Archive for February 2010

Embrace life


I may be later than many in writing about this, but I only saw it in my Tweetstream today.
   What a welcome departure from the blood-and-gore approach of many road safety public announcements, from the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership.

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Posted in cars, media, social responsibility, TV, UK | No Comments »

The 10 types of Twitter account I am unlikely to follow back


I’m getting fussier about whom I follow back these days on Twitter, and have noticed myself removing some people I followed.
   Initially, my rule on Twitter was to follow back only people I knew in the real world. Eventually, I opened that up and even went back among the following to include people I met online. Then, I chose people to follow based on whether they were real or fake and have to admit that a few clever Tweeters suckered me in to following some bots (which I remove whenever they are in my Tweetstream).
   Today, I’m afraid that even being human doesn’t necessarily have me following back. I now consider the subject and whether it’s among my interests. Or I consider the location. In other words, I might have entered into a fourth phase of my time on Twitter, where I don’t expect contact with all and sundry, just those whose interests align, or live in places I am in or am likely to be in.
   Being more geographically specific with social media is exactly what Stanley Moss predicted would be a major 2010 trend at his Medinge and, later, Sorbonne–CELSA presentations. I never gave it much thought till I realized I had been doing that myself for several months.
   So as we begin the New Year, there are some rules to those I do not follow.
   1. If your Tweetstream has any quotations from famous people in it—even one—forget it. A year ago, I might have followed you if you had some engagement with people and there was the odd quotation from Mark Twain or some other luminary interspersed with your conversations. Today, if you’re still using automated quotation programs, then I’m no longer interested. It seems either lazy or passé, sorry.
   2. While Shelly Ryan, the spammer, has gone, anyone having as their first Tweet an invitation to their profile and hinting it could be adult will get a block from me.
   3. If the whole Tweetstream looks like a Twitter edition of my spam filter trash folder, you’re outta here. The teeth-whitening Tweet remains a dead giveaway. Also: anyone who repeats promotional Tweets can forget about getting me to follow back. And yes, I do scroll down the entire first page.
   4. There’s a grey area with any type of automated Tweet outnumbering manually written ones. I have followed some car magazine ones when they are automated, but I am not following back a Tweetstream about, say, Facebook, or a whole bunch of advice, no matter how well meaning it is. If I wanted to read self-help stuff, that is better coming from a book than in Tweet form.
   5. A huge disparity between those followed and the number following back. If you have followed 1,200 people and you have about three follow-backs, then that screams, ‘Spammer,’ to me. In borderline cases, I will see who you are following. If your list is filled with people who all seem to have the same name, then I will know you are a bot, and I will send a block request to Twitter. (Some of these bots will find humans to follow by using spidering techniques—sometimes it is obvious, and they will get a block, too.)
   6. Anyone who has more API-delivered Tweets than real ones will be far more likely to be ignored than they were in the past.
   7. Anyone whose Tweetstreams are made of re-Tweets nearly exclusively.
   8. Anyone who has plugged into a single site and is feeding their headlines out, using that method to make up their entire Twitter account. I have seen two that just take headlines from ReadWriteWeb and link to their articles. Duh, why don’t I just follow ReadWriteWeb directly? (Similarly, those who have taken a Google News feed are unlikely to get my attention.)
   9. Companies who I know have misbehaved, and this is usually personal. (I can think of one that has had a preemptive block from yours truly.)
   10. People whom I know are dicks in real life. (Fortunately, none have come knocking on my Twitter account, probably because they think I’m a dick.)
   Some of my choices sound harsh, and I don’t profess to following the above 100 per cent of the time. Very occasionally, I might see a friend who has started Tweeting, who has, in the few hours after setting up his account, filled it up with people he knew. Obviously, the following–follower disparity would not apply.
   Nor do I claim that I am more right than anyone else. Given there’s no right and wrong with how you follow back in Twitter, let’s just say, ‘It just is,’ rather than put a judgement on to it. It is each person’s decision on how they use the service and whom they’d like to follow.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, marketing, technology | No Comments »

How could the Chinese republic celebrate its centenary?


