In 2009, when my friend Vincentâs Blogger or Blogspot blog was deleted by Google, I fought on his behalf to get it back. Six months on the Google support forums, nothing.
One day, a friend on Twitter told me that with Googleâs deletion of John Hemptonâs blog, as publicized by Reuter journalist Felix Salmon, Blogger product manager Rick Klau had intervened, and had it reinstated. Maybe I should approach Rick, who had a stellar reputation was being one of the good guys inside Google.
I did, and within a day, he had sorted everything out.
Six months using the official channels, one day getting the boss involved.
Admittedly, I began getting suspicious of Googleâs Blogger service, even though my own blogs never fell foul of the Googlebot. Google then announced that it would end FTP support of blogs anyway, so I decided it was time to pack up and leave.
One by one, I deleted my blogs from Blogger, and I watched the number drop slowly inside Google Dashboard.
Google Dashboard always lagged a bit, but between the start of 2010 and today there was a problem: all my Blogger blogs had been deleted, but Dashboard continue to record 1.
And so began another saga with Google.
Again I used the official channelsâthe support forumsâand got no response.
Rick had left Bloggerâhe would up being YouTubeâs product manager for a whileâso I contacted his successor, Chang Kim. Chang passed it on to Brett, one of Bloggerâs staff.
Brett told me the name of the blog I supposedly still had. The weirdest things are these: Iâve never heard of this blog, so itâs definitely not mine; but, I do know the gentleman in Canada who owns it, and he tells me that I have never had any connection to it, nor has he ever added me as an author. I responded to Brett at the time and told him this, but the conversation was dropped.
I never knew if Brett was on the level. What if Google had not properly deleted all my data as I had asked it to? What if the 1 reflected that? Or if it was a bug, then really Google needs to fix it, so being a good netizen, I really should point out this discrepancy.
I started a new thread this year on the Google support forums, and it was answered by our old friend Chuckâthe chap who fenced with me at the end of 2009 asking irrelevant questions and ignoring specific answers. He asked yet another irrelevant question, I gave him a specific answer, but this time, he just dropped it (a typical experience, I might add, for anything that falls outside routine matters on the Google support forums). I suppose thatâs better than fencing and keeping me on there for another half-year.
So, would Google ever sort this out?
One evening, I decided I would turn to the one person inside the company who showed some responsibility for his companyâs actions: Rick Klau.
Rickâs with Google Ventures now so he had no real reason to get involved in an enquiry concerning a branch of a company he left three years ago.
But in classic Rick fashion, he stepped up.
And while it wasnât 24 hours, it was a single weekday. Rick asked me one question the day after my enquiry, I answered it, and a weekday later, he had sorted it: my Google Dashboard says I have no blogs with them.
Three (nearly four) years using the official channels, one day getting the (former) boss involved.
Google might do some questionable things, but it has at least one good bloke working for it. If only everyone was as professional as Rick Klau.
While my personal Facebook page and profile continue to have good reach and engagement, the Lucire Facebook is down, especially compared with this time last year.
We’ve increased fans and, on our site, readership, but it’s becoming more and more evident that traffic isn’t coming via the Facebook fan page.
It makes you wonder, then, whether Facebook pages remain a useful marketing tool.
Today is one of the high-traffic days of the year, one where had incredibly high Facebook engagement a year ago. We recorded a reach of 3,169 on the principal article posted that day, on Miss France 2013. Today’s figure for the 2014 competition: 45. (I’d give you a 2011 figure, but Facebook doesn’t allow me to scroll down that far on that page.)
If we post something without an external link, then Facebook will share that with more of our fans, and these will be in the hundreds.
This is probably the best example we have at Lucire for the declining effectiveness of Facebook, with two very comparable posts.
At the time, Facebook contended that algorithmic changes had been made to weed out spammy, non-engaging content, but that the median reach of pages hadn’t budged. It particularly objected to the inference that the changes had been made to spur marketers to spend more on ads to make up for lost reach.
