New Zealand Police has issued two videos from the Pike River coal mine, which shows the fourth blast on Sunday. These are probably the clearest yet, and give an idea of how terrible the conditions must be within the mine. May the 29 men who were trapped and who possibly perished there two Fridays ago rest in peace, and that their families can ﬁnd some solace.
Archive for November 2010
Some distinguished and famous people, and I as the token undistinguished person, form the cast of TrueStory: My Christmas at Downstage on Wednesday, December 8 at 7.30 p.m. We’re going to talk about our Christmas experiences, and all proceeds are going to the Wellington City Mission.
Host Tim Gordon will be joined by: Dame Kate Harcourt (actress and broadcaster), Hilary Beaton (playwright, director and Downstage CEO), Gareth Farr (musician, composer and Arts Laureate), Jenny Pattrick (novelist, The Denniston Rose), Dave Armstrong (playwright and screenwriter, Le Sud, Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby), Rangimoana Taylor (actor, director and storyteller), and myself.
Tickets can be booked at Ticketek.
I hadn’t heard of Blekko, a search engine, till last week, so armed with a new entrant, I wanted to see how they all compared.
Blekko’s very pretty, and I’ve told Gabriel Weinberg, the man behind Duck Duck Go, just what it is that makes it attractive. Most of it is the modernist design approach it takes. But is it more functional?
I have a couple of tests. You may have heard me dis Google’s supplemental index, where pages it deems to be less important wind up. But who makes that determination? And what if there is a page in there that is actually relevant but Google fails to dig it up?
Google says the supplemental index doesn’t exist any more, but the fact remains that it fails to dig up some pages, especially older ones. So much for its comprehensive index.
The ﬁrst test, therefore, is one I have subjected every search engine I encounter to: will it ﬁnd a 2000 article on Lucire about Elle Macpherson Intimates’ 10th anniversary? It is probably the only article on the subject, and because of this test, I’ve even linked it this year so it can be spidered by the search engines. Last month, Google could not ﬁnd it, though in 2000â1, it was very easily found.
If the search engines are as intelligent as their makers claim, it should be able to ﬁgure out these concepts and deliver the pages accordingly. The page itself is very basic with no trick HTMLâjust plain old meta data, as you would imagine for a ten-year-old ﬁle.
Will the search engines ﬁnd it now, with a few more inward links?
Duck Duck Go: 1st
Blekko: not found, though it locates a reference made on this blog and two others in Lucire, one going back to 2001, at positions 1, 2 and 12
Google: 73rd, with blog entries from here referring to it at 5 and 42, and another link in Lucire at 6
Bing: 1st with old frameset at 2nd
Here’s the second test. In Wired, Google bragged about how its index could ﬁnd a page about a certain lawyer in Michigan (mike siwek lawyer mi). Unfortunately for Mr Siwek, most of the top entries quickly became those about the Wired article and he was lost again in the index.
Mr Don Wearing, a friend of mine, is a partner in a shoe retail chain. If I typed “Don Wearing” shoes, which of the search engines will deliver me an entry referring to Don Wearing speciﬁcally and not some guy called Don who happens to be wearing shoes? (Not long ago, the best the search engines could do was around 12th.)
Not bad: an improvement all round.
OK, how about speed of addition? Let’s see if the search engines will ﬁnd the last entry in this blog, added a few hours ago. I’ll use the search term “Jack Yan” TPPA.
This is just a quick test based on three examples that might not reﬂect everyday use. However, the ﬁrst two frustrated me earlier when I went to hunt for them on Google (and before I had heard of Duck Duck Go), which is why I remembered them, so admittedly Google was at a slight disadvantage in this test as a result. I never went to Bing or Ask regularly.
Therefore, I’m not going to draw any conclusions about who is best, but I will say that Google is quicker at ﬁnding new material. I would, however, encourage others to give these other search engines a go and see how effective they are. I’m very happy with Duck Duck Go, especially as it does not second-guess my queries with Google’s annoying âShowing results for [what Google thinks I typed]. Search instead for [what I actually typed]â. No, Google, I did not type my query wrongâso give me the results already!
