Archive for the ‘marketing’ category


The golden age of Pontiac illustrations

17.03.2023

The gargantuan full-size 1971–6 Pontiacs (Laurentian, Catalina, Parisienne, Bonneville, Grand Ville and Grand Safari) went up on Autocade last week, and they reminded me of the golden era of Pontiac illustrations. That era didn’t stretch into the 1970s that much: you saw them for the 1967s through to the 1971s, before photography took over.

I had some saved up over the years on the hard drive, and a few went into my blog gallery when that was still public (Google will have you believe it still is, with a lot of their top 50 devoted to it; so much for that search engine updating quickly).

First up is the 1967 Bonneville, with its sharp, new grille emphasizing width and sportiness. I believe this image came by way of Twitter, pre-Musk.

Here’s the 1969 Bonneville, probably the year that was the zenith for a lot of GM divisions’ designs.

I’m unclear on the origins of this scan, but it was shared on OnlyKlans when I used it. It’s the 1969 Firebird 400.

From the gallery are the 1969 GTO convertible and Firebird, showing just how right these two designs were for the era.

And here are two 1971 Canadian Pontiacs, the Laurentian and the Parisienne Brougham, which sat on the 124 in wheelbase rather than the 126 in of the US Bonneville, Grand Ville and Grand Safari that year. You can feel the white country club of the 1960s just barely hanging on before the decade gave way to more brown shades and gritty urban decay. The garish pointy noses (which Bunkie Knudsen tipped Ford off to when he went to work there) and vinyl roofs all contributed to a heaviness that the decade characterizes for me.


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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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Is Microsoft trying to stem its losses from Bing?

30.01.2023

If Appledystopia is right in its 2020 article, Microsoft loses US$1·5 milliard per annum on Bing. So maybe that explains why it’s worsened so much. Microsoft might well be finding ways to cut its losses, and servers cost money. Pity that none of the Bing clones are saying anything, not even Duck Duck Go’s usually vocal CEO.

I’m glad I discovered Mojeek when I did. We lost some traffic with Duck Duck Go’s near-dead internal search on Lucire, and overall I suspect everyone has lost traffic with Bing dying. With Google now also faltering (they still make plenty from the human farms, but you have to wonder just why it has worsened, even for existing sites), then it’s important that alternative, growing search engines—that’s engines, not services (so you can discount Ecosia, Neeva, Qwant, Duck Duck Go, and many others)—get our support.

There’s really only Mojeek in the occident with a growing index, regularly requiring new servers. If you aren’t anti-Russian, there’s Yandex; and China of course has Baidu. Brave and Yep are making great efforts but their indices are still small, though Yep can do better than Bing on some sites.


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What saying yes to SEO “guest posts” looks like

05.01.2023




 
Here are a few screenshots from a magazine I loved, but sadly, it seems they’ve responded to those SEO emails, and grabbed the US$50 per post.

I don’t blame them, since Google has destroyed the online advertising ecosystem, and they have to make ends meet somehow.

I was in contact with them some years ago, and they’re really good people.

The top articles on their home page are theirs, and they remain excellent in quality, but scroll down and there are articles that are obviously SEO pieces. What’s the bet that Al Woods and Alexa Wang, with the same initials, are the same person? As a result, I made the sad decision to remove them from Lucire’s link directory.

My feeling is that you accept these SEO gigs at your own risk, and those risks include getting demoted by the search engines as I’m sure they have figured out when you’re part of trying to game the system. They also make the site look like a content mill, despite the great original journalism that’s front and centre, and more visible there.

Our sites are our shop windows, so it’s in our interests to remain visible in the search engines. But everyone has different priorities. And I may be wrong: maybe these pieces haven’t affected that site at all. I’d just rather not risk it.


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The expectation of invisibility

03.01.2023

I rewatched Princess of Chaos, the TV drama centred around my friend, Bevan Chuang. I’m proud to have stood by her at the time, because, well, that’s what you do for your friends.

I’m not here to revisit any of the happenings that the TV movie deals with—Bevan says it brings her closure so that is that—but to examine one scene where her character laments being Asian and being ‘invisible’. How hard we work yet we aren’t seen. The model minority. Expected to be meek and silent and put up with stuff.

Who in our community hasn’t felt this?

