Amazon: Zooming Toward Google Hangouts?

April 28, 2020

DarkCyber spotted this Thomson Reuters’ story: “Amazon Tests Screening New Merchants for Fraud via Video Calls in Pandemic.” The news story reveals that yes, indeed, Amazon has its own Zoom-type service. What struck DarkCyber as peculiar was that the focus was Covid fraud, not the Amazon video conference service or the Amazon video technology. You can learn about the AWS pay-for-what-you-use service on the Amazon Chime information page. Amazon says:

AWS will offer free use of all Amazon Chime Pro features for online meetings and video conferencing from March 4, 2020 to June 30, 2020 for all customers that start using Amazon Chime for the first time during this period from their AWS account. This does not include PSTN services or charges related to PSTN services, such as Amazon Chime Voice Connector, call-me or meeting dial-in. Customers who are already using Amazon Chime can also contact their AWS account managers to see if they are eligible for credits for Amazon Chime usage during this period.

There are a number of interesting Amazon patents related to video communications. These range from facial recognition to active overlays.

Most of the DarkCyber research time said, “Who knew?” Marketing is not Job One at the online bookstore at this time. Maybe that will change once Mr. Bezos settles into his favorite seat: Driving the Bezos bulldozer.

Stephen E Arnold, April 29, 2020

Alphabet Google Back in the Medical Info Business

February 7, 2017

I worked on a project years ago related to Google’s push into medical records. I delivered my monograph and then watched as the Google health push followed a familiar trajectory: Excited team, stealth operation, partnership with a big health care outfit, and then fizzle wizzle. You may recall the breathless Computerworld reportage.

By 2011, health was dead. The idea that the GOOG could help those who were suffering never went away. Evidence one assumes to be accurate suggests that Dr. Google has finished ze’s post doctoral work and returned to the office.

Navigate to “Dr Google Gets Real: Intent Search Giant Launches Doctor Approved Responses to the Most Commonly Asked health Questions.” My goodness, the headline echoes the Ziff/Information Access Health Reference Center from the late 1980s. (To keep you up to date, gentle reader, I worked at the Ziffer at this time and was involved in that then ground breaking project.) The wheel keeps on turning over well tilled ground once again.

According to the “real” news write up, the new Google service rolls out in Australia. Hey, where is that country in relation to my Doc in the Box?

I learned:Google has launched a new health search tool to show reliable information. Health searches will now provide information fact-checked by a team of doctors. The feature will include the condition, symptoms, diagnosis, and prevalence. Australians can now trust Dr Google to provide them with accurate information.

The approach seems to be one in which curated questions are answered. The user asks a question, and the system displays the answer. Just like the 1988 Health Reference Center and the subsequent approach of that wonderful search system AskJeeves.

The service is optimized for mobile, of course. I noted this statement:

The feature will include an outline of the condition, symptoms, diagnosis, and prevalence according to age at the top of search results.

The differentiation of the Google service from visiting a real doctor is important. Real doctors like real journalists like to maintain a membrane between their expertise and the masses. I noted this statement from a real Australian doctor who comments about the system in an objective (of course) way:

‘What this has done has improved the quality and accuracy of the information people will get when they do the very frequent health searches because up until now the results of the searches were indiscriminate in terms of their veracity and reliability.’ But the information should not be used to form a diagnosis, warned Dr Bartone. ‘It is information – it is not knowledge. It is essentially to aid a person’s understanding around a certain condition,’ he said. ‘A diagnosis is based upon taking a history, an examination and knowing the past medical history of that patient and a management plan is formulated on all those inputs,’ said Dr Bartone.

And don’t forget:

Any health concerns should be discussed with a GP.

And DeepMind and health? Well, Google does have those NHS records.

Stephen E Arnold, February 7, 2017

Vertical Search Apps as Champions Against Google Dominance

July 18, 2013

With a reminder that many tech predictions fail to come true, Traffick posits, “Remember Good Old ‘Vertical Search Engines Will eat Google’s Lunch’?” The article recalls a time years ago when some said specialized search portals were poised to give dominant, broader platforms some hefty competition. Google weathered that storm just fine.

Now, Google critics are again saying the search platform is too generalized, and that it is in danger from more specialized solutions (mobile apps this time.) While for many of these tools going public has supplied a financial edge, that advantage pales in comparison to Google’s stranglehold in the mobile environment. Still, writer Andrew Goodman observes:

“But with direct pipelines to their user bases, wisely built through timely and large cash infusions, this new generation of ‘vertical portals’ seems better positioned to stand firm than the flimsy attempts we saw a decade ago. . . .

