A week ago, Avon found an inventive way to get its brand noticed in peak-hour traffic.
I could make this about how people don’t know how to drive these days, or about the media fascination with Asian drivers when the reality does not bear this out, but let’s make it all about Avonâsince they are the ones who have actually inspired a full blog post today. To think, it could have just been on my Instagram and Tumblr and I would have let it go, since the following video is over a week old.
To be fair, as well as posting on my own platforms, I thought it would only be fair to alert Avon about it on its Facebook. In this age of transparency, it’s not good to talk behind someone’s back. I would have used the website advertised on the side of this Mazda (avon.co.nz), but the below is all I get. (You can try it yourself here.) I told Avon about this, too. They need to know one of their people is a dangerous, inconsiderate, and selfish driver who is ignorant of basic New Zealand road rules, namely how a give-way sign works and how to change lanes. And if I were in their shoes, I’d want to know that the URL emblazoned in large letters on the side of my fleet of cars is wrong.
It was ignored for a while, now my post is deleted.
Immediately I had these five thoughts.
1. Its brand isn’t that great. When you’re starting from a poor position, the best thing to do is try to work harder. As a network marketer, Avon can’t afford to have an office that doesn’t deal with complaints. I might even be a customer. In any case, I’m part of the audienceâand these days, we can affect a brand as much as the official channels. For instance, this post.
2. In the 2000s and 2010s, social media are seen as channels through which we can communicate with organizations. Going against this affects your brand. (There’s a great piece in the Journal of Digital and Social Media Marketing, vol. 3, no. 1 that I penned. Avon would do well to read this and integrate social media marketing into its operations.)
3. If you’re an Avon rep and you know that the AustraliaâNew Zealand operation ignores people, then what support do you think you can count on? My post will have been seen by many people, and a follow-up one todayâinforming them it’s poor form to delete commentsâwill be seen by more. It discourages more than customersâits distributors surely will think twice. (I’m also looking at you, Kaspersky. Another firm to avoid.)
4. Advertising your website in large letters and have it not work is a major no-noâit contributes to the image I (and no doubt others) have on Avon as, well, a bit amateur.
5. This is a US firm. If you’re an exporter, isn’t now a really good time to show that you care about your overseas operations? Nation brands impact on corporate ones. Now I’m beginning to wonder if Avon might not be that interested in overseas sales any more. Their new president, with his stated views on free trade, has said in his inauguration speech that they need to ‘buy American’ and ‘hire American.’ Let’s delete stuff from foreigners!
The question I have now is: wouldn’t it have been easier to apologize for its representative’s inability to drive safely, and thank me for telling them their website is dead so they can get it fixed? The video contains the registration number, so Avon could have had a word to their rep.
This is all Marketing 101, yet Avon seems to have failed to grasp the basics. I guess the folks who flunked marketing at university found jobs after all.
Instagram, on announcing their cancellation, said that not many people used its maps, which is a shameâlooks like I was one of the few who did. For those seeking an alternative, the Data Pack has a map that you can use here. It’s not bad, though being on another site, it’s less handy to get to. Here’s mine, and for those who are wondering why the US and Canada aren’t that populated with photos, they’re simply countries I haven’t gone to regularly since I joined Instagram in November 2012.
Above: Facebook kept deleting Nick Ut’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph each time it was posted, even when Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten did so, preventing its editor-in-chief from responding.
Thereâs a significant difference between the internet of the 1990s and that of today. As Facebook comes under fire for deleting the ânapalm girlâ photograph from the Vietnam War shared by Norwegian writer Tom Egeland, then by prime minister Erna Solberg and Aftenposten newspaper, it has highlighted to me how the big Silicon Valley players have become exclusionary. In this latest case, it is about how one firm determines what is acceptable and unacceptable without regard to cultural significance or free speech; it even punished people who dared criticize it, and has failed to apologize. Earlier this year, in one of my numerous battles with Facebook, I noted how a major German company falsely claimed videos that did not belong to them, yet there was no penalty. An individual or a small firm would not have been so lucky: when we file copyright claims, we do so âunder penalty of perjuryâ on the form.
Google, never far from my critical eye, is the same. Iâve watched Google News, for instance, become exclusionary, too, or, rather, a service that prefers big players rather than the independents. When deciding to send traffic for a particular news item, Google News now ranks big media outlets more highly, and to heck with journalistic quality or any regard on who broke the story first. Itâs damaging to the independent voice, as Google concentrates power in favour of larger firms today, and itâs rather disturbing when you consider the implications.
Mainstream media can be homogeneous, and, in some cases, damaging, when bias and prejudice get in to the system. When it comes to politics, this can be detrimental to democracy itself. And why should a search engine prefer a larger name anyway? Many newsrooms have been stripped of resources, ever more reliant on press releases. Many now engage in click-bait. Some have agenda driven by big business and their technocratic view of the world, especially those that have their corporate headquarters outside the country in which they operate. Those who desire to wake people up from their slumber get short shrift. Google is aiding this world, because since it became publicly listed, it has had to adopt its trappings, and one might argue that it is in direct conflict with its ‘Don’t be evil’ mantra (one which never held much sway with me).
This is the world which Google and Facebook, and no doubt others, wish to serve up to users. They may well argue that theyâre only delivering what people want: if a lot of people get their news from the Daily Mail or The Huffington Post, then thatâs what theyâll show in their results. Thereâs little freshness online as a result, which is why people arenât as inclined to share in 2016 as they were in 2010.
