My friend Richard MacManus commemorated the 14th anniversary of ReadWrite, an online publication he founded as a blog (then called ReadWriteWeb) in 2003, by examining blogging and how the open web has suffered with the rise of Facebook and others.
It’s worth a read, and earlier tonight I fed in the following comment.
I remember those days well, although my progress was probably the opposite of yours, and, in my circles, blogging began very selfishly. Lucire began as a publication, laid out the old-school way with HTML, and one of the first sites in the fashion sector to add a blog was a very crappy one where it was about an ill-informed and somewhat amoral editorâs point of view. For years I refused to blog, preferring to continue publishing an online magazine.
Come 2002, and we at the Medinge Group [as it then was; we’ve since dropped the definite article] were planning a book called Beyond Branding. One of the thoughts was that we needed one of these newfangled blogs to promote the book, and to add to it for our readers. I was one (the only?) dissenter at the June 2003 meeting, saying that, as far as my contacts were concerned, blogging was for tossers. (Obviously, I didnât know you back in those days, and didnât frequent ReadWriteWeb.) [Hugh MacLeod might agree with me though.] By August 2003 it had been set up, and I designed the template for it to match the rest of the bookâs artwork. How wrong I was in June. The blog began (and finished, in 2006) with posts in the altruistic, passionate spirit of RWW, and before long (I think it was September 2003), I joined my friends and colleagues.
An excerpt from the Beyond Branding Blog index page.
In 2006, I went off and did my own blog, and even though there were hundreds of thousands (millions?) of blogs by now, decent bloggers were still few. I say this because within the first few weeks, a major German newspaper was already quoting my blog, and I got my first al-Jazeera English gig as a result of my blogging a few years later. It was the province of the passionate writer, and the good ones still got noticed.
I still have faith in the blogosphere simply because social media, as you say, have different motives and shared links are fleeting. Want to find a decent post you made on Facebook five years ago? Good luck. Social media might be good for instant gratificationâyour friends will like stuff you writeâbut so what? Where are the analysis and the passion? I agree with everything you say here, Richard: the current media arenât the same, and thereâs still a place for long-form blogging. The fact I am commenting (after two others) shows there is. Itâs a better place to exchange thoughts, and at least here weâre spared Facebook pushing malware on to people (no, not phishing: Facebook itself).
Eleven years on, and Iâm still blogging at my own space. I even manage a collective blogging site for a friend, called Blogcozy. My Tumblr began in 2007 and itâs still going. We should be going away from the big sites, because thereâs one more danger that I should point out.
Google, Facebook et al are the establishment now, and, as such, they prop up others in the establishment. Google News was once meritorious, now it favours big media names ahead of independents. This dangerously drowns out those independent voices, and credible writers and viewpoints can get lost. The only exception I can think of is The Intercept, which gets noticed on a wide scale.
Take this argument further and is there still the same encouragement for innovators to give it a go, as we did in the early 2000s, when we realize that our work might never be seen, or if it is to be seen, we need deep pockets to get it seen?
Maybe we need to encourage people to go away from these walled gardens, to find ways to promote the passionate voices again. Maybe a future search engineâor a current one that sees the lightâcould have a search specifically for these so weâre not reliant on the same old voices and the same old sites. And Iâm sure there are other ways besides. For I see little point in posting on places that lack âcharismaâ, as you put it. They just donât excite me as much as discovering a blog I really like, and sticking with it. With Facebookâs personal sharing down 25 and 29 per cent in 2015 and 2016 respectively, there is a shift away from uninspiring, privacy-destroying places. Hopefully we can catch them at more compelling and interesting blogs and make them feel at home.
That’s a nice conclusion. Since my previous blog post, Dr Libby Weaver’s people got back to me within 24 hours. Although no notes from her seminar were available, we decided that I should get a Dr Libby book, which duly arrived. Here âtis:
Goes to show they were on the ball when the mistake was picked up, a credit was given to me for the photo, and they were prepared to remedy things by posting a book to me. We turned a negative into a positive: a winâwin all round. Sometimes all it takes are two parties prepared to be reasonable and find something mutually agreeable. Certain world leaders would be advised to emulate that.
