Posts tagged ‘society’


Musings for today: back on Facebook, untracked ads, Autocade rankings

16.05.2022

It’d be unfair if I didn’t note that I managed to see a ‘Create post’ button today on Lucire’s Facebook page for the first time in weeks. I went crazy manually linking everything that was missed between April 25 and today.

Maybe I got it back as it would look even worse for Facebook, which still live-streams massacres as a matter of course in spite of its “promises” after March 15, 2019, if white supremacist murderers had more functions available to them on the site than honest business people.

The upshot still remains: get your supporters going to your website as much as possible, and wind down whatever presence you have on Facebook. You shouldn’t depend on it, because you never know when your page might disappear or when you lose access. Both are very real possibilities.
 
Bob Hoffman’s newsletter was gold this week. It usually is, especially as he touches on similar topics to me, but at a far higher level.

This week’s highlights: ‘Blogweasel calculations indicate that adtech-based targeting adds at least 100% to the cost of an online ad. In order for it to be more efficient it has to be more than twice as effective. I’m slightly skeptical.

An article in AppleInsider this week reported that, “Apple has revealed to advertisers that App Store search ads served in a non-targeted fashion are just as effective as those relying on targeting via first-party data.”’

Indeed, ads that might use the page content to inform their contents (contextual advertising) work even better. Why? The publisher might actually get paid for them.

I’ve seen so many ads not display at all, including on our own sites. Now, our firm doesn’t use trackers, but we know the ad networks we use do. And for whatever daft reason, there are ad networks that won’t show content if you block trackers. (Stuff is even worse: their home and contents’ pages don’t even display if you block certain cookies.)

If we went back to how things were before tracking got this bad, the ads would be less creepy, and I bet more of them would display—and that helps us publishers pay the bills. If you don’t like them, there are still ad blockers, but out of my own interests, I would prefer you didn’t.
 
I came across Drew Magarry’s 2021 article, ‘There’s No Middle Class of Cars Anymore’, in Road & Track’s online edition.

‘You’re either driving a really nice new car, a deeply unsatisfying new car, or a very old used car.’ Drew notes that there are nasty base models, and also fully loaded ones, and the former ‘treat you like absolute shit, and everyone on the road knows it.’

It seems what’s happening is that the middle—the “GLs” of this world, as opposed to the Ls and GLSs—is getting squeezed out.

It says something about our society and its inequality.

Interestingly, it’s not as bad here with base models, and that might reflect our society. But look at the US, as Drew does, or the European top 10, where cheap cars like the Dacia Sandero do exceptionally well.

This goes back many years, and I’ve seen plenty of base models in US rental fleets that would make a New Zealand entry-level car seem sumptuous.
 
Finally, the legacy pages are reasserting themselves on Autocade. When the latest version was installed on the server and the stats were reset, the top 20 included all the models that appeared on the home page, as Mediawiki recommenced its count. Search-engine spiders were visiting the site and hitting those the most.

Fast forward two months and the top 20 are exclusively older pages, as visits from regular people coming via search engines outnumber spiders.

Until last week, the most visited page since the March reset was the Renault Mégane II. It seems the Ford Taunus 80 has overtaken the Mégane II. Peugeot’s 206+ (207 in some markets) follows, then the Ford Fiesta Mk VII and Renault Mégane III.

Before the reset, the Ford Fiesta Mk VII was the top model page, followed by the Taunus 80, then the Mégane II, Opel Astra J, and Nissan Sunny (B14).

Probably no one cares, but as it’s my blog, here’s the old, just before the switchover:
 

 
And here’s where we are as of tonight:
 

 
You can see the ranking for yourself, as the stats are public, here.

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Where democratizing technology got the better of us

13.02.2022

From the start, I’ve been a supporter of the democratization of design. Everyone has the right to access it, because fundamentally good design is something that makes the world a better place. A lot of websites are founded on this, such as Shopify, which has enough flexibility to give most of the stores we visit a unique look. Wordpress’s templates are generally good lookers that take into account the latest trends. There’s an entire industry out there making templates and skins. And, it has to be said, most social media have reasonably good looking interfaces, so people can feel a sense of pride after they’ve posted that they’ve shared text or a photo that has been presented well.

