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The new head of Google search, Prabhakar Raghavan, has been at the forefront of search related research. A focus of his research includes co-authoring research on link analysis as far back as 2000 as well as the Yahoo Research on trust and distrust in links.

Prabhakar Raghavan has a PhD, has authored books and research papers, is a member and leader of various computer science organizations and so on.

But what we in the search community are interested in is who is this person and how will he impact search?

That’s the focus of this article.

It may be useful to understand who is in charge at Google Search if your business involves search marketing.

Prabhakar Raghavan was formerly at Yahoo Labs before coming to Google. Yahoo Labs gave us such innovations such as TrustRank and research into predicting how site visitors will scan a web page or bail, which is useful for increasing engagement.

Discovering the kinds of research that interested him helps paint a portrait of the person who is now in charge of Google Search.

For example, one of his research papers from 2000 is called, Graph Structure in the Web. It’s concerned with how links can provide useful information for search engines.

That’s interesting because it demonstrates his knowledge of links and link spam.

The abstract states:

“The study of the Web as a graph is not only fascinating in its own right, but also yields valuable insight into Web algorithms for crawling, searching and community discovery, and the sociological phenomena which characterize its evolution.”

Other research he co-authored looked at user behavior analysis and predicting what they would do.

A research paper he published in 2012 explored determining a user’s next action. The paper is called, Are Web Users Really Markovian?

What’s interesting about this research is that he questions basic assumptions of PageRank that haven’t been studied before and demonstrates that algorithms like PageRank have not taken into account realistic models of user behavior.

Here’s what it says:

“Classic Web algorithms such as PageRank use this model. Some prior work… offers weak evidence in support of users’ behavior being Markovian.

We know of no prior work that has examined whether Web users’ behavior is in fact truly Markovian, thereby justifying the assumption implicit in PageRank and other algorithms.”

What makes this fascinating is that it reveals a curious mind unraveling not just overlooked flaws in commonly accepted prior work but outlining the possibilities for information retrieval in a way that better serves users by actually trying to understand users.

Understanding users in order to better serve them seems to be an underlying concern.

Here’s another example of his research. It’s a paper from 2011 called, Optimizing Two-Dimensional Search Results Presentation

This is research into how users scan web pages and search results. The research paper presents product and image searches as an example of how search engines were presenting data to users in a way that may not be optimized for how users scan web pages.

He showed how search engines ordered results from the most relevant in the top left and proceeding in a left to right and top to bottom manner, with the least relevant images or products lower down on the page and more to the right.

Raghavan’s research showed that users actually scanned in a pattern that resembled a triangle, with the wide portion of the triangle at the top. He also noted that there are elements of randomness into how users scanned.

In 1995 he co-authored a book with Rajeev Motwani called, Randomized Algorithms.

A review of the book in American Scientist stated:

“The techniques described by Rajeev Motwani and Prabhakar Raghavan are wide-ranging and powerful, so this book is an important one. As far as I have been able to find out this is the only book on the entire subject … this excellent volume does us proud!”

Raghavan also co-authored Introduction to Information Retrieval, a copy of which is available online.

Although published in 2008, the information contained in this book is a great starting point for those who wish to attain a foundation of solid information about how search engines work, information that is free of common SEO myths and assumptions.

It’s not an easy read but as long as you can look up terms like “Markov chains” to understand the contours of what it is, anyone can get a working idea of how search engines work which in turn will make you a better SEO because you’ll be able sniff out fake SEO ideas.

Of particular interest is the section on Link Analysis which may be useful to those who want to learn straight from the scientists like Raghavan who were instrumental in development in many of the ideas that are a part of modern information retrieval.

The Takeaway

Prabhakar Raghavan is someone who is deeply involved in link analysis, user behavior modeling and out of the box thinking about how search engines can do better.

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All The New Gadgets And Announcements From Google’s Pixel 5 Release Event

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We’re getting toward the end of the typical Fall gadget event season (Apple is still waiting its turn to announce the new iPhone). Today, however, it’s Google’s turn and the company is streaming its Launch Night In event over the web.

We’re expecting a new Google Pixel 5 smartphone with 5G baked in as well as some new Chromecast gear that has reportedly leaked out into stores well before the announcement. But, there could be any number of other surprises in the hopper. So, feel free to watch the live stream above or read on for a full recap of the highlights.

The event

We’re starting off with the new Google TV and Chromecast products. Google TV takes over for Android TV as a platform for consolidating your streaming services and live TV options and enabling voice commands for navigation.

