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[Source: This article was published in observer.com By Harmon Leon - Uploaded by the Association Member: Paul L.]

On HBO’s Silicon Valley, the Pied Piper crew’s mission is to create a decentralized internet that cuts out intermediaries like FacebookGoogle, and their fictional rival, Hooli. Surely a move that would make Hooli’s megalomaniac founder Gavin Belson (also fictional) furious.

In theory, no one owns the internet. No. Not Mark Zuckerberg, not Banksy, not annoying YouTube sensation Jake Paul either. No—none of these people own the internet because no one actually owns the internet.

But in practice, a small number of companies really control how we use the internet. Sure, you can pretty much publish whatever you want and slap up a website almost instantaneously, but without Google, good luck getting folks to find your site. More than 90 percent of general web searches are handled by the singular humongous search engine—Google.

If things go sour with you and Google, the search giant could make your life very difficult, almost making it appear like you’ve been washed off the entire internet planet. Google has positioned itself as pretty much the only game in town.

Colin Pape had that problem. He’s the founder of Presearch, a decentralized search engine powered by a community with roughly 1.1 million users. Presearch uses cryptocurrency tokens as an incentive to decentralize search. The origin story: Before starting Presearch, Google tried to squash Pape’s business, well not exactly squash, but simply erase it from searches.

Let’s backtrack.

In 2008, Pape founded a company called ShopCity.com. The premise was to support communities and get their local businesses online, then spread that concept to other communities in a franchise-like model. In 2011, Pape’s company launched a local version in Google’s backyard of Mountain View, California.

End of story, right? No.

“We woke up one morning in July to find out that Google had demoted almost all of our sites onto page eight of the search results,” Pape explained. Pape and his crew thought it was some sort of mistake; still, the demotion of their sites was seriously hurting the businesses they represented, as well as their company. But something seemed fishy.

Pape had read stories of businesses that had essentially been shut down by Google—or suffered serious consequences such as layoffs and bankruptcy—due to the jockeying of the search engine.

“Picture yourself as a startup that launches a pilot project in Google’s hometown,” said Pape, “and 12 months later, they launch a ‘Get Your City Online’ campaign with chambers of commerce, and then they block your sites. What would you think?”

It was hard for Pape not to assume his company had been targeted because it was easy enough for Google to simply take down sites from search results.

“We realized just how much market power Google had,” Pape recalled. “And how their lack of transparency and responsiveness was absolutely dangerous to everyone who relies on the internet to connect with their customers and community.”

google

Google’s current search engine model makes us passive consumers who are fed search results from a black box system into which none of us have any insight. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

 

Fortunately, Pape’s company connected with a lawyer leading a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into Google’s monopolistic practices. Through the press, they put pressure on Google to resolve its search issues.

This was the genesis for Presearch, ‘the Switzerland of Search,’ a resource dedicated to the more open internet on a level playing field.

“The vision for Presearch is to build a framework that enables many different groups to build their own search engine with curated information and be rewarded for driving usage and improving the platform,” Pape told Observer.

But why is this so important?

“Because search is how we access the amazing resources on the web,” Pape continued. “It’s how we find things that we don’t already know about. It’s an incredibly powerful position for a single entity [Google] to occupy, as it has the power to shape perceptions, shift spending and literally make or break entire economies and political campaigns, and to determine what and how we think about the world.”

You have to realize that nothing is truly free.

Sure, we use Google for everything from looking for a local pet groomer to finding Tom Arnold’s IMDB page. (There are a few other things in between.) Google isn’t allowing us to search out of the goodness of its heart. When we use Google, we’re essentially partaking in a big market research project, in which our information is being tracked, analyzed and commoditized. Basically, our profiles and search results are sold to the highest bidders. We are the product—built upon our usage. Have you taken the time to read Google’s lengthy terms of service agreement? I doubt it.

How else is Sergey Brin going to pay for his new heliport or pet llama?

Stupid free Google.

Google’s current model makes us passive consumers who are fed search results from a black box system into which none of us have any insight. Plus, all of those searches are stored, so good luck with any future political career if a hacker happens to get a hold of that information.

Presearch’s idea is to allow the community to look under the hood and actively participate in this system with the power of cryptocurrency to align participant incentives within the ecosystem to create a ground-up, community-driven alternative to Google’s monopoly.

“Every time you search, you receive a fraction of a PRE token, which is our cryptocurrency,” explained Pape. “Active community members can also receive bonuses for helping to improve the platform, and everyone who refers a new user can earn up to 25 bonus PRE.”

Tokens can be swapped for other cryptocurrencies, such Bitcoin, used to buy advertising, sold to other advertisers or spent on merchandise via Presearch’s online platform.

Presearch’s ethos is to personalize the search engine rather than allowing analytics to be gamed against us, so users are shown what they want to see. Users can specify their preferences to access the information they want, rather than enveloping them in filter bubbles that reinforce their prejudices and bad behaviors, simply to makes them click on more ads.

“We want to empower people rather than control them,” Pape said. “The way to do that is to give them choices and make it easy for them to ‘change the channel,’ so to speak if the program they’re being served isn’t resonating with them.”

Another thing to fear about Google, aside from the search engine being turned on its head and being used as a surveillance tool in a not-so-distant dystopian future, is an idea that’s mentioned in Jon Ronson book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. People’s lives have been ruined due to Google search results that live on forever after false scandalous accusations.

How will Presearch safeguard us against this?

“We are looking at a potential model where people could stake their tokens to upvote or downvote results, and then enable community members to vote on those votes,” said Pape. “This would enable mechanisms to identify false information and provide penalties for those who promote it. This is definitely a tricky subject that we will involve the community in developing policies for.”

Pape’s vision is very much aligned with Pied Piper’s on HBO’s Silicon Valley.

“It is definitely pretty accurate… a little uncanny, actually,” Pape said after his staff made him watch the latest season. “It was easy to see where the show drew its inspiration from.”

But truth is stranger than fiction. “The problems a decentralized internet are solving are real, and will become more and more apparent as the Big Tech companies continue to clamp down on the original free and open internet in favor of walled gardens and proprietary protocols,” he explained. “Hopefully the real decentralized web will be the liberating success that so many of us envision.”

Obviously an alternative to Google’s search monopoly is a good thing. And Pape feels that breaking up Google might help in the short term, but “introducing government control is just that—introducing more control,” Pape said. “We would rather offer a free market solution that enables people to make their own choices, which provides alignment of incentives and communities to create true alternatives to the current dominant forces.”

Presearch may or may not be the ultimate solution, but it’s a step in the right direction

Categorized in Search Engine

[Source: This article was published in halifaxtoday.ca By Ian Milligan - Uploaded by the Association Member: Deborah Tannen]

Today, and into the future, consulting archival documents increasingly means reading them on a screen

Our society’s historical record is undergoing a dramatic transformation.

Think of all the information that you create today that will be part of the record for tomorrow. More than half of the world’s population is online and maybe doing at least some of the following: communicating by email, sharing thoughts on Twitter or social media or publishing on the web.

Governments and institutions are no different. The American National Archives and Records Administration, responsible for American official records, “will no longer take records in paper form after December 31, 2022.

In Canada, under Library and Archives Canada’s Digital by 2017 plan, records are now preserved in the format that they were created in: that means a Word document or email will be part of our historical record as a digital object.

Traditionally, exploring archives meant largely physically collecting, searching and reviewing paper records. Today, and into the future, consulting archival documents increasingly means reading them on a screen.

This brings with it an opportunity — imagine being able to search for keywords across millions of documents, leading to radically faster search times — but also challenge, as the number of electronic documents increases exponentially.

As I’ve argued in my recent book History in the Age of Abundance, digitized sources present extraordinary opportunities as well as daunting challenges for historians. Universities will need to incorporate new approaches to how they train historians, either through historical programs or newly-emerging interdisciplinary programs in the digital humanities.

