Archive for the ‘media’ category


Autocade reaches 23 million page views—and it’s more satisfying than Twitter

07.04.2021


Above: The Levdeo (or Letin) i3, not exactly the ideal model with which to commemorate another Autocade milestone.

Autocade will cross the 23 million page view mark today, so we’re keeping fairly consistent with netting a million every three months, a pattern that we’ve seen since the end of 2019.
   Just to keep my record-keeping straight:

March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months for 20th million)
October 2020: 21,000,000 (three months for 21st million)
January 2021: 22,000,000 (three months for 22nd million)
April 2021: 23,000,000 (three months for 23rd million)

   I see on my 22 millionth page view post I mentioned there were 4,379 entries. It hasn’t increased that much since: the site is on 4,423. I notice the pace does slow a bit once the year kicks off in earnest: it’s the Christmas break that sees me spending a bit more time on the website.
   Who knows? I may spend more on it again as I’m tiring of the tribalism of Twitter, and, most recently, being tarred with the same brush as someone I follow, even though I follow people I don’t always agree with—including people with offensive views.
   On April 4, I wrote there:

Earlier today @QueenOliviaStR and I were tagged into a lengthy thread, to which I don’t think I have the right of response to the writer.
   First up, I salute her. Secondly, she may disagree with how I use Twitter but I still support her. Thirdly, she should rightly do what she needs to in order to feel safe.
   I don’t wish to single out any account but if you go through my following list, there are people on there whose views many Kiwis would disagree with.
   Some were good people who fell down rabbit holes, and some I’ve never agreed with from the start. So why do I follow them?
   As I Tweeted last week, I object to being in a social media bubble. I think it’s unhealthy, and the cause of a lot of societal angst. It’s why generally I dislike Big Tech as this is by design.
   Secondly, if I shut myself off to opposing views, even abhorrent ones, how do I know what arguments they are using in order to counter them if the opportunity arises?
   I would disagree that I am amicable with these accounts but I do agree to interacting with some of them on the bases that we originally found.
   Ian, who is long gone from Twitter after falling down the COVID conspiracy rabbit hole, was a known anti-war Tweeter. I didn’t unfollow him but I disagreed with where his thoughts were going.
   The person who tagged us today didn’t want to be exposed to certain views and that’s fair. But remember, that person she didn’t like will also be exposed to her views through me.
   I’ll let you into something that might shock you: for a few years, when the debate began, I wasn’t supportive of marriage equality, despite having many queer friends. It was more over semantics than their rights, but still, it isn’t a view I hold today.
   If this happened in social media land, I might have held on those views, but luckily I adopted the policy I do today: see what people are saying. And eventually I was convinced by people who wrote about their situations that my view was misinformed.
   And while my following an account is not an endorsement of its views, by and large I follow more people with whom I agree—which means the positive arguments that these people make could be seen by those who disagree with them.
   People should do what is right for them but I still hold that bubbling and disengagement are dangerous, and create a group who double-down on their views. Peace!

