Posts tagged ‘2020s’


Google’s advertising business is a negligence lawsuit waiting to be actioned

09.12.2022

Apparently the New Zealand government says Big Tech will pay a ‘fair price’ for local news content under new legislation.

Forget the newcomers like Stuff and The New Zealand Herald. The Fairfax Press, as the former was, was still running ‘The internet is scary’ stories at the turn of the century. What will Big Tech pay my firm? Any back pay? We have been in this game a long, long time. A lot longer than the newbies.

And what is the definition of ‘sharing’?

Because Google could be in for a lot.

Think about it this way: Google’s ad unit has enabled a lot of fake sites, scraped sites, spun sites, malware hosts, and the like, since anyone can sign up to be a publisher and start hosting their ads.

While Google will argue that they have nothing to do with the illegitimate usage of their services, some might look at it very differently.

Take the tort of negligence. To me this is classic Donahue v. Stevenson [1932] AC 562 territory and as we’re at 90 years since Lord Atkins’ judgement, it offers us some useful pointers.

Lord Atkin stated, ‘You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law is my neighbour? The answer seems to be—persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.’

If you open up advertising to all actors (Google News also opens itself up to splogs), then is it foreseeable that unethical parties and bad faith actors will sign up? Yes. Is it foreseeable that they will host content illegally? Yes. Will this cause harm to the original copyright owner? Yes.

We also know a lot of these pirate sites are finding their content through Google News. Some have even told me so, since I tend to start with a softly, softly approach and send a polite request to a pirate.

I’d say a case in negligence is already shaping up.

If Google didn’t open up its advertising to all and sundry, then there would have been far fewer negative consequences—let’s not even get into surveillance, which is also a direct consequence of their policy and conduct.

Do companies that are online owe a duty of care to internet users? I’d say this is reasonable. I imagine some smaller firms might find it more difficult to get rid of a hacker, but overall, this seems reasonable.

Was this duty of care breached? Was there causation? By not vetting people signing up to the advertising programme, then yes. Pre-Google, ad networks were very careful, and I had the impression websites were approved on a case-by-case, manually reviewed basis. The mess the web is in, with people gaming search engines, with fake news sites (which really started as a way of making money), with advertising making pennies instead of dollars and scam artists all over the show, can all be traced to Google helping them monetize this conduct. There’s your obiter dicta right there. (Thanks to Amanda for remembering that term after all these years.)

Google hasn’t taken reasonable care, by design. And it’s done this for decades. And damages must be in the milliards to all legitimate publishers out there who have lost traffic to these unethical websites, who have seen advertising revenue plummet because of how Google has depressed the prices and how it feeds advertising to cheap websites that have cost their owners virtually nothing to run.

Make of this what you will. Now that governments are waking up after almost two decades, maybe Big Tech is only agreeing because it fears the rest of us will figure out that they owe way, way more than the pittance they’ll pay out under these legislative schemes?

Anyone with enough legal nous to give this a bash on behalf of the millions of legitimate publishers, past and present, directly harmed by Google and other Big Tech companies’ actions?

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On the verge of a change for the better

13.11.2022

I can’t find the original toot on Mastodon but I was led to this piece in the MIT Technology Review by Chris Stokel-Walker, ‘Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks’.

As I’ve cut back on my Twitter usage, I haven’t witnessed any issues, but it does highlight the efforts Big Tech goes to in order to maintain their sites. If anything, it explains why Facebook failed so regularly and so often, as documented on this blog.

The prediction? An anonymous engineer tells the Review:

“Things will be broken. Things will be broken more often. Things will be broken for longer periods of time. Things will be broken in more severe ways,” he says. “Everything will compound until, eventually, it’s not usable.”

Twitter’s collapse into an unusable wreck is some time off, the engineer says, but the telltale signs of process rot are already there. It starts with the small things: “Bugs in whatever part of whatever client they’re using; whatever service in the back end they’re trying to use. They’ll be small annoyances to start, but as the back-end fixes are being delayed, things will accumulate until people will eventually just give up.”

I wonder if they will give up, since I’ve encountered Facebook bugs almost since the day I joined, and there are still people there. In fact, like tech experts, some fellow users even blame me, saying that I encounter more bugs than anyone they know. I doubt this: I just remember the bugs better than they do. We’ve all been subject to the well publicized global outages—just that the majority don’t remember them.

