Posts tagged ‘2020s’


A brief misadventure into the Chinese internet

28.04.2021

When I was a kid and wanted to hit back at someone for being mean to me, my parents would often say that successful people, true leaders, would be 大方, which is roughly akin to saying that one should rise above it. I would say that goes with nations as well: you can tell when a country is in a good state by the way its citizenry behaves, and online behaviour is probably a proxy for that.
   As many of you know, my literacy in my mother tongue is just above the level it was at when I left Hong Kong, that is to say, it’s marginally better than a kindergartener’s. And where I come from, that means age 3, which is already in the big leagues considering I started at 2½, having passed the entrance exam, and had homework from then on. What I can write is in colloquial Cantonese, devoid of any formal structure that someone with a proper education in the old country would know. If you’re Cantonese, you’ll be able to read what I write, but if your only idea of Chinese is Mandarin, you’ll have little clue. (Bang goes the official argument in Beijing that Cantonese is a ‘dialect’. It can’t be a dialect if a speaker of one finds the other unintelligible.)
   With Meizu having essentially shut its international forum, I decided to head to the Chinese one to post about my experience with its Music app, and was met by a majority of friendly, helpful people, and some who even went the extra mile of replying to my English-language query in English.
   But there were enough dickheads answering to make you think that mainland China isn’t a clear global leader, regardless of all the social engineering and online credit scores.

   When I used Facebook, I had ventured on to a few groups where people simply posted in their own language, and those of us who wished to reply but didn’t understand it would either use the site’s built-in translator, or, before that was available, Google Translate. I still am admin on a group where people do post in their own language without much issue. There’s no insistence on ‘Speak English, I can’t understand you,’ or whatever whine I hear from some intolerant people, such as the ones sampled below.

   That makes you despair for some folks and one conclusion I can draw is that members of a country who demand such a monoculture must not see their country as a leader. Nor do they have much pride in it. For great nations, in my book, embrace, or believe they embrace (even if they fall short in practice) all tongues and creeds, all races and abilities. They revel in their richness.
   Of the negative souls on the forum, there was the crap you’d expect. ‘Write in Chinese,’ ‘Why is a Cantonese person writing in English?’ ‘Think about where you are,’ and ‘I don’t understand you’ (to a comment I wrote in Cantonese—again supporting the argument that it isn’t a dialect, but its own distinct tongue).
   Granted, these are a small minority, but it’s strange that this is a forum where people tend to help one another. And it tells me that whether you’re American or Chinese, there’s nothing in the behaviour of ordinary folks that tells me that any one place is more likely to be a centre for 21st-century leadership than another.
   I’ve had far worse responses to Tweets, by a much greater proportion of people (the UK still stands out as the worst when I responded to a Tweet about George Floyd), but it’s the context. Twitter is, as Stephen Fry once put it, analogous to a bathing pool into which too many people have urinated, but a help forum?
   It’s the globally unaware, those who engage in casual xenophobia, who are intolerant of other languages, who are the little people of our times, having missed out on an education or life experience that showed them otherwise. They reside in the old country as much as in so many other places. The leading nation of the 21st century does not look like it’s one of the obvious choices. Future historians, watch this space.

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Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, internet, leadership, New Zealand, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


It’s not hard writing clear terms and conditions

25.03.2021

We’ve had a ‘Highlights’ section in our T&Cs for a while, but today I thought I’d take another look at them. Without reading them again, I drafted these:

• We don’t know anything about you unless you tell us.
• When you do tell us stuff (like signing up with your email address) we store that offline, not on the cloud.
• When you comment on our sites, we don’t see your IP address.
• The businesses we work with might get data on you without us knowing because we’ve used their programs. But we’ve tried to work with companies in countries with stricter data laws, e.g. our feedback forms are with Aida in Germany.
• We have ads on our sites, and they might pick up info about you. We recommend you opt out of ad networks setting cookies on your system through Aboutads.info and related services.