   Maybe it’s a generational thing: that some of us believe in the free flow of information, because that was the internet we joined. One that was more meritorious, and one where we felt we were more united with others.
   We see what the contrary does. And those examples are recent and severe: we’ve seen it with the US elections, with Myanmar, with COVID-19.
   This isn’t a dig at the person who took exception to my being connected to someone, and yes, even engaged them (though being ‘amicable’ is simply having good manners to everyone), because if those offensive views targeted me I wouldn’t want to see them. And it is a poor design decision of Twitter to still show that person in one’s Tweets if they have already blocked them, just because a mutual person follows them.
   It is a commentary, however, on wider trends where social media and Google have created people who double-down on their views, or opened up the rabbit hole for them to fall into—and keep them there.
   It did use to be called social networking, where we made connections, supposedly for mutual benefit, maybe even the benefit of humanity, but now it’s commonly social media, because we don’t seem to really network with anyone else while we post about ourselves.
   Unlike Alice, people don’t necessarily return from Wonderland.
   My faith—which I don’t always bring up because one risks being tarred with the evangelical homophobic stereotypes that come with it in mainstream media and elsewhere—tells me that everyone can be redeemed, even those who hold abhorrent views.
   It’s why I didn’t have a problem when Bill Clinton planned to see Kim Jong Il or when Donald Trump did see Kim Jong Un, because engagement is better than isolation. Unlike the US media, I don’t change a view depending on the occupant of the Oval Office.
   I’ve also seen some people who post awful things do incredibly kind things outside of the sphere of social media.
   Which then makes you think that social media just aren’t worth your time—something I had already concluded with Facebook, and, despite following mostly people I do agree with, including a lot of automotive enthusiasts, I am feeling more and more about Twitter. Instead of the open forum it once was, you are being judged on whom you follow, based on isolated and rare incidents.
   I don’t know if it’s generational or whether we’ve developed through technology people who prefer tribalism over openness.
   Sometimes you feel you should just leave them to it and get on with your own stuff—and for every Tweet I once sent, maybe I should get on to some old emails and tidy that inbox instead. Or put up one of the less interesting models on Autocade. Not Instagramming much—I think I was off it for nearly a month before I decided to post a couple of things on Easter Eve—has been another step in the right direction, instead of poking around on a tiny keyboard beamed up to you from a 5½-inch black mirror.
   The computer, after all, is a tool for us, and we should never lose sight of that. Let’s see if I can stick with it, and use Mastodon, which still feels more open, as my core social medium for posting.

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April 2021 gallery

05.04.2021

Here are April 2021’s images. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
Tania Dawson promotes Somèrfield Hair Care, sourced from Instagram.
   Austrian model Katharina Mazepa for Dreamstate Muse magazine, shared on her Instagram. This was an image that was removed from a PG blog at NewTumbl last year—apparently this was considered ‘nudity’ and rated M.
   AMC promotes the Gremlin, the US’s first subcompact car. More on the Gremlin at Autocade; 1970 advertisement via Twitter.
   Volkswagen 1302S photographed in June 2018, one of the images I’ve submitted to Unsplash for downloading. I did have the owner’s permission to shoot his car.
   St Gerard’s Church and Monastery atop Mt Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand, photographed by me and also submitted to Unsplash.
   Facebook group bots: someone else was so used to seeing bot activity on Facebook, they made a meme about it.
   Holden Commodore Evoke Ute, an example of ‘base model brilliance’. More at Autocade.

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I can finally identify with the main character in a New Zealand TV show

31.03.2021

While I care much more about when John Simm will grace our screens again (pun intended), it was hard to avoid the reality TV that gets beamed into our living rooms during prime-time. There is the disgusting Married at First Sight Australia, where I am speechless with shock that fellow Scots alumnus John Aiken appears to dispense mansplaining without conscience, but, on the other channel, the far more pleasant The Bachelor New Zealand, where, finally, for the first time on our airwaves, I see a Kiwi male that I can identify with. Apart from the times when I appeared on telly (I realize that this sentence sounds wanky, but if you can’t identify with yourself, then there’s something wrong).
   While Zac the lifeguard from a few years ago seemed like a lovely chap, he was in many ways the usual stereotype: sporty, unfazed, carefree, white, with a great smile. Moses Mackay is cultured, worldly, considered, respectful, humble, well dressed, and, surprisingly for this show, wasn’t quick to snog every contestant. It was also nice to see a bachelor who’s a person of colour on our screens for a change. He grew up poor and that’s not an unfamiliar story to many of us. He’s comfortable talking about his relationship with God. Heck, he even croons for a living.
   I’m no Matt Monro but I’ve serenaded my partner—just get us at the James Cook when the elderly gent is banging out tunes by Michel Legrand, or, as I call him, Big Mike, on the lobby piano. And yes, for some of us, this is perfectly normal. Just ask Moses.
   For all of us fellas who wanted to see an example of a cultured Kiwi gentleman on our screens—and as the fêted star, not the comic relief—our wishes were finally granted.
   I’ve no idea whom he picked, although I knew one of the contestants who didn’t make it—New Zealand is that small. I could say the same about Zac’s season as well. I’m sure not knowing the outcome also puts me in a minority. But I wish him well.