It’s quite perplexing when you confront some other facts. People will judge the credibility of a website by how good it looks (among other criteria). People can also become addicted to social media, and they’re designed to be addictive. And as design democratizes, it’s only natural that the less educated (and I don’t necessarily mean in a formal sense), those who are not trained to discern fact from fiction, will have access to the same technology and present their work as capably and as attractively as anyone else.

It would be wrong to deny this, just as it would be wrong to deny access to technology or good design because we disagreed with someone’s political views or their beliefs, even ones we might find distasteful. The key must be to bring social awareness and education up to a point that there’s no appeal to engage in behaviour that’s harmful to society at large. By all means, be individual, and question. We should have ways in which this can be done meaningfully—one might argue this is done in the corridors of power, as anyone in a good, functioning democracy can stand for office. But in countries with low trust in institutions, or those infected by forces that want to send nations into corporatist fascism, there has to be something that balances the wild west of the online world, one that has marched so far one way without the structures to support it. We have, in effect, let the technology get the better of us. There is no agreed forum online where tempers can be abated, and because we have encouraged such individualist expression, it is doubtful whether some egos can take it. We have fooled ourselves into thinking our own selfies on social media have the same value as a photo taken by the press for a publication. As such, fewer can lead, because no one wants to play second fiddle.

These are confusing times, though the key must be education. It is often the answer. Keeping education up with the technology so our young people can see and understand the forces at play. Give them a sense of which corporations are wielding too much influence. Teach them how to discern a legitimate story from a fictionalized one. Teach them how the economy really works—not just the theory but how the theory has been hijacked.

This can’t wait till university: it has to be taught as early as possible. If today’s kids are bringing their devices to school, then it’s never too early to make them aware of how some online content is questionable. Tell them just why social media are addictive and why they can’t open accounts on the big sites till they’re 13. In fact, tell them how the social media companies’ bosses actually don’t let their own kids use the services, because deep down they know they’re bad for them.

If they know from a young age why some things are harmful—in the same way we were told that cigarettes were, or to say no to drugs—then hopefully they can steer clear of calls on social networks funded by parties who seek to divide us for their own gain.
 
There’ll be a delay in having a gallery on this blog this month as a dear friend is helping me migrate our sites off an old AWS instance. He doesn’t wish to be named. But I am deeply thankful to him.

The data have already been shifted off this server. At this rate I will have to repost this on the new box once the domain is set up. Reposting a gallery might just be a bit tricky, so there mightn’t be one for February 2022, depending on when my friend can get to this domain.

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The post-Panel podcast

16.11.2021

Taking some of the themes today on RNZ’s The Panel with Wallace Chapman (pre-Panel here, part one of the show here, and part two here), I offer a bit more commentary. Today’s topics: the COVID-19 mandate for schools; quitting drinking; Finland planning to let people see others’ salaries; the level of spending above New Zealand Superannuation; Countdown’s toy gifts; and the multi-modal commuter.

   Big thanks to Amelia, Wallace and Julia today for a very enjoyable hour and 15 minutes!
   Please note that this podcast is not affiliated with Radio New Zealand—this has been done of my own volition and from my own inspiration.

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Posted in business, culture, Hong Kong, New Zealand, politics, technology, UK, Wellington | No Comments »


August 2021 gallery

11.08.2021

Here are August 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
Volkswagen Gol G4—more at Autocade.
   The fake friends of social media being the junk food equivalent of real friendships, from this post by Umair Haque.
   Stay at home, wear a mask—geek humour shared from Twitter.
   Thaikila swimwear—seems to have an interesting history.
   More on the Fiat 124 Sport Spider here at Autocade.
   Jerry Inzerillo, first male on the cover of an issue of Lucire anywhere in the world, in this case the August 2021 issue of Lucire KSA. The story can be found here on our website.

