Archive for November 2013


Business etiquette 101: don’t threaten lawsuits against a customer proposing an idea which you later adopt

30.11.2013

Interesting to spot this link. When I started Autocade in 2008, I approached Haymarket, letting them know I was a Classic and Sportscar reader since it began in the 1980s, and I was inspired by the Sedgwick guides that it ran then. Autocade was to be an online cyclopædia that would use a brief format, with original research, of course, but I would welcome the input of C&SC if it so wished.
   As I recall, the response from the boss was condescending. His staff were so busy there was no way they could ever contribute to such a venture, he told me. That was before the threat: if any part of the Sedgwick guides wound up in Autocade, there would be a lawsuit.
   All this in a single reply, to someone who told him he was a customer since 1983.
   This link illustrates that the first part of his response was complete bollocks, as the guide now exists online, and has done so for nearly three years. In fact, C&SC solicits input from the public. They have taken the Autocade approach.
   And seriously, did he think another publisher would be stupid enough to reproduce the guides online for all to see?
   No, Haymarket has not broken the law: anyone is free to do a guide with their own, original content, and they are free to solicit outside help.
   Nor do I particularly mind seeing this guide online (right down to the ‘most recently updated’ column) because it helps with research—anything is better than the inaccuracies, assumptions and rumours that pass for facts in Wikipedia. There’s only a tiny bit of overlap with Autocade in terms of the eras covered, so the two sites complement one another.
   But it smacks of gross hypocrisy.
   Not only are they doing something they said they would never do because they lacked the resources, they threatened a loyal customer when they had no basis to do so.
   In essence: Haymarket Publishing once threatened me with a lawsuit for proposing an idea, one which they have since adopted. Yes, it really is that simple.
   I lost a lot of respect for a certain Haymarket big-wig that day, someone whose work I had read and admired for decades. It’s surprising to think he hadn’t learned some basic rules in business.
   Brands are not steered by market dominance or big corporate mouths. They are, instead, steered by everyday people, who you should work with, rather than make unwarranted threats against.
   Oh, after reassuring the chap that Autocade would have only original content (after all, he may have not known that New Zealanders are generally law-abiding), I never received an apology for his unprofessional behaviour.
   Even a note of thanks now would be nice for borrowing an idea they were presented with five years ago.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, cars, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, UK | 1 Comment »


A tribute to Lewis Collins: the top five reasons he was awesome

28.11.2013

A small tribute to actor Lewis Collins on his passing earlier this week (originally published in Lucire Men).

Lewis Collins

1. The cars
The Triumph Dolomite Sprint Lewis Collins’ character, William Andrew Philip Bodie (he was a ‘regal-looking baby’) had in The Professionals had more power than Doyle’s TR7. And his Capris were far cooler. So cool that eventually, even Doyle had to follow suit and get one to replace his Escort RS2000. (In real life: the RS2000 was stolen.)

2. The clothes
In his roles, Bodie was well dressed in The Professionals, sharp suits in the first season contrasting Doyle’s casual look. As Cmdr Peter Skellen in Ian Sharp’s Who Dares Wins, Collins showed that he could wear well tailored clothes as well as an SAS uniform exceptionally well. In one of the last appearances I saw him in, the German series Blaues Blut (which was created by The Professionals’ Brian Clemens), Lew showed he could pull off a bowler hat.

3. The hair
Not having a bubble cut is a good thing.

4. The machismo
After playing an SAS commander in Who Dares Wins, Lewis Collins signed up and passed the entrance tests, but was rejected for being too famous. He auditioned for James Bond but was deemed ‘too aggressive’. In a pub brawl, you’d want Lew, and not Ross Kemp, on your side.