I’m reminded of my friend Frankie Stevens, since I mentioned Matt Monro above. I once did the same to Frankie and he said something along the lines of, ‘I was touring with Matt. We were in Spain, and he’d come in the morning with a glass of whisky.’ Another time I mentioned John Barry. ‘I worked with Johnny and Don Black. On The Dove. I sang the theme tune but Gregory Peck wanted someone else.’
   For my overseas readers: you don’t usually have these conversations in Aotearoa with a guy who’s not only met your musical heroes, but worked with them. All I could do was show I had the theme on my phone.
   With apologies to Lyn Paul, but Frankie would have been great (and indeed better) singing the theme to The Dove.

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Reduced Facebook? Australia is the lucky country

18.02.2021

Whichever side you are on with Facebook imposing a ban on Australians sharing news content, this says it all about the level of intelligence over at Menlo Park.

   In Australia, Facebook has not only de-platformed legitimate governmental bodies and non-profits, it has de-platformed itself.
   Maybe taxing these companies would have been easier, and the proposed legislation isn’t perfect, but I think most people see through Facebook’s rather pathetic tactics.
   It’s crying foul, saying it would have invested in local media in Australia, but won’t any more. But since Facebook lies about everything, I’ve no reason to believe they ever would have helped media organizations anywhere.
   And notice how quickly it was able to shut off pages, and remove an entire country’s ability to share news—yet it still struggles with removing fake content about COVID-19, extremist content and groups, bots, videos of massacres, and incitement of genocide and insurrection. It has struggled for years.
   We all know that Facebook can do as it wishes with a singular eye on its bottom line. It doesn’t want to pay Australian publishers, so it quickly acts to shut off what Australians can do. But fake content and all the rest—that makes them money, so it doesn’t act at all, other than issuing some empty PR statements.
   We all see through it, and this is probably the best thing it could have done. If people spend less time on its stress-inducing platforms, they will be healthier. And returning Facebook to what it was around 2008 when we shared what we were doing, not what the newsmedia were reporting, is really a plus.
   It’s a splendid own goal that benefits Australians, who will ingeniously find solutions pretty quickly, whether it’s telling their friends about articles via email (which is what I used to do pre-social media), finding alternative services, or, not that I advocate this, resorting to outright piracy by pasting the entire article as a Facebook status update. No news in your feed? There are services for that, like going straight to the sources, or using a news aggregator (if you don’t like Google News, the Murdoch Press actually has one in beta, called Knewz. Who would have guessed that the only organization that stepped up to my half-decade-old demand for a Google News rival would be Murdochs?).
   I doubt New Zealand will have the courage to follow suit, even though last year I wrote to the Minister of Communications to ask him to consider it.

PS.: Removing all Australian media is easy, but removing anti-vaccine pages is hard.

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How is your ad network different from this?

11.02.2021

No point beating around the bush when it comes to yet another advertising network knocking on our door. This was a quick reply I just fired off, and I might as well put it on this blog so there’s another place I can copy it from, since I’m likely to call on it again and again. I’m sure we can’t be alone in online publishing to feel this way.
   The original reply named the firms parenthetically in the last two scenarios but I’ve opted not to do that here. I have blogged about it, so a little hunt here will reveal who I’m talking about.

Thank you for reaching out and while I’ve no doubt you’re at a great company, we have a real problem adding any new ad network. The following pattern has played out over and over again in the last 25-plus years we have been online.

  • We add a network, so far so good.
  • The more networks we use, with their payment thresholds, the longer it takes for any one of them to reach the total, and the longer we wait for any money to come.
  • Add this to the fact we could get away with charging $75 CPM 25 years ago and only fractions of cents today, the thresholds take longer still to reach.

