Posts tagged ‘blogosphere’


There’s still a place for blogging—in fact, it might be needed more than ever

23.04.2017

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 editor’s 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 didn’t know you back in those days, and didn’t 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 book’s 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 gratification—your friends will like stuff you write—but so what? Where are the analysis and the passion? I agree with everything you say here, Richard: the current media aren’t the same, and there’s still a place for long-form blogging. The fact I am commenting (after two others) shows there is. It’s a better place to exchange thoughts, and at least here we’re spared Facebook pushing malware on to people (no, not phishing: Facebook itself).
   Eleven years on, and I’m still blogging at my own space. I even manage a collective blogging site for a friend, called Blogcozy. My Tumblr began in 2007 and it’s still going. We should be going away from the big sites, because there’s 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 engine—or a current one that sees the light—could have a search specifically for these so we’re not reliant on the same old voices and the same old sites. And I’m sure there are other ways besides. For I see little point in posting on places that lack ‘charisma’, as you put it. They just don’t excite me as much as discovering a blog I really like, and sticking with it. With Facebook’s 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.

   I have also, belatedly, added Richard’s personal blog to the blogroll on this page.

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Posted in business, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | 4 Comments »


We need to change how we consume and share media as Sir Tim Berners-Lee warns us about privacy and ‘fake news’

18.03.2017


Paul Clarke/CC BY-SA 4.0, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37435469

Above: Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

Earlier this month, Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote an open letter expressing his concerns about the evolution of his invention, the World Wide Web. (Interestingly, he writes the term all in lowercase.)
   It wasn’t just about ‘fake news’, which is how the media have reported it. His first concern was, in fact, about our losing control over our personal data, and determining when and with whom we share them. It’s something I’ve touched on regularly since 2011, when Google breached its own stated policies over user-preference collection for advertising purposes, something that Facebook appears to be following suit with mid-decade. This was long before Edward Snowden blew the lid on his government’s monitoring, something that’s happening to citizens of other occidental nations, too.
   Sir Tim writes, ‘Through collaboration with—or coercion of—companies, governments are also increasingly watching our every move online, and passing extreme laws that trample on our rights to privacy. In repressive regimes, it’s easy to see the harm that can be caused—bloggers can be arrested or killed, and political opponents can be monitored. But even in countries where we believe governments have citizens’ best interests at heart, watching everyone, all the time is simply going too far. It creates a chilling effect on free speech and stops the web from being used as a space to explore important topics, like sensitive health issues, sexuality or religion.’
   But the one that struck me as very pertinent to publishing is Sir Tim’s second point. It’s the one that most news outlets seized on, linking it back to ‘fake news’, a term now corrupted by the executive branch of the US Government when attacking coverage that it doesn’t like. However, Sir Tim’s points were far broader than that. And it’s evident how his first point links to his second.
   It’s not hard to see that there is biased coverage on both the right and right wings of US politics (interestingly, they call it left and right), although Sir Tim points to how ‘a handful of social media sites or search engines’ show us the things that appeal to our own biases through their algorithms. ‘Fake news’ then spreads through these algorithms because they play to our prejudices. He writes, ‘those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain.’ These sites are able to determine what we see based on the data we’ve given them, willingly or unwillingly.
   It’s so far from the ideals of the World Wide Web that it’s sad that the medium, which was once so expansive and inspirational as we surfed from one site to the next to read and absorb information, has come to this: a tool for becoming more insular, the first path to the idiocracy.
   Google, as I wrote last year, biases itself toward larger sites, no longer rewarding the media outlet that breaks a news item. The incentive to be that maverick medium is, therefore, lessened greatly online, because the web isn’t being ranked on merit by the largest player in the search-engine business. It’s why Duck Duck Go, which doesn’t collect user data, gives search results that are generally fairer. We think it’s important to learn alternative viewpoints, especially in politics, otherwise the division that we already see in some countries will only deepen—and at worst this can lead to war. In peacetime countries, a compatriot with opposing political thoughts is not our enemy.
   Facebook’s continued data collection of user preferences is also dangerous. Even after users opt out, Facebook’s ad preferences’ page demonstrates that it will keep collecting. Whether or not Facebook then uses these preferences is unknown—certainly Facebook itself clams up—but since the site reports journalists who alert them to kiddie porn, kicks off drag queens after saying they wouldn’t, and forces people to download software in the guise of malware detection, who knows if any of Facebook’s positions are real or merely ‘fake news’? Knowing the misdeeds of sites like Facebook—and Google which itself has been found guilty of hacking—do they actually deserve our ongoing support?
   Of course I have an interest in getting people to look beyond the same-again players, because I run one media outlet that isn’t among them. But we have an interest to seek information from the independents, and to support a fair and neutral internet. We may learn an angle we hadn’t explored before, or we may find news and features others aren’t covering. Better yet, we may learn alternative viewpoints that break us out of our prejudices. Surely we can’t be that scared of learning about alternatives (maybe one that is better than what we believe), or having a reasoned debate based on fact rather than emotion or hatred? And if you are sharing on social media, do you want to be one of the sheep who uses the same click-bait as everyone else, or show that you’re someone who’s capable of independent thought?
   It shouldn’t be that difficult to distinguish fake-news sites from legitimate media (even though the line gets blurred) by looking at how well something is subedited and how many spelling mistakes there are. Perhaps the headlines are less emotive. There is a tier of independent media that deserves your support, whether it is this site or many competing ones that we’ve linked ourselves. Going beyond the same-again sources can only benefit us all.

