Jack Yan
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The Persuader

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



18.02.2021

Reduced Facebook? Australia is the lucky country

Whichever side you are on with Facebook imposing a ban on Australians sharing news content, this says it all about the level of intelligence over at Menlo Park.

   In Australia, Facebook has not only de-platformed legitimate governmental bodies and non-profits, it has de-platformed itself.
   Maybe taxing these companies would have been easier, and the proposed legislation isn’t perfect, but I think most people see through Facebook’s rather pathetic tactics.
   It’s crying foul, saying it would have invested in local media in Australia, but won’t any more. But since Facebook lies about everything, I’ve no reason to believe they ever would have helped media organizations anywhere.
   And notice how quickly it was able to shut off pages, and remove an entire country’s ability to share news—yet it still struggles with removing fake content about COVID-19, extremist content and groups, bots, videos of massacres, and incitement of genocide and insurrection. It has struggled for years.
   We all know that Facebook can do as it wishes with a singular eye on its bottom line. It doesn’t want to pay Australian publishers, so it quickly acts to shut off what Australians can do. But fake content and all the rest—that makes them money, so it doesn’t act at all, other than issuing some empty PR statements.
   We all see through it, and this is probably the best thing it could have done. If people spend less time on its stress-inducing platforms, they will be healthier. And returning Facebook to what it was around 2008 when we shared what we were doing, not what the newsmedia were reporting, is really a plus.
   It’s a splendid own goal that benefits Australians, who will ingeniously find solutions pretty quickly, whether it’s telling their friends about articles via email (which is what I used to do pre-social media), finding alternative services, or, not that I advocate this, resorting to outright piracy by pasting the entire article as a Facebook status update. No news in your feed? There are services for that, like going straight to the sources, or using a news aggregator (if you don’t like Google News, the Murdoch Press actually has one in beta, called Knewz. Who would have guessed that the only organization that stepped up to my half-decade-old demand for a Google News rival would be Murdochs?).
   I doubt New Zealand will have the courage to follow suit, even though last year I wrote to the Minister of Communications to ask him to consider it.

PS.: Removing all Australian media is easy, but removing anti-vaccine pages is hard.


Filed under: business, internet, media, politics, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 11.31

16.02.2021

Brand, sub-brand or model? China’s getting into a confusing phase


The Dongfeng Aeolus AX7. But just where does Aeolus sit when it comes to indexing in Autocade?

This is something that might have to come out in the wash, and it might take years.
   I think we can all agree that Ssangyong is a marque or a make, and Korando is a model. Never mind that there’s currently a basic Korando, the Korando Sports (a pick-up truck) and a Korando Turismo (a people mover), none of which really have much connection with the other, name aside. We are as comfortable with this as we once were with the Chevrolet Lumina and Lumina APV, the Ford Taurus and Taurus X, and the Toyota Mark X and Mark X Zio. So far so good.
   But when do these drift into being sub-brands? BMW calls i a sub-brand, but as far as cataloguing in Autocade goes, it doesn’t matter, as the model names are i3 or i8 (or a number of ix models now coming out). Audi’s E-Tron is its parallel at Ingolstadt, and here we do have a problem, with a number of E-Tron models unrelated technically. It’s not like Quattro, where there was the (ur-) Quattro, then Quattro as a designation, and everyone accepted that.
   Similarly, the Chinese situation can be far from clear.
   Many years ago, GAC launched a single model based on the Alfa Romeo 166 called the Trumpchi. So far so good: we have a marque and model. But it then decided to launch a whole bunch of other cars also called Trumpchi (the original became the Trumpchi GA5, to distinguish it from at least eight others). Some sources say Trumpchi is a sub-brand, others a brand in its own right, but we continue to reference it as a model, since the cars have a GAC logo on the grille, just as the GAC Aion EVs have a GAC logo on the grille. (The latter is also not helped with Chinese indices tending to separate out EVs into ‘New Energy Vehicle’ listings, even when their manufacturers don’t.)
   I feel that we only need to make the shift into calling a previous model or sub-brand a brand when it’s obvious on the cars themselves. That’s the case with Haval, when it was very clear when it departed from Changcheng (Great Wall). Senia is another marque that spun off from FAW: it began life with the FAW symbol on the grille, before Senia’s own script appeared on the cars.
   The one that confounds me is Dongfeng Aeolus, which was make-and-model for a long time, but recently Aeolus has displaced the Dongfeng whirlwind on the grille of several models. We have them currently listed in Autocade with Dongfeng Aeolus as a new marque, since there’s still a small badge resembling the whirlwind on the bonnet. The Dongfeng Aeolus AX7 retains the whirlwind, but has the Aeolus letters prominently across the back, but to muddle it up, the AX7 Pro has the new Aeolus script up front. These can’t be two different marques but the visual cues say they are.
   Maybe we’ll just have to relegate Aeolus back to model status, and do what Ssangyong does with the Korando (or Changcheng with the Tengyi). These are the things that make life interesting, but also a little confusing when it comes to indexing an encyclopædia.


