dmarti is currently certified at Master level.

Name: Don Marti
Member since: 2000-04-21 19:59:46
Last Login: 2007-08-14 04:08:08

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Homepage: http://zgp.org/~dmarti/

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When a site tries to violate users' common-sense expectation of privacy, it should be the system administrator's responsibility to protect the user unless the user requests otherwise. Web ad banners are a security hole.

Information wants to be $6.95.

This 5-minute DNS tweak

protects you and the users who depend on you from the evil, intrusive tracking of doubleclick.net.

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QoTD: Craig Simmons

While ad fraud hurts the brand, every other party benefits from its existence. This alone has buoyed ad fraud's overwhelming survival in the industry. Bot operators, of course, end up pocketing a significant chunk of the $140 billion of overall digital ad spend. But it's not just the botmasters or fraudulent site owners that benefit. Buyers in the space have long been winning incremental budgets from advertisers by buying artificially well-performing impressions. Open exchanges and supply side platforms (SSPs) are responding to a demand for inventory by buying cheap scale from unknown publishers with limited transparency into the quality of those sites.

Craig Simmons

Syndicated 2014-08-26 04:21:47 from Don Marti

Temporary directory for a shell script

Set up a temporary directory to use in a Bash script, and clean it up when the script finishes:

  TMPDIR=$(mktemp -d)
trap "rm -rf $TMPDIR" EXIT

Syndicated 2014-08-22 18:46:57 from Don Marti

Original bug, not original sin

Ethan Zuckerman calls advertising The Internet's Original Sin. But sin is overstating it. Advertising has an economic and social role, just as bacteria have an important role in your body. Many kinds of bacteria can live on and around you just fine, and only become a crisis when your immune system is compromised.

The bad news is that the Internet's immune system is compromised. Quinn Norton summed it up: Everything is Broken. The same half-assed approach to security that lets random trolls yell curse words on your baby monitor is also letting a small but vocal part of the ad business claim an unsustainable share of Internet-built wealth at the expense of original content.

But email spam didn't kill email, and surveillance marketing won't kill the Web. Privacy tech is catching up. AdNews has a good piece on the progress of ad blocking, but I'm wondering about how accurate any measurement of ad blocking can be in the presence of massive fraud. Fraudulent traffic is a big part of the picture, and nobody has an incentive to run an ad blocker on that. The results from the combination of fraud and use of privacy tools are unpredictable. Paywalls are the obvious next step, but there are ways for sites to work with privacy tools, not against them.

What Ethan calls pay-for-performance is the smaller, and less valuable, part of advertising. Online ads are stuck in that niche not so much because of original sin, but because of an original bug. When the browsers of Dot-Com Boom 1.0 came out in a rush with support for privacy antifeatures such as third-party tracking, the Web excluded itself from lucrative branding or signaling advertising. The Web became a direct-response medium like email spam or direct mail. Bob Hoffman said, The web is a much better yellow pages and a much worse television. But that's not inherent in the medium. The Web is able to carry better and more signalful ads as the privacy level goes up. That's a matter of fixing the privacy bugs that allow for tracking, not a sin to expiate.

Recent news, from Kate Tummarello at The Hill: Tech giants at odds over Obama privacy bill. Microsoft is coming in on one side, and a group of mostly surveillance marketing firms calling itself the united voice of the Internet economy is on the other. There's no one original sin here, but there's plenty of opportunity in fixing bugs.

Bonus links

Jeff Jarvis: Absolution? Hell, no

Jason Dorrier: Burger Robot Poised to Disrupt Fast Food Industry

BOB HOFFMAN: Confusing Gadgetry With Behavior

Syndicated 2014-08-17 12:21:35 from Don Marti

Point of order: social buttons

This is a quick privacy check.

(If you're reading this on the full-text RSS feed, or a site that consumes it, please click through. It won't take long. If you're looking at this on the blog homepage, please click the title to look at the individual post. The buttons are only on the individual post pages.)

Do you see the "social sharing" buttons at the bottom of this post, at the end of the text but above the miscelleneous links and blogroll? I just got an automated report that people are actually clicking them.

If your privacy tools are up to date, you shouldn't be seeing any big web site logos here. The sinister buttons should be blocked by any halfway-decent privacy tool.

If you do see the buttons, please get Disconnect or Privacy Badger.

If you don't see the buttons, you're already doing something that's making a difference. Carry on.

If you have a privacy tool installed and think you should be protected, but are seeing the buttons anyway, please let me know and I'll help you troubleshoot it.

Syndicated 2014-08-03 15:00:28 from Don Marti

Newspaper dollars, Facebook dimes

Hard to miss the Facebook earnings news this week.

Facebook earnings beat expectations as ad revenues soar

Facebook Beats In Q2 With $2.91 Billion In Revenue, 62% Of Ad Revenue From Mobile, 1.32B Users

Let's take a look at those numbers. (I'd like to fill in more and better data here, so any extra sources welcome.)

Mobile ads: 62% of ad revenues.

Total US ad revenue: $1.3 billion.

Which would make mobile US revenue about 800 million. (Other countries are heavier on mobile, so this might even be high.)

Americans spend 162 minutes on a mobile device per day of which 17% is Facebook. So figure about 28 minutes per day on average. (Average of all US "consumers", not just mobile or Facebook users.)

That's double the time spent reading the printed newspaper.

US users spend an average of 14 minutes/day on printed newspapers. (Average of newspaper readers and non-readers. Just print, not web or mobile.)

But how are newspapers doing with the ad revenue?

Even after a sharp decline, newspaper print ad revenue in the USA is at $17.3 billion/year. That's the 2013 number, so it's reasonable to expect it to continue to come down as newspaper-reading time continues to decline.

Let's say it comes down another 10 percent for this year (which is faster than trend) and take a quarter of that. That's $3.9 billion.

So the newspaper brings in more than four times as much ad money by being in front of users for half the time. The newspaper completely lacks all the advanced behavioral targeting stuff, and Facebook is full of it.

What's going on here? Why is Facebook—the most finely targeted ad medium ever built—an order of magnitude less valuable to advertisers than the second-oldest low-tech ad medium is?

Here's my best explanation so far for the "print dollars to digital dimes" problem.

Advertising is based on a two-way exchage of information. You, the reader, give advertising your attention. Advertising gives you some information about the advertiser's intentions. That's often not found in the content of the ad. The fact that it's running in a public place at all is what builds up your mental model of the product, or brand equity.

On the other hand, advertising that's targeted to you is like a cold call or an email spam. You might respond to it at the time, but it doesn't carry information about the advertiser's intentions. (For example, you might be the one sucker who they're trying to stick with the last obsolete unit in the warehouse, before an incompatible change.)

As Bob Hoffman, Ad Contrarian, wrote, Online advertising has thus far proven to be a lousy brand-building medium. Walk through your local supermarket or Target or Walmart and see if you can find any brands built by online advertising. So what is web advertising good for? Thus far, it has been effective at search and moderately effective at a certain type of direct response.

Without the signaling/brand building effect, those targeted Facebook ads don't pull their weight, and come in at less valuable than newspaper ads.

I'm not saying we should go back to dead trees, but clearly mobile is leaving money on the table here. What's the solution? Paradoxically, it's going to have to involve some privacy tech on the user's end—preventing some of the one-sided data flow towards advertisers in order to introduce signaling effect.

More: Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful

Syndicated 2014-07-26 14:43:05 from Don Marti

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