While one contact of mine disagrees, I think Twitter won’t collapse on its own. Mastodon could be an alternative, encouraging people away, just as Google enticed Altavista users over; or Facebook saw to the end of Myspace. There seems to be a new era coming, sweeping away the old, especially as Big Tech falters. Twitter has lost a huge chunk of its staff, and Facebook has slashed its ranks by 11,000. Mojeek has emerged as a credible, privacy-respecting alternative to Google—as Microsoft Bing collapses, taking with it its proxies, Duck Duck Go, Ecosia, Yahoo! and others. The web’s future feels more open, more optimistic, with these technologies spurring civilized dialogue and sparking ideas. It could almost be time to bring back the day-glo on a Wired cover.

On the other hand, maybe Twitter can collapse on its own, with a fake blue-tick EIi LiIIy, looking to the world like Eli Lilly, announcing free insulin and sending Eli Lilly’s share price tumbling, wiping milliards off its value. With advertisers pulling out (little wonder if their Twitter account managers are fired) it may look very different come Christmas.

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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 »


Twitter pushes the near future to look more bipolar than multipolar

01.11.2022

Dave Troy’s analysis of the Elon Musk takeover of Twitter makes for interesting reading, since Troy has actually spoken to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and has a bit more of the inside track than most.

For starters, Troy reminds us that Dorsey trusts Musk, in order to keep Twitter away from Wall Street investors. Dorsey has said this publicly in a Tweet. He believes this acquisition is about ideology, so Musk doesn’t care if Twitter doesn’t make money—or at least, money will come if the technology is opened up and they can charge for other things built on top of it. Getting data on all of us helps Musk in a big way, too.

Troy posits that Musk believes we need to be on other planets, so we shouldn’t help the poor in our quest to get off this rock; but another interesting one is that he believes in a multipolar world order, something Vladimir Putin has talked about. Musk believes in rule by technocracy, Troy theorizes, not by politics. He also believes Musk is a sociopath.

All this is quite fascinating to read. Taking Troy’s words on Putin, Musk and Dorsey sharing the same vision:

All seem to think a “multipolar world” is a good thing, because after all, shouldn’t Russia get to do its thing and not be bothered by anyone else? That’s “free speech” and opposes “cancel culture,” right? So yeah, that’s aligned with Putin. But Putin himself doesn’t support free speech; his government censors wildly, but it does support speech that breaks the hegemony of the Western elites. As do Musk and friends. This is internally inconsistent.

Because of these shared values, Troy foresees Musk teaming up with D. J. Trump at Truth Social and Kanye West at Parler to control the information space.

It points to a pretty dark outcome and a polarizing world, but one which has been brewing for a long time.

We could talk about the failure of neoliberal economics and, therefore, the western hegemony. With all the figure-massaging by China when it reports its GDP, there’s still no denying that the country has risen vastly in mere decades. And Putin has said as much about wanting to fight back against western hegemony.

It’s incredibly easy to fall back on “them and us” as a concept. Dictators might find it easier to make their positions official (even if there is internal dissent that is driven underground), while the west can broadly talk about diversity while not truly breaking ranks with the neoliberal order. Our Blairite government here is positioned as such while having a social veneer (and a modicum of restraint) based on history and market positioning, while the Opposition will make things that much harder and is more blatant at wanting to do so.

I would have once said China had the potential to be an outlier, raising its educational standards and embracing Confucianism, which has its foundations in free thought and liberalism, balanced with preserving a relationship between state and subject. Perhaps with Hu and Wen things could have gone that way. Under Xi Jinping the aims have changed, and at least one China-watcher I know (who knew Xi’s father and knew of Xi from 1982) tell me that they foresaw this.

I’m not going to make any bold predictions myself, but the world looks like a place that won’t become multipolar but bipolar, and Twitter is one tool that is going to accelerate this trend—building on top of what Facebook and Google have already done by forcing users into silos. Meanwhile, Baidu et al will no doubt reflect the official positions of their governments.

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Rare: an Asus product not lasting the distance; awaiting its successor

16.09.2022

I see it was only 19 months ago since I bought the Asus ROG Strix Evolve mouse. A mouse that cost several times what a regular one does, claiming the switches would last 50 million clicks. It has now developed a fault, and I wouldn’t even consider myself a heavy user. I’m certainly not a gamer.

