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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006. No paid posts.



14.05.2021

Cellphone apps: InShot’s Music Player may finally be the one; Über remains a total waste of time

Forgetful Muzio Player has been replaced by a program (or app) called Music Player, which isn’t the best brand name considering the many other apps out there with the same name. This one’s version 2.5.6.74 and its maker is InShot Inc., so if all goes well, this is the one Meizu users should go for.
   First, a good bit: it picks up the directories on the SD card, which, till Meizu upgraded its Music app, I thought I could take for granted.
   The not-so-good bits. It doesn’t pick up the album artwork, so you have to link each cover yourself. The disadvantage is that you have to search for the cover by image, and there’s no option to search by name. Mind you, it was the same story with Meizu Music, and provided you have a rough idea of when you downloaded the album (as it displays the covers in reverse chronological order), it isn’t impossible.
   It did, however, pick up the graphics from the songs where the cover image was embedded and used them for the album covers … at least it did till today, when it forgot all about those and I spent more time relinking the dozen or so that the app forgot.
   What is it about forgetful software, or at least software that operates differently every day? Do I need to invent the dot-ini file (since it doesn’t seem to exist in this universe) or radically suggest that software follows a set of instructions, line by line, that do not vary each time?


Above: InShot’s Music Player displayed an album cover for Gone with the Wave yesterday, but today it appears to have forgotten what it was.

   Nevertheless, Music Player does “share” the chosen album cover with the individual tracks, so when they’re played, the image appears on the player screen, something that Muzio was loathe to do.
   In other words, Music Player does what Meizu Music used to do before it became a lemon and, providing it doesn’t forget all the linked album covers (all 280 of them), it’ll stay on my phone for the foreseeable future. Since it didn’t come from an app store, it won’t be “upgraded” to something inferior, either, which appears to be the path of a lot of cellphone software.
   It doesn’t look too bad, though admittedly Muzio Player’s interface remains superior.
   Linking 280 covers with each album over the course of a day and a bit sure beats linking over 1,000 of them with each song on Muzio Player, and to have three weeks’ worth of labour vanish despite the program saying, ‘Changes saved’.
   If InShot’s Music Player keeps things as they are, then it’s the replacement I’ve sought for some time. Since I didn’t hear back from Muzio Player, I’ve deleted the app.

One program I can say is a genuine waste of time is Über, if you happen to use a Meizu M6 Note like me. I’ve always resisted it, on principle. If they didn’t play silly buggers on tax, I might be more inclined to have supported them, but I’ve remained very faithful to public transport and taxis all these years.
   Because of timing and circumstances that I won’t go into here, and having had a virus all of last week that I haven’t fully shaken off (one symptom being short of breath), Über was suggested again today. My first choice was driving to the station, catching the train (being careful not to spread any of my germs about), then either a bus or cab, to pick up a press car from town. That would mean after returning home, I would have to walk to the station while not feeling 100 per cent to get my own car. I know first-hand that a cab from here in the northern suburbs can be pricey—and that’s when one even shows up, as my partner’s faced ridiculously long waits for them during the daytime. So Über was a realistic choice and I’d be suckered into helping to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few milliardaires high up at these tech firms at the expense of working people.
   Never fear, for Über is a half-baked app that cost me two missed trains and I could have been typing this an hour earlier than I am now.
   Thanks to the full factory reset that PB did last year on my phone, and my installation of Meizu’s far more advanced Chinese OS afterwards, I was able to create an account this time and log in. It didn’t keep returning the message that I had attempted too many log-ins, even after a single attempt.
   After that, it takes about half an hour to read the terms and conditions and the privacy policy on a cellphone. You can opt out of promo messages, or so they claim (to be on the safe side, I’ve done it thrice: once when reading the T&Cs before I accepted them, once after I read them, and once more from the desktop when an email with an unsubscribe link arrived).
   And that’s really about all it does. You can’t type in any destination; I later checked their instructions on a proper computer and I was doing exactly what was asked. I could feed in my home address (it came up after I began feeding in the basics), and I could feed in some favourites, but I can’t actually go to them.
   Naturally, it will take your credit card details: Über made sure that that part worked.
   Having saved the Railway Station as a destination, and attempted to order a ride to there, I got to a screen to tell me that Über isn’t available in my area. Whether that means Tawa, or Wellington, or New Zealand, I don’t know.




