The tipping-point has been reached: on some of my photos, fake Instagram account likers outnumber human beings. In terms of comments, spam outnumbers real ones. Of my last ten likers, nine were fake accounts. And we know that when some sites get to this point, they begin dying.
Yet it’s frightfully easy to spot the fake accounts. Many have the same description, or a mixed combination of various sentences (e.g. âBacon trailblazer. Friendly pop culture ninja. Unapologetic gamer. Beer enthusiastâ). Many have the same photographsâboth profile and content.
The problem has gone on for weeks, even months, but on the social networks now is the hashtag #Instaspamâsomething Facebook’s thousand million-dollar purchase might come to be known by, if the company doesn’t get a handle on fake accounts.
A few of the ones I reported a fortnight ago still have active accounts, so I wonder if anyone there cares.
Yet, if folks like us can spot a fake account a mile away, how come the real expertsâthe boffins whose Nginx servers are being dragged down by thisâhaven’t been able to target them?
But this is Facebook, I remind myself: a company that stopped caring years ago.
I remember the good old days when I received replies from Facebook staff, from basic issues to trade mark disputes. Those days are long gone, and Instagram is now part of the big machine.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been losing feature after feature on Facebook, with links that can no longer be clicked on, tags that can no longer be done with a person’s first name alone, and other little glitches. But we know that Facebook is broken, and even bug reports are now considered spam.
It’s in direct contrast to Tumblr, which reached 100,000,000 users over the last week. The company is still in the habit of replying to emails and while some of those are copy-and-paste ones, at least you know something is being looked at. Since a lot of fake Instagram accounts have fake Tumblogs tied to them, I’ve reported my fair shareâand received either an automated response or a personal one from Tumblr.
It makes you wonder if Tumblr staff use their service and understand the user experienceâall of its recent changes actually work and are bug-free, and are improvements on the serviceâwhile Instagram is now in the Facebook culture of “too big to care”.
And that’s the distinction between understanding your public and being locked up in your ivory tower, dealing with only the issues at hand.
If I deal with a company, I’d like to know that the leaders have a good grasp of their communities, as well as the world at large. If it’s just about them and their boards, then it’s a cinch that things aren’t healthy thereâand, sometimes, a clue to dropping share prices.
Even at the city or state level, that engagement is vitalâwhich brings me to this interview with California Lieutenant-Governor Gavin Newsom.
It’s been fascinating reading Gavin’s views in this interview, where he mirrors some of my thoughts about bottom-up governance and citizen engagement (you know, the stuff I talked about in my 2010 campaign). Sometimes, if you elect politicians, you get politics as usual. Put in someone who has had real business experienceâGavin has 17 businessesâand you might start getting ideas for real change.
Stop engaging, as Facebook and Instagram have, and we may be looking at another Vox: a site which, in the late 2000s, also let spam get out of hand. Splogs were being set up in an automated fashion, left, right and centre. Legitimate bloggers, as I was on that site, were locked out. Eventually, Six Apart, which owned Vox, shut the place downâdespite a healthy community of real bloggers. But even toward the end, things were looking less and less viable. Instagram could well have jumped the sharkâand if the issue isn’t fixed, it could be to Facebook what Myspace was to the Murdoch Press.
The last few times Autocade reached a milestone, I blogged about it, and since this one is a bit of a Duesy, it deserves to be recorded.
The car cyclopĂŠdia has reached 2,000 models, with the Opel Kadett D getting us there.
It also passed 2Âœ million page views during DecemberâI noticed it was about to cross 2 million back in March 2012. Not huge numbers if you break it down per day, but for something that was meant to be a hobby site, it’s not too bad. I also notice that it gets cited in Wikipedia from time to time.
The history has been noted here before, especially when I first started it in 2008. It was meant to be an editable wiki, but, sadly, in 2011, the bots became too uncontrollable, and I made the decision to lock down the registration process. A small handful of peopleâI count four, including myselfâhave contributed to the site with content and programming, among them Keith Adams of AROnline and Peter Jobes. A fourth contributor, whose name I have forgotten, provided some early info on Indian cars.
It’s still a bit light on American cars, mostly due to the issues of converting from cubic inches. Some of my references aren’t that accurate on this for the same reason, and I want to make sure that everything’s correct before it’s published. Most US sites just record cubic capacity in litres when metric measures are given, and we need to be more accurate. But we will get there.
