Archive for the ‘China’ category


If you take out Tiktok, then why not Meta, too?

24.03.2023

The Hon Debbie Ngarewa-Packer MP was right when she questioned our government’s decision to ban Tiktok from parliamentary devices.

If it’s about foreigners getting hold of data, then why not ban Facebook and Instagram?

Last I looked, Tiktok had not been party to any genocides.

Parliamentary Services says at least Meta is American and operates in line with our values. So being party to genocide is in line with our values? So information leaking to the likes of Cambridge Analytica—and its effects on democracy—are in line with our values?

It’s all about hopping on an occidental bandwagon over unproven claims that Tiktok hands stuff over to the PRC.

And if it is proven, then let us see the proof.

Let’s say our government doesn’t have the proof but it’s using Edward Snowden’s revelations about the US as a proxy of how data from social media companies wind up with their governments. That’s actually a fair point and we should expect that it’s probably happening. We can make a pretty reasoned guess that it is.

In that case, it’s all the more reason we should consider banning the lot of them, not just Tiktok. Keep our data in our country.

Remember, we’re not banning any of these platforms from private citizens, just what can be used by our Parliament. If it’s about private citizens, I’d be advising that we take out known disinformation ones, which are often funded or manipulated by shady overseas backers or even nation states. They’re literally placing New Zealanders in harm’s way. That would mean a pretty wide net, too, and I imagine no one in power would want to wield that responsibility. Or that the penny will drop, as it usually does, 10 years too late. (Hello, readers of 2033!)
 
Literally as I was completing the title and meta (small m) description fields for this, this Mastodon post from an ethics’ professor appeared.
 

 

In case it ever disappears, she writes:

As your resident TikTok micro-celebrity + tech ethics/policy professor, I have a lot of feelings about the proposed TikTok ban. I think that this statement from Evan Greer of Fight for the Future articulates some points well. If the sole argument is “but China” I would very much like to see something beyond speculation. And if it’s just not that, then go after Meta too. And either way maybe you could pass LITERALLY ANY DATA PRIVACY LAWS.


 

The image is from the Fight for the Future website, and the text reads:

“If it weren’t so alarming, it would be hilarious that US policymakers are trying to ‘be tough on China’ by acting exactly like the Chinese government. Banning an entire app used by millions of people, especially young people, LGBTQ folks, and people of color, is classic state-backed Internet censorship,” said Evan Greer (she/her), director of Fight for the Future. “TikTok uses the exact same surveillance capitalist business model of services like YouTube and Instagram. Yes, it’s concerning that the Chinese government could abuse data that TikTok collects. But even if TikTok were banned, they could access much of the same data simply by purchasing it from data brokers, because there are almost no laws in place to prevent that kind of abuse. If policymakers want to protect Americans from surveillance, they should advocate for strong data privacy laws that prevent all companies (including TikTok!) from collecting so much sensitive data about us in the first place, rather than engaging in what amounts to xenophobic showboating that does exactly nothing to protect anyone.”


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Why we’ve dropped Disqus, and the shenanigans of the online ad world

02.02.2023

When I first signed up to Disqus, there was the option to have no ads. But with Lucire we allowed them, because I figured, why not?

Disqus’s rules were pretty clear: you’d earn money on the ads shown, and once you got to US$100, they’d pay out.

The trouble is those ads made so little money it took ages to reach the threshold.

Last year, when looking at the revenue figures, I was surprised things had reset and we had only earned a few dollars. Where did the US$100 go? There was no record of a payout.

I began enquiring and it took them a while to respond. They said they would pay (what would have happened if I never asked?) but what hit our account was NZ$100.

In other words, 35 per cent short.

I guess they’re counting on people not chasing up NZ$35, and I’m wondering if it’s a worthwhile use of my time. Or maybe it’s better I write this blog post to warn others about Disqus.

Disqus either short-paid us by 35 per cent or they have no clue how currencies work. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on their company.

