Archive for January 2010


A tribute to those special Ks

10.01.2010

I believe we have all the basic Chrysler K-cars of the early 1980s on Autocade as of today.
   Older readers might remember that at the dawn of the 1980s, Chrysler was in terrible shape and needed loan guarantees—as opposed to a bailout—from the US Government. With Chairman Lee Iacocca at the helm, the company downsized, switched to fuel-efficient front-wheel-drive cars, and improved its quality. Chrysler’s range, by 1985, was probably more international than GM North America’s—in that models like the minivan and the LeBaron GTS could have found customers outside the continent. (GM could never have sold the Chevrolet Celebrity to European buyers, for example.) Chrysler also paid back its loan early.
   These K-cars, which look boxy today, but which looked fresh and modern to US consumers in the early 1980s, were the backbone of Chrysler’s comeback. The minivan was based off a modified K platform, as was most of Chrysler’s offerings that decade (with the exception of the M-body intermediates, now marketed as full-size cars).
   As a tribute to Chrysler of old, here are the Ks.
 

Image:1982_Dodge_Aries.jpg

Dodge Aries (K-car). 1981–9 (prod. 999,999). 2- and 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/F, 2213, 2507, 2555 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC). Much-vaunted K-car, credited with saving Chrysler from bankruptcy along with Plymouth Reliant twin. Efficient, roomy car with claimed room for six adults, though compact dimensions outside. Facelift in 1985. Four-door sedan only for final model year, 1989.
 

Image:1981_Plymouth_Reliant.jpg

Plymouth Reliant (K-car). 1981–9 (prod. 1,120,000 approx.). 2- and 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/F, 2213, 2507, 2555 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC). Plymouth edition of much-vaunted K-car, credited with saving Chrysler along with Dodge Aries twin. Reliant name meant to signal better quality than outgoing Plymouth Volaré, and it was an improvement. Competent, roomy and functional; sold on value for money. Mid-term facelift for 1985 model year.
 

Image:1983_Dodge_400_Convertible.jpg

Dodge 400 (K-car). 1982–3 (prod. 57,401). 2-door sedan, 2-door convertible. F/F, 2213, 2555 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC). Upscale version of Dodge Aries, fitting between that model and Chrysler’s LeBaron. Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca believed that there was a market for factory convertibles, and introduced the corporation’s first since the 1971 Challenger. The bet proved successful. Otherwise, the 400 was fairly close to Aries, with the 2·2-litre engine by Chrysler and a larger unit by Mitsubishi. Range absorbed into the Dodge 600 range.
 

Image:1982_Chrysler_LeBaron.jpg

Chrysler LeBaron (K-car). 1982–8 (prod. 1,105 Town and Country convertible only). 2- and 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon, 2-door convertible, 4-door LWB sedan, 4-door LWB limousine. F/F, 2213, 2507, 2555 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC). Upscale version of K-car, with first American factory convertible since 1976 Cadillac Eldorado débuting for 1982 as part of its range. More formal appearance, vinyl roof on sedans, different grille and more chrome compared with other Ks. Only K with a turbocharged variant of the 2·2 available, which produced more horsepower than the V8 in the earlier LeBaron. Wagon, called Town and Country, available, with simulated wood panelling on sides; Town and Country convertible made from 1983 to 1986. Stretched Ks from 1983, with five-passenger Executive Sedan riding on 124 in wheelbase and seven-passenger Executive Limousine on 131 in. Refreshed for 1986 model year; two-door and convertible dropped for 1987. Sedan and wagon continued through 1988.

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Posted in cars, design, interests, USA | 2 Comments »


And it’s back again

10.01.2010

When the Social Media Consortium disappeared again, we panicked and alerted Rick Klau at Google. Once again, Rick was as good as his word and found out there had been an accidental deletion.
   What impresses me about him—as if I wasn’t already impressed—is his quick action. He must have other matters to deal with, yet he responds within minutes and actions things soon after.
   Initially, the newly restored blog was not appearing in the Dashboard, but that has now been remedied.
   Once again: thank you, Rick.

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Posted in business, internet | No Comments »


This blog is ranked 38th for &#133 cars!