The ever-growing scale and scope of digital records suggests technical challenges: historians need new skills to plumb these for meaning, trends, voices and other currents, to piece together an understanding of what happened in the past.

There are also ethical challenges, which, although not new in the field of history, now bear particular contemporary attention and scrutiny.

Historians have long relied on librarians and archivists to bring order to information. Part of their work has involved ethical choices about what to preserve, curate, catalogue and display and how to do so. Today, many digital sources are now at our fingertips — albeit in raw, often uncatalogued, format. Historians are entering uncharted territory.

Digital abundance

Traditionally, as the late, great American historian Roy Rosenzweig of George Mason University argued, historians operated in a scarcity-based economy: we wished we had more information about the past. Today, hundreds of billions of websites preserved at the Internet Archive alone is more archival information than scholars have ever had access to. People who never before would have been included in archives are part of these collections.

Take web archiving, for example, which is the preservation of websites for future use. Since 2005, Library and Archives Canada’s web archiving program has collected over 36 terabytes of information with over 800 million items.

Even historians who study the middle ages or the 19th centuries are being affected by this dramatic transformation. They’re now frequently consulting records that began life as traditional parchment or paper but were subsequently digitized.

Historians’ digital literacy

Our research team at the University of Waterloo and York University, collaborating on the Archives Unleashed Project, uses sources like the GeoCities.com web archive. This is a collection of websites published by users between 1994 and 2009. We have some 186 million web pages to use, created by seven million users.

Our traditional approaches for examining historical sources simply won’t work on the scale of hundreds of millions of documents created by one website alone. We can’t read page by page nor can we simply count keywords or outsource our intellectual labor to a search engine like Google.

As historians examining these archives, we need a fundamental understanding of how records were produced, preserved and accessed. Such questions and modes of analysis are continuous with historians’ traditional training: Why were these records created? Who created or preserved them? And, what wasn’t preserved?

Second, historians who confront such voluminous data need to develop more contemporary skills to process it. Such skills can range from knowing how to take images of documents and make them searchable using Optical Character Recognition, to the ability to not only count how often given terms appear, but also what contexts they appear in and how concepts begin to appear alongside other concepts.

You might be interested in finding the “Johnson” in “Boris Johnson,” but not the “Johnson & Johnson Company.” Just searching for “Johnson” is going to get a lot of misleading results: keyword searching won’t get you there. Yet emergent research in the field of natural language processing might!

Historians need to develop basic algorithmic and data fluency. They don’t need to be programmers, but they do need to think about how code and data operates, how digital objects are stored and created and humans’ role at all stages.

Deep fake vs. history

As historical work is increasingly defined by digital records, historians can contribute to critical conversations around the role of algorithms and truth in the digital age. While both tech companies and some scholars have advanced the idea that technology and the internet will strengthen democratic participation, historical research can help uncover the impact of socio-economic power throughout communications and media history. Historians can also help amateurs parse the sea of historical information and sources now on the Web.

One of the defining skills of a historian is an understanding of historical context. Historians instinctively read documents, whether they are newspaper columns, government reports or tweets, and contextualise them in terms of not only who wrote them, but their environment, culture and time period.

As societies lose their physical paper trails and increasingly rely on digital information, historians, and their grasp of context, will become more important than ever.

As deepfakes — products of artificial intelligence that can alter images or video clips — increase in popularity online, both our media environment and our historical record will increasingly be full of misinformation.

Western societies’ traditional archives — such as those held by Library and Archives Canada or the National Archives and Records Administration — contain (and have always contained) misinformation, misrepresentation and biased worldviews, among other flaws.

Historians are specialists in critically reading documents and then seeking to confirm them. They synthesise their findings with a broad array of additional sources and voices. Historians tie together big pictures and findings, which helps us understand today’s world.

The work of a historian might look a lot different in the 21st century — exploring databases, parsing data — but the application of their fundamental skills of seeking context and accumulating knowledge will serve both society and them well in the digital age.

Categorized in Investigative Research

[Source: This article was published in techbullion.com By Linda S. Davis - Uploaded by the Association Member: Anna K. Sasaki]

A large research project can be overwhelming, but there are techniques that you can use to make your project more manageable. You simply need to start with a specific plan, and focus on effective search techniques that take advantage of all available resources. By working smarter rather than harder, you will not only finish your project more quickly, but you will also acquire higher quality information than you would be able to find through hours of unfocused researching. Follow the tips below to increase your efficiency and improve the quality of your work.

Try to Start with Broad Overviews

The best way to understand a topic is to start your research by reading a general overview. This will help you to focus your research question, lead you to valuable sources and give you context for understanding your topic. High school students and students in introductory courses can consider beginning a research project by reading encyclopedia articles. Students doing more advanced or specialized research should look for review articles in appropriate journals. In addition to helping you understand your subject, the resources section of an encyclopedia article or the extensive bibliography of a review article will provide you with quality sources on your informative topics without the need to search for them. This can save you hours of needless work.

Formulate Questions

If you go to the library or perform a computer search in order to research a large topic, like the American Revolution or genetic theory, you will be quickly overwhelmed. For this reason, you should formulate specific, focused questions to answer. By asking yourself how England’s involvement with other European powers influenced the American Revolution or how imaging techniques contributed to the development of genetic theory, for example, you will be able to focus your research and save yourself time.

Have a Plan

Before you start your research, have a goal in mind, and make a plan for reaching this goal. If you just go poking around the internet or the library, you are unlikely to get much accomplished. Instead of searching blindly, focus on answering the specific questions you have formulated, locating a certain number of resources, getting a broad overview of your topic or some other specific goal. Setting small, achievable goals will make your task less overwhelming and easier to complete.

Take Notes

Many students gather sources by collecting books, articles, and lists of bookmarks without reading or even skimming them until the project deadline looms. This creates a time crunch. To avoid this situation, spend time taking notes in a notebook, on note cards or on your computer. As you research, jot down applicable information from your sources, and note where this information is located. By taking notes as you go, you will be better able to gauge how much more research is necessary. You will also make writing your paper, preparing your presentation or completing your project a quicker and simpler undertaking.

Master Google Searches

Google is a search engine with many powerful features that allow you to find what you want quickly. Unfortunately, many students are unaware of these features, so they spend needless hours wading through pages of irrelevant search results. By spending a few minutes on Google’s tips pages, you can learn how to get the most out of internet searching.

Take Advantage of Top Lists

Most university and regional libraries have various subject-specific lists of resources on their web pages. These are well-organized, comprehensive listings of quality sources from each library’s specific collection of databases and e-resources, and they cover a large variety of topics. Rather than spending your time wading through substandard resources, peruse the lists offered by your library, and save yourself some time.

Ask a Librarian for Help

Reference librarians can help you find what you need quickly and teach you research tricks that will help you on your current project in addition to future projects. By asking for help, you can save yourself time and frustration. Even if you cannot go to the physical library, most libraries also offer consultations over the phone, by e-mail or through virtual chat platforms.

Categorized in Online Research

[Source: This article was published in gritdaily.com By Faisal Quyyumi - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jason bourne]

recent study conducted by Yext and Forbes shows consumers only believe 50 percent of their search results when looking up information about brands.

Yext is a New York City technology company focusing on online brand management and Forbes, of course, is a business magazine. Over 500 consumers in the United States were surveyed for the study.

FINDINGS

57 percent of those in the study avoid search engines and prefer to visit the brand’s official website because they believe it is more accurate.

50 percent of those surveyed use third-party sites and applications to learn more about brands. 48 percent believe a brand’s website is their most reliable source.

20 percent of “current and new customers trust social media sites to deliver brand information,” according to Search Engine Journal. 28 percent of buyers avoid buying from a certain brand after they have received inaccurate information.

WHY DON’T THEY BUY?

A few reasons why consumers do not buy from a brand is due to unsatisfactory customer service, excessive requests for information and if a company’s website is not easy to navigate.

