Some time in the last couple of weeks, Autocade managed its 10,000,000th page view.
I was too busy to notice when it hit 9,000,000, but a quick calculation when views hovered around the 9,500,000 mark suggested it made the milestone some time around August 2016, keeping the growth rate at around 1,000,000 every five months.
February 2017 does mean the last million came about over six months since August 2016, so itâs not heartening that the growth has slowed a little. When I last blogged about Autocadeâs stats, in March 2016, I had hoped itâd see in 10,000,000 before the Gregorian yearâs end.
Nevertheless, Iâm proud this little automotive encyclopĂŚdia managed this feat, with a few banner ads scattered about the place, a very lately opened and seldom updated Facebook page, and some mentions on Drivetribe. But it’s had none of the support I would normally devote to a venture, such as doing newsworthy things that would involve the press. It’s an under-the-radar site to some degree, known by car aficionados. It is what it is, and I never felt there was any need to go beyond its original mission.
Last time I took a screen shot from the statsâ page for this blog, the top cars being searched for were the Ford Fiesta Mk VII, the Nissan Bluebird (910), Nissan Sunny (B14), Toyota Corolla (E100) and Ford Focus (C307). Right now, the Ford Taunus TC has made it on to the leaderboard, pushing the Corolla down. These pages have been grandfathered though: they were some of the earliest on the site so of course they have been read more.
In the time Iâve taken to write these paragraphs, Autocade has logged another 102 page views. Here’s hoping the rate remains healthy and the site becomes a more decent earner. Not bad for a hobby.
Above: The first-generation Mitsubishi Minica, though this isn’t the 1962 model. Now on Autocadeâthough hardly an iconic model.
Itâs the end of the Gregorian year, which means I get a bit of time to update Autocade. Since 2008, itâs mostly been a labour of love, and typically, the period after Christmas is when I get a bit of down time to put on models that should have been done during the year.
But because itâs a hobby siteâalbeit one that has turned into a oft-referenced online guideâitâs not done with any real discipline. That I leave to othersâand youâre all more captured by the flashy photography of magazine sites anyway. Autocade was started as a quick reference, and unless we really decide to branch out into a magazine format, itâll remain that.
To give you an idea of the anorak nature of the website, over the break, all of Mitsubishiâs kei cars were added to the site. Some had already been there, such as the eK and certain Minicas, but I decided the rest should go up.
Why these? You may ask, yet I donât really have an answer. Often itâs over to oneâs mood. Sometimes itâs to offer something online that others donât, or at least not comprehensively. And when you realize you have 80 or 90 per cent of the models added, you think: I only need a few more, why not succumb to OCD and do the lot?
Therefore, now, Autocade has all the Minicas, Pajero Minis, Ios and Jrs, Toppos and eKs that the once-mighty manufacturer made before it fell out of favour with its repeated scandals. Iâm not a fan of any of them, but thatâs not relevant: itâs about objectively providing the public with information, and my own like or dislike of a model has nothing to do with it.
Itâs not even a commercial decision. If it was, Autocade would have filled up the gaps in the US automotive industry a lot sooner. And there are still plenty of them. Americans make up a huge chunk of the browsing public, although for me it takes a while to make sure the engine capacities [for post-1980 US models] are recorded in metricânot something you can readily come by in US books (yes, Autocade is still dependent in some part to the printed word, not the transmitted electron).
The other area where weâre missing cars is in the flash stuff: Mercedes-Benzes, Maseratis, Ferraris. Now these I actually like. But they can also prove difficult: the convention of the site is that the names of the cars are entered first, and Mercs can be time-consuming by the time you figure out what numbers go after A, C, E and S all around the world. The exotica are fun but thereâs often no logic to the product cycles or market nichesâwhich does, of course, make them more interesting, but from an encyclopĂŚdic point-of-view, more difficult to compartmentalize and recall. For those who have visited the site, there are links to each modelâs predecessor and successor (where applicable), and that makes for particularly entertaining surfing.
