Posts tagged ‘World Wide Web’


How can we help those fooled into believing what their local brands are?

06.01.2016

How interesting to see a silly Tweet of mine make the Murdoch Press and lead an opinion column—I’m told it even hit the news.com.au home page.
   It’s a very old joke that I’ve told since 2002, when I walked along Bay Road in Kilbirnie and saw a locksmith sign in Futura. Back then, Dick Smith Electronics had its logotype set in ITC Avant Garde Gothic. I really thought it was a Dick Smith sign at a first, fleeting glance, seeing CKSMITH. The joke was born.
   Most in my social media streams got it except a couple of Australians who had likely come across it via Murdochs a day late, one calling me ignorant (not sure how you can get that from one Tweet), and another ‘ahole’ (is this a misspelling of aloha?). As the funniest guy in their media is John Clarke, who was born in New Zealand, maybe humour doesn’t reach a couple of households there if it has to be imported. And the number of times John’s taken the piss about us, to my thorough enjoyment, means that some of us can take a joke. Perhaps we just have a sense of humour. We have to: it was the only way we could deal with our PM appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman. It is, to quote the man, ‘a bit of banter. No drama.’
   The false indignation “on behalf of others” is always a comical one, because it’s usually founded on a misplaced and unjustified sense of superiority. During a political campaign, they’re the ones I find the most humorous and least authoritative. Thick skin came with that territory.
   Neither deserves a response beyond what I said on Twitter, but the second one (with a fresh new account to troll from, always a good sign of someone who won’t stand by their words) highlights a point that I have made on this blog before.
   “Ruby Pond” notes, ‘The guy is pure Oz and started when you were in nappies and tried! Stick to your foreign companies, they really help Oz.’ I’m not sure what I was tried about, not having been to court while I was in nappies, but maybe she’s depending on the fact that not everyone remembers back to their infancy.
   Well done. She got this from an American-owned newspaper website (remember, Rupert’s no longer an Australian, nor is the HQ in Australia and hasn’t been for a long, long time), and, for the record, I’m not as old as the business that Dick founded. There’s also a suggestion that I must be Australian, because, after all, everyone on the planet must be. No other countries exist. I didn’t want to get into trans-Tasman rivalry in such a situation, nor was it appropriate to give a list of Australian corporate misdeeds in New Zealand. The term off-topic springs to mind.
   I told her, ‘Stick to your foreign media, they really help Oz.’
   Hers is that simplistic thinking that gets people supporting foreign-owned businesses when they believe they are supporting local ones.
   Dick’s been one of my personal heroes since his solo helicopter flight and I’ve been a customer of the chain he founded since I was old enough to buy my own tech gear. Entrepreneurs like him are the ones I’ve always encouraged, through mentoring and through my policies. However, the sad story of the company, no longer owned by Dick, is one of corporate greed—which the founder himself has been critical of. We haven’t learned the lessons of so many economic crises: Gordon Gecko’s mantra of ‘greed is good’ continues to drive the corporate world.
   The reason so many multinationals buy local brands is to fool the public into thinking they’re supporting their own. We’re guilty of it ourselves, and I recall using the examples of Just Juice and most of our local newspapers on this blog. People closed accounts at the National Bank when it became ANZ here, because of a suspicion of, dislike of, or rivalry with Australia, perceiving National to be a local bank. The problem there: ANZ had owned the National Bank for years before the rebranding of its own subsidiary, and prior to that it was part of Lloyds TSB in the UK. A lot of Australians think Ford and Holden are domestic players (though, oddly, not Toyota, which probably builds as many, if not more, cars there), just as many Britons still think they are buying British when they shop at Ford and Vauxhall.
   The situation with news.com.au differs slightly in that that business was started in Australia by Rupert Murdoch’s Dad, and it has grown from there—but the fact remains that its HQ is overseas and that’s where it pays its tax. Help to Australians: not a lot. The Murdoch Press’s globalization agenda won’t be one that the “buy Australian” crowd would support for the most part.