While the younger generations of the majority are far, far better than their forebears, the expectation of invisibility was something that’s been a double-edged sword when I look back over my life.

The expectation of invisibility was never going to sit well with me.

I revelled in being different, and I had a family who was supportive and wise enough to guide me through being different in our new home of Aotearoa New Zealand.

My father frequently said, when speaking of the banana Chinese—those who proclaim themselves yellow on the outside and white on the inside—that they can behave as white as they want, but there’ll always be people who’ll see the yellow skin and treat them differently. And in some cases, unfairly.

He had reason to believe this. My mother was underpaid by the Wellington Hospital Board for a considerable time despite her England and Wales nursing qualification. A lot of correspondence ensued—I still remember Dad typing formal letters on his Underwood 18, of which we probably still have carbons. Dad felt pressured—maybe even bullied to use today’s parlance—by a dickhead manager at his workplace.

Fortunately, even in the 1970s, good, decent, right-thinking Kiwis outnumbered the difficult ones, though the difficult ones could get away with a lot, lot more, from slant-eye gestures to telling us to go back to where we came from openly. I mean, February 6 was called New Zealand Day! Go back another generation to a great-uncle who came in the 1950s, and he recalls white kids literally throwing stones at Chinese immigrants.

So there was no way I would become a banana, and give up my culture in a quest to integrate. The parents of some of my contemporaries reasoned differently, as they had been in the country for longer, and hoped to spare their children the physical harm they endured. They discouraged their children from speaking their own language, in the hope they could achieve more.

As a St Mark’s pupil, I was at the perfect school when it came to being around international classmates, and teachers who rewarded academic excellence regardless of one’s colour. All of this bolstered my belief that being different was a good thing. I wasn’t invisible at my school. I did really well. I was dux.

It was a shock when I headed to Rongotai College as most of the white boys were all about conforming. The teachers did their best, but so much of my class, at least, wanted to replicate what they thought was normal society in the classroom, and a guy like me—Chinese, individualistic, with a sense of self—was never going to fit in. It was a no-brainer to go to Scots College when a half-scholarship was offered, and I was around the sort of supportive school environment that I had known in my primary and intermediate years, with none of the other boys keen to pigeonhole you. Everyone could be themselves. Thank goodness.

But there were always appearances from the conformist attitudes in society. As I headed to university and announced I would do law and commerce, there was an automatic assumption that the latter degree would be in accounting. I would not be visible doing accounting, in a back room doing sums. For years (indeed, until very recently) the local branch of the Fairfax Press had Asian employees but that was where they were, not in the newsroom. We wouldn’t want to offend its readers, would we?

My choice of these degrees was probably driven, subconsciously, by the desire to be visible and to give society a middle finger. I wasn’t going to be invisible. I was going to pursue the interests that I had, and to heck with societal expectations based along racial lines. I had seen my contemporaries at college do their best to conform: either put your head down or play sport. There was no other role. If you had your head up and didn’t play sport at Rongotai, there was something wrong with you. Maybe you were a ‘faggot’ or ‘poofter’ or some other slur that was bandied about, I dare say by boys who had uncertainties about their own sexuality and believed homophobia helped them.

I loved design. I loved cars. Nothing was going to change that. So I pursued a design career whilst doing my degrees. I could see how law, marketing and management would play a role in what I wanted to do in life. When I launched Lucire, it was “against type” on so many fronts. I was doing it online, that was new. I was Chinese, and a cis het guy. And it was a very public role: as publisher I would attend fashion shows, doing my job. In the early days, I would be the only Chinese person amongst the press.

And I courted colleagues in the press, because I was offering something new. That was also intentional: to blaze a trail for anyone like me, a Chinese New Zealander in the creative field who dared to do something different. I wasn’t the first, of course: Raybon Kan comes to mind (as a fellow St Mark’s dux) with his television reviews in 1990 that showed up almost all who had gone before with his undeniable wit; and Lynda Chanwai-Earle whose poetry was getting very noticed around this time. Clearly we needed more of us in these ranks if we were going to make any impact and have people rethink just who we were and just what we were capable of. And it wasn’t in the accounts’ department, or being a market gardener, serving you at a grocery store or takeaway, as noble as those professions also are. I have family in all those professions. But I was out on a quest to break the conformity that Aotearoa clung to—and that drove everything from typeface design to taking Lucire into print around the world and running for mayor of Wellington. It might not have been the primary motive, but it was always there, lingering.

