Posts tagged ‘Bob Hoffman’


The pathetic snowflakes of Big Tech

10.08.2021

We all know what will happen. This is one of two fakes who have sent me a Facebook friend request this week. The first was given the all-clear despite having spam links; and no doubt this will be judged to be perfectly acceptable by Facebook. (In the meantime, a post from Lucire that featured the latest PETA ‘would rather go naked’ campaign was instantly removed.)
   What isn’t acceptable, is, of course, criticizing them. Bob Hoffman writes (original emphases):

According to Vice, recently the Cybersecurity for Democracy project “has revealed major flaws in Facebook political ad transparency tools and highlighted how Facebook’s algorithms were amplifying (COVID vaccine) misinformation.” This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been conscious for the past few years …
   This week Facebook, in an act of abject unscrupulousness, suspended the accounts of several of the researchers from NYU who are leading the Cybersecurity for Democracy project and need to access Facebook to do their work. One of the researchers called Facebook’s action “‘disgraceful’ at a time when the disinformation around COVID-19 and vaccines is literally costing lives.”

   This is how weak and pathetic Facebook is. Instead of doing better (which they claim they try to do), they’d rather shut down criticism. A bit like a dictatorship.
   They’re not alone, of course. In the news recently were the snowflakes of Ebay, who also can’t take a bit of criticism.
   Ina and David Steiner publish a news website about ecommerce and were critical of Ebay in its latest incarnation. The CEO wasn’t happy, nor was Ebay’s head of global security, James Baugh, who began a campaign to terrorize the Steiners.
   The Steiners found their fence tagged, then Ebay’s staff began sending ordering items to be sent to them, including a fœtal pig, a mask of a bloody pig face (witnessed by a police officer), a book on surviving the death of a spouse, a package of live spiders and fly larvæ, and a sympathy wreath, among others. Then Ebay’s employees went to Boston, near where the Steiners lived, and planned to plant a tracking device on their car. The Steiners spotted the rental vehicles stalking them. Understandably, they couldn’t sleep properly, and even slept separately fearing they would be physically attacked.
   It was thanks to the Steiners’ own efforts that they managed to get the number plate of one of the vehicles tailing them, which was then referred to police, who finally managed to figure out what was going on.
   One person has been sentenced in all this mess to 18 months in prison, and there have been other arrests, though as this is the US, the CEO gets off scot free with a US$57 million golden handshake.
   This isn’t that out of the ordinary, and entirely predictable for anyone who has followed this blog. Or the news, for that matter.
   A few years ago, I blogged about how Elon Musk and Tesla tried to get one of its whistleblowing employees killed by telling the police that he was planning a mass shooting. According to Bloomberg Businessweek:

Many chief executive officers would try to ignore somebody like Tripp. Instead, as accounts from police, former employees, and documents produced by Tesla’s own internal investigation reveal, Musk set out to destroy him.

   The employee, Martin Tripp, allegedly was hacked and followed before the attempt to have him swatted.
   Former Gigafactory security manager, Sean Gouthro, said Tripp never sabotaged Tesla or hacked anything, and Musk knew this, but still wanted to damage Tripp’s reputation.
   You can read more directly at the source.
   My negative encounters with Big Tech, which I put down more to shoddy programming or incompetence than malice, are pretty tame.
   Put together, the pattern of IP theft, censorship, inciting genocide and misinformation, and targeting individuals, is very obvious. It’s part of their culture these days, since the US keeps letting these companies do what they wish with impunity, and to heck with what anyone would reasonably think the laws actually say. And it’s not just the US: when has our Blairite government or its predecessor moved against Big Tech in any meaningful way, on taxation, or on apportioning some responsibility for their part in COVID-19 misinformation?

Meanwhile, I was amused to see this under Arthur Turnure’s entry in Wikipedia:

   So Turnure starts Vogue but decides to work under an 18-year-old in another city.
   The reference linked doesn’t back this up at all.
   I know Wikipedia is full of crap that we can all go and correct, but as we’ve seen, shit sticks and on the internet, bullshit sticks, including one item that I’ve blogged about before that remained for over a decade.
   What gets me is why someone who doesn’t know a subject would deem themselves sufficiently knowledgeable to write about it. Because I just wouldn’t dare.
   As detailed before, you don’t see as many inaccuracies in the Japanese or German versions of Wikipedia, and you have to conclude, especially now with politicians doing the same thing, that the Anglosphere is increasingly an anti-intellectual place to be. ‘The fundamental problem with the English-speaking world is that ignorance is not considered a vice,’ said the brother of my friend, Prof Catherine Churchman. My earlier post from 2018 stands now more than ever.