   But this is how brands work, because they encourage us to make mental shortcuts for the products and services we consume. I’ve devoted a good deal of my professional life to it. Some should encourage scrutiny because of the power they have (Wally Olins noted, many years ago, how some brands need to adopt notions that were once reserved for states), and it was hoped that, post-No Logo, we would be more inquisitive about the backgrounds to the organizations we support.
   Even though it’s our money and time, the sad thing is that this level of inquiry remains the province of the few, those people who are willing to scrutinize their own behaviour and practise what they preach. Social media have helped spread news of corporate misbehaviours (Volkswagen will attest to that) and more people are aware; but to counter that we get more information than we ever used to, and unless something resonates, will we just forget it?
   Therefore, it can only be something where people who have done the proper investigation get to have a say. And like all human endeavours, it can be scammed, so safeguards have to be built in.
   One of the reasons the Medinge Group awarded its Brands with a Conscience accolades for close to a decade was to champion the organizations that were getting it right, inviting transparency and scrutiny, championing good corporate citizenship, and engaging in socially responsible programmes. Among them were companies devoted to doing things right by the communities they were present in, whether it was Dilmah Tea, Tata Steel or Hennes & Mauritz.
   By our championing them, selected by a think-tank of leading brand professionals, we would be able to highlight shining examples of branding, as well as give them the sort of boost they deserved. If positive companies could increase their custom, and if positive non-profits could increase their influence, then we can do some good in the world.
   As people rightly want shortcuts in their busy daily lives, then the work at Medinge, if seen as an endorsement, would help them make a decision about whether to deal with that organization or not.
   It’s nice to be in that bubble, which makes me ever-grateful to get reminders that we still have a lot of work to do. If you’re genuinely desirous of helping your own, then we need to help create more ways of reminding people which organizations do just that. The Brands with a Conscience programme was definitely a very good way of doing it. What shall we do, in the post-peak-Facebook world of the second part of this decade, to get word out? Is it through video, thanks to greater bandwidth, that allows us to experience and understand more? Is this the coming of age of some form of virtual reality? Or, as we did when we first started exploring bulletin boards and email, time again for us to reach out to people in communities very foreign and different to ours through video chats—something like Google Hangouts but actually with people? (Yes, I know, Google fans, I was taking the piss.) Is Skype the service on which this can be built?
   I would have said that technology is the great democratizer, and maybe more of us should be giving out awards to truly deserving organizations, voted on by more of the public. But we come across the issue of quality versus quantity again: the Reputation Institute surveyed 60,000 people in 15 countries and still wound up with Nestlé among the most reputable firms in the world. Nestlé may do very good things in some quarters, but it hasn’t been able to avoid a lawsuit by environmental and public interests groups in California over its water-bottling operation there, or accusations by activists who believe the company wants to privatize water at the expense of public health. Volkswagen was there in the 2014 survey. We decide on image, and that image is the very thing that gets us making bad choices.
   The next innovators are already on to it, and we don’t even know that we seek it. But, in order to self-actualize, maybe organizing us—individuals, not corporations—into global communities is the next stage. We have seen Kiva work so positively, so how about making it more interactive? Naturally we will tend to choose to help those in our own countries first—crowdfunding campaigns show us that—but allowing us to understand another human being’s situation could be the challenge in a time when governments pursue their austerity agenda. Somehow, we can restore, at least to some degree, the optimism we had when we in the first world accessed the World Wide Web for the first time.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, culture, globalization, humour, internet, marketing, media, social responsibility, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


