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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006. No paid posts.



21.06.2021

How to stop tailgating

I thought if we were serious about stopping tailgating, then the solution in the form of public service announcements would be remarkably simple, as far as the men are concerned. My concept, but not my photos. Since we’re talking lives here, one hopes the photos’ copyright owners will allow me to make these proposals.


   You’d end tailgating overnight among half the population, and arguably more than half the culprits.


Filed under: cars, culture, marketing—Jack Yan @ 01.59

20.06.2021

Nine years of promoting DuckDuckGo in Lucire


Promoting DuckDuckGo: ‘Glancing back’ in Lucire KSA, June 2021.

For some time now, in every print issue of Lucire, and Lucire KSA, there is a mention of search engine DuckDuckGo. But I wasn’t sure how long we had been doing this, till I checked tonight. We started referencing DuckDuckGo in 2012, on our history page, where we look back at what we wrote 15, 10 and 5 years ago. What we do is feed in the year and Lucire, and let the search engine do the rest. It might not have Google’s might, but in my book it deserves considerably more loyalty, and all the help we can give.


Filed under: culture, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, publishing—Jack Yan @ 11.27


Putting on the breaks

Being self-employed my whole adult life, I haven’t exactly been let go from actual employment, but there have been some gigs, paid and unpaid, that came to an end without me expecting it.
   I’ve never been sore about losing them, but I don’t agree with the way they were done.
   Gig 1. Did a quarterly task for these folks, which soon became a monthly one. Lasted 14 years and was either the longest-serving or second-longest-serving in that capacity. Let go in a group email.
   Gig 2. Voluntary one, told that I wouldn’t be needed because the organization was going in a new direction. I wouldn’t be replaced because of this new format. Found out later that there was no new format and I was replaced. Would it have hurt to tell the truth? After all, I replaced the previous person, and I would have been fine with them needing a fresh face. It’s not as though I made any money off them!
   Gig 3. Another voluntary one. Hadn’t heard anything but then I usually didn’t till pretty late in the game. Except this time I had to chase them up, given how late things got. When do you need me? Found out I was replaced and that the decision had been made months earlier. I was the last to know. Offered some inconsequential consolation, but no apology. Ironically this happened as my influence in this particular area grew substantially overseas, so the help I could have given them was immense, so bad luck and bad timing to that mob. Bridges burned.
   I’ve let a few people go in the past—one had so many allegations against him (theft, sexual harassment) that with hindsight I wonder why we took so long. Given the anonymous (and ineffective and illogical) letters he’s sent to some of my most loyal colleagues, I think he’s still sore. Others had to be let go when the financial winds blew against us. But I’m pretty sure they all knew why.
   The only mysterious one from our companies was one person who claimed I cut him off and stopped using his writing services. It was a complete lie—he just vanished. At one point we re-established contact. We agreed to put it down to an email glitch (although this person regularly phoned me and stopped doing so, but in the interests of moving on, I let it go). Years later, he did it again—just disappeared. He told a mutual friend of ours the same lie, that I ceased to have anything to do with him. I relayed the above story to that friend but I could see she didn’t believe me—till he did it to her a few years later!


Filed under: business, New Zealand, publishing, USA—Jack Yan @ 11.02

14.06.2021

Autocade hits 24 million page views—a new record


Above: The latest entry to Autocade at the time of writing: the new Hyundai Tucson (the short-wheelbase one is pictured).

Autocade will cross the 24 million page view mark tomorrow, notching up the latest million views in record time, despite only a tiny increase (14 models, to 4,438) in the database entries. I imagine this is down to a mixture of people finding it useful, and those working from home during lockdowns wanting a break.
   You know the drill.

March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months for 20th million)
October 2020: 21,000,000 (three months for 21st million)
January 2021: 22,000,000 (three months for 22nd million)
April 2021: 23,000,000 (three months for 23rd million)
June 2021: 24,000,000 (two months for 24th million)

   Two months and just over a week, if you want to split hairs. I’m very pleasantly surprised at the increase, and thank all our readers for visiting and using the site.
   I also want to thank Nigel Dunn, Peter Jobes and Keith Adams for their contributions over the years. Now to make sure it stays interesting for me as well as readers—SUVs are just not that fun when they form the majority of new releases!


Filed under: cars, internet, media, publishing—Jack Yan @ 21.17


You can remove and turn off your off-Facebook activity

I chanced upon a mention of off-Facebook activity on this page, and here’s a good page explaining what it is. (That first link has a lot of advice on what you can do to improve your privacy if you have Facebook, much of which I’ve mentioned over the years. But it’s very handy to have it all in one place.)
   Apparently, you can now edit your off-Facebook activity—of course it’s something they don’t advertise.
   If you head to www.facebook.com/off_facebook_activity you’ll see all the organizations that have sent your online interactions with them to Facebook. In my case, there were 265 who had sent them activity since the beginning of 2020. Good news: you can delete everything in there (bearing in mind this could break things that you have plugged in via Facebook), and turn off future activity.

   I am very glad to note that Lucire has never sent information to Facebook.


Filed under: business, internet, marketing, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 12.15

13.06.2021

Why does my landline phone dial by itself?

As sent to Vodafone New Zealand today. Anyone know what might be going on?

Hi there:

Not really a complaint but since you don’t give any options other than compliment and complaint, the latter will have to do!
   Since moving to Tawa, my landline phone has been calling numbers that no one has called. It does this by itself, usually around 3 p.m. each day.
   I enquired with Vodafone on Twitter about this but we never found a resolution, and Custhelp doesn’t appear to exist any more on your website. As to Tobi, the sooner that vanishes, the better!
   As you read on you’ll see why it’s not really easy to explain on either Twitter or on the phone, and Tobi has no option for landlines at all.
   I suspected there was something wrong with the landline set-up here that causes the phone to dial by itself.
   We don’t exactly have a high-tech landline phone. These are basic Vtech units from Warehouse Stationery. I have never entered any “programming” into them, nor do I know how. Even the outgoing answerphone message is what it came with.
   These are the same phones we had at my old place in Rongotai where they most certainly did not dial by themselves every day at 3 p.m. We moved, I unplugged them, and plugged them into the house here.
   It’s been going on for most of the two years we have been here, if I recall correctly.
   Today we had a power outage, so instead of 3 p.m., the phone kept calling well into the evening after the power returned.
   I went into My Vodafone’s landline section for the first time. If you go in there, you’ll see the phone kept dialling 04 569 3555 and 04 569 3566 very, very regularly. Since 3.07 p.m. and now (11.18 p.m.) it has made 130 of these calls.
   On occasion, I catch the phone doing this and stay on the line. When it connects, it sounds like a fax machine on the other end. My phone then enters some sort of identity code. No human has ever answered these calls.
   It will sometimes do this while I am on the phone to someone else, which is very distracting.
   Today, I filmed a video on my cellphone to prove that the phone does this by itself with no human agency. You can watch this at:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CQDd45HAkkJ/

   Please note that no one at this house is making these calls and the phone is doing it by itself.
   I would like to know why this is happening, how a phone even knows how to do this, and just who is behind this.
   Thank goodness these are local calls that do not bear a charge but this smells of a scam to me.

   Here’s an embed of that Instagram video:

#F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;">
#F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;">
#F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;">
View this post on Instagram
#F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);">
#F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;">
#F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);">
#F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;">
#f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)">
#F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);">
#F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);">
#F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);">
#F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;">
#F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;">

A post shared by Jack Yan 甄爵恩 (@jack.yan)

   Hopefully from the above they’ll be able to see that the phone is not even sophisticated enough to be programmed to do this. Yet the frequency of the calls (130 today alone) suggests they are automated. I haven’t found anything online about this. This link is the closest I’ve found to my experience, but Vodafone so far does not know.

On a related note, after I published this post, Wordpress created an extra tag that I never fed in, called F4F4F4. Why does it do this?

PS.: This seems extremely plausible, from a friendly Tweeter.

Based on what I was told:

   Who knows? Maybe it is all connected properly. I’ve sent a note to the folks who installed the security system here.

P.PS.: From the security company: ‘If your phone was calling these numbers, it would not be related to the alarm.
   ‘These numbers are not recorded anywhere on the alarm.’


Filed under: New Zealand, technology, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 11.48

11.06.2021

Fixing Wordpress’s problem of fake bolds and italics

I haven’t been able to find anything on this bug online, but it’s very common.
   As far as I can recall, all of our online publications that use Wordpress have themes designed or modified by yours truly. However, Lucire Rouge has a mostly bought-in theme, where my changes have been limited to a couple of CSS rules. The theme developer actually came in and helped us with a few modifications, which shows the extent to which he does follow-up for paying customers.
   But there was one thing he was never able to crack, and I don’t think it’s his fault, since it happens on a lot of websites, including Medinge Group’s (also a theme I did not design, though I did earlier ones). On both these sites, there were no bolds and italics. There still aren’t on Medinge’s.
   There are <strong> and <em> codes in there, but the bolding and obliquing are done by the browser. The font files actually aren’t loaded, so what we see are false bolds (the browser attempts to “overprint” the roman, duplicating the outline and shifting it marginally to give the illusion of a heavier typeface) and obliques, not italics (it’s the roman file pushed over 15 degrees or so). The former is particularly bad, as the outlines clash, and the result can be hollow glyphs, something that any font developer will know when one outline winds up accidentally on top of another in Fontographer or Fontlab.
   These Wordpress themes rely on Google Fonts (another sin, in my opinion) so I don’t know if the fault lies with Google or Wordpress, or the developer. If Wordpress does indeed power 70 per cent of websites, then I have to say the bug is awfully common, and I probably do see it on a very high percentage of visited sites.
   The themes allow us to select the font family, but the selection only calls a single font file from the family.


Above: A graphic clipping text from Lucire Rouge that I sent to the developer.

   The solution, as I discovered after months of toing and froing with Lucire Rouge’s theme dev, was to do your own font-linking rules in the CSS file and upload the fonts themselves to the relevant directory on the server. I must note publicly the ‘months’ were not his fault, but due to my own delay. I should not expect computer programmers to be typographers, either.
   It is something that one needs to watch out for, as the fake bolds and italics are horrible to look at, and must look amateur, even to the non-professional.



Above: Fixed at last by yours truly.


Filed under: design, internet, media, publishing, technology—Jack Yan @ 12.38


Facebook allows ad preference editing again

I was surprised to find that I could access my Facebook advertising preferences again, after the section stopped working in January 2019. What was there was still way off, in June 2021, but it’s nice to be able to edit (read delete) them again after two-and-a-half years. Things move slowly in Menlo Park when it comes to user privacy. Frankly, they shouldn’t even be collecting preferences after you’ve opted out of preference-targeting—not even Google is stupid enough to do that (possibly as they have other nefarious means).

I was chatting to one friend who is as principled as me when it comes to Facebook bots. She screen-grabbed one who tried to send her a friend request, and we got chatting about the thousands-strong bot nets I’ve encountered.
   She noted there was some fan fiction connected to one of the surnames, and I was able to find the Filipino TV series Halik. So are these accounts, accused by me of being bots, simply role-playing ones?
   The reason I even know about them is that they attempt to join a group I oversee, usually with bot software that incorrectly answered the questions we had put up to weed out the fake accounts. (As I noted recently, Facebook has got rid of these, allowing bots to come in to every public group.) Why do they do this? They come in, hoping to hide among groups (and they also become page fans), to make themselves look legitimate. What happens instead is that we report them, and watch as Facebook does nothing about them, telling us that these automated scripts are allowed, and never mind the damage they do to pages wanting to reach their members. You’ll just have to pay more and more and more to boost the posts to reach the people you once reached for free.
   Secondly, it’s concerning that accounts marked as newly started ones on Facebook already have hundreds, if not thousands, of friends within days. These just aren’t normal patterns. They also talk to each other like nonsensical bots, responding with the same emojis or words.
   On both these counts, the fact the accounts have names from a Pinoy TV series has little bearing. Facebook doesn’t care either way.


Filed under: business, internet, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 10.58


Dear Gmail user: your industry has worn me down

After three messages I decided I would answer one of those Gmail users asking about advertorial. And from now on I’m just going to copy and paste this to anyone else asking, ‘Why won’t you answer me?’

Dear [redacted]:

Sorry, this is why I haven’t answered you (and this is not because of you, but everyone else who has been enquiring about the same thing for years):

http://jackyan.com/blog/2021/06/time-to-stop-entertaining-advertorial-enquiries-from-gmail/

   Almost every time I answer one of these emails it leads nowhere, and I’ve answered hundreds over the last few years. What many of them have in common is Gmail. So to save time and energy I’m no longer entertaining link and advertorial requests coming from Gmail.
   Even if it were one in twelve I’d be borderline OK (the ratio I had doing phone sales during a recession) but one in hundreds is just not worth it. Your industry has worn me and my colleagues down.

Sincerely,

Jack

   I really don’t know why, in the 2020s, anyone would use Gmail, given its rather massive problem of allowing more than one person to use an email address. But I guess if you use Google, you’re not too concerned about privacy, with the endless stories on this topic out there. It shouldn’t then matter if someone else with a similar address can read your emails.


Filed under: business, internet, marketing—Jack Yan @ 06.07

07.06.2021

Finished replying to my 2005 and 2006 emails

I’m not exactly proud of this, but last month I finished replying to all my emails from 2005.
   That year I was stuck in Auckland for an extra day due to the airport there being fogged in. I said to another traveller, ‘Well, I won’t catch up on emails now till the end of the year.’ He looked at me as though I was kidding. Except I was being unduly optimistic since it took 16 years to finish replying to everyone.
   Today I replied to the last one from 2006, and fortunately, the AOL address appears to be current.
   I feel like I’m Ringo Starr in that early Simpsons episode who insisted on replying to all his Beatles fan mail personally, even though it was now the 1990s.
   I never had the quantity he had, but the pattern wasn’t particularly healthy: new emails would come in, I’d have to reply to those, and non-urgent ones got pushed up the inbox.
   These old emails were actually very nice and courteous ones, so they weren’t of subjects or by writers whom I was trying to avoid.
   The writer of the first one had since retired but I still tracked him down to apologize, as I have done with the second who, as far as I can tell, remains active.
   I felt that at the least they deserved the courtesy of a reply, even if my timing was lousy.
   Why am I blogging about this? Probably to tell others not to follow my example. And to get off social media, which I’m sure eventually played a part in further delays. Why poke about on some tiny phone keyboard when you can structure your day better with a desktop machine and type more efficiently?
   I have some fond memories of dial-up and not being constantly connected because you planned the emails you needed to send out. Your imagination could be fuelled by your offline time. We have to make the decision to get offline and take responsibility for how we spend our time. I suspect that is what I am rediscovering these days, including reading paper books more than I used to. I’m sure there’s a resurgence of printed matter lying in wait as people tire of the division and mindlessness of some of the most popular websites on our planet right now. And it’ll be the trendy young people, those who see from our example what a waste of time these sites are, who’ll drive it.


Filed under: business, culture, internet, technology—Jack Yan @ 02.12

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