Archive for the ‘internet’ 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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Bing is coming back to life

12.03.2023

In quite an unexpected about-turn, Bing began spidering Lucire’s website again, and not just the old stuff. A site:lucire.com search actually has pages from after 2009 now, and while 42 per cent of results still get repeated from page to page, there are actually pages from the 2010s and the 2020s.

There are still a few ancient pages that have not been linked for a long time. And while Bing claims it has 1,420 results now (considerably more than 10), it won’t show beyond the 56 mark, so some things haven’t changed much.

Still, it’s a positive development worth reporting. The new pages at Autocade also seem to have made it on to Bing, almost instantaneously, or at least within a couple of hours (although Bing claims it only has 22 results for site:autocade.net, a far cry from the 5,000-plus actually on there).

But for the sake of fairness, here’s how Bing’s looking in terms of year breakdowns among the top 50 results (with the repeats taken out). The pattern is beginning to resemble a real search engine’s.
 

 
Contents’ pages ★★★
1997
1998
1999 ★★
2000
2001
2002 ★
2003
2004
2005 ★
2006 ★
2007 ★
2008 ★★
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015 ★
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
2021 ★★★★
2022 ★★★★★★★★
2023 ★★★★★
 
Static ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Dynamic ★★★★★★★
 

Maybe that ChatGPT foray gave the search team more money so it can start plugging the servers back in.

Still, I won’t be returning to Duck Duck Go as a default. Bing’s 1,420 is still a fraction of what Mojeek has for Lucire, and who wants to expose their internal-search users to Microsoft?

I’ll see if I can update the spreadsheet soon as I wouldn’t want you to think I only did so when there was bad news.
 
PS.: Here’s the spreadsheet containing Bing’s claimed number of results from a random (randomly among ones I could think of when I first began this analysis) selection of websites. Not universally up at Bing—though Microsoft has more pages on itself than it has done for a while. Cf. the previous one here. Mojeek is the only one consistently adding pages to its record.
 


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The IBM Selectric version of Univers revived

12.03.2023

This is one of the more fascinating type design stories I’ve come across in ages. Jens Kutilek has revived a very unlikely typeface: the IBM Selectric version of Univers in 11 pt.
 

 

A lot of us will have seen things set on a Selectric in the 1970s, especially in New Zealand. I’ve even seen professional advertisements set on a Selectric here. And because of all that exposure, it was pretty obvious to those of us with an interest in type that all the glyphs were designed to set widths regardless of family, and the only one that looked vaguely right was the Selectric version of Times.

Jens goes into a lot more detail but, sure enough, my hunch (from the 1980s and 1990s) was right: Times was indeed the starting-point, and the engineers refused to budge even when Adrian Frutiger worked out average widths and presented them.

It’s why this version of Univers, or Selectric UN, was so compromised.

What I didn’t know was that Frutiger was indeed hired for the gig, to adapt his designs to the machine. I had always believed, because of the compromised design, that IBM did it themselves or contracted it to a specialist, but not the man himself.

There’s plenty of maths involved, but the sort I actually would enjoy (having done one job many years ago to have numerous type families meet the New Zealand Standard for signage, and having to purposefully botch the original, superior kerning pairs in order to achieve it).

I think I kept our IBM golfballs, which carried the type designs on them, and hopefully one day they’ll resurface as they’re a great, nostalgic souvenir of these times.

What is really bizarre reading Jens’s recollection of his digital revival is that it’s set in Selectric UN 11 Medium (an excerpt is shown above). Here is type that was set on to paper, now re-created faithfully, with all of its compromises, for the screen. He’s done an amazing job and it was like reading a schoolbook from the 1970s (but with far more interesting subject-matter). Those Selectric types might not have been the best around, but the typographic world is richer for having them revived.
 
The hits per post here have fallen off a cliff. I imagine we can blame Google. Seven hundred was a typical average, but now I’m looking at dozens. I thought they’d be happy with my obsession over Bing being so crappy during 2022, but then, if they’re following Bing and not innovating, maybe they weren’t. Or that post about their advertising business being a negligence lawsuit waiting to happen (which, incidentally, was one of the most hit pieces over the last few months) might not have gone down well—it was a month after that when the incoming hits to this blog dropped like a stone. Maybe that confirms the veracity of my post.

I’m not terribly surprised. And before you think, ‘Why would Google care?’, ‘Would they bother targeting you?’ or ‘You are so paranoid,’ remember that Google suspended Vivaldi’s advertising account after its CEO criticized them, and in the days of Google Plus, they censored posts that I made that were critical of them. Are they after me? No, but you can bet there are algorithms that work to minimize or censor sites that expose Google’s misbehaviour, regardless of who makes the allegations, just as posts were censored on Google Plus.