Originally published in Lucire’s online edition.

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


Why Stephen Fry left Twitter, and what could be next

16.02.2016

Stephen Fry wrote a witty blog post (he is the Stephen Fry, after all) on why he left Twitter. I won’t quote the whole thing, as it’s his copyright, but I will excerpt a chunk here:

… let us grieve at what twitter has become. A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended—worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know. It’s as nasty and unwholesome a characteristic as can be imagined. It doesn’t matter whether they think they’re defending women, men, transgender people, Muslims, humanists … the ghastliness is absolutely the same.

   I agree with him about how damned annoying it is to deal with ‘the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended—worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know’. Political trolls are good at this, too, except they only pretend at being self-righteous in order to fuel their sociopathy. This is the behaviour that makes social media tiresome. I still don’t see this being the end of Twitter, even if some are predicting it, for the reasons outlined in this earlier post. However, the tendencies are there with Facebook, too, and what makes that site worse are the very regular outages and the tracking it does of all its users. I can deal with the self-righteousness to some degree, if the damned site worked as a reasonable person would expect.
   What does this mean? Consider the renaissance of the blogosphere. Those who have things to say might enjoy articulating them in long form. We don’t seem to need that instant gratification any more as we’ve become either desensitized to it, or we find it through many of the other sites and apps out there that act as our personal echo chamber. Linkedin’s blogging function seems to get used more and more, and many professionals, at least, have decent followings there. As lives get busier—remember, social media grew easily because people were either looking for new ways to market because of the recession, or they were simply less busy—we may find it easier to manage our time each day without Facebook. So why not something like Linkedin, if not your own blog? I’ve said for years that Facebook is basically the 2010s version of Digg or Delicious. Look at your news feed and tell me that that’s not the way it’s heading—to me, this has been evident for years. And I don’t really need Digg or Delicious now in 2016.
   When you know that, then you realize that it’s not that hard to get your time back. Twitter for short-form “social” communications, blogs for long-form—and there mightn’t be that much room for something in between.

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Posted in culture, internet, technology | No Comments »


The Sunshine Blogger Award’s 11 questions

11.02.2016

Holly Jahangiri kindly nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. I doubt I’d win, as I don’t follow the rules. I’m not even entirely sure what I’d win. But the questions seem a fun thing to do, especially now that I’ve decided to minimize my time on Facebook in favour of the blogosphere again (roll on 2006, but without the arseholes!). These are:

Thank the person who nominated you.
Answer the 11 questions you’ve been asked.
Nominate 11 other bloggers, making sure to let each one know that they are nominated.
Ask the nominees 11 questions.

Thank you, Holly, I’ll do the first two. I don’t believe in asking others to do these Q&As, but if you’re reading this and would like to join in, please feel free to.
   In the spirit of blogging goodwill, and helping out someone who has bravely given up Facebook (and its subsidiaries) for Lent, the 11 questions, and my answers, follow.

What is your favourite drink?
I’ve become more teetotal as I get older. I’d have to say a mango nectar.

Where is your hometown?
I hail from Kowloon, Hong Kong, but Wellington, New Zealand is my home.

Do you prefer sweet, sour, bitter or savoury flavours?
We can discount savoury from the get-go and this might apply to a lot of people of Chinese descent. I don’t mind something slightly bitter.

What is your favourite song?
Depends on the mood I am trying to get in to. There’s not a single one. That’s like asking someone what their favourite typeface is.

Where do you find inspiration for your blog posts?
Anywhere. Just whatever takes my fancy at any given point.

Are you a minimalist or a collector?
A collector.

What colour is your suitcase?
Boring: it’s black.

Which trees do you like the best?
Pōhutukawa (metrosideros excelsa) always bring a smile to my face.