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On OneDrive, Flickr, and FLOC

19.05.2021

Yesterday, I worked remotely, and I don’t know what possessed me, but as OneDrive was activated on my laptop, I decided to save a word processing file there, planning to grab it from my desktop machine later in the day.
   Normally I would just leave the file where it was and transfer it across the network, which is what I should have stuck with.
   Heck, even transferring a file using a USB stick would have been a better idea than OneDrive.
   I hadn’t signed up to it on my desktop PC. I went through the motions, used the default settings where it said it would back up documents and pictures (while making it clear my files would remain exactly where they were). I grabbed the file I need—the entire 18 kilobytes of it—and thought nothing more. I deactivated OneDrive as I saw no real use for it any more.
   Bad idea, because most of my desktop icons vanished, and my Windows default documents’ and pictures’ folders were emptied out.
   After reactivating OneDrive, I found the lot in the OneDrive folder, and promptly moved them back to their original folders. The desktop files—the text files I had on there plus the icons—I duplicated elsewhere. Ultimately, I made new shortcuts for everything—thank goodness my laptop’s icon layout is identical to my desktop’s—and restored the three text files from their duplicate directory.
   The above took me all of a few minutes to write but in reality I spent an hour fixing this—something that Windows said would not happen.
   Chalk it up to experience—consider this fair warning to anyone who thinks of using “the cloud”.
 
 

Also in the “say one thing, do another” file for yesterday: I attempted to sign in to my Flickr account, which has not been touched since around 2008. I tried a range of addresses I had in 2006, when I originally signed up, and attempted to do password resets. Flickr: ‘Invalid email or password.’ I even tried an address that Yahoo! emailed me at in 2018 concerning Flickr, and which Flickr itself said might be the correct email (use your Yahoo! username and add ‘@yahoo.com’ to the end of it).
   I had no other option but to email their support, and mentioned that I was a paying Smugmug customer, given that the photo site now owns Flickr.
   They have responded in a timely fashion, not telling me the email I had used, but said they had sent it a password reset in there.
   Surprisingly (or maybe not, considering we are talking about another big US site again), the address was indeed one of the ones I had tried (I’m glad I kept a record). Except now it works—what’s the bet that post-enquiry, they fixed things up in order to send me that reset email?
   I thanked the support person for the reset email, but suggested that they had some bugs, and fixing them would mean less for him to do.

Don Marti linked an interesting article in The Drum in which he was quoted. Duck Duck Go, Firefox and Github have all opposed Google’s new FLOC tracking method. Meanwhile, Bob Hoffman points out that only four per cent of Apple users have opted in to tracking after the Cupertino company’s new OS opted you out by default.
   Most of the time, people tell me that they find targeted ads ‘creepy’ as they appear from site to site, so it’s no wonder that take-up has been so low with Apple users. So if not FLOC, then what?
   Well, here’s a radical idea: show ads on sites that have subject-matter relevant to the advertiser. It’s what happened before Google’s monopoly, and there were plenty of smaller ad networks that did a great job of it. The prices were still reasonable, and Google wasn’t taking a big cut of the money earned. Of course Big Tech doesn’t like it, because they won’t earn as much, and the old system actually required people with brains to figure out how best to target, something creepy tracking has tried to replace.
   The old methods, with their personal touch, resulted in some creative advertising work—I remember we had some page takeovers on Lucire’s website where the traditional header was redesigned to show off the R55 Mini, thanks to one of our earlier ad directors, Nikola McCarthy. No tracking involved, but a great brand-builder and a fantastic way for Mini to get a fashion connection. Ads with tracking are so transactional and impersonal: ‘Buy this,’ or, ‘You’ve searched for this. Buy this.’
   I doubt it does the brands much good, and before you say that that doesn’t matter, let me also add that it can’t do the humans much good, either. The user’s purpose is reduced to clicking through and buying; so much for building a relationship with them and understanding their values. That isn’t marketing: it’s straight selling. Which means the marketing departments that put these deals together are doing themselves out of a job. They’re also spending money with a monopoly that, as far as I have read, doesn’t have independently certified metrics, which 20 years ago would have been a concern with some agencies.
   I do like innovations, but every now and then, I feel the newer methods haven’t done us much good. Tracking is tracking, no matter what sort of jargon you use to disguise it.

