Top Earlier today, attempting to get into Style.com meant a virus warningâthe only trace of this curiosity is in the web history. AboveStyle.com is back, with a note that it will be transforming into an e-tail site.
I see Google has messaged me in Webmaster Tools about some sites of ours that arenât mobile-friendly.
No surprises there, since some of our sites were hard-coded in HTML a long time ago, before people thought about using cellphones for internet access.
The theory is that those that donât comply will be downgraded in their search results. After my battle with them over malware in 2013, I know Googleâs bot can fetch stale data, so for these guys to make a judgement about what is mobile-optimized and what is not is quite comical. Actually, I take any claim from Google these days with a grain of salt, since I have done since 2009 when I spent half a year fighting them to get a mateâs blog back. (The official line is that it takes two days. That blog would never have come back if a Google product manager did not personally intervene.)
When youâre told one thing and the opposite happens, over and over again, you get a bit wary.
To test my theory, I fed in some of our Wordpress-driven pages, and had varying results, some green-lighted, and some notâeven though they should all be green-lighted. Unless, of course, the makers of Wordpress Mobile Pack and Jetpack arenât that good.
Caching could affect this outcome, as do the headers sent by each device, but it’s a worry either for Google or for Wordpress that there is an inconsistency.
I admit we can do better on some of our company pages, as well as this very site, and thatâs something weâll work on. Itâs fair enough, especially if Google has a policy of prioritizing mobile-friendly sites ahead of others. The reality is more people are accessing the ânet on them, so I get that.
But I wonder if, long-term, this is that wise an idea.
Every time weâve done something friendly for smaller devices, either (a) the technology catches up, rendering the adaptation obsolete; or (b) a new technology is developed that can strip unwanted data to make the pages readable on a small device.
Our Newton-optimized news pages in the late 1990s were useless ultimately, and a few years later, I remember a distributor of ours developed a pretty clever technology that could automatically shrink the pages.
I realize responsive design now avoids both scenarios and a clean-sheet design should build in mobile-friendliness quite easily. Google evidently thinks that neither (a) nor (b) will recur, and that this is the way itâs going to be. Maybe theyâre right this time (they ignored all the earlier times), and there isnât any harm in making sure a single design works on different sizes.
I have to admit as much as those old pages of ours look ugly on a modern screen, I prefer to keep them that way as a sort of online archive. The irony is that the way they were designed, they would actually suit a lot of cellphones, because they were designed for a 640-pixel-wide monitor and the columns are suitably narrow and the images well reduced in size. Google, of course, doesnât see it that way, since the actual design isnât responsive.
Also, expecting these modern design techniques to be rolled out to older web pages is a tall order for a smaller company. And thatâs a bit of a shame.
Itâs already hard finding historical data online now. Therefore, historical pages will be ranked more lowly if they are on an old-style web design. Again, if thatâs how people are browsing the web, itâs fair: most of the time, we arenât after historical information. We want the new stuff. But for those few times we want the old stuff, this policy decision does seem to say: never mind the quality, itâs going to get buried.
I realize Google and its fans will argue that mobile-friendliness is only going to be one factor in their decision on search-engine ranking. That makes sense, too, as Google will be shooting itself in the foot if the quality of the results wasnât up to snuff. At the end of the day, content should always rule the roost. As much as I use Duck Duck Go, I know more people are still finding us through Google.
What will be fascinating, however, is whether this winds up prioritizing the well resourced, large company ahead of the smaller one. If it does, then those established voices are going to be louder. The rich melting pot that is the internet might start looking a bit dull, a bit more reflective of the same-again names, and a little less novel.
Nevertheless, weâre up for the challenge, and weâll do what we can to get some of our pages ship-shape. I just don’t want to see a repeat of that time we tailored our pages for Newtons and the early PDAs.
The Geely King Kong Hatchback, one of the new entries on the Autocade website.
Not that I blogged it at the time, but Geelyâs multi-brand strategy in 2009 felt doomed. Earlier this year, the company retreated, and brought everything from Englon, Gleagle and Emgrand back under its parent brand again.
