Archive for June, 2009

Yauba – Big Brother isn’t watching you

June 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Sixty years after George Orwell published 1984 many of the ideas have, unfortunately, become commonplace. There are speed cameras watching how fast you drive, and CCTV monitoring many UK towns. On the Internet, search engines such as Google monitor your searches – keeping the data for months. They know what operating system you use. AWARE doesn’t record this information, despite showing some in our top bar, but many sites, and most search engines do).

Yauba bucks the trend by proudly announcing that it respects user privacy. Its privacy policy proudly states:

We do not keep any personally identifiable information.

Following the Iranian elections (June 2009) many Iranian dissidents and protesters have switched to Yauba, according to the searchengine blog site, Pandia.

“Ahmed Hossain, CIO of Yauba, tells Pandia: “Our traffic from Iran has jumped 300% over the past several days, as many of them are using the Yauba Search Engine and the anonymity proxy filter to access blocked sites and get news from foreign sources.”

Anonymity may be important for some people. However for most, it’s search results that count. Although Yauba claims to be able to search semantically, differentiating between Java the island, Java the coffee and Java the computer language is this a meaningless boast?

In other words is Yauba worth using for those not looking to hide their identity.

The short answer is yes. Yauba searches various types of content – which are separated. As such it enables you to quickly find Acrobat files, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, news, blogs, images, video, etc. in a single search. Each are kept distinct – and this is an interesting differentiator between it and other search engines. It also presents ways of refining queries and where there are alternative meanings it shows these – allowing users to pick the one they want.

Rather than use the search they suggest i.e. Java I put in Apple. The three meanings I thought of were

  1. The fruit
  2. The computer company
  3. The music company founded by the Beatles

In fact, there are several more – as Yauba shows:

apple can mean:
  • Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.), a consumer electronics and software company
  • Apple Bank, an American bank in the New York City area
  • Apple Corps, a multimedia corporation founded by The Beatles
  • Apple (album), an album by Mother Love Bone
  • Apple (band), a British psychedelic rock band
  • Apple Records, record label founded by The Beatles
  • Apple I, Apple II series, Apple III, etc., various personal computer models produced by Apple, Inc and sold from 1976 until 1992.
  • Ariane Passenger Payload Experiment, an Indian experimental communication satellite launched in 1981
  • Apple (automobile), an American automobile manufactured by Apple Automobile Company from 1917 to 1918
  • Billy Apple, artist
  • Fiona Apple, a Grammy award winning American singer-songwriter
  • R. W. Apple, Jr., an associate editor at The New York Times
  • Clicking on Apple (automobile) gives a number of results – not all directly relevant but some which were. There is also a brief encyclopedia type entry at the top of the page:

    The Apple was a short-lived American automobile manufactured by Apple Automobile Company in Dayton, Ohio from 1917 to 1918. Agents were assured that its $1150 Apple 8 model was “a car which you can sell!”. Sadly for the company, it would seem that the public did not buy.

    On the right of the screen are various suggestions for alternative searches. For example, a search for apple gives:

    Compare the clarity of this to the same search on google. (Admitedly the search is not sophisticated and a competent searcher would refine the term – but for testing, it’s good enough)

    It means that amateur searchers are more likely to find resuls for complex searches – fulfilling Yauba’s claim to allow people to search without a knowledge of Boolean logic.

    Also interesting is that a component of each search includes a real-time element – from Twitter and social news from Digg. The real time search element is useful as it provides another option to scoopler.

    Sponsored ads appear to come from the Google network. There are also options to filter searches (although there is currently no information on what is being filtered) and a Lite version which seems to remove the refinement options and the top-level definitions (i.e. making it more Google like in its results presentation).

    There is also an option to refine searches – alongside the search box.

    Selection of one of the options allows further search refinement either by keyword

    or domain

    Overall I like Yauba. The interface is clean (and the black background makes a change from competitors).

    Currently the site says it’s only an early Beta / Late Alpha preview release so more work / changes can be expected. Hopefully these will include Help files explaining what the Lite search is supposed to do and what a Filtered search actually filters. Also, what syntax is acceptable – to refine searches. Does Boolean searching actually work, for example? On my brief tests it seemed to – as did phrase searching i.e. putting search terms in quotes. What about other options – could any of the advanced search options from Exalead be included. And will the site cover more countries, than the current small number (Italy, France, UK, India, Brazil, Russia and the .com site)? Yauba promises to cover more countries – I’m just surprised that there is no Chinese or German version as I would have expected these before the Italian version. I guess the Yauba team have Italian speakers but currently no Chinese speakers.

    Forte 1 – truth or lie? A brief competitive intelligence case study.

