Thursday, December 02, 2010

Google admits its algorithm is opinion, but its decision process is dangerous

In an online discussion just after Web 2.0 Summit Executive Producer John Battelle's blog post on how Google staff responded to the problem presented by the bad business man who took negative comments about his business and turned them into fuel for positive search rankings, Google Sofware Engineer Matt Cutts wrote a comment that scarily reveals how the search firm goes about constructing its search algorithms, and reveals what this blogger has asserted for years: that they are just the views of a group of people, not some kind of fact.

Or, to think of it another way, before we continue, Google's "opinion" as expressed by its algorithms, is that blogs should be pushed to second-tier search status (apparently regardless of the income impact on webmasters) that The Associated Press' view matter more than that of, and online speech expressed in a certain way and by a handful of media sites, is what you should see first on Google News. In short, Google's algorithms, both in design and development process, take the look of an instrument of anti-democracy in the wake of Matt Cutts' comments.

That's certainly the case with how the Google News Meta Tags Program has been implemented, and its result: sacking hundreds, if not thousands of blogs and website from Google News under the cover reason of "spammy sites," while really protecting Big Media in the form of the AP.

John Battelle's Blog; Matt Cutts Take

In his blog, Battelle rightly points to a rather disturbing Google statement in its blog regarding how the firm's staff collectively responded to the problem presented by the New York-based bad business guy. This one:

Even though our initial analysis pointed to this being an edge case and not a widespread problem in our search results, we immediately convened a team that looked carefully at the issue. That team developed an initial algorithmic solution, implemented it, and the solution is already live...Instead, in the last few days we developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience. The algorithm we incorporated into our search rankings represents an initial solution to this issue, and Google users are now getting a better experience as a result.

John locked on the use of one word: "opinion." The use of that word surprised him, as John wrote "If ever there was an argument that algorithms are subjective, there it is."

This blogger find not just the use of the word "opinion" bothersome but Google's admission that it focused on the resolution of a problem caused by one person, and based on a New York Times article to be extremely disturbing. Given the size of the impact of changes in Google's search algorithms on the lives and incomes of millions of people, Google should have employed the same system dynamics and scenario planning approaches that the World' largest oil companies use in their decision making.

While Google looked at how others were behaving in search, and just to make sure it was not a "wide spread problem" in the Google-World, Google did not ask how its changed focused on one person would possibly negatively impact others who use their search engine - and that's most of the industrialized World.

Oil companies are painfully aware of the World-altering impact of their decisions, so much so that modeling paradigms which cause them to take "a big World view" are used. That's obviously not true for Google, yet the search company arguably has the same level of potential impact on the World. Want more proof of Google's apparent failure to see the large-scale impact of its actions? Take a look at what Matt Cutts wrote on John's blog:

The latter commenters are getting it right, but I believe the "opinion" in that sentence refers to the fact our web search results are protected speech in the First Amendment sense. Court cases in the U.S. (search for SearchKing or Kinderstart) have ruled that Google's search results are opinion.
This particular situation serves to demonstrate that fact: Google decided to write an algorithm to tackle the issue reported in the New York Times. We chose which signals to incorporate and how to blend them. Ultimately, although the results that emerge from that process are algorithmic, I would absolutely defend that they're also our opinion as well, not some mathematically objective truth.
Here's how I phrased it in 2006 in an interview with John that appeared on this site: "When savvy people think about Google, they think about algorithms, and algorithms are an important part of Google. But algorithms aren't magic; they don't leap fully-formed from computers like Athena bursting from the head of Zeus. Algorithms are written by people. People have to decide the starting points and inputs to algorithms. And quite often, those inputs are based on human contributions in some way."

And it's the way Google frames those "human contributions" that's to be questioned. Again, the way Google comes to these decisions is totally out of scale to the enormous potential impact they have.

Want proof? Look at the bloggers and webmasters kicked off Google News, and insultingly called spammy sites, when many are not, while giants content farms like and Associated Content that do spam Google News are allowed to remain, and Google makes deals to help The Associated Press , and not blogs, seek new revenue areas (true and stated by Google's Senior Business Product Manager, Josh Cohen).

