Archive for the ‘publishing’ category


Brand, sub-brand or model? China’s getting into a confusing phase

16.02.2021


The Dongfeng Aeolus AX7. But just where does Aeolus sit when it comes to indexing in Autocade?

This is something that might have to come out in the wash, and it might take years.
   I think we can all agree that Ssangyong is a marque or a make, and Korando is a model. Never mind that there’s currently a basic Korando, the Korando Sports (a pick-up truck) and a Korando Turismo (a people mover), none of which really have much connection with the other, name aside. We are as comfortable with this as we once were with the Chevrolet Lumina and Lumina APV, the Ford Taurus and Taurus X, and the Toyota Mark X and Mark X Zio. So far so good.
   But when do these drift into being sub-brands? BMW calls i a sub-brand, but as far as cataloguing in Autocade goes, it doesn’t matter, as the model names are i3 or i8 (or a number of ix models now coming out). Audi’s E-Tron is its parallel at Ingolstadt, and here we do have a problem, with a number of E-Tron models unrelated technically. It’s not like Quattro, where there was the (ur-) Quattro, then Quattro as a designation, and everyone accepted that.
   Similarly, the Chinese situation can be far from clear.
   Many years ago, GAC launched a single model based on the Alfa Romeo 166 called the Trumpchi. So far so good: we have a marque and model. But it then decided to launch a whole bunch of other cars also called Trumpchi (the original became the Trumpchi GA5, to distinguish it from at least eight others). Some sources say Trumpchi is a sub-brand, others a brand in its own right, but we continue to reference it as a model, since the cars have a GAC logo on the grille, just as the GAC Aion EVs have a GAC logo on the grille. (The latter is also not helped with Chinese indices tending to separate out EVs into ‘New Energy Vehicle’ listings, even when their manufacturers don’t.)
   I feel that we only need to make the shift into calling a previous model or sub-brand a brand when it’s obvious on the cars themselves. That’s the case with Haval, when it was very clear when it departed from Changcheng (Great Wall). Senia is another marque that spun off from FAW: it began life with the FAW symbol on the grille, before Senia’s own script appeared on the cars.
   The one that confounds me is Dongfeng Aeolus, which was make-and-model for a long time, but recently Aeolus has displaced the Dongfeng whirlwind on the grille of several models. We have them currently listed in Autocade with Dongfeng Aeolus as a new marque, since there’s still a small badge resembling the whirlwind on the bonnet. The Dongfeng Aeolus AX7 retains the whirlwind, but has the Aeolus letters prominently across the back, but to muddle it up, the AX7 Pro has the new Aeolus script up front. These can’t be two different marques but the visual cues say they are.
   Maybe we’ll just have to relegate Aeolus back to model status, and do what Ssangyong does with the Korando (or Changcheng with the Tengyi). These are the things that make life interesting, but also a little confusing when it comes to indexing an encyclopædia.

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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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An unusual 4,400th model on Autocade

23.01.2021

This was an unusual car to have as the 4,400th on Autocade: the Rosengart Ariette.
   I did know the 4,400th was coming up since it wasn’t that long ago that Autocade passed 22 million page views, and I checked the stats. But I like to think this would still have been the motor that made it up even I was unaware of the number, since I had done plenty of Chinese vehicles of late and wanted a change.
   I suspect the December–January period is a big one for Autocade generally since there’s less news at Lucire coming in, and there’s a bit more time to work on hobbies—even if there’s also plenty of housework to keep me occupied.
   I’m grateful to Carfolio for checking up the Rosengarts for me, since they were quicker at getting models online, and it’s as trustworthy a source as you’ll find anywhere on the motoring web. Unlike Wikipedia in English, which has yet another inaccuracy with regard to these models.

Note: the above image is from Piston Collection, and not the one used in Autocade. It is a condition of reuse that I post the following, and it’s nice to give another motoring enthusiast a shout-out anyway: ‘Ceci est un article «presslib», c’est-à-dire libre de reproduction en tout ou en partie à condition que le présent alinéa soit reproduit à sa suite. Pistoncollection.com est le site sur lequel Sylvain Devaux s’exprime quotidiennement et livre une analyse pointue du monde de la collection automobile. Merci de visiter mon site. Vous pouvez vous abonner gratuitement à la lettre d’information quotidienne sur www.pistoncollection.com.’

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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 »


Autocade reaches 22 million, while Rachel Hunter appears in Lucire

16.01.2021

As I begin this blog post, Autocade has just crossed the 22 million page-view barrier, at 22,000,040. I had estimated we would get there on Sunday, and as it’s just ticked over here in New Zealand, I was right.
   We have 4,379 models in the database, with the Bestune B70, in its third generation, the most recent model added. I’m grateful it’s a regular car—not yet another crossover, which has been the usual story of 2020 whenever I added new models to the site.
   As crossovers and SUVs were once regarded as niche models, historical ones weren’t put up in any great haste, so I can’t always escape them just by putting up models from the past. However, there are countless sports and supercars to go up, so maybe I’ll need to add them in amongst the SUVs to maintain my sanity and happiness. These high-riding two-box vehicles are incredibly boring subjects stylistically.
   It’s a stroke of luck, then, to have the B70: Bestune’s sole saloon offering now in amongst an entire range of crossovers. The saloons are the niche vehicles of 2020–1. It’s a stylish motor, too: Cadillac looks for a middle-class price. Admittedly, such close inspirations haven’t deserted China altogether, but this is, in my mind, no worse than Ford pretending its 1975 US Granada was a Mercedes-Benz for the masses. It’s not going to get GM’s lawyers upset. And unlike the Granada, the B70 is actually a fairly advanced car, with refinement now on par with a lot of joint-venture models coming out of China.
   You know the drill to track Autocade’s growth:

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)

   Not a huge change in the rate, then: for the past year we can expect roughly a million page views every three months. The database has increased by 96 model entries, versus 40 when I last posted about the million milestones.

