Posts tagged ‘Lucire’


Looks like Twitter makes up your settings, too

02.12.2020

Speaking of Twitter doing weird things, I checked out some of Lucire’s settings on there today, something I haven’t looked at for a long time.


   I do not ever recall telling them I was in Malaysia—it’s not a country we’ve even had a correspondent in—and Estonian and Welsh were never marked as languages. I’m not even that sure about Romanian since our edition there shut in the 2000s and the Twitter account dates from 2009.
   Given yesterday’s post, I should be able to be more certain: I didn’t put in Malaysia, and I didn’t put in Romanian.
   I will give them one compliment: the advertising preferences were a damned sight more accurate than anything I saw on Facebook (back when Facebook let me see them). I still deleted them though.

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


If you’re in the ‘New Zealand can’t’ camp, then you’re not a business leader

04.10.2020


Which club is the better one to belong to? The ones who have bent the curve down and trying to eliminate COVID-19, or the ones whose curves are heading up? Apparently Air New Zealand’s boss thinks the latter might be better for us.

From Stuff today, certain ‘business leaders’ talk about the New Zealand Government’s response to COVID-19.
   We have Air New Zealand boss Greg Foran saying that elimination was no longer a realistic goal for us, and that we should live with the virus.
   This is despite our country having largely eliminated the virus, which suggests it was realistic.
   No, the response hasn’t been perfect, but I’m glad we can walk about freely and go about our lives.
   Economist Benje Patterson says that if we don’t increase our risk tolerance, ‘We could get to that point where we’re left behind.’
   When I first read this, I thought: ‘Aren’t we leaving the rest of the world behind?’
   Is Taiwan, ROC leaving the world behind with having largely eliminated COVID-19 on its shores? It sure looks like it. How about mainland China, who by all accounts is getting its commerce moving? (We’ve reported on a lot of developments in Lucire relating to Chinese business.) The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has adopted policies similar to ours with travel and quarantine, and I’ve been watching their infection figures drop consistently. They’re also well on their way to eliminating the virus and leaving the world behind.
   We are in an enviable position where we can possibly have bubbles with certain low-risk countries, and that is something the incoming government after October 17 has to consider.
   We are in a tiny club that the rest of the world would like to join.
   Let’s be entirely clinical and calculating: how many hours of productivity will be lost to deaths and illnesses, and the lingering effects of COVID-19, if we simply tolerated the virus?
   Work done by Prof Heidi Tworek and her colleagues, Dr Ian Beacock and Eseohe Ojo, rates New Zealand’s democratic health communications among the best in the world and believes that, as of their writing in September, we have been successful in executing the elimination strategy.
   Some of our epidemiologists believe the goal can be achieved.
   I just have to go with the health experts over the business “experts”.
   I’m not sure you could be described as a ‘business leader’ if you are a business follower, and by that I mean someone who desires to be part of a global club that is failing at its response to COVID-19. GDP drops in places like the UK and the US are far more severe than ours over the second quarter—we’re a little over where Germany is. Treasury expects our GDP to grow in Q3, something not often mentioned by our media. As Europe experiences a second wave in many countries, will they show another drop? Is this what we would like for our country?
   I’ve fought against this type of thinking for most of my career: the belief that ‘New Zealand can’t’. That we can’t lead. That we can’t be the best at something. That because we’re a tiny country on the edge of the world we must take our cues from bigger ones.
   Bollocks.
   Great Kiwis have always said, ‘Bollocks,’ to this sort of thinking.
   Of course we can win the America’s Cup. Just because we haven’t put up a challenge before doesn’t mean we can’t start one now.
   Of course we can make Hollywood blockbusters. Just because we haven’t before doesn’t mean we can’t now.
   Heck, let’s even get my one in there: of course we can create and publish font software. Just because foreign companies have always done it doesn’t mean a Kiwi one can’t, and pave the way.
   Yet all of these were considered the province of foreigners until someone stood up and said, ‘Bollocks.’
   Once upon a time we even said that we could have hybrid cars that burned natural gas cheaply (and switch back to petrol when required) until the orthodoxy put paid to that, and we wound up buying petrol from foreigners again—probably because we were so desperate to be seen as part of some globalist club, rather than an independent, independently minded and innovative nation.
   Then when the Japanese brought in petrol–electric hybrids we all marvelled at how novel they were in a fit of collective national amnesia.
   About the only lot who were sensible through all of this were our cabbies, since every penny saved contributes to their bottom line. They stuck with LPG after 1996 and switched to the Asian hybrids when they became palatable to the punters.
   Through my career people have told me that I can’t create fonts from New Zealand (even reading in a national magazine after I had started business that there were no typefoundries here), that no one would want to read a fashion magazine online or that no one would ever care what carbon neutrality was. Apparently you can’t take an online media brand into print, either. This is all from the ‘New Zealand can’t’ camp, and it is not one I belong to.
   If anybody can, a Kiwi can.
   And if we happen to do better than others, for God’s sake don’t break out the tall poppy shit again.
   Accept the fact we can do better and that we do not need the approval of mother England or the United States. We certainly don’t want to be dragged down to their level, nor do we want to see the divisiveness that they suffer plague our politics and our everyday discourse.
   Elimination is better than tolerance, and I like the fact we didn’t settle for a second-best solution, even if some business followers do.
   Those who wish to import the sorts of division that the US and UK see today are those who have neither imagination nor a desire to roll up their sleeves and do the hard yards, because they know that spouting bullshit from positions of privilege is cheap and easy. And similarly I see little wisdom in importing their health approaches and the loss of life that results.
   I’m grateful for our freedom, since it isn’t illusory, as we leave the rest of the world to catch up. And I sincerely hope they do.