Autocade reaches 7,000,000 page views, growing at its quickest rate

10.10.2015

I was surprised to see that Autocade managed its 7,000,000th viewer some time this month, five months after the 6,000,000th. Considering it took three years to get to the first million, this means people are willing to use Autocade more regularly as a resource on the web. As something that started on the side, this is very heartening news, especially as there have been relatively few updates since the 6,000,000th due to general busy-ness.
   Here’s how the numbers stack up:

March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 page views (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 page views (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 page views (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 page views (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 page views (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 page views (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 page views (five months for seventh million)

There are presently 3,258 individual model line entries on the website, so at this rate it’ll be some time in 2016 before Autocade gets to 3,500. Number 3,250 was a Chinese car, the Besturn B90 (above left), although with the economy there slowing, it’s likely there will be fewer new models. It had been very hard keeping up with the pace of change there, although many significant new models made it on to the site during the boom years.
   The Frankfurt show saw many débutantes, which will begin appearing over the summer break when I get a few moments to oversee their addition.
   In 10 days’ time, meanwhile, Lucire will celebrate its 18th anniversary, proving many naysayers wrong.

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Posted in business, cars, China, media, New Zealand, publishing | 2 Comments »


A warning to those with rivers.pro tagcloud code in their Tumblr themes

31.01.2014

Does anyone have the rivers.pro tagcloud code in their Tumblr theme? If so, it’s time to remove it. The code forwards to a website which McAfee SiteAdvisor labels dodgy. It is very hard to remove from a customized theme, since every time the page loads, the forwarding takes place. You’ll have to find a way to stop the loading, then edit your templates.
   The code looks something like this:

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://tumblrtags.rivers.pro/jquery.js"></script><script type="text/javascript" src="http://tumblrtags.rivers.pro/widget.js?css=default&minsize=80&maxsize=180&order=alphabetical"></script>

   I’ve advised Tumblr of this. Maybe they have some way to help Tumblr users.
   Incidentally, you may be asking, ‘Why is he warning people on his regular blog and not on Tumblr?’ The answer is simple: I am not allowed to.
   Every time I tried posting this message, this is what I got:

Tumblr warning on tagcloud code

Maybe Tumblr has already blocked the code?
   Regardless, if you have friends who use Tumblr, please get them to check.

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Posted in design, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Are you receiving me, over?

19.07.2011

I’m putting this out there in case others have experienced something similar: is the New Zealand internet constantly down?
   I’ve had the same email address since 1995. Yet, this year, a noticeable number of New Zealanders have telephoned here, saying that their messages have bounced. Even one team member has said that, if she uses her home ISP, her messages to me also bounce. In one case, we had to resort to fax to get the document across.
   This year, I’ve clicked on (foreign) search engine results or advertisements to get to an error page. Only when I hit ‘Refresh’ does the page eventually come through. This has not happened with the same frequency as it does today.
   I’m sitting here today after sending three very important emails to channel partners over the weekend, and have not had a reply to them. I’m wondering, now, since I used a New Zealand ISP’s SMTP, whether I’m in the same shoes as the others who have tried to reach me. Certainly, in one case, the domain for FTPing was unreachable on Saturday on my first attempt. And TelstraClear—though it’s not the only party with sending problems, as I know one of my clients is on Xtra—does not send me bounces.
   I should explain that despite being HQed here, our server has always been Stateside. This was a consequence of some rules regarding foreign web server traffic back in the 1990s. As we knew that most of our traffic would come from overseas—a logical conclusion given that New Zealand’s population is so small—and as local hosting companies were charging what I thought were rip-off prices in those days, we’ve always been hosted either on the US east coast (New York and Virginia) or, since 2002, a dedicated server in the south.
   But it’s not as though this domain is so new that it doesn’t reside on DNSs around New Zealand.
   My theories are not conspiratorial, for a change. But they are concerning, because it makes me wonder about our national internet infrastructure, and how far we might have fallen behind in the last decade.
   I have heard, from people who know more about the infrastructure than me, that we have fallen considerably behind in the last decade, though I don’t know exactly in which areas other than overall speed and, as of this year, civil liberties, democracy and the rule of law.
   I suspect that with growing internet usage, local servers are not resolving addresses as efficiently as they used to. There are more addresses to hold on to, so if you aren’t at the very top of the list (Google, Facebook, etc.), then you’re going to be forgotten. And since my address is the company’s one, and not Lucire’s, it isn’t really going to be among those top ones.
   It might mean that from now on, I’m going to have to use our own mailserver, rather than our ISP’s, to get emails across. At least that’s based in Texas, and I can be assured that my emails are getting to the US and the UK.
   If anything happens, at least I know I’d get a fair hearing with the Americans on their own soil than I would under our American-imposed copyright laws.
   Anyone else here with an overseas mailbox—and not one of the webmail services like Gmail or Hotmail—experiencing similar issues?

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Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


How do you pretend you are surfing abroad?

21.02.2011

Some years ago, you could set your browser to use a proxy server and surf the web as though you were in another country. This was a handy tool for us, as we often need to check that the ads being shown on our sites were suitable—you never know what ad networks might try to send through. We’ve even caught fake ad campaigns with nasties before things got out (we had a biggie in 2007 masquerading as a sits vac site), so it’s a useful thing for us to do for user security.
   Software, however, has got a lot better at geotargeting, and even our own in-house programs can see through proxy-surfing. Regardless of proxy server, our ad server knows where I am, at least as far as the nation (it can get the city wrong and even Lucire shows me a lot of ads for Les Mills in Britomart).
   Therefore, I’m curious: how can Joe Schmoes like me browse the web and pretend I am from somewhere else?
   VNC was mentioned as a solution, but it seems proxies won’t really do it any more.
   And no, I’m not interested in Hulu or any of those TV sites. I have my legally watchable Alarm für Cobra 11s from Germany, the odd doco on Swedish public TV, and Ecast TV, and I am quite happy on that front. Suggestions are welcome in the comments.