Mar Ferrentino, Chief Strategy Officer of Yext said: “Our research shows that regardless of where they search for information, people expect the answers they find to be consistent and accurate – and they hold brands responsible to ensure this is the case.”

The study says customers look at a brand’s website and search engine results for information. This information includes customer service numbers, hours, events, and a brand’s products.

A BETTER WAY TO MARKET ONLINE

The three best practices that brands can use for a customer to have a seamless experience is to maintain, guarantee and monitor.

The company should maintain present-day information and complete accuracy on its website along with an easy-to-use search function. The study also tells brands “guarantee searches return high-quality results by ensuring that tools like Google My Business and other directories have updated and correct information”. Lastly, a brand needs to be active and respond to questions and posts online on social media, corporate websites and review sites.

Companies are doing their best to keep up with consumer expectations for an authentic experience.

Many people use third-party sites such as Google, Bing or Yelp because they are able to compare and categorize numerous products at once.

CONSUMERS HESITATE

New users and consumers are often hesitant and require time to build trust with a company, whereas current customers have confidence in the brand and help by writing positive reviews. 45 percent of customers “say they are usually looking for customer reviews of brands of products when they visit a third-party site” (Forbes).

Reviews determine whether consumers will avoid buying a product or if they want to continue interacting with the vendor.

True Value Company, an American wholesaler, is changing their marketing strategy to adapt to a more Internet-based audience. “We’ve made significant technology investments – including re-platforming our website – to back that up and support our brick and mortar stores for the online/offline world in which consumers live,” said David Elliot, the senior vice-president of marketing.

Despite branding on social media becoming more popular, it does not fall in the top 50 percent of most-trusted sources for brand information.

A 2008 study done by Forrester Research, an American based market research company, shows how much consumers trust different information sources. The sources range from personal emails to Yellow Pages to message board posts.

The most trusted is emails “from people you know” at 77 percent; followed by consumer product ratings/reviews at 60 percent and portal/search engines at 50 percent. The least trusted information source is a company blog at only 16 percent.

Corporate blogs are the least dependable information source to consumers as these should be the most reliable way for companies to express and share information with their audience.

The study shows the significance of a brand’s online marketing strategy. It is vital for companies to make sure their website looks like a trustworthy source.

Companies don’t need to stop blogging — but instead, have to do it in a trustworthy and engaging manner.

Want to read the full report? Click here.

Categorized in Search Engine

[Source: This article was published in thegroundtruthproject.org By Josh Coe - Uploaded by the Association Member: James Gill] 

Last week ProPublica uncovered a secret Facebook group for Customs and Border Patrol agents in which a culture of xenophobia and sexism seems to have thrived. The story was supported by several screenshots of offensive posts by “apparently legitimate Facebook profiles belonging to Border Patrol agents, including a supervisor based in El Paso, Texas, and an agent in Eagle Pass, Texas,” the report’s author A.C. Thompson wrote.

This is only the most recent example of the stories that can be found by digging into Facebook. Although Instagram is the new social media darling, Facebook, which also owns Instagram, still has twice the number of users and remains a popular place for conversations and interactions around specific topics. 

Although many groups are private and you might need an invitation or a source inside them to gain access, the world’s largest social network is a trove of publicly accessible information for reporters, you just need to know where to look. 

I reached out to Brooke Williams, an award-winning investigative reporter and Associate Professor of the Practice of Computational Journalism at Boston University and Henk van Ess, lead investigator for Bellingcat.com, whose fact-checking work using social media has earned a large online following, to talk about how they use Facebook to dig for sources and information for their investigations. Their answers were edited for length and clarity. 

1. Use visible community groups like a phonebook

 While it remains unclear how Thompson gained access to the Border Patrol group, Williams says you can start by looking at those groups that are public and the people that care about the issues you’re reporting. 

“I have quite a bit of success with finding sources in the community,” says Williams, “people on the ground who care about local issues, in particular, tend to form Facebook groups.” 

Williams uses Facebook groups as a phonebook of sorts when looking for sources.  For example, if a helicopter crashes in a neighborhood, she suggests searching for that specific neighborhood on Facebook, using specific keywords like the name of local streets or the particular district to find eyewitnesses. Her neighborhood in the Boston area, she recalls, has its own community page.

 Williams also recommends searching through Google Groups, where organizations often leave “breadcrumbs” in their message boards.

 “It’s not all of them,” she notes about these groups, “but it’s the ones that have their privacy settings that way.”

 After speaking with Williams, I spent a few hours poking around in Google Groups and discovered a surprising amount of local and regional organizations neglected their privacy settings. When looking through these group messages, I had a lot of success using keyword searches like “meeting minutes” or “schedule,” through which documents and contact information of “potential sources” were available. While you can’t necessarily see who the messages are being sent to, the sender’s email is often visible.

This is just one example of a group with available contacts

1 Search 22Southwest Baltimore22 Redacted

2 Search Meeting Minutes Redacted

3 Redacted 22Meeting Minutes22 Results

4 Meeting Minutes

2. Filter Facebook with free search tools created by journalists for journalists

Despite privacy settings, there’s plenty of low-hanging and fruitful information on social media sites from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, as a 2013 investigation by New Orleans-based journalism organization The Lens shows. The nonprofit’s reporters used the “family members” section of a Charter School CEO’s Facebook page to expose her nepotistic hiring of six relatives.

 “But if you know how to filter stuff… you can do way more,” van Ess says.

  In 2017, van Ess helped dispel a hoax story about a rocket launcher found on the side of a road in Egypt using a combination of social media sleuthing, Google Earth and a free tool that creates panoramas from video to determine when the video clip of the launcher was originally shot. More recently, he used similar methods as well as Google Chrome plug-ins for Instagram and the help of more than 60 Twitter users to track down the Netherlands’ most wanted criminal

He says journalists often overlook Facebook as a resource because “99 percent” of the stuff on Facebook is “photos of cats, dogs, food or memes,” but there’s useful information if you can sort through the deluge of personal posts. That’s why he created online search tools graph.tips and whopostedwhat.com so that investigators like himself had a “quick method to filter social media.”

For those early-career journalists who’ve turned around quick breaking news blips or crime blotters for a paper’s city desk, might be familiar with the twitter tool TweetDeck (if not, get on it!), Who posted what? offers reporters a way to similarly search keywords and find the accounts posting about a topic or event. 

Here’s how it works: you can type in a keyword and choose a date range in the “Timerange” section to find all recent postings about that keyword. Clicking on a Facebook profile of interest, you can then copy and paste that Facebook account’s URL address into a search box on whopostedwhat.com to generate a “UID” number. This UID can then be used in the “Posts directly from/Posts associated with” section to search for instances when that profile mentioned that keyword. 

These tools are not foolproof. Often times, searches will yield nothing. Currently, some of its functions (like searching a specific day, month or year) don’t seem to work (more on that in the next section), but the payoff can be big.  

“It enables you essentially to directly search somebody’s timeline rather than scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and having it load,” says Williams of graph.tips, which she employs in her own investigations. “You can’t control the timeline, but you can see connections between people which is applicable, I found, in countries other than the States.”

 While she declined to provide specific examples of how she uses graph.tips—she is using van Ess’s tools in a current investigation—she offered generalized scenarios in which it could come in handy. 

For instance, journalists can search “restaurants visited by” and type in the name of two politicians. “Or you could, like, put in ‘photos tagged with’ and name a politician or a lobbyist,” she says. She says location tagging is especially popular with people outside the US. 

Facebook’s taken a lot of heat recently about privacy issues, so many OSINT tools have ceased to work, or, like graph.tips, have had to adapt. 

 3. Keep abreast of the changes to the platforms 

The trouble with these tools is their dependence on the social platform’s whim–or “ukase” as van Ess likes to call it. 

