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    The Persuader

    My personal blog, started in 2006.



    12.09.2014

    Reacting to AJE’s Broken Dreams: are there parallels between GM and Boeing’s 787?


    Simpsons fans should be able to connect the above scene with the post below.

    I’m sure some of you watched the al-Jazeera English documentary this week on the Boeing 787, and how there are safety concerns over the models built in South Carolina. In summary, ‘Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit and reporter Will Jordan investigate Boeing’s 787 “Dreamliner”, finding some workers with quality concerns, alleging drug use and fearing to fly the plane they build.’ Even if you don’t watch the full 48 minutes, the links on the page make for interesting reading.
       I’m not usually one to take a TV programme at face value, but I admit this one piqued my interest. Enough for me to Tweet Air New Zealand last night to ask them their thoughts and the airline responded this morning:

    Safety is paramount and non-negotiable at Air NZ. We remain completely confident of the safety and reliability of the 787-9.

    which does sound a bit like a press release. Hackneyed? Yes, and totally unlike the human face that Air New Zealand generally takes with its Twitter account.
       Call me cheeky, but I responded with:

    That’s what BOAC said about the De Havilland Comet. Will you check into these new allegations about the Hillbilly 787s?

    (I accept that that was not a good term to use and I apologize for it) and added later:

    Can you guys at least watch the doco or confirm to me that someone senior enough has, and then convey your thoughts?

       The documentary was quite damning about the 787s, and the US system failing consumers these days (just think about GM), I think I’ve every right to be worried. Air New Zealand, even more so. When whistle-blowers like John Woods are fired, something is rotten. If consumers don’t trust ‘Made in USA’ any more, then we need to be assured that we’re getting the best planes made by the best workers—and traditionally, those workers are the Washington state ones.
       Surely there are parallels here. Here’s what happened to GM quality manager Courtland Kelley:

    It described employees passing the buck and committees falling back on the “GM nod”—when everyone in a meeting agrees that something should happen, and no one actually does it …
       Kelley had sued GM in 2003, alleging that the company had dragged its feet addressing dangers in its cars and trucks. Even though he lost, Kelley thought that by blowing the whistle he’d done the right thing and paved the way for other GMers to speak up. Now he saw that he’d had the opposite impact: His loss, and the way his career had stalled afterward, taught others at the company to stay quiet …
       Kelley had been the head of a nationwide GM inspection program and then the quality manager for the Cobalt’s predecessor, the Cavalier. He found flaws and reported them, over and over, and repeatedly found his colleagues’ and supervisors’ responses wanting. He thought they were more concerned with maintaining their bureaucracies and avoiding expensive recalls than with stopping the sale of dangerous cars. Eventually, Kelley threatened to take his concerns to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Frustrated with the limited scope of a recall of sport-utility vehicles in 2002, he sued GM under a Michigan whistle-blower law. GM denied wrongdoing, and the case was dismissed on procedural grounds.

    and what happened to Woods (who also lost against Boeing and its team of lawyers):

    There was some animosity between quality and production. I would bring up a quality concern and they would say, well, that’s not helpful to production.
       On several occasions, I would go check out these repairs while they were being done and after. There are inspection points all throughout the repair process where an inspector is supposed to come over and check something and mark it down that he checked it.
       You’re never supposed to go past an operation that’s not checked off. I would see a defect and I’ll look at the inspection sheet and there was no note of it, and I know in the specifications that all anomalies, even small anomalies, are supposed to be recorded in the inspection.
       So I would bring an inspector over and show it to him and say, “Could you please note this down in your inspection?” And they say okay, so I’d walk away. Then I’d come back later that day or the next day and it’s still not noted.
       So then I would go mention it to the supervisor and go back another couple of days and still not noted. It became very frustrating on several occasions, to the point where people were angry at me for bringing it up.

       If we cannot trust the NHTSA over GM, can we really trust the FAA?
       As a New Zealander, I would like our national airline to assure us that we’re not getting lemons, and just how we can be sure that we’re not the guinea pigs for testing the planes like those early Comet passengers were.

    Boeing’s response to the al-Jazeera programme can be found here.
    A review questioning al-Jazeera’s objectivity with claims there were biases can be found in Forbes.


    Filed under: business, culture, media, New Zealand, TV, USA—Jack Yan @ 03.10

    07.09.2014

    Facebook blocks you from reporting bots, fails to provide rationale

    It appears Facebook doesn’t want bot reports after you hit a limit. In fact, I’ve been banned for a day for reporting them.
       This makes no sense. Facebook gives you a warning to slow down when you hit the 40s. But you can’t get any slower. The fact is Facebook has made the reporting process very slow by introducing more dialogue boxes. If you keep going, however, Facebook gives you a one-day ban, with a warning box that has a link for more information (that does not give you any information on the upper limit or the rationale for the ban), although you can fill in a box and tell them they made a mistake.
       But why should I be defending actions that are selfless and for the good of the community? And surely, since the overwhelming majority of the accounts reported were then deleted—I’d even say all of them, but I didn’t go back to check the last few in each block—then wouldn’t Facebook have a mechanism to say, ‘Right, this guy is on the level’?
       It’s perfectly normal to see more than 40 bots a day on Facebook if you run groups, because a lot of them are joining them to make themselves look legitimate. They’re also liking pages—some even in cahoots with Facebook. (Just today I talked to a New Zealand business owner who bought Facebook likes, restricted them to New Zealand, and yet she somehow attracted accounts from Egypt and Morocco.)
       The more bots there are, the fewer resources Facebook’s servers can devote to legitimate users. Eventually, the bots will overrun the system and could even be the origins of denial-of-service attacks.
       The below are tonight’s bots, not counting this morning’s:

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004972665291

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007942905362

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007706745366

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007326225411

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004273695465

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005123145337

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004155315516

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007194525440

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005286765378

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004642995496

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007651845445

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005938275512

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007823175380

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007728165452

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008071125392

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008045505381

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007953840726

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005147565355

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006667935344

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008401201715

    Three hours later:

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007529137326

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007384752178

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004818162276

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005288290019

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004805647271

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005288174810

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004806457148

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004767757207

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006871812132

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007187167379

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006447457255

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004817382081

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008276257202

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007104822399

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005287994706

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007986851807

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005288289860

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004821222189

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005287904919

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006377742208

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004821187302

       Then I went to re-report some from 15 days ago, which Facebook finally accepted. However, while I was reporting this series, hitting the ones below, Facebook blocked me.

    https://www.facebook.com/ze.hao.14

    https://www.facebook.com/eleanor.young.9465

    https://www.facebook.com/LambRAWRghini

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002244310810

    https://www.facebook.com/emerson.stewart.144

    Which is a shame, because a few moments later I came across another 21 trying to join groups.

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006101687832

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007271985326

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004489155309

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004238537896

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006265307871

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006631577828

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005194785403

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007808027790

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005155425293

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007468875290

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005335605327

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006749445281

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007497885296

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005236907983

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005077697830

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006587925294

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008083785274

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007184267799

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007760027803

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007751805319

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004263977904

       That’s 67 bots in a day. My previous record (last week) was 53 in a day. It wasn’t that long ago when it was one a day. The growth of bot activity on Facebook could be exponential.
       Either Facebook lifts the blocks, or it improves its bot-detection measures. Evidently, Facebook is failing to stop the bots, which, to me, spells the end of the website.


    Filed under: internet, USA—Jack Yan @ 12.44

    30.08.2014

    Conservatives: ‘The Chinese’ are coming! It’s the yellow peril!

    We hear from certain parties that proclaim that they want one law for all New Zealanders, yet they’ll resort to targeting ethnic minorities anyway. A few weeks ago, Winston Peters had his ‘two Wongs’ joke, easily dismissed as being as passé as a Rolf Harris act. I see the Conservatives are now doing the same with their latest publicity, spotted by Robyn Gallagher, who Tweeted the following images.

       Let’s put the core claim into context, leaving aside for now how ‘The Chinese’ smacks of yellow peril when writ in such large letters, as well as hypocrisy.
       The Fairfax Press noted in a 2012 article that Overseas Investment Office says, ‘of the 872,313 hectares of gross land sold to foreign interests over the past five years, only 223ha were sold to Chinese.
       ‘People from the landlocked principality of Liechtenstein had purchased 10 times more land than the Chinese—2,144ha in the same period.
       ‘The top buyers were the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Israel. The United States had 194 purchases for a total of 193,208ha.’
       For some reason, Johnny Foreigner seems a lot less threatening to mainstream New Zealand if they look like James Cameron (the proud owner of 1,000 ha) or Shania Twain (leases for 25,000 ha along with her husband).
       The Pengxin deal that the Conservatives are using for fear-mongering, 13,800 ha, is a lot—but they are getting more flak than the 176,902 ha sold by Carter Holt Harvey to US interests some years ago.
       I don’t have the latest figures but I’m betting China isn’t at the top of the list.
       Tina Ng notes, ‘another funny thing is that Mr Craig has actually sold a lot of property to Chinese,’ adding that this was mentioned on The Nation on TV3.
       Robyn Tweets that there is ‘A strange lack of white foreign landowners …’ in the Conservative materials.
       I’m not saying that this isn’t an important issue, but if we’re going to talk about overseas land ownership—where the figure is in the 10 per cent mark (the Prime Minister says 1 per cent)—the use of yellow peril should be beneath any political party.
       The red with yellow stars in the Conservative materials intentionally conveys Cold War fears and the spectre of Maoism. It’s as dated as ‘two Wongs’.
       New Zealanders of Chinese descent are no different to other Kiwis when it comes to what’s important, and the first fliers I saw from the Conservatives could have appealed to many with their talk of tougher penalties for criminals and binding referenda.
       But the claim of ‘One law to rule us all’, on which a quarter of its publicity rested, no longer has validity. Given the larger share of New Zealand land in non-Chinese hands, the Conservatives’ latest comes across as ignorant, missing the point of who actually controls this country’s land and commerce. And they’ll lose votes from Chinese New Zealanders who may have been sympathetic to their cause.
       If they want to beat this drum, there are real issues such as foreigners controlling 33 per cent of our stock market, or the fact that the biggest owners of our companies are based in Australia, the US, the UK, Singapore, Netherlands, Japan, the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands, Canada, Switzerland, China and France.
       These surely impact on many issues, including our tax revenues and our overall competitiveness, more greatly.
       Essentially what they are saying is: our policy is that race doesn’t matter. Except when it comes to vilifying a group, it does. Let’s ignore the real culprits, because: ‘The Chinese’.
       It’s a shame given that Conservative leader Colin Craig has had his share of stereotyping because of his religious beliefs. Conservative supporters point to the hard time the media have given him.
       I’m reminded of Matthew 7:12 from the Sermon on the Mount.
       Divisive techniques trouble me, and they should trouble the parties, because they make me wonder if these politicians have a clue about unity, nationhood, and the reality of the 21st century.
       In a post earlier this month, I quoted Robert Muldoon: ‘throughout the length and breadth of this country we have always been prepared to accept each other on the basis of behaviour and regardless of colour, creed, origin or wealth. That is the most valuable feature of New Zealand society and the reason why I have time and again stuck my neck out to challenge those who would try to destroy this harmony and set people against people inside our country.’
       Those words still resonate today, and should resonate to any New Zealander who sees strength in what our country stands for: the Kiwi sense of fair play, tolerance, and team spirit.
       Unfortunately, between the Conservatives’ latest, ‘two Wongs’ (and its dismissal by the PM as merely ‘a stunt’, in spite of an open door to attack it), and Dirty Politics, certain people in the political arena seem woefully out of touch with New Zealanders.


    Filed under: business, globalization, New Zealand, politics—Jack Yan @ 08.50

    26.08.2014

    When the parties uploaded their opening statements to their YouTube accounts

    This is when each political party uploaded their opening broadcasts to their official YouTube accounts. Ideally, they should have gone up on Saturday night, when they were broadcast on television, as that was when those of us online were hunting for them. (TVNZ did not have these up on demand on the night, either, but they are there now.)
       My thoughts: if you don’t go after the online audience, you are missing out on voters. Is this indicative of how you see the internet?
       And, of course, if you make these videos available, they can be shared (as I have now done at the bottom of this post).

    Labour: went live on the night
    Greens: went live on the night
    Internet Mana: went live on the night
    United Future: Sunday
    Conservatives: Tuesday noon to Colin Craig’s own account (which appears to be the de facto Conservative account, as I cannot find others)
    National: not there
    ACT: not there
    Democrats for Social Credit: not there
    Māori Party: not there

    Those who have bothered with uploads to their YouTube accounts feature below.

    Labour

    Greens

    Internet Mana

    United Future

    Conservatives


    Filed under: internet, New Zealand, politics—Jack Yan @ 05.25

    25.08.2014

    Facebook loves spammers

    Can Facebook please explain why these obvious bot accounts, all of which have been reported, are allowed to remain on their website? (I have asked Facebook this directly already on Twitter and Facebook.)
       Some were reported in 2013.

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007203668633&fref=pb_other

    https://www.facebook.com/sluchevskiya?fref=pb_other

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003332425523&fref=nf_fr

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001139762163

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007774961452&fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003723657320

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007526100670&fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007575222133&fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/kyoko.fukada.902266?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/cindy.weaver.7311?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/patricia.lima.393950/

    https://www.facebook.com/thomas.lawler.756?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/kolthoff.danuta?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/kaj.werner.50?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/qkquddy?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/iwssr?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007249031036&fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007435327784&fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/LambRAWRghini?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/youngyoung.park.716?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/sungmin.woo.75?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007448436332&fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007859550070&fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/donavan.carroll.98?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006816901060&fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/cho.youngjae.94?fref=pb&hc_location=friends_tab

    https://www.facebook.com/barbara.stephens.311493?fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006816901060&fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006370157803&fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002244310810&fref=tl_fr_box

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597132803&fref=tl_fr_box

       Possible explanations:

  • they work for Facebook, and are part of the click farms exposed by Veritasium;
  • Facebook is totally fooled by the bots’ ability to make friends with other bots, which comment and like with random words, or words that do not match the images posted;
  • Facebook doesn’t care that its servers are overrun with bots because they can claim trumped-up user numbers;
  • Facebook is confident that, unlike Six Apart’s old Vox site, the bots won’t contribute to their website dying—even though it has crashed twice in the last few months.
  •    To Facebook’s credit, many which I have reported are gone, but I’m at a loss on why these remain. If I can tell they are bots, then how come Facebook’s experts cannot? And why does Facebook prevent us from reporting too many, when they are being created at such a rapid rate?


    Filed under: internet, USA—Jack Yan @ 02.23

    23.08.2014

    ‘Planet Key’ is good old-fashioned Kiwi satire

    Fed up with the Electoral Commission barring Darren Watson from expressing his valid view with his satirical song ‘Planet Key’, I made a spoken-word version of it for my Tumblr a week ago, with copyright clearance over the lyrics. I wrote:

    Since the Electoral Commission has imposed a ban on Darren Watson’s ‘Planet Key’—in fact, it can never be broadcast, and apparently, to heck with the Bill of Rights Act 1990—I felt it only right to help him express his great work, in the best tradition of William Shatner covering ‘Rocketman’. This has not been endorsed by Mr Watson (whom I do not know), and recorded with crap gear.

       I’ve read the Electoral Act 1993 and the Broadcasting Act 1989, but I still think they’re trumped by the Bill of Rights Act 1990.
       Legal arguments aside, I agree with Darren, that his expression of his political view is no different from Tom Scott drawing a cartoon.
       He has a right to freedom of thought and a right to express it.
       The Electoral Commission’s position seems to centre around his receiving payment for the song to cover his and his animator’s costs—which puts it in the class of an election advertisement.
       Again, I’m not sure how this is different from the Tom Scott example.
       Tom is paid for his work, albeit by the media who license it. Darren doesn’t have the backing of media syndication, so he’s asking for money via sales of the song on Itunes. We pay for the newspaper that features Tom’s work, so we can pay Itunes to download Darren’s. Tom doesn’t get the full amount that we pay the newspaper. Darren doesn’t get the full amount that we pay Itunes. How are they different?
       Is the Commission saying that only people who are featured in foreign-owned media are permitted to have a say? This is the 21st century, and there are vehicles beyond mainstream media. That’s the reality.
       The good news is that other Kiwis have been uploading Darren’s song, with the Electoral Commission saying, ‘if the content appeared elsewhere online, it would not require a promoter statement if it was posted as the expression of a personal political view and no payment was involved,’ according to Radio New Zealand. Darren might not be making money like Tom Scott does, but his view is still getting out there.
       On that note, I’m sure you’d much rather hear the original than mine. If you ever see Darren’s gigs out there, please support him through those.


    Filed under: culture, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 05.24


    I thought political division got you nowhere in New Zealand

    A week and a half ago, I appeared on Back Benches to talk about Winston Peters MP’s “two Wongs” joke, and confined my comments to that.
       My response, ‘There are still people who enjoy watching Rolf Harris, just as there are still people out there who enjoy listening to Winston Peters.’ And, ‘We have a politician here who says he does not believe in race-based laws, and yet everything he utters is race-based … Can’t he walk the talk?’ His is a passé joke, and of course there’s no way Mr Peters would have heard it in Beijing—since the Wong surname does not exist in Mandarin.
       It’s a shame he resorts to this old technique because I find myself agreeing with a number of his statements when it came to the Dirty Politics revelations. And had I more time on Back Benches, I would have explored this further.
       There were three MPs on the show, Annette King (Labour), Scott Simpson (National) and Russel Norman (Greens). Ms King and Dr Norman were up front enough to call the joke racist, while Dr Norman went so far as to call it ‘unacceptable’ and ‘disgraceful’, while Mr Simpson merely passed it off as ‘Winston being Winston.’
       Mr Simpson’s dismissal is in line with his Prime Minister’s, who called it ‘a stunt’. And it brought back the PM’s unflinching reaction to Paul Henry implying back in 2010 that the then-Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand, did not ‘look or sound like a New Zealander’.
       That has been covered here before, but I read comments at the time that John Key’s predecessor, Helen Clark, would have taken Henry to task over the comment.
       I plainly don’t notice someone’s colour and I suspect most people do not, but I do notice accents, and Sir Anand sounds exactly like what you would expect from an Auckland Grammar alumnus: if linguists were to pin down just where he was from, I’m fairly confident they would find it was Auckland.
       Once I can forgive. The PM was in the heat of an interview in 2010, he had his points to make, and it’s very, very easy not to answer the question put before you. In the YouTube clip, I didn’t directly answer one of Damian Christie’s questions.
       But twice? This is not ‘a stunt’, this is something that goes to the heart of the casual racism that occasionally gets spouted in this country. It has no place in Aotearoa, and in election year, you would think that the Prime Minister, wanting to capture votes from Kiwis of all stripes, would take a rival to task over it. Politicians in the past aimed to paint an inclusive New Zealand, not one where people are cast out by race or, as we have seen post-Dirty Politics, by whether they are on the left or on the right.
       Author Nicky Hager is now, according to the PM, ‘a screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist’ for writing his book, one where the allegations have been carefully written to avoid legal action, and one where there are no emails to refute what he claims. Watching the fallout has been instructive: the ACT Party has completely defused the allegations over the Rodney Hide “blackmail” stance thanks to early, measured, and direct statements from Mr Hide and from lawyer Jordan Williams, and the burden has been lifted. It didn’t take much. David Farrar, who admittedly is not a central figure in the book, comes across as an intelligent and genuine National Party member and supporter. But National has played a divisive game once again, and that has been disappointing, especially for those quality MPs the party has outside of the Cabinet.
       You can say that its poll numbers are comfortable enough for National not to attempt to get voters on “the left”, but if I were running right now, I honestly wouldn’t care what your political leanings were. I’d want your vote. I’d know there were swing voters out there, and I’d also know that most New Zealanders, who tend toward centrist politics, have policies on the left and the right that they favour. Why isolate them by insulting some of their beliefs, or pigeonholing them as belonging to one group or another?
       Or, why, for that matter, associate with blogger Cameron Slater if he is a ‘force of nature unto himself’ (if I have quoted the PM correctly).
       And he is. I actually have little problem about the man having an opinion and expressing it on the internet. I’ll even go so far as to defend his right to hold an opinion and to express it freely even if I do not agree with it.
       I might not agree with Mr Slater’s venomous ‘I have come to the conclusion that Maori are thick. Dumber than your average bear. Stupid. Dumb and Dumber rolled in one. Dumber than a sack of hammers,’ and ‘My patience with Maori is at an end. They are venal, corrupt, lying, lazy useless fuckers,’ but he has a right to say it.
       It’s like “two Wongs”.
       Those who don’t like it can say so, too.
       The PM’s defence so far of his and his party’s association with Mr Slater (which suddenly has become less tight than it was portrayed earlier this year) is effectively “this is OK, because Labour contacts left-wing bloggers”. Sorry, John. If there is a blog out there that spews this kind of hatred, the normal thing for any right-thinking New Zealander to do is to isolate its writer. To make sure that his brand of venom is as far away from you as possible. You just don’t risk it for the sake of votes. You do not cozy up to him, even minutely—which is now the image you wish to portray. To have your government and your party willingly associate with him is precisely the sort of divisive politics that has no place in this country.
       The tactics have been compared to the Muldoon days. I disagree: if Rob Muldoon thought you were a knob, he would come out and call you a knob.
       I don’t think he would recognize his party.
       As Muldoon himself put it (in Muldoon):

    A great deal of New Zealand’s history has in fact been recorded in detail and it as [sic] at least as interesting as that of older countries. To read it is to understand why so much damage is being done by a small group of stirrers who have fomented the hateful cry of “racism” in recent years. New Zealand does not have a colour bar, it has a behaviour bar, and throughout the length and breadth of this country we have always been prepared to accept each other on the basis of behaviour and regardless of colour, creed, origin or wealth. That is the most valuable feature of New Zealand society and the reason why I have time and again stuck my neck out to challenge those who would try to destroy this harmony and set people against people inside our country.

       And I can’t see decent National Party people like Paul Foster-Bell or Simon O’Connor ever engaging in these sorts of tactics. At the local level, Kerry Prendergast never did when I ran against her in 2010.
       Despite these efforts from our politicians, I still believe in inclusiveness, and that when you stand for public office, you are prepared to represent everyone in your constituency, even those you might not like or hold different beliefs to you. I said of a racist who wrote on my wall in 2013, ‘If elected, I’m happy to represent you, too.’ I don’t think that’s an idealism found in the Coca-Cola Hilltop commercial, but the reality of someone who wants the job of public office. Maybe it’s naïveté, but I can’t see what division and negative campaigning get you in New Zealand.


    Filed under: culture, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, TV, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 03.00

    22.08.2014

    Caveat emptor: Facebook’s click farm problem is worsening

    Many people will remember this video, which exposed Facebook using click farms to inflate customers’ likes (I would have used Veritasium’s original, but YouTube won’t show embedding codes at the moment):
     
    Facebook Fraud Exposed: Does Facebook Advertising Lead to Fake Likes? from Reputation911 on Vimeo
     
       I won’t repeat what they exposed, as the video does a far better job. Essentially, they are building up fake profiles with group activity, to look like legitimate profiles when they become members of various pages. However, I am noticing that the problem is getting worse. Despite getting busted, Facebook is making sure that engagement on its fan pages gets worse, so you have to pay for promotion.
       One group I run, which has over 10,000 members, mostly in Germany, is getting a lot of these fake likers, principally from Morocco. Each day we’ve had over a dozen. Two, so far, even claim that they work for Facebook on their profiles (here’s one). (Facebook was contacted for comment, and, as usual, I have heard nothing back.) Now, you can claim these people are putting fake employers down, and that’s a reasonable conclusion. But even if they aren’t working for Facebook, they are working for a click farm, which can’t be any good for the website. In addition, Facebook is doing nothing to delete these click-farm profiles. [PS.: Despite being allowed to remain for years, Facebook deleted these accounts after this blog post was written.]
       There are similar characteristics: there are lots of photos, but few that could be regarded as profile photos. The majority have random imagery. As with a lot of fake profiles, they are multilingual: these guys never, ever post a status in German, yet a lot (over 90 per cent) of their groups are German. The latest one I saw claimed to be based in Netherlands and did not have a single friend with a Dutch name. One had over 1,000 likes, which is not unreasonable, either—yet you could group them by industry! It was very obvious that they were being paid. I was fooled with the first few, but not after you get six in a night—and they have only increased in number since.

    Morocco 1

    Morocco 2

    Morocco 3

       They are harder to spot than the obvious fakes which use a stock photo for the profile, or the ones from China which all have joined the same poker game, or those that have only joined groups beginning with the letter A.
       I realize these folks have to make a buck. But we, as Facebook customers, have to understand the effects. It means Facebook campaigns are becoming increasingly poor value, and, at some point—maybe even now—it will not be worth paying a cent to the company to reach potential fans if there are other means.

    PS.: One was accidentally let through and posted an irrelevant video, so they could be spammers getting extra hits for their clients.—JY


    Filed under: business, internet, marketing, USA—Jack Yan @ 14.13

    05.08.2014

    The 2014 General Election: the impressions the parties have left, so far

    A Kiwi friend, based in Australia, and I were discussing the General Election yesterday on the phone.
       First, I told her, you wouldn’t know one was on. It’s like Christmas when the global financial crisis hit: people weren’t in the mood.
       Secondly, minor parties like Internet Mana are probably doing better than the polls say: as with the mayoral election last year, those on cellphones are being missed in telephone polls, and, unlike local body elections, more young people come out for these.
       In Rongotai—historically a Labour electorate other than a brief period under National when Graeme Reeves was our local MP—there are plenty of Labour hoardings. In my postbox, surprisingly, Conservatives and Greens have delivered more, while two Labour loyalists did some door-knocking. National’s activity, that I found out about ex post facto, was a visit by Paul Foster-Bell. Interestingly, it has also bought a lot of ads on the Lucire website via an ad network that we work with, and it got to the point where I wondered if people thought our publication was sponsored by National.
       I’m exactly the sort of swing voter who these folks would target because I don’t go to the polls on autopilot. Paul does well with interacting with us on Facebook, and, as I told the two Labour people, I haven’t physically seen Annette King in this area in 21 years. (I’ve seen her at parties though, and to be fair, I saw her at one official function in Newtown, which is part of this electorate.) I also saw Graeme a lot, and Peter Neilson before that.
       But Labour’s poor showing in the polls, in my opinion, has less to do with the invisibility of its members in the community and more to do with the perception of division. It’s what got John Major in the UK in 1997—you just can’t fight an election alone.
       Chris Hipkins and I did chat briefly about the fact certain media seem to enquire with National first about a few Labour announcements, which is a curious journalistic approach, and that certainly weakens their case.
       But I have just watched a TV3 Nation “debate” (I use the term advisedly—Steven Joyce does himself a disservice by shouting down his opponent and the host, when I actually wanted to listen to his side of the story), where I can now say I have seen, and heard, more of Grant Robertson than his leader, David Cunliffe. I even saw Grant at the weekend with Maryan Street. I thought: good, Labour is campaigning. I want to see an election battle.
       Labour’s image of division isn’t new. It started after the resignation of David Shearer and the long drawn-out process of selecting a new leader. Why Labour wanted this to be so public I have no idea. It might have thought it a good opportunity to get some air time but all it did was show that there were two camps: the caucus, who favoured Grant, and the membership, who favoured David Cunliffe.
       My Australian-based friend was under the impression that Grant only lost out because of his sexuality, that that was wholly inappropriate in 2014 given that he is the better speaker, thinker and leader. If his sexuality played a part in his loss then I agree that it should not have been a consideration. I’ve a feeling she’s disappointed with Labour and won’t be voting for them.
       While David Cunliffe moved quickly to give his rivals high positions in the Shadow Cabinet, the damage had been done.
       I think occidental voters want to see unity, because, in the General Elections I have watched, that plays a greater role than the policies themselves. The reality is that every party has factions, and it’s a matter of first, how deep they are, and secondly, how one stage-manages them to the public. No matter what Labour does, it found itself on the back foot.
       It may be time to look beyond the stage management and ask ourselves what we want in terms of our aspirations for our country.
       I want to see a high-tech base along with our traditional primary sectors, because we have an advantage in innovation that doesn’t get talked up anywhere nearly enough. That’s one of my biggies, along with a government that is prepared to foster the growth of New Zealand businesses, not those of foreign technocrats in the hope that trickle-down might start working one of these days. Foreign ownership of enterprises doesn’t put that much back into our economy. I’ll go for a party that will work to narrow the income gap, and has a workable plan to do so.
       In the materials I have been delivered, and in the media that I have been served, I haven’t seen anyone hit all of these.
       The rest—sensibly investing in education, health and our poor, go without saying—but every party says they care about this trifecta. They are nevertheless worth investigating.
       This means I’ll continue digging to see who matches up with my wish list the best. It’s worth the effort if we are to get past the smoke-and-mirrors games of the spin doctors.


    Filed under: business, globalization, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 04.01

    02.08.2014

    Has Facebook admitted its servers ran out of resources?

    Those of you who follow this blog know that I believe Facebook’s servers are reaching their limits. In June 2014, when there was a 69-hour outage for me—and at least 30 minutes for most other Facebook users—I noted I was recording a marked increase in Facebook bugs before the crash. And the even longer outage yesterday—some reports say it was 35 minutes but some media have reported it was up to 90—was also prefaced by some curious bugs that were identical to the earlier ones.
       I thought it was very odd that in all the articles I have read today about the issue, no media have been able to get a comment from Facebook. It made me wonder if people had clammed up because of what it could mean for the share price.
       And I do realize how preposterous my theory sounds, as the logical thing to ask is: how could a company the size of Facebook not be equipped to handle its growth?
       Well, how could a company the size of Facebook not be equipped to deal with time zones outside the US Pacific? And we know a company the size of Google is not equipped to deal with the false malware warnings it sends out.
       However, the geeks have reported. There are two at the Facebook developers’ status page that relate to the outage.
       If you can understand the technobabble, they are: ‘Traffic and error-rates are almost back to normal after a coordinated intervention by our engineering teams. We are now monitoring the situation and we have our best engineers determining the root-cause of this issue that affected much of our web fleet. We apologize for any inconvenience and we aim to ensure that this issue does not repeat,’ and ‘Platform has been stable for >5 hours and our engineers have reproduced the complex issue that was causing many of our www/api servers to run out of resources. The team is now working on the final fix, but we are confident that there will be no further regression. Thank you for your patience and we apologize for any issues that we caused for your apps. Have a great weekend.’
       If I understand them correctly, the second actually says that the servers ran out of resources.
       Hopefully, the above means Facebook has fixed the error, which I believe to be the same as the one in June. Facebook itself had then discounted that it was an attack.
       No wonder no one has offered the media a comment, if the site is falling over so regularly because of its bugs.


    Filed under: internet, media, USA—Jack Yan @ 15.05

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