09.01.2010

Technorati rankings

Technorati rankings

I was pretty stoked to find that this blog ranked so highly in Technorati on the subject of cars, considering it’s not a core focus, even if it is a passion of mine.
   I was visiting the site in order to update the Medinge press room URL, which shifted late last year when we moved away from Blogger (the usual story). Turns out you can’t update a URL—you have to claim a new blog.
   To all those who helped me get such a high ranking, thank you.

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Posted in cars, interests, internet | No Comments »


That was quick: Social Media Consortium disappears again

09.01.2010

Well, readers, the Social Media Consortium blog (the one that came back a few days ago) has disappeared again.
   Rick Klau, please help … (An email has been written to Mr Klau. Hopefully, he’s at work this weekend or is checking his messages.)

PS.: Less than five minutes later, Rick replied, and is looking into it.—JY

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Posted in internet, technology | 2 Comments »


Getting a good laugh over the Jennifer Hawkins nude cover non-story

09.01.2010

This whole Jennifer Hawkins nude cover story has been another media-concocted non-story. But I will give it some kudos: it influenced Australian celebrity dialogue for a week, and it shows that Murdochs still have some sway over public opinion.
   We knew about it at Lucire, and thought: OK, a radio presenter doesn’t like the cover and got quoted in an Australian newspaper supplement. It’s a fair opinion, had it been for body image, and thought that was it. Let’s wait to hear from the other side.
   The story, however, ran and ran, in various media outlets in Australia, reporting only the one side.
   It was only on the 7th that a holidaying Jennifer Hawkins broke her silence and said that the photographs’ real purpose (remember, we were still to hear about this, despite the four days’ speculation being reported as fact) was about promoting a healthy lifestyle.
   It was never about being the poster girl for body image.
   It could have been nice to have done a bit of research over the photos’ purpose.
   Next thing, the sensationalism continued, with another Murdoch Press report over Hawkins being ‘dumped’ from the cover of Australian Woman’s Day.
   If the dumping is true and not another sensationalized story, it seems to show that Woman’s Day is not particularly good at standing their ground, and is easily swayed by what was a “nothing” story. But read on: there is no comment from Woman’s Day to say that Hawkins was actually dumped.
   I wouldn’t be surprised if, in fact, it was just a regular editorial decision than an actual “dumping”.
   Maybe Woman’s Day simply didn’t want to go out with another Jennifer Hawkins cover while Marie Claire Australia had its one.
   It reminds me of an earlier (2007) Australian media gaffe about Miranda Kerr, which was also run as fact in Murdoch Press newspapers, Channel 9 and other media outlets.
   The problem is that they got the location (New York, not Los Angeles), year (2005, not 2007) and fashion label (Heatherette, not Victoria’s Secret) wrong.
   Other than that, I believe they got their facts right.
   Only one Australian media outlet actually got that story right: Sassybella. The internet beat the supposedly superior infrastructure of old media.

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Posted in culture, internet, media | No Comments »


Medinge announces seventh annual Brands with a Conscience awards

08.01.2010

Muna Abu SulaymanThe Medinge Group has announced the 2010 Brands with a Conscience winners, and we’ll be presenting the awards at the end of the month in Paris. The release is below.
   Can you believe we’ve done this for seven years now?
   I was particularly stoked about the awards going to Selco and Muna Abu Sulayman (right), so much so that I ensured news of her Colin Morley Award appeared at Lucire soon after it went up on the Medinge site.

International think-tank announces seventh annual Brands with a Conscience awards