“Some of the results could be surprising, heavily dependent on the type of ‘lens’ users prefer to see the world through. . . . Does everyone want to be subject to an opinionated ‘master lens,’ a giant Google Glass, if you will? An AOL, Facebook, or Apple style walled garden? Or will folks find ways of enabling more neutral platforms (or somehow using the above technology in a neutral way) that will help them do a better job of enabling many ‘starting points,’ a postmodern collection of ‘lenses,’ in the manner of their choosing?”

Good questions that only time can answer. Goodman suggests that Yahoo can help in the anti-monolith effort by shaking up their business model and snapping up some of these Google-free apps. He suspects a lot of users want to see vertical search engines take Google down a few notches. Hmm. . . we’ll see.

Cynthia Murrell, July 18, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Neofonie Technology Underpins Labdoo

August 10, 2012

Neofonie GmbH, based in Berlin, Germany, is a long-term player in search; the company has been in the market since 1998 and created the early German search engine Their technology is now being used at, home base for the Labdoo project, a 501(c)(3) organization. The project’s About page explains its goals:

“A laptop is a door to education, providing children free access to open source education tools and electronic books through the Internet.

“In the richer countries, every year more than a hundred million laptops are replaced by new ones. This number continues to increase, yet most of the children in the poor regions of the world still lack access to education.

“The goal of Labdoo is to use grassroots, decentralized, social networking tools to efficiently bring excess laptops to the children in the developing world without wasting additional Earth resources.

“Join Labdoo and use the social network tools to bring a laptop to a child!”

A worthy cause, to be sure. Though the project won’t be officially launched until early next year, its Web site is up and running. The organization encourages visitors to use its tools to build their own “mini-missions and hubs.” Doing so, it emphasizes, will help further the development of their platform.

Neofonie began as an offshoot of the Technical University of Berlin. They make it a point to meet, and to innovate beyond, market demands. The company produces enterprise search as well as portal and vertical search products for both Web solutions and mobile apps.

Cynthia Murrell, August 10, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Vertical Searches for User Manuals

August 4, 2012

Makeuseof presents a handy collection of vertical search sites in “Can’t Find a User Manual for Your Gear? Search These Specialist Websites.” Writer Saikat Basu observes that, in the excitement of a new purchase, most of us stuff our user manuals into some corner and forget about them—until we need them! He comments:

“User manuals – those thick (or thin) soft covered sheaf’s of paper with multi-lingual instructions and weird hieroglyphics that we don’t bother to read. . . . We all have rummaged through the house looking for the user manual we ‘misplaced’. No luck.

“Here’s where a bit of smarts comes in. The meticulous guy with foresight will either scan it and keep a softcopy in his computer, or look for a softcopy that’s usually available as PDF on the manufacturer’s site.

“There’s a third option – a bunch of specialist websites which does the hard work for us lazybones, and stockpiles user manuals for us to search and download.”

So, instead of combing through the filing cabinet or, worse, those paper-piles every office seems to collect, turn to this list of sites that can put the desired information at your fingertips at the speed of, well, of your Internet connection. Basu details six sites, describing the purpose behind each, how it works, and what he values most about each one. For example, he likes the forums on Safe Manuals, and appreciates the teardown diagrams at iFixit.

The other four sites that made the list include Retrevo, Manuals Online, eSpares, and Free Manuals (aka I recommend tucking the article away for your next manual-related urgency. At the end of the article, Basu puts out the call for reader recommendations, so check the comments section for similar sites.

Cynthia Murrell, August 4, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

IHS Adds Invention Machine to its Technology Collection

July 19, 2012

In a $40 million deal, Taume announces, “IHS Acquires Trident Capital’s Invention Machine.” The write up also notes IHS’ previously announced purchase of GlobalSpec for $135 million. The company expects the combination of Invention Machine’s Goldfire business intelligence chops and GlobalSpec’s vertical search, product information, and global access point capabilities will combine to:

“. . . transform our existing engineering specifications and standards business to long-term double-digit growth, and accelerate the IHS Product Design business by increasing the value we offer to engineers, researchers and scientists by connecting innovation to knowledge workers,” said Jerre Stead, IHS chairman and chief executive officer. “With Invention Machine’s Goldfire as the front-end, we will bring together all IHS content, insight and tools into an innovative solution that will address many of the unsolved problems facing engineers. This will enable greater productivity, accuracy and design quality, and help customers accelerate innovation and deliver superior products and services.”

