Analyzing Google

Let’s analise Google, the “center” of the web.

Next month, precisely on 15th September 2017, will be the 20th anniversary of Google’s dominion. It’s been twenty years since two students of the University of Stanford, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have completed the first step in the implementation of Google. Twenty years that brought all of us online. Years in which we have learned to entrust our curiosities and our search needs to a specific tool, based on a single field and specific algorithms. social-google

Analysing the course done by Google, we identify,  in these two decades, three distinct stages:

Stage 1: The idea 

In a few years our nephews will read on the history books about Page and Brin and their idea of building “something” in order to instantly collect the network’s informative flow, something like a “shopping list”.

The legend narrates about their wandering from one company to another and their meeting with smart-alecky and short-sighted executives who did nothing but mocking ideas and perspectives.

What remains today of this first stage is their visionary idea, definitely original.

light-bulbs-1125016_640

Google, the search engine, is a tool that feeds itself from the (online) product of human kind. It connects information and people. It is the automaton, the scribe who observes the history and takes notes while everything happens.

All of it inside a model of fruition based on a white page, without invasive advertising and without useless waiting time.

Google doesn’t invade our personal or visual space, on the contrary it suggests us what to do.

 Stage 2: The expansion 

In the early years of its existence, Google on par with a child, keeps growing and learning very fast, gaining billion of web pages.  It analyses them and improves its own algorithms of ranking. The impression during this stage of technological revival is that of a system able to support our knowledge. Computers placed all over the world able to store information, to rapidly acquire, index and draft lists of contents.

At the same time it provides us a service of personal electronic mail, always available, endowed with a large space for storing and without advertising intervals: Gmail.

This stage of acquisition and data supply, through a single search field, has made a crucial contribution to the evolution of Internet. It has become easy, very easy, looking for and being searched.

Stage 3: The regression. The new goals are missed 

The following third stage has started with amazing advertisings, the creation of a universal translator able to bring together people of different origin, glasses able to maximize our reality with additional information, modulated and personalised smartphones, self-driving cars.

It is the beginning of a new era thanks to Google? Absolutely not! At least for now…

To this day Google translator, Google Glasses, project ARA, Google car, attest a lack of growth stage. Probably these research projects were aiming to high with too ingenious elaborations to be carried out by the computers in use till now.

Not even the social network “Google+” has reached the pre-fixed popularity and use, compared to those of Facebook, just to be clear.

These science fiction visions, in the later decade of the 21st century, failed to materialize. There was no further improvement, in either possible direction. Today’s Internet is not so dissimilar than the one of five or ten years ago.

And what about Google’s search engine? 

Neither this did have the evolution we had hoped for. A few years ago on the network were rumors regarding a semantic web, web 3.0, able to offer correlated contents, suggestions, information and intelligent support. None of this happened up till now, at least as far as Google is concerned.

Google’s list result proposes, in the central part, a greater number of advertisements comparing to some years ago. It promotes geo-located contents and popular in certain cases at the expense of the original and cultural contents. It applies “automatic” logical assessment of the contents.

The amount of information available online grown out of all proportion, certainly doesn’t help. The search engine in response to each attempt offers millions and millions of results.

In fact, a completely useless list except the first or the second page, for ten or twenty results characterized by a short description.

The search engine has not become more intelligent or more accurate if not for some trivial aspects of less importance.  

It follows predefined schemes assigning scores based on rules that for the most part have been presumed by computers scientist and copywriters replicating or bypassing them attentively. This leads to a high competition between right information and promotional information aimed at the sale, or worse surrogate information, false and showy.

The network users didn’t become more intelligent.  

Probably they are faster, more connected, but in front of a result list they tend to rely on what is proposed by Google and think less. This paradoxically doesn’t improve the knowledge on the contrary it reduces it to popular elements, already chosen by others; pages and texts that follow syntax and semantic rules appreciated by the algorithms. Many data, a lot of opportunities but only one list of ten results from which the cyberuser more and more passive may choose.

Criticising Google

Multimedia texts and contents shared online are centrifuged and lyophilized up to their essence. Billion of ideas, words, images and videos become a short list with minimal descriptions.  All the information outcome of all our searches is contained inside a “small postage stamp” on which all of us want to leave the signature. The first page of Google’s search result list, the page on which today everyone wants and has to be.

Online information grows and evolves. The cyberusers are faster and faster getting more and more compulsive. Google is becoming the absolute judge of this virtual universe.

