Posts tagged ‘website’


Check your Google Feedburner feeds: are they serving the correct sites?

09.01.2014

A month or so ago, our Feedburner stats for Lucire’s RSS feed delivery tanked. I put it down to the usual “Google being useless”, because we would have expected to see the opposite. The take-up of Feedburner feeds has usually slowly grown since we started this one in 2007, without any promotion on our end.
   I clicked through the Feedburner link on the site this morning to discover this:

That’s not our site. Maybe on seeing the wrong content, we lost a bunch of subscribers?
   Now, I did change the ID for the feed, but that was last week, not December 11–12. Maybe I’m naïve, but I don’t expect Google to allow the hijacking of a feed ID that rapidly, since Google forbids, for example, people taking up old Blogger names. Unless they have inconsistent policies between their properties? Or maybe Feedburner is broken and dyingthe complaints have been coming for a long time.
   Now’s a good time to check your feeds anyway, if you use Google’s Feedburner service, to make sure that they are still serving the correct sites.
   The changes did not affect those who were getting Feedburner updates via their email (since I’m on that mailing list myself).
   Since I can’t trust Google with anything, we’ve changed our RSS feed to the one natively supported by Wordpress.

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Posted in internet, publishing | 3 Comments »


Facebook and Instagram have not only jumped the shark, but Richie Cunningham has left home

27.11.2013

Social networking is bound to change in 2014 as some of the main services out there have jumped the shark.
   You may say they jumped them ages ago, but the lack of innovation inside Facebook and its subsidiaries is beginning to hurt them.
   After having campaigned for six months for the Wellington mayoralty, I hadn’t visited Lucire’s Facebook page quite as much. I was disappointed to see that Facebook shared our non-image posts far more than any with an image, the opposite to what we had seen on my campaign page.
   Since it began charging for promoted posts, Facebook intentionally broke its pages: it ensured that post sharing would go down around 90 per cent. Any post with a link would be shared even less now, because that would tend to take you off-site. (On this note, Facebook harms itself as it limits even internal links.)
   For a company, then, Facebook pages are proving, as they once were in the late 2000s, just something you do to keep up a presence but they add very little to the corporate social dialogue, nor do they build a brand particularly well.
   The interface is dreary now, especially compared with Google Plus’s—and that’s coming from someone who hates Google for all its regular privacy breaches, buggy bots and questionable ethics.
   You’d never lose money betting on Facebook’s demise, but the question has always been when.
   I don’t think it’s as far away as we think. Each morning, I delete between three and eight fake accounts that try to join one of my groups. Vox, which died in 2010, was overrun with fake accounts toward the end, and its parent company did nothing about them. I tend to find the same fakes resurface from time to time. Sites do fall when the fakes get in, and if Facebook doesn’t get on top of these now, then it will suffer badly.
   Secondly, there’s precious little innovation happening. Remember the hoop-la over Timeline? It was a clever way of presenting information, and others—even Google Plus—followed. (Myspace, meanwhile, went for something different again, and, from a design point of view, I love it.) Facebook has abandoned that now in favour of what really is a bigger wall, and maybe that’s what people wanted, but without innovation, it has become a chore. It’s a place where I pick up the odd message, but there’s a feeling that it’s a last-decade sort of place.
   Instagram, meanwhile, is doing no better. At its peak, your friends’ activity page might show the last couple of hours. For me, it now shows the last seven hours. The heavy Instagrammers—my friend Lena, an early adopter with thousands of followers—just aren’t there any more. They may have suffered from Instagram fatigue.
   Instagram, too, suffered from fakes, though since I often have my account privacy turned on, I haven’t seen as many lately. Instaspam, as it became known regularly through 2012–13, harmed things, and while the addition of video is interesting, it hasn’t managed to reverse the decline of that social network.
   Vkontakte, I might add, has also been weighed down by fakes, though I can no longer sign in to it due to hacking.
   I won’t be so bold as to say social is dead, but I wouldn’t be surprised to forecast consolidation and old brand loyalties kicking back in, because the big social network sites have not only jumped the shark, but Richie has left for Alaska and cousin Roger is living with the Cunninghams.
   The next social network might, just might, pay for our content and time, even if it’s in micropayments, as I see the profit motive being one way a newbie can break the strangehold of the big players. Or they might do something even more radical.
   But, as we have seen in the past, if Altavista can be unseated as the biggest website in the world—a prospect that was unfathomable in 1997—then so can a website with member numbers allegedly in the thousand millions.

