Archive for May 2022


Here’s the latest book I worked on: Panos: My Life, My Odyssey out May 26

17.05.2022


 
[Originally posted in Lucire] Toward the end of next week, Panos Papadopoulos’s autobiography, Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, comes out in London, with an event in Stockholm following. This is an intimate memoir about Panos’s rise, from childhood poverty in Greece to the ‘king of swimwear’ in Scandinavia. Not only do I have an advance copy, I collaborated with Panos on it.

I’m fascinated by autobiographies. When I was a teenager, I read Lee Iacocca’s one, written with William Novak. I presume Novak interviewed Iacocca, or he worked with some additional notes, and ghosted for him. Whatever the case, it remains an engaging read, and I replaced my well worn paperback with a hardcover one a few years ago, when I spotted it at a charity fair. More recently I bought Don Black’s autobiography, The Sanest Guy in the Room, and enjoyed that thoroughly.

Panos and I probably had a similar arrangement to Iacocca and Novak, whereby I interviewed and prompted him for some stories, and I wrote from copious notes that he gave me. There’s an entire chapter in there that’s based on his reflections about the time he bought into a football team in Sweden, that he wrote in great detail himself soon after the events took place. Somehow over 10 months of 2021—though the idea has been floating around for many years before—Panos and I created this eminently readable tale, the sort of autobiography I would like to read.

Of course we start in Greece in 1958, and how a young lad, who begins working at age five alongside his mother as she cleaned an office, finds poverty a torment, and vows to get himself out of it. He also cannot tolerate injustice, and attempts to expose pollution, workplace accidents, and corruption—only to find himself and his parents harassed. By his late teens, after taking an interrail journey to northern Europe, he finds an opportunity to study in Sweden.

It’s not “the rest is history”, as Panos works in kitchens, washing dishes and peeling potatoes. He also finds gigs as a prison guard, a parole officer, a rest home carer, and a substitute teacher.

His first taste of fame is for a postgraduate sociology paper, where he examines the importance of clothing in nighttime disco settings, which captures the imagination of major newspapers and TV networks.

Finding dissatisfaction and frustration working in health care for the city of Göteborg, he seized upon an idea one day when spying just how drab the beaches were in Sweden: beautiful bodies covered in monochrome swimwear.

Injecting colour on to the beaches through his Panos Emporio swimwear label wasn’t an overnight success, and Panos elaborates on his story with the sort of passion you would expect from a Greek native, capturing your attention and leaving you wanting more.

He reveals his secrets about how he lifted himself out of poverty, creating a company given a platinum rating in Sweden, an honour reserved only for the top 450, out of half a million limited-liability companies there.

Read about how he managed his first sales despite doubts from the entire industry, how he secured Jannike Björling—then Sweden’s most sought-after woman, photographed constantly by the paparazzi—as Panos Emporio’s model, and how he followed up with securing Victoria Silvstedt, just as she was about to become world-famous posing for Playboy.

By 1996, 10 years into his label’s journey, and with the release of the Paillot (still offered in the Panos Emporio range today), the press dubbed him ‘the king of swimwear’, but he wasn’t done yet.

More high-profile models followed, and there’s even an encounter with Whitney Houston, revealed for the first time in the book. There are royal encounters, with former King Constantine II, and Sweden’s HM King Carl XVI Gustaf and HM Queen Sofia. HSH Princess Stéphanie almost makes it into the book.

There are touching moments, too, such as his heartfelt recollection of his friendship with Jean-Louis Dumas, the chairman of Hermès, and his wife Rena.

We’ve known each other for over 20 years, and from the start he complimented me on my writing, so I have a feeling he wanted me for this task for some time. We’ve both had to start businesses from scratch, and we did them away from our countries of birth. Additionally, he knew I grew up amongst Greeks so I had more than an average insight into his culture. We’ve talked about it numerous times, maybe as far back as 2016, when Panos Emporio celebrated its 30th anniversary. I’m very grateful for that. There were obviously stories I knew, since I interviewed him about them over the years, but plenty I did not, and they form the bulk of this 320 pp. book, published by LID Publishing of London, and released on May 26. A party in Stockholm follows on May 31.
 
