Archive for April 2011


Duck Duck Go voted best search engine of 2011

04.04.2011

Duck Duck Go logo

According to a reader poll, Duck Duck Go beat Google for best search engine of 2011.
   â€˜With 48% of the vote, relative search newcomer DuckDuckGo beat out search behemoth Google, who came in with 45% of the total vote,’ said About.com.
   Bing trailled at 3 per cent and Yahoo! at 2.
   There’s always room for improvement, but a search engine that delivers pretty accurate results and has no problems with privacy is streets ahead of Google. Plus, unlike Google, you can still email the guy who made the search engine. Last time I successfully emailed the founder of a popular site was in the mid-1990s when two guys called Jerry and David ran this thing called YAHOO out of their garage.

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Not all American hosting companies get it right

03.04.2011

While there was a British company that took months to respond to the equivalent of a DMCA complaint (under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act), generally American firms are very on the ball.
   There are exceptions. I won’t name this outfit but the weekend’s responses were laughable.

March 21: Pirate puts up a copy of one of our pages.
March 22: We find out about it and ask if the poster could cut the piece down to an excerpt at the least, or remove it altogether.
March 24: After getting no response, we track down the hosting company to ask for its assistance under its AUP.
March 30, 2.17 p.m. PDT: After getting no response, we open a ticket via its website and send the complaint again.
March 30, 6.06 p.m. PDT: Host company: here’s the address of the guy who runs the server.
March 30, 6.37 p.m. PDT: I’ll send him an email and keep you posted.
March 31, 7 a.m. PDT: Hosting company staff member closes the ticket, though the matter is not resolved.
March 31, 2.15 p.m. PDT: I add a comment to say that there is no response, and that, as stated, I would keep them posted, to keep the ticket open.
April 1, 1.51 a.m. PDT: Still nothing.
April 1, 6.47 p.m. PDT: OK guys, evidently they’re not going to do anything so your company now needs to remove our content, please.
April 2, 9.04 a.m. PDT: Hosting company, exact words: ‘what contents exactly?’! (The guy who asked me was the same one who gave me the email address on March 30—so he has access to it.)
April 2, 8.02 p.m. PDT: I respond with the link. Guess it was too hard for them to dig out a PDF in their own possession.
April 2, 11.03 p.m. PDT: The chap who runs the server replies, and I go and tell the hosts that that has happened.
April 3, 11.59 a.m. PDT: Hosting company staff member closes the ticket, though the matter is not resolved. (The page is still online.)
April 3, 2.40 p.m. PDT: I ask that the ticket remain open till the page is removed.

   I don’t mind giving away some of my content, and don’t check for my personal entries, and there’s stuff I do for Creative Commons. When work articles are stolen, I have to look after our team members and licensors, and our agreements with them.
   But for a hosting company to need to be told three times what page is at issue (and it’s only one page)—it’s not good enough.
   Still, waiting from March 22 to April 3 (so far) is not as bad as dealing with those chaps in Manchester, whose client was emailed, commented and Tweeted, and who themselves were emailed and Tweeted, in a copyright claim that went on from November to March. At least this lot is giving me replies regularly—just not quite the replies I want!
   Incidentally, at least one host—which did respond (and has always responded) immediately—requires DMCA notices to be sent via fax. So when folks ask why we still keep our fax machine, there’s one good example already. Even the last time we had to approach Google on a DMCA matter, we had to use the fax.
   You’ve got to love the irony.

PS.: As of the evening of April 4, GMT, the page at issue is gone. However, I can’t let the hosting company know directly any more because its secure server certificate is out of date! Let’s hope they get my email notice to close the ticket.—JY

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Zeiger confronts the U-bahn ads

03.04.2011

A while back, in Desktop, I wrote about subvertising. This video, found via Rock Rodgers’ Tumblr, destroys the ads altogether, by means of a mirrored contraption that turns the projected images from a Berlin U-bahn station into rather nice art.
   Of course it isn’t legal, but one has to hand it to these chaps for creating their devices, which have a neat look to them.