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What Is a Brand? Well, there is one we’ve relaunched …

05.03.2013

My good friend and colleague Stanley Moss has written a new book, What Is a Brand?, which provokes some thought on the question in the title.
   Those who know Stanley and have followed his work know that each year, he issues a Brand Letter, which closes with various definitions of branding.
   If there’s one thing brand experts agree on, it’s the fact that no two brand experts will ever agree on the definition of a brand. What Is a Brand? turns this into its primary advantage, getting definitions from some of the top people in the profession, and somehow I managed to slip in there.
   Ian Ryder, Nicholas Ind, the late Colin Morley, Thomas Gad, Ava Hakim, Simon Paterson, Pierre d’Huy, Malcolm Allan, Patrick Harris, Tony Quinlan, Manas Fuloria, Steven Considine, Sascha Lötscher, George Rush, João Freire, Virginia James, Filippo Dellosso, the great Fritz Gottschalk, and others all contribute definitions, on which readers can ruminate.
   As Stanley notes in his introduction:

The aim of this book is to render brand thinking more accessible, to share with you the ideas of theorists and practitioners who bear witness to the evolution of policy and governance, especially in light of society’s drift towards overconsumption and environmental damage.

   It is now available as an e-book and as a paperback via Amazon.com, priced at US$5 and US$10 respectively.

Keep calm and wear a tiara: I’m now also general counsel for Miss Universe New Zealand, on top of everything else. The news announcement went out yesterday—the Lucire article is here, while we have a new website at nextmissnz.com. The highlight is reducing the entry fee from NZ$3,500 to NZ$10 (plus a workshop, if selected, at NZ$199). We’ve had some great feedback over the website, which I am thrilled about, since I designed it and made sure all the requirements of the licence agreement were complied with.
   The year’s going to be a very exciting one with the competition, which will be far more transparent than it ever has been, with the possibility of its return to network television after a two-decade absence. We’re bringing integrity back into the process. From my point of view, the idea is one of business transformation, to take something that has languished and turn it into something that’s exciting, relevant, and 21st-century.
   With this development, I’m relieved I never published a word on the scandal last year and never went to the media over it (even if others did—often to their detriment). It makes it a lot easier to move forward with the future if you don’t keep dwelling on the past—and with the great programme we have, why should we look back?
   I’m looking forward to bringing you more with national director Evana Patterson and executive producer Nigel Godfrey. We’ve created something dynamic that the New Zealand public, and the Miss Universe family, can all get behind. Keep an eye on nextmissnz.com where we’ll post more announcements—and if you think the T-shirts (right) are as cheeky as I do, then they are available for sale online, too.

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Posted in branding, business, marketing, media, New Zealand, publishing, USA | 1 Comment »


Tinkering time

19.02.2013

I’m hoping no one has noticed that we are shifting servers, because seamlessness is the sure sign that it’s all been done properly without any effect on our clients, their clients, and our audiences.
   Thanks to Nigel Dunn at Xplosiv.ly—Nigel and I have worked together both at this firm and, now, between our firms—all our websites are at a new home, running Nginx.
   The tricky ones were Lucire and Autocade, the latter needing a bit of surgery since I hadn’t bothered to update Mediawiki properly since I uploaded the software in 2008. Instead, over the years, I’ve patched it to ensure that viruses and spammers didn’t get in there.
   The wise thing to do is to make sure everything is running the latest versions, so Autocade was upgraded to the newest Mediawiki. As the original skin wasn’t compatible (nor was one of the extensions), the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed some minor changes to its look.
   Over the next week, you’ll see this website change. I’ve been wanting to tinker with my personal site since last year, when I realized the look was six years old. Two thousand and six in the internet world is, in human evolution, roughly when we started to walk upright.
   It’s not finished yet—far from it—but I’m still playing with the theme here on WordPress. Right now, the larger type should be clearer to read, and if there are no issues, I’ll roll this look out to the rest of the site, which runs static HTML pages.
   I will say it was easier this time than it was in 2006, so I must have learned a thing or two in that time.
   Your thoughts are welcome, as always.