It wasnât unlike Mazdaâs attempt to do the same in the early 1990s, when it began selling cars under marques such as Efini, Autozam and Eunos, as well as its own brand. The bursting of Japanâs bubble economy didnât help things, but the problems went deeper than that. Those who were used to buying a Mazda Capella from a certain outlet were surprised to find that it had become one of these new channels, and there was no Capella or equivalent to be seen. In fact, for those years, there was no Capellaâa nameplate Japanese buyers had become accustomed to for decadesâas Mazda decided to offer cars such as the Cronos, which went over the 1,700 mm width that landed it in a higher tax bracket.
We never noticed much of these issues outside Japan, as these cars were simply sold as Mazda 626, and there were fewer signs of the companyâs ambitious plans that landed it in such trouble then-shareholder Ford installed a Scot in charge. It was the first time a Caucasian wound up running a car maker there. Mazda felt embarrassed it wasn’t one of their own.
Geely might not have had the Chinese economy collapse on it, and it may have been buoyed through the 2000s as it went from being a manufacturer of recycled Daihatsus to a major Chinese automotive force, but there was the obvious problem of increasing its marketing costs dramatically. Could it also develop lines for four marques all of a sudden? Remember, too, it would swallow Volvo around this time, giving it a fifth marque.
The answer was no: Geely wound up shifting various models to different marques, badge-engineering others, and generally confusing the state of affairs for Chinese consumers. Thereâs a solid argument to be made for Geely at the time though: the automotive market was clearly segmenting, and there was a need to have budget and luxury brands. But it didnât seem organic, but dramatically forced. I take my hat off to Geely for carrying it out, nevertheless, even if some of the models were lacking: the Emgrand EC7, for instance, had rear torsion beam suspension, and it was supposedly a premium product for the well-to-do upper-middle-class Chinese buyer.
It all came crashing down earlier this year, when Geely realized that it lost economies of scale in marketing, and the most important player in all of thisâthe consumerâreally couldnât follow what was what. To top it off, these new brands had no goodwill, just as Mazdaâs didnât 20 years before. Unless youâre willing to push these brands like crazy, itâs a hard battle to win, especially in the most competitive market on earth. China, too, has had a downturn in car sales this year, and the heady days of thinking one can adopt multi-brand strategies without the numbers to support them are over.
Why has it come up? Today, Autocade has successfully recorded the entire current line of Geelys, and there are quite a few historical models in there, too. It was incredibly confusing, too, tracking the new identities of a lot of the modelsâdid the Englon SC5 get renamed? Which lines were dropped because there was a badge-engineered equivalent? And, as is particularly common among Chinese models we put on Autocade, how on earth shall we translate some of these model names? (The practice is to use the Chinese companyâs own translations, where available, and not succumb to using the export names to index them.)
While some pages had the new Geely names appended to the old Englon, Emgrand and Gleagle model pages, there were new entries for the Geely New Emgrand, the old King Kong line along with the Englon SC5-based King Kong hatchback, the two generations of GeelyVision, and the historical Geely Haoqing (an old car based around a 1980s Daihatsu Charade: to think, at the turn of the century, this described pretty much every car in the Geely range) as well as the new flagship SUV that now bears the name.
The reason for being a bit obsessive over the Geelys, as well as some other models (we added nearly all the current Cadillacs and a few more Changâans), is that with the demise of Auto Katalog, I believe more will go online. If we can present a credible new-car siteâalthough we have a long way to go before we get every current model line upâwe may go some way to filling the void with Autocade.
I pulled up to the house about seven or eight,
And I yelled to the cabby, âYo mucker, smell you later!â
Looked at my kingdom, I was there at last
To sit on my throne as the prince of Bel Fast.
This is from the famous Irish sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Fast. Itâs set during the Troubles, about an Irish lad growing up in Bogside, a predominantly Catholic part of Derry City, being touted by gang elements. After getting into trouble playing football outside his school, his mother decides to send him to his uncle and aunt in a wealthy Protestant enclave in north Belfast. It was bittersweet, but entertaining nonetheless, and was later remade by the Americans as a vehicle for Will Smith.
