Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ category


On publishing in 2021, as told to Business Desk

03.09.2021


Above: Coverage in Business Desk, with me pictured with Lucire fashion and beauty editor Sopheak Seng.

Big thanks to Daniel Dunkley, who wrote this piece about me and my publishing work in Business Desk, well worth subscribing to (coincidentally, I spotted an article about my friend and classmate Hamish Edwards today, too).
   I had a lengthy chat with Daniel because he asked great questions—the fact he got a lot out of me shows how good a journalist he is. And he reveals some of our more recent developments, as well as my thoughts on the industry in general—things I hadn’t really got on to record often to a journalist, certainly not in the last few years.
   I had my Business Desk alerts switched off so I didn’t know he had already written his story (on the day of our interview) till another friend and classmate told me earlier this week. It also shows that Google’s News Alerts are totally useless, something that I realized recently when it took them three weeks to send the alert (the time between its original spidering of the article and the email being sent out). Those had been worsening over the years and I had seen them be one or two days behind, but now they rarely arrive. Three weeks is plain unacceptable for one of the last services on Google I still used.
   Back to Daniel’s story. It’s a great read, and I’m glad someone here in Aotearoa looked me up. I realize most of our readers are abroad and we earn most from exports, but a lot of what we’ve done is to promote just how good our country is. I’m proud of what we’re able to achieve from our part of the world.



Above: Google News Alerts take an awfully long time to arrive, if at all. I hadn’t seen one for weeks, then this one arrives, three weeks after Google News spidered and indexed the article. Google feels like another site that now fails to get the basics right.

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Posted in business, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, Wellington | 1 Comment »


When New Zealand is the subject of misinformation

12.07.2021

This thread echoes what a lot of us feel in New Zealand when we see intentional misinformation on Twitter, possibly from the US. I answered back to one of these parties over the weekend, as did many, to see us all branded as ‘the left’ (I suppose if your politics are eugenics-led libertarianism, everyone is ‘the left’), while another “journalist” claimed that anyone who did so were part of a government op using taxpayer dollars (to which some of us asked, ‘Where’s my cheque?’). Folks, sometimes you just have to look at the evidence—do I believe the first-hand accounts of people I know plus what I myself observe, or the one single case you’ve hand-picked or the one single out-of-context quote you’ve intentionally misrepresented?

   While this explains what the foreign agenda are, it makes you wonder why certain media talking heads in this country, usually ones who work for foreign-owned news outlets, would be just as keen to sell us out. A lack of patriotism, a lack of perspective, a lack of ethics, or just a lack of bollocks?

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Posted in internet, New Zealand, politics, USA | No Comments »


Facebook continues to give in to fake accounts, much like the UK with COVID-19

10.07.2021

At the beginning of July I noticed Facebook had changed its reporting options. Gone is the option labelled ‘Fake account’, replaced by ‘Harmful or spam’. It’s a small change that, I believe, is designed to get Facebook off the hook for failing to remove fake accounts: since you can’t report them, then you can’t say they’ve failed to take them down.

   Except, if you choose ‘Harmful or spam’, Facebook does acknowledge that your report is for a fake account:

   Of course they’re harmful. Harmful to us regular people who have to pay more and more money to reach our human supporters since the fakes command an increasing amount of fans on our pages, for instance. It isn’t harmful for Facebook’s revenue or Zuckerberg’s wealth. So it really depends how you define harmful; one would imagine that a competent court would define it from a consumer’s point of view.
   Their new group policy, where Facebook has also given up against the bot epidemic, letting fake accounts join public groups, is a disaster. As you can see, the majority of new members to one group I oversee—and where I usually get tips to new bot accounts—are fakes. They’ve used scripts to join. It’s a bit of a giveaway when there are brand-new accounts joining groups before they’ve even made friends. The legit names have been pixellated; the fakes I’ve left for you to see.