Yet it was not always this way. The hope in the late 1990s and early 2000s was that Google et al would be tools in distributing power equally among all netizens. Started an independent online publication? If the quality is there, if youâre the first to break a story, then Google News will lavish attention upon you. If you have specialized news outside what mainstream media deliver, then youâll pop up regularly in the search resultsâ pages. The blogosphere rose because of this, with people seeking opinions and research outside of what the mainstream could deliver. The reason people blog less isnât just because of social networks making one-sentence opinions de rigueur; it is because people have found it harder to reach new audience members, and their own tribe is the next best thing.
It makes the ânet a far less interesting place to be. Without fresh, new views, we run the risk of groupthink, or we become particularly influenced by the biases of certain media outlets. We donât really want to surf casually as we once did because we donât learn anything new: itâs harder to find novel things that pique our interests.
There are potential solutions, of course. I tend not to Google, but use Duck Duck Go, so at least I donât get a filter bubble when I search for particular subjects. However, Duck Duck Go does not have a comprehensive news search, and Googleâs index size remains unbeatable. What we really need next is something that brings back that sense of equality online. I believe that if you put in the hours into good content and design, you should excel and get your site ranked above the same old sources. Google claims that it does that when it tweaks its algorithms but Iâm not seeing this. Facebook merely builds on what people have foundâso if you can’t find it, it won’t wind up being shared. Twitter, at least, still has some interesting items, but if you donât catch it in your feed at a given time, then too bad. Itâs not geared to search.
Duck Duck Go is a start, at least when it comes to general searches. It becomes easier to find views that you might not agree withâand thatâs a good thing when it comes to understanding others. Googleâs approach lulls you into a sense of security, that your views are sacrosanctâand all that does is give you the notion that the other half is wrong.
So what of news? Duck Duck Go could well be a starting-point for that, too, ranking news based on who breaks an item first and the quality of the site, rather than how much money is behind it. Or perhaps this is the space for another entrepreneur. Ironically, it might even come out of China; though right now itâs equally likely to emerge from India. What it then needs is a bit of virality for it to be adopted, spread by the very people it is designed to aid.
We need something that rewards the independent entrepreneur again, the people who drove so many innovations in the 1990s and 2000s. This isnât nostalgia kicking in, seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses while happily ignoring all those businesses that failed. I completely acknowledge there were sites that vanished at the time of the dot-com bust, triggered in no small part by 9-11, the anniversary of which we celebrate today.
Society needs those distinctive voices, those independent entrepreneurs, those people who are willing to put themselves forward and be judged fairly. What they donât need are reactionary media who want to silence them out of fear that the world will change too much for them to bear; and big Silicon Valley firms all too happy to join in these days.
Itâs high time the most influential websites served the many rather than the few again.
Above: Chris Evans and Rory Reid talk about the McLaren F1 in Extra Gear.
Now that the new new Top Gear has aired in New Zealand, I have to say that it isn’t really there yet. But unlike much of the UK, I’m not going to dis Chris Evans, who is a consummate gearhead. The reason: I have a memory that goes back beyond February 2016.
When Jeremy Clarkson and Andy Wilman brought Top Gear back in its current form in 2002, it was actually disappointing. People seem to forget James May, who originally replaced Clarkson in the original Top Gear, wasn’t even on the show. My memory of the studio audience was that there were about four people hanging around Clarkson as he introduced âŠ wait for it âŠ the CitroĂ«n Berlingo. Which he took to France (insert Clarkson pause) to buy cheese.
The idea of a show with a perfect complement of three hosts who got on well with each other, each playing a caricature of himself, did not exist for the first year, and even after May replaced Jason Dawe, it took a while for those personalities to emerge. It’s rare to get three hosts to play those roles as well from the get-goâTop Gear France (which is actually made by the BBC) is an exception, and every other foreign edition of Top Gear that I’ve seen doesn’t quite have it.
But Clarkson was a ratings’ winner. When he first quit Top Gear (or ‘old Top Gearâ), the series which started with Angela Rippon as its host in the 1970s, ratings fell from six million to three million. The TV environment was different a decade and a half ago. And the BBC persevered because at that time he hadn’t offended Mexicans or Argentinians, or assaulted an Irishman, or Piers Morgan.
However, importantly, the public was quite happy letting things develop. They could have gone and watched Fifth Gear with its familiar line-up of ex-Top Gear presenters, but they stuck with Clarkson, Hammond, and whomever the third man was.
Twenty sixteen. Enter Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc (somewhere between the ending of Friends and today, the space seems to have disappeared in his surname), both personalities who love cars. They are disadvantaged by not having been motoring journalists, but they are entertaining. The show doesn’t flow well with the studio segments, the stars introducing each other doesn’t work, and I’m nostalgic for the reasonably priced carâalthough at least the French have continued la tradition. However, because everyone expects the show to remain on a high, the internet jury has been nasty. No one demanded an overnight success before, but they’re out for blood now. It’s an unfair position to put Evans in.
The absence of motoring journalism experience could have been filled quite easily. We were originally told of a huge line-up of Top Gear presenters, to which I thought: great, the BBC is going to give a big roster a go again, something that we hadn’t seen since the 1990s. In there we saw names such as Chris Harris. Yet Chris Harris and Rory Reid have been relegated to an internet-only show called Extra Gear, which is meant to serve Top Gear in the way Doctor Who Confidential served Doctor Who, with a bit of behind-the-scenes stuff, deleted footage, and some sensible road testing around the test track of models not covered in the main show.
Here’s the thing, and this has been said in the British press: these two guys have great rapport, and come across better than Evans and Le Blanc. I vote for them to be on the main Top Gear. They are more personable, humorous, and relatable. I wouldnât be surprised if they found a way to work them both in next season, and why not four hosts?