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Posted in business, cars, China, culture, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, typography, UK, USA | No Comments »


Google’s knowledge panels: they don’t know how to give access to a verified user

08.09.2020

After my last post, it seemed fair to give Google a chance to respond. I filed some feedback with them, and, surprisingly, I got a reply. But then I was taken around in circles, again, just like in 2009, though the respondents aren’t arseholes like ‘Chuck’ all those years ago.

I clicked to claim this knowledge panel. You send me a verification. In that verification you have ‘Review info’. It’s just a blue box. I can’t click on it or do anything with it. Then when I go to the page to publish on Google Search, you tell me my address doesn’t have permission. I can’t remember how I got there, but you also show me another window saying someone is already managing my company on Google. That can’t be so as I’m the only person logged in via the Search Console and you verified that I was the right person.

   Google’s first response (links removed):

Hello Jack,

Thank you for contacting us.
   You are currently the verified owner of the knowledge panel entity “Lucire”. If you don’t see “Suggest an edit” option at the top of your knowledge panel, please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification. Also, check that your Web and App activity is turned on. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.
   If this issue still persists, please send us the following so that we can investigate further, examples of these images are attached:

  • A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner); and
  • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page.
  •    Also, we’re hoping to bring more features to you in the future. Unfortunately, Posts on Google is not open to every entity at this time.

    Regards,
    Jay
    Google Search support team

       It would be rude not to comply.

    Hi Jay:

    I really appreciate your reply. In the past, whenever I’ve contacted Google, I get radio silence, so I’m really happy you’re there.
       I signed in as me but there’s no ‘Suggest an edit’. I fail on the first hurdle, actually, as I believe I had turned my web activity off a while ago. Unfortunately, there’s no way for me to turn it back on or to access the first link you gave me.
       I have a Gmail with a school I work with. Even though I’m logged in with [redacted], the verified address, I get prompted to log in with my school address when I hit your first link. I switch accounts, which is the logical thing to do, and log in again. Except the site prompts me to log in with my school address. It’s a never-ending loop.
       Hopefully the attached screenshots will help with troubleshooting or to find out what I’m doing wrong.
       The browser is Opera, which is Chromium-based, and it has no privacy settings or blocked cookies that might prevent me from accessing Google.

    Thank you,

    Kind regards,

    Jack


    Above: This is the knowledge panel screenshot Google keeps asking me for. I’m logged in, with the verified address, and there’s no ‘Suggest an edit’ as they claim. That’s actually why I contacted them—because I’m literate and I’ve already read their instructions, which are either wrong, or I’m encountering something unexpected on their systems.





    Above: What happens when I click on Google’s web and app activity link that their reps send me. It asks me to verify my email but it’s the wrong address (this is the school one). I click ‘Next’ and get to the second screen, where I can choose the address that Google confirmed was the verified address, and the one used for its own search console. Notice the verified address has a green circle with a J inside it, just like in the top image. I then get taken to the third screen, but note that I have not been logged in. I sign in again. And guess what? We’re back to square one.

       This is where it starts to go awry, because despite a really good start from Jay, who confirmed that my regular address was the one that was verified to edit Lucire’s knowledge panel, I next receive this.

    Hello Jack,

    If you got your Google Account through work or school, you might need to contact your administrator to turn on the Web & App Activity additional service for your organization.
       If this issue still persists, please send us the following so that we can investigate further, examples of these images are attached:

  • A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner); and
  • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page.
  •    Also, please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification and check that your Web and App activity is turned on. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.

    Regards,
    Jay
    Google Search support team

       I fired this off in reply to Jay.

    Hi Jay:

    Thank you. A couple of things here.
       The school account has nothing to do with this. I’m just saying that your server keeps defaulting to the school account and every time I log in with the correct verified account, it logs me straight out again. Every time I switch to the correct account, your system doesn’t like it.
       You already have the screenshots. I already sent the screenshot with the knowledge panel. I have re-attached it. This is logged in with the correct, verified account, the one that’s used for the search console, and the one that was used to claim the knowledge panel.
       As explained, your server will not let me in to get a screenshot of the web and activity page.
       I am logged into the correct account.
       As explained, you will not let me get to the web and activity page in order to get a screenshot.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       Jay wasn’t the only one on my case. Tanvi sent me something even more left-field.

    Hello Jack,

    As informed please, you might need to contact your administrator to turn on the Web & App Activity additional service for your organization.
       Also, please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification and check that your Web and App activity is turned on. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.
       If this issue still persists, please send us the following so that we can investigate further, as per attached image format:

    • A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner); and
    • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page.

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

       Notice how they keep asking for the knowledge panel screenshot, and I keep sending it, but no one cares.
       And they keep wanting this web and app activity page, which they won’t let me access. My response to Tanvi:

    Hi Tanvi:

    I am the administrator for my organization. There is no one else.
       I am logged in to the account used for verification.
       As explained, I cannot access the web and app activity page. Every time I do, you log me off.
       I do not know what a G Suite is.
       I re-attach for the third time the knowledge panel.
       I cannot make a screenshot of my web and app activity page because you will not allow me access to it.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       They just need to check their own records to find I am the only person registered to look after Lucire, and if I’m not, then their security holes are pretty damned massive. But doing something logical like that might cut to the chase too quickly, and we know from 2009 that Google likes giving you the run-around. I don’t know who teaches them customer service but I bet it’s the English.
       They keep asking for a web activity page that their own systems won’t let me access.
       I think we can realistically chalk this one up to another failed Google service. I hope they can get it cleared up, as the knowledge panel is Wikipedia-based and, therefore, not accurate. While I don’t use Google, I know the majority of people do. I’ll continue being as nice as I can, as I want to see this fixed, but somehow I don’t think it will be remedied any time soon. The folks on the frontline won’t understand why their systems cannot accept that one person has two separate email addresses and two separate Google accounts, one linked to each. You’d think I was the first person ever to have two email addresses, just like Marty McFly telling his uncle that he has two television sets in 1955.