Of course, over the years, we have recorded some oddball cars. So, as I did for its fourth birthday, here is a selection. My thanks to Keith and Pete, and to all our readers.
And since I blog less these daysâFacebook (including the fan page), Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and the rest seem to take more of my attentionâI imagine this is my last entry for 2012. Have a wonderful 2013, everyone!
Rambler by Renault:after Renault bought IKAâs operations in Argentina in the mid-1970s, it inherited a design based on the Rambler American.
Ford by Chrysler:Simca took over Fordâs operations in France in the 1950s, and the model it inherited, the Vedette, stayed in production long enough in Brazil for Chrysler to put its own badges on it when it bought Simca out.
Chrysler Esplanada.1967â9 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/R, 2505 cmÂł (V8 OHV). As with Regente, rebadged when Chrysler took over Simca Brasil. Power reduced to 130 PS; comments for Regente apply here, with the principal outward difference being Esplanadaâs higher trim level. Slightly more powerful engine.
Chrysler by Volkswagen:this one is perhaps better known. Chrysler found itself in such a mess by the end of the 1970s that it sold its Brazilian operations to Volkswagen, which eventually rebadged the local edition of the Hillman Avenger.
Volkswagen 1500/Volkswagen 1500M.1982â91 (prod. 262,668 all versions). 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/R, 1498, 1798 cmÂł (4 cyl. OHV). Facelifted version of Dodge 1500, itself an Argentine version of the Hillman Avenger. Had a good history as a Dodge in the 1970s, and sold on that goodwill as well as robustness; but largely seen as an economy model for VW in the 1980s. Five-speed gearbox from 1988, with air conditioning on more models.
Volkswagen by Ford:as part of the Autolatina JV in Brazil, Volkswagen and Ford rebadged each otherâs models. A similar experiment was happening in Australia between Ford and Nissan, and Toyota and Holden, around this time.
Ford Versailles (B2).1991â6 (prod. unknown). 2- and 4-door sedan, 3- and 5-door wagon. F/F, 1781, 1984 cmÂł (4 cyl. OHC).Volkswagen Santana (B2) with redone front and rear ends, and addition of two-door sedan and three-door wagon. Part of the Autolatina tie-up in South America between Ford and VW, replacing Corcel-based Del Rey. No different to Volkswagens in that market, with same engines. Wagons called Royale, but five-door only added in 1995. Fairly refined by early 1980sâ standards but ageing by time of launch, though better than Del Rey.
While weâre looking at South America, the Aero-Willys probably deserves a mention. Autocade doesnât have the Ford-badged versions there yet, but it will in due course. Thanks also to acquisitions, Ford wound up with Willys in Brazil, and built a Brooks Stevens-penned design till it was replaced by its own Maverick in the 1970s. Here is that car, with an old platform, but more modern (compared to the 1950sâ version) styling.
Aero Willys 2600 (213).1963â8 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/R, 2638 cmÂł (6 cyl. OHV). Rebodied Aero, considered one of the first all-Brazilian cars, originally shown at the Paris Salon the year before. US platform as before, and modern styling by Brooks Stevens, but this shape was unique to Brazil. Engine now with 110 hp. Rear end altered in 1965, and spun off upmarket Itamaraty model in 1966.
I’m not the biggest fan of the Nissan Bluebird, but a milestone happened earlier this month that a lot of the motoring press seems to have missed: the demise of this 53-year-old nameplate.
Starting in 1959, Bluebird has been a mainstay of the Nissan line-up, and even when the traditional Bluebird line finished in its home country in 2001, Nissan kept the name going with the Bluebird Sylphy, a car based around the Pulsar.
This month, with the third-generation Sylphy launching in Japan, after its release in China and Thailand, the Bluebird name disappearedâwhich had been expected, if you examine the evolution of Japanese (and many American) model names. Celica Camry gave way to Camry; Corona Premio gave way to Premio; Chevelle Malibu gave way to Malibu.
So as a tribute to the Bluebird, here are all the ones that are on Autocade. Diehard Nissan fans, of course, know that the lineage continues in a wayâthe Altima line is directly derived from the Bluebird’s, and is its spiritual successor.
