Stephen H. Arnold: Palatir, PRISM, & Poop — PR Over Substance, Again

IO Impotency
Stephen E. Arnold
Stephen E. Arnold

Search and Content Processing Vendor in the Spotlight

Beyond Search, 8 June 2013

Once again I have no opinion about allegations regarding data intercepts. Not my business. Here in Harrod’s Creek, I am thrilled to have electric power and a couple of dogs to accompany me on my morning walk in the hollow by the pond filled with mine drainage.

I did read a TPM story commenting about Palantir, a company which has more than $100 million in funding and now has a PR profile higher than the Empire State Building. The write up explains that a company with search, connectors, and some repackaged numerical recipes may be involved with certain US government activities.

Here’s a quote from a quote in the write up:

Apparently, Palantir has a software package called “Prism”: “Prism is a software component that lets you quickly integrate external databases into Palantir.” That sounds like exactly the tool you’d want if you were trying to find patterns in data from multiple companies.

The write up has some links to Palantir documents.

Several thoughts:

First, there are quite a few firms working in the same content processing sector as Palantir. Some of these you may know; for example IBM. Others are probably off your radar and maybe drifting into oblivion like Digital Reasoning. The point is that many organizations looking to make money from search and content processing have turned to government contracts to stay afloat. Why haven’t real journalists and azure chip consultants cranking out pay to play profiles described the business functions of these outfits? Maybe these experts and former English majors are not such smart folks after all. Writing about Microsoft is just easier perhaps>

Second, the fancy math outfits are not confined to Silicon Valley. Nope, there are some pretty clever systems built and operated outside the US. You can find some nifty technology in such surprising places as downtown Paris, a Stockholm suburb, and far off Madrid. Why? There is a global appetite for software and systems which can make sense of Big Data. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but these systems do not vary too much. They use similar math, have similar weaknesses, and similar outputs. The reason? Ah, gentle reader, Big O helps make clear why fancy math systems are pretty much alike as information access systems have been for decades.

Third, the marketers convince the bureaucrats that they have a capability which is bigger, faster, and cheaper. In today’s world this translates to giant server farms and digital Dysons. When the marketers have moved on to sell Teslas, lesser souls are left with the task of making the systems work.

My view is that we are in the midst of the largest single PR event related to search in my lifetime.

Will the discussion of search and content processing improve information access?

Nope.

Will the visibility alter the trajectory of hybrid systems which “understand” content?

Nope.

Will Big Data yield high value insights which the marketers promised?

Nope.

My thought is that there will be more marketing thrills in the search and content processing sector. Stay tuned but don’t use a fancy math system to pick your retirement investment, the winner of today’s Belmont, or do much more than deliver a 1970s type of survey output.

Oh, the Big O. The annoying computational barriers. The need to recycle a dozen or so well known math methods juiced with some visualizations.

The search and content processing bandwagon rolls forward. The cloud of unknowing surrounds information access. What’s new?

Stephen E Arnold, June 8, 2013

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