    June 10, 2009 Leave a comment

    I received a phone call today from a charming lady who claimed to work for a company called Forte 1. I knew nothing about her company which seemed to want me to switch my business telephone line, and also said that they offered computers at great prices, and more.

    Whenever I get a sales call out of the blue, a red-light goes on in my head. At the same time I’m not one of these people that will put the phone straight down. For a start, I view it as an opportunity to practice my competitive intelligence elicitation and interviewing skills – how much can I find out about the unknown company. Very occasionally also, they get it right – and do succeed in making a sale (when it’s something I’ve wanted anyway and they offer a better deal).
    In the case of Forte1, alarm bells started ringing early on. I was considering putting the phone down but really wanted to know a bit more about the company and its service offering, especially as I was interested in one service that was mentioned and if the company was bonafide, I could have become a customer.
    Unfortunately the sales person wouldn’t give me a straight answer. I suggested that she mail me information on her company and if it was suitable for my needs I’d recontact her. Instead she suggested I look at their web-site. This gave me the chance to check up on them – and it’s an interesting lesson in what you can find on a company within 5-10 minutes, if you know how. It also showed that I knew more about her company than she did – confirming my suspicions that this may not be as genuine an offer as the salesperson was claiming. (However I don’t really know – or care. If any Forte1 users want to comment on this post and give a client reference please feel free).
    So what did I do? Well first, I went to their web-site – using Firefox (my browser of choice).
    The page opened with some Javascript for displaying the date – that was written before the HTML tag – as in the screen print below:
    That’s always a danger sign – as it implies that the web-site’s not been properly checked. The next thing was the text – for example

    Who we are

    ForteOne has applied a tactic of superb timing and entrepreneurial assertiveness to achieve success in the fields of communications through a vast array of business equipment solutions and information technology products and services.

    Our goal is to build long-term partnerships with our customers and maximise the potential of our traditional business, through a combination of enhanced quality of service and creativity.

    I’m not sure what this means. Although the words are English, the sentences are just a collection of management jargon put together to imply competence. For example, what on earth does entrepreneurial assertiveness actually mean.
    My next step was to find out more about the web-site itself. Using Firefox’s Page Info command (in the Tools menu) it turns out the home page was relatively new – from February 2009.
    So how old was the domain name – over to (one of many domain checking services). That shows that the domain was registered on the 23 September 2008, as was the parallel domain The US .com domain is owned by somebody else and is bonafide – but my suspicions are still high with the domain – incidentally registered by a Mr W Ahmed.
    Next step – let’s check the address to make sure that this is genuine. So over to Google and enter the postal code and address: “268 Bath Road” “SL1 4DX“. Now that’s interesting – dozens of hits come up, including the Slough branch of Regus – the virtual office company. Lots of small and SoHo businesses will base out of a Regus branch, but it doesn’t add substance to the veracity of Forte1 – as their web-site description seems to suggest a large profitable business.
    Now let’s check to see if it is a real business – so over to Companies House and their web-check service. Enter in Forte 1 (expecting nothing but who knows) and hey-presto, up comes a real company – Company No. 06354706. So it is a genuine business after-all, assuming that this is the correct Forte 1. Only problem is that the address is different to the web-site (which doesn’t include the company number).

    In fact, there appear to be several changes to the record since this company was founded – in August 2007. It first appeared as Trus Com Ltd, then changed to Truscom Ltd before metamorphosing into Forte1 Ltd in October 2008. The company has also changed address twice – from a W2 4SA address in London to an address in Barnet on the outskirts of London.

    However the key line connecting the two – and confirming that this is the same company comes on the 3 March 2009 – where a 288c “Director’s Particulars” document is filed for Wesam Ahmed. Remember the name – the guy who registered the domain name.
    So what about that W2 4SA address – is that another accommodation address.
    Another Google search shows that there are 2 companies registered at
    One is Motiontel Ltd listed on a D&B web-site, and the other is Nationtel Ltd listed on the excellent Applegate directory. Applegate lists the director – our friend, Wesam Ahmed again. Unfortunately a search on some of the people search sites doesn’t give much – as there are too many people with the same or similar name to research in 10 minutes.
    So where to now. Well let’s see if our web-site shares a server with any other web-sites. If they have a dedicated server that’s a good sign – and could indicate links between businesses. So over to Domain Tools and it’s reverse IP lookup option. Enter in and it turns out that:

    There are 5 domains hosted on this IP address.
    Here are a few of them:

    4. 2 more…
    (In contrast, with there are 1000s – indicating that the server is shared and not dedicated).
    Taking a look at the look and feel are the same (including the same HTML error on Firefox) but in this case the site is under construction. However the domain is active – with a new contact address:
    Smart Village Km 28 Cairo Alex Desert Road – Giza – Egypt
    So it seems that perhaps Mr Ahmed is Egyptian – it’s an Egyptian name after-all.
    In conclusion – I can’t (and won’t) say whether or not Forte1 Ltd is genuine – with real products and services or not. Not having any experience of them apart from the phone-call it wouldn’t be fair to make a judgement. However from what I uncovered I won’t become a customer. Instead this can be viewed as a case-study in how it’s possible to do a quick competitor analysis while speaking to somebody on the phone – in a few minutes. With more time I’d have looked to see whether Mr Ahmed had more companies under his belt, and whether any had failed. I’d have looked into more depth to see who else (if anybody) was involved and tried to find some customers to give actual opinions on how they performed. This is the sort of work we do for clients – rather than just to satisfy curiosity, as was the case here.

    Google Squared – tabulate results instantly

    June 10, 2009 2 comments

    Google Squared is a new addition to the Google Labs portfolio of products being tested by Google. Launched on June 3, it looks as though it’s aimed at offering an ability to get more from simple searches – perhaps a bit like WolframAlpha.

    It’s still very much a beta-test addition to the Google product range so there are bound to be some holes. What happens is that you enter a search term and a spreadsheet type page appears with various headings in the leftmost column, followed by a description and various other (generally) relevant columns.
    It’s an interesting way of using Google’s data – i just wish that the results were more consistent and accurate. Entering in the search term Planets should be a perfect way of testing how the spreadsheet approach works – and unfortunately it doesn’t, at least not completely.
    The Planets search gives a list on the left of Earth, Jupiter, Pluto, Saturn, Mercury, Venus, Neptune but misses out Mars and Uranus. Fair-enough – as there is the “Add next 10 items” link at the bottom (and also an “Add items” option). Adding the next 10 items however doesn’t give the missing planets, but instead, Ceres, Charon and various other headings relevant but only indirectly (e.g. “Planets in Science Fiction” or “solar system”).
    The “Add items” option does better in that it gives potential choices – which include Uranus and Mars.
    The next column contains an image of each planet although the one for Pluto, culled from the SouthernWatch blog is actually a diagram of Pluto with a slogan attached saying Pluto for Planethood.

    I’m sort of surprised that it didn’t include a picture of the Disney character.
    The next column is a description – again taken from various places so not showing any consistency. The description for Jupiter for example, seems accurate – and is taken from Wikpedia:
    Jupiter is classified as a gas giant along with Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Together, these four planets are sometimes referred to as the Jovian planets. …
    The problem is that different sources are used for different planets – with both Venus and Saturn being particularly obtuse – taken respectively from and

    Only at Venus, find the sexiest women’s swimwear and clothing. Shop online or request a catalog for sizzling hot clothing and swimsuits. …

    While you’re shopping for Saturn vehicles, we’ve given you an easy way to keep information for the next time you visit With My Saved Info, …
    The following columns give the orbital period, equatorial surface and mean density – with an option to add further items at the end. The problem is not knowing how accurate these are – and in fact they appear as eccentric as the planet descriptions with some containing units and others just a number. I’d certainly not want to use the values or any entries in any school paper or anything where I need reliable answers.
    In summary, Google Squared is interesting and if Google manages to include some quality checking – perhaps by only using certain sites or back-checking to ensure that correct context then this could be a winner. Until then, i’ll stick with WolframAlpha and Wikipedia for a quick look at multiple facts.


    June 4, 2009 1 comment

    I’m still not sure what to make of WolframAlpha – the new “computational search tool”. I like what it can do – as a way of solving crosswords, or doing math calculations. For a lot of information it’s probably easier to use than Wikipedia but i can’t really see how it will help in most business type queries – at least it won’t yet.

    If you want to find a word where you know some letters it’s great. Type in _i_i_i and you’ll get the answer “bikini” and also “militia” – two words that match that pattern. Put in an equation and you’ll get a graph, or a chemical or molecular symbol and you’ll get information on the element or compound. Enter in stock codes and you’ll get some company information but too often the result is “Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.” You’ll get this if you put in British Telecom but WolframAlpha knows about BT as enter this and you get correct information on British Telecom’s share performance.

    I think part of the problem is that WolframAlpha is different and new. It’s NOT a search engine (despite the hype saying it would be a Google killer). It’s not an encylopedia although many entries are encylopedic. Instead, it’s what it says on its description – it’s a computational knowledge engine. Use it to carry out calculations or to bring up data that’s in it’s knowledge engine – but don’t use it for much more. It’s a useful addition to the search scene and will make life easier for some searches, but that’s about it. For most searches I’ll stick with Google and other search engines. For general information I’ll remain happy with Wikipedia. However I will use WolframAlpha for information requiring some element of computation more complex or requiring greater detail than is available in Google’s calculate functionality.

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