Next year marks the centenary of the founding of the Chinese republic. We got rid of our rather hopeless Ching Dynasty, and ushered in Asia’s first democracy.
   Both the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China see 1911 as an important year, and Dr Sun Yat-sen as the founder of the nation (here is a page from the Zhongshan government on Dr Sun which—shock—even mentions democracy). As the father of the country, his legacy one of the few things nationalists and communists agree on, even though technically the two sides remain in conflict and are in a state of Civil War. The Republic began on October 10, 1911, a date which tends to be celebrated by many, though it was formally declared on January 1, 1912.
   So, what might 2011 bring in terms of perspective?
   Idealists might point to some possibilities:

  • that closer economic ties across the Taiwan Strait mean the eventual formation of a Chinese commonwealth, with both sides maintaining the political impasse;
  • a review of the ideas of the republic as espoused by Dr Sun, and the greater acceptance of the political structure he believed in, which included cooperation between nationalists and communists;
  • that both sides of the political argument agree there are more commonalities than differences between all Chinese peoples.
  •    I doubt we’ll see political unity while Beijing is still governed by the Communist Party, which sees little point in changing its own structure to accommodate territories it considers its own. We see a similar view, officially, within the Kuomintang, interpreted in its favour. The regular triumph of ideology over practicality and the prospect of a joint future growth of ‘China’ gets in the way; the idea of an economic union or commonwealth might be the easiest way forward.
       Never mind what you call it internally, it is a solution in which both sides can claim victory, preserve face, and avoid bloodshed. The fact that no armistice has been signed by both signs is actually an advantage—because it means this difference of opinion can be solved technically as an internal matter, not one between two sovereign states.
       This is not an idea that the diehards like, so let the name-calling begin in the comments.
       But remember in whatever debate we enter, we should think of this question: since we all dislike what the Ching Dynasty did to China, what is the best way to honour the memory of the founding father of the nation in 2011?

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    Posted in China, culture, politics | No Comments »

    What might happen to the pre-2010 posts on this blog


    Google will cease to support FTP publishing on Blogger on May 1, extending the previous deadline of March 26 by a few weeks. As this blog’s posts between 2006 and 2009 were done on Blogger, it means that you will not be able to comment on them after a certain date.
       It probably doesn’t matter, anyway: I have noticed that very few comments come to posts older than three months. Readers will confront dead ‘Post a comment’ links.
       The reason? With the end of FTP publishing, Google says it will migrate the 0·5 per cent who took the trouble of hosting our own material on to its servers. Given that I don’t trust Google with my private information, and with the support on its forums about as delightful as Darth Vader’s breath, I am choosing not to allow the company to migrate this blog’s 2006–9 data on to its machines. Rackspace over Google any day.
       So before the May 1 deadline—possibly even this month—I will take this blog off the Blogger Dashboard, whereupon commenting on pre-2010 posts will become impossible. That way you won’t need to put up with me moaning about how Google took this blog’s data wrongly.
       I am enquiring now (since the FAQ does not address this issue) on how best to remove the blogs from the transition, while ensuring the old data remain where they are. Ironically, I have put this question on the Google support forums (let’s hope for better service this time—they were never able to answer my Beyond Branding query about our missing home page, and the Social Media Consortium matter you all know about), and on the Blogger Buzz blog, which Rick Klau writes on.

    PS.: As expected, no joy from the forums (anything that’s out of the ordinary seems to be ignored), while Rick Klau responded within a day (this man is a saint). He wrote: ‘You don’t need to delete anything, but if you do your remote files will not be affected in any way. The archival blog(s) will continue to be viewable by the world.’ Thank you, Rick.—JY

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    Posted in internet | No Comments »

    I don’t have Gmail. So how did I get a Buzz account again?


    Can someone please explain to me how I have a Google Buzz account?
       Yes, I know, all those people complaining about Google Buzz found that their Gmail contacts where, all of a sudden, added to the service.
       And Google, this week, apologized for messing up.
       Well, Google, please explain my scenario, because I don’t have a bloody Gmail account.
       Yet, you’ve seen fit to provide me with a Buzz account—something I do not want—and, like so many others, added 19 followers to it.

    Above: Buzz has been the centre of complaints for Gmail users these past few weeks. Google now extends that to non-Gmail users.

       This was today. This was after your supposed apology for messing up people’s privacy.
       I guess you’ve figured that after messing up Gmail users’ lives, you’re now going after non-Gmail users.
       Incidentally, can someone also please explain to me why I have 18 requests for Google Reader followers when I have done everything possible to remove every last piece of information out of there? Just where did these 18 suddenly come from?

    Above: Despite deleting everything out of my Google Reader account, today I have 18 people wanting to be the followers of an empty account. Nice one, Google.