One model takes, on average, 15 to 20 minutes to do, and thatâs when I already know about it. Thereâs some time involved in getting a press photo, writing it up, checking the specs (again using printed matter). When you research in certain languages, it takes even longer (South African online resources are scarce, for instance, and anything Chinese before 2008 or so is also hard to track down). The Mitsubishi kei cars, beginning with the 1962 Minica, represent hours of work, and when you multiply 15â20 minutes by 3,440, thatâs a lot of hours since the site started. Occasionally Iâm helped along by readers who suggest models, and two UK friends, Keith Adams and Pete Jobes, have made changes and additions along the way that have really benefited the site.
Iâm glad that Autocade is heading toward 10 million views, a milestone which it will reach in the next couple of months, and the increase in viewership is thanks to all of you finding it a useful enough resource. If you want something less exotic and more mundane (after all, some of us can only have so much of supercars and luxury cars), itâs the place to pop over to at autocade.net, hit âRandom pageâ at the top, and see what comes up.
Now that the first episode of The Grand Tour has aired, and we’re nearing the official launch of Drivetribe (November 28), we’re beginning to see just how good an investment ÂŁ160 million was for Amazon when it picked up the cast of The Goodies, I mean, Top Gear (sorry, I get those BBC shows mixed up, and they do have the same initials), along with producer Andy Wilman (who himself presented Top Gear segments many years ago, but we are now spared his nude scenes).
Essentially, you can’t do a show these days without an internet community, so what did the four men do? Create their own. They’ve put their money into Drivetribe, which has attracted an eight-figure investment from additional parties, chief among which is 21st Century Foxâthat’s right, Rupert Murdoch. Amazon’s reportedly quite happy with the arrangementâand it certainly helps boost their show.
There are already signs that Drivetribe is going to succeed as a motoring portalâsocial network, for those of us who have been playing with it. Maybe the Murdoch Press has learned from Myspace? Or, it’s put their money in, but it’s letting experts do their jobâamong whom is none other than Cate Sevilla, formerly of Buzzfeed UK, and whose blog I followed even before she arrived in the UK the good part of a decade ago. It isn’t a surprise that Cate would do well in social mediaâshe had a knack for it, even back then.
Car enthusiasts were invited to pitch their ideas for tribes some months back, recognizing that we’re not all the same. Additionally, there’s a bunch of us who work in some aspect of the industry, and looking through the tribes, we’re the ones whose ideas have been adopted. For those of you who use Autocade, there’s one linked to that very venture.
As many of you who follow this blog know, I founded Autocade in 2008, a car encyclopĂŚdia that wouldn’t have the fictions of Wikipedia (or ‘Wikiality’, as Stephen Colbert calls it). Eventually, I succumbed to modern marketing trends and very lately started a Facebook page on it, at least to post some behind-the-scenes thinking and publicity photos. While it proved all right, my blog posts were here and things were all over the place.
When I first proposed doing a Drivetribe tribe many months ago, I centred it around the marketing of cars, and the result, the Global Motorshow, can be found here. And now that it’s started, it’s become clear that I can put all the content in one place and have it appreciated by other motorheads. In a week and a half itâs grown to about a third of the following of the Facebook page, and Drivetribe hasn’t even officially launched yet. Those members are either other tribe leaders or those who signed up early on. The question must be asked: why on earth would I bother continuing with Facebook?
In addition to Cate, Drivetribe is not faceless. The support crew respond, and there are humans working here. I’m impressed with how quickly they get back to us, and how the site is reasonably robust. On all these points, Drivetribe is the opposite of Facebook.
Granted, I don’t know the other members there, and some I only know through reputation. But then I didn’t know a lot of the people I now find familiar on Facebook car groups. Nor did I know the people on Vox back in 2006, or some of the folks at Blogcozy in 2016. Communities build up, often thanks to common interests, and here’s one that already has a massive online community ready to flock to it. Having three celebrities helps, too, and all three Grand Tour presenters post to the site.
