Posts tagged ‘Google’


Classic example of tech firms passing the buck

04.05.2021

Just another day dealing with US tech firms then.
   When I signed up to Anchor, there was no mention of Google Podcasts, so I was very surprised to find later that I was syndicated there. Can you remove yourself?
   Anchor: ask Google!
   Google: ask Anchor!


   All that money (Google, not Alphabet, is worth US$320 milliard) and they’re about as useful as David Seymour at a socialist workers’ conference. Actually, about as useful as David Seymour, full stop.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


Farewell to Feedburner

24.04.2021

This is why the Feedburner links have disappeared from the left-hand column of this website (desktop version):

   Now I need to figure out a way to get off Google Podcasts. I had no idea that Anchor syndicated to them. Certainly there was no mention of that when I joined. Google really has too many tentacles everywhere.

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Computing in 2021: Gmail’s advertorial spammers, Facebook bots, and Twitter fatigue

25.03.2021

I’m not entirely sure I need to block out the email addresses here since they’re likely to be burner Gmail accounts, but I’ll give these spammers the courtesy they don’t deserve.
   As shown below, they’ve been coming for over a year; there’s a chance I may have even received them in 2019.




The text of the latest reads:

Hello,

I hope you’re well!
   I am currently working with a number of clients in placing guest blogs/sponsored articles on high-quality sites, such as yours. I recently came across your site and, after having a quick read through some of your more recent posts and articles, I think it’d be a great fit for some of the sorts of content campaigns that we frequently work on.
   I work with a range of clients across different areas such as fashion, lifestyle, home decor, legal, travel plus loads more. Would you be interested in working together on one of our future/upcoming content campaigns?
   Looking forward to hopefully working on a campaign together soon!

   First up, I already know they never visited since the latest refers to Lucire as a ‘blog’ in its subject line. Just because you run Wordpress doesn’t mean it’s a blog.
   A more crazy one recently actually requested we publish something at lucire.net, which is a brochureware site with no posts on it—so I don’t think they are even hunting specifically for Wordpress-driven sites. Anything will do.
   Last year, I replied to one of them, thinking they could be a legit enquiry for advertorial. It went nowhere, since, as far as I know, they were just after backlinks, and not prepared to pay what a commercial advertorial purchaser would.
   I wouldn’t have been any the wiser if they didn’t keep repeating the messages, and it seems that during the last few weeks they’ve shifted into high gear. And when you know they’re spam, the innocent experience that you had in 2020 suddenly becomes a supreme waste of time.
   I know, all the signs are there: they run Gmail accounts and there are no signature files or details of what company they represent. Gmail, to me, has plenty of spammers, and it is not the service used by professionals. (When 200 people can share the same email address, why would you?) But there was that charitable side of me wondering if the first one was just someone who had shifted to working from home and trying to make a buck. I didn’t really think, since I’m not of this mind myself, that it was spam and that I was a mark.
   I now have common phrases from the spams fed in to my filters so these will just go into the trash folder. I’m posting this in case others have received these spams, and wish to do the same.

Here’s a recent Tweet of mine. Not altogether an accurate one, but when I wrote it I genuinely believed Facebook claimed it had 2 milliard users.

   As Don Marti says, the fact Facebook even has to claim this tells us they are fighting a losing battle.
   On one of the groups I administer there, I’d say over 99 per cent of the members’ queue are bots. Here’s a typical screen in botland, I mean, Facebook:

   These are common patterns and I see them all the time; they all use a variety of responses but they all come out of the same program. ‘I will seriously abide!’, ‘Yes bro’ and ‘OK bro’ are pretty common, and there are others.
   The thing is, I’ve seen these for years, reported each one as a fake account (since there is no option for ‘they are using automated software’), and in 99 per cent of cases (no exaggeration; in fact I may be underestimating), Facebook tells me there is no violation of their terms of service.

   This can mean only one of two things: Facebook is too stupid to realize that an account that feeds the same things into group questionnaires constantly is a bot or running some sort of software that is not permitted under its own terms; or these accounts exist with Facebook’s blessing.
   In the queues, legitimate humans are being outnumbered by over 99 to 1, and if this is a representative sample of Facebook’s current user base (I’m betting I see more accounts than the average person), then hardly anyone is on site any more. I wouldn’t know, I only check client pages and this queue for the most part.
   But if you wish to waste your money advertising to bots on the Facebook platform, then be my guest. Zuckerberg and co. are already getting enough money for doing nothing useful.