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.
A photo posted by CARS IN NEW ZEALAND (NZ) (@kiwi_cars) on
It’s an old point, but the prevalence of cellphone cameras means it’s going to be increasingly hard to deny where you were on any given day. In this case, Kiwi_cars asked for permission to feature my number plate, as they usually blank it out. I gave my blessing, since my own rule is: if you can spot something publicly, you don’t need to censor. If you photograph something where the subject expects a level of privacy (e.g. through their home windows, even if you can see them from a public vantage-point; or when something is on private land), then you do.
And don’t we often buy a car for it to be admired? Since prewar days we’ve been conditioned into thinking how a car is not a durable good, but a fashion item that expresses who we are. It would seem hypocritical if someone does admire yours and you don’t permit it. If we weren’t interested in that, we’d all be driving Nissan Tiidas in a monochrome shade. And even some of those Tiida owners are very, very proud of their motors.
An edited version of this post originally appeared at Blogcozy.
In fact, a traditional manual, one with gears you change with a clutch, comprises considerably less than 20 per cent.
One friend, like me, specifically sought a manual in 2015, and asked me to scan through websites. In the greater Wellington region, cars matching his other criteria on engine size and price numbered a grand total of two, one in Eastbourne and the other in Upper Hutt. He eventually had to go outside his criteria to buy a manual.
I visited one dealership in Lower Hutt where one of the senior salespeople told me that was what the market demanded, so they followed suit, as he tried to sell me an automatic, Turkish-made car. This claim was, based on my own research, bollocks.
Granted, this research was of a sample of my 2,300 Facebook friends, but of those who responded, it appeared to be evenly divided. Some of the comments were along the lines of, ‘I wanted a manual, but I had no choice, so I bought an automatic.’
If I didn’t have a second car (since sold to a friend who also preferred manuals), I could have found myself looking at doing the sameâjust because I needed wheels in a hurry. Or I could have bought a car that did not meet all my needs, one that was “near enough”. But if you are spending a five-figure sum, and you intend to hold on to the car for the next decade, is this such a wise thing to do? A car is an investment for me, not a fashion item.
That earlier Renault took me four months to find in a market that wasn’t so heavily biased against manuals in the mid-2000s, and this time out, I wound up searching for eight. Most people don’t have that luxury.
The most evident explanation for the overwhelming numbers of automatics is that so many used cars are sourced from Japan, but it’s really not what all people want.
I’ve nothing against the half of the population who prefer automatics, but they are just not my sort of thing. These days, the most advanced automatics are more economical than manuals, but generally, you still get a few more mpg from a car you shift yourself. I enjoy driving, and automatics blunt that enjoyment for me, but I’m sure others don’t mind them as much.
In future blog posts I’ll touch on this subject again, and I’ll be penning a story for Classic Car Weekly in the UK on the whole saga of buying a new car. Who knew that, despite being armed with money, it would be such an uphill task to find someone to give it to?
It also suggests that if someone wishes to specialize in manuals, they would be tapping in to a large, unserved chunk of the New Zealand market.
As he has done so many other times since we encountered each other in 2001, Simon Anholt has articulated my thoughts on governance and politics much better than I can through his ventures. I think this puts a very good context on why I ran my mayoral campaigns the way I did, and for that matter, a good deal of my own businesses. The ideas here are in line with what we believe at Medinge Group, tooâmore on that in an upcoming post. We live in a connected, globalized planetâand the sooner our leaders wake up to this fact, and the positive potential it brings, the better.
How can we better organize ourselves as seven thousand million people? My belief has been: if we can start at a city level, we can bring about change.
Martin Crowe was not only our greatest batsman, but a gentleman and all-round decent bloke. I remember him as a honourable, nice guy, and soulmate to Lorraine, and it was a privilege to spend time with them both back in 2013. Back then, we had thought the worst was behind him; I am deeply sorry to learn that that was not the case. RIP Martin, your legend will live on.