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There is no point to posting on Twitter

08.03.2023

The demise of Twitter continues. Today I saw, while heading back to Tawa from Papakōwhai, the aftermath of a seven-vehicle accident (three cars, four commercial vehicles) on the opposite side of State Highway 1.

I posted this on Mastodon, and, made an exception and did a fresh message on OnlyKlans, I mean, Twitter. You know, the website where they let Nazis back in, and where today its proprietor mocked a disabled man with muscular dystrophy. Seems to be in keeping in a country where certain states are going after trans people and women’s rights that a disabled man would be next.
 

 

Net result of the posts in the first hour and a bit: four favourites and four boosts on Mastodon.

Absolutely nothing on Twitter.

I admit the messages were not identical and I called Twitter ‘OnlyKlans’, which might have ensured it didn’t get seen. That’s with hindsight. But since 2022, during a lot of which I had a cross-poster going between the two sites, this has been typical. Twitter engagement began to decline while Mastodon’s rose. Getting to eight–nil is completely on trend as I’ve had crickets to other Tweets, too.

I’ll know for next time. There really is no point, even when doing a public service, to announce a thing on OnlyKlans.

And the last few companies I Tweeted, because there were no other contact points (no phone numbers, no email addresses), didn’t reply, with the exception of Fiverr (who dealt with someone selling fake services). Google, of course, I expected nothing from, but Scottish Pacific Finance couldn’t be bothered, either.

This seems appropriate:
 

 

And this is useful context to the fediverse:
 


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Nostalgia is not a business strategy

06.03.2023

Paris Marx makes a very good case about Elon Musk wanting to relive the good ol’ days when he was doing start-ups at the beginning of the millennium. It’s why things at Twitter are as bad as they are: Musk’s nostalgia. It’s well worth a read if you’re interested in what’s going on at OnlyKlans, as Marx probably nails it far better than a lot of other commentators.

There were aspects of the good old days I liked, too. Better CPM rates for online ads. Way more creativity in web design, as well as experimentation. The fact I could balance doing brand consulting, typeface design, and publishing. That helped my creativity flow. But these are rose-coloured glasses; there’s plenty about my current life that is far better than those hairy start-up days.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in half a century on earth is that you can’t re-create the past. And even if you could, it wouldn’t be as good as how you remembered it.

I’m often nostalgic for those early days in Hong Kong and that mega-fantastic day of the Tung Wan Hospital fair in 1975 (or was it ’76?), where I got to go in the bucket of a Simon Snorkel fire engine. Wonderful day. But at the time I couldn’t drive (I was three), so you can’t have it all.

And millennium me running Lucire might have been having fun in terms of breaking new ground, but I’d much rather be where I am now having talked to Rachel Hunter and putting her on the home page (and in two print editions). Our stories are also heaps better than what they were in the late 1990s.
 

 

Just enjoy the moment and make the most of where you are at. I’ve projects I want to return to, too, but if I do, I won’t be assuming the year is 2000 and working in an area I don’t know that much about, while annoying all the people around me.


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Another example of Google’s antiquity when it comes to search results

06.03.2023

Is Google now the Wayback Machine, too?

Since I haven’t used Google regularly since 2010, I can’t do what’s called a longitudinal study, though when I started examining search engine results for Lucire after Bing tanked last year, nothing in my Google searches jumped out at me—till earlier in 2023.

I guess wherever Bing goes, Google follows, since they’re not really innovators—they did well in search, but everything else seems to be about following or acquiring.

With Bing becoming Microsoft’s Wayback Machine, Google followed suit, as revealed when I did site:lucire.com searches. But was it the exception?

Not really: site:jackyan.com still shows my mayoral campaign pages, even though they haven’t been linked since the day before the 2013 mayoral election. And site:jyanet.com, which I tried at the weekend, has some ancient things, there, too.

Like Bing, Google has some trouble crossing into this side of 2010.

Let’s look at the top 10.
 

 

1. Home page. Current, so that’s good. And at least it’s the home page. Bing doesn’t always give you one.

2. CAP Online, last updated 2008, and very sporadically between 2001 and 2008. I don’t think we’ve linked it since then. Maybe, at best, a year later.

3. Lucire’s original home page from 1997. This hasn’t been linked since we got Lucire its own domain in 1998—25 years ago.

4. Our press information pages. Fair enough, and current.

5. JY&A Media. Relevant and currently linked.

6. JY&A Consulting’s old page. Hasn’t been linked by us since 2010. I imagine some might still link to it? But it gets a 404, and has done for a long time. Why rank it so highly?

7. JY&A Fonts. Current and relevant; I would have thought it would rank more highly.

8–10. Press releases from between 2007 and 2009.