Nissan Bluebird/YLN 705B (410/411). 1963â7 (prod. n/a). 2- and 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/R, 988, 1189, 1299 cmÂł (4 cyl. OHV), 1595 cmÂł (4 cyl. OHC). If the 310 saw export success, then the 410 broke those records convincingly. Pininfarina styling was more globally appealing, especially in the US, and, at home, Bluebird overtook its arch-rival, the Toyopet Corona (T40), in sales. Lighter than predecessor, monocoque construction, longer wheelbase, shorter front and rear overhangs. Carryover engines initially. SS sport sedan in 1964, similar to Deluxe but with two 38 mm Hitachi side-draught carburettors, taking power to 65 hp, and four-speed gearbox. Two-door models in 1964; facelift later that year. In 1965, 411 series, with minor cosmetic changes. SSS (twin SU carbs, 90 hp, 1Â·6 from Fairlady) from 1965, starting a Bluebird tradition that would last till the lineâs demise. Further minor changes in 1966. Range included a Fancy Deluxe model, supposedly targeted at women. Built in Taiwan by Yue Loong as YLN 705B.
Nissan Bluebird (EQ7200). 2000â5 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/F, 1998 cmÂł (4 cyl. DOHC). Chinese version of U13 Bluebird but with formal front and rear ends, lengthening car considerably. Built by both Dongfeng Motor Co. (æ±éąš or äžéŁ) and Yulon Motor (YLN, èŁé). Usual Nissan virtues of a good engine and reliability; less inspiring to drive as model geared toward comfort. Updated to EQ7200-II in 2001, EQ7200-III in 2003 and EQ7200-IV in 2004. Last model to wear the Bluebird name without the Sylphy tag. Electric hybrid version (dubbed HEV) without Nissan or Bluebird names, still being trialled as of 2009.
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.
My friend Rachel Russell arrives in London. She writes, âWalking around London last night was like being in one of those â80s âdystopian futureâ science-fiction movies. Similar to a zombie apocalypse.â 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. Itâs 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. Itâs 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 âFreddie Starr ate my hamsterâ on Sundays now as Rupert Murdoch essentially retitles The News of the World.
Pinterest is buggy. Then it gets redesigned and it looks worse.
Charlie Brooker asks on 10 OâClock Live: âDo you think [Angelina Jolie]âs annoyed that Joseph Kony has abducted more African children than she has?â
Some netizens post a picture of Carl Weathers as George Dillon from Predator; others think thatâs Joseph Kony.
Mitt Romney promises âA better Amerciaâ.
Uh oh: The G. C. This brings back Sir Robert Muldoonâs quotation, âNew Zealanders who emigrate to Australia raise the IQ of both countries.â
Fortunately, Bron or Broen, depending on which side the Ăresund 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: âThey seem like nice Bros. Iâm not NâSync with these 5ive New Kids on the Block but Iâll 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 wonât be among the Wanted for viewers.â
As pressure mounts in the Falklands, Sean Lock says in 8 out of 10 Cats, âThe Falklands: it takes 14 hours to get there and itâs just a rock covered in seagull shit.â
The Murdoch Press allegedly writes, âhighlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.â Why one should use the Oxford comma.
This lady is pregnant. Or not.
Sue Chetwin of Consumer New Zealand is quoted as saying, âItâs marketing 101â[Vodafone New Zealand] seem to breach the rules quite regularly and youâd have to hope that these significant fines are a signal to them that they canât continue to do that.â How interesting that I would cite this a few months later. Campbell Live runs Miss Universe New Zealand Avianca BĂ¶hmâs recordings between her and pageant director Val Lott. Former winners rejoice.
I Tweet, âThere is a rumour that the Olympic closing ceremony will feature âYakety Saxâ and a Benny Hill lookalike to chase the torch off-stage.â
August Vogue Italiaâs legendary Anna Piaggi passes away.
The Julian Assange case reaches high gear. Michael Moore and Oliver Stone write in The New York Times, âIf 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.â
My friend John Butler writes, âTen 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 subpĆnas.â
Samsung loses to Apple in a California court after a jury rushes to its decision.
Some folks are calling Skyfall âthe best Bond everâ. I donât agree.
Ford Mustang fans have a convention in Wellington.