    PS.: It just gets nuttier. Just because you keep asking the same things doesn’t mean the answers will change.

    Hello Jack,

    Thanks for proving screenshot but please provide screenshots as per attachment only.
       Please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification and check that your Web and App activity is turned on.
       To get access to your suggest and edit, please contact your G-Suite Admin. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin. To know more about G Suite please look into G suite Help Center.

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

       Here you go, Tanvi. We can keep going around in circles and your firm will look more and more useless.

    Hi Tanvi:

    I have provided screenshots as attachments. I don’t know any other way to send you screenshots.
       Again: I am logged in to the correct Google account and it was the one used for verification.
       Again: I do not know if web and app activity is turned on because you will not let me access it.
       There is no G Suite. I am not using a G Suite. I am the only person authorized to deal with this. I am the admin.
       Please check your records. You will find that there is no one else authorized to deal with this matter. Mine is the only account that deals with the search console and it is the only account verified to edit the knowledge panel.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

    P.PS.: September 10. Where did we get up to? I forget, because the same thing keeps happening. It’s Groundhog Day at Google.
       Right, it’s back to Jay.

    Hello Jack,

    The screenshot that you have provided is not in the correct format, please resend the following screenshot in correct format so that we can investigate further, example of the image is attached:
    A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner). Please refer to the attached screenshot.

    Regards,
    Jay
    Google Search support team

       Fair enough. Jay included a screenshot of exactly what he wanted. I send this to Jay. (It makes no difference. See below.)

    Hi Jay:

    I wasn’t sure what you meant by correct format but the screenshot helps. Please find that attached.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       SaiKumar is now on the case. He’s got what I sent to Jay.

    Hi Jack,

    Thank you for providing the screenshots.

    Could you now please try the following and let us know if anything has changed? If not, please send screenshots.

  • Incognito mode
  • Mobile device
  • Different web browser
  • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner).

    Regards,
    SaiKumar
    Google Search support team

       This seems pretty reasonable.

    Hi SaiKumar:

    I’ve attached what I see in incognito mode. I’ve also attached the same screenshots using a fresh copy of Edge instead of Opera.
       I can’t help you on a mobile device, sorry. It’s not something I’m prepared to use.
       As discussed, Google will not let me access the web and activity page so I cannot supply a screenshot for you. What happens when I click on the link in your email is explained in my email sent on September 7 at 22.51 GMT.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       How many times to I have to tell them that they won’t let me access the web and app activity page? They keep asking, I keep telling them I can’t access it, and they ask again.

    Hello Jack,

    Thank you for sharing screenshot.
       We need your a screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page for our investigation. You are only providing screenshot of knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner).

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

       At this point, I have my doubts if Google’s staff is even literate.

    Hi Tanvi:

    I don’t know how many times I have to tell you, Jay and Saikumar this, but I cannot give you a screenshot of the web and app activity page because your system will not let me access it. Please see my email from September 7, 22.51 GMT.
       I have already provided you with the correct screenshot from the knowledge panel page but here it is again, from two different browsers.

    Regards,

    Jack

       OK, I shouldn’t have sent Tanvi those SERP screenshots again, but what’s the bet she’ll come back and demand I send her the web and app activity page screen that they won’t let me access?

    P.P.PS.: This feels like the final email for now.

    Hello,

    Thank you for contacting us. We are looking into this. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

    I thanked her and I think we can leave it there for the next few years.

    P.P.P.PS.: I actually got a reply (September 12, 21.56 GMT). Links removed because I can’t be bothered making them active.

    Hi Jack,

    Thank you for patiently waiting while we looked into the query for you.

    We would request you to try to claim the knowledge panel using a different Google account. If you don’t have one, then create a Google account. Once you create a Google Account, use the email address to add it in the account. Please follow these steps in order to add users to your account:

  • Visit https://www.google.com/search/contributions/manage
  • Under “Add people to this account”, click Start now.
  • If you need to switch accounts, use the dropdown menu next to your profile image to select the account you want to manage.
  • Click Add new user.
  • Enter the Google email address of your new user.
  • Choose whether the user gets manager permissions. To grant manager permissions, move the toggle to the right.
  • Click Invite.
  • You can set different permission levels for users:

  • Manager: Can suggest changes to the knowledge panel, and add or remove users.
  • Owner: The primary user on the account, and has the same permissions as managers.
  • Contributor: Can suggest changes to the knowledge panel.
  • You can read more about updating users here.
    Regards,
    Aghrajit
    Google Search support team

    I followed his instructions as they seemed pretty reasonable but, as it’s Google, they’re not really supposed to work.

    Hi Aghrajit:

    Thank you for your detailed instructions. I have followed them, added my other Google account [redacted], and invited myself as a manager.
       I received the Google confirmation and clicked on ‘Get started’.
       However, there is no link to allow me to claim the knowledge panel, just a link to give general feedback, as though I were a regular user. I don’t have any additional privileges.
       Please find the resulting screenshots attached.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       I think they need to face the fact that their knowledge panels don’t work as advertised, a bit like how their blog review process didn’t work as advertised, or how their anti-malware warnings didn’t clear as advertised, or how their Ads Preferences Manager didn’t work as advertised, etc. Remember, this is the company that didn’t even know where the White House was in Google Earth—and it was version five when I discovered this!

    P.P.P.P.PS.: September 13, another Googler, who’s trying to be helpful.

    Hello Jack,

    Thank you for contacting us.

    Please confirm if you are using a G-Suite account. If yes you need to follow the correct steps to turn your Web & App Activity on at an administrator level. Please contact your G suite administrator or system administrator and let him know about it. Please follow the below steps so that Web & App Activity is correctly turned on. Try this with the new email you have added and let us know if you are facing the same issue.

    Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.