One thing Harris and Reid have is that they know their stuff after serving in motoring journalism. They arenât rich guys who happen to love cars, but guys who have worked that passion into careers. Harris, in particular, put integrity ahead of kissing up to Ferrari and Lamborghini. I have tremendous respect for these two guys, and thereâs simply more heart in Extra Gear than Top Gear, which at present feels a bit empty and by-the-numbers.
I donât blame Evans at allâthe man had a herculean task. The producers probably tried to reduce Top Gear into formulaic chunks and believed that by cooking with those ingredients, they’d have a winner. This is a reminder that you cannot create heart from a formula: you canât predict where it surfaces. Now that we know itâs there with Reid and Harris, the BBC would be wise to capture it. Let Top Gear evolveâafter all, it did between 2002 and 2015âbut also let these personalities do their thing.
I had expected our car encyclopĂŠdia Autocade would reach 8,000,000 page views this month, just before its eighth anniversary. The difference was that this time, I was there last Monday GMT (the small hours of Tuesday in New Zealand) to witness the numbers tick overâalmost.
Usually, I find out about the milestones ex post facto, but happened to pop by the websiteâs statsâ page when it was within the last hundred before hitting 8,000,000âand took the below screen shot where the viewing numbers had reached 8,000,001 (I also saw 7,999,999; and no, these special admin pages are not counted, so my refreshing didnât contribute to the rise).
The site is on 3,344 individual entries (thereâs one image for each entry, if youâre going by the image excerpt), which is only 86 more than Autocade had when it reached 7,000,000 last October. The rate of viewing is a little greater than it was for the last million: while I’m recording it as five months below, it had only been March for just under two hours in New Zealand. Had Autocade been a venture from anywhere west of Aotearoa, we actually made the milestone on leap day, February 29.
Not bad for a website that has had very little promotion and relies largely on search-engine results. I only set up a Facebook page for it in 2014. Itâs been a labour of love more than anything else.
March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 page views (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 page views (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 page views (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 page views (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 page views (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 page views (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 page views (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 page views (five months for eighth million)
I started the site because I was fed up with Wikipedia and its endless errors on its car pagesâIâve written elsewhere about the sheer fictions there. Autocade would not have Wikiality, and everything is checked, where possible, with period sources, and not exclusively online ones. The concept itself came from a car guide written by the late Michael Sedgwick, though our content is all original, and subject to copyright; and thereâs a separate story to tell there, too.
I acknowledge there are still gaps on the site, but as we grow it, weâll plug them. At the same time, some very obscure models are there, and Autocade sometimes proves to be the only online source about them. A good part of the South African motor industry is covered with material not found elsewhere, and Autocade is sometimes one of the better-ranked English-language resources on Chinese cars.
Iâd love to see the viewing rate increase even further: itâd be great to reach 10,000,000 before the end of 2016. It might just happen if the viewing rate increases at present levels, and we get more pages up. Fellow motorheads, please keep popping by.
Iâve just switched from Inside, the much vaunted news app from entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, to Wildcard as my principal news app on my phone. I never got to use Circa (which I understand Jason was also behind), which sounded excellent: by the time I downloaded it, they had given up.
But we all need news, and I donât like the idea of apps that are from a single media organization.
Inside seemed like a good idea, and I even got round to submitting news items myself. The idea is that the items there are curated by users, shared via the app. There was a bit of spam, but the legit stuff outnumbered it.
However, I canât understand the choices these days. A few items I put in from Radio New Zealand, Māori Television and The New Zealand Herald were fineâstories about the flag and the passing of Dr Ranginui Walker, for instanceâbut none of the ones about the passing of Martin Crowe, possibly of more international interest, remained.
There were other curious things: anything from Autocar is summarily rejected (they donât even appear) while I notice Jalopnik is fine. When it comes to cars, this is the only place where the publication with the longest history in the sector is outranked by a web-only start-up, whose pieces are enjoyable but not always accurate. The only car piece it accepted from me was about Tesla selling in Indiana, but Renault, Volkswagen, Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin and other manufacturersâ news didnât make it. This I donât get. And I like to think I know a little bit about cars, in the week when Autocade hit 8,000,000 page views.
Now, if this is meant to be an international app, downloadable by everyone, then it should permit those of us in our own countries to have greater say in what is relevant to our compatriots.
Visit the New Zealand category, and you see a few items from yours truly, but then after that, they are few and far between: the Steven Joyce dildo incident, for example, and you donât have to scroll much to see the Otago car chase being stopped by sheep last January. A bit more has happened than these events, thank you. No wonder Americans think nothing happens here.
According to Inside, these news itemsâseparated only by one about Apple issuing a recall in our part of the worldâare far more important to users following the New Zealand category than Martin Crowe’s death.
The UK is only slightly better off, but not by much. I notice my submission about Facebook not getting away with avoiding taxes in the UK vanished overnight, too.
News of the royal baby in Sweden wasnât welcome just now. Nor was the news about the return of one of the Hong Kong booksellers, but news from Bloomberg of a luxury home on the Peak, which I submitted last month, was OK. Lulaâs questioning by police has also disappeared (admittedly my one was breaking news, and very short), though Inside does have a later one about his brief arrest.
Yet to locals, the rejected ones are important, more important than Gladys Knight singing to a cop or a knife on O. J. Simpsonâs estate (which have made it).
This is a very American app, and thatâs fine: itâs made by a US company, and Iâm willing to bet most of its users are American. However, the âallâ feed, in my view, should be global; those who want news tailored to them already have the choice of selecting their own topics. (Itâs the first thing the app gets you to do after signing in.) And if some fellow in New Zealand wants to submit, then he should have the same capacity as someone in the US. After all, there are more of them than there are of us, and I hardly think my contributions (which now keep vanishing!) will upset the status quo.