In other publishing news, Jody Miller has managed to get an interview with Rachel Hunter. Her story is on Lucire today, and I’m expecting a more in-depth one will appear in print later in 2021. It’s taken us 23 years (not that we were actively pursuing): it’s just one of those things where it took that long for our paths to cross. Both Rachel and Lucire are Kiwi names that are arguably more noticed abroad than in our countries of birth, and I suppose it’s like two compatriots who travel to different countries. You don’t always bump into one another.

I end this blog post with Autocade’s views at 22,000,302.

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Posted in cars, China, design, New Zealand, publishing, USA | 1 Comment »


The Mediawiki page-count bug: what’s caused it?

18.12.2020

Either something is interfering with Mediawiki or I’ve reached the limit with the software after 4,300-odd entries on Autocade. Which is highly unlikely as the same software runs Wikipedia.
   For the first time ever I noticed this in the footer:

This is how a page with no views looks. Once it nets a few views, a count appears (‘1 view’). Except for the first time in 12 years, this page, which has been viewed multiple times—including by me as I reloaded it to see if I could get the count started—will not show a count.
   This is only happening, as far as I can tell, on the newest page, though the counts on other pages have stayed static despite reloads (including leaving the page and returning).
   The statistics’ page on Autocade doesn’t always update when I reload pages, either, which makes me wonder if the count to the next million is going to be accurate.
   Anyone else come across this error?
   It’s funny that software that has run for 12 years one way decides not to do so any more, without any change in the back end.
   I have noticed, however, that Disqus is doing some odd things, with the ‘Also on Autocade’ box showing ‘View source’ links that the general public is not permitted to see. Which means it’s following me. Is that altering how the pages behave? It’s the first time that that’s happened, too.
   And something is making sure the ads don’t show up, and it’s not me, since I never use an ad blocker, and Privacy Badger is turned off on my own sites. The browser has updated, but I’ve checked and the in-built ad blocker is switched off.

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Why con?

07.12.2020

During the course of the 2010s, I came across two con artists. One thing that united them was they were men. But they could not have been more different: one was rather elaborate and was the subject of a Panorama documentary; the other was a rank amateur and, at least in the situation we were in, never fooled us.
   I won’t name them as I’ve no wish to add to their notoriety, but here’s the real kicker: both had the means to do well legitimately if they each followed through honestly.
   The first one was clever enough to rope in people from very different parts, essentially setting up a publishing operation. But it was a swindle, and people were left in debt and jobless.
   However, if it had been legit, it would have actually done quite well, and if the con artist’s aim was money, then he would have made some, over a long period, which would have sustained him and his lifestyle.
   The second was not clever but came to a business partner of mine with a proposal to become a shareholder. We heard him out, he proposed an amount, and we drafted a cast-iron contract that could see him get a return on his investment, and protect the original principal. The money never came, of course, and we weren’t going to alter the share register without it. He might have hoped that we would.
   Again, he would have got something from it. Maybe not as good a return as property but better than the bank.
   The first is now serving time at Her Majesty’s pleasure after things caught up with him and he was extradited to where he had executed an earlier con; the second, after having had his face in the Sunday Star–Times, was last heard from in Australia where he conned his own relatives. He’s wanted by the police here.
   I don’t know where the gratification is here. And rationally, leaving honesty and morals aside (as they do), wouldn’t it be better making money regularly than swindling for a quick fix that nets you less? Is it down to laziness, making them less desirous to follow through?
   On the first case, I did have the occasion to speak to one lawyer pursuing him. I asked him about my case, since my financial loss was relatively small compared to the others taken in (namely a FedEx bill that a friend of mine helped me get a decent discount on because of her job). Where’s the con? I was told that it might not have been apparent as the con artist’s MO was to draw different strands, sometimes having them result in something, and sometimes not.
   Whatever the technique, it failed him anyway.
   And what a waste of all that energy to create something that not only looked legit (as in the TV series Hustle) but could have functioned legitimately with so many good people involved.
   That did make the 2010s rather better than the 2000s when the shady characters included a pædophile (who, to my knowledge, is also doing time), a sociopath, a forger, and a US fashion label that conned a big shipment’s payment out of us. I doubt I’d be famous enough to warrant a biography but they would make interesting stories!

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Autocade reaches 4,300 models before the month is out

31.10.2020

A very quick note, probably more for me than anyone else: the 4,300th model went up on Autocade tonight. It was slightly deliberate, since I checked the stats for the site to see we were up to 4,299. I’ve a folder of models to be added, and I admit I scrolled down a little to see what piqued my interest—having said that, it’s what I usually do anyway. But there was a desire not to add yet another two-box crossover (had enough of those for a while) or any model that would lead me to be obsessed about a full line (DAF 33, anyone?). As the 1980–4 Pontiac Phoenix is already on the site, the 1978–9 entry went up. (Yes, I disagree with Wikipedia, which has Phoenixes starting in 1977, which is true, but it was mid-year, it was officially part of the Ventura line, and Phoenix doesn’t appear in the 1977 full-line brochure.) Wikipedians can do it their way, and I’ll do it mine.
   At some point I’ll add the Oldsmobile Omega for 1975–9 and we’ll have the X-cars for those years all up.

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