    Regards,
    Abdul
    Google Search support team

       At this point, it was getting ridiculous, even though Abdul was being pretty nice about it all. I replied on the 17th:

    Hi Abdul:

    Thank you. I know my main address [redacted] is not part of any G Suite. I don’t know if [my school email address] is. Is there a way you can tell me if it is?
       I doubt that I would be given more privileges than the address currently has because it’s not meant to be used for non-school purposes, and as a board member of that school, it would be inappropriate for me to ask the admin.
       I only used this address as it’s the one that Google kept insisting I log in to (see screenshots of September 7), as it refused to let me log in on any other account.
       I know your next piece of advice will be to create a new account to see if it could be added to manage my contributions, as Aghrajit suggested, but I’m unwilling to start yet another presence on Google, which has more than enough information on me. Three identities seem like overkill.
       Is there no way to simply allow me to log in with the very address [redacted] you verified? I feel we are getting further and further away from the original purpose of this thread, which was to allow me to edit a knowledge panel using an email address that Google confirmed.

    Kindest regards,

    Jack

       Sivaram replied:

    Hello,

    Thank you for contacting us.

    We are looking into this. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

    Regards,
    Sivaram
    Google Search support team

    I’m not certain if I’ll update this post. I think I’ve made my point: that things at Google can be half-baked. At least this isn’t deceptive in the way the Ads’ Preferences’ Manager was so many years ago.

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Posted in internet, publishing, technology, USA | No Comments »


    Have we stopped innovating in online publishing?

    22.07.2020

    For a while, we’ve been thinking about how best to facelift the Lucire website templates, to bring them into the 2020s. The current look is many years old (I’ve a feeling it was 2016 when we last looked at it), which in internet terms puts this once-cutting edge site into old-school territory.
       But what’s the next step? When I surf the web these days, so many websites seem to be run off one of several templates, and there aren’t many others out there. After you scroll down past the header, everything more or less looks the same: a big single-column layout with large type.
       I know we have to make things responsive, and we haven’t done this properly, by any means. The CSS will have to be reprogrammed to suit 2020s requirements. But I am reminded of when we adopted many of the practices online publishers do today, except we did them nearly two decades ago.
       Those of you who have been with us a long time, and those who might want to venture into the Wayback Machine, might know that we provided “apps” for hand-held devices even then. We offered those using Palm Pilots and the like a small, downloadable version of the Lucire news pages. We had barely any takers.
       Then Bitstream (if I recall correctly) came out with tech that could reduce pages to a lower resolution and narrower pixel width so those browsing on smaller devices could do so, and those of us publishing for larger monitors no longer needed to do a special version.
       So that was the scene 20 years ago. Did apps, no one cared; and eventually tech came out that rendered it all unnecessary. It’s why I resisted making apps today, because I keep expecting history to repeat itself. I can’t be the only one with a memory of the first half of the 2000s. As a non-technical person, I expect there’d be something like that Bitstream technology today. Maybe there is. I guess some browsers have a reader mode, and that’s a great idea. And if we want to offer that to our readers, it can’t be too hard to find a service that we can point modern smartphone users to, and they can browse all sites to their hearts’ content.
       Except I know, as with so many tech things, that it isn’t that easy, that in fact it’s all so much harder. Server management hasn’t become easier in 2020 compared with 2005, all as the computing industry loses touch with everyday people like me who once really believed in the democratization of technology and bridging the digital divide.
       Back to the templates. I wrote on NewTumbl yesterday, ‘Remember when we could surf the web pretty easily and find amazing new sites, and creative web designs, as people figured out how best to exploit this medium? These days a lot of websites all look the same and there’s far less innovation. Have we settled into what this medium’s about and there’s no need for the same creativity? I’m no programmer, so I can’t answer that, but it wasn’t that long ago we could marvel at a lot of fresh web designs, rather than see yet another site driven by the same CMS with the same single-column responsive template. Or people just treat a Facebook page or an Instagram feed as their “website”, and to heck with making sure it’s hosted on something they have control over.’
       And that’s the thing: I haven’t visited any sites that really jumped out at me, that inspires me to go, ‘What a great layout idea. I must see if I can do something similar here.’ My very limited programming and CSS design skills aren’t being challenged. This is a medium that was supposed to be so creative, and when I surf, after finding a page via a search engine, those fun moments of accidental discovery don’t come any more. The web seems like a giant utilitarian information system, which I suppose is how its inventor conceived it, but I feel it could be so much more. Maybe the whole world could even get on board a fair, unbiased search engine, and a news spidering service that was current and didn’t prioritize corporate media, recognizing that stories can be broken by independents. Because such a thing doesn’t really exist in 2020, even though we had it in the early 2000s. It was called Google, and it actually worked fairly. No search engine with that brand name strikes me as fair today.
       I am, therefore, unsure if we can claim to have advanced this medium.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in design, internet, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


    Don’t rely on an algorithm to choose your brand ambassadors

    14.03.2020

    Here’s a cautionary tale found by Lucire travel editor Stanley Moss. His words: ‘Photographer Dmitry Kostyukov recently experienced a rich dialogue with an algorithm belonging to a Scandinavian swimwear company. He’d been auto-mistaken for a Y chromosome, and digitally invited to become a brand ambassador. Dmitry accepted, and received the sample suit of his choice, an influencer name and instructions on how to photograph himself wearing the product. This exposes one facet of what advertising has become, commodified advocacy. Following is the text of his statement about the project, filled with reminders of what today constitutes the new paradigm of product promotion. Caveat emptor.
       In other words, don’t leave your marketing in the hands of a program. I haven’t followed up with Bright Swimwear, but I hope they’ll run with it, not just to show that they are ‘progressive’, but to admit that there are limits to how algorithms can handle your brand. (They haven’t yet.)
       If the world desires more humanistic branding, and people don’t want to feel like just a number, then brands should be more personal. Automation is all right when you need to reach a mass audience with the same message, but cultivating personal relationships with your brand ambassadors would be a must if you desire authenticity. Otherwise, you just don’t know the values of those promoting your brand.
       Fortunately, I took it in good humour just as Dmitry did and ran the story in Lucire, and you can reach your own conclusions about the wisdom of algorithms in marketing, particularly in brand ambassadorship.

