Archive for July 2019


When you let amateurs like Rees-Mogg write style guides

27.07.2019

I thought I could be archaic on a few things—I still use diphthongs in text in our publications (æsthetic, Cæsar), the trio of inst., ult. and prox. in written correspondence, and even fuel economy occasionally in mpg (Imperial) because I am useless at ℓ/100 km and too few countries use km/ℓ. However, even I had to cringe at Jacob Rees-Mogg’s style guide as revealed by ITV. This has now been circulated to his House of Commons staff. It is not satire.


   His first rule is ‘Organisations are SINGULAR’. (No, this isn’t licence to write ‘Organisations is singular.’) I don’t mind this as it’s one I adopt myself (admittedly inconsistently), but note the spelling of the first word. It’s French. The correct spelling is organizations, and the switch to the French in the Anglosphere appears to have happened postwar. Go to English books that are old enough, and you’ll find the z to be more commonplace. (Please don’t comment that z is ‘American’ before doing some research.)
   His sixth rule is ‘Double space after fullstops’. Now, the last word should be two words, but the rule itself has even been abandoned by the newspaper that Rees-Mogg’s father edited for so many years. Most compositors in Britain abandoned large spaces at the start of the 20th century, by my reckoning—my interpretation of the reading studies by Tinker et al is that the single space is sufficient, and web convention agrees. If we are to follow The Times in, say, 1969, we also need to insert spaces around certain other punctuation marks. If you find a copy from around that time, I can promise you it won’t be easy to read.
   What is apparent to me is that the rules have been typed up, at least, by an amateur, which accounts for the poor spacing and inconsistent capitalization, and generally it shows a disregard for professional style guides (again, we return to The Times). Sometimes, the acorn does fall far from the tree.
   I note that Imperial measurements are to be used again: none of this newfangled metric system nonsense. As I do some transactions in pounds sterling, I am going to refresh my memory on shillings, half-crowns and thruppenny bits in case currency decimalization is reversed. You never know, Johnson’s Britain may find the decimal system too Johnny Foreigner for its liking. ‘They cannot, and will not, change our sausage!’

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in culture, politics, publishing, typography, UK | 1 Comment »


Facebook is getting away with it again—even though it knew about Cambridge Analytica

25.07.2019

Thanks to my friend Bill Shepherd, I’ve now subscribed to The Ad Contrarian newsletter. Bob Hoffman is one of the few who gets it when it comes to how insignificant the FTC’s Facebook fine is.
   Five (American) billion (American) dollars sounds like a lot to you and me, but considering Facebook’s stock rose on the news, they’ve more than covered the fine on the rise alone.
   Bob writes: ‘The travesty of this settlement guarantees that no tech company CEO will take consumer privacy or data security seriously. Nothing will change till someone either has to pay personally or go to jail. Paying insignificant fines with corporate money is now an officially established cost of doing business in techland and—who knows?—a jolly good way to boost share prices.’
   There’s something very messed up about this scenario, particularly as some of the US’s authorities are constantly being shown up by the EU (over Google’s monopoly actions) and the UK’s Damian Collins, MP (over the questions being asked of Facebook—unlike US politicians’, his aren’t toothless).
   The US SEC, meanwhile, has released its report on Facebook, showing that Facebook knew what was happening with Cambridge Analytica in 2015–16, and that the company willingly sold user data to the firm. SEC’s Stephanie Avakian noted, ‘As alleged in our complaint, Facebook presented the risk of misuse of user data as hypothetical when they knew user data had in fact been misused.’ You can read the entire action as filed by the SEC here.

In its quarterly and annual reports filed between January 28, 2016 and March 16, 2018 (the “relevant period”), Facebook did not disclose that a researcher had, in violation of the company’s policies, transferred data relating to approximately 30 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica. Instead, Facebook misleadingly presented the potential for misuse of user data as merely a hypothetical investment risk. Moreover, when asked by reporters in 2017 about its investigation into the Cambridge Analytica matter, Facebook falsely claimed the company found no evidence of wrongdoing, thereby reinforcing the misleading statements in its periodic filings.

   As I have been hashtagging, #Facebooklies. This is standard practice for the firm, as has been evidenced countless times for over a decade. The settlement: US$100 million. Pocket change.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, media, politics, technology, USA | No Comments »


‘If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?’