If you’re interested, the scope of the Global Motorshow (originally without the definite article, but when I saw the GM initials in the icon, I rethought it) is a bit wider than Autocade. I thought it might be fun to post some of the marketing materials we come across, the odd industry analyses that have appeared at this blog (updated in some cases), and even commercial vehicles, which arenât part of Autocade. I’ve chosen to keep the tribe public, so anyone can post if they find something interesting. Let’s hope Drivetribe can keep the spammers at bay: something that the old Vox.com failed to do, and Facebook is desperately failing to do now as well.
Come November 28, we’ll know just how good things are looking, but I’m erring on the side of the positiveâsomething I was not prepared to do for sites such as Ello or Google Plus.
Above: Chris Evans and Rory Reid talk about the McLaren F1 in Extra Gear.
Now that the new new Top Gear has aired in New Zealand, I have to say that it isn’t really there yet. But unlike much of the UK, I’m not going to dis Chris Evans, who is a consummate gearhead. The reason: I have a memory that goes back beyond February 2016.
When Jeremy Clarkson and Andy Wilman brought Top Gear back in its current form in 2002, it was actually disappointing. People seem to forget James May, who originally replaced Clarkson in the original Top Gear, wasn’t even on the show. My memory of the studio audience was that there were about four people hanging around Clarkson as he introduced âŚ wait for it âŚ the CitroĂŤn Berlingo. Which he took to France (insert Clarkson pause) to buy cheese.
The idea of a show with a perfect complement of three hosts who got on well with each other, each playing a caricature of himself, did not exist for the first year, and even after May replaced Jason Dawe, it took a while for those personalities to emerge. It’s rare to get three hosts to play those roles as well from the get-goâTop Gear France (which is actually made by the BBC) is an exception, and every other foreign edition of Top Gear that I’ve seen doesn’t quite have it.
But Clarkson was a ratings’ winner. When he first quit Top Gear (or ‘old Top Gearâ), the series which started with Angela Rippon as its host in the 1970s, ratings fell from six million to three million. The TV environment was different a decade and a half ago. And the BBC persevered because at that time he hadn’t offended Mexicans or Argentinians, or assaulted an Irishman, or Piers Morgan.
However, importantly, the public was quite happy letting things develop. They could have gone and watched Fifth Gear with its familiar line-up of ex-Top Gear presenters, but they stuck with Clarkson, Hammond, and whomever the third man was.
Twenty sixteen. Enter Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc (somewhere between the ending of Friends and today, the space seems to have disappeared in his surname), both personalities who love cars. They are disadvantaged by not having been motoring journalists, but they are entertaining. The show doesn’t flow well with the studio segments, the stars introducing each other doesn’t work, and I’m nostalgic for the reasonably priced carâalthough at least the French have continued la tradition. However, because everyone expects the show to remain on a high, the internet jury has been nasty. No one demanded an overnight success before, but they’re out for blood now. It’s an unfair position to put Evans in.
The absence of motoring journalism experience could have been filled quite easily. We were originally told of a huge line-up of Top Gear presenters, to which I thought: great, the BBC is going to give a big roster a go again, something that we hadn’t seen since the 1990s. In there we saw names such as Chris Harris. Yet Chris Harris and Rory Reid have been relegated to an internet-only show called Extra Gear, which is meant to serve Top Gear in the way Doctor Who Confidential served Doctor Who, with a bit of behind-the-scenes stuff, deleted footage, and some sensible road testing around the test track of models not covered in the main show.
Here’s the thing, and this has been said in the British press: these two guys have great rapport, and come across better than Evans and Le Blanc. I vote for them to be on the main Top Gear. They are more personable, humorous, and relatable. I wouldnât be surprised if they found a way to work them both in next season, and why not four hosts?
One thing Harris and Reid have is that they know their stuff after serving in motoring journalism. They arenât rich guys who happen to love cars, but guys who have worked that passion into careers. Harris, in particular, put integrity ahead of kissing up to Ferrari and Lamborghini. I have tremendous respect for these two guys, and thereâs simply more heart in Extra Gear than Top Gear, which at present feels a bit empty and by-the-numbers.
