Jack Yan
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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006.



01.09.2019

An expat’s thoughts about Hong Kong


Studio Incendo/Creative Commons 2·0

As an expat, I’ve been asked a few times about what I think of the Hong Kong protests. There’s no straight answer to this. Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order.

  • The British never gave us universal suffrage, so the notion that it was all roses before 1997 is BS. The best the Brits managed was half of LegCo toward the end, but before that it was pitiful. And the express reasons they didn’t give it to us, certainly in the mid-20th century, were racist.
  • Having said that, I’d love to see half of LegCo up for grabs, if not more.
  • The extradition bill is, in the grand scheme, pretty minor. If the PRC really wants to grab you, they will.
  • However, I totally get that codifying it into law gives them greater authority, or is perceived to give them that.
  • It wouldn’t be the first time the US State Department and others meddled in our affairs, and I don’t believe this is an exception.
  • Expecting the British to help out is a hiding to nothing. The Shadow Cabinet was critical of John Major’s Conservatives in the 1990s over Hong Kong, and when in office, months before the handover, was arguably even less effective. There’ll be the occasional op-ed from Chris Patten. Not much else. The UK is too mired in its own issues anyway, looking more and more like the sort of failed state that it professes to “help” right now.
  • It hasn’t helped that HK Chinese feel that our culture is under threat, including our language, and there hasn’t been any indication from the PRC of alleviating this (the old playbook again). Observers inside China may see HKers’ embrace of its internationalist culture as colonial and subservient to foreigners; HKers see it as a direct contrast to the lack of openness within the PRC between 1949 and the early 1980s and as a “freer” expression of Chineseness. Arguments could be made either way on the merits of both positions. That resentment has been stoked for some time, and HKers will only need to point to the Uighurs as an indication of their fears.
  • Withdrawal of the bill, even temporarily, would have been wiser, as it’s not a time for the PRC to get hard-line over this. This shouldn’t be a case of us v. them. This is, however, a perfect opportunity to have dialogue over reinterpreting “one country, two systems”, and persuade the ROC of its merit—the Chinese commonwealth idea that has been in my thoughts for a long time. However, Xi is one of the old-school tough guys, and this mightn’t be on his agenda. China hasn’t exactly gone to young people to ask them what they think—we never have, whether you’re talking about the imperial times, the period between 1911 and 1949, or afterwards.
  • This might be my romantic notions of Hong Kong coloured by childhood memories, but the place thrived when the young could express themselves freely through music and other arts. They felt they had a voice and an identity.
  • Right now there’s a huge uncertainty about who we are. I think we’re proudly Chinese in terms of our ethnicity and heritage, and we might even think our ideas of what this means are superior to others’. Rose-coloured glasses are dangerous to don because they don’t tell us the truth. But we might be nostalgic for pre-1997 because the expression of our identity was so much clearer when the ruling power was nothing like us. Who cares if they thought we were a bunch of piccaninnies if they just let us get on with our shit? Now there’s a battle between “our Chineseness” versus “their Chineseness” in the eyes of some HKers. Thanks to certain forces stoking the tensions, and probably using the resentment HK Chinese feel, there isn’t a comfortable, foreseeable way out any time soon.

Filed under: China, culture, Hong Kong, politics, UK, USA—Jack Yan @ 22.32

25.08.2019

When Universal Media Server loads the wrong dot-conf file for your device

The latest Universal Media Server has never worked for me. Many years ago, I downloaded what must have been v. 6, and it went well. Upon receiving notification I should upgrade, I did—only to have no videos play any more. Only thumbnails appeared and that was the best UMS could do.
   Fast forward to 2019, when I buy a new computer, expecting that, with a clean installation of Windows 10, any prior issue would be history. Not so: UMS still behaved the same, so I ran v. 6.3.2, which works about 85 per cent of the time. This is, of course, better than 0 per cent for more recent versions.
   I’m at a loss on why newer versions don’t work, considering this computer shares little with its predecessor other than licences for programs that have no relation to media streaming. Yet I must be in a minority (again) since there are few entries of this in UMS forums.
   Today’s error was interesting, and this is a note to myself and anyone else who comes across it. Those who believe software runs the same every time are either unobservant or kidding themselves: while on a Mac this usually holds true, on Windows it is sheer fantasy. UMS refused to recognize my TV as a TV, loading the configuration for Microsoft Windows Media Player (WMP) instead. Naturally, nothing played—in fact, nothing was found in any of the directories.
   Fix: I edited the UMS configuration file manually, searched for selected_renderers =, and added what the program usually found: Vizio Smart TV. Quit and restart (the executable from the program’s directory).
   It does mean the other configurations might not load, but since most of the time I’m watching UMS-streamed content on my TV, then I’m sorted. If I have other devices to load, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.