The Medinge Group (www.medinge.org), an international think-tank on branding and business, today releases its seventh annual Brands with a Conscience list. In the Group’s opinion, these diverse organizations show that it is possible for brands to succeed as they contribute to the betterment of society by sustainable, socially responsible and humanistic behaviour.
   In announcing the winners, Stanley Moss, CEO of the Medinge Group said, ‘This year’s awards indicate that principles of compassionate branding are being applied globally, by businesses large and small, across categories from finance to retail to energy, in established and emerging economies, in new markets. Today, brands with conscience can work to build bridges of understanding between nations and societies.’
   Ian Ryder, a founding director of the Medinge Group commented, ‘Winning a BWAC award is more than public recognition—it is a clear statement of your organization’s values, one of the most powerful competitive differentiators in existence!’
   The international collective of brand practitioners meets annually in August at a secluded location outside Stockholm, Sweden, and collaborate on the list, judging nominees on principles of humanity and ethics, rather than financial worth. The Brands with a Conscience list is shaped around criteria including evidence of the human implications of the brand and considering whether the brand takes risks in line with its beliefs. Evaluations are made based on reputation, self-representation, history, direct experience, contacts with individuals within the organizations, media and analysts and an assessment of the expressed values of sustainability.
   Three years ago the group added a unique category commendation, the Colin Morley Award, recognizing exceptional achievement by an individual or NGO. Mr Morley, a member of the Medinge Group, died in the London Underground bombings on July 7, 2005. The award commemorates his visionary work in humanistic branding.
   For 2010, the group has singled out the following organizations as Brands with a Conscience:

Alibaba Group/China
Co-op Bank/UK
Marks & Spencer/UK
Merci/France
Pictet et Cie./Switzerland
SAP/Germany
Selco Solar Pvt. Ltd./India

The Colin Morley Award is given to:

Muna Abu Sulayman/Saudi Arabia

Detailed descriptions and web links follow:

Alibaba Group
www.alibaba.com
A young Asian brand built on the idea that it must exist as an experience to elevate their own or other people’s level of happiness. Jack Ma founded Alibaba in his cramped apartment with 17 colleagues. A decade later, Alibaba Group is the largest ecommerce company in China, with 15,000 employees and more than 100 million users. It also has a B2B unit with a community of more than 42 million registered users from more than 240 countries and regions. This year Alibaba will unveil partnership plans for Grameen China, a project to significantly increase access to micro-credit for poverty alleviation in Sichuan and Inner Mongolia. (Medinge named Grameen Telecom a Brand with a Conscience in 2005, and its parent Grameen Bank was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2008.) Employing the Grameen Bank microcredit model, the group hopes to impact more than 72,000 lives in its first five years.
   Ava Hakim, IBM exec and member of the Medinge Group, remarked that Alibaba is a business ‘built on trust, one which respects intellectual property rights and will remove sites which infringe upon the rights of others.’ She also was impressed by the six core values named, which they have successfully applied to their business.

Co-op Bank
www.co-operativebank.co.uk/servlet/Satellite/1193206375355,CFSweb/Page/Bank
The Co-op, founded in 1872, from its origins has focused on serving local communities. Today the Co-op is the only UK clearing bank to publish an ethical statement. Medinge director Patrick Harris lauded the brand, noting that ‘since 1992 Co-op has been building its ethical stance by asking its membership to vote on issues such as animal welfare, human rights and ecological impact.’ It claims to have turned away over £900 million in loans to businesses not in keeping with the Co-op Ethical Policy. The commitment to improve their food business’ ethical and environmental performance is in line with expectations arrived at in consultation with 100,000 members. Co-Op was double-nominated this year, for both its banking and food businesses.

Marks & Spencer
plana.marksandspencer.com
In her nomination, Medinge director Erika Uffindell emphasized the focused approach to climate change, waste and sustainability that Marks & Spencer have adopted. With their Plan A campaign, the company established 100 commitments to achieve in five years, clear targets for their business, actionable by people across the group. Uffindell finds the brand very accessible and involving: they have engaged 17,231 customers in making pledges to support climate change and a commitment to sustainability.

Merci
www.merci-merci.com
Merci is a 1500 m² shop for fashion and home furniture based in Paris, France. All sales profits are destined for women and children in Madagascar. The store sells new or artist-reworked donated goods and has had a huge impact. Some goods are sent directly to Madagascar. Merci’s website is especially minimal and modest, yet effectively states the store’s mission. In his nomination, Medinge’s Philippe Mihailovich expressed the hope that Merci’s actions influence others to follow.