5. The twinkle
Lewis Collins had a twinkle in his eye in everything he did, whether it was a bit-part in The New Avengers (where he teamed up with Martin Shaw) or spoofing his character on The Freddie Starr Show. That’s what we’ll miss the most.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in interests, TV, UK | No Comments »


Facebook and Instagram have not only jumped the shark, but Richie Cunningham has left home

27.11.2013

Social networking is bound to change in 2014 as some of the main services out there have jumped the shark.
   You may say they jumped them ages ago, but the lack of innovation inside Facebook and its subsidiaries is beginning to hurt them.
   After having campaigned for six months for the Wellington mayoralty, I hadn’t visited Lucire’s Facebook page quite as much. I was disappointed to see that Facebook shared our non-image posts far more than any with an image, the opposite to what we had seen on my campaign page.
   Since it began charging for promoted posts, Facebook intentionally broke its pages: it ensured that post sharing would go down around 90 per cent. Any post with a link would be shared even less now, because that would tend to take you off-site. (On this note, Facebook harms itself as it limits even internal links.)
   For a company, then, Facebook pages are proving, as they once were in the late 2000s, just something you do to keep up a presence but they add very little to the corporate social dialogue, nor do they build a brand particularly well.
   The interface is dreary now, especially compared with Google Plus’s—and that’s coming from someone who hates Google for all its regular privacy breaches, buggy bots and questionable ethics.
   You’d never lose money betting on Facebook’s demise, but the question has always been when.
   I don’t think it’s as far away as we think. Each morning, I delete between three and eight fake accounts that try to join one of my groups. Vox, which died in 2010, was overrun with fake accounts toward the end, and its parent company did nothing about them. I tend to find the same fakes resurface from time to time. Sites do fall when the fakes get in, and if Facebook doesn’t get on top of these now, then it will suffer badly.
   Secondly, there’s precious little innovation happening. Remember the hoop-la over Timeline? It was a clever way of presenting information, and others—even Google Plus—followed. (Myspace, meanwhile, went for something different again, and, from a design point of view, I love it.) Facebook has abandoned that now in favour of what really is a bigger wall, and maybe that’s what people wanted, but without innovation, it has become a chore. It’s a place where I pick up the odd message, but there’s a feeling that it’s a last-decade sort of place.
   Instagram, meanwhile, is doing no better. At its peak, your friends’ activity page might show the last couple of hours. For me, it now shows the last seven hours. The heavy Instagrammers—my friend Lena, an early adopter with thousands of followers—just aren’t there any more. They may have suffered from Instagram fatigue.
   Instagram, too, suffered from fakes, though since I often have my account privacy turned on, I haven’t seen as many lately. Instaspam, as it became known regularly through 2012–13, harmed things, and while the addition of video is interesting, it hasn’t managed to reverse the decline of that social network.
   Vkontakte, I might add, has also been weighed down by fakes, though I can no longer sign in to it due to hacking.
   I won’t be so bold as to say social is dead, but I wouldn’t be surprised to forecast consolidation and old brand loyalties kicking back in, because the big social network sites have not only jumped the shark, but Richie has left for Alaska and cousin Roger is living with the Cunninghams.
   The next social network might, just might, pay for our content and time, even if it’s in micropayments, as I see the profit motive being one way a newbie can break the strangehold of the big players. Or they might do something even more radical.
   But, as we have seen in the past, if Altavista can be unseated as the biggest website in the world—a prospect that was unfathomable in 1997—then so can a website with member numbers allegedly in the thousand millions.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, internet, marketing, technology | No Comments »


Google continues to blacklist innocent site, seven months after its owners cleaned it

22.11.2013

Seven months after Google blacklisted our websites over false allegations of malware, I can say that the traffic to some has not recovered. And to prove that Google continues to publish libel based on its highly dubious systems, here are two screen shots from my browser tonight, which I saw when trying to access bjskosherbaskets.com, the site that hackers linked to back in April, where they placed some malware.


