Google's Content Crisis

Popzazzle | Friday, 16 September 2022 |

Google's ultimate undoing will not be some grassroots Web3 uprising, but something we can sum up in one word: content. And the content crisis has already begun.

Are you watching? If you've blinked at all since the summer you might have missed at least part of Google's desperate, ongoing quest to recover some semblance of quality in its search results. In recent weeks we've seen an unprecedented series of major updates to Google's search ranking algorithms, and it looks like the Californian behemoth is not stopping until the results pages start looking like someone gives a hoot.

AI WOES

The problem of the moment? Among other things, artificial intelligence. AI is now so clever and widely available that spammers can simply scrape the Internet, automatically re-word what they find, and mass-publish it without any worries about plagiarism or duplication.

Is the Fediverse Just Big Tech Subjugation in a Richard Stallman Wig?

Popzazzle | Tuesday, 26 July 2022 |

"On inspection, the Fediverse showed itself to have most of the same problems as mainstream social media, and its mistreatment of users was both widespread and historically-ingrained. Some elements of the Fediverse were in fact worse than mainstream social."

It's hailed as the hero's arrow that might one day slay the monster of mainstream social media. Could it? I'll leave that one for others to answer. What I want to ask is: if the Fediverse did destroy the now openly hostile gang of megasilos, would it really make the world a better place? Is it any better than its centralised rivals? Is it even decentralised? We shall see. But let me prime this article with a nugget of philosophy...

Death by MMC: How Wikipedia Strangled The Information Highway

Popzazzle | Wednesday, 13 July 2022 |
"It would not be an exaggeration to say that Wikipedia has done everything it could possibly get away with doing to deny the prosperity of its sources."
Vista comprising reservoir and trees, with text - The photographer's credit is in the reservoir. The person who wrote 'The photographer's credit is in the reservoir's credit is behind the trees.

DEATH BY MM-WHAT?

If you web-search the acronym MMC, I'm sure you'll find every trivial meaning you could possibly conceive. What you almost certainly won't find, is the meaning that resonates above all others within the cybertech cartel.

Google and Startpage will lead you to a Wikipedia (where else?) disambiguation, citing nearly 70 possible interpretations for MMC, but mysteriously excluding the one that most matters to Wikipedia. The one which, indeed, defines Wikipedia.

DuckDuckGo gives us a top result of Marsh McLennan, a couple of nice little plugs for Microsoft (obviously), and, oooh, a Free Dictionary rundown, giving us over 140 possibles. But alas, once again, the one we want is absent.

Lynx Browser: The Land That Time Revived

Popzazzle | Tuesday, 7 June 2022 |
"If you don't perceive using the Internet in the 2020s to be a constant fight, you have absolutely no online privacy whatsoever."
Lynx browser in the Terminology terminal
Lynx browser, browsing the post Cyber Freedom: No Gain Without Pain, from my Neocities site Backlit.

It might look scarily primitive at first glance, but Lynx browser - a product as old as the World Wide Web itself - could not be more of a friend. And neither could it be more relevant amid the surveillance dystopia of the 2020s. If you find it hard to keep up with the latest content-blocking customisations... If your brain is fried with endless reports of new tracking technologies... If you're sick of seeing a page of static text hang your system because some pillock of a front-end dev decided to hit your RAM with a one gigabyte JavaScript object... Well, Lynx is here to take the confusion out of dodging Big/Stupid Tech.

Word Processing Software: Revolution Pending?

Popzazzle | Thursday, 5 May 2022 |

“The divide between the progress of the Internet and the progress of the word processor could not be more stark. The word processor launches to something that looks barely any different today than it looked decades ago.”

Microsoft Office Word 2003

Do you remember the days of WordStar, when a mouse was just a rather timid rodent that inadvertently antagonised cats and fantasised about processed cheese? If you're too young to know what I’m rambling on about, WordStar was the premier word processor of the 1980s, and it primarily existed on computers with non-graphical operating systems.

For the majority of PC users there was no mouse. Every instruction to a PC program had to come via the keyboard. And because the era's foremost operating system - DOS - had no graphical capability, the word processor couldn't represent elements of formatting as literal variations on screen. For a given display resolution, text would always reproduce at the same size, and with the same CP437 styling. It couldn't be italicised on screen, or displayed in bold. And many PCs of the 1980s only had monochromatic monitors, so even colour-coding was off the agenda as a universal means to represent format changes.

Whilst one might imagine that word processing software would be roundly unpopular under such unconducive conditions, offices couldn't get their hands on WordStar fast enough, and sales went through the roof. The software's renowned mail merge capability linked it up with the database behemoth dBASE, and suddenly, SMEs could produce their own mailshots, run off personalised invitations, autoprint customer/client/patient reminder letters... The future had arrived.

Why "Fact-Checkers" Need to Fact Right Off

Popzazzle | Thursday, 27 January 2022 |

"Fact-checkers" have managed to persuade us that we need to question everything we see on the internet, except for them. That slice of hypocritical dick-logic alone exposes the sham of "fact-checking", and tells us what these people really are."


Mars bars on a plain surface, renamed as Believe bars during 2006 World Cup period
Image by Bob Leggitt

Last August, when one of the internet's most eminent "fact-checkers" was outed as a liar, a sockpuppet and a thief, we, the discerning public, took one peep above our propaganda feeds, raised an eyebrow, and then promptly resumed linking to his site. Like "fact-checking" could still be worth something after the genre's top dude had admitted simply ripping off shit from news sites. Yes, news sites. As in "don't believe everything you read in the papers".

New "Protection" Extension Blows The Lid Off The Startpage Privacy Charade

Popzazzle | Thursday, 20 January 2022 |

"Out front, we find a grand, feelgood gloss, extending around us a warm hug of protection. But behind the curtain, it's just another cybertech company pimping us out to the preds."


Startpage Privacy Protection letting through Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager hitting the firewall after Startpage Privacy Protection waved it through without even a cursory mention.

For years, we've been wondering whether the Startpage search engine might warrant a little more scrutiny. Whether the notion of "actual Google without the tracking" should perhaps be tentatively subjected to the old adage:

"If it sounds too good to be true... It probably is."

But Startpage's recent release of a so-called "privacy protection" extension for browsers, might just have burst the brand's carefully-cultivated integrity bubble for us.