Posts tagged ‘2010s’


Baojun doesn’t scream ‘premium’ and ‘next-gen tech’ to me

10.10.2019

I have to agree with Yang Jian, managing editor of Automotive News China, that Baojun’s new models ‘obviously’ failed to reverse the brand’s sales’ decline.
   It is obvious given that the vehicles are priced considerably above the previous ones, and despite its next-gen tech, there’s no real alignment with what Baojun stands for.
   There might be a new logo (débuted January 2019) but GM expects that this, the new premium products, and (I would expect) other retail updates would undo nearly nine years of brand equity.
   The associations of Baojun as an entry-level brand run deeply, and the new models are like, if you’ll pardon the analogy and the use of another car group, taking the next Audis and sticking a Škoda badge on them. Except even stylistically, the new Baojuns bear little resemblance to the old ones—they’re that radical a departure.
   I wonder if it would be wiser to keep Baojun exactly where it was, and let it decline, while launching the new models under a more upscale GM brand, even one perceived as ‘foreign’ or ‘joint venture’ by Chinese consumers.
   DaimlerChrysler made the mistake of killing Plymouth when it was surplus to requirements, then found itself without a budget brand when the late 2000s’ recession hit. Chrysler, once the upper-middle marque, had to fill the void.
   There’s a reason companies like GM and Volkswagen have brands spanning the market: they feed buyers into the corporation, and there’s something for everyone.
   And while it’s possible to move brands upscale, creating four lines where the base model prices exceed the highest price you have ever charged for your other base models is just too sudden a shift.

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Posted in branding, cars, China, technology, USA | No Comments »


Who is changing Facebook links to affiliate ones?

14.09.2019

I know someone else has come across this before, since there’s a page on it here.
   The very same thing has begun happening on Autocade, whenever the Facebook link is clicked. I’d love to blame Facebook, but I don’t believe it’s them.
   I’ve contacted Sovrn (formerly Viglinks) as the discussion board participants identify them, but ShopStyle may know as it’s their API being used.
   Here’s what I asked ShopStyle tonight, but if anyone has an idea, I’d love to hear it.

I do not know your company, but the Facebook link on one of my sites (http://autocade.net) is being altered to https://api.shopstyle.com/action/apiVisitRetailer?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fautocade.net&pid=uid7424-7742368-93&pdata=k0jgi6bfn30122110msza whenever someone clicks on it, and they wind up at https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/deals/?ref=affiliate_external&referral_story_type=daily_deals_rakuten.
   When I go into the source code on our server, the link is correct. The change is happening elsewhere, and I can’t figure out where. From the link and UID I’ve given you, are you able to tell? We do run ads and a Disqus plug-in on our site, as well as a Po.st sharer, if these help narrow down the possibilities.
   I’m sure you’d want to kill the account of whomever is misusing ShopStyle’s APIs to earn referrals.

   Here’s the page I wind up on when I click the link. It has no useful content.

   I’ll report back if I discover more, as there may be a dodgy ad network out there, or Disqus or Po.st aren’t as honest as they used to be. Disqus is clunky anyway, and once we reach a certain payment threshold, we may remove it from all our sites. Autocade was the one place where comments were really good, so it’ll be a shame to lose it.

PS.: After looking through the inspector, it appears to be Disqus, using Viglinks. One has to turn off affiliate links in the Disqus set-up.

P.PS.: Both ShopStyle and Sovrn were really helpful—ShopStyle’s Rasheka even went so far as to include screenshots and links.

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Posted in business, internet, publishing, technology, USA | No Comments »


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

25.08.2019

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.

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Posted in technology | No Comments »


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

23.08.2019

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.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, USA | No Comments »


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

25.07.2019

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.