Matt Cutts Elaborates On Google's Opinion

Cutts then writes yet another comment on the same blog posts, that's even more revealing and backs my assertion that Google does not conduct the proper risk analysis in considering the overall impact of the changes it makes to its search algorithm. Moreover, Cutts final statement is even more bothersome:

"I doubt very much that this algorithm was developed as a response to NY Times."
Anthony, I had a ringside seat, so I know it was. We still did tons of testing (e.g. running hundreds of thousands of queries to see changes), but the new algorithm happened in response to that article.
Mor, you raise an important point too: "Interestingly, some time between 2002 and 2009 Google dropped that reference from their corporate "tech page". "PageRank performs an objective measurement..." became "PageRank reflects our view of the importance...". "
I had a ringside seat for that one too; here's my informal/personal summary. SearchKing sued Google and the resulting court case ruled that Google's actions were protected under the first amendment.
Later, KinderStart sued Google. You would think that the SearchKing case would cover the issue, but part of KinderStart's argument was that Google talked about the mathematical aspects of PageRank in our website documentation. KinderStart not only lost that lawsuit, but KinderStart's lawyer was sanctioned for making claims he couldn't back up. See for more info.
After the KinderStart lawsuit, we went through our website documentation. Even though Google won the case, we tried to clarify where possible that although we employ algorithms in our rankings, ultimately we consider our search results to be our opinion.
For example, what should rank number one for the query [barack obama]? Obama's personal website, or the White House? What should rank #2, or #10? The fact is, there's no objectively "correct" way to rank those results--reasonable people can disagree whether Obama's Twitter or Facebook page should rank higher than (say) a Chicago Tribune article about Obama.
That single point, which courts have agreed with, proves that there's no universally agreed-upon way to rank search results in response to a query. Therefore, web rankings (even if generated by an algorithm) are are an expression of that search engine's particular philosophy.
In this case, Google chose to dedicate engineers to write a new algorithm that we believe improves our web rankings. If you consider fledgling search engines such as Blekko and DuckDuckGo, they chose to remove the Decor My Eyes site completely--you can't find the website even if you search for the exact url by name on their sites. That's their philosophical choice--their opinion of how best to handle such searches, and I support their decision. I think each search engine needs to be free to rank results in the way that they think is best, and if people believe one search engine returns better results, it's easy to switch. That's how Google went from 0% market share to its current position.

Here's more proof that Matt Cutts fails to understand Google's current World impact, and that Goggle staff are perhaps too much insular than is healthy for a firm that has its overall market share and influence.   Cutts basically says if you don't like Google, go somewhere else.   That's the problem: because most of the industrialized World not only goes to Google, but is directed to use Google by web browser partnerships, going elsewhere is improbable.  Google's brand is such a part of our culture that its company name has become a verb.  Matt's statements, and Google's and Google News' actions, do not reflect a company that understands that.  

Google must install the proper risk assessment decision systems.  Perhaps doing so would keep them out of court as much as they have been in it, and help Google understand that it's role is to help the World, not the World's elite media.

Ecuador In Bed With Chevron Accuser Donziger: U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan

Judge Lewis Kaplan
Revealing what this blogger has charged for a year, the government of the country of Ecuador was identified as a party to the fraudulent lawsuit brought against American oil giant Chevron by lawyer Steven Donziger and the so-called "indigenous people" of the Ecuadorian Amazon River Delta.

In a 32-page document, Lewis Kaplan, U.S. District Judge, Southern District of New York, wrote that the The Republic of Ecuador's motion to intervene to block the transfer of documents relevant in the deposition of Donziger by Chevron lawyers was denied.

In the pages of the Judge's decision, Judge Kaplan reveals that Donziger failed to even note that the so-called "indigenous people" who are the Lago Agrio plaintiffs were either the focus of any one of the 8,652 documents in question, or that any one - one - of those items was written by the Lago Agrio plaintiffs.

Not one.

The Republic of Ecuador then claimed that it has an interest in those same documents, revealing itself, clumsily, to be a party to the same lawsuit that Amazon Watch tried to bully into having this blogger claim Ecuador was not a party to, last year.

That's right.

In an email on September 17, 2009, Amazon Watch tried to get to make me say this:

"The government of Ecuador is not the architect of the Chevron lawsuit, is not a party to the lawsuit, and will not be the recipient of any judgment paid by Chevron. This is a civil suit by private citizens."

I stood my ground and said that I would write a reason why Ecuador was party to the lawsuit against Chevron. Here's what I wrote, thanks to Bob McCarty:

Amazon Watch is wrong! In my previous blog post, I issued the argument proving that the Government of Ecuador was so involved in the "Aguinda v. Chevron Texaco" lawsuit that even though the were not officially a listed party, they could be named a party in court if the challenge to their status was presented.