Invention Machine makes its home in Boston, with offices in London, Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo, and Minsk, Belarus. They call their Goldfire “the optimal decision engine,” created to help make clients more productive. Trident Capital is a venture capital and private equity firm founded in 1993 that specializes in business service and I.T. investments.

Designed with engineers in mind, GlobalSpec supplies its customers with domain-specific vertical search engines. The firm is headquartered in East Greenbush, N.Y.

Headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, IHS operates in over 30 countries and employs over 5,500 workers. This information powerhouse was founded back in 1959 as a provider of product catalog databases on microfilm for aerospace engineers. Wow, who here remembers microfilm? Kudos to IHS for keeping up with the times!

Cynthia Murrell, July 19, 2012

Sponsored by PolySpot

AOL: Spreadsheet Fever Revealed

May 28, 2012

Some Googlers and Xooglers are persistent folks. Once an idea takes hold, look out, mama. Public examples of spreadsheet fever and Xoogler behavior are difficult to find. I wanted to document this rare sighting, tuck it into my “case study” file, and capture the main points in Beyond Search, the blog with one or two readers worldwide.

You may be able to located “For AOL, a Costly Gamble on Local News Draws Trouble” online. I am looking at a dead tree instance of the write up in the May 23, 2012, Wall Street Journal, pages B-1 and B-2, a News Corp. publication focused on “real” journalism.

The point of the story is that AOL is losing money on upscale local news. The site and service scoped by the “real” news people is Patch, a local news service. I don’t pay too much attention to local news because I live in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky. I can hear gun fire from my goose pond, and the local newspaper focuses on recycling two-day old corn from the Associated Press content grinder and a handful of thrift shop columnists.

Luke levitates the crashed X wing fighter. Yoda “teaches” the young Jedi to perform a seemingly impossible task. “Use the Force, Luke. Use the force.” Image source:

But AOL’s local news effort has compiled this track record, according to the News Corp. unit:

Mr. Armstrong has held his ground in defending Patch, which he co-founded in 2007 before he joined AOL, but he recently promised to make it profitable by next year. In a small step toward that goal, AOL said Tuesday it will cut around 20 jobs at Patch, or less than 2% of Patch’s workforce…As the ad-supported network has expanded to more than 850 towns from 30 in the past two years, its annual loss has widened sharply to more than $100 million in 2011…That would be twice the size of AOL’s operating income for the year.

Not bad. What was omitted at this point in the “real” news story was the fact that Mr. Armstrong, a former Google executive or Xoogler, sold Patch to AOL for $7 million. No big deal. Another “real” news outfit asserted that AOL “may never be able to patch up Patch.” Who took this view? The “real” journalists at Fortune Magazine.

I quite like the notion of building something, getting some cash, a job at the outfit which purchased my operation, and then having the luxury to invest big bucks in trying to do the Yoda thing. As you may recall, Yoda taught Luke Skywalker to life a space war ship by thinking about it. Cheaper than $100 million, but about as practical as the AOL way.

The real gem in the write up, however, was the revelation of spreadsheet fever. Here’s the key passage in my opinion:

Mr. Armstrong developed the business model for Patch with Jon Brod, the former president and chief operating officer of his private investment group. The idea was to target wealthy small communities that generated about $20 million a year in advertising through TV, radio, newspaper, and direct marketing. “We basically said, based on our model, if we could get [less than 1%] of that $20 million, we would have a profitable Patch in that community,” Mr. Brod said.

The News Corp. publication continued:

Patch, however, has fallen well short of that target. AOL says the business is on track to bring in between $40 million and $50 million in revenue this year. That translates to an average of $50,000 for each of its 850 local sites. But the average Patch site costs between $150,000 and $200,000 a year to operated, Mr. Armstrong told investors last year, or a total of $160 million.

What I find useful is the revelation about the revenue assumption and the apparent goof on the actual costs of doing local news, selling ads, and keeping the ship afloat in the midst of Facebook and Twitter. Both services work pretty well to find out what is going on in a particular location. Since both generate local information as exhaust, the entrepreneurs behind Patch may be guilty of looking at an Excel spreadsheet, modifying assumptions, and concluding, “Winner. Tiger blood.”

I don’t have an opinion about Patch. I do find the persistence demonstrated by Mr. Armstrong Googley. I find the patience demonstrated by the Board of Directors interesting at a time when Boards of Directors are doing a bang up job. I wonder if Yoda is available to provide levitation lessons to the Jedis at AOL. Xooglers have the Excel fever under control I assume.