For this, for its central role which has assumed in our virtual society Google can and must do better. Its algorithms must become more sensitive and less automatic; more careful in promoting useful contents to the community; more explanatory on the result lists in order to provide to the most receptive users a greater number of information; more careful in analysing the users behavior not predominantly for commercial purposes. It has to be able to understand the user requests and raise his level of knowledge and self-awareness.

It is a very difficult task, almost impossible, but if there is anyone who can do it, that is Google.

WorldTwoDotZero

 

Advertisements

There’s no place like smartphone

Let’s talk about smartphone, innovation, society and, of course, Internet.

To do this, we use the recent study published by Deloitte entitled “Mobile consumer survey 2016 UK”, research available online, which we recommend you, characterized by statistics with nice infographic and easy to interpret.

The subtitle, highfalutin, has captured our attention and encouraged the drafting of this article. “There’s no place like phone” represents a funny way to misquote the ancient motto “There’s no place like home”.

There is more behind this pun, because in a few years the smartphone has become, in UK as in Italy, a reference in the lives of many of us. It is an indispensable object, personal, always on hand, therefore appropriate to compare it to our home, a private place, intimate, where we feel so at ease.

Nine years after the first diffusion of this new generation of mobile devices, Deloitte, through this study, draws up an interesting analysis.

This analysis has shown the great impact on the social, personal and working environment caused by “smart” devices.

Let’s analyse the main points that synthesize the search.

The “Key findings”:

Almost half of 18-24 years olds check their phone in the middle of the night

The young Millennials, and even worse the young generation Y, are always connected. Even at nighttime!
The graph (figure 4) shows that the 50% of the Millennials (between 18 and 24) accesses their smartphone at least once during the night. The data for the other age groups is equally surprising:

  • a 30-year-old in two accesses Internet during the night (25-34 48%)
  • a 40-year-old in three (35-44 37%)
  • a 50-year-old in four (45-54 27%)
  • a 60-year-old in five (55-64 20%),

do the same.
The over 65 are not excluded with the 14% of the approached ones.

Deloitte_mobile_consumer_2016

Giving a quick look, we noticed the reverse trend between age and (nighttime) dependence; in any case a significant trend for the elderly age groups as well.
We are always connected. And we will be more and more, given the indices of the age groups.
Internet is in all these numbers; these compulsive, day and night tendencies.

It is useless to enumerate what benefits bring a proper sleep to our health and in general to our life. Are we developing a “FOMO” (Fear of Missing OUT) mass syndrome? More than likely!
The detail  proves it: 11% of the users wakes up in the middle of the night to check up the instant messages such as WhatsApp, 9% reads on Social Media, 8% reads their personal emails, 6% answers to the instant messages and so on…

We find restrictive saying that these people feel the necessity of “being often online”, they perceive the virtual world on a par with the real one. They are in both places. Even in the middle of the night! It is a continuum space and time between the “real world” and “web”.

27% of smartphones include a fingerprint reader, of which 76% are used

The smartphone is more and more a personal tool; the bond between tool and person is shown by the presence of interactive functionalities, which protect and reserves the access, like finger print recognition. Immediate service aimed to guarantee greater safety and fast usage. New functionalities, closer to our senses, by touch, faster, more “smart” and less “phone”, will become more and more established in the future. There can be no doubt!

Connected home devices still haven’t taken off, with just 2% of adults owning smart lights and smart appliances

The use of Internet by home electronic devices didn’t spread as what one thought.
Household appliances at remote control, video cameras controlled by an APP, smarthome technology, wireless devices and Bluetooth find interest in a small percentage of cyberusers.
The reason is extremely simple, the added value in terms of remote control and automation is, till now, very limited. If there is no clear advantage, the technology which sustains the innovation, struggles to succeed.

As of mid-2016, almost half of UK adults had access to at least one type of connected entertainment product

It is a completely inverse tendency compared to the previous case. In 2016 has increased the number of devices as well as the access quantities to the entertainment services through smart TV, games and videostreaming.
The cyberuser is also cyberviewer or cyberplayer. He chooses on demand and via streaming what to enjoy.
Well-informed he downloads, purchases and visualizes online.

4G adoption has more than doubled in the last year, from 25% to 54%

The net is getting faster every day; this powers the use of it, stimulating the interaction and long-distance socialization and increasing the sharing and the use of multimedia material, images and video.