I wonder if I’m getting more Twitter fatigue after 14 years. I have built up a fun network there, especially of car people that I made a point of following over the last couple of years. But the cellphone keyboard is such a fidgety, impractical and slow device, I’ve found myself starting to respond, even writing the first few words of a Tweet, then giving up. This has had wonders on my email inbox as the number of messages drops. I’m getting through stuff.
   Fortunately for Twitter, Jack Dorsey hasn’t come across as big a dick as the Facebook and Google people, and the man has been doing some good with his money, like donating US$1 milliard to COVID-19 research. Yes, Twitter still has some major problems, especially when it comes to censorship, but when someone says, ‘I can afford to give that away because I’d still be a rich bastard with the US$2 milliard I have left,’ it’s actually a contrast to Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. Unlike the latter, he also hasn’t been publicly lying and calling us ‘dumb f***s’.
   Even so, more often than not I now find myself stopping. Is Tweeting that really worth it? Who cares? So I have a different opinion to that person. I don’t need a global audience for it. If I feel strongly enough, and have the time, there’s always long-form blogging.

Finally, here’s a page explaining just why Google is corrupt.

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


How is your ad network different from this?

11.02.2021

No point beating around the bush when it comes to yet another advertising network knocking on our door. This was a quick reply I just fired off, and I might as well put it on this blog so there’s another place I can copy it from, since I’m likely to call on it again and again. I’m sure we can’t be alone in online publishing to feel this way.
   The original reply named the firms parenthetically in the last two scenarios but I’ve opted not to do that here. I have blogged about it, so a little hunt here will reveal who I’m talking about.

Thank you for reaching out and while I’ve no doubt you’re at a great company, we have a real problem adding any new ad network. The following pattern has played out over and over again in the last 25-plus years we have been online.

  • We add a network, so far so good.
  • The more networks we use, with their payment thresholds, the longer it takes for any one of them to reach the total, and the longer we wait for any money to come.
  • Add this to the fact we could get away with charging $75 CPM 25 years ago and only fractions of cents today, the thresholds take longer still to reach.

   Other things usually happen as well:

  • We’re promised a high fill rate, even 100 per cent, and the reality is actually closer to 0 per cent and all we see are “filler” ads—if anything at all. Some just run blank units.
  • We wait so long for those thresholds to be reached that some of the networks actually close down in the interim and we never see our money!
  • In some cases, the networks change their own policies during the relationship and we get kicked off!

   I think the problems behind all of this can be traced to Google, which has monopolized the space. It probably doesn’t help that we refuse to sign anything from Google as we have no desire to add to the coffers of a company that doesn’t pay its fair share of tax. Every email from Google Ad Manager is now rejected at server level.
   If somehow [your firm] is different, I’d love to hear about you. The last two networks we added in 2019 and 2020, who assured us the pattern above would not play out, have again followed exactly the above scenario. We gave up on the one we added in 2019 and took them out of our rotation.
   Hoping for good news in response.

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Posted in business, internet, media, publishing | No Comments »


Like communist dictatorships, Google and Facebook threaten Australia

23.01.2021

You know the US tech giants have way too much power, unencumbered by their own government and their own country’s laws, when they think they can strong-arm another nation.
   From Reuter:

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it would block its search engine in Australia if the government proceeds with a new code that would force it and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for the right to use their content.

   Fine, then piss off. If Australia wants to enact laws that you can’t operate with, because you’re used to getting your own way and don’t like sharing the US$40,000 million you’ve made each year off the backs of others’ hard work, then just go. I’ve always said people would find alternatives to Google services in less than 24 hours, and while I appreciate its index is larger and it handles search terms well, the spying and the monopolistic tactics are not a worthwhile trade-off.
   I know Google supporters are saying that the Australian policy favours the Murdoch Press, and I agree that the bar that the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has set for what qualifies as a media business (revenues of over A$150,000 per annum) is too high. So it isn’t perfect.
   The fact Google has made a deal in France suggests it is possible, when the giant doesn’t whine so damned much.
   Plus, Google and Facebook have been dangerous to democracy, and should have done more for years to address these issues. They’ve allowed a power imbalance for the sake of their own profits, so paying for news—effectively a licensing payment that the rest of us would have to fork out—at least puts a value on it, given how it benefits the two sites. No search? Fine, let’s have more ethical actors reap the rewards of fairer, “unbubbled” searches, because at least there would be a societal benefit from it, and since they aren’t cashing in on the media’s work, I’m happy for them to get a free licence to republish. Right now I don’t believe the likes of Duck Duck Go are dominant enough (far from it) to raise the attention of Australian regulators.
   Facebook’s reaction has been similar: they would block Australians from sharing links to news. Again, not a bad idea; maybe people will stop using a platform used to incite hate and violence to get their bubbled news items. Facebook, please go ahead and carry out your threat. If it cuts down on people using your site—or, indeed, returns them to using it for the original purpose most of us signed up for, which was to keep in touch with friends—then we all win. (Not that I’d be back for anything but the limited set of activities I do today. Zuck’s rich enough.)
   A statement provided to me and other members of the media from the Open Markets Institute’s executive director Barry Lynn reads:

Today Google and Facebook proved in dramatic fashion that they pose existential threats to the world’s democracies. The two corporations are exploiting their monopoly control over essential communications to extort, bully, and cow a free people. In doing so, Google and Facebook are acting similarly to China, which in recent months has used trade embargoes to punish Australians for standing up for democratic values and open fact-based debate. These autocratic actions show why Americans across the political spectrum must work together to break the power that Google, Facebook, and Amazon wield over our news and communications, and over our political debate. They show why citizens of all democracies must work together to build a communications infrastructure safe for all democracies in the 21st Century.

   Considering Google had worked on a search engine that would comply with Communist Chinese censorship, and Facebook has been a tool to incite genocide, then the comparison to a non-democratic country is valid.
   So, I say to these Big Tech players, pull out. This is the best tech “disruption” we can hope for. You’re both heading into irrelevance, and Australia has had the balls to do what your home country—from which you offshore a great deal of your money—cannot, for all the lobbyists you employ. You favour big firms over independents, and the once level playing field that existed on the internet has been worsened by you. The Silicon Valley spirit, of entrepreneurship, born of the counterculture, needs to return, and right now you’re both standing in the way: you are “the man”, suppressing entrepreneurial activity, reducing employment, and splitting people apart—just what dictatorial régimes do.
   As an aside, the EU is also cracking down on Big Tech as it invites the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) to a February 1 hearing. They’ve bled people for long enough and it’s time for some pushback.

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Posted in business, China, culture, internet, media, politics, publishing, technology, 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 »


Is NewTumbl hiding posts critical of it?

16.12.2020

Postscript: Alex, who maintains three spaces on NewTumbl, can still see my “missing” five posts. In addition, NewTumbl has responded and it’s believed there was a bug. More on that here.

This is interesting: talking to Bii on Twitter, who is also a NewTumbl user, I discovered that he can’t see my last five posts on NewTumbl.
   I sent him a permalink (using the recommended NewTumbl method) to my last post there, but he gets a 404.
   In fact, the newest post he can see is my sixth-to-last. And it’s interesting to me that of the last five, three were critical of NewTumbl’s moderation system.

   This reminds me of Google Plus, which used to hide my posts that were regularly critical of Google.
   Bii would kindly prefer to give NewTumbl the benefit of the doubt though my thoughts jumped immediately to censorship. The last five posts are all public.



Top: The way my NewTumbl blog is supposed to look, in its top left-hand corner. Above: What Bii sees, with the last five posts hidden. Coincidentally three of them are critical of NewTumbl.

   Like I say, my blog posts here have a pretty good audience, and the first one on NewTumbl comes up very high when one searches for that site. You do not want to be playing these games.
   To think, I was so supportive of that place.
   For the sake of completeness, then, here are the three critical posts, which have been excerpted before.

November 27, 2020
Do the mods here know their own rules?
Had a couple of modelling shots marked M by the moderators here and I cannot understand why. I had them marked O.
   There’s no nudity (M) but they contain sexy or sultry imagery (O). Do the mods here know their own rules?
   See for yourself: this was the latest. As this is a US site, maybe I should use The Handmaid’s Tale for guidance? I hear it’s a big hit over there. This is after a post with the word w*nk (literally written like that, with an asterisk) got marked as M.