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Posted in business, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology | 2 Comments »


New Twitter, less utility?

16.12.2010

I might have to go on to one of those Twitter clients, when “new” Twitter is forced upon all users soon.
   When it eventually began working (it didn’t initially), I liked the new Twitter’s overall look. It was only missing one feature: telling us what the last Tweet of the person was at a glance. I didn’t want to click on each person to see what their last Tweet was.
   Knowing what the last Tweet was allows me to make a judgement call about whether I follow that person back. Sometimes you can tell if the Tweeter is actually a spammer, sending automated Tweets that you have no interest in following. For instance, these are my newest followers (sorry, folks—but since anyone can see you, I’m sure you won’t mind being used for this exercise):

Latest Twitter followers

In each case, I already have an idea who is worth following back, and it saves me some time. (I won’t comment on whom I have followed back out of these four.)
   The new Twitter is a little slower because it loads so much more—yet I don’t get any more utility from it, based on my usage.
   We all adapt, just as we did with wholesale changes to Facebook and other services. But I wonder whether it will be like Digg or Technorati, or, for that matter, Infoseek and Altavista (remember the portal gag? I think Google does), where changes scared people away.

PS.: Based on Twitter’s own ‘Help Center’, the bug I reported three months ago is still present for a lot of users. While the bug disappeared for me around six weeks ago, I’m now dreading the change, being one of the first people to encounter it when the new Twitter was launched.—JY

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Posted in design, internet, technology | 2 Comments »


“Liking” something on Facebook takes an awfully long time

12.12.2010

There are things I “like” on Facebook, but as they can be run by organizations, I don’t see the need to reveal all my private information to them.
   Once upon a time, it was quite easy to stick these “likes” into my limited profile friends’ category on friends. But a few months ago, Facebook removed them all from my friends’ listing. Not that they ever told us, but they are still there.
   With some reason, Facebook makes me paranoid. It’s made changes to my privacy settings a lot of times without my permission, and made false accusations about copyright infringement, including lying about the reasons for the latter. From what we know from inside the company, the culture’s not exactly on the side of everyday people like you and me.

Facebook makes false accusations

   Just because these fan pages and supported organizations are not among my friends’ list, it does not mean that some day, Facebook won’t allow them access to our profiles. I prefer to be cautious and stick them all into my limited profile category—or an even stricter one.
   So to all those people who have sent me fan pages to “like”, here’s why it takes me a long time (sometimes years) to add them.
   1. I go into the page suggestions and confirm the page that I like.
   2. I go to Account, then Edit Friends, at the top of the page.
   3. I select Limited Profile on the side, and wait for the friends’ list to generate.
   4. I enter the name of the page I just “liked” into the box that appears above the list.
   5. I repeat (2) to (4) because nothing happens.
   6. On the second time, Facebook will add the page into the limited profile category of my friends’ list.
   It’s an incredibly convoluted process, and step (5) is particularly frustrating, but when it comes to Facebook, they have taught us that it’s better safe than sorry.

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Posted in culture, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Testing the search engines

30.11.2010

Blekko

I hadn’t heard of Blekko, a search engine, till last week, so armed with a new entrant, I wanted to see how they all compared.
   Blekko’s very pretty, and I’ve told Gabriel Weinberg, the man behind Duck Duck Go, just what it is that makes it attractive. Most of it is the modernist design approach it takes. But is it more functional?
   I have a couple of tests. You may have heard me dis Google’s supplemental index, where pages it deems to be less important wind up. But who makes that determination? And what if there is a page in there that is actually relevant but Google fails to dig it up?
   Google says the supplemental index doesn’t exist any more, but the fact remains that it fails to dig up some pages, especially older ones. So much for its comprehensive index.
   The first test, therefore, is one I have subjected every search engine I encounter to: will it find a 2000 article on Lucire about Elle Macpherson Intimates’ 10th anniversary? It is probably the only article on the subject, and because of this test, I’ve even linked it this year so it can be spidered by the search engines. Last month, Google could not find it, though in 2000–1, it was very easily found.
   If the search engines are as intelligent as their makers claim, it should be able to figure out these concepts and deliver the pages accordingly. The page itself is very basic with no trick HTML—just plain old meta data, as you would imagine for a ten-year-old file.
   Will the search engines find it now, with a few more inward links?