Pictet et Cie.
www.pictet.com
This Swiss-based private bank started in 1805. Medinge director Nicholas Ind cited two significant aspects of the brand.
   First, its focus on sustainable development and the redirection of funds in this direction by encouraging the maximum investment in sustainable areas for a given risk: the bank’s management of a water fund, launched in 2000, which has become the world’s largest of its kind, with over €4 billion in assets; and a Clean Energy fund. The second aspect is the Prix Pictet—the world’s first international prize dedicated to photography and sustainability—mandated to encourage the use and power of photography to communicate vital messages to a global audience. This year’s theme is Earth.

SAP
www.sap.com/about/SAP-sustainability
Today, many B2Bs are silently doing a fantastic job to adapt to our global challenges. Medinge’s chairman Thomas Gad nominated Germany’s SAP, a software company whom he admires because ‘they actually help other companies to create usable metrics in their CSR and sustainability.’ Over the past 10 years, SAP has been recognized by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for upholding ethical, environmental, social, and governance values in products and services.

Selco Solar Pvt. Ltd.
www.selco-india.com/index.html
Medinge CEO Stanley Moss described Selco as an interesting small business, 14 years old, who supply solar power solutions, mostly in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. They rely on microfinance loans, employ 140 people, and have done around 100,000 installations of small to large size. They are partially funded by Grameen. Moss was impressed by their cradle-to-grave attitude about product, longevity in the marketplace after a tough start-up, good work on the individual level, private ownership, and the understanding of need for innovation.

The 2010 Colin Morley Award to Muna Abu Sulayman
helwa.maktoob.com/%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%A1_%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%AA_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B6%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%843966-%D9%85%D9%86%D9%89_%D8%A3%D8%A8%D9%88_%D8%B3%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86.htm
Simon Nicholls, a member of Medinge, nominated Muna Abu Sulayman, who receives 2010’s Colin Morley Award, for excellence by an individual or NGO, acknowledging their contribution to the betterment of society through sustainable, socially responsible and humanistic behaviour. In giving this award, the Medinge Group recognizes Muna’s outstanding work in educational development, poverty alleviation and strategic philanthropy; as Executive Director of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation, developing and implementing operations for humanitarian assistance across the globe; her role as the first woman in Saudi Arabia to be appointed by the United Nations Development Programme as a Goodwill Ambassador; and for exceptional reporting as co-host on popular MBC-TV social programme Kalam Nawaem, in particular her advocacy of rights for women. As a public and media personality, she speaks about issues relating to Arab society, media, building bridges of understanding between east and west. Since 1997, Ms Abu Sulayman has served as lecturer on American literature at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. She frequently appears as a panelist at the Davos World Economic Forum, Jewish Economic Forum, C-100 of the World Economic Forum, Brookings Institute Conferences and other venues.

   Patrick Harris, a Medinge director, added, ‘In the list of 2010 Brands with a Conscience winners, we can see a clear focus on commerce and finance. This is no accident. Instead, this is a sign of the world’s markets responding to the need for responsible and inter-generational business activities.’
   Regarding his nomination of Co-op Bank, Harris said, ‘The UK’s Co-operative Bank is a prime example of a highly principled business within a traditional competitive landscape. The Co-op are being recognized by Medinge for their values-led business focus and for the impact that they bring to a beleaguered sector.’
   Jack Yan, a director of Medinge said, ‘Again, the Medinge Group’s international influence has resulted in a global list of winners, all of which practise our ideals of humanistic branding. I’m thrilled we’ve recognized our first Chinese and Saudi Arabian winners this year.
   ‘In particular, Selco Solar of India shows a commitment to green energy that is very poignant in the 2010s. Just because fuel prices have dropped from their 2008 highs does not mean that the energy crisis is over, a fact the Medinge Group recognizes.’
   Medinge Group member Ava Maria Hakim commented, ‘The message to the world—and Alibaba’s 100 million users—is that China’s Alibaba Group has set a global brand and business benchmark that goes beyond corporate social responsibility to building an integrity-based business driven by long-term vision. Alibaba Group is a Brand with a Conscience of the future.
   Erika Uffindell, a director of Medinge, commented, ‘Marks & Spencer is a great example of an organization living by its beliefs. M&S has been recognized by Medinge for creating the innovative Plan A—an initiative that involves customers and partners in their ambition to help combat climate change and reduce waste. Plan A focuses on five key areas: climate change, waste, sustainable raw materials, health and being a flair partner. Marks & Spencer’s ability to involve their stakeholders in such a simple and accessible way has been reflected in their significant achievements to date.’
   Nicholas Ind, a founding director of Medinge stated, ‘This year, the Medinge Group’s Brands with a Conscience awards shows impressive diversity and reflects the commitment that brand owners are demonstrating around the globe to building organizations that meet the needs of all parts of society. The 2010 winners come from the UK, China, India, Switzerland, Germany, France and Saudi Arabia.’