Now, investigative blogger Bob McCarty has revealed that Ecuador is indeed a party to the case. Remember that Amazon Watch asserted...

"The government of Ecuador is not the architect of the Chevron lawsuit, is not a party to the lawsuit, and will not be the recipient of any judgment paid by Chevron. This is a civil suit by private citizens."

Yeah. Right.

According to McCarty's blog post , Washington Pesantez, Ecuador's Prosecutor General, said 90 percent of the $27 billion award would go to Ecuador if the court case was resolved against Chevron for that amount.

That silenced Amazon Watch.  Now, the organization that rails about this blogger's credibility has egg on its face.  Judge Kaplan has officially outed Ecuador as being involved in the lawsuit.   Indeed, between Ecuador claiming it would take 90 percent of any environmental damage award from an Ecuadorian court, Donziger talking of using threats of violence and intimidation against Ecuadorian judges, and Donziger claiming that he, indeed, would make billions from the case, and Donziger working with the State of Ecuador's oil company that took over Chevron's oil well, it's clear that the last people anyone really thought of was Ecuador's poor.

Indeed, Chevron has been out of Ecuador for so long,  18 years, that the real story of oil spills and environmental damage by Petroecuador and other non-American oil companies has not been effectively told.

Stay tuned.

WikiLeaks is Journalism (Part 1)

"Could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act." - Time Magazine

The title of this post may come as a shock and seem bold and outrageous at first, but after reading more and more about WikiLeaks directly from the web site itself - the site truly is dedicated to journalism.

The editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, is currently facing a lot of scrutiny involving his personal life - but the personal life of the editor-in-chief of the site should not have any relevance to the site as a whole.

There are so many articles written about the site, but how many actually go to the site? There are all these reports about how terrible it is, but without actually visiting the site the assessment of the site is not really valid.

Of course the government is going to dislike the entire concept of WikiLeaks in general, because the secrets and what is being hidden is being revealed. WikiLeaks in their Mission and Objectives goes into details about their entire reasoning behind what they do.

No one gives the site recognition for winning awards in journalism. Before giving any more opinions based on the reports and allegations of other news sources read the site's very own mission and objectives.

CNN's Dan Simon screws-up NASA find of arsenic-based life

Wow. Talk about getting it wrong on Live CNN, CNN Correspondent Dan Simon just messed up reporting on NASA-funded, United States Geological Survey Scientist Felisa Wolfe-Simon's find of a new arsenic-based micro-organism in Mono Lake, California.

This blogger tweeted CNN Anchor Brooke Baldwin - @BrookeBCNN -  in a request for CNN to make a correction, but as of this writing that has not been done.

Dan Simon was responding to questions by Baldwin, and said that NASA itself "created" the organism!  Way wrong.

There was no report of the discovery, or Mono Lake, California being the focal point. Nothing.

CNN. You can do better.

WikiLeaks is Not Only After USA

The United States is not the only country that WikiLeaks has gone after. The AFP via Google News posts that WikiLeaks alleges the intimate private life of Gurbanguly Bedymukhamedov, leader of Turkmenistan.

Getty Images
The allegations include that the married leader has a Russian mistress with a former dental clinic nurse and also has a 14-year-old daughter with her.

The Guardian reports that it is thought that this presidential leader has two different families and includes interesting information obtained by an unnamed source:

One unnamed expatriate source told the US: "The president had originally wanted a larger yacht similar to one owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, but that yacht would not fit through the canals leading to the Caspian Sea and thus Berdymukhamedov had to settle for this one."

Intriguingly, the same source added that the president's "pool of automobiles consists of a Bentley, a Mercedes Mayback (gift of a German company), a Range Rover, and a Cadillac Escalade."

NASA find of life with toxic arsenic sheds light on Godzilla vs Smog Monster

The NASA announcement that its scientist have found a living microorganism that's "able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic," reminds this blogger of the movie Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster. But before we look at that, let's check the news on this.

Here's the video of the NASA press conference:

According to NASA's website, "The definition of life has just expanded." NASA's Associate Administrator for The Science Mission Directorate, Ed Weller, said "As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it."

According to the website Science Express, which NASA points to as a source for more information on this news, the toxic chemical arsenic apparently has replaced phosphorus, one of the "building block chemicals" thought to be in all organisms, in the DNA of a microorganism discovered in Mono Lake, California. The website reports that NASA astrobiologist Felisa Wolfe-Simon and her team at the US Geological Survey made the discovery.