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    Posted in business, humour, internet, marketing, Sweden, technology | No Comments »


    Replacing Po.st with Addtoany, outside of Wordpress

    17.01.2020

    Some of you will have noticed that Po.st went out of business, so all the Po.st sharing links disappeared from our websites.
       The replacement: addtoany.com offers a similar service without the hassle of header codes. Just customize at their website, grab the code, and insert it where you want it. It’s now on the main Lucire website, Autocade (at least on the desktop version), and this blog (desktop as well). Strangely, the plug-in for Wordpress didn’t work for us, and the HTML code with Javascript is far more practical.
       There are fewer customization options but it’s a remarkably quick and handy way to replace the old code.

    Despite providing a sharing gadget, I wonder how much I’ll use one. It’s been seven days since I last Instagrammed and I don’t miss it. Granted, something major happened in my life but organic sharing had been dwindling through 2019, and if their algorithms aren’t providing you with the dopamine hit that you seek, and you’re unlikely to pay for it like a junkie (which is what Facebook wants you to do), then you have to wonder what the point is. It might, like Facebook, just become one of those things one uses for work—and that’s not something I could have predicted even a year ago.
       I see Twitter is introducing features where responses can be limited by the user. The logical outcome of this is Tweets that are directed at limited audience members only, maybe even one-to-one. That looks remarkably like email. And these days I seem to be more productive there than I am on any social network.

    With a fresh browser to kick off the year, I surfed to the popular page listing at Autocade. Unsurprisingly, there is some grandfathering going on: the first pages added in 2008 have had more views than the latest pages. That much is logical.
       But if there’s a model line page in the top 10 that wasn’t first authored in 2008, that would be, at least to me, interesting. That honour goes to the 2010-authored page on the Opel Astra J, at over 21,000 views.
       Once upon a time, the Nissan Bluebird (910) page was top among the individual model lines, thanks to a link from Wikipedia. It’s since slipped to third, after the Ford Fiesta Mk VII and Nissan Sunny (B14). The Toyota Corolla (E100) page, once in second place, is now fourth, followed by the E120. The Ford Taunus TC, Taunus 80 and Cortina Mk III are sixth, seventh and ninth respectively—all 2008 pages. The Opel Astra J, coming in at eighth, is an anomaly among the top 10. (The Renault Mégane II finishes the top 10.)
       Something’s driving interest in this model, and I’m very happy it is.

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    Posted in cars, design, internet, media, publishing | 1 Comment »


    History of the 2010s: a look back at the decade that was

    02.01.2020

    When I first wrote a satirical look back at the decade, which ran on this blog in December 2009 (on the old Blogger service, as I was helping a friend fight a six-month battle with Google to restore his blog), it was pretty easy to make up little fictions based on reality. This one, covering the decade just gone, was a different matter. No matter how you did it, often the reality would be stranger than the satire.
     
    2010
    The Australian establishment, especially large portions of its media, are shocked a woman could become prime minister. They spend her entire term telling the Australian public that this is morally wrong.
       Americans decide that they needed less honesty from television, so Simon Cowell leaves the US version of Pop Idol, American Idol.
       Donald Trump-hosted show The Apprentice gets its lowest ratings ever. He begins planning another show and brainstorms with his countrymen on Twitter.

       Long-running shows Ashes to Ashes and Lost end with exactly the same conclusion. Frustrated at years of investment in the two shows, the Anglosphere is so turned off television that they would rather form silos on social media websites to make their owners rich. Two guys in San Francisco spot the opportunity and invent Instagram.
       Jay Leno unquits The Tonight Show after discovering the $30 million per annum he made prior to leaving just couldn’t sustain his car collecting hobby.
       Kate loves Willy, so they get engaged.
     
    2011
    It’s revealed that Arnold Schwarzenegger does films, politics, and the family maid.
       Following the example of HH the Dalai Lama, Charlie Sheen decides to impart his wisdom to the masses, gaining an extra million Twitter followers as a result.
       Cheryl Cole starts on the US X Factor amid much buzz, then vanishes from the show. Only her dimples remain.
       Proving Apple is either a cult or a religion, Steve Jobs shrines appear all over the world after his passing.
       How I Met Your Mother concludes as we find out River Song is Amy Pond’s daughter.
       Kate loves Willy, so they get married.
     
    Reality is stranger

       Facebook launches Timeline, but it actually doesn’t work on the 1st of each month as no one there has worked out there are time zones other than US Pacific. Still no one thinks they’re stupid.
       Google gets busted over its advertising preferences’ manager, which actually doesn’t stop gathering your preferences after you’ve opted out from having them gather your preferences. None of the other NAI members seem to have a problem with their opt-outs. As far as I can tell, Google has been lying about its opt-out for two years, affecting millions.
     
    2012
    President Obama finally figures out that same-sex marriage would not bring about disaster—that could safely be left to Big Tech, as it enjoys monopolies. As a result, Facebook has its IPO.
       Forget 2011’s Steve Jobs shrines, Jesus got a new look in Zaragoza, thanks to a repair job. Not everyone is enamoured with the updated Jesus, but it saves the town and numerous businesses.
       Prince Harry parties and brings a new meaning to ‘Las Vegas strip’. Got to have something to mark his grandmother’s 60th Jubilee.
       The Hunger Games makes stars of Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth, although people over a certain age thought it was The Unger Games, a remake of The Odd Couple.
       Kate loves Willy, so they expect a kid.
     