In the document, titled “Generating business results on Facebook,” the paragraph in which the impending drop-off in organic reach is revealed concludes with an ad pitch; marketers are told they should consider paid distribution “to maximize delivery of your message in news feed.” âŠ
In other words, the main reason to acquire fans isn’t to build a free distribution channel for content; it’s to make future Facebook ads work better.
When I posted that Facebook was dying, I had plenty of people objectâon Facebook, of courseâbecause the network had become so ingrained. But, I thought, once upon a time it was habitual to check your Altavista or Excite home page. Once people find a better way to keep in touch, something that mirrors real-life interaction more, they’ll go.
Facebook fatigue could well come from the lack of stimulation that the website represents today. While Timeline was rolled out to much fanfare in September 2011, and other nipâtucks had taken place regularly before then, Facebook has not innovated on such a grand scale since. However, like an operating system, or like some software, there’s little visual delight in Facebook in 2013 for me. The personal motive is far less than it was. And if there’s such a substantial drop-off in reach on fan pagesâwe are talking nearly 99 per centâthen there’s no supporting work reason to be there, either. Sure you could innovate and run competitions, but if the reach is this pathetic, does it give businesses much confidence to take the plunge? I don’t think so, not for the majority of small businesses.
Facebook seemed like a recessionary tool: one where people could spend time to forget how bad the economy is. When things improve, we might just want to get out there and do stuff.
All this potentially plays into Google’s hands, and that’s not something I’ll admit to lightly. Google News was Lucireâs friend today. We need reach to get engagement, and we’ll go where we can get it. The search is on.
Interesting to spot this link. When I started Autocade in 2008, I approached Haymarket, letting them know I was a Classic and Sportscar reader since it began in the 1980s, and I was inspired by the Sedgwick guides that it ran then. Autocade was to be an online cyclopĂŠdia that would use a brief format, with original research, of course, but I would welcome the input of C&SC if it so wished.
As I recall, the response from the boss was condescending. His staff were so busy there was no way they could ever contribute to such a venture, he told me. That was before the threat: if any part of the Sedgwick guides wound up in Autocade, there would be a lawsuit.
All this in a single reply, to someone who told him he was a customer since 1983.
This link illustrates that the first part of his response was complete bollocks, as the guide now exists online, and has done so for nearly three years. In fact, C&SC solicits input from the public. They have taken the Autocade approach.
And seriously, did he think another publisher would be stupid enough to reproduce the guides online for all to see?
No, Haymarket has not broken the law: anyone is free to do a guide with their own, original content, and they are free to solicit outside help.
Nor do I particularly mind seeing this guide online (right down to the ‘most recently updated’ column) because it helps with researchâanything is better than the inaccuracies, assumptions and rumours that pass for facts in Wikipedia. There’s only a tiny bit of overlap with Autocade in terms of the eras covered, so the two sites complement one another.
But it smacks of gross hypocrisy.
Not only are they doing something they said they would never do because they lacked the resources, they threatened a loyal customer when they had no basis to do so.
In essence: Haymarket Publishing once threatened me with a lawsuit for proposing an idea, one which they have since adopted. Yes, it really is that simple.
I lost a lot of respect for a certain Haymarket big-wig that day, someone whose work I had read and admired for decades. Itâs surprising to think he hadnât learned some basic rules in business.
Brands are not steered by market dominance or big corporate mouths. They are, instead, steered by everyday people, who you should work with, rather than make unwarranted threats against.
Oh, after reassuring the chap that Autocade would have only original content (after all, he may have not known that New Zealanders are generally law-abiding), I never received an apology for his unprofessional behaviour.
Even a note of thanks now would be nice for borrowing an idea they were presented with five years ago.
1. The cars
The Triumph Dolomite Sprint Lewis Collinsâ character, William Andrew Philip Bodie (he was a âregal-looking babyâ) had in The Professionals had more power than Doyleâs TR7. And his Capris were far cooler. So cool that eventually, even Doyle had to follow suit and get one to replace his Escort RS2000. (In real life: the RS2000 was stolen.)