25.07.2019

I didn’t read this thinking of Trump, which is what the Tweeter intended. I read it thinking of New Zealand. Heard the ‘If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?’ bullshit a lot—I dare say every immigrant to this nation has. English-born American columnist Sydney J. Harris, in 1969, answered it better than I ever could. (I hope the image appears in the embed below, since I see no img tags—it seems reliant on Javascript.) Presumably this is either the Chicago Daily News or the Sun–Times.

   Not a heck of a lot has changed, has it?
   Hat tip to Juan Incognito for the re-Tweet.

PS.: The Sun–Times has run this on its website, and it was from the Chicago Daily News.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in media, New Zealand, politics, USA | No Comments »


Surely, it can’t be this hard

25.07.2019

Is it just me, or are companies getting more stupid by the day?

July 25, 2019

Marshall Freeman Collections (NZ) Ltd.
PO Box 302-218
NHPC
Auckland

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am in receipt of your letter dated the 19th inst.
   If you are indeed an extension of Plumbquick’s credit control department, you should check with them about their procedures.
   You may wish to ask the following.

   (a) When booking the job, did your client take down my credit card number?
   (b) Did your client advise me that if the invoice was not paid that they would charge that credit card?
   (c) Did I offer your client’s plumbers payment on completion of the job on the day but they said it would be sorted out with their accounts’ department, especially if they already had my credit card on file?
   (d) Did your client send out their invoice dated May 21, 2019 with a due date of May 21, 2019, which would result in my reasonably expecting that (b) would take place?

   Now, since I am not in possession of a time machine, and considering I received the invoice on May 25, 2019, all four questions above should be answered in the affirmative.
   Your client needs to be advised to, first, contact the customer themselves (well before July 19, incidentally), secondly, follow their own procedures, and thirdly, not provide a credit controller with a fiction about a late payment. I have no desire to affect excellent credit that I have spent decades building because of another party’s negligence.
   I trust this clears this matter up.

Yours faithfully,

   In case you’re wondering, my credit card has been charged.
   I also highly recommend Bernie and Pipe Dream Plumbing in Tawa.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


In my experience, the only browser that works with Jetstar’s website is Safari for Mac

23.07.2019

I’ve found some forum entries about this, but they date back to the beginning of the decade. I alerted Jetstar to this in March, and the problem has worsened since then.
   Basically, I can’t book online, and I don’t know why. Consequently, I booked one flight with Air New Zealand and only managed, after huge effort, to get the other (for a colleague) with Jetstar.
   Back in March, I couldn’t book with Vivaldi, but I was able to switch to Firefox. I let Jetstar know.
   Now, this strategy does not work.
   Before you suggest it, cookies and caches have been cleared.
   Here’s what happens after I’ve selected the cities and the dates, and I go to select times. Let’s begin with Vivaldi on Windows, which is based on Chromium (which, as we know, is what Chrome, the browser Jetstar suggests you use, is based on):

Switching to Firefox now results in this:

Switching to Edge on the same PC gives this:

   Fortunately, I also own Macs, so here’s what Firefox for Mac returns:

   The only browser that works with the Jetstar website: Safari on Mac. As I’ve sold my Ubuntu laptop, I was unable to test using that OS.
   Not many people would go to that effort, and while Jetstar’s Twitter staff (after some pushing from me in DMs) said they would refer it on, I don’t expect anything to happen.
   Maybe Chrome would work, but I’m not ever going to download it to find out. Why invite Google on to your computer? But if that is the case, it seems foolish to limit yourself to such an invasive browser. My experience is that whatever is blocking me from booking with Jetstar (some may argue that this is a good thing), it is expanding across browsers.

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


Verizon’s continued hypocrisy borne of pettiness

12.07.2019

Remember Tumblr, the platform owned by Verizon that I left?
   I left because of Verizon’s policies, of placing their corporate agenda ahead of the users.
   I went to NewTumbl instead—a site that Tumblr users might not know about, since Verizon has ensured that searches for its competitor come up empty.
   I was very surprised to find that Verizon Media has opened an account at NewTumbl—a site that they effectively tell their users does not exist.
   And what are they doing on it? Running their sit vac ads for free:


   It’s not technically in violation of NewTumbl’s terms, but what is interesting are their hashtags.
   One of the hashtags is sexy, albeit misspelled as sexu.

   Now, either you have to be sexy to work for Verizon (given the other hashtags used), or they are hashtag-spamming, in the hope their ads will be seen more widely.
   It is, basically, douchebag behaviour—but this also tells us that NewTumbl has them rattled. Why else would they advertise here instead of a regular job site?
   The effect on their brand is very negative—since people can see these ads for what they are: a cheap shot across the bow. This is how petty big US companies are. We see this from Google, so why not Verizon?

PS.: Unlike Big Tech and the bigger players in corporate America, I own up when I learn more. The Verizon account on NewTumbl was revealed to be a fake, and has since been deleted. However, Verizon’s censorship on Tumblr continues (you can’t find NewTumbl but you can find Pornhub—all hail their potential buyers!).—JY

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, internet, media, publishing, USA | No Comments »


My social media engagement is dropping and I do not care

09.07.2019

In the last month, maybe the last few weeks, my likes on Instagram have halved. Interestingly, Lucire’s Instagram visits have increased markedly. But as I use my own account more than a work one, I can see the trend there a bit more clearly.
   It’s not unlike Facebook, which, of course, owns Instagram. While I haven’t used it for personal updates since 2017, I maintain a handful of pages, and I still recall earlier this decade when, overnight, engagement dropped 90 per cent. It never recovered. Facebook, like Google, biases itself toward those who can afford to pay, in the great unlevelling of the playing field that Big Tech is wont to do.
   They know that they’re structured on, basically, a form of digital drug-taking: that for every like we get, we get a dopamine hit, and if we want to maintain those levels, we had better pay for them and become junkies. But here’s the thing: what if people wake up and realize that they don’t need that hit any more? I mean, even Popeye Doyle got through cold turkey to pursue Alain Charnier in French Connection II.
   I’ve written about social media fatigue before, and the over-sharing that can come with it. More than once I blogged about being ‘Facebooked out’. And as you quit one social medium, it’s not too hard to quit another.
   I’ve made a lot of posts on Instagram but I value my privacy increasingly, and in the period leading up to the house move, I began doing less on it. And without the level of engagement, whether that’s caused by the algorithm or my own drop in activity, I’m beginning to care less, even if Instagram was more a hobby medium where I interacted with others.
   And since I have less time to check it, I actually don’t notice that I have fewer likes when I open the app. I only really know when I see that each photo averages 15 likes or so, when figures in the 30s and 40s were far more commonplace not very long ago.
   So what’s the deal? Would they like us to pay? I’m not that desperate. I don’t ’Gram for likes, as it was always a hobby, one that I seem to have less time for in 2019. I never thought being an “influencer” on Instagram was important. The novelty has well and truly worn off, and as friends depart from the platform, the need to use it to keep them updated diminishes. In the last fortnight I recorded three videos for friends and sent them via Smash or Wetransfer, and that kept them informed. You know, like writing a letter as we did pre-email, but with audio and video. Instagram just isn’t that vital. Email actually serves me just fine.

As I said to a friend tonight, even Twitter seems expendable from one’s everyday habits. Especially after March 15 here. You realize that those who are already arseholes really want to stay that way, their life ambition probably to join certain foreign-owned radio stations to be talking heads. But since they lack the nous, the best they can manage is social-media venting. And the good people want to remain good and have the space to live their lives happily. So why, I began wondering, should we spend our time getting our blood pressure up to defend our patch in a medium where the arseholes are, by and large, gutless wannabes who daren’t tell you have of the venom they write to your face? Does anyone ever put a Stuff commenter up on a pedestal and give them respect?
   While there are a great many people whom I admire on Twitter, and I am fortunate enough to have come into their orbit, there are an increasing number of days when I want to leave them to it, and if they wish to deal with the low-lifes of this world, it is their prerogative, and I respect them for doing something I’m tiring of doing myself. Twelve years on Twitter is a long time. At the time of writing, I’ve made 91,624 Tweets. That’s a lot.
   Unlike the arseholes, each and every one of these decent human beings have successful lives, and they don’t need to spend their waking moments dispensing hate toward any other group that isn’t like them in terms of genitals, sexual orientation, race or religion. And, frankly, I can contact those decent people in media outside of social.
   Maybe the fear of Tweeting less is that we believe that the patients will overrun the asylum, that we’re the last line of defence in a world where racists and others are emboldened. That if we show that good sense and tolerance prevail, as my grandfather and others wanted to do when they went to war, then those who harbour unsavoury thoughts toward people unlike them might think twice. I can’t really argue with that.
   But I wonder whether I’ll be more effective outside of social. I publish magazines, for a start. They give me a platform others do not have. I don’t need to leave comments on articles (and over the years, I haven’t done much of that). And I have websites I visit where I can unwind, away from the shouting factories of American Big Tech. Most of us want to do good on this earth, and the long game is I may be better off building businesses I’m good at rather than try to show how much smarter I am versus a talentless social media stranger.
   No, I’m not saying I’m leaving either medium. I am saying that I’d rather spend that time on things I love to do, and before 2007 I had enough to do without sharing. Some of the colleagues I respect the most have barely set foot in the world of social, and right now I envy just how much time they have managed to put into other important endeavours, including books that are changing lives.
   Big Tech must know the writing’s on the wall.

PS.: From a discussion with the wonderful William Shepherd when he read this on Twitter (the irony is not lost on me given the subject).—JY

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, interests, internet, New Zealand, publishing, technology, USA | No Comments »


This would be a great idea for a movie

05.07.2019

I came across this enjoyable graphic novel by a French author, David Blot, and illustrator, Jérémie Royer. It’s from 2011, and called Yesterday. Imagine a world where no one had heard of the Beatles. And one man decides to perform Beatles songs and takes credit for them, becoming a massive international star in the process. This would be a great idea for a movie. (No, I’m not accusing Richard Curtis of plagiarism. I put this down to coincidence, maybe tapping into the same inspirations, but the fact is Blot was there first.)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in culture, publishing | No Comments »


Reflections about Lee Iacocca—unfortunately, not all of it is positive

03.07.2019


The car Lee Iacocca will be remembered for, the 1965 Ford Mustang on the right.

Before I found out about Lee Iacocca’s passing, on the same day I Tweeted about one of the cars he was behind when he was president of Ford: the 1975 US Granada. Basically, Iacocca understood that Americans wanted style. That really was at the core of his thinking. It’s also why the Granada—really a warmed-over, restyled Falcon that had its roots in the late 1950s—was always compared to Mercedes-Benz models. It was a mass-market American pastiche of the German car, with the same size. It had a grille and hood ornament. But it was frightfully slow, underpowered, and heavy, one of the most inefficient cars that Americans could buy.
   It’s the antithesis of the Mustang, which Iacocca arguably spearheaded, though in his autobiography, he noted that so many people claimed to be the father of the Mustang that he didn’t want to be seen with the mother (or words to that effect—the book’s next to my partner who’s already gone to sleep as I write).
   That was a stylish car, too. It was a Falcon-based coupé. But it could be specified with the right power to match its looks, and it was priced and marketed brilliantly. Ford hit a home run, and Iacocca’s reputation as a car industry guru was sealed.
   He was also the man who came up with the idea for the Lincoln Continental Mark III. No, not the 1950s one (which technically wasn’t a Lincoln), the one that came out in the 1960s (Ford didn’t really follow a sequential numbering system—remember it went Mark, Mark II, III, IV, V, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII). The idea: stick a Rolls-Royce grille on a Thunderbird. It beat the Cadillac Eldorado, and Iacocca finished the ’60s on a high.
   I felt that history hadn’t been kind to the Mustang II, which also came out under Iacocca’s watch. The fact was it was a sales’ hit, at a time when Detroit was reeling from the 1973 fuel crisis. No V8s initially, which in the 21st century looks like a misstep; in 1974 it would have looked smart. Growing up, we didn’t think the II was as bad as history remembers.
   But the US range was, in some ways, lazy. GM was downsizing but Iacocca noted that people were still buying big cars. To give the impression of downsizing, Ford just renamed the Torino the LTD II. Look, it’s a smaller LTD! Not really: here was yet another car on old tech with another pastiche luxury-car grille.
   When Iacocca was fired from Ford, he went to Chrysler, and pulled off his greatest sales’ job yet: to secure loan guarantees from the Carter administration and turn the company around with a range of modern, front-wheel-drive cars. The K-car, and its derivatives, were a demonstration of great platform-sharing. He noted in his autobiography that Chrysler even worked out a way to shave a tiny amount from the length to fit more Ks on a railroad car. And Iacocca’s penchant for style re-emerged: not long after the original Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries, there were fancied up Chrysler LeBarons, and a woody wagon, then a convertible, the first factory US one since the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado. Most importantly, Chrysler got the T-115 minivans on sale before Renault got its Espace out, though after Nissan launched the first MPV, the smaller Prairie. Nevertheless, the minivan was an efficient family vehicle, and changed the face of motoring. Iacocca was right when he believed people want style, because it’s the SUV that has succeeded the MPV and minivan. SUVs are hardly efficient in most circumstances, but here we are in 2019, with minivan sales projected to fall, though Chrysler has managed to stay the market leader in its own country.
   Chrysler paid back its loans years early, and it was under Iacocca that the company acquired American Motors Corp., getting the Jeep brand (the real prize) in the process. And it’s thanks to François Castaing and others who came across from AMC that Chrysler wound up with its LH sedans, the “cab-forward” models that proved to be one of the company’s hits in the 1990s.
   While having saved Chrysler, it was burdened with acquisitions, and in Iacocca’s final full year as Chairman Lee, the company posted a $795 million loss, with the recession partly to blame. The press joked that LH stood for Last Hope.
   It’s an incredible record, with some amazing hits. They do outnumber the duds. But what really mars it is an incident of sexual harassment I learned some years ago that never appears in the official biographies. Now, I don’t have a sworn affidavit, so you can treat this as hearsay. But until I heard that from a good friend—the woman who was harassed—Iacocca was a personal hero of mine. I bought the autobiography. I could forgive the financial disgrace Chrysler was in for 1991—one year out of nearly a dozen isn’t a bad run, even though the writing was on the wall when so much money was spent on acquisitions, hurting working capital.
   I know, his daughters and their kids won’t appreciate what I just said. That it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, especially when they can’t answer back. You could say that that was the era he was from, in an industry steeped in male privilege—his boss at Ford, Henry the second, was carrying on an affair behind his wife’s back. You might say that one incident that I know of shouldn’t mar this incredible business record. He has left his mark on history. It’s just when it happens to one of your own friends that it’s closer to home, and it’s hard for me to offer the effortless praise I would normally have done if not for that knowledge.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, cars, culture, leadership, marketing, USA | No Comments »


Volvo: boxy, but good

02.07.2019

Long before Mad Men, and before I got into branding in a big way, I had an interest in advertising. One of the greatest send-ups of the industry was the 1990 Dudley Moore starrer Crazy People, set in the advertising industry against a politically incorrect—actually, cruel and inaccurate—look at mental health. It’s one of those films that could never be made today, and for good reason. But there are some gems in it, as Moore’s character, Emory Leeson, embarks on “honest advertising”. It gets him committed to a facility—who ever heard of an advertising agency telling the truth, right?—until his ads become a hit, welcome by consumers who don’t want BS.
   I came across this wonderfully copywritten and set ad from a PR professional in London trying to sell his Nan’s 1981 Volvo 244DL:

   It’s bloody good. The copy kept me engaged—like all good ads used to—and he’s done a reasonably good job with the Volvo Broad headline typeface (it was wider back in the day). The body text type should be Times rather than Baskerville, but considering the exact cut of Times isn’t available digitally (to my knowledge; it’s for larger text, and has very short descenders), there’s no wonder he opted to use another family.
   It got me thinking: I’ve often posted the Crazy People Volvo ad in comments, as a humorous response. However, the ad doesn’t exist in a decent res online. The only ones that have wound up online are from screen captures from the movie. This 22 kbyte file is actually the best one around, save for one on the Alamy stock photo website that I found after the fact:

   I couldn’t re-create the image—I assume the only person who has it (or had it) is the art director of the film, or the photographer that was commissioned—but maybe I could have a go at the type?
   The digital Volvo Broad had to be widened 25 per cent, and I didn’t attempt to match the kerning.
   The body type was the interesting one. I opted for Times Headline, since it wasn’t at a text size, but as I discovered, Volvo used a particular cut that had short descenders and was slightly condensed. I tried to match the leading.
   Therefore, here it is, offered under Creative Commons with attribution to me for the typesetting, please, while noting the image is not mine:

   And sometimes, I use my powers for good.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, humour, marketing, typography | No Comments »