At Miss Africa Wellington, I say, âUnlike another pageant, the judgesâ decision is final.â
The Rt Hon John Key defends his Hollywood studio tour by saying, âThereâll always be conspiracy theorists out there but Iâm interested in jobs, not people who live in Fantasyland and want to make things up.â
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:
Here’s an article from Autoblog that combines several of the themes I enjoy writing about: cars, leadership, management and education.
I’ve already hinted at this on my Facebook fan page, where I seem to post some of the pithy things these days. I sometimes try to avoid blogging about the same thingâa lot of what you see here are ideas that haven’t changed, especially a lot of the posts about social responsibility and branding.
I don’t want to dissuade anyone from getting higher education but one has to remember: education, especially tertiary education, is meant to open your mind to other possibilities and to get you thinking about them critically. It’s why I enjoyed papers at law school like public law and jurisprudence: both had lecturers (Prof Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Assoc Prof Ian Macduff) who enjoyed a well reasoned argument, even when it didn’t agree with their own thinking. It’s also why I didn’t appreciate banking law, or several other papers, where you had to agree 100 per cent with the lecturer, and to hell with independent thinking.
The MBA, then, can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing for those who treat it as it should be: a skill set, providing a framework, from which to analyse things. A curse for those who believe that certain case studies must be followed religiously, failing to take into account the conditions of their own organizations. Which brings us neatly to the Volkswagen case.
It may be a bit of a simplification to say that MBA thinking killed GM, and Volkswagen has eschewed that to become one of the world’s greatest car manufacturers, but it’s not too far from the truth. If you read period American books on managementâor even one of my favourites, Lee Iacocca’s autobiographyâthere is this idea of what ‘efficiency’ is, usually with a lot of outsourcing, finding cheaper and cheaper bases of manufacture, with another eye on how to raise the share price for the quarter. Not the best way to run a firm, especially when visions need to be set for years, decades or quarter-centuries. I’ve written about that aspect before.
But the way John McElroy puts it in his article, ‘efficiency’ means an absence of overlap and vertical integration, yet with them, Volkswagen AG is the world’s largest car company ‘if you measure it by revenue and profits. Its revenue of $200 billion is greater than every other OEM. Last year’s operating profit of $14 billion is the kind of performance you expect from Big Oil companies, not automakers.’ Yet:
Any efficiency expert would tell you that VW is too vertically integrated, has too much overlap and duplication, and has way too many brands. VW, meanwhile, keeps growing bigger, stronger and more profitable âŠ Efficiency experts will tell you that on an employee-per-vehicle basis, Volkswagen looks hopelessly inefficient. Financial analysts will tell you that the company woefully trails its competitors on a revenue-per-employee basis. But VW will tell you that it makes more money than any other automakerâby far.
In fact, McElroy goes on to say that Volkswagen looks a lot like the General Motors of Alfred P. Sloanâbefore the MBAs got hold of it.
The idea of ‘efficiency’ is often a misnomer. Most of British industry was dismantled with the mantra of efficiency, essentially giving it up to globalist, technocratic forces, helped along by the Slater Walkers and the governments of the time. Those decades, too, were driven by “experts”âand what resulted was neither efficient nor productive. The decline of British Leyland is perhaps one of the most telling examples of period thinking applied disastrously to the British motor industry, its skilled workers now happily picked up by the Japanese, Germans and Indians.
By all means, if real savings can be had and long-term goals achieved, then efficiency is a wonderful thing. There are areas where technology should aid productivity. But watch out for that word efficiency. It doesn’t always mean what the experts say it meansâand if revenue and profit decline as a result of it, and corporate culture is harmed, then you may be better off heeding the lessons that Volkswagen’s management has. Use that MBA as a framework, not as a playbook.
This has been my year for acquiring new technology, beginning with a new external hard drive just after Christmas 2011, to a new desktop machine right after New Year. The keyboard, printer, scanner have all given way to replacements; while even the internet package and modem are new. TelstraClear then gave me a new freebie (since the NZPO days I’ve never paid for a phone) èŻçș (Huawei) cell and while I could hardly be called a typical user—it’s the last mode of communication with me and I don’t always carry it—the ïŹrst few days (since Thursday) with the gadget suggests how I might change the way I consume technology.
First, the money. Because this device sucks up more bandwidth and because wiﬁ in Wellington is still patchy (it might have been different if the mayoral race finished in a different order!), I’ve opted to pay NZ$15 for extra megabytes each month. I’m already paying roughly that but that was on an old 3G device. It’s not a powerful device, which means there are foreseeable memory issues, and while I’ve stuck an old 2 Gbyte Micro SD card inside it, that’s not going to accommodate much now that the photos are larger, and the videos I store need to be.
The big screen needs to be protected: my Facebook feed had seen far too many complaints about broken Iphone screens, so I ordered a leather case on Ebay for under US$5. It sure beat one on Amazon for over US$30, plus shipping. Already this gadget is costing me and not gaining me much in efïŹciency. A new 32 Gbyte card will set me back another NZ$40 and I’m not convinced I need it yet for efïŹciency’s sake.
Secondly, the division of tasks: I can foresee the desktop machine being for the heavy-duty work stuff, as it is for a lot of people, and portable devices being used for leisure. Nothing earth-shattering or pioneering about that prediction. The apps still aren’t there yet, and what is more likely going to happen is that these devices become walking CPUs that communicate with more traditional peripherals, but for now, it’s been useful as a camera and social media tool. Which means the PC is for everything else. It is proof, to me, that Microsoft made the right punt with Windows 8 as personal computing is shifting very rapidly this decade away from the desktop-bound model that started in the 1980s.
I doubt I will go to email on the go—the way I archive for legal reasons means that I’ll continue to use a traditional client and I still don’t trust the cloud for email—which points, again, to portable meaning leisure. It’s a camera, social media updater, and video player. Since I almost never give out the number, since that would mean succumbing to the technology and losing control over how I manage telephony, it’s not going to make the jump into a work tool.
It’s also not that reliable, which makes it largely a plaything. Just as I could crash Google Chrome in almost every session—earning it the dubious nickname of ‘the “Aw, snap” browser’—I can crash this one almost every hour. Since it’s Android, I assume the browser is made by Google. Plus everything is connected back to a Google account, and no matter how hard I try to maintain my privacy, Google will inevitably leak.
Google forced me to open a Gmail even though I had an existing Google Plus account. I’ve since deleted the Gmail but it remains associated with Google Play and its apps. After opening that, I went browsing through the Dashboard to ïŹnd out some disturbing things. Even though I never linked my YouTube account with my Google one, Google still managed to track that I had viewed about a dozen videos from a few months ago. It had the history in YouTube turned on as well as targeted advertising, which I had clearly opted out of (and made a big hoo-ha about it at the time because of Google’s deceptive conduct—it shows that that deception never ended despite my getting the NAI involved). And, naturally, when you visit the YouTube privacy page, you get a 404—which shows how much Google cares about privacy.
I regularly turn off the apps and have a lot of the privacy locked down on the cell. But I don’t think the US and Australian governments have much to fear from China on these Huawei phones. Google is learning a lot, lot more about us than China ever could.
The keyboard is inefïŹcient, though the design of it is as good as it can be. I can’t think of a better way.
Yet despite all this, there are plus sides. Mobile optimization for some sites is beautiful and the crash-prone browser renders things well. (A friend suggested Opera, and while I like the less graphics-intensive pages, it interprets pages with plenty of glitches, including spacing ones, which are less forgiving on a modern cell.) The Droid typeface family from Ascender Corp. has to be the number-one reason for making it appealing—my Iphone friends liked what they saw with the UI in general and felt it an improvement on what they have. And for those who are visually driven, rather than aurally, then the Huawei makes for a nice little device. I like the Tumblr app on it so some of my procrastination sites can be put on the gadget.
End of story: I’m far too ingrained in my habits to become a regular cell user. I’ll still leave it lying about at home for the most part. But on the days when I expect a call from someone, or when I need to take a quick photo, I can see it being indispensable—with much more pleasant graphics built in. And if it becomes the plaything for social media, then I might have fewer distractions when I do my real job on the desktop. Being able to divide the tasks, to me, is a very good thing—because it helps put me in charge of the technology again.
I remember when Michael Wolff was very bullish about the internet in the 1990s, so when he starts sounding warning bells, we had better take heed.
The way Michael paints Facebookâand a belief that its advertising model will eventually collapse for being so limitedâis not unfamiliar to anyone who ever wondered, during the dot-com boom, just why those companies were worth that much.
If AltaVista, the world’s biggest website, could fall once someone (Google) figured out a better search model, then Facebook, with what Michael thinks is an ill-defined purpose, could suffer a similar fate. Doc Searls picked out this bit from Michael’s article:
At the heart of the Internet business is one of the great business fallacies of our time: that the Web, with all its targeting abilities, can be a more efficient, and hence more profitable, advertising medium than traditional media. Facebook, with its 900 million users, valuation of around $100 billion, and the bulk of its business in traditional display advertising, is now at the heart of the heart of the fallacy. The daily and stubborn reality for everybody building businesses on the strength of Web advertising is that the value of digital ads decreases every quarter, a consequence of their simultaneous ineffectiveness and efficiency. The nature of peopleâs behavior on the Web and of how they interact with advertising, as well as the character of those ads themselves and their inability to command real attention, has meant a marked decline in advertisingâs impact.
Consequently, Facebook will face ever-decreasing advertising prices as it plateaus, and it will need to either reinvent itself or define itself more properly; or, possibly, even define itself more narrowly.
Doc makes some further points in his piece, saying that advertising that is so personal might actually be unwanted. And he’s right.
It all points to how brands need to engage, and that the shape of advertising, just as with branding, has changed markedly in the last 30 years. Whereas brands were topâdown, they are now informed more by audiences, and strategies adjusted to match. Advertising is the same: personalization can’t work because it’s still a topâdown process that disengages audiences. Facebookers have already taken exception to their own faces being used on advertisements within the social network, so personalization based on friends’ uptakes of a brand isn’t welcome by all, either, for the same reason: there was no engagement. An inhuman algorithm drove that, and one that didn’t necessarily have the consent of the parties involved. And even if advertising were still topâdown, for people who advertise using the service, how many truly know what their target audiences are, to that professional degree?
Based on this, Facebook’s contribution to advertising is providing the platform for engagement, and letting advertisers discover who their target audiences are, to set the stage for greater understanding. It’s letting go of the idea of the hard sell, one that doesn’t really build brand equity anyway. Fan pages have been helpful, based on the ones I have run, but Facebook erred earlier this year by putting member comments into a box, whereas they should have equal prominence with official company updates. Minimizing the audience’s importance in favour of topâdown pronouncements goes against the way branding and marketing have developed, and the way advertising is evolving.
If Facebook sees itself as a means of creating topâdown marketing because of its sheer scale, then it is a step behind the gameâand it’s a means to nowhere.
Earlier this month, I attended a session on the potential of a Wellington super-city, and was interested to note that the mood, that was so dead set against one in 2010, had begun to shift. In fact, in the previous month, the outgoing chairman of Price Waterhouse Coopers (I can’t bring myself to write that as a single month), John Shewan, presented a session where he outlined the pros and cons. Super-city is in the Zeitgeist for Wellington now, and where the moves have come from, I don’t know.
The concerns in Wellington seem to surround the issue of representation, as the popular image of super-city seems to be a tall managerial structure where a super-mayor (God help us if that term is used) sits over earlier structures. I don’t think the Auckland experience has borne this out, but there are definitely concerns over the unfunded community boards, something that Wellington might learn from.
Judging by the responses from the session, those for a super-city seem to be around the 40 per cent mark, while those sceptical of one hover around 60âand this is a totally unscientific count. But the fact that proponents have moved from under 5 per cent to around 40 in the middle of Mayor Celia Wade-Brown’s first term is probably heartening for the super-camp, who might wish to extrapolate it heading further north come 2013.
Our table seemed to be more pro- than anti-, and we were the last to report in. I was asked to speak on the table’s behalf and I noted to Garry Poole, CEO of the Wellington City Council, that if there was one thing worse than coming third, it was coming last. However, the efficiency argument held some sway among our participants, and that Auckland itself, according to John’s figures, was forecast to make some real savings in administration. The present system, it might be argued, is flawed anyway (what system isn’t?) so should we really wait till Wellington is in crisis mode before we consider change?
I did add one note about the efficiency argument, perhaps lost on the audience. I pointed out that Slater Walker, the corporate raiders in Britain of the 1960s, got away with a lot because of the same argumentâthat its actions were necessary for the efficiency of British industry. As it turned out, it led to the demise of British industry (if I were to generalize). But, as long as we were talking about true efficiencies forced into being through legislationâfor getting two councils on to the same software system is hard enough without a concerted effortâthen that might be a good thing for ratepayers.
