Posts tagged ‘Wordpress’


Mastodon before Twitter: time to change my main social network

21.01.2020

With the Twitter advertising preference monster continuing to gather preferences on all of us even after opting out—which basically makes Twitter Facebook—I decided to switch the Mastodon–Twitter Crossposter around.
   With Twitter being my main social network, I was quite happy to allow the Crossposter to take my Tweets and turn them into Toots on Mastodon, and I’d check in to the latter regularly to respond to people.
   But with this latest discovery, I’m having second thoughts. We all know Twitter censors, and protects bigots, and its latest way to make a quick buck crosses a line.
   I know most people have lines that they redraw regularly, especially when it comes to social media and phone apps, but I’m trying to manage mine a little better.
   What I’ll miss is the news: I get plenty from Twitter, often breaking items. I’ll have to find an equivalent, or a news bot, on Mastodon. I’ll also miss interactions with real friends I’ve made on the service. It was incredible to get the condolence messages from Twitter. But if Stephen Fry can walk away from time to time, leaving millions there, I can probably take some time out from the 5,200 following me.
   Note that I won’t cease going to Twitter altogether: I’m not going cold turkey. There’s a bunch of us supporting one another through Alzheimer’s in the family, so I still want to be there for them. But if plans go well, then it won’t be my main social network any more. Twitter’s advertising clients will all miss me, because I simply never consented to Twitter compiling info to micro-target me. Mastodon will get my info first.
   And if Mastodon, one day, decides to do ads, I actually won’t mind, as long as they don’t cross that line. If I’ve opted out of personalization, I expect them to respect it. Even Google respects this, and they’re a dodgy bunch. The fact I have an IP address tied to my country, and that I’ve given some personal info about me, is, in my book, enough. Besides, anyone who knows me will know that a lot of the preferences shown in Twitter have no connection with me—just as Facebook’s were completely laughable.

PS.: Dlvr.it does not take RSS feeds to send to Mastodon. I’m trying out the Activitypub plug-in for Wordpress instead.

P.PS.: Ton Zylstra suggested Autopost to Mastodon, which looks far simpler.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


The newer the Instagram, the buggier; and why no one should use Google Drive

24.11.2019

I’ve discovered that the newer the Instagram, the buggier it is. We’ve already seen that it can’t cope with video if you use Android 7 (a great way to reduce video bandwidth), and, earlier this year, filters do not work.
   I downgraded to version 59 till, last week, Instagram began deleting direct messages as its way to force me to upgrade. Neither versions 119 or 120 are stable, and are about as reliable as one of Boris Johnson’s marriages, although they have fixed the filter problem.


   Neither version has an alignment grid to aid you to adjust an image so it’s square, even though Instagram’s own documentation says it remains present. Presently, only Tyler Henry and other psychics can see the grid:


   Holly Jahangiri tells me that she has a stable Instagram on Android 9, and another good friend informs me that Instagram still gives him an editing grid on IOS, which reminds me of the débâcle of Boo.com many years ago: it only worked with the latest gear, at HQ, but never worked with older browsers, and certainly never transmitted in a timely fashion on the broadband of the early 2000s (and to heck with anyone unfortunate enough to still be on dial-up).
   I will keep downgrading till the grid is back for us non-clairvoyants, as it’s a feature I use, though I imagine I could run the risk of getting to one with a grid but inoperable filters. I doubt, however, that the video frame rate on Android 7 has been fixed, and since my earlier phone no longer charges (well, it does, but I have to drive to Johnsonville to the repair shop to do it), I’ve saved up oodles of video content.
   I also can’t tag locations in the new Instagrams. I can try, but the window showing me the locations doesn’t like keyboards. If you can’t enter the first word quickly enough, then you’re stuck in a situation where you have to keep tapping to get your keyboard back.
   It’s pretty unacceptable that a year-old phone is already incompatible with an app, but I guess you have to remember that no self-respecting geek working for Big Tech would have old gear.
   Speaking of Big Tech, I can’t work out why people still use Google Drive. I wasted 80 minutes last night trying to download around two gigabytes of images for work. All Google Drive does is say it’s ‘Zipping 1 file’, and after it’s ZIPped, that is all it does. There’s no prompt to download, no prompt to sign in, no automatic download, nada. You can click (if you catch it in time) the message that it’s ready (which I did on the third attempt), but that does nothing.