Filed under: technology—Jack Yan @ 11.12

23.08.2019

Google My Business: first-hand reports suggest it’s a terrible idea

One more Google My Business post for now, since no one has commented on my earlier post.
   As suspected, there are no safeguards for piling:

We had a 20 year old girl post a lengthy negative review on our Google Business Page because we wouldn’t ship her a replacement product for free. As a result, she proceeded to have 16 other people leave 1 star reviews in rapid fire succession on our page. I’m talking within minutes. We have sent cease and desist orders, we have consulted attorneys, we have contacted Google. The fake reviews are still up. The only way we finally got some control over the situation was to mark the page as “Closed”. If you do that it removes the ability to review. The whole situation and fact that one person can damage your brand so easily, and so quickly with no support from Google for days on end is totally ridiculous.

   If things don’t work, you’ll have to file support requests, but I’ve been there with Google, and that’s a hiding to nothing. It was 10 years ago this year when I discovered just how deceitful and dishonest Google is. Here’s one experience with Google My Business in the cache (the original is long gone; emphasis in original):

Google My Business a total joke. Worst customer service experience I’ve had in a long time.
Having issues with Google My Business? You are not alone, not in the slightest. I can tell from all the posts on this forum as well as from personal experience that there is no ‘customer support’, just a bunch of people that answer the phone to tell you that they can’t do anything.
   Our business listing suddenly disappeared and was replaced with the name of one of the employees. So I click on a few help pages and find a support line to which they are supposed to call me. I get the call, it connects, I say hello, then they hang up … What a great start.
   I call again, and finally get somebody I can barely understand who apparently doesn’t know anything about anything, and can’t actually do anything either. I’d kill for a job where I can just tell everyone who calls me that nothing can be done, and then hang up on them. The great part is feedback is only available AFTER the call, so if they hang up on you, you can’t leave any feedback so they can’t get in trouble.
   So I tell this lady my issues, and she says she’ll look into them, then I get hung up on again.
   The next day I get an email with NO SUBJECT, that looks very spammy but lo and behold it’s actually a legit email from Google My Business. The geniuses over there don’t understand what my question is and want me to clarify.
   What do they want me to clarify? They apparently looked at our website, and because one of the employees name is on the website, then the deletion of our listing and replacement with just an employee name and nothing else is justified.
   Get this, in order to fix it, they want me to DELETE our staff page on the website. Make sense to you? Not to me either.
   So I call them again. I get hung up on just after I gave them my email, again. Call back AGAIN and finally talk to another ESL guy who I can at least mostly understand. He goes on to tell me he is also powerless, but if I want I can talk to his supervisor, who ‘can’t do anything either sorry’. Our business listing ‘won’t be on the google’ for ‘several weeks’ because I made the HUGE mistake of trying to correct our suite number to match USPS standard formatting. Oh, and I made the cardinal sin of updating our profile to show that, as a medical clinic, we don’t do deliveries. I’m so sorry Google, I really am. I didn’t know you wanted us to falsely advertise our services and get sued. I’ll never do it again so can you please restore our listing?
   Oh, by the way, I opted to hold for the supervisor and got hung up on again.
   I think we should just give up, Google has made it pretty clear how much of a priority their customers are. For my part I’m pulling the $2k adwords we’re doing every month. Probably a pittance in Google’s eyes but hey, it’s all I can do to protest their pisspoor service.
   Good luck everyone!
   Wow. Just wow.

   I found a lot of similar reviews, and those who promote it in a more positive light appear to be SEO specialists. How convenient.
   I might leave it for now since I’ll never see these My Business boxes, and I just hope that if we do get piled on, they’ll have fixed the bug that prevents us from deleting listings.