Special thanks to Medinge’s 2010 BWAC nominating committee
Paulina Borsook
Thomas Gad
Ava Hakim
Patrick Harris
Pierre d’Huy
Nicholas Ind
Philippe Mihailovich
Sergei Mitrofanov
Stanley Moss, chairman
Simon Nicholls
Anette Rosencreutz
Erika Uffindell
Jack Yan

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Posted in branding, business, culture, France, leadership, marketing, social responsibility | No Comments »


I remember 1973 more clearly than Sam Tyler

07.01.2010

I read a blog post tonight on my friend Jen’s Tumblr, about a memory that goes back to when she was about three or so. But she wondered if it was accurate.
   I believe it was, because for me, by age three I had over two years’ worth of memories. I have met two people in my life who can remember back, clearly, in a temporal, linear fashion, to before we were one. When we discuss this, our first comment to the other usually is, ‘No one believes you, do they?’
   Many doubt us, saying, ‘You must have heard that from your parents,’ or ‘You must have seen this in a photograph,’ until we start telling the stories.
   I wrote on Jen’s blog:

I have a few vague memories similar to this prior to nine months, and they are dream-like, almost like flashes. I assume the human mind does not string events together in a temporal fashion at earlier ages, so we recall them as unclear glimpses rather than moments that are anchored to past and future events on either side.