   I’ve noted here that we were hacked back in April, and we fixed everything within hours. But good luck getting off Google’s blacklists. They claim six to seven hours, whereas our experience was six to seven days. (No surprise: it took Google four years to remove my private data from Adsense, while my dispute with them over retained Blogger data, which they promised to delete in 2010, is ongoing. Things happen very slowly in California.)
   Bjskosherbaskets.com, meanwhile, is finding that seven months, not seven days, are still not enough to get off a Google blacklist.
   Browsers will block the site based on Google’s claims. Yet when you read why Google has blocked it, there is no reason: even the big G says the website is clean, and free from malware. It says, rightly, that it detected some more than 90 days ago, but there isn’t any now.
   The question is: why does Google continue to ruin the reputation of a website whose owners have, like us, done everything they could to remedy a situation? And why is libel permissible?
   There are just too many breaches of ethics by this company, yet it beggars belief that it still ranks as the number-one website in the world.
   At the very least, internet security companies need to stop relying on Google, whose systems are faulty, and who dedicates the grand total of two part-timers to the task of malware detection.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, publishing, technology, USA | 4 Comments »


Google pays out US$17 million over Doubleclick privacy hacking

20.11.2013

When surfing, there are precious few people who, like me, de-Googled their lives. There’s the odd blog post here and there, but, overall, those of us who took the plunge are few and far between. It still puzzles me, given the regular privacy problems that I find on Google Dashboard (Google supporters will argue that at least they have a dashboard—Facebook doesn’t).
   But it appears various states’ attorneys-general (or ‘attorney-generals’ according to USA Today) in the US are concerned about Google’s privacy breaches, too. Two years ago, I uncovered how Google’s lied about its opt-out procedure: Google may well have tracked people, who believe they had opted out from its Ads Preferences Manager, for years. More recently, it was busted, by the Murdoch Press, for tracking people using Apple’s Safari browser. (The day they were busted, they stopped doing it.)
   The Ohio Attorney-General’s office summed up the case:

Google generates revenue primarily through advertising. Through its DoubleClick advertising platform it sets third-party cookies — small files in consumers’ Web browsers — that enable third-party advertisers to gather information about those consumers, including their Web surfing habits.
   By default, Apple’s Safari Web browser is set to block third-party cookies, but from June 1, 2011 to February 15, 2012, Google circumvented Safari’s default privacy settings and set third-party cookies on Safari Web browsers. Google disabled the circumvention method in February 2012 after the practice was widely reported on the Internet and in the media.
   The attorneys general allege that Google’s circumvention of the default privacy settings violated state consumer protection laws and related computer privacy laws. The states claim that Google failed to inform Safari users that it was circumventing their privacy settings and gave them the false impression that their default privacy settings would block third-party cookies. In turn, users’ Web surfing habits could be tracked without the users’ knowledge.

   My blogging about something and going to the Network Advertising Initiative is nothing compared to when the US media gets hold of it. Maybe I could have gone to the US media at the time, but chose not to. I still believe it shows a pattern here about Google’s corporate culture, and that the company will do anything when it comes to its profitable, multi-milliard-dollar advertising business.
   However, the pay-out, of US$17 million, is around four hours’ worth of Google Adwords’ earnings. So really, we’re not talking about a huge amount here. Maybe Apple Safari users just aren’t worth that much?
   On that note, I’m wondering whether we should wind down our Feedburner subscriptions in favour of the default one on Wordpress. It’s much uglier, but it’s not Google. As Google still refuses to resolve the problem about holding on to my old blog data without my permission, the only recourse may be to kill my entire Google account. I’ve now removed my membership of one Analytics account (it only took Google a few years to get that sorted—but less than the four years it took to get my confidential information off Adsense), and there are a few other work things still tied to it, including the Lucire Google Plus page.
   On a similar note, I see some people are upset this month about being forced to get a Google Plus account just to comment on YouTube, including YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim (though probably not upset enough to de-Google in most cases). My advice: you really won’t miss commenting on YouTube, since I refused to link my basic Google account with my YouTube several years ago. Get a blog and write your own entry if you want to comment publicly, or write a Tweet or Facebook status update with the YouTube video link, and get things off your chest that way. It’s worked for me and I don’t have to engage some of the daft things that appear among YouTube comments.
   As to the YouTube commenting petition, I have a feeling Google won’t care, unless you’re prepared to fight them for years, which is what I had to do to get some basic private data off their systems.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, internet, media, technology, USA | 10 Comments »