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Facebook goes even more pro-bot with change in group policy

02.06.2021

Why are there antitrust or monopoly laws? Why is the usual interpretation of the Chicago School really, really bad for the United States? Umair Haque’s latest post spells it out pretty well, in my opinion.
   Just an idea: let’s not import any of their dangerous ideas into our society, or allow their ever-growing giants to get more of a foothold in our country (and not pay tax here either). Because we have a tendency to kiss their arses sometimes. Just ask Kim Dotcom. Things like their legal precedents are still persuasive here, and with how different their priorities are, we need to place even less weight on them. Let’s not forget the rules we play by here, and that means whomever enters this market has to play by the same.


Speaking of daft decisions on the other side of the Pacific by dishonest parties who have got too big due to what amounts to lawlessness, Facebook has removed the requirement for users to answer questions when they join a public group. These questions were our way of safeguarding the one public group I still look after there, and over 99 per cent of users (no exaggeration; if anything, an underestimate) who attempted to join were bots. I define bots as including any legitimate account running bot software, which I thought was against Facebook’s T&Cs, but not in practice. I still report a lot of them, though unlike 2014 I won’t do them all. I just can’t report thousands that I might see on a single visit.
   I can imagine why Facebook has done this. This way Facebook hides the number of bots from group moderators (as if we hadn’t known of their problems for the good part of a decade), and protects the bots as they continue their activity across the platform. This will encourage even more bots, and as I identified in an earlier post, I see more bots than humans these days on there (and I’m not even a regular user).
   I knew they were liars and shysters so I imagine this is in keeping with that. Cover up just how badly compromised the platform is by bots.
   I haven’t seen much on this change in Facebook group policy, but as changes go, this has to be the most anti-human, pro-bot move they have made in 17 years. No one ever demanded more rights for bots, but here’s Facebook giving it to them.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


In the 1980s, I thought society would evolve to become more efficient and smarter

15.02.2020

Growing up in a relatively wealthy country in the 1980s, after getting through most of the 1970s, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world would just keep getting better and things would make more sense as humans evolved.
   From a teenager’s perspective: home computers, with a modulator–demodulator (modem), could bring you information instantaneously and from around the world. As an immigrant kid, that excited me: contact with people “back home” and from other places, making communication quicker. You could hear from others, and you could help others who needed you. And if you didn’t have a computer that could connect to a bulletin board, there was Teletext, which gave you regularly updated information through your TV set.
   Cars were getting more aerodynamic, which meant they would use less fuel, and that was understood universally to be a good thing. MPVs were very practical vehicles that had small footprints yet fitted a lot of people, or stuff, inside. Here in New Zealand, natural gas-powered dual-fuel cars were mainstream, and that meant we weren’t reliant on overseas oil. They also didn’t pollute anywhere near what petrol did—they burned cleanly.
   And since saving energy was understood to be a good thing, who knew? Before long solar power would be the norm for new homes and we’d be putting electricity back into the grid.