I donât blame Evans at allâthe man had a herculean task. The producers probably tried to reduce Top Gear into formulaic chunks and believed that by cooking with those ingredients, they’d have a winner. This is a reminder that you cannot create heart from a formula: you canât predict where it surfaces. Now that we know itâs there with Reid and Harris, the BBC would be wise to capture it. Let Top Gear evolveâafter all, it did between 2002 and 2015âbut also let these personalities do their thing.
When I was searching for a car to buy after my previous one was written off in an accident, one no-brainer was that it had to be a manual. It can’t be that hard, right? After all, when I bought my earlier Renault MĂŠgane in 2004, about 70 per cent of the market was manual.
It turns out that in 11 years, things changed a lot in New Zealand. Somewhere along the line we became the United States or Japan, places where you get the impression people are afraid of manual gearboxes. We also changed our laws so that someone who is licensed to drive an automatic is permitted to drive a manual, so unlike the UK, manuals no longer became the default option for someone who wanted the freedom to drive both.
I had the sense that New Zealand had become 80 per cent automatic, based on scanning car sales’ periodicals and websites. A quick scan of Auto Trader NZ last week, where there were 27,925 cars for sale, gave this break-down:
In fact, a traditional manual, one with gears you change with a clutch, comprises considerably less than 20 per cent.
One friend, like me, specifically sought a manual in 2015, and asked me to scan through websites. In the greater Wellington region, cars matching his other criteria on engine size and price numbered a grand total of two, one in Eastbourne and the other in Upper Hutt. He eventually had to go outside his criteria to buy a manual.
I visited one dealership in Lower Hutt where one of the senior salespeople told me that was what the market demanded, so they followed suit, as he tried to sell me an automatic, Turkish-made car. This claim was, based on my own research, bollocks.
Granted, this research was of a sample of my 2,300 Facebook friends, but of those who responded, it appeared to be evenly divided. Some of the comments were along the lines of, ‘I wanted a manual, but I had no choice, so I bought an automatic.’
If I didn’t have a second car (since sold to a friend who also preferred manuals), I could have found myself looking at doing the sameâjust because I needed wheels in a hurry. Or I could have bought a car that did not meet all my needs, one that was “near enough”. But if you are spending a five-figure sum, and you intend to hold on to the car for the next decade, is this such a wise thing to do? A car is an investment for me, not a fashion item.
That earlier Renault took me four months to find in a market that wasn’t so heavily biased against manuals in the mid-2000s, and this time out, I wound up searching for eight. Most people don’t have that luxury.
The most evident explanation for the overwhelming numbers of automatics is that so many used cars are sourced from Japan, but it’s really not what all people want.
I’ve nothing against the half of the population who prefer automatics, but they are just not my sort of thing. These days, the most advanced automatics are more economical than manuals, but generally, you still get a few more mpg from a car you shift yourself. I enjoy driving, and automatics blunt that enjoyment for me, but I’m sure others don’t mind them as much.
In future blog posts I’ll touch on this subject again, and I’ll be penning a story for Classic Car Weekly in the UK on the whole saga of buying a new car. Who knew that, despite being armed with money, it would be such an uphill task to find someone to give it to?
It also suggests that if someone wishes to specialize in manuals, they would be tapping in to a large, unserved chunk of the New Zealand market.
Above: The current Fiat 500. A year shy of its 10th anniversary, is it still cool in 2016?
The Detroit News reports that Fiat has been having trouble Stateside, with dealers now permitted to sell the cars alongside Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram instead of at stand-alone showrooms.
Itâs been worrying seeing Fiatâs plans unfold since it decided to take control of Chrysler, a firm that was once the darling of the US car industry, with its industry-leading R&D times, to one that was starved of investment in the 2000s.
Those initial plans, sold as a long-term strategy, turned out to be a short-term Band-Aid. With hindsight, maybe it wasnât too much of a surprise, since Fiat was still grappling with understanding just what it was taking on.