Filed under: business, internet, marketing, USA—Jack Yan @ 09.32


I want to remove a My Business location, but Google won’t let me

I really should not have wasted my time with Google, as My Business (see yesterday’s post) reminded me just why I don’t use the site—it’s not only the privacy issues, but the fact that things don’t work as advertised, which has always been the case with Google.
   You’ve already seen that it’s impossible for me to add my business’s address to Google My Business. That’s not a huge surprise, since the last time I had Google Earth, they didn’t even know that the White House was at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC—and that was version 5 of their software. If these folks don’t even know where their own president is, I can’t expect them to deal with Tawa.
   However, we do have an address in Manhattan, so I attempted to add that. After all, it seemed I was verified, or at least close to being verified, so why not get around the existing entry’s non-verification (as it goes through the process of sending a postcard, and, frankly, no one at the office can be bothered—they feel about Google much the same way as I).
   There was no difference: Google still wanted to send a postcard, so I thought I should delete the entry.
   Well, you can’t. There isn’t anything in the documentation that says it’s this hard. Following their own instructions, I delete the location, and nothing happens.


Seems simple enough: Google says I should select ‘Remove location’.


Google wants me to confirm. I click ‘Remove’.


Like a lot of US Big Tech, they make it appear that they’re busy doing something …


… when in fact, nothing is being done.

   Maybe I should go in and edit it, as perhaps Google can’t deal with three businesses called Lucire.
   Good luck with that. I click on the entry and just get taken to a page where I am asked to select an account. I only have one, so I click on it three times, and I get taken back to the My Business home page with the four locations on it.


Clicking on the last entry goes to this page. Click my email address three times, and you’ll go back to the start.

   And ad infinitum. You can attempt to do this as many times as you like, but it is impossible to delete a location, contrary to what Google claims, it is impossible to edit some locations, contrary to what Google claims.
   It’s no wonder the Dashboard was so full of discrepancies because, like Facebook, like Twitter, like Amazon, their databases are probably shot to hell, and nothing works as they say they do. I may be a layman on such subjects but it appears the more they add, the more the house of cards collapses.
   I suspect some of these errors are intentional—we know Google intentionally programs in more pages so they can claim increased page-views to their site (e.g. if you click on an image in the Google image search, they take you to an intermediate page first—10 years ago, they took you straight to the page)—so by offering a website that is SNAFU, you’re forced to increase the page-view count. (Of course, if we do holding pages and forwarding pages to our sites, Google penalizes us.) When such obvious inefficiencies are introduced, you know that the reasons aren’t all kosher.
   So there you are: even if you wanted to delete an entry (and I was sorely tempted to yesterday), Google won’t let you.
   Google: deceitful and useless. And a total waste of time. I’m so glad I don’t use this site in any real way—apart from the time it sucked over the last 24 hours.


Filed under: business, globalization, publishing, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 08.44

22.08.2019

Has Google My Business ever given you business?

I had a call from a nice gentleman working for Google called Shabhaz today. No, he wasn’t about to tell me that I wasn’t on the ‘first page of Google’: he worked for Google My Business, where they want to verify businesses and suck them into the ecosystem, complete with dashboard and social features.
   I’ve always ignored the postcards that come and the one time my curiosity was piqued, the blasted site didn’t work anyway. I can’t remember the specifics now, but I recall my usual reaction: ‘What Google says and what Google does are entirely different things.’ You come to expect it from US Big Tech.
   I suppose if you ignore it for enough years, the Big G phones you.
   I proceeded to tell Shabhaz all the reasons I hated (actually, that’s not strong enough a word) his firm, but kept repeating, ‘I’m not angry at you, only at your employer.’ And words to the effect of, ‘A man has to make a living, so I don’t have a problem that you work for them, but this is a firm with highly dubious ethics.’
   He did say, ‘If I had that experience, I’d hate them, too,’ and I had to correct him and expand on the stories: ‘It’s not just about my experience—it’s all the things Google does that violate our privacy, not just mine, but everyone’s.’
   Nevertheless, you can’t stay angry at a guy who has had nothing to do with his bosses’ incompetence, greed, avarice and tax avoidance, and is only trying to collect a pay cheque, so I agreed to help him out.
   Of course, it didn’t work as planned, as updating the address leads to this:

   The house has only been there since 1972, and Google Earth has it, but then we all know that Google Earth operates in some kind of parallel universe—parallel to even Google My Business, it seems. One day, I suspect Google will catch up with houses built in the 1970s.
   But seriously, with three businesses all linked to my email address (Heaven knows how) I wonder if anyone has ever got any business through Google My Business.
   I’ve been on Linkedin longer than most people I know and I’ve never received any work enquiries from it.
   And I’ve yet to have anyone tell me that they found my business through Google, so I’m tempted to delete the listings for Jack Yan & Associates and Lucire from the My Business dashboard.
   The thing is, I don’t want to read your reviews about my businesses on Google. I don’t want to risk getting piled on by unethical actors, which totally can happen in this day and age. If you want to reach us, there’s a good contact form with all the addresses on our sites.
   So what’s the prognosis out there? Since I actually don’t use the site except as a last resort, and have little desire to, your experience far outweighs mine.

