Posts tagged ‘social media’


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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I’ve left the data farms but occasionally revisit the Matrix

06.11.2022


Warner Bros.
 
Even though Twitter is now in its MySpaceX era, I won’t shut my account. I have scripts that run through it, and I don’t wish for some schmuck to come in later and claim my username. Mastodon has taken off this week, my Twitter notifications are at a low, and as I cross-post between them, Mastodon is likely going to become my main social network.

But I get those who don’t wish to leave outright. I have a 5,555-strong following including my personal interests on Twitter. However, it does seem that once a social medium becomes a personal-interest one, ironically I lose interest in it! It was the case with Instagram, and Pinterest never held my interest for that long because it encouraged you to post and browse based on your interests! Maybe it’s me, but I prefer to enjoy my interests in the real world, or using them to build up my own sites and publications, not someone else’s.

I’m not going to criticize anyone who chooses to stay on a platform for longer than its sell-by date, because that would make me a hypocrite.
 
Facebook
I don’t hide my disdain about Facebook, but it took me over a year—nearly two—between the time it forced me to download their malware (well, they said it was a malware scanner, but there were plenty of suspicious things about it) in 2016 and updating my wall for the last time in 2017. That incident did force me to reconsider using the site, but I hung in there, in part to investigate what was going on, but also because I was still fooled into thinking it could be good for business and our own site traffic. (Those algorithms will see to throttling any links for your work, as they have been doing for over a decade.)

But in late 2017, I wrote a farewell post and stopped updating my wall. People still tagged me, and those went up, but I haven’t posted anything on my own wall since. Some work pages still get the odd update but I can’t even remember when was the last time I headed in to do anything on my public page. I have frequented the occasional group and looked after client pages but those visits are infrequent.
 
Instagram
I began using Instagram more for cars and model cars, but by the end of 2019 I had had enough, even for things I was interested in. There were too many ads, and Instagram was still collecting (laughably incorrect) interests on me despite opting out. I went from a multiple-post-per-day user to someone who’d update with a month in between, then a quarter, and I barely bother now. The last time I visited, my most favoured filters had vanished as well, a long string of feature removals that began with the maps years before. There just wasn’t a point to the site any more. But it still took a long time between my initial boredom and frustration with the site to what is currently my last post. Might I go on once more? Maybe, to do a more fitting farewell or to test something.

It also didn’t help that Instagram locked Lucire out in 2021 for a week. Lucire’s ’Gram is still active, but not that active. We’ve never really been bothered with social media as a company, and thanks to Zoho Social, I don’t even need to go to Instagram in order to post to it.
 
Twitter
Twitter also locked Lucire out in 2021 and it took a threat addressed to their lawyers to get that reinstated. Their proper processes never worked, nor does knowing a senior member of staff at Twitter UK.

But it is a place that’s polarizing and unpleasant. I’m all for diverse viewpoints but I’d like the other party to consider mine as much as I consider theirs. That doesn’t happen as often any more. And with Mastodon holding up (only one abusive message so far, unprompted, from a total stranger in Portland, Oregon) why would we stay on Twitter? But it’s only November 2022, Musk has only taken ownership, and I saw the April–May 2022 influx eventually go quiet, too.

Nevertheless, I feel Twitter’s days as my main social media site are coming to a close, with cross-posting between Mastodon and Twitter a breeze. Before, I’d post mainly on Twitter and let things flow to Mastodon, and check both. In April I began originating posts on both sites. Now in November, there doesn’t seem to be much call to originate anything on Twitter, with my own follower count going from 330-odd to over 550. It may be a tenth of what I have at Twitter, but the unpleasantness is gone, for now. My regret is that my personal interests—in the last year Twitter became my place for interacting with other car enthusiasts, especially in Ireland and Scotland—aren’t really on Mastodon, but it follows the earlier patterns. Once personal interests become a big part, for some reason I don’t feel I need the fix any more.

Then there were Tumblr and NewTumbl, discussed in earlier posts, where censorship based around some 1950s US puritanical standards became problems.

Overall, as someone who owns sites, I would prefer to create something for my readers. That gives me an infinitely bigger thrill than participating in most social media threads. And if I were to participate in social media, it seems fairer to be in the federated system, owning my own data, than being part of a plutocrat’s plaything where you hand him a perpetual licence to your mahi.

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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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China in 2022: speak Cantonese, get banned from social media

08.10.2022

If you think some of us were being uppity about New Zealand Chinese Language Week, how’s this for a real-life report?

Speak Cantonese, get banned from a social media platform.

