Archive for December 2013


Sounds familiar? Works on all browsers, except for IE8

29.12.2013

I’m sure this is familiar to anyone who has done web development. Lucire has a new home page and the tests show:

Firefox on Mac, Windows, Ubuntu: OK
Chromium on Windows: OK
IE9 and IE10: OK
Safari on Mac OS X, Iphone and Ipad: OK
Dolphin on Android: OK
A really old version of Seamonkey we had at the office: OK
IE8 on Windows XP: not OK

   All the roman text is showing as bold, and as usual this is not a bug that I can find reported (I even looked on Google). I have found bugs about italics showing instead of romans caused by installation issues, which don’t apply here as we are using webfonts. There is another common bug about faux bolds and italics, but I’m having the opposite problem: a true bold showing up where romans should (and bold italic instead of italic).
   Annoyingly, this bug may have been with us for over a month—when we changed our body type.
   Given that IE8 was never a good browser to begin with, and anyone who cared about their surfing experiences would not have touched it, it makes me wonder if we should invest any more time trying to get things to work. It does mean that just under a tenth of our readers (or is it just over a fifth? Depends who you want to believe) won’t be able to experience our website the way we intended. I realize older IEs are more commonplace in China but our readership this year in the Middle Kingdom had dipped.
   The good news, in some ways, is Microsoft’s announcement that it will cease support for the venerable XP platform in 2014. If trends continue based on the first set of stats, the well obsolete IE8 should dip below the five per cent mark this coming year.
   It’s a toss-up between leaving it and fixing it, given that we don’t know why IE8 is misinterpreting the linked fonts (theory: are the character sets of the roman and italic too large for it to handle?). If we knew, then fixing things would be a no-brainer. (Clues are welcome!)

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Posted in business, design, internet, media, New Zealand, technology, typography | 2 Comments »


Steve Guttenberg shows us how a Kiwi accent is done

27.12.2013

Back in September, The Dominion Post claimed on its front page that I have an ‘accent’ that is holding me back. It was a statement which the editor-in-chief subsequently apologized for, and which she had removed from the online edition—you can judge for yourself here if the claim was a falsehood. Still, despite having lived here for 37 years and having grown up here, I thought I had better take lessons from the great actor, Steve Guttenberg, on what a New Zealander sounds like, since evidently I was still too foreign for a newspaper reporter.
   Head to around 49 minutes for Steve in the persona of Lobo Marunga, from Auckland, in The Boyfriend School, which aired in New Zealand as Don’t Tell Her It’s Me. Forget Sir Ben Kingsley in Ender’s Game.

   My thanks to all those on Twitter and Facebook who complained to the newspaper back in September. The plus side is turning fictions like this into what they should be: a source of humour and entertainment.

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Posted in humour, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, TV, USA, Wellington | 4 Comments »


It took Rick Klau to sort it out, again

10.12.2013

In 2009, when my friend Vincent’s Blogger or Blogspot blog was deleted by Google, I fought on his behalf to get it back. Six months on the Google support forums, nothing.
   One day, a friend on Twitter told me that with Google’s deletion of John Hempton’s blog, as publicized by Reuter journalist Felix Salmon, Blogger product manager Rick Klau had intervened, and had it reinstated. Maybe I should approach Rick, who had a stellar reputation was being one of the good guys inside Google.
   I did, and within a day, he had sorted everything out.
   Six months using the official channels, one day getting the boss involved.
   Admittedly, I began getting suspicious of Google’s Blogger service, even though my own blogs never fell foul of the Googlebot. Google then announced that it would end FTP support of blogs anyway, so I decided it was time to pack up and leave.
   One by one, I deleted my blogs from Blogger, and I watched the number drop slowly inside Google Dashboard.
   Google Dashboard always lagged a bit, but between the start of 2010 and today there was a problem: all my Blogger blogs had been deleted, but Dashboard continue to record 1.
   And so began another saga with Google.
   Again I used the official channels—the support forums—and got no response.
   Rick had left Blogger—he would up being YouTube’s product manager for a while—so I contacted his successor, Chang Kim. Chang passed it on to Brett, one of Blogger’s staff.
   Brett told me the name of the blog I supposedly still had. The weirdest things are these: I’ve never heard of this blog, so it’s definitely not mine; but, I do know the gentleman in Canada who owns it, and he tells me that I have never had any connection to it, nor has he ever added me as an author. I responded to Brett at the time and told him this, but the conversation was dropped.
   I never knew if Brett was on the level. What if Google had not properly deleted all my data as I had asked it to? What if the 1 reflected that? Or if it was a bug, then really Google needs to fix it, so being a good netizen, I really should point out this discrepancy.
   I started a new thread this year on the Google support forums, and it was answered by our old friend Chuck—the chap who fenced with me at the end of 2009 asking irrelevant questions and ignoring specific answers. He asked yet another irrelevant question, I gave him a specific answer, but this time, he just dropped it (a typical experience, I might add, for anything that falls outside routine matters on the Google support forums). I suppose that’s better than fencing and keeping me on there for another half-year.
   So, would Google ever sort this out?
   One evening, I decided I would turn to the one person inside the company who showed some responsibility for his company’s actions: Rick Klau.
   Rick’s with Google Ventures now so he had no real reason to get involved in an enquiry concerning a branch of a company he left three years ago.
   But in classic Rick fashion, he stepped up.
   And while it wasn’t 24 hours, it was a single weekday. Rick asked me one question the day after my enquiry, I answered it, and a weekday later, he had sorted it: my Google Dashboard says I have no blogs with them.
   Three (nearly four) years using the official channels, one day getting the (former) boss involved.
   Google might do some questionable things, but it has at least one good bloke working for it. If only everyone was as professional as Rick Klau.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 5 Comments »