Or does it?
I mean, I have posted the odd thing from The Intercept about their countryâs elections.
Whatever the case, I think itâs very odd for an app in the second decade of the century to be so wedded to being geocentric. I can understand getting stuff weeded out for quality concernsâI admit Iâve posted the odd item that is an op-ed rather than hard newsâbut this obsession to be local, not global, reinforces some false and outdated stereotypes about the US.
Itâs like Facebook not knowing that time zones outside US Pacific Time exist and believing its 750 million (as it then was) users all lived there.
My advice to app developers is: if you donât intend your work to be global, then donât offer it to the global market. Donât let me find your app on a Chinese app centre. Say that itâs for your country only and let it be.
Or, at least be transparent about how your apps work, because I canât find anything from Inside about its curation processes other than the utopian, idealistic PR that says weâre all welcome, and we all have a chance to share. (We do. Just our articles donât stay on the feed for very long.)
Wildcard has an attractive user interface, and its mixture of news is more appealing, especially if you want more depth.
Admittedly, Iâve only been on Wildcard for less than a day but Iâve already found it more international in scope. It also has more interesting editorial items. It is still US-developedâeast coast this time, instead of west coastâbut it supplements its own news with whatâs in your Twitter feed. Itâs not as Twitter-heavy as Nuzzel, which I found too limited, but seems to give me a mixture of its own curation with those of my contacts. The user interface is nice, too.
Iâm not writing off Inside altogetherâif youâre after a US-based, US-centric news app, then itâs probably excellent, although I will leave that decision to its target market. I can hardly judge when dildos matter more to its users than the greatest cricket batsman in our country.
For me, Wildcard seems to be better balanced, it doesnât make promises about public curation that it canât keep, and Iâve already found myself spending far more time browsing its pieces than the relatively small amount that seem to remain on Inside. It is still a bit US-biased in these first 24 hours, probably because it hasnât taken that much from my Twitter contacts yet. There seems to be more news on it and Iâm getting a far better read, even of the US-relevant items. Iâm looking forward to using it more: it just seems that much more 21st-century.
Thoughts today on social networks, chatting to friends about issues stemming from the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the hostage saga in Paris’s 11th arrondissement.
In response to an Australian friend of Chinese heritage:
[Muslims] have been [speaking out against violence] since 9-11 and probably before but no one cared or no one could be bothered translating it into English.
As to why [certain members of this religion engage in violence], itâs an accident of history.
Had air travel and the internet been around 100 years ago, Iâm sure we would be the ones doing some of this because of the way colonial powers were carving China up.
Extremists will use whatever they have as a means to unite others behind their cause. If plain old sympathy does not work, then they will make it religious, or at least, about ideology. Itâs why there are even Buddhist terrorists in history. Yes, this is being done in the name of Islam, just like the Troubles were in the name of Christ. Thereâs plenty of killing going on in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Without social media it certainly seemed that mainstream Protestant and Catholic voices were silent in that conïŹict, and by this logic, endorsing the violence.
And not everyone has the privilege to make these statements. We can in a free society but some of these people live in fear.
But we in the west have played directly into their hands anyway with the changes in our laws and clamping down on free speech, when we should have held ïŹrm with our own traditions and beliefs, and told these folks to get with the programme in a globalized society.
The more confused the occident becomes and the greater the economic chasms in our own society, the more the disaffected youths might think: you do not have the answer and maybe these nut jobs do. Hence you see them come from poor areas where religion is one of the things they feel some fellowship with.
And with the negative sides of western civilization, as there are some, no doubt they will seize on that to get recruits. For politicians who do not believe that inequality (real or actual) is a problem, then they had better wake up fast, as no amount of legislation about stripping foreign ïŹghters of citizenship is going to stem the tide.
Like I said in an earlier thread, no Muslim I know would engage in or endorse this stuff, but Iâm in a privileged position as are the Muslims I have met. Not so these guys, and they have a wonderful targetâus, living in comfortâto sell others on.
Muslims are the stereotyped bogeymen for now, and then in another age the mainstream will have chosen another minority to pick on, telling us how their beliefs are evil.
And to an American friend and colleague, who points out MEMRI has been translating, in some ways a postscript:
Iâm definitely not denying that there are plenty of nut jobs in that part of the world who push their crazy on to others. You only need to get a sense of what gets broadcast on al-Jazeera (as opposed to al-Jazeera English) where they get a ready platform.
But, once again, it is where we are technologically as a people, with many disunited and hypocritical.
When you’re a minority, you can see how majority thought can work against you. I’ve heard, depending on where I am, that Muslims (or even all Arabs) are terrorists, whites are undisciplined, or Jews are stingey, and at some point you just have to say no to stereotypes when you realize that you could be the next group to be singled out and targeted. Remember when Chinese were Triads, a popular one that was within the lifetimes of most New Zealanders reading this blog? That was the mid-1990s, when a few years before I was denied service at Woolworths because of the logic that trade was not supplied and all Chinese must be greengrocers.
It beats being called a Triad or a terrorist.
For the last few years, Iâve looked back at the events of the year in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. (In fact, in 2009, I looked back at the decade.) Tumblrâs the place I look at these days for these summaries, since it tends to have my random thoughts, ones complemented by very little critical thinking. They tell me what piqued my interest over the year.
These days, Iâve been posting more about the TV show I watch the most regularly, the German Alarm fĂŒr Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei. A good part of my Tumblr, at least, and of Danielle Careyâs, whom I first connected with via this blog, features screen shots and other photographs from it. But Cobra 11 asideâand for those âculturedâ Germans who tell me itâs the worst show on their telly, may I remind you that you still make Das Traumschiff?âI still will be influenced by everyday events.
