NetRatings - taking hits not counting them
Once upon a time there were three lovely internet user ratings services who plied their trade and enjoyed life to the full. But they felt they weren't wanted by their employer and so they came to work for me. Actually, that's not quite true - they buggered off to Australia and are living happily ever after without us Kiwis.
Hitwise, Red Sheriff and NetRatings are the three in question. All use different methods of measuring how many visitors a site gets. Red Sheriff adds software to the website itself, which measures the number of visitors and where they've come from, what they read, where they go and so on. In August Red Sheriff New Zealand reduced its staff to one person in New Zealand along with development staff in Melbourne and sales staff in Sydney.
Hitwise uses logs from ISPs to measure raw numbers of users and where they surf. But Hitwise New Zealand doesn't have Xtra or Clear on its books, which means the sample of users it does have, while large, must be skewed. Hitwise was being run in New Zealand by Brave New World but when that company restructured in July it was taken over by Paul Hashfield who remains Hitwise's only New Zealand employee.
That leaves NetRatings - a joint venture between US-based NetRatings and the granddaddy of user measuring, ACNielsen. ACNielsen runs the people meters which monitor television viewers and they've adapted that model to the internet - 4000 volunteers have software added to their home PC to see where and when they surf, how long they stay and so on. Nielsen also knows their demographic profiles, so it can say with some certainty "48% of 13-year-old females with between $10 and $20 a week pocket money will visit your site for not less than 30 minutes in the next week" or something like that.
However, criticism has been levelled at ACNielsen for having only home users on its panel, not business users, and despite promising to set up a business panel since the company started work in New Zealand, it hasn't eventuated. Now, with a rejig from the parent companies, ACNielsen will lay off six staff, close its New Zealand office and run the whole thing from Australia.
The panel will stay, for now, but in the next three months the company will work out whether it wants to even remain in New Zealand. If it goes, the head of NetRatings in New Zealand, Brian Milnes, will buy the New Zealand operation and run it himself.
This is really bad news. Advertisers and their agencies are having a hard enough time understanding how the net works and how to push it to their customers. Without a company with ACNielsen's standing in the market to provide the numbers we may as well just pack up the whole e-commerce thing and send it on its way. Oh yeah, I remember the internet - that was popular for a while, wasn't it? ISPs, advertising agencies, advertisers, web hosting companies, content providers and web developers all have to stand up and let ACNielsen know just how important it is that we get good solid dependable numbers and that we can't do without them. This is important.
NetRatings retrenches to Australia - IDGNet
Brave face at Brave New World - IDGNet
Ah the joys of always on, high speed, what the-?
Telecom, eh? What's it all about? Well, it's about making money. It's not about giving the customer what they want, or about serving government policy decisions or about building the knowledge economy. It's about the bottom line. Let's be honest here and call a dollar a dollar. That's what companies are in business for, and fair enough too.
Where that becomes a problem is when a company, like Telecom, offers a service, like JetStream, and it doesn't work the way customers would like. It may be working exactly as Telecom wants but remember what Telecom says it wants must be held up to the shining light to see if it's real or not: does it make the company money? If no, then it's not going to happen.
Telecom charges its customers by the megabyte for JetStream--you sign up for an unspecified speed (I generally get better than 2Mbit/s, and you'll only get me back on dial-up by prising my router out of my cold dead hand)--and a monthly fee.
The OECD report on broadband lists this as one of the most expensive services in the world because of the billing mechanism. Basically, if you were living in any other country which offered DSL and compared what you pay on a monthly basis here, not what Telecom offers as a price but what you actually pay, with what you pay there, you'd be better off moving.
Telecom, incidently, will tell you it has the cheapest DSL of any OECD country, which is true. But Telecom is talking about its speed-capped JetStart service, which runs at no more than 128kbit/s, and the OECD doesn't even consider that to be broadband. Using 1GB of traffic on JetStream 400 is more expensive than on plans in the rest of the world.