   It’s not as bad as, say, giving up on the people who elected you to run the country and letting COVID-19 do whatever it wants, killing citizens in the process. But it comes from the same dark place of putting people second and lining your pockets first—Mark Zuckerberg does it, Robert Mugabe did it, etc. Distract and plunder.
   In The Guardian:

Boris Johnson will revoke hundreds of Covid regulations and make England the most unrestricted society in Europe from 19 July despite saying new cases could soar to 50,000 a day before masks and social distancing are ditched.

   In fact, one Tweeter jokingly showed his interpretation of the UK’s COVID alert levels:

   On this, let our own Prof Michael Baker have the last word. Also in The Guardian, which I shared three days ago on Mastodon:

   Baker said public health professionals were “disturbed” by the UK’s return to allowing Covid to circulate unchecked, and that the phrase “living with it” was a “meaningless slogan” that failed to communicate the consequences of millions of infections, or the alternative options for managing the virus.
   “We often absorb a lot of our rhetoric from Europe and North America, which have really managed the pandemic very badly,” he said. “I don’t think we should necessarily follow or accept Boris Johnson and co saying: “Oh, we have to learn to live with virus.’
   “We always have to be a bit sceptical about learning lessons from countries that have failed very badly.”

   We really need to be confident of our own position on this. There are too many, especially those propelled by foreign forces with their friends in the foreign-owned media, advocating that we follow other Anglophone countries—probably because they lack either intelligence, imagination, pride, or empathy. I’ve spent a good part of my career saying, ‘Why should we follow when we can lead?’

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July 2021 gallery

02.07.2021

Here are July 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
Star Trek: 1999 reposted from Alex on NewTumbl. Didn’t Star Trek and Space: 1999 share a producer?
   Publicity shot for French actress Manon Azem, from Section de recherches.
   Charlie Chaplin got there first with this meme. Reposted from Twitter.
   I realize the history page in Lucire KSA for July 2021 suggests that you need a four-letter surname to work for Lucire.
   The 1981 Morris Ital two-door—sold only as a low-spec 1·3 for export. Reposted from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Ford Capri 1300 double-page spread, reposted from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Alexa Breit photographed by Felix Graf, reposted from Instagram.
   South America relief map, reposted from Twitter.
   From the Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei episode ‘Abflug’, to air July 29, 2021. RTL publicity photo.
   Lucire’s Festival de Cannes coverage can be found here. Photo courtesy L’Oréal Paris.
   Last of the Ford Vedette wagons, as the Simca Jangada in Brazil, for the 1967 model year. The facelift later that year saw to the wagon’s demise.
   Ford Consul advertisement in Germany, announcing the 17M’s successor. Interesting that the fastback, so often referred to as a coupé, is captioned as a two-door saloon, even though Ford did launch a “standard” two-door. More on the Consul in Autocade here. Image from the Car Factoids on Twitter.

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Posted in cars, China, culture, design, France, gallery, humour, internet, marketing, New Zealand, publishing, Sweden, technology, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


Nine years of promoting DuckDuckGo in Lucire

20.06.2021


Promoting DuckDuckGo: ‘Glancing back’ in Lucire KSA, June 2021.

For some time now, in every print issue of Lucire, and Lucire KSA, there is a mention of search engine DuckDuckGo. But I wasn’t sure how long we had been doing this, till I checked tonight. We started referencing DuckDuckGo in 2012, on our history page, where we look back at what we wrote 15, 10 and 5 years ago. What we do is feed in the year and Lucire, and let the search engine do the rest. It might not have Google’s might, but in my book it deserves considerably more loyalty, and all the help we can give.