This career shaped me, made me less boring as an individual, and probably taught me what to value in a partner, too. And thank goodness I found someone who also isn’t a conformist.

When we first met, Amanda did ask me why I had so many friends from the LGBTQIA+ community. I hadn’t really realized it, but on reflection, the answer was pretty simple: they, too, had to fight conformist attitudes, to find their happy places. No wonder I got along with so many. All my friends had stood out one way or another, whether because of their interests, their sexuality, how they liked to be identified, their race, their way of thinking, or something else. These are the people who shape the world, advance it, and make it interesting. They—we—weren’t going to be pigeonholed.
 

With fellow nonconformist Stefan Engeseth in Stockholm, 2010


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Posted in cars, culture, design, interests, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, Sweden, TV, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Stop worshipping people based on wealth

28.11.2022


 
Salon is on to something.

I know from first-hand experience that those who hold political office are not always the smartest. When you run against others for the same job, it doesn’t take long to spot the less intelligent, some buoyed by privilege, others by an unshakeable belief in their invincibility.

Its headline: ‘Is America’s infatuation with billionaires finally coming to an end?’

Amanda Marcotte begins, ‘It has long been evident that Elon Musk is a moron, at least to those willing to see it. Well before the Tesla CEO overpaid for Twitter in the throes of a tantrum, there was a chorus of mostly-ignored people pointing out, repeatedly, that Musk’s mental maturity appeared to have stagnated around the sixth grade.’

After citing a handful of cases where Musk fell short, ‘The business and tech press would be startled at his dumb behavior, but within 48 to 72 hours, it was all forgotten and Musk went back to being covered as if he were a genius, if perhaps an eccentric one.’

I only personally know one milliardaire and he was a cut above the rest of us in brains.

But Marcotte notes that Musk, D. J. Trump, Elizabeth Holmes and Sam Bankman-Fried are hardly geniuses, and takes aim at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, too.

If we can get this into our heads, we might stop a similar worship in this country. Just when did this start? Thatcherism? Rogernomics? Just because someone has made a few bob doesn’t make them a political messiah or great leader—so stop being their fans and start choosing people to support based on merit.

Here in Aotearoa we appear to have two main parties bereft of ideas, with the opposition so desperate it wishes to import the culture wars from the US while gaslighting whenever possible. Neither is particularly palatable to me, and thanks to MMP, I’m going to be quite happy to look at the next tier, as I have done for more General Elections than not. Greens? TOP? Not ACT.
 
When I think about some rich guys I’ve had run-ins with—including one I had to sue at the start of my career (and beat)—there’s one thing that ties them together. They have to be slaves to the system, the establishment. They have to play by its rules in order to retain their directorships and social standing. They have to walk the tightrope of convention. They have to conform. Ironically, the more to the right of politics you go here (and the more individual freedom is preached), the more conformity there appears to be. Conformity is valued over merit or honour. This explains Sam Uffindell.

How bloody boring is that? I’m so deeply grateful, particularly to my family, for giving me the chance to be my own person and walk the freer path that I create. My grandmother, mother and father all happy to support my interests as an infant and letting me draw all over newspapers and magazines. My mother for encouraging me to follow my interests in design. My father for literally working behind the scenes for decades to help build my businesses. Conformity is for suckers. Innovation and societal advancement never came from conformity, and societies are better for it.


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Farewell, Sergei Mitrofanov

05.08.2022

Farewell, my dear friend Sergei. Taken far too soon.
 

Sergei trying to corral us for a photograph in London in 2015.
 

I’m pretty upset by this so rather than write a fresh tribute (which I will have to do in time in an official capacity), I’m going to quote from what I wrote to his widow, Ekaterina, with appropriate edits: ‘I am so deeply saddened by this terrible news since I found out on Wednesday night. Sergei was a great friend, colleague and ally. We have known each other since 2006 and I have always found him warm, helpful, and kind. Outside of Medinge Group he even helped another colleague of mine with navigating Russia’s complex tourist visas! Even today I was looking for the name of a computer program in order to read some messages and realized that Sergei was the one who put me on to it! What will we do without Sergei’s social media posts hashtagging #Medinge to keep us all informed?

‘Since I have further to travel to visit friends in Europe, the last time I saw Sergei in person was in 2015 and I truly wish that that was not the final time.