For example, on June 7, Facebook reduced the functionality of Graph Search, rendering van Ess’s graph.tips more difficult to use.

According to van Ess, Facebook blocked his attempts to fix graph.tips five times and it took another five days before he figured out a method to get around the new restrictions by problem-solving with the help of Twitter fans. The result is graph.tips/facebook.html, which he says takes longer than the original graph.tips, but allows you to search Facebook much in the same way as the original. 

Even though the site maintains the guarantee that it’s “completely free and open, as knowledge should be,” van Ess now requires first-time users to ask him directly to use the tool, in order to filter through the flood of requests he claims he has received. 

I have not yet been given access to the new graph.tips and can’t confirm his claims, but van Ess welcomes investigators interested in helping to improve its functionality. Much like his investigations, he crowdsources improvements to his search tools. Graph.tips users constantly iron out issues with the reworked tool on GitHub, which can be used like a subreddit for software developers.  

Ongoing user feedback, as well as instructions on how to use van Ess’s new Facebook tool, can be found here. A similar tool updated as recently as July 3 and created by the Czech OSINT company Intel X is available here, though information regarding this newer company is sparse. By contrast, all van Ess’s tools are supported by donations. 

The OSINT community has its own subreddit, where members share the latest tools of their trade. 

4. Use other social media tools to corroborate your findings

When it comes to social media investigations, van Ess says you need to combine tools with “strategy.” In other words, learn the language of the search tool–he shared this helpful blog post listing all of the advanced search operator codes a journalist would need while using Twitter’s advanced search feature.

Williams also had a Twitter recommendation: TwXplorer. Created by the Knight Lab this helpful tool allows reporters to filter Twitter for the 500 most recent uses of a word or phrase in 12 languages. The application will then list all the handles tweeting about that phrase as well as the most popular related hashtags.

Bonus: More search tools 

If you want even more open-source tools honed for journalistic purposes, Mike Reilley of The Society of Professional Journalists published this exhaustive and continuously updated list of online applications last month. Be warned though: not all of them are free to use.

Categorized in Investigative Research

 [Source: This article was published in cnbc.com By Karen Gilchrist - Uploaded by the Association Member: Edna Thomas]

What are the most useful skills to have in today’s shifting work environment?

It’s a question that’s on the minds of employers and employees alike, but LinkedIn claims to have the answer.

In a new “Future of Skills” report, the professional networking site has drawn on data from a regional subset of its more than 600 million members to identify what it sees as the “rising skills” of the workforce.

Focusing specifically on the Asia Pacific region, the report highlights 10 skills that have experienced “exponential growth” over the past 5 years. That refers to both a surge in listings of those skills on members’ profiles and also an increase in demand from employers.

Typically, demand for those “rising skills” was three times higher than for other areas of expertise in the past 12 months, LinkedIn said. That’s a figure the company expects will rise further over the coming years, it added.

“These skills may be nascent now but will potentially see wide-scale adoption in the future,” the report noted.

Indeed, 42 percent of the core skills required for common occupations are expected to change by 2020, according to 2018 research from the World Economic Forum cited by the report.

Here are LinkedIn’s 10 rising skills in Asia Pacific and the jobs to which they are best applied:

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that uses machines to perform human-like tasks. As companies become more dependent on data, AI is playing an increasing role in their decision-making processes. Airbnb, for example, now uses visual recognition and machine learning to understand what photos are most attractive to potential guests.

Occupational applications:

  • Business analyst
  • Data scientist
  • Software engineer

Blockchain

Blockchain refers to a decentralized public ledger which stores a growing list of records, known as blocks. Blockchain has risen to prominence over recent years as the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, but it’s applications are wide-reaching. Today, the technology is used in sectors such as the law, security and even education.

Occupational applications:

  • Blockchain developer
  • Chief technology officer
  • Consultant

Compliance

In an increasingly globalized world, businesses need to make sure they comply with the various regulatory and legal frameworks of each of the countries in which they operate. That has spawned a growing demand for compliance experts.

Occupational applications:

  • Chief data officer
  • Compliance officer
  • Risk management officer

Continuous integration

In software engineering, continuous integration refers to the regular merging of all developers’ work onto one shared platform. The aim of the role is to help detect problems early on in the development process.

Occupational applications:

  • DevOps engineer
  • Full-stack engineer
  • Software engineer
Continuous integration
A young female Asian employee writes notes on a glass window in the meeting room.
Kelvin Murray | Taxi | Getty Images

Frontend web development

Frontend web development is the process of converting data into the graphical interface, or web pages, seen by internet users. In today’s increasingly digital world, that process is required by businesses across most industries. However, LinkedIn highlighted opportunities in Asia Pacific’s retail sector, where e-commerce sales are expected to reach $3.5 trillion by 2021.

Occupational applications:

  • Frontend developer
  • Full-stack engineer
  • Web developer

Gesture recognition technology

Gesture recognition technology aims to close the gap between humans and devices by teaching computers to read human movements. The global gesture recognition market is expected to be worth $30.6 billion by 2025, and the banking, higher education and advertising sectors are jumping aboard.

Occupational applications:

  • Mobile engineer
  • Researcher
  • Software engineer

Human-centered design

The human-centered design aims to put user experience at the forefront of all design decisions. It is an approach for which Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was famed, and one that will be increasingly in demand in the Asia Pacific as product development ramps up, according to LinkedIn.

Occupational applications:

  • Graphics designer
  • Product designer
  • User experience designer
Human centered design
skynesher | E+ | Getty Images

Robotic process automation (RPA)

Robotic process automation is an emerging form of business process automation. Using robotics or artificial intelligence, the process aims to automate high volume, repetitive tasks. Examples of its use are in banking and telecoms, where transactions and customer complaint procedures can be automated.

Occupational applications:

  • Business analyst
  • Consultant
  • Robotics engineer

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is the use of social media to promote product and services. With social media adoption continuing to grow rapidly in Asia Pacific, businesses are increasingly using it to reach new and existing customers. Indeed, 74 percent say they believe social media marketing contributes to their bottom lines.

Occupational applications:

  • Digital marketing specialist
  • Marketing manager
  • Social media marketing manager

Workflow automation

Workflow automation is the process of automating manual processes based on pre-defined business rules. By automating repetitive, low skilled processes, businesses say they can free up employees’ time for more creative and higher skilled tasks.

Occupational applications:

  • Consultant
  • Project manager
  • Software engineer

Categorized in Online Research

[Source: This article was published in searchenginejournal.com By Ron Lieback - Uploaded by the Association Member: Deborah Tannen]

The power of blogging is endless.

This sentiment is especially true for SMBs, which typically don’t have the financial backing of major businesses that can provide an endless flow of appealing video or podcast content.

A company blog has one overall goal that results in increased revenue: to create energy around what I call “TAR” – a concept that I blogged about before, TAR standing for Trust, Authority and Reputation.

Once these three elements are established, the blogging effort’s ROI over time will far outweigh that of any paid marketing campaign.

Unfortunately, companies and digital marketing agencies fail to experience the true power of blogging.

Either they are non-believers who don’t understand that a blog is the ultimate builder of TAR, or they do believe but constantly struggle with finding the perfect writer.

Companies can source a blog writer in three ways: a digital marketing agency, a freelancer, or in-house.

The typical digital marketing agency has a few in-house writers who may have to blog about various unrelated subjects. The outcome is never optimal here.

Think about creating content for a finance client one moment, followed by a pet supply company the next, then an aftermarket auto accessories business. This will soon cause burnout unless the writers are magically proficient and passionate about all of those subjects.

17 Non Negotiable Skills for Blog Writers in Any Business

When seeking a freelancer or in-house writer, the search is much easier; you search through numerous websites or place a hiring ad. But this situation also arrives with some issues.

Reputable freelancers and a dedicated in-house blogger can become pricey, And, unlike in most agency situations, the blogger may not have an SEO expert to enhance his or her work.