    In the real world
       Malala Yousafzai kicks ass and a bullet to the head doesn’t stop her. If anything, it makes her stronger and grows her reputation.
       E. L. James gathers up her Twilight fan fic and puts it all into a book, called 50 Shades of Grey.
       Remember, this is where Boris Johnson is mayor: the London Olympics use the Kazakh national anthem from Borat. High five!
       Google gets busted over bypassing the ‘Do not track’ setting on Iphone Safari browsers by The Wall Street Journal. Despite trying to look innocent, it stops this the same day. Several US states’ attorneys-general decide this was such a gross violation of privacy that they fine Google a few hours’ earnings.

       Proving boys can do anything, Brad Pitt became the face of Chanel No. 5.
       Lana Del Rey has really good hair.
     
    2013
    Jennifer Lawrence brings publicity to her new film, Silver Linings Playbook, by falling at the Oscars.
       Miley Cyrus mainstreams twerking, which showed how far society had already descended. Her Dad’s ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ release in 1992 wasn’t considered a cultural high-point at the time: the apple does not fall far from the tree.
       Edward Snowden exposes mass surveillance on US citizens and even US allies. There is mass panic over the collection of data and the private sector pushes back, ensuring encryption of users’ private information … actually, nothing happened, and the NSA continued with its data collection while the Obama administration charged Snowden with a crime and tried to extradite him from Russia, where he had more freedom of speech.
       HM Queen Elizabeth II evens things up with Helen Mirren by winning a BAFTA for playing HM Queen Elizabeth II.
       Kate loves Willy, so they have a kid.
     
    In the real world
       RIP Nelson Mandela.
     
    2014

    Ellen Degeneres broke Twitter with a selfie, but since everyone knew why, no one recalls if the fail whale went up.
       The world got a reminder not to upload private stuff to the cloud—as celebrities found out the hard way when their intimate pics were leaked. En masse, the world stopped uploading images to the cloud and to social media while they waited for Big Tech to fix things with their privacy … actually, nothing happened, and people uploaded more photos, in the hope that hackers would find them and release them.
       Scotland decides to stay part of the Union—for now. Of course they could trust London not to do something silly like leave the European Union.
       Bill Cosby makes Mel Gibson look respectable.
       Jay Leno decides he’s made enough for his car collecting hobby and leaves The Tonight Show, though he might still unquit. Watch your back, Jimmy.
       Kate loves Willy, so they expect another kid.
             
    In the real world
       You’ve heard of the website You Park Like a C***? An American exchange student in Tübingen wanted to be featured on You’re Stuck in a C***.
       RIP Robin Williams, one of the funniest actors on Earth.
     
    2015
    Volkswagen, trying to outdo its links to Nazism and allegations of labour relations’ corruption, recalls tens of millions of diesel vehicles to see how far its brand would stretch. The US plans to fine VW way more than Ford or GM when they cheated on emissions, because, foreign.
       Donald Trump hits on an idea for a new reality show where he runs for president. Casting begins.
       Steve Harvey named the wrong winner at the Miss Universe pageant. At this point, being ‘Harveyed’ is a fairly innocent term.
       Jon Snow is very much alive and continues fronting the news on Channel 4.
       Kate loves Willy, so they have another kid.
     
    In the real world
       Forget that August 9, 1976 Sports Illustrated cover; Caitlyn Jenner appears on the cover of Vanity Fair.
     
    2016
    The Chicago Cubs win the World Series, as detailed in Grey’s Sports Almanac.
       In November, the unthinkable happens: Wellington has a massive rainstorm, followed by an earthquake that triggers a tsunami warning, followed by flooding and extreme fog that leave the city cut off from the rest of the country. Summer would be called off while citizens figured out what to do. The UFO invasion does not take place, though with local body elections, certain candidates were replaced by replicants.
       Kate loves Willy—and Harry loves Meghan. Not a bad way to mark HM the Queen’s 90th birthday.
     
    In the real world
       The UK votes to leave the European Union: Nigel Farage is overjoyed, but Boris Johnson and Michael Gove’s body language and facial expression reveal their dismay, and their words don’t match.
       I discover first-hand that Facebook is forcing downloads on people with the guise of ‘anti-malware’, even though this claim is dubious, and Facebook admits data are transferred back to the mother ship. I spend two years finding a journalist with the guts to write about it. Potentially millions have already been affected stretching to the beginning of the decade.
       RIP David Bowie.
     
    2017
    With the approval of the US audience, a massive, multi-channel series débuts, starring Donald J. Trump. It shows a dystopian America that elects a game show host its president, and warns us what can follow. This four-year experiment is expected to culminate in 2020 with an election special, which determines the series’ fate for a renewed batch of episodes.
       Kendall Jenner can do anything. She can solve riots with cans of Pepsi. Forget flower power.
       Kate loves Willy, so they expect another kid.
     
    In the real world
       La La Land wins the Oscar for Best Picture, until it was taken off them and Midnight wins the Oscar for Best Picture. Someone Harveyed (first definition): presenter Warren Beatty had been handed the wrong card.
       Someone unplugs British Airways’ computers, and all flights at Heathrow and Gatwick are cancelled.
       News of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment changes the meaning of getting ‘Harveyed’, and this one is far more horrific.
     
    2018
    Kanye West became Donald Trump’s biggest fan and joins the cast of his experimental four-year show. He plays an unhinged character who believes slavery was a choice.
       Harry loves Meg, and tie the knot. Meghan’s Dad, however, was too busy pursuing a career in modelling to attend.
       Taylor Swift gets the voters out, and the public hasn’t seen anything like this since David Hasselhoff brought down the Berlin Wall.
       Kate loves Willy, so they have another kid.
     