Flip-flop again: GM deems Chevrolet Europe strategy a failure

08.12.2013

GM has changed its mind again: Chevrolet will not be its global brand.
   The strategy, where Daewoo was rebadged Chevrolet in western Europe at the beginning of the century, has been deemed a failure, and GM will withdraw its core Korean-made models such as the Spark, Aveo, Cruze and Malibu, by 2015. It will return to where it was a few decades ago: a brand selling quintessentially American cars such as the Camaro and Corvette.
   For many years on this blog, I expressed my doubts on rebadging Daewoos, either as Holden or Chevrolet. If GM wanted a budget brand, it had one in Daewoo. With the exception of the Malibu, the cars always looked Korean anyway, despite some US (and Australian) styling input, and Kia and Hyundai demonstrate that there is no negative brand equity these days with ‘Made in Korea’.
   It was impossible for GM to shake off Chevrolet’s American country-of-origin effect in the last decade in western Europe. GM also believes that having Opel and Vauxhall as its mainstream western European brand is enough.
   The theory wasn’t all wrong though. In the last decade we’ve seen the continued rise of Å koda, and Dacia has managed to find buyers. Nissan has brought back Datsun in an effort to appeal to cost-conscious consumers who want a simple car. Daewoo could have had a role to play in Europe, if GM had got the marketing right.
   It also seem to have got things wrong with Opel in Australia, pulling out after an even shorter time.
   I seem to be correct again when I argued that brands like Holden could not be abandoned in favour of Chevrolet, because you can never rely on GM for a long-term strategy. There are no economies of scale in promotion when Chevrolet simply isn’t as well regarded outside the Americas, and where we consumers are still quite happy to use certain domestic or regional brands as mental shortcuts to cars being sold as domestic appliances. Levitt isn’t to be applied blindly.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, globalization, marketing, USA | 2 Comments »


Facebook pages are broken

08.12.2013

While my personal Facebook page and profile continue to have good reach and engagement, the Lucire Facebook is down, especially compared with this time last year.
   We’ve increased fans and, on our site, readership, but it’s becoming more and more evident that traffic isn’t coming via the Facebook fan page.
   It makes you wonder, then, whether Facebook pages remain a useful marketing tool.
   Today is one of the high-traffic days of the year, one where had incredibly high Facebook engagement a year ago. We recorded a reach of 3,169 on the principal article posted that day, on Miss France 2013. Today’s figure for the 2014 competition: 45. (I’d give you a 2011 figure, but Facebook doesn’t allow me to scroll down that far on that page.)
   If we post something without an external link, then Facebook will share that with more of our fans, and these will be in the hundreds.
   This is probably the best example we have at Lucire for the declining effectiveness of Facebook, with two very comparable posts.

   Since the company introduced paid updates, fan page administrators saw an immediate decline in engagement numbers. These seem to have worsened even more in 2013. Facebook denied it then, even objected to the suggestion:

At the time, Facebook contended that algorithmic changes had been made to weed out spammy, non-engaging content, but that the median reach of pages hadn’t budged. It particularly objected to the inference that the changes had been made to spur marketers to spend more on ads to make up for lost reach.

However, now comes an admission of sorts in a sales’ deck sent to its partners, revealed by Advertising Age. Folks called BS then, and they were right.
   So while 2012 had research showing a 38 per cent year-on-year drop, we’ve seen that 2013 has seen the figure plunge in order for the Californian social network to make more money.
   Back to Advertising Age:

In the document, titled “Generating business results on Facebook,” the paragraph in which the impending drop-off in organic reach is revealed concludes with an ad pitch; marketers are told they should consider paid distribution “to maximize delivery of your message in news feed.” …
   In other words, the main reason to acquire fans isn’t to build a free distribution channel for content; it’s to make future Facebook ads work better.

   When I posted that Facebook was dying, I had plenty of people object—on Facebook, of course—because the network had become so ingrained. But, I thought, once upon a time it was habitual to check your Altavista or Excite home page. Once people find a better way to keep in touch, something that mirrors real-life interaction more, they’ll go.
   Facebook fatigue could well come from the lack of stimulation that the website represents today. While Timeline was rolled out to much fanfare in September 2011, and other nip–tucks had taken place regularly before then, Facebook has not innovated on such a grand scale since. However, like an operating system, or like some software, there’s little visual delight in Facebook in 2013 for me. The personal motive is far less than it was. And if there’s such a substantial drop-off in reach on fan pages—we are talking nearly 99 per cent—then there’s no supporting work reason to be there, either. Sure you could innovate and run competitions, but if the reach is this pathetic, does it give businesses much confidence to take the plunge? I don’t think so, not for the majority of small businesses.
   Facebook seemed like a recessionary tool: one where people could spend time to forget how bad the economy is. When things improve, we might just want to get out there and do stuff.
   All this potentially plays into Google’s hands, and that’s not something I’ll admit to lightly. Google News was Lucire’s friend today. We need reach to get engagement, and we’ll go where we can get it. The search is on.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, New Zealand, publishing, USA | 3 Comments »