   The law degree kicks in and I wasn’t quite able to replace the existing ones, but hopefully the final highlights suffice (links removed here, but they are on the page):

• We don’t know anything about you unless you tell us.
• When you tell us stuff (like signing up with your email address) we ultimately store that offline, not on the cloud.
• When you comment on our sites, we don’t see your IP address.
• We don’t have a Google Analytics account so we don’t collect stuff on our sites for that.
• However, the businesses we work with might get data on you without us knowing because we’ve used their programs or plug-ins. We’ve tried to work with companies in countries with stricter data laws, e.g. our feedback forms are with Aida in Germany.
• We have ads on some of our sites, and they might pick up info about you (e.g. through cookies). They don’t share this info with us. We recommend you opt out of ad networks setting cookies on your system (for example, click here, here or here). We also recommend you opt out of Google Analytics tracking you.
• More details are below.

   While there are more bollocks below these on the page, covering our arses in various situations, including historical ones, fundamentally the above is what we follow.
   We used to have a record of IP addresses and we never did a thing with them, and when our servers were rejigged in 2013, we stopped collecting them. I’m sure some plug-ins on the sites know what they are, and they’re bound to be in the logs, but no one here has the time to look at them. I don’t think anyone’s peered that those logs (save for debugging) for over two decades.
   Anyone who’s read this blog knows why I don’t have a Google Analytics account, and long may it remain that way. I seem to recall finding a way to make sure I could never access that part of the Google Dashboard when I was granted access to Medinge’s analytics. We’ve none of our own.
   I do know what pages are popular on the sites but that’s from aggregated data. And frankly, that’s all I need to know.
   It’s really how I expect to be treated by others and it’s not that hard to do this online. Who needs complicated T&Cs which even the company can’t follow? Strip away the jargon, and both you and we win.

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There goes the neighbourhood

05.03.2021

Demolition has commenced on 1–4 Māmari Street, across the road from where I lived for over three decades.
   I’m not against change and my feelings toward the development have already been recorded here.
   It was with a tinge of sadness that I saw the demolition crews there and the only wall left standing was part of the north side to no. 4.
   Right now the sections, littered with debris, are letting in plenty of summer sunlight.
   But not for long.
   I’ll remember Gus and Lyna Bourke’s place at no. 2 which I understand they bought after the war. Lyna was widowed by the time we met her in 1983, and she had an incredibly low-mileage silver Hillman Hunter in the garage. As her eyesight failed, the car stayed in there, and it was in incredibly good nick by the time she passed in the 1990s. We always had good chats and Lyna was our “neighbourhood watch” as she kept an eye on the street from her living room.
   Frank and Carol Reading and their family at no. 3 were probably there for a decent half-century, and they were incredibly good neighbours. Frank passed only a few years ago but they had wisely bought the Bourke residence as well in the 1990s, plus no. 4 decades before, so I imagine that made life easy for the developers who only had to purchase from two sellers to build on the site.
   We visited the Reading house many times over the years to help each other out, and that was the great community we had in the cul-de-sac back then. On our side of the street there were frequent chats over the fences with nos. 12 and 14.
   The old street changed a lot when both nos. 10 and 11 went on the market in 2018, then it was our turn in 2019. And now it has had its biggest change in probably a century as those old weatherboard bungalows from the early 20th century were demolished.
   I realize same-again McHouses aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but as one famous architect recently told me: it’s hard to get creativity consented. And the demand is there, so this was inevitable. I already felt that the old street was a memory, but one that could be refreshed on a revisit; but now it really is a memory. Contrast this with the other neighbourhoods I’ve lived in Wellington, which have remained largely the same, or were subject to far slower developments after our departure.
   Just as well I got the neighbours together in 2011 to stop the council taking away the right turn into the street. With 24 dwellings there in the near future, they’re going to need it more than ever.

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A post shared by Jack Yan 甄爵恩 (@jack.yan)

And yes, the above video was on Instagram, which is going the way of Myspace and Facebook, I believe. I haven’t been on there for nearly a fortnight and the feed held little interest to me. Near-daily ’Gramming from 2012 to 2019 was enough.

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Posted in business, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


When fashion magazine websites begin looking the same

08.02.2021


Above: Vogue Korea’s website follows the æsthetic of a big lead image and smaller subsidiary ones.