Unsurprisingly, I began taking Disqus off our sites, which was what I had always planned to do once we got to US$100. Off it went from Lucire for starters, though on Autocade it had been quite useful. I had signed up early enough to have the no-ads option, so I left it, especially as we had great commenters like Graham Clayton from Australia, who has a wealth of knowledge about cars himself.

This week, we noticed the no-ads option had disappeared and the bottom of Autocade’s pages had turned into an ugly mess, at least on the desktop version. We already had our own ad in the footer, so we didn’t need multiple ones cheapening the site.

Not only did Disqus pay us short by 35 per cent last year, I discovered their ads don’t even pay. Yes, Disqus was included in our ads.txt. But here’s a site that gets 1,000,000 page views every quarter (roughly) and we had earned zip. Zero. Nada.
 

 

Once I understand how to update a Mediawiki database, we’ll have Mediawiki comments instead, and I’ve exported what we had from Disqus.

It’s been a bad run, but there you go.

Media.net also said they would drop publishers from certain countries, without naming them. That was fine by me since they also had odd discrepancies between what I knew to be the traffic and what they recorded. At one point, the Media.net ad code was hard-coded on Autocade’s pages, and still they were recording a minuscule amount of traffic.

With time zone differences (their person was in India) we never solved it.

Maybe an inordinate amount of people use ad blockers?

We had till February 28 to remove their code but I took it off as well—no point dragging out yet another non-paying service.

It really feels like yet another area where Google has wrecked the advertising ecosystem for legitimate publishers. Oh for the days when there was more quality control over where ads appeared.
 
Ten years ago, we were hacked. That is a story in itself, which I documented at the time, along with Google’s failings. What also struck me was that the hack used what appeared to be Google Adsense code:
 

 

I had come across fake ads taking you to malware sites before, even with legitimate ad networks. (I still remember seeing a fake ad for a job-seeking website that wound up on our sites in April 2008.) But for some reason in 2013 it still seemed strange, since I didn’t deal with Google and some legit ad networks were still hanging on.

However, I noted on April 7, 2013, when researching what had happened, that it was entirely possible. And Google makes money no matter what.

I wrote: ‘The publisher’s site gets blacklisted and it takes days for that to be lifted, so the earnings go down. Who gains? The hackers and Google.’

The quotations I included in the 2013 post are sobering, with other publishers negatively affected by Google’s systems and inaction.

This week, almost 10 years later, I came across this.
 

 

Google, still useless after all these years. But hey, as long as they’re making money, right? Because the rest of us sure as heck aren’t, at least not through anything they touch. Their core business is a negligence lawsuit just waiting to happen.


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How the search engines fare on a site: search here

16.01.2023

Time to do some analysis on the age of the search results for this site through the search engines. I’m curious about the drop in hits. ‘Contents’ pages’ also include static pages and, in Bing’s case, PDFs. (PS.: For clarification, a contents’ page would include a Wordpress tag page, or a page for a set month containing all that month’s posts.)
 
Mojeek
Contents’ pages: ★★★★★★★★★
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006 ★★
2007 ★
2008 ★★
2009 ★★★★★★
2010 ★
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020 ★★
2021 ★★★★★★★★★★★
2022 ★★★★★★★★★★★★★
2023
 
Interesting spread, and no problems indexing PHP pages (after 2010). Some repeat results, with Mojeek having both www.jackyan.com and jackyan.com versions of the same pages. I’m surprised at the gap between 2010 and 2020, though they do appear after the 50 mark.
 
Google
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
2021
2022
2023
 
Now that was a surprise. Only the static, HTML pages, with a lot of ex-Blogger indices (which were also HTML). Talk about being a Wayback Machine. No individual blog posts at all and a lot of really old stuff that isn’t even linked any more. I expected Yandex to do something like this, not Google.
 
Bing
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★★★★
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
2021
2022
2023 ★
 
Still bizarre. Bing claimed it had six results and delivered 10 on the first page. One blog post from 2023 makes it in here—it’s one attacking Bing and calling it near death. (Of the ones after the 3rd, it’s done marginally better, though it’s still hundreds off the norm.) During the course of the day, the 50-something results Bing had for site:jackyan.com has fallen to 10. Talk about decaying.