31% of smartphone users make no traditional voice calls in a given week. This contrasts with a quarter in 2015, and just 4% in 2012

Instant messenger, chat, social network have changed rapidly the way of communication.
The pie chart “A day in the life of a smartphone” on page 36 explains how the smartphone follows us every moment of our day.

a_day_life_smartphone
However the smartphone is much more than a phone after all; it is a computer that provides new ways of communication and information; the users, the network users, are more and more aware.
The new ways of communication, also visual, are competing with the traditional operators offer.  They allow saving and communicating in a much more exhaustive way, visual, faster and at long-distance.

The majority of survey participants have downloaded 20 or fewer apps

The APPs have changed our way of perceiving technology by simplifying it, approaching informatics to the common user.
But this doesn’t mean that every APP is automatically a successful product; and even less, that we have to download hundreds of software applications on our device.
The user is learning to select effectively the useful APPs, necessary for his daily purposes.
The user is learning to manage his smartphone.

By mid-2016, almost two-thirds of UK adults had access to a tablet, but penetration growth had slowed down

The tablets have reached the top of their popularity.  Tools created not too long ago, are already becoming extinct.

The new generation of laptops, both computer and tablet, ultra-light, is replacing them.
Furthermore the smartphone displays are larger and larger, clearly legible. A 5/6-inch smartphone represents a good alternative to a tablet.
The tablets have had a fundamental role being  the first “touch” tools that brought web closer to citizen; they have set in motion a global digital reading process.
But technology runs very fast, inexorable; tools till yesterday innovative, gave space to new tools even more innovative.

How would we end our analysis? 

First of all thanking Deloitte for the great research from which we have taken inspiration, then with our “usual” conclusions. It is obvious, given the statistics, that the binomial person-smartphone is changing our social fabric, minor and major aspects of our life; a complex phenomenon, characterized by different tendencies and patterns of use. A fast-growing phenomenon for a long time to come, of that we are sure…in a World more and more “2.0”.

Worldtwodotzero

The PDF “Mobile consumer survey 2016 UK” of Deloitte is available at the following address: http://www.deloitte.co.uk/mobileuk/assets/pdf/Deloitte-Mobile-Consumer-2016-There-is-no-place-like-phone.pdf

 

entropy Web

Entropy on Web

Internet is the great box of all that is said, thought or done in our era.

Internet is a participative space. 
Practically, it gives everyone the freedom of speech and thought. 

It is the natural consequence of the global need, to participate, to express one’s own thought and opinion, by debating and countering.
Modern society limited to very few the publication and diffusion of contents, to authorities or privileged, leaving to all others, the mass, only the role of listeners, readers and viewers.
“Webmodern” society, beginning with Internet, has opened Pandora’s box. It has given to everybody the immediate possibility to bring the own contribution, even if not authoritative.
In fact, we moved in a short time, a decade, from an elitist management of information to an anarchic management of the same; from preclusion to total openness, from a mono flow of a directional communication to an informative and global tsunami.

Every network node, every person, communicates, participates. 
Everyone can write what he wants. 

All the world’s inhabitants who have a normal level of sociability and communication are exposed online.

It is estimated a traffic of 5 billion gigabytes per day. 
That means approximately 1 gigabyte for each inhabitant of planet Earth. 

What is generating this enormous informative mass?

Entropy, a lot of entropy. 

To explain what is happening, we support two definitions of entropy, which we find very modern and relevant.

  1. A gradual degeneration of a system toward the maximum disorder.

It is our case: Internet has been overloaded of contents of every kind; it is getting more and more difficult to find, browse, trace and expose, if not taking to extremes the ways of communication as well as the content published. First we have overcrowded our urban centers turning them into metropolis, now we are overcrowding the web.

  1. The information theory, what is of impediment to the clarity and uniqueness of the message; major is the entropy, minor is the quantity of information.

An informative overloading, coming from below, can progressively create an informative short circuit? Absolutely! In the face of billion of contents inserted daily, the original information, valid and competent, is submerged by an endless quantity of “trash contents”.
The search engines, especially Google, in front of this informative tsunami, must evaluate all the information by guessing what is relevant and understand what the cyberuser is searching for.
It is an ocean of noise that very often turns into small waves on the shore. Google algorithmically disintegrates the entropy by reducing it, on the first page, to thirteen or fourteen occurrences, of which three or four proposals for advertising. The rest, all of it, is in the storage, available only beginning from page two, for few, very few curious; a single process, unthinkable only ten years ago.
To an excessive increase of posted contents, getting from all over correspond a very high level of entropy and consequently a reduced set of useful information.