Duck Duck Go: 1st
Blekko: not found, though it locates a reference made on this blog and two others in Lucire, one going back to 2001, at positions 1, 2 and 12
Google: 73rd, with blog entries from here referring to it at 5 and 42, and another link in Lucire at 6
Bing: 1st with old frameset at 2nd
Ask: 7th

   Here’s the second test. In Wired, Google bragged about how its index could find a page about a certain lawyer in Michigan (mike siwek lawyer mi). Unfortunately for Mr Siwek, most of the top entries quickly became those about the Wired article and he was lost again in the index.
   Mr Don Wearing, a friend of mine, is a partner in a shoe retail chain. If I typed “Don Wearing” shoes, which of the search engines will deliver me an entry referring to Don Wearing specifically and not some guy called Don who happens to be wearing shoes? (Not long ago, the best the search engines could do was around 12th.)

Duck Duck Go: 2nd
Blekko: says ‘No results found for: “Don Wearing” shoes’ but actually finds the article at 5th
Google: 3rd
Bing: 2nd
Ask: 5th

Not bad: an improvement all round.
   OK, how about speed of addition? Let’s see if the search engines will find the last entry in this blog, added a few hours ago. I’ll use the search term “Jack Yan” TPPA.

Duck Duck Go: not found
Blekko: not found
Google: found the main blog page
Bing: found a link to it at MyBlogLog
Ask: not found, but came up with seven irrelevant results

   This is just a quick test based on three examples that might not reflect everyday use. However, the first two frustrated me earlier when I went to hunt for them on Google (and before I had heard of Duck Duck Go), which is why I remembered them, so admittedly Google was at a slight disadvantage in this test as a result. I never went to Bing or Ask regularly.
   Therefore, I’m not going to draw any conclusions about who is best, but I will say that Google is quicker at finding new material. I would, however, encourage others to give these other search engines a go and see how effective they are. I’m very happy with Duck Duck Go, especially as it does not second-guess my queries with Google’s annoying ‘Showing results for [what Google thinks I typed]. Search instead for [what I actually typed]’. No, Google, I did not type my query wrong—so give me the results already!
   I prefer Duck Duck Go’s approach, which is to treat the web more as a research medium. There is no hiding pages: it just delivers the most relevant result to what I typed, which is why I originally moved to Google at the end of the 1990s.
   Judging by the above, I’m not convinced Blekko is ready for prime-time (which is why it still has a beta tag).
   Of the five tested, it looks like it’s still the Duck for me, complemented with Google News. I’m way more impressed with Duck Duck Go’s privacy policy: no search leakage, no search history, and no collecting of personal information to hand over to law enforcement or, for that matter, the Chinese Politburo.
   And in a year where people have shown that they care about privacy, Duck Duck Go seems to make more sense.

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Posted in business, design, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


The “next Google” has to save the web

09.11.2010

Spotted on Tumblr yesterday, via Dave Sparks: ‘Why Facebook Browsing Annihilates Web Browsing’, on the Fast Company blogs. The intro pretty much summarizes the whole piece:

Recent research suggests that Facebook is overtaking search engines in terms of “time spent” on the web. Want to see where the trendline is heading? Take a look at young female Facebook users, who spend as much as 5 hours on the site per day—and almost no time on the wider web. You’d better get your brand’s Facebook page in order.

   As Lucire is largely made up of female users, the above is borne out on some days, where we receive a handful more referrers from Facebook than from Google.
   The other component to this may be Google itself. Now, this isn’t a dig (as I am wont to do this year). But here at work, we’re noticing that in order to find something, we might employ two search engines and not rely just on Google.
   As I pointed out, there are things that Google just cannot find, even when freshly linked from, say, this blog.
   It all seemed to start from the days of the supplemental index, where Google hid some pages that it had crawled from the main index. This seems fair enough: the majority of searches must be connected with the Zeitgeist (a word Google itself uses when describing a month’s search-term trends), and would be about a current event. Older pages, which contain historical information, only serve to get in the way.
   But what of the researchers? I’ve posited once before that the web is, at its core, a research medium, and (the old) Google contributed to some degree to that notion. If you’re hunting for something, especially if you’re a student, the web is your first port of call. However, if certain pages are now hidden from view, then a search engine might not be your best bet any more. You might Tweet your request, use your social network to see if a peer or a “friend” has the answer, or, Heaven forbid, you might go offline to find a credible source.
   Mark Kirby, who wrote the Fast Company entry, notes:

What’s most important about this behavior, from a brand marketing perspective at least, is that when many of these women needed to look something up—information on a venue, or a band, or a consumer brand—they were more likely to look first for information on the site where they were already spending all their time: Facebook.