Alex Snyder/Wayne National Forest/Creative Commons

   I also heard about recycling for the first time as a teen, and that seemed like a good thing—all that old paper and plastic could have a second life.
   People were interested in being more efficient because no one wanted a repeat of the oil shocks of the 1970s. Nor did we want the government imposing carless days on us again.
   That same teenager would have thought that by the dawn of the 21st century—if the US and Soviet Union behaved—we’d have evolved to have recognized that we had the tools to make things better.
   When the internet came to our house in the 1990s, I saw it as a direct evolution of the 1980s’ optimism. It made sense.
   So through that lens, a lot of what the world looks like today doesn’t make sense.
   We have connected computers, milliards which are handheld, yet some of us are addicted to them and others use them to express outrage, rather than delight in having any contact at all with people thousands of miles away.
   SUVs outsell regular cars in some size segments. They are less aerodynamic, use more fuel, and are less efficient. We have American companies—Ford in the US and Holden here—saying that they’ll stop selling cars in most segments in favour of utility trucks, crossovers and SUVs. Petrol is expensive, and I complain about it, but I guess no one else thinks it’s expensive. Dual-fuel cars are a thing of the past here, for the most part, yet lots of people marvel at hybrids, conveniently forgetting we were decades ahead in the 1980s.
   And solar power isn’t the norm.
   We still, happily, recycle—but not everything we collect winds up being recycled. We have an awareness, but if we kept on progressing as I expected us to when I was Greta Thunberg’s age, then we wouldn’t have Greta Thunberg reminding us that we haven’t.
   I wonder if others in middle age realize that humans have the potential to go forward, and in many respects we do—but collectively there are enough of us who go backward and prevent any real advance in society.
   I like to have the same optimism as teenage me about the future. In terms of myself, many things bring me happiness, particularly in my personal and work lives. Yet in terms of society, I wonder if I can be as optimistic. I know deep down that we are interested in efficiency and treating our planet better (or we say we are), so then who are the ones holding us back, and what are we doing that stops us moving forward? Is it personal greed, hoping others will pick up the slack? Many of us choose products and services from companies that align with our views about what we want—yet are we doing the same when it comes to politicians?

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Victor Billot on the 2019 UK General Election

22.12.2019

I often find myself in accord with my friend Victor Billot. His piece on the UK General Election can be found here. And yes, Britain, this is how many of us looking in see it—like Victor I have dual nationality (indeed, my British passport is my only current one, having been a little busy to get the Kiwi one renewed).
   Highlights include (and this is from a man who is no fan of the EU):

When reporters with their TV cameras went out to the streets to ask the people about their concerns, their motives, their aspirations, they recorded a dogs dinner of reverse logic and outright gibberish. BoJo had screaming rows with his girlfriend, made up policy on the go and hid in a commercial fridge. Corbyn however was seen as the weirdo. “I don’t like his mannerisms,” stated one Tory convert as the hapless Labour leader made another stump speech about saving the NHS. “Britain’s most dangerous man” shrieked a tabloid headline.
   Corbyn made a honest mistake in thinking that people may have been concerned about waiting lists at hospitals. It turned out that voters are happy about queues as long as they don’t have any foreigners in them, or doctors with ‘foreign’ looks at the end of them.


The Murdoch Press machine: predictably, business as usual.

and:

A curious aspect of the election is how the behaviour of the leaders seems to be measured by a new matrix of values. The more boorish, and arrogant, the better, in a kind of pale reflection of the troglodyte Trump in the midnight dim of his tweet bunker. BoJo, a blustering, buffoonish figure with a colourful personal life and the cocksure confidence of an Old Etonian, can be contrasted to the measured and entirely decent Corbyn with his Tube pass and allotment. Perhaps this is an inevitable side effect of the growing rage and alienation that bubbles under the surface of society, providing the gravitational pull towards the ‘strong man’ who will ‘make our nation great (again)’ in a world of other people who aren’t like us.

   I shan’t spoil the last paragraph but it all builds up to that nicely.

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Modern masculinity doesn’t involve reinventing the wheel