What will happen in the next decade? 

The most catastrophists say that the entropy, the overloading of contents, will win and all of us will be satisfied with the first ten options of the result list or maybe only with the first occurrence on the list.
The most optimists are convinced that this is only an early stage. A new “Generation Z” more skilled to use the web, will make use of the information more consciously. Simultaneously the search engines will develop more rational and intelligent algorithms.

To be realistic both dynamics will partially impose. 

The surplus of contents which involves all the topics discussed online makes difficult the search and the evaluation having an impact on our way of thinking, our ethic, our social and political conscience.
The Internet’s future lies in the dynamics of use by billion of users as well as in the informative flows which follow, ever-expanding flows. The limits for this process or the expanding methods are unknown and, to this day, are unpredictable.
Maybe the excess of information will determine in the future a BIG BANG of our virtual universe, the Web. To that point, we will invent something else.

Educating to the use of smartphone

In just six years, since 2011, the use of smartphones, and therefore the access on the move to services and contents online has increased from few percentage points, often below 1%, to over 50% of the connections.

This axiom, so clear in the percentages mentioned above, already described in our Italian article “The smartphones more used than the personal computers” has suggested us an original study.

We have positioned ourselves on an avenue of high-density of traffic in Rome, at 8:00 o’clock, in a sunny working day. We have chosen deliberately a spot of the avenue where at peak times the traffic progressively slows down and proceeds at a walking pace.

Educating Smartphone Car

Taking up a sheet of paper and a pen, bothered by the acrid unbreathable smell, we begin to write down the drivers’ behavior for an hour. The revealed data are therefore to be considered approximate by default we might have eluded some behavior.

We assure you that the sample, considering the huge traffic, is very significant in terms of numbers, age and social background.

 What have we seen? 

Approximately 2 out of 10 drivers, meaning 20%, use the smartphone for calling. They “are holding” the smartphone while driving. This behavior, dangerous and forbidden by law, was already widespread with the “normal cell phones”. The driver uses only one hand for driving, with the other one he is holding the phone and often distracted by what is happening on the road causes conversation.

Even more concerning is the fact that of these approximately 1 driver out of 20, actually almost 1.4 drivers, meaning 7%, uses the cell keyboard while driving, maybe for “texting” through chat, perhaps  through WhatsApp or Facebook.

We are dealing with a dangerous behavior because, very often, to our message follow those of our friends which, instinctively or out of curiosity, we are immediately tempted to read.

The driver sees the road “intermittently”, he is elsewhere. In some cases he places the phone on the wheel maybe to read better or even worse to write with both hands.

None of the drivers caught by us fiddling with the smartphone had a travelling companion; an aspect to be taken into consideration.

It is right to point out that the huge traffic surely stimulates this deviant behavior.  It is equally important to specify that the spot subject of monitoring doesn’t have traffic lights and the line, although continuous, has practically never had a total block, therefore, even though at a walking pace, the cars never stop, they are always on the move with lots of cars coming from other streets.

What we detected is that holding in hand the smartphone while driving is a very dangerous behavior. 

But why a very significant part of Italians is using the smartphone in a compulsive and villain way?

The first motivation stays in this article’s premise; internet and smartphones have spread very fast. There has been a lack of “education to the use of smartphone” or driver’s ed if you prefer. We use the smartphones and nothing else!

In schools it is forbidden the smartphones’ use, but there is no explanation why. This is not provided for a digital educational path, if not in some experimental cases. A significant path, arranged in more lessons, with ad hoc teaching, different in age and student sensibility, intended to explain when to go online and when is not appropriate.

On second thought, there aren’t very young people driving at 8 o’clock in the morning, so the lack of digital education doesn’t concern only the young millennials, but the adults too; the adults who live the day partly characterized by frantic rhythms partly by long waiting.  Waiting in which the smartphone acts as a socialization tool, an entertainment. The smartphone becomes an indispensable tool for alienating the boredom and for maintaining constant the frantic rhythms of our day especially when we are alone.

We need to communicate with our social web, our family and our friends, we want to share and smile a little. We find difficult to resist this need, especially when our smartphone is handy.

Let’s try to be constructive what can we do to get rid of this bad habit in adults in a short time?