There are only a few buttons on the Google Chromecast remote—more than Apple TV, but fewer than a typical TV remote. Google

Like Apple TV, it pulls content from all of the subscription apps for which you have accounts. You can make a unified watch list that you can edit from your phone or your laptop. It also has ambient mode to turn your TV into a giant digital picture frame like you can with the Home Hub devices with screens.

Google TV is arriving first on a redesigned Chromecast. The new model now comes with a remote that accepts voice commands after you press the Assistant button.

The new Chromecast is only $49 starting in the US and going to other countries later. That’s $10 more than the new Amazon Fire TV Stick, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both drop in price as the holiday season comes around.

Nest Smart Speakers

A new tweeter and woofer give the new speaker a lot more power and clarity and power than the original Google Home speaker. Google

Nest Audio is a $99 smart speaker with a fabric exterior like the most recent Nest Mini. Google says it has 50 percent more bass and 75 percent more volume than the original Google Home due to a new driver setup.

The new speakers work as part of a whole-home audio solution, so users can ask the system to play songs in specific zones created in the Google Home system.

Pixel phones

The new Pixel 5 starts at $699. Google

The first phone out of the gate is the 4a with 5G built-in. It costs just $499 to start. The Pixel 5 has 5G as well as weatherproofing and reverse wireless charging.

The new camera system now gets an ultra-wide lens as well as software upgrades to the HDR tech. Portrait Mode now gets Portrait Mode, so you can take pictures with simulated blur even in low-light. Portrait Mode itself now gets a new Portrait Light feature, which adds simulated directional light. That’s similar to what Apple has been doing with its Portrait Mode.

Video shooting now gets different video stabilization modes to accommodate better panning.

The new Extreme Battery Saver mode pares down your apps to exactly what you need and can stretch out battery life up to 48 hours in case you get lost in the woods or the zombie apocalypse happens.

The new on-hold mode will sit on-hold for you when you make a call and then call you back when someone picks up. That way you’re not glued to your phone for a long wait when you try to cancel cable or achieve some other seemingly impossible task.

Everything announced today is already up for pre-order in the Google Store and will be out in the coming weeks.

Exclusive Interview With Rohit Khetan, Head Of Marketing And Strategy At Ginesys

In addition to selling products in brick-and-mortar stores, many storefronts are now offering buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) services, same-day delivery, and online shipping. Ginesys is a fast-growing complete retail tech company working with around 1200+ customers and 30,000+ users with a wide reach across India. Analytics Insight has engaged in an exclusive interview with Rohit Khetan, Head of Marketing and Strategy at

Kindly brief us about the company, its specialization, and the services that your company offers.

Ginesys is a fast-growing complete retail tech company working with around 1200+ customers and 30,000+ users with a wide reach across India. We are a technology solutions provider for retail businesses and have been powering retail businesses from startup to IPO for more than a decade now.  We have made our mark as a premier, ‘Made in India’ solution for ERP and POS, serving the needs of small and medium businesses, with a focus on the fashion industry. Now, we have a complete suite for omni retail from marketing to retention and from supply chain to POS and Ecommerce integrations including GST compliance.  

What is your biggest USP that differentiates the company from competitors?

Our USP is we are India’s only complete and well-integrated suite for omni (i.e. offline and online) retail. Our core is a cloud-based ERP that is retail-specific so it does not need to be customized heavily. We have integrated desktop POS, cloud POS, mobile POS software, Ecommerce Order management system, GST apps, BI, customer loyalty and lifecycle marketing to work together to cater to the new age retailer’s omnichannel demands. Additionally the solution enables you to manage your business anywhere as it is completely cloud based. Ginesys One goes beyond normal integrations to provide omni workflows like buy online and dispatch from any store or buy offline and get rewards for shopping online. The biggest pain point we found that retailers and brands have is having disparate systems means wasted time and effort in integrating and chasing down bugs and support tickets.  

What are your growth plans for the next 12 months?

We aim for 100% growth through new customer acquisition and incremental revenues from the existing base.  

What are the sources and uses of customer data in retail?

The value of data in generating sales insights and consumer intelligence has long been acknowledged by retailers. However, there is still a long way to go because most retailers just stop at post-purchase analysis and retargeting.  

How do you plan to revolutionize the Indian Retail market?