November 28, 2020
Simple rules
I have some pretty simple rules in life. If you are a professional and I am an amateur, I will defer to you in almost all cases in your specialist area, unless you make a call that is so outrageously stupid and beyond reason. And when it comes to the use of the English language, I am a professional, and can say with some authority over what is and isn’t permissible. If an amateur makes a call contrary to my expectations in areas I know about, then they had better back it up. I am referring to the moderation here.
   This is the problem with Wikipedia: a place where actual expertise is hated and seen as élitist. It’s why I tend not to use the site, where a few have scammed their way to the top, and, if you criticize them, you get five days of abuse from a senior editor directed at you. If this is the culture that is being instilled at NewTumbl by people not educated enough to make certain calls, then it’s a real shame. Read the guidelines.
   I was on Tumblr for over a decade before the censorship got crazy, and they supported the two-speed internet advocated by big firms. It would be a real shame if I were to cut my stay short here after only a couple of years. The difference is I own a lot of sites and have plenty of creative outlets. So, rather than help Dean and his friends make a few bob, I can happily put that same energy into my spaces.
   This seemed like a fun site but if a professional has to make his case in a post like this against the decision(s) of amateurs (which is the case with Wikipedia: look at the talk pages!), then that just gets tiresome: it’s not a great use of my time. If you don’t know the culture of the majority of countries in which the English language is used and somehow think 1950s white-bread America is the yardstick, then you’re already not on my level. It’s not terribly hard to put together an image-bank site where I share those ‘irrelevant’ thoughts, as I call them here. I don’t have Dean’s skill in making it a site for all, but my aims are completely selfish, so I don’t have to.
   After all, Autocade began because I was fed up with how poor the quality was for motoring entries in Wikipedia (indeed, to the point of fiction) and sought to do something I wanted. Now it nets 1,000,000 page views every three months and Wikipedia links to it: there’s real satisfaction in that.
   There has to be a simple image plug-in out there for WordPress and I’ll just add that to my blog. which runs that CMS. We all win: the holier-than-Mary-Whitehouse types who see their job as puritanically patrolling posts here won’t have me to deal with, and I get more hits to my own space, on which I will sell ads. We’ll see. Hunting for that plug-in might be my task tonight. Or I might hang about here and post more stuff that by any measure is O, and gather up a few more examples from Angry Ward Cleaver out there.

November 29, 2020
See you at my blog gallery
That was pretty simple. I’ve put the New Image Gallery plug-in from A WP Life on to my main blog. And since that blog gets an average of 700 views per post (and the viral ones getting six figures), I’m betting that whatever I put there will get more eyeballs than here. For those interested, it’s at jackyan.com/blog/2020/11/november-2020-miscellaneous-images/. [Postscript: the galleries can be found at jackyan.com/blog/category/gallery/.] New entries will be added on a monthly basis. It’s not as cool as NewTumbl but I’m going to be interested to see if it’s as enjoyable as what I’ve been doing here.
   I wanted in all sincerity to see NewTumbl grow but as @alex99a-three and others have seen, some moderating decisions have been questionable. I know first-hand that Wikipedia is a place where true expertise, that of professionals, is not welcome—founder Larry Sanger has said as much, which is why he left. The late Aaron Swartz echoed those comments. And here, if professionals are being overruled by people who are not at the same level, then I’m not sure what the point is. I feel Wikipedia has no point, and my own dissatisfaction with it led me to create Autocade, and there’s a sense that, in its very real wish to make sure it could keep up with its growth, NewTumbl is heading down the same path.
   I don’t begrudge this site’s founders for adopting the approach they did in post moderation. In fact, I think it was very clever and it’s a great way for NewTumbl to punch above its weight. However, in practice the absence of an appeals’ system doesn’t work for me any more. I totally get that they haven’t the resources. So maybe I will return when they do.
   As @constantpriaprism pointed out, Dean is not really present these days, either, so one big drawcard to NewTumbl—its transparency—is now also missing.
   And it’s those of us in the F and O spaces—people that NewTumbl said they wanted to encourage—who seem to be bearing the brunt of puritanical moderating. I’m guessing we are being sidelined by people who don’t have the context (e.g. Alex has posted some really innocent stuff) or knowledge outside their countries. Both Alex and I (if I may be so bold as to guess his intent) have been marking as F or O things that were safe for us on prime-time TV when we were younger. I use the same standard with imagery and language.
   To confirm this lack of knowledge, I read one comment which absolutely highlighted that one moderator had no idea what they were doing, advancing what I felt was a particularly weak argument. In that case, a newspaper front page was taken down and marked as M. You have to ask yourself: if a word appears (censored) on a newspaper front page, then it’s probably not M; and if a word is used on prime-time television without bleeping, then it’s also probably not M. There are other words which may be adult in nature but are commonly used that even Mary Whitehouse would be fine with, but you just know that with the lack of knowledge that some display here, you’re going to have it taken off the site and marked out of range.
   I’ve done my share of rating posts here and I like to think I’ve taken an even-handed, free-speech approach based on decades of experience and life in different countries.
   If this is to be an adult site—and I know the majority of posts lean that way—then good luck to it. I will be back as @vergangene-automarken has some excellent stuff, as do the regulars whom I follow, but for now I really want to see what it’s like doing the same thing in my own space. See you there.

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Posted in internet, USA | 1 Comment »


The most likely explanation: Google doesn’t like academic reports that harm its interests

07.12.2020


TechCrunch/Creative Commons 2·0

I summarized this article to my friends as: ‘How can we trust Big Tech? Google didn’t like hearing the truth from an intelligent woman, so they forced her out.’ And my friend Cathy pointed out it’s a woman of colour.
   And if you take the basic position that Google lies, just as I take the basic position that Facebook lies, then you’d rightly take Google’s Jeff Dean’s explanation with a grain of salt. The MIT Technology Review noted that it doesn’t hold water based on practice.
   The ousted woman, Dr Timnit Gebru, was the co-lead of Google’s ethical AI team—you can already spot the oxymoron as there is no place at Google, a company exercising monopoly powers and paying little tax, for ethics.
   Dean claimed Gebru resigned voluntarily, which is being disputed by both current and former Google employees. The Review notes:

Online, many other leaders in the field of AI ethics are arguing that the company pushed her out because of the inconvenient truths that she was uncovering about a core line of its research—and perhaps its bottom line. More than 1,400 Google staff and 1,900 other supporters have also signed a letter of protest.

   Dr Emily Bender of the University of Washington said in Ars Technica, ‘From the outside, it looks like someone at Google decided this was harmful to their interests.
   ‘Academic freedom is very important—there are risks when [research] is taking place in places that [don’t] have that academic freedom.’
   It wouldn’t be the first time Google attempted to silence a critic, then claimed it did nothing of the sort.
   And if it doesn’t like being warned about the dangers of AI, then what sort of horror awaits us from Google in that space? It’s not hard to foresee AI bots operating online being harmful or generating misinformation, with nothing to hold them back. Again from the Review:

In 2017, Facebook mistranslated a Palestinian man’s post, which said “good morning” in Arabic, as “attack them” in Hebrew, leading to his arrest.

   We are letting these companies get away with being accessories to crimes and, in Facebook’s case, to genocide (over which it withheld evidence).

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Posted in culture, internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


Oh look, a Gmail privacy leak—it’s really, really time to stop using them

19.10.2020

Still want to use Gmail? How’s this for discouragement?

   Couple this with my last post on this, I’d now go so far as to warn people to get rid of their Gmail accounts. As a layman, the service just does not seem secure to me.

PS.: This is from another Tweeter more schooled in these matters than me.

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


Two big reasons not to use Gmail

03.10.2020

I was absolutely shocked to learn this is how Gmail works.

   As you’ll read in the thread, this has been confirmed by other Gmail users.
   That should rule out ever using Gmail for secure communications. Not that you should be using a service like that for anything important, but the fact is Gmail has become ubiquitous, and I believe a lot of people don’t know any better.
   Just imagine being able to receive some emails meant for your rival by signing up to an address that varies from it by a full stop or period.
   Secondly, we’ve noticed a large amount of spam where we can trace (via Spamcop) the origins back to Gmail. Oftentimes they have Gmail reply addresses, as in the case of 419 scams (where they may use another ISP or email service with a “sacrificial” address to send them). Why would you risk being among that lot?
   Add this to the massive list of shortcomings already detailed here and elsewhere and you have a totally unreliable platform that doesn’t really give a toss. They didn’t care when they removed my friend’s blog in 2009 and then obstructed any attempt to get it back, until a product manager became involved. They didn’t care when their website blacklisting service libelled clean sites in 2013, telling people not to visit them or link to them. And they don’t care now.
   There really is no reason to use Gmail. You’ll risk your emails going to someone else with a similar address, and you’ll be among the company of unethical actors. I can truly say that if Gmail weren’t this ubiquitous, and used by so many friends, I’d just set up a rule on our server and block the lot.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 4 Comments »