I prefer Duck Duck Go’s approach, which is to treat the web more as a research medium. There is no hiding pages: it just delivers the most relevant result to what I typed, which is why I originally moved to Google at the end of the 1990s.
Judging by the above, I’m not convinced Blekko is ready for prime-time (which is why it still has a beta tag).
And in a year where people have shown that they care about privacy, Duck Duck Go seems to make more sense.
Even though more young women are spending time on Facebook at the exclusion of other sites, last night I decided to stop connecting the Lucire RSS feed in to its Facebook fan page.
We began the fan page very late, having relied on using a Facebook group. And even then, these were promoted half-heartedly.
Despite the small numbers on the fan page, the links on Facebook were getting several hundred views each. Non-members were popping by to have a gander as well as those following us.
That meant we were doing our supporters out of potential hits. And guess who gains? Facebook advertisers.
Of course, this is only sensible business practice as far as Facebook is concerned. But we decided that we would rather put up links manually and invite readers to come over to our site instead.
This is not just about making sure our advertisers got a bit more exposure from a few hundred folks.
For Facebook page members, it means getting the news early. Facebook sometimes took up to two days to import a news item from our feed.
It also allows viewers to see a post as intended—Facebook’s imported items stripped out the videos.
In fact, many years ago, we pasted everything in manually and it didn’t do any harm to the growth of Lucire‘s presence on Facebook.
I don’t know how this will work. Will we get a few more hits as a result, or will Facebook users prefer not to exit the environment of Mr Zuckerberg’s site?
I believe users will click through, because the Lucire brand can be trusted. They wouldn’t be our fans if they didn’t have some trust in us.
Feedback is, of course, welcome.
Of course we can see the lack of logic behind putting up posts inside Facebook. It’s a tactic we’ve recommended to clients, because they did not have a strong web presence and Facebook provides the best way in which they can engage with their audiences. But for a publication’s website, it can be a lousy idea.
New features can hit you one by one, and you go along with their introduction, sometimes out of enthusiasm. Really, we should have kept our brains switched on, and remember the adage I often repeat: technology is here to serve us, not the other way round. Putting our feed into Facebook was an example of serving the technology: the feature was available and we opted to use it, without any strategic purpose.
I signed up to the Igovt site for the New Zealand Government today, allowing citizens a single log-on for e-government services (such as the Companies’ Ofﬁce, where we have to ﬁle annual returns). In case you forget your password, you can choose from a variety of security questions they can ask you.
The following examples are not what I wound up using, because on both occasions, Igovt would not allow the answer.
âWhat was the primary school you attended the most?â was the ﬁrst question. I faithfully put, ‘St Mark’s Church School’. The site returned: ‘Answer is invalid.’
The cheeky part of me thought, that since this was a site run by the state, only state schools were permitted.
I tried another question. ‘What was your father’s place of birth?’
I entered, ‘Taishan, China’. The site returned: ‘Answer is invalid.’
Now, I’m pretty sure that I know better than the New Zealand Government just where my Dad was born.
Or, I thought, maybe they don’t let people with foreign-born fathers register? That you have had to have been here for a couple of generations. This was part of the Johnny Foreigner policies that someone inside the Department of Internal Affairs implemented.
Seriously, I think the website has a problem with anyone who punctuates: the apostrophe and the comma were too confusing for it. I’ve written to the DIA to tell them of these bugs and, meanwhile, I’ve opted for some other question on the list. The answer for that question, sadly, is more ambiguous than the precise ones I required for my original choices, but I was running out of options.
On a more pleasant note, the Igovt website is very nicely designed, and the new interface for the Companies’ Ofﬁce site is very attractive indeed. The facelift is long overdue, but I am very glad it’s come. Whomever did the redesign did a very good job.
Meanwhile, I read that some documents, which weren’t exactly top secret but accessible to thousands of American civil servants, have made it on to Wikileaks. Good.