For humans, arsenic pollution in groundwater has been a major problem. While a naturally occurring element, Arsenic can cause cancer in humans and "cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurological effects" according to the National Research Council. Moreover, Arsenic is found in cities and areas with smog and industrial emissions, and Mono Lake, which as far back as 2006 and beyond, has been noted for its air pollution problems.

Which brings us to Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster and the idea that we're a giant step closer to science fiction as fact.

Hedorah, or The Smog Monster, is a fictional character in the 1971 movie Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster.  The Smog Monster grew from "microscopic tadpole-like organisms which began to feed upon the toxins with which mankind had poisoned its air and water."

A toxin like arsenic?

At any rate, the Wikipedia description of Hedorah gives a view of The Smog Monster's powers and abilities:

...Hedorah is capable of assuming a number of different shapes to suit the particular situation. For traveling through water, Hedorah transformed into a giant tadpole monster similar to the base organism that composed it. For traveling on land, Hedorah became a four-legged pile of slime resembling a gigantic salamander and it also could assume a saucer-like shape which granted it flight capabilities. After being driven back by Godzilla several times, Hedorah assumed a gigantic humanoid shape that even dwarfed the king of the monsters. Thanks to the protean nature of its body, ordinary weapons passed right through Hedorah while even Godzilla's atomic ray was unable to inflict any lasting harm. Finally, since Hedorah fed on pollution, so long as a piece of it remained alive then Hedorah could retreat to absorb more pollution in order to regenerate itself.

So, a possibility long considered to be far-fetched now has to be reconsidered.  What, with respect to humans on Earth, is the possible logical conclusion of this new discovery?   If a microorganism can exist feeding off a toxic chemical found in smog, what about another organism?

In other words, beyond life from other planets, what kind of new life are we causing to be created right here on Earth?  Life that apparently exists from those chemicals which can kill people.

Stay tuned.

Bush Tax Cuts vs Unemployment Benefits: Where's Our Millionaire Friends?

As the holidays loom closer it seems less likely that unemployment benefits will be extended to the 2 million families that are desperately dependent up on them. The main stumbling block is that GOP leaders John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell are demanding that tax cuts be extended to millionaires. Until then any attempt to give to the unemployed will be blocked. Today Congress will debate extending the tax cuts for millionaires with President Obama stating he hopes a compromise will be reached. Will that compromise extend job benefits?

Yes we all heard ‘noble’ sounding stories from these so-called leaders about how we all need to sacrifice and reign in the deficit. We all heard them express grave concern about how we all need to tighten our belts and lay down the ground work for our children to have brighter futures. Others like conservative media personalities likeRush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Ben Stein have been pretty crass by stating those on unemployment are ‘too lazy to find work

This is all coming at a time where in many places where the unemployment rate is 20%. This is coming at a time when there are a reported 5-6 applications for every measly job available. It was just yesterday that the local NBC affiliate here in the Bay Area ran a story called ‘economic migration‘ where they reported how thousands of people who’ve had homes foreclosed are living in cars, campers and RVs and have driven from state to state looking for work. The story showed a long line of people waiting to get minimum wage jobs at a Christmas Tree lot

Republican leader John Boehner wants tax cuts fir millionaires or no unemployment benefits for the poor.

A couple of months back McDonalds held a job fair here in the Bay and thousand showed up, all hoping for a chance to land a spot as a cashiers and french fry cookers. There’s no doubt times are definitely hard, but as long as millionaires don’t get a tax cut millions will suffer.

In listening to Boehner and Cantor speak on behalf of millionaires, one has to wonder are they really representing their interests? Where are the millionaires, especially those who come from humble beginnings and poor backgrounds to speak on behalf of the poor, many of whom have spent their last dimes helping their millionaire brethren to fame, fortune and stardom?

It was just a few months ago the world was made to stand still as basketball starLebron James, after weeks of intense speculation held a press conference to announce his ‘decision’. He unveiled to the world his new multi-million dollar deal and the team he would be playing for… the Miami Heat. Left behind and understandably angry were legions of fans in his home state of Ohio which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

Imagine if Lebron James held a press conference demanding an extension to unemployment benefits?