2. The clothes
In his roles, Bodie was well dressed in The Professionals, sharp suits in the first season contrasting Doyleâs casual look. As Cmdr Peter Skellen in Ian Sharpâs Who Dares Wins, Collins showed that he could wear well tailored clothes as well as an SAS uniform exceptionally well. In one of the last appearances I saw him in, the German series Blaues Blut (which was created by The Professionalsâ Brian Clemens), Lew showed he could pull off a bowler hat.
3. The hair
Not having a bubble cut is a good thing.
4. The machismo
After playing an SAS commander in Who Dares Wins, Lewis Collins signed up and passed the entrance tests, but was rejected for being too famous. He auditioned for James Bond but was deemed âtoo aggressiveâ. In a pub brawl, youâd want Lew, and not Ross Kemp, on your side.
5. The twinkle
Lewis Collins had a twinkle in his eye in everything he did, whether it was a bit-part in The New Avengers (where he teamed up with Martin Shaw) or spoofing his character on The Freddie Starr Show. Thatâs what weâll miss the most.
Social networking is bound to change in 2014 as some of the main services out there have jumped the shark.
You may say they jumped them ages ago, but the lack of innovation inside Facebook and its subsidiaries is beginning to hurt them.
After having campaigned for six months for the Wellington mayoralty, I hadnât visited Lucireâs Facebook page quite as much. I was disappointed to see that Facebook shared our non-image posts far more than any with an image, the opposite to what we had seen on my campaign page.
Since it began charging for promoted posts, Facebook intentionally broke its pages: it ensured that post sharing would go down around 90 per cent. Any post with a link would be shared even less now, because that would tend to take you off-site. (On this note, Facebook harms itself as it limits even internal links.)
For a company, then, Facebook pages are proving, as they once were in the late 2000s, just something you do to keep up a presence but they add very little to the corporate social dialogue, nor do they build a brand particularly well.
The interface is dreary now, especially compared with Google Plusâsâand thatâs coming from someone who hates Google for all its regular privacy breaches, buggy bots and questionable ethics. Youâd never lose money betting on Facebookâs demise, but the question has always been when.
I donât think itâs as far away as we think. Each morning, I delete between three and eight fake accounts that try to join one of my groups. Vox, which died in 2010, was overrun with fake accounts toward the end, and its parent company did nothing about them. I tend to find the same fakes resurface from time to time. Sites do fall when the fakes get in, and if Facebook doesnât get on top of these now, then it will suffer badly.
Secondly, thereâs precious little innovation happening. Remember the hoop-la over Timeline? It was a clever way of presenting information, and othersâeven Google Plusâfollowed. (Myspace, meanwhile, went for something different again, and, from a design point of view, I love it.) Facebook has abandoned that now in favour of what really is a bigger wall, and maybe thatâs what people wanted, but without innovation, it has become a chore. Itâs a place where I pick up the odd message, but thereâs a feeling that itâs a last-decade sort of place.
Instagram, meanwhile, is doing no better. At its peak, your friendsâ activity page might show the last couple of hours. For me, it now shows the last seven hours. The heavy Instagrammersâmy friend Lena, an early adopter with thousands of followersâjust arenât there any more. They may have suffered from Instagram fatigue.
Instagram, too, suffered from fakes, though since I often have my account privacy turned on, I havenât seen as many lately. Instaspam, as it became known regularly through 2012â13, harmed things, and while the addition of video is interesting, it hasnât managed to reverse the decline of that social network.
Vkontakte, I might add, has also been weighed down by fakes, though I can no longer sign in to it due to hacking.
I wonât be so bold as to say social is dead, but I wouldnât be surprised to forecast consolidation and old brand loyalties kicking back in, because the big social network sites have not only jumped the shark, but Richie has left for Alaska and cousin Roger is living with the Cunninghams.
The next social network might, just might, pay for our content and time, even if itâs in micropayments, as I see the profit motive being one way a newbie can break the strangehold of the big players. Or they might do something even more radical.
