Posts tagged ‘2010s’


I’ve left the data farms but occasionally revisit the Matrix

06.11.2022


Warner Bros.
 
Even though Twitter is now in its MySpaceX era, I won’t shut my account. I have scripts that run through it, and I don’t wish for some schmuck to come in later and claim my username. Mastodon has taken off this week, my Twitter notifications are at a low, and as I cross-post between them, Mastodon is likely going to become my main social network.

But I get those who don’t wish to leave outright. I have a 5,555-strong following including my personal interests on Twitter. However, it does seem that once a social medium becomes a personal-interest one, ironically I lose interest in it! It was the case with Instagram, and Pinterest never held my interest for that long because it encouraged you to post and browse based on your interests! Maybe it’s me, but I prefer to enjoy my interests in the real world, or using them to build up my own sites and publications, not someone else’s.

I’m not going to criticize anyone who chooses to stay on a platform for longer than its sell-by date, because that would make me a hypocrite.
 
Facebook
I don’t hide my disdain about Facebook, but it took me over a year—nearly two—between the time it forced me to download their malware (well, they said it was a malware scanner, but there were plenty of suspicious things about it) in 2016 and updating my wall for the last time in 2017. That incident did force me to reconsider using the site, but I hung in there, in part to investigate what was going on, but also because I was still fooled into thinking it could be good for business and our own site traffic. (Those algorithms will see to throttling any links for your work, as they have been doing for over a decade.)

But in late 2017, I wrote a farewell post and stopped updating my wall. People still tagged me, and those went up, but I haven’t posted anything on my own wall since. Some work pages still get the odd update but I can’t even remember when was the last time I headed in to do anything on my public page. I have frequented the occasional group and looked after client pages but those visits are infrequent.
 
Instagram
I began using Instagram more for cars and model cars, but by the end of 2019 I had had enough, even for things I was interested in. There were too many ads, and Instagram was still collecting (laughably incorrect) interests on me despite opting out. I went from a multiple-post-per-day user to someone who’d update with a month in between, then a quarter, and I barely bother now. The last time I visited, my most favoured filters had vanished as well, a long string of feature removals that began with the maps years before. There just wasn’t a point to the site any more. But it still took a long time between my initial boredom and frustration with the site to what is currently my last post. Might I go on once more? Maybe, to do a more fitting farewell or to test something.

It also didn’t help that Instagram locked Lucire out in 2021 for a week. Lucire’s ’Gram is still active, but not that active. We’ve never really been bothered with social media as a company, and thanks to Zoho Social, I don’t even need to go to Instagram in order to post to it.
 
Twitter
Twitter also locked Lucire out in 2021 and it took a threat addressed to their lawyers to get that reinstated. Their proper processes never worked, nor does knowing a senior member of staff at Twitter UK.

But it is a place that’s polarizing and unpleasant. I’m all for diverse viewpoints but I’d like the other party to consider mine as much as I consider theirs. That doesn’t happen as often any more. And with Mastodon holding up (only one abusive message so far, unprompted, from a total stranger in Portland, Oregon) why would we stay on Twitter? But it’s only November 2022, Musk has only taken ownership, and I saw the April–May 2022 influx eventually go quiet, too.

Nevertheless, I feel Twitter’s days as my main social media site are coming to a close, with cross-posting between Mastodon and Twitter a breeze. Before, I’d post mainly on Twitter and let things flow to Mastodon, and check both. In April I began originating posts on both sites. Now in November, there doesn’t seem to be much call to originate anything on Twitter, with my own follower count going from 330-odd to over 550. It may be a tenth of what I have at Twitter, but the unpleasantness is gone, for now. My regret is that my personal interests—in the last year Twitter became my place for interacting with other car enthusiasts, especially in Ireland and Scotland—aren’t really on Mastodon, but it follows the earlier patterns. Once personal interests become a big part, for some reason I don’t feel I need the fix any more.

Then there were Tumblr and NewTumbl, discussed in earlier posts, where censorship based around some 1950s US puritanical standards became problems.

Overall, as someone who owns sites, I would prefer to create something for my readers. That gives me an infinitely bigger thrill than participating in most social media threads. And if I were to participate in social media, it seems fairer to be in the federated system, owning my own data, than being part of a plutocrat’s plaything where you hand him a perpetual licence to your mahi.


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Google libels, and gets away with it

08.09.2022

This isn’t a dig at Red Points or Hearst this time, since I received an apology and they did what they said: the DMCA claim notices were withdrawn and they have revised their systems. If anything, Hearst SL wound up quite cordial, as their New York office has tended to be in my dealings with them.

This is a dig at Google who only today sent what appears to be the final confirmation that our URLs have been reinstated.

This sorry saga began on August 17 and essentially Google told people searching for various terms that we were thieves till today.

The fact this virtual monopoly can libel someone with impunity—and has done so for years—should disturb any right-thinking person.
 
Speaking of Google, we gave in and connected the revised about.shtml page on the Lucire website to a current page. This was a page we hadn’t linked since the 2000s, but kept coming up high on site:lucire.com searches on Google and, formerly, Bing.

Since I typically don’t use Google for searches, and have not done regularly for a dozen years, I had no idea until investigating the collapse of Bing’s index recently. (Itʼs still just as compromised, despite claiming it has a higher number of results for any given search. I see no real evidence of this.)

Admittedly, people might seek an ‘About’ page, so instead of their reading a 2004 page, we took the content from our licensing website and created a new one. The old one is linked from there, as it’s quite a novelty.


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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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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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Browser history

11.04.2022


In 2011, I was definitely on Firefox.
 
I believe I started browsing as many did, with Netscape. But not 1.0 (though I had seen copies at university). I was lucky enough to have 1.1 installed first.

I stuck with Netscape till 4.7. Its successor, v. 6, was bloated, and never worked well on my PC.

Around this time, my friend Kat introduced me to Internet Explorer 5, which was largely stable, so I made the leap to Microsoft. IE5 wasn’t new at this point and had been around for a while.

I can’t remember which year, but at some point I went to Maxthon, which used the IE engine, but had more bells and whistles.

By the end of the decade, Firefox 3 was my browser of choice. In 2014, I switched to Waterfox, a Firefox fork, since I was on a 64-bit PC and Firefox was only made for 32-bit back then. A bug with the Firefox browsers saw them stop displaying text at the end of 2014, and I must have switched to Cyberfox (another 64-bit Firefox-based browser) around this time.

I went back to Firefox when development on Cyberfox stopped, and a 64-bit Firefox became available, but by 2017, it ate memory like there was no tomorrow (as Chrome once did, hence my not adopting it). Vivaldi became my new choice.

There are old posts on this blog detailing many of the changes and my reasons for them.

I’ve always had Opera installed somewhere, but it was never my main browser. Maybe this year Opera GX will become that, with Vivaldi’s latest version being quite buggy. We shall see. I tend to be pretty loyal till I get to a point where the software ceases to work as hoped.


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Amazon: as dodgy as the rest of them

28.11.2021

Jane Pendry in the UK Tweeted this in response to a Tweet about Amazon, and I had to reply:

   Jane helpfully elaborated:

   You read correctly: Amazon is just as dodgy as the others I’ve criticized publicly. Just that I hadn’t got around to them on this blog, because there had been a lengthy dialogue and I wanted to get more facts. But above is where I’ve got to so far, and it seems I’m not alone.


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Refreshing the less oft-seen pages on Lucire’s website

23.10.2021



A decade separates these two incarnations of Lucire’s shopping home page. Some Facebook gadgets were added during the 2010s and the magazine cover was updated, but it was woefully out of date and needed to be refreshed.

It’s very unusual for us to go into the less-frequented pages in Lucire and adapt them to a new template before doing a major one such as the fashion index page. But sometimes you go with the creative flow, so it was the turn of the ‘Newsstand’ pages plus the shopping home page, which hadn’t been updated in seven years (and most of it hadn’t been touched for ten).
   Needless to say, on the latter, almost everything was out of date. We’ve removed the links to the shopping directory, which last existed to support the print magazine as it was in the mid-2000s. Since then, we haven’t really had a shopping section in print, and we ceased to update it much online.
   What was disappointing to note, after my lament about the disappearance of so many fashion websites earlier this year, that even more had closed down, so much so that the three ‘Newsstand’ pages have come back down to two (as it was in the 2000s). There are still some that have not been updated in years, but we have maintained the links for historical purposes.
   Poking about the directories did lead me to lucire.com/xp, a framed page with content for our mobile edition in 2000 that was compatible with Plucker. Long before cellphones became the norm, we were already catering for portable devices. I knew we had a Plucker edition, but had forgotten about the xp directory till tonight.
   The copy on that page reads, ‘Lucire Express was the hand-held version of Lucire, powered by Plucker. With more recent developments in syndication and content management, support for Express has been discontinued.’
   It seemed logical that cellphone browsers would be developed to reduce the content of high-res pages to make them readable, but that is yet to happen (unless one goes into a simplified view mode). To think that programmers found a way to do that in the 2000s. How times have changed, with what appears to be a slowing down of innovation—forcing us to adapt to the technology (developing mobile-friendly themes in-house) rather than the other way round.


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Baseless threats

27.08.2021

A couple of years ago, friends in Wellington, who own a business—let’s call it X—were approached by a US company with the same name, though in a slightly different industry.
   They wanted my friends to give up their page name facebook.com/x to them, and suggested that they should be facebook.com/xnz.
   No suggestion of payment, just a “you should consider”, and if I recall correctly, something to do with how much bigger they were.
   This was a really strange argument from someone in the US where their culture’s often based around the plucky individual taking on bigger players.
   How many myriads or even millions did Condé Nast pay to get style.com from Express all those years ago? If you’re that much bigger, maybe you could have afforded it? Or maybe you were just being cheeky, thinking you could get something for nothing. Well, not quite nothing. A little bit of bullying.
   Basically, taking away all the legalese and wank designed to make my friends hesitate, the Americans were upset that someone got in there with a Facebook page name years (nine years, if I recall correctly) before they did. How dare these Kiwis!
   ‘How should we respond?’ asked my friends.
   ‘You can either (a) ignore them or (b) tell them to go to hell,’ I advised. I think they chose (a). After all, there’s no point replying to one-sided rudeness.
   I’m reminded of this story because of emails from another US company recently and, again, stripping away the rudeness and implying I was a liar, boils down to them not really liking their First Amendment. Not when someone else exercises it fairly.
   Americans aren’t alone in being dicks about something but these particular two companies sure don’t like other people doing things that they can equally do. They trotted out a level of rudeness from the outset that you seldom see from their country, where regular Americans try their best to be nice.
   A third case was from the UK, where we received a threat from the agent of a fading celebrity whose crowning achievements were probably some soap opera and shooting for FHM in the 1990s. I don’t recall the circumstances in depth but I can tell you that that woman has not had much coverage since, by us or any other publication. Choose the wrong people, and you flush your goodwill down the toilet. Who’d touch you now, when there are plenty more stories that we can pursue with fewer headaches?
   I don’t know where the rudeness comes from, but I presume it’s a superiority complex that hides the fact that their arguments bear little merit. The result is that they damage their brands or their client’s reputations in the process.
   If you encounter it in business, then it’s a cinch that they don’t really have much to stand on. They feel bullying is their only means, because if they argued it rationally or faced the issue honestly they wouldn’t get what they want. It’s worth keeping an eye out for, and not waste your time on.


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Rocketman’s most annoying scene

11.08.2021

Originally noted at NewTumbl, this is the sort of stuff that can annoy me in films.
   This is a scene from Rocketman, where Elton John (Taron Egerton) arrives at the Troubador in Los Angeles in 1970. Car people, spot the problems.


   If you’re like me, you’re going: Elton’s in a 1978 Lincoln Continental Town Car, there’s a 1981 Chevrolet Caprice going by, past a parked 1975 Ford Thunderbird and a 1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Not being American, I may be off by one model year, but my point still stands.
   To think they re-created the posters, the extras’ clothes in the ‘I’m Still Standing’ video, even the fur coats, but they couldn’t source a few motors. I really liked this movie, and scenes like this throw you out of its finely constructed world and you realize it’s just a film.


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Is the sun setting on Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei?

03.08.2021

It does seem the sun is setting, after 25 years, on Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei on RTL.
   Last week, the network released three episodes from 8.15 p.m., and to heck with the low ratings of the last episode which would be far too late for younger viewers. They’re doing the same this week, and finishing up the season next week with the two last ones made.
   It’s no secret that the viewer numbers have been falling year after year, especially after the departure of Tom Beck, and the long-running actioner costs a lot to make—too much for a show that now nets around the 2 million mark each week, with increased competition from other networks and forms of entertainment.
   Last year, the show was revamped again, but unlike previous efforts, this was a very bumpy and massive reset. Shows don’t always do well after this, especially a revamp that was bigger than Martial Law abandoning most of its original cast in season 2 as well as not resolving the season 1 cliffhanger. Or each of the incarnations of Blackadder.
   Cobra 11 survived most earlier revamps, such as the seasons with Vinzenz Kiefer, because it maintained some continuity. We didn’t mind the anachronisms and the inconsistencies as long as the heart of the show was there. Over the first two decades, there was a humanity to the show, regardless of how much haters think it was a shallow actioner, and by that I refer to the home life of the main character, Semir Gerkhan, portrayed by Erdoğan Atalay.
   Viewers invested a lot into Semir and Andrea, and even with the 2014–15 seasons, we could count on that behind the emotional core of the series. It didn’t matter that the bright, cheerful years of Beck had become a sombre-keyed drama, with the happy couple’s marriage on the rocks, Semir sporting a full beard and not his goatee, and a major story arc.
   It was a return to the action–comedy tradition in 2016 with Daniel Roesner taking over from Kiefer, who I was surprised to see later in Bulletproof.



Semir and Andrea: the emotional heart of Alarm für Cobra 11.

   With Roesner’s departure, producers sought to get rid of everyone else on the show, wrapping up their storylines, so that 2020 would begin with only Atalay and Gizem Emre, who joined the cast in 2014, reprising their roles. We can deal with Semir pairing up with a female partner for the first time in 24 years (Vicky Reisinger, played by Pia Stutzenstein), having a new boss (a disabled character played by an able-bodied actor, Patrick Kalupa; and since we never had an episode about how the character became disabled, it seems a slap in the face to not cast a disabled actor), and an irritatingly dark set. But Andrea and the kids have been written out, not mentioned again; enter Semir’s estranged mother, who only became estranged a couple of seasons ago, since the character said previously that he called her every Christmas. To all intents and purposes, this was a new show with little connection to the old. And I think they may have gone one step too far in their efforts to present something new to viewers.
   There is a slight return to the structures of the older scripts in this second block of season 25, with an emphasis on the stories over the action (as there had been at the start). There are moments where you even recognize the show. But if the first half of the season had put you off, you never would have found out, especially since RTL hasn’t even bothered to show the action scenes in many of the press photos.
   The scheduling is exactly what you’d expect a network to do in order to kill a show, to say that the average viewer numbers had dropped again, too far to be viable. It’s the sort of show that might have a TV movie or two later on, but for now, I’m not that surprised there are statements that this 25th season (28th, if you believe the network) is the last ‘sein wird’ (for now). Another retooling for the 26th so it could return? Or time to wrap it all up?
   I don’t think it bodes well for us fans, unless they can tap into the Zeitgeist again for something that modern viewers are going to love.


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