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    The question is, what is the alternative? I see two main funding models:

    Paywalls. You pay with your money.

    Ads. You pay with your attention.

    It’s also possible to fund projects through donations, or as hobbies, but producing most of what there is to read requires more money.

    Has capitalism really progressed so far that we can no longer even conceive of collective funding models? No wonder people put up with privatised prisons, schools and healthcare systems.

    Yes I am suggesting software/news/services could be funded from taxes. Content that is a necessary part of our social infrastructure should be. Content that serves only a luxury/entertainment purpose could be covered by art grants to supplement the models the author listed.

    Increasingly we require certain software and internet services to function in society, we should view this as basic infrastructure.

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      Let us be distinct about funding infrastructure maintenance compared with funding software development or other artistic production. Then, indeed, infrastructure could be maintained through taxes in a non-controversial application of socialist logic. However, the design of that infrastructure will be by committees and incumbent power structures. Similarly, art grants could be extended to software authors, with all of the controversy over ownership and licensing that would result.

      But for infrastructure, there’s at least one additional option, which is perhaps more communist than socialist: the cooperative. The Bittorrent network is a popular example; folks each contribute a small amount of bandwidth and disk space, and create a vast content-distribution network which becomes faster and more available as content keys become hotter.

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        However, the design of that infrastructure will be by committees and incumbent power structures.

        Socialism is all about upsetting the incumbent power structure and putting the people in charge. In recent conceptions this has included nationalising utilities and putting them under the control of a board of stakeholders including service users, workers, and government (Labour party, 2019). There’s also the municipal socialism model where this is devolved to a local level (and quite a few essential services are delivered by municipally owned organisations, some of which are even meaningfully democratic).

        Sure, there will still be committees, but there’s no reason that they have to be more onerous than they are in capitalist organisations. There’s nothing stopping a small group from doing its own thing and then trying to persuade the world to adopt it, indeed, if you don’t need to devote less of your time to wage labour you have more capacity to do such things and if the stakeholders don’t need surveillance capitalism then there should be less of an incentive mismatch.

        Small aside: Lots of socialist parties support the co-operative movement. The Labour party in the UK has been in electoral coalition with the co-operative party for decades.

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          For an implementation that’s a lot closer in spirit to what you describe, see freenet.

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          I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon when discussing English football (soccer) in the aftermath of the attempt to form a breakaway league. (If you aren’t following it, the short version is that some historically profitable clubs tried to start a new league from which they cannot be relegated to guarantee their income, where the “they” in “their” is the owners who treat it as a business rather than the cultural entity it is.)

          Any ideas that in any way restrict the freedom of the owners of these clubs - culture and wider society be damned - are out of the question.

          We are now so deeply within this economic orthodoxy that we can no longer conceive of ideas that don’t neatly fit within it.

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            Has capitalism really progressed so far that we can no longer even conceive of collective funding models? No wonder people put up with privatised prisons, schools and healthcare systems.

            Yes I am suggesting software/news/services could be funded from taxes. Content that is a necessary part of our social infrastructure should be. Content that serves only a luxury/entertainment purpose could be covered by art grants to supplement the models the author listed.

            We could fund things that way, and maybe we should fund things that way. But we aren’t funding things that way, which means that for right now there are only a handful of practical funding models that work, and none of them are good.

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              Paywalls. You pay with your money.

              These are annoying indeed but there are plenty of websites where you pay for content but can freely share a number of articles each month or so with non-subscribers, like LWN or The Correspondent. There are plenty of people paying them. And no ads!

              Ads. You pay with your attention.

              Like others say, this completely bypasses the deeply invasive ways ads on the internet track you. See also this other post showing how Facebook doesn’t even want to expose this to users because they’re too ashamed of it.

              It also ignores the “user experience” of ads, which is often terrible - making your machine slow, hijacking your attention with big boxes that you have to click away etc. I don’t mind a well-designed ad here and there like you used to have in magazines, but the current ad experience is just hellish.

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                It also ignores the “user experience” of ads, which is often terrible - making your machine slow

                Indeed we collectively pay for ads through bandwidth and power consumption. Why is this never factored in?

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                  The Cost of Mobile Ads on 50 News Websites estimated ads are >50% of mobile data usage.

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                  Ads. You pay with your attention.

                  Like others say, this completely bypasses the deeply invasive ways ads on the internet track you.

                  It’s not just the tracking. Ads are intentionally manipulative. A lot of the techniques in modern advertising date back to the propaganda techniques from the early 20th century and have been progressively refined. There are benign ads, which try to inform customers and rely on the fact that the product serves a real need and is better than the competition for a specific use, but they’re in the minority. The vast majority are using psychological tricks to try to manipulate people into spending money.

                  If your motivation for working on ads is rooted in the idea that there’s a lot of wealth disparity and so a lot of people who couldn’t afford paywalled content, maybe you shouldn’t work in an industry that’s predicated on finding the most vulnerable people in society and taking money from them?