Technically, the process was an easy collaboration as Panos and I shared notes and written manuscripts back and forth, and I had the privilege to lay it out and edit the photos as well. The whole book was typed out on WordPerfect, which gave an almost perfect re-creation of how the copyfitting would go in InDesign, unlike Word—for a while others doubted I could fit the contents into the agreed page length, since they couldn’t see it in the same format that I did. Martin Majoor’s FF Nexus Serif is used for the body text. And, while hardly anyone probably cares about such things, I managed to deliver it so the printer could do the book without wasting paper with the right page impositions. I know what it’s like to have printing bills.

My Life, My Odyssey was the working title, but it seems LID liked it enough to retain it for the final product. I wanted to retitle it Panos: Who Designs Wins, but the experts in charge of sales preferred the working title. ‘Who designs wins’ appears on the back cover, so it’s still getting out there!

Caroline Li, LID’s designer, did the cover, and I followed her lead with the headline typeface choice; and Martin Liu, who I’ve known from Stefan Engeseth’s many books, published and coordinated. I’m grateful to the watchful eye and coordination of Aiyana Curtis, who oversaw the production stage and did the first edit; she also engaged the copy editor and proofreader, who turned my stubborn Hart’s Rules-compliant text into LID’s house style.

I see from her résumé that Aiyana had done some work here in Aotearoa, and Caroline and Martin, like me, have Hong Kong roots, so we all probably had some things in common that made the process easier. It was particularly easy to understand Caroline’s design approach, and as someone who had done mock covers while we were trying out potential photos, I will say hers is infinitely superior to mine. Similarly, I understood Martin’s business approach from day one.

The final manuscript was done in October 2021 and we’ve spent the last few months doing production, shooting the cover, and preparing for the launch, where LID’s Teya Ucherdzhieva has ably been working on a marketing plan. Panos himself, never one to do things by halves, has thrown himself into doing the launch, and it promises to be an excellent event.
 
For those who’d like to get their hands on a copy, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble are retailing Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, and a US launch is slated for October (Amazon and other retailers will have it in their catalogues).

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Opera GX wins over Firefox in typography; Über’s still a lemon

17.05.2022

I’ve had both Firefox and Opera GX running as replacements for Vivaldi, which still crashes when I click in form fields, though not 100 per cent of the time. It’s running at about 50 per cent, so the fix they employed to deal with this issue is only half-effective.

I see Firefox still doesn’t render type as well. This is a matter of taste, of course, but here’s one thing I really dislike, where I’m sure there’s more agreement among typophiles:
 

 

No, not the hyphenation, but the fact the f has been butchered in the process.

The majority of people won’t care about this, but it’s the sort of thing that makes me choose Opera GX over Firefox.
 
Due to a temporary lapse in good judgement, I attempted to install Über again, this time on my Xiaomi. Here are the Tweets relating to that:

Evidently no one at Über has ever considered what it would be like if someone actually read the terms and conditions and followed through with some of the instructions in the clauses.

After getting through that, this is the welcome screen:

This is all it does. There’s nothing to click on, and you never move past this screen.

This is less than what I was able to achieve on my Meizu M6 Note when I tried Über on that—at least there it was able to tell me that Über is not available in my area (Tawa—and yes, I know Über is lying).

This has nothing to do with not having Google Services as my other half has a non-Google Huawei and is able to get the program working.

For me, it’s three out of three phones over six years where this program does not work—and frankly I’m quite happy taking public transport rather than waste my time with this lemon. Maybe one day they will get it working for all Android phones, but I won’t hold my breath.

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Musings for today: back on Facebook, untracked ads, Autocade rankings

16.05.2022

It’d be unfair if I didn’t note that I managed to see a ‘Create post’ button today on Lucire’s Facebook page for the first time in weeks. I went crazy manually linking everything that was missed between April 25 and today.

Maybe I got it back as it would look even worse for Facebook, which still live-streams massacres as a matter of course in spite of its “promises” after March 15, 2019, if white supremacist murderers had more functions available to them on the site than honest business people.

The upshot still remains: get your supporters going to your website as much as possible, and wind down whatever presence you have on Facebook. You shouldn’t depend on it, because you never know when your page might disappear or when you lose access. Both are very real possibilities.
 
Bob Hoffman’s newsletter was gold this week. It usually is, especially as he touches on similar topics to me, but at a far higher level.

This week’s highlights: ‘Blogweasel calculations indicate that adtech-based targeting adds at least 100% to the cost of an online ad. In order for it to be more efficient it has to be more than twice as effective. I’m slightly skeptical.

An article in AppleInsider this week reported that, “Apple has revealed to advertisers that App Store search ads served in a non-targeted fashion are just as effective as those relying on targeting via first-party data.”’