The Irish came up with the best television series over the years. There was, of course, the RUC detective who was partial to OatïŹeldâs toffee, and drove around in a gold Vauxhall Victor, solving crimes on both sides of the divide, OâJack (later remade by the Americans as a vehicle for Telly Savalas). South of the border, in Ăire, the film industry was best known for the political romantic comedy, Taoiseachâs Pet, where a journalism student goes undercover in the highest ofïŹce in the land, initially to get a scoop, but winds up falling in love (later remade by the Americans as a vehicle for Doris Day and Clark Gable).
Apparently this is a reader survey but I agree with Antony: how on earth can a car that is not even produced, the Yamaha Motiv, wind up in the top 10? There are 100 in the full listâin other words, there are many more likely candidates of cars that readers have, well, seen and heard about. How strange that something previewed once at last year’s Tokyo Show can make it. On Twitter, Autocar deputy digital editor Lewis Kingston tells me, ‘We’ve run a few big stories on it before’.
While I don’t know the methodology, I still find the odds of the Yamaha getting there very, very slim.
Incidentally, the Austin Metro didn’t make it.
I have to admit I get a bit bored of those crying foul now that MG will launch an SUV, one which seems to have some parallels with the Ssangyong Korando C (left).
They say that MG should have made sports cars as part of its revival, and that the brand should not adorn a bunch of Chinese-made saloons and an upcoming SUV.
Letâs look at a few hard facts.
MG did make a sports car when NAC, and later SAIC, took over. It was the British TF design. And they sold fewer than 100 cars per year in the 2007â11 period, despite it being the cheapest roadster on the market in China. It wasnât just Chinese buyers who ignored them: the TF was the first model revived at Longbridge, with very keen pricing, and hardly any Britons touched them, either.
So if you were a business and you were confronted with decent sales of your saloon cars and dismal sales of your sports car (after building a whole new factory for them), where do you place your efforts?
You give the people what they want.
Whatâs surprising is that this is hardly unprecedented in MG history. There have been MG saloons for a good part of its existence, but right now, there are parallels with the 1980s. Then, the MGB had died in 1980, and Austin Rover decided it would launch a range of sporting saloons based on the humble Metro, Maestro and Montego. Thatâs no different to todayâs MG range of the 3, 5 and 6âthereâs even a 7, based on the old MG ZT.
And globally, but more importantly, in MGâs domestic and key export markets, SUVs are selling strongly.
Again: you give the people what they want.
I was one of the very few people who wrote that I believed the Porsche Cayenne would be a huge hit at the turn of the century, and that the Porsche brand could survive such an extension. I was right.
MGâs brand can easily be extended, given that it has had a less focused history than Porsche. At two points during its British ownership, it sold estates, for goodnessâ sakeâonce in New Zealand, with the Montego-based MG 2Â·0 SL, and toward the end of the Phoenix Four era, with the MG ZT-T.
A good deal of estate buyers now eye up SUVs, and that is simply a trend that SAIC is following.
A sports car may follow in time. There will be a fastback based on the Auris-like MG 5, and not a moment too soon. A âproperâ sports car could come if the rest of the range does well. SAIC isnât run by mugs, and they know the heritage of the MG brand.
MG sister brand Roewe has been voted the best in service and customer satisfaction among car dealerships, beating even the foreign-branded competition in China, while the Roewe 350 topped its class for customer satisfaction, according to the China Quality Association. The MG 3 came second in its segment.
Weâre talking about the most competitive car market on earth, and the Chinese equivalent (as far as I can make out) of the J. D. Power survey.
Those accolades are things that BMC, BL, Austin Rover, Rover Group and MG Rover could only dream about, especially through the 1970s.
Iâd rather people give SAIC the acclaim it deserves for giving MG a decent go where the British and the Germans had failedâand for putting money where its mouth is.
Monica Z, the bio-pic about the late Swedish jazz singer starring Edda Magnason, is now out on Blu-ray and DVD, as of earlier this week.