   I don’t know if studies have been done about this, about why those early memories are not stored. The above is only a theory, but I have a hunch it is right. We are not taught the concepts of past and future as babies, so we don’t store anything in a linear fashion. Why I began to earlier than most, I do not know. No single event triggered it.
   I usually tell people I began remembering when I was nine months old. That’s only a rough date, because at that age I had no concept of what a month was. The date does come from photographs, but that’s all I will give childhood photography. The rest is down to my own mind.
   The story that usually convinces people in regular conversation is this one: learning to walk. It was not my first memory—that was one of those “flashes” that I alluded to in the quote—nor was it the first one that I can trace right back. But I think most people will agree that getting on to your two feet should be quite a memorable event.
   I was a late walker and a happy shuffler. If we put the average baby learning to walk at around age one, then I was still shuffling at 15 months.
   My friend Tim, who remains in contact with me to this day, is younger than me by just over three months. His family came over to visit and he had just started walking. I believe I retold this to him when we were in our late 20s. Sadly, he does not remember it and cannot corroborate the events.
   I had already put up with encouragement to walk for ages (again, at this point, I had no concept of ‘months’, but it must have been) so, naturally, there was a lot of ‘Oh, look at Tim, he’s walking! Isn’t he a good boy?’
   My thought, because at this point I had attempted to walk (and fall) numerous times was: ‘This is peer pressure. I’m not doing it. Look, I can get across the room shuffling more quickly than he can walk. It’s safer, and it’s a known quantity. Just because everyone else is doesn’t mean I should, and so what if I don’t?’
   I should note that the thought was not structured as language, but as impulses, which, really, is the way most of us think. It’s only in recounting the event that we stretch it into comprehensible sentences. I also did not say this; if I did, it probably was as infantile babbles.
   And I could get across that room more quickly. Shuffling 1, walking 0.
   If you think back to when you were five or six, or whenever it was when you first began your set of memories, you might remember that inner voice of yours. It’s your own Jiminy Cricket. It’s not a weird voice telling you to do evil stuff, but your thought process. You know, the one talking to you right now as you read this. And I’m willing to bet that that voice has remained identical all these years in your own mind.
   For the fellas, that means that when your voice broke, it didn’t suddenly change. It’s as though it was the same all along.
   And that’s the voice I had at 15 months.
   It means that even at age one, I was a stubborn so-and-so.
   I should also mention that I was on “the leash” (which demeans us both). And from personal experience of being the leashed, it is bloody painful on your armpits when you get dragged up. It’s only natural for your parents to not want you to hurt yourself and they jerk you up. But by 12–15 months, you’re used to the pain of falling and you know how bad it is. In fact, the pain of falling was preferable to the pain of being yanked up. (In the 1990s, I went to Plunket to tell them of my experiences, and begged them to never recommend the leash to parents.)
   The leash might well have made me more rebellious than I normally would be, but eventually, as anyone who knows me today, I eventually learned to walk. I was about 16 at the time and wanted to pull chicks. Only kidding.
   Soon after (again, I cannot give you an exact time-frame), I discovered that I could run. Fast walking. And I loved it. (Driving on the autobahn gives the same thrill.)
   I then remembered thinking, ‘If someone had told me that I could run after I learned to walk, I would have done this ages ago [or, at least, in the past]. Why didn’t someone tell me?’
   Even at a time when we are not supposed to understand language as it is constructed, I am convinced infants actually understand any language as impulses, probably picking up vibes. They can reason, and it means that parents should be clear in explaining everything to their children, even at a very young age that they cannot remember back to.
   But it shows me that at around 12–18 months, I had a clear idea of ‘the past’ being the time when I was being encouraged to walk.
   The memories may well have been triggered by another phenomenon: the need to begin schooling at age two, as was common in Hong Kong.
   We are expected to attend kindergarten from 2½, and it’s not what occidentals associate with that term.
   We are talking nightly homework and getting graded. Sucks, I know. You don’t get much of a childhood, though there were really cool tricycles there.
   The idea is that if you don’t get into a good kindy, you don’t get into a good primary school, which means you don’t get into a good college, which means you don’t get into a good university. Therefore, in Hong Kong, in the 1970s, it was important to get the right start in life.
   However, to get into a good kindergarten, you have to sit an exam. Solo. With the examiner in the room in front of you.
   This would have been around two, and in the period before, while you are still one, you notice your parents buy join-the-dots puzzle books (I could count by this stage, thanks to my grandmother) and books with the alphabet.
   This was not exercising my mind: this was serious swotting.
   Because of the kidnapping of infants by Red Chinese back in those days, we also have the ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ message drummed in to us. By this point, my parents and grandmother were rationalizing with me, adding, ‘Because if you do, you might not see us again.’
   You can imagine that being abandoned by your mother with the examiner in a room is a pretty traumatic experience, because it goes against the whole anti-stranger thing.
   It didn’t make it easier that the bloody exam was not alphabet recitation or joining the dots.
   Maybe this is why, to this day, I still have nightmares about not having studied for an exam, though usually it’s set at law school, and it’s often constitutional law. (Thank you, Prof Palmer. Ironically, I did quite well with Sir Geoffrey’s exam.)
   The exam was putting shapes in to holes: the one Frank Spencer had to do when he joined the RAF.
   I eventually did it, crying through the process, but I guess at the end of the day, it was about the result and not the means. And I could see my Mum again.
   So by age two, most kids in Hong Kong had to rely on some form of memory, and when I was younger, I usually credited that with why mine went so far back. However, I wonder if others from the same place can report the same.
   Or, for instance, can actress Alicia Witt recall that she recited Shakespeare on That’s Incredible at age four? Considering her profession today—musician and actress—she must be blessed with a good memory, one that she’s had to exercise for a longer time than most.
   Emigrating to New Zealand in 1976 might have triggered a new set, because of the then-unfamiliar surroundings.
   I have a photographic memory, and I can tell you that the first car that went on the other side of the road as we left Wellington Airport on September 16, 1976, three days shy of my fourth birthday, was a Holden.
   There were few Holdens in Hong Kong but I remember the shape of the station wagon and finding out the brand later.
   It’s a little obsession I have always had, long before I even came to New Zealand.
   If anyone who worked at the Fiat dealership on the corner of Victory Avenue, Homantin, Kowloon, in 1975–6 remembers a two- to three-year-old who could tell them which was the 124, the 127, the 128 and the X1/9, and what years they were registered, then that was me. I still regret missing the launch of the 131, which was scheduled to take place in late September–early October 1976, but the cars were in the showroom, covered up.
   The dealership is no longer there, nor is the kindergarten, otherwise I would be asking Fiat Hong Kong for photographs of the launch event. It must have been the first launch to which I could have gone to, and had to miss.