So what do I spy?
Sadly, despite my intent in wanting to blog humorously, it turns out that 2014 doesnât necessarily give us a lot to laugh about. And weâve had over a year after that Mayan calendar gag, and 13 years after Y2K. Itâs still not time to laugh yet.
I made a spoof English Hustle poster given all the hype about American Hustle, which seems to have, prima facie, the same idea. It meets with Adrian Lesterâs approval (well, he said, âHa,â which I gather is positive).
I post about Idris Elba giving a response about the James Bond character. (Slightly ahead of my time, as it turns out.)
Robert Catto wrote of Justin Bieberâs arrest: âSo, J. Biebs is arrested for racing a rented Lamborghini in a residential neighbourhood while under the influence (of drugs and alcohol) while on an expired license, resisting arrest, and a bunch of previous stuff including egging a neighbourâs house. With that many accusations being thrown at him, this can only mean one thing.
âThe race for Mayor of Toronto just got interesting.â
I wrote to a friend, âIf there was a Facebook New Zealand Ltd. registered here then it might make more sense ensuring that there were fewer loopholes for that company to minimize its tax obligations, but the fact is there isnât. Either major party would be better off encouraging New Zealand to be the head office for global corporations, or encourage good New Zealand businesses to become global players, if this was an issue (and I believe that it is). There is this thing called the internet that they may have heard of, but both parties have seen it as the enemy (e.g. the whole furore over s. 92A, first proposed by Labour, enacted by National).
âRight now, we have some policy and procedural problems preventing us from becoming more effective exporters.
âItâs no coincidence that I took an innovation tack in my two mayoral campaigns. If central government was too slow in acting to capture or create these players, then I was going to do it at a local level.â
And there are $700 trillion (I imagine that means $700 billion, if you used the old definitionsâ12 zeroes after the 700) worth of derivatives yet to implode, according to I Acknowledge. Global GDP is $69Â·4 (American) trillion a year. âThis means that (primarily) Wall Street and the City of London have run up phantom paper debts of more than ten times of the annual earnings of the entire planet.â
The Sochi Olympics: in Soviet Russia, Olympics watch you! Dmitry Kozak, the deputy PM, says that westerners are deliberately sabotaging things there. How does he know? âWe have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day.â Sports Illustrated does an Air New Zealand safety video.
This was the month I first saw the graphic containing a version of these words: âJesus was a guy who was a peaceful, radical, nonviolent revolutionary, who hung around with lepers, hookers, and criminals, who never spoke English, was not an American citizen, a man who was anti-capitalism, anti-wealth, anti-public prayer (yes he was Matthew 6:5), anti-death penalty but never once remotely anti-gay, didnât mention abortion, didnât mention premarital sex, a man who never justified torture, who never called the poor âlazyâ, who never asked a leper for a co-pay, who never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes, who was a long haired, brown skinned (thatâs in revelations), homeless, middle eastern Jew? Of course, thatâs only if you believe whatâs actually in the Bibleâ (sic). For those who want a response, this blog post answers the points from a Catholic point of view, but the original quoteâs not completely off-base.
My friend Dmitry protests in Moskva against Russiaâs actions in the Crimea. This was posted on this blog at the time. He reports things arenât all rosy in Russia when it comes to free speech.
Another friend, Carolyn Enting, gets her mug in the Upper Hutt Leader after writing her first fictional book, The Medallion of Auratus.
MH370 goes missing.
And this great cartoon, called âIf Breaking Bad Had Been Set in the UKâ:
I call Lupita Nyongâo âWoman of the Year 2014â.
A post featuring Robin Williams (before that horrible moment in August), where he talks about the influence of Peter Sellers and Dr Strangelove on him. I seem to have posted a lot of Robin that month, from his CBS TV show, The Crazy Ones.
A Lancastrian reader, Gerald Vinestock, writes to The Times: âSir, Wednesdayâs paper did not have a photograph of the Duchess of Cambridge. I do hope she is all right.â
A first post on those CBS TV attempts to create a show about Sherlock Holmes set in the modern day in the US, partnered with a woman: on 1987âs The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
The fiftieth anniversary of the on-sale date of the Ford Mustang (April 17).
The death of Bob Hoskins. Of course I had to post his last speech in The Long Good Friday, as well as the clip from Top Gear where Richard Hammond mistook Ray Winstone for Hoskins. They all look the same to me.
Judith Collinsâ story about what she was doing in China with Oravida collapses.
Someone points out there is a resemblance between Benedict Cumberbatch and Butthead from Beavis and Butthead.
Jean Pisani Ferryâs view on the origins of the euro crisis in The Economist: âSuppose that the crisis had begun, as it might easily have done, in Ireland? It would then have been obvious that fiscal irresponsibility was not the culprit: Ireland had a budget surplus and very low debt. More to blame were economic imbalances, inflated property prices and dodgy bank loans. The priority should not have been tax rises and spending cuts, but reforms to improve competitiveness and a swift resolution of troubled banks, including German and French ones, that lent so irresponsibly.â
Sir Ian McKellen says, âDid I want to go and live in New Zealand for a year? As it turns out, I was very happy that I did. I canât recommend New Zealand strongly enough. Itâs a wonderful, wonderful place, quite unlike [the] western world. Itâs in the southern hemisphere and itâs far, far away and although they speak English, donât be fooled. Theyâre not like us. Theyâre something better than us.â
Lots of Alarm fĂŒr Cobra 11 posts.