Above: It’s impossible to feed in a destination in Über, but it’s probably because it’s not available in Tawa.

   I have map software on my phone—both Here Maps and Baidu Maps. And my partner does successfully use Über from time to time, on a Huawei phone which, like my Meizu, is Google-free. She has no Google Maps, so I know that isn’t a prerequisite for Über. I also know Google Services aren’t, either. At least these are points in their favour. I can’t be bothered troubleshooting beyond that, since they’ll just deny everything and pass the buck.
   Eventually, when I realized Über is a monumental waste of time, I carried out plan A, and took a train an hour after the one I could have taken had I not attempted to get an Übercab. And walked in the wintry air to collect my car.
   It was an easy decision to delete my account and the app soon after. Just as well, really. Big Tech loses once again. To think, the little music player made by a small company is more reliable than the milliards behind Über.


Above: Relieved to be on a desktop computer—and hopefully I won’t need to have any connection with Über ever again.


Filed under: design, technology—Jack Yan @ 12.12

12.05.2021

There go three weeks of ‘Changes saved’: another forgetful piece of software

After all these experiences, I really shouldn’t be surprised that computers and their programs are so forgetful, and the same applies to cellphones. But of course it happened again today, undoing three weeks’ work.
   I don’t know if this is hardware- or software-related, but all I ask of people who make this stuff is to not have them be so damned forgetful. My email to the developer of Muzio Player follows. This was a player I adopted after Meizu Music also proved forgetful.

Hi there:

I’ve been using Muzio Player for just under a month and have found it attractive, and, other than the issues below, very practical. It’s been a far more stable player than the default one that came with my Meizu M6 Note.
   I am on the free version, so I don’t know if this is something reserved for the Pro one.
   Last month I sent you a small feedback item about cover artwork. Meizu’s default app stores the cover JPEGs in a folder of their own, and I was able to link the hundreds that I have on my phone with your app. I was a bit disappointed that the individual songs don’t “adopt” the chosen covers, but accepted that that was how you programmed it.
   Therefore, over the last month, I decided to link each song—I have over 1,200, and I imagine around 1,000 of those do not have cover artwork embedded in the song file—individually with the album covers. It took hours each day, and I’ve spent the last three weeks almost finishing the task. I estimate I probably had about 30 left to go. Each time Muzio Player would report ‘Changes saved’ and the app was looking better and better as the majority of tracks got linked, especially when I had the player going in my car and I could see the cover artwork with the track.
   Imagine my surprise when today, Muzio Player “forgot” all the cover artwork. Three weeks of individual linking gone. Every track now shows the default musical notes, other than the handful that have artwork within the files. It seems ‘Changes saved’ didn’t mean that after all. Surely these are saved somewhere?
   I should note that I haven’t done any system clean-ups in the last 24 hours, so that is not the reason these changes have vanished. Indeed, I have done them in earlier weeks without any effect on Muzio Player.
   Is there something I can do to get them all back, save for spending another three weeks relinking everything?
   I am on version 100666008, OS 25. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,

Jack

   I hope they care about their product and can tell me just where everything was saved and can be recovered from. Advice on less forgetful software would be welcome. I’d still be on Meizu Music 8·0 if it didn’t insist on self-updating to an inferior version. It’s like computer mice: they actually make something good, and because they know they cannot top it, they wind up making worse things to succeed it. At the present rate, a computer mouse in 2030 will the size of a stapler, as they continue to shrink.