I learned about the movie not through my Swedish contactsâthey were messaging me only when the film was in the cinemasâbut when Edda appeared at AllsĂ„ng pĂ„ Skansen in 2013 singing ‘GrĂ¶na smĂ„ Ă€pplen’ with a Monica Zetterlund hairstyle and 1960s dress. It didn’t take long to do a bit of surfing after discovering this:
Purists (like me) will say she’s not quite as good as Monica but of the covers, this is still really good. I listened to the soundtrack ad nauseam on Myspace (really) but if I return to Scandinavia in 2014, I might pick up the DVD in person.
Just to make this post more complete, and for all lovers of Swedish jazz, here’s my favourite Monica number, as performed by Edda. I had only seen this on the full AllsĂ„ng telecast prior. (You need to have a break in the midst of a political campaign.)
Wifi on the waterfront is now a normal part of Wellington lifeâbut in 2009 some felt it was a gimmick.
When I proposed free wifi as a campaign policy in 2009, it was seen as gimmicky by some. I wasnât a serious candidate, some thought. But those ideas that have demand, such as wifi, have a way of becoming mainstream. The gimmicky tag is lost.
Just as it was lost with the microwave oven, the compact disc, or the cellular phone.
Not that the wifi idea was anything that new. Nor was it that original. It was simply a logical thing to propose for anyone who had done a spot of travelling (perhaps I did more than my rivals that time?), and had seen the potential of having the internet on tap to those using mobile devices. (The irony of this is, of course, I was not a regular user of mobile devices, at least not till they got to the technology that I expected of them.) If by providing such infrastructure, others could benefit, then was there anything to lose?
Former Wellington mayor Mark Blumsky had a target to make our city the first capital in the world to be half-wired, that is, to have half its population on the internet. In the 1990s, when people were still wondering what on earth the internet was, that seemed an unnecessary goal. But leadership demands that one stays ahead of the curve, otherwise what point is there? If people wanted leaders to be reactive, then they may as well vote same-again politicians.
Iâm still pushing for extending wifi, especially in the places where library funding cuts have hurt resources for Wellingtonians. During a recent visit to the Johnsonville library, where staff could not discuss the impact of the cuts, I at least solicited the librariansâ belief that their places of work were used by all sectors of the community. Every age, every culture. And this library was particularly buzzing, as a community library should be.
Itâs going to take rebuilding our business sectorâwhich forms a good part of the only published mayoral campaign manifesto to dateâto at least get our economy moving and our ratesâ base less dependent on citizens. But on the library issues, extending wifi into certain suburbs can help, especially those hardest hit by the cuts. Provide an uncapped service for those accessing certain educational sites, for instanceâitâs technically not that hard to distinguish those from merely social ones.
Weâve seen how the waterfront system is used through the year, and how it helps people connect. But as with the original system, it sends a signal to others, including those wanting to invest in our city, that Wellington is open to high-value, high-tech businesses. Why should our suburbs not receive the same âopen for businessâ invitation?
Collaboration, after all, helps fuel the human mind, toward new ideas and innovations.
On that note, too, other things can be open. The 2010 campaign saw my support for open source. Itâs still there, since I work with both commercial and open-source platforms myself. Iâve seen first-hand, through a mash-up competition I helped on a few years back (I mentored one of the winners), how providing open data gets creative juices flowing.
So why not, in line with all of the above, make our bus and train data open to the public? Presently, Metlink wonât be releasing its real-time information (RTI) to the public, but if it did, potentially, an innovative Wellington company can use these data for live maps, for instance. Find out more information than the RTI that’s being delivered at bus stops. It is called public transport, after all, so why not public data? The most obvious app is a live map of buses that works much like the computer graphics in an Americaâs Cup raceâonce gimmicky, now also mainstream. In fact, itâs demanded by broadcasters. The New Zealand innovation of high-resolution, three-dimensional TV weather maps is now de rigueur around the world, too.
If I can think of something like that, imagine what our really creative, lateral thinkers can come up with.
While some city data are open, we should continue this trend, especially when it comes to data that innovations can stem from. At the risk of sounding trite, ‘It’s limited only by your imagination.’
And what if such technology became so highly demanded that another exporter, another high-growth firm, was created right here in Wellington?
The potential economic impact of âgimmicksâ is very serious indeed.