Monday, August 27, 2018

thinking of setting up a myspace again

I'm in a band (woo-hoo) and we have of course done the usual of setting up an Instagram and a Twitter and a Facebook and a Bandcamp but in the way of these things I'm struggling to engage. It's not that the band doesn't have a voice and aesthetic (it does) or that I don't like it (it's awesome; everything about it is awesome) but something deep in the architecture of the platforms. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp. Pictures, words, people, stuff. Where is the music?

Music-first social networking sites struggle. I remember the giddy delight at Soundcloud, but it's struggled to move with the times or feel properly social, and we haven't even set up one for this band. The last band, for which I provided various services over the years, had one. That was during its high years.  Whatever became of Audioboo? I used to fill it with snippets of found sound and birdsong. Now it's Audioboom and just another small scale online publisher. Last FM, RCRDLBL, emusic, there was even a DJ-ing one where you played at being a radio host and I actually managed to make never-met network-buddies through its delicious combination of blunt track-matching algorithms, and I-love-this interaction formats. All gone.

So of course I got to thinking about the first great social networking site that got music right. Myspace. Like so many, my data echo is still sat there in the empty halls, waiting for the winds of fashion and legislation to let in a shaft of light, to crack the door once more. I imagine Myspace Tom, grizzled and sat on his dusty throne, looking up confused as the music fans come flooding back, looking for their home online, that they still don't have, not really.

But of course, Myspace isn't what it once was, and Tom is doing other things now. We could do it though, couldn't we? Set up a Myspace for the band, like it's 2005 all over again?

Yeah, probably not.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

not going to turn off my ad-blocker, sorry

Just this year, the whining to turn off your ad-blocker has really been cresting. "Support your local newspaper" says one "our advertising revenue is a vital income source" says another. I'm a reasonable person, and I understand their point. Sure, let's turn off the ad-blocker. 

Particularly on local news sites, this is quite a serious mistake. Adverts load slowly, blocking the news story as they load, as they are primed to load before other content. They freeze the browser. Sometimes they do that so hard that everything crashes, or you have to go to task manager to kill the browser, clear cookies, and start all over again. I particularly notice this at work, where on one of my browsers ad-blockers are not actionable and I need to look at local news sites. Typically I'll leave a few pages loading while I go off and do something else on another tab. But I'd better not be doing anything important, as this can easily crash the entire browser.

The reason people block ads on the internet is not because they hate you and want to kill your income streams. That's your motivation, not theirs. The reason people block online adverts is because they are shit. They break your browser. They stop information loading. They flash in hypnotic, migraine-inducing colours at the periphery of what you're reading. They simper click-bait into your peripheral vision. They start talking over the video you're watching (this is especially a feature of American news-sites).

Darlings, you are missing the point. You want me to turn off the ad blocker. I'd love to turn off the ad blocker. I love adverts. They're one of my favourite art forms. Seriously, when I was a kid I used to collect Silk Cut adverts and stick them on my wall.

But you can't watch an advert when it's busy breaking the furniture.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

surreal follower suggestions

I kind of know why I was suggested this account to follow. But it still raised an eyebrow when the suggestion came:



Particularly when the bio stated firmly "For UK farmers/professionals (e.g. vets) only.". 

But, they're promoting their account (fair enough) and my account (this is a work account, which promotes apprenticeship opportunities, including occasionally some on pig farms) does have a faint acquaintance with modern pig farming. I've posted on pig farmer apprenticeships. I'm probably even following a couple of local farms that regularly have vacancies for young workers.

I didn't follow this account though; it's a step too far removed.  

Monday, July 02, 2018

life on the post-GDPR internet

Ever since GDPR landed, there has been an explosion of websites with full-page privacy flashes on the way in, redirects to unescapable permissions pages and from some providers, denial pages, either subtle (cookie-enforced trap-pages that cannot be passed), deniable (go to my plain-text version!!!!) or outright ("we have decided not to serve users within the European Union").

None of this is coming across as protecting the user, particularly as all those "solutions" bar the outright denial involve granting the sites more rights and permissions than they were previously exercising while withdrawing service to a larger or greater extent. So added to all the sites behind browser-buggering levels of advertising, undismissable startup flashes and paywalls, we now have to add all the sites that got into a strop over GDPR, and in their excitement let their legal and advertising staff trample over their UX and content workers in their rush to smack their users round the head repeatedly while yelling "look what you made us do!!!!!".

Because this is what it feels like. Come on, the world. Plenty of providers were able to look at GDPR, shrug and carry on, because that was what was being done already. No need to go off on a hysterical tizzy, guys - particularly as the horse has bolted here. My data is spattered through your servers, and no amount of privacy notices is going to change that, not now, not tomorrow and not for the future. particularly as I am a fully signed up Google-tithed, LJ-using, open Twitter account carrying, eyes-open-on-Instagram member of the open web.

It's not even shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, It's more like repeatedly slamming the barn door in my face while all my stuff is already strewn all over the grass outside.

Just. Stop it.


Thursday, June 07, 2018

and then the menus went blank

Mystery meat navigation underwent a whole new world of strangeness as I opened my seldom-used video programme in order to do a fairly normal bit of video editing. I use an old version of Premiere Elements (like many large workplaces we have a long process of license acquisition, safety checking, application virtualisation etc.) which isn't great but I don't need anything very clever, of course.

Except that today, the menus had mostly not loaded.

I've been using computer programmes for long enough that I can take a rough guess at where a menu item might be and basically click in the dark. So I edited and published. vaguely aware of a weird prickle of nostalgia.

I was also around for the early web, before the rise of usability, back when menus and navigation were seen as spaces for creativity and challenge rather than user coddling/tweaking/poking/peeping/pumping. People got cross about that, as I recall, but I always quite liked a nice slice of mystery meat navigation - menus that flickered in and out of existence, changed into strange things, crawled around the screen, and so on.

Well, I'd better like it, as that's what I've got now. After two afternoons of fix-reinstall cycles, deleting local and global profiles, and after I briefly showed a proper programme load on a fresh machine, an entire machine swap-out... it can't be fixed.

So while I'm waiting for a new version of Premiere to work through the approval and virtualization process, I'm back to stabbing in the dark.

Click, click, click.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

GDPR emails - the good, the bad and the inexplicable

Great news!!! Most organisations were already compliant with GDPR. Not that that stopped a lot of organisations going quite bananas over it (though not, predictably, the ones who were illegally buying my contact details and then illegally using them to spam me with (at best) grey legal marketing, gambling and dating "opportunities").

I'm going to quote my personal favourite notice here, because it's brief, to the point, and covers all the necessary:

Organisations have different approaches. [Redacted] is proceeding on the basis that people who have already signed up to receive our newsletter might reasonably want to continue to have it sent to their email addresses. This is referred to as relying on processing on the basis of 'legitimate interest'. As always, we will include a link to allow you to opt out of receiving our newsletters at any time.

This, plus a pretty picture, was an elegant sufficiency. But so many went down a different path. And here, in reverse order, are my GDPR email top of the flops:
  1. Three paragraphs of whingeing about the GDPR. I understand your woes. I feel them, having been to two briefings, one meeting, a compulsory e-learning and numerous informal chats on the topic this year. But if you're struggling so hard with the concept of data privacy perhaps your orgaisation is, I don't know... the kind that doesn't do that kind of thing?  Newsflash: these organisations exist and they send out LOADS of email, all the time. 
  2. Four increasingly needy emails in a row, three after I'd updated my preferences. Can it, Janet, I already said yes.
  3. A link to update my preferences, that lead to a form to input my information again, which you already have, or you wouldn't be contacting me. For heaven's sake, do we know each other or not?
  4. A link to update my preferences, that lead to a form to input my information again, which you already have, which then returned the error message "[redacted] is already subscribed to this list". I know that, you know that - but will you still love me tomorrow I still get your emails after 25th May?
  5. And in top place, standing out as a true beacon of practice in this area: An email explaining that the list you were subscribed to is being closed and you need to subscribe to a new GDPR-compliant list. On click-through, this form is asking you for a lot more personal information than you had previously shared with the company; it also has autofill disabled and a CAPTCHA that will not load in your (only very slightly slightly flaky) browser. Two browsers later, and the problem is still not resolving on desktop. Entry via the ipad (why is so much design still i-pad first?) finally loads the CAPTCHA - it's the notorious picture-style which drops into its usual round of fail. I wrestle the CAPTCHA to a standstill ... and the form crashes.
Never mind, eh.

There has been some really lovely practice in this area too - friendly checks, information pre-loaded, tidy forms, pretty design. Just for balance's sake, you understand.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

My bubble just got invaded - and hard

Not altogether impressed when I did a cursory search for a disappeared website from a small charity. It was the day after IDAHOT. Surely today of all days, it would be OK to be gay?

Apparently not:


Small websites come and go, of course, but this is harsh! You're only seeing the first six results here, but pretty much THE ENTIRE FIRST PAGE OF GOOGLE is results from Christian websites, which are far from clear on whether being gay is OK - even if they're nominally supportive. Several are in the love the sinner camp. Some are firmly telling you it isn't. There are a couple of equivocal news stories. But bar the Being Gay is OK colouring book, the whole thing smacks of bible study groups lead by sweaty celibates desperate to love the sinner, save your soul and bring you back to Sunday school.

Thank Oprah for the one exception. One item had squeaked past the seo-optimised bible-bashing search flooders; vlogger Doug Armstrong with "It's Okay to be gay (song), which is actually quite sweet in a vloggery kinda way, and does also accurately return on the search phrase "being gay is ok".