This started as a blog entry but took a tangent about 500 words in, and it was better as an op–ed in Lucire. Some of the themes will be familiar to regular readers, especially about Big Tech, but here I discuss its influence on web design trends and standardization. The headline says it all: ‘Where have the fun fashion magazine websites gone?’. Browsing in the 1990s was fun, discovering how people coded to overcome the limitations of the medium, and, in my case, bringing in lessons from print that worked. Maybe it’s an age thing, or the fact I don’t surf as much for leisure, but in 2021 the sites I come across tend to look the same, especially the ones that were in Lucire’s ‘Newsstand’ section.
   I do know of great sites—my friend and colleague Charlie Ward has his one, which does everything you would expect from a great designer’s web presence. So many others look like they’ve bought a template. As to those of us in magazines—I’d love to see something that really inspired me again.

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Branding ourselves in the 2020s: a revamp for JY&A Consulting’s website, jya.co

05.02.2021

Last night, I uploaded a revised website for JY&A Consulting (jya.co), which I wrote and coded. Amanda came up with a lot of the good ideas for it—it was important to get her feedback precisely because she isn’t in the industry, and I could then include people who might be looking to start a new venture while working from home among potential clients.
   Publishing and fonts aside, it was branding that I’m formally trained in, other than law, and since we started, I’ve worked with a number of wonderful colleagues from around the world as my “A team” in this sector. When I started redoing the site, and getting a few logos for the home page, I remembered a few of the old clients whose brands I had worked on. There are a select few, too, that I’m never allowed to mention, or even hint at. C’est la vie.
   There are still areas to play with (such as mobile optimization)—no new website is a fait accompli on day one—and things I need to check with colleagues, but by and large what appears there is the look I want for 2021. And here’s the most compelling reason for doing the update: the old site dated from 2012.
   It was just one of those things: if work’s ticking along, then do you need to redo the site? But as we started a new decade, the old site looked like a relic. Twenty twelve was a long time ago: it was the year we were worried that the Mayans were right and their calendar ran out (the biggest doomsday prediction since Y2K?); that some Americans thought that Mitt Romney would be too right-wing for their country as he went up against Barack Obama—who said same-sex marriage should be legal that year—in their presidential election; and Prince Harry, the party animal version, was stripping in Las Vegas.
   It was designed when we still didn’t want to scroll down a web page, when cellphones weren’t the main tool to browse web pages with, and we filled it up with smart information, because we figured the people who’d hire us wanted as much depth as we could reasonably show off on a site. We even had a Javascript slider animation on the home page, images fading into others, showing the work we had done.
   Times have changed. A lot of what we can offer, we could express more succinctly. People seem to want greater simplicity on websites. We can have taller pages because scrolling is normal. As a trend, websites seem to have bigger type to accommodate browsing on smaller devices (having said that, every time we look at doing mobile versions of sites, as we did in the early 2000s, new technology came along to render them obsolete)—all while print magazines seem to have shrunk their body type! And we may as well show off, like so many others, that we’ve appeared in The New York Times and CNN—places where I’ve been quoted as a brand guy and not the publisher of Lucire.
   But, most importantly, we took a market orientation to the website: it wasn’t developed to show off what we thought was important, but what a customer might think is important.
   The old headings—‘Humanistic branding and CSR’, ‘Branding and the law’ (the pages are still there, but unlinked from the main site)—might show why we’re different, but they’re not necessarily the reasons people might come to hire us. They still can—but we do heaps of other stuff, too.
   I might love that photo of me with the Medinge Group at la Sorbonne–CELSA, but I’m betting the majority of customers will ask, ‘Who cares?’ or ‘How does this impact on my work?’
   As consumer requirements change, I’m sure we’ll have pages from today that seem irrelevant, in which case we’ll have to get on to changing them as soon as possible, rather than wait nine years.
   Looking back over the years, the brand consulting site has had quite a few iterations on the web. While I still have all these files offline, it was quicker to look at the Internet Archive, discovering an early incarnation in 1997 that was, looking back now, lacking. But some of our lessons in print were adopted—people once thought our ability to bring in a print æsthetic was one of our skills—and that helped it look reasonably smart in a late 1990s context, especially with some of the limited software we had.

   The next version of the site is from the early 2000s, and at this point, the website’s design was based around our offline collateral, including our customer report documents, which used big blocks of colour. The Archive.org example I took was from 2003, but the look may have débuted in 2001. Note that the screen wouldn’t have been as wide as a modern computer’s, so the text wouldn’t have been in columns as wide as the ones in the illustration. Browsers also had margins built in.