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Posted in business, internet, media, politics, technology, USA | No Comments »


The playbook used against Wikileaks

11.06.2019

Now for something actually important beyond my first world problems.
   Journalist Suzie Dawson has a fantastic piece outlining how the smear of ‘serial rapist’ is part of the playbook used against senior members of Wikileaks. Her article is well worth reading, especially in light of how the mainstream media have spun the narrative against Julian Assange. He’s not alone: two other men have had campaigns launched against them, with no substantial evidence, thereby diminishing the seriousness of what rape is.
   It is lengthy and well researched, but if you haven’t the time, at least consider the briefer post linked from here.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, politics, publishing, Sweden, UK, USA | 1 Comment »


The smart ones always seem to be the minority

24.05.2019


Pixabay

Each year, I mentor one student from my Alma Mater. I won’t reveal their identity or what we discuss, as these are privileged, but one thing that became apparent today is how each generation might think that young people are on to it. That they won’t fall for the same bullshit that we did because they are more savvy and can build on what’s gone before.
   The student I am working with is smart and does see through a lot of the BS. They’re working on an assignment at the moment about Facebook and they were asked in class whether Facebook should be regulated. Turns out that the majority of the class didn’t know about the scandals that had happened, and that most don’t even take in the news via traditional newsmedia (or even websites), but get their info via social media. In other words, they were quite content to be bubbled and fall victim to the subjective feeds provided to them by social media.
   A generation ago, I remember when older people thought we were on to it, that we could see through the BS—but we are the ones who created this latest lot of BS. We created the mechanisms where people are fed back their own opinions and told that the other side is wrong. Empathy went out the window partly because of social media. And now that these have been created, we’re not admitting we ****ed up. Mark Zuckerberg avoids summons, for Chrissakes, and his company, and most of Big Tech, lie like sociopaths. But we’ve tied up the next generation as well into this web where they don’t know the lack of substance behind what they’re seeing. Because maybe it’s just all too complicated to figure out—which is probably how the powers-that-be like to keep it, so we keep consuming the mainstream, easily digestible narratives. The few who break out of this will find allies, but then, they, too, are in a new bubble, convinced that surely with some like minds their thinking must be right, and why on earth don’t others find it as easy to grasp?

   It’s why movements like #DeleteFacebook haven’t really taken hold beyond idealists, and even though we have young people smart enough and aware enough to organize global climate-change protests today, I wonder if we’ll wake up and exit the Matrix. I have hope—hope that those with sufficient charisma to be within the system will be selfless and say the right things and cause others to realize what’s happening. There are glimmers here and there, but, like all movements, it needs a lot of people doing the same thing at the same time. Maybe they can be found … via the same tools that are being used to divide us.

Originally published at my NewTumblog.

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Posted in culture, internet, leadership, media, politics, technology | 2 Comments »


The descent of Instagram

29.04.2019

The descent of software seems to be a common theme among some companies. You get good ones, like Adobe and Fontlab, where (generally) successive versions tend to improve on those gone before. Then you get bad ones, like Facebook, which make things worse with each iteration.
   Facebook Timeline launched to much fanfare at the beginning of the decade, and I admit that it was a fantastic design, despite some annoying bugs (e.g. one that revealed that Facebook staff had no idea there were time zones outside US Pacific time). It was launched at the right time: a real innovation that helped boost my waning interest in the platform. But then they started fiddling with it. I equated it to what General Motors did with the Oldsmobile Toronado: a really pure design upon launch for 1966, with that purity getting spoiled with each model year, till the 1970 one lost a lot of what made it great to begin with. Don’t get me started on the 1971s.
   Facebook had, for instance, two friends’ boxes when they began fiddling. The clever two-column layout eventually disappeared so what we were left with was a wide wall, a retrograde step.
   They’ve spent the rest of the decade not innovating, but by seemingly ensuring that every press announcement they make is a complete lie, or at least something not followed up by concrete action.
   When they bought Instagram, they began ruining it as well. First to go in 2016 were the maps, which I thought were one of the platform’s best features. Instagram claimed few used them, but given that by this point Facebook owned them, any “claim” must be taken with a grain of salt. Perhaps their databases could not handle it. Back in the days of Getsatisfaction reports, there were more than enough examples of Facebook’s technical shortcomings.
   In December I had to replace my phone after the old one was dropped, but now I’m wondering whether I should have spent the money getting it fixed. Because the new phone is running on a skin over Android 7, and it looks like Instagram doesn’t support this version, as far as videos are concerned. So you could say that videos are no longer supported. Since December I’ve had to Bluetooth all my videos to my old phone, peer through what I could make of the details on a dodgy screen, and upload that way, if I wanted a proper frame rate. User feedback on Reddit and elsewhere suggests the cure is to upgrade to Android 8, not something I know how to do.
   It might have been a bug, or it may have been a case of trialling a feature among a tiny subset of users, but for ten months I could upload videos of over eight minutes. As of February 2019, that feature vanished, and I’m back to a minute. I notice others now have it as part of IGTV, but I can’t see anything that will allow me to do the same, and why would I want vertical videos, anyway? God gave us eyes that are side by side, not one above the other. Frankly, when you’ve been spoiled by videos going between eight and nine minutes, one minute is very limiting.
   Now I see with the latest versions of Instagram that the filters don’t even work. For the last few versions, no preview appears for most of the filters; and now it’s constantly ‘Can’t continue editing’ (v. 90) or ‘Your photo couldn’t be processed correctly’ (v. 89).