How about editors? Most freelancers don’t have editors.

These issues have helped develop my agency’s business model, which relies on freelance bloggers of various passions. I basically find and match writers to clients.

The client receives triple the value because they not only get a writer skilled in their industry/niche but also get all the SEO enhancements and a unique seven-layer editing process.

Whether you run an agency that offers blogs or a company searching for a freelancer or in-house blogger, the following 17 non-negotiable skills are crucial for acquiring and retaining quality talent, and increasing company revenue through one of the strongest forms of content marketing.

1. Passion & Proficiency

When blog writers have a passion for the subject and are both proficient in the craft of writing and the subject itself, the quality of work increases dramatically. This provides a stress-free environment for both the writer and the business.

Those that are passionate about a subject are typically more knowledgable, which keeps the material factual and trustworthy. And you can tell a passionate writer from a fake within a few sentences.

Sure, some of the best writers can be experts on subjects with zero passion for them, but the quality will never match that of one who has both proficiency and passion for the subject.

When my agency searches for new writers to cover a subject, this is the first criteria.

Don’t get me wrong-a few of what I call “factotum” writers exist that can just do it all because they have such a passion for writing they’re willing to spend extra time learning about the subject and eventually become super passionate about it.

But these writers are tough to find – and if you do find them, hold onto them.

Leadership mentor Michael Hyatt’s supports this concept in his latest book, “Free to Focus”. Hyatt says that for true success in life and careers, one must find their true north on the “Freedom Compass” – a productivity tool he has created that helps evaluate tasks, activities, and opportunities.

The true north of this compass is called “The Desire Zone.” This is where passion and proficiency intersect, and people can make their most significant contributions to “business, family, community…and maybe the world.”

The same goes for a blogger with passion and proficiency for both the subject and writing.

Expert Tip

When hiring an agency that will offer blogging, or a freelance/in-house blogger, ask some simple questions first.

If you’re using an agency, ask for details about their writers.

  • Are they in-house?
  • What industries do they blog about now?
  • What do they know about my industry?
  • And are they passionate about it?
  • What work can I see that they previously completed?

If you’re hiring a freelance or in-house blogger, simply seek writers that are interested in your industry. Then ask questions like above.

If reputability is a factor within the industry, simply use Google News with the author’s name in quotations.

For example, I’m a 10-year veteran of the motorcycle industry and have written thousands of blogs. A quick Google News search of “Ron Lieback” and you’ll find over 4,200 blogs – most from the motorcycle industry.

2. Meets Deadlines

A blog’s success thrives on frequent and consistent delivery, which means the writers must meet deadlines. This is where smart leadership takes over.

Don’t iron fist and demand deadlines; rather, influence the blog writers by making them know they are part of the success story.

When revenue increases and a client can directly attribute it to blogging, that writer should feel a sense of pride. Sometimes they don’t, and you must reinforce that.

Expert Tip

Always bump up the deadline for writers by a few days. For some, I go as far as a week in advance. Things happen in life, whether the writer gets sick or something else.

Make sure you have a buffer zone for them and you. This saved me a few times; during one situation a writer became extremely sick. I was able to redelegate the work to another writer and continue fulfilling the client’s content calendar.

3. Timely Communication

Besides meeting deadlines, writers must also have timely communication.

By timely I don’t mean immediately, but at least within 24 hours for emails and three hours for calls/texts.

When the blog-creation process is proactive, there’s no need for reactive actions, including immediate answering of an email.

I’m a firm believer and practitioner of only answering emails three times a day. To remain in à la Cal Newport “Deep Focus” mode, I also keep all notifications off when working, and keep calls silenced.

Expert Tip

Explain the importance of timely communication up front with your bloggers, along with the criteria of when to expect a response.

Explain how this timeliness will create less stress, which equates to happiness in both work and personal situations.

Timely Communication

4. Clean Spelling & Grammar

There’s a huge difference between “colon” and “cologne.” You want to smell like the latter, for sure.

Always spellcheck everything, and make sure someone else edits besides the blogger.

The best writers in the world are created by the best editors. Mistakes will always occur – the goal is to correct them before anyone sees them.

This also goes for proper grammar. I’m not only talking about punctuation and proper use of adjectives, but also the use of words.

For example, further and farther are commonly misused. The first one is used for time references, and the second is used for distance.

Another is fewer and less; always use fewer to describe plural words and less to describe singular words: That used Ducati has fewer miles, but less beauty.

Expert Tip

Send your bloggers two essential texts on grammar – the iconic “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White, and also “The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need”, by Susan Thurman.

Also, have them use the free version of Grammarly.

5. Organization Is Vital

The days of the unorganized writer have passed – at least when delivering value to a client through consistent and frequent blogging.

All modern writers should educate themselves in the art of self-organization, whether that means blocking certain hours every day for blog work or writing down the weekly assignments across a whiteboard.

Whatever works – just as long as an organized system is present.

You want to know have trust in your bloggers, and not have to worry about them slacking here or there or forgetting an assignment. It’s also the leader’s job, whether the manager of an agency or company, to explain the importance of organization.

Expert Tip

Have bloggers handwrite their week’s tasks in a daily planner. Provide one if they don’t have one.

I’m not about to explain the psychology behind it, but physically writing stuff down helps me organize better than any digital planner. Writers will likely appreciate the handwriting anyway.

6. Understands the Audience

For writers to blog effectively, they must understand the target audience.

You’ll explain things much differently to an audience nearing retirement versus a teenager. Again, agency/company leaders will need to provide this education to the blogger.

This is where marketing materials need to be shared, and CEOs need to engage with the blogger or agency. Also, sometimes there are various target audiences due to where a prospect is within the sales funnel (more in point 16 below), so it’s a leader’s duty to explain this.

Expert Tip

Bloggers should be in constant conversation with the sales team, which is typically closest to the client and understands the client’s needs and questions.

This will help the blogger expand on topics and provide more value to readers.

7. Consistent with the Delivery of Voice & Style

Once bloggers understand the target audience, they must either continue or develop the company’s voice and style. All blogs should have a consistent voice.

Don’t be funny one day, satirical the next, and serious a week later. Keep consistency at the forefront.

Always create content in the same style, whether we’re talking about style guides or the way you create your content.

I like short, choppy sentences, and short paragraphs. I think it’s easier on the eyes and allows readers to digest quickly.

Others like longer sentences and chunky paragraphs.

Whatever you choose, stick with it.

In regards to style, some like Associated Press (AP), and others like the American Psychology Association (APA). Again, whatever you choose, stick with it.

Expert Tip

Most copy on the web is written in AP styling, which is what newspapers and most magazines use. Send your blogger the latest AP Stylebook PDF or, better yet, the book version so they can always refer to it.

Another great reference book that covers AP and other styles like APA is “The best punctuation book, period.” by June Casagrande.

These two books should always be at arm’s length.

8. Open to Edits

This is vital, especially when working with a new client or business.

In the beginning, the blogger needs to fully focus on learning everything about that business, from the style/tone to the target audience.

In an agency situation, it’s a leader’s duty to explain this process to the client. I ask my blogging clients to be ruthless during the first few blog edits – not only for factual information but voice and style.

Be wary; the point of contact in the business might want to write for himself or herself instead of the company’s target audience. This is something that also should be discussed before any writing is completed.

Expert Tip

At a minimum, have two extra sets of eyes on the blogs after they are written.

Even those with zero editing skills can pick up a missed fact or spelling error.

The more the better; I demand three separate sets of eyes at my agency after a writer hands in a blog, and we still sometimes find mistakes.

Open to Edits

9. Creates 110% Original Content

Yeah – 110 percent. In theory, anything over 100 percent is impossible, but using 110 stresses that blog writers should strive for complete originality.

I’ve read numerous articles on the same subject, and sometimes they sound so similar it’s as if they all just had different titles. This happens all the time in the digital marketing world, and more so in the world of powersports/motorsports journalism.