Tonight King James is headed back to Cleveland to face off against his old team for the first time since he left. There’s no doubt there are throngs of basketball fans who can no longer afford to go to Cavalier games. Many more probably can’t afford a cable system to watch them on TV. Again its the times we’re in. But imagine if upon his return, Lebron James used his massive star power and took advantage of all the media covering him to stand up and say; ‘As a multi-millionaire he would like to see unemployment benefits extended. Do not hold up their checks on my behalf-I can wait for a tax cut’.. Could you imagine if James did that?

Wouldn’t it be great if an Oprah, Diddy, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Lady Gagaand other multi-millionaires, many who are entertainers who we’re frequently exposed to held a press conference to announce, that the people in Washington do not speak for them and to please extend unemployment benefits? Is that too far-fetched? Unrealistic? Is it out of line to put that sort of weight on them?

After all, many of the aforementioned millionaires have come from poor backgrounds and had humble beginnings. Many obtained their financial status because poor people have admired them, spent their last dime on records, t-shirts, sneakers, concert tickets and any other thing being offered. And this spending is not limited to athletes and entertainers. Many who are poor have paid cable bills, cell phone bills and other now seemingly necessary items resulting in quite a folks becoming uber rich.

Russell Simmons

I recall when then President George Bush first proposed those tax cuts several years ago I did an interview with music mogul Russell Simmons and he straight up said, while a tax cut would be great for him he honestly doesn’t need one. He said he makes more than enough money to pay his taxes and that the people who need the breaks the most are poor people. If Russell is reading this, perhaps he can gather up some of his millionaire friends and hold such a press conference. Perhaps he can get them to speak on behalf of those who are dire straits.

Recently investor Warren Buffet one of the richest men in the world bluntly stated that taxes needed to be raised on the wealthy. Why aren’t we hearing more people who have means listening to Buffet? Why the silence from our millionaire friends? More people of sound mind, good hearts and political conscious are needed this holiday season to counter the claims that the world will fall apart if millionaires don’t get tax cuts.

Will millionaires especially those from humble beginnings stand up for the poor? As I posted this, my homie Mookie hit me up and said the irony to all this in today’ twisted society the poor will stand up for millionaires.

Something to ponder

-Davey D-

PS Here’s a link to a story in which 80 millionaires have stepped up and demanded that the tax cuts not happen

Nikky Previews The Casting

The Casting is the solo project of 19-year-old New England School of Communication's student Seth Majka. This is just a preview of the interview that is to come with this very talented individual.

Celebration, Florida in Walt Disney World has first murder

This news is a surprise to this blogger who, at the age of 10, wanted to work for WED Enterprises on what was then called The EPCOT project. Celebration, Florida, the Disney new town that is part of the 27,443-acre Walt Disney World property, has experienced its first murder homicide.

According to, 58-year-old Matteo Giovanditto was found dead in his home,an apartment building in the small town, according to police spokeswoman Twis Lizasuain.

The Orlando Sun-Sentinel reports that a Corvette registered to Giovanditto was found "somewhere in Kissimmee" Florida. There's no official cause of death.

Celebration, Florida is EPCOT

The location of Celebration, Florida, actually part of Walt Disney World, although news reports erroneously have it outside of the resort complex, was at first slated to be for a small airport that was to serve WDW visitors. Meanwhile, the only "town" holding residents was to be EPCOT itself.

But after Walt Disney's death in 1966, the 70s Energy Crisis, and its impact on tourism and Disney's stock price, Disney executives, including then CEO E.Cardon Walker, made the controversial decision to give up on the real "Experimental Prototype Community of Tommorrow."

Instead, Walker issued the idea that EPCOT itself would be expressed throughout Walt Disney World. The idea for EPCOT itself, and the property it was to be located on in the middle of the Disney property, about three miles north of what is now Celebration, was transformed into the combination future-World and World Showcase of today.

Here's Disney's video on the original EPCOT:

More on this later today.

World Cup 2022 Winner Qatar not USA? CNN charges FIFA corruption

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be played in Russia, while the 2022 World Cup is going to be in Qatar. Yes, Qatar and not the USA.   The news led CNN to charge that FIFA corruption was to blame.

Qatar beat out The United States of America, and four other countries, to get the 2022 World Cup Soccer game. CNN's Max Kellerman is reporting that the vote on this was delayed due to allegations of corruption.

In Atlanta, Mayor Kaseem Reed, heading a watch party here, is just plain stunned. He's set to give an announcement.

Kellerman says that "It's interesting that you see petro-dollars, you see the World Cup."

On CNN, Max went off making charges of FIFA voting corruption.

Stay tuned