Posts tagged ‘internet’


Life in the fediverse

21.11.2022

Nathan Griffiths finally answers why Facebook used to freeze on the 1st of each month. I think his theory is very plausible. Now I know, after over a decade!
 

 
Meanwhile, I see CBS News has suspended its Twitter account (after the likes of Balenciaga deleted theirs altogether). This was before Donald Trump was let back on after Musk (whose followers are probably 70 per cent bot) ran a poll approving of the former president’s return to what must now be called OnlyKlans. (MySpaceX seems passé now.)

CBS News’s words: ‘In light of the uncertainty around Twitter and out of an abundance of caution, CBS News is pausing its activity on the social media site as it continues to monitor the platform.’

It’s still live on Facebook, so I guess the genocide of Rohingya Muslims and abundant misinformation are fine.
 
We’ve already had an account be temporarily suspended over on Mastodon.art but there’s a very reasonable moderator there and the appeal was granted within hours. You can read up on this over at Lucire, which is now on a fashion-friendly instance at fashionsocial.host. (The art account remains open, probably to post covers and photography on, a bit like Lucire’s old Tumblr account.)
 
With all this fediverse talk, what a pity my Hubzilla account has gone. I was there in the 2010s, probably around the time I signed up for Mastodon in 2017, possibly before. I did get myself a Pixelfed this time, so spot me at [email protected], and Lucire is at [email protected]. Will I use them? Time will tell, but possibly not. I’d still prefer focusing on our own sites, unless we can figure out how to bring this in-house.

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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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Bing hates novelty—it’s really Microsoft’s Wayback Machine

27.08.2022

Bing is still very clearly near death, as this latest site: search shows.
 

 

It manages a grand total of 10 pages from Lucire, and as outlined before, some are pages that have not been linked to for 17 years.

I purposely updated some of the pages Bing had in its limited capacity, and strangely, those have disappeared! Bing doesn’t want anything new, as it appears to be Microsoft’s Wayback Machine.

The fifth result here is a case in point. Some of you may recall lucire.com/about.shtml appearing in all the search engines, including Bing. This is a page last updated in 2004, with some final tweaks in 2012 (I assume for ad code; I don’t recall). It was a page that I decided I would stick on to a new template, since the search engines loved it so much. I copied the text from our licensing site. And, for the sake of online archæology, I put the 2004 page exactly as it was into a file called about-2004.shtml.

Bing must still be alive enough to spider and index the renamed page, but it rejects the revised about.shtml!

It’s similar to what I wrote in mid-August when I updated other ancient pages from the early 2000s: Bing rejected them, including a frameset that now pointed at the latest page!

You may be thinking: obviously, you are doing something wrong with your newer code, Jack, for Bing to favour the old stuff. But look at the fourth result: it’s from 2020, the one “new” page that Bing has managed to index and show. I don’t think we have anything wrong with our code if this page has made it in.

Google happily included the new about.shtml.

A search for Lucire itself on Bing now does include the home page, which is a new development in a search engine that’s limping along. So much for the earlier claim that there were issues with the page that prevented it from appearing.

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Testing the seven search engines in the world

22.08.2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IndexNow is a crock

13.08.2022


 
Just trying to clear a few things off my hard drive. Here was one that was particularly curious when I was investigating what was going on with Bing: the files submitted by Cloudflare’s IndexNow. The theory: it would send Bing the newest accessed pages to add to the index. The reality: these are not new. In fact, these are ancient, many aren’t even web pages (they’re PDFs and web fonts). And sure enough, some did make it into the 10–55 pages that Bing is capable of indexing for Lucire these days—it’s a very tiny index in reality, regardless of how many results it claims to have for a given search, as we discovered.

In other words, IndexNow, as I saw it implemented, is a total crock, and not worth the bother.

I wish these companies would test these things first, but we are talking Microsoft, where we’ve been doing the job as unpaid QA for decades.
 
It does get worse. Looking inside Bing Webmaster Tools, these (below) are the pages it says it has for Lucire’s root directory. I’ve alluded to how bad it was earlier, but upon going through these, the main index pages, which Bing always had till recently, are missing. The home page is also missing (although when I first started investigating in July, it was still there, which a friend can confirm; and the structure of it has not changed other than the removal of some links to 404s). All that’s left are pages from the early 2000s, plus entries for pages that have never existed. You can check these against the Wayback Machine, but we have never had pages in the main directory called nguoi-noi-tieng, arts-culture, podcast, form-single.html, archivi or cv-generator. Yet Bing believes these phantom pages exist. Well done, Microsoft, you can’t even get this right. This isn’t how spidering works.
 

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We’ve reached 4,600 models on Autocade

02.08.2022


 
We’ve hit 4,600 models on Autocade, with the Toyota Will VS taking us to this point, but the stats show we are sitting on 1,180,548 views. We have to get to 1,352,989 on the new count before I can announce we’ve reached 29 million page views.

