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Is Big Data in reality only a hyperbole?

Posted in Big Data, Semantic Media and Web, Semantic Web by Manas Ganguly on September 29, 2013

The World Economic Forum (WEF) calls it “the new oil” and “a new asset class”. The vast loads of data have been likened to transformative innovations like the steam locomotive, electricity grids, steel, air-conditioning and the radio.

Big Data

There were 30 billion gigabytes of video, e-mails, Web transactions and business-to-business analytics in 2005. The total is expected to reach more than 20 times that figure in 2013, according to Cisco. Cisco estimates that in 2012, some 2 trillion minutes of video alone traversed the internet every month.

What is sometimes referred to as the internet’s first wave — from the 1990s until around 2005 — brought completely new services like e-mail, the Web, online search and eventually broadband. The next one – connected the world into social grids giving people identity and voice. For its next act, the industry has pinned its hopes, and its colossal public relations machine, on the power of Big Data itself to supercharge the economy. Some call it Web 3.0, some call it Big Data.

Is Big Data pure hyperbole….

There is just one tiny problem: the economy is, at best, in the doldrums and has stayed there during the latest surge in Web traffic. The rate of productivity growth, whose steady rise from the 1970s well into the 2000s has been credited to earlier phases in the computer and internet revolutions, has actually fallen. The overall economic trends are complex, but an argument could be made that the slowdown began around 2005 — just when Big Data began to make its appearance.

All that promise of Big Data or even Social web hasn’t exactly fired the economic engines of the world as they were expected to. The promise is real – so why would such a disturbing trend start building – One theory holds that the Big Data industry is thriving more by cannibalising existing businesses than by creating fundamentally new opportunities. Online companies often eat up traditional advertising, media, music and retailing businesses, said Joel Waldfogel, an economist at the University of Minnesota. “One falls, one rises — it’s pretty clear the digital kind is a substitute to the physical kind,” he said. “So it would be crazy to count the whole rise in digital as a net addition to the economy.”

… or are these early days?

Other economists believe that Big Data’s economic punch is just a few years away, as engineers trained in data manipulation make their way through college and as data-driven start-ups begin hiring. And, of course, the recession could be masking the impact of the data revolution in ways economists don’t yet grasp. Still, some suspect that in the end our current framework for understanding Big Data and “the cloud” could be a mirage.

There is no disputing that a wide spectrum of businesses are now using huge amounts of data as part of their everyday business.

Josh Marks (CEO masFlight) helps airlines use enormous data sets to reduce fuel consumption and improve overall performance.Although his first mission is to help clients compete with other airlines for customers, Marks believes that efficiencies like those his company is chasing should eventually expand the global economy. For now, though, he acknowledges that most of the raw data flowing across the Web has limited economic value: far more useful is specialised data in the hands of analysts with a deep understanding of specific industries.

Some economists argue that it is often difficult to estimate the true value of new technologies, and that Big Data may already be delivering benefits that are uncounted in official economic statistics.

Also, infrastructure investments often take years to pay off in a big way, said Shane Greenstein, economist at Northwestern University. He cited high-speed internet connections laid down in the late 1990s that have driven profits only recently. But he noted that in contrast to internet’s first wave, which created services like the Web and e-mail, the impact of the second wave — the Big Data revolution — is harder to discern above the noise of broader economic activity.

… reproduced from Will big data prove to be an economic big dud?

Google Hummingbird: The coming of Web 3.0/ Semantic Web

Posted in Internet and Search, Semantic Media and Web, Semantic Web by Manas Ganguly on September 28, 2013


On its 15th birthday, Google unveiled the “Hummingbird” algorithm which is touted as the most radical change to the Google Search engine over the last 13 years. The last major upgrade to Google Search was the “Caffiene” and this update is likely to effect 90% of Google’s search results throwing the SEO/SEM industry topsy turvy. As users upgrade to more complex search strings, “Hummingbird” searches for a context in every search as against its 15 year old formula of matching keywords. Deep down in the core, the latest changes “hummingbird” is a subtle shift in terms of addressing the web in terms of semantics – the context.

For instance – a search query such as “Did FBI plot JFK’s death?” would throw up results based on matching the whole sentence (Priority 1), and then throw searches on “JFK” and on “FBI” – the later results only throwing results on Kennedy and FBI. The Hummingbird however understands the semantics behind the query – and is going to respond in terms of “Did FBI plot JFK’s death?” to “Other conspiracy theories around JFK’s death – to what has been FBI’s stand on JFK’s death through the years. It might throw up a Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis or an Edgar Hoover for instance. All a part of a semantic schema.

Or for instance “Pizza in Delhi” would throw up Pizza options but also could throw up options such as newly opened Mexican restaurant serving Burritos or likewise. An earlier execution of the same query would throw up – Pizza, Dominos, Papa Johns, Pizza Hut – all and only Pizzas. The “Hummingbird” would understand the context – a snack or a meal to mine results.