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Putting on the breaks

20.06.2021

Being self-employed my whole adult life, I haven’t exactly been let go from actual employment, but there have been some gigs, paid and unpaid, that came to an end without me expecting it.
   I’ve never been sore about losing them, but I don’t agree with the way they were done.
   Gig 1. Did a quarterly task for these folks, which soon became a monthly one. Lasted 14 years and was either the longest-serving or second-longest-serving in that capacity. Let go in a group email.
   Gig 2. Voluntary one, told that I wouldn’t be needed because the organization was going in a new direction. I wouldn’t be replaced because of this new format. Found out later that there was no new format and I was replaced. Would it have hurt to tell the truth? After all, I replaced the previous person, and I would have been fine with them needing a fresh face. It’s not as though I made any money off them!
   Gig 3. Another voluntary one. Hadn’t heard anything but then I usually didn’t till pretty late in the game. Except this time I had to chase them up, given how late things got. When do you need me? Found out I was replaced and that the decision had been made months earlier. I was the last to know. Offered some inconsequential consolation, but no apology. Ironically this happened as my influence in this particular area grew substantially overseas, so the help I could have given them was immense, so bad luck and bad timing to that mob. Bridges burned.
   I’ve let a few people go in the past—one had so many allegations against him (theft, sexual harassment) that with hindsight I wonder why we took so long. Given the anonymous (and ineffective and illogical) letters he’s sent to some of my most loyal colleagues, I think he’s still sore. Others had to be let go when the financial winds blew against us. But I’m pretty sure they all knew why.
   The only mysterious one from our companies was one person who claimed I cut him off and stopped using his writing services. It was a complete lie—he just vanished. At one point we re-established contact. We agreed to put it down to an email glitch (although this person regularly phoned me and stopped doing so, but in the interests of moving on, I let it go). Years later, he did it again—just disappeared. He told a mutual friend of ours the same lie, that I ceased to have anything to do with him. I relayed the above story to that friend but I could see she didn’t believe me—till he did it to her a few years later!

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Why does my landline phone dial by itself?

13.06.2021

As sent to Vodafone New Zealand today. Anyone know what might be going on?

Hi there:

Not really a complaint but since you don’t give any options other than compliment and complaint, the latter will have to do!
   Since moving to Tawa, my landline phone has been calling numbers that no one has called. It does this by itself, usually around 3 p.m. each day.
   I enquired with Vodafone on Twitter about this but we never found a resolution, and Custhelp doesn’t appear to exist any more on your website. As to Tobi, the sooner that vanishes, the better!
   As you read on you’ll see why it’s not really easy to explain on either Twitter or on the phone, and Tobi has no option for landlines at all.
   I suspected there was something wrong with the landline set-up here that causes the phone to dial by itself.
   We don’t exactly have a high-tech landline phone. These are basic Vtech units from Warehouse Stationery. I have never entered any “programming” into them, nor do I know how. Even the outgoing answerphone message is what it came with.
   These are the same phones we had at my old place in Rongotai where they most certainly did not dial by themselves every day at 3 p.m. We moved, I unplugged them, and plugged them into the house here.
   It’s been going on for most of the two years we have been here, if I recall correctly.
   Today we had a power outage, so instead of 3 p.m., the phone kept calling well into the evening after the power returned.
   I went into My Vodafone’s landline section for the first time. If you go in there, you’ll see the phone kept dialling 04 569 3555 and 04 569 3566 very, very regularly. Since 3.07 p.m. and now (11.18 p.m.) it has made 130 of these calls.
   On occasion, I catch the phone doing this and stay on the line. When it connects, it sounds like a fax machine on the other end. My phone then enters some sort of identity code. No human has ever answered these calls.
   It will sometimes do this while I am on the phone to someone else, which is very distracting.
   Today, I filmed a video on my cellphone to prove that the phone does this by itself with no human agency. You can watch this at:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CQDd45HAkkJ/

   Please note that no one at this house is making these calls and the phone is doing it by itself.
   I would like to know why this is happening, how a phone even knows how to do this, and just who is behind this.
   Thank goodness these are local calls that do not bear a charge but this smells of a scam to me.