29.11.2019

When Douglas Bader recorded in his log book on the aeroplane accident that cost him his legs, he wrote, ‘Bad show’.
   It was men like Bader, Audie Murphy, Claire Lee Chennault and Douglas MacArthur that my father spoke of as heroes from his childhood.
   There were plenty more from our own culture but I’m using these ones given my largely occidental audience, and Dad really did cite them as well.
   None of these men, by the accounts I’ve read, were braggarts. Most were indeed very humble about their contributions to their countries.
   But even my late pacifist veteran grandfather (he served, but desperately hated war) would consider these men heroes, as my father did.
   I may have blogged at other times about my first years in New Zealand, but I won’t go into depth about it as it would be too much of a digression from the point I want to make.
   Perhaps it’s growing up in an immigrant household that what your father tells you a real man should be trumps what you witness at school from your classmates about what they think masculinity is.
   And you see your own father display the qualities of what he considered to be gentlemanly. Children are good mimics.
   A gentleman, he would say, has the ability to refrain. A lesser man might act out, or strike someone, but that is not a civilized man. Society runs best when people are civilized.
   Those ideas of what we call toxic masculinity today were never displayed in my household and are utterly foreign to me—and as an immigrant, ‘foreign’ has two meanings in that sentence. I may be the “foreigner” as far as others (such as certain Australian-owned newspapers) are concerned, even after living here for 43 years, but from your own perspective, you can more easily distance yourself from any undesirable behaviour, saying, ‘That’s not who I am.’
   In the early years at my first high school, I may have had some cause to doubt the fatherly advice because what I witnessed was an extreme and intellectually stunted form of hero worship that might was right. That the brute force of the rugby player was true masculinity and if you didn’t have it, then you were a ‘poofter’ or a ‘faggot’. Brag, brag, brag, be it about sports or sexual encounters.
   This, as any real rugby player knows, and I have met men who have represented our national side, is a wholly inaccurate perception of who they are.
   They will tell you that true men display values of camaraderie, teamwork, quiet achievement, tolerance and decency. No All Black I know talks himself up as anything other than one of the boys who happened to be lucky enough to be chosen.
   Indeed, some of the bigger blokes who wound up in the school rugby teams, especially the Polynesian and Māori lads, were generally gentle and protective fellows with strong family values.
   Yet that misplaced perception held by immature high school boys, I fear, informs many young men of how they are to conduct themselves in adult life.
   They think that being jerks toward women is the norm. ‘Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen,’ is the familiar refrain.
   I’ve had comments over the years of, ‘Why didn’t you make a move on me?’ when I either could not read the signs or felt that forceful “masculine” behaviour was not particularly respectful. As a middle-aged man I wonder if the patriarchy, “just the way things are”, has warped expectations for heterosexual men and women. (I can’t obviously speak for our LGBTQI community.)
   However, what I do know is sending intimate pictures of yourself via a dating app or messaging service is disgusting (and, incidentally, has not worked for any man in the history of the planet), and that constant desperation is particularly unappealing.
   I remember a female friend showing me the sorts of messages she received from potential suitors on a dating website.
   ‘Holy crap,’ I said. ‘This is the calibre of men out there?’
   And when I talk to my partner today, she tells me that that was par for the course.
   But I have a quality relationship because I did listen to my father and behaved in a way that I thought he would approve of. Whatever he taught me wound up being hard-wired in me and I never aped the boys in my first high school. He was right after all, even if it took longer for me to be in a long-term relationship.
   No, I don’t have a massive list of “conquests” because it honestly isn’t about quantity and life is too short for empty encounters. And while my behaviour at uni age, and shortly after, wasn’t always exemplary, as I tried to figure out the norms, I’ve also come through this knowing that I didn’t have to lie to any woman, and not a single woman out there will be able to say I did anything physical without her consent.
   While I obviously told my other half of my career when we met (‘So what do you do?’), I never mentioned my mayoral bids till our fourth date, a month in to our courtship (she lived out of the country when I ran), and I admitted I didn’t always have an easy time in business during a period of my life, including the recession. I am human, after all. And if one can’t accept me for the bad as well as the good, then is the relationship founded on reality? Or simply fantasy?
   We’ve recently had a murder trial here in New Zealand with the accused a young man who is described as a serial liar, and accounts from women he had met were tragic: he would lie about his occupation, bigging himself and his family up, or pretend he had terminal cancer. Enough has been written on this creep.
   I had the misfortune to meet another young man who has since been exposed by the Fairfax Press as a con man, who also told constant lies about his life, thinking that talk of personal wealth would impress me and a co-director of one business we have.
   Mercifully, the latter case didn’t wind up with anyone physically hurt, and I know plenty of young people who would never behave like this. But it got me wondering whether the core of these cases tells us something about how certain young men feel inadequate, because of a misplaced hero worship of a warped form of masculinity that leaves them as outsiders.
   I’m by no means excusing the murderer because he frankly committed a heinous crime, in a premeditated fashion. I remain appalled at the victim-shaming that I saw reported as though the deceased, the one person who couldn’t answer, were on trial. I’m also not excusing the failed con-man who any viewer of Hustle would be able to spot a mile away: his actions, too, were his own. But I am pointing at society and how we men have shaped expectations.
   For I look at some male behaviour and they are entirely at odds with what a man should be.
   While examples like Douglas Bader might not resonate with young men today, because his example is too far back in history for them (the biopic is in black and white), surely we can find ones of humble men who accomplish great deeds and don’t have to go on social media to talk themselves up.
   Just tonight I was at a dinner for Merrill Fernando, the 89-year-old founder of Dilmah Tea, who was earlier today conferred an honorary doctorate by Massey University.
   When I asked if he was now Dr Fernando, he replied that he would still be Merrill Fernando, and that all the honours he had received—and they are plentiful—would never change who he was. His humility and his faith continue to inspire me.
   This is the mark of a decent and admirable man.
   And surely we can find examples where men aren’t being disrespectful to women and show us that that is the norm.
   Surely we don’t need to berate anyone who doesn’t fit the trogoldyte mould and use homophobic slurs against them.
   Because, chaps, I don’t believe what defines a man, a real man, a fair dinkum bloke, has actually changed, at its core, from what my Dad told me.
   There is room for the jocks, the geeks, the musos, the artists, the romantics, the extroverts and introverts, because we all have our strengths.
   One female friend of mine tells me that it’s safer for her to presume all men are jerks as her default position till proved otherwise, and I know fully why she would take that position. On social media she points to the ‘bros’, men who’ll gang up on women because they don’t like them for calling it as it is, or having a different viewpoint. In real life she has had unwanted attention, even after she tells them she’s queer.
   These men, the bros, the braggarts, the dick-pic senders, the liars, the bullies, the slanderers, are actually trying to change the definition of what a real man is—and that, to me, seems to be non-masculine, insecure and inadequate. We can do better—and history shows that we had done once.

