Archive for the ‘publishing’ category


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

17.05.2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16.05.2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It says something about our society and its inequality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
And here’s where we are as of tonight:
 

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

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

08.05.2022

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The end of Facebook pages?

01.05.2022

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

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

 

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

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


 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Remember how a page settings’ page usually looks?
 

 
Here’s Lucire’s:
 

 
The only options I have as admin are:
 

 

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

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

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Farewell to Drivetribe—and a reminder to keep your own copies

24.04.2022


Not much of my old Drivetribe channel left now
 
Sadly, I was late to the demise of Drivetribe—though as some on Reddit point out, the brand still exists on other channels. But as for hosting the content themselves, that ended in January, and we content creators had till then to get our stuff off.

I had been checking in there less and less over 2021, which is a real shame. It had been a favourite site of mine—cars, and like-minded fanatics—but I guess it takes a lot more than a community to make a community.

Maybe it was the people I followed, but I never really got the right mix of news and entertainment. Others might beg to differ. I had little desire to follow the founders—Clarkson, Hammond, May, and Wilman (sorry chaps, I’ve watched you all in one shape or another since the 1990s, and given Wilman’s nude appearances on Top Gear, they are not necessarily shapes I want in my head)—so it was down to other content creators and contributors.

Twitter gives me some joy because of various car accounts there—Andrew at the Car Factoids and Andy with what must be a world-leading private brochure collection—and contributing seems a breeze. Drivetribe was somewhat hampered with a less-than-easy-to-use interface and somewhere along the line, in its first year if I recall correctly, the typography changed for the worse (at least to my eyes).

And like so many social networks, it was about keeping the content there in the hope it would generate money for the core business. It did indeed have a separate programme for creators, where they expected to share in the loot, but ironically after I was approved to join, I lost interest in contributing. Maybe it was because I had my own sites that I could work on. Autocade eats up spare time with each model taking a good 15 minutes on average to illustrate, research and write.

Anything I wrote for Drivetribe exclusively, and there were a few pieces, is practically toast. There may be a few links on the Wayback Machine, but the rest is online history. It’s hardly their fault: the closure was covered in automotive media extensively, although I never received any emails about it. It’s a lesson once again to ensure that you keep copies of your own content; in my case, I might still have them in WordPerfect format on a DVD-ROM somewhere. Relevant ones appeared in Lucire and Lucire Men.
 
Speaking of hosting your own stuff, I wonder if this is what the future holds.

This comes at a time when another Tweeter I follow has lost his Instagram account for no reason he can fathom, and I shared with him that I wouldn’t mind hosting my own photos on this very site. Instagram is a once-every-few-months network for me now, at least when it comes to posting on my personal account. (I’ll look at it more for Lucire.) If John is right, we could be looking at a separation again: those who can host their own will, and those who can’t, rely on the mass services. There could be less interaction between groups of people, but then the social networks only have themselves to blame for fostering toxicity. We are only human: we found others to interact with and learn from in the early 2000s before Facebook and Twitter, and we can again. We might even find it more productive as we claw our time back from those services.

And if it’s about traffic, each post I make here gets multiples more views than most things I’ve posted to Instagram. Seven hundred is pretty normal. Is there any point, then? The negatives seem to outweigh the positives, and this becomes truer every day. You’d be a mug to want to buy one of these services in 2022.

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Autocade reaches 28 million page views

19.04.2022


 
On March 19, 2022, Autocade had accumulated 27,647,011 page views. That was the last recorded total, and the new site went live the following day. That means over 10,000 views didn’t get added to that total, but as it’s the last I have (unless the Wayback Machine has one from the 20th ult.), then that’s what I’ll have to use as the new zero point.

The new stats’ set-up on the more modern Mediawikis does not update the numbers live; instead, that happens once a day. Some time overnight it ticked over to 351,079 on the new server.
 
27,647,011 +351,079 = 27,998,090
 

Even being very conservative, Autocade will have served its 28 millionth page view by now—though I may update this page tomorrow after I confirm it.

Sorry, for those who hated these statistical posts, the new server hasn’t seen the end of them! OCD is OCD!
 