Do you have a day job as well as blogging?
Yes. Surely there can’t be many full-time bloggers left? I’d expect they’ve all become “social media experts” by now.

What is your favourite smell or scent?
This is like that song question, isn’t it? I can’t limit myself to one.

Do you prefer to eat meat or vegetables?
I prefer fruit to both.

   I don’t know if that’s revealed anything. A Voigt-Kampff test might have been more insightful.

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Posted in general | 2 Comments »


I thought political division got you nowhere in New Zealand

23.08.2014

A week and a half ago, I appeared on Back Benches to talk about Winston Peters MP’s “two Wongs” joke, and confined my comments to that.
   My response, ‘There are still people who enjoy watching Rolf Harris, just as there are still people out there who enjoy listening to Winston Peters.’ And, ‘We have a politician here who says he does not believe in race-based laws, and yet everything he utters is race-based … Can’t he walk the talk?’ His is a passé joke, and of course there’s no way Mr Peters would have heard it in Beijing—since the Wong surname does not exist in Mandarin.
   It’s a shame he resorts to this old technique because I find myself agreeing with a number of his statements when it came to the Dirty Politics revelations. And had I more time on Back Benches, I would have explored this further.
   There were three MPs on the show, Annette King (Labour), Scott Simpson (National) and Russel Norman (Greens). Ms King and Dr Norman were up front enough to call the joke racist, while Dr Norman went so far as to call it ‘unacceptable’ and ‘disgraceful’, while Mr Simpson merely passed it off as ‘Winston being Winston.’
   Mr Simpson’s dismissal is in line with his Prime Minister’s, who called it ‘a stunt’. And it brought back the PM’s unflinching reaction to Paul Henry implying back in 2010 that the then-Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand, did not ‘look or sound like a New Zealander’.
   That has been covered here before, but I read comments at the time that John Key’s predecessor, Helen Clark, would have taken Henry to task over the comment.
   I plainly don’t notice someone’s colour and I suspect most people do not, but I do notice accents, and Sir Anand sounds exactly like what you would expect from an Auckland Grammar alumnus: if linguists were to pin down just where he was from, I’m fairly confident they would find it was Auckland.
   Once I can forgive. The PM was in the heat of an interview in 2010, he had his points to make, and it’s very, very easy not to answer the question put before you. In the YouTube clip, I didn’t directly answer one of Damian Christie’s questions.
   But twice? This is not ‘a stunt’, this is something that goes to the heart of the casual racism that occasionally gets spouted in this country. It has no place in Aotearoa, and in election year, you would think that the Prime Minister, wanting to capture votes from Kiwis of all stripes, would take a rival to task over it. Politicians in the past aimed to paint an inclusive New Zealand, not one where people are cast out by race or, as we have seen post-Dirty Politics, by whether they are on the left or on the right.
   Author Nicky Hager is now, according to the PM, ‘a screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist’ for writing his book, one where the allegations have been carefully written to avoid legal action, and one where there are no emails to refute what he claims. Watching the fallout has been instructive: the ACT Party has completely defused the allegations over the Rodney Hide “blackmail” stance thanks to early, measured, and direct statements from Mr Hide and from lawyer Jordan Williams, and the burden has been lifted. It didn’t take much. David Farrar, who admittedly is not a central figure in the book, comes across as an intelligent and genuine National Party member and supporter. But National has played a divisive game once again, and that has been disappointing, especially for those quality MPs the party has outside of the Cabinet.
   You can say that its poll numbers are comfortable enough for National not to attempt to get voters on “the left”, but if I were running right now, I honestly wouldn’t care what your political leanings were. I’d want your vote. I’d know there were swing voters out there, and I’d also know that most New Zealanders, who tend toward centrist politics, have policies on the left and the right that they favour. Why isolate them by insulting some of their beliefs, or pigeonholing them as belonging to one group or another?
   Or, why, for that matter, associate with blogger Cameron Slater if he is a ‘force of nature unto himself’ (if I have quoted the PM correctly).
   And he is. I actually have little problem about the man having an opinion and expressing it on the internet. I’ll even go so far as to defend his right to hold an opinion and to express it freely even if I do not agree with it.
   I might not agree with Mr Slater’s venomous ‘I have come to the conclusion that Maori are thick. Dumber than your average bear. Stupid. Dumb and Dumber rolled in one. Dumber than a sack of hammers,’ and ‘My patience with Maori is at an end. They are venal, corrupt, lying, lazy useless fuckers,’ but he has a right to say it.
   It’s like “two Wongs”.
   Those who don’t like it can say so, too.
   The PM’s defence so far of his and his party’s association with Mr Slater (which suddenly has become less tight than it was portrayed earlier this year) is effectively “this is OK, because Labour contacts left-wing bloggers”. Sorry, John. If there is a blog out there that spews this kind of hatred, the normal thing for any right-thinking New Zealander to do is to isolate its writer. To make sure that his brand of venom is as far away from you as possible. You just don’t risk it for the sake of votes. You do not cozy up to him, even minutely—which is now the image you wish to portray. To have your government and your party willingly associate with him is precisely the sort of divisive politics that has no place in this country.
   The tactics have been compared to the Muldoon days. I disagree: if Rob Muldoon thought you were a knob, he would come out and call you a knob.
   I don’t think he would recognize his party.
   As Muldoon himself put it (in Muldoon):