Indeed, ads that might use the page content to inform their contents (contextual advertising) work even better. Why? The publisher might actually get paid for them.

I’ve seen so many ads not display at all, including on our own sites. Now, our firm doesn’t use trackers, but we know the ad networks we use do. And for whatever daft reason, there are ad networks that won’t show content if you block trackers. (Stuff is even worse: their home and contents’ pages don’t even display if you block certain cookies.)

If we went back to how things were before tracking got this bad, the ads would be less creepy, and I bet more of them would display—and that helps us publishers pay the bills. If you don’t like them, there are still ad blockers, but out of my own interests, I would prefer you didn’t.
 
I came across Drew Magarry’s 2021 article, ‘There’s No Middle Class of Cars Anymore’, in Road & Track’s online edition.

‘You’re either driving a really nice new car, a deeply unsatisfying new car, or a very old used car.’ Drew notes that there are nasty base models, and also fully loaded ones, and the former ‘treat you like absolute shit, and everyone on the road knows it.’

It seems what’s happening is that the middle—the “GLs” of this world, as opposed to the Ls and GLSs—is getting squeezed out.

It says something about our society and its inequality.

Interestingly, it’s not as bad here with base models, and that might reflect our society. But look at the US, as Drew does, or the European top 10, where cheap cars like the Dacia Sandero do exceptionally well.

This goes back many years, and I’ve seen plenty of base models in US rental fleets that would make a New Zealand entry-level car seem sumptuous.
 
Finally, the legacy pages are reasserting themselves on Autocade. When the latest version was installed on the server and the stats were reset, the top 20 included all the models that appeared on the home page, as Mediawiki recommenced its count. Search-engine spiders were visiting the site and hitting those the most.

Fast forward two months and the top 20 are exclusively older pages, as visits from regular people coming via search engines outnumber spiders.

Until last week, the most visited page since the March reset was the Renault Mégane II. It seems the Ford Taunus 80 has overtaken the Mégane II. Peugeot’s 206+ (207 in some markets) follows, then the Ford Fiesta Mk VII and Renault Mégane III.

Before the reset, the Ford Fiesta Mk VII was the top model page, followed by the Taunus 80, then the Mégane II, Opel Astra J, and Nissan Sunny (B14).

Probably no one cares, but as it’s my blog, here’s the old, just before the switchover:
 

 
And here’s where we are as of tonight:
 

 
You can see the ranking for yourself, as the stats are public, here.

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Switch to HTTPS, lose your number one and two search-engine ranking

08.05.2022

One annoying thing about switching the majority of our sites to HTTPS is losing our positions in the search engines.

We were always told that HTTPS would lead to rises in search-engine ranking, and that being a mere HTTP would lead to Google downgrading you.

The reality, as I’ve witnessed since we completed our server migration, is the opposite.

Take a search for my name. Since the 1990s, Jack Yan & Associates will wind up being first or second, and when this website came online in the early 2000s, it tended to be first. Stands to reason: my name, followed by dot com, is most likely what a searcher is looking for. Both sites were regular HTTP.

We’ve lost first and second places. For my searches, Google puts this site at eighth, and Duck Duck Go doesn’t even have it in the top 10 (it’s 15th), info box aside. The company falls on the third page in Google and a shocking fifth in Duck Duck Go.

I was told that eventually the search engines will sort things out but it’s been two months, so you wonder just how slowly they act. If at all.

The business site has plenty of inbound links, and I imagine this site has a fair share.

I’ve fixed up some internal references to http:// after advice from some friends, but that hasn’t done the trick.

I find it pretty disheartening to find that, once again, in practice, the exact opposite to conventional wisdom happens. You would think this was a routine matter, and that search engines were programmed to accept such changes, understanding that, content-wise, the secure site is the same as the formerly insecure site. After decades of search engine development, it looks like, at least to this layman, that hasn’t happened. You have to start afresh even when you have the most relevant site to the search.

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Facebook admits we’re experiencing a bug preventing us from managing Lucire’s page

08.05.2022

Last night’s hour-waster was chatting to Facebook Business Support. No, that’s unfair. I was actually assigned an incredibly good rep who took me seriously, and concluded that Facebook did indeed have a bug which means, of all the pages I can manage, the one for Lucire is alone in not allowing me, or any of its admins, to do anything. How coincidental, after losing Instagram and Twitter for periods during 2021.

