Posts tagged ‘Wordpress’


Musings on making friends with mobiles

20.04.2015

I see Google has messaged me in Webmaster Tools about some sites of ours that aren’t 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 don’t comply will be downgraded in their search results.
   After my battle with them over malware in 2013, I know Google’s 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 mate’s 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 you’re 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 not—even though they should all be green-lighted. Unless, of course, the makers of Wordpress Mobile Pack and Jetpack aren’t 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 that’s something we’ll work on. It’s fair enough, especially if Google has a policy of prioritizing mobile-friendly sites ahead of others. The reality is more people are accessing the ’net on them, so I get that.
   But I wonder if, long-term, this is that wise an idea.
   Every time we’ve 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 it’s going to be. Maybe they’re right this time (they ignored all the earlier times), and there isn’t 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, doesn’t see it that way, since the actual design isn’t responsive.
   Also, expecting these modern design techniques to be rolled out to older web pages is a tall order for a smaller company. And that’s a bit of a shame.
   It’s 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 that’s how people are browsing the web, it’s fair: most of the time, we aren’t 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, it’s 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 wasn’t 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, we’re up for the challenge, and we’ll 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.

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Posted in business, internet, publishing, technology | No Comments »


Check your Google Feedburner feeds: are they serving the correct sites?

09.01.2014

A month or so ago, our Feedburner stats for Lucire’s RSS feed delivery tanked. I put it down to the usual “Google being useless”, because we would have expected to see the opposite. The take-up of Feedburner feeds has usually slowly grown since we started this one in 2007, without any promotion on our end.
   I clicked through the Feedburner link on the site this morning to discover this:

That’s not our site. Maybe on seeing the wrong content, we lost a bunch of subscribers?
   Now, I did change the ID for the feed, but that was last week, not December 11–12. Maybe I’m naïve, but I don’t expect Google to allow the hijacking of a feed ID that rapidly, since Google forbids, for example, people taking up old Blogger names. Unless they have inconsistent policies between their properties? Or maybe Feedburner is broken and dyingthe complaints have been coming for a long time.
   Now’s a good time to check your feeds anyway, if you use Google’s Feedburner service, to make sure that they are still serving the correct sites.
   The changes did not affect those who were getting Feedburner updates via their email (since I’m on that mailing list myself).
   Since I can’t trust Google with anything, we’ve changed our RSS feed to the one natively supported by Wordpress.

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Posted in internet, publishing | 3 Comments »


Google pays out US$17 million over Doubleclick privacy hacking

20.11.2013

When surfing, there are precious few people who, like me, de-Googled their lives. There’s the odd blog post here and there, but, overall, those of us who took the plunge are few and far between. It still puzzles me, given the regular privacy problems that I find on Google Dashboard (Google supporters will argue that at least they have a dashboard—Facebook doesn’t).
   But it appears various states’ attorneys-general (or ‘attorney-generals’ according to USA Today) in the US are concerned about Google’s privacy breaches, too. Two years ago, I uncovered how Google’s lied about its opt-out procedure: Google may well have tracked people, who believe they had opted out from its Ads Preferences Manager, for years. More recently, it was busted, by the Murdoch Press, for tracking people using Apple’s Safari browser. (The day they were busted, they stopped doing it.)
   The Ohio Attorney-General’s office summed up the case:

Google generates revenue primarily through advertising. Through its DoubleClick advertising platform it sets third-party cookies — small files in consumers’ Web browsers — that enable third-party advertisers to gather information about those consumers, including their Web surfing habits.
   By default, Apple’s Safari Web browser is set to block third-party cookies, but from June 1, 2011 to February 15, 2012, Google circumvented Safari’s default privacy settings and set third-party cookies on Safari Web browsers. Google disabled the circumvention method in February 2012 after the practice was widely reported on the Internet and in the media.
   The attorneys general allege that Google’s circumvention of the default privacy settings violated state consumer protection laws and related computer privacy laws. The states claim that Google failed to inform Safari users that it was circumventing their privacy settings and gave them the false impression that their default privacy settings would block third-party cookies. In turn, users’ Web surfing habits could be tracked without the users’ knowledge.