The popular image of the super-structure might not be that relevant, and this is where technology could serve us for a change. Representation is the biggest concern of those who are against the super-city, so why not adopt technological measures, such as capturing ideas and intel electronically from around the Wellington region, so they can be used by the council? (As in 2010, I maintain that 130,000 voters are far smarter collectively than a single council.) Flatten the structure so mayor and council can hear the concerns of citizensâand keep it flattened, just as we were taught at business school. If Auckland’s biggest mistake was in community board funding, is it possible to investigate how they can remain funded properly here?
There are way too many issues to discuss in a single blog post, but I’m just ﬂagging some for discussion. What are your feelings out there? Is the mood shifting? Can I stop preﬁxing words with super-?
A friend had his Gmail hacked, and, much like an Atlantic article I read in the print edition a few months ago, the hackers deleted his entire mailbox. Google says these hacks only happen a few thousand times daily.
I’m concerned for him because he has to deal with the Google forums, and we all know how unhelpful and obstructive they can be.
I’ve never trusted Gmail, or any web-based email system, “on the cloud”. I’ve always kept POP3 archives and the worst thing that might happen is that some of the older CDs and DVDs might be less reliable. But this event actually brings to mind something else that has concerned me about my method: the email client.
I’ve used Eudora since the 1990s. I started with v. 1.2, and for years, my standard client was 4.3. I happily paid for a licence to get the pro version, and used 4.3 till it no longer worked with the settings on our server. That meant I stayed with one email client from 1999 to 2008. I was then forced to upgrade to 7.1, and I have used that since.
Qualcomm no longer makes Eudora, and for the last half-decade or so, there have been various âEudorized” versions of Mozilla Thunderbird. That won’t ﬂy with me, because my demand is actually very simple, but it is going completely unmet: I want an email program that has a vertically tiled inbox and outbox. For the majority of my working life, I have used this method as a to-do list of sorts, and I can see at a glance who I have to deal with.
The sad thing is that the three-window interface has become a standard for email programs, but this does not work for me. I don’t want an email program that syncs with calendars or creates automatic Dropbox links. I just want one that works, where I can have ﬁlters and multiple accounts, and where I can have inbox and outbox side by side. This should be, I thought, a relatively simple request, especially as Eudora was, at one point, considerably more popular than it is today.
Above: Eudora 7.1, with an inbox on the left and an outbox on the right. Does anyone else make an email program that does this?
This is the story of many industries, where inferior norms become the standard. As I typed this, Preston Tucker came to mind: a pioneer who created a safe, fast and aerodynamic car with fuel injection, decades before Detroit could manage the same. But the big players won out and Tucker died a broken man. Americans, and indeed the rest of the world, made do with the same old junk till they were forced to innovate and use ideas that Tucker wanted to mainstream in the 1950s. Similarly, I laugh when people talk about the novelty of hybrids, when you consider how prevalent dual-fuel natural gasâpetrol cars were in New Zealand 30 years ago.
In the tech world, I happily usedâand still useâWordPerfect. Why? It works. And it still works considerably better than its competition. Even a 20-year-old version will blow modern word processors away in terms of sheer functionality and ease of use, assuming you could install it. The latest versions are buggier because of the small user base and the absence of Unicode compatibility. But I persevere with it because, at the end of the day, these programs are tools, and I get my work done far more quickly with WordPerfect. I might be the one person on the planet who does not know how to use Word.
I can’t get my head around Word. With WordPerfect, if I set margins and font, it stays that way till I tell it otherwise. Word and its later competitors have a habit of needing styles set, and try to be too clever for their own good. It might tab paragraphs automaticallyâeven when you don’t want it to. It might change margins and fonts on me because it can. And Word’s footnote and endnote creation is still light years behind what WordPerfect could do in 1991.
But Word is the standard because Microsoft gave it away in the 1990s. When OpenOfﬁce and Libre Ofﬁce came out, it aped the standard, right down to the crazy way it handled styles. Why? By all means, create versions which would ease the transition, but if you’re to adopt any method, why not start with the best? Word, for years, had WordPerfect transitional settings, to steal customers from the market leader. Before Word became a freebie, friends who I converted to WordPerfect were still thanking me profusely for making their lives easier. It would seem logical for these open-source programs to go with a better underlying technology.