This is a good thing for Telecom. It makes lots of money off DSL because it's really hard not to go over your limit if you do the things you can do with a high-speed connection.
Want to watch a movie trailer? It's painlessly easy. Want to listen to streaming audio while you work? Laughably, ridiculously, stupidly, foolishly simple. It's as easy as switching on the radio, but you can listen to jazz from New Orleans or Prague or wherever you want.
But you'll pay for it. When the bill arrives, your eyes are almost guaranteed to leap from your head while your heart makes that peculiar "eek" noise and goes boom boom churn churn.
Even if the data sent to you is rejected by your firewall because it's a virus or an attack, you pay.
Telecom isn't going to change this in a hurry. Why would it?
The problem really arises when Telecom's service, which is being sold to businesses as a solution for things like virtual private networking (VPN), doesn't make the grade. Telecom does point out that JetStream may not be the right solution for you on its website:"If you or your business is totally reliant on your data network availability and you want a service as reliable as the PSTN you will need to invest in data services such as frame relay and DDS." But beyond that you're on your own.
Still, businesses are using JetStream and they're discovering that there's fun to be had with a thing called micro-outages, where you're kicked off the network albeit briefly. Now if you're just surfing the net, no worries. If you're running a web server or trying to maintain a connection, you can just about forget it.
The customers are still paying, of course. And that's the point, isn't it?
Telecom takes time over ADSL outages - IDGNet
Spam that bounces and spam that sticks
Spam is a wonderful thing. I love spam. Well, I love that it gives me plenty of stories to write about because morons keep using it as a "legitimate form of marketing" without seeming to realise that it upsets those that receive it and is mostly outlawed by those that provide the networks it travels on. Repeat after me: the internet is made up of lots of private networks and if they don't want my traffic they don't have to carry it. But they still try it on. Spammers have a strange and varied ability to annoy people but this tale takes the cake.
Charles Hall works for US-based IT news site G2 Computer Intelligence. Someone used his email address as the return address on a series of spam emails sent out to about half the world's population, most of whom simply deleted the spam without bothering too much about it.
A fair proportion, however, replied to Hall demanding he not send them any more spam. This flood of email became a torrent, effectively shutting down Hall's email account and causing him no end of trouble.
He worked backwards from the spam email and discovered that it was sent by a customer on Clear's network in New Zealand. He contacted Clear and demanded the hole be stoppered somehow or else. Clear obviously didn't move quickly enough for his liking because he sent out another email to everyone who received the original spam (which strikes me as adding to the problem, not addressing it) telling them to contact Clear's "president" Peter Kaliaropoulos or network manager Drew Gilpin, helpfully including their email addresses.
Gilpin tells me that the customer wasn't aware these emails were being sent out and he immediately shut down their connection to the outside world. Clear is working with the customer to discover how the system was compromised.
The other tale of spam woe I have for you is the sorry story of StrongNet - the ISP that thought it could. StrongNet has been suspended from the Domainz registry while it is investigated for spamming customers of liquidated ISP Asia Online. Domainz terms and conditions outlaw using names gleaned from the database for spam of any kind and has already shut off one Australia-based company for spamming NZ addresses. StrongNet says there's nothing wrong with targeting Asia Online customers because the company had been liquidated and they were fair game. Asia Online, by the way, is still providing service to customers and has been bought by a new owner who will presumably run it as a going concern.
Then there's Julian Angelo, whose name, according to Aardvark, crops up in connection with an apparent recent spam occurrence. Angelo, you may recall, wrote to the keeper of the Network Operators Group mailing list asking to have the archive scrubbed of references to previous spamming
campaigns with which he was associated because he was a reformed man and prospective employers were reading these comments about his activities and refusing to hire him.
NZNOG declined to delete his comments but suggested he may like to post an apology. Angelo told me he didn't realise that he was spamming or even that spam was frowned upon and that he'd grown up a lot since then. Apparently that's a two-way street.
Spam claim bounces back on Clear - IDGNet
Aardvark - Have a look at the previous edition for a couple of stories about Julian Angelo