Archive for the ‘UK’ category


November 2022 gallery

03.11.2022

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

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Posted in cars, culture, France, gallery, humour, interests, internet, marketing, New Zealand, politics, publishing, TV, typography, UK, USA | No Comments »


October 2022 gallery

01.10.2022

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

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Posted in cars, gallery, humour, internet, marketing, publishing, UK, USA | No Comments »


Testing the search engines: Bing likes antiquity; most favour HTML over PHP

21.09.2022

Bing is spidering new pages, as long as they’re very, very old.

Last week, we added a handful of Lucire pages from 1998 and 1999. An explanation is given here. And I’ve spotted at least two of those among Bing’s results when I do a site:lucire.com search.

As a couple of newer pages have also shown up, I doubt there’s any issue with the template; and the home page now also appears, too. But, by and large, Bing is Microsoft’s own Wayback Machine, and most of the Lucire results are from the 1990s and early 2000s.

It got me thinking: do the other search engines do this, too? For years, Google grandfathered older pages and they came up earlier. (Meanwhile, searches for my own name still have this site, and the company site, down, having lost first and second when we switched from HTTP to HTTPS in March. Contrary to expert opinion, you don’t recover, at least not quickly.)

As Lucire includes the date of the article in the URL, this should be an easy investigation. We’ll only do the first 50 results as that’s all Bing’s capable of. I’ll try not to include any repeat results out of fairness. ‘Contents’ pages’ include the home page, the Lucire TV and Lucire print shopping pages, and tag and category pages.
 
Bing
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
 
Google
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 ★★★★
 
Mojeek
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
 
Baidu
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 ★
 
Yandex
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
 

To me, that was fascinating. My instincts weren’t wrong with Bing: it’s old and it favours the old (two of the restored articles were indexed). From the first 50 results, 18 results were repeats—that’s 36 per cent. I’m of the mind that Bing is so shot that it can only index old pages that don’t take up much space. New ones have a lot more data to them, generally.

Google does a good job with the top-level and second-level contents’ pages, though there were a few strange tag indices. But the distribution is what you’d expect: people would search for more recent stories. I know we had some popular stories from 2002 that still get hit a lot.

Mojeek has a similar distribution, though it should be noted that you can’t do a blanket site: search. There must be a keyword, and in this case it’s Lucire. The 2016 pages form the mode, which I don’t have a huge problem with; it’s better than the 2001 pages, which Bing has over everything else.

Baidu’s one is crazy as individual stories are seldom spat out in the first five pages, the search engine preferring tag indices, though half a dozen later story pages do make it into its top 50.

Finally, Yandex leans toward older pages, too, including our most popular 2002 piece. It’s the 2000 stories it has the most of among the top 50, and there’s a strange empty period between 2015 and 2019. But at least there is a fairer distribution than Bing can muster.

The other query that I had was whether these search engines were biasing their results toward HTML pages, rather than PHP ones. If that’s the case, then it could explain Bing’s preference for the old stuff (Lucire didn’t have PHP pages till 2008; prior to that it was all laboriously hand-coded, albeit within templates.)
 
Bing
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★ PHP
 
Google
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★★★★ PHP
 
Mojeek
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ PHP
 
Baidu
★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ PHP
 
Yandex
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★ PHP
 

I think we can safely say there’s a preference for HTML over PHP. Mojeek brings up a lot of HTML pages after the top 50, even though this sample shows the split isn’t as severe.

Our PHP pages are less significant though: they contain news stories, and these are often ones other media covered, too. But I would have thought some of the more popular stories would have made the cut, and here it’s Mojeek’s distribution that looks superior to the others’. It seems like it’s actually analysing the page content’s text, which is what you want a search engine to do.

Baidu’s PHP-heaviness is down to all the tag indices—rendering it not particularly helpful as a search engine.

On these two tests, Mojeek and Google rank best, and Yandex comes in third. Baidu and Bing are a distant fourth and fifth.

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Posted in China, culture, internet, media, publishing, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


Far more important news

14.09.2022

Among all the royal hoop-la, it’s nice to come across this vital 2014 article while on Mastodon.
 

 
To the scientists who analysed 1,893 poos, and other waste, thank you for your mahi.
 
All right, a couple of remarks about the royal coverage. First, I’ve heard from a legitimate news source, words to the effect of ‘It took the Queen’s death to bring William and Harry together.’

No one remembers Prince Philip’s death or the unveiling of the Diana memorial? Things that happened very recently?

The media really do think we are morons without memory sometimes, don’t they?

The other one: ‘There have been 15 US presidents since the Queen has been on the throne.’ I haven’t counted the UK prime ministers (15 is given there, too), but I have counted the presidents. And I get 14.

My friend James heard 12 in another report.

The media really do think we are morons without numeracy skills sometimes, don’t they?

Not just media, but some political parties and governments actually attempt to thrive off these—and it makes you wonder if you are the only one who has faculties to remember and count.
 
It is up to Twitter to provide less frustrating coverage:

Dog poo, in amongst all this, has been far more interesting to read about.

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Posted in culture, humour, internet, media, politics, UK | 2 Comments »


The Lucire tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II

09.09.2022

I wrote the below in Lucire—even though plenty of publications have covered our monarch’s passing, it still felt right to acknowledge it. After all, she had appeared in Lucire a few times.
 
With the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday UK time, it would be remiss of this magazine to not mark this world event.

During the 25 years of Lucire, the Queen has featured several times, mostly from events that she attended. We weren’t around when she was newly crowned in her coronation gown by Norman Hartnell, and wearing the latest British fashions in her youth, a glamorous symbol of a new Elizabethan era that lifted the United Kingdom’s mood after World War II and continued rationing. But it is easy to imagine the coronation in 1953 being a dazzling, colourful event, and indeed it was covered in the likes of British Vogue at the time.

Her era has seen unprecedented change. As the longest-serving monarch in British history, she presided over an era which saw television become mainstream (a technology that she embraced with her Christmas message), many former colonies gain their independence, the dawn of the World Wide Web, the end of apartheid in South Africa, and both her country’s entry into and exit from what is now the European Union.

Much has already been said about HM the Queen’s sense of duty, and how she still read her red box’s worth of papers as head of state right to the end. On Tuesday she asked Liz Truss as the new prime minister—the Queen’s 15th, having begun with Sir Winston Churchill when she ascended to the throne—to form a government.

Here in Lucire the late Queen has attended events we happened to cover, beginning in 2008, with her last appearance at the Cartier Queen’s Cup in 2017.

I only caught a glimpse of her during a state visit to New Zealand in 2002 during her golden jubilee. It was her last visit to Aotearoa.

The visit was very subdued and HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh were whisked from the airport round the back roads of Rongotai, past the main street by Lucire’s then-HQ. I managed to photograph them as they drove by.

A neighbourhood shop had a staff member who was a diehard monarchist. I mentioned I had a photo of the royal couple and later gifted her my print. I still have the negative somewhere.

At the time, my sense was that our Labour government had republican leanings and downplayed the royal visit, hence ferrying them in the viceregal Daimler past industrial areas; it was a far cry from an earlier visit I witnessed in 1981 when as a school pupil, my schoolmates and I lined the drive at Government House to welcome her.

As someone who chose to retain my British nationality (I dutifully renew my passport every 10 years), as well as adopting my New Zealand one in 1980, I admit to having a tremendous amount of respect for HM Queen Elizabeth II and her unwavering sense of duty. Some of us born in Hong Kong in the 1970s, whose parents had memories of less pleasant times behind the Bamboo Curtain, appreciated the freedoms, although they stopped short of democracy, that we enjoyed in a Crown colony. Up to a point: my father said he could have worked harder to lose his Chinese accent after fleeing Taishan for Hong Kong after the communist revolution of 1949, but he chose not to as he didn’t want to be seen as sycophantic to the colonial power.

It was thanks to the Commonwealth that my Hong Kong-born, but China-raised, mother was able to obtain her nursing qualification from the General Nursing Council for England and Wales. When we emigrated to New Zealand, that made her transition into her job that much easier, as it was considered a notch above the rest. (Having said that, the Hospital Board put her on a lower pay grade than what she deserved, leading my parents to fight for it, with the help of Sir Francis Kitts, a family friend and the former mayor of Wellington. We won.)

When we came here, one familiar thing was that the currency had the Queen on it, and it was her constant presence that told you that there were, in principle at least, shared values. While we can rightfully critique the Empire and what it was built on, at least for this chunk of history, it was a reassurance for us as émigrés that there would be the rule of law in our new country, something that, as my parents could attest, China lacked during the difficult years of the war and immediately after.

My father’s preferred form of governance was social democracy, but he appreciated a constitutional monarchy; and my own studies at law school concluded that while an imperfect system, it was one which I, too, valued. The prospect of one of our own being president, at least to the law student me in 1992, seemed unfathomable and potentially divisive.

The success of the system does depend on our faith and trust in the monarch. HM Queen Elizabeth II gave us that sense, as one who placed duty first. As this nation enters into a period of official mourning, we also wonder what her successor, HM King Charles III, will bring to the table, with his interests in the environment and a UK government that he might not see eye to eye with.

Whatever the future, we pay tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II and mark the close of this second Elizabethan age.

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Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, UK, Wellington | 4 Comments »


A tribute to Boris Johnson

08.09.2022

What a perfect tribute to Boris Johnson. (Note: coarse language.)

I guess he wasn’t the last UK PM after all.


 
On a happier note, Liz Trussell, who has the Twitter handle of liztruss, has been replying to messages tagging her, including from the Swedish prime minister. Her account is well worth a look.

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Posted in internet, politics, UK | No Comments »


September 2022 gallery

04.09.2022

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

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Posted in cars, China, culture, France, gallery, humour, interests, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


Testing the seven search engines in the world

22.08.2022

After reading Mojeek’s blog post from last July, I learned there are only seven search engines in the world now. In other words, I was checking more search engines out in the 1990s. It’s rather depressing, especially as the search market is largely a monopoly with Google dominating it (and all the ills that brings), and Bing and its licensees (like Duck Duck Go) with their 6 per cent.

Knowing there are seven, I fed the site:lucire.com search into all of them to see where each stood.

The first figure is the claimed number of results, the second the actual number shown (without repeats removed, which Bing is guilty of).

I can’t use Brave here as its site search is Bing as well.

Yandex appears to be capped at 250 and Mojeek at 1,000, but at least they aren’t arbitrary like Google and Baidu. Baidu has a lot of category and tag pages from the Wordpress section of our site to bump up the numbers.
 
Gigablast 0/0
Sogou 19/13
Bing 243/50
Baidu 13,700/213
Yandex 2,000/250
Google 6,280/315
Mojeek 3,654/1,000
 

Frankly, more of us should go to Mojeek. It can only get better with a wider user base. Unlike Bing, it hasn’t collapsed. I know most of you will keep going to Google, but I just don’t like the look of those limits (not to mention the massive privacy issues).

Mojeek is now at 5,900 million pages, which must be the largest index in the west outside of Google.

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What search engines show in their top 10 isn’t always relevant

09.08.2022

The Bing collapse did lead me to look at some of the ancient pages on the Lucire site that the search engines were still very fond of. For instance, the ‘About’ page was still appearing up top, which is bizarre since we haven’t made any links to it for years—it reflected our history in 2004.

Naturally, once I updated it, it promptly disappeared from Bing! Too new for Microsoft’s own Wayback Machine!

I was always told that you shouldn’t delete old pages, and that 301s were the best solution. I’m enough of a computing neophyte to not know how to implement 301s (.htaccess doesn’t work, at least not on our set-up) and page refreshes are often frowned upon, which is why so many old pages are still there.

However, you would naturally expect that a web spider following links would not rank anything that hasn’t been linked to for over a decade very highly. If the spider comes in, picks up the latest stuff from your home page, possibly the latest stuff from individual topic pages, it would figure out what all of these were linking to, and conclude that something from 2000 that was buried deep within the site was no longer current, or of only passing interest to surfers.

I realize I’ve had a go at search engines for burying relevant things in favour of novel things, but we’re talking pages here that aren’t even relevant. ‘About’ I’ll let them have, but a 2000 book reviews’ page? A subject index page from 2005 that hasn’t been linked to since 2005, and the pages that do are well outnumbered by newer ones? Because, the deletion of ‘About’ aside, here is what Bing thinks is the most important for site:lucire.com:
 

 

Google fares a little better. Our home page and current print edition ordering page are top, shopping is third, followed by the fashion contents’ page (makes sense). ‘About’ comes in fifth, for whatever reason, then a 2005 competition page that we should probably delete (it refreshes to another page from 2005—so much for refresh pages being bad for search engines).

Seventh is yet another ancient page from 2005, namely a frameset—which I’ve since updated so at least the main frame loads something current. The remainder are articles from 2011, 2022 and 2016. The next page comprises articles and tags, which seem to make sense.

Mojeek actually makes more sense than Google. Home page in first, the news page (the next most-updated) is second, followed by the travel contents’ page. Then there are two older print edition pages (2020 and 2012), followed by a bunch of articles (2013, 2014, 2013, 2013), and the directory page for Lucire TV. There’s nothing here that I find strange: everything is logically found by a spider going through the site, and maybe those four articles from the 2010s are relevant to the word Lucire (given that you can’t do site: searches on Mojeek without a keyword, so it repeats the word before the TLD)? The reference to the 2012 issue might be down to my having mentioned it recently during our 25th anniversary posts. But there are no refresh pages and no framesets.

Startpage, not Google, has a couple of frameset pages from 2000 and 2002 in their top 10 which again weren’t linked to, at least not purposefully (they were placed there to catch people trying to look at the directory index in the old days). There’s incredibly little “link juice” to these pages. However, ‘About’ (in 10th), and these two framesets aside, its Google-sourced results fare remarkably well. In order: home page, print edition ordering page, the two framesets, the news section, the shopping page (barely updated but I can see why it’s there), the community page, Lucire TV, the fashion contents, ‘About’.

Duck Duck Go is so compromised by Bing that it barely merits a mention here. Four pages from 2000 and 2005 that no current page links, a 404 page that we’ve never even had on our site (!), articles from 2021, 2018, 2007 and 2000 (in that order), and a PDF (!) from 2004. Fancy having a 404 that never even existed in the top 10!

If I had my way, it’d be home page, followed by the different sections’ contents’ pages, then the most popular article—though if a couple of articles go (or went) viral, then I’d expect them sooner.

Both Mojeek and Google do well here, with four of these pages each in their top 10s. But it’s Startpage’s unfiltered Google results that do best, hitting linked, relevant pages in seven results out of the top 10. Bing and its licensees miss the mark completely. If you must have a Google bias, then Startpage is the way to go; for our purposes, Mojeek remains the better option.
 
★★★★★★★☆☆☆ Startpage
★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ Mojeek
★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ Google
★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Virtual Mirage
★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Baidu
★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Yandex
☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Bing
☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Qwant
☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Swisscows
☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Brave
☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Duck Duck Go (would give –1 for the 404 if I could)

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Mojeek shows more in its search results than Google

02.08.2022

This was something I had forgotten when doing the numbers on how many pages each search engine had indexed from our sites: what they claim to be their index size and what they let you access are two different things.

And in Lucire’s case, Google, curiously, mostly does not allow access to our dynamic pages in PHP in its main index, reserving them for Google News. Google News, however, has both PHP and HTML. It’s only when you feed in a specific request for one of our stories that we know is on a PHP-generated page that it comes up in the main index’s results.

Let me explain. Remember this from a blog post in July? These are what the search engines said they had indexed for lucire.com (in a site:lucire.com search). I’ve updated it for August 2 and added one more search engine, Yep, another independent, out of interest.
 
Google: 10,600
Mojeek: 3,593
Duck Duck Go: 50
Brave: 19
Bing: 10
Yep: 10
 

But can you see 10,600? Here’s the reality of what is truly visible at the moment when you browse the results’ pages of each search engine as of today:
 
Google: 304
Mojeek: 1,000
Duck Duck Go: 50
Brave: 19
Bing: 10
Yep: 10
 


Above: Google (top) shows fewer pages than Mojeek in a site: search.
 

Mojeek maxes out at 1,000 by design, but like Google, it will find a specific article outside of the 1,000 shown if searched for. Google conks out at 304 (303 when I first did this test).

The bigger Google index is its advantage, but Mojeek does a fine job by sharing more in its results’ pages than Google does—over three times as many. Another win for the plucky independent out of the UK.
 
While we’re on the subject, notice how small the Bing index is getting, returning just 10 pages for lucire.com? It’s really collapsed in a big way. Feeding in the other sites I tested earlier, Bing shows declines all round, apart from Travel & Leisure.

Fancy having only 2,723 results from The New York Times, down from 1,190,000 on the 24th ult. Mojeek has over 1,000 times more than Bing, and Google over 12 times more than that.

Previous numbers in parentheses below.
 
Die Zeit
Google: 2,710,000 (2,600,000)
Mojeek: 4,891 (4,796)
Bing: 3,268 (3,770)
 
Annabelle (Switzerland)
Google: 11,900 (11,700)
Mojeek: 408 (405)
Bing: 26 (105)
 
Holly Jahangiri
Google: 618 (738)
Mojeek: 236 (222)
Bing: 10 (49)
 
The Gloss (Ireland)
Google: 17,600 (19,200)
Mojeek: 2,009 (1,968)
Bing: 20 (71)
 
The New York Times
Google: 36,500,000 (36,200,000)
Mojeek: 2,879,513 (2,823,329)
Bing: 2,723 (1,190,000)
 
Lucire
Google: 10,600 (6,050)
Mojeek: 3,593 (3,572)
Bing: 10 (50)
 
The Rake
Google: 11,100 (11,500)
Mojeek: 1,445 (1,443)
Bing: 16, but claims 4! (49)
 

 
Travel & Leisure
Google: 33,500 (28,100)
Mojeek: 10,081 (9,750)
Bing: 383 (220)
 
Microsoft
Google: 118,000,000 (122,000,000)
Bing: 1,927,118 (14,200,000)
Mojeek: 1,772,165 (1,748,199)
 
Detective Marketing
Google: 961 (998)
Mojeek: 579 (579)
Bing: 16 (51)

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