Stephen E Arnold, May 28, 2012

Sponsored by Polyspot

People Search Engine Ark Gets More Money

May 1, 2012

The folks at Ark must be pretty pleased. All Things D reports, “People-Search Engine Ark Raises Biggest Y Combinator Seed Round in Memory.” The young company scored a remarkable $2 million in funding at Y Combinator‘s latest Demo Day, and now reports a total of $4.2 million in seed money raised so far. That puts the start-up in third place among all of Y Combinator’s companies in seed funding attraction.

Writer Liz Gannes describes Ark’s big idea:

“Ark is almost too good to be true — a search engine that combines public and personalized search for people. It promises to transcend the current stalemate in social search between Google, Twitter and Facebook.

“And it actually is too good to be true — right now, Ark is basically a simple interface to sort Facebook profiles by current city, gender, school, work, interests and other categories. Only 15,000 people have gotten beta access, as Ark has already fully maxed out its Amazon Web Services account by searching their networks and public data.”

Well, now they should be able to afford to upgrade their AWS account. CEO Patrick Riley aims to jump into the gap left by disharmony between Google and Facebook. It seems Zuckerberg’s company is more open to working with Ark than with its arch rival. Go figure.

I recommend checking out the article for more details about Ark’s plans. This will be a company to keep an eye on.

Cynthia Murrell, May 2, 2012

Sponsored by PolySpot

Apelon Releases DTS 4.0

March 22, 2012

Apelon Medical Terminology in Practice recently posted a news release introducing the latest version of its open source terminology management software titled “Apelon Introduces Distributed Terminology System 4.0”

According to the article, Apelon’s latest DTS is a comprehensive open-source solution for the acquisition, management and practical deployment of standardized healthcare terminologies. It is built on the JEE platform  allows for simplified integration into existing enterprise systems.

The article states:

DTS users easily manage the complete terminology lifecycle. The system provides the ability to transparently view, query, and browse across terminology versions. This facilitates the management of rapidly evolving standards such as SNOMED CT, ICD-10-CM, LOINC and RxNorm, and supports their use for longitudinal electronic health records. Local vocabularies, subsets and cross-maps can be versioned and queried in the same way, meaning that DTS users can tailor and adapt standards to their particular needs.

The advance of technological terms in the medical industry that need to be referenced quickly and accurately, has precipitated the need for enhanced functionality in terminology management tools. The latest version of this software is easier to use than its predecessors and will help even more institutions integrate the latest decision support technologies into their daily work. We are monitoring the vertical search in this market sector.

Jasmine Ashton, March 22, 2012

Sponsored by

Instant Technologies: Findability Push

February 14, 2012

Poor, poor search vendors. Competition comes from start ups, old outfits dosing on Krating Daeng, and outliers staffed with Smith College and Radcliffe college medieval studies and environmental science and policy majors working in technical marketing.

We noted the Instant Technologies’ Integrys Archive Viewer’s tweaking of its archiving, compliance, search, and discovery solution. The enhancement makes it possible to “discover” instant messages. According to the announcement:

Instant Archive Viewer is the leading archiving and compliance, search, and discovery solution for Microsoft OCS and Lync 2010. Instant Archive Viewer helps organizations enforce internal IM usage policies and quickly respond to compliance audits and legal discovery requests. Instant Archive Viewer is a highly scalable, and stable, OCS/Lync 2010 archiving application and is in use at many of the leading financial service organizations.

Several observations:

The solution appears to be just the ticket for outfits embracing Microsoft and IBM solutions. The Instant Technologies’ solution calls my attention to this question, “Aren’t Microsoft and IBM already providing these functions with their cornucopia of components?”

Then I realized, “If Instant Technologies has an innovation, what does that suggest about the native Microsoft and IBM solutions or the functions now available from other third party solution providers?”

Finally, I wondered, “How will companies buying older solutions such as Clearwell, Stratify, and similar vendors going to respond?”

In short, traditional key word search seems to be going the way of the dodo. In its place are traditional key word search systems with tweaks and some features. The task of deciding “which system” gets more difficult each day I conclude. Perhaps an azure chip consultant will aim its intellectual fire power at this market niche, roll out a crazy matrix, and estimate that add-ins are worth billions in 2016”? One can only wait with bated breath.

Stephen E Arnold, February 14, 2012

Sponsored by

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