   My blogging about something and going to the Network Advertising Initiative is nothing compared to when the US media gets hold of it. Maybe I could have gone to the US media at the time, but chose not to. I still believe it shows a pattern here about Google’s corporate culture, and that the company will do anything when it comes to its profitable, multi-milliard-dollar advertising business.
   However, the pay-out, of US$17 million, is around four hours’ worth of Google Adwords’ earnings. So really, we’re not talking about a huge amount here. Maybe Apple Safari users just aren’t worth that much?
   On that note, I’m wondering whether we should wind down our Feedburner subscriptions in favour of the default one on Wordpress. It’s much uglier, but it’s not Google. As Google still refuses to resolve the problem about holding on to my old blog data without my permission, the only recourse may be to kill my entire Google account. I’ve now removed my membership of one Analytics account (it only took Google a few years to get that sorted—but less than the four years it took to get my confidential information off Adsense), and there are a few other work things still tied to it, including the Lucire Google Plus page.
   On a similar note, I see some people are upset this month about being forced to get a Google Plus account just to comment on YouTube, including YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim (though probably not upset enough to de-Google in most cases). My advice: you really won’t miss commenting on YouTube, since I refused to link my basic Google account with my YouTube several years ago. Get a blog and write your own entry if you want to comment publicly, or write a Tweet or Facebook status update with the YouTube video link, and get things off your chest that way. It’s worked for me and I don’t have to engage some of the daft things that appear among YouTube comments.
   As to the YouTube commenting petition, I have a feeling Google won’t care, unless you’re prepared to fight them for years, which is what I had to do to get some basic private data off their systems.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, media, technology, USA | 10 Comments »


