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To block or not to block?

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It is a burning question in the domain of the wired world. Online advertising is rife. The use of AdBlock Plus is sky-high. What gives?

Many sites wish to augment their income by placing sponsored advertising on the site. While this is not unreasonable on the face of it, the fact is advertising got greedy and presented massive pop-up adverts, some of which chained one after another so getting rid of them was difficult. Some "your computer is infected, click here to..." spoof system dialogues and work by tricking the clueless. Others "you have just won..." work on gullibility.
But most are just bogus. If I'm looking for that perfect little PHP routine, I don't want to see home insurance.

  • I usually read http://www.theregister.co.uk/ and I usually block adverts. Well, I switched all the blocking off and authorised eight other domains (tradedoubler, adledge, doubleclick, google stuff, adviva, quantserve, and specificclick).
    The adverts are all in French. At least it noticed the country.
    At the top of the page is an advert for Orange TV. Gee, who's my ISP, numbnuts? Why are you advertising what I could already get if it didn't mean the headache of messing with my satellite dish?
    Down a ways on the right, "Cortal Consors" which appears to be... actually I'm not sure.
    Further down, ING Direct savings "Livret épargne orange" offering 4.5% guaranteed (footnote - see conditions, the ones probably saying "for the first week only" or somesuch).
    Given that this site promotes itself as "Biting the hand that feeds IT", we can clearly see why automated adverts p!ss people off. And given there appear to be three adverts, why were there eight domains to be added? Where is ThinkGeek? Where is Maplin? Where is anything with the slightest bit of IT relevance?
    Actually, there was one. Avnet, enterprise open storage solutions, part of a massively subtle textual advertising provided by Google. Hell, the colourscheme fit, I thought it was some extra content at the bottom of the site. And it was relevant. Impressive. Also a useful exercise as I have so many more adsites to blacklist. ☺
Google is starting to make inroads with small tactful adverts which actually seem to make sense to the content concerned. [sponsored link: click here for cheap home contents insurance] However this is, for myself and numerous others, a case of "too little too late". We're sick of fake warning windows. We're sick of dozens of pop-ups and pop-unders. We're sick of screaming flashing gaudy adverts with the associated sound effects that are extremely unwanted at four in the morning when other people are sleeping.
Three times for emphasis: We're sick of it. We're sick of it. We're sick of it.


You'll hear that it is stealing to visit a website with advert blocking. The arguments for this sound fairly convincing, but once you remove the pity-me-poor-webmaster whine, you will find the following analogy useful:

  • The webmaster lives on the corner, at the edge of town. He erects a billboard. On this billboard he places a cute, demure, and mostly undressed girl. Well, a giant photo of her.
    And then he walks around telling people not to look unless they take one of the flyers he is handing out. How looking is "theft" unless you take a flyer.
See how stupid the argument is? A website offered to the world is visible to the world. As a webmaster YOU are perfectly within your rights to scatter advertising all over the place. And we, as visitors, are perfectly within our rights to block undesirable content, be it a blanket ban on Flash or an advert blocker. To be honest, I don't think AdBlockPlus gets much of a look-in, for NoScript usually prevents most advertising from appearing. Security trumps adverts, every time.

Don't even begin to say that it is "theft", refer to the ludicrous analogy above. You put content up for the world to see and you want to tell us how to see it. Fine, go ahead. But don't be surprised if an increasing number of us vote with our feet. I objected to paying a Sky subscription and still get my time wasted with adverts. So I cancelled. And I don't really miss it. It is standing up for what we, users, believe in.

It would appear that the majority of advert schemes are pay-per-click rather than pay-per-view, so not only do we have to see adverts, we have to visit them, which is something I have no intention of doing - I have never ever clicked an on-line advert for the goodies promised... and, as such, my hiding adverts does not necessarily equal loss of your revenue.

Furthermore, there are a number of access methods which are billed according to consumption and/or time (dial-up, GPRS...) in which it can be counterargued that forcing advertising as stealing from visitors, and let me tell you, the cost to visit a bandwidth-heavy advert-laden site will likely be considerably more than the minute fraction of a cent per advert that might be missed out on otherwise.


Some say "it is a private website, not a public one". Incorrect. It may be privately owned, but if anybody can access it, it is public. The alternative, a private site, is one running an access control technology that lets only certain people (usually subscribers) access the content. It is generally the case that the most vocal supporters of advertising are those with ad-ridden sites. They accuse us of take,take,take when we visit with adblockers, they see their content in SEO terms - that a web page has to 'perform', that their efforts in producing the content need to be monetized (US spelling because us Brits wouldn't use such a word willingly).
This is probably the biggest difference between The Web and Web2.0. Oh, sure, people point out user interactivity from blog comments to MySpace meetings, but there's little human interaction that a half-decent BBS didn't offer two decades ago. You can see and speak in realtime with Skype, but trust me - if the technology in the late '80s was up to it, we'd have done it back then...
No, the big difference in Web2.0 is the number of people seeing their site purely in monetary terms. Site equals profit.
And that's all they seem to be able to comprehend.


The biggest fail of a question is to ask "is it moral?". There is no morality or ethics involved in putting adverts on a site. I personally consider it unethical, but I do not expect others to have the exact same set of standards as me, everybody is different, and it isn't really a question of ethics or morals if you perceive your site in terms of dollar symbols. It is merely a means to an end.
Likewise blocking adverts. It is not immoral, it is not unethical. It is a technological method of filtering content that you either don't want to see, don't want to risk on your computer, and/or don't want to pay to retrieve.

I can obtain a magazine with adverts, but I am under no obligation to look at a one of them. They are, mostly, the printed form of white noise.
Likewise, I can access a website with adverts, but I am under no obligation to devote my time/bandwidth/processing to them.


The final prong of the argument is the one that pro-ad people usually become irrational in arguing, because they have no valid counterargument. Ready?

There are fairly few organisations who provide embedded pay-per-whatever advertising. In order to advertise, they must establish a communication between your computer and theirs. This is usually invoked by a embed or script of some sort on the site being visited.
I probably got nonsense adverts on TheRegister because I was unprofilable (I run a plugin that scrambles many known tracing cookies). If I used a normal browser and visited normal sites and saw all the adverts, these companies would be able to track my activities, my interests, the sites I visit and the times of day I do so. And from this build a profile of the sort of person that I am, which may have slightly more commercial value than simply feeding more applicable advertising.
This is an enormous privacy concern and is one of the primary reasons that I do NOT permit advertising to be displayed on my computer. The site of the advertisee only knows my presence in the site, and its cookies are only valid for the site, and its understanding of the outside world does not stretch beyond the referrer text.
Targetted advertisers, running the same advert system on numerous sites, will be able to track from one to the next. Sure, they are only capable of seeing you in context to their adverts, but by constructing special URLs, they will know which advert on which third-party site they are feeding.
This is an unacceptable invasion of privacy. An unacceptable and unwanted profiling that is far too easily corrupted (say, if a friend used my computer for an hour while I was making a meal...).

I say NO.
I run NoScript and AdBlock Plus.
End of.


BTW, I hoped you liked my adverts. There are a few in-jokes lurking in there...
I must, however, mention that the logo-over-sea background is actually a rather cool backdrop created by "mcgowran". You can find it here.

OMG, I'm in vogue!

For years us so-called Climate Change Skeptics have been regarded as nutcases and head-in-the-sand idiots for failing to see the bleedin' obvious.

The sad fact is that many of us CCSs were not actually skeptical about Climate Change, for we are smart enough to be aware that Climate Changes. Our skepticism was aimed more at the promoted extent of mankind's responsibility. We were frequently accused of a total lack of scientific knowledge, and were considered thusly unqualified for making any sort of comment whatsoever.
Our counterarguments run mostly as follows:

  • True science is not absolute, it is a best-guess given examination of all available data.
    The data pertaining to "global warming" is not publically available. By contrast, the Human Genome is.
  • Science is subject to peer review. Where's the peer review here? Who independently has access to the data to try to work out theories to disprove something? [there can be a dozen ways to prove a point, but it only needs one to disprove it]
  • Governments were quite willing to apply taxation on stated causes of global warming. Given that a lot of the science is government funded (as is normal), it creates an interesting conflict of interest which leads to the likelihood of "here is the result we want, bend the data so it fits" or "apply selective tunnel vision to make this result viable".
  • First world nations suddenly started talking about carbon trading with third world countries. What utter bollocks! A bank robber does not claim the right to rob more banks because most people do not. The workable solution is to stop robbing banks. Likewise, the workable solution is to reduce carbon emissions instead of purchasing credits from small countries that didn't pollute in the first place so you can all feel good about yourselves. This sort of tactic brings the entire scheme into disrepute.
  • Gross inaccuracies. We know the computer models that predict we'll all have indoor swimming pools (i.e. our living rooms filled with water) in 'x' years, ice caps melting because of skanky lager louts EasyJetting to Ibiza each summer and whatever stupid excuse comes next.
    If I think my shoes get soggy walking across the field to feed the cats, I really don't wanna see planet Earth in fifty years...
    But, wait, hang on... Can you run that simulation backwards? If you do, and it is a true valid simulation, we ought to have a status that fairly well matches the 1950s (fifty years in reverse) when we were pretty industrialised, and we kept records. Does it work? We don't really know as this information is not publically available.
Thanks to ClimateGate's leaked emails and a number of scientists blowing the whistle, we now realise that Climate Change is real (seriously, was that ever in doubt?) but that mankinds actual contribution may be negligibly minor (which is what we've been saying all along!). The infamous hockey-stick shaped graph (the one Al Gore goes up and up and up for) has been torn to shreds. The Earth is warming on an upward trend, but you get hot years and cold years as it is like a sine wave rather than a straight line. A hockey stick shaped whoo-hoo and up she goes? It was a convenient fabrication.

In the clock-like diagram of the evolution of our planet (see Geologic time scale on Wiki), humans represent a barely visible blip - we're there at 11h59m59.99s if that. And of the entirety of human evolution, we're peeing in our pants over a climatic disturbance in a timescale of a known few hundred years. It's vanishingly unimportant in the scale of things, it is only important to the way the world is for us, here, now. But nature has shown it is not above wiping the slate clean and starting afresh (the extinction of the dinosaurs), and it is possible we have already experienced a cataclysmic flood in the past - consider what actual scientific reason would explain Noah's Ark. It isn't theological dogma. From ancient Chinese scripture to Greek Mythology and historical storytelling such as Lebor Gabéla Érenn (Irish), Aztecs, Incas... pretty much every ancient civilisation has a flood story. Global warming? Climate change? Perhaps, perhaps not. But it is worth pointing out that our planet is in contant turmoil. The seemingly increasing frequency of violent storms should demonstrate this, along with what would seem to be an increasing number of destructive earthquakes.

When you couple this with recent events along the French coast (and no doubt other places before long), you can start to see why I have said this carbon nonsense should not be our prime concern. The cycle of cause and effect and what it will mean for us is what should concern us.

The sad casualty in all of this is "An Inconvenient Truth". As days and revelations pass, Al Gore's EcoBaby looks more and more like a hoax. This is very sad, for if we can accept that the science is screwed up and if we can accept that man's contribution to Climate Change may be somewhat different to that which is portrayed... well, we are seeing more violent hurricanes (and is it me or are there more earthquakes too?). A huge lake did disappear... There is a story waiting to be told here. Because for all the mud you can sling at Mr. Gore for his scientific analysis, that doesn't change the fact that the things referred to are real. His interpretations and explanations may be off the mark, but the events happened all the same. Do we chalk it up as "fate"? Or do we apply better scientific analysis?

You might wonder why I am being nice to Mr. Gore instead of slamming him. Well, it's the scientific way. Once the Earth was the centre of the universe, until something was shown to orbit a distant body (and not the Earth) which paved the way for Earth orbiting the sun, which is orbiting in an arm of a spiral galaxy...
Science is about making an assertion and refining it continually to get the best answer. Isaac Newton developed some scary maths which will fly spacecraft to other planets with accuracy. But it is wrong. Albert Einstein developed some seriously frightening maths to refine Newton's concepts. But the world mostly uses Newton's method because it works "well enough" outside of oddities like high gravitational fields, and it is a heck of a lot easier to understand.
Likewise, "An Inconvenient Truth" showed us some events, and added an explanation and a call to action. The explanation has been shown to be fairly wrong. The correct solution is not to say "balls!" and dismiss it, but to devise a better explanation.

Or, I'll put it thus:
Go find "An Inconvenient Truth" (try your local library if you missed it on TV) and watch it.
His explanation stands, until such time as it can be refined to a better explanation.
Because, as I have said, there is a story here. It is waiting, but not forever.


Your comments:

Please note that while I check this page every so often, I am not able to control what users write; therefore I disclaim all liability for unpleasant and/or infringing and/or defamatory material. Undesired content will be removed as soon as it is noticed. By leaving a comment, you agree not to post material that is illegal or in bad taste, and you should be aware that the time and your IP address are both recorded, should it be necessary to find out who you are. Oh, and don't bother trying to inline HTML. I'm not that stupid! ☺
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John, 5th March 2010, 14:41
GratefulDead.net? That's twisted!
Rick, 5th March 2010, 22:23
That's the point! :-)
Mick, 6th March 2010, 08:42
Advertising on websites does indeed suck! I also use No Script now, and how much better certain sites have become. Okay, some I have to allow on a temp basis as they don't work otherwise. Some ads I even click on too. Just so Brentford FC gets that 0.00001 of an extra penny? Not read OMG yet. Off to Leeds now. Come on you Bees! Sorry Rick, have I just advertised that Leeds vs Brentford takes place today at 3 pm?:-))) ... But you need a ticket in advance and they are no longer on sale...... Darn it. I haven't quite got the hang of this advertising lark have I.

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