   I imagine this is Google’s way of saving on bandwidth and it is utterly successful for them as nothing is ever transmitted.
   The ZIPping process took probably 15–20 minutes a go.
   A comparable service like Wetransfer or Smash just, well, transfers, in less than the time Google Drive takes to archive a bunch of files.
   I also notice that Google Drive frequently only sends me a single image when the sender intends to send a whole bunch. There’s no age discrimination here: both an older friend and colleague and a young interviewee both had this happen in October when trying to send to me. It is, I suspect, all to do with an interface that hasn’t been tested, or is buggy.
   Basically: Google Drive does not work for either the sender or the recipient.
   This morning a friend and colleague tried to send me more files using this godawful service, and this time, Google Drive at least gave me a sign-on prompt. Even though I was already signed on. Not that that does anything: you never, ever log in. However, for once, the files he tried to send me actually did come down in the background.

   I should note that for these Google Drive exercises, I use a fresh browser (Opera) with no plug-ins or blocked cookies: this is the browser I use where I allow tracking and all the invasiveness Google likes to do to people. Now that it has begun grabbing Americans’ medical records in 21 states without patient consent in something called ‘Project Nightingale’ (thank you, Murdoch Press, for consistently having the guts to report on Google), we’re in a new era of intrusiveness. (I’m waiting for the time when most Americans won’t care that Google, a monopoly, has their medical records, after the initial outcry. No one seems to care about the surveillance US Big Tech does on us, which puts the KGB and Stasi to shame.)
   Looking at Google’s own help forums, it doesn’t matter what browser you use: even Chrome doesn’t work with Drive downloads in some cases.

   The lesson is: stop using Google Drive for file transfers, as Smash does a better job.
   Or, better yet, stop using Google. Get a Google-free phone, maybe even one from Huawei.

Meanwhile, I see WordPress’s Jetpack plug-in did this to my blog today without any intervention from me. I imagine it did an automatic update, which it was not set to do.

   There’s untested software all over the place, ignoring your settings because it thinks it knows better. News flash, folks, your programs don’t know better.
   A great way for one tech company to get rid of criticisms of another tech company for a few hours, I guess, harming its ranking in the process. Google itself has done it before.
   Farewell, Jetpack. Other than the stats and the phone-friendly skin, I never needed you. I’m sure there are alternatives that don’t wipe out my entire blog.

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | 4 Comments »


Should I remove Feedburner?

05.10.2019

I’m wondering whether it’s worth carrying on with Feedburner. Over the last few years I’ve rid our sites of Facebook gadgets—that means if you “Facebook liked” something here, you’d have to go through the Po.st links above (which I’m hoping are visible on the mobile version), rather than something made by Facebook that could track you. It’s not been 100 per cent perfect, since Po.st doesn’t pick up on likes and shares that you get within Facebook, so if this post manages a dozen likes there, the count you see above won’t increase by 12. It’s why well liked posts don’t necessarily have a high share count, which renders the figure you see here irrelevant.
   I suppose it’s better that someone understates the share figure than overstates it—as Facebook does with its user numbers.
   But I dislike Google’s tracking as much as Facebook’s, and since I have de-Googled everywhere else (one of the last is shown below), then I’d like to get rid of the remaining Google tools I use.

   I signed this blog up to Feedburner when the company was independent of Google, but I see from the gadget on the full desktop version of this site there are only 37 of you who use its feeds from this blog. This is a far cry from the 400-plus I used to see regularly, even 500-plus at one point in the late 2000s.
   I checked in to my Feedburner stats lately, and was reminded that the drop from hundreds to dozens all happened one day in 2014, and my follower numbers have been in the two digits since. Check out this graphic and note the green line:

   It’s entirely consistent with what I witnessed over the years. There were indeed days when the Feedburner gadget’s count would drop into the 30s, before rising back up to 400 or so the following day. I never understood why there would be these changes: in the early days of Feedburner, before the Google acquisition in 2007, I had a slow and steady rise in followers. These peaked soon after Google took over, plateaued, and just before the 2010s began, the massive fluctations began.
   I can’t believe there’d be en masse sign-ups and cancellations over a five-year period, but in 2014, the last fall happened, and it remained low. And, to be frank, it’s somewhat demoralizing. Is the fall due to Google itself, or that Feedburner decided to run a check on email addresses and found that the majority were fake one day, or something else?
   Given that the fluctations were happening for years, then I want to say there was a bug that knocked out hundreds of subscribers, but I actually don’t know, and I haven’t read anything on this online, despite searching for it.
   Perhaps Google cuts back the dissemination of your RSS feed if you’re not using their Blogger product, but we know why using their service is an exceptionally bad idea.
   It reminds me of Facebook’s decision to kill the shares from a page by 90 per cent some years back, to force people to pay to keep their pages in the feed.
   If you’re getting this on Feedburner, would you mind leaving me a comment so I know it’s still worthwhile? Otherwise, I may remove my account—I’ve de-Googled everything else—and if you still need Atom and RSS feeds, they can be had at jackyan.com/blog/atom/ and jackyan.com/blog/feed/ respectively.

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Posted in internet, publishing, technology | 2 Comments »


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 | 11 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 »