       Of those eighteen, I know seven.
       I am talking about Google Reader—that service which still gave me recommendations for sites to follow based on my feeds and Web History, even though I had no feeds and had turned off Web History. Privacy breach much?
       Then, in my Google Profile, why have you introduced new fields in there and checked them by default? I was very careful to remove information out of there, but now, supposedly, I want you to ‘Display the list of people I’m following and people following me’.

    Above: A new field was added to my Google Profile, checked by default—to ensure less privacy. Less than a day after it apologized for breaching people’s privacy. Hypocrisy much?

       Are your people so stupid that you would introduce a new field dealing with privacy and turn it on by default? The week after your Google Buzz débâcle? Who did you hire? People from Facebook?
       Does your HR department hire bottom-of-the-class guys, or do you find morons and train them down?
       Rather ironical, considering that this week, I have been de-Googling my life. Looks like Google doesn’t like my removing myself from its services, so it’s forcibly put me on to new ones and created new options which it has checked by default, decreasing my privacy.
       It wasn’t enough that you had put me on to Reader and turned on Web History after I turned it off.
       Consider my profile deleted, dickheads. You are not getting any more of my personal information from me.
       Really, Google, WTF?

    Above: I don’t have Gmail. Look, Google, it’s in my “new products to try” section.

    PS.: Deleting my profile has made no difference to my Buzz account: it remains there, complete with followers.—JY

    P.PS.: Scootley at the Gmail forums explains that anyone can get a Buzz account, even if they do not use Gmail. Here’s what I don’t get (correct me if I am wrong):
    • Buzz is part of Gmail.
    • If I have never signed up to Gmail and agreed to its terms and conditions, what governs my relationship with Google over Buzz?
       I decided to find out.
       Answer: none.
       On visiting Google Buzz’s home page, and following the links at the bottom of that page to the terms and conditions and privacy policy, I encountered these two pages:

    Above: Google has no terms and conditions for Buzz (URL accessed 2.27 p.m. GMT [and again at 10.26 p.m. GMT]).

    Above: Google has no privacy policy for Buzz (URL accessed 2.27 p.m. GMT [and again at 10.26 p.m. GMT]).

       Ironically, I re-created a new profile and unchecked the ‘Display the list of people I’m following and people following me’ option, and now, Buzz has finally disappeared. (This did not work earlier—and Scootley confirms that that should have had no effect on Buzz’s presence in my Google Dashboard. Still, it’s gone, so I’m happy.)—JY

    P.P.PS.: One consequence of having no Google profile is that Google punishes you in the search results. In an ego-surf of my name with quotes, I dipped 10,000 results because of the missing profile. (I also dipped 10,000 after an earlier attempt a few days ago of having my profile turned off.) Like one page on Google really counts for 10,000 hits—but apparently, Google gets pissy at you for turning your profile off!
       Well, I’d rather have a drop of 10,000 references than have weird services appear in my Google profile!—JY

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    Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 9 Comments »

    A belated thank-you to independent software creators


    When I had to reinstall everything late last year, I didn’t thank the software developers for making it easy for me to get a new ID. I got personal replies from the programmers behind Barcode Maker 3 and SayNow, and found it relatively easy to sort out registration for FontLab and Gammadyne Mailer. The rest of the programs were straightforward with their licence numbers, but I have to give props to the independents—people who still give a damn about their creations. Thank you.

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    Posted in internet, Sweden, technology, USA | No Comments »