A retailer in today’s marketplace comes across many challenges, with competition being one of the biggest one. To get ahead in a competitive environment, integrations in the retail technology ecosystem are a requirement. The speed with which consumer behaviour is changing has made it more crucial than ever to ensure omnichannel experiences. Single-channel and multi-channel retail are slowly fading away. Moreover, many retailers stated they planned to boost their investment in omnichannel commerce in the future. Ginesys retail POS and OMS software aid to get the processes in place promptly and helps brands focus on one’s own business. Ginesys simplifies aspects by curtailing the ambit of customizations with standard APIs for POS and OMS. Our new end-to-end omni retailing suite -Ginesys One suite aims to future proof a retailer’s business and helps them navigate the ever-changing world of retail. Right from the get-go, Ginesys One is expected to save integration time, effort, and cost while achieving various omni use cases in a seamless manner. This covers inventory management, billing software, b2b order to cash, customer loyalty, BI, omnichannel, and GST.  

How is AI evolving today in the retail industry as a whole?

AI in retail has entrusted businesses with high-level data and information that is leveraged into preferable retail operations and new business opportunities. Customers are attuned to innovations and their expectations are evolving swiftly, prompting retailers and technology providers to remain on their toes at all times. Currently, the major demand trends include cloud, AI, machine learning, improved speed and efficiency, and data/analytics. Artificial intelligence has become one of the biggest technological developments in business in recent years, with its ability to help turn large volumes of data sets into enriched information centers to help improve speed, cost, and flexibility across the value chain. We at Ginesys have recently invested in Casa CRM and marketing platform, to strengthen customer data management and rewards capability based on AI. We believe we have just started as an industry to look at this and there is tremendous scope for more development on this topic.  

How is your company helping customers deliver relevant business outcomes through the adoption of the company’s technology innovations?

Technology is changing the nature of sales and shopping throughout the market. At a time when consumers are empowered with choice, and market conditions are increasingly volatile, new technologies like cloud retail software and POS software for retail, AI-based marketing automation and ecommerce and GST integrations, can help brands and retailers drive valuable business efficiencies and customer experience. Retailers can go live on the system 50% faster than other custom integrated products as the system is retail-ready. The commercials for the suite are on an affordable subscription basis and thus the entire suite has a 70% faster time to return on investment compared to global peers.  

How have you been powering the retail business from a tech standpoint? What do you mean by retail management software?

At

Can you elaborate on the Modern tech capabilities in apparel retail software that can boost a brand’s competitive edge?

Back Pain Of Search Engine Marketing

Back Pain of Search Engine Marketing

If you’ve ever suffered from back pain you’ll relate to the grief that I discuss in this article. You’ll relate even more if your back pain started on the onset of your SEM career. Not surprisingly, mine did.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this industry. It’s entertaining, thought provoking, and challenging. It’s an ever-changing industry that keeps me on my toes in constant search of information, knowledge, and new ideas.

But there are some aspects that make me just want to squeal. Most of my rants rest on the shoulders of the SEO kinship. The, often self-proclaimed, gurus and goddesses of the search engine community. The often disbelieving falsities, self propaganda nonsense that many in this industry procreate.

Don’t get me wrong. I respect many SEM professionals. The likes of Danny Sullivan, Shari Thurow, Morgan Carey, and Peter da Vanzo – to name but a few. But then there are those, who I’ll refrain from naming, who seem to think they are know-it-alls, alluring people to follow their often devious or bandwagon practises, and occasionally belittling those who don’t.

What really gets my pain throbbing is the constant battle to find original content from these self-proclaimed “gurus”. As you will know, many swear that increasing link popularity is the most important factor in obtaining high search engine placement. Those same experts proclaim that bulking up content is the way to gain link popularity.

I’ll take this one step further and say that original, interesting content is what really works. These are the sites that people want to share with friends, families, and colleagues alike. The problem I have with this is quite simple: where has the original content disappeared to?

The majority of the population, myself included, don’t have the time to sit and read old information. As far as link popularity is concerned, why would someone want to devalue their own site by linking to sites that have similar content? Makes no point at all. Ever noticed that the most populated sites on the Net are those that genuinely have interesting and original information that people find enticing. Isn’t that what the gurus mean by “content is king”?

I believe that this “cloned information tendency” that is spreading the Net, like a virus on steroids, is due to a lack of creativity and imagination. The effort of tapping into ones own resources and deciphering ones own opinion of the industry seems daunting to many people. I don’t blame people for rather clinging on to the already said like fleas on a dog’s coat during the summer months. Fear of the unknown is a risk that very few people wish to take.

I receive a lot of newsletters and RSS feeds from many sources. Of the over 17 hours of reading I do per week, half has been wasted on reading repetitive jumble. Ok, so maybe the wording and style of the jumble is different, but the nuts and crux of what’s being said still remains the same. Being the busy person that I am, I don’t have time or the inclination to read “old news”.