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Posted in design, internet, technology | 1 Comment »


A fresher Lucire (the web edition) for 2013

05.01.2013

When Lilith-Fynn Herrmann, Tania Naidu, Julia Chu, Tanya Sooksombatisatian and I redesigned Lucire in 2012, we went for a very clean look, taking a leaf from Miguel Kirjon’s work at Twinpalms Lucire in Thailand. I’m really proud of the results, and it makes you happy to work on the magazine—and just pick up the finished article and gaze at it.
   But the website—where it all began 15 years ago—was looking a bit dreary. After getting Autocade to 2,000 models, and updating various listings to reflect the 2013 model year, it was time we turned our attention to Lucire.
   Like all of these things, the mood has to hit you right, and we needed a quiet news day—of which there are plenty at this time of the year. We knew where things were with the web: because of improved screen resolutions, type had to be larger. There may be—and this is something we don’t have any research on yet—people who are familiar with on-screen reading that some of the rules about line length might apply less. And some of the successful publications have multiple sharing—in fact, there are so many links to like or Tweet or pin something on each page that you can be left wondering just which one you press.
   The last big overhaul of the Lucire look online was in 2009, and the updates have been relatively minor since then. But it was looking messy. We had to add icons for new things that were creeping up. One Facebook “like” button wasn’t enough: what about people who wanted to become Facebook fans? Surely we should capture them? Maybe we should put up a Pinterest link? That went up during 2012. We had 160-pixel-wide ads for years—so we kept them. The result was tolerable, and it served us reasonably well, but did people still browse Lucire for fun? Or was it just a site where you got the information you needed and left again? Bounce rates suggested the latter.
   While some of these things were noted subconsciously, we didn’t have a firm brief initially. We simply decided to do one page with a new look, to see how it would go. We had the print editions in mind. We knew we wanted clean—but we still had to eat, so advertising still had to take up some of the page. We also knew that the lead image should be 640 pixels wide, and that that would have to be reflected on the news pages.
   I’m glad to say we got lucky. The first page done—a redesign of Sarah MacKenzie’s BMW X1 first drive, which originally went up with the old look on January 1—worked. It had all the features we wanted, even if it meant abandoning some things we had had for a long time, such as the skyscraper ads. The callouts could go. In fact, we could remove the central column altogether. And the ‘Related articles’ could be moved to the bottom, where they used to be. And we stuck up plenty of sharing tools, even if good design says they introduce clutter, so we could capture users at the start and the end of an article—but we used different templates for each one. All the social networking pages we had could go to the top of the page in a row with ‘Follow us’.
   The trick was then to repeat the look on other pages.
   The ‘Volante’ index page is the only one so far to be brought into line with the new template, just to try some different layouts. I don’t think it’s quite there yet, though fashion ed. Sopheak Seng believes it’s clean enough. Practically, it is where it should be, but I want some visual drama in there. We’ll see—I think Sopheak might be right given the function of the index page, and it is heaps cleaner than how it used to look.
   The home page, of course, is the biggie, and I’m very proud to note that there’s been some great DIY there. While the slider and Tweets appear courtesy of programming that its authors have distributed freely, it’s a nice feeling to be able to say that they are on there because of in-house work, using Jquery (which we last used internally at JY&A Consulting’s website), and not a convenient WordPress plug-in. Time will tell whether it will prove to be more practical to manage but I think it already is.
   I’ve summarized in Lucire some of the features, but there were just sensible things like getting rid of the QR code (what’s it doing on the website, anyway?), the Digg link (yes, really), the Nokia Ovi link (not far from now, kids will be asking what Nokia was). We have removed three of the six news headlines and grouped the remaining ones in a more prominent fashion—which might mean people will need to scroll down to see them, so I can foresee them being moved up somehow. But, overall, the effect is, as Sopheak notes, so much closer to the print title.
   The slider has solved some problems with Google News picking up the wrong headline, too. I realize the big omission is not doing a proper mobile-optimized version but we need to do a bit more learning internally to deliver that properly. The news pages, which are on WordPress, have the default Jetpack skin. We have made some concessions to mobile devices and Sopheak tells me it is more browseable on his Samsung.
   And today, the look went on to all the news pages.
   I mentioned to him today that it was very 2002–3. That period, too, saw Lucire get a redesign, standardizing things, making the pages cleaner, and in line with a print style (although at that point, the print edition had not been launched—though when it did, we adapted some of the look from the site). That look lasted us into 2006, perhaps longer than it should have been, given that we had some internal issues in that period.
   It’s only natural that some clutter will be reintroduced as the years wear on—in Facebook’s case, it only takes a few months—but, for now, we’re hoping that bounce rate goes down, that the team, as a whole, feel far prouder of the work that appears online where it’s seen by more people, and that we have future-proofed a little.
   So what were the lessons? (a) You need to keep on top of developments, and, even if you’re not the richest company in the world, you need to have someone thinking about how you look to the public. If smaller companies can manage teams more effectively, then they need to ensure there’s strong loyalty—and that the feedback about things like the website are collated, either online or kept with one team member who champions the change. When a redesign happens, you’ll need to solve a lot of problems in one go. (b) There is no substitute for doing—and even getting it wrong on occasion. What we’ve done is to phase things in—just so we can learn from any bugs. (c) And after the job is done, take some time to enjoy it.
   There’s probably no surprise when I say that this site is next. I know, it has links to different blog readers. It looks very mid-2000s. Which is no surprise, considering when it was designed …