That’s what’s happening in China right now. And I had already mentioned schoolchildren being told off for using their reo.

The Google Translate translation is actually pretty good for a change, if you can’t read Chinese.

And here we are in New Zealand, kowtowing (derived from a Cantonese word, incidentally) to the Chinese Communist Party with its policy.
 

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The reality of Chinese Language Week for many Chinese New Zealanders

25.09.2022

‘Chinese Language Week’ has rolled around again, and if you look on Twitter, there are plenty of Chinese New Zealanders (myself included) and our allies miffed about this. And we get the usual trolls come by.

First up, it’s not Chinese Language Week. It’s Mandarin Language Week. I have no problem with the promotion of Mandarin as long as that’s what it’s called. But to promote it as being representative of all Chinese people here is ridiculous and encouraging randoms to come up to us with ‘ni hao’ is tiresome. Thirty-six per cent of us might be OK with it, sure. But not the rest. (To Stuff’s credit, probably because it doesn’t promote a Chinese person as a force in politics, and because it now actually has reporters of colour, this is a great opinion piece from a fellow Chinese New Zealander.)

To me, Mandarin is unintelligible with maybe the exception of five per cent of it. When I watch Mandarin TV, I can catch ‘呢個’. If I’m immersed in it, it might creep up to 10 per cent after a fortnight, but that’s with the context of seeing the situation in which it’s used. It is—and I’ve used this analogy before—like speaking Danish to an Italian. Some Italians will get it because they’ve figured out the connections going back to proto-European, but others’ eyes will just glaze over.

If you’re someone who claims that we appreciate a Mandarin greeting, try saying ‘Καλημέρα’ to a Norwegian. Yeah, you’d look multilingual but we’d just think you were confused—at best.

This is a country that supposedly apologized for the racist Poll Tax, but, as my friend Bevan points out:

And Richard said around the same time:

Some initiatives have taken place, which is awesome:

But it’s clear that we need to organize something to counter a hegemonic desire to wipe out our culture and language. This is why so many Chinese get what Māori go through.

The first Chinese New Zealanders came from the south, and were Cantonese speakers, likely with another language or dialect from their villages. Cantonese was the principal Chinese tongue spoken here, so if there’s to be any government funding to preserve culture, and honour those who had to pay the Poll Tax, then that’s where efforts should go—along with the other languages spoken by the early Chinese settlers.
 
The trolls have been interesting, because they’re copying and pasting from the same one-page leaflet that their propaganda department gave them when websites opened up to comments 20 years ago.

In the 2000s, I criticized BYD for copying pretty much an entire car on this blog, when it was run on Blogger. BYD even retouched Toyota’s publicity photos—it was that obvious. The car colour even stayed the same.
 


Above: The Toyota Aygo and BYD’s later publicity photo for its F1, later called the F0 when produced. The trolls didn’t like getting called out.
 

Either CCP or BYD trolls came by. The attack line, if I recall correctly, was that I was a sycophant for the foreigners and anti-Chinese.

No, kids, it’s anti-Chinese to think that we can’t do better than copying a Toyota.

Nowadays even the mainland Chinese press will slam a car company for this level of copying. Zotye and others have had fingers pointed at them. BYD’s largely stopped doing it.

The trolls this time have been the same. The comments are so familiar, you’d think that it was coordinated. Dr Catherine Churchman pointed out that one of her trolls repeated another one verbatim.

All this points to is a lack of strength, and a lack of intelligence, on the part of the trolls, with uppity behaviour that actually doesn’t exist in real life. ‘I’m so offended over something I have no comprehension over.’

The fact remains that those advocating for Cantonese, Taishanese, Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew, and all manner of Chinese languages love our Mandarin-speaking whānau. In many cases, we feel a kinship with them. The trolls are probably not even based here, and have no idea of the cultural issues at stake. Or the fact they already have three TV networks speaking their language.

Is it so hard for them to accept the fact some of us choose to stand up to hegemony and insensitivity, and want to honour our forebears? Are they anti-Chinese?
 
For further reading, Nigel Murphy’s ‘A Brief History of the Chinese Language in New Zealand’ is instructive, if people really want to know and engage in something constructive. It’s on the Chinese Language Week website, who evidently see no irony in hosting it.

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I can empathize with the 500-mile email problem

09.09.2022

Big thanks to Petra on Mastodon for this one.

Don’t discount us non-techs. When we come to you, we’ve often done a lot of testing first before sounding the alarm. And often we are right.