So why am I going on like an anal granny in search of some estrogens? I suppose that I’m just a diehard fan of original content. I like to have a smile in my mind when I finish reading something, either because I’ve just read something really interesting, or because I can relate to what the author is suggesting.

Just because I want to learn and stay informed on the industry does not mean that I want to be bored either. Nothing gets my natural endorphins running more than entertaining content. The mixture is undeniably a recipe for readership. Readerships means link popularity, and that my dear friends is the only antidote for serious back pain.

Are Htc And Samsung Sick Of Google’s Android Operating System?

Are major phone companies preparing to ditch the Android mobile operating system?

The companies may have started to worry about Android after learning last month that Google purchased one of their main competitors, Motorola. Since creating Android, Google has rotated manufacturers with which to issue new software updates, releasing the code to others about six months later.

Google may risk alienating the manufacturers, but Carolina Milanesi, research vice president for Gartner, told PCWorld last month that “all these vendors have invested so much in the platform, they won’t quickly walk away from it.”

Background

Samsung released its first Bada-based phone in 2010, long before the Google-Motorola deal. Most reactions to Bada–and the Samsung Wave phones that run it–have been favorable, including PCWorld’s impressions (we got some hands-on time with the first Samsung Wave). Newer Wave phones are expected this month.

The Wave OS is clean, easy to use, and open source, and Samsung now has its own Bada app store up and running. The specs for Wave phones are also appealing, including Super AMOLED screens, HD video recording capabilities, and nimble Hummingbird processors. However, so far, phones running Bada have not been available in the United States.

HTC is much farther behind in the mobile OS game, but company chair Cher Wang told the Chinese press this week that internal discussions at HTC have focused on the possibility of acquiring WebOS. Wang remained cagey, though, about how important it is to HTC to possess its own operating system. “We can use any OS we want. We are able to make things different from our rivals in the second or third layer of a platform,” Wang said, referring to HTC’s Sense interface.

Last month, Samsung upped the ante on Bada, announcing a new series of Wave phones that will ship with Bada 2.0. The OS revision reportedly also comes with full multitasking, near-field communication capability, and ChatON, Samsung’s new cross-OS group-messaging service.

What Could This Mean to Consumers?

“These moves suggest that both of these companies understand that the future can’t just be about hardware,” says John Jackson, an analyst for CCS Insight. “They have to find some way to insinuate themselves with what their hardware enables.”

Jackson adds that an in-house OS gives firms like HTC and Samsung more of something that they lack with Android: control. Further, he points out that the companies’ agendas were headed towards a collision with Google’s even before the Motorola deal.

“At some point in time, if your strategic agenda includes content and services, you’re probably going to be competing with Google. Is that a risk that you can rationalize? [That] is the question for these guys,” Jackson says.

Does the World Need More Mobile Operating Systems?

Bada and WebOS could offer ways to hedge against that risk. But the question remains: Are more mobile OSs to choose from a good thing for consumers?

Imagine a store display case crammed with phones and tablets running iOS, Android, RIM’s QNX or BlackBerry OS, Bada, Windows Phone 7, and WebOS–not to mention Amazon’s upcoming take on Android, as well as unforeseen new players, perhaps even a new Huawei OS. It would be a dizzying array of choices.

As if that weren’t enough to think about, Jackson points out that, moving forward, a winning OS won’t necessarily be the most important factor in the smartphone wars. With more companies using new technologies like HTML 5 for content, Jackson thinks mobile operating systems won’t make individual smartphones stand out in the future as they have done up to now.

Perhaps Samsung has read the writing on the wall: When Bada 2.0 debuts on Samsung’s new Wave phones this fall, it is expected to be fully HTML 5 ready.

Giving Graduating Artists A Head Start

Giving Graduating Artists a Head Start Kahn Awards honor a musician, stage designer, and painter

Kahn Award winners Josué Rojas (from left), Ivana Jasova, and Courtney Lynn Nelson will each receive $10,000 to help them transition into professional artistic careers. Photo by Dan Aguirre

Graduates often face a dreaded catch-22: you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience until you get a job. Classical music performance graduates sometimes confront a slightly different version of the dilemma.

“You cannot get a good job without a good instrument,” says Ivana Jasova (CFA’15), who graduated with a Doctor of Musical Arts in violin performance from the School of Music, “but you cannot get a good instrument without the money and security of a job.”

Now, thanks to the $10,000 she’ll receive as one of this year’s three recipients of an Esther B. and Albert S. Kahn Career Entry Award, intended to help College of Fine Arts students transition from school to career, Jasova will be able to buy the violin she needs. The two other Kahn Award recipients are Courtney Lynn Nelson (CFA’15), who earned a Master of Fine Arts in scene design in the School of Theatre graduate design program, and Josué Rojas (CFA’15), who completed a Master of Fine Arts in the School of Visual Arts graduate painting program.