‘… Please know Sergei was loved the world over and it was a blessing to have known him.’

He is survived by his wife and their two daughters.


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Bing is definitely very broken, and it’s hurting Duck Duck Go

23.07.2022

The last few days have been about ‘How awesome is Mojeek?’ and ‘How shit is Bing?’

I’m finding great search results from Mojeek, and as a site search for Lucire, it’s absolutely brilliant. Blows Duck Duck Go (Bing with privacy) away, even back when DDG had a reasonably comprehensive index of our pages (before the HTTPS switch). I don’t have to subject anyone to Google tracking, and I didn’t have the hassle of installing an internal search ourselves.

Cisene, who I met via Mastodon, very helpfully suggested on that social network that I submit site maps for the Lucire website as that would take a reasonably short time to remedy Bing’s ills. I’ve never had to do them for Google or Mojeek: their spiders work as they have always done since the dawn of search engines. For some reason, Bing needs its hand held if I want it to have thousands of pages again, as it did earlier this year.

One thing I found curious with Bing is its insistence, in a site search, to place a page that we have not linked to since 2005 at the very top. Of course I could delete the page or program in a forwarder, or make a 301, but I was also once told that dead links and forwarders were bad things for search engines. Our ‘About’ page also ranks highly in all search engines, despite not being linked to in anything we’ve done in over 15 years as well.

But where’s the home page? Happily, after submitting site maps, Bing’s index of our pages went from 10 to a whopping 55, and the home page appeared for the first time in a site:lucire.com search:
 

 

‘It’s an improvement,’ I thought, though the search engine is still massively handicapped compared to where it was at the start of 2022.

Checking on Bing Webmaster Tools to see where things were, I was curious to see it claim that it could not crawl or index our home page though it was discovered in 2018:
 

 

But you just crawled and indexed it. Which is it?

The excuses this time (as Big Tech people love to make stuff that blames users) are that there are no <H1> tags (I’ve got news for you, Bing: we don’t use them, and why should we? There was never any rule that stated that headlines must be between them, and no one else seems to care) and that the description is too long (again, it was fine for you before—and actually you’ve just shown that it is fine).

They aren’t in the business of search though, as their explanations reveal. It’s seach:
 

 
Goodness knows how many years that’s been there, ignored.

It’s all so slap-dash and unprofessional, and as Duck Duck Go search results are based on Bing’s, I’m going to have to stop recommending it. Fortunately, I found Mojeek at the perfect time.

I’m also discovering that maybe Bing can no longer handle more than 50-odd pages per site anyway, which, of course, makes it useless as an engine that powers a site search. (Like I keep saying, the defunct Excite in the 1990s could do better. Any search engine from those days could spider and index more effectively.) It would be in line with other Microsoft products, such as Notepad, where the software giant now prevents us from typing £ or , except, presumably, people from the countries where those are the common, keyboard-accessible currency symbols. Want to write Cæsar drinks Nescafé? You can try, but the diphthong and é will be missing.

Today I searched site:autocade.net on Bing. Now, we never switched Autocade to HTTPS. After how all our sites fell, would you risk it? This site is dependent on search-engine traffic.

And here are the number of pages each search engine brings up for a site search.
 
Google: 4,080
Mojeek: 3,348
Bing: 51
Duck Duck Go: 50
Brave: 17 (plus 4 underneath first entry)
 

So I can’t keep blaming the switch to HTTPS, though our troubles with all search engines I knew of then began around this time. Autocade still slipped in Bing despite no down time; we went to a newer Mediawiki version, but that was about it. Everything progressed as it always did.

Google eventually allowed things to recover (for the most part) with the exception of our company website (which rose up to 13th before dropping to 26th today), Mojeek never even had an issue to begin with, but Bing and Duck Duck Go don’t link to Jack Yan & Associates’ website till after the 40th position.

So where are we now with the sites I last looked at?
 
Number of results for site:lucire.com
Google: 6,250
Mojeek: 3,563
Bing: 53
Duck Duck Go: 53
Brave: 15 (plus 4 underneath first entry)
 
Number of results for site:jackyan.com
Google: 1,860
Mojeek: 438
Duck Duck Go: 54
Bing: 43
Brave: 13 (plus 4 underneath first entry)
 
Number of results for site:jyanet.com
Google: 743
Mojeek: 296
Bing: 49
Duck Duck Go: 49
Brave: 20
 

I honestly think Bing is broken.