Liam Fitzpatrick writes of Hong Kong, before the Occupy protests, âHong Kongersâsober, decent, pragmatic and hardworkingâare mostly not the sort of people who gravitate to the barricades and the streets. Neither do they need to be made aware of the political realities of having China as a sovereign power, for the simple fact that postwar Hong Kong has only ever existed with Chinaâs permission. In the 1960s, the local joke was that Mao Zedong could send the British packing with a mere phone call.
âWith that vast, brooding power lying just over the Kowloon hills, tiny Hong Kongâs style has always been to play China cleverlyâto push where it can (in matters such as education and national-security legislation, where it has won important battles) and to back off where it cannot.â
It didnât seem completely prescient.
The General Election campaign: National billboards are edited. Doctor Who goes on tour prior to Peter Capaldiâs first season in the lead role.
The suicide of Robin Williams.
Michael Brown is killed. Greg Howard writes, âThere was Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., and Oscar Grant in Oakland, Calif., and so many more. Michael Brownâs death wasnât shocking at all. All over the country, unarmed black men are being killed by the very people who have sworn to protect them, as has been going on for a very long time now âŠ
âThere are reasons why white gunâs rights activists can walk into a Chipotle restaurant with assault rifles and be seen as gauche nuisances while unarmed black men are killed for reaching for their wallets or cell phones, or carrying childrenâs toys.â
Like so many things, such a statement of fact became politicized in months to come.
Darren Watson releases âUp Here on Planet Keyâ, only to have it banned by the Electoral Commission. With his permission, I did a spoken-word version.
Journalist Nicky Hager, who those of us old enough will remember was a right-wing conspiracy theorist, is branded a left-wing conspiracy theorist by the PM because this time, he wrote about National and not Labour. The Deputy PM, Bill English, who commended Hagerâs work 12 years ago over Seeds of Distrust, and even quoted from it, remained fairly quiet.
It wasnât atypical. I wrote in one post, âIn 2011, Warren Tucker said three times in one letter that he told PM John Key about the SIS release. Now he says he only told his office but not the PM personallyâafter an investigation was announced (when the correct protocol would be to let the investigation proceed) âŠ
âKey did not know about GCSB director Ian Fletcherâs appointment (week one of that saga) before he knew about it (week two).
âKey cannot remember how many TranzRail shares he owned.
âKey cannot remember if and when he was briefed by the GCSB over Kim Dotcom.
âKey did not know about Kim Dotcomâs name before he did not know about Kim Dotcom at all.
âKey cannot remember if he was for or against the 1981 Springbok tour.â
Some folks on YouTube did a wonderful series of satirical videos lampooning the PM. Kiwi satire was back. This was the first:
Matt Crawford recalled, âAt this point in the last election campaign, the police were threatening to order search warrants for TV3, The Herald on Sunday, RadioNZ et alâover a complaint by the Prime Minister. Over a digital recording inadvertently made in a public space literally during a media stunt put on for the pressâa figurative media circus.â
Quoting Robert Muldoon in 1977âs Muldoon by Muldoon: âNew Zealand does not have a colour bar, it has a behaviour bar, and throughout the length and breadth of this country we have always been prepared to accept each other on the basis of behaviour and regardless of colour, creed, origin or wealth. That is the most valuable feature of New Zealand society and the reason why I have time and again stuck my neck out to challenge those who would try to destroy this harmony and set people against people inside our country.â
And my reaction to the Conservative Partyâs latest publicity, which was recorded on this blog, and repeated for good measure on Tumblr: âEssentially what they are saying is: our policy is that race doesnât matter. Except when it comes to vilifying a group, it does. Letâs ignore the real culprits, because: âThe Chineseâ.â
The passing of Richard âJawsâ Kiel.
John Barnett of South Pacific Pictures sums up Nicky Hager: âHager is a gadfly who often causes us to examine our society. He has attacked both the right and the left before. Itâs too easy to dismiss it as a left wing loony conspiracy. We tend to shoot the messengers rather than examine the messages.â
New Zealanders begin vilifying Kim Dotcom: I respond. I blog about Occupy Central in Hong Kongâwhich led to a television appearance on Breakfast in early October.
Iâm not sure where this quotation comes from, but I reposted it: âA white man is promoted: He does good work, he deserved it.
âA white woman is promoted: Whose dick did she suck?
âA man of color is promoted: Oh, great, I guess we have to âfill quotasâ now.
âA woman of color is promoted: j/k. That never happens.â
Facebook gets overrun by bots: I manage to encounter 277 in a single day. (I eventually reach someone at Facebook New Zealand, who is trying to solicit business for one of the fan pages we have, and point this out. I never hear back from him.) The trouble is Facebook limits you to reporting 40 a day, effectively tolerating the bots. It definitely tolerates the click farms: I know of dozens of accounts that the company has left untouched, despite reports.
Kim Dotcomâs lawyers file a motion to dismiss in Virginia in United States v. Dotcom and others, and summarize the case so far: âNearly three years ago, the United States Government effectively wiped out Megaupload Limited, a cloud storage provider, along with related businesses, based on novel theories of criminal copyright infringement that were offered by the Government ex parte and have yet to be subjected to adversarial testing. Thus, the Government has already seized the criminal defendantsâ websites, destroyed their business, and frozen their assets around the worldâall without benefit of an evidentiary hearing or any semblance of due process.
âWithout even attempting to serve the corporate defendants per the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Government has exercised all its might in a concerted, calculated effort to foreclose any opportunity for the defendants to challenge the allegations against them and also to deprive them of the funds and other tools (including exculpatory evidence residing on servers, counsel of choice, and ability to appear) that would equip robust defense in the criminal proceedings.