Thus, these changes could also drive up the price of Google ads tied to search requests if websites whose rankings are demoted under the new system feel they have to buy the marketing messages to attract traffic. However more importantly, this is a significant shift to a more context aware web – understanding the semantics – and a vertical integration of the search results. I call this Web 3.0 or Semantic Web. Whats your take?

Media: the Paradigm of Passive and Active consumptions

Posted in Semantic Media and Web by Manas Ganguly on March 8, 2013

Platform owners, Content aggregators, Application makers are looking to increase the engagement quotient on the platforms. Engagement by its very definition is about activity as against passivity. Terms such as Activity and Engagement read attention spans, relevance, context, stickiness/repeats and discovery. On higher level – user generated content, user leads creation, influencing user responses and creating user stewardships is where the monies lie for the whole of the eco-system.

If Google calls itself a media company over its earlier definition of a technology company, it imagines the future right. Technology futurists are all for technology that enables active Media consumption, real time measurements of engagement and stickiness and serving up experiences which are relevant to the context of consumption. The ability to measure the consumer behavioral patterns to applied stimulus is key to a connected, converged media – this is something that i call Semantic Media. Quality of Consumer interaction with the content is a high stakes game, with billions of consumer dollars up for grabs: notwithstanding cable licensing agreements, advertising budgets, on-demand subscription fees, not to mention the future of the connected home.

media - active & passive consumption

Whats the future opportunity at hand? You have to think about TV in the 1940s-1950s and multiply the impact a couple of 100 times. Thats what the future of media and technology is worth!

The “Like” economy and Google

Posted in Internet and Search, Semantic Media and Web by Manas Ganguly on April 15, 2012

Internet in general has stood for one philosophy: Creative destruction of standards (Brittanica for instance) and the wisdom of crowds (Wikipedia amongst others).However, Google has been one constant through out last decade of Internet which can hence be referred to as largely iconoclastic.

Google with its venerated search algorithim and its links has reigned supreme throughout the last decade of Internet. But now, as we go from a Web 2.0 to a Web 3.0 economy, even the once invulnerable Google might be in trouble. With real identities generating enormous amounts of data, the linked and sponsored economy of Internet is now migrating to the “like” economy… or +1 as Google would have it.

The dramatic shift from traditional search to social media was underlined last week in a speech by Tanya Corduroy the London Guardian’s director for digital development. Eighteen months ago, Corduroy revealed, search made up 40% of the Guardian’s traffic and social only made up 2%. Last month, however, she acknowledged a “seismic shift” in the Guardian’s referral traffic, with Facebook driving more traffic than Google and making up more than 30% of the newspaper’s referrals.

In the wake of Facebook and Twitter dominated social spaces, Google hasn’t quite been just the spectator. In fact, Google now has 4 products that it has tried to rope in the “social” space – Buzz, wave, Google+ and now Search plus your world (SPYW). Each of these are evolution of how Google is trying to make the shift from the search algorithim to the social and collective criteria. Google has also made headway into 170 million customers through the G+ (as against 900 million in Facebook), but the fact that the average user spends a total of 3.3 minutes on Google+ is testimony of the fact that Google still has some distnace to cover.

The concern here is that in trying to catch up with “social” Google seems to be violating its own matra of “Do no evil”. Google’s announcement this January, that it intended to consolidate personal data across its different products and services — from Gmail to YouTube to Google + to SPYW to Google maps to traditional search – had one concerned technology writer suggest that Google will now know more about us than our wives.

As a fact, Google is as evil or as bonafide as any other company or organzation in this world, but there is a good reason to fear Google’s bloodlust for user data across it properties.Afterall, Google’s business model remains primarily the sale of advertising around its free consumer products. Thus, Google’s desire to intimately know us is primarily driven by its core business objective of — one way or the other – selling that knowledge to advertisers.

This threat was laid out chillingly by the Center for Digital Democracy in a complaint about its new privacy policy to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC): “In particular, Google fails to inform its users that the new privacy regime is based on its own business imperatives: To address competition from Facebook, to grow its capacity to finely profile and target through audience buying; to collect, integrate, and utilize a user’s information in order to expand its social media, social search, and mobile marketing activities …”. A number of governments and other citizen agancies are increasingly wary of Google. Antitrust litigations against Google is on the rise. FCC, WhiteHouse, EU have taken exception to Google’s privacy policies.

While its still early, 2012 looks to be the year when Google fortunes could begin to wane.With a global outburst against its privacy policies, anti-trust litigations piling up and decline in public trust, Google looks far from dominating the “like” economy like the way it dominated the “link” economy.

An infographic explaining the evolution and changes in Google’s search algorthim over time. Such tweaks and changes have helped Google stay ahead in the Linked internet economy.

Image Ckurtesy: Outrider

Semantic Web: Internet beyond Search and Social

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Semantic Media and Web by Manas Ganguly on June 9, 2011

As Internet outgrows search, Semantic is the new key for information search, personalization and delivery.