A great deal of New Zealand’s history has in fact been recorded in detail and it as [sic] at least as interesting as that of older countries. To read it is to understand why so much damage is being done by a small group of stirrers who have fomented the hateful cry of “racism” in recent years. New Zealand does not have a colour bar, it has a behaviour bar, and throughout the length and breadth of this country we have always been prepared to accept each other on the basis of behaviour and regardless of colour, creed, origin or wealth. That is the most valuable feature of New Zealand society and the reason why I have time and again stuck my neck out to challenge those who would try to destroy this harmony and set people against people inside our country.

   And I can’t see decent National Party people like Paul Foster-Bell or Simon O’Connor ever engaging in these sorts of tactics. At the local level, Kerry Prendergast never did when I ran against her in 2010.
   Despite these efforts from our politicians, I still believe in inclusiveness, and that when you stand for public office, you are prepared to represent everyone in your constituency, even those you might not like or hold different beliefs to you. I said of a racist who wrote on my wall in 2013, ‘If elected, I’m happy to represent you, too.’ I don’t think that’s an idealism found in the Coca-Cola Hilltop commercial, but the reality of someone who wants the job of public office. Maybe it’s naïveté, but I can’t see what division and negative campaigning get you in New Zealand.

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Posted in culture, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, TV, Wellington | 3 Comments »


A belated look back at 2013

18.03.2014

I must have had a busy end of 2013, as I never posted my trade-mark summary of the year as viewed via my Tumblr. Here ’tis, better late than never.

January 2013
Lucire has a facelift online—by December 2013, this “new look” would be history. Kylie Minogue is on the home page as the first story with the new look. Seems very retro now.
   Cliff Curtis plays a non-Māori with a standard American accent in Missing. Maybe no one really knows about New Zealand in Hollywood, unless you are Jemaine, Bret, or a Hobbit.
   Kim Dotcom launches Megabox but it’s still not fair or sustainable for content creators, says Russell Brown. You just don’t hear much about this these days.
   Jaguar is happy that the Tata procedures’ manual is four sides of A4 instead of Ford’s three-inch thick one. Free from US bureaucracy, it now produces good cars. This might apply to other things concerning the US of A.

February 2013
Dick Prosser doesn’t get stood down by New Zealand First after racist comments, and Shearer and Key are OK with that, too. Prosser’s relieved he doesn’t work for TVNZ.
   On Instagram, the OHMS hashtag reveals very little that is On Her Majesty’s Service.
   Google claims that it cannot crawl for a file that never existed—the first of some serious bugs from the search engine giant.

March 2013
Theorizing a remake of Back to the Future, with Justin Bieber and Will Ferrell. Yes, I thought that sucked, too.
   Malala Yousafzai’s story is retold in cartoon form.
   Tumblr reaches 100 million users; Instagram is plagued by Instaspam.

April 2013
One reviewer equates Bruce Willis’s John McClane in the new Die Hard movie with Mr Magoo: ‘Remember those old Mister Magoo cartoons where the doddery old bald guy would blunder around various locations, leaving chaos in his wake while constantly insisting “I’m on vacation”?’
   Margaret Thatcher’s funeral was foretold in The Final Cut in the early 1990s. I watched it then. The remake was totally different. For a start, a lot of Thatcher Cabinet politicians now look like their Spitting Image caricatures.
   Googlebot keeps making false accusations about malware, as I document Google’s latest folly. Why do people depend on this website? And, more to the point, isn’t libel covered by US law?
   Adam Rayner and Eliza Dushku try to reboot The Saint in a remake, with Roger Moore and Ian Ogilvy in cameos. The series is yet to be picked up.