Sometimes greater transparency is all our world needs, and the difference between what we had rumoured and what Wikileaks has revealed is that the new stuff has the stamp of approval of the US Government. I really don’t see various world leaders feeling upset at their perceptions as recorded by people inside the US. Most national leaders, one hopes, are not dummies, who will be more than aware of where they stand with the US.
Now, had the documents been about aliens and UFOs, I would get excited.
PS.: The Department of Internal Affairs conﬁrms there is a punctuation bug. Helen Coffey of the DIA informs me, ‘This fault has been identiﬁed for the next release due in the second quarter of 2011.’ Good on the DIA for responding in a timely fashion and for being transparent about its website’s fault.âJY
A quick tribute to Leslie Nielsenâthe âOCââand the worldâs favourite DanishâCanadian guy, who died today at age 84.
And donât call me Shirley, either.
Spotted on the Lucire website today, an advertisement for Consumer magazine.
It’s a Flash animation, suggesting that not all car insurance policies are perfect. The opening frame shows a car with oversized coins for wheels, and the wheels shrink to a more standard size at the end of the animation.
The copy reads, ‘Car insurance / Get the cover that ﬁts’.
All I could think of was:
Ford Kuga âŠ
Not the European car, but the American one of the same name: the Ford Granada was marketed as a US alternative to a Mercedes-Benz. Not as overstyled as, say, the Ford Maverick, this was an extremely heavy car, and Fordâs marketing emphasized how it was as good as the Mercedes-Benz, at a similar size.
Thereâs not much by way of the Ford identity in this carâs design: it comes across as a pastiche of the Merc and something that Lee Iacocca would dream up. It was, after all, the 1970sâprobably the last decade occidental car companies tried things without regard to how models might look in their range.
The heaviness may be due to the amount of standard equipment. Iacocca was quite happy to lavish his era of Fords with gear. There’s little mention of his involvement with the Granada, not even in his autobiography, but it seems in line with his approach with the Mustang II.
While there’s still some “Fordness” to the overall look, e.g. in the waistline, I don’t remember contemporary Fords having this type of grille, and the later Granada (and related Mercury Monarch) facelifts continued to give this line a different style to the others. (On a side note, there was also an ultra-plush Granada called the Lincoln Versailles, which was not that successful; the equivalent in recent times, of a modern Ford sold under all three brands and looking about the same, was the CD338 Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ [nĂ©e Zephyr].)
I remember contemporary reports that swallowed Fordâs claims and published diagrams on how similar the two cars were (PR info from Dearborn?), and I even have a Kiwi friend in Whitby who loves his Yank Granada. Fascinating looking back at these cars, 35 years on—and how branding plays a far greater role in automotive design today than it did back then.
Hereâs a new clause in the Amazon Associatesâ contract that I never spotted before, which is available publicly for viewing. European countries have a similar one, with differences in the currency.
If you have not earned any advertising fees in the 3 years prior to any given calendar month, then on the first day of that calendar month we may charge you an account maintenance fee that will be deducted from your unpaid accrued advertising fees. That account maintenance fee will be the lesser of $10 or the amount of unpaid accrued advertising fees in your account. Further, any unpaid accrued advertising fees in your account may be subject to escheatment under state law.
At least they give you three years before deducting a maintenance fee, but one wonders just how troublesome it is for Amazon to keep oneâs account open when you make zero sales. It could be worse: it could be Commission Junction, which starts charging after six months. Many people have cried foul over that one.
However, we are cancelling our Amazon.fr account as a result because we don’t score many sales there. It makes us wary of Amazon, however, because this sort of clause is a real turn-off and brings a cloud over the service.
I notice that while we received emails notifying us of the change for the UK, Germany and Europe, we never received one for the US. I was surprised to ﬁnd, when writing this blog post, that the US agreement has changed, too.
I think this only encourages us to look at alternatives, rather than make us push Amazon more. Certainly if I were starting a website today, I’d look for an afﬁliate programme that does not have such a clause. And who’s to say that the next big bookstore site isn’t in China or India, prepared to compete on this very thing?