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Fighting intolerance is the key to a tolerant society

01.04.2019

Hat tip to Mauricio Freitas. Source: Pictoline.

   Quite simple, isn’t it? I sense my parents’ generation (who were kids during WWII) would have understood this, but I worry about my generation and the ones following.

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It takes 10 years (and sometimes 50) for the establishment to wake up

28.11.2018


Given the topic of this post, some of you will know exactly why this still, from the 1978 Steve McQueen movie An Enemy of the People, is relevant. If you don’t know, head here.

Admittedly, I was getting far more hits on this blog when I was exposing Facebook and Google for their misdeeds. Of course I have less to report given I use neither to any degree: Facebook for helping clients and messaging the odd person who’s still on it (but not via Messenger on a cellphone), and Google as a last resort. I shall have to leave all this to mainstream journalists since, after a decade on this blog, it’s all finally piqued their interest.
   It also seems that my idea about pedestrianizing central Wellington, which appeared in my 2010 mayoral campaign manifesto (which I published in 2009) has finally reached the minds of our elected mayors. Auckland has a plan to do this that’s hit the mainstream media. I notice that this idea that I floated—along with how we could do it in stages, giving time to study traffic data—never made it into The Dominion Post and its sister tabloid The Wellingtonian back in 2009–10. Either they were too biased to run an idea from a candidate they “predicted” would get a sixth of the vote one actually got, or that foreign-owned newspapers suppress good ideas till the establishment catches up and finds some way to capitalize on it. Remember when their only coverage about the internet was negative, on scammers and credit card fraud? Even the ’net took years to be considered a relevant subject—no wonder old media are no longer influential, being long out of touch with the public by decades.
   To be frank, my idea wasn’t even that original.
   If you are on to something, it can take a long time for conventional minds to come round.

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