Filed under: technology—Jack Yan @ 00.59

05.05.2021

How to get your Facebook ad account shut down: do something honest

‘We can’t level, you crazy bastard, we’re in advertising!’—Paul Reiser as Stephen Bachman, in Crazy People (1990)


Signal

You can run ads with misinformation, and you can launch bot nets of thousands of accounts, but what can’t you do on Facebook? Buy ads that expose their tools with which you have bought their ads.
   That’s exactly what happened to Signal when it attempted to run ads on Instagram that illustrated the targeting.
   I don’t believe there’s anything in their T&Cs that disallow this, but Facebook has never been about those. You can breach them as much as you like with running scripts and creating bots, after all. One bastard streamed a massacre on March 15, 2019, which was accessible for some time afterwards; and a year later, eight copies were still on the platform. Facebook “enforces” what it wants to, and that includes disabling accounts that show just how invasive they are.
   I’ve already had a taste of this after I began deleting my ad preferences and exposing how terrible they were. And they probably didn’t like my pointing out that they were collecting those preferences long after I had opted out of their ad targeting (at a time when their own site suggested that opting out meant just that). Now that feature is gone for me.
   It’s what Facebook does. It lies, and even uses those lies to plant software on your computers that never show up in your programs’ list. And, like Google, the timing of when ad accounts are disabled is interesting: it’s not the first time this took place right after you do something that reveals some hard truths about them.
   Personally, I believe Facebook’s preferences are a joke, so Signal may have found their ad account cancelled not because they reminded everyone that the conjurer had a trick, but just how lousy the trick really was. Imagine getting one of these ads and thinking, ‘That ain’t me at all.’ That would get certain Facebook advertisers thinking twice—that is, those who give Facebook’s many bots a pass, and don’t mind that Instagram is 45 per cent bot, 55 per cent human, and don’t mind that their demographic estimates have no basis in reality. I mean, we’re already talking quite a gullible bunch who are doing an activity that’s marginally above setting fire to banknotes in terms of monetary utility, or donating to Jeb Bush’s presidential tilt in 2016.
   Facebook wants to keep as many of them as possible, and they’re taking no chances. You just never know where the tipping point is, when the masses finally decide to jump ship.


Filed under: business, internet, marketing, New Zealand, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 09.48

04.05.2021

Classic example of tech firms passing the buck

Just another day dealing with US tech firms then.
   When I signed up to Anchor, there was no mention of Google Podcasts, so I was very surprised to find later that I was syndicated there. Can you remove yourself?
   Anchor: ask Google!
   Google: ask Anchor!


   All that money (Google, not Alphabet, is worth US$320 milliard) and they’re about as useful as David Seymour at a socialist workers’ conference. Actually, about as useful as David Seymour, full stop.


Filed under: business, internet, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 05.47

01.05.2021

May 2021 gallery

Here are May 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

Sources
Viki Odintcova, via Instagram.
   Alexa Breit, photographed by Weniamin Schmidt, via Instagram.
   Vickery Electrical advertisement: something I asked my Dad to photocopy for me in the 1980s. Briefly we had one of those Apple II portables, on loan from a colleague of Dad. I can’t recall if it had one disk drive or two, but it was a fun little unit to have in my bedroom for that period. Dad was prepared to buy it if I wanted to keep it, but I didn’t have much software to run, plus I already had the Commodore 64 for schoolwork.
   Lucire issue 43 cover, photographed by Damien Carney, creative direction and fashion styling by Nikko Kefalas, make-up by Joanne Gair, hair by Kirsten Brooke Anderson, and assisted by Rachel Bell, and modelled by Elena Sartison. Find out more here.
   Drew Barrymore quotation from Elephant Journal on Twitter.
   I still have plenty of old stamps, which I tend to save for family (though I’m less discerning about those discounted Christmas ones, which I always used to buy in bulk). This is going to my cousin’s daughter and her husband, and their family.
   Comments after an article on Buzzfeed News. Business as usual for Facebook.
   Happy birthday to our niece Esme!
   Tania Dawson promotes Rabbit Borrows, from Instagram.
   Bizarre that the only car with a manual transmission on sale at Archibalds is from the 1950s. I’m sure New Zealand was majority-manual into the first decade of this century.
   More on the 1982–94 Chevrolet Cavalier at Autocade.
   Citroën C5 X, as covered in Lucire.
   Amira Aly (Mrs Oliver Pocher) photographed by Christoph Gellert, reposted from Instagram.
   Gaza statistics, sourced from Twitter.
   Even after 44½ years of living in the occident, I find certain western customs very strange. From Twitter.