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Thinking to the future as Lucire turns 15

21.10.2012

I’ve written so many editorials about Lucire’s history for our various anniversaries that now we’ve turned 15, I feel like I’d just be going over old ground. Again. I’d do it maybe for the 20th or 21st, but the story has been told online and in print many times.
   But 15 is a bit more of an occasion than, say, the ninth—so it deserves some recognition. The biggie this week is not so much that we have turned 15, but that we have officially announced a print-on-demand edition to complement our others in print and online, one that sees Lucire printed off as it’s ordered. It combines what we know—the digital world—with an analogue medium that everyone understands. It also gets around that sad reality that for every 1,000 copies printed, 500 usually wind up getting returned due to being unsold and pulped. In publishing, two-thirds sold qualifies as having “sold out”. And that’s not really that great for the first fashion magazine that the United Nations Environment Programme calls an industry partner.
   We’re also celebrating the Ipad and Android editions, which actually launched in August but we didn’t get an announcement out till September. We also débuted a PDF download via Scopalto in France, and there’s one more edition that we’ll announce before the year is out.
   So rather than look back—which is what we found ourselves doing at the 10th anniversary, at a time when the recession was about to bite and there was just an inkling of a fear that our best days were behind us—we’re now looking forward with some relish and wondering just how these new editions will play out.
   If I were to take a look back to 1997, it would be to remark that being the first (at least for New Zealand) does not necessarily translate to being the most profitable. You carve out a niche that no one else had done before, prove a point, and someone else makes it work a bit better. So is the lesson in commerce.
   It used to bug me but no more; we have a good record of doing things in a pioneering fashion, and when you look at Lucire, it’s one of the very few fashion titles from the original dot-com era that’s still being published today, and in more forms than we had imagined. We were always happy to put value labels right next to pricier ones in coverage or in editorials, because that is how real people dress, and because we based our coverage on merit rather than advertising budgets. We looked at the advertising market at a global, rather than regional, level, something which we see some agencies taking advantage of as greater convergence happens in that market.
   I like to think that some day, all magazines will be printed as we’re doing them, but from more bases around the world, to alleviate the burden on our resources. They’ll be, as I predicted many years back, mini, softcover coffee-table books, publications to covet, and be less temporary. (I also said newspapers will become more like news magazines, but I live in a city where dailies are still printed as broadsheets, which reminds me that predictions can often take a lot longer to be realized.) Features will dominate ahead of short-term, flash-in-the-pan news, a path which the 28th New Zealand-produced Lucire issue takes, and something foreshadowed by Twinpalms Lucire in Thailand five years ago.
   We’re also in a very enviable position with a cohesive team. You could say it’s taken us 15 years to find them. At 1 p.m. local time on October 20—15 years and one hour after we launched—our London team met to toast our 15th anniversary, while fashion editor Sopheak Seng, Louise Hatton, Michael Beel and Natalie Fisher worked on a photo shoot today in New Zealand for issue 29. Around the world, our team continues to deliver regular content, and I hope they’ll forgive me for not naming everyone as I fear accidental omissions. Just as I felt a little uncertain but excited about where things would lead with Lucire on October 21, 1997–the 20th in the US—I have a similar feeling today. And that’s a good thing, because if we’ve managed to get on the radars of millions in those last 15 years, I’m hopeful of the changes we can effect in the next 15.


Above: Lucire copies get finished at Vertia Print in Lower Hutt.

Also published in Lucire.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, publishing, social responsibility, TV, UK, Wellington | No Comments »


Less Tumblring, less Facebooking—are email and blogging back?