This is the quantity over quality factor, and some writers are just trying to pump out endless blogs in hopes of making a positive impact on search engines. But one original article that pukes originality will overcome 10 worthless ones.

Expert Tip

When you first hire a blogger, do yourself a favor and copy/paste the first few paragraphs into Google. I only found a writer to be plagiarizing once, but I would have likely lost a client due to it.

Make sure you explain there is no mercy for plagiarism. I only do this for the first or second blogs – after that I know I can trust writers because I only work with those that share my values for honesty and trust.

Plagiarism – even the most minimal version of it – will immediately sever (not severe!) the relationship.

10. Content Lacks Fluff

This is blogging – not the sometimes cheesy copywriting found within product or category copy.

Remember, all blog efforts should support the overall mission of TAR: Trust, Authority and Respect.

Kill the fluff and sales-forward copy. This is blogging that’s built to establish TAR.

Expert Tip

Bloggers should never overuse adjectives or adverbs. Most are useless, though some may be a major help.

Have your bloggers read Hemmingway – the master of simplicity.

11. Understands SEO Basics

The more SEO a blogger knows the better. But again, as point #1 states, it’s better to have passion for the subject and proficiency for writing over SEO.

They should understand – and learn, if need be – keyword research and the use of related keywords.

Also, bloggers should understand the importance of header tags, and how to effectively write titles and meta descriptions (character count, keywords, etc.).

Expert Tip

Some of the best bloggers around know squat about SEO.

That’s why I’ve created a system in my agency that provides writers with “SEO Content Guidelines” for each blog. It includes things such as:

  • The optimized title.
  • Related keywords.
  • Recommended word count.
  • The top URLs ranking for the topic we’re after.

I tell bloggers not to mimic the competition, but rather understand what the competition is doing, and do it better. These are best created by an SEO with some creative writing skills.

Always ask the writer if they can create a better headline – and maybe ask for two so you can A/B test it.

12. Knows & Strengthens Company USPs Through Blogging

One of my agency’s unique selling positions (USP) is that it’s an SEO-driven content marketing agency with a focus on written content that helps a business refine and strengthen its USPs.

So when my writers create blogs for my agency’s website, this USP is reinforced. The same goes for my client’s content.

Every blogger should know the company’s or their client’s USPs, and strengthen them through blogging.

Again, this is on the leadership team to make sure the blogger knows just what makes the business or agency’s client stand apart from the rest, and this is why USPs are so vital for success.

Expert Tip

Companies typical transform over time, which either pulls them away from a former USP or develop new ones.

To truly gain an edge with blogging, revisit older blogs and either refresh them with the newer USPs, or rewrite/delete them if they exploit an older USP.

Knows Strengthens Company USPs Through Blogging

13. Competitive Landscape Knowledge

Bloggers should have a deep knowledge of the business’s competitive landscape. This will further educate them, and allow them to witness and, better yet, predict future trends.

But take warning – nothing should be replicated unless you’re in the breaking news industry where stories will naturally repeat.

Expert Tip

Have your blogger follow a news blog within the vertical he or she is writing about, and follow the top ranking blogs.

The easiest way is to simply google “(industry term) news”. A good example is “SEO news,” which brings up quite a reputable publication for SEO.

14. Willing to Promote & Share Personally

If writers are dedicated to their work, they will have no issues sharing the blogs they have created across their personal social media platforms. This also goes for the blogs without their bylines – most businesses blog under the company name.

Everyone knows the power of social and sharing, and having bloggers pitch in will help the blog’s mission with establishing the company’s TAR.

It also shows that the blogger values the business he or she is writing for – and that helps strengthen the relationship between blogger and company, or blogger and agency and company.

Be warned, though; some clients respectfully sign non-disclosures. If an NDA is present, sharing simply can’t happen.

Expert Tip

If you have multiple bloggers, provide incentives to those who get the most shares over a period of time.

An example will be a $50 gift card to the blogger who gets the most shares over a quarter or so.

15. Bring Possible Solutions with Problems

This point was created for the leadership team.

Writers may have an issue with a blog’s direction, or with the criticism that some businesses have with voice or style. Don’t let them just whine about these types of issues.

If a problem exists, make sure the bloggers know that a possible solution must arrive with complaints. This will make the future workflow smoother, and less stressful.

And both of those concepts equate to higher quality writing, and, ultimately, retention of blogging services.

Expert Tip

Have bloggers “sleep on” a problem before presenting it. As humans, we get caught in the moment and let our emotions guide the conversation.

Usually, after some time, the problem is much smaller than first assumed and dissolves itself. This is especially true for writers; I know from experience.

Two decades ago my emotions would always get the best of me over criticism on a piece of writing. Now, after getting away from the situation and letting my mind subconsciously do some thinking, most criticism is warranted.

16. Understands the Basic Sales Process

This is crucial – the more blog writers know about sales, the more intimate they can get with the businesses’ audience.

Talking with the sales team will help with this information. Bloggers should also know the sales process, including the sales funnel.

Knowledge of the sales funnel will add more granular details about the target audience, allowing the blogger to further expand on the content and make that business a more authoritative voice in its industry.

Expert Tip

At my agency, I think in terms of where prospects are at within the sales funnel in regards to the content I produce. Most blog campaigns fall into the following model:

  • 50% written for newbies: they don’t know much about your business or industry but are learning.
  • 25% for intermediate: they are educated, but need that extra bit of incentive to become a client.
  • 25% for experts: they are extremely knowledgeable about your industry/business, and are just looking for the right partner that will help scale their business. These blogs also speak to the existing clients through use in newsletters; this shows your clients that your business thrives to stay current and remain authoritative in the vertical.

I can use a quick example from my agency’s blog:

  • 50% of the blogs are for those just learning about content creation and SEO.
  • 25% are for those who understand content creation and SEO but are searching for reputable help.
  • 25% for the experts, who are typically CMOs or SEO managers that are looking for immediate partners.

This is based on the current sales model, but that model is fluid and can change within weeks.

Understands the Basic Sales Process

17. Constant Flow of Education

I can never stress enough about the constant need for ongoing education within anything, from career development to personal happiness.

This is especially true for writers, who can quickly become stagnant if always writing about the same things. The more a writer reads, the better a writer will become. There’s no debating this.

Expert Tip

Send every blogger two essential texts on writing: “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser, and “Writing Tools” by Roy Peter Clark. And have them allocate at least a half-hour every day to read the latest blogs that discuss SEO writing.

Concluding Thoughts

The point of a blog is to establish a company’s TAR – Trust, Authority and Respect. But you just can’t hire any blogger or an agency; you must find one that aligns with your business’s core values and will provide the highest ROI possible.

Through two decades of writing professionally, and owning an agency that makes roughly 80% of its revenue from blogging, the skills above are an absolute must.

Remember, though, that everyone can acquire and build upon their skill levels. Once you have a blogger that excels in all 17 above, that’s when you can get them on autopilot and use more of your time to do what you do best.

Categorized in Business Research

[Source: This article was published in blogs.scientificamerican.com By Daniel M. Russell and Mario Callegaro - Uploaded by the Association Member: Anthony Frank]

Researchers who study how we use search engines share common mistakes, misperceptions and advice

In a cheery, sunshine-filled fourth-grade classroom in California, the teacher explained the assignment: write a short report about the history of the Belgian Congo at the end of the 19th century, when Belgium colonized this region of Africa. One of us (Russell) was there to help the students with their online research methods.

I watched in dismay as a young student slowly typed her query into a smartphone. This was not going to end well. She was trying to find out which city was the capital of the Belgian Congo during this time period. She reasonably searched [ capital Belgian Congo ] and in less than a second she discovered that the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo is Kinshasa, a port town on the Congo River. She happily copied the answer into her worksheet.

But the student did not realize that the Democratic Republic of Congo is a completely different country than the Belgian Congo, which used to occupy the same area. The capital of that former country was Boma until 1926, when it was moved to Léopoldville (which was later renamed Kinshasa). Knowing which city was the capital during which time period is complicated in the Congo, so I was not terribly surprised by the girl’s mistake.

The deep problem here is that she blindly accepted the answer offered by the search engine as correct. She did not realize that there is a deeper history here.

We Google researchers know this is what many students do—they enter the first query that pops into their heads and run with the answer. Double checking and going deeper are skills that come only with a great deal of practice—and perhaps a bunch of answers marked wrong on important exams. Students often do not have a great deal of background knowledge to flag a result as potentially incorrect, so they are especially susceptible to misguided search results like this.

In fact, a 2016 report by Stanford University education researchers showed that most students are woefully unprepared to assess content they find on the web. For instance, the scientists found that 80 percent of students at U.S. universities are not able to determine if a given web site contains  credible information. And it is not just students; many adults share these difficulties.

If she had clicked through to the linked page, the girl probably would have started reading about the history of the Belgian Congo, and found out that it has had a few hundred years of wars, corruption, changes in rulers and shifts in governance. The name of the country changed at least six times in a century, but she never realized that because she only read the answer presented on the search engine results page.

Asking a question of a search engine is something people do several billion times each day. It is the way we find the phone number of the local pharmacy, check on sports scores, read the latest scholarly papers, look for news articles, find pieces of code, and shop. And although searchers look for true answers to their questions, the search engine returns results that are attuned to the query, rather than some external sense of what is true or not. So a search for proof of wrongdoing by a political candidate can return sites that purport to have this information, whether or not the sites or the information are credible. You really do get what you search for.

In many ways, search engines make our metacognitive skills come to the foreground. It is easy to do a search that plays into your confirmation bias—your tendency to think new information supports views you already hold. So good searchers actively seek out information that may conflict with their preconceived notions. They look for secondary sources of support, doing a second or third query to gain other perspectives on their topic. They are constantly aware of what their cognitive biases are, and greet whatever responses they receive from a search engine with healthy skepticism.

For the vast majority of us, most searches are successful. Search engines are powerful tools that can be incredibly helpful, but they also require a bit of understanding to find the information you are actually seeking. Small changes in how you search can go a long way toward finding better answers.

The Limits of Search

It is not surprising or uncommon that a short query may not accurately reflect what a searcher really wants to know. What is actually remarkable is how often a simple, brief query like [ nets ] or [ giants ] will give the right results. After all, both of those words have multiple meanings, and a search engine might conclude that searchers were looking for information on tools to catch butterflies, in the first case, or larger-than-life people in the second. Yet most users who type those words are seeking basketball- and football-related sites, and the first search results for those terms provide just that. Even the difference between a query like [the who] versus [a who] is striking. The first set of results are about a classic English rock band, whereas the second query returns references to a popular Dr. Seuss book.

But search engines sometimes seem to give the illusion that you can ask anything about anything and get the right answer. Just like the student in that example, however most searchers overestimate the accuracy of search engines and their own searching skills. In fact, when Americans were asked to self-rate their searching ability by the Pew Research Center in 2012, 56 percent rated themselves as very confident in their ability to use a search engine to answer a question.

Not surprisingly, the highest confidence scores were for searchers with some college degrees (64 percent were “very confident”—by contrast, 45 percent of those who did not have a college degree describes themselves that way). Age affects this judgment as well, with 64 percent of those under 50 describing themselves as “very confident,” as opposed to only 40 percent older than 50. When talking about how successful they are in their searches, 29 percent reported that they can always find what they are looking for, and 62 percent said they are able to find an answer to their questions most of the time. In surveys, most people tell us that everything they want is online, and conversely, if they cannot find something via a quick search, then it must not exist, it might be out of date, or it might not be of much value.

These are the most recent published results, but we have seen in surveys done at Google in 2018 that these insights from Pew are still true and transcend the years. What was true in 2012 is still exactly the same now: People have great confidence in their ability to search. The only significant change is in their success rates, which have crept up to 35 percent can "always find" what they're looking for, while 73 percent say they can find what they seek "most of the time." This increase is largely due to improvements in the search engines, which improve their data coverage and algorithms every year."

What Good Searchers Do

As long as information needs are easy, simple searches work reasonably well. Most people actually do less than one search per day, and most of those searches are short and commonplace. The average query length on Google during 2016 was 2.3 words. Queries are often brief descriptions like: [ quiche recipe ] or [ calories in chocolate ] or [ parking Tulsa ].

And somewhat surprisingly, most searches have been done before. In an average day, less than 12 percent of all searches are completely novel—that is, most queries have already been entered by another searcher in the past day. By design, search engines have learned to associate short queries with the targets of those searches by tracking pages that are visited as a result of the query, making the results returned both faster and more accurate than they otherwise would have been.

A large fraction of queries are searches for another website (called navigational queries, which make up as much as 25 percent of all queries), or for a short factual piece of information (called informational queries, which are around 40 percent of all queries). However, complex search tasks often need more than a single query to find a satisfactory answer. So how can you do better searches? 

First, you can modify your query by changing a term in your search phrase, generally to make it more precise or by adding additional terms to reduce the number of off-topic results. Very experienced searchers often open multiple browser tabs or windows to pursue different avenues of research, usually investigating slightly different variations of the original query in parallel.

You can see good searchers rapidly trying different search queries in a row, rather than just being satisfied with what they get with the first search. This is especially true for searches that involve very ambiguous terms—a query like [animal food] has many possible interpretations. Good searchers modify the query to get to what they need quickly, such as [pet food] or [animal nutrition], depending on the underlying goal.

Choosing the best way to phrase your query means adding terms that:

  • are central to the topic (avoid peripheral terms that are off-topic)
  • you know the definition of (do not guess at a term if you are not certain)
  • leave common terms together in order ( [ chow pet ] is very different than [ pet chow ])
  • keep the query fairly short (you usually do not need more than two to five terms)

You can make your query more precise by limiting the scope of a search with special operators. The most powerful operators are things such as double-quote marks (as in the query [ “exponential growth occurs when” ], which finds only documents containing that phrase in that specific order. Two other commonly used search operators are site: and filetype: These let you search within only one web site (such as [site:ScientificAmerican.com ]) or for a particular filetype, such as a PDF file (example: [ filetype:pdf coral bleaching ])

Second, try to understand the range of possible search options. Recently, search engines added the capability of searching for images that are similar to given photo that you can upload. A searcher who knows this can find photos online that have features that resemble those in the original. By clicking through the similar images, a searcher can often find information about the object (or place) in the image. Searching for matches of my favorite fish photo can tell me not just what kind of fish it is, but then provide links to other fishing locations and ichthyological descriptions of this fish species.        

Overall, expert searchers use all of the resources of the search engine and their browsers to search both deeply (by making query variations) and broadly (by having multiple tabs or windows open). Effective searchers also know how to limit a search to a particular website or to a particular kind of document, find a phrase (by using quote marks to delimit the phrase), and find text on a page (by using a text-find tool).

Third, learn some cool tricks. One is the find-text-on-page skill (that is, Command-F on Mac, Control-F on PC), which is unfamiliar to around 90 percent of the English-speaking, Internet-using population in the US. In our surveys of thousands of web users, the large majority have to do a slow (and errorful) visual scan for a string of text on a web site. Knowing how to use text-finding commands speeds up your overall search time by about 12 percent (and is a skill that transfers to almost every other computer application).

Fourth, use your critical-thinking skills.  In one case study, we found that searchers looking for the number of teachers in New York state would often do a query for [number of teachers New York ], and then take the first result as their answer—never realizing that they were reading about the teacher population of New York City, not New York State. In another study we asked searchers to find the maximum weight a particular model of baby stroller could hold. How big could that baby be?

The answers we got back varied from two pounds to 250 pounds. At both ends of the spectrum, the answers make no sense (few babies in strollers weigh less than five pounds or more than 60 pounds), but inexperienced searchers just assumed that whatever numbers they found correctly answered their search questions. They did not read the context of the results with much care.  

Search engines are amazingly powerful tools that have transformed the way we think of research, but they can hurt more than help when we lack the skills to use them appropriately and evaluate what they tell us. Skilled searchers know that the ranking of results from a search engine is not a statement about objective truth, but about the best matching of the search query, term frequency, and the connectedness of web pages. Whether or not those results answer the searchers’ questions is still up for them to determine.

Categorized in Internet Search

[This article is originally published in bizjournals.com written by RSM US LLP - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Issac Avila]

Persons engaged in fraud and illegal activity have long used several methods to hide ill-gotten assets. Today, forensic investigators have powerful new technological tools to track and uncover these assets. Some specialized techniques may require digital forensic specialists; however, more basic options are also effective.

Whether the suspected fraudster is a business partner, an employee or some other related party, the process for uncovering hidden accounts tends to follow a similar path.

Let’s look at basic techniques first.

The first step is to build a financial profile for the person or entity in question. This process involves gathering and reviewing documents and records such as tax returns, bank statements, mobile payment account history, investment account statements, credit card statements, life insurance policies, paycheck stubs, real and personal property records, lien records and any other financial-related statements for the period of time during which questionable activity is suspected.

As these documents are being compiled, build a master list comprised of all accounts identified, including owner’s names, authorized users, associated addresses or other account profile information. It is also advisable to identify potential email addresses, social media accounts, and other web-based account information.

When analyzing these documents, keep the following tips in mind:

  • For financial accounts identified, get the electronic statements directly from the source when possible. This helps ensure the integrity of the information. Also, if possible, obtain the information in electronic format so it can be ingested into various search and analysis tools.
  • Tax returns provide information concerning wages, business income, and investment income. They can identify the existence of both real and personal property and the possibility of foreign accounts or trusts. As tax returns reveal sources of income, tie them to specific accounts. For example, if the interest income is listed on the return, but no account is identified, investigate to find an institution, account number, and the related statements.
  • If a business is uncovered, in addition to identifying all financial accounts related to that business, try to obtain the articles of organization and/or other ownership information for that business. This can help identify, among many things, parties involved in illegal activity and other businesses a suspect is associated with, and it can even help identify any hidden assets.
  • Investment accounts have long been a popular vehicle to transfer and/or launder illegal funds through the purchase and subsequent sale of financial products and commodities. 
  • Reviewing pay stubs from the relevant period cannot only identify multiple bank accounts, but it can also help identify and/or support any unusual spending behavior and other financial activity.
  • Mobile payments through providers such as PayPal and Venmo have become increasingly popular and provide another avenue to divert funds and hide assets. The transaction history for these accounts should be obtained not only for this reason but in addition, it provides a paper trail of both the origin and recipient of funds that could uncover hidden accounts or parties associated with fraud or illegal activity.
  • Depending on the jurisdiction (state, county, city) real property records including deeds, liens and other documents identifying ownership of assets are publicly available information. These records can be used to identify any assets not previously reported without the request of a subpoena.
  • If a recent credit report can be obtained, it can be a useful document to help identify a large portion of these items in a consolidated format.

With all information gathered, the next step is a funds-tracing exercise to analyze deposits to, and withdrawals from, each of the identified accounts. Funds tracing may reveal even more accounts for which statements should be obtained and funds traced. Update the account master list to reflect any new accounts discovered and to record all deposits, withdrawals and other activity for each account.

When conducting a funds tracing, remember the following:

  • Develop a thorough list of the suspect’s family members and acquaintances, including names, aliases, and addresses, and match those names against account statements and transactions to determine if any related parties received funds. Close attention should be paid to any financial transactions with the suspect’s parents, children, siblings, romantic partners and any of their respective businesses.
  • Any unusual transfers or expenditures deserve special attention, as well as recurring deposits from a bank or brokerage in any amount. This could uncover dividend-paying stocks or interest-paying bonds.
  • A review of canceled checks will not only tell to whom the checks were paid, but also to what account number and institution the check was deposited, which can lead to new hidden accounts. Again, pay special attention to checks to family members and acquaintances or for unusual activities or amounts.
  • An analysis of ATM withdrawals or credit card cash advances, including aggregate amounts and the locations made, may indicate areas where the suspect is spending a large amount of time and possibly working to hide assets in secret accounts. Ask for explanations for any large cash withdrawals, whether through an ATM or in person.

Digital forensic analysis is another powerful tool for tracking down hidden assets. Whether it’s a work computer, personal computer, tablet or smart phone, any activity performed on the device can leave a trail of evidence. More sophisticated suspects may use encryption, wiping programs and private or remote web-browsing sessions to hide this evidence, but such steps on their own can help indicate fraud.

Digital forensic efforts to uncover hidden accounts focus on a variety of areas, including:

  • Email contents— Investigators can conduct keyword searches using names of suspected co-conspirators, romantic partners, family members, business dealings, business names, known code words or any other word or words that might be of interest to the investigator. They can also search for key information, such as new account setup forms, details or confirmations related to wire transfers, mobile payments, details of new business ventures or other case-specific information.
  • Accounting or budgeting software programs—A suspect who is a business owner or key accounting employee may be keeping multiple sets of books. Even if deleted, these may be recovered via digital forensic analysis and lead to unknown accounts.
  • Spreadsheets and other files—Suspects often keep track of account numbers and other information in spreadsheets or other files. 
  • Browsing history—Most internet browsers log information pertaining to website visits, as well as other internet activities, such as the completion of web-based forms and temporary internet files. A digital forensic specialist may uncover visits to bank or brokerage websites that may lead to unidentified accounts. Internet activity can also show information relating to online purchasing and payment activity, which could be useful in identifying expenditures and other potential assets.
  • Metadata analysis—Artifacts contained within documents (Word, Excel, PDFs), such as created and modified times, username and company name, can also help uncover fraud.
  • Registry analysis—Certain artifacts stored in the registry, such as USB connection information, network, and login information also can help in an investigation.
  • Mobile devices—Forensic specialists can analyze call logs, SMS messaging, and in some cases, email and email attachments. In addition, users tend to use these devices to access and monitor various assets such as financial accounts, online payment, etc.
  • Online social media activity, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites—An analysis of a suspect’s public profile and activity may uncover a hidden business or other interests, which may lead to other unknown accounts. In addition, people frequently post information and pictures of new assets (i.e., cars, boats, etc.) on social media sites. This can lead investigators to potential assets and also help with documenting large expenditures.

By forensically preserving the electronic evidence (computer hard drive, mobile device, etc.) a number of potential data sources might become available. Included in this forensically preserved data might be previously deleted files, multiple versions or iterations of files, indications of files and programs being accessed. All of these items could provide leads for additional sources of information or indications of the user accessing or deleting data.

While this is not exhaustive, it does provide a useful overview for tracking down hidden accounts. Keep in mind that accounts are not the only places where fraudulent gains can be hidden.

However, a thorough search for, and careful analysis of, hidden accounts should be a central part of any fraud investigation.

For more information about fraud investigations, contact Brad Koranda at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 612-376-9387.

RSM’s purpose is to deliver the power of being understood to our clients, colleagues, and communities through world-class audit, tax and consulting services focused on middle market businesses. For more information, visit rsmus.com.

As a partner with RSM's Forensic and Valuation Services group, Brad Koranda provides strategic advisory and financial services to companies across a broad scope of industries, including business and professional services, real estate, manufacturing, distribution, technology, insurance, investment management, life sciences, health care, and financial services sectors.
Categorized in Investigative Research

[This article is originally published in technobleak.com written by Kunal Ambadekar - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Mercedes J. Steinman]

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Categorized in Market Research

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