May 2013
Royal Wedding build-up as the Swedish Crown releases a photograph of HRH Princess Madeleine with her fiancé Chris O’Neill. Swedish men give up hope of courting her.
   Colvin Inglis: ‘Wellington isn’t dying—John Key flew into Wellington Airport and misinterpreted what “Wellington Terminal” meant.’

June 2013
The Royal Wedding of HRH Princess Madeleine and Chris O’Neill. It becomes one of Lucire’s most-read articles in June.
   Edward Snowden becomes the whistleblower of the year. Later, when I am stuck at the Russian Embassy behind its gates in Wellington, I note that I was ‘snowed in’. Snowden has inspired new language.

July 2013
Dzohokhar Tsarnaev gets on the cover of Rolling Stone. People complain that Rolling Stone glamorized him without reading the story which doesn’t glamorize him. Some media cover this without mentioning this point.
   PM John Key dismisses GCSB protesters as misinformed or politically aligned.
   The death of Mel Smith. Will Matt Lucas still dress up as Andy Pipkin?

August 2013
Facebook and Instagram stop people from saying thank-you, either failing such comments or calling them abusive.
   Stuart Munro writes, at the al-Jazeera English website: ‘The major driver of the GCSB bill has been the improper use of the agency by John Key. This bill was thrown together on the fly to cover the PM’s embarrassment arising from his misuse of GCSB resources to spy on Kim Dotcom. With an honest PM, the legislation might not be problematic—but Key makes personal and intemperate use of the GCSB. He is therefore incapable of providing impartial oversight to the GCSB, and that leaves this bill fatally flawed. It will have to be scrapped, and the current GCSB will have to be disestablished in favour of a more scrupulous organisation.’

September 2013
The Australian General Election, and Tony Abbott provides fodder with quotations suggesting he might not be all there. He wins anyway.

October 2013
Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special is coming. I eventually watch it on Iplayer after testing it out watching Strictly. This reminds me of how much Britain has changed in the last 30 years. Today, Bruce Forsyth is on BBC1 on a Saturday night, Terry Wogan is on the radio, and Tories are in Number 10. Nothing like it was before.
   Google breaks another promise. In 2005, it stated, ‘There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.’

November 2013
The 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, which must also mean the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.
   The origins of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air are revealed in this fictional entry by yours truly: ‘To entertain the populace during the Troubles, The Fresh Prince of Bel Fast was a Northern Irish sitcom about a young Catholic man from Derry who is forced to live with a Protestant family to the east of Belfast. It later spawned an American remake starring Will Smith. It was known for its theme, which concluded, “I looked at my kingdom, I was there at last / To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Fast.”‘

December 2013
Pinterest puts spammers into your feed.
   The Hobbit cartoon in the 1970s was a much quicker way to get Tolkien’s novel dramatized: in and out in 90 minutes.
   There ain’t nothing like a Dame: Penelope Keith gets a DBE—and I mark this with a Morecambe & Wise clip. Seems appropriate.

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Posted in culture, humour, interests, media, New Zealand, politics, Sweden, USA | No Comments »


Upset about needing Google Plus to comment on YouTube? Here’s a radical idea: don’t