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April 2021 gallery

05.04.2021

Here are April 2021’s images. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
Tania Dawson promotes Somèrfield Hair Care, sourced from Instagram.
   Austrian model Katharina Mazepa for Dreamstate Muse magazine, shared on her Instagram. This was an image that was removed from a PG blog at NewTumbl last year—apparently this was considered ‘nudity’ and rated M.
   AMC promotes the Gremlin, the US’s first subcompact car. More on the Gremlin at Autocade; 1970 advertisement via Twitter.
   Volkswagen 1302S photographed in June 2018, one of the images I’ve submitted to Unsplash for downloading. I did have the owner’s permission to shoot his car.
   St Gerard’s Church and Monastery atop Mt Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand, photographed by me and also submitted to Unsplash.
   Facebook group bots: someone else was so used to seeing bot activity on Facebook, they made a meme about it.
   Holden Commodore Evoke Ute, an example of ‘base model brilliance’. More at Autocade.
   Morris Marina ad via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Innocenti Mini 90 and 120 via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   The aerial shot of Rongotai in 1943 is from the Air New Zealand collection. This is a scan of a photostat Dad made for me in the 1980s. The piece of paper was getting a bit old so I thought it was time to make it digital-only. The ‘1929’ marks the site of the original Rongotai Aerodrome, I believe.
   Instafraud, from Bob Hoffman’s The Ad Contrarian newsletter.
   Alisia Ludwig, from her Instagram, photographer unnamed.
   Fiat X1/9 brochure, from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   More on the Peugeot 508 (R23) at Autocade.
   Model Skyler Simpson at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tampa, photographer unknown, via Instagram.

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With Facebook, the dots are really easy to join, so why haven’t more done so?

29.11.2020

Bob Hoffman always has great stuff from the advertising world, especially on Facebook. My criticisms have come from the user’s perspective and the very obvious BS Facebook peddles, while Bob reads the US press and combines it with a professional’s knowledge.
   In his latest newsletter, it’s a familiar tale: Facebook realized misinformation had greater engagement, something we’ve known for years, but it seems this hasn’t sunk in yet, so it has to keep doing tests. (Doing tests is a great way to delay action, as they can cry, ‘We need more data.’) Bob’s words (emphasis removed, since I don’t believe in italicizing a quote that’s already in quotation marks):

Facebook ran an experiment in which they changed their algorithm to demote the “bad for the world” posts. According to the [New York] Times, “In early tests, the new algorithm successfully reduced the visibility of objectionable content. But it also lowered the number of times users opened Facebook…” Did Facebook implement this good-for-the-world change in its algorithm? Don’t make me laugh.

   Meanwhile, Facebook was caught overcharging. Pretty sure we’ve been here, too, when it overstated the number of people it could reach and allegedly inflating its metrics. Bob sums it up just as I have done on so many occasions but with more colour.

As I’ve said forever, anyone who believes anything that comes out of the mouths of these creeps is a fool. The astounding thing is that the pathetic marketing and ad industry “leadership” – and clueless advertisers – continue to put up with this horseshit.

   These jokers have been treating users with contempt for 16 years, so why are all these “professionals” still siding with them in light of all this evidence? I used this site a lot, too, as you’ll see from my old posts, but pretty early on I called Zuckerberg ‘arrogant’ and began noticing just how terribly the technology worked. Then I began noticing that every press statement it made was empty, especially when it would say one thing, then do the exact opposite. I’m sure this was at the start of the 2010s. I know a handful of people who get it, but we remain in the minority. Aren’t the dots really easy to join here?
   I’ve a feeling we’ll remember all those who continue to advocate for Facebook as late as 2020—and how lacking in insight they must be.