On a related note, this also made me wonder about competence.

   I’ve never given my permission to be in the Yellow Pages. And the fact that Lucire does screen printing is news to me. Who makes up this bullshit and tries to pass it off as authoritative?
   A Tweet to them is so far unanswered, so I may get in touch with them to have this listing removed. This one I can answer: since I’ve never been in the Yellow Pages, I can say, hand on heart, that I’ve never had any business from them. By the looks of it, they’ll never send me anything relevant anyway.

In summary, today’s thought about Google:

PS.: Yellow has deleted our entry (done within hours of my complaint).


Filed under: business, internet, New Zealand, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 02.27

27.07.2019

When you let amateurs like Rees-Mogg write style guides

I thought I could be archaic on a few things—I still use diphthongs in text in our publications (æsthetic, Cæsar), the trio of inst., ult. and prox. in written correspondence, and even fuel economy occasionally in mpg (Imperial) because I am useless at ℓ/100 km and too few countries use km/ℓ. However, even I had to cringe at Jacob Rees-Mogg’s style guide as revealed by ITV. This has now been circulated to his House of Commons staff. It is not satire.


   His first rule is ‘Organisations are SINGULAR’. (No, this isn’t licence to write ‘Organisations is singular.’) I don’t mind this as it’s one I adopt myself (admittedly inconsistently), but note the spelling of the first word. It’s French. The correct spelling is organizations, and the switch to the French in the Anglosphere appears to have happened postwar. Go to English books that are old enough, and you’ll find the z to be more commonplace. (Please don’t comment that z is ‘American’ before doing some research.)
   His sixth rule is ‘Double space after fullstops’. Now, the last word should be two words, but the rule itself has even been abandoned by the newspaper that Rees-Mogg’s father edited for so many years. Most compositors in Britain abandoned large spaces at the start of the 20th century, by my reckoning—my interpretation of the reading studies by Tinker et al is that the single space is sufficient, and web convention agrees. If we are to follow The Times in, say, 1969, we also need to insert spaces around certain other punctuation marks. If you find a copy from around that time, I can promise you it won’t be easy to read.
   What is apparent to me is that the rules have been typed up, at least, by an amateur, which accounts for the poor spacing and inconsistent capitalization, and generally it shows a disregard for professional style guides (again, we return to The Times). Sometimes, the acorn does fall far from the tree.
   I note that Imperial measurements are to be used again: none of this newfangled metric system nonsense. As I do some transactions in pounds sterling, I am going to refresh my memory on shillings, half-crowns and thruppenny bits in case currency decimalization is reversed. You never know, Johnson’s Britain may find the decimal system too Johnny Foreigner for its liking. ‘They cannot, and will not, change our sausage!’


Filed under: culture, politics, publishing, typography, UK—Jack Yan @ 12.45

25.07.2019

Facebook is getting away with it again—even though it knew about Cambridge Analytica

Thanks to my friend Bill Shepherd, I’ve now subscribed to The Ad Contrarian newsletter. Bob Hoffman is one of the few who gets it when it comes to how insignificant the FTC’s Facebook fine is.
   Five (American) billion (American) dollars sounds like a lot to you and me, but considering Facebook’s stock rose on the news, they’ve more than covered the fine on the rise alone.
   Bob writes: ‘The travesty of this settlement guarantees that no tech company CEO will take consumer privacy or data security seriously. Nothing will change till someone either has to pay personally or go to jail. Paying insignificant fines with corporate money is now an officially established cost of doing business in techland and—who knows?—a jolly good way to boost share prices.’
   There’s something very messed up about this scenario, particularly as some of the US’s authorities are constantly being shown up by the EU (over Google’s monopoly actions) and the UK’s Damian Collins, MP (over the questions being asked of Facebook—unlike US politicians’, his aren’t toothless).
   The US SEC, meanwhile, has released its report on Facebook, showing that Facebook knew what was happening with Cambridge Analytica in 2015–16, and that the company willingly sold user data to the firm. SEC’s Stephanie Avakian noted, ‘As alleged in our complaint, Facebook presented the risk of misuse of user data as hypothetical when they knew user data had in fact been misused.’ You can read the entire action as filed by the SEC here.

In its quarterly and annual reports filed between January 28, 2016 and March 16, 2018 (the “relevant period”), Facebook did not disclose that a researcher had, in violation of the company’s policies, transferred data relating to approximately 30 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica. Instead, Facebook misleadingly presented the potential for misuse of user data as merely a hypothetical investment risk. Moreover, when asked by reporters in 2017 about its investigation into the Cambridge Analytica matter, Facebook falsely claimed the company found no evidence of wrongdoing, thereby reinforcing the misleading statements in its periodic filings.

   As I have been hashtagging, #Facebooklies. This is standard practice for the firm, as has been evidenced countless times for over a decade. The settlement: US$100 million. Pocket change.


Filed under: business, internet, media, politics, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 11.55


‘If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?’

I didn’t read this thinking of Trump, which is what the Tweeter intended. I read it thinking of New Zealand. Heard the ‘If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?’ bullshit a lot—I dare say every immigrant to this nation has. English-born American columnist Sydney J. Harris, in 1969, answered it better than I ever could. (I hope the image appears in the embed below, since I see no img tags—it seems reliant on Javascript.) Presumably this is either the Chicago Daily News or the Sun–Times.

   Not a heck of a lot has changed, has it?
   Hat tip to Juan Incognito for the re-Tweet.

PS.: The Sun–Times has run this on its website, and it was from the Chicago Daily News.


Filed under: media, New Zealand, politics, USA—Jack Yan @ 11.18


Surely, it can’t be this hard

Is it just me, or are companies getting more stupid by the day?

July 25, 2019

Marshall Freeman Collections (NZ) Ltd.
PO Box 302-218
NHPC
Auckland

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am in receipt of your letter dated the 19th inst.
   If you are indeed an extension of Plumbquick’s credit control department, you should check with them about their procedures.
   You may wish to ask the following.

   (a) When booking the job, did your client take down my credit card number?
   (b) Did your client advise me that if the invoice was not paid that they would charge that credit card?
   (c) Did I offer your client’s plumbers payment on completion of the job on the day but they said it would be sorted out with their accounts’ department, especially if they already had my credit card on file?
   (d) Did your client send out their invoice dated May 21, 2019 with a due date of May 21, 2019, which would result in my reasonably expecting that (b) would take place?

   Now, since I am not in possession of a time machine, and considering I received the invoice on May 25, 2019, all four questions above should be answered in the affirmative.
   Your client needs to be advised to, first, contact the customer themselves (well before July 19, incidentally), secondly, follow their own procedures, and thirdly, not provide a credit controller with a fiction about a late payment. I have no desire to affect excellent credit that I have spent decades building because of another party’s negligence.
   I trust this clears this matter up.

Yours faithfully,

   In case you’re wondering, my credit card has been charged.
   I also highly recommend Bernie and Pipe Dream Plumbing in Tawa.


Filed under: business, New Zealand, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 10.59

23.07.2019

In my experience, the only browser that works with Jetstar’s website is Safari for Mac

I’ve found some forum entries about this, but they date back to the beginning of the decade. I alerted Jetstar to this in March, and the problem has worsened since then.
   Basically, I can’t book online, and I don’t know why. Consequently, I booked one flight with Air New Zealand and only managed, after huge effort, to get the other (for a colleague) with Jetstar.
   Back in March, I couldn’t book with Vivaldi, but I was able to switch to Firefox. I let Jetstar know.
   Now, this strategy does not work.
   Before you suggest it, cookies and caches have been cleared.
   Here’s what happens after I’ve selected the cities and the dates, and I go to select times. Let’s begin with Vivaldi on Windows, which is based on Chromium (which, as we know, is what Chrome, the browser Jetstar suggests you use, is based on):

Switching to Firefox now results in this:

Switching to Edge on the same PC gives this:

   Fortunately, I also own Macs, so here’s what Firefox for Mac returns:

   The only browser that works with the Jetstar website: Safari on Mac. As I’ve sold my Ubuntu laptop, I was unable to test using that OS.
   Not many people would go to that effort, and while Jetstar’s Twitter staff (after some pushing from me in DMs) said they would refer it on, I don’t expect anything to happen.
   Maybe Chrome would work, but I’m not ever going to download it to find out. Why invite Google on to your computer? But if that is the case, it seems foolish to limit yourself to such an invasive browser. My experience is that whatever is blocking me from booking with Jetstar (some may argue that this is a good thing), it is expanding across browsers.


Filed under: business, design, internet, technology—Jack Yan @ 13.16

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