With the advent of Social Web (Web 2.0), an amazing amount of online information continues to get created, and content continues to expand at its breathtaking pace. There are over 140 million tweets being posted every day, 48 hrs of video uploaded to YouTube every minute and more. Internet users would need tools to help them sort out data for them according to whats relevant and pertinent to them. It’s going to be harder and harder to find information because there’s so much out there. Without a mechanism of data sorting and discovery a lot of the information will never be used and most and all traffic will congregate in a few sites only.

A good index of sorting out the information overload would be data relevance, personalization and customization basis the user, his context, his profile and the social networks that he is a part of. I have in earlier posts discussed about the applications being the best deliver medium for the future internet: always on, always connected, active, learning, mobile, dynamic, intelligent and platform agnostic. Content that is customized for a particular individuals’ preferences can be chosen and presented in a variety of ways. Apps learn what users like and gets smarter as they use it. Semantic web leverages ontologies and meta-data to build paradigms of user online behavior and customizes the internet experience according to the user.Thus Semantic web moves users very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks users to see, but not necessarily what users need to see.

Thus, the same Google search performed by two different users could turn up entirely different results, as the search giant tweaks its suggestions on each individual’s behavior. Personalization can also require sacrificing privacy: customization works best when users are willing to hand over data about what they click, how long they spend reading it, what sites they follow, and more.Users, on their part, will be comfortable allowing apps to track them as long as companies prove giving up some privacy delivers better, more helpful services. People are willing to share more and more information if they see that they’re getting value out of it.

Semantic Media: Future Happening

Posted in Semantic Media and Web by Manas Ganguly on May 26, 2011

Continued from an earlier post on Defining Semantic Web.

Mobile marketing as is and would still be the tip of a greater phenomenon that at this point of time, i would call Semantic Marketing Media, an extension of the concept Semantic Web, or Web 3.0, which is currently a nascent and “in concept phenomena”.

Mobile Marketing is a larger concept in comparison to Mobile advertisements and Mobile promotions. While both Mobile advertisements and Promotions are deal based, the key for the success of Mobile Marketing will be engaging the consumers and powering branded experiences around user journeys. User Journeys could at this point be defined as Consumer initiated transactions between himself and the company to satisfy any of the following needs: Discovery, Awareness, Experience, Engagement, Context, Transaction, Conversations and Profiles. This is defined as Semantic Media. The ability of mobiles to power such experiences are critical to context and profile based user targeting. The convergence of devices and platforms and technologies enable a whole system of technologies which can target relevant users contextually and enable them to talk to the brand, transact with the brand at different touch-points and in different locational contexts as well as different platforms.

Semantic Media would be the Media 4.0 after Mass Media, Internet Democracy and Social Media. The Internet Democracy and Social Media would also be Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 contemporaries. Semantic Media will be the contemporary of the “Internet of Things”, Web 3.0 thereby getting its name: Semantic i.e Metadata aware Media.

Continued here

Defining the Semantic Web

Posted in Semantic Media and Web by Manas Ganguly on May 22, 2011

Semantic Web was defined by Tim Berners-Lee, the father of World Wide Web. He defines the Semantic Web as “a web of data that can be processed directly and indirectly by machines.” It extends the network of hyperlinked human-readable web pages by inserting machine-readable metadata about pages and how they are related to each other, enabling automated agents to access the Web more intelligently and perform tasks on behalf of users. Many of the technologies proposed by the Semantic Web already exist and are used in various contexts, particularly those dealing with information that encompasses a limited and defined domain, and where sharing data is a common necessity.

The main purpose of the Semantic Web is driving the evolution of the current Web by allowing users to use it to its full potential, thus allowing them to find, share, and combine information more easily. However, machines cannot accomplish all of these tasks without human direction, because web pages are designed to be read by people, not machines. The semantic web is a vision of information that can be interpreted by machines, so machines can perform more of the tedious work involved in finding, combining, and acting upon information on the web. The Semantic Web is regarded as an integrator across different content, information applications and systems

Tim Berners-Lee on Semantic Web
I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.

Graphic:The Evolution of Web

Semantic Web in daily usage is referred to as Web 3.0 to express the third generation capabilities of Web in categorizing, indexing and sorting information. With proliferation of data networks prompting a healthy data habit delivered through multiple platforms (Social platforms, Web, TV, Mobiles, Applications and more) and devices ( Smartphones, Feature Phones, Smart TVs, MIDs, Gaming Consoles, Tablets), Web 3.0 will be a great experience generator for customized and relevant consumer experiences.

The ability of the web to analyze meta data will be great for profile focussed, context relevant ads being served. Thus the key features of Semantic Media would be
1. Me-onomy: User is the brand.
2. Active and always on
3. Context and profile aware
4. Presence across platforms and device categories

Semantic Media with its Meta data and WWW-language capabilities could have various interpretation from Web 3.0, Marketing 4.0, Advertisement 3.0, Engagement 3.0, Entertainment 3.0 and more. Semantic Media thus is future that is waiting to happen. Currently in its nascent concept stage, Semantic Media will see threshold by 2015 and go through the roof by 2020.

To be continued

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