I’ve benefited from search engines grandfathering things, but I really couldn’t believe my eyes with pages we haven’t linked to in anywhere between 13 and 25 years. And not that many people would have maintained their links to these pages, either. Certainly the Fonts and Media pages should be up further with links in, and current internal links on our site.

For (6), I don’t have the knowledge to do 301s and a refresh page might penalize jya.co, where the Consulting website is today.

When we took the site to HTTPS last year, both experts and friends told me that it would take a matter of days or weeks for Google to restore its position; that one would not get penalized for going to a secure server. That, I discovered, was not the case. Search engines don’t update, not as regularly as you might think. If what I am seeing is any indication, search engines in 2023 have massive trouble updating, and the top 10 reflect the status of your website as it was a long time ago. For jyanet.com, the top 10 would be perfect if it was 2009; for jackyan.com, it’s how things were in 2013; and for lucire.com, it’s a bit more of a hybrid of what was current in 2005 (framesets! And the old entertainment page) and some pages from after 2011 (including current home and shopping pages).

I don’t care how Google defends itself or blames others for its decreasing ability to find relevant pages; it’s blatantly obvious its search has worsened.


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Pirates must love GoDaddy

04.03.2023

If you are a pirate, then GoDaddy seems to be the place to host.

Last November, we spotted three stolen articles on the sephari.co.nz domain, which appears to be hosted by GoDaddy. I filed two DMCA notices, to no avail.

They were in the standard format, one that GoDaddy requests and has acted on in the past.

The only thing I got back was this:

Your claim was received and will be reviewed and processed in the order that it was received. There is no need to submit the claim again. Thank you.
 
Kindest Regards,
 
D Preston
Go Daddy | Trademark & Copyright Claims

Come March and the articles are still there. So I filed another. Here is the body of the letter:

It appears that a GoDaddy customer has taken our work without permission. The infringing pages may be found at:
 
http://sephari.co.nz/museums/royal-new-zealand-ballet-debuts-12-works-digitally-on-may-12-lucire-lucire/
http://sephari.co.nz/culture/hands-on-in-the-midwest-lucire/
http://sephari.co.nz/culture/travel-in-brief-dining-with-vistajet-indonesian-celebrations-holland-americas-150th-lucire-lucire/
 
The originals of the above items are located at the following URLs:
 
https://lucire.com/insider/20220504/royal-new-zealand-ballet-debuts-12-works-digitally-on-may-12/
https://lucire.com/2022/1014vo0.shtml
https://lucire.com/insider/20221120/travel-in-brief-dining-with-vistajet-indonesian-celebrations-holland-americas-150th/

 

There is no contact point for this client, so we have come directly to you.

We do not believe that the unauthorized publication of our work can be defended under the fair use doctrine nor has it been licensed under Creative Commons. Its publication does not serve public policy. It is our copyrighted work, and we have never given permission for this party to feature it.

I hereby state that I have a good faith belief that the disputed use of the copyrighted material or reference or link to such material is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law (e.g., as a fair use).

I hereby state that the information in this notice is accurate and, under penalty of perjury, that I am the owner, or authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyright or of an exclusive right under the copyright that is allegedly infringed.

I see D. Preston is on the case again. Here is what they said:

Dear Sir or Madam,
 
The website jyanet.com is not hosted by GoDaddy. We ask that you please note the following information:
 
The REGISTRAR is the company that sells a domain name registration to a person or company.
The REGISTRANT is the person or company that purchases a domain name for use.
The HOSTING PROVIDER is the company that provides space on it’s computers for the files that make up the content of the website.

That’s right. They’re telling me that my own company’s website is not hosted by them.

A website that does not appear anywhere in the complaint except for under my signature and in the reply address.

The rest is all mansplainy bollocks that says I should approach my own hosting provider to complain about myself.

I don’t know if they are illiterate, incompetent, obtuse, or overwhelmed.

But a pirate would simply love having a host that will run interference for them.

I wrote back:

Dear D. Preston:
 
Please read my complaint. Jyanet.com is not at issue here and I know you do not host it—as this is our company’s domain name.

It is not even mentioned in the attachment (which I am re-attaching): why would I file a complaint against ourselves?

The only place jyanet.com is mentioned is in my reply address.

Now, as in November when we filed our first DMCA notices with you, the complaint is about sephari.co.nz, which, based on our research, is hosted by you.

This has gone on for months.

I know the difference between registrar, registrant and hosting provider.

You were sent a standard letter in the format that you requested. A format that GoDaddy has acted on successfully before, not to mention other hosts.

I respectfully request you act on this copyright breach.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I had some fun with a couple of these people who hotlinked our images, while stealing the articles or spinning them.
 