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                  Can you give more detail on how you would have government funding of media without government control of the media? Maybe a dedicated tax, the way the BBC is authorized to collect an annual fee from anyone in the UK who owns a television?

                  Maybe it’s better to have a media landscape beholden to a government which we (in the US) mostly elect than one beholden to a few giant ad companies, but not that much better.

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                    Here are some options:

                    1. Make them financially independent by giving investments or a trust fund rather than recurring grants (this is how The Guardian (partially) funds itself, and how many universities and charities in the USA are funded)
                    2. Encourage individuals to do the funding (this is how lots of public broadcasting in the USA is funded now, especially in the US. Possibly increase minimum wage or issue vouchers to get more funding from poorer people)
                    3. Get a more trustworthy government (Proportional representation, better parties, funding reform, gerrymandering, etc, etc)

                    I’d also argue that the existing corporate media in the USA is beholden to government, or at the very least has a deeply untrustworthy relationship with it. The corporate media are well known for uncritically repeating lies fed to them by intelligence officers (Glenn Greenwald and others have written about this often) and political journalists are dependent on “access” to government ministers and officials for their stories, which requires them to be chummy with the people they are supposedly holding to account.

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                    I once asked an economist doing monetary policy studies for African nations how she thought the world could work without currency (a la Star Trek, or similar) and she legit could not concieve of such a thing, said it was impossible.

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                      Well, she would’ve probably thought of something like the Economic Calculation Problem and decided it wasn’t worth her time to solve…

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                        You have the same failure of imagination. Conceivably, a post-scarcity world where you have a matter replicator at home and you can just walk up to it and say what you want and it gets fabricated for you on the fly would conceivably not need a market, hence its absence in Star Trek TNG for example.

                        It’s ridiculously far-fetched, but it’s just an exercise in imagination. We’re as a society so fixated on current economics and politicization, we can’t even conceive of different systems. Is what we have now the end state? If so, we’ve stopped dreaming and evolving.

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                          I was going to make some joke about fully-automated luxury communism or the like but thought we were talking from within the bounds of possibility.

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                    Advertising is bad because it’s fundamentally about influencing people to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise

                    No, it’s bad because it’s being used a vector to track and surveill you across meatspace and cyberspace, and to create a secret digital copy of you, that is literally owned by a company, for the purposes of renting your doppleganger out to anybody with a chequebook who wants to control you.

                    Ads are merely annoying. Global surveillance is why the author’s hat has a little skull on it.

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                      I have ads enabled on readthedocs.io, distrowatch, and other places that host banner images on their own servers. I may not be interested in anything people advertise there, but at least I’m indeed paying with my attention—and I don’t mind that price.

                      “I need money to survive, and that’s why I’m acting as an accomplice in a surveillance capitalism scheme” is a position that has no justifications though.

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                        That quote’s not from the article. You quoted a comment.

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                          Yes but it’s a common sentiment that’s also being expressed in this comments page.

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                            Oh, I didn’t mean to present it as a quote from the original article. I just rephrased what websites that use ad networks and people working on those ad networks say in their defense.

                            The original article, like many people said already, completely ignores the data collection aspect, and frankly reads like something from the 90’s when that wasn’t an issue yet

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                          The arresting thing on this article (I largely disagree with, though understand and appreciate, the author’s argument) is the first comment:

                          Advertising is bad because it’s fundamentally about influencing people to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise

                          The same can be said about schools, parenting, democracy, and having arguments on tech blog discussion threads.

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                            The motivation is what’s relevant.

                            In that sense, as much as they annoy me, religious preachers are less annoying than advertisers.

                            And you’ve touched upon it but it’s even more questionable when applied to democracy/politics. To call that a grey area would be an understatement.

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                              In civilised countries there are at least laws governing standards for adverts. You can’t claim your chocolate bar or miracle drug will cure a disease without proof.

                              Religious preachers have no such limitations.

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                                In the UK, there are a lot of restrictions on where those laws apply. Getting them enforced for anything online is really hard, especially given that the ad may show up only for a small number of people and may be paid for by someone in a different country.

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                                  I’m pretty sure warm beer discounts the UK from the “civilised” qualifier anyway :-P

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                                    Taste buds stop responding when they get cold. If your beer is so bad that you have to deaden your tastebuds to be able to stomach it, then you might consider trying better beer. The US started chilling beer during prohibition for precisely this reason: it was so bad that you couldn’t drink it at room temperature and had to chill it so that you couldn’t taste it as much.

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                                      (a) You couldn’t pay me to drink American ‘beer’.

                                      (b) I agree completely with your hypothesis, because as we all know, ice cream is tasteless. /s

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                            I wouldn’t mind nearly as much as I do if:

                            • they were targeted at the content of the page, not me
                            • they didn’t track me and my doings
                            • they were passive, with no javascript to waste my battery and speed up my fans

                            To say that ”with ads you pay with your attention” is to ignore the darkest sides of the ad industry.

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                              Most products are a much better fit for some people than others. If you tried selling bicycles to fish very few would be interested, and you’d mostly be wasting their attention. This means advertising is worth a lot more when you can put the right ad in front of the right person.

                              I wonder if a major problem with ads is that they mostly aren’t good fits. Almost no ads I see ever are for things I want. With is a fundamental failing of adtech: there are lots of things I want! There are even lots of things I don’t know I want, but would want if I saw the right ad!

                              But I don’t think what I actually want is easily inferable from my browsing habits, no matter how much datamining you do. The only thing that could work is if an advertising company worked directly with me to find out my interests, and so tailor the ads they send me. I’d happily opt in if it meant seeing fewer, higher-quality ads. But I don’t think that strategy scales, so it wouldn’t work for internet advertising.

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                                I wonder if a major problem with ads is that they mostly aren’t good fits. Almost no ads I see ever are for things I want.

                                Ironically, this became true when Google started to go all Big Brother. In the early ‘00s, Google ads were plain text, non-intrusive, and based on the content of the page on which they were displayed. I actually clicked on a bunch of them because they showed products directly related to the thing that I was interested in at precisely the point when they showed me the ad. Now, they’re based on a trailing indicator of my preferences from a complex psychological model of me and so even when they show things I’m interested in, they rarely show things I’m interested in at the precise moment that they show the ads.

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                                  People keep saying this, but if plain text ads based on the content of the page really outperformed datamining then why wouldn’t Google do that? I’m sure Google will have run trials comparing page-content ads and surveillance-ads.

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                                    It’s probably different for different people. In my case, I use various privacy-oriented extensions that have the effect of blocking all content from domains that have been observed attempting to track me across the ’net. So sites that host their own ads related to the content of the site get seen by me, whereas things served up by ad networks based on some imagined profile of what I want derived from my browsing habits get blocked.

                                    So in my case, it is unequivocally true that plain text ads based on the content of the page outperform the more invasive ones, purely by virtue of the fact that I will participate in the former but not the latter.

                                    I suspect I’m not the only one here in that boat. I also suspect that my configuration is over-represented here vs the overall web using population.

                                    While it seems likely that google has run the trials, keep in mind that the trials would have been designed/executed by and the results analyzed by people who make their livelihood doing the surveillance/data mining thing. And that it’s easier to monitor results from that, due to, y’know, surveillance.

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                                  I feel similarly, but I also know people who say they spend too much money browsing Instagram because they keep seeing ads that lead to purchases.

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                                  Trust is the biggest issue. Placing a third-party ad on your site auctions off a quanta of your trust and passes it off as theirs. I mean, you wouldn’t put an outright scam on your blog. You wouldn’t take money from strangers to litter your personal conversations with Eat Charleston Chew interjections. So why would you do it on the Internet? Hubs & authorities has soured to hubs & salesmen. Recommendations from the highest bidder aren’t worth much at all, not in my experience.

                                  I live in an area with a lot of billboards along the interstate. We could disallow them, like Vermont(?). We could even disallow most exterior signage, too, like in parts of South Carolina. And they get by ok!

                                  Paying for content has got to come back in style. Twitch is a whole ocean of Internet the author seems unaware of or uninterested in talking about: most streamers I see would be unable to continue on ad revenue alone. A World Lit Only By Ads just seems unimaginative and, well, limiting.

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                                    If media companies sold and served their own ads they’d be in better shape than outsourcing or paywalls. Part of the post Craigslist world was double click (now known as google) and a few others invading a space that used to be in-house. Then turning reliable profits for independent media orgs, into a game of bowing to whatever idea the conglomerates had for ads. AMP, etc.

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                                      I appreciate his point about “keep the web open”, but I think it’s inherently misguided.

                                      You wouldn’t argue for ads in every home, in exchange for a free house, so that everyone can have a house. Because the result would be terrible housing for everyone.

                                      While free markets are also imperfect, they are a much better mechanism for improving the overall quality of life for everyone than government-funded solutions. Or in this case, solutions funded by our Ad-overlords.

                                      If someone wants to charge 100$ a year for their website, and some people can’t afford it, that’s fine. Someone else will find a cheaper way to provide the same service, and capitalize on the unattended market.

                                      Ads are ruining the internet. Give us a real alternative, and let’s see what the people choose.

                                      By real alternative, I mean convenient micropayments, or something of the sort.

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                                        While free markets are also imperfect, they are a much better mechanism for improving the overall quality of life for everyone than government-funded solutions. Or in this case, solutions funded by our Ad-overlords.

                                        Um the “Ad overlords” are some of the largest corporations on planet earth. They are the very definition of “the market”. Seems like you’ve already gotten what you want.

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                                          No, imho a healthy market is one where monopolies are prevented, competition is possible, and new & upcoming players have a chance to grow. It’s not the case right now. Don’t mistake me for a libertarian just because I speak about free markets, which are an amazing invention that we should take more advantage of, but in a controlled manner.

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                                            As the term “Free Markets” is widely misunderstood, I feel it’s appropriate to correct the record: it was coined to describe markets which were free of rentiers preventing new entrants from competing.