   Other things usually happen as well:

  • We’re promised a high fill rate, even 100 per cent, and the reality is actually closer to 0 per cent and all we see are “filler” ads—if anything at all. Some just run blank units.
  • We wait so long for those thresholds to be reached that some of the networks actually close down in the interim and we never see our money!
  • In some cases, the networks change their own policies during the relationship and we get kicked off!

   I think the problems behind all of this can be traced to Google, which has monopolized the space. It probably doesn’t help that we refuse to sign anything from Google as we have no desire to add to the coffers of a company that doesn’t pay its fair share of tax. Every email from Google Ad Manager is now rejected at server level.
   If somehow [your firm] is different, I’d love to hear about you. The last two networks we added in 2019 and 2020, who assured us the pattern above would not play out, have again followed exactly the above scenario. We gave up on the one we added in 2019 and took them out of our rotation.
   Hoping for good news in response.

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When fashion magazine websites begin looking the same

08.02.2021


Above: Vogue Korea’s website follows the æsthetic of a big lead image and smaller subsidiary ones.

This started as a blog entry but took a tangent about 500 words in, and it was better as an op–ed in Lucire. Some of the themes will be familiar to regular readers, especially about Big Tech, but here I discuss its influence on web design trends and standardization. The headline says it all: ‘Where have the fun fashion magazine websites gone?’. Browsing in the 1990s was fun, discovering how people coded to overcome the limitations of the medium, and, in my case, bringing in lessons from print that worked. Maybe it’s an age thing, or the fact I don’t surf as much for leisure, but in 2021 the sites I come across tend to look the same, especially the ones that were in Lucire’s ‘Newsstand’ section.
   I do know of great sites—my friend and colleague Charlie Ward has his one, which does everything you would expect from a great designer’s web presence. So many others look like they’ve bought a template. As to those of us in magazines—I’d love to see something that really inspired me again.

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February 2021 gallery

08.02.2021

Finally, let’s begin the February 2021 gallery!

 
   All galleries can be seen through the ‘Gallery’ link in the header, or click here (especially if you’re on a mobile device). I append to this entry through the month.

Sources
Katharina Mazepa for Guess, more information here.
   Financial Times clipping from Twitter.
   Year of the Ox wallpaper from Meizu.
   American English cartoon via Twitter.
   Doctor Who–Life on Mars cartoon, from Pinterest.
   Dr Ashley Bloomfield briefing with closed captioning, found on Twitter.
   South African version of the Opel Commodore C: more at Autocade.
   Chrysler–Simca 1307 and 1308 illustrations: more on the car at Autocade.

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Another innocent post at NewTumbl that’s too much for the moderators

02.02.2021

Even though I like NewTumbl, it’s never a pleasure to be proved right again about its user-based moderating process, where there is no appeal. Alex at NewTumbl, who empathized with my situation, says this is the latest one to fall foul of the Republic of Gilead user base—and which would have had a pass at Tumblr, the site many left because it was supposedly too restrictive:

   Alex marked it F for family-friendly—it’s a magazine cover from 1948 that anyone around then could have seen, for Chrissakes—but a moderator took this to O, which roughly equates to a PG-13, and which covers ‘sexy and sultry’ imagery.
   As Alex recounted to me in the past, even the cartoon Samantha Stevens from Bewitched was too much for the sensitive eyes of NewTumbl users.
   To the good people at NewTumbl, as you scale, you may need a panel of “super-users” who can hear appeals. I can foresee this sort of stuff driving people back to Tumblr, especially those of us who just want to post G and PG stuff. Adult content is precisely what NewTumbl didn’t want to be known exclusively for, but carry on this way and that’s the likely outcome.

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A refreshing piece on diversity in our mainstream media

31.01.2021

Two fantastic items in my Tweetstream today, the first from journalist Jehan Casinader, a New Zealander of Sri Lankan heritage, in Stuff.
   Some highlights:

   As an ethnic person, you can only enter (and stay in) a predominantly white space – like the media, politics or corporate leadership – if you play by the rules. And really, there’s only one rule: blend in. You’re expected to assimilate into the dominant way of thinking, acting and being …
   I sound like you. I make myself relatable to you. I communicate in a way that makes sense to you. I don’t threaten you. I don’t make you uncomfortable. And I keep my most controversial opinions to myself.

And:

   Kiwis love stories about ethnic people who achieve highly: winning university scholarships, trying to cure diseases, inventing new technology or entering the political arena. These people are lauded for generating economic and social value for the country …
   We do not hear stories about ethnic people who work in thankless, low-skilled jobs – the refugees and migrants who stock our supermarket shelves, drive our taxis, pick our fruit, milk our cows, fill our petrol tanks, staff our hospitals and care for our elderly in rest homes.

   Jehan says that now he is in a position of influence, he’s prepared to bring his Sri Lankan identity to the places he gets to visit, and hopes that everyone in Aotearoa is given respect ‘not because of their ability to assimilate’.
   He was born here to new immigrants who had fled Sri Lanka, and I think there is a slight difference to those of us who came as children. Chief among this, at least for me, was my resistance to assimilation. Sure I enjoyed some of the same things other kids my age did: the Kentucky Fried Chicken rugby book, episodes of CHiPs, and playing tag, but because of various circumstances, as well as parents who calmly explained to me the importance of retaining spoken Cantonese at home, I constantly wore my Chineseness. I hadn’t chosen to leave my birthplace—this was the decision of my parents—so I hung on to whatever I could that connected me back to it.
   I could contrast this to other Chinese New Zealanders I went to school with, many of whom had lost their native language because their parents had encouraged assimilation to get ahead. I can’t fault them—many of them are my dearest friends—but I was exposed to what Jehan wrote about from a young age.
   It saddened me a lot because here were people who looked like me who I couldn’t speak to in my mother tongue, and the only other student of Chinese extraction in my primary class who did speak her native language spoke Mandarin—which to many of my generation, certainly to those who did so little schooling before we left, find unintelligible.
   At St Mark’s, I had no issue. This was a school that celebrated differences, and scholastic achievement. (I am happy to say that sports and cultural activity are very much on the cards these days, too.) But after that, at one college, I observed what Jehan said: the Chinese New Zealanders who didn’t rock the boat were safe buddies to have; those who were tall poppies were the target of the weak-minded, the future failures of our society. You just have to rise above it, and, if anything, it made me double-down on my character—so much so that when I was awarded a half-scholarship to Scots, I found myself in familiar surroundings again, where differences were championed.
   But you do indeed have to play the game. Want your company recognized? Then get yourself into the media. Issue releases just like the firms that were sending them to you as a member of the media. Don’t bring your Chineseness into that, because you won’t get coverage. Jack Yan & Associates, and Lucire for that matter, always had a very occidental outlook, with my work taking me mostly to the US and Europe, with India only coming in at the end of the 2000s—but then we were bound by the lingua franca of the old colonial power.
   Despite my insistence on my own reo at home, and chatting every day to my Dad, I played the game that Jehan did when it came to work. I didn’t as much when I ran for mayor, admittedly—I didn’t want voters to get a single-sided politician, but one who was his authentic self—but that also might explain why Stuff’s predecessor, which was at that stage owned by a foreign company, gave me next to no coverage the first time out. They weren’t prepared to back someone who didn’t fit their reader profile. The second time out, it still remained shockingly biased. Ironically the same publishing group would give me reasonably good coverage in Australia when I wasn’t doing politics. That’s the price to pay for authenticity sometimes.
   Jehan finishes his piece on a positive note and I feel he is right to. We still have issues as a nation, no doubt, but I think we embrace our differences more than we used to. There have been many instances where I have seen all New Zealanders rise up to condemn racism, regardless of their political bents. (What is interesting was I do recall one National MP still in denial, residing in fantasy-land, when I recalled a racist incident—and this was after March 15, 2019!) People from all walks of life donated to my fund-raising when a friend’s car had a swastika painted on it. We have a Race Relations’ Commissioner who bridges so many cultures effectively—a New Zealander of Taishanese extraction who speaks te reo Māori and English—who is visible, and has earned his mana among so many here. The fact that Jehan’s piece was even published, whereas in 2013 it would have been anathema to the local arm of Fairfax, is further reason to give me hope.

The second item? Have a watch of this. It’s largely in accord with my earlier post.

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Like communist dictatorships, Google and Facebook threaten Australia

23.01.2021

You know the US tech giants have way too much power, unencumbered by their own government and their own country’s laws, when they think they can strong-arm another nation.
   From Reuter:

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it would block its search engine in Australia if the government proceeds with a new code that would force it and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for the right to use their content.

   Fine, then piss off. If Australia wants to enact laws that you can’t operate with, because you’re used to getting your own way and don’t like sharing the US$40,000 million you’ve made each year off the backs of others’ hard work, then just go. I’ve always said people would find alternatives to Google services in less than 24 hours, and while I appreciate its index is larger and it handles search terms well, the spying and the monopolistic tactics are not a worthwhile trade-off.
   I know Google supporters are saying that the Australian policy favours the Murdoch Press, and I agree that the bar that the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has set for what qualifies as a media business (revenues of over A$150,000 per annum) is too high. So it isn’t perfect.
   The fact Google has made a deal in France suggests it is possible, when the giant doesn’t whine so damned much.
   Plus, Google and Facebook have been dangerous to democracy, and should have done more for years to address these issues. They’ve allowed a power imbalance for the sake of their own profits, so paying for news—effectively a licensing payment that the rest of us would have to fork out—at least puts a value on it, given how it benefits the two sites. No search? Fine, let’s have more ethical actors reap the rewards of fairer, “unbubbled” searches, because at least there would be a societal benefit from it, and since they aren’t cashing in on the media’s work, I’m happy for them to get a free licence to republish. Right now I don’t believe the likes of Duck Duck Go are dominant enough (far from it) to raise the attention of Australian regulators.
   Facebook’s reaction has been similar: they would block Australians from sharing links to news. Again, not a bad idea; maybe people will stop using a platform used to incite hate and violence to get their bubbled news items. Facebook, please go ahead and carry out your threat. If it cuts down on people using your site—or, indeed, returns them to using it for the original purpose most of us signed up for, which was to keep in touch with friends—then we all win. (Not that I’d be back for anything but the limited set of activities I do today. Zuck’s rich enough.)
   A statement provided to me and other members of the media from the Open Markets Institute’s executive director Barry Lynn reads:

Today Google and Facebook proved in dramatic fashion that they pose existential threats to the world’s democracies. The two corporations are exploiting their monopoly control over essential communications to extort, bully, and cow a free people. In doing so, Google and Facebook are acting similarly to China, which in recent months has used trade embargoes to punish Australians for standing up for democratic values and open fact-based debate. These autocratic actions show why Americans across the political spectrum must work together to break the power that Google, Facebook, and Amazon wield over our news and communications, and over our political debate. They show why citizens of all democracies must work together to build a communications infrastructure safe for all democracies in the 21st Century.

   Considering Google had worked on a search engine that would comply with Communist Chinese censorship, and Facebook has been a tool to incite genocide, then the comparison to a non-democratic country is valid.
   So, I say to these Big Tech players, pull out. This is the best tech “disruption” we can hope for. You’re both heading into irrelevance, and Australia has had the balls to do what your home country—from which you offshore a great deal of your money—cannot, for all the lobbyists you employ. You favour big firms over independents, and the once level playing field that existed on the internet has been worsened by you. The Silicon Valley spirit, of entrepreneurship, born of the counterculture, needs to return, and right now you’re both standing in the way: you are “the man”, suppressing entrepreneurial activity, reducing employment, and splitting people apart—just what dictatorial régimes do.
   As an aside, the EU is also cracking down on Big Tech as it invites the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) to a February 1 hearing. They’ve bled people for long enough and it’s time for some pushback.

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Posted in business, China, culture, internet, media, politics, publishing, technology, USA | 1 Comment »