03.01.2012

I’ve been noticing my Tumblr usage drop, and judging by the count here, my updates to this blog have fallen to a bit of a low this year. But, as Tumblr drops, this blog seems to be rising. I imagine 2012 will bring with it another change in how we all share our thoughts online.
   I can’t say for sure why we change from one medium to another. Maybe it’s boredom, maybe it’s due to the things we want to share, maybe the technology has provided us something new. Maybe it’s the need to get back to business after a bit of a lull during the recession: our 2011 billings were up over a relatively quiet 2010, and success breeds success.
   Novelty was the case with Facebook Timeline when I switched over to it in September, but with all its changes recently—such as the nearly endless scrolling we have to do before we get to the month’s summary—the cleverness has worn off.
   To me, what was ingenious was seeing how Timeline chose its selection for the month. I didn’t need to scroll back eight days to see what I wrote just after Christmas. But, someone at Facebook decided we needed that function—as well as a second friends’ box that duplicates the first, but with people’s names next to their photos. Facebook: they are my friends. I know their names.
   In other words, it’s turned into the old Facebook wall, but an untidy version of it. No wonder some people hate Timeline (to the point of Facebook shutting down its own Timeline fan page?): they never got to see the ingenuity of it.
   I made this analogy before, but it’s like the first Oldsmobile Toronado: a pure design in its first year, getting more ornamented with each model year, so much so that the purity is lost. So why even bother changing?
   And, of course, there was Facebook’s predictable failure to recognize any time zone outside the US for the fourth time. In fact, as with October 1 and November 1, Facebook once again thought that its entire 800 million-strong user base resides in California. With Timeline now open to the general public, you would think that they would have remedied this very old bug, but, remember, 11 months ago you couldn’t even restrict your friend search to Paris, France. Paris, Texas, Paris, Arkansas, and Paris, Illinois, sure. Since for a while those pommes frites were called freedom fries, the geographical geniuses at Facebook saw fit to remove the French capital. Did they hire Kellie Pickler as a consultant?

Or was there an edict inside Facebook that it isn’t 2012 till Mark Zuckerberg proclaims it is 2012?
   The difference was, this time, I wasn’t the only schmuck complaining about it on Get Satisfaction. Thanks to the larger audience affected over 21 time zones on the planet, Facebook received plenty of complaints. Once January 1, 2012 hit the US east coast, the number rose even more dramatically, if Twitter is to be believed.
   So if I’ve got tired of Tumblr, and I’m not happy with Facebook forever introducing bugs on to what was quite a clever concept in Timeline, then that leaves this place.
   I’ve grown accustomed to the look since I first created this template in the mid-2000s. I forget which year it was (which is unlike me) but I believe it was 2005. This blog débuted in 2006 after I stopped blogging at Beyond Branding, and at that stage, the template was already done.
   I mentioned that I felt it had dated in a Tweet last month, and found agreement. Friends, if you think it’s dated, you are allowed to tell me earlier! The whole personal site needs a rejig, and that might be something I work on in the New Year (my one, not Pope Gregory’s one).
   On that note, ideas are welcome. I already have a few for its look and feel, and I may simplify the structure to cover my key interest areas. And if I like the new look, then it may render the other places redundant as I toy with how my future posts appear.

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Posted in design, humour, internet, marketing, USA | 5 Comments »


Facebook Timeline gets rolled out: here come the complaints

16.12.2011


Above: My Facebook Timeline, as it appeared in October.

As more of the planet gets on to Facebook Timeline, it’s been interesting to watch reactions.
   When Facebook went to a new layout three years ago, plenty of people—myself included—went to an anti-new Facebook group. Most were there because they didn’t like change, threatened to leave, and failed to carry out their threat. It was like those who said they would stop reading tabloids after the Princess of Wales died—as circulation rose the following year.
   I joined not because I disliked the change—I thought the redesign was quite good—but because Facebook never did any testing and we were the guinea pigs. The new design was about as reliable as a Wall Street banker, and given it kept failing, I joined to voice my opposition.
   No such issue with Timeline, at least not till regularly. Having been on it for two months, I haven’t come across the concerns the majority have—at all.
   Here are a few I’ve heard, including in the mainstream media.

My privacy is compromised. How? Timeline has exactly the same settings as Facebook had, prior to Timeline’s introduction. I didn’t like these new settings when they were introduced in mid-September, because I was used to shutting my wall off to certain people (e.g. those having a company name on a personal account—yes, I did want to hear from the company, but no, I don’t know who runs the account), but I could see the merit of having public posts which rendered such a setting irrelevant.
   If there was a time to complain, it was three months ago. If you’re complaining now, you’re well late. I doubt Facebook will make any changes since relatively few of us made any complaints when the privacy settings were changed last quarter. Those of us who knew were probably spending more time figuring them out and protecting ourselves.

People can now see what I posted x years ago at an instant. Among the changes was a setting that allowed you to restrict all past posts. That was a new privacy entry that wasn’t there before September. Use it and restrict them to yourself, or yourself and your closest friends. I never had this problem, since Facebook always had different classes of friends—at least since I joined in April 2007—and my statuses were always customized to different audiences.

People can now go back to a particular year and find out more about me. True, but see above.