March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months for 20th million)
October 2020: 21,000,000 (three months for 21st million)
January 2021: 22,000,000 (three months for 22nd million)
April 2021: 23,000,000 (three months for 23rd million)
June 2021: 24,000,000 (two months for 24th million)
August 2021: 25,000,000 (two months for 25th million)
October 2021: 26,000,000 (two months for 26th million)
January 2022: 27,000,000 (three months for 27th million)
April 2022: 28,000,000 (three months for 28th million)
 

Currently there are 4,551 models on there, with the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Klasse the newest entry.
 
PS.: And here we are, the following day. Autocade’s new stats’ page shows 361,627.

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April 2022 gallery

02.04.2022

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

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Replacement for Notepad found, but what about Windows Explorer?

02.04.2022


 
Now that Microsoft won’t let us type certain characters into Notepad (anything above ASCII 127, at least on a standard US keyboard), I’ve had to look for alternatives.
   This is a daft move on Microsoft’s part as I am sure I am not the only person in the world who needs to type £ or or the word café. I accept not everyone needs to type en and em dashes.
   A number of kind souls on Twitter suggested Notepad++, which I had heard of years ago, but it was just far too complicated for me. What I really wanted was Notepad as it was before a few months ago.
   The closest: EditPad Lite 8, which is like Notepad but with a more convoluted search and replace, and tabs so you can have a bunch of files in a single instance of the program.
 

 
   Windows Explorer is the other one. It keeps rotating photos by itself, even images with no orientation code (such as screenshots). There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes it’ll rotate left. Other times to the right. Or upside down.
   Sadly, the timestamp changes, which is very problematic for, say, email attachments, which I file by date. Also linked files for magazine work—we can’t afford to have photos suddenly rotated in a file because Microsoft thinks so.
   That proved to be a lot harder to solve, as most people who make Explorer alternatives want to do multiple windows. Others have clunky interfaces. If you don’t want to pay, and even if you do, your choices seem rather limited.
   Eventually trialling more than half a dozen, I settled on One Commander, which doesn’t rotate photos without human intervention, and I had been happy with it till today—when it changed the timestamps on a whole bunch of photos during a transfer.
 

 
   I know the program would love to call these photos ‘modified’ at the time of transfer, but that’s exceedingly unhelpful for my purposes, when I need them to show the original date and modified date exactly as they were in the originating folder.
   Your suggestions are welcome. I do need to preview thumbnails, which knocks out some of the offerings. But again, you have to wonder why on earth Microsoft has introduced bugs when both these programs functioned fine under Windows 10.
 
PS.: Milos Paripović, the developer of One Commander, responded to my query about this. He says, ‘One Commander is using Explorer for file operations so it should behave the same way.’ And here’s the thing: I haven’t been able to replicate the bug described above since. So it looks like I’ll continue with One Commander, which has the best UI of them all. Altap Salamander did get a brief look-in, but it’s just not as nice to look at.

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What’s popular on Autocade

31.03.2022

What’s been quite fascinating with having the stats reset on Autocade is getting a fresh perspective on what its most popular pages are. When a website has been going for 14 years, and the stats have never been refreshed, it doesn’t give you the most up-to-date picture. You know historically what was most popular, but what about in the last year? Unless you really kept an eye on the rates of change, you wouldn’t know.
   Here’s how things looked on the old site before the move (March 17). It’s a corner of the ‘Popular pages’ page:

   It’s a pity I didn’t take more screenshots on subsequent days, but I had been watching the models linked from the home page occupy the top slots for the last week. That only seemed logical: both readers and search engine spiders were hitting them more. Here’s how things looked on March 23, with Autocade at its new home after a couple of days:

   But here we are today, a week later:

   You’re beginning to see the earlier highly trafficked pages reassert themselves.
   For a long time, the Nissan Bluebird (910) page led the table, before being overtaken by the Toyota Corolla (E120). Now it seems the Renault Mégane II, Ford Fiesta Mk VII, Ford Taunus 80, and the Peugeot 206+ and 207 are leading the way. I see a few other top pages make their way up: Opel Astra J (which isn’t that old a page), and the Holden Commodore (VE), Chrysler–Simca 1307 range, and Ford Cortina Mk III (which are old pages, from the first years of Autocade).
   I assume these pages have been somewhat grandfathered by the search engines. It’s a relief to know that the transition to the new box has been relatively seamless for the search engines not to notice.

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March 2022 gallery

28.03.2022

Now we are on the new server, here are March 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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