Above The corner of Victory Avenue and Waterloo Road. At the far right, cut off, is where the Fiat dealership would have been. The laundry was there in the 1970s.

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Posted in cars, general, Hong Kong, interests, New Zealand, Wellington | 3 Comments »


As the 2010s dawn, there’s a vacuum on the internet

06.01.2010

Photo by Elliot TuckerRick Klau’s action today in restoring Vincent’s Social Media Consortium blog got me putting things into perspective.
   We know sites like Blogger and Vox are free, but what happens when they fail?
   Vox, the Six Apart blogging service, had been where I had put my personal posts—as well as a bunch of private ones inaccessible to the general public—for three years. I built up good friendships there, before social networking became everyday.
   Yet when that service failed, I went from Vox evangelist to someone who became acutely aware of the site’s failings. Those who dissed Vox months before I did, and whose complaints I thought little of, suddenly seemed to be visionaries.
   I don’t think things were handled brilliantly. While I was still there and keeping up my rate of complaints about their service being dodgy, I got replies. The minute I left, that was it.
   ‘Phew, we don’t have to talk to that nut again.’
   All the claims about wanting to get to the bottom of the problem suddenly seemed insincere. And it’s worth noting that the bug I experienced—where a compose screen would take between 15 minutes and 48 hours to load—is still present.
   They had lost quite a few users, as I had noted, and it’s obviously something deep within their code.
   The damage had been done.
   Meanwhile, Google hasn’t exactly helped, either. While Vox had me pursuing its problems for six weeks, Google was damaging its brand for six months.
   When Vincent’s blog was first blocked in July, the company promised two-day reviews. These promises were all broken. I’m sure Vincent and I, and many other bloggers who contributed to the Social Media Consortium, would have loved to have known why. As it turned out, the blog’s reviewers agreed with the computer’s decision to render the blog inaccessible, and then to delete it altogether.
   By the time I got to the Google support forums to argue the case in November, there were more broken promises—as well as downright obstruction by someone who probably gets his kicks from it.
   It got me wondering: people who do things in Google’s name aren’t very intelligent, if they can’t grasp some of the basics of their role.
   They were also not particularly courteous or understanding.
   As the frustration grew, things in my world got un-Googled. My Firefox default search engines became Cuil or Bing. I shifted my blogs away, including this one, or simply stopped blogging at Blogger. (The Medinge Group’s press room went to WordPress late last year.) While once upon a time I would recommend Vox, Blogger and WordPress to people depending on their blogging needs, I would only now say, ‘Wordpress’.
   I never was sold on Gmail—and I notice friends are beginning to have problems with that service, including being locked out. People using Gmail to commit fraud and use Lucire’s name were allowed to continue to do so, even after we reported them. Even before this incident, but within the same calendar year, I discovered that Adsense was a load of rubbish.
   All this began making me think: Google has jumped the shark.
   If someone like Google’s Rick Klau—who, if you read his blog, is an incredibly intelligent guy, not to mention an incredibly courteous one—had known of our case earlier, I’m sure we wouldn’t have allowed the Google brand to become so tarnished in our minds.
   Rick fixed things in 24 hours and saved the day as far as the Social Media Consortium was concerned. He’s also given himself a lot of good karma—I’ve seen other blogs he’s gone and restored in the last few days. But it’s a couple of days of Google goodness versus six months of its own brand-wrecking, through either bad service done in its name, bad products, or not having much of a human touch.
   Given that I was one of the first people to use Google in the late 1990s, and abandon AltaVista, Infoseek and the others in its favour, it’s a disappointing end to the 2000s.
   The trust I once might have had for Google has evaporated into the ether. It would be stupid to say that I would never use the company’s services again—you can hardly avoid it—but I’ll be thinking twice about anything new that it introduces.
   The internet leadership vacuum is becoming a reality, because I don’t see Facebook or Twitter dominating (especially not the former, with its questionable practices). And that means a new company can fill the void in the 2010s. It could even be a New Zealand one—or, better still, a Wellington one.
   There’s enough world-class thinking here which can be used as a base. And, if elected this year as Wellington’s mayor, I’d like to build on that and see if we can create an online world-beater.
   I know of a couple of Kiwi ventures already that have world-beating capabilities, currently seeking capital. The “next Google” might be among them, if we can make sure that they can grow the way they should.