   We really did keep this till 2012, with updates to the news items, as far as I can make out—it looks like 2021 wasn’t the first time I left things untouched for so long. But it got us work. In 2012, I thought I was so smart doing the table in the top menu, and you didn’t need to scroll. And this incarnation probably got us less work.

   There’s still a lot of satisfaction knowing that you’ve coded your own site, and not relied on Wordpress or Wix. Being your own client has its advantages in terms of evolving the site and figuring out where everything goes. It’s not perfect but there’s little errant code here; everything’s used to get that page appearing on the site, and hopefully you all enjoy the browsing experience. At least it’s no longer stuck in the early 2010s and hopefully makes it clearer about what we do. Your feedback, especially around the suitability of our offerings, is very welcome.

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Posted in business, design, internet, marketing, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


In the ‘I told you so’ department: Facebook purges left-wing, anti-war accounts

23.01.2021

Further to my Lucire op–ed on January 8, and my blog post on January 11, I hinted that this could happen.
   From the World Socialist Web Site:

On Friday, Facebook carried out a purge of left-wing, antiwar and progressive pages and accounts, including leading members of the Socialist Equality Party. Facebook gave no explanation why the accounts were disabled or even a public acknowledgement that the deletions had occurred.
   At least a half dozen leading members of the Socialist Equality Party had their Facebook accounts permanently disabled. This included the public account of Genevieve Leigh, the national secretary of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality, and the personal account of Niles Niemuth, the US managing editor of the World Socialist Web Site. In 2016, Niemuth was the Socialist Equality Party’s candidate for US Vice President.

   Seen it happen before, and we’ll see it again. Given Facebook’s management’s right-wing leanings, this really should come as no surprise. Doing it on a Friday also ensures less coverage by the media.
   I just wonder if the leftists who celebrated the ban of former US president Donald Trump will now be claiming, ‘It’s a private company, they can host whom they like,’ and ‘The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee that these websites should provide you with a platform.’
   I have never trusted Facebook with my personal information and made sure I kept copies of everything. It’s precisely because it is a private company that acts unilaterally and above the law that one never should trust them. We have had so many examples for over a decade.
   My exact words on the 8th were: ‘Leftists (and a good many on the right) might be delighted at the actions taken by US Big Tech, but would one be as cheerful if a Democratic president or a leftist movement were silenced?’
   As I have said for a long time, the left and right have common enemies, and here is a shining example.

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Posted in internet, politics, USA | 1 Comment »


BMW, then and now

12.01.2021

This isn’t progress.

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Posted in cars, USA | 1 Comment »


This was the natural outcome of greed, in the forms of monopoly power and sensationalist media

11.01.2021

I did indeed write in the wake of January 6, and the lengthy op–ed appears in Lucire, quoting Emily Ratajkowski, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden. I didn’t take any pleasure in what happened Stateside and Ratajkowski actually inspired the post after a Twitter contact of mine quoted her. This was after President Donald Trump was taken off Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
   The points I make there are probably familiar to any of you, my blog readers, pointing at the dangers of tech monopolies, the double standards that they’ve employed, and the likely scenario of how the pendulum could swing the other way on a whim because another group is flavour of the month. We’ve seen how the US has swung one way and the other depending on the prevailing winds, and Facebook’s and Twitter’s positions, not to mention Amazon’s and Google’s, seem reactionary and insincere when they have had their terms and conditions in place for some time.
   Today, I was interested to see Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, referred to by not a few as the leader of the free world, concerned at the developments, as was President López Obrador of México. ‘German Chancellor Angela Merkel objected to the decisions, saying on Monday that lawmakers should set the rules governing free speech and not private technology companies,’ reported Bloomberg, adding, ‘Europe is increasingly pushing back against the growing influence of big technology companies. The EU is currently in the process of setting up regulation that could give the bloc power to split up platforms if they don’t comply with rules.’
   The former quotation wasn’t precisely my point but the latter is certainly linked. These tech giants are the creation of the US, by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and their institutions, every bit as Trump was a creation of the US media, from Fox to MSNBC.
   They are natural outcomes of where things wind up when monopoly power is allowed to gather and laws against it are circumvented or unenforced; and what happens when news networks sell spectacle over substance in order to hold your attention. One can only hope these are corrected for the sake of all, not just one side of the political spectrum, since freedom—actual freedom—depends on them, at least until we gain the civility and education to regulate ourselves, the Confucian ideal. Everything about this situation suggests we are nowhere near being capable, and I wonder if homo sapiens will get there or whether we’ll need to evolve into another species before we do.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, leadership, media, politics, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


January 2021 gallery

01.01.2021

Let’s kick off January’s images right here!

 
   Click here for all months (or hit ‘Gallery’ at the top of the screen, if you’re on the desktop), here for December, and here for November. This post explains why I wound up doing the gallery here.
   I append to this entry through the month.

Sources
Changan Uni-T, more at Autocade.
   Cartoon from Textile Cartoons on NewTumbl.
   Twenty seventeen newspaper clipping with Donald Trump from The Herald.
   BMW image from Kolbenkopp on Twitter (more at this post).
   Bestune B70 Mk III, more at Autocade.
   Bridal gown by Luna Novias, and featured in Lucire.
   Citroën AX-330 advertisement from 1970 sourced from here.
   Chilean Peugeot 404 advertisement sourced from here.
   Ford US full line from 1972 from Consumer Guide.
   Xpeng P7, more at Autocade.
   More on the Lancia Beta Monte-Carlo in Autocade.
   Clarins model from the Lucire archives.
   Ford Cortina Mk III by Hyundai advertisement from the Car Factoids on Twitter.

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Reaching the end of Facebook

05.08.2020

With the new season of Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei nearly upon us, I decided I’d pop into my Facebook group (I’m still an admin) to see what had been happening. I’ve been there a few times this week and I have discovered some of the site’s latest features.
   Groups: these now have three posts. That’s it. Three. It doesn’t matter how long they have been running, Facebook doesn’t want you to be bothered by history or anything so stupid. Therefore, after the third post (fourth if you’ve just posted something), you’ve reached the end. Saves heaps on the server bills, since I guess they’re not as rich as they would have us believe.
   (This bug has been around for years but now it’s the norm, so maybe they eventually figured out it was a cost-saving feature.)


On groups: welcome to the end of Facebook. This is the last post.

   Comments: don’t be silly, you shouldn’t be able to comment. This is a great way for Facebook to cut down on dialogue, because they can then just propagate nonsense before an election. We know where Zuck’s biases are, so they want to be a broadcaster and publisher. You can select the word ‘Reply’ in the reply box, you just can’t type in it. (Again, an old bug, but it looks like it’s a feature. I’m still able to like things, although on many previous occasions over the last decade or more that feature was blocked to me.)


Commenting: they let me have one reply, but replying to someone who has replied to you? Forget it, it’s impossible.


In the reply box, you can highlight ‘Reply’ but you can’t type in there. That would be too much to ask.

   Notifications: these never load, had haven’t done for a long time. Remember the ad preferences’ page? They don’t load, either, so Facebook has now extended the “circle” to notifications. If you don’t see notifications, you won’t need to continue a thread—not that you could, anyway, since they don’t let you comment.


If you knew what your notifications were, you might stay longer and post stuff that makes sense. No, Facebook is for people who want to spread falsehoods among themselves. You have no place here.

   Messages: why not roll out the same spinning circle here, too? They should never load, either, because, frankly, email is far more efficient and everyone should just give up on using Facebook’s messaging service.


Time to go back to email: if you were ever silly enough to rely on Facebook for messaging, then you’re out of luck.

   I once thought that I encountered bugs on Facebook because I was a heavy user, but as I haven’t even touched my wall since 2017, this cannot be the reason. I also used to say their databases were ‘shot to hell’, which could be the case. And I still firmly believe I encounter errors because I’m more observant than most people. Remember, as Zuck’s friend Donald Trump says, if you do more testing, you’ll find more cases.
   I’ve even found the “end” of Instagram, at the point where nothing will show any more.


The end of Instagram: when you can find the limit to the service.


No one’s posting much these days. In the early 2010s, there’d be no way I’d ever get to see the end of my friends’ updates.

   Solution: don’t use Facebook. And definitely don’t entrust them with your personal data, including your photos—even if you trust them, they’ll potentially get lost. From what I can tell, the site’s increasing inability to cope suggests that its own technology might fail them before the US government even gets a chance to regulate! And—the above topics aside—it may be time to regulate Facebook and pull in the reins.

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