So now that Apple Music has finished announcing its top 100 albums, I just want to say how crap I think the list is.

No Foo Fighters Colour and the Shape. No Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet. No Pearl Jam Ten.

I’ll keep listening through them, but I think Apple’s methodology was massively broken.

I can tell when I’m going to like a new product for review when I get giddy showing it off to the wife and kids. Doesn’t happen too often though.

The future of the Internet is not going to be good

If you run a business that relies on search from Google search, I would be mashing the hell out of the panic button right now. Google has shown that it is going to do everything it can to avoid sending people to your website.

Now is the time to be doing everything you can to build a strong, direct relationship with your customer. An app would probably be best, a newsletter 2nd best, social media a distant third, though you’ll probably need all of them to survive the carnage that’s coming.

I’d also suggest moving away from Google platforms as much as you can. There’s no point paying them to steal your hard work to line their own pockets.

Ooh! Apple Music is running down its list of the best 100 albums. My mission is now to listen to all of them. Might even try and drop short reviews here as replies.

After years of trying to work out where we could fit it and whether it was a worthwhile investment, we finally bought a piano.

It’s a little cramped, but it’s beautiful. Sounds so much better than the keyboard we had previously.

A black Yamaha piano under a wall mounted tv next to an ikea bookshelf.

Accepting that something you poured a lot of time and effort into isn’t going to work out is hard.

Today it was cold and miserable so we watched “Into the Woods”, and friends let me tell you it was a Bad Movie.

Walking through St James station today on my way to a meeting, it reminded me of the fact they filmed some of the train scenes of Matrix Revolutions here.

I decided to not flip over the turnstile like Trinity though…

Ed Zitron is brutal today in his newsletter, “The man who killed Google Search”

Yep, it’s definitely time to move away from Google, for personal and business. I’m old enough to remember when it valued not being evil. Now it doesn’t even pretend.

Absolute banger this week in Ed Zitron’s newsletter:

The core problem lies in the fact that these platforms don’t really create anything, and their only value exists in making an internet of billions of people small enough to comprehend. Like seemingly every problem with a capitalist society, the internet has become dominated by powerful forces that don’t contribute to the product that enriches them. As a result, they have either no concept of nor interest in “quality,” just “more,” making them extremely poor arbiters of what “good” looks like. This inevitably leads to products that suck more as they become more profitable, because the machine they’ve built is a profit excavator dressed as a service. I’d argue that this makes Google, and by extension executives like Sundar Pichai and Google Search lead Prabhakar Raghavan, some of the greatest villains in business history. While one can’t forget about the damage done by Meta and Mark Zuckerberg’s failure to maintain an honest platform, allowing Google Search to decay so severely for any reason — let alone a profit-centric one — is actively damaging to society, and was an entirely intentional act perpetrated by people like Raghavan, the former head of Google’s ads division who took over search not long after his predecessor sounded a “code yellow” about Google’s advertising encroaching on search results.

I reckon we saw almost 20 kangaroos and wallabies while walking around the Botanic Gardens today. Still such a thrill.

a lone kangaroo on a hill watching us.

I’m beginning to think I’m going to break up with Google. Its March core update has highlighted to me how bad the search results actually are. Combine with the (crap) generative AI push, the constant shuttering of services and the nightmare that is GA4, I think it’s time to start looking for alternatives.

I need to think about it some more, but I’m going to need alternatives for both personal and business services…

Google Search is shit

I have to admit that the inspiration for this post is anger. Pure unadulterated rage.

As many would know, last year I launched my own product review site, bttr.com.au. I’ve been working hard at trying to make it great, I’ve experimented with some things (including AI content), and have seen a reasonable level of growth.

Nothing worth getting too excited about, but enough to make me feel like I was moving in the right direction.

But this month, Google rolled out its core update, and has effectively wiped BTTR from its search results.

For the sole writer/proprietor of a small business, that’s pretty shit. Here’s a quick pic of what search impressions looked like over the past 3 months:

A graph showing how Google has effectively removed BTTR from its search results

The end result is a very real question of whether I should bother to keep pushing with the site. I have to say that for a few days I was sorely tempted to give up.

But the thing is, I know that this isn’t my problem. It’s Google’s problem.

I’ve been doing some level of SEO work for the past 10 years, overlapping with journalism and writing. I’ve been using Google since 2002 at Uni when my tutor suggested its results were better than AltaVista.

And I can say with absolute confidence that the results that Google recommends are far, far worse than they used to be.

An example: I reviewed the Oppo A18 budget smartphone. I was one of the first Australian sites to publish a review.

If you search for “Oppo A18 review”, the first result is a review from Cybershack. This is a good result – I don’t particularly enjoy the Cybershack review style, but at least it’s an expert analysis based on first-hand experience.

The second and third results are news articles announcing the phone from Gadgetguy and Reviews.org.

Now, if there were no other actual reviews, that would maybe be okay. But if you scroll another 3 slots, you have Gadgetguy’s actual review of the phone.

So Google is somehow ranking a news article from a publisher above the review for that phone when someone searches for the phone’s “review”.

There are dozens of other random shit overseas sites with “specs” and “benchmarks” articles, plus retailers, before you get to another proper review.

And for the sake of completeness, right now, at P35, there is a link to my LinkedIn post sharing the BTTR review!

Like, in what universe is that good for users, Google?

(I understand that this really looks like BTTR has been penalised in some way shape or form. Fucked if I know what for or how to fix it though.)

Because I’m feeling especially ranty on this, here’s another example:

The search term “best phones Australia”.

Now this one is special to me because I’ve been chasing it for 10 years. I owned it at TechRadar, and I got to P2 at Finder. BTTR got as high as P8, which I thought was pretty good for a new site.

If you look at this result now, P3 is Finder Shopping, which is the page I created about 7 years ago and got to P2, before handing responsibility to my editor of the time, Alex, whose byline stills sits on the page.

The title of the page is “The 10 best phones in Australia in 2024”. The date in the SERP is February 2024.

But if you open it up, the first subheading states clearly in big bold writing: “Best Phones in Australia (February 2023 update).

That’s right, friends. Thanks to understaffing and cost cutting, nobody has actually updated that article for over a year.

The phones recommended here are at least 12 months old, pushing as high as 2 years in some cases.

Yet Google’s algorithm has deemed this page as the third best result for the query…

Even worse, if you scroll just four results lower, Finder appears again with its “11 best budget phones in Australia” page. This one isn’t as clear in disclosing when it was actually last updated, but it features phones well over a year old as well.

Go a little bit further down and you get articles like “What we liked and didn’t Like about the phones of 2022” from Gizmodo…

Now, no shade on the team at Giz, but please tell me, who the fuck wants to know about phones from two years ago when they are searching for the “best phones”? Current availability is implied!

What upsets me about this though is that I have literally reviewed dozens of phones and run research across ten leading review sites every single month since I launched BTTR to come up with a robust method to rank the best phones.

It takes me about an hour every month to rerun the research, plus dozens of hours reviewing, and yet BTTR no longer appears in search results…

So yeah, Google is shit.

But what makes Google’s shittiness stand apart is that in the fallout of this, most of my (meagre) traffic is now coming from DuckDuckGo and Bing,

And I have to say that DuckDuckGo’s results are much, much, much better.

For those two queries above: Oppo A18 review - you get Gadgetguy’s review, GSMarena user reviews and Cybershack’s review followed by my BTTR review.

For best phone australia, you get PC Mag, TechRadar, Tom’s Guide, Reviews.org, Choice, PC Mag again (for Android phones), T3 then BTTR.

It’s still not perfect though. The Reviews.org result in there is from January 2023, so doesn’t include 2 generations of Galaxy S phones.

But I feel like the result set is a better match for the intent, and not just because I’m in the top 10.

A quick look at Bing shows that on the Oppo A18 review term, the results match DuckDuckGo’s. On the best phones, there’s a metric shit-tonne of ads - only 3 actual results on page 1 – but at least those three results are current (TechRadar, Tom’s Guide and PCMag)

I know this has been a long and windy rant, and I kind of feel better getting it out of my system.

I know it’s not going to change anything. Google is too big and too successful to even consider the rants of a small business owner.

But I’ve decided to make DuckDuckGo my default search engine. Hopefully some of you may do the same.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep plugging away, writing reviews and news and best guides and hope that eventually something will change.

Finished reading: It by Stephen King 📚

It’s been At least 20 years since I read this last. Not as good as I remember it being, but I still enjoyed it.

What the hell are the people at LinkedIn smoking?

Google’s March Core update is looking like it has hit BTTR hard. I’ll wait and see how things play out, but it’s pretty exhausting.

I know it’s self-nominated, but I’m excited to see BTTR as a finalist for Best Independent Coverage at the IT Journalism Awards this year. Also happy to be a finalist for best technology reviewer.

Both are tough categories, so I’m going in with zero expectations and all fingers crossed.

I went out to take photos of some review products today in the Botanic Gardens. The local wildlife did not seem enthusiastic.

a monstrously large ant with mandibles that could destroy a small child walking between two phones on red dirt.

I’ve been playing through the _Mass Effect _trilogy for the past year and a bit 🎮. I’m in the end game stages of ME3, and I’m so emotional. I love these characters.

There’s a scene after one of the last missions where Tali - an alien character who has to live in a special suit to keep herself safe from infection - decides to get drunk after a mission.

It’s great, you have a nice conversation with her as she battles her demons. You only experience it if you opt to go to her after you complete that mission.

But then, after talking to Tali, I went to visit another character on the ship - the last survivor of a long-dead alien race who was in stasis for 50000 years before I saved him - and Tali was drunkenly talking to him over the ships intercom.

It was sweet, hilarious and cute at the same time.

There are so many of these little interactions between characters (and my character of course) that I really feel like I know them. It’s not something I’ve experienced in too many games.

I’m going to be sad when I finish it, that’s for sure.