   Instagram is a steadily collapsing platform and I shudder to think what it’ll be like when they get to the 1971 Oldsmobile Toronado stage. I almost wonder if Facebook is doing the digital equivalent of asset-stripping and taking the good stuff into its own platform, to force us into their even shittier ecosystem. At this rate, others like me—long-time users—will cease to use it and go with the likes of Pixelfed. I stay on there because of certain friends, but, like Facebook, at some stage, they may have to get accustomed to the notion that I am no longer on there for anyone else but a few clients. And they may bugger off, too, sick of every second item being an ad. We’ll have foretold this bent toward anti-quality years before the mainstream media catch on to it, as we have done with Google and Facebook, and all their gaffes.

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Posted in design, internet, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


Autocade turns 11 as the web turns 30

12.03.2019


The latest model to appear on Autocade today: the Mazda CX-30.

It’s March, which means Autocade has had another birthday. Eleven years ago, I started a car encyclopædia using Mediawiki software, and it’s since grown to 3,600 model entries. The story has been told elsewhere on this blog. What I hadn’t realized till today was that Autocade’s birthday and the World Wide Web’s take place within days of each other.
   The inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, still believes that it can be used as a force for good, which is what many of us hoped for when we began surfing in the 1990s. I still remember using Netscape 1·2 (actually, I even remember using 1·1 on computers that hadn’t updated to the newer browser) and thinking that here was a global communications’ network that could bring us all together.
   Autocade, and, of course, Lucire, were both set up to do good, and be a useful information resource to the public. Neither sought to divide in the way Facebook has; Google, which had so much promise in the late 1990s, has become a bias-confirmation machine that also pits ideologies against each other.
   The web, which turns 30 this week, still has the capacity to do great things, and I can only hope that those of us still prepared to serve the many rather than the few in a positive way begin getting recognized for our efforts again.
   For so many years I have championed transparency and integrity. People tell us that these are qualities they want. Yet people also tell surveys that Google is their second-favourite brand in the world, despite its endless betrayals of our trust, only apologizing after each privacy gaffe is exposed by the fourth estate.
   Like Sir Tim, I hope we make it our business to seek out those who unite rather than divide, and give them some of our attention. At the very least I hope we do this out of our own self-preservation, understanding that we have more to gain by allowing information to flow and people to connect. When we shut ourselves off to opposing viewpoints, we are poorer for it. As I wrote before, American conservatives and liberals have common enemies in Big Tech censorship and big corporations practising tax avoidance, yet social networks highlight the squabbles between one right-wing philosophy and another right-wing philosophy. We New Zealanders cannot be smug with our largest two parties both eager to plunge forward into TPPA, and our present government having us bicker over capital gains’ tax while leaving the big multinationals, who profit off New Zealanders greatly, paying little or no tax.
   A more understanding dialogue, which the web actually affords us, is the first step in identifying what we have in common, and once you strip away the arguments that mainstream media and others drive, our differences are far fewer than we think.
   Social media should be social rather than antisocial, and it’s almost Orwellian that they have this Newspeak name, doing the opposite to what their appellation suggests. The cat is out of the bag as far as Big Tech is concerned, but there are opportunities for smaller players to be places where people can chat. Shame it’s not Gab, which has taken a US-conservative bent at the expense of everything else, though they at least should be applauded for taking a stance against censorship. And my fear is that we will take what we have already learned on social media—to divide and to pile on those who disagree—into any new service. As I mentioned, Mastodon is presently fine, for the most part, because educated people are chatting among themselves. The less educated we are, the more likely we will take firm sides and shut our minds off to alternatives.
   The answer is education: to make sure that we use this wonderful invention that Sir Tim has given us for free for some collective good. Perhaps this should form part of our children’s education in the 2010s and 2020s. That global dialogue can only be a good thing because we learn and grow together. And that there are pitfalls behind the biggest brands kids are already exposed to—we know Google has school suites but they really need to know how the big G operates, as it actively finds ways to undermine their privacy.
   The better armed our kids are, the more quickly they’ll see through the fog. The young people I know aren’t even on Facebook other than its Messenger service. It brings me hope; but ideally I’d like to see them make a conscious effort to choose their own services. Practise what we preach about favouring brands with authenticity, even if so many of us fail to seek them out ourselves.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, culture, interests, internet, leadership, politics, social responsibility | No Comments »