    Reality is stranger
       Louise Matsakis at Wired writes the story on Facebook’s forced downloads, after I tipped her off. Facebook stopped pushing these downloads, after affecting millions and telling them it was for their own good.
       A month later, a pink-haired man named Christopher Wylie blew the lid on something much bigger: Facebook, in violation of a 2011 FTC consent decree, allowed a data company to harvest over 50 million users, swinging the outcome of the US presidential election.
       Roseanne comes back, Roseanne Barr Tweets something racist, Roseanne goes away.
       Some media job-shame actor Geoffrey Owens for working at Trader Joe’s; people come to his defence.
       Twelve boys are rescued from a cave in Thailand, after Elon Musk makes a coffin that others brand impractical, angering him so much he calls one of the rescuers ‘pedo guy’.
       Speaking of Elon, Tesla will call the cops on you if you’re a whistleblower, telling them you’re heading to work to shoot up the place.
       And yes, this does mean that the real news was whackier than the fiction.
     
    2019
    To keep the ratings up for his long-running show, Donald Trump gets jealous of Greta Thunberg, as she didn’t have to fake her Time Person of the Year cover.
       He heads to the UK for the D-Day commemorations, and bonds with HM the Queen, telling her, ‘My Dad was German and my Mum was Scottish, too.’

       The British attempt a remake of Donald Trump’s show. They search for a man who is born in New York, cheated on his first two wives, has five kids, funny hair, used to espouse more liberal views, before trying to sell ethnonationalism as part of his schtick. They find him: Boris Johnson, best known for his earlier work on Little Britain USA. Within weeks he’s already cheated on his partner Carrie by giving everyone in the UK a weak pound.
       Harry loves Meg, and this year, they didn’t need Kate and Willy to provide the baby news.
     
    Reality is stranger
       Facebook says it will act in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, but by the following month, New Zealand’s privacy commissioner reveals they’ve done nothing, and are ‘morally bankrupt, pathological liars’.
       Twitter deletes the account of Will ‘Egg Boy’ Connolly, but not racist Australian politician Fraser Anning, again demonstrating how fearful they are of racists. Twitter also deleted an account that looked for anti-Semitic bots, as bots are good for business (just like Facebook).
       The Hong Kong police show their nostalgia for the British, by using the same colonial, “the natives are revolting” techniques once developed to quash piccaninnies.
       The UK charges in to the Ecuadorian Embassy to arrest Julian Assange, then subject him to psychological torture. The US and UK mainstream media continue vilifying him, while the Russian state media call it out.
       Mark Zuckerberg keeps meeting with right-wing figures, and people still want to keep making him rich by using Facebook, despite being lied to constantly about everything.

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    The latest round of Facebook lies

    26.10.2019

    I believe one of the Democrat-leaning newspapers in the US compiles a list of lies by Donald Trump. I really think we should be doing one for Facebook, as it would make for impressive reading, though it would also take some time to compile.
       Founder Mark Zuckerberg claimed he talked to media from ‘across the spectrum’, but as The Intercept’s Jon Schwarz and Sam Biddle discovered, this is another lie: Zuckerberg cultivates relationships with US conservatives, not their liberals, based on the duo’s checks.

       This adds fuel to the fire that Zuckerberg dreads US senator Elizabeth Warren getting into the White House, and has said so, and we know the buck really stops with him when it comes to Facebook’s activities. Facebook even pulled Sen. Warren’s ads from their platform briefly: so much for impersonal algorithms, ‘We’re just a platform,’ and free speech. We also know from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s questioning of the Facebook founder that he claims he passes the buck on what media are considered legit to a conservative group, something he’ll have sanctioned, so be prepared to see Facebook reflect his (and Trump-supporting, Facebook board member Peter Thiel’s) right-wing political views.
       As Schwarz and Biddle also note, Facebook’s VP for US public policy is a George W. Bush aide and a board member for the former president’s museum.
       Jack Morse at Mashable, meanwhile, reported that Zuckerberg is attempting historical revisionism on why he started Facebook. Retconning might work with comic books but less so in real life. Apparently, instead of the truth—a website which scraped photos of students and asked people to rate who was hotter—Facebook is now something created to give people a voice after the Iraq war in 2003.
       Sorry, Mark, we know you didn’t have such noble intentions, regardless of what they eventually became.
       It’s an insult to all those entrepreneurs who actually did start businesses or ventures with noble intent or socially responsible purposes.
       Frankly, sticking to the truth, and saying you discovered the power of connecting people, is a far more compelling story.
       Except, of course, Facebook no longer connects people. It divides people by validating their own biases, including less savoury viewpoints. It stokes outrage because that’s worth more clicks and time spent on its site. At worst, it’s a tool used for genocide. It’s a shame Facebook refuses to acknowledge the Pandora’s box it has opened, because its top management has no desire to do a thing about it. And as such it loses my respect even further. Don’t want the likes of Warren calling for breaking your company up? The solution is actually quite simple, but you all have become too rich and too establishment to want to break things.
       I actually had to write this in my op–ed for Lucire’s 22nd anniversary last week: ‘In this respect, we see our mission as the opposite of social media: we want to bring people together, not usher them into silos and echo chambers.’ The narrative Facebook wishes to spin, like so many in its past, is an easily seen-through joke.

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    Autocade turns 11 as the web turns 30

    12.03.2019


    The latest model to appear on Autocade today: the Mazda CX-30.