I have subbed with Word, and regularly do, because most of our team write using it. By the end of the piece I will have noticed the original writer adopt three styles, because Word has done it that way. My editing will have caused another three or more stylistic changes. It is a mess by the time I save it, with my only solace being that no member of the public ever sees it in that state.
When I open a Word ﬁle in WordPerfect, which is what I have to do now with the DOCX format, I see all the superﬁuous code (through Reveal Codesâfor Dreamweaver users, it’s not unlike HTML source) and it answers precisely why the program lacks any logic. Styles upon styles upon styles. Even Dreamweaver users who have ever had to deal with a Word-created HTML ﬁle post-Word 2000 know exactly what I mean. Word is an ineﬁcient program, in every respect of the adjective.
Above: This is about as simple a document as you can get and the ﬁrst I found with public information: one set only in Courier, 14 pt. WordPerfect shows that Word, on which the document was originally prepared, has still inserted Times New Roman font-change codes on every blank lineâfor no reason whatsoever. This is one of the reasons I dislike Microsoft Word. Had the document been prepared on WordPerfect, every incidence of the Times New Roman code would not have been present.
I don’t know much about programming, but it seems, from every article I have read about these open suites, the new programs are playing the anti-Tucker game, mostly unconsciously, since the developers I have met are usually generous idealists. Let’s stick with this less productive, less logical method of word processing, because that is where the market is. But with fonts and more complex layouts now what people need, I would have thought that the methods employed by old computerized typesetting machinesâwhich used codes similar to WordPerfectâwould have been a more logical start for a word processing program.
This isn’t an ad for WordPerfect. I simply ask for utility and logic. It doesn’t have to have WordPerfect code. It just needs to be a word processor that does what I tell it to do. Set font, stays in that font. Set margins, stays with those margins. Is this too big an ask? Wouldn’t this save time, which is the whole idea of technology? Why should we become slaves to software, when we created it to be our slave?
Email clients, then, I ﬁnd, follow much the same pattern. When I chose Eudora, I have a vague recollection that the New Zealand competitor, Pegasus, was structured in much the same way. The tiled inbox and outbox was a norm, and it worked. People rejoiced.
Then, Microsoft decided it would adopt the present three-window standard in Outlook, and it gave away Outlook. I resisted it from the get-go: who wants to click just to see their outbox? Isn’t that an extra step? Why can’t I see my lists of emails at a glance? For someone who gets several hundred messages a day, I need to see more than ten. I would rather see 25 or more. And my outbox would have action items, things I had promised people I would do. So I stuck with Eudora.
It’s not about being in Luddite position. It is going back to basics and saying: what would improve people’s workﬂow? Forcing them to click to see something or just showing it? (Twitter UI designers, take note.) Is the three-window convention the best way to use that on-screen real estate?
It seems that Thunderbird, the open-source rival, again missed an opportunity by using an inferior convention as its base. By all means, ape Outlook, to ease a transition. But give the publicâyou are, after all, on the 11th version nowâa chance to move the windows as we see ﬁt. Computers are powerful enough now so it must be possible. It was in the 1990s.
Let those who love the three-window convention stick with it, but let the rest of us move those windows to our heart’s content, and make life as easy as possible.
The aim, therefore, is to gather as much success in the next decade before these programs become obsolete, by which time I should either have (a) hired extra folks to take care of these tasks exclusively or (b) pushed for these features in the open-source programmes.
Therefore, making leaps ahead is a good thing, but will people do it? This is always the gamble with predicting future needs: will we go so far that we still miss the boat? We ﬁred but the missile landed in front of her bow.
But I’m not even talking about creating something that doesn’t exist yet. I’m talking about existing methods, things that have been around for ages, waiting to be rediscovered. Resizing and detaching windows is a standard feature in so many programs. All it takes is being able to grab this stuff from historyâa lesson that could well apply to organization memory as well. History has already told us, when the playing ﬁeld was level, which methods were superior, and what people opted for when confronted with having to spend their own money on software. Before their giveaway periods, the choices were never Word or Outlook.
The open-source movement, in my opinion, has a wonderful opportunity ahead of it for creating a new round of ofﬁce efﬁciency.