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Posted in branding, business, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA, Wellington | 9 Comments »


Google’s Rick Klau restores Social Media Consortium

06.01.2010

All it takes is finding the right bloke and hoping they would do the right thing.
   At the end of the day, that was the lesson in getting Vincent Wright’s Social Media Consortium blog restored.
   Yesterday, Josh Forde Tweeted me about an article he had read, where John Hempton’s Blogspot-hosted blog had been removed by Google. In the comments, a Blogger manager, Rick Klau, responded. I wrote to Rick on Josh’s suggestion.
   Today, Rick responded to say he had restored the blog. He also privately gave us some advice on what got the blog picked up by Google in the first place and why it might not have been restored in those ‘two business day’ reviews.
   It was, of course, the first we have heard of the reasons, and he has a point. At Rick’s request, Vincent and I have promised not to share that publicly.
   The blog was temporarily removed again as the bot picked it up, but Rick has now whitelisted it so we can begin posting again, at long last.
   It’s been a six-month battle but we’ve finally got there.
   I still think Google’s procedure needs some work. The way we were spoken to on the forums was unacceptable, as was the obstruction and even deletion of evidence.
   However, Rick’s actions have restored a bit of our faith. It’s good that the people actually working inside for Google can tell who the good guys are and have some horse sense.
   What Rick also did right was to be accessible, and he kept his word not only to us but to other bloggers.
   His emails to us were punctual, and on that note he kicks my ass given how long I can take to get back to people.
   So, a big thank-you to Rick Klau—and I look forward to seeing more posts over at the newly restored Social Media Consortium.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 7 Comments »


Reuter requires Internet Explorer 5 or 6 for privacy queries

05.01.2010

I wanted to add a comment to the Reuter post from Felix Salmon (see previous blog post), and, as always, I read the small print.
   The Thomson Reuters terms and conditions have this, inter alia:

If you have agreed to such contact, the Reuters Group may contact you about those of its other services to which you do not subscribe but which may interest you. We may for example invite you to join a free trial of a service. Sometimes we may invite you to client entertainment and similar events. Such contact may be by post, fax, email, instant message and (in certain limited circumstances) by telephone from time to time. You have a right to ask us at any time not to contact you by way of direct marketing.

I scrolled to the bottom of the page, where it instructed us to email esupport.global@reuters.com if there were any further queries about the terms and the privacy policy.
   Just to be on the safe side, I asked:

Does the act of signing up constitute an agreement for this ‘contact’? (From my point of view, it doesn’t, but I’d like to hear it from you so we can have some consensus.)

   I received this reply:

Thank you for your email.

For efficient service, please re-submit your query using the “Contact Us” form available at the following link:

https://www.rm.commerce.reuters.com/espresso/public/eSpresso.aspx?page=support_contact_us_pub

which takes me to this page:

Reuter is behind the times

The text is a bit small in the screen shot, but it reads:

We have detected that you are using a browser that is not fully supported by the Reuters Account Administration system. At present full functionality for registration and account management is only offered to users of the following browsers:

:: Microsoft Internet Explorer versions 5.01, 5.5 and 6.0

Please note that Beta versions of browsers are not supported.

Please return to http://www.markets.reuters.com using Internet Explorer and try again.

If you are already using Internet Explorer, you may still need to download the Internet Explorer High Encryption pack. To upgrade or install Internet Explorer, please click on the the button below to visit the Microsoft website for further assistance.

Oh, nuts. Anyone have the Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 installation files? (That was a rhetorical question.)
   Looks like I won’t be commenting at Reuter any time soon.

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Posted in humour, internet, technology | 2 Comments »