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Online advertising dollars: Google’s cut from your work is 40 per cent

02.06.2020

From Bob Hoffman’s The Ad Contrarian newsletter of May 24: ‘two weeks ago a study by the ISBA and PcW that reported that half of every “programmatic” ad dollar is scraped by adtech middlemen’ and ‘According to a paper written by Fiona Scott Morton, an economist at Yale University, Google pockets about 40¢ of every online ad dollar before it ever gets to a publisher. Not just search dollars, not just programmatic dollars, but all online ad dollars.’ Just one more reason I refuse to sign these:

   I’m not part of the 90 per cent. And the bastards at Google are rich enough. Let them share it with illegal content mills as they are peas in a pod. Another solution for legitimate publishers is dearly needed.
   At least there’s been some sort of work with the commissions agencies take in other media, and that’s typically at 15 per cent here. Google is taking the piss with its automated systems.
   We know the US doesn’t have the balls (or funding?) to take them on at this point, but how about other sovereign territories in which Google operates? Surely they have to comply with our laws, too?

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Big Tech and advertising: the con is being revealed

13.11.2019

People are waking up to the fact that online advertising isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
   Last month, Bob Hoffman’s excellent The Ad Contrarian newsletter noted, ‘I believe the marketing industry has pissed away hundreds of billions of dollars on digital fairy tales and ad fraud over the past 10 years (in fact, I’m writing a book about it.) If I am right, and if the article in question is correct, we are in the midst of a business delusion unmatched in all of history.’ He linked to an article by Jesse Frederik and Mauritz Martin (also sent to me by another colleague), entitled ‘The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising’ in The Correspondent. In it, they cast doubt over the effectiveness of online ads, hidden behind buzzwords and the selection effect. If I understand the latter correctly, it means that people who are already predisposed to your offering are more likely to click on your ads, so the ads aren’t actually netting you new audiences.
   Here’s the example Frederik and Martin give:

Picture this. Luigi’s Pizzeria hires three teenagers to hand out coupons to passersby. After a few weeks of flyering, one of the three turns out to be a marketing genius. Customers keep showing up with coupons distributed by this particular kid. The other two can’t make any sense of it: how does he do it? When they ask him, he explains: “I stand in the waiting area of the pizzeria.”

   The summary is that despite these companies claiming there’s a correlation between advertising with them and some result, the truth is that no one actually knows.
   And the con is being perpetuated by the biggest names in the business.
   As Hoffman noted at the end of October:

A few decades ago the advertising industry decided they couldn’t trust the numbers they were being given by media. The result was the rise of third-party research, ratings, and auditing organizations.
   But there are still a few companies that refuse to allow independent, third-party auditing of their numbers.

   No surprises there. I’ve already talked about Facebook’s audience estimates having no relationship with the actual population, so we know they’re bogus.
   And, I imagine, they partly get away with it because of their scale. One result of the American economic orthodoxy these days is that monopolies are welcome—it’s the neoliberal school of thinking. Now, I went through law school being taught the Commerce Act 1986 and the Trade Practices Act 1974 over in Australia, and some US antitrust legislation. I was given all the economic arguments on why monopolies are bad, including the starvation of innovation in their sector.
   Roger McNamee put me right there in Zucked, essentially informing me that what I learned isn’t current practice in the US. And that is worrisome at the least.
   It does mean, in places like Europe which haven’t bought into this model, and who still have balls (as well as evidence), they’re happy to go after Google over their monopoly. And since our anti-monopoly legislation is still intact, and one hopes that we don’t suddenly change tack (since I know the Commerce Act is under review), we should fight those monopoly effects that Big Tech has in our country.
   What happens to monopolies? Well, if past behaviour is any indication, they can get broken up. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is simply recounting American history when she suggests that that’s what Facebook, Google and Amazon should endure. There was a time when Republicans and Democrats would have been united on this prospect, given the trusts that gave rise to their Sherman Act in 1890, protecting the public from market failures like these. Even a generation ago, they’d never have allowed companies to get this influential.
   Also a generation ago, we wouldn’t swallow the BS an advertising platform gave us without something to back it up. Right now, it seems we don’t have anything—and the industry is beginning to cry foul.


Lorie Shaull/Creative Commons Attribution–Share Alike 2·0

Regardless of your political stripes, Sen. Elizabeth Warren calling for the break-up of Big Tech made sense as recently as a generation ago.

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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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