   Here’s an embed of that Instagram video:

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#F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;">
View this post on Instagram
#F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);">
#F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;">
#F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);">
#F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;">
#f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)">
#F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);">
#F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);">
#F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);">
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#F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;">

A post shared by Jack Yan 甄爵恩 (@jack.yan)

   Hopefully from the above they’ll be able to see that the phone is not even sophisticated enough to be programmed to do this. Yet the frequency of the calls (130 today alone) suggests they are automated. I haven’t found anything online about this. This link is the closest I’ve found to my experience, but Vodafone so far does not know.

On a related note, after I published this post, Wordpress created an extra tag that I never fed in, called F4F4F4. Why does it do this?

PS.: This seems extremely plausible, from a friendly Tweeter.

Based on what I was told:

   Who knows? Maybe it is all connected properly. I’ve sent a note to the folks who installed the security system here.

P.PS.: From the security company: ‘If your phone was calling these numbers, it would not be related to the alarm.
   ‘These numbers are not recorded anywhere on the alarm.’

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Facebook goes even more pro-bot with change in group policy

02.06.2021

Why are there antitrust or monopoly laws? Why is the usual interpretation of the Chicago School really, really bad for the United States? Umair Haque’s latest post spells it out pretty well, in my opinion.
   Just an idea: let’s not import any of their dangerous ideas into our society, or allow their ever-growing giants to get more of a foothold in our country (and not pay tax here either). Because we have a tendency to kiss their arses sometimes. Just ask Kim Dotcom. Things like their legal precedents are still persuasive here, and with how different their priorities are, we need to place even less weight on them. Let’s not forget the rules we play by here, and that means whomever enters this market has to play by the same.


Speaking of daft decisions on the other side of the Pacific by dishonest parties who have got too big due to what amounts to lawlessness, Facebook has removed the requirement for users to answer questions when they join a public group. These questions were our way of safeguarding the one public group I still look after there, and over 99 per cent of users (no exaggeration; if anything, an underestimate) who attempted to join were bots. I define bots as including any legitimate account running bot software, which I thought was against Facebook’s T&Cs, but not in practice. I still report a lot of them, though unlike 2014 I won’t do them all. I just can’t report thousands that I might see on a single visit.
   I can imagine why Facebook has done this. This way Facebook hides the number of bots from group moderators (as if we hadn’t known of their problems for the good part of a decade), and protects the bots as they continue their activity across the platform. This will encourage even more bots, and as I identified in an earlier post, I see more bots than humans these days on there (and I’m not even a regular user).
   I knew they were liars and shysters so I imagine this is in keeping with that. Cover up just how badly compromised the platform is by bots.
   I haven’t seen much on this change in Facebook group policy, but as changes go, this has to be the most anti-human, pro-bot move they have made in 17 years. No one ever demanded more rights for bots, but here’s Facebook giving it to them.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


On OneDrive, Flickr, and FLOC

19.05.2021

Yesterday, I worked remotely, and I don’t know what possessed me, but as OneDrive was activated on my laptop, I decided to save a word processing file there, planning to grab it from my desktop machine later in the day.
   Normally I would just leave the file where it was and transfer it across the network, which is what I should have stuck with.
   Heck, even transferring a file using a USB stick would have been a better idea than OneDrive.
   I hadn’t signed up to it on my desktop PC. I went through the motions, used the default settings where it said it would back up documents and pictures (while making it clear my files would remain exactly where they were). I grabbed the file I need—the entire 18 kilobytes of it—and thought nothing more. I deactivated OneDrive as I saw no real use for it any more.
   Bad idea, because most of my desktop icons vanished, and my Windows default documents’ and pictures’ folders were emptied out.
   After reactivating OneDrive, I found the lot in the OneDrive folder, and promptly moved them back to their original folders. The desktop files—the text files I had on there plus the icons—I duplicated elsewhere. Ultimately, I made new shortcuts for everything—thank goodness my laptop’s icon layout is identical to my desktop’s—and restored the three text files from their duplicate directory.
   The above took me all of a few minutes to write but in reality I spent an hour fixing this—something that Windows said would not happen.
   Chalk it up to experience—consider this fair warning to anyone who thinks of using “the cloud”.
 