Interestingly, Bing gives 50 or so results on mobile—something I discovered this morning after compiling the above and before I pressed ‘Publish’ in Wordpress.
 
Yandex
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★★
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006 ★★★★★★★★★★★★★
2007 ★★★★★★★★★
2008 ★★★
2009 ★★★★★★
2010 ★★★★
2011 ★★
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019 ★★
2020 ★
2021
2022
2023
 
Some repeated results and definitely in favour of static HTML pages (pre-2010) over dynamic ones.
 
Baidu
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★★★
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010 ★
2011 ★
2012
2013
2014 ★
2015
2016
2017 ★★★★
2018 ★★
2019 ★
2020 ★★★★★★★★★
2021 ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
2022 ★★★★★★
2023
 
Baidu gives the wrong date for a lot of results, and there was a repeated result, too. But a pretty good site search and far closer to what I expected I would see, since it’s the post-2010 blog posts that I thought were more significant. There were a few in 2006 that got me some international mainstream media coverage and appearances on Aljazeera English’s Listening Post in those early days, but the most read blog entries were from 2016.
 
Yep
Contents’ pages ★★★★
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014 ★★
2015
2016
2017 ★
2018
2019
2020 ★★
2021
2022 ★
2023
 
Not bad for a newbie in beta, spidering both static and dynamic (PHP) pages. Better than Bing’s mix for the 10 each delivers.

Gigablast delivers none.

I can’t say for sure what caused the traffic drop based on the above, since I haven’t documented one of these searches before. So I’ve nothing to compare it to, though my vague memory is that Google would have had some of my actual posts among the top 50. A lot of the pages it does have there aren’t that highly trafficked. Could we blame Google?

Sadly, I don’t have enough data to know for sure, but on the face of it, Google’s top 50 are anomalous, while Bing continues to demonstrate that it’s largely useless.
 
PS.: Just tried site:bing.com. Bing’s results were terrible, including some real estate searches for homes in France, lots of repeated results. Mojeek and Google delivered better results for site:bing.com than Bing did.


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January 2023 gallery

01.01.2023

Here are January 2023’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 


 

Notes
Rosa Clará image, added as I was archiving files from the third quarter of 2021.

The Claudia Schiffer Rolling Stone cover came to mind recently—I believe it was commended in 1991 by the Society of Publication Designers, which I was a member of.

I looked at a few more risqué, but mainstream, covers to see what is appropriate, since the Lucire issue 46 cover was one of our more revealing though most glamorous ones in years. Vanity Fair and Women’s Health were useful US cases.

Lucire 46 cover for our 25th anniversary: hotographed by Lindsay Adler, styled by Cannon, make-up by Joanne Gair, and hair by Linh Nguyen. Gown by the Danes; earrings by Erickson Beamon at Showroom Seven; and modelled by Rachel Hilbert.


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Twitter pushes the near future to look more bipolar than multipolar

01.11.2022

Dave Troy’s analysis of the Elon Musk takeover of Twitter makes for interesting reading, since Troy has actually spoken to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and has a bit more of the inside track than most.

For starters, Troy reminds us that Dorsey trusts Musk, in order to keep Twitter away from Wall Street investors. Dorsey has said this publicly in a Tweet. He believes this acquisition is about ideology, so Musk doesn’t care if Twitter doesn’t make money—or at least, money will come if the technology is opened up and they can charge for other things built on top of it. Getting data on all of us helps Musk in a big way, too.

Troy posits that Musk believes we need to be on other planets, so we shouldn’t help the poor in our quest to get off this rock; but another interesting one is that he believes in a multipolar world order, something Vladimir Putin has talked about. Musk believes in rule by technocracy, Troy theorizes, not by politics. He also believes Musk is a sociopath.