But, as we have seen in the past, if Altavista can be unseated as the biggest website in the worldâa prospect that was unfathomable in 1997âthen so can a website with member numbers allegedly in the thousand millions.
Seven months after Google blacklisted our websites over false allegations of malware, I can say that the traffic to some has not recovered. And to prove that Google continues to publish libel based on its highly dubious systems, here are two screen shots from my browser tonight, which I saw when trying to access bjskosherbaskets.com, the site that hackers linked to back in April, where they placed some malware.
I’ve noted here that we were hacked back in April, and we fixed everything within hours. But good luck getting off Google’s blacklists. They claim six to seven hours, whereas our experience was six to seven days. (No surprise: it took Google four years to remove my private data from Adsense, while my dispute with them over retained Blogger data, which they promised to delete in 2010, is ongoing. Things happen very slowly in California.) Bjskosherbaskets.com, meanwhile, is finding that seven months, not seven days, are still not enough to get off a Google blacklist.
Browsers will block the site based on Google’s claims. Yet when you read why Google has blocked it, there is no reason: even the big G says the website is clean, and free from malware. It says, rightly, that it detected some more than 90 days ago, but there isn’t any now.
The question is: why does Google continue to ruin the reputation of a website whose owners have, like us, done everything they could to remedy a situation? And why is libel permissible? There are just too many breaches of ethics by this company, yet it beggars belief that it still ranks as the number-one website in the world.
At the very least, internet security companies need to stop relying on Google, whose systems are faulty, and who dedicates the grand total of two part-timers to the task of malware detection.
Google generates revenue primarily through advertising. Through its DoubleClick advertising platform it sets third-party cookies â small files in consumersâ Web browsers â that enable third-party advertisers to gather information about those consumers, including their Web surfing habits.
By default, Appleâs Safari Web browser is set to block third-party cookies, but from June 1, 2011 to February 15, 2012, Google circumvented Safariâs default privacy settings and set third-party cookies on Safari Web browsers. Google disabled the circumvention method in February 2012 after the practice was widely reported on the Internet and in the media.
The attorneys general allege that Googleâs circumvention of the default privacy settings violated state consumer protection laws and related computer privacy laws. The states claim that Google failed to inform Safari users that it was circumventing their privacy settings and gave them the false impression that their default privacy settings would block third-party cookies. In turn, usersâ Web surfing habits could be tracked without the usersâ knowledge.
My blogging about something and going to the Network Advertising Initiative is nothing compared to when the US media gets hold of it. Maybe I could have gone to the US media at the time, but chose not to. I still believe it shows a pattern here about Google’s corporate culture, and that the company will do anything when it comes to its profitable, multi-milliard-dollar advertising business.
However, the pay-out, of US$17 million, is around four hours’ worth of Google Adwords’ earnings. So really, we’re not talking about a huge amount here. Maybe Apple Safari users just aren’t worth that much?
On that note, I’m wondering whether we should wind down our Feedburner subscriptions in favour of the default one on Wordpress. It’s much uglier, but it’s not Google. As Google still refuses to resolve the problem about holding on to my old blog data without my permission, the only recourse may be to kill my entire Google account. I’ve now removed my membership of one Analytics account (it only took Google a few years to get that sortedâbut less than the four years it took to get my confidential information off Adsense), and there are a few other work things still tied to it, including the Lucire Google Plus page.
On a similar note, I see some people are upset this month about being forced to get a Google Plus account just to comment on YouTube, including YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim (though probably not upset enough to de-Google in most cases). My advice: you really won’t miss commenting on YouTube, since I refused to link my basic Google account with my YouTube several years ago. Get a blog and write your own entry if you want to comment publicly, or write a Tweet or Facebook status update with the YouTube video link, and get things off your chest that way. It’s worked for me and I don’t have to engage some of the daft things that appear among YouTube comments.
As to the YouTube commenting petition, I have a feeling Google won’t care, unless you’re prepared to fight them for years, which is what I had to do to get some basic private data off their systems.
The city’s new logoâit is not a rebrand if the underlying tenets are the sameâhas not met with much support.
