Posts tagged ‘internet’


Why we’ve dropped Disqus, and the shenanigans of the online ad world

02.02.2023

When I first signed up to Disqus, there was the option to have no ads. But with Lucire we allowed them, because I figured, why not?

Disqus’s rules were pretty clear: you’d earn money on the ads shown, and once you got to US$100, they’d pay out.

The trouble is those ads made so little money it took ages to reach the threshold.

Last year, when looking at the revenue figures, I was surprised things had reset and we had only earned a few dollars. Where did the US$100 go? There was no record of a payout.

I began enquiring and it took them a while to respond. They said they would pay (what would have happened if I never asked?) but what hit our account was NZ$100.

In other words, 35 per cent short.

I guess they’re counting on people not chasing up NZ$35, and I’m wondering if it’s a worthwhile use of my time. Or maybe it’s better I write this blog post to warn others about Disqus.

Disqus either short-paid us by 35 per cent or they have no clue how currencies work. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on their company.

Unsurprisingly, I began taking Disqus off our sites, which was what I had always planned to do once we got to US$100. Off it went from Lucire for starters, though on Autocade it had been quite useful. I had signed up early enough to have the no-ads option, so I left it, especially as we had great commenters like Graham Clayton from Australia, who has a wealth of knowledge about cars himself.

This week, we noticed the no-ads option had disappeared and the bottom of Autocade’s pages had turned into an ugly mess, at least on the desktop version. We already had our own ad in the footer, so we didn’t need multiple ones cheapening the site.

Not only did Disqus pay us short by 35 per cent last year, I discovered their ads don’t even pay. Yes, Disqus was included in our ads.txt. But here’s a site that gets 1,000,000 page views every quarter (roughly) and we had earned zip. Zero. Nada.
 

 

Once I understand how to update a Mediawiki database, we’ll have Mediawiki comments instead, and I’ve exported what we had from Disqus.

It’s been a bad run, but there you go.

Media.net also said they would drop publishers from certain countries, without naming them. That was fine by me since they also had odd discrepancies between what I knew to be the traffic and what they recorded. At one point, the Media.net ad code was hard-coded on Autocade’s pages, and still they were recording a minuscule amount of traffic.

With time zone differences (their person was in India) we never solved it.

Maybe an inordinate amount of people use ad blockers?

We had till February 28 to remove their code but I took it off as well—no point dragging out yet another non-paying service.

It really feels like yet another area where Google has wrecked the advertising ecosystem for legitimate publishers. Oh for the days when there was more quality control over where ads appeared.
 
Ten years ago, we were hacked. That is a story in itself, which I documented at the time, along with Google’s failings. What also struck me was that the hack used what appeared to be Google Adsense code:
 

 

I had come across fake ads taking you to malware sites before, even with legitimate ad networks. (I still remember seeing a fake ad for a job-seeking website that wound up on our sites in April 2008.) But for some reason in 2013 it still seemed strange, since I didn’t deal with Google and some legit ad networks were still hanging on.

However, I noted on April 7, 2013, when researching what had happened, that it was entirely possible. And Google makes money no matter what.

I wrote: ‘The publisher’s site gets blacklisted and it takes days for that to be lifted, so the earnings go down. Who gains? The hackers and Google.’

The quotations I included in the 2013 post are sobering, with other publishers negatively affected by Google’s systems and inaction.

This week, almost 10 years later, I came across this.
 

 

Google, still useless after all these years. But hey, as long as they’re making money, right? Because the rest of us sure as heck aren’t, at least not through anything they touch. Their core business is a negligence lawsuit just waiting to happen.


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Life’s could-have-beens

15.01.2023


 
A Mastodon post about my mayoral campaign policies. No, I didn’t foresee a global pandemic as such (though I certainly was on Twitter perplexed at why the WHO had not declared COVID-19 a global emergency in January 2020), but I did feel there was insufficient resilience in our economy and wanted to advance ideas that would at least put this city right.

I saw the cafés all opening around town, the PM John Key’s support of tourism, and thinking: there’s not enough diversity among these types of businesses, and we’re well behind other cities on the percentage that IT plays. We need more high-wage jobs if we were to increase our rates’ base sustainably, not make Wellington unaffordable by taking a bigger and bigger chunk of incomes that had barely risen in line with the cost of living. All this I stated at the time, and they were trends that stared us right in the face.

Working from home was a way of alleviating stress on our traffic network, or at least help stagger the amount of traffic on the road at any given time. Tied in to that was publicizing real-time about public transport, which I think is starting to happen, to encourage their use.

The expansion of the wifi network meant that Newtown would be next, heading out to Berhampore, the whole idea being to bridge the digital divide for our less well off communities. I had already been into a meeting with Citylink and had a model through which it could be funded. I lived in Newtown as a boy, and I know how little we had in terms of the family budget. And, as we saw in lockdown, internet access was very far from being equal among our communities.

I’m not subscribing to ‘That’s easy to say in hindsight,’ because all these ideas were a matter of record, as well as the reasons behind it. I am subscribing to a degree of cherry-picking but when you consider these were my “flagship” ideas, I’m not even being that picky.