A fresher Lucire (the web edition) for 2013

05.01.2013

When Lilith-Fynn Herrmann, Tania Naidu, Julia Chu, Tanya Sooksombatisatian and I redesigned Lucire in 2012, we went for a very clean look, taking a leaf from Miguel Kirjon’s work at Twinpalms Lucire in Thailand. I’m really proud of the results, and it makes you happy to work on the magazine—and just pick up the finished article and gaze at it.
   But the website—where it all began 15 years ago—was looking a bit dreary. After getting Autocade to 2,000 models, and updating various listings to reflect the 2013 model year, it was time we turned our attention to Lucire.
   Like all of these things, the mood has to hit you right, and we needed a quiet news day—of which there are plenty at this time of the year. We knew where things were with the web: because of improved screen resolutions, type had to be larger. There may be—and this is something we don’t have any research on yet—people who are familiar with on-screen reading that some of the rules about line length might apply less. And some of the successful publications have multiple sharing—in fact, there are so many links to like or Tweet or pin something on each page that you can be left wondering just which one you press.
   The last big overhaul of the Lucire look online was in 2009, and the updates have been relatively minor since then. But it was looking messy. We had to add icons for new things that were creeping up. One Facebook “like” button wasn’t enough: what about people who wanted to become Facebook fans? Surely we should capture them? Maybe we should put up a Pinterest link? That went up during 2012. We had 160-pixel-wide ads for years—so we kept them. The result was tolerable, and it served us reasonably well, but did people still browse Lucire for fun? Or was it just a site where you got the information you needed and left again? Bounce rates suggested the latter.
   While some of these things were noted subconsciously, we didn’t have a firm brief initially. We simply decided to do one page with a new look, to see how it would go. We had the print editions in mind. We knew we wanted clean—but we still had to eat, so advertising still had to take up some of the page. We also knew that the lead image should be 640 pixels wide, and that that would have to be reflected on the news pages.
   I’m glad to say we got lucky. The first page done—a redesign of Sarah MacKenzie’s BMW X1 first drive, which originally went up with the old look on January 1—worked. It had all the features we wanted, even if it meant abandoning some things we had had for a long time, such as the skyscraper ads. The callouts could go. In fact, we could remove the central column altogether. And the ‘Related articles’ could be moved to the bottom, where they used to be. And we stuck up plenty of sharing tools, even if good design says they introduce clutter, so we could capture users at the start and the end of an article—but we used different templates for each one. All the social networking pages we had could go to the top of the page in a row with ‘Follow us’.
   The trick was then to repeat the look on other pages.
   The ‘Volante’ index page is the only one so far to be brought into line with the new template, just to try some different layouts. I don’t think it’s quite there yet, though fashion ed. Sopheak Seng believes it’s clean enough. Practically, it is where it should be, but I want some visual drama in there. We’ll see—I think Sopheak might be right given the function of the index page, and it is heaps cleaner than how it used to look.
   The home page, of course, is the biggie, and I’m very proud to note that there’s been some great DIY there. While the slider and Tweets appear courtesy of programming that its authors have distributed freely, it’s a nice feeling to be able to say that they are on there because of in-house work, using Jquery (which we last used internally at JY&A Consulting’s website), and not a convenient WordPress plug-in. Time will tell whether it will prove to be more practical to manage but I think it already is.
   I’ve summarized in Lucire some of the features, but there were just sensible things like getting rid of the QR code (what’s it doing on the website, anyway?), the Digg link (yes, really), the Nokia Ovi link (not far from now, kids will be asking what Nokia was). We have removed three of the six news headlines and grouped the remaining ones in a more prominent fashion—which might mean people will need to scroll down to see them, so I can foresee them being moved up somehow. But, overall, the effect is, as Sopheak notes, so much closer to the print title.
   The slider has solved some problems with Google News picking up the wrong headline, too. I realize the big omission is not doing a proper mobile-optimized version but we need to do a bit more learning internally to deliver that properly. The news pages, which are on WordPress, have the default Jetpack skin. We have made some concessions to mobile devices and Sopheak tells me it is more browseable on his Samsung.
   And today, the look went on to all the news pages.
   I mentioned to him today that it was very 2002–3. That period, too, saw Lucire get a redesign, standardizing things, making the pages cleaner, and in line with a print style (although at that point, the print edition had not been launched—though when it did, we adapted some of the look from the site). That look lasted us into 2006, perhaps longer than it should have been, given that we had some internal issues in that period.
   It’s only natural that some clutter will be reintroduced as the years wear on—in Facebook’s case, it only takes a few months—but, for now, we’re hoping that bounce rate goes down, that the team, as a whole, feel far prouder of the work that appears online where it’s seen by more people, and that we have future-proofed a little.
   So what were the lessons? (a) You need to keep on top of developments, and, even if you’re not the richest company in the world, you need to have someone thinking about how you look to the public. If smaller companies can manage teams more effectively, then they need to ensure there’s strong loyalty—and that the feedback about things like the website are collated, either online or kept with one team member who champions the change. When a redesign happens, you’ll need to solve a lot of problems in one go. (b) There is no substitute for doing—and even getting it wrong on occasion. What we’ve done is to phase things in—just so we can learn from any bugs. (c) And after the job is done, take some time to enjoy it.
   There’s probably no surprise when I say that this site is next. I know, it has links to different blog readers. It looks very mid-2000s. Which is no surprise, considering when it was designed …

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


Google’s Penguin updates might not always be to blame; and the task of finding a keyboard

15.08.2012


Creative Commons

It’s been fixed now, but for a few weeks in July, Lucire’s online-edition hits took a dive. Not in the main part of the website, but the news section. Luckily, because of an abundance of feature stories in the main part of the website during July, thanks to Julia Chu’s design work, our total was never affected that greatly.
   Normally, whenever someone like Lady Gaga or the Duchess of Cambridge gets mentioned, you’d expect a rise. But all that did was take the news section from a lousy day to a normal day, rather than a very good day.
   Various theories went around, mostly surrounding Google’s Penguin updates. Could Lucire have been hit by sploggers, the victim of another site having duplicated our pages and fooled Google to the point of believing that ours was the content mill, and theirs was the original? There was one odd day in June when an article we never expected to rate highly got a lot of hits—as did those linked from it. Was that the entry point of a bot?
   It wouldn’t be the first time that Google’s bots erred and took out a legit site. One upset webmaster noted:

They are penalizing those who have been careful to only follow their terms and conditions and only practice white hat SEO (just like myself … see where I am coming from yet?). But still I was ranking #1 for multiple keywords and almost 90% plus was from actual natural links that people around the globe built (Ie; without my help or any form of payment). Yet what do I get for doing everything in the right way?? A massive ‘bitch slap’ from the “Big G”. I mean seriously I really wonder how much of Matt Cutts Wage that my Adsense campaign’s have payed for him over the years.