Fiat needed to do something given that things at home werenât looking too good, with a model range that wasnât very cohesive, and with its entries into the Chinese market having faltered a few times. To the casual observer, Fiat saved Chrysler, but thereâs some truth in saying that having the company that controls the Jeep brand was a lifeline to Fiat itself.
What weâve seen since those days was the failure of the strategy of twinning Chrysler and Lancia. While this was a marriage of convenience, I could see this having some long-term gains with Lancia focusing on smaller cars and Chrysler on larger ones, but the result in 2016 is that Lancia has been reduced to an Italy-only marque, the equivalent of what Autobianchi was a few decades ago. Once the Ypsilon is deleted, then Lancia is consigned to the history books.
The winner has been Alfa Romeo. It has only just returned to the junior executive segment with the new Giulia, after an absence of several years, and its 4C is a cracking sports car. Things are looking up, and rumours that Alfa and Dodge would be paired up in the same way Lancia and Chrysler were mercifully havenât come true. The Giulia platform could be used for future models. Jeep has benefited from Fiat platforms, and Ram has gained some Fiat vans.
But the parent brand, Fiat, has looked very uncertain for a while.
For a start, thereâs little uniformity globally. Fiat has the opportunity to offer the Viaggio and Ottimo in more places than China, slotting above the Ăgea, for example. While having unique models for South America makes some sense, because of Fiatâs strength there, thereâs an opportunity to globalize, with the Toro pick-up truck looking very appealing.
Without having more of its self-developed products, the Fiat range in Europe doesnât inspire too much confidence. While most manufacturers have one or two joint-venture models, Fiatâs range is almost exclusively made up of vehicles that have shared tech. The famous 500 and Panda are on a Fiat platform which has Chrysler input (before the takeover), and is shared with Ford for its B420 Ka. The Punto, 500X and 500L are on another platform shared with GM. The DoblĂ˛ is also offered to GM. The Qubo is the product of a joint venture with Peugeot. The Freemont is a rebadged Dodge Journey from MĂŠxico, which Fiat gained after the takeover. The 124 Spider is based on the Mazda MX-5, and built in Japan by that firm. The Fullback pick-up is a Mitsubishi Triton twin and made in Thailand by that Japanese firm.
Fiat, in other words, is holding down more relationships than Casanova.
As a casual observer, thereâs an opportunity for a massive streamlining of platforms, and offer more in-house models. That may well be happening, and letâs hope its current strategy is more long-term than its last.
Secondly, as mentioned earlier, Fiat hasnât had a great reputation of being able to carry out long-term salesâ strategies in many of its markets. Take New Zealand, for example, where Fiat was offering its (Grande) Punto and Bravo models, before it decided to pull everything and offer only the 500.
The Punto has returned after a hiatus, this time as a budget model, along with the Tipo 139 Panda, but those who bought Puntos in the 2000s might think twice about returning to a company that abandoned them and offered no direct replacement for their car when it came to trading up.
That lack of continuity could have some buyers worried, and Fiat needs to regain their trust in a big way.
Being the Five Hundred Car Company, which Fiat certainly was in the US, cannot help, if buyers expect Fiat to offer more. Weâve seen it fail here, and Fiatâs had to back-track. Even in Hong Kong, where Fiat had also been reduced to flogging only the 500, it has had to add the Freemont.
Fiat will argue that as it had been absent from North America for so long, it could re-enter the market-place with a single, fashionable model: after all, Mini and Smart have done.
The trouble is that Fiat isnât known as a niche brand: there was enough in the US media to indicate that this was an Italian giant, and the perception of such a large company didnât gel with it offering a niche range anywhere. It lacked the cachet of a brand that was created to be fashionable and funky from the outset. You just canât do it when thatâs the name of the owner (think: can you sell âcoolâ cars with GM as the brandâthat had been tried in New Zealand and failed dismally; or, going back a generation, Leyland? Volkswagen surely is the sole exception with its Beetle), and FCA, which the parent company is called, isnât a consumer-facing brand. Itâs just a company name with no brand equity.
In the same vein, average punters might not know of BMWâs connection with Mini, or Daimler AGâs connection with Smart. They stand alone with plenty of brand equity, helped by identifiable products, and, in Miniâs case, even helped by its image outside North America.
I also question whether the 500X and 500L are cute cars in the same vein as the original 500. Getting Ben Stillerâs Derek Zoolander character to advertise the 500X seemed good in theoryâtill it dawned on the public that the new Zoolander film was a bit naff, cashing in on last-decade nostalgia. Iâm not a fan of retro design, either, and I would have hoped that Fiat would have renewed its 500 by now, since weâre on to newer versions of the Beetle, Mini, and Smart. Itâs no surprise that Fiat sales are down 14Âˇ6 per cent so far this year.
If Toyota could not sustain Scion with all its muscle, then Fiat retail really should be integrated into dealerships selling Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram Stateside. And Iâd argue that Scion couldnât remain because the brand had lost its coolness among the college kids who bought the XB in the first place. Buyers in this consumerist game, and at the fashion end it is more a game than in any other, are notoriously fickle.
I donât know how itâs going to play out. Fiatâs a brand Iâve grown up with, and Iâve been visiting their dealerships since I was two years old. Back in the 1970s the showroom in Homantin, Kowloon had everything from 127s to 130s. Fiat was doing a brisk trade on 124s. I came close to buying various Fiat Group cars over the years, including a Tipo and a Lancia Delta, and more recently I had considered Alfa Romeo Mitos and Giuliettas. I briefly toyed with importing a Tipo 844 Lancia Delta from the UK badged as a Chrysler, but decided having a $75 1:43-scale one was enough.
To see Lancia decimated and now on life support as Fiat concentrated on making Chrysler and Dodge work, to see the home brand filled with other peopleâs products in the interim, and to receive news that US buyers werenât flocking to its showrooms in the same numbers any more, all make me concerned. Go to Italy and the taxi ranks no longer are dominated by Fiat Group cars: the cabbies have gone French and German. It’s all very well Maserati and Ferrari doing well but the former’s volumes won’t have a huge impact, while the latter has been separated and now has a different parent. The only continent where I think Fiat is making a decent bash of things is South America. I donât want to paint a doom-and-gloom picture, not least because I have fondness for all the brands that now fall under the Fiat umbrella. But the weaknesses, at least to an outsider looking in, outnumber the strengths. My gut says Fiat will work through it all, but will it do it in a fast enough fashion, or is there more pain to come?
I had expected our car encyclopĂŚdia Autocade would reach 8,000,000 page views this month, just before its eighth anniversary. The difference was that this time, I was there last Monday GMT (the small hours of Tuesday in New Zealand) to witness the numbers tick overâalmost.
Usually, I find out about the milestones ex post facto, but happened to pop by the websiteâs statsâ page when it was within the last hundred before hitting 8,000,000âand took the below screen shot where the viewing numbers had reached 8,000,001 (I also saw 7,999,999; and no, these special admin pages are not counted, so my refreshing didnât contribute to the rise).
The site is on 3,344 individual entries (thereâs one image for each entry, if youâre going by the image excerpt), which is only 86 more than Autocade had when it reached 7,000,000 last October. The rate of viewing is a little greater than it was for the last million: while I’m recording it as five months below, it had only been March for just under two hours in New Zealand. Had Autocade been a venture from anywhere west of Aotearoa, we actually made the milestone on leap day, February 29.
Not bad for a website that has had very little promotion and relies largely on search-engine results. I only set up a Facebook page for it in 2014. Itâs been a labour of love more than anything else.
March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 page views (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 page views (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 page views (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 page views (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 page views (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 page views (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 page views (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 page views (five months for eighth million)
I started the site because I was fed up with Wikipedia and its endless errors on its car pagesâIâve written elsewhere about the sheer fictions there. Autocade would not have Wikiality, and everything is checked, where possible, with period sources, and not exclusively online ones. The concept itself came from a car guide written by the late Michael Sedgwick, though our content is all original, and subject to copyright; and thereâs a separate story to tell there, too.
I acknowledge there are still gaps on the site, but as we grow it, weâll plug them. At the same time, some very obscure models are there, and Autocade sometimes proves to be the only online source about them. A good part of the South African motor industry is covered with material not found elsewhere, and Autocade is sometimes one of the better-ranked English-language resources on Chinese cars.
Iâd love to see the viewing rate increase even further: itâd be great to reach 10,000,000 before the end of 2016. It might just happen if the viewing rate increases at present levels, and we get more pages up. Fellow motorheads, please keep popping by.
Iâve just switched from Inside, the much vaunted news app from entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, to Wildcard as my principal news app on my phone. I never got to use Circa (which I understand Jason was also behind), which sounded excellent: by the time I downloaded it, they had given up.
But we all need news, and I donât like the idea of apps that are from a single media organization.
Inside seemed like a good idea, and I even got round to submitting news items myself. The idea is that the items there are curated by users, shared via the app. There was a bit of spam, but the legit stuff outnumbered it.
However, I canât understand the choices these days. A few items I put in from Radio New Zealand, Māori Television and The New Zealand Herald were fineâstories about the flag and the passing of Dr Ranginui Walker, for instanceâbut none of the ones about the passing of Martin Crowe, possibly of more international interest, remained.
There were other curious things: anything from Autocar is summarily rejected (they donât even appear) while I notice Jalopnik is fine. When it comes to cars, this is the only place where the publication with the longest history in the sector is outranked by a web-only start-up, whose pieces are enjoyable but not always accurate. The only car piece it accepted from me was about Tesla selling in Indiana, but Renault, Volkswagen, Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin and other manufacturersâ news didnât make it. This I donât get. And I like to think I know a little bit about cars, in the week when Autocade hit 8,000,000 page views.
Now, if this is meant to be an international app, downloadable by everyone, then it should permit those of us in our own countries to have greater say in what is relevant to our compatriots.
Visit the New Zealand category, and you see a few items from yours truly, but then after that, they are few and far between: the Steven Joyce dildo incident, for example, and you donât have to scroll much to see the Otago car chase being stopped by sheep last January. A bit more has happened than these events, thank you. No wonder Americans think nothing happens here.
According to Inside, these news itemsâseparated only by one about Apple issuing a recall in our part of the worldâare far more important to users following the New Zealand category than Martin Crowe’s death.
The UK is only slightly better off, but not by much. I notice my submission about Facebook not getting away with avoiding taxes in the UK vanished overnight, too.
News of the royal baby in Sweden wasnât welcome just now. Nor was the news about the return of one of the Hong Kong booksellers, but news from Bloomberg of a luxury home on the Peak, which I submitted last month, was OK. Lulaâs questioning by police has also disappeared (admittedly my one was breaking news, and very short), though Inside does have a later one about his brief arrest.
Yet to locals, the rejected ones are important, more important than Gladys Knight singing to a cop or a knife on O. J. Simpsonâs estate (which have made it).
This is a very American app, and thatâs fine: itâs made by a US company, and Iâm willing to bet most of its users are American. However, the âallâ feed, in my view, should be global; those who want news tailored to them already have the choice of selecting their own topics. (Itâs the first thing the app gets you to do after signing in.) And if some fellow in New Zealand wants to submit, then he should have the same capacity as someone in the US. After all, there are more of them than there are of us, and I hardly think my contributions (which now keep vanishing!) will upset the status quo.
Or does it?
I mean, I have posted the odd thing from The Intercept about their countryâs elections.
Whatever the case, I think itâs very odd for an app in the second decade of the century to be so wedded to being geocentric. I can understand getting stuff weeded out for quality concernsâI admit Iâve posted the odd item that is an op-ed rather than hard newsâbut this obsession to be local, not global, reinforces some false and outdated stereotypes about the US.
Itâs like Facebook not knowing that time zones outside US Pacific Time exist and believing its 750 million (as it then was) users all lived there.
My advice to app developers is: if you donât intend your work to be global, then donât offer it to the global market. Donât let me find your app on a Chinese app centre. Say that itâs for your country only and let it be.
Or, at least be transparent about how your apps work, because I canât find anything from Inside about its curation processes other than the utopian, idealistic PR that says weâre all welcome, and we all have a chance to share. (We do. Just our articles donât stay on the feed for very long.)
Wildcard has an attractive user interface, and its mixture of news is more appealing, especially if you want more depth.
Admittedly, Iâve only been on Wildcard for less than a day but Iâve already found it more international in scope. It also has more interesting editorial items. It is still US-developedâeast coast this time, instead of west coastâbut it supplements its own news with whatâs in your Twitter feed. Itâs not as Twitter-heavy as Nuzzel, which I found too limited, but seems to give me a mixture of its own curation with those of my contacts. The user interface is nice, too.
Iâm not writing off Inside altogetherâif youâre after a US-based, US-centric news app, then itâs probably excellent, although I will leave that decision to its target market. I can hardly judge when dildos matter more to its users than the greatest cricket batsman in our country.
For me, Wildcard seems to be better balanced, it doesnât make promises about public curation that it canât keep, and Iâve already found myself spending far more time browsing its pieces than the relatively small amount that seem to remain on Inside. It is still a bit US-biased in these first 24 hours, probably because it hasnât taken that much from my Twitter contacts yet. There seems to be more news on it and Iâm getting a far better read, even of the US-relevant items. Iâm looking forward to using it more: it just seems that much more 21st-century.
General Motors’ fine in 1995 for 470,000 cars using defeat devices against EPA testing: US$11 million. Volkswagen’s fine in 2016 for 580,000 cars using defeat devices against EPA testing: potentially US$40,000 million (or $40 billion, as the Americans say). The local companies get off far easier in the US. In fact, GM can even get a US$49,500 million bail-out from Uncle Sam. I realize there’s a difference between a settlement and a claim, but I wonder if Volkswagen’s going get away with paying less than a figure in the milliards.
With Google and Ford announcing they will team up to make self-driving cars, I have some concerns.
Iâm not in Luddite position on the idea of self-driving cars. Potentially, they can be far safer than what we have today. I see so many godawful drivers out thereâNew Zealand has a very high road toll based on our small population, and itâs not hard to see whyâand the self-driving car canât be a bad thing. Active safety, active cruise control, and other features all point to be a better future on our roads.
However, is Google the right firm? You donât need to look too far (especially on this blog) to find some Google misdeed, a company that happily does dodgy things till it gets busted.
Imagine the future.
â˘ The car has no brakes until you sign up to Google Plus, then log in.
â˘ You cannot enter the car till you load a Google Play app on to your phone. You have to agree to a bunch of settings which you don’t even read, but essentially you’ve let them monitor you.
â˘ If you have a car accident in a Google car, thereâs no phone number for anyone to call. You have to sign up to the support forums where youâre told by Google volunteers that itâs your fault for misusing the software. Or they just ignore you. You spend several years trying to get your case heard.
â˘ Google listens to all your in-car conversations so it can deliver targeted advertising to you, until you opt out of this feature in your Google Account settings.
â˘ Google hacks your devices while you are near the car, even if you have Do Not Track or other privacy settings turned on. They continue doing this till the Murdoch Press writes an article about it or they get reported to an industry association.
â˘ Doubleclick targeted advertising appears in the carâs central LCD screen.
â˘ All routes that the Google cars choose go past advertisers’ brick-and-mortar stores.
â˘ Google Street View is updated a lot more, which sounds great, till you realize it’s been updated with images from your latest journey.
â˘ Unless you opt out, Google actually drives you to the store which has the goods you mentioned in a private Gmail message, even though you don’t need the product and it just came up casually in conversation.
â˘ When US state attorneys-general sue Google over wasted time with the cars driving you to these stores, the penalty is roughly four hours of the companyâs earnings.
Autonomous cars are part of our future. But I’ll opt for the tech of a firm I trust more, thank you. And right now, I even trust Volkswagen more than Google.