Filed under: cars, China, internet, publishing, USA—Jack Yan @ 11.28


COVID-19 infections as a percentage of tests done, February 16

It brings me very little pleasure to do these calculations. After reading Umair Haque’s January 24 piece on the UK’s poor response to COVID-19—at the time the country had, by his reckoning, the highest death toll per capita in the world—I decided to feed in the numbers again, as of 9 a.m. GMT today. Here are the percentages of positive cases out of total tests done, based on the official figures. I know it’s not scientific, but it gives me a rough idea of who’s doing worse and who’s doing better, relative to the last set (December 7, 2020), and, I hate to say it, the slap-dash response by some countries is prolonging our pain as a planet.

Brazil 34·50% ↑
Sweden 10·66% ↑
USA 8·42% ↑
Spain 8·27% ↑
Italy 7·51% ↑
France 7·08% ↓
Germany 5·62% ↑
India 5·27% ↓
UK 4·90% ↑
Russia 3·82% ↑
KSA 2·88% ↓
South Korea 1·36% ↑
Singapore 0·88% ↓
Taiwan 0·56% ↓
Australia 0·21% ↓
Hong Kong 0·152% ↓
New Zealand 0·146% ↓

   He also notes that the UK was going to delay people getting their second vaccination shots. I hope the country has since changed its tune, but looking at the likes of Johnson and Hancock, who helped to gift the world the British mutation, I doubt they have the nous. Even my fifth form science will tell me this (original emphases):

Because science says so. Animal models already tell us that if the second dose isn’t had within about a month, the immune cascade vaccines trigger fails to happen. Immunity doesn’t result. Antibodies aren’t developed …
   What’s the upshot likely to be for Britain? The entire country’s vaccination program is likely to fail. There are going to be a whole lot of people who get one dose, but not the second in time, and most of those people will not develop immunity. Do you know what happens when you cross a halfway vaccinated population with a fast evolving virus? That’s right, vaccine resistance. Britain already made itself a perfect petri dish for new strains of Covid — but what Britain’s doing right now is making it the perfect petri dish for deadlier, more infectious, and much, much more vaccine resistant strains of the virus.

   I have dear friends there, at least one who is immuno-compromised, and this is, to put it bluntly, a shitshow. I’m glad their daily infection numbers have now fallen under 10,000, but all this needn’t have happened.


Filed under: general, politics, UK—Jack Yan @ 09.19

14.02.2021

The colourless world

This is a development proposed for my old street in Rongotai. Since I’ve moved away I haven’t a say in what happens there. I can only make some general remarks. And this post is not written from the Luddite position.
   It’s the price of progress that as cities grow, we need more housing, and if it means bowling for old bungalows from the first decades of the 20th century in favour of 14 townhouses, then that is the reality we must face, no matter our feelings of nostalgia. What a shame the green space will be reduced dramatically.
   But why, oh why, must there be another development devoid of colour with a planned uniformity that smacks of communism? Don’t people deserve to live in colour and in dwellings that have some imagination and individuality from their neighbours’? Come to think of it, people deserve to have cars in shades beyond black, white and grey, but I’m not sure if all dealers have that memorandum.
   I also hope these aren’t airtight mould-traps that harm their future residents.
   The obvious bright side is more people will have homes in a pretty handy part of Wellington. Another bright side I see here is that with the increase of dwellings on the street from 14 to 24, there might be more neighbourhood children enjoying living in a cul-de-sac.
   It’ll be a shock when these developers discover there are more paint colours available than the ones they have chosen. And when certain architects discover there are multiple ways to skin a cat. They might also get a shock to find that bread can come pre-sliced these days. Vive la révolution!


Filed under: design, New Zealand, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 10.48

12.02.2021

More TV Dregs, please

I was looking through the old JY&A links’ section, which dates back to the beginning of the site in the 1990s (indeed, back to Windows 3·1, as we couldn’t use a file name with more than three letters in the suffix). The last revamp of its look was over 15 years ago, judging by its appearance, and, although I attempted to update it to the current template, I decided the result was duller. It’s not an area where too many images were used, and the old look was probably more representative of what it is: a relic of the original dot-com era. As I explain on the introductory page (which has been facelifted), one reason for keeping it is to honour link exchanges that I made with other webmasters at the time, but I doubt it’s examined particularly often. The main text column is wide on a modern screen, but it would have looked fine at 1,024 by 768 pixels 15 years ago.
   One site that I linked, at its last update (which was probably around 2003 or 2004), was the humorous TV Dregs, which is written in a documentary style, about the lesser known TV shows that aired in the UK. The catch: every entry is fictional. It got me thinking about what it could have had if it were updated, and while I’ve done these jokes before (the Game of Thrones one I have cracked ad nauseam on social media), this was an attempt to write the entries in a TV Dregs style. They’re not as good as theirs but then I’m not a professional humorist. I might have to send them a note to let them know that 18 years after their founding, they’re still getting visits from me and eliciting some laughs.

Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011)
With Changing Rooms, Restoration Home, DIY SOS, and Love Your Garden each dealing with different aspects of home renovation, HBO responded with Game of Thrones, where seven teams competed to fix toilets, to win the coveted prize of the Iron Throne. Hosted by Channel 4’s Jon Snow, it featured celebrity appearances, notably from Sean Bean in the first series. Given the locations, participants often got wet and the show became known more for the nudity as clothes had to be dried; but the ideas in the show got particularly extreme with on-set weddings, and in series 4, poisoned wine, to force players to finish their toilets in record time so they could relieve themselves. Host Snow even appeared to have died on the show, though fans knew he was all right since he appeared on Channel 4 News the next day.

The Master (BBC, 2006)
With Doctor Who revived, the BBC were keen to capitalize on its success with a spin-off centring around its recurring villain, the Master, this time played by John Simm. Who alumna Billie Piper kicked off the series with the unforgettable voiceover, ‘My name is Rose Tyler. I had an accident and woke up in 1973.’ Set in the 1970s, with the Third Doctor exiled to Earth while the Master ran rampant with his weekly schemes, it was highly acclaimed, though certain fans were up in arms with the regeneration scene at the end of series two, when the Master turns into a woman (Keeley Hawes). The show was eventually merged back into Doctor Who, placating fans who were glad that the Doctor would not suddenly change gender.


The Master even dons the Ninth Doctor’s jacket

Colombo (ITV, 2003)
With the cancellation of Columbo in the US, after a final episode with Billy Connolly, producers were keen to continue the concept but, with interest in foreign-location police dramas (Wallander, Zen), it was retooled from the US setting to one in Sri Lanka, guaranteeing support from Asian diaspora. Still starring Peter Falk in a humorous fish-out-of-water tale, the gamble didn’t really work, since, as was pointed out at the time, only the supporting characters were played by Asians while the star remained white. It was also very predictable as Patrick McGoohan played the villain, albeit with different disguises, each week.

The Unger Games (ITV, 2012)
This remake of The Odd Couple takes place in a dystopian future, with Donald Sutherland as Oscar and Stanley Tucci as Felix, taking over the lead roles. Look out for a young Jennifer Lawrence as police cadet Marie Greshler, in the role that propelled her to fame. The principal change each week from the Neil Simon original was that Oscar was always finding ways to kill Felix, albeit unsuccessfully, though the shocking and dark finalé sees now-Officer Greshler plan to kill Felix, but turns on Oscar instead. A grim ending to an otherwise humorous sitcom.


Filed under: culture, humour, TV, UK, USA—Jack Yan @ 23.14

11.02.2021

How is your ad network different from this?

No point beating around the bush when it comes to yet another advertising network knocking on our door. This was a quick reply I just fired off, and I might as well put it on this blog so there’s another place I can copy it from, since I’m likely to call on it again and again. I’m sure we can’t be alone in online publishing to feel this way.
   The original reply named the firms parenthetically in the last two scenarios but I’ve opted not to do that here. I have blogged about it, so a little hunt here will reveal who I’m talking about.

Thank you for reaching out and while I’ve no doubt you’re at a great company, we have a real problem adding any new ad network. The following pattern has played out over and over again in the last 25-plus years we have been online.

  • We add a network, so far so good.
  • The more networks we use, with their payment thresholds, the longer it takes for any one of them to reach the total, and the longer we wait for any money to come.
  • Add this to the fact we could get away with charging $75 CPM 25 years ago and only fractions of cents today, the thresholds take longer still to reach.

   Other things usually happen as well:

  • We’re promised a high fill rate, even 100 per cent, and the reality is actually closer to 0 per cent and all we see are “filler” ads—if anything at all. Some just run blank units.
  • We wait so long for those thresholds to be reached that some of the networks actually close down in the interim and we never see our money!
  • In some cases, the networks change their own policies during the relationship and we get kicked off!

   I think the problems behind all of this can be traced to Google, which has monopolized the space. It probably doesn’t help that we refuse to sign anything from Google as we have no desire to add to the coffers of a company that doesn’t pay its fair share of tax. Every email from Google Ad Manager is now rejected at server level.
   If somehow [your firm] is different, I’d love to hear about you. The last two networks we added in 2019 and 2020, who assured us the pattern above would not play out, have again followed exactly the above scenario. We gave up on the one we added in 2019 and took them out of our rotation.
   Hoping for good news in response.


Filed under: business, internet, media, publishing—Jack Yan @ 13.09


Facebook fooled us into thinking we were being creative

My friend Keith has been away from Facebook for six weeks, for work reasons, and hasn’t missed it. And he asked, ‘Was it all really a waste of time?’
   I know you think you know what I’m going to say, but the answer might surprise you a little.
   Fundamentally, it’s yes (this is how you know this blog has not been hijacked), but Keith’s question brought home to me, as well as other work I’ve done this week, the biggest con of Facebook for the creative person.
   It’s not the fact the advertising results are not independently checked, or that there’s evidence that Facebook itself uses bots to boost likes to a page. The con was, certainly when I was a heavy user around the time Timeline was introduced, making us feel like we were doing something creative, satiating that part of our brain, when in fact we were making Zuckerberg rich.
   How we would curate our lives! Show the best side of ourselves! Choose those big pictures to be two-column-wide Timeline posts! We looked at these screens like canvases to be manipulated and we enjoyed what they showed us.
   Before Facebook became ‘the new Digg’ (as I have called it), and a site for misinformation, we were still keeping in touch with friends and having fun, and it seemed to be the cool thing to do as business went quiet in the wake of the GFC.
   And I was conned. I was conned into thinking I was enjoying the photography and writing and editing—at least till I realized that importing my RSS feeds into Facebook gave people zero incentive to come to my sites.
   This week, with redoing a few more pages on our websites, especially ones that dated back many years, I was reminded how that sort of creative endeavour gave me a buzz, and why many parts of our company websites used to look pretty flash.
   The new look to some pages—the photo gallery was the most recent one to go under the knife—is slightly more generic (which is the blunt way to say contemporary), but the old one had dated tremendously and just wasn’t a pleasure to scroll down.
   And while it still uses old-fashioned HTML tables (carried over from the old) it was enjoyable to do the design work.
   There’s still more to do as the current look is rolled out to more pages.
   Maybe it took me a while to realize this, and others had already got there, but most of my time had been spent doing our print magazines lately. But designing web stuff was always fun, and I’m glad I got to find that buzz again, thanks to Amanda’s nudge and concepts for jya.co, the JY&A Consulting site. Forget the attention economy, because charity begins at the home page.



Photo galleries, old and new. The top layout is more creative design-wise than the lower one, but sadly the browsing experience felt dated.


Filed under: design, internet, technology—Jack Yan @ 02.48

08.02.2021

When fashion magazine websites begin looking the same


Above: Vogue Korea’s website follows the æsthetic of a big lead image and smaller subsidiary ones.

This started as a blog entry but took a tangent about 500 words in, and it was better as an op–ed in Lucire. Some of the themes will be familiar to regular readers, especially about Big Tech, but here I discuss its influence on web design trends and standardization. The headline says it all: ‘Where have the fun fashion magazine websites gone?’. Browsing in the 1990s was fun, discovering how people coded to overcome the limitations of the medium, and, in my case, bringing in lessons from print that worked. Maybe it’s an age thing, or the fact I don’t surf as much for leisure, but in 2021 the sites I come across tend to look the same, especially the ones that were in Lucire’s ‘Newsstand’ section.
   I do know of great sites—my friend and colleague Charlie Ward has his one, which does everything you would expect from a great designer’s web presence. So many others look like they’ve bought a template. As to those of us in magazines—I’d love to see something that really inspired me again.


Filed under: design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 11.09


February 2021 gallery

Finally, let’s begin the February 2021 gallery!

 
   All galleries can be seen through the ‘Gallery’ link in the header, or click here (especially if you’re on a mobile device). I append to this entry through the month.

Sources
Katharina Mazepa for Guess, more information here.
   Financial Times clipping from Twitter.
   Year of the Ox wallpaper from Meizu.
   American English cartoon via Twitter.
   Doctor Who–Life on Mars cartoon, from Pinterest.
   Dr Ashley Bloomfield briefing with closed captioning, found on Twitter.
   South African version of the Opel Commodore C: more at Autocade.
   Chrysler–Simca 1307 and 1308 illustrations: more on the car at Autocade.


Filed under: cars, China, Gallery, humour, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, technology, TV, UK, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 00.08

05.02.2021

Branding ourselves in the 2020s: a revamp for JY&A Consulting’s website, jya.co

Last night, I uploaded a revised website for JY&A Consulting (jya.co), which I wrote and coded. Amanda came up with a lot of the good ideas for it—it was important to get her feedback precisely because she isn’t in the industry, and I could then include people who might be looking to start a new venture while working from home among potential clients.
   Publishing and fonts aside, it was branding that I’m formally trained in, other than law, and since we started, I’ve worked with a number of wonderful colleagues from around the world as my “A team” in this sector. When I started redoing the site, and getting a few logos for the home page, I remembered a few of the old clients whose brands I had worked on. There are a select few, too, that I’m never allowed to mention, or even hint at. C’est la vie.
   There are still areas to play with (such as mobile optimization)—no new website is a fait accompli on day one—and things I need to check with colleagues, but by and large what appears there is the look I want for 2021. And here’s the most compelling reason for doing the update: the old site dated from 2012.
   It was just one of those things: if work’s ticking along, then do you need to redo the site? But as we started a new decade, the old site looked like a relic. Twenty twelve was a long time ago: it was the year we were worried that the Mayans were right and their calendar ran out (the biggest doomsday prediction since Y2K?); that some Americans thought that Mitt Romney would be too right-wing for their country as he went up against Barack Obama—who said same-sex marriage should be legal that year—in their presidential election; and Prince Harry, the party animal version, was stripping in Las Vegas.
   It was designed when we still didn’t want to scroll down a web page, when cellphones weren’t the main tool to browse web pages with, and we filled it up with smart information, because we figured the people who’d hire us wanted as much depth as we could reasonably show off on a site. We even had a Javascript slider animation on the home page, images fading into others, showing the work we had done.
   Times have changed. A lot of what we can offer, we could express more succinctly. People seem to want greater simplicity on websites. We can have taller pages because scrolling is normal. As a trend, websites seem to have bigger type to accommodate browsing on smaller devices (having said that, every time we look at doing mobile versions of sites, as we did in the early 2000s, new technology came along to render them obsolete)—all while print magazines seem to have shrunk their body type! And we may as well show off, like so many others, that we’ve appeared in The New York Times and CNN—places where I’ve been quoted as a brand guy and not the publisher of Lucire.
   But, most importantly, we took a market orientation to the website: it wasn’t developed to show off what we thought was important, but what a customer might think is important.
   The old headings—‘Humanistic branding and CSR’, ‘Branding and the law’ (the pages are still there, but unlinked from the main site)—might show why we’re different, but they’re not necessarily the reasons people might come to hire us. They still can—but we do heaps of other stuff, too.
   I might love that photo of me with the Medinge Group at la Sorbonne–CELSA, but I’m betting the majority of customers will ask, ‘Who cares?’ or ‘How does this impact on my work?’
   As consumer requirements change, I’m sure we’ll have pages from today that seem irrelevant, in which case we’ll have to get on to changing them as soon as possible, rather than wait nine years.
   Looking back over the years, the brand consulting site has had quite a few iterations on the web. While I still have all these files offline, it was quicker to look at the Internet Archive, discovering an early incarnation in 1997 that was, looking back now, lacking. But some of our lessons in print were adopted—people once thought our ability to bring in a print æsthetic was one of our skills—and that helped it look reasonably smart in a late 1990s context, especially with some of the limited software we had.

   The next version of the site is from the early 2000s, and at this point, the website’s design was based around our offline collateral, including our customer report documents, which used big blocks of colour. The Archive.org example I took was from 2003, but the look may have débuted in 2001. Note that the screen wouldn’t have been as wide as a modern computer’s, so the text wouldn’t have been in columns as wide as the ones in the illustration. Browsers also had margins built in.

   We really did keep this till 2012, with updates to the news items, as far as I can make out—it looks like 2021 wasn’t the first time I left things untouched for so long. But it got us work. In 2012, I thought I was so smart doing the table in the top menu, and you didn’t need to scroll. And this incarnation probably got us less work.

   There’s still a lot of satisfaction knowing that you’ve coded your own site, and not relied on Wordpress or Wix. Being your own client has its advantages in terms of evolving the site and figuring out where everything goes. It’s not perfect but there’s little errant code here; everything’s used to get that page appearing on the site, and hopefully you all enjoy the browsing experience. At least it’s no longer stuck in the early 2010s and hopefully makes it clearer about what we do. Your feedback, especially around the suitability of our offerings, is very welcome.


Filed under: business, design, internet, marketing, New Zealand, technology, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 00.19

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