18.01.2014

There were a few upset people in November because Google compelled everyone who wanted to comment on YouTube to have a Google Plus profile. Even a co-founder of YouTube, Jawed Karim, objected.
   But it’s been a long time coming.
   In 2011, Google combined, as is its prerogative, YouTube accounts with its own. While prior to that you could maintain separate YouTube and Google accounts, by 2011 you couldn’t. That helped Google sell more advertising, since YouTube is one of the most visited sites in the world and 2011 figures show that 96 per cent of Google’s $37,000 million annual revenue comes from advertising. If it could get your YouTube browsing data mixed with your other preferences (when you saw a Doubleclick ad, or when you used your Gmail), then their targeting could be pretty potent. As we also saw, it didn’t matter if you had asked Google not to track you, either through its own Ads Preferences Manager or through an Iphone setting, Google would hack you to get these data—at least till it gets busted, by me to the NAI or by the Murdoch Press to a much larger audience.
   Will it try it again? You bet. It’s had a record of such behaviour and since the fines are tiny—they were penalized $17 million over the Apple hack, which is one two-thousandths of what they made, or about four hours’ revenue—there’s not a huge disincentive. Getting effectively a speeding ticket is worth the risk in their corporate culture.
   In 2011, already incensed by the annual battles I had with Google, although I was yet to discover their deception over Ads Preferences Manager, I thought: I won’t connect the two accounts. In fact, I might even stop using my YouTube account.
   My reasons for doing so were outlined exactly three years ago. They weren’t so much about Google’s advertising business but about the very real privacy issues that a friend had uncovered first-hand. He had asked me, however, to report it as a hypothetical, since he had discovered this very situation with a client. (I’m only revealing this now since a commenter confirmed that this scenario was real.)
   I’ve covered other YouTube privacy problems, so I won’t elaborate here, but once the Ads Preferences Manager con was discovered later that year, I did two things: (a) blocked all Doubleclick cookies, since opting out of their Manager actually did nothing after a day; (b) blocked all YouTube cookies, since going to YouTube was one way Google could alter its opt-out cookie into one that began tracking you again.
   From that day on, I could no longer comment on YouTube and the great news: after three years, I don’t miss it.
   And to make it even better, Google changed the commenting system recently, so that if you don’t have a YouTube cookie, you see no comments at all.
   That means my YouTube browsing is more intelligent since I don’t have to put up with the idiots that seem to outnumber the few smart ones on the website. (You can, incidentally, do the same with Fairfax’s Stuff.)
   If I find myself desperately needing to comment on a video, I simply embed it on a blog or on Facebook and write my remarks there for my own limited audience to enjoy. Those friends who comment don’t wind up making it all about Barack Obama’s birth certificate in the thread. Unlike YouTube.
   Since Google will not reverse its decision to force every YouTube account holder to have a Plus account—after all, the protests in 2011 came to nought, and since then, most people just came to accept the new status quo—then those who really dislike it might have to change their online habits. Google’s betting on users eventually giving up the fight—and, realistically, most of you will.
   And yet, not being able to comment on YouTube is no bad thing. I’ve done it for three years, and if your blog even carries advertising, then why not make a few bob for yourself for taking the time to write? Just try not to use Google ads.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, USA | 2 Comments »


It took Rick Klau to sort it out, again

10.12.2013

In 2009, when my friend Vincent’s Blogger or Blogspot blog was deleted by Google, I fought on his behalf to get it back. Six months on the Google support forums, nothing.
   One day, a friend on Twitter told me that with Google’s deletion of John Hempton’s blog, as publicized by Reuter journalist Felix Salmon, Blogger product manager Rick Klau had intervened, and had it reinstated. Maybe I should approach Rick, who had a stellar reputation was being one of the good guys inside Google.
   I did, and within a day, he had sorted everything out.
   Six months using the official channels, one day getting the boss involved.
   Admittedly, I began getting suspicious of Google’s Blogger service, even though my own blogs never fell foul of the Googlebot. Google then announced that it would end FTP support of blogs anyway, so I decided it was time to pack up and leave.
   One by one, I deleted my blogs from Blogger, and I watched the number drop slowly inside Google Dashboard.
   Google Dashboard always lagged a bit, but between the start of 2010 and today there was a problem: all my Blogger blogs had been deleted, but Dashboard continue to record 1.
   And so began another saga with Google.
   Again I used the official channels—the support forums—and got no response.
   Rick had left Blogger—he would up being YouTube’s product manager for a while—so I contacted his successor, Chang Kim. Chang passed it on to Brett, one of Blogger’s staff.
   Brett told me the name of the blog I supposedly still had. The weirdest things are these: I’ve never heard of this blog, so it’s definitely not mine; but, I do know the gentleman in Canada who owns it, and he tells me that I have never had any connection to it, nor has he ever added me as an author. I responded to Brett at the time and told him this, but the conversation was dropped.
   I never knew if Brett was on the level. What if Google had not properly deleted all my data as I had asked it to? What if the 1 reflected that? Or if it was a bug, then really Google needs to fix it, so being a good netizen, I really should point out this discrepancy.
   I started a new thread this year on the Google support forums, and it was answered by our old friend Chuck—the chap who fenced with me at the end of 2009 asking irrelevant questions and ignoring specific answers. He asked yet another irrelevant question, I gave him a specific answer, but this time, he just dropped it (a typical experience, I might add, for anything that falls outside routine matters on the Google support forums). I suppose that’s better than fencing and keeping me on there for another half-year.
   So, would Google ever sort this out?
   One evening, I decided I would turn to the one person inside the company who showed some responsibility for his company’s actions: Rick Klau.
   Rick’s with Google Ventures now so he had no real reason to get involved in an enquiry concerning a branch of a company he left three years ago.
   But in classic Rick fashion, he stepped up.
   And while it wasn’t 24 hours, it was a single weekday. Rick asked me one question the day after my enquiry, I answered it, and a weekday later, he had sorted it: my Google Dashboard says I have no blogs with them.
   Three (nearly four) years using the official channels, one day getting the (former) boss involved.
   Google might do some questionable things, but it has at least one good bloke working for it. If only everyone was as professional as Rick Klau.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 5 Comments »


Calculating 2012’s top selling car: Focus or Corolla?