   Or was it because of sister sites, Lucire Men and Lucire Home, which occasionally ran the same article—but you don’t see news sites get penalized for doing so, if they syndicate from AP, Reuter or AFP?
   Or was it simply summertime in the other half of the world, which meant that people were out enjoying the sunshine and not surfing?
   Of the three theories, the last could be easily discounted. We have summer dips, but not to that extent. So I tried examining the first.
   It seems Google’s Penguin updates affected a few webmasters, and one piece of advice was to let Google know. A form is available, and we duly filled it out. But the general advice was that Google would only really go after you if you had questionable anchor link text, and Lucire had largely gone about anchor links in the same way for the past 15 years. It seemed unlikely that Google was out to kill the basic idea that the web was founded upon: links.
   To be on the safe side, we cut down the number of duplicate articles on the newer sites, though it did seem a bit silly for Google to permit them for large news organizations but not the little guy.
   Traffic has returned to normal, but we made one other change that was never considered when we first began investigating the issue: we got rid of Wordpress Mobile Pack. And it’s Wordpress that drives the Lucire news section.
   We should have thought of this earlier. If traffic to the non-Wordpress parts of the site were unaffected, then we should have figured out it might have been a Wordpress-related issue. And Wordpress did update during that time, perhaps creating some incompatibility with the way we had set up our installation and the plug-in.
   I had never considered this would be the source of the problem, however. The Mobile Pack had worked without issue for years, but I had found it curious that various people were hitting 304 errors when using their cellphones to access the news section. Maybe it was a temporary technological thing? Or the cellphone carrier?
   I also never spotted any extra entries in Google, but according to this link, the Mobile Pack may have created duplicate pages.
   One webmistress notes:

But last month on 25th of June, my site was hit by the Google Panda Update 3.8. Since then, I am on a cleaning drive to phase out duplicate content from my website.
   And to my surprise, I found that my site has thousands of duplicate pages, just because of this plugin.
   For instance, if I search for site:mysite.com inurl:wpmp_switcher=mobile, I find thousands of pages, which are exactly duplicate of the original pages. Google considers them all duplicate pages, since all of them present the same content and accessible through two different URL’s.

   Duplicate pages will definitely do it when it comes to Google giving you a black mark.
   I can’t prove whether it was the Mobile Pack at fault, or Google’s algorithms. The traffic headed north after Mobile Pack was removed, but, it’s hard to know what the cure was since we went about various possible solutions at the time. But I know that the cellphones are no longer getting 304s, even if the display is less than ideal, while for Iphones, we are using another plug-in that seems to work fine. The total traffic also seems normal now, as are the search terms people are using to find the website again.
   Lesson: go beyond the everyday wisdom of what the 99 per cent are talking about (no intent in connecting this post to the Occupy movement). Sometimes, the solution is in the 1 per cent—and in our case, we may have discovered it completely accidentally.

A final technological note: my Intopic keyboard (left) that I bought in Mongkok in 2009 doesn’t sound right. Or, it sounds the same as when it was new, but it doesn’t sound as good as a Genius keyboard I had before, which was subjected to an unplanned science experiment involving Glaceau Vitamin Water. I’ve been learning about the difference between these membrane keyboards (which I initially learned about by taking apart the aforementioned Genius after my experiment) and mechanical ones, and what Cherry MX Blue switches are all about.
   This Adesso keyboard looks (and potentially sounds) right, but can I get one in New Zealand? Not where I checked. And the prices Stateside vary wildly—from the $60 mark to nearly twice that. The places that sell them cheaply won’t ship outside the US.
   I’m happy to find a competing one as long as it has the right switches: I make plenty of errors with the Intopic because the keys are a trifle too sensitive, and I make fewer on my many laptops or the old Genius. I’m also sure I was more accurate on keyboards of old—we are talking about the ones that were around in the 1990s.
   Therefore, I’ve decided that I need a mechanical keyboard, which at least helps with my accuracy. However, New Zealand does not seem to be the country where one can find a mechanical keyboard that is 400 mm wide featuring a numeric keypad at a reasonable price, or, looking around at some of the usual dealers, an unreasonable price. Surely I can’t be the only one who does not want to reach so far for a mouse with a standard-width one, giving myself RSI in the process, and find merit in a narrower one? And if I am not, why on earth are our shops full of those wide ones?
   It all comes back to my mantra about technology: that it is here to serve us, not the other way around. I still see little reason that we must adapt to technology and what it offers when, in fact, we should consider our usage patterns and find things to suit our needs. I’ll keep searching, or I’ll splash out on a very expensive keyboard for productivity’s sake. (It won’t be the Adesso, based on the keys’ placements—Amazon reviewers helped on that front—but it will be something like it.)

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Posted in business, design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology | 3 Comments »


Testing new type live on Lucire

05.04.2012

Over the last week, we’ve added font-face linked fonts to three of our websites: Lucire, Lucire Men and Lucire Home.
   The difference is that we haven’t done it to the titles, but the body type this time. It’s a test-bed for our latest design, which I’ll reveal more information on shortly. In the case of Lucire Men, the same family has been used for the headlines.
   I realize that some recommend that the body type not be linked, since it adds to the download time. I was very conscious of this. However, we have tested the pages on a slower, older computer and while there is a slight lag, it’s barely noticeable. The type already appears on the page and simply changes to the linked fonts shortly afterward.
   Call me a sucker for double-f ligatures, but I’m enjoying the fact they come up without coding in the HTML for them:

Lucire Men headline

   It was also a good chance to see how the new family worked as web fonts, and how they hinted. There are a few quirks, but nothing too serious. It’s our first time showing off a new design in use before launch.
   The Cleartype application isn’t that perfect on Windows, but it appears beautifully on Android and Ubuntu. We’ve also been testing the typefaces in-house on Apple Macintosh OS X, Windows Vista and Windows 7.
   I thank Dan Gordon for giving me his opinion on how the type displayed on the three sites (Lucire was the last to be converted). The lower-traffic ones were first, serving as test-beds.
   I’m now tempted to use this family for this personal site and blog, once I figure out what the new look and feel will be.

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Posted in design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, typography, Wellington | No Comments »


Spam commenters are losing their minds

31.12.2010

Despite the smaller visitor numbers, this blog seems to leave way more spam in the Akismet queue than the other WordPress installations we have. I had wanted to write a post swearing at some of the dumb comments that come in, as all of these are automated, but three of the first ten today are just too humorous.
   You’ve heard of sites such as Engrish—some day, someone will make a site of bad comment spam (if they haven’t already). Comment spam is getting more and more surreal, as these examples show:

im not leave-taking over tell which every person else gain already said, however i take up desire to criticism upon your knowledge of the subject. youre truly well-informed. i hypocrisy believe how ample of this i lawful wasnt sensible of. thank you as bringing often information toward the one theme because of me. im truly pleasant as a result actually impressed.

Attempted translation: I took some leaves out of The William Tell Overture score, which gave me so much gain from Saïd that it stoked my desire to criticize your knowledge. Despite my lawless sense and hypocritical beliefs, you are truly well informed. Thank you for bringing us this theme tune because of me, making me a truly pleasant and impressed person.

Its a proper writen plus thorough post an individual built. Read you will get quite a few guests which supplement everyone on your threads. Soon after studying that posting I bought some very exclusive data which can be actually worth finding out about for anyone. This is the publish possessing some critical facts. WE want in which inside upcoming these publishing will need to carry on

Attempted translation: by being a well built individual, you’ll get guests supplementing everyone’s dress by wearing your threads. Soon, it will be worth finding out where just how they found out about them. It could have come exclusively from a publisher who was possessed while in the critical ward. His successor will have to make Carry On films.

i agree withy your p.o. certainly moreover i am since curious inside reading a little frequently of your posts upon your blog as a consequence speak to what you receive to speak. do you disfavor if i tweet your blog appointment out until my followers on twitter? i choose he and she would likewise enjoy the blog doorpost. thanks.

Attempted translation: I agree with both the use of post offices and making appointments to blog on Twitter. If I speak out about these Tweets to my followers, they will dance around their door posts out of enjoyment.
   With January 1 less than three hours away, happy Pope Gregory Day—have a lovely 2011!

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Posted in humour, internet, technology | No Comments »


The ex-Vox testimony

22.11.2010

A phpBB forum for former users of Vox (I am one) started in September 2010. I posted there today, going through my history with the service. The below is a repost, which I thought would be of interest to readers of this blog (some of whom have come from Vox). It’s a small summary of my last seven years of blogging, geared to former Vox users.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Jack, and one of the Vox beta testers from 2006. I ran a number of groups on Vox: fashion, fashion magazines, fashion professionals, cars, Chinese (on which I was promoted to admin), RetroVox (which I was also promoted to), TV and New Zealand–Aotearoa.
   I first began blogging in 2003 at the Beyond Branding Blog, but was initially dismissive toward blogs in general. Some of those early experiences were clouded by some amateurish blogs out there—the sort that pretended to be authoritative but were anything but. Of course, these now form the majority of blogs today (!) but we have come to position them in our minds more accurately as personal journals. Back in, say, 2001, I remember some early bloggers pretending to be legit news sources and people believing that they were.
   In 2005, only two of the original authors of Beyond Branding remained at the blog, so my friend Johnnie Moore, who was a regular, but had moved on to his own space (http://johnniemoore.com), wanted to shut it down. By the end of the year, I decided I would take John’s lead and blog at http://jackyan.com/blog. I already had the domain, had some experience with Blogger, and gave Johnnie the all-clear once I told my last remaining author that I intended to move.
   In 2006, my blog opened. I called it ‘The Persuader’, after two sources: the old Persuaders TV show, and the book on advertising, The Hidden Persuaders. It’s quite quaint thinking back to those reasons, but more on that another time. The blog was picked up very early by some high-powered sources like Der Spiegel, but other than those initial highs, I settled back into a more personal blogging style.
   That same year, Vox started, and I had a beta-testing invitation. Initially, I did not know how to divide the use of the two spaces, but by 2007, again I had settled: Vox would be my personal musings (especially my relationships—those were set to private, which I liked) and Blogger would have my more business-oriented ones. The split worked quite well.
   Some Australians like Ninja and Snowy will remember that in August 2009, they were locked out of Vox. They were eventually allowed back in, but Six Apart never gave them a reason for the lock-out. By October, I experienced an identical bug, but Vox denied anything was wrong. It would take anywhere from a few hours to a few days before the compose window would come up. The usual blame occurred: it must be you, it must be your computer, it must be your use of your computer, it must be your ISP, etc. I travelled up and down the country and it was the same. Eventually, tired of all of this, I gave the ever-helpful and wonderful Daisy my password, and asked her to pass it on to Six Apart techs. They, too, could not get a compose window inside Six Apart HQ.

Days blocked on Vox
Above A graphic I have pasted in a few places out of frustration in December 2009: red denotes the days I was blocked from composing on Vox, and the reason more personal posts have reappeared here this year. Pink represents the days when the compose window took a few hours to load.

   Not that it was ever fixed. I put up with it for two months, because I probably had some mild form of OC and liked needling things till they are sorted. And probably because two years’ blogging habits were hard to break. (Imagine if I were a smoker!) By the end of 2009, I had decided I would return to blogging at ‘The Persuader’ exclusively, and Vox could be left as is.
   A temporary second account at lucire.vox.com came to little. I hated not blogging under my own name.
   I still took responsibility for my eight groups. I would come in and delete sploggers (I had decided by this time that reporting them to Six Apart would be pointless) and moderate comments. Eventually I shut off my blogs to comments, since all they attracted was comment spam. It was clear to me, especially with the most popular group topics being Indian escort agencies (and had been for years) that few folks gave a damn inside Six Apart, but I felt I had a duty to my group members to at least keep their blogging worlds as clean as possible. I would visit monthly (roughly), despite having a very busy political campaign.
   That was the other reason that I was happy to leave personal blogging as part of my past. In September 2009, I announced my candidacy to run for Mayor of Wellington, New Zealand, and probably the last thing I needed was an extra distraction. In some ways, I welcomed the technical problems I had. But this also meant that in September 2010, when Vox was shut, I took the easiest option possible for my old Vox blog entries: export them to Typepad. Last six weeks of the campaign, I wanted as few hassles in my technological world as possible.
   With Blogger being even bigger assholes than Six Apart could ever be (see this story for details), I moved my blogging over to a self-hosted Wordpress platform. That took 14 hours to customize and it still looks funny on Chrome, but I was quite happy starting 2010 with everything changed: no more Vox, no more Blogger (which led to a subsequent de-Googling of everything) and a new platform at jackyan.com/blog (that looked vastly identical to the previous one).
   In some ways, not blogging about my private life was a good thing. Not venting meant I had to deal with my issues, but the important thing was that campaigning became part of my life in 2010. It’s hard putting the genie back in the bottle. For venting, there were always Twitter and Facebook—things that were not mainstream in 2006. They are now, and ideal for the pithy off-the-cuff comments. With all that was going on, the shorter medium of Twitter suited me well …
   Despite having left Vox earlier than many of you, I’m glad this forum exists. The greatest sadness of leaving Vox in December 2009 was breaking so many of the connections I made there. While many have become friends in other places—Linda-Joy, Pete J. and Paikea come to mind—it’s good to have somewhere that I can still talk to a few of the folks who discovered this forum. It’s good to see Snowy registered here. I hope Xmangerm and a few others will pop by, too; I always liked what Xmangerm had to say.

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Posted in culture, internet, New Zealand, publishing, USA | 6 Comments »


A new blogroll (Chrome should be happy)

12.10.2010

Sorting by the definite articleAfter Andrew relayed to me that Google Analytics code was being downloaded with Blogrolling, that—and not the fact that Chrome users were blocked from seeing this blog due to a false malware warning (sorry)—motivated me to shift my blogroll on to WordPress.
   He was right: it was ironic that I could have it in for Google yet preserved a blogroll that permitted Analytics to keep a track of this blog. So, this afternoon, I spent a couple of dull hours transferring all the blogs over. Life after campaigning!
   A few links were dead, as you can imagine after four years, although I clicked on many of them regularly (evidently I clicked on the same ones). A few had changed addresses. But as of 5.30 a.m. GMT, there is a new, complete blogroll at right, delivered by WordPress. As the old part of this website (pre-2010) still has Blogrolling, I updated the blogroll there, too.
   As Mike Riversdale confirmed earlier today, Chrome’s oversensitive warnings are now gone, and everyone—even Chrome users—should be able to access any post on this blog made after January 1, 2010 again. As to stuff before that date, I believe my complaint still stands.
   My issue with the new blogroll is that it files everything beginning with The under T. To me, this remains a very unnatural way to sort things—once upon a time, children, even New Zealand phone books did not do that. If I am looking up The Dominion Post (most likely to complain about rubbish being left on my property), I still, out of habit, go to D in my phone book. While the Post might be an obvious one, for many other cases, how do I know if a business has opted to retain the definite article as part of its official title? Answer: I don’t. It makes a lot more sense to file under the next word—as most libraries do. Economist, The; Miserables, Les.
   If the Open Directory Project can ignore the indefinite and definite articles in its sorting, then surely WordPress can, too?