    Wellington wants free wifi


    While I’ve been a LinkedIn member for many years—my LinkedIn ID has six digits, which gives you an idea of how long ago—I have to confess that I did not browse the brilliant Wellington, New Zealand group till quite recently.
       And free wifi is being talked up there, too, as something Wellingtonians genuinely want.
       We hear from expats who feel Wellington needs this as a major city, from Wellingtonians who believe this would be great for growing business, and from some concerned citizens who wonder where the money comes from.
       Fortunately, two of the posters there have experience in the wifi space, and can attest to the fact that the infrastructure already exists. As mentioned on my mayoral campaign site, we can make this profitable for the city. Secondly, it will provide an additional avenue for Wellington businesses to be found.
       Indeed, one of these experts notes that it was exceedingly rare for anyone to go mental over downloading things; in any case, I propose there will be a daily data cap on the service.
       When I made wifi one of my core issues last year, I knew instinctively it would be right for Wellington.
       I don’t live in a bubble, and I’m not part of the political élite. Which means I haven’t learned how to distance myself from the needs of Wellingtonians. I’ve been engaging with people for a long time with an eye on this campaign. Anyone with one’s pulse on the city knows that free wifi and new jobs are things that a world-class city needs—and I firmly believe Wellington is potentially world-class. I would hate for us to miss the opportunities that are before us right now, which can catapult us into the big league to become one of the world’s great cities.
       As those of you who came out to the two Asian Events’ Trust shows at TSB Arena in Wellington over the weekend know, I have returned to our shores after a wonderful trip to Europe. The warmest it got, I should note, was 2°C, which makes even a foggy, overcast day like today seem dreamy. (The coldest was –15°C.)
       Some of the conversations I had in Sweden still can’t be revealed yet (this isn’t about transparency—this is about legality), but I was there studying some benchmarks for transportation and the environment. I want Wellingtonians to know I travel on my money and I use the opportunity to benefit my city. I don’t miss these opportunities. (And yes, I was in København, too.)
       As some of you who have followed my career know, I am not talking about incremental improvements.
       After all, as early as 2001 I was talking about Fair Trade and social responsibility. By 2003, I had talked to the United Nations Environment Programme and convinced them that the best way of making environmental issues cool was to mainstream them through the world of fashion and celebrity—and Lucire’s partnership with them was born. The same year, we at the Medinge Group decided that Beyond Branding should be a Carbon Neutral book. The previous decade I was doing everything from web publishing (1993) to launching the country’s longest running online fashion title (1997).
       So when I talk about these ideas in Sweden, I am talking about game-changers that can benefit Wellington.
       You have to be a few years ahead of your time, given what politics is like. No one who seeks public office can afford to be reactive or behind the times. And I hope that in the last 23 years, I’ve managed to demonstrate a fairly good record of identifying the next big thing.
       And I owe a debt of gratitude to my good friend (and one of Sweden’s outside-the-box marketing thinkers) Stefan Engeseth for arranging my speeches and meetings. Thank you for entrusting me, Stefan, for being your first speaker in your Unplugged Speeches session—it was an extremely good, interactive morning. It’s not every day I get to interact with someone who works for NASA. (If you thought I was good, you should see speaker number two, who has a Ph.D. and is very easy on the eyes.) But mostly, thank you for inspiring me even more, because you, too, always seem to be a few years ahead of the game.
       As to France, the other country I spent heaps of time in on this trip, it was an honour to talk at the Sorbonne–CELSA campus with my colleagues at Medinge.
       While part of the Paris trip was occupied by a board meeting and with the 2010 Brands with a Conscience awards, I had the opportunity to discuss my mayoral campaign with the world’s leading brand thinkers in a meaningful, collegial presentation. Medinge, too, is filled with those forward-thinking from people who are nearly always right about their predictions of how the world would look in three to ten years’ time.
       And the session at La Sorbonne was, in my mind, a true highlight—where, again, Wellington got plenty of promotion, and I was able to share some thoughts with a smart, young audience.
       I’ll be letting voters know ahead of time what else was discussed with the Swedish companies, so you can be even better armed when you fill out your ballot forms for the local elections later this year.
       In the meantime, let me give my Facebook campaign page another little plug: click here for more. My heartfelt thanks to all those who have joined and have given me amazing encouragement for this campaign.

    At the Sorbonne–CELSA
    Cat Soubbotnik

    Above At La Sorbonne–CELSA in Levallois. Below Presenting to my Medinge Group colleagues at MIP.

    At Medinge Paris
    Sergei E. Mitrofanov, copyright

    StockholmRight I wasn’t kidding about Stockholm hitting –15°C. It was around –9°C when this pic was taken.

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    Posted in branding, business, France, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, Sweden, technology, Wellington | 4 Comments »

    A way to delete your Google Wave account?


    For those trying to leave Google Wave—and who have had no satisfaction whatsoever from the Google forums (what a surprise)—there might be one way.
       There are quite a few reasons people want to leave Wave. One netizen had this concern: ‘It appears I have been linked to former associates who I have kept in my contacts list in case I need to take legal action against them; I want nothing to do with them. I am concerned now that I am going to appear in the Wave contacts of everyone in my contacts list—this is a nightmare scenario. This is a serious breach of my privacy.’
       Others have found total strangers among their Wave followers who are not part of their Gmail contacts’ list or any others. Still others have found hackers and abusers who are writing extensions and other things to crash their accounts—something that has happened as early as October 2009.
       With me, I can’t find much reason to keep Wave if I am de-Googling my life right now—it’s one service too many, and I am increasingly Google-sceptic these days. I also don’t like the fact that a brand-new email account at has been set up for me without my consent (this probably accounts for the appearance of “strangers” in people’s Google Wave accounts).
       Today, Google announced that s. 11.1 would change insofar as its terms and conditions for Wave are concerned. It now reads, just for this service (and does not appear on the site-wide terms and conditions linked from your Google account settings, and to date, there is no separate set of terms governing Wave):

    Google does not claim any ownership in any of the content, including any text, data, information, images, photographs, music, sound, video, or other material, that you upload, transmit or store in your Google Wave account. You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold to Content which you submit, post or display on or through the Service. By submitting, posting or displaying the Content, you give Google a worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through the Service for the sole purpose of enabling Google to provide you with the Service in accordance with its Privacy Policy.

