No More Ads

I’ve (finally) entirely disabled any ads on my blog. I’d been playing with Google Adsense on and off for years, but it’s long since lost any real use for me. Where I used to get $300 every quarter or so, I haven’t received a payout check from them since I’m honestly not sure when. What with the move from context-sensitive, not terribly intrusive, plain-text ads to larger graphic ads that never seem to have any relation to the surrounding context and the rise of near-ubiquitous ad blocking software (and this isn’t a complaint, as I use ad blockers myself), it’s just not worth the hassle and the annoyance they’d present to those few people who would still see them anymore.

For most of you, this probably wouldn’t even be noticeable if I hadn’t said anything, because I expect you’re either reading through RSS or use an ad blocker. But for those few of you who might actually be visiting the site without an ad blocker running, you’ll now have a more pleasant experience.

Linkdump for April 16th through April 19th

Sometime between April 16th and April 19th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black: Dolezal is simply a white woman who cannot help but center herself in all that she does—including her fight for racial justice. And if racial justice doesn't center her, she will redefine race itself in order to make that happen.
  • Volunteers, Professionals, and Who Gets to Have Fun at Cons: If your fun is dependent using your status as a volunteer as an excuse to not act responsibly, if it requires victims to stay quiet about mistreatment: then it’s not really a fun time for “everyone” is it? It’s not the expectation of professionalism that’s killing the fun at cons, it’s the lack of it.
  • Time to Fix the Missing Stair: It’s time to stop pretending the missing stair doesn’t need to be fixed. Relying on word-of-mouth means that the people who are new, who are just entering, are the ones most at risk of trying to step on it.
  • seriously, the guy has a point: A global investment firm has used a global advertising firm to create a faux work of guerrilla art to subvert and change the meaning of his actual work of guerrilla art. That would piss off any artist.
  • Westboro Wannabes Picket Norwescon: Thank you for proving, by your actions, the value that Norwescon (and all such fan-run conventions) have in this world. Thank you for proving that we can’t be bullied. You gave us all a teachable moment, and we learned something about ourselves.

Lost Finale Show-to-Commercial Ratio

Watching the season finale of Lost last night was an exercise in frustration — not because of the show itself (we enjoy the frustration that comes from the many twists, turns, and unanswered questions of the show), but from the horrendous number of and length of commercial breaks. It felt like we were getting about a 1:1 ratio of show to commercial, so starting a little before the halfway point of the two-hour program, I started jotting down when we’d switch from show to commercial.

The end result: Over the final 72 minutes of the show…

  • there were 48 minutes of show and 24 minutes of commercial, for a 2:1 show-to-commercial ratio (It was nice to know that it wasn’t actually 1:1, though it really did feel like it),
  • there were 6 commercial breaks, averaging 4 minutes each,
    • most commercial breaks were four minutes,
    • the shortest commercial break was three minutes,
    • the longest commercial break was five minuets,
  • there were 6 show segments, averaging 8 minutes each,
    • the shortest show segment was five minutes,
    • the longest show segment was eleven minutes.

Okay, so it’s not the most impressive set of statistics out there, but the continuing drive for more commercial time and less show time is ever more aggravating, and one of the big reasons I didn’t watch TV for close to a decade (and for most shows, still prefer to just wait ’til they come out on DVD). That 2:1 ratio means that every hour of TV will actually have only 40 minutes of show.

For quick (and admittedly loose) comparisons with other well-known historical popular TV series, IMDB lists original Star Trek as 47 minutes, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager as 45 minutes, and Enterprise as 42 minutes. From the 60’s to the 80’s shows only lost about two minutes to advertisers, we held steady through the 90’s, but by 2001 had lost another three minutes, and in 2008 we’ve lost another two. Not only are we getting noticeably less show and more advertising, but the rate at which advertising takes over show time is increasing. Ick.

And then people wonder are surprised that I don’t watch more TV than I do? Heck, I’m often surprised that I watch as much as I do!

Olympics Opening Ceremony

Prairie and I have been watching the opening ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy, but…it’s after 11pm, the torch still isn’t lit, and according to news reports that give a 3-hour run time for the whole thing, it’s not over ’till midnight, which is too late for us. It’s a little frustrating — this thing’s on a tape delay, why couldn’t they have started it at seven or eight in order to get it done with at ten or eleven? Urgh.

We’ve enjoyed seeing the first two hours of the show. Mostly.

Good things: The Italians have a wonderful flair for theatrics, and some of the portions of the show have been just wonderfully bizarre. The cow ballet earlier in the show, the sun and moon balloons with the aerialists, the dance piece…all very much fun. We were also enjoying watching the parade of nations, where it was rather amazing how many of the smaller republics that just came into existence over the past few years with the fragmentation of Russia and parts of Europe have been able to send delegations to the games. Not to mention North and South Korea marching in together!

Bad things: The show was scheduled to start at 8pm, and I suppose that in theory, it did. However, from eight until nine was just blather about all the athletes, and the actual opening ceremony didn’t start until nine. Commercials, commercials, commercials! Every. Two. Minutes. Ugh…no matter what was going on, they had to break for commercials, and while they at least took advantage of the tape delay for the parade of nations, they didn’t seem to do so for the rest of the opening ceremony. I’m pretty sure that at least five to ten minutes of the presentation disappeared so that we could sit through more SUV commercials. Ugh.

And last, but definitely not least — the commentators were horrid! Here we are, watching the opening ceremonies of the biggest forum for friendly international competition, and every time they could, the commentators were bringing up every horrid, unfriendly, divisive piece of trivia they could. Italy was singled out as the third largest member of the US’s ‘Coalition of the Willing,’ Denmark’s entrance was used as an opportunity to talk about the Muslim cartoon scandal (and even worse, when the commentator couldn’t think of anything to say about Estonia, who entered directly after Denmark, he just returned to blathering about the Danish cartoons)…it was horrid. Badly done, and so incredibly inappropriate.

Hooray for the Olympics, and good luck to all the athletes from all the countries. But a big, big thumbs-down to NBC’s approach to presenting tonight’s ceremonies.

Steelers take the Superbowl

Neither Prairie nor I really know much about football, and we don’t really care to know much. However, that didn’t stop us from kicking back and having a fun time watching the game and doing our own form of silly armchair quarterbacking.

Favorite commentary moment: after a player got injured, the commentator was trying to figure out just what the injury was and said that, “I can’t tell if that’s an ankle or a head.” To which I responded, “good thing you’re not a doctor!”

Best commercials: the “Don’t Judge Too Quickly” series (for an insurance company…I think) were a close runner-up, as was the Bud Light “Streaker”, but my favorite (due to being completely bizarrely surreal) was the Burger King “Whopperettes” bit.

And, in the end, the Steelers took it. Still — at least the Seahawks were there.

And now, a few hours without TV before Grey’s Anatomy comes on. Code black!

The biggest cause of failure is success

Mike is doing some brainstorming on how to predict and cope with bandwidth spikes when a post or page suddenly becomes a popular destination.

When a blogger’s work becomes successful enough to, for a moment, graze the underbelly of commercial publishing, it threatens the very low-cost predicate of the publication itself.


Setting aside for the moment the absurdity of the situation, which is clear, it seems to me that over the past few years we’ve seen this exact phenomenon occur over and over again. I’m guessing, now that media people have integrated the blogosphere into their information gathering practices, we’ll see it with greater frequency and to more devastating effect over time.

My bandwidth as of 11/23/03As I recently discovered, this is a very real worry. I’d joked in the past about the “perfect post”, that one blog entry that suddenly exposes a site to the world and brings in all the traffic that so many people wish that they had — but actually stumbling upon that “perfect post” has made it very clear just how much of a double-edged sword that can really be.

In Mike’s ruminations on how things like this can be coped with, he mentioned something that sounded like a possibility…

…I think there is a proactive business opportunity for the right business to defray these transient bandwidth costs, probably in the form of short term ads on the sites that are experiencing the bolus. […] I will note that it might even be cooler yet if this feature enabled Google keyword ads. Maybe it should be an independent service, or a program that the keyword service provides for bloggers, who are currently more or less specifically discouraged from using it.

I applied for Google AdSense at one point, but they turned me down. While it was a bit of a bummer, it wasn’t much of a surprise, as Google doesn’t seem to want to accept most weblogs into their AdSense program. It seems that if you run a very tightly-focused weblog on a specific topic (such as PVR Blog or Daring Fireball) you’ve got a good chance of being accepted, but less-focused weblogs (such as mine, yours, the one you’re going to read next, or the other 99% of the blogosphere) will be denied. Unfortunately, the exact methodology or reasoning behind the approval/denial process is more than a little unclear.

There’s a far more serious problem with AdSense, though. The approval system is capricious, even arbitrary. It’s understandable that Google wants to make sure sites aren’t just ad farms, and it’s in everyone’s interest that quality be maintained, ideally by human verifiers. Nobody wants to see those sad Red Cross PSAs that take the place of house ads on poorly-indexed sites.


The human verification process at Google, though, is uncharacteristically opaque. I’d assume they factor in the ads which would run on a site before approving or denying an application, and if I take a look at , I see some of value. Ads specifically targeted to weblog software, Manhattan computer repair, New York hotels. These all seem relevant and valuable to me, but I’ve been repeatedly rejected.


It’s not just sour grapes on my part. Take NYC Eats, a great little niche weblog. Aaron’s brilliant little AdSense senser shows , which makes sense since the letters “NYC” by themselves cost two dollars a click. But no AdSense approval there. The problem is the wording in theprogram policies:


In general, we do not accept personal pages, chat sites, or blogs into the AdSense program. However, if a site contains targeted, text-based content and/or provides a product or service, we may consider it for participation.

In a perfect world (well, my perfect world, that is), of course, Google would open up their AdSense program to the weblogging world at large. While their AdSense ads might be a little random on the main page of a site due to the random nature of the main page posts not giving clear, concise keywords to work with, if a site design includes individual archive pages than each individual post should have enough keywords to target a specific ad category (my Mac-specific posts would get Mac-centric ads, my political posts would get political-centric ads, and so on).

If they don’t want to do that, though, what if Google set up an agreement with TypePad (or other for-pay hosting sites) in which, in order to offset the cost of bandwidth spikes, Google AdSense ads could be (semi-)automatically added to a site when they reached a certain bandwidth point (90% of their available monthly bandwidth per their agreement, for example)? Each auto-generated template could include code something along the lines of <$MTAdSense><!-- include "/ads/google/" --><$/MTAdSense$> that would be automatically triggered by the TypePad servers when bandwidth exceeded whatever the cutoff point was. Any revenue generated by clicks on the ads would automatically be siphoned to TypePad and applied to offset the costs of the extra bandwidth usage during the spike.

There could even be a toggle in the TypePad preferences that allowed a site author to insert a “registration key” if they were accepted by the Google AdSense program that would enable the AdSense ads on a full-time basis. In this case, Google would send any revenue to the site author as per their usual setup, instead of sending it to TypePad.

Just an idea. Workable? I haven’t got a clue — barriers include the coding of the feature (while I’m no program-level coder, it doesn’t strike me as being too terribly difficult of a feature to enable), inclusion of the feature into already-existing weblogs (not difficult for TypePad Basic, Plus, or Pro levels using the auto-generated templates, Pro levels using advanced templates would need to add the requisite code themselves), and — most importantly (and possibly most difficult) — Google and TypePad (or, of course, whatever other hosting service that might be interested) negotiating the partnership. Still, if it could be worked out, I think it could be useful and beneficial to the blogging community at large.

Genetic Engineering

NZ billboard protesting genetic engineering

Here’s an eye opener for you — a New Zealand billboard from Mothers Against Genetic Engineering protesting genetic engineering experiments that asks “Why not just genetically engineer women for milk?

Aside from the obvious (and brilliant) attention-getting shock tactics of the image, there’s some interesting questions being raised here.

New Zealanders are allowing a handful of corporate scientists and ill-informed politicians to make decisions on the ethics of GE. Our largest science company, AgResearch, is currently putting human genes into cows in the hope of creating new designer milks. The ethics of such experiments have not even been discussed by the wider public. How far will we allow them to go?

Unfortunately, it’s time for me to head out the door to get to work. Discuss amongst yourselves.

(via MeFi)