Zeiger from █▀██▄█▀▀█ on Vimeo.

   Their words: ‘A couple of months ago, ad-projectors appeared in a Berlin subway station, throwing moving images all over the station walls and lifting visual aggressiveness to a new level. Since the images were projected, we could get between projector and projection to fight this new quality of exaggerated advertisement with its own weapons. Minimal invasive adbusting devices made of mirrors, magnets and quite some duck tape.’

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Posted in business, culture, marketing | 1 Comment »


Someone’s doing something right inside Google

01.04.2011

The troubles with Google that I’ve faced—privacy breaches, Ads Preferences Manager not honouring its claims, fighting for six months on behalf of a friend over a deleted Blogger blog, Chrome being buggy (but not nearly as badly as IE9), phantom entries in my Google dashboard, unanswered messages—would suggest, to anyone studying business or a graduate from B-school, that there is something very, very rotten inside the company. It’s being evil.
   Judging by an article I linked yesterday from Techcrunch, there probably is something rotten.
   It’s sad to see that Techcrunch didn’t have the ethics to keep an off-the-record comment off the record—it even plays an answerphone message on its site, which I am sure its speaker never intended for broadcast—but it does make an interesting guess of the company’s internal problems.
   I’ve heard of similar things second-hand and, in at least one case, first-hand, but this one illustrates that the problems could be at quite a senior level.
   With all the internal politicking going on, a few people are doing their jobs correctly, and honouring Google’s commitment to its users. In 2010, I named Rick Klau at Blogger as being one of them. I reckon the other has to be Matt Cutts, whose initiative to cut down content mills and Google-spam I applauded some weeks ago as being one of the company’s right moves.
   Matt has done his job so well that it has cut down even Google’s own content mill, the Google Places site.
   He deserves even more applause because he’s not singling out his own employers for special treatment, which means, as far as the rest of us are concerned, we face a level playing field getting on the site.
   He’s even stated, ‘Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google.’
   What is interesting is that it has pissed off certain people inside Google, who have become accustomed to the search engine biasing results toward itself—something it has admitted on some occasions, contradicting its stated policy on other occasions. Élitism much?
   Among the content mills Matt’s team has targeted includes the sites of Demand Media, who I had a run-in with as well over contradictory terms and conditions and the company’s refusal to respond. (In fact, it continued to pester me to integrate an account I had with a firm it had acquired even though, legally, under its own terms, I could not.)
   Reading the Techcrunch piece, Matt Cutts is a hero for fairness and for running things exactly the way netizens expect. Some commenters agree. He might even be the guy who saves Google from being an élitist, unethical monster. He’s done exactly what he set out to do, and Google needs to realize that if it is to recover any mana for its misdeeds of the past few years, it has to clean its own doorstep first.
   If the article is correct, other Google senior staff—Nikesh Arora, Marissa Mayer (who has already revealed that Google publishes biased results)—are part of the problem, and why Google is so desperate to violate its own stated policies repeatedly.
   And if that off-the-record comment on Techcrunch is accurate, then Marissa Mayer probably believes that users are stupid. Way to earn that goodwill, Marissa.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, leadership, politics, publishing, technology, USA | 4 Comments »


Google humour: the Helvetica search that doesn’t come out in Helvetica

01.04.2011

[Cross-posted from Tumblr] Found via Chris Brogan: if you Google Helvetica, Google will deliver the results in your default typeface—in my case, Alia. (If you look at the Snap Shots thumbnails that pop up, they’re in Times.) It’s weird, because I thought a fun trick would be to deliver the results in Helvetica (which is, of course, installed on our computers). The other queries display in our usual sans serif default (Lucire). Strange, but kind of fun.
   It’s the sort of thing that passes for humour inside Google, I believe. This and one of the folks inside the place having principles and getting rid of Google Places for being a content mill.