   The idea that young women are spending time on Facebook, and spending less time on any other site on the web, isn’t that big a surprise. Many of us have set up presences there: the latest, when I clicked through on Lucire ads today, was L’Oréal USA. It is a site that some trust, despite its callous attitude to privacy and the law. (Again, this was a prediction I made, not referring to Facebook, some years ago: that people would start flocking to trusted brands on the internet again. It just so happens some people trust Facebook’s brand, even if I don’t.)
   We’re also creatures who like our busy lives to be as crap-free as possible. Remember email? Once upon a time, there was no spam. Everyone who we were connected to via email, we wanted to be connected with. Often, these were people with that same, idealistic outlook we ourselves had. People with like minds. Not always friends, but certainly people with some connection to us. They might be what we term a ‘friend’ today, in Facebook or MySpace parlance.
   Cities that have experienced decay might be another parallel: remember how there was less crime? Remember when you could walk down Street X more safely, before the crims took over that neighbourhood? (I hear variants of this frequently from my British and South African friends now.)
   And now look at the web. Fake, automated blogs (such as those promoted in the image at left) are set up just to trick people into visiting so their owners can make a few bob from Google Adsense. (Don’t believe me? Head into Google Blog Search and have a poke around: the phonies are taking over the index. This was the sort of disease that plagued Vox before Six Apart shut it down.) No wonder publishers are doing Ipad apps and the like, where they can be assured of some quality control, and no wonder we are spending time on Facebook, hopefully to lead spam-free lives. And no wonder Technorati, which once was a powerhouse when it came to cataloguing blogs, is so very 2000s now.
   As with so many things, Google’s web search probably needs to return to its roots. PageRank is useful, but then, so is a good old-fashioned analysis about how honestly a site has done its meta tags and provided its content. Or perhaps the boffins at Mountain View can develop a method, beyond PageRank, to determine a site’s legitimacy. (I’m sure they’re already working on it; they’re doing their bit to get rid of splogs, even if many legit ones get caught up in that. Ironically, fewer splogs would probably exist if Google did not have its Adsense programme, which provides advertising income to low-traffic publishers.) It’s still a bit better than my current search engine favourite, Duck Duck Go, when it comes to interpreting the terms that are fed in (it groups them better, though it still makes mistakes), but the web, as we knew it, may be heading the same way as email. It’s there, but it’s just not the best hang-out in town.
   That might be the task of “the next Google”—the new venture that’s going to come in and define the 2010s just as Google defined the 2000s. The one engine that’s more capable of weeding out the splogs, able to spot the human-authored spaces. The new site that will save us from ourselves and the crap that now goes on to the internet. The need seems to be there.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, media, publishing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


A weekend of malware

24.10.2010

Autocade warning

I’m prepared to eat humble pie if one of our sites is actually distributing malware (naturally without any knowledge or action on our part). According to Google, Autocade is doing just that, as of the 23rd:

Of the 3 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 3 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2010-10-23, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2010-10-23.
   Malicious software is hosted on 1 domain(s), including requestbusforward.co.cc/.
   1 domain(s) appear to be functioning as intermediaries for distributing malware to visitors of this site, including globals1696.ipq.co/.

   Immediately, I did the following:

  • searched for the domain (requestbusforward.co.cc) that was the source of the malware, and found that there were accusations toward Gizmodo and Gawker of doing exactly the same thing;
  • notified people on Twitter that there could be a problem with Autocade;
  • confirmed on a machine that is infected (which we were about to nuke) that the message was correct (it happened exactly as Google stated);
  • began backing up the database of the legit data along with the images;
  • informed our web host, Rackspace, of the notice and asked for an immediate check whether the server had been hacked;
  • did a Google News search and came up empty for news about either Gizmodo or Gawker being infected (which you would expect given these are popular websites);
  • better safe than sorry, nuked the infected PC with a hard-drive format. (Thank goodness for long weekends.)

   Rackspace’s Joe Kirby reports that he has seen no hacking activity at the server end. I’ve requested a review from Google and we’re still going to upgrade Mediawiki, which Autocade is run on.
   I’m willing to keep an open mind about whether Google was accurate this time (I can confirm it was not accurate about this blog), given that the scenario could be reproduced, albeit on an already infected machine.
   It still strikes me as odd that there is nothing on Google News or Google Blog Search about an infected Gizmodo or Gawker, which you would expect to make some sort of a splash.

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