Archive for the ‘politics’ 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, unlike Facebook, 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.”


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, globalization, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA | No Comments »


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:
 


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in culture, humour, internet, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, technology, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


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.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing | No Comments »


Life’s could-have-beens

15.01.2023


 
A Mastodon post about my mayoral campaign policies. No, I didn’t foresee a global pandemic as such (though I certainly was on Twitter perplexed at why the WHO had not declared COVID-19 a global emergency in January 2020), but I did feel there was insufficient resilience in our economy and wanted to advance ideas that would at least put this city right.

I saw the cafés all opening around town, the PM John Key’s support of tourism, and thinking: there’s not enough diversity among these types of businesses, and we’re well behind other cities on the percentage that IT plays. We need more high-wage jobs if we were to increase our rates’ base sustainably, not make Wellington unaffordable by taking a bigger and bigger chunk of incomes that had barely risen in line with the cost of living. All this I stated at the time, and they were trends that stared us right in the face.

Working from home was a way of alleviating stress on our traffic network, or at least help stagger the amount of traffic on the road at any given time. Tied in to that was publicizing real-time about public transport, which I think is starting to happen, to encourage their use.

The expansion of the wifi network meant that Newtown would be next, heading out to Berhampore, the whole idea being to bridge the digital divide for our less well off communities. I had already been into a meeting with Citylink and had a model through which it could be funded. I lived in Newtown as a boy, and I know how little we had in terms of the family budget. And, as we saw in lockdown, internet access was very far from being equal among our communities.

I’m not subscribing to ‘That’s easy to say in hindsight,’ because all these ideas were a matter of record, as well as the reasons behind it. I am subscribing to a degree of cherry-picking but when you consider these were my “flagship” ideas, I’m not even being that picky.

To think we could have set all this in motion starting in 2010 and been ready for 2020. I don’t really sell nostalgia if I’m running for office because that would be disingenuous. You’re being asked to vote on the future, and so many politicians are trying to resell you the past. I’m grateful to those voters who got this and put me in third place twice. We have a good mayor now who’s young enough to get it.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Beware AI; the dangers of Google ads; and the beauty of Radio.garden

03.01.2023

Hat tip to Stefan Engeseth on this one: an excellent podcast with author, historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari.

Among the topics he covers, as detailed in the summary in Linkedin’s The Next Big Idea:

• AI is the first technology that can take power away from us
• if we are not careful, AI and bioengineering will be used to create the worst totalitarian regimes in history
• Be skeptical of technological determinism

We should be wary now—not after these technologies have been fully realized.

I also checked into Business Ethics today, a site linked from the Jack Yan & Associates links’ section (which dates back to the 1990s). The lead item, syndicated from ProPublica, is entitled, ‘Porn, Privacy Fraud: What Lurks Inside Google’s Black Box Ad Empire’, subtitled, ‘Google’s ad business hides nearly all publishers it works with and where billions of ad dollars flow. We uncovered a network containing manga piracy, porn, fraud and disinformation.’

This should be no surprise to anyone who reads this blog; indeed, this should be no surprise to anyone who has had their eyes open and breathes. This opaque black box is full of abuse, funds disinformation, endangers democracy, and exposes personal data to dodgy parties. As I outlined earlier, someone in the legal profession with cojones and a ton of funding and time could demonstrate that Google’s entire business should be subject to a massive negligence lawsuit. The authors of the article present more evidence that Google is being up to no good.

An excerpt, without revealing too much:

Last year, a marketer working for a Fortune 500 company launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign …

Over the next few months, Google placed more than 1.3 trillion of the company’s ads on over 150,000 different websites and apps. The biggest recipient of ads — more than 49 million — was a website called PapayAds. The company was registered in Bulgaria less than two years ago and lists one employee, CEO Andrea De Donatis, on LinkedIn …

It seems impossible that 49 million ads were legitimately placed and viewed on PapayAds’ site over the span of several months … “I don’t have an explanation for this,” he said, adding that he does not recall receiving payment for such a large volume of ads.

I doubt this is isolated, and the story elaborates on how the scheme worked. And when Google realized its ads were winding up on inappropriate websites, the action it took was to keep doing it.
 

 

On a more positive note, I found out about Radio.garden in December on Mastodon (thank goodness for all the posts there these days, a far cry from when I joined in 2017) and have since been tuning in to RTHK Radio 1 in Hong Kong. I had no idea they even gave NZ dollar–US dollar exchange rates as part of their business news! The interface is wonderful: just rotate the planet and place the city of your choice within the circular pointer. It works equally well on a cellphone, though only in portrait mode there. You’d be amazed at what you can find, and I even listened to one of the pop stations in Jeddah.

My usual suspects are “favourited”: KCSM in San Mateo, Sveriges Radio P1, and RNZ National here. I might add Rix FM from Stockholm but I seem to have grown up a little since the days when its music was targeted to me.

It’s now been added to our company link list. Sadly, a few dead ones have had to be culled today. But I must say Radio.garden has been one of the best finds of 2022. Almost makes you want to surf to random sites again like we did in the 1990s.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, design, globalization, Hong Kong, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, Sweden, technology, USA | No Comments »


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


You may also like

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


You can’t even mention Mastodon in Twitter private messaging

17.12.2022

It was pretty unsurprising to see Mastodon links blocked on Twitter. If you consider that its owner is a petulant manchild, then everything makes sense. But I was surprised that this censorship extended to private messages. This from Tweetdeck as I advised a friend:
 

 
Note the links aren’t even live—they’re just text mentions. Those are too upsetting for Elmu to deal with.

Remember, petulant children who harp on about free speech care about only their free speech, as they lack the maturity to understand others’ free speech.

I haven’t seen this sort of censorship since Google Plus, though I’m sure users of Chinese social media will find it familiar.

I eventually copied and pasted the text and took a screenshot for my friend, so OnlyKlans’ software isn’t smart enough to do OCR yet. That got through.

Sadly, till Dlvr.it is capable of exporting my RSS feeds to Mastodon, my Twitter account remains live—plus I still don’t want people pinching my handle that I’ve had since 2007. But some of these tech companies are pretty slow. Dlvr.it has only had six years to build in ActivityPub and the capability to export to Mastodon. Give them time. One day, they, and Zoho Social, will get there.

Though realistically, our government should be blocking OnlyKlans itself, due to its alleged distribution of the March 15 video. A service that was based here would have been shut down already, and Twitter does have a New Zealand office (via a law firm on Brandon Street). The fact Labour isn’t working on this means they will continue kowtowing to Big Tech. The fact National hasn’t uttered a word means nothing will change under them, either. Blairites and the right love these foreigners and the power and money they wield.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Tesla to a typeface designer, and a big missed target

03.12.2022

Now that the quartet has been launched, it’s evident that Tesla’s naming strategy is all wrong. This is what they should be called.
 

 
On a related note:
 

 

Since I haven’t seen the March 15 video now circulating on OnlyKlans, I mean, Twitter, I can’t use the DIA reporting form. But those who have, should.

If it were a New Zealand website doing the distribution, a warning would have been issued at the least; and I bet it would have been blocked by now. The person running the site would probably have been charged. Basically what our government is signalling is that a foreign fascist sympathizer has greater freedoms than the rest of us. And what the opposition parties are signalling is that that’s OK, too, because here’s a real thing that they can sink their teeth into, but they prefer to gaslight over other stuff.

The Christchurch Call website has not been updated since September.

Anyone in politics who actually has some bollocks?


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, typography | No 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.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in culture, India, interests, marketing, New Zealand, politics | No Comments »


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.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, China, culture, globalization, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA | No Comments »