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Posted in humour, internet, typography, USA | No Comments »


Cellphone emails are gibberish

01.04.2011

Speaking of technological issues, for the last two months, people using those newfangled cellphones to write emails to me have been sending me gibberish.

Email via cellphone

   I haven’t changed my set-up, principally because Qualcomm hasn’t made a new version of Eudora for a while. So what has changed about cellphones (I don’t know what brand—they are all the same to me) this year that now prevent them from sending plain, old, common-garden emails? Is it yet another case where I’ve stumbled across something that hardly anyone else has?

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Posted in internet, technology | 4 Comments »


On networking, all the experts were right

01.04.2011

I wonder if peripherals are getting better.
   Although I spent 26 hours getting a wireless network up here, it was thanks to Jethro Carr on Twitter, one Facebook friend, two real-world friends, two of their friends, and one forum that got it up and running.
   There are a few things that don’t work as they claim on the tin, but, by and large, we have a functional office again.
   The last time I set up an office network, I actually wound up doing the opposite to what every expert told me. But, you know, after two days, it worked.
   That incident gave me a healthy scepticism about “expertise”: sometimes, if your own intelligence levels aren’t too bad, you might be able to come up with a better solution. Besides, the experts aren’t right here in the room with you—they can only visualize so much.
   I’m glad to note that in 2011, I have halved my time.
   This time, the experts were all correct, confirming what I got right, and providing me useful leads that showed me where I could have gone wrong.
   As it turned out, it was software that was preventing the network from functioning properly and nothing with my set-up skills.
   While some of it’s on Twitter, the bulk of the dialogue is at this link on Tech Support Forum, which seems to be blessed with some regulars who know what they are talking about.

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Chevrolet’s new Malibu might still look like a Daewoo

01.04.2011

I took a few digs at the forthcoming Chevrolet Malibu on my Facebook yesterday.
   First: a few things GM got right.
   It’s right to put this on a global platform—in this case, the Opel Insignia‘s. It’s also right to make it a world car of sorts, where it can be sold globally with few changes, to maximize economies of scale.
   It’s also right to put in various Chevrolet-like touches. In the above video, you’ll hear the head exterior designer, Dan Gifford, go on about the coupé-like bits that’ll appear on the new Malibu. This only makes sense so that the brand has a certain æsthetic—something which it lacks at the moment as it tries to shift rebadged Daewoos.
   However, I’m not too confident about this car, despite the excellent, award-winning platform.
   Chevrolet’s message of recent years has been so different in each region that I wonder if some will even get the Camaro connection with the Malibu’s rear-light design.
   And this will be, I believe, the first new product from Chevrolet in the Korean market since the failure of the Holden Torana-based 1700 in the 1970s.
   In other words, in the east, where GM has already said the Malibu will make its Mali-début, it will replace the Daewoo Tosca, probably the most underwhelming car produced in the last decade, and a favourite of suicidal Seoul taxi drivers.
   The reason the Tosca is so ugly is that its designers expected it to be dented by fleet customers, thereby improving its looks.
   Daewoo needs to keep some link between Tosca and Chevrolet Malibu. It has to appeal to east Asian tastes, where GM expects to sell a lot of these cars, which means some of the aggression that Gifford talks about will likely be toned down.
   If you look at the spy photos or the animation above, it still looks like a big Daewoo to me, and I don’t mean that in a good way. It is an improvement—don’t get me wrong—but I’m still expecting it to make the designers of the 2006 Toyota Camry appear prescient.

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Posted in business, cars, design, USA | No Comments »


Apple’s brand evangelism can have a negative effect, providing an opportunity for rivals

01.04.2011

What a great post today from Eric Karjaluoto on his blog about Macs v. PCs.
   He outlines his gripes on a number of fields and doesn’t believe Apple holds a great advantage any more.
   I have to say I agree with him.
   On his Facebook, I wrote the following.