Ironically, one editor can—of course someone who is supposed to have fewer privileges can do more. Such is Facebook.

A few things I learned. There’s a Meta Business Suite, which a whole bunch of pages got shoved into, whether you wanted it or not. My public page is there, for instance. It seems if you have Facebook and Instagram accounts for the same thing, you’re going to be in there.

Despite the two-factor authentication discussed in the previous post, I actually can get into the Business Suite, via another page I administer for a friend. From there I can get to Lucire’s tools.
 

 

I don’t need two-factor authentication for any of the other pages in there, including my own, and have full access.

Trisha, or Trish as she said I could call her, walked me through the steps, and asked me to get to the Suite page. Then she asked me to click ‘Create ad’, and I get this:
 

 
She asked me to check the account quality, and of course there are no issues:
 


 

She wrote: ‘Thanks for letting me know. It’s weird because I have checked all your assets here and it looks good. But, here’s what I suggest, Jack. We’ll need to report this to our Internal team so they can investigate. You might experience a bug or glitch.’

I theorized: ‘Just so you know, this page dates back to 2007 so maybe it is so old that Facebook’s servers can’t handle it?’

It wasn’t something she responded to, as she stayed on-subject, but it’s a theory worth entertaining, as it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve witnessed this.

So, for now, the one team member who can still go on Facebook for us posted this at my request:
 
All Lucire admins, all automated gadgets sending links to this page, and all Facebook-approved reposting sites, were blocked by Facebook on April 25. Therefore, till Facebook fixes this, there will be no more regular updates to this page other than a limited amount from one of our editors.
 

I doubt they’ll ever fix it, and two years ago I did say I wouldn’t really bother if Facebook went buggy and prevented us from updating again. Clearly I am bothering, as I know we have readers who use Facebook. But I have very little faith this will ever be fixed, since I have seen other reported bugs (some covered on this blog) get ignored for years, and this isn’t a fleeting bug, from what I can make out.

The lesson, as I have probably hinted at more than once, is never rely on a Big Tech service. The sites are so unwieldy that they get to a point where no one knows how to fix them. If earlier experiences are any indication, such as what I experienced at Vox, we have arrived at the end of Facebook pages.

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May 2022 gallery

02.05.2022

Here are May 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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The end of Facebook pages?

01.05.2022

Some of the articles in Lucire are still manually designed in Dreamweaver, and those need to be added to the social networks in a similar way. There we use Zoho Social to update things.

In practice, we only do Twitter, as IFTTT then takes care of reposting our updates to Facebook. Today, I noticed that IFTTT has failed to take any of our Tweets to Facebook since April 25, for no reason I can work out.
 

 

We also cannot use Zoho Social to make Facebook page updates, so the fault does not lie with these individual services, but Facebook itself.

First Zoho Social said I needed permission from the page admin to add images, but I am the page admin; then it said I could not post at all.
 


 

I went to Facebook for the first time in goodness knows how long to discover there is no way to enter a post manually there, either!
 

 

I tried using the Meta Business Tools, but I can’t be authenticated, since they require you use an “app” (none of which I have heard of), a physical security key (strange to me as I have no idea what one looks like or where it goes), or a cellphone (yeah right, like I’m going to give Facebook that very personal detail for them to sell).
 

 

It looks like another massively stupid decision on Facebook’s part, so odds are we’ll cease to update any of our Facebook pages going forward. It will take too much effort to figure out how to fix this. Even if we could type into Facebook, we don’t want to be feeding in every headline and link manually.

I ceased to have any respect for Facebook many years ago, but kept things going there for the sake of our readers. But if they are shutting down the pages—certainly all their functionality is disappearing—then we will have no choice but to end our updates there.
 
PS.: If any of you are wondering, I am definitely the admin, but I can’t do any of the things Facebook says I can:
 

 

If I access the options under ‘Page Owner’, apparently I can report ourselves, but nothing more!
 

 

Looks I still can post to a page where I’m not the owner but a contributor, but I can’t post to one where I’m the owner and admin:
 

 

Remember how a page settings’ page usually looks?
 

 
Here’s Lucire’s:
 

 
The only options I have as admin are:
 

 

And before you ask, there are no page ‘violations’ other than one post from years ago, because US sites can’t handle artistic nudity where you can’t see anything inappropriate. Genocide and misinformation are fine, though.

I think what Facebook does is let you work on pages that aren’t yours(!)—it wouldn’t be the first time—but not your own! It really is this daft there.

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