Cortana gives completely the wrong address for me. I wonder if the resident of 39A Aparima Avenue is getting identified as the home of a lot of Windows 10 users.
Thereâs not an awful lot that Cortana can tell you. Most enquiries wind up on Bing, and sheâs only really good for the weather and exchange rates (as I have discovered so far). There are a few fun questions you can throw at her, asking if sheâs better than Siri, or whether if sheâs met Bill Gates, but generally, but weâre far from Knight Rider or replicant technology here. A New Zealand accent presents no problems. One thing she gets very wrong is my location, which is allegedly 39A Aparima Avenue in Miramar. Iâm not sure how she arrived at that address, as I donât live there and I donât believe I know the person who does.
Itâs not too unpleasant to look at although the mobile-specific features can get a bit annoying. The menus feel too large overall, because itâs all designed from a mobile-first standpoint, while the biggest gripe from me comes with the typography.
Microsoft has ruined ClearType here in its attempt to make something for mobile first, and most type looks very poor on screen. Fortunately, a Japanese website still hosts the MacType plug-in, which brings the font display closer to what we experience on Mac OS X. It even goes beyond what we were used to in Windows 7, which had been Microsoftâs best use of its ClearType technology to date.
After installing MacType, ITC Legacy Serif looks far more like it does in print.
You can alter the fonts through the Registry Editor, and I set about getting rid of Arial as always. Windows 10 doesnât like you removing a system font, so the trick is to replace it with something else called Arial, then remove the original from HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Fonts.
Windows 10 removes your ability to change the icon and menu fonts, and they now have to be changed in the registry, too, at HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics, and very carefully.
After tinkering with those, the display began looking like what I was familiar with, otherwise there was a bit too much Segoe on screen.
There have so far been no program incompatibilities. As upgrades go, it hasnât been too bad, and I havenât been stuck here forever downloading updates. Apple still gets higher marks for its OS upgrade processes (when they work) but given how much data I have on my main Windows machine, and how different each PC is, Microsoft has done a good job. Iâm glad the system waited till now, and delivered me a relatively bug-free transition. Software upgrading is one area where I don’t mind not being first.
The trouble with all the yellow-peril reporting thatâs far more prevalent than it should be in Aotearoa is when something happens to you that may get people thinking about a stereotype.
Back in March, of course, we had one writer justifying racism toward (east) Asian tourist drivers in the Fairfax Press, when the facts show that Aussies are the worst of the tourists when it comes to causing accidents on our roads. Thatâs no surprise, since there are simply more Aussie tourists driving on our roads; yet, as I pointed out in March, no one really seemed to mind how many accidents tourists were causing when the bulk of them were Aussies, Brits and continental Europeans.
Then we had another one a few weeks later from the same newspaper group that suggested the increase in corrupt practices among New Zealand companies was due to immigration from countries such as China, tying in the story to a Deloitte report to give it legitimacyâexcept the report makes no such claim.
With the exception of journalists like Dave Moore of The Press (part of the same newspaper group) who prefers to cite motoring facts and back them up rather than rely on hearsay from their grandfathers, it seems pretty easy for some in the media to draw a stereotype of the corrupt, incompetent Chinese driver. Those who think that we have completely moved past drawing pigtails (I said pigtails, not ponytails) on Chinese caricatures are wrong; while there arenât such negative portrayals in our media, it seems incredibly easy, almost a default position, for some less responsible types to fall back on unrealistic conclusions. After all, The Dominion Post said my accent is hard to understand on its p. 1 some years back, and as many of you pointed out to them via the social networks, no one in the real world knows that they are talking about. (Note: I received a Twitter apology from the editor-in-chief.)
The trouble comes when the fantasyland concocted by some starts impacting on everyday life, which is, of course, some of the discussions that US residents are having right now over how black Americans are portrayed. The peaceful protesters donât get covered, because they are less newsworthy; the violent looters do, and it becomes dreadfully easy for the less cosmopolitan to equate being black with being violent.