“I am so lucky to get this award,” says Jasova, who expects to spend as much as $25,000 on an instrument. “With the money I have saved up and the award, I’ll be able to afford an instrument, which is something so rare.”

A native of Serbia who came to the United States for college, Jasova earned a Master of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and a bachelor’s from the University of California, Los Angeles, Herb Alpert School of Music. While at BU, she performed regularly with the Boston Civic Symphony and the Cantata Singers and Ensemble. This summer, she will travel to Tanglewood as a fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center.

“I find myself drawn to 20th-century music, also romantic repertoire, pieces that require a lot of passion,” she says. “I also like composers like Bartók, because he incorporates folk tunes into his compositions. Those folk tunes, some of them are familiar to me because I am from Serbia. Those compositions—it’s like a modern setting for something that is ingrained in me, that I grew up with.”

The instrument she’s played for the last several years is on loan, along with a bow, from the Maestro Foundation in Los Angeles. “I am really grateful to them,” she says, noting that all she has to do is pay the insurance on the instrument, which was made in Vienna in 2009.

“The more I play this violin, the more I like it,” she says. “Over the years, it’s just been opening up. The sound has been becoming warmer, richer. It started projecting more. It has a really lush, dark sound. In its lower range, it’s similar to the sound of a viola.”

Normally, Jasova would have to return the instrument upon graduation, but now, she says, she may buy it. “It’s not set in stone yet, but unless I find something else that’s spectacularly spectacular…”

Established in 1985, the Kahn Awards are funded by a $1 million endowment from the late Esther Kahn (SED’55, Hon.’86). They are presented each year to three College of Fine Arts students who are in the final semester of their undergraduate or graduate studies.

Recipients were chosen by Deborah Kahn (SED’67)—a daughter of Esther and the late Albert Kahn (SED’59,’62)—and her husband, Harris Miller, along with a panel of local arts leaders; this year’s panel includes philanthropist Jane Pappalardo (CFA’65), actor Will Lyman (CFA’71), and Anne Hawley, director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Decisions are based on the artists’ statements about how they would use the award to launch their careers as well as the their concern for social issues and the artist’s role in contemporary society.

Stage designer Nelson hopes to use her award to jump-start meaningful productions in places that lack arts organizations. Nelson lights up when she talks about an independent study project that took her and four other CFA students to Charleston, W.Va., in spring and summer 2014 to stage Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People on a floating dock in the Elk River.

The setting was chosen because earlier that year a chemical used in coal production spilled into the river, leaving thousands of residents temporarily without potable water and raising questions about inspections and enforcement. Ibsen’s play is about a small town whose local leaders discover than the town’s health baths are contaminated and disagree about how or whether to reveal the truth.

Working under the auspices of New York City’s New Brooklyn Theatre, the four spent weeks in the area, staying with local residents, learning about their lives, and crafting a production that featured locals as performers.

Nelson says she may use her Kahn Award to create a theater workshop in a nearby part of West Virginia. “For me the Kahn is permission to prioritize these idealistic projects,” she says.

Painter Rojas shares a similar commitment to community and to giving back.

“I am a product of community arts,” says Rojas. “I wouldn’t be doing it had someone not taken the time to give a kid a bucket of paint and a wall.”

He credits the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center in the Mission District of San Francisco with helping him find his path. A native of El Salvador, he came to California with his mother and three older brothers when he was just a toddler. His introduction to painting came at a fortuitous time: he was 15, and his father, who had remained in El Salvador, died that year.

“I grew up not knowing much of my origins, just a little bit, food and culture,” says Rojas. “Through the arts I was able to find a lot of my own history and origins. So storytelling on the walls via murals really appealed to me. I learned a lot from that.”

Ample evidence of his explorations could be found in his cheerfully cluttered 808 Commonwealth Avenue studio: pictures that blend traditional painting with elements of collage, cartoons, and street art. He has returned to Central America for public art projects, and in Boston, he led a School of Visual Arts partnership with Roxbury Prep Charter Middle School students, teachers, and staff to create a 175-foot street-side mural at the school.

Now Rojas wants to give back, through teaching and community and public art programs, what art has given him.

“I want to tell stories, stories of Americans, international stories, and transnational stories,” he says. “I think it’s important right now, in our era of globalization, for us to understand ourselves and understand other people, those who are interested in coming here and those who are not. As the world is becoming more connected, it’s important to know who we’re connecting with and how we relate.”

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