All this is quite fascinating to read. Taking Troy’s words on Putin, Musk and Dorsey sharing the same vision:

All seem to think a “multipolar world” is a good thing, because after all, shouldn’t Russia get to do its thing and not be bothered by anyone else? That’s “free speech” and opposes “cancel culture,” right? So yeah, that’s aligned with Putin. But Putin himself doesn’t support free speech; his government censors wildly, but it does support speech that breaks the hegemony of the Western elites. As do Musk and friends. This is internally inconsistent.

Because of these shared values, Troy foresees Musk teaming up with D. J. Trump at Truth Social and Kanye West at Parler to control the information space.

It points to a pretty dark outcome and a polarizing world, but one which has been brewing for a long time.

We could talk about the failure of neoliberal economics and, therefore, the western hegemony. With all the figure-massaging by China when it reports its GDP, there’s still no denying that the country has risen vastly in mere decades. And Putin has said as much about wanting to fight back against western hegemony.

It’s incredibly easy to fall back on “them and us” as a concept. Dictators might find it easier to make their positions official (even if there is internal dissent that is driven underground), while the west can broadly talk about diversity while not truly breaking ranks with the neoliberal order. Our Blairite government here is positioned as such while having a social veneer (and a modicum of restraint) based on history and market positioning, while the Opposition will make things that much harder and is more blatant at wanting to do so.

I would have once said China had the potential to be an outlier, raising its educational standards and embracing Confucianism, which has its foundations in free thought and liberalism, balanced with preserving a relationship between state and subject. Perhaps with Hu and Wen things could have gone that way. Under Xi Jinping the aims have changed, and at least one China-watcher I know (who knew Xi’s father and knew of Xi from 1982) tell me that they foresaw this.

I’m not going to make any bold predictions myself, but the world looks like a place that won’t become multipolar but bipolar, and Twitter is one tool that is going to accelerate this trend—building on top of what Facebook and Google have already done by forcing users into silos. Meanwhile, Baidu et al will no doubt reflect the official positions of their governments.


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China in 2022: speak Cantonese, get banned from social media

08.10.2022

If you think some of us were being uppity about New Zealand Chinese Language Week, how’s this for a real-life report?

Speak Cantonese, get banned from a social media platform.

That’s what’s happening in China right now. And I had already mentioned schoolchildren being told off for using their reo.

The Google Translate translation is actually pretty good for a change, if you can’t read Chinese.

And here we are in New Zealand, kowtowing (derived from a Cantonese word, incidentally) to the Chinese Communist Party with its policy.
 


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New Zealand Chinese Language Week reviewed—in Cantonese

02.10.2022

My friend Bevan was going to make a podcast in Cantonese for New Zealand Chinese Language Week, and I decided I would record a few tidbits—except it wound up being something far longer and a podcast episode in its own right. So here it is, all 13-plus minutes of it. If this isn’t your language, please feel free to skip this one!
 

 
PS.: Here’s Bevan’s!
 


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The Detail on New Zealand Chinese Language Week

30.09.2022

Thank you, Alexia Russell and Radio New Zealand, for giving voice to our concerns about New Zealand Chinese Language Week. You can listen to the episode of The Detail here.

As they tagged Jo (chair of the NZCLW Trust), I decided I would get in touch via Twitter reply. This also addresses one of the points she makes in her side of the story.

I realize the Reformation was way further back than 1949 but you never know. One hopes that when you explain something in the receiver’s terms, they might get you more.

Massive thanks to everyone who gave me some great talking points for this interview—all I did was give them voice.


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New Zealand Chinese Language Week: a podcast entry

29.09.2022

As we come to the conclusion of New Zealand Chinese Language Week, a review about how inappropriate it was by being the very opposite of inclusive, for those who’d prefer to sit back and listen rather than read one of my blog posts.
 

 

You’ll likely catch me on RNZ’s The Detail on Friday, September 30 (PS.: uploaded this morning here). The AM Show changed its mind, so you won’t see me ‘come home to the feeling’ on TV3.


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In one poem: Chris Tse on Chinese Language Week

26.09.2022

This is why poet laureate Chris Tse is awesome.

The Tweets that follow are must-reads, too, including:


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