 
Update, March 24: Finally a resolution, which coincidentally arrived at the same time I was asking connections on Mastodon to check if the domain was down. This took four months.
 


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Autocade is about to turn 15

03.03.2023


Above: The 1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia, the most recent entry to Autocade.
 
Next week, Autocade will turn 15. I don’t expect big editorials extolling its history, mainly because the site has not changed much in principle or appearance since it was first conceived in 2008.

We did a single video under the Autocade name, which my friend Stuart Cowley filmed, edited and directed. But as we both have full-time jobs, it never took off into a series of web videos.

There could be a surprise development from Autocade that’s actually Amanda’s brainchild, but I’ll have to work out how much time is involved. It looks like the next major addition to the Autocade world will happen in its second 15 years. It won’t be an online magazine—I once registered a domain related to Autocade and stuck a Wordpress installation on it, but nothing came of it, and I gave up the name. Besides, there are plenty of entries already in the online automotive space, and I’m not interested in being a latecomer.

The original site is getting close to 31 million page views, which I am very happy about—not bad for a hobby, spare time site that so many have found some utility from. Thank you, everyone, for your visits and your interest—and big thanks to Nigel Dunn, Keith Adams, Peter Jobes, and my anonymous (at his request) friend for your huge contributions.

Extra thanks to Graham Clayton for being our number-one commenter (when we had Disqus forms running). I’ll be back with a “traffic report” during March, and maybe a hint of what we’re up to for Autocade in 2023.


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Of course Bing AI makes stuff up—Bing itself does

27.02.2023

Of course some of us expected Microsoft Bing and ChatGPT to be rubbish—and we knew ChatGPT would make stuff up. Because Bing makes stuff up.
 

 

If you have a normal, functioning web crawler (or spider), there’s no way you would ever wind up with pages that have never existed. Nothing about this is normal.

The latest contributions from Microsoft’s Wayback Machine for site:lucire.com are these. On my phone, I noticed it had ranked in third place, after two framesets from the early 2000s, a page we had for Plucker for the Palm Pilot! That gives you an idea of how old Bing’s index must be.
 

 

On the desktop, meanwhile, a site:lucire.com search now includes sites that aren’t lucire.com. I guess if your index is that small now, you need to pad it out not just with repetition, but other domains. One is related to us—it’s our Dailymotion channel—but the other is totally random with no connection whatsoever. Bit like ChatGPT.
 

 

My friend Robin Capper has discovered the same, when enquiring with the new Bing about himself. It claimed to have sourced from his Linkedin—but fed him back facts that are nowhere to be found. Here’s his blog post. I like how he put artificial intelligence in quotes, since there’s nothing intelligent about this. It’s a simple text processor, but it sure gets a lot of things wrong.


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Cory Doctorow might be predicting the end of the web as we know it

21.02.2023

Two great pieces by Cory Doctorow came my way today on Mastodon.

The first is an incredibly well argued piece about why people leave social networks. Facebook and Twitter won’t be immune, just as MySpace and Bebo weren’t.

One highlight:

As people and businesses started to switch away from the social media giants, inverse network effects set in: the people you stayed on MySpace to hang out with were gone, and without them, all the abuses MySpace was heaping on you were no longer worth it, and you left, too. Once you were gone, that was a reason for someone else to leave. The same forces that drove rapid growth drove rapid collapse.

The second is about all the hype surrounding chatbots, and Google and Bing. Cory begins:

The really remarkable thing isn’t just that Microsoft has decided that the future of search isn’t links to relevant materials, but instead lengthy, florid paragraphs written by a chatbot who happens to be a habitual liar—even more remarkable is that Google agrees.

Microsoft has nothing to lose. It’s spent billions on Bing, a search-engine no one voluntarily uses. Might as well try something so stupid it might just work. But why is Google, a monopolist who has a 90+% share of search worldwide, jumping off the same bridge as Microsoft?

He goes on, analysing how Google is not really an innovator, and most things it has have come to it through acquisition. They wouldn’t know a clever innovation if they saw it.

And:

ChatGPT and its imitators have all the hallmarks of a tech fad, and are truly the successor to last season’s web3 and cryptocurrency pump-and-dumps.

I had better not quote any more as it’s way more important you visit both these pieces and see the entire arguments. Farewell to Big Social then.

Though if Cory is right, and my own thoughts have come close, then is there any point to web searching if these chatbots are going to unleash machine-authored crap, complementing some of the already godawful spun sites out there? Search engines should be finding ways of weeding out spun and AI-authored junk, rather than being in league with them—because that could mean the death of the web.

Or maybe just the death of Google and Bing, because Mojeek might be there to save us all.


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