20.04.2013

I see that Toyota is upset that R. L. Polk named the Ford Focus the top-selling car in the world for 2012. Motor Trend has since reported the story as Polk naming the Focus as the top selling ‘nameplate’, but that hasn’t stopped Toyota from throwing a wobbly.
   I can’t locate the Polk report on its website, but maybe it’s a fair call for Toyota. Bloomberg Businessweek says that the Matrix and Auris could be counted, bumping Toyota’s numbers, since they are all Corolla-based.
   Ford fans, however, can say that the C-Max and Grand C-Max should form part of the total.
   I’m certain that Polk would have counted the current Japanese Corollas, the E160 model, into its total, but these have a different platform altogether—they are, in fact, on the Vitz (Yaris) platform, but they were released in 2012. If we’re to take Toyota’s argument about cars on the same platform, then we need to subtract all its E160 Japanese sales from Polk’s total and they should be grouped with the Vitz.
   Since I can’t find the methodology, then the jury is still out, but Toyota, of all companies, should know the nameplate argument well. It has, after all, sold very different Corollas in different parts of the world, even when we look at the previous generation. Many Asian markets had a narrower model, 1,700 mm wide, while countries like the US, Australia and New Zealand received a much wider one. However, calling them all Corolla beefs up the total. Surely it can’t get upset at Ford actually selling a single car these days as the Focus, unlike the situation in the 2000s when the US and Canada had an older-platform one compared to the rest of the world?
   Perhaps the people at the Best Selling Cars Blog have it right instead. I’ve talked to these guys about their methodology, and they typically group identical cars together (e.g. the Buick Excelle XT is counted in the Opel Astra J total, since they are the same car). There, Toyota is top dog, and the publication acknowledges that it counts Auris and Matrix (and Rumion, but at Autocade, we catalogue that as Corolla Rumion). It also counts older Corollas still being built in places such as China (BSCB notes that it includes ‘Corolla IX, X, XI and Altis’), which I think should be allowed, since they were developed as Corollas. All Corolla variants total 1,097,132 versus 1,036,683 for the Ford Focus. They do, however, count the C-Max separately (130,036), but at least that’s clear from their stats.
   So, if we were to use comparable methodologies and allow the minivan spinoffs to be counted for both ranges, then that should show the following:

Ford Focus, plus C-Max: 1,166,719
Toyota Corolla, including Auris, Matrix and Rumion, the E160 variants based on the smaller Vitz, and all older generations still in production: 1,097,132

   My impression, based only on these online data, is that Ford is on top, and the only way for Toyota to get a higher number is to count the clones in China that it officially disapproves of: the BYD F3, the BYD Surui, and the Geely Vision.
   Another spot of news today, closer to home for me: Autocade has crossed the 3,000,000 views’ mark. My thanks to all netizens for their browsing and for making it part of their online automotive resources. Good to know many of you come to a Kiwi site—indeed, a Wellington one—to get your global car info.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, media, USA | 1 Comment »


A look back at 2012: from an Italian Job remake to a royal pregnancy

17.12.2012

Last year, it was quite humorous looking back on 2011 and what appeared on my Tumblr. And since my decade summary in December 2009 was a bit of a hit for some of you, I thought it might be worth a review of the year. In case you thought you missed out on much from the other blog, don’t fret.

January
   My friend Rachel Russell arrives in London. She writes, ‘Walking around London last night was like being in one of those ’80s “dystopian future” science-fiction movies. Similar to a zombie apocalypse.’
   Lucire blacks out its cover image for SOPA. I say it was like the time Bill Nighy ran headline-only pages in State of Play (the original one, not the Russell Crowe remake). It would affect free speech and the economy, I argued, and urged Americans to act.
   I fly to see Players in India, the remake of the remake of The Italian Job. It’s terrible. Wellington features as itself, but it also doubles unconvincingly for Sydney in some parts.
   The Indian PM has bad news for the economy: GDP growth is forecast to be only 7 per cent this year.

February
   Hustle finishes. It’s the end of an era for silly, one-hour, self-contained, escapist British series. Bring out the Persuaders DVDs. Or Jason King.
   Katy Perry used to be a good Brand.
   The British can now read headlines such as ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster’ on Sundays now as Rupert Murdoch essentially retitles The News of the World.

March
   Pinterest is buggy. Then it gets redesigned and it looks worse.
   Charlie Brooker asks on 10 O’Clock Live: ‘Do you think [Angelina Jolie]’s annoyed that Joseph Kony has abducted more African children than she has?’
   Some netizens post a picture of Carl Weathers as George Dillon from Predator; others think that’s Joseph Kony.