Mice seem to last shorter and shorter periods. An old Intellimouse 1.1 lasted from 2002 to 2013. Its successor (after trying badly made Logitechs) Microsoft mouse lasted from 2015 to 2020. Here is the latest lasting 19 months.

Its problem is that a single click is being recorded as two clicks, with increasing frequency. Right now, a very cheap no-name unit bought in August 2021 is the daily driver with my desktop PC, and one of the earlier ones will now have to go with my laptop. It’s reasonably comfortable because the size is (almost) right (the biggest criterion for me), it’s light, and it works. Those switches won’t last 50 million clicks and the unit feels cheaply made, but right now I need something usable, and most mice are just too small. I even saw an article testing mice for ‘large hands’, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that they are for medium hands at best.

A Delux M625 is on its way now from Aliexpress (here’s the seller’s link). I’ve never heard of the brand before, but one Tweeter who responded to me says he has tried one, and found it acceptable. What sold it? None of the features that I find useless (a rapid fire button for gaming, RGB lighting effects that you never see because your hand is on the mouse and your eyes are on the screen, high DPI up to 24,000) but three simple figures: width, length, height.

The Microsoft Intellimouse 1.1, which I have raved about for decades, measures 126 by 68·1 by 39·3 mm. A bit of height helps so I don’t mind if a mouse exceeds 40 mm.

The Delux vendor claims 130·6 by 68·9 by 42·5 mm. That sounds very comfortable to me, as width is very important (something the Asus didn’t have, with my ring finger off the body of the mouse and on to the mouse pad). The no-name could be better, too. In a few weeks, I should know.

I had been so desperate after coming up empty with local sellers I even looked on Amazon. But I couldn’t be arsed converting Imperial measurements to metric, which the majority of the world uses. Jeff’s mob can carry on abusing workers and selling to their own country.

As to the Asus, caveat emptor: it hasn’t even lasted two years reliably.

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Posted in China, design, technology | 4 Comments »


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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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 »


Are hybrids better for the environment than pure EVs?

19.08.2022

Shared by a family member. Hear out Dr Graham Conway, principal engineer in the Automotive Division at Southwest Research Institute, and why zero-emission vehicles are not truly zero-emission. It’s a point I’ve made way, way back (in the 2000s) when I cited a study which showed the Ford Fiesta Econetic, a diesel car, was the best vehicle for the environment over its lifetime.

This TEDx talk is from 2020, and Conway believes hybrids are a better bet for the environment than full EVs. Have a watch as he explains why.
 

 

TED has flagged Conway’s talk with the following statement: ‘This talk only reflects the speaker’s personal views and interpretation. Several claims in this talk lack scientific support.’ I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t quote this. It’s also worth having a read of this from 2021 and this from 2020. Here’s one more link from Green Car Reports in 2020, titled ‘Lifetime carbon emissions of electric cars are much lower than previously suggested’. All of these suggest that newer production processes and decarbonization may be helping EVs rank better when their lifetime (including production) emissions are counted.

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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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Laying out French articles in HTML takes a long time

05.08.2022


Above: Some French text in Lucire.
 
Regular Lucire readers will have seen a number of articles run in English and French (and one in Japanese) on our main website. Typographically, the French ones are tricky, since we have to distinguish between non-breaking spaces and non-breaking thin spaces, and as far as I know, there is no code for the latter in HTML. Indeed, even with a non-breaking space, a browser can treat it as it would a regular space.

So what’s our solution? Manually, and laboriously, putting in <NOBR> tags around the words that cannot be broken. It’s not efficient but typographically, it makes the text look right and, unless we’ve missed one, we don’t have the problem of guillemets being left on a line by themselves without a word to attach to.

The language is set to fr in the meta tags.

Among our French colleagues, I have seen some go Anglo with their quotation marks and ignoring the traditional French guillemets. Others omit any thin spaces and, consequently, adopt the English spacing rules with punctuation. For some reason, I just can’t bring ourselves to do it, and maybe there is an easier way that we haven’t heard of. I hope nos lecteurs français appreciate the extra effort.

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Posted in business, design, interests, internet, media, publishing, technology, USA, Wellington | No Comments »