It’s ugly. This is one I have some sympathy with. Design is subjective, and there is some merit to the argument that Timeline introduces extra elements on to the page (see below). The rule of good design, in my book, is the reduction of elements. So in some ways, I can understand this complaint, but, I rather like the idea of a “timeline” going down the middle, and I can see why Facebook used the two columns: to minimize the need to scroll.

I can’t go back to the old Facebook. I always thought it was clear that when you changed, that was it.

   As usual, my problems with Timeline seem to be different to those of the general public.

Two friends' boxes

Why two friends’ boxes? When Timeline was introduced in September, it was actually cleaner than it is now. There was one friends’ box: in the header. Last week, when it was rolled out to New Zealand, a second box was introduced that was completely superfluous.
   I joked that this was typical of American design. They start out with a clean design, like the original Buick Riviera or Oldsmobile Toronado, or even the Ford Taurus, and then they add unnecessary stuff to it and clutter it up. That’s what’s happened with Facebook.
   This second box is probably not helping people understand what Timeline is about, and it does contribute to its clumsy look. Amazing how one thing can ruin it, but that’s how design sometimes works.

The location settings. When Facebook allowed friends to tag you at a location, it also gave us the option to approve each tag. Problem: this has never worked properly if using Mobile Facebook. Even when you change the settings to allow automatic tagging, they don’t tend to stick and the tags plain disappear regardless.

Timeline doesn’t work on the 1st of each month. If you’re in New Zealand, tough luck. Your Timeline will stay frozen on the last day of the previous month for most of the day, because the new month doesn’t start until the Americans say it starts. Prior to that, the new month wouldn’t start till the Californians said it starts. Presumably, this is why the New Zealand roll-out didn’t happen on December 1. The error has been there for three months now.

You can no longer use the lists properly. This was a huge surprise, when Facebook stopped me from selecting ‘Limited Profile’ in any privacy setting, be it a status update or a photo album. This has still not been fixed. I traced the bug to Facebook’s new inability to add fan pages to your lists. It still allows you, but beware: adding a fan page to any list will render it inaccessible for your privacy settings.
   Not many people seem to care about this one, though there are complaints about Facebook’s ‘Smart Lists’ on its fan page. The majority doesn’t use them, or was unaware they even existed till this year, calling Facebook copycats for taking a Google Plus feature. As mentioned above, it’s certainly been there since the mid-2000s, so I’m unsure how Facebook in 2007 managed to copy Google in 2011.

I’ve got to scroll down a long way. At the time of writing, I have to scroll down six days before I can see my December summary. Before the roll-out, Facebook had this fixed at a number of posts. I preferred it before—again, this lengthy scrolling is contributing to the public’s concerns about Timeline’s concept and their privacy.

The Friendfeed and Tumblr plug-ins no longer work the same way. Facebook will gather up a series of posts before it puts a summary into a Timeline “box”. The Tumblr ones have totally disappeared. (Tumblr has been notified.)

   Despite my many misgivings about Facebook, especially about its privacy changes over the years and the imposed defaults that it got a lot of flak about, I have increased my usage at the expense of Tumblr and other services. I now make public posts for the subscribers—those I choose to have outside my friends’ list. When Facebook killed my Limited Profile last week, I spent some time doing a cull—I’ve cut my list down by about 80 people, including those I was on a business club with but who never shared a single Facebook post with me in two or three years. (‘I must have killed more men than Cecil B. de Mille.’) In my mind, these have all been healthy moves.
   Popping by others’ pages is a bit more enjoyable, seeing what graphics they have chosen for their headers, although I have spent very little time visiting. I have spent some time “filling in the gaps” over November with pre-2007 statuses and photographs for me, and adding locations to other statuses.
   In most of these cases, only my real friends know them: that’s the beauty of having availed myself of the privacy settings since day one—and keeping an eye on them on a very regular basis.
   Facebook never took a step back, so I’m afraid no matter what our complaints are, they’ll fall on deaf ears. Even after posting the solution to their newly introduced lists’ bug on to Facebook’s Lists’ Team page, they haven’t lifted a finger to fix the fault—but, then, since it doesn’t affect the boss, it might never get fixed.
   As long as their member numbers keep growing, Facebook might think itself impregnable, even if I like Timeline. Altavista once thought it would remain the number-one website in the world, too.

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Posted in business, design, internet, New Zealand, technology, USA | 5 Comments »


Are you receiving me, over?

19.07.2011

I’m putting this out there in case others have experienced something similar: is the New Zealand internet constantly down?
   I’ve had the same email address since 1995. Yet, this year, a noticeable number of New Zealanders have telephoned here, saying that their messages have bounced. Even one team member has said that, if she uses her home ISP, her messages to me also bounce. In one case, we had to resort to fax to get the document across.
   This year, I’ve clicked on (foreign) search engine results or advertisements to get to an error page. Only when I hit ‘Refresh’ does the page eventually come through. This has not happened with the same frequency as it does today.
   I’m sitting here today after sending three very important emails to channel partners over the weekend, and have not had a reply to them. I’m wondering, now, since I used a New Zealand ISP’s SMTP, whether I’m in the same shoes as the others who have tried to reach me. Certainly, in one case, the domain for FTPing was unreachable on Saturday on my first attempt. And TelstraClear—though it’s not the only party with sending problems, as I know one of my clients is on Xtra—does not send me bounces.
   I should explain that despite being HQed here, our server has always been Stateside. This was a consequence of some rules regarding foreign web server traffic back in the 1990s. As we knew that most of our traffic would come from overseas—a logical conclusion given that New Zealand’s population is so small—and as local hosting companies were charging what I thought were rip-off prices in those days, we’ve always been hosted either on the US east coast (New York and Virginia) or, since 2002, a dedicated server in the south.
   But it’s not as though this domain is so new that it doesn’t reside on DNSs around New Zealand.
   My theories are not conspiratorial, for a change. But they are concerning, because it makes me wonder about our national internet infrastructure, and how far we might have fallen behind in the last decade.
   I have heard, from people who know more about the infrastructure than me, that we have fallen considerably behind in the last decade, though I don’t know exactly in which areas other than overall speed and, as of this year, civil liberties, democracy and the rule of law.
   I suspect that with growing internet usage, local servers are not resolving addresses as efficiently as they used to. There are more addresses to hold on to, so if you aren’t at the very top of the list (Google, Facebook, etc.), then you’re going to be forgotten. And since my address is the company’s one, and not Lucire’s, it isn’t really going to be among those top ones.
   It might mean that from now on, I’m going to have to use our own mailserver, rather than our ISP’s, to get emails across. At least that’s based in Texas, and I can be assured that my emails are getting to the US and the UK.
   If anything happens, at least I know I’d get a fair hearing with the Americans on their own soil than I would under our American-imposed copyright laws.
   Anyone else here with an overseas mailbox—and not one of the webmail services like Gmail or Hotmail—experiencing similar issues?

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Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


Fifty minutes to file a bug report at McAfee

16.06.2011

Being a helpful netizen costs too much sometimes.
   I found a very tiny bug in McAfee’s latest version. In Eudora, instead of ‘McAfee Anti-Spam’ in the menu bar, the latest update has caused those words to read ‘%COMPANY_NAME_NEUTRAL%Anti-Spam’.
   To be a helpful netizen filing a bug report (and I am used to that taking two minutes all up), here’s the process I followed today.

11.30 a.m. GMT: Search for McAfee Support in Duck Duck Go.
11.30: Arrive at http://www.mcafee.com/us/support.aspx.
11.33: Unable to log in, despite being a McAfee customer.
11.35: Unable to create a new account, because it has asked for a ‘Grant number’. All the guys called Grant that I know are asleep.
11.35: Go to the ‘Contact Us’ page to give feedback and find a link to service.mcafee.com. I click on that.
11.36: I select the affected product. McAfee offers me the choice of ‘Free Technical Support’.
11.36: McAfee insists I download and run the McAfee Virtual Technician. I do.
11.48: McAfee Virtual Technician has completed its scan and claims all is well.
11.49: I am taken to the FAQs where I have to search for my error.
11.50: After finding that none of them fit the bill, McAfee presents two options: ‘Click the Continue button to go to Chat, or Finish to close this session.’ I select the former, as the matter is not concluded.
11.52: McAfee prompts me to enter my country and language.
11.52: McAfee gives me the options of chatting or emailing. I chose the former as it says the wait time is 2 minutes, versus 24 hours, plus the 11.50 a.m. prompt said the option was to ‘Chat’. I enter the bug report into the comment box, and expected a tech would get back to me within two minutes to confirm receipt.

Below is the transcript of the next 20 minutes, with one edit made for privacy reasons.

GoToAssist (11:54:29):
Thank you for contacting McAfee Consumer Support. An agent will be with you shortly.

Customer (11:55:11):
Hi there: I don’t actually need to be walked through anything. I wanted to make sure you got the bug report I just filed. The only button available after writing my report was ‘Chat’, so I pressed it.

Sangeetha (11:55:45):
Jack, thank you for contacting McAfee Online Support Center. My name is Sangeetha.

Customer (11:55:55):
Hello Sangeetha.

Sangeetha (11:56:23):
Your Service Request Number for this chat session is 700641817.
Sangeetha (11:56:33):
Is this your first contact with McAfee Technical support in this week, including today?

Customer (11:56:42):
Yes. I wonder if you received my bug report just now.

Sangeetha (11:57:07):
McAfee will communicate with you through the email … please confirm if this email address is valid.

Customer (11:57:16):
It is correct, thank you.

Sangeetha (11:57:33):
Thank you for confirming.

Customer (11:58:07):
Is there anything else you need from me to complete the report?

Sangeetha (11:58:10):
As I understand, you have sent the bug report and it prompted to chat?

Customer (11:58:25):
Yes, that is correct. I just want to make sure the report arrived there.

Sangeetha (11:58:30):
Thank you for confirming.
Sangeetha (11:58:38):
I apologize for the inconvenience caused. I will be glad to assist you with this issue.
Sangeetha (11:59:02):
May I know when you got the bug report?

Customer (11:59:19):
I sent it immediately before this chat session.
Customer (11:59:34):
I imagine that was 11.50 GMT.

Sangeetha (11:59:50):
When did you get the bug report?

Customer (12:00:06):
No, I didn’t get a bug report. I sent one.

Sangeetha (12:00:29):
Why did you send the bug report?

Customer (12:00:50):
To be helpful to McAfee so it could remedy it for its next update.

Sangeetha (12:01:44):
Did it prompt you to send the bug report while updating McAfee?

Customer (12:02:19):
No. I found a bug in McAfee. I then went to your website to tell your company about it. I simply want to make sure you received it.

Sangeetha (12:02:45):
May I know if you are using the same computer to chat with me?

Customer (12:02:50):
Yes, I am.

Sangeetha (12:03:00):
Okay, I would like to obtain system information from your computer. Please accept my request and grant me access to this.

Customer (12:03:12):
Sangeetha, I am not sure why you need to do this.

Sangeetha (12:03:34):
I just to check your system information.

Customer (12:04:00):
I think we have to stop there. I do not believe this is relevant to whether or not your company received a message from me.

Sangeetha (12:05:52):
You might have sent it to McAfee engineering team.

Customer (12:06:46):
I may have. I used your website and entered in the issue at: https://service.mcafee.com/UserInfo.aspx?lc=1033&sg=TS&pt=1&st=CHAT
Customer (12:07:11):
It is the only place where I could enter anything to report a bug, after the FAQs revealed nothing.

Sangeetha (12:08:53):
I would request you to send the report through email instead of chat by logging in to the same website.

Customer (12:09:31):
What is the correct email address?

Sangeetha (12:12:01):
There is no particular email address. likewise you did the chat.

Customer (12:12:14):
OK, how do I send this email to you in that case?
Customer (12:12:25):
Is there a web link that takes me to an email form?

Sangeetha (12:12:52):
Instead of chat you can select email option.

Customer (12:14:43):
I will look for it now.

Sangeetha (12:14:59):
Is there anything else that I can do to assist you with your McAfee products today?
Sangeetha (12:15:24):
You can contact us back if any issues further.

Customer (12:16:00):
Thank you, Sangeetha. Have a nice afternoon.

Sangeetha (12:16:32):
You may receive an email survey asking for your comments on this chat experience. Your feedback will help to ensure that I’m providing the highest quality service possible.
Sangeetha (12:16:38):
For all of your Customer Service and Technical Support needs, please visit http://service.mcafee.com Thank you for visiting McAfee Online Support Center. Have a great time.
Sangeetha (12:16:44):
Thank you for choosing McAfee. We appreciate your business and your feedback. Have a great time.
Sangeetha (12:16:53):
Good bye…..

Customer (12:17:19):
Good bye.

   I found the email link, and maybe I should have opted for that to begin with. I can’t fault Sangeetha for being polite and helpful—it has come a long way since the beginning of the century, when McAfee had pretty rude forum techs—but surely it can’t be too hard to give us an easy-to-find bug report form that would take a minute to fill in? All this nonsense with grant numbers, downloads and Virtual Technicians (which, I might add, does work quite well when there is a set-up cock-up) makes little sense, especially as all software has bugs and there should be room to report them.
   I want my 50 minutes back.

PS.: The email response has come from Nagaraj. Sounds he has exactly the same script as his colleague. Here we go again. What is the bloody point?—JY

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Posted in business, India, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »