Archive for July 2010


Kiwi entrepreneurs launch Snapr to share mobile photos

30.07.2010

Sna.pr

My friend Edward Talbot, and his friend and business partner Rowan Wernham, launched their Snapr (sna.pr) service today. It’s the ideal way to share geotagged photographs in the 2010s, and I expect these guys to do some great things as Snapr takes off.
   Snapr was the only Kiwi (if not southern hemisphere) venture to show at SXSW’s Accelerator competition this year, and is a perfect example of how New Zealand talent can take on and change the world.
   I foresee Snapr having a big take-up by netizens, especially as we move more into greater smartphone usage, mobile snaps, and augmented reality.
   In their release, Ed and Rowan state: ‘Snapr is a big public channel for people to share what’s happening in their life. We love the idea of a map with crowdsourced photos, you can look in anywhere, discover new people, and find neat things going on.
   ‘Mobile snaps are less about aesthetics, they are an immediate way to show what is going on where you are.’
   The release goes on to describe the service. ‘Photos on Snapr are viewed via a map based interface. Snaps from the same place and time are naturally brought together.
   ‘An iPhone application [a free download] allows users to upload photos, send tweets, and view the map on the go.’
   The founders have their favourite images already grouped on the site, and you can begin to see how it works. Here are Rowan’s, and here are Ed’s.
   While founded in Auckland, this is the sort of business I see starting in Wellington under my mayoral policies: high-tech, creative, even game-changing. It’s where the level playing field allows Kiwis to reach punch well above our weight.

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Posted in business, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, publishing, technology | No Comments »


Something to remember when voting in Wellington

30.07.2010

Brenda Wallace is one of the smartest people I know. And when she Tweets, one should pay attention. The below is particularly instructive as we head into election season.

Brenda's advice on STV in the mayoral election

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Posted in New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


Connecting with you on Thursday

27.07.2010

Photograph of Jack Yan by Sarah BurtonOn Thursday, 5.30 to 7.30 p.m. at Meow, Edward Street, come along and have a chat—we’re doing a “meet the candidate” session. It’s not as formal as the fun evening we had at Soi—it’s a chance to come and pick my brain, and let me pick yours as we head into the real election season.
   The do is to raise local awareness, talk issues, gather donations, build a vocal “street and Tweet” team and generally press the figurative flesh (this wording is from Daniel Spector, and expresses the intent well).
   Wellington needs real change in this mayoral election, and as I am now the only non-politician running, I intend to head in to the mayor’s office with a real sense of what Wellingtonians want.
   Beyond free wifi, I know we want greater transparency in the city, and that we want to feel part of a greater, global community. And, right now, I can’t see any of my opponents understanding what these ideas mean.
   Travelling overseas a few times a year does not make one an internationalist. This is something you live, evidenced by your experience and your record of wanting to do good for your city.
   Have a glance at the Facebook page if you like, and, of course, you can Tweet me at @jackyan.
   We will have a fresh new batch of brochures as well, thanks to the Colour Guy in Lower Hutt. On Thursday, let’s have more dialogue and catch up.

Photograph by Sarah Burton.

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Posted in business, leadership, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 1 Comment »


A fancier 1,200th car on Autocade

21.07.2010

Writing about cars calms me. So call me a freak. And maybe I’ve just needed to chill more in this last month as we head into the last few months of the mayoral campaign.
   It surprises me that Autocade has reached 1,200 models: 100 in the past month. And since I knew we were about to hit 1,200, then subconsciously I did want something flash to mark that number:

Image:1984_Audi_Sport_Quattro.jpg
Audi Sport Quattro. 1984 (prod. 224). 2-door coupé. F/A, 2133 cm³ (5 cyl. DOHC). Homologation special for Group B rallying, based on regular Audi Quattro but with 320 mm lopped from the wheelbase. Standard turbocharged engine producing 306 PS, though competition models tended to be up in the 450 PS-plus bracket. Carbon–Kevlar body, steeper windscreen rake (of Audi 80 (B2)) for greater visibility as demanded by rally drivers, wider tyres. ABS, four-piston caliper brakes. This all came at a price: 203,850DM when new.

I didn’t want a repeat of 1,100 when the Nissan Cherry was the landmark model. (There actually was a miscount, but I won’t go in to that.)
   And in the 1,100–1,200 cycle, I managed to find yet another likely error (about a Ford development code) in Wikipedia which I harped on about over at my Tumblog.
   As I said in the 1,100-car post, Autocade is not perfect and I find errors in my own work. However, I don’t intentionally put wrong information in, and the Wikipedia error with the Ford CE14 code is like saying, in car-nut terms, that Margaret Thatcher was a member of the Labour Party. This error has now propagated all over the internet so that, if Wikipedia editors were to check, they would find plenty of pages to support a mistake of which their site could have been the source.

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Deciphering geo-targeting on OpenX; and why Mediaplex is a cheeky sod

21.07.2010

Between a few of us here and my friend Pete in the UK, we’ve spent nearly two weeks trying to get OpenX to work. We’re finally getting ad-serving technology put in in-house, after years of relying on the US ad networks we primarily work with. It’s also walking the talk: since I have advocated that Wellington moves to open source if I am elected mayor, then it makes sense that our Linux servers are running ads off an open-source ad-management program.
   The first problem might have been caused by me personally: OpenX wouldn’t install. Pete re-uploaded the files, we chmoded the directories, and away we went.
   Autocade has been the first domain to host the ads that we are sending along, and it’s been so far, so good.
   However, today we decided to give the home page of the Lucire web edition a go, and encountered a problem.
   All was well for the first few hours, but then I noticed something strange: two different computers at this office were behaving differently with the geo-targeting.
   We had fed in banners from two of our US networks. Let’s call them network A and network B. They were set, for New Zealand, to display at these percentages (roughly):

Network A: 98 per cent
Network B: 2 per cent

On computer one running Windows XP, the above was working.
   On computer two running Windows Vista:

Network A: 0 per cent
Network B: 100 per cent

   I’ve a fair idea of how geo-targeting works and two computers on the same network going through the same router with the same (outward) IP address do not, in theory, behave differently.
   But, as Homer Simpson once retorted, ‘In theory, communism works.’
   I hope the boffins can explain this one, because usually I have gone against expert advice to get computer hardware working. (The network was hooked up many years ago by yours truly, doing the exact opposite of what the instructions said—after, I might add, the instructions failed. My personal laptop and its Bluetooth connection were hooked up by finding the most illogical method possible.)
   Surfing to the OpenX forums (Pete had been on the chat earlier, but no one was around), I tried to log in. Unfortunately, this proved impossible and errors followed:

OpenX forum bug

No one was there at all, presumably due to the database error shown at the bottom of the page:

OpenX forum bug

   So, if any OpenX experts are out there and can answer our geo-targeting question, please give us a shout in the comments.

Despite fiddling around with all these online ads, there’s one company I know I will never deal with. And it’s not as though the online ad industry has come to us with clean hands, either, so this sullies them further.
   After surfing on July 10, I found I could no longer get on to Facebook. Every time I typed www.facebook.com, I got the screen below (excerpted):

Mediaplex redirection

Which led me to here:

Mediaplex redirection

   Somewhere along the line, I must have got to a web page that hijacked my web browser. It didn’t alter the hosts’ file, and I was eventually able to correct this by deleting all cookies and clearing the browser cache, but it left me with one clear message: I will never deal with Mediaplex.
   Based on the above, this conduct is highly unethical and is nearly as bad as planting a trojan or a virus on to a user’s computer. And Googling the incident, I found that many others had encountered the same, sometimes when typing in other sites.
   I was saddened to find out that Mediaplex is part of Valueclick, a company I dealt with for years. We eventually ended our contract with Valueclick. I don’t recall the reason exactly, but I suspect it was down to the low advertising rates the company delivered. There were no concerns over its behaviour.
   When I was on the Mediaplex site, I noticed that Commission Junction was part of the same group. We have been asked to join CJ many times during the 1990s and 2000s but always read the terms and conditions. It had something similar to this clause (which is in its current agreement):

Dormant Accounts. If Publisher’s Account has not been credited with a valid, compensable Transaction that has not been Charged-back during any rolling, six consecutive calendar month period (“Dormant Account”), a dormant account fee at CJ’s then-current rate shall be applied to Publisher’s Account each calendar month that Publisher’s Account remains an open yet Dormant Account or until Your Account balance reaches a zero balance, at which time the Account shall become deactivated. Transactions will not be counted if the Transaction subsequently becomes a Charge-back.

In English: if you don’t make a sale over six months, they have the right to charge you. When you pay it all back, they kill off your account.
   There’s nothing illegal about that, but considering every other affiliate programme we have seen does not do that, then I bet a few people who were less careful about reading their agreements would have been taken by surprise. I found it questionable, and refused to deal with the company. (It seems, if you believe some of the links on Google, that we got off lucky.)
   This latest stunt tarnishes the entire group: Commission Junction, Mediaplex and Valueclick. Caveat proponor.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, publishing | 11 Comments »


It’s ‘Chevy’—even President Obama says so

19.07.2010

Dear Chevrolet: even your own nation’s president calls the brand ‘Chevy’:

You might want to rethink that memo.

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Posted in branding, cars, culture, media, TV, USA | No Comments »


My strange Google Dashboard entries

19.07.2010

Google Dashboard continues to show some strange entries, months after I cancelled all my blogs and Adsense accounts, and severed my ties with many other Google products.
   I’d advise others to take a look at theirs and make sure they aren’t on services that they never signed up for. This went well beyond Google Wave and the privacy débâcles of early 2010.
   Here’s a relatively new entry on my Google Dashboard (left). After confirming that my Adsense account was shut, it insists I still have an account to one of the most poorly conceived ad programmes I have ever encountered. In fact, it says I have two products with it, which is news to me. I never applied more than once and that was for this blog, back in March 2009.
   On January 14, 2010, Google wrote to me in an email: ‘Thank you for taking the time to write to us. As per your request, we have permanently closed your AdSense account.’
   According to this new entry on the Dashboard, you haven’t—and Adsense remains among my Google products in ‘My Account’. I thought something was fishy when I first noticed that it did not drop back to ‘Try something new’ in January.
   Giving Google the benefit of the doubt, I signed in to my non-existent Adsense account and received this message:

I’d love to know what that application is and under what address I used, but, as I said, I believe this is a complete work of fiction, like Google claiming to support free speech or the presumption of innocence. I know for a fact that that’s bogus.
   At left is the other one, which probably turned me more anti-Google than anything else. Blogger. I no longer have any blogs on the service, and logging in to my old Blogger Dashboard confirms this. Well, they aren’t too good at mathematics down in Mountain View, because 0 equals 4 there. Surely it doesn’t take months for the Blogger count on the Google Dashboard to catch up? They are owned by the same company, after all.
   Finally, in the ‘No s***, Sherlock’ file is this one at left. There had better be no contacts in Talk, considering I never signed up to this service (oh, it appears in ‘My Products’, too).
   Do pop in to your Google account if you have one, and just cast a cursory glance down the page. Head in to your Dashboard to see what data Google holds. Hopefully you won’t have as many weird entries as I do.

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Posted in business, internet, USA | 1 Comment »


Replacing a social network near you: real life

19.07.2010

As news emerges that teenagers have spent less time on Facebook, and there are more profiles getting closed on the social network, Sony has released its newest trailer for The Social Network.

After 9-11, it’s time to tell the “other” story of the ’noughties. And if Facebook is the topic of a Hollywood film, then this could mean it has jumped the shark.
   What’s next? A new social network where privacy is respected? Or, something more radical?
   Modern kids in the first and second world might want that newfangled “real life” next, because to them, the internet is ubiquitous, not special. So why not balance what was once a novelty to us with what we once found to be normal? As we once said: try it now, do it more, things you’ve never done before. The mainstreaming of extreme sports, if you will, simplified to basic exercise and enjoying the outdoors. It almost seems new.
   Simplicity seems to be “in” in so many facets of life, whether it’s a netbook without bells and whistles, or the old-shape Audi A4 with SEAT Exeo badging. Somewhere along the line, practicality finally found its place ahead of wank. It can happen in some economic recessions.
   Real life: more valuable to the teenagers of the 2010s than we thought. It’s back in vogue.

PS.: Thanks to Stefan Engeseth for inspiring part of this post.—JY

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The trouserless journalist

18.07.2010

Audi A8

As some of you know, I was at Cape Kidnappers last week, visiting the Napier area for the first time. (I tried getting there last October, but this was as far as I got.)
   It was for the Audi A8 launch, and we at the office had a good laugh at this lovely and kind message that the company sent after the event:

The venue found some clothes in one of the rooms so if you are missing a pair of trousers and a jacket, we have them here.

   Maybe it’s my warped sense of humour at this place, but the first thing I said to the team was, ‘I’m pretty sure I was wearing trousers when I got back on the plane, so it wasn’t me.’
   The conversation descended from there.

This week’s humour spot: ‘Since Blogger/Google is USA based, they support the principles of “free speech” and of “innocence until proven guilty”. Even genuine spammers are permitted to speak here, until they cross the line and become disruptive.’
   As someone who has had legitimate comments deleted from the Google forums, and experienced that the actual stance is ‘guilty until proven innocence (sic)’, then this was another good laugh via the internet.

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Posted in cars, humour, internet, media, New Zealand | 4 Comments »


Getting Wellington out of debt—by growing the right businesses

01.07.2010

Back Jack Yan for Mayor In plain English, when a city is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt—depending on who you believe, the figure is between $200 million and $400 million—how do you get out of the hole?
   1. You can sell the family jewels, and there’s water left. We tried this in the 1980s, and now so many foreigners own New Zealand companies that the profits go offshore and we lose a source of tax revenue. Not good, doesn’t work.
   2. You can put up the rates for residents to the tune of 5·58 per cent and hope they cover some of this. (The figure was 5·5, then 5·75—so much for transparency.)
   3. You can keep praying that the Rugby World Cup will give a temporary boost and hope no one notices that the other years aren’t as prosperous.
   4. You can look at what the city has in terms of creativity and intellectual capital, and build on that, especially if the world values the innovative thinking of New Zealanders.
   Of the four, I prefer (4). This present mayor and council favour (2) and locked in that rise for us a wee while ago.
   I know in some circles my name has become associated with the free wifi for the central city promise, but it goes a bit deeper than that.
   Free wifi is like having roads in a city in the 21st century, and right now, what we have is like paying tolls on every single road we drive on.
   Compare this to Finland, who enshrined in law the right to broadband, which became effective yesterday (July 1). This means every citizen in Finland has a legal right to having broadband at a minimum speed of 1 Mbit/sec. With netbooks and cloud computing on the rise, this seems to be the logical thing to do. The old ways of having programs on your computer are disappearing.
   Get the infrastructure right—after all, Singapore and numerous US cities have done it, and Wellington has to play catch-up with Dunedin and Whanganui—and we can get other things right.
   The sectors that have the greatest potential in the 2010s, and in my mind are the biggest earners for New Zealand companies, are the tech and creative sectors. Both rely on the ’net and a more visionary direction for Wellington in a huge way.
   Clustering, mentoring and financing are the things we need to do, and they have to be driven from the top. Some are done through lobbying by a business-minded, pro-Kiwi mayor and council (rather than a pro-foreigner one). Others can be driven through council itself. But we need a shake-up in order to do this.
   They are all possible solutions, and some are happening now at an ad hoc level.
   I’d want to help those companies that are Kiwi-owned or will remain majority Kiwi-owned—this helps with job creation, with the city’s rates and with the country’s tax take. And if Wellington becomes a centre for this activity in the 2010s and demonstrates that we are an advanced economy, who knows what else we can inspire around the nation?
   It’s not an overnight solution. But I know we have businesses out there that can generate millions for the New Zealand economy. Thanks to our social consciousness, many are sustainable. We already have examples in businesses I’ve cited many times before: the Sidhes, Wetas, Silverstripes, Catalysts of this world are creating jobs for Wellington. We just need to expand on that and stimulate innovation.
   Equally important are the need for transparency and changing the culture within the Wellington City Council, topics for other posts.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 5 Comments »