Why paywalls are getting more prevalent; and The Guardian Weekly rethought

10.11.2018

Megan McArdle’s excellent op–ed in The Washington Post, ‘A farewell to free journalism’, has been bookmarked on my phone for months. It’s a very good summary of where things are for digital media, and how the advent of Google and Facebook along with the democratization of the internet have reduced online advertising income to a pittance. There’s native advertising, of course, which Lucire and Lucire Men indulged in for a few years in the 2010s, and I remain a fan of it in terms of what it paid, but McArdle’s piece is a stark reminder of the real world: there ain’t enough of it to keep every newsroom funded.
   I’ll also say that I have been very tempted over the last year or two to start locking away some of Lucire’s 21 years of content behind a paywall, but part of me has a romantic notion (and you can see it in McArdle’s own writing) that information deserves to be free.
   Everyone should get a slice of the pie if they are putting up free content along with slots for Doubleclick ads, for instance, and those advertising networks operate on merit: get enough qualified visitors (and they do know who they are, since very few people opt out; in Facebook’s case opting out actually does nothing and they continue to track your preferences) and they’ll feed the ads through accordingly, whether you own a “real” publication or not.
   It wasn’t that long ago, however, when more premium ad networks worked with premium media, leaving Google’s Adsense to operate among amateurs. It felt like a two-tier ad market. Those days are long gone, since plenty of people were quite happy to pay the cheap rates for the latter.
   It’s why my loyal Desktop readers who took in my typography column every month between 1996 and 2010 do not see me there any more: we columnists were let go when the business model changed.
   All of this can exacerbate an already tricky situation, as the worse funded independent media get, the less likely we can afford to offer decent journalism, biasing the playing field in favour of corporate media that have deeper pockets. Google, as we have seen, no longer ranks media on merit, either: since they and Facebook control half of all online advertising revenue, and over 60 per cent in the US, it’s not in their interests to send readers to the most meritorious. It’s in their interests to send readers to the media with the deeper pockets and scalable servers that can handle large amounts of traffic with a lot of Google ads, so they make more money.
   It’s yet another reason to look at alternatives to Google if you wish to seek out decent independent media and support non-corporate voices. However, even my favoured search engine, Duck Duck Go, doesn’t have a specific news service, though it’s still a start.
   In our case, if we didn’t have a print edition as well as a web one, then online-only mightn’t be worthwhile sans paywall.

Tonight I was interested to see The Guardian Weekly in magazine format, a switch that happened on October 10.
   It’s a move that I predicted over a decade ago, when I said that magazines should occupy a ‘soft-cover coffee-table book’ niche (which is what the local edition of Lucire aims to do) and traditional newspapers could take the area occupied by the likes of Time and Newsweek.
   With the improvement in printing presses and the price of lightweight gloss paper it seemed a logical move. Add to changing reader habits—the same ones that drove the death of the broadsheet format in the UK—and the evolution of editorial and graphic design, I couldn’t see it heading any other way. Consequently, I think The Guardian will do rather well.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, publishing, UK, USA | No Comments »