It is simple, by daily broadcasting on TV (and Internet) commercials which underlines the inherent risks in using the smartphone while driving.  Broadcasting on and on alongside with those of phone companies, snacks, cars, perfumes and so on…which are being proposed to us at every hour of the day.

A digital education project, similar to those already proposed in other contexts by the Italian Progress Publicity Foundation

An innovative project which could save a lot of lives made by Italian RAI television that, we remind you, is a public communication company.

It is a simple principle: we use the mass communication tools and the web for educating as well as for convincing to buy things. Let’s use it properly and not symbolically and occasionally!  We do hope that this simple suggestion will be adopted.

We conclude with good news, during the experimental period 7 bicycles had passed us. People we presume, according to their clothes were aimed to work, cycling, with their hands tight on the handlebars and the smartphone, probably, in the pocket.

There is hope for the future! 

WorldTwoDotZero

Internet and people’s wisdom

Internet people’s wisdom There is a deep bond between sociology of the20th century and  web, the Internet, the virtual universe, explicit expression of our times.

Take, for example, Stanley Milgram and his visionary theory of the “small world” subsequently becoming “the theory of Six Degrees of Separation” to which we have dedicated an article a while ago.

Milgram had empirically proved how an individual could reach a perfect stranger by means of a parcel post with a number of passages between five and seven. Theory largely debated over the last few decades by the international sociological community and definitively proved in 2011 by the University of Milan through a concrete experimentation on the social network Facebook; an experiment which underlines how much all of us are really close in this globalised world, reachable and even closer if we use a social network.

Do we have other cases in which the bond between sociological analysis and modernity can be seen? 

In the 1895 Gustave Le Bon wrote the test “The Crowd: A study of the Popular Mind” in which he stated the destructive power of the crowd. An individual in the crowd, in line with the mass, abandons his own personal sense of responsibility, overcoming his own limits allowing himself to be dragged: a very present argument even on the net where the virtual context becomes scenery for situations of collective mockery and cyber-bullying.

The net, meaning the crowd, submits very fast new tendencies to comply with, the comments quickly overlap, one after the other and the opinions become provocations and then insults.

The web determines very fast new dynamics of thought. It praises, debates, defames and in the end destroys. 

But are we really sure that Internet, through its social networks, produces only negative effects on cyberusers? Is it real this alarmist and catastrophic vision of Internet or is it the digital divide’s creation? Is Internet only a jungle where to move in packs?

To this topic we got help from Francis Galton, still in the early 1900s, who decided to ask, during an agricultural fair, the weight of an ox to passersby and sectoral experts and subsequently to find out that the median calculated on the judgment of the passersby is by far more accurate than the hypotheses feared by the experts. We refer to “the wisdom of the crowds” a concept diametrically opposed to the precedent one for which the mass is able to provide best answers and attitudes compared to what are the possibilities of one single person.

Theory that in our view sustains the network work and the Wikipedia’s organization; Universal Encyclopedia based exactly on the contribution of the users, on the reciprocity determined by the common synergic effort, although with full regard of its role.

Wikipedia is an example of flow capable of channeling in a positive way the great energy present on the web; an imperfect but tangible example, valid both for the quantity of the proposed contents as for the anthropological value of the organization which proposes them; theory proven by the strong network presence of beneficial movements and voluntary organizations as well as onlus and humanitarian associations. All examples characterized by a strong collective identity along with a strong presence on social spaces where sharing, searching for solutions, communicating, showing, reaching unthinkable goals are above one person expectations.

Theory which sustains some “web colossuses” such as Tripadvisor, where 385 million reviews wrote by “normal” readers constitute a framework of together which goes far beyond the individual.

Internet is the participatory space that, despite its enormous contradictions and its multiple deviant events, exceeds the limits of the previous social models. The web produces dynamics of sharing and thinking “from the bottom”, collective and emotional; it is indeed the web of “say” and “do” anything.

Often these dynamics are diametrically opposite, extremely positive or extremely negative where the network group becomes a super group, a frisky herd running on the virtual prairies powered by hashtags and webtrends.

The bond between social analysis and modernity, between dynamics in progress and sociological thought proves the continuity between past and present; it reveals the foundations on which is based the new web, explains our history and motivates our present.

After all these reflections, what really matters is our need to participate, in the town square, on the window, in the window, on a disco podium or sitting on the couch and telling a story.

Network’ safety in numbers creates confusion, stimulates new ideas and new tendencies, makes a mess, does what all of us do every day in this world, a 2.0.world.

WorldTwoDotZero