The next question must be: all right, if we’re all so smart, can we do better?
Ian Apperley and I think we can. Ian approached me yesterday morning to ask whether we should do a competition and open it up to all Wellingtonians.
At least that addresses the criticisms about getting people involved, and ensuring the internal audienceâthat’s usâis engaged.
But to kick it off, we can’t just come up with another logo. I think we need to think seriously about how we might replace the 22-year-old Absolutely Positively Wellington brand (in the widest sense of that word).
And here’s a head-start to make life easier: a discussion document with some Wellingtonians’ opinions on where the brand could go. In November 2010, I called a meeting with Hilary Beaton, Brian Calhoun, Nick Kapica, Christopher Lipscombe and Mayor Celia Wade-Brown to discuss the ideas about rebranding our city. (In other words, the fact that a city rebrand was of concern to Wellingtonians prior to the Massey UniversityâThe Dominion Post mayoral debate was foreseen by yours truly.)
The document was not released due to busy-ness at the end of 2010, then, the need to seek permission from the participants (which took a little while to secure). All have agreed that it can be released to the public.
I didn’t want to use it as something to do with my campaign when it belonged to everyone. With the discussion around a city brand arising again, this seems as good a time as any.
You can largely ignore the minutes of the discussion itself and go on to p. 6. In there, we felt that the Wellington brand should include these ideas, but stopped short at offering a concrete slogan.
Edge. The notion of âedgeâ came from this first part. Coastal cycleways are on the edge of the city, literally. Biodiversity is celebrated as an âedgyâ concept. Cutting-edge is a concept Wellingtonians can relate to. The Sevens are edgy as a concept; as is concentrated diversity. Connections to science and technology. Following Brisbaneâs example, Wellington already has research institutes that can help with R&D in the city. Empowerment. Other ideas that surfaced from the discussion of a producer culture led to the notion of empowering individuals, which could relate not just to technology, but simpler ideas of growing fruit trees in public gardens, or poetry readings when meeting together. Encourage diversity. The carrot is better than the stick. Ideas of tolerance, and showing a better way need to be promoted. Nimble. Wellington can move quickly thanks to size and innovation. Contests. The idea of competition needs to be built in to the Wellington brand, as discussed above. Youth. Get young people involved and allow them ownership. Economic drivers. We identified the beauty of the city, diversity, public spaces, technology and the arts as important drivers for Wellington. The waterfront. It is a public space that is at the core of much of Wellingtonâs beauty and is a driver of creativity. Creative locations. Already Downstage is becoming an incubator for productions, allowing producers to retain their IPâa shift in how theatres could be managed, and totally in line with a creative city. This shift answers how we work today. What if it extended incubation to designers and other creatives? The weightless economy. Design, IP, and related services can help raise New Zealandâs OECD rankings and can overcome the âtyranny of distanceâ. Royalty-based products, such as Apollo 13 and others, paint a way forward. Ownership and shifting to an individual culture. By providing ownership of ideas, Wellington can shift to a more individualistic culture, rather than the team one that tends to hold entrepreneurship back.
The below was written on the 4th inst., the morning of the release of Absolutely Positively Wellington’s “plus sign” logo, and ran on Scoop, where I am told it is one of the most liked for the Wellington section. As it is to do with branding, I have republished it in full here. (The parody image was done separately.)
As I learned of the story first through a story by Katie Chapman in The Dominion Post, out of courtesy, I sent the below to her initially, some hours before Scoop, where it was picked up as an opâed. As the only mayoral candidate with a master’s degree in the area, and as an author, and as an editorial board member on the Journal of Brand Management, I might be one of the better qualified people to discuss the topic. I might also have been the first to write about destination branding as a discipline in this country. A city rebrand was also among the topics I discussed regularly during the debating season during the 2013 campaign, and I first raised it at The Dominion PostâMassey University debate in September. (It turns out I also blogged about it in 2010.)
Let’s just say it was a topic that concerned meâas well as many other Wellingtonians, including councillors who began digging and found out the plus sign cost us NZ$25,000. So on Monday morning, I put pen to paper (figuratively). Other than Scoopâs publication, I was interviewed on Newstalk ZB about my thoughts.
Incidentally, Edinburgh has a particularly good destination brand for a capital city.
Iâm fairly certain that when Wellingtonians identified that our city needed a new brand, the one shown today in The Dominion Post isnât what they had in mind.
It doesnât matter whether you are branding for a company or a city, the biggest rule is: get your internal audience on side first.
In the case of a city, that internal audience is the people of Wellington.
And there seems to be less excuse for not engaging citizens in the age of social media.
Of course, if everyone were engaged, then the status quo tends to be preserved. People tend not to like change, even when they say they want change. However, the logic is that at least the cityâs opinion leaders must be involved in a rebranding process.
Maybe they were. Although if they were, it doesnât come through.
First up, as I said in my election campaign, this is a 22-year-old brand.
Today, it remains so.
It may have had touch-ups over the years, mostly typographicallyâmoving from typefaces like Perpetua and Baskerville under Mayors Wilde and Blumsky to an italicized FF Fago under Mayor Prendergast. But it reflects the aspirations of Wellington in 1991. What we saw today was the same brand, but a new logo. It comes across as a cosmetic alteration, applying lipstick to the bulldog.
Arguably, grouping the wording together into a single place is preferable to having it divided into three, with black and white bands. It would not be wrong to call the logo more âmodernâ in the formal sense of the word: it is reflective of modernism.
Ăsthetics will always be subjective, but there is a school of thought that a logo that can be easily replicated is a positive development. A plus sign is easily replicated, but then, thereâs the second rule of branding: differentiate.
The purpose of branding is to symbolize, differentiate and communicate.
The logo is original: while there are many with pluses (Google Plus, or our Plus One channels on Freeview), I canât think of any that are executed in this exact way with this colour scheme. But you get an underwhelming feeling since weâre the creative capital. A few more pluses would convey dynamism (although that has been done before, too)âas long as we stick with getting Wellingtonians on side first.
The brand itselfâAbsolutely Positively Wellingtonâdoesnât take into consideration those sectors that did not exist in Wellington in a major way, notably ICT. Maintaining it tells me that itâs more of the same. That message is backed up by the abolition of the portfolio within council.
It doesnât take into consideration the thoughts of any of our young people, who will be burdened with this as the cityâs brand in years to come. Those in their 20s might feel a familiarity with the term âAbsolutely Positively Wellingtonâ, but also a disconnect. They werenât consulted on where they see Wellington or what they aspire us to be.
The logo, therefore, reinforces the old brand. Comments on social media this morning highlight that: at the time of writing, I have yet to see a positive one.
They range from not knowing what the logo means to thoughts that it would be better applied to a church [one example shown at right].
That brings us to the third rule: tell the internal audience what it stands for before rolling it out to an external audience.
Yet this is all shrouded in mystery today.
Another point of interest is the logoâs removal from parking tickets. Itâs going to be reeled back from being a city brand to one that is applied in more formal marketing efforts. We go from the enviable position of having a city brand to a mere destination brand.
There is a subtle difference. A city brand is meant to unite the city, giving everyone who lives here a sense of pride. A destination brand is one aimed at marketing, the province of business and tourism agencies.
However, Iâd still like to see us all âownâ it because modern marketing sees citizens participate as much as organizations.
While I accept that thereâs a Resene deal that sees citizens being able to adopt the yellow ourselvesâwhich on paper is a fine ideaâwill the lack of earlier engagement encourage us to take it up?
So in the branding 101 handbook, there have been mistakes.
On the plus side, pun intended, Iâd be happier to see the yellow box in movie credits and on letterheads than its black-and-white predecessor. That was certainly unworkable in destination marketing and lacked appeal for years. One might say it has never had appeal.
Regardless of how negatively the Stuff reader poll puts the new logo, itâs not as bad as the Wellywood sign proposal.
I hope for our cityâs sake this works out and that stage two of the roll-outâwhere itâs sold to the rest of usâis far more convincing.