 

Also in the “say one thing, do another” file for yesterday: I attempted to sign in to my Flickr account, which has not been touched since around 2008. I tried a range of addresses I had in 2006, when I originally signed up, and attempted to do password resets. Flickr: ‘Invalid email or password.’ I even tried an address that Yahoo! emailed me at in 2018 concerning Flickr, and which Flickr itself said might be the correct email (use your Yahoo! username and add ‘@yahoo.com’ to the end of it).
   I had no other option but to email their support, and mentioned that I was a paying Smugmug customer, given that the photo site now owns Flickr.
   They have responded in a timely fashion, not telling me the email I had used, but said they had sent it a password reset in there.
   Surprisingly (or maybe not, considering we are talking about another big US site again), the address was indeed one of the ones I had tried (I’m glad I kept a record). Except now it works—what’s the bet that post-enquiry, they fixed things up in order to send me that reset email?
   I thanked the support person for the reset email, but suggested that they had some bugs, and fixing them would mean less for him to do.

Don Marti linked an interesting article in The Drum in which he was quoted. Duck Duck Go, Firefox and Github have all opposed Google’s new FLOC tracking method. Meanwhile, Bob Hoffman points out that only four per cent of Apple users have opted in to tracking after the Cupertino company’s new OS opted you out by default.
   Most of the time, people tell me that they find targeted ads ‘creepy’ as they appear from site to site, so it’s no wonder that take-up has been so low with Apple users. So if not FLOC, then what?
   Well, here’s a radical idea: show ads on sites that have subject-matter relevant to the advertiser. It’s what happened before Google’s monopoly, and there were plenty of smaller ad networks that did a great job of it. The prices were still reasonable, and Google wasn’t taking a big cut of the money earned. Of course Big Tech doesn’t like it, because they won’t earn as much, and the old system actually required people with brains to figure out how best to target, something creepy tracking has tried to replace.
   The old methods, with their personal touch, resulted in some creative advertising work—I remember we had some page takeovers on Lucire’s website where the traditional header was redesigned to show off the R55 Mini, thanks to one of our earlier ad directors, Nikola McCarthy. No tracking involved, but a great brand-builder and a fantastic way for Mini to get a fashion connection. Ads with tracking are so transactional and impersonal: ‘Buy this,’ or, ‘You’ve searched for this. Buy this.’
   I doubt it does the brands much good, and before you say that that doesn’t matter, let me also add that it can’t do the humans much good, either. The user’s purpose is reduced to clicking through and buying; so much for building a relationship with them and understanding their values. That isn’t marketing: it’s straight selling. Which means the marketing departments that put these deals together are doing themselves out of a job. They’re also spending money with a monopoly that, as far as I have read, doesn’t have independently certified metrics, which 20 years ago would have been a concern with some agencies.
   I do like innovations, but every now and then, I feel the newer methods haven’t done us much good. Tracking is tracking, no matter what sort of jargon you use to disguise it.

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Other than the ending, this is my only memory of St Elsewhere

18.05.2021

Conversation with Mum, some time in the 1980s.
   The credits for St Elsewhere begin rolling, and they read, ‘and starring William Daniels as Dr. Mark Craig’. Two taller actors flank Daniels as they walk toward the camera.
   I say, ‘Mum, that’s the guy who plays KITT on Knight Rider.’
   She replies, ‘He’s very short, isn’t he?’
   ‘Of course. How do you think they fit him under the bonnet of the car?’
   (At this point, I knew Daniels was dubbed in post, but I’d say my humour was pretty similar as a teenager as it is today.)

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