       Therefore, I wrote to Google’s Privacy Policy people saying I disagreed with the above change, and would they please cancel my Wave account?
       You can find a link to the Privacy Policy here. There’s a further link from there to a form which goes to the Privacy Matters’ department.
       I concluded the email with this paragraph:

    Please be advised that I do not accept this change to our agreement insofar as my Google Wave usage is concerned, and request that my Google Wave account be terminated. However, please retain my other Google products until further notice.

       You never know, it might work. It’s the only area where there still seems to be a form that’s read by human beings at Google.
       I take no responsibility for others’ use of this information—it’s provided simply as a chronicle of what I’m trying. I would rather be Wave-free immediately than wait the nine months that Google claims a cancellation would take. (That’s right: officially, if you want to leave Wave, you have to be inactive for nine months, and then Google might cancel your account. No word on whether you also lose your email account.) I had hoped it could be done in nine seconds by surfing to a page, clicking ‘Cancel’ and having some processing time.

    In related news, you now need three entries in your Google profile in order to be listed in search results. This is an increase of one: over the weekend, you only required two.

    PS.: A month later, I can report that the legal route does not work.—JY

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    Posted in internet, USA | 2 Comments »

    More Google privacy breaches in Reader?


    Tonight, I removed every single blog I followed—including my own—from Blogger. My de-Googling continues. I’ve also taken myself off as an author on some Blogger blogs as of tonight, as an intermediate step of ending my association with Blogger altogether.
       I had hoped that deleting my Blogger reading list would get me off the Google Reader service, which I never (knowingly) signed up for. As mentioned recently, Google decided that my following blogs on Blogger would mean (a) it would open a Google Reader account (it was in its help pages, which I did not read—I argue this should have been on a terms and conditions page); (b) allow others to begin following that account; (c) prevent any removal of my Google Reader account, even when I did not want one.
       You would think that deleting everything associated with Google Reader would allow its removal, but no. In fact, I was rather disturbed to see the following: feed recommendations in Reader.

    Google Reader recommendations

       Among the recommendations is my friend Sharon Haver’s site, Focus on Style, and another from Condé Nast’s
       Normally I would not have a problem with seeing either of these, if I was an avid Reader user, but it begs the question: if I have turned off all the sharing of my data in Google, to the point where the company claims to no longer knows my preferences, then how does it know my preferences? How does it, in this case, know that I have interests in the fashion industry? Or is everyone on the planet interested in fashion, according to Google, and these are its default recommendations?
       After all, Google itself states that it compiles these preferences based on the following:

    It takes into account the feeds you’re already subscribed to, as well as information from your Web History, including your location.

    Well, Google, not only have I switched Web History off (twice: once on launch and once after you turned it back on without telling me), I have no feeds.
       Which must mean, I assume, that turning stuff off in Google does not mean turning stuff off in Google. Google might say you have Web History turned off, but I am wondering if that’s just more BS from this company.
       It might have decent blokes like Rick Klau working there at Blogger, but the rest of the company seems dodgier by the day to me. We’ve already had tech support guys who know very little about tech or support (those six months probably were what kicked off my de-Googling), we’ve had the whole Buzz débâcle (Harriet Jacobs, a.k.a. Fugitivus, mentioned in that post, has since shut her blog to unregistered users after, presumably, abuse was sent to her), and now, it seems that Google spies on you.
       The 2010s will see the début of some form of portal site, but it definitely won’t be Facebook, and, at this rate, it won’t be Google.
       And that’s a shame. I like some of the things that Google has offered me over the last 11 years, but its behaviour of late, and its ill-thought technologies, remind me of another American giant. That’s the one that people in the 1990s picked on a lot: Microsoft.

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    Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 5 Comments »

    Happy New Year!


    Since we are now a couple of hours in, I wish everyone a wonderful and blessed New Year!

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    Posted in general | No Comments »