    It’s March, which means Autocade has had another birthday. Eleven years ago, I started a car encyclopædia using Mediawiki software, and it’s since grown to 3,600 model entries. The story has been told elsewhere on this blog. What I hadn’t realized till today was that Autocade’s birthday and the World Wide Web’s take place within days of each other.
       The inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, still believes that it can be used as a force for good, which is what many of us hoped for when we began surfing in the 1990s. I still remember using Netscape 1·2 (actually, I even remember using 1·1 on computers that hadn’t updated to the newer browser) and thinking that here was a global communications’ network that could bring us all together.
       Autocade, and, of course, Lucire, were both set up to do good, and be a useful information resource to the public. Neither sought to divide in the way Facebook has; Google, which had so much promise in the late 1990s, has become a bias-confirmation machine that also pits ideologies against each other.
       The web, which turns 30 this week, still has the capacity to do great things, and I can only hope that those of us still prepared to serve the many rather than the few in a positive way begin getting recognized for our efforts again.
       For so many years I have championed transparency and integrity. People tell us that these are qualities they want. Yet people also tell surveys that Google is their second-favourite brand in the world, despite its endless betrayals of our trust, only apologizing after each privacy gaffe is exposed by the fourth estate.
       Like Sir Tim, I hope we make it our business to seek out those who unite rather than divide, and give them some of our attention. At the very least I hope we do this out of our own self-preservation, understanding that we have more to gain by allowing information to flow and people to connect. When we shut ourselves off to opposing viewpoints, we are poorer for it. As I wrote before, American conservatives and liberals have common enemies in Big Tech censorship and big corporations practising tax avoidance, yet social networks highlight the squabbles between one right-wing philosophy and another right-wing philosophy. We New Zealanders cannot be smug with our largest two parties both eager to plunge forward into TPPA, and our present government having us bicker over capital gains’ tax while leaving the big multinationals, who profit off New Zealanders greatly, paying little or no tax.
       A more understanding dialogue, which the web actually affords us, is the first step in identifying what we have in common, and once you strip away the arguments that mainstream media and others drive, our differences are far fewer than we think.
       Social media should be social rather than antisocial, and it’s almost Orwellian that they have this Newspeak name, doing the opposite to what their appellation suggests. The cat is out of the bag as far as Big Tech is concerned, but there are opportunities for smaller players to be places where people can chat. Shame it’s not Gab, which has taken a US-conservative bent at the expense of everything else, though they at least should be applauded for taking a stance against censorship. And my fear is that we will take what we have already learned on social media—to divide and to pile on those who disagree—into any new service. As I mentioned, Mastodon is presently fine, for the most part, because educated people are chatting among themselves. The less educated we are, the more likely we will take firm sides and shut our minds off to alternatives.
       The answer is education: to make sure that we use this wonderful invention that Sir Tim has given us for free for some collective good. Perhaps this should form part of our children’s education in the 2010s and 2020s. That global dialogue can only be a good thing because we learn and grow together. And that there are pitfalls behind the biggest brands kids are already exposed to—we know Google has school suites but they really need to know how the big G operates, as it actively finds ways to undermine their privacy.
       The better armed our kids are, the more quickly they’ll see through the fog. The young people I know aren’t even on Facebook other than its Messenger service. It brings me hope; but ideally I’d like to see them make a conscious effort to choose their own services. Practise what we preach about favouring brands with authenticity, even if so many of us fail to seek them out ourselves.

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    Why paywalls are getting more prevalent; and The Guardian Weekly rethought

    10.11.2018

    Megan McArdle’s excellent op–ed in The Washington Post, ‘A farewell to free journalism’, has been bookmarked on my phone for months. It’s a very good summary of where things are for digital media, and how the advent of Google and Facebook along with the democratization of the internet have reduced online advertising income to a pittance. There’s native advertising, of course, which Lucire and Lucire Men indulged in for a few years in the 2010s, and I remain a fan of it in terms of what it paid, but McArdle’s piece is a stark reminder of the real world: there ain’t enough of it to keep every newsroom funded.
       I’ll also say that I have been very tempted over the last year or two to start locking away some of Lucire’s 21 years of content behind a paywall, but part of me has a romantic notion (and you can see it in McArdle’s own writing) that information deserves to be free.
       Everyone should get a slice of the pie if they are putting up free content along with slots for Doubleclick ads, for instance, and those advertising networks operate on merit: get enough qualified visitors (and they do know who they are, since very few people opt out; in Facebook’s case opting out actually does nothing and they continue to track your preferences) and they’ll feed the ads through accordingly, whether you own a “real” publication or not.
       It wasn’t that long ago, however, when more premium ad networks worked with premium media, leaving Google’s Adsense to operate among amateurs. It felt like a two-tier ad market. Those days are long gone, since plenty of people were quite happy to pay the cheap rates for the latter.
       It’s why my loyal Desktop readers who took in my typography column every month between 1996 and 2010 do not see me there any more: we columnists were let go when the business model changed.
       All of this can exacerbate an already tricky situation, as the worse funded independent media get, the less likely we can afford to offer decent journalism, biasing the playing field in favour of corporate media that have deeper pockets. Google, as we have seen, no longer ranks media on merit, either: since they and Facebook control half of all online advertising revenue, and over 60 per cent in the US, it’s not in their interests to send readers to the most meritorious. It’s in their interests to send readers to the media with the deeper pockets and scalable servers that can handle large amounts of traffic with a lot of Google ads, so they make more money.
       It’s yet another reason to look at alternatives to Google if you wish to seek out decent independent media and support non-corporate voices. However, even my favoured search engine, Duck Duck Go, doesn’t have a specific news service, though it’s still a start.
       In our case, if we didn’t have a print edition as well as a web one, then online-only mightn’t be worthwhile sans paywall.

    Tonight I was interested to see The Guardian Weekly in magazine format, a switch that happened on October 10.
       It’s a move that I predicted over a decade ago, when I said that magazines should occupy a ‘soft-cover coffee-table book’ niche (which is what the local edition of Lucire aims to do) and traditional newspapers could take the area occupied by the likes of Time and Newsweek.
       With the improvement in printing presses and the price of lightweight gloss paper it seemed a logical move. Add to changing reader habits—the same ones that drove the death of the broadsheet format in the UK—and the evolution of editorial and graphic design, I couldn’t see it heading any other way. Consequently, I think The Guardian will do rather well.

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