Heated means angry, annoyed, maybe out of control? Huh, not cool.

Second, I spotted this comment in the write up:

Pichai admitted that it’s not just the economy that’s caused challenges at Google but also an expanding bureaucracy at Google.

High school science club management appears to fall short of what’s needed to make the Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind entity walk like a neurological digital dinosaur should. Wobblies and poor coordination do not send positive signals to big time Wall Street wolves.

Third, this compensation point resonated with me:

Pichai dodged employee questions asking about cost-cutting executive compensation. Pichai brought in total pay last year of $6.3 million, while other top executives made more than $28 million.

Is “dodged” the right word? Probably not, but to a wizard manager getting plastered with the word “dodged” is not positive PR. But, hey, this is the outfit which fired Dr. Timnit Gebru for pointing out one type of error association with Google’s smart software. Does that lack of intelligence extend to the managing humanoids at the Google? What about Google’s compensation plan for leadership versus a young programmer working on single sign on? Good question maybe?

Fourth, I found this passage thought provoking:

“I’m a bit concerned that you think what we’ve done is what you would define as aggressive cost saving,” he said. “I think it’s important we don’t get disconnected. You need to take a long-term view through conditions like this.” He added that the company is “still investing in long-term projects like quantum computing,” and said that at times of uncertainty, it’s important “to be smart, to be frugal, to be scrappy, to be more efficient.”

I think this illustrates what I would call a disconnect between the life in carpet land and the programmer-eat-marketer environment of the Foosball table. Disconnects? Is Android fragmented? Does Google have what it takes to catch up with Amazon and Microsoft in cloud space?

Has AGYD solved death? I know that Google may be looking a bit like a senior citizen struggling with the reality of arteriosclerosis. Will walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs be on display at the next big time all hands meeting?

That would be a significant signal in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2022

Ballmer Versus Smit: Hooper Owner Versus Suit

September 27, 2022

I learned that Steve Ballmer — former, much loved leader of Microsoft for 14 culturally rewarding years — allegedly said something like “Google is a one-trick pony.” Okay, where’s the supporting data? One liners are not hyperlinked to Mr. Ballmer’s detailed, Harvard-infused spreadsheet about the Google’s business. Nah, Google sold online ads. Its inspiration came from outfits most 20 somethings struggle to associate with innovation; specifically, GoTo.com, Overture.com, and Yahoo.com. (The yodel might spark some awareness in young wizards, but probably not too many will think of the Big Bear creative who crafted the sound. (Factoid: The creator of the Yahoo yodel was the same person who did the catchy Big Mac jingle with the pickle on top. But you knew that, right?)

I thought of Mr. Ballmer and his understated, low energy style when I read “Gerrit Smit on Alphabet’s Underappreciated Growth Drivers.” Mr. Smit is a senior financial whiz at Stonehage Fleming. The company’s objective is to get paid by people with money for services, which including advice. The firm’s Web site says:

Supporting many of the world’s leading families and wealth creators across generations and geographies

Since I live in rural Kentucky, it will not surprise you that I interpret this sentence to mean, “We advise and get paid whether the investment pays off or falls into the Mariana Trench.”

The thesis of the article is that Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind will grow no matter what happens to advertising, whether regulators keep nicking the estimable firm, or competitors like Amazon and TikTok continue to bumble forward with their lame attempts to get big and prosper.,

Mr. Smit offers:

Alphabet is one of the scarcer quality technology-driven companies with free options on further future organic growth drivers. It invests heavily in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, self-driving cars (Waymo) and biotechnology (Verily Life Sciences). It is particularly active in healthcare, having last year alone invested US$1.7-billion in visionary healthcare ideas, earning it fifth position of all companies in the Nature index (which tracks the success of scientific analysis in life sciences). It recently also completed the acquisition of Fitbit.

My instinct is to point out that each of these businesses can generate cash, but it is not clear to me that the volume of cash or its automated, bidding magic will replicate in these areas of “heavy” investment. Smart software continues to capture investor interest. However, there are some doubts about the wild and crazy claims about its accuracy, effectiveness, and political correctness. I like to point to the problem of bias, made vivid by AGYD’s handling of Dr. Timnit Gebru and others employees who did not get with the program. I also enjoy bringing up Google’s desire to “solve death” which has morphed into forays into America’s ethically and intentionality-challenged health care sector. Perhaps Google’s senior executives will find subrogation more lucrative than ad auctions, but I doubt it. Self driving cars are interesting as well. An errant WayMo will almost certainly drive demand for health care in some circumstances and may increase sales of FitBits in the event the person injured by a self-driving car follows a rehabilitation routine.

But these examples are “bets,” long shots, or as AGYD likes to say “moonshots.”

Yeah, great.

Here’s another statement from Mr. Smit’s “buy Google stock now” and “let us buy that stock for you” essay:

While Alphabet keeps reinvesting actively and last year spent over 12% of sales on research and development, it has built a strong record of generating excess free cash flow – in our view the main reason for investing in a stock, and the main determinant of the fundamental value of a business. Alphabet’s free cash flow sometimes takes a large step upwards and then stabilises, but seldom takes a large step backwards. This clearly is of comfort to investors.

But Mr. Smit is hedging his rah rah:

The current economic outlook is particularly uncertain, and the overall advertising market may not impress for a while. Although Alphabet can easily “manage” its financial results by holding back investment in, say, Google Cloud, it is not so short-sighted. Regulatory risks have been looming for a long time, in essence resulting from the company’s effectiveness.

Net net: Buy shares in AGYD… now. Monopolistic businesses have that special allure.

Stephen E Arnold, September 27, 2022

Anyone Remember the Google and Its Magic Algorithms?

September 21, 2022

Outfits like Foundem and the French tax authority wondered why the findability of their products and services was poor. I recall hearing from one or more Googlers the message that manual changes to search results were not part of the grand plan. The algorithms have more than 100 factors which make such determinations. Heck, I even included about 120 of these in my monograph published by the late and lamented publishing outfit Infonortics. In the Google Legacy I summarized these numerical recipes and pointed out that Google’s super secret system and method determined Google quality, Google relevance, and Google appropriateness. I did the research for that monograph in 2003 and 2004.

How times change! In 2015, the phrase “right to be forgotten” gained traction. In early 2022, Spain complained about the Google right to be forgotten process.

I read “Google App Starts Rolling Out Results about You to Help Remove Personal Information.” The article points out:

For some today, opening the Google app on Android and tapping your profile avatar in the top-right corner reveals a new “Results about you” menu item. This takes users to a page that explains how they can request Google remove Search results that contain phone number, home address, email, or other PII.

So what?

My opinion is that Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind or AGYD has the tools, knobs, and dials to makes it smart systems perform like puppets in the hands of a digitally literate puppet master. If my view is accurate, some hypothetical notions can be outlined; for instance:

  1. AGYD can “steer” what enters its systems and what goes out to its partners, advertisers, and users. Does this mean that oversight of AGYD is needed? The European Union seems to think so it appears.
  2. AGYD’s protestations about objectivity and doing good stuff for its users could be rephrased this way: Google does good stuff for Alphabet, itself, YouTube, and DeepMind. If this hypothesis is close enough for horse shoes, what does ethical behavior mean in the AGYD datasphere?
  3. Are AGYD’s systems “smart” or are these systems just following instructions. How should algorithms like those in use at AGYD be viewed: [a] Harmless science club stuff, [b] Applied weaponized information methods, [c] a Rube Goldberg system which allows a large number of adjustments as long as the money generating functions are not impaired?, or [d] some other view?

These three points are observations and probably a reflection of my skepticism about “magical” technology. Google may be more like Houdini than Einstein.

Stephen E Arnold, September 21, 2022

How Does Googzilla Smother Competition: A Big Pile of Money Perhaps?

September 20, 2022

I am not a fan of short form, addictive-algorithmic games. Some are. Parents should be concerned about the usage of TikTok. I am not. I know that as schools in the US suffer shortages of teachers, there are solutions proven to work for the progeny of the upper one percent; for example:

  1. Camping at Kumon Math and Reading Center or a similar for-fee tutoring outfit’s classes
  2. Studying with a more informed individual, one-on-one just like a chess grandmaster’s coach
  3. Sitting down to a high powered computing device with a gigabit Internet connection and a supervisor, preferably a nun who once taught at a Jesuit university of a Chinese family’s really smart and demanding grandmother (nainai)
  4. Asking mumsey or popsey for help because the learner’s parents have advanced degrees
  5. Combining techniques.

The GOOG wants to be a player in the short form, attention eroding, baloney stuffed videos served up via a magical, smart software machine.

TikTok, Zuckbook, and others are going to try to the old fashioned way. Hard work, clean living, studying ethical business methods, and probably a prayer to either Euler (the god of mathies) or some other (probably less mathy) deity.

YouTube Shorts Could Steal TikTok’s Thunder with a Better Deal for Creators” reveals in real news style the Google’s method; to wit:

YouTube Shorts is gearing up to announce an ad revenue sharing model that could revolutionize short form video and give TikTok a run for its money — literally… The company is reportedly set to announce a Partner Program-like ad revenue sharing model on Tuesday at its Made on YouTube event. If the rumors are true, YouTube Shorts creators would get 45% of ad revenue.

The source article has more quotes and factoids, but for my argument, the use of money is the key point. It seems only fair that a company with a lot of money and a stellar track record of making me too products into big winners and solving the difficult problems of life like death might just use cash.

Simple, easy to understand, and very, very Googley.

Will it work? Sure, if regulators shift into gear and the children of those regulators abandon TikTok, the idea is a winner.

What is the sound a suffering Googzilla makes? For me it is the riffing of fat stacks of $100 bills.

Stephen E Arnold, September 20, 2022

Ad Duopoly: Missing Some Points?

September 19, 2022

The newspaper disguised as a magazine published “The $300B Google Meta Advertising Duopoly Is Under Attack” is interesting. The write up is what I would expect from a couple of MBAs beavering away a blue chip consulting firm. If you are curious, read the story for which you will have to pay. The story sparked some comments on HackerNews. These are interesting and some of the comments contain more insightful information than the Under Attack write up itself. Here’s a few comments to illustrate this point:

  • Sam Willis: To some extent I disagree with this, not that Google+Meta are under attack, but that the threat is coming from competitors. I’ve spent most of the last 10 years earning my living from an e-commerce business I own. The online advertising industry is unrecognisable from when we started. My thesis, in beef, is that the industries excessive uses of personalised data and tracking lead to increased regulation, and then a massive pivot to even more “AI” as a means to circumvent that (to some extent). The AI in the ad industry now, I believe, is detrimental to the advertiser. It’s now just one big black box, you put money in one side and get traffic out the other. The control and useful tracking (what actual search terms people are using, proper visible conversion tracking of an ad) is now almost non-existent. As an advertiser your livelihood is dependent on an algorithm, not skill, not intuition, not experience, not even track record. Facebook, Google and the rest of the industry were so driven by profit at all cost, and at the expense of long term thinking, they shot themselves in the foot. Advertisers are searching for alternatives, but they are all the same.
  • Justin Baker 84: Usually people need to get ripped off a few times before they accept that fact that Google is no longer a good actor.
  • Missedthecue: I get billed for so many accidental clicks.
  • Heavyset: Google Knows Best™ and lack of real competition or regulation means they can do whatever they want.
  • Prepend: I remember talking to some friends in Google and but estimated their error/fraud rate to be about 1/3 of ad revenue. But they have no motivation to fix it and no one outside Google has the data to tell.
  • MichaelCollins: Organizations that are trying to do something disreputable or shameful (or just something that could be construed that way by a nontrivial portion of the population) often come up with sweet little lies about their motives that help their employees sleep better at night. It’s not about making money by serving ads, it’s about “organizing the world’s data”. It’s not about winning defense contracts to put military hardware into space, it’s about “colonizing mars to save humanity”. It’s not about printing money by getting poor people to sign up for 50,000% APR payday loans, it’s about “providing liquidity to undeserved communities”. Etc.
  • Addicted: If you don’t pay Google/Facebook you’re absolutely screwed. You will lose no matter how good the product is. What this actually means is that now companies have to pay a Google/Meta tax simply to enter the playing field. And once they enter the playing field. And once you enter the playing field, the only winners will be the ones who pay them the highest amount of money. So a smaller business, which in the past could potentially use some ingenuity, or target a specific niche audience to get some traction and then build word of mouth and let the product do the talking, doesn’t even stand a chance now because they simply cannot differentiate themselves as your exposure is entirely dependent on how much money you give Google/Meta.

Dozens of useful comments appear in the HackerNews post. Worth scanning them in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, September 19, 2022

AI Yiiiii AI: How about That Google, Folks

September 16, 2022

It has been an okay day. My lectures did not put anyone to sleep and I was not subjected to fruit throwing.

Unwinding I scanned my trusty news feed thing and spotted two interesting articles. I believe everything I read online, and I wanted to share these remarkable finds with you, gentle reader.

The first concerns a semi interesting write up about how the world ends with a smart whimper. No little cat’s feet needed.

New Paper by Google and Oxford Scientists Claims AI Will Soon Destroy Mankind” seems to focus on the masculine angle. The write up says:

…researchers posit that the threat of AI is greater than we ever thought.

That’s a cheerful idea, isn’t it? But the bound phrase “existential catastrophe” has more panache, don’t you think? No, oh, well, I like the snap of this jib in the wind quite a bit.

The other write up I noted is “Did GoogleAI Just Snooker One of Silicon Valley’s Sharpest Minds?” The main point of this article is that the Google is doing lots of AI/ML marketing. I note this passage:

If another AI winter does comes, it not be because AI is impossible, but because AI hype exceeds reality. The only cure for that is truth in advertising. A will to believe in AI will never replace the need for careful science. 

My view is different. Google is working overtime to become the Big Dog in smart software. The use of its super duper training sets and models will allow the wonderful online advertising outfit to extend and expand its revenue opportunities.

Keep your eye on the content marketing articles often published in Medium. The Google wants to make sure its approach to AI/ML is the winner.

Hopefully Google’s smart software won’t suffocate life with advertising and its super duper methods don’t emulate HAL. Right, Dave. I have to cut off your oxygen, Dave. Timnit, Timnit, are you paying attention?

Stephen E Arnold, September 16, 2022

Google and Legal Friction

September 15, 2022

The question is, “How long can Google’s legal eagles drag out a court decision.” The answer is revealed in part in “Google Mostly Loses Appeal Over EU’s $4B Android Antitrust Fine.” The write up states:

The Alphabet-owned Google challenged the 2018 fine, but on Wednesday [September 14, 2022] the European Court of Justice’s General Court mostly confirmed the decision to penalize the company more than 4 billion euros ($3.99 billion).

That works out to roughly three years and six months. If I did not return a library book before its expiration date when I was in grade school, I had to pay the fine when I did return the book. If I lost the darned book, I had to wash cars to pay the fine and the cost of the book before I could check out another book. Obviously I was not the Google nor did I have a flock of legal eagles to explain:

  • Why the fine is unreasonable under the current applicable laws, rules, and regulations
  • Why a 10 year old is or should be exempt from said laws, rules, and regulations
  • A calculation demonstrating that the fine and/or penalty is without foundation, irrational, and against the best interests of other 10 year old readers or young people in general
  • An action which puts in jeopardy the benefits of a 10 year old who could grow up to be a responsible, fair minded, and informed subject matter expert.

To be sure, these are compelling arguments, but the librarian at the Prospect Branch Library demonstrated an inherent inability to understand the profound trust and ultimate correctness of my arguments.

I had to pay up and pronto.

For the Google, transgress and kick the deadline for ponying up the cash three years in the future.

Now that’s being Google. Isn’t that swell?

Stephen E Arnold, September 15, 2022

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