We’re looking at the lowest traffic on Autocade since 2019, and I’m sure the collapse of the Bing index, taking down the indices of all associated search engines (Duck Duck Go, Qwant, etc.), is to blame. I used to see an increase of 100,000 every week, roughly, but not these days. (PS.: I was still observing this level when we first switched the site over, and the slower growth has probably coincided with when WorldWideWebSize.com recorded Bing’s plummet in late May–early June.)

Autocade is the one site where we never changed the set-up, other than hosting provider and Mediawiki version. The other sites had various things done to them, with Cloudflare and HTTPS. So given the “invisible” changes—changes we had done before in years gone by—we know “it’s not us, it’s them”.

I’ve listed the three Will models (or WiLL to use the original styling) as Toyotas after I confirmed this with another motorhead, the very knowledgeable Atsuhiro Takeda. They were also always listed as Toyotas by Auto Katalog many years ago, and I believe also by Toutes les voitures du monde. Atsu confirmed that that was how he believed they should be indexed. I’ve had those Will publicity images for a long time and it’s nice they’ve finally gone online in Autocade.

The only oddity in the Autocade stats is the rise in hits for our page on the Kia Morning (TA), coming from nowhere and into sixth place among model pages. Whomever the Morning fans are, I thank you!

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Bing has tanked

24.07.2022

Well, folks, here’s someone who’s done the maths. The stats in the last post suggested as much but the sample was so small.

Maurice de Kunder at WorldWideWebSize.com has a definitive graph:
 

 

His methodology is explained at his site.

I’d say late May or early June was when I noticed Duck Duck Go queries on Lucire become largely useless. After a month of seeing no improvement, I began looking into alternatives.

No one knows why, since Bing’s not going to admit any of this. If I was Duck Duck Go, I’d be looking into alternatives smartly. Anyone want to get in touch with Alltheweb and Inktomi? Their indices in the early 2000s were bigger than this.
 
PS.: I tried to tell the SEO sub-Reddit, but no joy. It was immediately removed.
 

 
The original text:

Since June I noticed that our internal site:domain.com searches powered by Duck Duck Go were not returning many results any more. As DDG is powered by Bing, I checked it out there, and, sure enough, we dipped from thousands of entries to 50 (and even 10 at one point). This is a 25-year-old site with decent inbound links.

I did a lot of investigating which I wrote up on my own blog (which I won’t link here due to sub-Reddit rules) and came across this website, which seems to suggest Bing has tanked. The person who runs it is pretty clued up on statistics.

I have run a small sample of 10 sites through the search engines as well and these back up their findings.

At this rate, Bing is smaller than Inktomi and Alltheweb in the early 2000s. What strikes me as weird is that all the Bing licensees haven’t done anything, either, so Duck Duck Go, Ecosia, Qwant, and Onesearch have all shrunk, too. (Swisscows is still reasonably sized.)

Anyone else been through something similar in the last two months?

Why don’t they wish to know? I would have thought this was rather serious for an SEO group.

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Posted in internet, technology | 6 Comments »


How to end social media censorship

16.04.2022


Kristina Flour/Unsplash
 
This Twitter thread by Yishan Wong is one of the most interesting I’ve come across. Not because it’s about Elon Musk (who he begins with), but because it’s about the history of the web, censorship, and the reality of running a social platform.

Here are some highlights (emphases in the original):

There is this old culture of the internet, roughly Web 1.0 (late 90s) and early Web 2.0, pre-Facebook (pre-2005), that had a very strong free speech culture.

This free speech idea arose out of a culture of late-90s America where the main people who were interested in censorship were religious conservatives. In practical terms, this meant that they would try to ban porn (or other imagined moral degeneracy) on the internet …

Many of the older tech leaders today … grew up with that internet. To them, the internet represented freedom, a new frontier, a flowering of the human spirit, and a great optimism that technology could birth a new golden age of mankind.

Fast forward to the reality of the 2020s:

The internet is not a “frontier” where people can go “to be free,” it’s where the entire world is now, and every culture war is being fought on it.

It’s the main battlefield for our culture wars.

Yishan points out that left-wingers can point to where right-wingers get more freedom to say their piece, and that right-wingers can point to where left-wingers get more. ‘Both sides think the platform is institutionally biased against them.’

The reality:

They would like you (the users) to stop squabbling over stupid shit and causing drama so that they can spend their time writing more features and not have to adjudicate your stupid little fights.

That’s all.

They don’t care about politics. They really don’t.

He concedes that people can be their worst selves online, and that the platforms struggle to keep things civil.

They have to pretend to enforce fairness. They have to adopt “principles.”

Let me tell you: There are no real principles. They are just trying to be fair because if they weren’t, everyone would yell louder and the problem would be worse …

You really want to avoid censorship on social networks? Here is the solution:

Stop arguing. Play nice. The catch: everyone has to do it at once.