28.04.2021

A brief misadventure into the Chinese internet

When I was a kid and wanted to hit back at someone for being mean to me, my parents would often say that successful people, true leaders, would be 大方, which is roughly akin to saying that one should rise above it. I would say that goes with nations as well: you can tell when a country is in a good state by the way its citizenry behaves, and online behaviour is probably a proxy for that.
   As many of you know, my literacy in my mother tongue is just above the level it was at when I left Hong Kong, that is to say, it’s marginally better than a kindergartener’s. And where I come from, that means age 3, which is already in the big leagues considering I started at 2½, having passed the entrance exam, and had homework from then on. What I can write is in colloquial Cantonese, devoid of any formal structure that someone with a proper education in the old country would know. If you’re Cantonese, you’ll be able to read what I write, but if your only idea of Chinese is Mandarin, you’ll have little clue. (Bang goes the official argument in Beijing that Cantonese is a ‘dialect’. It can’t be a dialect if a speaker of one finds the other unintelligible.)
   With Meizu having essentially shut its international forum, I decided to head to the Chinese one to post about my experience with its Music app, and was met by a majority of friendly, helpful people, and some who even went the extra mile of replying to my English-language query in English.
   But there were enough dickheads answering to make you think that mainland China isn’t a clear global leader, regardless of all the social engineering and online credit scores.

   When I used Facebook, I had ventured on to a few groups where people simply posted in their own language, and those of us who wished to reply but didn’t understand it would either use the site’s built-in translator, or, before that was available, Google Translate. I still am admin on a group where people do post in their own language without much issue. There’s no insistence on ‘Speak English, I can’t understand you,’ or whatever whine I hear from some intolerant people, such as the ones sampled below.

   That makes you despair for some folks and one conclusion I can draw is that members of a country who demand such a monoculture must not see their country as a leader. Nor do they have much pride in it. For great nations, in my book, embrace, or believe they embrace (even if they fall short in practice) all tongues and creeds, all races and abilities. They revel in their richness.
   Of the negative souls on the forum, there was the crap you’d expect. ‘Write in Chinese,’ ‘Why is a Cantonese person writing in English?’ ‘Think about where you are,’ and ‘I don’t understand you’ (to a comment I wrote in Cantonese—again supporting the argument that it isn’t a dialect, but its own distinct tongue).
   Granted, these are a small minority, but it’s strange that this is a forum where people tend to help one another. And it tells me that whether you’re American or Chinese, there’s nothing in the behaviour of ordinary folks that tells me that any one place is more likely to be a centre for 21st-century leadership than another.
   I’ve had far worse responses to Tweets, by a much greater proportion of people (the UK still stands out as the worst when I responded to a Tweet about George Floyd), but it’s the context. Twitter is, as Stephen Fry once put it, analogous to a bathing pool into which too many people have urinated, but a help forum?
   It’s the globally unaware, those who engage in casual xenophobia, who are intolerant of other languages, who are the little people of our times, having missed out on an education or life experience that showed them otherwise. They reside in the old country as much as in so many other places. The leading nation of the 21st century does not look like it’s one of the obvious choices. Future historians, watch this space.


Filed under: China, culture, Hong Kong, internet, leadership, New Zealand, technology, UK, USA—Jack Yan @ 10.31

24.04.2021

Farewell to Feedburner

This is why the Feedburner links have disappeared from the left-hand column of this website (desktop version):

   Now I need to figure out a way to get off Google Podcasts. I had no idea that Anchor syndicated to them. Certainly there was no mention of that when I joined. Google really has too many tentacles everywhere.


Filed under: internet, technology—Jack Yan @ 00.54

21.04.2021

Time to abandon Meizu Music: 8.2 is a lemon

That didn’t last long. Within a day, this was what Meizu Music showed:

   The songs, all 1,229 of them that I had fed in manually, are still there, and they still play, but the question remains: for how long? If they don’t show in the list—I told you computing devices were forgetful—then how long before the program fails to play them at all? Not only were the songs gone from the list, the few MP3 files that were on the phone’s RAM (from dynamic wallpapers and recordings) don’t show, either!
   I really didn’t want to chance it but you just have to conclude that Meizu has released a lemon, and if in a year they still can’t get it right, then it’s time to abandon it.
   I could go with Migu Music but I wanted something with the functionality of the old Meizu Music. After trying several apps, I’ve settled on an advertising-supported Muzio Player. It’s not perfect—the cover artwork doesn’t show for everything, and updating it manually for an album doesn’t see it shared with the individual tracks within—but it does the job for the most part. And, like every other app I trialled, it picks up the music on the SD card.
   Since I keep phones for some time—the old M2 Note is repaired—it’s going to be a long time before I’d contemplate a replacement for the M6 Note. But when I do I doubt it’ll be another Meizu. After being a cheerleader for the brand in the late 2010s, they’ve really fallen behind in customer service and, how, software development. Whomever else is willing to go the Google-free route is going to get my vote.


Filed under: China, design, technology—Jack Yan @ 11.25

19.04.2021

Facebook whistleblower gets fired; and a workaround for Meizu Music’s inability to find your SD card

This is a pretty typical story: find fault with Big Tech, try to alert the appropriate people in the firm, get fired.
   Julia Carrie Wong’s excellent article for The Guardian shows a data scientist, Sophie Zhang, find blatant attempts by governments to abuse Facebook’s platform, misleading their own people, in multiple countries. Of course Facebook denies it, but once again it’s backed up by a lot of evidence from Zhang, and we know Facebook lies. Endlessly.
   Facebook claims it has taken down over ‘100 networks of coordinated inauthentic behavior,’ but I repeat again: if a regular Joe like me can find thousands of bots really easily, and report some with Facebook doing next to nothing about them, then 100 networks is an incredibly tiny number in a sea of hundreds of millions of users. Indeed, 100 networks is tiny considering Facebook itself has claimed to have taken down milliards of bots.
   And people like me and Holly Jahangiri, who found a massive number of bots that followed the Russian misinformation techniques, have been identifying these since 2014, if not before.
   Zhang reveals how likes from pages are inflating various posts—forget the bots I’ve been talking about, people have manufactured full pages on the site.
   She uncovered one in Honduras, and then:

The next day, she filed an escalation within Facebook’s task management system to alert the threat intelligence team to a network of fake accounts supporting a political leader in Albania. In August [2019], she discovered and filed escalations for suspicious networks in Azerbaijan, Mexico, Argentina and Italy. Throughout the autumn and winter she added networks in the Philippines, Afghanistan, South Korea, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, Tunisia, Turkey, Taiwan, Paraguay, El Salvador, India, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Ukraine, Poland and Mongolia.

   Facebook was inconsistent with what it did, and its own self-interest interfered with it taking action. In other words, Facebook is harmful to democracy, and not just in the US which has received most of the occidental news coverage. On Azerbaijan, Zhang wrote in a memo:

Although we conclusively tied this network to elements of the government in early February, and have compiled extensive evidence of its violating nature, the effective decision was made not to prioritize it, effectively turning a blind eye.

   She was ultimately fired for her trouble, Facebook saying she wasn’t doing the job she had been hired for.
   So if you are going to work for Big Tech, leave your conscience at the door. That blood on your hands, just ignore it. Red’s such a fetching colour when it’s not on a balance sheet.

Little Tech can be troublesome, too. Last year, Meizu updated its Music app after a few years of letting it languish (a familiar theme with this firm), and it was a real lemon. It wouldn’t pick up anything on my SD card, at the location the old Music app itself saved the files. When I could still access the Meizu (English-language) forum, I managed to post a comment about it. Only today did I realize someone had responded, with the same issue.
   I can read enough Chinese to get the phone to do a search for local music files, and the only things it could pick up are what’s on the phone RAM itself, not the card. There’s no way to point to custom locations such as a card (even though there is a custom search, but it applies to the phone only).


Above: Meizu Music will only find music on the phone’s RAM—in this case sound files that come with the dynamic wallpaper and a couple of meeting recordings I made.

   Eventually I restored the old app through the settings, and all was well. It would occasionally forget the album cover art and I’d have to relink it (who says computers remember things?), but, by and large, Music 8.0.10 did what was expected of it.
   Until this last week. The phone insisted on upgrading to 8.2.12, another half-baked version that could never locate any SD card music.
   Sure I could just move the entire directory of 1,229 songs to the phone, but I wondered why I should.
   Restoring the app would work only for a few hours (during which I would try to relink the album cover art, ultimately to no avail). Blocking the new version the app store did nothing; blocking the entire app from updating did nothing. Blocking network access to the Music app did nothing. Essentially, the phone had a mind of its own. If anyone tells you that computing devices follow human instructions, slap them.


Above: I asked the app store to ignore all updates for Meizu Music. The phone will ignore this and do what it wants, downloading the update and installing it without any human intervention.

   I had a couple of options. The first was to make Migu Music the default—and I had used that for a while before I discovered I could restore the Music app. It’s passable, and it does everything it should, though I missed the cover art.
   The other was to find a way to make Music 8.2.12 work.
   There is one way. Play every one of the 1,229 songs one by one to have Music recognize their existence.
   Using ES File Explorer, you head to the SD card, and click on each song. It asks which app you’d like to open it. Choose Music. Repeat 1,228 times.


Above: I finally got there after doing something 1,229 times. As a non-tech person I know of no way to automate this easily. I can think of a few but developing the script is beyond my knowledge.

   Whoever said computing devices would save you time is having you on. They may have once, but there are so many systems where things are far more complicated in 2021 than they were in 2011.
   You may be asking: doesn’t ES let you select multiple files, even folders? Of course it does, but when you then ask it to play them, it ignores the fact you’ve chosen Music and plays them in its own music player.
   And even after you’ve shown Music that there are files in an SD card directory, it won’t pick up its existence.
   It’s at odds with Meizu’s Video app, which, even after many updates, will find files anywhere on your phone.
   For a music player with the same version (8) it’s vastly different, and, indeed, inferior to what has come before.
   How’s the player? Well, it connects to the car, which is where I use it. But so many features which made it appealing before are gone. Editing a song’s information is gone. Half the album cover art is unlinked (including albums legitimately downloaded through the old Meizu music service), and there’s no way of relinking it. European accented characters are mistaken for the old Big 5 Chinese character set.
   The only plus side is that some songs that I had downloaded years ago with their titles in Big 5, as opposed to Unicode, now display correctly. That accounts for a few songs (fewer than 10) of the 1,229.
   I know Meizu will do nowt, as its customer service continues to plummet. I may still file something on its Chinese BBS (the western one is inaccessible and, from what I can tell, no longer maintained by anyone from their staff), but it’s highly unlikely I’ll be brand-loyal. It’s yet another example of a newer program being far, far worse, by any objective measure, than its predecessor, giving credence to the theory that some software developers are clueless, have no idea how their apps work, have no idea how people use their apps, or are downright incompetent. It’s a shame, as Meizu’s other default and system apps are generally good.
   In the future, I’m sure someone else in China will be happy to sell me a non-Google phone when it’s time to replace this one.


Filed under: China, design, internet, media, politics, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 10.17

07.04.2021

Autocade reaches 23 million page views—and it’s more satisfying than Twitter


Above: The Levdeo (or Letin) i3, not exactly the ideal model with which to commemorate another Autocade milestone.

Autocade will cross the 23 million page view mark today, so we’re keeping fairly consistent with netting a million every three months, a pattern that we’ve seen since the end of 2019.
   Just to keep my record-keeping straight:

March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months for 20th million)
October 2020: 21,000,000 (three months for 21st million)
January 2021: 22,000,000 (three months for 22nd million)
April 2021: 23,000,000 (three months for 23rd million)

   I see on my 22 millionth page view post I mentioned there were 4,379 entries. It hasn’t increased that much since: the site is on 4,423. I notice the pace does slow a bit once the year kicks off in earnest: it’s the Christmas break that sees me spending a bit more time on the website.
   Who knows? I may spend more on it again as I’m tiring of the tribalism of Twitter, and, most recently, being tarred with the same brush as someone I follow, even though I follow people I don’t always agree with—including people with offensive views.
   On April 4, I wrote there:

Earlier today @QueenOliviaStR and I were tagged into a lengthy thread, to which I don’t think I have the right of response to the writer.
   First up, I salute her. Secondly, she may disagree with how I use Twitter but I still support her. Thirdly, she should rightly do what she needs to in order to feel safe.
   I don’t wish to single out any account but if you go through my following list, there are people on there whose views many Kiwis would disagree with.
   Some were good people who fell down rabbit holes, and some I’ve never agreed with from the start. So why do I follow them?
   As I Tweeted last week, I object to being in a social media bubble. I think it’s unhealthy, and the cause of a lot of societal angst. It’s why generally I dislike Big Tech as this is by design.
   Secondly, if I shut myself off to opposing views, even abhorrent ones, how do I know what arguments they are using in order to counter them if the opportunity arises?
   I would disagree that I am amicable with these accounts but I do agree to interacting with some of them on the bases that we originally found.
   Ian, who is long gone from Twitter after falling down the COVID conspiracy rabbit hole, was a known anti-war Tweeter. I didn’t unfollow him but I disagreed with where his thoughts were going.
   The person who tagged us today didn’t want to be exposed to certain views and that’s fair. But remember, that person she didn’t like will also be exposed to her views through me.
   I’ll let you into something that might shock you: for a few years, when the debate began, I wasn’t supportive of marriage equality, despite having many queer friends. It was more over semantics than their rights, but still, it isn’t a view I hold today.
   If this happened in social media land, I might have held on those views, but luckily I adopted the policy I do today: see what people are saying. And eventually I was convinced by people who wrote about their situations that my view was misinformed.
   And while my following an account is not an endorsement of its views, by and large I follow more people with whom I agree—which means the positive arguments that these people make could be seen by those who disagree with them.
   People should do what is right for them but I still hold that bubbling and disengagement are dangerous, and create a group who double-down on their views. Peace!

   Maybe it’s a generational thing: that some of us believe in the free flow of information, because that was the internet we joined. One that was more meritorious, and one where we felt we were more united with others.
   We see what the contrary does. And those examples are recent and severe: we’ve seen it with the US elections, with Myanmar, with COVID-19.
   This isn’t a dig at the person who took exception to my being connected to someone, and yes, even engaged them (though being ‘amicable’ is simply having good manners to everyone), because if those offensive views targeted me I wouldn’t want to see them. And it is a poor design decision of Twitter to still show that person in one’s Tweets if they have already blocked them, just because a mutual person follows them.
   It is a commentary, however, on wider trends where social media and Google have created people who double-down on their views, or opened up the rabbit hole for them to fall into—and keep them there.
   It did use to be called social networking, where we made connections, supposedly for mutual benefit, maybe even the benefit of humanity, but now it’s commonly social media, because we don’t seem to really network with anyone else while we post about ourselves.
   Unlike Alice, people don’t necessarily return from Wonderland.
   My faith—which I don’t always bring up because one risks being tarred with the evangelical homophobic stereotypes that come with it in mainstream media and elsewhere—tells me that everyone can be redeemed, even those who hold abhorrent views.
   It’s why I didn’t have a problem when Bill Clinton planned to see Kim Jong Il or when Donald Trump did see Kim Jong Un, because engagement is better than isolation. Unlike the US media, I don’t change a view depending on the occupant of the Oval Office.
   I’ve also seen some people who post awful things do incredibly kind things outside of the sphere of social media.
   Which then makes you think that social media just aren’t worth your time—something I had already concluded with Facebook, and, despite following mostly people I do agree with, including a lot of automotive enthusiasts, I am feeling more and more about Twitter. Instead of the open forum it once was, you are being judged on whom you follow, based on isolated and rare incidents.
   I don’t know if it’s generational or whether we’ve developed through technology people who prefer tribalism over openness.
   Sometimes you feel you should just leave them to it and get on with your own stuff—and for every Tweet I once sent, maybe I should get on to some old emails and tidy that inbox instead. Or put up one of the less interesting models on Autocade. Not Instagramming much—I think I was off it for nearly a month before I decided to post a couple of things on Easter Eve—has been another step in the right direction, instead of poking around on a tiny keyboard beamed up to you from a 5½-inch black mirror.
   The computer, after all, is a tool for us, and we should never lose sight of that. Let’s see if I can stick with it, and use Mastodon, which still feels more open, as my core social medium for posting.


Filed under: cars, culture, interests, internet, media, technology—Jack Yan @ 04.54

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