Well said, Eric.
   What has annoyed me for years is that whenever one of our PCs throws a wobbly, all the Mac evangelists swarm over my Tweet and say, ‘Buy a Mac,’ more quickly than you’d get a Sarah Palin endorsement at an American tea party rally.
   Yet whenever I complain about a Mac bug, the Mac evangelists are silent. Nowhere to be seen.
   I probably complain equally about the platforms relative to the amount of time I use on each, and the pattern above always holds true.
   The Mac brigade really has got to an extreme, hoodwinked by the marketing.
   Like you, in 1995 or thereabouts, I would swear black and blue about the superiority of the Mac. Not any more.
   Even as early as 2000 I began noticing the memory limits on Macs, on some programs where Windows could handle them better at the limit.
   In 2011 these two are as different as Buick and Chevrolet. I no longer care which is which, but the whole Mac evangelism is as annoying as catching a cab with a religious taxi driver who tries to convert you during the ride. If anything, the extreme Mac fans (not the everyday ones) are hurting their brand by coming across as tossers.
   All I can say is that the virus attacks on the Mac have been rare, but with the larger Windows’ user base, I’m not on hold to Apple Australia for two bloody hours because I haven’t been able to solve the problem myself. Do I save time using Macs? On the whole, probably not.

   I’m not saying Windows is superior. Like Eric, I have no real preference. They are tools, and as long as they get the job done, that’s OK by me. If they mess up, I feel I should complain—or at least record it so others who face the same issue can feel reassured they are not alone, and they might even be able to read of a resolution in the comments or a follow-up post.
   In part, that’s why I document my glitches here (the other part is catharsis). Many a time I have been able to go back to my blogs and repeat the instructions.
   But while most brands could do with a bit of evangelism, I have to say that the fairly unfounded evangelism by the extreme fans is annoying. That goes for any product or service, not just Apple.
   Mac users can justifiably claim superiority over the virus issue, but I don’t see a huge gap on other things any more.
   Brand evangelism is like any other type of endorsement: when it gets to an extreme, it has the opposite effect.
   In fact, the Apple name no longer has the halo effect it did for me in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
   While I had my tongue in my cheek for some of what I wrote on Eric’s Facebook, the analogies aren’t too far off.
   Yes, Mr Auckland Taxi Driver, it was annoying when you told me about the descriptions of heaven in the Koran for five minutes after my cab ride. I respect your religion, and I respect your holy book, but there’s a time to take a hint and let your passenger out of the car because, well, you’ve arrived at the destination. (It’s not restricted to Islam—a friend recently told me of her experience with a Christian taxi driver. I’m sure there are examples from every religion in the world.)
   Equally, the blanket ‘Buy a Mac’ is an unhelpful response to a complaint when I know full well the Mac has trouble with a similar issue.
   From a brand point-of-view, there’s not much Apple can do.
   It needs those big profits and premium pricing for the sake of its shareholders, and to maximize its return on investment. They are more stylish machines on the whole. And we are almost conditioned to pay a little more for something smart-looking, and to heck with whatever’s on the inside.
   For years, it’s relied on snobbery—which was, as I said, once justified. And the failure of growing the Mac line under John Sculley is still fresh in the leadership’s mind. Apple is convinced that the current path is the right path for its brand.
   And while it’s relied on snobbery, none of its communications are really that snobby, at least down here. In fact, they are quite down-to-earth and cleverly done. Apple just manages to elicit that emotion.
   The key to letting folks know the truth is simply consumer awareness and education—and, on that note, some of the Windows-based manufacturers are doing a less convincing job. They only have themselves to blame.
   The landscape has changed so that we peasants now can buy things that look reasonably cool and perform as well.
   Yet so few have managed to be consistent enough in their branding and marketing to say, ‘We chart our own path, and our machines are excellent.’
   It sounds like a huge opportunity to me, especially if the evangelists’ din annoys.

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Posted in branding, business, design, marketing, technology, USA | 6 Comments »