I guarantee you, if you do that, there will be no censorship of any topic on any social network.

Because it is not topics that are censored. It is behavior.

I think Yishan’s right to some degree. There are leanings that the leaders of these social networks have, and I think that can affect the overall decisions. But he’s also right that both left and right feel aggrieved. I warned as much when I wrote about social media and their decision about Donald Trump in the wake of the incidents of January 6, 2021. I’ve seen left- and right-wing accounts get taken down, and often for no discernible reason I can fathom.

Generally, however, civil discourse is a perfectly fine way to go, and for most things that doesn’t invite censorship or account removal. Wouldn’t it be nice if people took him up on this, to see what would happen?

Sadly, that could well be as idealistic as the ‘new frontier’ which many of us who got into the dot com world in the 1990s believed in.

But maybe he’s woken up some folks. And with c. 50,000 followers, he has a darn sight better chance than I have reaching just over a tenth of that on Twitter, and the 1,000 or so of you who will read this blog post.
 
During the writing of this post, Vivaldi crashed again, when I attempted to enter form data—a bug that they believed was fixed a few revisions ago. It appears not. I’ll still send over a bug report, but everything is pointing at my abandoning it in favour of Opera GX. Five years is a very good run for a browser.

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That’s the hat-trick: Twitter has locked Lucire’s account

24.10.2021


Pixabay

In the space of less than a month, another US social network has shut Lucire’s account down. This time it’s Twitter.
   When going through the settings to see if Lucire could be verified, Twitter requested that we complete all the information. It specifically states that the date of birth should be entered, even for companies.
   It only seemed logical to put in Lucire’s founding date, October 20, 1997.
   That was enough to have the account locked. As we started the account in the 2000s, it stated we were under age when that happened.
   We’re not sure why an event in the 2000s would have an impact in the 2020s, but more importantly, Twitter should have worded its request far better.
   As a company account, any number of people could be managing it. It so happened that I set up the account, so I provided them with my driver’s licence as proof of my age—but that’s not the age of the company. What if I had assigned a social media manager in their early 20s to do the job? Isn’t it conceivable that they would then inadvertently lock the account if they put in their own date of birth?
   Not even Facebook or Instagram are daft enough to lock an account based on a company’s foundation date. What other date would a reasonable person have put down when the company’s birthday is requested? The date of first operation? The date the idea was conceived? The date of incorporation? All of those would have fallen foul of Twitter’s systems.
   For a company that made US$3·7 milliard in revenue last year, it does seem a rather major error.
   After I noted this on my personal account, spammers and bots began replying—accounts that no doubt have been reported but are permitted to remain.
   We remain in the dark on why Instagram locked us out and deactivated our account less than a month ago.
   It is perhaps best to either lie to these US social media giants (in the case of some, it’s the behaviour their own leadership exhibits), or to not provide them information at all. Or, better yet, to not rely on them at all and to focus on one’s own proprietary web presences. It is no coincidence that with our redesign, we left off all social media links, ironically with the exception of Twitter on our home page.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

Originally published in Lucire.

PS.: The title refers to the fact that all three US Big Tech players have locked us out at some stage. In 2013, Google blacklisted all our sites. In September, Instagram deactivated Lucire’s account. And now, it’s Twitter’s turn.

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Chatting at a pro level on Leonard Kim’s Grow Your Influence Tree

21.10.2021

Shared on my social media on the day, but I had been waiting for an opportunity to note this on my blog.
   It was an honour last week to guest on Leonard Kim’s Grow Your Influence Tree, his internet talk show on VoiceAmerica. Leonard knows plenty about marketing and branding, so I thought it might be fun to give his listeners a slightly different perspective—namely through publishing. And since I know his listeners’ usual topics, I didn’t stray too far from marketing.
   We discuss the decrease in CPM rates online; the importance of long-form features to magazines (and magazine websites) and how that evolution came about; how search engines have become worse at search (while promoting novelty; on this note I’ve seen Qwant do very well on accuracy); how great articles can establish trust in a brand and falling in love with the content you consume (paraphrasing Leonard’s words here); Lucire’s approach to global coverage and how that differs to other titles’; the need to have global coverage and how that potentially unites people, rather than divide them; how long-form articles are good for your bottom line; how stories work in terms of brand-building; how Google News favours corporate and mainstream sources; and the perks of the job.
   This was a great hour, and it was just such a pleasure to talk to someone who is at the same level as me to begin with, and who has a ready-made audience that doesn’t need the basics explained to them. It didn’t take long for Leonard and me to get into these topics and keep the discussion at a much higher level than what I would find if it was a general-audience show. Thank you, Leonard!
   Listen to my guest spot on Leonard’s show here, and check out his website and his Twitter (which is how we originally connected). And tune in every Thursday 1 p.m. Pacific time on the VoiceAmerica Influencers channel for more episodes with his other guests!

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