Let’s improve on the Wellington logo

07.11.2013

The city’s new logo—it is not a rebrand if the underlying tenets are the same—has not met with much support.
   The next question must be: all right, if we’re all so smart, can we do better?
   Ian Apperley and I think we can. Ian approached me yesterday morning to ask whether we should do a competition and open it up to all Wellingtonians.
   At least that addresses the criticisms about getting people involved, and ensuring the internal audience—that’s us—is engaged.
   But to kick it off, we can’t just come up with another logo. I think we need to think seriously about how we might replace the 22-year-old Absolutely Positively Wellington brand (in the widest sense of that word).
   And here’s a head-start to make life easier: a discussion document with some Wellingtonians’ opinions on where the brand could go. In November 2010, I called a meeting with Hilary Beaton, Brian Calhoun, Nick Kapica, Christopher Lipscombe and Mayor Celia Wade-Brown to discuss the ideas about rebranding our city. (In other words, the fact that a city rebrand was of concern to Wellingtonians prior to the Massey University–The Dominion Post mayoral debate was foreseen by yours truly.)
   The document was not released due to busy-ness at the end of 2010, then, the need to seek permission from the participants (which took a little while to secure). All have agreed that it can be released to the public.
   I didn’t want to use it as something to do with my campaign when it belonged to everyone. With the discussion around a city brand arising again, this seems as good a time as any.
   You can largely ignore the minutes of the discussion itself and go on to p. 6. In there, we felt that the Wellington brand should include these ideas, but stopped short at offering a concrete slogan.

   Edge. The notion of “edge” came from this first part. Coastal cycleways are on the edge of the city, literally. Biodiversity is celebrated as an “edgy” concept. Cutting-edge is a concept Wellingtonians can relate to. The Sevens are edgy as a concept; as is concentrated diversity.
   Connections to science and technology. Following Brisbane’s example, Wellington already has research institutes that can help with R&D in the city.
   Empowerment. Other ideas that surfaced from the discussion of a producer culture led to the notion of empowering individuals, which could relate not just to technology, but simpler ideas of growing fruit trees in public gardens, or poetry readings when meeting together.
   Encourage diversity. The carrot is better than the stick. Ideas of tolerance, and showing a better way need to be promoted.
   Nimble. Wellington can move quickly thanks to size and innovation.
   Contests. The idea of competition needs to be built in to the Wellington brand, as discussed above.
   Youth. Get young people involved and allow them ownership.
   Economic drivers. We identified the beauty of the city, diversity, public spaces, technology and the arts as important drivers for Wellington.
   The waterfront. It is a public space that is at the core of much of Wellington’s beauty and is a driver of creativity.
   Creative locations. Already Downstage is becoming an incubator for productions, allowing producers to retain their IP—a shift in how theatres could be managed, and totally in line with a creative city. This shift answers how we work today. What if it extended incubation to designers and other creatives?
   The weightless economy. Design, IP, and related services can help raise New Zealand’s OECD rankings and can overcome the ‘tyranny of distance’. Royalty-based products, such as Apollo 13 and others, paint a way forward.
   Ownership and shifting to an individual culture. By providing ownership of ideas, Wellington can shift to a more individualistic culture, rather than the team one that tends to hold entrepreneurship back.

   A competition page for submitting your ideas can be found here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, culture, design, general, internet, New Zealand, Wellington | 3 Comments »


Explaining one of Dynamo’s card tricks, possibly

07.11.2013

An interesting video from our friends at ITN, featuring magician Dynamo, who releases the third season of his Magician Impossible series on DVD.

   Other than the sleight of hand, I’m guessing that there are two jacks with his signature, because he can duplicate that. The journalist is never given her own card to bite: Dynamo has the eight of diamonds all along.
   As to some of the other illusions, no, I haven’t figured them out. Why is this here and not on my Tumblr, where I post most of my mindless stuff? The video embed code is for our company sites and I can stretch that a little here.
   We will return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in TV, UK | No Comments »