To think we could have set all this in motion starting in 2010 and been ready for 2020. I don’t really sell nostalgia if I’m running for office because that would be disingenuous. You’re being asked to vote on the future, and so many politicians are trying to resell you the past. I’m grateful to those voters who got this and put me in third place twice. We have a good mayor now who’s young enough to get it.


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Bing increases Techdirt’s results, saving it some embarrassment

13.01.2023

After notifying Mike Masnick, the founder of Techdirt, about my findings about Bing, coincidentally, the search engine began spidering his latest articles. It claimed to have 150 results, and delivered 92, many of which were repeated from page to page as usual. Tonight it’s a claimed 249, delivering 173.

Techdirt is well respected and very popular, and disliked presently only by the Musk bros. What’s the likelihood that Microsoft knew about their shortcomings here and corrected things? I wasn’t exactly quiet, and I told more than Mike and the readers of this blog (I went on Reddit, for example), since it was so ridiculous that Bing could only deliver one result for such a major website. It’s embarrassing for them, so they decided to do the right thing. Like any Big Tech firm: do nothing unless you risk getting bad press. This is right out of the Facebook playbook, for example.

What a pity they could not do the right thing for the rest of us.

Just as a comparison, since I am nothing if not fair. Here are the claimed number of results versus the number delivered for site:techdirt.com:
 
Mojeek: 48,606/1,000
Google: 54,700/394
Bing: 249/173
Yandex: 2,000/250
Baidu: —/1
Gigablast: 0/0
Yep: —/10
 

In that context, it doesn’t look so bad, especially as a lot of Yandex results are of Techdirt’s various directories and largely useless.

It’s not so hot for site:lucire.com over at Bing:
 
Mojeek: 3,481/1,000
Google: 5,970/307
Bing: 2/10
Yandex: 2,000/250
Baidu: 1,480/400
Gigablast: 0/0
Yep: —/10
 

I’m not kidding: Bing claims it had 2 results and delivered 10. Looks like one of those rare times they underestimated. Well off the mark of the 55 they have been doing since mid-2022 and that was pathetic. There is nothing in the results from after 2007. Maybe fixing Techdirt’s results meant that Bing had so little computing power for every other site!

Well, I guess I can no longer claim that for a site:lucire.com search that Bing is repeating results from page to page, since it only has one page.
 


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This surely makes it blatantly obvious that Bing is near death

06.01.2023

Here’s a site I’ve always liked: Techdirt. It’s incredibly influential, and reports on the technology sector. Mike Masnick’s run it for the same length of time as I’ve run Lucire (25 years, and counting).

And when it comes to Bing’s index collapse—or whatever you wish to call it—it’s no more pronounced than here (well, at least among the sites that even get listed). For site:techdirt.com:
 
Google: 54,700 results, 393 visible
Mojeek: 48,818 results, 1,000 visible
Yandex: 2,000 results, 250 visible
Gigablast: 200 results, 200 visible
Yep: 10 results, 10 visible
Baidu: 1 result, 1 visible
Bing: 1 result, 1 visible
 



 

One. This is a site that dates back to the 1990s and churns out numerous articles daily, and that’s how bad Bing’s got. Naturally, it’s the same with all the Bing clones, like Yahoo (the one with no logo now), Ecosia, Qwant, Neeva, Duck Duck Go, etc. Unlike Baidu, Bing doesn’t have communist Chinese censorship as an excuse. Or does it?

If you ever needed proof something was really, really off at Redmond, this is it. And still the clones stay silent.
 





 
PS.: If you search for Techdirt on Bing, its home page does not even come up in the top 10.
 
P.PS.: Here’s what WorldWideWebSize.com has to report (thanks to nf3xn for posting it first on their Mastodon). I believe the site is wrong when it calculates that the total index was up as high as it is on the left of the graph: basically it takes what Bing claims is the number of results as the truth, and we know it lies.
 


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For the web, the glass is half full

12.12.2022


Manu Schwendener/Unsplash
 
I like what Robin Sloan had to say in his blog post, ‘A Year of New Avenues’. It’s typeset in Filosofia, which is another great reason to read it.

I’ve often said the trends of a new decade, or century, don’t emerge on the dot. You’ve got to get a few years in for them to become apparent. (Some even argue that we should look at decades beginning midway, e.g. 1975 to 1984, to identify groups of trends.)

Robin believes that the platforms of the 2010s are history.

And just as I’ve drawn parallels between 1973 and 2022, Robin feels that 2023 is going to have some of the energy of 2003, as far as the internet is concerned:

It is 2003 again. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram haven’t been invented yet … except, it’s also 2023, and they have, so you can learn from their rise and ruin …

As the platforms of the last decade crumble, we might put “founder” culture back on the shelf …

I want to insist on an amateur internet; a garage internet; a public library internet; a kitchen table internet. At last, in 2023, I want to tell the tech CEOs and venture capitalists: pipe down. Buzz off. Go fave each other’s tweets.

There’s more good stuff after that, which I’ll leave you to read. It’s a glass-half-full world of where the web can head, and if Robin’s even half-right, then it’s going to be an upbeat time for creative people.


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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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