Older blog entries for dmarti (starting at number 445)

Adtech, big data and privacy links

Paul Ohm: Don't Build a Database of Ruin (via Richard Stallman's Political Notes). In the absence of intervention, soon companies will know things about us that we do not even know about ourselves. This is the exciting possibility of Big Data, but for privacy, it is a recipe for disaster. (IMHO, PII is like hazardous materials: keep only as much as you absolutely need, because when it spills, it'll cost more than it was worth.)

Andrew Nibley: The Future of Ad Tech? Look at What's Happened to Financial Markets. That's a comforting thought.

Ted Rooke asks, Do consumers really mistrust big data? That's a good question. A related question is: Are a user's beliefs about the extent of ad targeting correlated with the likelihood that the user will run an ad blocker? (My humble opinion is that the more a user learns about adtech, the creepier he or she will find it, and the more likely he or she will be to employ countermeasures. But maybe I'm just looking at greybeards, and the rest of you don't get the same creepy feeling.)

Related, from Alistair Croll: Followup on Big Data and Civil Rights (via O'Reilly Radar)

Richard Stacy: The great thing about advertising is that no-one takes it personally. The very greatest advertising, like any performance or show, creates a sense of audience participation: the viewers experience a sense of collective engagement with the ad and (usually but not always) the brand that lies behind it. Critically, they also receive assurance that the brand is popular and successful and that, as a consumer, they are not alone.

Seth Godin: Advertising's bumpy transition (and why it matters to you). The short version is that magazine ads were expensive because they were scarce, they worked (maybe) and they were sold, hard. (But print also has extra inherent value: it's less trackable, so sends a stronger signal.

Important work, started by Dan Witte at mozilla.org, on managing the third-party cookie problem: Key cookies on setting domain * toplevel load domain and Thirdparty. Improve user awareness of what they're consenting to, be it informed, implicit or unintended.

Another privacy milestone: Freedombox Kickstarter software released. (via Bits from the Basement)

Syndicated 2012-09-03 15:51:29 from Don Marti


Let's get the negatives out of the way first. Valdis Krebs suggests that Facebook is Toast essentially because it's a silo with a site-specific social graph, a new AOL.

Josh Constine for TechCrunch: Facebook’s New Retargeted Ads Performing “Very Well”, Adds Partners To Run Them. This sounds like good news, business-wise, but it's just creepy adtech as usual, which is a problem. (For background on this type of business, see A simple guide to how ad exchanges work by Josh Dreller.) Dalton Caldwell explains the Facebook ad situation in Hot Dogs and Caviar. Also, the restaurant is under intense financial pressure to get the machine working, and is valued by investors and employees in a way that assumes the hot dog-to-caviar machine already works. They have roughly 12 months to get the machine working or Bad Things will happen.

But Bad Things? Really? Now for the good news, from Henry Blodget: It's Becoming Clear That No One Actually Read Facebook's IPO Prospectus Or Mark Zuckerberg's Letter To Shareholders. Mark Zuckerberg set up the entire structure of the company so he wouldn't be forced to make dumb short-term decisions by whining public-market shareholders.

Mark Zuckerberg: Hey, can you give me some money, no strings attached, to sponsor my web site?

Investor: What's that you say? You're building a magickal hot dog machine that craps out exponentially increasing amounts of ad revenue? Sure, here's some money!

Facebook said they were building a hacker playground, so yay for them. Let's see what they come up with. At least they're helping to reform Frank Gehry.

Syndicated 2012-09-02 15:15:42 from Don Marti

Sunday morning MLP: religion and politics

Politics department, part 1: John Cusack and Jonathan Turley on Obama’s Constitution. He was never motivated that much by principle. What he’s motivated by are programs.

Part 2: a moral hazard roundup from Washington's Blog. Top Economists: Iceland Did It Right … And Everyone Else Is Doing It Wrong

Jason Santa Maria: Stealing Sheep. What made me a Goudy superfan is that he did all this and more after he was 40 years old. Before that he busied himself keeping books for a realtor in Chicago.

Prof. Mahmoud El-Gamal: Can Political Islam Reform "Islamic Finance"? Essay on the prohibition of usury, the rise of Islamic political movements, and bizarre mashups of permitted transactions to create supposedly interest-free financial products.

Productivity department, part 1. Hillary Rettig: No Such Thing as “Good Procrastination”.

Part 2, another productivity idea, from Ethan Zuckerman: “Long Flights” – a somewhat serious business idea

Francis Spufford on Christianity: The trouble with atheists: a defence of faith.

Philosopher's Beard: Economics for ethics Ethicists think economists are clumsy buffoons with an impoverished view of human nature and morality, obsessed with incentives and markets as the answer to everything. Economists think ethicists are obsessed with discovering mystical intrinsic values, at the expense of systematically thinking through their real world relevance. These are caricatures with some truth to them. But to the extent that they prevent ethicists and economists from taking each other seriously, they block the real scope for mutual learning.

Syndicated 2012-09-02 14:36:57 from Don Marti

Advertising links

Online ad story from Robert X. Cringely: Click fraud the old fashion way. There is apparently no standardized ad auditing capability on the Internet so scams of this sort are actually easy to do. And advertisers often lean into it by often preferring not to know precisely how effective are their ads. Links back to a previous article: Apple and the Future of Publishing – Part One: Ad agencies 15 years ago didn’t want to know whether or not their ads had actually been read, they told us. This was simply because if an advertiser discovered that few, if any, people were actually reading their ad on page 113, the company might just pull that ad and save their money, taking revenue away from the ad agency in the process.

Larry Downes: Customer Intelligence, Privacy, and the "Creepy Factor" Interesting point that people get de-sensitized to creepy ad practices. But the remaining question is how the creepiness level as seen by the user affects the effectiveness of the ad, or likelihood that the user will run an ad blocker. Any answers?

Jacques Mattheij explains the You are not the customer, you are the product meme. Instead of the simplistic ‘you are the product’ view it is much more complicated. (Just because you see an ad for example.com doesn't mean example.com necessarily knows anything about your web activity. Tracking feeds into a whole hairball of Big Data that's different from site to site.)

Finally, some good points on the great app.net experiment:

Twitter to Client Developers: Drop Dead

Dalton Caldwell: Fred Wilson is wrong about “Free”

How App.net Can Change Everything – Orian Marx (via ReadWriteWeb)

J.D. Bentley: The Network Underneath

Matthew Gertner: The Case Against Advertising

(By the way: you can follow me as dmarti on alpha.app.net.)

Syndicated 2012-08-26 15:29:06 from Don Marti

Brains, shopping, fiction, torture: Sunday morning links

Aaron Swartz: Believe you can change. Do you believe that your abilities are fixed and that the world is just a series of tests that show you how good you are, or that everything comes through effort and that the world is full of interesting challenges that could help you learn and grow?

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: Why You Should Be Wary of Price Discrimination in the Retail World My problem in general is that price discrimination in the retail world generally benefits the middle class, the non-elderly, and the highly educated. In fact, loyalty card data is often used specifically to attract that class of customers. The lower prices for these groups are subsidized by higher prices charged to the poor, senior citizens, and the not-so-bright.

Rudy Rucker: My Complete Stories Online. (I've read some of these, but this is great.)

Long, but a good use of Sunday reading time: John Cusack & Jonathan Turley on Obama’s Constitution. We have a treaty, actually a number of treaties, that obligate us to investigate and prosecute torture. We pushed through those treaties because we wanted to make clear that no matter what the expediency of the moment, no matter whether it was convenient or inconvenient, all nations had to agree to investigate and prosecute torture and other war crimes.

Jeff Jarvis asks, Reporters: Why are you in Tampa? (Good question.)

Syndicated 2012-08-26 13:30:48 from Don Marti

QoTD: Russell Coker

Maybe the ability to use a Macbook as a shaving mirror could be handy, but I’d rather grow a beard and use a Thinkpad. —Russell Coker

Syndicated 2012-08-21 14:58:05 from Don Marti

Firefox's secret shame

photo of calf with ear tag

Mike Ratcliffe asks, "How well does your browser protect your privacy?" and suggests some Firefox extensions. (One more: RequestPolicy).

But Firefox has a deeper problem. It's what the EFF calls the browser fingerprint.

For historical reasons, Firefox has a User-Agent string—the text that a browser uses to identify itself to the server—that's just packed with information. Seriously. Look at all this detail.

Why is all that crap in there? Some of it is needed to tell some sites that the browser can do certain things. Many web sites do "browser sniff" in order to decide whether or not to offer advanced features. Although there are better ways to deal with this now, the Firefox developers are reluctant to make any changes that would break legacy sites.

Daniel Cawrey writes, in Firefox Competitive Strategy Must Focus On Privacy, Since Firefox is the only truly open browser and its features do not depend primarily on investor concerns, Mozilla has a unique opportunity to go to great lengths protecting the privacy of its users while they are on the Internet.

That's a great idea. How about a compromise? Instead of dropping User-Agent entirely, minimize it to a single common string, one that contains the commonly sniffed information. Start with a privacy option to enable this minimal User-Agent, and give sites a chance to fix their sniffing when the early adopter privacy-hawk users turn it on. When it works for the privacy freaks, make it the default.

(Photo: Dave Young)

Syndicated 2012-08-20 14:25:05 from Don Marti

Sunday morning links: a little less mindless

(Got the mindless link propagation generator to start putting in "via" links a lot of the time, so join the content curation conversation and stuff.)

Valerie Aurora: Yes, brogrammer culture is pervasive (there's certainly a weird dynamic in the industry where a lot of the jobs that require you to be nice to other people are held by women: event staff, PR, and so on, and a lot of the "elite" <blink>ninja rock star</blink> jobs are held by men.)

They don't make patriotic art like this any more. But if I got this painted on the side of a van, would people even get it? America Guided by Wisdom: A Neoclassical Allegory of American Exceptionalism

Nicholas Carr makes a good point about copying, and what to call it: Beyond theft and sharing. Read the whole thing.

Judge Richard Posner: Why There Are Too Many Patents in America (via Disruptive Competition Project)

David Maynor on the 0-day market: Who will fight for me? (In the long run, the existence of this market is great news for software QA staff. Companies will have to keep QA people happy, or disgruntled ones will sell their findings elsewhere. I always picture these transations as happening in the back of a William Gibson dive bar for some reason.)

Speaking of transactions... Bitcoin, the Darknet Economy, and the Low Over-Head Revolution (via SiliconANGLE and Center for a Stateless Society)

Making the rounds, so you've probably seen it. Khan Academy is Redefining the Introduction to Computer Science.

Local and worth checking out, even though I have Thinkpad power supplies like most people have cockroaches: Removing Barriers for Linux Hardware

Economics of crowdfunding: Producers Weigh In On Kickstarter Recording Budgets

Seth Godin says, Corporations are not people (via Dave Winer). (One of the rare things that Charles Stross is wrong about. There is no Homo economicus, either.)

Syndicated 2012-08-19 14:30:43 from Don Marti

Red and Yellow cards, and trolls

The Red/Yellow Card project (a way to respond to creepy people at conferences) is a great idea, except for the small problem that trolls might run a scavenger hunt with the object of deliberately getting cards. To reduce the lulz to be had from this, I suggest leaving one of each type of card in the men's room, so that simply holding a card doesn't mean anything.

If you see me at a conference please give me a few cards and I'll help with this. A few men's room users willing to do this would encourage the seeking of lulz elsewhere.

Syndicated 2012-08-18 15:47:03 from Don Marti

Anyone using old MSIE here?

It doesn't look as if many of you are really using versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer before version 8. Up-to-date browsers support the q tag, but, as Stacey Cordoni wrote in 2006, Because of IE/Win’s lack of support for the Q tag, the Q tag is not used by many web designers or web authors.

(You should see the quotation, the part after the comma in the previous sentence, inside quotation marks. On old versions of MSIE, before version 8 fixed it, the quotation marks don't show up.)

It looks like most of my traffic that seems to be from old MSIE is just spam scripts pretending to be old MSIE. Here's a vintage browser:

"Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Digital AlphaServer 1000A 4/233; Windows NT; Powered By 64-Bit Alpha Processor)"

Looks like it just did a GET on the home page and a POST to the comment spamtrap. So user experience in that browser is not going to be a priority.

I know the User-Agent is probably fake, but I almost want to believe in the DIGITAL MARKETING POWER GURU who's actually been running this thing all these years. Maybe the inventor of web comment spam just paid me a call.

Anyway, if you want to use a version of MSIE earlier than 8 on this site, you will probably start seeing quoted text that doesn't make sense because of the q problem. I don't want to join the browser of the week club, but I want to get rid of the typewriter quotes, too. It might make sense to upgrade.

Syndicated 2012-08-18 13:46:33 from Don Marti

436 older entries...

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!