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Posted in culture, internet, New Zealand, publishing, technology | No Comments »


As the 2010s dawn, there’s a vacuum on the internet

06.01.2010

Photo by Elliot TuckerRick Klau’s action today in restoring Vincent’s Social Media Consortium blog got me putting things into perspective.
   We know sites like Blogger and Vox are free, but what happens when they fail?
   Vox, the Six Apart blogging service, had been where I had put my personal posts—as well as a bunch of private ones inaccessible to the general public—for three years. I built up good friendships there, before social networking became everyday.
   Yet when that service failed, I went from Vox evangelist to someone who became acutely aware of the site’s failings. Those who dissed Vox months before I did, and whose complaints I thought little of, suddenly seemed to be visionaries.
   I don’t think things were handled brilliantly. While I was still there and keeping up my rate of complaints about their service being dodgy, I got replies. The minute I left, that was it.
   ‘Phew, we don’t have to talk to that nut again.’
   All the claims about wanting to get to the bottom of the problem suddenly seemed insincere. And it’s worth noting that the bug I experienced—where a compose screen would take between 15 minutes and 48 hours to load—is still present.
   They had lost quite a few users, as I had noted, and it’s obviously something deep within their code.
   The damage had been done.
   Meanwhile, Google hasn’t exactly helped, either. While Vox had me pursuing its problems for six weeks, Google was damaging its brand for six months.
   When Vincent’s blog was first blocked in July, the company promised two-day reviews. These promises were all broken. I’m sure Vincent and I, and many other bloggers who contributed to the Social Media Consortium, would have loved to have known why. As it turned out, the blog’s reviewers agreed with the computer’s decision to render the blog inaccessible, and then to delete it altogether.
   By the time I got to the Google support forums to argue the case in November, there were more broken promises—as well as downright obstruction by someone who probably gets his kicks from it.
   It got me wondering: people who do things in Google’s name aren’t very intelligent, if they can’t grasp some of the basics of their role.
   They were also not particularly courteous or understanding.
   As the frustration grew, things in my world got un-Googled. My Firefox default search engines became Cuil or Bing. I shifted my blogs away, including this one, or simply stopped blogging at Blogger. (The Medinge Group’s press room went to WordPress late last year.) While once upon a time I would recommend Vox, Blogger and WordPress to people depending on their blogging needs, I would only now say, ‘Wordpress’.
   I never was sold on Gmail—and I notice friends are beginning to have problems with that service, including being locked out. People using Gmail to commit fraud and use Lucire’s name were allowed to continue to do so, even after we reported them. Even before this incident, but within the same calendar year, I discovered that Adsense was a load of rubbish.
   All this began making me think: Google has jumped the shark.
   If someone like Google’s Rick Klau—who, if you read his blog, is an incredibly intelligent guy, not to mention an incredibly courteous one—had known of our case earlier, I’m sure we wouldn’t have allowed the Google brand to become so tarnished in our minds.
   Rick fixed things in 24 hours and saved the day as far as the Social Media Consortium was concerned. He’s also given himself a lot of good karma—I’ve seen other blogs he’s gone and restored in the last few days. But it’s a couple of days of Google goodness versus six months of its own brand-wrecking, through either bad service done in its name, bad products, or not having much of a human touch.
   Given that I was one of the first people to use Google in the late 1990s, and abandon AltaVista, Infoseek and the others in its favour, it’s a disappointing end to the 2000s.
   The trust I once might have had for Google has evaporated into the ether. It would be stupid to say that I would never use the company’s services again—you can hardly avoid it—but I’ll be thinking twice about anything new that it introduces.
   The internet leadership vacuum is becoming a reality, because I don’t see Facebook or Twitter dominating (especially not the former, with its questionable practices). And that means a new company can fill the void in the 2010s. It could even be a New Zealand one—or, better still, a Wellington one.
   There’s enough world-class thinking here which can be used as a base. And, if elected this year as Wellington’s mayor, I’d like to build on that and see if we can create an online world-beater.
   I know of a couple of Kiwi ventures already that have world-beating capabilities, currently seeking capital. The “next Google” might be among them, if we can make sure that they can grow the way they should.

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Posted in branding, business, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA, Wellington | 9 Comments »