After a car accident on Friday, where everyone was exemplary, I couldnât help but have these thoughts go through my mind. I found myself telling friends, âI had an accident, but the other driver was at fault,â even though my friends know of my love of cars, and my above-average abilities with them. I double-checked with the police officer that he clearly understood me, when I should never have doubted his objectivity. My radar was alert for anyone who might fall back on the stereotype, even though I live in a city, with an urban population that generally has more contact with minority cultures and know that the fantasyland concocted by certain people is designed only to appeal to the ever-shrinking market of xenophobes in society.
The ages of most of the people involved were under 30, so I really had nothing to fear: the other driver, the police officer, the witnesses, and the schoolboy who, as a responsible young New Zealander, called the emergency services for us. One witness offered her lounge for us to rest and get over the shock. The officer was scrupulously professional, not letting on any emotion (the Dieter Bonrath poker face school of policing, for the Cobra 11 fans out there) as he gathered his facts; he became friendlier after it was established we were both decent folks willing to help, and there was no booze involved. The ambulance staff were ultra-friendly and we had to assure them that we were all right and they should head off to the next gig where there may be a greater need for them. The other driver was honest, considerate and took responsibility, although she was in shock (as was I for some time, though I probably hid it better), yet her first utterance was to ask if I was all right. That says volumes about her character. Not only was this an urban population, this was a young urban population for whom skin colour is far down the list of priorities. Ditto with me: I canât tell you what races people were. I just remembered everyone sounded like me. You know, like Sir Anand Satyanand.
But it is a worry when your thoughts go toward defending yourself from the stereotype, because years of living in a place where you are the minority have taught you to be alert. Granted, no one shoots at us, since our cops are unarmed for the most part, but I began to get an appreciation for the hands-up gesture among black Americans in their country. Itâs a symbol of so much, including ensuring that no one ever mistakes you for being armed, because of the negative associations that are portrayed. You nevertheless worry if anyone around you bought into fantasyland, because you know the less intelligent do: you’ve seen it. (I hasten to add that this is not a criticism of any particular people, because I am well aware that if you go to a place where my race is the majority, there will be a certain segment of the population there that holds negative and false stereotypes of others.)
Race relations in this country have improved markedly since my arrival in 1976, so this is heartening. I donât see things like refusal of service to people of my colour (yes, it has happened in the last four decades), and the stories of my great-uncle and others, of having stones and rocks thrown at you by fellow Kiwis because of their colour, seem foreign and distant. Last Friday was a reminder that most New Zealanders look at others fairly, regardless of their origins. That was a silver lining. Lucy Knightâs instincts kicked in to defend a Chinese New Zealander whose handbag was being stolen by a young man, and Mrs Knight got a serious head injury for her intervention, requiring months of surgery and rehabilitation. I doubt she evaluated the race of thief or victim before stepping in, and, rightly, The New Zealand Herald didn’t care, either. Go to your social media feeds, and by and large, racism is frowned upon. Last Friday was a fantastic reminder of the good of the place I have proudly called home most of my life. A place where xenophobia is virtually dead.
Weâve come a long way, and we just need to weed out the last little bits of this strange fantasy where itâs apparently desirous that Aotearoa looks something like Midsomer but without the deaths. The reality is that the Midsomers of this world (by that I mean any society that adopts a Luddite position in part through having its head in the sand) are terrible at trading and stagnate. Weâre in a global society, weâve a lot to gain from working with others in different nations, and weâre really not that different across the planet. As someone once pointed out to me, the Palestinian Dream looks an awful lot like the American Dream.
And, if youâre truly proud of your country, youâd naturally want to share, secure enough in your belief about the place to know that the fundamental things about it will never change. New Zealand will always be New Zealand, with an independent, determined outlook, and those who come get it. The more we share, the more we all get it. Thatâs a good thing.