Just as well no one I know uses it, but quite a number of people do opt for Duck Duck Go, because of the work it’s done in promoting privacy. I still admire them for this stance. But as many of you know, it sources its results from Bing, so if one is broken, both will be. And that’s a darned shame as I almost hit 12 years of having Duck Duck Go as my default (from August 2010 or thereabouts).

All the more reason to retain Mojeek as my default search engine.

Will I bother looking any more into Bing? Probably not, but how do I convince all those I recommended Duck Duck Go to to check out Mojeek?


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Rand Fishkin’s ‘Something is Rotten in Online Advertising’

21.07.2022

I’ve been meaning to link Rand Fishkin’s ‘Something is Rotten in Online Advertising’ for some time, so here it is.

He writes, in his second and third paragraphs (links in original):

Where to even begin… Should we start with the upcoming loss of third-party cookies? The bizarre Google & Facebook duopoly teamup against anti-trust action? The rise of online ads as a money laundering & terrorist-funding tactic? Or maybe we should talk about brands’ ever-shrinking ability to attribute ad clicks. Hundreds of millions in provable ad fraudDisturbing privacy issues that remain unaffected by GDPR or other government efforts.

No wonder a lot of savvy people believe adtech and the entire online advertising industry are due for a subprime-mortgage-style reckoning.

It’s a well written piece, covering ad fraud, the incentivization of ad fraud, and real-world examples, including this:

The world’s biggest con continues. The con artists don’t need to do three-card Monte any more. They can just get into ad tech. Rand’s piece is well worth a read.


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If corporate America says it, it’s probably untrue

16.07.2022


Le dernier.
 
I see the Le Snak range has now left us, after its US owner PepsiCo cited a lack of demand. I call bullshit, since during 2021 it was becoming increasingly difficult to find them on the shelves. Throttling distribution is not the same as a lack of demand, something you see time and time again with corporate claptrap.

It’s like the myth that New Zealanders all prefer automatic transmissions. No, not supplying manuals will inevitably force people to change. Has the industry done a survey as I have? Last time I conducted one, in the 2010s, we were still running 50–50, with a lot of people saying, ‘I prefer a manual, but I had no choice but to buy an automatic.’

Ford is a useful example of US companies citing reduced demand but doing things behind the scenes to ensure it. The line that no one was buying big cars saw to the end of the road for the Australian Falcon and the closure of its Broadmeadows plant. Did any of you see any advertising for the Falcon leading up to that? Or see many Falcons on dealer lots? It seems to me that a corporate decision had been made, and steps taken to guarantee an outcome. Throttle the distribution (‘We’re out of stock’) and of course demand falls.

Get your tape measures out, and you’ll find the Falcon was smaller than the Mondeo (which at that point was still selling) on key measures other than overall length and, presumably, boot volume. The two-litre Ecoboost Falcon with its rear-wheel drive was promoted with all the energy of a damp squid, but it had all the ingredients for success as a decent-handling sedan. But Broadmeadows was an inefficient plant, from what I understand (from hearsay), and bringing it up to speed would have cost more than a bunch of Pinto lawsuits. ‘But there’s no demand for what it builds anyway!’ they cry. Then they can justify the closure.

Go back to the 1990s and the same thing happened with Ford’s Contour and Mystique twins in the US. People were buying BMW 3-series in droves, cars the same size as the Contour. But Ford claimed there was no demand, leading to its US cancellation after the 2000 model year. Reality: I say the Dearborn fiefdom didn’t like the fact the Contour was part of a world-car project (which gave us the original Mondeo) led by Ford’s Köln fiefdom. Not-invented-here killed the Contour, and a relative lack of promotion also guaranteed its fate. (Ford would wind up contesting the segment again later in the 2000s with the Fusion and Milan, but put far more effort into promoting them since they were US-led programmes. I actually saw advertising for them in US magazines! I saw a Milan in Manhattan with Mercury encouraging us to try it out!)

If you take the line that anything a big US firm utters is an utter lie, it keeps you in good stead. Use that approach with Facebook, for instance, and you’ll find things make sense more often than not. And of course we all knew what Elon Musk meant when he said he wanted to buy Twitter.


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