Just like I was right with Vox when I could only get a compose window on select days over three months, or when Facebook forced an anti-malware program on us when we didn’t have malware. This one, however, takes the cake, and I have to agree with Petra on her assessment that it’s her favourite ‘non technical user with the absurd bug is right’ tale.

The author of the story, Trey Harris, has given me permission to republish it here. (Here’s the original.) I have only made slight alterations for style (e.g. using the right ellipses and dashes that weren’t available to him, and italicizing where he might have had all caps) but I have not changed any of Trey’s words. Please note the link to the FAQ at the end.

From: Trey Harris <[email protected]>
 
Here’s a problem that sounded impossible … I almost regret posting the story to a wide audience, because it makes a great tale over drinks at a conference. 🙂 The story is slightly altered in order to protect the guilty, elide over irrelevant and boring details, and generally make the whole thing more entertaining.

I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago when I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.

‘We’re having a problem sending email out of the department.’

‘What’s the problem?’ I asked.

‘We can’t send mail more than 500 miles,’ the chairman explained.

I choked on my latte. ‘Come again?’

‘We can’t send mail farther than 500 miles from here,’ he repeated. ‘A little bit more, actually. Call it 520 miles. But no farther.’

‘Um … Email really doesn’t work that way, generally,’ I said, trying to keep panic out of my voice. One doesn’t display panic when speaking to a department chairman, even of a relatively impoverished department like statistics. ‘What makes you think you can’t send mail more than 500 miles?’

‘It’s not what I think,’ the chairman replied testily. ‘You see, when we first noticed this happening, a few days ago …’

‘You waited a few days?’ I interrupted, a tremor tinging my voice. ‘And you couldn’t send email this whole time?’

‘We could send email. Just not more than …’

‘… Five hundred miles, yes,’ I finished for him, ‘I got that. But why didn’t you call earlier?’

‘Well, we hadn’t collected enough data to be sure of what was going on until just now.’ Right. This is the chairman of statistics. ‘Anyway, I asked one of the geostatisticians to look into it …’

‘Geostatisticians …’

‘… Yes, and she’s produced a map showing the radius within which we can send email to be slightly more than 500 miles. There are a number of destinations within that radius that we can’t reach, either, or reach sporadically, but we can never email farther than this radius.’

‘I see,’ I said, and put my head in my hands. ‘When did this start? A few days ago, you said, but did anything change in your systems at that time?’

‘Well, the consultant came in and patched our server and rebooted it. But I called him, and he said he didn’t touch the mail system.’

‘OK, let me take a look, and I’ll call you back,’ I said, scarcely believing that I was playing along. It wasn’t April Fool’s Day. I tried to remember if someone owed me a practical joke.

I logged into their department’s server, and sent a few test mails. This was in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, and a test mail to my own account was delivered without a hitch. Ditto for one sent to Richmond, and Atlanta, and Washington. Another to Princeton (400 miles) worked.

But then I tried to send an email to Memphis (600 miles). It failed. Boston, failed. Detroit, failed. I got out my address book and started trying to narrow this down. New York (420 miles) worked, but Providence (580 miles) failed.

I was beginning to wonder if I had lost my sanity. I tried emailing a friend who lived in North Carolina, but whose ISP was in Seattle. Thankfully, it failed. If the problem had had to do with the geography of the human recipient and not his mail server, I think I would have broken down in tears.

Having established that—unbelievably—the problem as reported was true, and repeatable, I took a look at the sendmail.cf file. It looked fairly normal. In fact, it looked familiar.

I diffed it against the sendmail.cf in my home directory. It hadn’t been altered—it was a sendmail.cf I had written. And I was fairly certain I hadn’t enabled the ‘FAIL_MAIL_OVER_500_MILES’ option. At a loss, I telnetted into the SMTP port. The server happily responded with a SunOS sendmail banner.

Wait a minute … a SunOS sendmail banner? At the time, Sun was still shipping Sendmail 5 with its operating system, even though Sendmail 8 was fairly mature. Being a good system administrator, I had standardized on Sendmail 8. And also being a good system administrator, I had written a sendmail.cf that used the nice long self-documenting option and variable names available in Sendmail 8 rather than the cryptic punctuation-mark codes that had been used in Sendmail 5.

The pieces fell into place, all at once, and I again choked on the dregs of my now-cold latte. When the consultant had ‘patched the server,’ he had apparently upgraded the version of SunOS, and in so doing downgraded Sendmail. The upgrade helpfully left the sendmail.cf alone, even though it was now the wrong version.

It so happens that Sendmail 5—at least, the version that Sun shipped, which had some tweaks—could deal with the Sendmail 8 sendmail.cf, as most of the rules had at that point remained unaltered. But the new long configuration options—those it saw as junk, and skipped. And the sendmail binary had no defaults compiled in for most of these, so, finding no suitable settings in the sendmail.cf file, they were set to zero.

One of the settings that was set to zero was the timeout to connect to the remote SMTP server. Some experimentation established that on this particular machine with its typical load, a zero timeout would abort a connect call in slightly over three milliseconds.

An odd feature of our campus network at the time was that it was 100% switched. An outgoing packet wouldn’t incur a router delay until hitting the POP and reaching a router on the far side. So time to connect to a lightly loaded remote host on a nearby network would actually largely be governed by the speed of light distance to the destination rather than by incidental router delays.

Feeling slightly giddy, I typed into my shell:
 
$ units
1311 units, 63 prefixes

 
You have: 3 millilightseconds
You want: miles

* 558.84719

/ 0.0017893979
 
‘Five hundred miles, or a little bit more.’

For those wanting to nitpick, Trey has written this FAQ with his answers.

I’m grateful for people like Trey, who actually investigate, even when what we say sounds totally implausible.

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Facebook saves private medical information despite saying it gets scrubbed

02.07.2022

As embedding from Mastodon is not working tonight, I’ll copy and paste Per Axbom’s post:

Nice bit of reporting from Swedish Radio. They built an online fake pharmacy and activated Facebook advertising tools. Thousands of simulated visits to the pharmacy were made each day, and the reporters could see all the sensitive, personal information being stored by Facebook.

Facebook sent no warnings to the pharmacy, despite saying they have tools in place to prevent this from happening.

A few weeks ago they revealed how this was happening with real pharmacies.

He links this article from Sveriges Radio.

So, how long has it been since Cambridge Analytica? We can safely conclude that this is all by design, as it has been from the start.

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July 2022 gallery

02.07.2022

Here are July 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, design, France, gallery, interests, marketing, media, politics, publishing, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


Facebook admits we’re experiencing a bug preventing us from managing Lucire’s page

08.05.2022

Last night’s hour-waster was chatting to Facebook Business Support. No, that’s unfair. I was actually assigned an incredibly good rep who took me seriously, and concluded that Facebook did indeed have a bug which means, of all the pages I can manage, the one for Lucire is alone in not allowing me, or any of its admins, to do anything. How coincidental, after losing Instagram and Twitter for periods during 2021.

Ironically, one editor can—of course someone who is supposed to have fewer privileges can do more. Such is Facebook.

A few things I learned. There’s a Meta Business Suite, which a whole bunch of pages got shoved into, whether you wanted it or not. My public page is there, for instance. It seems if you have Facebook and Instagram accounts for the same thing, you’re going to be in there.

Despite the two-factor authentication discussed in the previous post, I actually can get into the Business Suite, via another page I administer for a friend. From there I can get to Lucire’s tools.
 

 

I don’t need two-factor authentication for any of the other pages in there, including my own, and have full access.

Trisha, or Trish as she said I could call her, walked me through the steps, and asked me to get to the Suite page. Then she asked me to click ‘Create ad’, and I get this:
 

 
She asked me to check the account quality, and of course there are no issues:
 


 

She wrote: ‘Thanks for letting me know. It’s weird because I have checked all your assets here and it looks good. But, here’s what I suggest, Jack. We’ll need to report this to our Internal team so they can investigate. You might experience a bug or glitch.’

I theorized: ‘Just so you know, this page dates back to 2007 so maybe it is so old that Facebook’s servers can’t handle it?’

It wasn’t something she responded to, as she stayed on-subject, but it’s a theory worth entertaining, as it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve witnessed this.

So, for now, the one team member who can still go on Facebook for us posted this at my request:
 
All Lucire admins, all automated gadgets sending links to this page, and all Facebook-approved reposting sites, were blocked by Facebook on April 25. Therefore, till Facebook fixes this, there will be no more regular updates to this page other than a limited amount from one of our editors.
 

I doubt they’ll ever fix it, and two years ago I did say I wouldn’t really bother if Facebook went buggy and prevented us from updating again. Clearly I am bothering, as I know we have readers who use Facebook. But I have very little faith this will ever be fixed, since I have seen other reported bugs (some covered on this blog) get ignored for years, and this isn’t a fleeting bug, from what I can make out.

The lesson, as I have probably hinted at more than once, is never rely on a Big Tech service. The sites are so unwieldy that they get to a point where no one knows how to fix them. If earlier experiences are any indication, such as what I experienced at Vox, we have arrived at the end of Facebook pages.

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