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Talk from Maciej (from pinboard.in) on advertising

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    One up-vote is not enough! Incidentally, I wish more talks came with transcripts like that! Even in a private office I find I prefer to read rather than watch a video. (Perhaps I read faster than people talk?)

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      Yeah, I have a sensory processing issue - I can watch video, but it’s excruciating and I’m certainly not absorbing the content very well. I definitely appreciated the transcript on this one.

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        Out of curiosity, does this apply to entertainment video as well?

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        I like reading transcripts, and I avoid podcasts and videos like the plague. To me there’s less perceived mental overhead stepping away from a text for a moment to think about something I’ve read than doing the same with a video or audio track.

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          I agree, I definitely prefer to have the choice to read - this reminds me of http://vis.berkeley.edu/videodigests , which seems to have stalled, unfortunately.

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          If you go back and read Orwell, you’ll notice that Oceania was actually quite good at data security. Our own Thought Police is a clown car operation with no checks or oversight, no ability to keep the most sensitive information safe, and no one behind the steering wheel.

          Cannot stop laughing.

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            He discusses the problems with the Bay Area government through the homelessness and the inability of the local government to capture any of the boom. It’s not restricted to Northern California: the same problem exists on much the same level in Seattle. Despite Amazon and Microsoft booming over the course of multiple decades (Microsoft has been here for almost forty years), there are more homeless people in Seattle in any but three other American cities [0]. When fulfilling their most basic requirement to the city, Amazon received lots of good press for building affordable housing, which it dramatically overstated [1].

            On a more anecdotal note, the second tier of private transportation has boomed while the public transportation construction has been mired in delay and over-budget spending. Public infrastructure is not only a problem in cities with large wealthy companies, but it is more notable for that reason. If the companies were unable to create their own reality-distortion field around their workers/offices and instead relied on the same services as the rest of the city as (again this is anecdotal and/or a sample size of one) New York City financial/government/technology firms have, real improvements could be made.

            Still amazed at how perfectly “trickle-down economics” covers this.

            [0]: http://www.npr.org/2015/04/07/398075834/amid-seattles-affluence-homelessness-also-flourishes The three cities are New York (population 8.5 million), Los Angeles (population 4 million), and Las Vegas (population 600k). Seattle has a population of ~670k. If the only comparable city on this list is the one historically known for its corruption, it’s at the very least highly unflattering.

            [1]: http://crosscut.com/2015/07/amazon-exaggerates-its-support-for-affordable-housing/

            Edit: I changed formatting for the footnotes. “[0]” turned into a link without escape characters; didn’t realize that would happen.

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              It is pretty sick to think what could have been done if Apple and Google and Facebook pooled their private bus money and rained it down on Caltrain. To say nothing of the absolutely pathetic bus service in Santa Clara.

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                Probably nothing. I don’t know local budget issues, but I would expect that if the tech giants donate a billion to public transportation, the budgeting government would immediately shift up to a billion from the public transportation funding to any other place they’d prefer to spend money. This is the open secret of how large organizations like charities and universities spend targeted donations. Money will technically go where the donor chose, but until a donation is larger than their planned buget the organization can use money’s fungibility to spend “targeted” donations where they choose.

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                  Some of the change would’ve been easier to make some decades ago, when the Valley pursued car-oriented urban planning, which was at the time seen as advanced and future-looking. Silicon Valley opted out of BART, and instead poured the money that would’ve been spent on BART into more freeways. That’s why south bay is one of the few places in the U.S. that has controlled-access county expressways, in addition to the federal and state expressways (I-280, US-101, CA-85, etc. are supplemented by San Tomas Expressway, Central Expressway, etc.).

                  I don’t know much about the tech industry’s role in that, though. Were they lobbying again BART and for these freeways? I wouldn’t be surprised if they were, but would be interested in reading some history, if anyone’s written it up.

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                    Sad agree. Maybe they should instead take that money and pay employees extra to take the bus, drive ridership through the roof, and force the issue.

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                      Or move their campuses closer to where their employees want to live?

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                        The Bay Area is peculiarly anti-development. Probably the most NIMBY part of the country. “I got mine, now you go someplace else.” Old money vs new money is nothing new, but it’s strange when the “old” money is only a few years old.

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                        The extant public buses simply do not travel the routes the tech employees would need. Otherwise, this would certainly be worth trying.

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                      I’ve spent considerable time wondering whether BART would accept those donations, and whether they’d use it to add the routes the tech companies need if they did. I mean, even if implemented that would certainly still create a lot of public resentment, but it’d be the socially responsible thing.

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                    There’s still a few sites that do flat fee ads. Or “sponsored content” which I think often gets a much worse rap than it deserves. I like how daringfireball does it. There’s an ad from the deck, which is technically an ad network, but one without tracking or megabytes of javascript. And sometimes there’s a sponsored post, inline with the normal content.

                    Here’s a recent page (about the deck’s privacy policy of all things): http://daringfireball.net/linked/2015/09/21/the-deck-privacy

                    It loads google analytics, some gifs and whatnot from df, and a single php page from the deck, and a single image. If only all sites could do ads like this. (I could like without GA, but understand why a site owner may like it.)

                    I don’t have any affiliation, but I think it’s good to find an example of how things can be, and show that it really does work.

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                      Another flat-fee approach is to just have a site “sponsored” by someone, with no ad network at all. I read a local blog that is sponsored by a few local businesses. It just loads static PNGs hosted on the blog’s CMS, and presumably gets a monthly or yearly check in return.

                      The disadvantage is that you have to go talk to individual businesses to find sponsors. But as a reader that might be an advantage, if this becomes a more important funding model again. Things that don’t scale make it harder for the content farms producing quasi-specialized content: an actual local blog can call up a few local businesses, but an Internet Content Business producing 3,000 “local blogs” is going to have a tough time doing the legwork to get individual sponsors for each of them. Similarly for those doing non-geographical content farming, like across 5,000 hobbies. For that kind of business, AdSense auto-populating the ads is much nicer.

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                        I wouldn’t be so sure. It’s technically possible to search for local businesses that are not represented on many blogs, populate a blog with human-like content (or steal content, probably related content, from others), and send out an email (who makes phone calls anymore? :P) to the owner of said business asking for a meager amount of money (compared to what others might ask). Perhaps replies could even be obscured and fed through something like Mechanical Turk to extract necessary images / information. Then, done on a large scale, it could theoretically build up a profit.

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                          Could be done, but a lot slower. And much higher cost. This is the difference between push and pull.

                          Right now, there is a money funnel, in the form of ad networks. The funnel is already spraying money, you just need to get it pointed at you. That’s push. If you have to contact local businesses (with an email very likely to be spam filtered), that’s pull. They are not throwing ad dollars in the air for just anyone to catch. You would need to convince them to increase their ad budget.

                          A lot of the perverse incentives we see today are because there’s this stream of money, which has effectively already been spent, and is in need of some open hands to collect it. When the spending is no longer a given, I think we’ll see a corresponding reduction in efforts to collect.

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                            True, though phishing seems to be quite successful in pulling in money, if made effectively.

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                          A business based on 3000 “local blogs” is likely not providing enough value to exist, and is supported solely by the excess money sloshing around the advertising world.

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                            That’s my argument, that a change in advertising away from AdSense-style automatic ad networks, to legwork-based advertising like asking individual businesses for sponsorship, might actually be a good thing, because it’ll put out of business these businesses who rely only on content-farming at scale, with automated ad inventory.

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                        One thing I don’t understand: if we enact laws that prevent the sellers of ads from violating our privacy, they’ll immediately lose their little war against the robots and probably die. This isn’t the end of the world, but it’s not explicitly addressed.

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                          The ad industry survived a long time with no ability to track how many people (if any) saw an ad. I imagine it would survive these laws (alas).

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                            I suppose it’s not such a huge issue if everybody else competing with you is in the same boat too.

                            You can still do analytics on “how many people bought from this ad?” by the old-fashioned approach of putting different coupon codes on every ad anyway, I guess.

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                            That’s not always such a bad thing. Sometimes professions disappear due to changing laws, for example when slavery was abolished. These ad companies are not exactly lacking in creative ideas when it comes to selling ads. I’m sure they can put their creativity to some other use.

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                              The whole thing is based on the premise that you can trust the number that’s being spouted out by metrics saying that a gazillion people have seen the ad. I don’t think that you can, anyway.

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                              privacy and law?

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                                Definitely.

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                                Great article! Compulsory reading for everyone! I’ll have to go watch the video version now.

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                                  Another excellent read. I’m glad there are still people willing to call out the bad science fiction that passes as engineering vision these days in Silicon Valley.