âBut all that, for the Government, was not enough. Now it seeks to pile on against ostensibly defenseless targets with a parallel civil action, seeking civil forfeiture, based on the same alleged copyright crimes that, when scrutinized, turn out to be figments of the Governmentâs boundless imagination. In fact, the crimes for which the Government seeks to punish the Megaupload defendants (now within the civil as well as the criminal realm) do not exist. Although there is no such crime as secondary criminal copyright infringement, that is the crime on which the Governmentâs Superseding Indictment and instant Complaint are predicated. That is the nonexistent crime for which Megaupload was destroyed and all of its innocent users were denied their rightful property. That is the nonexistent crime for which individual defendants were arrested, in their homes and at gunpoint, back in January 2012. And that is the nonexistent crime for which the Government would now strip the criminal defendants, and their families, of all their assets.â
Stuart Heritage thinks The Apprentice UK has run its course, and writes in The Guardian: âThe Apprentice has had its day. Itâs running on fumes. Itâs time to replace it with something more exciting, such as a 40-part retrospective on the history of the milk carton, or a static shot of someone trying to dislodge some food from between their teeth with the corner of an envelope.â
Doctor Who takes a selfie and photobombs himself.
Andrew Little becomes Labour leader, and is quoted in the Fairfax Press (who, according to one caption, says his motherâs name is Cecil): âIâm not going to resile from being passionate about working men and women being looked after, having a voice, and being able to go to work safe and earn well. Thatâs what I stand for.
âThe National party have continued to run what I think is a very 1970s prejudice about unions âŠ We have [in New Zealand] accepted a culture that if you are big, bold and brassy you will stand up for yourself. But [this] Government is even stripping away protections [from] those who are bold enough to do so.
âI think New Zealanders are ready for someone who will talk bluntly about those who are being left behind. Thatâs what Iâll be doing.â
Iâm not a Labour voter but I was impressed.
I advise my friend Keith Adams in Britain, who laments the driving standards there, that in order to have the road toll we have, theyâd need to kill another 2,000 per annum. âThe British driver is a well honed, precision pilot compared to oneâs Kiwi counterpart.â
Julian Assange on Google, and confirmation that the company has handed over personal data to the US Government. He calls Eric Schmidt âGoogleâs secretary of state, a Henry Kissinger-like figure whose job it is to go out and meet with foreign leaders and their opponents and position Google in the world.â
The Sydney siege and the tragic deaths of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.
The killing of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. The NYPD doesnât look very white to me, but a murderer used the death of Eric Garner as an excuse to murder a Dad and a newlywed.
My second post on those CBS TV attempts to create a show about Sherlock Holmes set in the modern day in the US, partnered with a woman: on 1993âs 1994 Baker Street.
Craig Ferguson hosts his last Late Late Show. And moreâs the pity: heâs one of the old school, never bitter, and never jumped on the bandwagon attacking celebrities.
The contributors or editors of Wikipedia are often quick to make changes after errors are pointed out. A recent funny one was for the suburb of Cannons Creek, in Porirua, when Wikipedia told a friend’s son:
Cannons Creek is a suburb of Porirua City approximately 22km north of Wellington in New Zealand. The citizens attempted to expel a demon but the exorcism backïŹred, rendering the town uninhabitable for the last ïŹfteen years.
This was changed within hours of my Tweeting about it, so a contributor must have spotted the vandalism to the page.
My earlier one about second-generation Hyundai Sonatas being classified as first-generation ones in the Wikimedia Commons was also remedied, which is good. I imagine someone will eventually see that the new Hyundai i10 cannot be both longer and shorter than its predecessor.
However, I still hold a poor impression of Wikipedia because of an incident some years ago that suggested that certain people in the hierarchy gamed the system.
The accusations of a senior editorâwho accused me of defamation and tried to force me to remove a blog post with links about Wikipediaâs faultsâdid not stand up to any scrutiny. The lesson is: if you want to abuse me with legal arguments on email for five days, you’d better get your facts straight when you’re talking to a guy with a law degree. (She got her wish though, because of Six Apart closing down Vox, which is where I had blogged this.)
It highlighted a certain arrogance among some of the people high up there. I hope she is not representative of senior Wikipedia editors but the amount of errors that I findâvery serious, factual ones on things I know aboutâis ridiculous. Her behaviour suggested that facts won’t get in the way of power trips.
One major error that has steadfastly remained for years is Wikipediaâs insistence that the Ford CE14 platform was used for a variety of US Ford cars in the 1980s. This work of fiction has made its way all over the internet, including to the IMCDB,* a Ford Tempo fan site, and elsewhere.
The correct fact is that CE14 was the 1990 European Ford Escort. Wikipedia states that it was used for the 1980 US Ford Escort and its derivatives (Mercury Lynx, Ford EXP, Mercury LN7) and the Ford Tempo and Mercury Topaz.
This is incredibly easy to debunk for anyone who has followed the Ford Motor Company over the years, or read a book or a magazine article about it. First: Ford’s alphanumeric codes were not in existence when these US cars were being developed. Secondly, the Tempo and Topaz are not in the C segment at Ford, but the CD segment; but, in any case, they did not have an alphanumeric code. Thirdly, the E in CE14 stands for Europe, which, the last time I checked, is not in the US. Fourthly, the numbers are more or less sequential as the projects are lined up at Ford. If 7 is Probe, 11 (if I recall correctly) was the 1990 Ford Laser, then how on earth could 14 be for a car that came out in 1980? (You can point out that CD162 was released before CD132, but there is another story behind that.)
The user who created the original, error-filled, unreferenced page has been awarded stars by their peers at Wikipedia. Well done. Wikipedia proponents will argue that I should go and correct this myself, but I wonder why I should. I’ve read how Wikipedia works, and a friend who tried to get false information corrected about his wife corrected confirms this. Senior editors check their facts online, and to heck with print references. What they will see is a lot of references to CE14 that back up the error (even though the error began with them), probably accuse and then block the new contributor of vandalism, and the status quo will be preserved. After all, Jimmy Walesâthe man most regularly credited as founding Wikipediaâhas his own birthday incorrectly stated on the website. It’s what Stephen Colbert called ‘Wikiality’: if enough people believe something to be true, then to heck with the truth. The Guardian cites some research at PARC:
Chi’s team discovered that the way the site operated had changed significantly from the early days, when it ran an open-door policy that allowed in anyone with the time and energy to dedicate to the project. Today, they discovered, a stable group of high-level editors has become increasingly responsible for controlling the encyclopedia, while casual contributors and editors are falling away. Wikipedia â often touted as the bastion of open knowledge online â has become, in Chi’s words, “a more exclusive place”.
One of the measures the Parc team looked at was how often a user’s edit succeeds in sticking. “We found that if you were an elite editor, the chance of your edit being reverted was something in the order of 1% â and that’s been very consistent over time from around 2003 or 2004,” he says.
Meanwhile, for those who did not invest vast amounts of time in editing, the experience was very different. “For editors that make between two and nine edits a month, the percentage of their edits being reverted had gone from 5% in 2004 all the way up to about 15% by October 2008. And the ‘onesies’ â people who only make one edit a month â their edits are now being reverted at a 25% rate,” Chi explains.
In other words, a change by a casual editor is more likely than ever to be overturned, while changes by the elite are rarely questioned. “To power users it feels like Wikipedia operates in the way it always has â but for the newcomers or the occasional users, they feel like the resistance in the community has definitely changed.”
The late Aaron Swartz, whom I have admired, was quoted in the article:
“I used to be one of the top editors âŠ now I contribute things here and there where I see something wrong.” The reason, he explains, is that the site feels more insular and exclusive than in the past. “In general, the biggest problem I have with the editors is their attitude,” he says. “They say: ‘We’re not going to explain how we make decisions, we basically talk amongst ourselves.’
It appears to be why Larry Sanger, the other guy who founded Wikipedia, left. This very behaviour was something he forecast a decade ago that appears to hold true today (original emphases):
But there are myriad abuses and problems that never make it to mediation, let alone arbitration. A few of the project’s participants can be, not to put a nice word on it, pretty nasty. And this is tolerated. So, for any person who can and wants to work politely with well-meaning, rational, reasonably well-informed peopleâwhich is to say, to be sure, most people working on Wikipediaâthe constant fighting can be so off-putting as to drive them away from the project. This explains why I am gone; it also explains why many others, including some extremely knowledgeable and helpful people, have left the project.
The root problem: anti-elitism, or lack of respect for expertise. There is a deeper problemâor I, at least, regard it as a problemâwhich explains both of the above-elaborated problems. Namely, as a community, Wikipedia lacks the habit or tradition of respect for expertise. As a community, far from being elitist (which would, in this context, mean excluding the unwashed masses), it is anti-elitist (which, in this context, means that expertise is not accorded any special respect, and snubs and disrespect of expertise is tolerated). This is one of my failures: a policy that I attempted to institute in Wikipedia’s first year, but for which I did not muster adequate support, was the policy of respecting and deferring politely to experts. (Those who were there will, I hope, remember that I tried very hard.)
I need not recount the history of how this nascent policy eventually withered and died. Ultimately, it became very clear that the most active and influential members of the project–beginning with Jimmy Wales, who hired me to start a free encyclopedia project and who now manages Wikipedia and Wikimediaâwere decidedly anti-elitist in the above-described sense.
Consequently, nearly everyone with much expertise but little patience will avoid editing Wikipedia, because they willâat least if they are editing articles on articles that are subject to any sort of controversyâbe forced to defend their edits on article discussion pages against attacks by nonexperts. This is not perhaps so bad in itself. But if the expert should have the gall to complain to the community about the problem, he or she will be shouted down (at worst) or politely asked to “work with” persons who have proven themselves to be unreasonable (at best).
I do not doubt for a second that Wikipedia was started with the best of intentions. It was a really good resource a decade ago, when it attracted the best minds to the project. It does, I am sure, attract some incredibly talented people who are generous and knowledgeable. I am told the science pages are some of the best written out there because those ones have been held up to the original Wikipedia standards. But many pages seem to reflect the great social experiment of the internet: email was great before spammers, and YouTube is great without comments. Democratization does not always mean that the masses will improve things, especially in the realm of specialist knowledge.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a very long-winded way of explaining why I took the word wiki off the home page of Autocade 12 hours ago. I started it allowing public edits, using the same software as Wikipedia, and these days, only specialists can edit the site. The word wiki, ignoring its etymology, is now too closely associated with Wikipedia, and that brand is just too tainted these days for my liking.
Has John Cleese become embittered? He suggests that the Bond films after Die Another Day (his second and final) were humourless because the producers wanted to pursue Asian audiences. Humour, he says, was out.
âAlso the big money was coming from Asia, from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, where the audiences go to watch the action sequences, and that’s why in my opinion the action sequences go on for too long, and it’s a fundamental flaw.â And, âThe audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humour or the class jokes.â
I say bollocks.
Itâs well known that with Casino Royale, the producers went back to Fleming, and rebooted the series. Quite rightly, too, when the films had drifted into science fiction, with an invisible car and, Lee Tamahoriâs nadir, a CGI sequence where Pierce Brosnan kite-surfed a tsunami.