April
   Westpac débuts advertising which reads, ‘Mind on your money, money on your mind?’ but Snoop Dogg does not shift his accounts there.
   Skyfall buzz begins on my blog.
   The Top Gear boys work on The Sweeney remake and I can’t watch the chase scene without thinking, ‘Turn off the traction control’ in a Borat accent.
   The Avengers débuts at cinemas but Scarlett Johansson is an unconvincing Emma Peel.

May
   Mitt Romney promises ‘A better Amercia’.
   Uh oh: The G. C. This brings back Sir Robert Muldoon’s quotation, ‘New Zealanders who emigrate to Australia raise the IQ of both countries.’
   Fortunately, Bron or Broen, depending on which side the Øresund bridge you hail from, becomes my TV viewing for this month.
   My bad pun day, in response to a friend watching One Direction and Justin Bieber: ‘They seem like nice Bros. I’m not N’Sync with these 5ive New Kids on the Block but I’ll have to Take That as it comes. Never was in to that sort of music when I was younger, being from the East, 17. Part of the West life, I guess. It would be nice if we saw some Backstreet Boys, but they won’t be among the Wanted for viewers.’

June
   As pressure mounts in the Falklands, Sean Lock says in 8 out of 10 Cats, ‘The Falklands: it takes 14 hours to get there and it’s just a rock covered in seagull shit.’
   The Murdoch Press allegedly writes, ‘highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.’ Why one should use the Oxford comma.
   This lady is pregnant. Or not.

July
   Sue Chetwin of Consumer New Zealand is quoted as saying, ‘It’s marketing 101—[Vodafone New Zealand] seem to breach the rules quite regularly and you’d have to hope that these significant fines are a signal to them that they can’t continue to do that.’ How interesting that I would cite this a few months later.
   Campbell Live runs Miss Universe New Zealand Avianca Böhm’s recordings between her and pageant director Val Lott. Former winners rejoice.
   I Tweet, ‘There is a rumour that the Olympic closing ceremony will feature ‘Yakety Sax’ and a Benny Hill lookalike to chase the torch off-stage.’

August
   Vogue Italia’s legendary Anna Piaggi passes away.
   The Julian Assange case reaches high gear. Michael Moore and Oliver Stone write in The New York Times, ‘If Mr. Assange is extradited to the United States, the consequences will reverberate for years around the world. Mr. Assange is not an American citizen, and none of his actions have taken place on American soil. If the United States can prosecute a journalist in these circumstances, the governments of Russia or China could, by the same logic, demand that foreign reporters anywhere on earth be extradited for violating their laws. The setting of such a precedent should deeply concern everyone, admirers of WikiLeaks or not.’
   My friend John Butler writes, ‘Ten years from now, no cyclists will bother showing up at the Tour de France. It will just be a bunch of lawyers gathering in an air-conditioned building for three weeks seeing who has the most money to blow filing lawsuits and discovery motions and subpœnas.’
   Samsung loses to Apple in a California court after a jury rushes to its decision.

September
   J-Lou means Jenna Louise Coleman and her surprise début in Doctor Who.
   The Sweeney hits cinemas and Britain goes nostalgic.
   USA Today launches its redesign.
   The return of Alarm für Cobra 11 on German TV screens.
   Lucire changes its 404 page to help with locating missing persons.
   Facebook is accused of revealing private messages when in fact most were wall-to-wall ones that everyone had forgotten about.

October
   Some folks are calling Skyfall ‘the best Bond ever’. I don’t agree.
   Ford Mustang fans have a convention in Wellington.
   At Miss Africa Wellington, I say, ‘Unlike another pageant, the judges’ decision is final.’
   The Rt Hon John Key defends his Hollywood studio tour by saying, ‘There’ll always be conspiracy theorists out there but I’m interested in jobs, not people who live in Fantasyland and want to make things up.’
   Hong Kong comes to a head over its identity versus the mainlanders who are coming to the city.
   I mock up a Jack Reacher promotional image:

November
   It’s really hard to turn on ‘Do Not Track’ in Google Chrome (and it does nothing anyway).
   President Barack Obama re-elected for his second term.
   There are no Ford Falcons on sale at Capital City Ford—it really looks like Ford is trying to kill its longest-running passenger car line.

December
   Summer Rayne Oakes’s Extinction now available to the public to view on Vimeo.
   Kate loves Willy, nek minnit, pregnant.
   TV viewers get upset when the Newtown, Conn. shooting cut in to Ellen.

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Posted in business, culture, humour, interests, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »