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"Why Ad Blocking Hurts the Sites You Love"
March 7, 2010 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Ars Technica recently experimented with blocking the content of their site from users who use ad blockers. They have now written an editorial about the experiment, and the effects of ad blockers on their site. posted by mccarty.tim (517 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I will not whitelist anyone in my adblocker. My adblocker will stay on. If one website denies me content, I'll move on to another of the billions just like it.
posted by Malice at 6:56 AM on March 7, 2010 [36 favorites]


Having a hard time mustering up a ton of sympathy, or what Malice said. If I can't get my LMHS laptop coverage at Ars Technica I'll just move on.
posted by fixedgear at 7:02 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know what, I never bothered with ad blocking until stuff like popover ads and videos that play themselves started to become standard on even mainstream sites. I'm sorry, but the ads went too fucking far. It's too annoying to deal with, talk with the industry and leave me out of it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:04 AM on March 7, 2010 [118 favorites]


Boy, aren't you guys in for a big laugh when the advertising for the sites you loves dries up and they they shut down. I have never met an ad that was such a problem that I couldn't just click through it or wait for it to end.
posted by orville sash at 7:07 AM on March 7, 2010 [25 favorites]


At the moment, I have ads blocked by default, and I don't whitelist anybody. And, like Malice, I'd probably move on elsewhere if someone wanted to twist my arm about it. But, that said, if this article is true about revenues, I don't know that I'd terribly mind whitelisting sites I wanted to support, if the ads were static ones. For example, take present company. Maybe the question belongs in MeTa, but does Mefi make money if I whitelist them?
posted by tyllwin at 7:07 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't get the point of ad blocking. On most of the sites I read a lot the ads are unobtrusive and thankfully give the author some revenue which I am not providing.

Is it fear of the google eye?
posted by afu at 7:09 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


dkos doesn't block adblockers, but they do put a huge box at the top explaining about the lost revenue. I just use greasemonkey (or some other tool--it's been so long I forget) to rewrite the HTML to remove it.

I have never met an ad that was such a problem that I couldn't just click through it or wait for it to end.

Try life with no ads for 6 months, then turn them back on for a day and you'll meet plenty.
posted by DU at 7:10 AM on March 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


popover ads and videos that play themselves started to become standard on even mainstream sites.

You mean in 200? I haven't seen a pop over ad in a decade.
posted by afu at 7:11 AM on March 7, 2010


I'll stop blocking ads when I don't have to see those "YOUR TOWN Mom invents trick for whitening teeth!" and diet ads on every other website.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 7:13 AM on March 7, 2010 [17 favorites]


If they hadn't sold out to Conde Nast, I'd be more sympathetic. I read them on a fairly regular basis, but I have little genuine love for the site; they tried to cash in, have moved sharply away from what originally made them a good site, and now they're crying that they can't make enough money from their bullshit 'new direction' with all the bullshit layout instead of the content.

At one time, I actually subscribed there, because the content was so good and the presentation was solid, but they've redesigned and redesigned and redesigned, getting more and more top-heavy and less and less useful. They sold their souls for some short-term cash, and if they end up drying up and blowing away, I won't miss the site at all.

They chose the path of the marketroid, and they've left their technical audience behind, so of course they're not profitable, and it's not freaking adblockers that are to blame.
posted by Malor at 7:13 AM on March 7, 2010 [36 favorites]


As a print journalist, all I can say is that I sympathise with them. But not very much.
posted by WPW at 7:14 AM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


@Afu

You mean in 200? I haven't seen a pop over ad in a decade.


Maybe popover isn't the word. I mean those ones that when you are reading a news article slide over and block the first couple paragraphs unless you click them away.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:15 AM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Sigh. While I hate ads, run Adblock, and think that Ars Technica's (non-technical) forums are a pit of pestilence and despair, I've decided to allow all of Ars' ads.

I've been a fan of Ars since the very beginning, have met most of the core crew, have played on their gaming servers, etc. I would really hate to see them go away due to loss of revenue. The fact that Ken took the time to explain what was going on -- in an uncharacteristically soft-spoken and customer-focused way, no less -- was enough for me to grudgingly whitelist the site and all of its ads.

Now, had I gotten the "you're running Adblock SCREW YOU" message, first, I might be singing quite a different tune.
posted by jpolchlopek at 7:15 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't get the point of ad blocking.

It's mostly because a lot of sites are not at all unobtrusive about their ads, filling up 2/3 of the page, or blinking, or moving or playing audio. Secondarily because just because I may visit a site does not mean I want to give it revenue. Lastly because the simplest solution is block them all.
posted by tyllwin at 7:17 AM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


A neat feature for an adblocker would be the ability to load the ads but not to display them. It's win-win!
posted by DU at 7:17 AM on March 7, 2010 [44 favorites]


I don't use an adblocker, but I do use flashblock which I find is blocking more and more ads. I generally don't mind loading a still image if it's in the site's interest (though the run of ads lately showing really flabby people who need to slim down for diet aids has given me pause).

But I got a newsflash for you ars technica: I pay for my bandwidth too. Since AT&T can't keep the wire behind my house repaired and my cable company has famously bad service I get my internet through Verizon, which means I have a 5 gb/month bandwidth cap. That's plenty for what I use it for, since I watch very little TV even online. But I do need to watch my usage, and if I have a choice between watching your animated ad reload every time I hit a new page (which really, really adds up) or watching an episode of Caprica, I'm gonna watch Caprica.

Oh, and I don't mind watching Hulu's ads because they don't reload every time I perform an action I perform every minute or more. I don't mind adding 10 mb to a 220 mb transaction to support the website. But when I'm loading what is essentially a 10 kb text page and I have to let a 500 kb ad tag along, and an article is broken up into 10 parts so it becomes 5 mb of ads, and every single article on every single commercial website is presented that way, well, it becomes more reasonable to watch internet video than to read the internet newspaper.

Unless I block the animation. So there.
posted by localroger at 7:19 AM on March 7, 2010 [49 favorites]


I do whitelist certain sites. These orgs (companies, people, etc.) need to pay for expenses in some way. If I enjoy a website, it's wise to do something to keep it going. The attitude that a website is only good if it gives you everything for free is short sighted and self-defeating.

If you don't want to help support a website that you visit regularly you should have the strength of your convictions and move on to some other supposedly equivalent website, otherwise you are a hypocrite.
posted by oddman at 7:19 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Try life with no ads for 6 months...

That's a problem you gave yourself, then. As Afu says, the vast majority of ads—especially the ones chosen by websites that actually pay attention to such things, like AT or MeFi—are unobtrusive.

But more to the point, your 'conditioning' works perfectly well in reverse. Spend 6 months reading websites with ads, and you won't notice them anymore. I don't. My eye doesn't even read whatever odd-colored boxes appear along the edges of a website. That's partly why I don't get the corollary complaint about which ads a website chooses: I'll never pay enough attention to read or recognize them anyway, so if you want to run ads for Scientology or the Suicide Girls, knock yourself out.
posted by cribcage at 7:20 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I used to love Ars years ago but it's really gone down the drain. They've been whining about ad blockers for ages now. I only hit up their site a few times a month due to the increasing shallowness of their reviews and coverage, and this recent experiment (plus their lousy redesigns) means I won't be returning. Their forums can be a real dump, too. I recall posting about my experiences with my then-new PS3 and getting all kinds of uneducated, incorrect nonsense in response. So long.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:21 AM on March 7, 2010


I installed an ad blocker after noticing significant performance hits when browsing sites. I do subscribe to a few sites that I enjoy (Salon, for example). If I were sure that a site's ads wouldn't make my laptop fan spin up every time I load one of their pages, I might whitelist it -- but how do you know?
posted by Sand at 7:21 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


god, they're just ads. Big fucking deal. I've never used an ad blocker in my life and never will.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 7:23 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I whitelisted them to check out their layout, and I must admit that it seems to be decent even with ads. However, the majority of ads is still terrible. Especially ads inside content, or those stupid 'word link' double-underline things are just annoying.

Anyhow. This really isn't Ars Technica's problem, but rather a much wider internet revenue model problem. To me, ads are just a tad less annoying than subscription-only content, so I disable all of them. As far as I'm aware, I'm doing nothing illegal or unethical. I don't really see how their revenue model is my problem.
posted by Harry at 7:24 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Welcome to the internet, where your audience is as fickle as cats in a yarn store. Content has essentially reached the point of free distribution, and no matter what you do to force people to make revenue for you off it (pay walls, ads, etc) they will go around it.
posted by msbutah at 7:27 AM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


god, they're just ads. Big fucking deal.

ads ads ads ads ads ads ads ads ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS content ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS content ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS ADS
posted by Malice at 7:27 AM on March 7, 2010 [51 favorites]


god, they're just ads. Big fucking deal. I've never used an ad blocker in my life and never will.

Well, that settles that.
posted by fixedgear at 7:28 AM on March 7, 2010 [13 favorites]




However, the majority of ads is still terrible. Especially ads inside content, or those stupid 'word link' double-underline things are just annoying. - Harry

Just to be clear... you're not still talking about Ars here, right? I don't run adBlock and I've never seen anything like this on Ars. Clicking through a number of links on their front page, I haven't found any ads inside content or word link ads.
posted by SAC at 7:28 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


After fifteen years of not using any ad-blocking whatsoever, I seem to have developed near-complete ad-blindness. An ad has to be quite cleverly disguised to get past my mental filter. I suspect this is true for a lot of people.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:29 AM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Eh, maybe if they could partner with the big ad block software guys to put an icon on articles that whitelists the page in the same way you hit stumbleupon, digg, or any of the other social networking sites when you like something.

I'd be willing to click through on something I liked, once I'd decided I liked it.
posted by Pragmatica at 7:29 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Which sites have these really annoying ads? (honest question) I tried adblock a couple years ago, but it broke flash to often that it became more annoying than the ads themselves. I've been on the internet without protection ever since. Maybe I just have a higher ad tolerance than most. Hell, sometimes I click on an add just cause I like the site it is hosted on.
posted by afu at 7:30 AM on March 7, 2010


A real experiment?
posted by Artw at 7:31 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


cribcage: Spend 6 months reading websites with ads, and you won't notice them anymore.

This is not a good thing. In fact, it is worse than consciously noticing the ad, because it means the ad's message is imprinting itself on you without any editing. The end result is that you get thirsty, you reach for a CokeTM, you get hungry you head for McDonald'sTM, and so forth and so on without even realizing why.

This kind of brand imprinting works, which is why companies spend billions of dollars on it. It also works best with flashing lights and motion and certain kinds of embedded technical events, which is why more and more online ads are of the bandwidth-munching animated variety.
posted by localroger at 7:31 AM on March 7, 2010 [28 favorites]


I quit television because of advertisements, and I'd quit the internet too if I couldn't block them.

I buy the things I need, when I need them, and NEVER because of god damned advertisements.

If a website wants my support, then they should charge me for the service they provide, and I'll make the decision whether to pay or not. And if a company wants my business, they should make a product that's so god damned good that I eventually buy it.

I mean, the absurdity is really glaring if I apply the same business model to MY profession..

"Hey, I'll tattoo you for free, as long as I can add a "Brought to you by Carl's Jr" ad to it!"

What, no takers?
posted by chronkite at 7:34 AM on March 7, 2010 [35 favorites]


The 5 Most Annoying Banner Ads On The Internet.
posted by gman at 7:36 AM on March 7, 2010


Why Ad Blockers Work:
Ad blocking software works because there are telltale technical cues that a site isn’t paying the same level of attention to ad content as they are to editorial content (whereas print magazines pay more attention to ad content–that’s how they work). So I think there are solid business reasons for serious content sites to run their own ads, skipping DoubleClick/Google, Federated Media, and all of those remnant networks. The missing link here is the value that those networks provide to advertisers: auditing and other metrics.

Find a way for advertisers to reliably audit site-served ads, and you’ve got yourself a business.
posted by scalefree at 7:36 AM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm curious to know how they were detecting it. Can they sense the presence of the "AdBlocker" plugin? How?

(I block ads, but I do it a different way. And I feel no shame whatever for doing so.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:41 AM on March 7, 2010


I had no problems looking at the vast majority of ads on the internet. None at all, they don't really bother me. If I see a page with too many ads, I'll close the window and probably never come back.

A couple years ago I installed adblock on my machine in order to block block some of those horrible "link ads" that pop open little balloon with a thumbnail when you hover over them. There was only one article that I wanted to read with those ads, and it annoyed me so much I installed adblock. Normally I would have just left the page, but I really wanted to read this article for some reason.

I never got around to installing adblock on this machine untill a week or so ago. Before that, there was a flash ad that took up so much CPU power that firefox got all slow and chunky, which was pretty obnoxious. That almost pushed me over the edge but it didn't happen again.

Then a couple days later I was visiting a random page, didn't seem that problematic and there was nothing wrong with the page itself. Except that one of the ads (i think) tried to install some adware exe on my computer using what I think was a PDF exploit!

After that, adblock went on. Sorry internet, I don't have a problem with static images or text ads, but if you're going to run ads that slow down all my browser windows, or attack my machine, then all ads are getting blocked.

I'm looking at Ars Technica in chrome (i.e. without adblock) and I'm not seeing any irritating link ads, but I seem to recall seeing some in the past.
posted by delmoi at 7:41 AM on March 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


The only beef I have with ads is how elaborate they've become. My work computer is ancient, so I turn on NoScript for safe, efficient browsing. Most sites I visit don't have insane, obtrusive ads, so they get whitelisted. I don't even bother with ad blocking on my home computer, and as previously stated, it's pretty easy to ignore ads when you're used to them.

To be perfectly honest, I don't understand the whole "I liked X before they sold out" mentality. Everyone has bills to pay. Companies have to meet payroll.
posted by giraffe at 7:41 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


scalefree: That's an interesting idea - in fact, it could even be combined with an ad-blocking program. If an advertising company were to release an ad-blocker that blocked all ads except ones they'd screened for annoying-ness (no sounds, flashing, popups, etc...), it could be a compromise. Then sites that want to get ad revenue but don't want to force people to ad-block could use that ad-blocker, and only get demure, tasteful advertisements. Maybe you could even customize the ad-blocker so you could refuse ads about puppy-kicking cruise ships, or whatever offends you.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:41 AM on March 7, 2010


i use adblock at home, and when i use my folks computer i am glad i do. Like the poster upthread said, they are too intrusive and hog bandwidth.
posted by marienbad at 7:43 AM on March 7, 2010


I'm curious to know how they were detecting it. Can they sense the presence of the "AdBlocker" plugin? How?

All they have to do is check to see if their ads have shown up or not. One thing I don't like about AdBlock Plus in Firefox is that it doesn't replace the ads with anything. I would like, for example, gray blocks to show where the ads are hidden, in case they're supposed to affect the layout.

Interestingly, I hardly notice adblock running at all when I'm using the internet. The only site that I've seen do anything about it DailyKos (which I don't visit very often) which asks you to either white list the site or donate -- Kind of like an old school shareware program that will nag you to buy it when you start up.
posted by delmoi at 7:44 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ad blocking software works because there are telltale technical cues that a site isn’t paying the same level of attention to ad content as they are to editorial content

Really? I would have thought the link to an adserver would have been a tip-off. WTF does "level of attention" mean here?
posted by Artw at 7:44 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why Ad Blocking is devastating to the sites you love

I don't love any sites that force me to watch crappy ads. You know - shockingly enough, it wasn't actually profit-driven commercial enterprise that created the internet; capitalism is actually just a passenger on this ride, and it ought to mind its manners a bit instead of behaving like the proprietor.
posted by Phanx at 7:45 AM on March 7, 2010 [84 favorites]


The problem is that an advertising firm sees that they're not getting enough ad clicks (meaning that not every single solitary person is clicking the ads) and they think "man, people must not be seeing our ads! We need to make them bigger! Brighter! LOUDER! How can we make it so that it's physically impossible for people to not see our ads?" They can't possibly fathom that I'm just not interested in what they're selling.

I know that Futurama did this as a joke, but I can guarantee that if we had the technology today you'd all be dreaming about Coke tonight. If you don't already.
posted by Consonants Without Vowels at 7:46 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Site makes Ars(es) out of themselves by hamfistedly blocking their readers, then gets all techno-philosophical about it afterwards, asking them to choose ads, so that they can make more money.

"Just like a restaurant, we have to pay to staff, we have to pay for resources, and we have to pay when people consume those resources."

The problem is, you're not like a restaurant.

You're selling bottled air. I, as a consumer, do not have to support your website's business model.

"we're glad we did it..."

I'm glad my ad blocker -- and many others like it -- will encourage people to not support your business.
posted by markkraft at 7:47 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have sympathy for the webmasters trying to make a living (or even just support their hobby) via ads, and their frustrations.

And I understand the idea that people running adblockers are coasting on the income generated by other users, and that if everyone did the same a lot of sites would dry up and die.

But I've got adblocker running and I'm feeling pretty guiltless. I look at this situation and my conclusion isn't "wow - adblockers undermine the ability to monetise traffic", it's "Wow, advertising is a really inefficient way to monetise traffic".

It's easily circumventable andannoying enough that people will take measures to circumvent it. That doesn't sound like a reliable income source. And conceptually, paying your bills by making your content less readable is just silly.

Still a little bit of sympathy, because for the moment ads are the easiest way to turn traffic into money. But no guilt, because it seems pretty obvious to me that conventional ads have no long-term future on the internet. They're just not suited to the medium. We're waiting for a better model to come along and I feel no obligation to stockpile buggy whips in the meantime.
posted by Lorc at 7:47 AM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


"Hey, I'll tattoo you for free, as long as I can add a "Brought to you by Carl's Jr" ad to it!"

That's the tattoo I wanted, so I guess give me two.

I block ads because they're obnoxious flashy things that take extra time to load, extra bandwidth, and never entice me to get a second mortgage or whatever.

In addition I use adblocker to block non-ad things like welcome banners from Yahoo and Flickr (for example) which, especially in Yahoo's case, are ill-conceived and poorly executed.

Try researching a raging, immediate tech problem with google, limited bandwidth, poor speed, and the ad-laden tech sites you usually get on the first page or so of results ... that got old quick.
posted by user92371 at 7:49 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like the way Ravelry, the knitting and crochet site, does ads. They only accept ads that relate to their subject matter. All the ads are for yarn and tool sellers, yarn shops, fiber festivals, etc. They're in relatively unobtrusive spots, and don't pop up or make noise or use Flash. You can even bookmark an ad or see all the ads set up to display in a particular group. This might be a tougher model for generalist sites, but surely even they can at least reject visually annoying or inappropriate ads?
posted by booksherpa at 7:50 AM on March 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


I, too, began blocking ads because of the many intrusive, user-hostile methods employed by advertisers to arrest my attention against my will. I understand where sites like Ars Technica are coming from, but by allowing this sort of advertising, they implicitly condone it.

Ars doesn't offer any solution to this problem in the linked article. They claim to turn down offers for ill-behaved advertising, but they also say they "sometimes have to accept" ads that they know to be intrusive. Notably, they don't define any criteria for when a particular ad goes too far to be acceptable, presumably because that line is blurred from time to time depending on how much a campaign will pay.

I would be willing to whitelist sites that sign and strictly adhere to a good-behavior pledge. A partial list of proscribed behaviors would be:

- no animation of any kind unless you hold your mouse pointer over the ad
- no sounds from ads unless you click a play button embedded in the ad
- no neon colors or 72pt fonts
- no popovers or popunders (including those obnoxious double-underlined links)
- no interstitial ads without a clearly labeled "skip ad" link at the top
- no ads that masquerade as site content
- no drive-by malware installations

...and so forth. Obviously some of these are subjective and would need to be defined in greater detail, and a neutral third-party organization would need to be set up to keep the whitelist current by certifying new sites and removing those that break the pledge. This would cost money, and I'm sure neither the sites nor the advertisers would feel it's fair for them to pay for it.

But if the response Ars reported from its users is any indication, I'm not alone in being willing to play nice with sites that play nice with me. I am not, however, willing to cut any particular site a break because they're really nice people or because they make some vague assurances that they're turning down the worst of the ads.

The most popular sites on the web created this mess by getting into bed with slimy advertisers, and if they don't want people blocking ads, they need to come up with an acceptable solution. If enough of them care to do so, they'll achieve the critical mass needed to force advertisers to adopt better behavior.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 7:51 AM on March 7, 2010 [18 favorites]


What happens on Ars or DailyKos if you have most "offending" domains set to 127.0.0.1 in your hosts?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:51 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi, the PDF thing is a well known problem in the security community; what is happening is that the hackers are hacking the webservers of the sites and altering the content to direct to their malware servers. This affects both ad servers and the servers of the content you wish to see. The safest thing is to disable automatic viewing of .pdf's and set Adobe Reader up to not display javascript (really, has anybody ever seen a legitimate .pdf that needs javascript?).
posted by localroger at 7:52 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I will not whitelist anyone in my adblocker. My adblocker will stay on. If one website denies me content, I'll move on to another of the billions just like it.

You do realize there actually aren't "billions" of websites "just like" Ars Technica, right?

I know you were exaggerating, and that this isn't really about the specific merits of Ars Technica. But this astonishingly complacent attitude is going to be a big part of what's to blame when all that's left on the internet is primarily crap.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:53 AM on March 7, 2010 [15 favorites]


Bill Hicks on Marketing.
posted by mikelieman at 7:55 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Newsflash: Advanced technical site built upon the streaming of certain bits complains when some of those bits get selectively thrown into the ether by way of technology. Film at eleven.
posted by mark242 at 7:56 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I unblock sites I like and visit regularly.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2010


If a website wants my support, then they should charge me for the service they provide, and I'll make the decision whether to pay or not. And if a company wants my business, they should make a product that's so god damned good that I eventually buy it.

Except you can buy an Ars subscription to view the website without ads.
Plus, have you noticed how the Internet works recently? That works few and far between. People expect free in the Internet.

I don't run adblock and never will. If i don't like a website's adds, I simply don't visit the website. I don't feel it's my prerogative to ruin their business model through technological circumvention.
posted by jmd82 at 7:58 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


You do realize there actually aren't "billions" of websites "just like" Ars Technica, right?

Results 1 - 10 of about 45,400 for "steam on the mac". (0.31 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 48,900 for "google buys docverse". (0.20 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 6,620 for xbox live lbgt. (0.27 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 11,900 for "portal 2 is official". (0.41 seconds)

You're right, there aren't billions, just thousands.
posted by mark242 at 8:00 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


If I was in charge of this decision I'd imagine that the people that would have sympathy for this idea would be the same people that would pay a monthly fee for my content. So the point of this message would be to accept that I'm not going to change the business model and hope that people feel charitable enough to unblock my site. I'd also be polishing up my resume at this point, I would think.
posted by Submiqent at 8:03 AM on March 7, 2010


I don't get the point of ad blocking. On most of the sites I read a lot the ads are unobtrusive

Obviously, some people find ads sufficiently annoying to install an ad blocker, or else they wouldn't have bothered.

What finally pushed me to install an ad blocker was the shift to animated ads, which, apart from being distracting, also used enough of my meager bandwidth that it slowed down loading of the actual page I wanted to see. Then there are the obvious scam ads, the ads that contain gross images (WHITEN YOUR TEETH AND LOSE UNSIGHTLY BELLY FAT), and popups that try to confuse you into agreement.

I'll willingly whitelist sites that don't use these types of ads, but have to tell me upfront that they don't--otherwise I won't know.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:06 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


"If a website wants my support, then they should charge me for the service they provide, and I'll make the decision whether to pay or not. And if a company wants my business, they should make a product that's so god damned good that I eventually buy it."

I'm anti-adverts (I'm an Englishman living in an american TV zone and it caused me to actually dump my TV) but I don't get this argument.

The website IS charging you for viewing their service, the charge is the $0.0005 cents they make off the adverts while you view the content. You're making the decision to accept their service when you read the content they've provided, it's as simple as that.

I think if you're honest, you're actually saying "I don't like adverts and I don't really care about the site, I want my cake and I'm going to enjoy it". And don't get me wrong, I'm fine with that-- as I said, I don't have my TV hooked up to my cable feed, I just download the programs off the internet sans advert-breaks. I do happen to pay for the cable-feed anyway as it's rolled into my rent, but even without, I would still download them.

But I'm not going to make the argument about how the business-model, my lack of interest in the products or my location (which actually negates most the adverts) means what I'm doing is acceptable. I know I'm doing something wrong, stealing revenue, but if I'm really honest, I don't care-- I just want my cake and my morality seems to cope.

I think if more people were honest, we'd hear it more often-- music, video, gaming, websites, etc-- we just want our cake and due to our generation and/or ease of getting these feeds filtered, we get to, but these (as I see them) smoke-screen arguments get pushed out there to justify something that deep down we know is wrong (if the roles were reversed). We feel uncomfortable enough to need to justify it with the 'smoke-screen' rather than just "I do it because I can".
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:07 AM on March 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


delmoi, the PDF thing is a well known problem in the security community; what is happening is that the hackers are hacking the webservers of the sites and altering the content to direct to their malware servers. This affects both ad servers and the servers of the content you wish to see. The safest thing is to disable automatic viewing of .pdf's and set Adobe Reader up to not display javascript (really, has anybody ever seen a legitimate .pdf that needs javascript?).
Yes, I know, and I was a moron for not keeping Acrobat up to date (There was something wrong with the auto updater on my machine, and I have the full version acrobat, not just the viewer)

The best security is layered security. Don't run as root/administrator. Have antivirus installed, keep your software up to date, and so on. Since the driveby attempt was done by an ad server (I think) adding adblock just ads one more layer of security. Obviously the main site you visit can still run exploits, but you're reducing the number of different sites that your browser is going to load pages from. It's probably not a very thick layer, but it still just increases safety a little.

Come to think of it, I'd also seen a pretty obnoxious ad on the piratebay that would actually completely redirect me to some fake page with a fake "anti-virus" gui, and that would then try to confuse you into pressing 'cancel' on a confirmation dialog when you tried to leave.

So video ads, which are pretty common waste bandwidth. Ads with audio are intolerable but rare. Hacked ad servers that redirect you from the page you were trying to look at, or exploit your machine, or flash ads that waste CPU time and slow down firefox (probably wouldn't be a problem with chrome). All of those things: Ads that don't just affect the page your on, but have 'spillover' effects on the rest of your machine are the problem. And the solution is adblock. Not seeing anyone else's ads is just collateral damage, but not something I care particularly about.
posted by delmoi at 8:07 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


localroger: You, like many other people, grossly overestimate the effect ads have on you subliminally. It's like what's-it-called, that effect where you hear about something for the first time ever and then you see it everywhere. When you see an ad, your brain registers it, yes, but it doesn't instantly make you like the product. It just means when you're thinking of things, that's one of the names on your mind. "Oh! McDonald's! I think I heard about that recently!"

Unless you're the kind of simpering nitwit who has to buy everything he ever thinks of or hears about, those advertisements aren't convincing you of anything. I don't buy McDonald's or Burger King despite seeing boatloads of their advertising every day, because they aren't foodstuffs I would eat. I don't buy all the t-shirts Facebook tells me I would LOVE(!) because I don't buy t-shirts. Contrary to popular belief, advertising doesn't assume we're mindless pigs. No ad employee honestly thinks their ad will sell to every person who sees it. They actually do try and make ads that'll convince you their product's good. It's just that not many of them are very good at it, especially on the web. Remember most people still don't totally know what the Internet is or how it works. Not in depth.

But honestly, I think a lot of us here are blowing things way out of proportion. What's the moral here, that a web site shouldn't attempt a 12-hour experiment and see how it affected people? Because there was no other way to test this out and see what had happened. Now they have. Now they offer their thoughts, and explain, clearly and kindly, why they wanted to try it.

My opinion's that what they did was entirely justified. Either you think their content's worth something, or like the first commenter said, you see Ars as a completely nondescript site not worth visiting. If it's worth something, then look at their ads. If you hate ads, or if you're worried about the bandwidth damage, then pay the subscription cost. I think Ars is worth my not trying to outright deny them money. Their tech reviews are stellar and have been for a long time. I won't subscribe to them, but I'll see their ads.

Which I guess is the finding of their experiment. I've found that I think they're worth letting advertise to me. Some of you don't. That means I'm more the audience they want. Other people found they thought it was worth subscribing to Ars outright. So they've got a business plan, and some people will like it, and other people will read someplace else.

I just find it very irritating that those of you who aren't fans of Ars or who think advertising is 1984^2 feel the need to state your opinions in such self-righteous tones. This was a levelminded article and I enjoyed reading it. Even if you disagree with Ars, I think it's worth respecting them for taking a risk and then being so civil about the results.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:08 AM on March 7, 2010 [21 favorites]


As far as I'm concerned, the site owners have created the problem. I go to Google and the search results and the ads come back at the same time. The ads are unobtrusive and there for me to read or ignore.

I have no beef with sites using advertising, and I never felt the need to bother with an ad blocker. Until. The loading of ads started significantly delaying loading the pages. Until. The ads hid the content of the pages. Until. Sites were redesigned to force you to read more and more ads and less and less content. I installed an ad blocker, now everything loads faster and I can actually see the content without being harassed.

Untii site owners treat readers as partners and not just a revenue stream, until site owners care about the readers' experience, the ad blocker will stay. As I said, it isn't impossible, Google does it with search results; other sites need to care about the user experience to the same degree.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:12 AM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


localroger: You, like many other people, grossly overestimate the effect ads have on you subliminally. It's like what's-it-called, that effect where you hear about something for the first time ever and then you see it everywhere. When you see an ad, your brain registers it, yes, but it doesn't instantly make you like the product. It just means when you're thinking of things, that's one of the names on your mind. "Oh! McDonald's! I think I heard about that recently!"
Most of the time the most annoying ads don't even tell you what the product is. It's like a dancing silhouette with "lower your mortgage payments" and a list of states. The 'high end' ads that actually are just trying to get you to think about the product are usually the least annoying.
posted by delmoi at 8:14 AM on March 7, 2010


Live by the "free"; die by the "free".
posted by Slothrup at 8:15 AM on March 7, 2010


At what point was it decided that people are morally obligated to watch ads?
posted by Legomancer at 8:17 AM on March 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


Rory Marinich: You, like many other people, grossly overestimate the effect ads have on you subliminally.

LOL. SRSLY. You do realize that people spend billions of dollars every day on the assumption that you are completely, totally wrong and have been doing this since Edward Bernays, right? You think all those people have spent all that money, a really noticeable percentage of the Global Domestic Product, on a fool's errand easily countered by your triumphant rationality?
posted by localroger at 8:18 AM on March 7, 2010 [20 favorites]


I still read the internet in plain text.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:18 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah right.

/sees 500th boobie-centric ad for Evony, snaps inside, runs off to join highly scammy pay-to-play MMORPG.
posted by Artw at 8:19 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Except you can buy an Ars subscription to view the website without ads.

I was a happy subscriber before they sold the site. I didn't directly care that they'd sold themselves, but their consequent shift in direction away from solid technical content, and into bullshit presentation graphics, has completely soured me on ever paying for their site again.

If they put the money they're sinking into all those goddamn snapshot pictures into actual content, they'd have a better chance of convincing me to resubscribe.

Back four or five years ago, there was no site like Ars for serious technical content. But I can't think of any recent articles, offhand, that have had much technical merit. Even the headlining feature articles that they've been running recently are no more than the most superficial of overviews.

They were once a technical site that offered amazing value. Now they're a presentation site that pretends to talk about tech. Mostly, they just do opinion these days, talking about 'things that happened this week and why we think they were important'. That's an extremely low value-add for me.

The only subsite I think they have that's genuinely good, at this point, is Nobel Intent, the scienceblog. If the entire rest of the site disappeared tomorrow, it would leave about as much of a hole in my world as taking your finger out of a lake.

I'll absolutely pay for good content, and subscribe to several websites. But you have to actually offer good content. And your site design can't interfere with letting me find and browse that content. Personally, I'm very fond of the low-tech presentation style, like MeFi and lwn.net; neither site is pretty, but they're both highly functional. Every Ars redesign makes the content harder to find. All the money they're sinking into their presentation is actively hurting them, at least for me, both in the sense that it's harder to me to find what I'm interested in, and in the sense that paying those people to make things hard to find means they can't pay people to make content I want to read.
posted by Malor at 8:20 AM on March 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


The #1 Chrome extension is an ad blocker. Because of how Chrome works the ad blockers can't stop loading the ad, just hide it after it's loaded, so in some cases it's still crediting the sites with the display of the ad. This mostly screws up Google AdSense, since much of their business is CPC and they're counting clickthrough rates, but it probably benefits CPM ads like the big horrible flashing ads that stretch on top of the content hole.

A key goal of Google AdSense is to show ads that the user might actually want to see. Restrained, gentle text presentation of things relevant to the article. It works pretty well in some circumstances and doesn't make me want to block the ads. OTOH when I go to a news site and the entire page is covered with a flashing animation, and then when I click on the page later a Netflix window pops up over the page, not only do I wish my ad blocker worked better but I try to remember never to visit that site again.
posted by Nelson at 8:22 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems ridiculous for a site to go after Adblock users. These are self-selected users who have made it clear that they will never, ever click on an ad!

If your revenue model requires the participation users who hate ads so much that they go to the trouble of installing a browser plugin then you've already lost.
posted by zippy at 8:26 AM on March 7, 2010 [40 favorites]


It's not so much that I hate the idea of ads. I use an ad blocker because I don't like the waste of bandwidth and the visual distraction. I like Google's text ads, because they're sensible, usually relevant, and light on bandwidth. I'm also okay with ads before a video plays, because that's high bandwidth and I know that needs to be paid for.

Some sites were just plain unsurfable, though, on a college internet connection. Bandwidth was scarce there, and you'd have to wait twice to three times as long to see content after an irrelevant ad loaded.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:28 AM on March 7, 2010


If your site has an ad that crashes my browser, plays unexpected sound from my speakers, or steals focus from whatever I'm doing, and I block it, you're in the wrong.

Stopping you from breaking my computer is not hurting your site. Your own incompetence might be, though.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:31 AM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Since it's the Arses of the world that led the way in "dribble one article over nine separate ad-drenched pages with the bullshit rationale that they're splitting things up for your benefit", they can suck on it.
posted by holgate at 8:32 AM on March 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Boy, aren't you guys in for a big laugh when the advertising for the sites you loves dries up and they they shut down.

Not at all. Advertisers want to be able to target their stuff at people who will buy their wares. I'm not going to be buying anything from them so by stopping them putting their stuff in front of my eyeballs, I'm saving my time and theirs.

But if you wanna buy the crap that these people are flogging, it's good that you leave the ad blocker off.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:36 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


People literally don't see ads. I got to sit in on ezxperiments with an eye tracker once, and your typical heavy Internet user never so much as glances at the top or right side of the page. We've been conditioned by years of not seeing anything useful there. Since peripheral vision is very poor, we're not even taking in that information subliminally. Hence all the goofing around with popover ads, link ads, whole-screen timed ads....
posted by miyabo at 8:36 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have to say, Google's being an awfully good sport by letting ad blocking extensions be number 1 on their own extension site, since Google is, revenue-wise, an advertising company that dabbles in web applications for fun. Rather non-evil of them, even though I wouldn't hold it against them if they just took it off the official site and left it up to users to find it elsewhere.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:36 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Blocking ads is dickish. In fact, it's worse than pirating music or movies - with piracy you're only depriving the producer of revenue; with ad blocking you're both depriving the producer of revenue and incurring them a cost (the content serving). It would be like if Sony Pictures had to pay for Pirate Bay's hosting bill.
posted by runkelfinker at 8:40 AM on March 7, 2010


this astonishingly complacent attitude is going to be a big part of what's to blame when all that's left on the internet is primarily crap

Actually, the trend towards crap is being driven more by advertising than by people blocking ads. The ratio of crap to good content was a lot lower before there was a Doubleclick. When all the internet cares about is ad revenue, all the content will be mediocre, mass-market crap.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:40 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]




The business-model question that a few people have brought up is the key point, I think. Ars' response to this particular criticism is essentially that they've been doing things this way for 12 years, they have no intention of exploring new business models, and if the site fails it will be the fault of the selfish users.

This point of view is astonishingly Old Media, particularly for a site like Ars that has regularly reported on the woes of the music industry over the past decade and has generally been in the "get a new business model" camp when discussing the desperate flailings of the RIAA. I agree, of course, that any site has a right to the business model of their choice, but it does surprise me that an organization as generally clueful as Ars seems to believe that they can handwave away this problem despite the close parallels to the music, movie and newspaper industries' current struggles.

This ties into the question of the supposed obligation for users to view ads. Ars asserts that online advertising is unlike any other form because it pays "for results" rather than for "potential to reach audiences," as if this were somehow inherent to the medium. In fact, it's simply the model that a bunch of people decided would make them the most money. And they may well have been right, but if it's not making all that much money anymore, then seeking out a model that's more in line with user expectations (cf. online music sales vs. CDs) would seem to be a far better long-term strategy than trying to change user behavior by way of pleading or guilt trips, let alone the arms race that results when you try to withhold content.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 8:46 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Because we are a technology site, we have a very large base of ad blockers. Imagine running a restaurant where 40% of the people who came and ate didn't pay. In a way, that's what ad blocking is doing to us.

In a way, that's an oblique method of mentioning what might or might not be an actual number.
posted by gimonca at 8:46 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


If all you did vis à vis ad blocking was to use this filter: *doubleclick*, then you would block approximately 1/3 of ads.
I do not block sites that serve up their own ads. But, I do block 3rd-party ad deliverers. For example, DoubleClick.
posted by davebarnes at 8:48 AM on March 7, 2010


When all the internet cares about is ad revenue, all the content will be mediocre, mass-market crap.

This is my biggest beef with the SEO assholes. There was a time, and not all that long ago, when one could reliably find information from people who were writing it because the subject was their passion, or because they'd had to do the research for themselves because they were going to be participating/purchasing/etc.

Nowadays, searches for product recommendations, end-user reviews, and so on are just an SEO crapflood of poorly researched, quickly written, money-grubbing shite that is of no real value. Can't trust them, can't believe them, and can't get a lick of useful information from them. Fuck 'em all, I say.

I want the early days of Usenet back.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:48 AM on March 7, 2010 [19 favorites]


Like so many issues in life, this assumes that one side is engaging in a bad faith practice in an otherwise good faith situation. Sorry, but like most of everyone else has said, the ads got outright abusive, which led to me installing a blocker. Not having to chase that incredibly annoying dancing weirdo fool from a popular amusement park all over my screen while unexpected/unrequested terrible pseudo-tchno music suddenly blares out of my speakers in order to close it is worth losing ANY website. If the ads just sat there, like in a paper, or dropped cards into my lap while sitting on the toilet like a magazine, fine. But they don't. They impede the performance of my computer, gobble up memory, and are intentionally as obnoxious as possible.
posted by nevercalm at 8:49 AM on March 7, 2010


localroger: You're confusing Brand Awareness with that subliminal and darker concept of Brand Mind Control. Advertising (and public relations, which is what Bernays really was involved with) deals with the former. You can't do the latter. Subliminal advertising is a crock. You can't do anything meaningful with it. It's been tried and it's just grossly inefficient. Most that happens, as I said, is you recognize a name you wouldn't recognize before.

What advertising does, rather, is more effective and not quite as insidious. First there's maintaining awareness, which is to say making your product prominent in somebody's eye. We've all heard of coke. We've never heard of, say, Iridium, which I just invented. If I'm at a store and Coke is next to Iridium, and I'm in the mood for a soda, I'll get Coke and not Iridium, because Coke is more prominent a name. If Iridium wants my focus, they need a unique selling point that sticks out in my mind. It's organic! It's green! It does XYZ that Coke doesn't! Until it has that, it won't sell at all. Nobody's aware of it. That kills products.

What Bernays pioneered, public relations, deals furthermore with this idea of image. My professor talked about how she sold a gum by finding a story of a bubble-blowing world champion who happened to chew the gum she sold. Lots of papers picked up the story, which included this kid talking about how good that gum's bubbles were. Bam! Now there's a product recommendation from somebody who we thinks knows what he's talking about.

It's brilliant because it gives us some kind of context for the product. If a supermodel drinks Dos Equis, then we feel that perhaps we could drink Dos Equis and still look beautiful and thin. The suggestion's there that it's not full of empty calories, despite that phrase never being spoken. We invent the narrative ourselves. Cigarettes dominated for a long time (and still do to some degree) because we were shown countless sexy people smoking cigarettes.

But what you don't seem to get is that all this is conscious thought. We don't always notice that it's being marketed to us, but the result of that marketing is not our subconscious dominating our lives, it's us actively thinking, "That guy looks incredibly sexy. Look at those sexy jeans. Are those Levi's?" Or we think, "I really dislike Gatorade. It's so full of sugar. It's terrible for me. But that vitamin water the same guys sell is quieter and classier. It's better for me." Or if we see something saying "90% off!" we go, "Wow! What a bargain!", even if we don't know if it is.

You'd be astonished at how little it takes to change people's perceptions. I notice it myself, because I write a blog and do web design and I love watching how different people react to me. The way people hear about your name utterly affects what they think of you. If I post a link to my site here on MetaFilter, people judge it as if it's something written by an acquaintance of theirs. They perceive it like it's an ordinary blog post. But if they come across my name on the bottom of a well-designed site, or, better yet, if somebody famous in a community links to me with complimentary words, suddenly that same blog post is brilliant and wise and people start quoting me all over.

That's what advertising is. I love it. I do wish more people were aware of advertising, however, not only because some people really are suckered in by it but because the people that aren't tend to demonize it. Advertising's not inherently good or evil. It can be incredibly benevolent, or it can be an absolute shitarse. Online it tends toward shitarse. But making up thing about how it works, or just generally being ignorant like you are, doesn't help.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:50 AM on March 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


Others rightly criticized the lack of a warning or notification as to what was going on.

Good lord. They implemented their little experiment without telling anyone in advance? That's about as stupid a slap in the face to your audience as it's possible for a web site to do.
posted by mediareport at 8:52 AM on March 7, 2010


While I don't want to single out ars. 'They' brought this state upon themselves. 'They' being sites and the advert networks.

It wasn't enough to have ads, then it was pop ups, pop unders, interstatial, autoplay and every other annoying thing you can think of to draw away from the content. Ad blockers wouldn't be so pervasive if the media wasn't in effect trying to abuse the readers.

For every site that annoyed a tech savvy person with a pop-up ad a crusader was made. The sites pays the ad networks for these abominations with no respect for the media consumers.

so in short you did this to yourselves.
posted by MrLint at 8:54 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


The greatest gift the Internet ever gave us was the belief that if our business model doesn't work, it is somehow our customer's fault.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:54 AM on March 7, 2010 [31 favorites]


At what point was it decided that people are morally obligated to watch ads?

When the dominant business model shifted to treating the consumer as the product to be delivered, not the customer to be served. The real customers now are the advertisers.

/gotta deliver those eyeballs, right?
posted by PsychoKick at 8:54 AM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


The greatest gift the Internet ever gave us was the belief that if our business model doesn't work, it is somehow our customer's fault.

They said, "Our business model doesn't work. We're trying to figure out how to make it suck less. When we did this we lost readers but gained paying subscribers, so maybe there's something to be learned here."
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:56 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Because we are a technology site, we have a very large base of ad blockers. Imagine running a restaurant where 40% of the people who came and ate didn't pay. In a way, that's what ad blocking is doing to us.

My God. No it isn't.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:56 AM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I like the way Ravelry, the knitting and crochet site, does ads. They only accept ads that relate to their subject matter. All the ads are for yarn and tool sellers, yarn shops, fiber festivals, etc. They're in relatively unobtrusive spots, and don't pop up or make noise or use Flash. You can even bookmark an ad or see all the ads set up to display in a particular group.

This should be the model for online advertising, particularly since the internet, of all media, has the most potential for targeted, relevant advertising of this sort. Part of the problem is that many of the people who work in advertising are inexperienced, uncreative, short-sighted, or frankly, just don't use the internet.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:58 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


FTA: "Because we are a technology site, we have a very large base of ad blockers. Imagine running a restaurant where 40% of the people who came and ate didn't pay. In a way, that's what ad blocking is doing to us."


Let's talk about the differences between the business models here. If I walk into a restaurant, there is an agreement that in order to consume the food they serve, I must pay a set amount of money per item. The menu will state outright that, for example, the gnocchi is $15 and the steak is $28. This is really no different from the even more upfront model in which I put a dollar into a vending machine and receive a soda. The restaurant has decided to deny service to those who cannot pay.

Advertising, on the other hand, is a business model based on the relationship between the business and the advertisers. A TV show or a website promises a certain amount of viewers will access it each day, which entices advertisers to pay for ad space, since those viewers traditionally would be forced to see the ads. The business relationship here does not include viewers; They have not signed a contract to view advertisements in exchange for free content. It's a business model based on predicting consumer behavior. Unfortunately for you, consumers are no longer captive to your attempts to monetize their attention. Ads use up our bandwidth, slow down our browsers, and distract us from what we've actually come to see. Therefore, we've taken it upon ourselves to filter out that which has no value to us. What has changed is that you can no longer keep your promise to advertisers.

Referring to ad blocking as "stealing," then, is incorrect. If I were to get up and grab a drink from the refrigerator during a tv commercial, have I "stolen" the five or so minutes of content that preceded it? No: it is simply that the TV network failed to predict the fact that I'd get thirsty a halfway through "Dancing with the Stars" and miss an ad. Essentially, Ars, you are not entitled to show me ads by virtue of some agreement between us. Rather, you impose advertising on us at our sufferance. And I, for one, have decided to suffer it no longer.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 8:58 AM on March 7, 2010 [49 favorites]


Matt Haughey on why he doesn't care about ad blockers on Metafilter: How Ads Really Work: Superfans and Noobs.
posted by fuzz at 8:59 AM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


To my mind the adblocking zealots are a pretty lame lot and, I'm guessing here, they don't make their money of the Internet as much as they use it to entertain themselves into ad-free senselessness.

I'm not a fan of ads, but I do think if I'm too damned cheap (whether cheap means "I'm too poor to have a fast enough computer", "I'm a highly literate and relatively well paid Westerner who feels entitled to get what I want how I want it", or something in between) to pay with distractions to my attention then I shouldn't feel entitled to rip the content from its commercial context.

How about I take your code and rip out its license because, you know, I can and your license is just so much subliminal manipulation?
posted by mistersquid at 9:03 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't understand the hate against Ars Technica. If you think the content is not worth reading, you don't go to the site and could care less if they have ads. If you like the content, what's the problem with disabling adblock on the site? Are you morally opposed to advertising? You could pay for a subscription in that case. I suspect that the majority of people bitching on the comments to that post and saying "I will not read this site anymore" are lying.

Personally, I disable adblock on the sites that I visit most often as a courtesy to the owners. Somebody has to pay.
posted by demiurge at 9:03 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't say as I feel obligated to support anyone's business model. They are putting their product on the internet in a way that is relatively "free" for me to access. Should their organization fold because they don't sell enough advertising — well, it's the internet: someone else is going to step into the vacuum they leave behind.

And chances are, it will be a community-driven, higher-quality, more-useful alternative that fills the gap. Like in the old days, when everyone was sharing their passion for free.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rory, all I have to ask is why do you think lowermybills.com paid $76 million dollars to make those silly dancing people appear on your browser last year -- an ad campaign that everyone universally agrees has virtually nothing to do with the service they provide?

When you try to draw a distinction between awareness and control, that's like trying to cut Lake Pontchartrain in half with a knife. If you walk into the convenience store and you see Coke, loaded with sugar and devoid of nutritional value but familiar and comforting due to the steady torrent of images you've barely even noticed creating that impression, and it's next to your fictional Iridium (named after a really cool satellite network, nice plan) which is healthy and vitamin-fortified and donates half their profits to animal shelters, and you pick up the Coke, that is control. Coke spent billions of dollars to make that happen and it worked. And you would probably swear to your last dying breath that your choice was rational and conscious and not at all the result of any kind of manipulation. But the fact is, if the Coca-Cola corporation hadn't spent billions of dollars putting their logo on everything that isn't nailed down, you might have been more inclined to try the Iridium.
posted by localroger at 9:04 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Star Tribune Bitten by Rogue Program, just last month.

It seems like a better approach would be to demand that ad networks behave better, rather than putting the burden on end users.
posted by gimonca at 9:04 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


To my mind the adblocking zealots are a pretty lame lot and, I'm guessing here, they don't make their money of the Internet as much as they use it to entertain themselves into ad-free senselessness.

You guess wrong with me. And I wouldn't call myself a zealot, but I don't think people should be required to have ads on the site they are viewing any more than I think people should be legally obligated to read ads in newspaper.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:06 AM on March 7, 2010


I just want to be clear: I don't have much opinion one way or the other. I'm not praising the editorial. I just liked their point of view. I use an Ad Blocker, but I use it to speed up how fast pages load, since I would ignore the ads anyway. The only ads I remember ever clicking are google text ads, which sometimes do link to something useful.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:12 AM on March 7, 2010


Rory, all I have to ask is why do you think lowermybills.com paid $76 million dollars to make those silly dancing people appear on your browser last year -- an ad campaign that everyone universally agrees has virtually nothing to do with the service they provide?

TBH, I've never heard of LowerMyBills. I don't even know what those dancing people are. Got a link to anybody talking about it? Was this a banner ad or something? I'd love to read about this.

Coke spent billions of dollars to make that happen and it worked. And you would probably swear to your last dying breath that your choice was rational and conscious and not at all the result of any kind of manipulation. But the fact is, if the Coca-Cola corporation hadn't spent billions of dollars putting their logo on everything that isn't nailed down, you might have been more inclined to try the Iridium.

Of course it's manipulation. But it's not sneaky or subtle manipulation, if you know what I mean. I was responding to your original comment that ads we don't consciously recognize are bad for us. Subliminal advertising doesn't work like that.

Coke has a fantastic marketing engine going for it. It's the most-known product on the planet. The irony is that Coke is completely awful. People drink it because it makes them feel comfortable and safe, as you said. But rational thought is the counter to that kind of advertising. Once you train yourself to, you know, think about things before you buy them, then that advertising loses its hold.

The problem is that our society is so collectively willing not to think about things that a lot of black hat advertising still pays off. I'd suspect that's what LowerMyBills was: An attempt to grab attention for the sake of grabbing attention. Lazy and crude and possibly effective. Coke's advertising is almost entirely black hat also, because they're selling a product with no value beyond nostalgia and a little bit of caffeine.

I'd like to find a way to convince people to put more conscious thought into things. I would love it if it were possible to make an advertisement that sold rational thinking. The irony would give me happy tremors.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:12 AM on March 7, 2010


You guess wrong with me. And I wouldn't call myself a zealot, but I don't think people should be required to have ads on the site they are viewing any more than I think people should be legally obligated to read ads in newspaper.

So you go out and cut all the ads out of the paper as you read it? There's a difference between not reading the ads and not letting them be there in the first place.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:13 AM on March 7, 2010




Ha! All you suckers with your adblocker turned on aren't getting all the free iPods I am!

"Congratulations you just won a free iPod nano!"
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 9:16 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


> They said, "Our business model doesn't work. We're trying to figure out how to make it suck less. When we did this we lost readers but gained paying subscribers, so maybe there's something to be learned here."

I didn't get that from the linked article at all. The entire piece is a defense of their current advertising-based model and a complaint that users who don't like the current model are crapping on the site. Here's their specific response to the business-model criticism:
Invariably someone else will pop in and tell me that it's not their fault that our business model sucks. My response is simple: you either care about the site's well-being, or you don't. As for our business model sucking, we've been here for 12 years, online-only. Not many sites can say that.
Blocking freeloaders from accessing articles is no more a move toward a better business model than suing filesharers. Yes, they acknowledge learning things from the experiment, but the only actual conclusion they draw vis-a-vis their own behavior is that they should communicate their point of view to their users more often.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 9:17 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I know I'm doing something wrong, stealing revenue, but if I'm really honest, I don't care-- I just want my cake and my morality seems to cope.

What an overdeveloped conscience you have! If a website publishes content to the open internet without a paywall, and honors the request of any web browser to serve that content without any payment arrangement, and does not even have an honor system Terms of Service page that says you may only view the content if you agree to also display the ads, then you are doing nothing even remotely wrong. You don't have a contract with them, they're serving content to all comers without restrictions.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:18 AM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Websites with quality content tend to attract quality advertisers, so looking at the ads can be a good way to quickly size up an unknown website.

When you stumble across a new site the adverts are often the first thing that will clue you into knowing if it is a professional high quality, high traffic website or some random blog with a bunch of copied/stolen content.
posted by Lanark at 9:18 AM on March 7, 2010


A lot of ads just got really intrusive. I'd have a page up and then need to turn away to do something on my desk and the dancing/jumping/twirling/moving would continually attract my attention out of the corner of my eye. Also like nevercalm says - they would hog my computer's resources and I'd spend more and more time trying to figure out where that tiny x was, to stop some disembodied thing from prancing around the screen. The page got served to my computer, where I should then be able to view it as I please. If the site gets served to my browser, on my computer, I can then view it. If I want to take pieces of paper and selectively paste them over my monitor so that only the content remains and I can read it without the ad insanity, I should be able to. Basically, I do that same thing, just with ad blocker extensions so my monitor doesn't get sticky with Elmers glue.
posted by cashman at 9:19 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Given the choice between a subscription fee to use a service, like Metafilter for example, or ads that are "cheaper", I'd choose the subscription fee. Generally speaking, I think that if something is worth paying for, people will buy it. Frankly, I think that the $5 I paid to sign up for this site was a minuscule amount compared to the value I got from it. I don't know how much advertisers get from adverts, but I gather it's a ridiculously small amount. I'd be happy to pay $10 a year for a subscription to a site like Metafilter. Matt would probably earn far more from me, guaranteed, by that model, than serving up ads.

Showing me an advert doesn't mean I'm going to click on it. In that instance it's actually going to cost someone to serve me the advert. Bandwidth/server space isn't free. In fact, I make a point of avoiding services/products that advertise, and tend to go on my own research for which widget would be best for my uses. By my blocking the advert from loading, I'm actually saving someone some money. If you're running a website relying on adverts to fund that website, then perhaps you need to kick it up a gear and create a website that's worth paying for.
posted by Solomon at 9:20 AM on March 7, 2010


In the 1980s there was a war going on between the computer (not console) games developers and the software "pirates". I was on both sides of that war... I worked for a game developing company by day and I was a pirate by night. The war was continually escalating and it was very interesting to see the development of the tools to thwart the other side.

This will evolve to the same thing. The ad publishers will find new methods to circumvent the blockers and the blockers will find new ways to block the ads. This will later develop into a mini industry of developers to create tools to to wage the war.

WIN-WIN!

Too bad I came in so late...
posted by Drasher at 9:21 AM on March 7, 2010


This ad blocker controversy is nothing new.. web browser ad blockers go back at least 10 years. The industry has survived somehow.

I'm astonished that Tivo and other DVRs hasn't upended the television ad market more. I never watch TV ads anymore. I guess I'm stealing from JJ Abrams, just like I'm taking the food out of mathowie's baby's mouth.
posted by Nelson at 9:24 AM on March 7, 2010


If your revenue model requires the participation users who hate ads so much that they go to the trouble of installing a browser plugin then you've already lost.

The greatest gift the Internet ever gave us was the belief that if our business model doesn't work, it is somehow our customer's fault.


See, this is why we can't have nice things.

If someone says they would like me to abide by certain rules when I use their services, for everyone's benefit, then I should either comply or not use their services. The fact that I can physically find a way to disobey their rules without getting caught or punished doesn't make it right. Not everything good in the world can be accomplished by force; some things require the goodwill of the participants. If that goodwill goes away, then the good thing disappears forever. It doesn't matter whose "fault" it is.

If you like a site, show the ads. If you can't stand the ads, stay off the site. If a substantial number of people follow that rule, things will work themselves out. Sites with tolerable ads will continue to survive for those of us who like free things and don't mind ads, and new sites with a paid-subscriber business model will spring up for the rest of you. If everyone stops following this rule, then the free, ad-supported sites I like will go away, and I will be upset.

What I find really remarkable is that donation-supported sites like Wikipedia continue to exist. Can you imagine if people stopped donating to Wikipedia? It takes the same kind of goodwill to support Wikipedia that it takes to support Ars, and blocking their ads just because you can is like not donating to Wikipedia just because you aren't forced to.
posted by Xezlec at 9:26 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


So you go out and cut all the ads out of the paper as you read it? There's a difference between not reading the ads and not letting them be there in the first place.

I pretty much don't read the paper anymore but yes - I would fold it in places where it didn't rip the article, to narrow it down to the content I wanted. Ad blockers just don't have folding limitations. If I wanted to save an article, I cut it out. I know I'm not the only one that has seen articles people have mounted, where they cut out the first part and the second part from pages later, and mounted them together.

Maybe it doesn't pain you any, but for a lot of people having a bunch of unrelated stuff (BUY BUY! PICTURES! BREASTY WOMEN! CARS!) all around makes it annoying to read the article you're trying to read. It is not just a preference, it is an actual, active problem that wastes time and frustrates many of us. The information we're reading is often crucial - news about crimes, information about political stories that is valuable for voting, critical updates that are used to change plans or make them. They went crazy with the ads so i had to go crazy blocking them.
posted by cashman at 9:27 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


So you go out and cut all the ads out of the paper as you read it? There's a difference between not reading the ads and not letting them be there in the first place.

Yes. And the difference is easy. No, I don't clip ads out of newspapers. Yes, I do switch channels on television and radio when ads come on. Should my television determine when I do that and deny me access to the rest of the show?
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:29 AM on March 7, 2010


Ease, rather, not easy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:29 AM on March 7, 2010


Every six months or so, the same round of "adblock is evil" point-counterpoint gets kicked off by a random post bringing nothing particularly new to the conversation...

Whatever came of the "fair ad-blocking" proposal that Adblock Plus devs floated last year? The discussion that followed was pretty flamey, but it seemed like a fine idea: an undeniable improvement on the status quo from the perspective of those bitching most loudly about it, and it's hard to see how it would be a terrible imposition on users if it were enabled by default and easily disabled.

Myself, I would definitely keep that enabled, and 'allow' some (many?) sites that I make repeat visits to if faced with a dialog on a return visit. This just isn't something many adblock users remember to do manually, unless site owners specifically plead for it - out of sight, out of mind.

Still blocking tracking cookies and js though. If you're asking me to allow ads to get some simple impression dollars, that's one thing, but if you're selling my browser out to people trying to behaviorally track it across their networks, fuhgettaboutit.
posted by blackberet at 9:31 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


See, this is why we can't have nice things.

If someone says they would like me to abide by certain rules when I use their services, for everyone's benefit, then I should either comply or not use their services.


I've just read a few Terms of Service pages of well-known ad-supported sites, including Ars'. None of them say that you must display the ads. There may be a few out there that do, I'd be interested to know which ones. If they're ones I visit, I'll either unblock the ads or stop visiting them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:31 AM on March 7, 2010


See, this is why we can't have nice things.

We have plenty of nice things. The Web is full of them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:32 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hm. Hang on. Ars Technica's User Agreement does contain this clause:
The copying, reproduction, publication, display, rearrangement, redistribution, modification, revision, alteration, cropping, re-sizing, reverse engineering, movement, removal, deletion, or other use or change by you, directly or indirectly, of any such Website Content, including but not limited to the removal or alteration of advertising, is strictly prohibited.
I'd be a little more impressed if they put the link to this user agreement a little more prominently, but I'll have to agree that it does exist. Took me two tries to find this language.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:35 AM on March 7, 2010


If you run flash ads or animated gif ads, you deserve to fail in every way possible, and I will block those ads until I'm dead and cold and in the ground. But normal, non-animated ads don't really bother me at all. That's why I use flashblock instead of adblock.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:37 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


You guess wrong with me. And I wouldn't call myself a zealot, but I don't think people should be required to have ads on the site they are viewing any more than I think people should be legally obligated to read ads in newspaper.

So you're saying you block ads because you are legally forced to read them once they've loaded?
posted by mistersquid at 9:40 AM on March 7, 2010


A lot of User Agreements also used to say that you couldn't link to a site without the explicit permission of the site. When a user agreement defies the way the Web is commonly used, it's going to be ignored, and deserves to be.

They wanna block people who use AdBlock? They're free to. But they're not going to gain income and they are going to lose readers, all while getting a lot of ill will. You don't try to bully users into using your Web page as you wish they would. You give them access to your Web content and let them figure out how best to make use of what you have to offer, and then try to figure out how to monetize that. The Web offers extraordinarily flexibility in letting a users define their Web experience for themselves, and that's one of the best things about it. Obstructing that because you have a business model that doesn't work on that sort of Web is just foolish. It's trying to superimpose a newspaper model on the Web when the Web has so effectively broken the newspaper model. The Web isn't a magazine. It's a printing press. You provide us the content, we'll decide how to print it in the manner than best suits our needs.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:41 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


So you're saying you block ads because you are legally forced to read them once they've loaded?

No.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:42 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


If your revenue model requires the participation users who hate ads so much that they go to the trouble of installing a browser plugin then you've already lost.

If you'd read the article you'd know that's not what their revenue model depends on, they run CPM display ads that pay on impressions (along with their subscription program).

I'll never understand why people are so hostile to content creators. It's valid to have the opinion that you want to block ads for whatever reason, but the self-righteousness and anger at a site for wanting to make money is weird.

I don't love consumerism and I'm a Bill Hicks fan as well, but I just can't be bothered to care that much about ads. I have an opinion too, but it's not one I get worked up about.
posted by imabanana at 9:43 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can I just say that that Ars link is currently taking 30+ seconds to render (incorrectly, too) on any browser I try?
posted by scruss at 9:44 AM on March 7, 2010


Ars really disappointed me this time.

I've been a fan for years. Ars had great articles, especially those opposing DRM, privacy invasions and other consumer hostile practices. That's what makes the following statement from Ben Kuchera ( Ars Gaming Editor ) so disgusting:

DRM often harms legit customers by trying to stop pirates. This only hurts those trying to drain resources from the site and is completely invisible to actual readers.

If you were effected [sic] by this, you're someone we don't want on the site because you're actively hurting it. That's what makes all the people "threatening" to leave so funny.


Funny? Are you joking? You're running a business. Your readers are your customers. What the hell kind of attitude is that? It's an attitude that will drive you and your business into the poorhouse.

Many who do not view your ads support Ars in other ways. We link to your site. We recommend your site to friends. Google says that at least 272 posts on Metafilter link to Ars articles (I am sure the actual number is much higher than that). These links may not have brought you immediate income but the traffic increase, PageRank boost and new readers will help you fill your coffers in the long run. Laugh at us for "threatening" to leave, Ben? Mock us at your peril.

Those who choose to disable ads do so for many reasons. Personally, I have no issues with Ars. It's on my NoScript white list. Any ads that exist on your server will appear. My issue is with third-party ad networks. Traditional cookies, persistent flash cookies (local shared objects) and other tracking devices invade my privacy. Enabling ads would let third-party ad networks know what sites I visit, articles I read and how long I spend on each. This information can be used to create a pretty accurate profile about me including my interests, political views, health concerns, sexual preferences, etc. I'd prefer to keep the number of people who know that much about me as low as possible.

That's why I use NoScript, AdBlock Plus, BetterPrivacy and, when required, Vidalia/Tor with the FoxyProxy plugin. It's not to take food out of your mouth, Ben. It's to protect myself and my privacy from third-party ad networks who, through their actions, have proven themselves untrustworthy.
posted by stringbean at 9:44 AM on March 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


It's valid to have the opinion that you want to block ads for whatever reason, but the self-righteousness and anger at a site for wanting to make money is weird.

I haven't seen any of this in the thread. They are welcome to make money. The hostility stems from them trying to make money by bullying users into looking at ads the users don't want to -- of trying to force a business model on users that don't want them.

And it's stupid, because they are actively driving away those users and alienating them. The ad model doesn't work on those users, but they are still users, and they should be focused on a business model that recognizes that some users won't look at ads, and try to think of some other mechanism for making use of dedicated readers.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:46 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Fourth Medium can't use the same advertising models as the traditional media outlets, after all, people flocked to this medium in the first place because it gave freedoms the other venues denied their audiences -- they have to figure out different ways to make their outlets profitable...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 9:48 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


And chances are, it will be a community-driven, higher-quality, more-useful alternative that fills the gap. Like in the old days, when everyone was sharing their passion for free. mostly only people with .edu addresses were on the internet, graphical browsers hadn't been invented yet, and there was only one USEnet and one IRC server for everyone on the planet.

FTFY. All these damn kids on your lawn. Such a pity they won't leave.

I'm astonished that Tivo and other DVRs hasn't upended the television ad market more. I never watch TV ads anymore. I guess I'm stealing from JJ Abrams, just like I'm taking the food out of mathowie's baby's mouth.

While I understand your sentiment here, I think the fallacy of your statement lies in the way television advertising is paid for vs. internet advertising. Plus, you're a member of MetaFilter, so you're really not taking any food out of anyone's baby's mouth by reading this website. PLUS -- well, that article posted earlier by The Matt Himself about how removing members from the advertising pool increased the click-through percentage and actually increased the revenue from MeFi overall.
posted by hippybear at 9:49 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think people should be required to have ads on the site they are viewing any more than I think people should be legally obligated to read ads in newspaper.

>So you're saying you block ads because you are legally forced to read them once they've loaded?

>>No.


Yeah, I agree that your original comparison is nonsensical.
posted by mistersquid at 9:52 AM on March 7, 2010


If you like a site, show the ads. If you can't stand the ads, stay off the site. If a substantial number of people follow that rule, things will work themselves out.
So I guess things won't be working themselves out then, huh?

If you put a resource on the web publicly, i.e. not behind a credentialed gateway, then it is, oddly enough, public. You are entirely free to lock it behind a pay-wall, or free-membership wall. Many who complain wouldn't dare to do either with their content, precisely because they would never get the uptake on the proposition to make it be worthwhile.

Once you make it public and start getting ad network revenue on it, for chrissake don't whinge when a minority inevitably uses software to block those ads. You made your content public, and claiming that viewers whose browsers don't follow your every href, execute your every script, and imbed your every flash object are freeloading rogues is a very weak argument to be making. It is business model fail if it hurts that badly, and continually trying to put a moral framing / stigma of shame around this is a completely lost cause. It was a lost cause years ago.
posted by blackberet at 9:52 AM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I agree that your original comparison is nonsensical.

I wasn't a direct comparison. But you can fixate on that one comment if you like; I would point out that I have offered other comments in this thread.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:53 AM on March 7, 2010


Why don't Arse Technica just find out when their prime time periods are, and block adblockers during that time? Maybe a five or six hour block in the evening so that only paying/ad viewing readers have access when it's most convenient. Kinda like "you can have it for free, but not when you most want it". Seems fair to me, as anybody can still have access when they want if they whitelist.
posted by Sova at 9:58 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Funny thing about Ars is that they even have a rule on their forums that you can't say you're using an adblocker, or you're banned. That had what I assume is the intended effect: no one says they are using adblockers.
posted by smackfu at 10:00 AM on March 7, 2010


But aren't you purchasing the newspaper in the first place?

I think this is a shitty situation, that is only going to get shittier. If a site considers the viewing of ads the 'purchase price' to view, I think it's a pretty small price to pay, but I still fucking HATE the ads. But, I don't run an ad-blocker. Most of the time I am content to ignore, and if something gets too egregious, I'll go elsewhere.

Matt has said that it is the ads that pay the bills here, that the $5's are more or less just a barrier to keep out the riff-raffiest of the riff-raff. How would we all feel if the income that the MetaFilter gets was removed because the ads stopped paying the bills? I might be willing to pay a monthly fee here, but I wouldn't be super happy about it, and I surely wouldn't be willing to pay for EVERy site I visit.

I think, again, ads are a fairly small price that I am willing to pay, and until something better comes along I think the fervent use of ad blockers is a bit short-sited. At some point someone has to pay the bills, I think it would be easier for everyone if we all paid just a little bit as we go.

Of course, I've never, that I can recall, clicked on ad, so there's something to be said for that end of the transaction too. Branding is one thing, but doesn't some money have to change hands somewhere for 'lower my bills' to be in the black?
posted by dirtdirt at 10:03 AM on March 7, 2010


I've seen some pretty remarkable statements in this thread that I can only interpret as proof that a large swath of the population are trained to be placid, happy consumers who feel obligated to give their time, attention, and personal resources to advertisers. That doing so is "only fair," and is, in fact, "morally right"!

What a society.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:04 AM on March 7, 2010 [22 favorites]


I would just like to thank everybody who doesn't mind ads and leaves them on. Keep it up!
posted by diogenes at 10:07 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Blocking ads is...worse than pirating music or movies

Troll much? Last time I checked pirating music and movies were against the law while running adblock software or changing one's hosts file wasn't.

To my mind the adblocking zealots are a pretty lame lot and, I'm guessing here, they don't make their money of the Internet as much as they use it to entertain themselves into ad-free senselessness.

While not a zealot, I do adblock AND make my living off the internet with a site that doesn't have a single ad, and you know what? Business is good!

For those that are pro–status quo ad supporters I have some bad news for you: the internet is an extremely diverse ecosystem and while some sites will wither and die from lack of ad revenue, others will find a niche and flourish. Boo hoo.
posted by furtive at 10:10 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I can't think of any recent articles, offhand, that have had much technical merit.

I'd like to know what's better than Ars (seriously).

I'd like to hear of any sources of science journalism that include more specifics about what's being studied than Ars' science section.

I'm not sure what your criteria are for "recently", but many in this thread are citing the purchase by Conde Nast in May 2008 as the turning point in their quality.

If you can think of a better piece of tech journalism than Ars' Snow Leopard review, written in August 2009, I'm all ears.
posted by Jpfed at 10:10 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The hostility stems from them trying to make money by bullying users into looking at ads the users don't want to -- of trying to force a business model on users that don't want them.

Fair enough I suppose, but if you don't like the business model then I think the thing to do is not visit the site. Otherwise you're kind of stealing, they are providing something of value (presumably, or why are you visiting) and you are unwilling to return the favor by subscribing or white listing their ads. It's not stealing in the legal sense, more so in a social contract kind of way.

I know a lot of people think that's a ridiculous assertion, but then you see the anger over them restricting access of adblock users to the site and I think that kind of tells the truth.

None of this will really matter until a browser with adblock turned on by default comes out and gets significant market penetration. You'll start seeing sites shuttered at that point, and personally I think it's a shame, allowing banner or text advertising is a small price to pay for all of the sites I visit.
posted by imabanana at 10:17 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


So you go out and cut all the ads out of the paper as you read it?

Actually, yes. The first thing I do upon receiving the single magazine to which I subscribe is to rip out all the doubleweight or tripleweight fold-out ads, which would otherwise make the magazine difficult to fold and carry in my bag for when I'm on the train, and twice as heavy.
posted by elizardbits at 10:22 AM on March 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


If you can think of a better piece of tech journalism than Ars' Snow Leopard review--

--divided up into twenty-three separate pages? Bugger that for a game of soldiers.

It might be Pulitzer material, but if tech-junkie sites are now somehow compelled to treat their readers with that much disrespect in order to squeeze out ad revenue, then I'm not sitting in the high-chair waiting for Daddy Ars to play aeroplane with another spoonful.
posted by holgate at 10:22 AM on March 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Not only do I use Adblock Plus, I sometimes wish that MeFi had an ignore feature. I guess that makes me some kind of sociopathic thief.

I feel lucky to be out of prison.

But not guilty at all.
posted by Splunge at 10:26 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


It might be Pulitzer material, but if tech-junkie sites are now somehow compelled to treat their readers with that much disrespect in order to squeeze out ad revenue, then I'm not sitting in the high-chair waiting for Daddy Ars to play aeroplane with another spoonful.
posted by holgate at 12:22 PM on March 7 [+] [!]


Then get out of the high-chair and write something comparable.
posted by Jpfed at 10:31 AM on March 7, 2010


The hostility stems from them trying to make money by bullying users into looking at ads the users don't want to -- of trying to force a business model on users that don't want them.

You can't "force" a "business model" on "users". You choose a business model for your business. I like their business model and want to support it. You dislike it, and rather than simply not supporting it, which would be fine, you want to try to actively attack it by taking their bandwidth without allowing the ads to load. I just don't understand why it pains you to simply leave those sites -- and the people who like them -- alone.

The ad model doesn't work on those users, but they are still users, and they should be focused on a business model that recognizes that some users won't look at ads, and try to think of some other mechanism for making use of dedicated readers.

Well, there's only one other mechanism, and they will lose other users (me) if they switch to that. There's no win-win scenario except peaceful coexistence. You agree not to view my ad-supported sites with ad-blockers in violation of their terms of service, and I'll agree not to hack your paid-subscription sites and illegally gain entry (which is what many of us will probably do if you guys win this war).

I've seen some pretty remarkable statements in this thread that I can only interpret as proof that a large swath of the population are trained to be placid, happy consumers who feel obligated to give their time, attention, and personal resources to advertisers. That doing so is "only fair," and is, in fact, "morally right"!

I feel obligated to interact with people on their own terms. I find it pretty remarkable that you feel the need to mock those of us who financially support the things we like. So, we're supposed to be unstable, angry consumers who go out of our way to attack any business (even one we like) in any way we physically can, in order to show those fat cats who's boss? What are you, a character from Hackers? Why would I want to break the revenue model of a business I like? That is insane.
posted by Xezlec at 10:32 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fair enough I suppose, but if you don't like the business model then I think the thing to do is not visit the site.

If I had to boycott every business whose model I wasn't 100 percent comfortable with, there is hardly a business I would patronize. And it's hardly reasonable to expect consumers to keep a list of every site that would prefer to be whitelisted and skip them, and only visit those that are okay with adblocker. Making the customer do more work because of the idiosyncrasies of your site is yet another way a business model fails. If they really have a problem with AdBlocker, they can block readers who use it, as they have. But I'm not going to go out of my way to discover what their preference is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:32 AM on March 7, 2010


Well, there's only one other mechanism, and they will lose other users (me) if they switch to that.

Somebody above pointed out that users that block your ads will nonethless link to your site and draw more traffic that doesn't use AdBlocker. That's another mechanism.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:34 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


As an ethical and technical experiment, I've disabled Adblock but added NoScript and Flashblock. Interestingly, there are sites that look identical under both settings. When I use Adblock my explicit intention is to block ads. When I use the other two my explicit intention is to block JavaScript and Flash, and advertising based in either form just happens to be a casualty. If you think the first is an ethical violation, how do you feel about the second? Do I have a responsibility to see whether I'm blocking any ad content (Flashblock makes this fairly easy to check, NoScript less so)?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:35 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


To my mind the adblocking zealots are a pretty lame lot and, I'm guessing here, they don't make their money of the Internet as much as they use it to entertain themselves into ad-free senselessness.

So I shouldn't be using the internet for entertainment? Okay. And in case you didn't know, the vast majority of people who use the internet don't make their money off it.

I'm sitting here reading this, running adblock and flashblock (which I installed when the website for my local paper began running that dancing guy ad), and watching a basketball game on TV. I hit mute whenever the ads come on TV. Sometimes I leave the room for a few minutes. For some reason, ESPN is running an ad for sugardaddie.com (to an audience that has tuned in to watch the women's NCAA Big East quarterfinal). I guess I should feel guilty that I'm stealing?
posted by rtha at 10:36 AM on March 7, 2010


Fair enough I suppose, but if you don't like the business model then I think the thing to do is not visit the site. Otherwise you're kind of stealing, they are providing something of value (presumably, or why are you visiting) and you are unwilling to return the favor by subscribing or white listing their ads. It's not stealing in the legal sense, more so in a social contract kind of way.

So all that stuff about having an opinion, but not one that you felt strongly about-- that was all bollocks? Your opinion is really that people who don't have the ads on are a bunch of thieves?

Well, here's my opinion: I was here before business was on the net. The content was better -- it was way, way, better. As far as I'm concerned, those fuckers are the thieves. They've enclosed the common land and turned it into a used car lot, and now they want me to pay them to graze my sheep?

As far as I'm concerned, they should be paying me.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:39 AM on March 7, 2010 [16 favorites]


Maybe I haven't been around as long as some, but I've been online for fifteen years and the internet is far better today than it's ever been. It's not even close. I have no clue what people are on about who claim otherwise. There's more junk sure, but so what? It's not that hard to avoid, I don't have any problem doing so.
posted by imabanana at 10:44 AM on March 7, 2010


If they really have a problem with AdBlocker, they can block readers who use it, as they have. But I'm not going to go out of my way to discover what their preference is.

Well, fair enough, I guess. I suppose it's a valid point that you should at least have to click something that indicates that you understand the expectations before you enter such a site.
posted by Xezlec at 10:48 AM on March 7, 2010


Reiterating the above, I don't block google ads or really freak out about ads in general. OTOH, since I had to de-crap my grandma's PC after an adserver successfully attacked it, she's fully blocking. If your ads need js or flash, tough. I've never had a TV ad try to attack the hardware.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:49 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


DU: dkos doesn't block adblockers, but they do put a huge box at the top explaining about the lost revenue. I just use greasemonkey (or some other tool--it's been so long I forget) to rewrite the HTML to remove it.

Just add dailykos.com#BLOCKQUOTE(id=adblocker) to AdBlock.
posted by WCityMike at 10:50 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd be willing to run an ad blocker that would download the ad but only display the ALT text --so I'd get a fair chance to see what the product was-- until I moused over or clicked it. That way everyone would win (apart from the fact that I'm wasting my bandwidth): the ad provider would register a page view, the site would get paid, and I still wouldn't have to look at an ad which I would never, ever click through in any event. Fair?
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:50 AM on March 7, 2010


Oh, the ad blocker would still have to refuse cookies from the ad server; there are limits.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:51 AM on March 7, 2010


Then get out of the high-chair and write something comparable.

Ooh, handbags.

Siracusa's a fantastic writer on Apple OS internals. From an editorial/production standpoint, Ars is disrespecting him as well as his readers by divvying up a detailed piece into 23 chunks for the sole purpose of generating pageviews and a fresh set of ads each click.

No matter how good it was, you wouldn't read a 10,000-word article in the New Yorker scattered a page at a time across the magazine, the next page twenty pages after the previous one, with a quarter-page ad on each. You'd feel like the editor was taking the piss, and rightly so.

The standard practice developed across Ars, AnandTech, HardOCP, Tom's Hardware and every other benchmarking, overclocking, heatpiping enthusiast site is a conscious niggling fuck-you to the reader. My life is too fucking short for that. It's up to Ars and company to come up with a Salon or Hulu-style way of supplementing content with ads in a way that respects both readers and writers.
posted by holgate at 10:52 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, I do feel glad to giving revenue to random SEO bs which I might click on, so blocking is default.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:52 AM on March 7, 2010


Oh, yes, this ad blocker would have to defer downloading blocked items until the unblocked items had loaded; that way my reading's not hung up waiting for content I won't see.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:53 AM on March 7, 2010


er s/\sto/not/
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:53 AM on March 7, 2010


I'm with Malor on the quality of Ars over the last year or so - it has slipped pretty badly. I knew things were going wrong when they started re-posting Apple rumors from sites like Appleinsider.com and Macrumors.com. They also received a lot of flack for their coverage of the iPad release when their feed bombed out a few minutes into the presentation.

If it weren't for John Siracusa's fantabulous pieces, I probably would not read them any longer.
posted by tgrundke at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2010


Because we are a technology site, we have a very large base of ad blockers. Imagine running a restaurant where 40% of the people who came and ate didn't pay.

Perhaps it's not because you are a technology site, but instead that you show an enormous number of ads per article, to an audience used to fixing broken things, that leads to your high block rate.
posted by zippy at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was irritated to hear about Ars Technica's experiment, but reading to the end of this thread has made me feel icky about my AdBlock use. It happens to be off now, but should I turn it on again, I will be better about whitelisting. We have to support the things we support.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:03 AM on March 7, 2010


Along with Adblock plus and easylist. I use ghosterty
cs-lite (may have FF version issues that need overriding), noscript, requestpolicy, refcontrol (this can be very fun for you to annoy the person looking at the logs), and greasemonkey for site specific fixes.

Now, I'll tell you this list of stuff botches up lots of sites the first time thru. You have been warned.

PS, great script for GM, Facebook Purity
posted by MrLint at 11:05 AM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


BTW, this is another great reason why online advertising is an inherently risky way to fund your business model.

Very few people outside of the many, many victims of it seemed to notice, but out that one of the BIG reasons for the Dotcom Crash being as large as it was is that online advertising rates plummeted during the crash, dragging down the business model of numerous businesses, and giving skittish venture capitalist investors even more reason not to throw more money into backing companies that had dysfunctional business models.

The dotcom companies that did survive were invariably those with the biggest pockets, the most dedicated investors, or those which were able to cut back the hardest.

This was even seen in the -- at the time -- red-hot realm of weblogging. There were several small blog sites funded by advertising that died off during the dotcom crash. Blogger, which relied primarily on advertising for its revenue, had its entire staff laid off, with Ev running the site on fumes until situations improved enough that he could flip the site to Google. Meanwhile, LiveJournal actually did quite well and increased its paid staff, as its revenue was membership-based at the time.

It was only when LiveJournal was acquired by SixApart and broke a longstanding promise to its users to remain ad-free that paid memberships decreased significantly, and many of LiveJournal's users started going elsewhere.

When it comes down to it, the Internet is a very special place. It's the place where advertising as we know it really should die for all the best of reasons, to be replaced by better ways of reaching the customer.

"The problem is not the medium, the problem is the message, and the fact that it is not trusted, not wanted, and not needed."

There's more to it than that, of course.

The simple fact is, ad rates are currently in a bubble state, across the board. If they were actually *worth* a fixed amount, you wouldn't get TV, print, and radio so willing to cut special deals with their buyers. They are worth what the purchaser will pay for it... but the simple fact is, the purchasers of advertising have usually not gotten their money's worth over the past decade or so.

Traditional economics points out that when you increase supply without an equal increase in demand, prices should go down. That is most certainly not what has happened over the past two decades. There has been an explosion of cable stations. There has been an entirely new market of online advertising. There has been significant increases in other venues and ways to advertise. There has been a significant growth in the number of companies, but not enough to keep up with the growth of advertising options. And lastly, there has not been a particularly large increase in US consumers to drive the demand.

In simple economic terms, that means that ads are worth less... even as many companies pay more for them.

If ads were worth every penny that businesses paid for them and then some, you wouldn't see newspapers going out of business left and right. You wouldn't see cable networks relying on ad revenues, latenight infomercials, and subscriber fees. Consumers wouldn't have $100+ cable bills to pay for ad-driven content that they invariably demand. You wouldn't see major network conglomerates leveraging their power to force customers to buy a bunch of programming in large packages, most of which consumers would rather not pay for, or consumers wanting legislation in place so that they only have to pay for those channels that they want.

In short, traditional advertising is failing. It is failing to support newspapers. It is failing to support magazines. It is failing to support increasingly diverse options for watching television or listening to music. The only reason it's not failing to a much greater degree is that ad prices are kept artificially high by an industry whose best interest is best served by wildly overcharging its customers, while consumers are paying money for ad-driven content!

The question that should be asked, really, is what happens when market forces encourage businesses and consumers to wise up, and seek out better alternatives.

The point isn't that advertising doesn't work anymore. It's that it works significantly less well than it used to, and those selling and creating advertising are pocketing more -- and oftentimes all -- of the profits as a result, to the extent that you really are better off much of the time hiring one of these guys. The more you cut out the traditional middle-men and go straight to your customer, the better used your "advertising" budget will be spent. In fact, if all you are thinking of is "advertising" with your budget, you're overlooking the value of actually reaching out to your customers... which is usually best done on the Internet.

This transition away from traditional online advertising isn't a bad thing. It's something that every person who loves the 'net should want to support, because it means that more space will be created for the kind of user-oriented, user-supported, and, oftentimes, user-run independent sites that most of us invariably rave about. It doesn't kill good content. It makes the business of delivering that content a labor of love.
posted by markkraft at 11:08 AM on March 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


I think the whole thing about ads, is that people try to make money off of them instead of supplementing with them.

I still have these dreams about an internet where people put information up because they love it, love to do so. It's kinda archaic, kinda '90s, but I can dream right?

I know sites have to have money to run on, and not everyone can blow $50/year for a site like I can (yes, I have a google ad on my site. It hasn't paid for anything :])
But I can still dream. I wonder how helpful subscription models tend to be.


Perhaps it's not because you are a technology site, but instead that you show an enormous number of ads per article, to an audience used to fixing broken things, that leads to your high block rate.
posted by zippy at 12:59 PM on March 7 [+] [!]


I don't think that's it. I think most people with an adblocker just use the subscriptions that they invite you to use when you run it the first time.
posted by rubah at 11:13 AM on March 7, 2010


I wrote about Adblock back in 2007. I called the article "Adblock: Adapt or Die" and essentially suggested that ad-blockers are popular because of the advertisers that ruined it for the rest of them - pop-ups, content-covering flash ads, ads that play video, etc.

The legit advertisers simply got creamed by the ad-blockers.

As it was said - stop using the big ad networks, and get sponsorships yourselves, and make the ad unobtrusive, and you'll find people don't adblock you.
posted by BrianBoyko at 11:23 AM on March 7, 2010


I don't think that's it. I think most people with an adblocker just use the subscriptions that they invite you to use when you run it the first time.

Sure, but how many installed adblock because of particularly ad-heavy sites like Ars?
posted by zippy at 11:30 AM on March 7, 2010


You know, I have a theory. Everyone remembers the malware epidemic of the early 2000s. I think a lot of that had to do with the economic downturn and the dot-com crash. All those unemployed programmers who needed cash, trying to extract the last of it off of the 'net.

Now in this downturn, the Internet is going to have a lot more crap floating around, for the same reason. Could be even worse, or perhaps not as bad since it hasn't hit the tech industry specifically. But I definitely noticed the number of crap ads increase lately.
To my mind the adblocking zealots are a pretty lame lot and, I'm guessing here, they don't make their money of the Internet as much as they use it to entertain themselves into ad-free senselessness. -- mistersquid
Yeah, like the vast majority of people, I don't make money by serving content on the internet.

(as opposed to using the internet for 'serious business', which doesn't involve looking at ads. I would guess most people's work involves the internet in some way these days)
I'm not a fan of ads, but I do think if I'm too damned cheap (whether cheap means "I'm too poor to have a fast enough computer", "I'm a highly literate and relatively well paid Westerner who feels entitled to get what I want how I want it", or something in between) -- mistersquid
First of all, why the hell should I need a fast computer to view ads? What If someone wants to use a netbook in my living room while watching TV or something? Are you seriously arguing that they should lets ads lock up or crash or waste all the bandwidth on their machines?

Second of all my PC has Eight CPU cores on two physical CPUs, and 12 gigs of ram (expandable to 48). But for whatever reason, probably not using enough separate threads, a flash ad with a rotating cube (for H&R block) made Firefox get all choppy and annoying. I could have switched to chrome, but I like firefox.

And then there are the ads with sound, which are pretty damn annoying.

And on top of that, just in the past month I've seen an ad actually redirected the whole page (away from the page it was hosted on) and try to confuse people into downloading some "antivirus" application, and another page that actually tried to use a PDF exploit to do the same thing.

Even if it's 1/10000 crap ads to innocuous ones, they're all getting blocked because seeing ads doesn't make my life any better. I had ad-block on my last PC, but it took over two years to install it on this one because I didn't see too many bad ones. But I had been seeing more and more crap ones lately, so I decided to install adblock.
When you stumble across a new site the adverts are often the first thing that will clue you into knowing if it is a professional high quality, high traffic website or some random blog with a bunch of copied/stolen content. -- Lanark
I've had search status, a plug in for firefox that tells you the alexa traffic rank and google page rank of the page you're currently looking at installed for years. So I don't need 'clues' about a site's popularity or traffic, the hard data is right in my status bar, on every page

(although, people have complained about Alexa's biases, it's a pretty good ballpark figure)

(Oh man this human billboard 'sign spinner' stuff markkraft linked too is hilarious)
posted by delmoi at 11:41 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll never understand why people are so hostile to content creators. It's valid to have the opinion that you want to block ads for whatever reason, but the self-righteousness and anger at a site for wanting to make money is weird.

Nobody's hostile to content creators unless that creator is Uwe Boll.

People are hostile to internet advertisers, and the sites that rely on them, for a few related reasons.

Reason One: Internet advertising, and many sites that rely on them, got into bed with the Devil a long time ago. Over the short history of internet advertising, many of the biggest advertisers have been scams, many of the biggest advertisers have been advertising malware, and many of the biggest advertising networks have routinely attempted to perform crime at you by infecting your machine. Too many ads have been themselves scams, attempting to mimic system notices to get the click that downloads the malware or takes you to a site you didn't want to go to. So, objection 1 to internet ads: the advertisers are, to a first approximation, evil. Looking at ars with adblock off, all I got was a GQ ad, which isn't evil. But you know what? I don't trust ars not to show me ads for evil. I don't trust ars not to show me ads that try to hijack my browser, or infect my machines. I don't trust ars not to show me ads for scams or malware. So, unless they can find some way to be trustworthy about that, I'm really not likely to turn off adblock for them.

Reason Two: Like all advertising, internet ads face the problem that people don't particularly want to look at most ads. In the print and television world, one way that successful advertisers have dealt with this is by making advertisements that people (relatively) want to look at. Print ads with some good photography and interesting design. Television ads that are amusing in some way. Hell, recently we had an FPP about those goofy Old Spice ads. Tickets to that thing you like! And you know what? Because deodorant is pretty much all the same thing anyway, next time I need a stick I'ma see if there's an Old Spice with an inoffensive odor, for no other reason than I want to reward that advertising and get more of it. But then there's internet advertising. People don't want to look at your ad? Make it a popover. Or a popunder. Or do that horrible flash thing where it sits on top of the thing you want to look at gives you the finger, and you don't dare click on it to make it go away because that probably installs 800 kinds of malware on your machine. Or make it noisy. This isn't to say that there isn't tv or print advertising that sucks, because there is. Car dealers that punch the volume to 11 and scream at you. Those annoying banners at the bottom of the screen where tv characters shill at you or eviscerate babies or whatever. But I think it's reasonably the case that the modal tv ad doesn't completely suck ass to experience, but the modal internet ad does. So, Objection 2: the ads suck. This relates back to Objection 1. For many of the things advertised on the internet, it doesn't matter if their advertising turns people off, because their ads are for things that no reasonable person would ever want to purchase, or in many cases that no reasonable person would accept free of charge; any purchases or downloads are the low-level accidental dross of the internet.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:50 AM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


runkelfinker: Blocking ads is dickish. In fact, it's worse than pirating music or movies - with piracy you're only depriving the producer of revenue; with ad blocking you're both depriving the producer of revenue and incurring them a cost (the content serving). It would be like if Sony Pictures had to pay for Pirate Bay's hosting bill.

You seem to misunderstand the internet. Servers send you markup code, and then it's up to you to decide how and which parts of it you choose to render.
posted by Dysk at 11:54 AM on March 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


furtive: While not a zealot, I do adblock AND make my living off the internet with a site that doesn't have a single ad, and you know what? Business is good!

Yep, that's exactly what I mean about ad blocking being dickish.
posted by runkelfinker at 11:56 AM on March 7, 2010


I generally don't run adblocking software (IE-guy) - but I have used the HOSTS method and this site quite often - except, I have had issues when developing and hosting server-software in the MSFT-world, so it doesn't always go onto my machines.
posted by jkaczor at 11:58 AM on March 7, 2010


For me, the issue is how much do I value the service that is being provided to me vs. how is advertising being implemented by the service provider, or basically, Ads Vs. Cruft*.

Some examples: The Comics Reporter is overall a good resource that I visit multiple times a day. He uses two columns of understated, not-overly dynamic animated GIF ads that are about 1000 px high and a small animated header in the content column. AFAIK, this is an independent operation run by one guy and the ads are site's sole source of income. I don't block the ads, but I do hit escape to disable the animation. Without the animation, the ads are not intrusive or distracting(Cruft!), and I'm not fucking with the guy financially.

I frequent Comics Should Be Good! almost as often as I do MeFi; they have interesting contributors and engaging features - but, since they moved under the CBR umbrella, they feature really intrusive, gaudy, animated flash ads. Actually, I was unaware that they even had ads as they were introduced long after I started using AdBlock and were caught by the default filters. I really enjoy this site, but there's just too much cruft that I'm too used not to seeing that white-listing it isn't an option; if someone ginned up a doohickey that would allow ads to load but make them transparent or obscure them with, say, the background colour of whatever part of the page they are contained in, I would whitelist it in a heartbeat.

The Fantagraphics family of websites are all cruft. The sites have been designed with the explicit purpose of lassoing eyeballs by forcing as many pageloads as possible, by not providing a 'Read this article on one page' option and shitty/injudicious/mendacious use of post excerpting on the front page. The trouble is that even when AdBlock is applied, the layouts are still shit since the sites are built with ad exposure in mind, not readability. I only visit TCJ when there is something really, really good worth reading, and Journalista! I visit not at all, ever since AdBlock completely borked the layout of a link blog that was pretty negligible anyway.

I don't begrudge anyone trying to make a nickle off my eyes, time, and attention, I just want them to show the same courtesy to me. It doesn't take a lot of thought or effort to meet in the middle, but it can sure as hell cost a lot if you can't be bothered to try.

*I hate cruft, cruft is pointless and distracting. Most of the custom filters in my AdBlock are for animated GIF avatars. Fricking cruft.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:05 PM on March 7, 2010


Sure, but how many installed adblock because of particularly ad-heavy sites like Ars? - Zippy

Ars is ad heavy? There's maybe 2 or 3 unobtrusive ads. One at the very top, and one or two smaller ones along the side (based on the front page and a few articles i clicked into). By comparison, Metafilter has a large block of Google ads between the post and comments, and a larger banner along the side that is far more noticeable on a clean blue background.

I'd bet Metafilter drives more people to use adblock than Ars.
posted by SAC at 12:07 PM on March 7, 2010


Everyone keeps telling me about this "Evony" game. Apparently it's filled with bikini girls!
posted by JHarris at 12:07 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: drives more people to use adblock than Ars.

[Seriously, members actually look at this site without being logged in? How does that happen???]
posted by hippybear at 12:22 PM on March 7, 2010


Malice wrote: "I will not whitelist anyone in my adblocker. My adblocker will stay on. If one website denies me content, I'll move on to another of the billions just like it."

Ars has no peer. And their ads aren't annoying. If their Premier price was closer to $35 a year, I'd pay it. It's not as good as it used to be; the new layout blows, but it's still better than 99% of the web.

zippy wrote: "Perhaps it's not because you are a technology site, but instead that you show an enormous number of ads per article, to an audience used to fixing broken things, that leads to your high block rate."

Three ads is enormous? Enormously more than zero, perhaps.

Personally, I think a lot of people are being twits. They're conflating the experience of ads on sites like Yahoo where they have flash ads that cover the whole page and other stupidity with that of other sites which don't abuse ads. I think Ars blocking AdBlock users is a dumbshit thing to do, also. If they continued to do it, I probably would stop reading it out of principle, even though their ads are unobtrusive enough for me to be perfectly fine whitelisting the site. As an experiment, it's sort of interesting.
posted by wierdo at 12:26 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brother Dysk I understand HTTP just fine thanks! My browser requests a page, your webserver sends markup, and then my browser renders the markup, including fetching any assets hosted on your server (such as images, videos, JavaScripts) and also assets from third-party sites (such as DoubleClick banner ads).

I think we all understand how this works - and presumably you understand that all of my browser's calls to your webserver cost you money?

Sure I can request your content, incurring a cost to you, and strip out your ads, depriving you of revenue. It's technically trivial to do. But that doesn't mean it's not dickish.
posted by runkelfinker at 12:36 PM on March 7, 2010


Sites offer no-ads subscription versions? Hey, I know all about that. My favorite site on the internet has a no-ads version. To get it, you pay 'em five bucks.

Once.
posted by jfuller at 12:39 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Same thing as most people here. I use adblock and flashblock, and it has utterly changed my relationship to web browsing. I would never go back. Ars Technica can kiss my ass, as can any site that thinks so highly of itself that it would rather not have my eyeballs.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:40 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


runkelfinker, I'm not stripping out the ads. I'm just only choosing to use my precious bandwidth fetching the assets that I want rendered in the page. After all, that is the why I have control over the rendering.
posted by Dysk at 12:40 PM on March 7, 2010


By comparison, Metafilter has a large block of Google ads between the post and comments, and a larger banner along the side that is far more noticeable on a clean blue background.

Is this something I'd have to be logged out to see?
posted by rtha at 12:41 PM on March 7, 2010


Well, here's my opinion: I was here before business was on the net. The content was better -- it was way, way, better. As far as I'm concerned, those fuckers are the thieves. They've enclosed the common land and turned it into a used car lot, and now they want me to pay them to graze my sheep?

Exactly my feeling about it, too. We have lost a lot by allowing commercialization of the public communications sphere.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:42 PM on March 7, 2010


I think that this comment thread would be a good candidate for the "MetaFilter or Reddit?" blind taste test challenge.

If you really hate the way these sites are supporting themselves, it would be more honest to just not visit the site and not use their resources instead of going there with an ad blocker. If you're visiting the site with an ad blocker, the truth is that you want their content, but you just don't want to pay any sort of price for it. Basically, you're being cheap, not triumphantly ethical as some like to cast it.

I'm fine with cheap - but dressing it up as "I'M DOING IT FOR FREEDOM!" is a bit much.
posted by ignignokt at 12:43 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


A part of the problem here is the vocabulary - an "ad blocker" doesn't block ads. It changes your browser's default behaviour from 'download and display EVERYTHING mentioned in this document' to 'perform some vetting of what to download and display'. It's just going back to sensible policy on untrusted network traffic.
posted by Dysk at 12:48 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's all a misunderstanding. We started using AdBlock because of the porn sites (nobody cries for them, eh?) and forgot that it would block ads on other sites as well. Please accept our apologies.
posted by furtive at 12:52 PM on March 7, 2010


171 posts, I don't think anyone's mentioned that Flash based popover/popunder/DHTML layer ads eat a ton of CPU? If you browse with a Mac and are in the habit of keeping 10 or 15 tabs open in Firefox, not running a bunch of Flash based banner ads can be the difference between 15% CPU usage by Firefox and 50% CPU usage. That's a huge difference in battery life. I'm not going to cut the battery life of my laptop by one third just to display somebody's ads.
posted by thewalrus at 12:55 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


They've enclosed the common land and turned it into a used car lot, and now they want me to pay them to graze my sheep?

No, in this case at least, they want you to pay to consume the wool from their sheep. To argue that you ought to do so is not to acquiesce to the privatization of the internet (which I have a big problem with, too). And to resist paying is not, even slightly, to take the impressive moral stance that the adblock zealots seem to imagine.

Think about it, guys: you are (on the evidence of this thread) deriving a massive amount of ego-gratification from helping to obstruct the production of some professional content — ie., people getting paid for their time, and can thus at least in principle make it better — while still avidly consuming said conteng.

If Ars Technica is such terrible crap, and you honestly believe that unpaid people can do just as well in their spare time, the only consistent position to take is not to visit Ars Technica. Or, by extension, all other sites with ads. Be your own adblocker.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:58 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


("content")
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:59 PM on March 7, 2010


Oh, and just finally, this:

mark242: Results 1 - 10 of about 45,400 for "steam on the mac". (0.31 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 48,900 for "google buys docverse". (0.20 seconds) etc...


You do realize that your argument here seems to be that anything that pops up on Google might be a good replacement for a well-written article on the topic? (Again, I'm not necessarily saying Ars Technica is the best of the best; it's just the example we happen to be discussing.) This would be absolutely hilarious if a growing number of apparently intelligent people didn't seem to believe it quite sincerely. Instead, it's terrifying.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:04 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Think about it, guys: you are (on the evidence of this thread) deriving a massive amount of
> ego-gratification from helping to obstruct the production of some professional content — ie.,
> people getting paid for their time, and can thus at least in principle make it better — while
> still avidly consuming said content.

Help me out here, warden, I'm having a hard time seeing the difference between blocking ads and, say, tuning my TV to your channel, watching your show, and then getting up and going for a brewski when the ads come on instead of dutifully watching them. Expatiate on that a bit, yesno?
posted by jfuller at 1:12 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


This transition away from traditional online advertising isn't a bad thing. It's something that every person who loves the 'net should want to support, because it means that more space will be created for the kind of user-oriented, user-supported, and, oftentimes, user-run independent sites that most of us invariably rave about. It doesn't kill good content. It makes the business of delivering that content a labor of love.

Not at all. User-made content is almost 100% supported by advertising: blog sites and YouTube and such have massive bills to pay. Servers and bandwidth are expensive. Content creators who are ordinary users aren't going to be able to afford to foot the bill for that themselves, except those who are rich from some other source. And even then, they will lose the ability to run the site as soon as they get slashdotted and their traffic exceeds what they can afford to serve with their disposable income.

Those "other revenue models" people keep talking about, including on the article you linked to, are basically one of these:

1. Selling a physical product. Not useful for user-created content except for things like popular comic strips that can sell merchandise. Certainly no good for ordinary people with blogs.

2. Selling your content. This would mean the death of hyperlinks, for one thing, because you'd have to have a membership for every site you want to visit. Also, I am not going to pay money for something like Facebook, and to be honest, I probably wouldn't pay a recurring fee for MetaFilter.

3. Selling virtual products. Useless except for weird things like video games.

4. Donations. Probably the best option, but you'd have to have a pretty loyal following for this, and slashdotting would still be a major risk. Maybe everyone could just put all user-created content on one donation-supported mega-website or something, but it sure sounds sketchy.

So, in summary, no, I don't think the death of advertising means the flourishing of Web 2.0, I think it more likely means its permanent demise.
posted by Xezlec at 1:17 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The pure and simple fact of the matter is that users using adblock are not the ones ruining everything so that "we can't have nice things." The malware assholes and the dancing-dude ad people and every other online advertising jerk-move described in this thread are what make people use adblock. Unfortunately for Ars and other sites not run by assholes, we all leave adblock on as a default because of all those other untrustworthy ads. The industry did not self-police - it chose to do this stupid crap - and in response, users came up with a blunt force solution.

It's on the people who want to serve the ads to make sure they aren't crap (like Ravelry, as above); it's NOT on me to treat every site like a special fucking snowflake.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:24 PM on March 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Ad blocking is a basic security practice these days. Anyone who doesn't do it is leaving themselves open to a major infection vector these days.

Most sites do not run their own ad syndication. Even those who do just don't seem to employ rigorous standards to ensure ad safety. Just look up something like "malicious ad" on google. Makes you miss the days of safe, static banner ads.

And it's not just limited to little sites either.

Adblock plus stays on.
posted by autobahn at 1:25 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't use any ad blocker, but I use FireFox's FlashBlock and Safari's ClickToFlash, which both block Flash applications until the user clicks them.

I originally installed these flash blocking addons when surfthechannel had ads playing voice tracks, but they are all around unbelievably awesome.

First, almost all browser crashes are caused by Flash. If you disable all Flash, your browser almost never crashes, which rocks!

Second, we've all seen useful fringe sites like thepiratebay and surfthechannel draw google's badware ire. In fact, those sites have never hosted any malware themselves, all that malware comes form their advertiser's Flash ads.

Yes, flash disabling plugins make you click upon youtube videos or flash games before they'll start, unless you whitelist armorgames and youtube. Trust me, that click pays for itself 100 fold.

I promise your browsing experience will improve dramatically if you install a flash blocker. Few crashes, fewer spinning beach balls, and paradoxically more sites become accessible.

p.s. You'll probably never even bother blocking advertisements once you block flash.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:26 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Imagine running a restaurant where 40% of the people who came and ate didn't pay. In a way, that's what ad blocking is doing to us.

My God. No it isn't.


It saddens me that I keep having to point out here that baldly saying, "You're wrong" is actually anything like a coherent argument, nor is it contributory to any discussion.

Ars Technica spends money to prepare a product, in this case articles on a website. Their sole source of revenue is ads - aside from subscriptions, which they tried and failed, there just isn't any revenue mechanism for the internet.

They explicitly ask their readers not to block these ads because otherwise they can't make any money. (I'd argue that most sites are implicitly asking you this because, heck, otherwise they can't exist - unless you have some other revenue scheme, feel free to let us all know?)

It seems to me that ethically, you have two choices - you can not take their product, or you can comply with their request that you accept their advertising with their product. The fact that it's technically trivial to block the ads is beside the point

I really don't see how the restaurant analogy is wrong - a large number of people take the website's product without providing them any source of revenue. Your treating the poster if their argument is so stupid that you can dismiss it out of hand isn't polite discourse.

I have to say that I find many of the attitudes expressed in this thread depressing. As I said, the way I see it you can ethically either take both the content and the ads, or none of them - the fact that this is all run on the honour system simply puts that choice into greater relief.

That you can choose to take the content, reject the ads and then act morally superior about it is astonishing.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:27 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


$10/GB. That's why I block ads.
posted by PenDevil at 1:28 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


...isn't actually anything...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:29 PM on March 7, 2010


I don't understand the hate against Ars Technica.


I don't hate 'em, but as someone else pointed out this bit in the article is remarkable: Invariably someone else will pop in and tell me that it's not their fault that our business model sucks. My response is simple: you either care about the site's well-being, or you don't. As for our business model sucking, we've been here for 12 years, online-only.


It should be amazing, just amazing to everyone that the response to the suggestion of looking into alternative revenue streams is YOU'RE-EITHER-WITH-US-OR-AGAINST-US:THIS-IS-WHAT-WORKS. Somehow, this nonsense is the author's response in an article in which the chief issues presented are how this system doesn't work and how, nevertheless, many people who use adblockers seem to want to support the site in some way.

Seriously, it's one thing if a site expects serious people who have elected to avoid a nuisance to play along with an annoying charade (notice how practically no one is making the argument that the advertisements are useful in their intended role) out of charity. It's another thing to act like it's the only option. I've purchased hundreds of dollars of merchandise from sites that I support. I've also voluntarily sent money directly to sites when they needed it. Like a lot of people--maybe most people--I don't mind paying for/ supporting something if the purchase conforms to a simple standard of quality and principle of integrity. But on the few occasions when I've used Ars, I usually end up reading a hardware review and finding, when clicking through to suggested vendors to a possible purchase that, despite using the most recent reviews available on the site, the hardware in question has been discontinued and the next generation is currently on the market.

Judging by the devotion evident in some of the Ars Technica community, maybe the site is more useful than I have found it to be. But it is still incredible that people over there (and not a few people over here) think the big problem is that users are not displaying and ignoring enough pointless advertisements when they visit.
posted by millions at 1:32 PM on March 7, 2010


Ars Technica asked nicely, so I unblocked them some months ago; I had actually forgotten this. The reason I forgot is that their ads aren't obnoxious. (Well, I've left flashblock enabled, but I get the impression that flashblock actually loads the first movie but just doesn't run or display it; I could be wrong.) If other sites were the same way; ask nicely and don't run popups or popovers and obnoxious, nasty-ass animations like the jittery fake windows alerts, I'd consider doing the same for them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:39 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


The argument that I'm cheating sites out of ad revenue by blocking them, is about as valid as the argument that sites are cheating ad agencies by getting payed for ad views that will never ever lead to clicks.

I have likes some of the Ars articles in the past, but this stunt soured me on their content when I figured out why the site was breaking on my browser.
posted by HFSH at 1:46 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Judging by the devotion evident in some of the Ars Technica community, maybe the site is more useful than I have found it to be

There are people over there who have been arguing Mac vs. PC for 10 years now.
posted by smackfu at 1:47 PM on March 7, 2010


I'll also observe that you're an anti-social asshole if you knowingly don't install a flash blocker like FireFox's FlashBlock or Safari's ClickToFlash.

Your non-tech savvy friend & family all endure malware and browser crashes thanks to Flash ads. If enough people disable Flash until they click it, then Flash ads will become less profitable and advertisers will avoid them.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:47 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really don't see how the restaurant analogy is wrong - a large number of people take the website's product without providing them any source of revenue.

It's wrong because at far too many "restaurants," when you try to pay them the manager kicks you in the balls or steals from you or plants a bug on you.

Or, because when you pay at a restaurant you pay some reasonable person who speaks to you reasonably, but when you "pay" at a "restaurant" you frequently have to deal with an ex-member of Gwar who's shrieking at you through an LRAD.

It is still surprising that there is not (to my knowledge) a company set up that will work as a reasonably ethical advertising ecosystem -- no scams, or at least no worse scams than you get on tv ads, no horrifying "attention-getting" stuff, no malware, and ads that are reasonably tolerable to look at. Throw a logo in the corner of the web page (hosted by the page itself) that says "safe ads" or whatever. Pair that with ads that are good enough that you find yourself tempted to turn the ads on just to see them, and you'd make a fucking mint.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:51 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is with the Marge Simpson handwringing? TiVo, DVR and PVR users should all be wracked with guilt for skipping commercials? It boggles the mind.
posted by fixedgear at 1:52 PM on March 7, 2010


Beaten to the punch on the Simpson's Tivo reference, dang it.

You can disable my ad-blockers when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. Fuck your ad-based revenue model and your precious whinging about "content thievery", Ars.

Use those gigantic brains of yours and come up with something better or die.
posted by Aquaman at 1:58 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


That you can choose to take the content, reject the ads and then act morally superior about it is astonishing.

Do you watch every ad on television? Do you have a PVR? Do you fast-forward through the ads? Do you get your TV "over-the-air" or through Cable? If via cable, do you pay or get it free?

What is astonishing is the belief that we owe anything to a site - do you owe Coke anything because they choose to sponsor television programs? Sporting events?

In the case of the internet - it is even more complex - I PAY for my connection and bandwidth. What about when I surf using my wireless internet stick, where I pay dearly for bandwidth used over my monthly quota?

If the advertising networks had been more honest in their approach and stuck to static, non-offensive campaigns then there wouldn't be an issue - but when allowing advertisements also equates to allowing insecurity - then I am going to encourage ad-blocking by any means necessary.

I do not OWE Coke, GM, Dodge, P&G, Starbucks or any other commerical entity my attention - it is mine, by right of birth, education and experience.
posted by jkaczor at 2:01 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't worry about static ads, but some of the stuff is so intrusive that the site becomes unpleasant.

autoloading videos, things that talk to me, animated gifs, all that stuff has to go. I use flash-block and ad-block. just to make some sights usable.

Ars technica doesn't really seem to have these intrusive ads and if a banner on top of my screen keeps them running, then it doesn't seem a bad price.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 2:10 PM on March 7, 2010


There are people over there who have been arguing Mac vs. PC for 10 years now.

Only 10? I've been arguing that for 20 years or more. It's a complex, constantly-changing topic that often comes up, in a subject area that I'm interested in. What's strange about that? I've also been arguing Republicans vs. Democrats for many years.

What is astonishing is the belief that we owe anything to a site - do you owe Coke anything because they choose to sponsor television programs? Sporting events?

I owe Coke money when I take one of their products out of the fridge at the corner store. That's the situation we're talking about. I owe it to a site to not turn off the ads IF that is the payment that they explicitly require. The fact that it's physically possible to run out of the store without paying doesn't mean you aren't obligated to pay. If you find it stupid that you are required to watch ads, then don't visit the site!

In the case of the internet - it is even more complex - I PAY for my connection and bandwidth.

Wait, what? You're implying that your payment to your internet provider should somehow pay the people who create the content that you view over it? You really want an internet that works that way, where your ISP subscribes to certain sites and sends them some of your money, and you have to buy "internet packages"?
posted by Xezlec at 2:11 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Brother Dysk "I'm not stripping out the ads. I'm just only choosing to use my precious bandwidth fetching the assets that I want rendered"

So your bandwidth is precious? What about the website publisher's? You're probably on an "all you can eat" bandwidth deal - trust me, they're not on an "all they can serve" bandwidth deal.

"It's just going back to sensible policy on untrusted network traffic."

If you don't trust a website to not host malware (be it through their CMS, their adserver, or a third party advertiser's adserver), do everybody a favour and don't visit the site, don't leech their content and then defend your position with a load of sub-HTML for Dummies techno-posturing.
posted by runkelfinker at 2:13 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


What is astonishing is the belief that we owe anything to a site - do you owe Coke anything because they choose to sponsor television programs?

That's sort of a backwards, or at least sideways, analogy. Coke≠site; rather, Site:TV Show::Banner Ad:Coke.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:17 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I’ve been thinking about what Ars is saying here. A summary:[Quote:]
There is an oft-stated misconception that if a user never clicks on ads, then blocking them won’t hurt a site financially. This is wrong. Most sites, at least sites the size of ours, are paid on a per view basis.
[..]
Let me stop and clarify quickly that I am not saying that we are on the verge of vanishing from the Internet. But we, like many, many sites are greatly affected by ad blocking, and it is a very worrisome trend.
Let me paraphrase, and I’m sure some of you will disagree with what I’m doing here, feel free to use the comment box.

What they say is: “It’s really not right for you ad-blocking folks to deprive us of income we could otherwise make selling your page views to advertisers. We know you won’t buy the advertised products but, just between you and us, we can get away with selling the advertisers false hope because they can’t tell beforehand which page views definitely won’t pan out”.

Now let me ask you the obvious follow-up question: if Ars is this eager to lie to their advertisers about their public, just to make sure their income is a bit higher than it would be if they didn’t lie, what makes you think they won’t be just as eager to lie to you, the reader?

I always thought the content on Ars was high quality, well done work. Now, I’m not so sure any more.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:21 PM on March 7, 2010 [17 favorites]


Results 1 - 10 of about 45,400 for "steam on the mac". (0.31 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 48,900 for "google buys docverse". (0.20 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 6,620 for xbox live lbgt. (0.27 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 11,900 for "portal 2 is official". (0.41 seconds)

You're right, there aren't billions, just thousands.


Not sure how pasting result counts for a few Google searches gets a list of sites that are similar to Arstechnica......

You think only tech sites follow Google? Hmmmm, okay . . .
posted by jedro at 2:24 PM on March 7, 2010


You are wrong DreamerFi. Ars isn't lying any more than Neilson ratings lie. Advertisers know what they are buying. A mom & pop shop will find an outfit who can sell local impressions or buy actions. Ars also knows that pulling more non-converters into the chain will hurt their conversion rates. Advertisers are cognizant that impressions convert outside the cookie framework.

Flash blockers accomplish your goals while still funding websites. Use a fucking Flash blocker! You'll still get Flash content like YouTube, but you'll need to click first.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:33 PM on March 7, 2010


Well, here's my opinion: I was here before business was on the net. The content was better -- it was way, way, better.

You honestly believe that?
posted by jedro at 2:34 PM on March 7, 2010


If you browse with a Mac and are in the habit of keeping 10 or 15 tabs open in Firefox, not running a bunch of Flash based banner ads can be the difference between 15% CPU usage by Firefox and 50% CPU usage. That's a huge difference in battery life. I'm not going to cut the battery life of my laptop by one third just to display somebody's ads.

You are perhaps unaware of ClickToFlash.

My Mac web browsing improved by about 200% once I installed that. It's not an ad blocker, it's a flash blocker which allows you to selectively load flash content according to your whims.

It blocks some ads, but it doesn't block others. And it blocks ALL flash content until you say "yes, load this."

Best. Thing. Ever. for Macintosh web browsers using Safari. Get it. You won't be sorry.
posted by hippybear at 2:41 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Flash blockers accomplish your goals while still funding websites.

Flash (or rather, the vulnerabilities in flash) account for a significant number of browser exploits, and the most obnoxious ads are usually flash, so both flash and adblock are part of my setup.

Every time I'm using a computer not owned by me, and thus without adblock and flashblock, I am amazed how utterly useless the internet is when browsing that way.

(actually, when people ask me what browser I use, I answer "AdBlock". Firefox just happens to be the rendering engine I use on top of that)
posted by DreamerFi at 2:43 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now let me ask you the obvious follow-up question: if Ars is this eager to lie to their advertisers about their public, just to make sure their income is a bit higher than it would be if they didn’t lie, what makes you think they won’t be just as eager to lie to you, the reader?

This.

I think we can debate whether or not there is an implicit gentlemen's agreement between site producer and content consumer regarding the willing consumption of ads along with said content.

However, ad blocking is mostly about breach of trust. Ad providing networks and the sites that use them have shown, repeatedly, that they are not to be trusted. Malware, abusive ads, deceptive ads, etc are just the obvious examples.

People are becoming wise to this and opting out of this presumed gentleman's agreement.

If you take the time to whitelist sites you like or wish to support, I applaud your charitable nature. If you arguing that we should run any arbitrary garbage on our computers coming from who knows where, then I suggest you take candy from strangers.

(fwiw I only block flash ads which are by and large the worst offendors)
posted by device55 at 2:50 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you can think of a better piece of tech journalism than Ars' Snow Leopard review, written in August 2009, I'm all ears.

That was excellent, as was his prior article on Leopard. But one fantastic article per year or two is not enough to get me to subscribe. Except that article, and as I mentioned before, the Nobel Intent weblog, I can't remember getting a damn thing from Ars over the last year that was really worth the time to read. And they've had a lot of completely shit articles. Consider the recent "how to understand the cloud!" article, or some such nonsense. It was nothing but puff and handwavery. I came away knowing nothing more about the actual uses of cloud computing than I did before... all I got was some high-level abstracted generalities, with no useful knowledge whatsoever. But it was a Feature Article, and I should be paying for it!

They've changed to the point that present-day Ars isn't, fundamentally, that much different than MeFi. An awful lot of what they're doing isn't content generation anymore, but rather content repackaging. I can and do pay for content, and in fact I myself generate content for many sites that allow user submissions. But Ars isn't giving me anything I want to buy. I'll keep reading them, with Adblock, until the point that they take active steps to block me. When they do that, I will go away, and stop my occasional contributions to their forums, so they'll lose whatever value those contributions have to them, and will have absolutely zero chance to ever extract revenue from me again.

Considering that, at one time, I was an actively paying customer, I'd say that would be a bad choice on their part, but it's up to them.

This big drive for cash didn't start until the Conde Nast buyout; as far as I know, they were doing just fine before they decided to become marketroids instead of techies. My perception is that they were a profitable little site, and they wanted to be a profitable big site. They destroyed a working business model to grasp after the big bucks. This is not my problem. The Ars I loved is already gone; if this new Ars dies too, I'll lose no sleep whatsoever.
posted by Malor at 2:54 PM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I avoid watching television with ads, if a show is on a channel that has ads I'll tape it then skip the ads. On the web I'll pay a subscription to sites that offer it rather than see ads. If they don't offer that option and I'm a regular visitor then sure, I'll use adblocker.

My dream is a not for profit off and online world. So yeah, fuck ads.
posted by twistedonion at 3:05 PM on March 7, 2010


jeffburdges wrote: "First, almost all browser crashes are caused by Flash. If you disable all Flash, your browser almost never crashes, which rocks! "

Somehow, even with flash enabled, my browser hasn't crashed in months. And I'm the sort to have 40 or 50 tabs open across 5-10 windows at any given time. Just sayin'. And I'm not running Windows, either, so it's not like I'm using a well-supported version of Flash.

I remember my browser crashing some time in the hazy past, but it's been long enough that I can't remember any sort of specifics.
posted by wierdo at 3:08 PM on March 7, 2010


I owe Coke money when I take one of their products out of the fridge at the corner store. That's the situation we're talking about. I owe it to a site to not turn off the ads IF that is the payment that they explicitly require. The fact that it's physically possible to run out of the store without paying doesn't mean you aren't obligated to pay. If you find it stupid that you are required to watch ads, then don't visit the site!

Getting a Coke at the store involves a (rather explicit) social contract that is bound by relevant laws. By contrast, there is no law codifying my relationship to the producers of content on the internet. I have no explicit relationship with the producers of online content. I have not agreed to do anything for them. I have not shaken their hand. There is no binding verbal agreement. The best they can do is set up a situation in which they can expect that I will behave according to their wishes.

There is a great deal of posturing about what I owe to the publisher, and virtually no discussion of the origins of this obligation. It may be that I am so obligated to view ads. But I have yet see even a prima facie case for this position. If you disagree, and think that users are in fact obligated to view ads, then ask yourself why the Ars Technica folks explicitly intend not to block text-only browsers (which do not show their ads).

"But they give you something - resources, bandwidth, content! Doesn't that mean you owe them something?" If someone I just met - hell, even a friend or relative - tries to guilt me or coerce me into reciprocation, I do my best to run the other way. Healthy relationships are not predicated on undisclosed assumptions of entitlement.
posted by mister-o at 3:12 PM on March 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Well, here's my opinion: I was here before business was on the net. The content was better -- it was way, way, better.

You honestly believe that?


You know, that's my opinion too, honestly. Want to look at a perfect model for web content imho... BBC. funded by the public for the public. Shame they are under pressure to make huge cuts to appease corporate fuckwits like Murdoch.
posted by twistedonion at 3:13 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you don't trust a website to not host malware (be it through their CMS, their adserver, or a third party advertiser's adserver), do everybody a favour and don't visit the site

If only it were that simple.

in the vast majority of cases, the site doesn't usually get to choose what gets shown by their adservers. They usually can exclude particular types of ads (no porn, no casinos, etc.), or block specific ads that have drawn users' ire... but in general, when an advertiser purchases an ad, that ad will start running all over the internet without requiring any sort of sign-off from any of the sites on which is is displayed. You're not trusting a site to be malware-free... you're trusting that site's ad-network to be malware free. That's foolish.

All of the networks (including the big one, Google), have been fooled into accepting rogue ads in the past, and they will be fooled again. It's the nature of the game. The most egregious incident in recent memory was "Antivirus 2009", affiliate-marketed piece of ratware pretending to be an antivirus program, and installed (sometimes) via drive-by-download.

The attack vector in that incident? Google (specifically Ad Manager-served sites). For a number of hours on a Sunday, a significant number of big-name sites that use Google or Doubleclick to serve ads, were unknowingly serving up a rich media advert that included a zero-day exploit, redirecting their users to an AV2009 affiliate's site that would then install a drive-by-download. Hundreds of thousands of innocent users were affected, in just a few hours, through no fault of the sites that they thought they were going to.

Users who blocked ads were immune.

Google/Doubleclick represents the biggest single ad network on the planet. They can't keep the ratware out. The content that they serve does not ever interest me, and on rare occasions it might harm my computer. Why should I willingly allow this?

I am not Ars's customer. I am Ars's reader. Ars's advertisers are their customers (their business model is simple: publish content that attracts readers and sell some of those readers' pageviews to advertisers). Behavior like this just serves to reinforce that fact.
posted by toxic at 3:28 PM on March 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Well, here's my opinion: I was here before business was on the net. The content was better -- it was way, way, better.

You honestly believe that?


I remember the pre-business Internet, and I believe that.

The downside was, there was a lot less content, and the Internet was less useful, if you were interested in buying things or sending a photo to your 75 year old mother. But the average content that was there was of a much much higher quality than the average content that's on the net now.

Most of it felt a lot like MeFi, actually
posted by toxic at 3:31 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Most of it felt a lot like MeFi, actually

Metafilter in many ways reminds me of early/mid-90s rasfw and rasff.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:45 PM on March 7, 2010


Gosh it's easy to tell the marketing and business drones from other people, when having an informal chat.
posted by Sukiari at 3:47 PM on March 7, 2010


Their sole source of revenue is ads - aside from subscriptions, which they tried and failed, there just isn't any revenue mechanism for the internet.

Then perhaps — just perhaps — they shouldn't think they can make money off an internet implementation of their skills and time.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:10 PM on March 7, 2010


But the average content that was there was of a much much higher quality than the average content that's on the net now.

Most of it felt a lot like MeFi, actually.


I'd agree that on average the content was better, because there wasn't as much crap out there as there is today. But there is no way that there was as much good content as there is today.
posted by jedro at 4:17 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree the pre-business internet was better. Quality is more important than quantity and convenience. We get the latter two in spades now, but at the cost of quality. Give me someone with passion and knowledge and a drive to share, any day of the week: I'll get way better information and probably more honesty than I will from some stockholder-driven corporate media empire driven by a greedy megalomaniac.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:25 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is a great deal of posturing about what I owe to the publisher, and virtually no discussion of the origins of this obligation. It may be that I am so obligated to view ads. But I have yet see even a prima facie case for this position. If you disagree, and think that users are in fact obligated to view ads, then ask yourself why the Ars Technica folks explicitly intend not to block text-only browsers (which do not show their ads).

Hmm, I think it goes both ways. I agee that you're under no obligation to view ads, or even to take them when they come as part of the page, and that requesting or accepting the page creates no legal or moral obligation. But similarly, they're under no obligation to provide you with a page just because you request it. Many things are limited by country, and limiting by software installed seems reasonable if they consider it contrary to their financial position. As you say:

The best they can do is set up a situation in which they can expect that I will behave according to their wishes.

Which is what they are doing. If they see you're running adblocking software, they assume that you're not going to behave according to their wishes, and refuse to provide. To take their restaurant analogy further: they've put a bouncer on the door, and if they don't think you're their kind of patron, you're not coming in.

(I think the issue with text-only browsers may be more difficult, as potentially a subset of those using them may be disabled. I wouldn't want to be the person who prevented text-only browsing and discovered that they cut-off all their blind and partially sighted readers. But I stress I don't know for sure.)
posted by Sova at 4:31 PM on March 7, 2010


That you can choose to take the content, reject the ads and then act morally superior about it is astonishing.

Where am I taking the content? I am puzzled by what you mean by this. And it's not a moral issue to me, if that's what you're suggesting. I choose what loads and doesn't load on my browser. That's one of the nice things about the Web. Just because somebody really wishes they had a business model that worked, when AdBlocker doesn't, doesn't mean some immorality is occurring, or anything is being stolen, and more than I steal music when I listen to the radio and mute it when the ads come on.

As has been stated repeatedly in this discussion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:32 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Flash blockers accomplish your goals while still funding websites. Use a fucking Flash blocker! You'll still get Flash content like YouTube, but you'll need to click first.

If you read some of the comments on the article, you see that having a flash blocker is also detrimental

Kurt ( Tech Director )
norwoodgolf wrote:
Does this apply to blocking flash content? I do not use an ad blocker, but I do use a flash blocker.


Sort of. When you disable Flash completely, we serve up static backup ads. Flashblock, however, breaks this so it's effectively the same as running a dedicated ad blocker. It's more a technical problem with Flashblock, though.

posted by zabuni at 4:37 PM on March 7, 2010


I understand the arguments on both sides, and I enjoyed reading this thread, but I don't know what to make of this issue. I don't use ad blocking software, and happily pay for premium content on several websites. I donate to support others-I would feel terrible about the amount of use that I get from them without giving something back. Ads usually don't bother me too much; I just don't go back to sites where they do. I can't think of a time when the ads on Ars bothered me; I find using ad blocking software on that site to be bizarre. I think the argument about the site declining is a red herring; if it's declining, don't go there. If you still get enjoyment out of it, recognize that someone has to pay for all of the things that go into that, and think about what you want your relationship to that situation to be. There's something a lot short-sighted about the 'they just serve you the mark-up and I can display it how I want' crowd. I don't think displaying a few ads in exchange for Ars content is a bad deal.

At the same time, I don't feel that this is a moral issue and I wish there were a more clearly non-moral way to express what I wrote above-it starts to slide into should and ought type language, and that's not a great expression of what I feel. I think that the television analogy carries some weight. I can't begrudge anyone who uses ad blocking software to improve their internet experience. It's not my responsibility to prop up your business model. I don't have a Tivo, but I do change the channel when the commercials come on. I don't feel bad about it. I also understand the arguments about intrusive flash and javascript ads, especially for non-technical users.

To me the whole thing is a reminder that the internet is still very young and we haven't figured out how to make it useful AND pay everyone's bills yet. I find the zealots on either side to be a little terrifying. I'd be really interested to hear a Metafilter moderators perspective on this issue, especially mathowie, since his article linked above was so fascinating...I don't think any of them has posted in here yet.
posted by Kwine at 5:01 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


toxic - "the site doesn't usually get to choose what gets shown by their adservers".

Indeed they don't, that's why I said "If you don't trust a website to not host malware (be it through their CMS, their adserver, or a third party advertiser's adserver) ...".

Web browsing is an inherently insecure activity. Any (web|ad) server or (content|ad) network can be an attack vector. Obviously sites that sell their remnant inventory to blind networks like DoubleClick can represent a malware threat. But to use that malware risk as a justification to strip out those sites' ads while still consuming those sites' bandwidth - and content - is just dickish.

"I am not Ars's customer. I am Ars's reader. Ars's advertisers are their customers (their business model is simple: publish content that attracts readers and sell some of those readers' pageviews to advertisers)."

Ars can look after themselves, but this "I'm not the customer" attitude really screws over the long tail publishers who need the paltry ad revenues the most (because it's the difference between their site costing them money and it breaking even).

Some guy labouring over a niche forum and getting a cheque from Google each month for $40 does not think that he has one "customer" called Google. His forum users are his "customers", and if some of them are consuming his bandwidth but stripping his ads then, whatever their self-justification, they're being dicks.
posted by runkelfinker at 5:02 PM on March 7, 2010


ARS TECHNICA is an anagram of CANT CASH IRE
posted by Sys Rq at 5:08 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Indeed they don't, that's why I said "If you don't trust a website to not host malware (be it through their CMS, their adserver, or a third party advertiser's adserver) ...".
So, given that we're talking about Google/Doubleclick, your advice is to just stay off the web entirely?
Web browsing is an inherently insecure activity.
And taking action to make it more secure is dickish. Right.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:18 PM on March 7, 2010


they're being dicks.

You're entitled to your opinion, but, then, I think people who insist that there's some obligation to view ads are dicks.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:19 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter in many ways reminds me of early/mid-90s rasfw and rasff.

Exactly. There's a reason why I spend a bunch of my online time here instead of rasfw now. It has an eerily similar feel. Well, except for fewer libertarian assholes. (note: they were not assholes because they were libertarians, exactly, it just sort of seemed to correlate that way.)
posted by Justinian at 5:36 PM on March 7, 2010


ARS TECHNICA is an anagram of CANT CASH IRE

It's also an anagram of CATCH IN ARSE, but that's probably less relevant.
posted by Sova at 5:37 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some guy labouring over a niche forum and getting a cheque from Google each month for $40 does not think that he has one "customer" called Google.

That's a pretty accurate description of me and that's exactly what I think. And that's a problem for me, because one customer clearly isn't a sustainable business model. Even if I believed that adblockers were immoral (I don't), that won't make them go away. The structure of the internet will always favor the decisions of end users over publishers. At least I hope it will; that's a large part of what makes it great.
posted by scottreynen at 5:54 PM on March 7, 2010


The web is not the same as print or broadcast media, and there is no reason that the traditional advertising model should work or the same rules apply.

On the web, everyone is a content producer. I do not feel bad about blocking ads, because I frequently contribute to the web community by creating and self-publishing content on the web (content that is ad-free).

I block ads for the same reason I would pick up trash in a public park - it is a small contribution to my community that I feel makes the community a more liveable place.
posted by oulipian at 6:04 PM on March 7, 2010


Dicks.

Damn, but I love it when people use that word in an attempt to make me feel guilty for using the public web as a, gasp!, public web. I love it when they use it, because I fucking love my dick — it's pretty much the greatest thing ever.

I think people who insist that there's some obligation to view ads are dicks laughable.

It's the Church of the Blessed Passive Consumer, where the Golden Rule is Give Unto Advertisers Your Attention, As You Would Have Them Advertise Unto You.

I suspect it's the church of an easily-fleeced flock.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:11 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you deny a content provider any source of revenue, then you have no real right to complain about the quality of content. I anticipate a day soon when art, programming, literature, graphic arts, and reporting will be done by those who can afford to do it without other qualification. At that juncture, we will have surrendered our aesthetics and a mainstay of our democracy to the wealthy. For want of our own convenience and unwillingness to pay for content in any way, we will have created a poorer world. Its already happening, look around at music, arts, education, and journalism. It will get a lot worse.
posted by jcworth at 6:12 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


OMG. It'll be as if there were no internet at all!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:32 PM on March 7, 2010


I think we all understand how this works - and presumably you understand that all of my browser's calls to your webserver cost you money?
I can rent a server from Amazon that can probably handle thousands of hits a second for three cents an hour 15 cents a gigabyte outbout for outbound traffic, zero cost for inbound. There's no way actual server/bandwidth cost is more then even 1% ad revenue unless you're streaming video or something.
Not at all. User-made content is almost 100% supported by advertising: blog sites and YouTube and such have massive bills to pay. Servers and bandwidth are expensive. Content creators who are ordinary users aren't going to be able to afford to foot the bill for that themselves, except those who are rich from some other source.
Flickr costs $29 a year, and mostly that’s for their (increasingly out of date) software. S3 costs 10 cents a gigabyte. You can get a hosting plan for $5/mo. Anyone who can afford a digital camera can afford to host their videos as well. And on top of that, it would be really easy for people to host video content on their own PCs for their friends, given the 24/7 connections people have now. But the problem is if you wrote easy to use software for that, there's no real way to make a lot of money. Create an easy to use website like youtube, there is. Ads.
posted by delmoi at 6:38 PM on March 7, 2010


Its already happening, look around at music, arts, education, and journalism. It will get a lot worse.

Yeah, what education really needs is more ads.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:49 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


It would be interesting to compare people's opinions on this with their jobs. Because it seems that the only people who care about this are those trying to launch some start-up or blog where web advertising is their revenue model. And while I wish them luck in convincing people to stop blocking their ads, if their jobs depend on it, perhaps they should already be looking for something else.

Unfortunately this ranks right up with the "but who will do real journalism when newspapers are gone?" arguement. It may well be correct, but that doesn't change what is actually going to happen. Even if you convined every single person in this thread to change their habits, you'd still be fucked.
posted by markr at 7:03 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I anticipate a day soon when art, programming, literature, graphic arts, and reporting will be done by those who can afford to do it without other qualification. At that juncture, we will have surrendered our aesthetics and a mainstay of our democracy to the wealthy."

Fuck, have you been asleep for a thousand years? Has it ever been any other way?

I passed by Rupert Murdoch and Reverend Moon and HR Geiger the other day, and they all asked me for some change.

The internet has provided a way for any old schmuck to get their message out, regardless of its marketability. Most are content to rant at the sky. Those who are trying to make a business out of their ranting or caps or sweaters are often giving something up.

But to suggest that professionally trained writers and artists and journalists are in any way useful to society, or that they can somehow present a better idea or vision than the outsiders shows that you don't really understand people - you understand business. And, perhaps, the people who pine for the good old days of hard boiled journalists and ear slicing painters never understood their alleged professions in the first place.

No, no sir or madam. Give me people who don't have to sell ads and worry about stepping on toes. I will prefer their reportage or vision more than your Maureen Dowds and Thomas Kincaids.
posted by Sukiari at 7:05 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Imagine running a restaurant where 40% of the people who came and ate didn't pay. In a way, that's what ad blocking is doing to us."

Compare this to LiveJournal, where 96% of the people came to eat and didn't pay... and the other 4% loved the site and the extra features so much, they paid $20 a year.

The simple fact was, making $20 a year off of 4% of our users was considerably more profitable than spamming *all* of our users... and the revenue source was far more dependable in uncertain economic times. It grew our site's user base -- and the site's paid users -- exponentially, at the fastest rate possible, while our costs of operation stayed comparatively flat... and once overhead is paid, the rest is gravy. The more growth, the better.

LiveJournal actually tried banner ads around Aug. 2000... but stopped after it raised crap revenue and reduced new user accounts by around 20%. If you have a site that doubles in size every year, with about 100,000 new users a year, that's equivalent to 20,000 people. And if 4% of them paid $20 a year, that's $16000 dollars you are losing by the first year alone, increasing to nearly $40,000 by the second year. That *AND* you're basically letting your competitors who don't do similarly eat your lunch and possibly start to dominate the market.

"Ars Technica spends money to prepare a product, in this case articles on a website. Their sole source of revenue is ads - aside from subscriptions, which they tried and failed, there just isn't any revenue mechanism for the internet."

Simply not true.

If they actually involved their supposedly knowledgeable userbase in the kind of discussions and content creation we see on MeFi, they'd get plenty of people willing to pay, if asked nicely.
posted by markkraft at 7:15 PM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Put your money where your mouths are, ad-supported sites. Go on - fold up and go away. I dare you. I double-dare you.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:17 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Speaking of tech sites, I remember developing a mad hate-on for Tom's Hardware. Seems he did something terrifically sleazy, and (this was back in my misbegotten youth of PC hardware) I figured I could no longer trust him. But that was a lifetime ago — I don't suppose anyone might remember this dim memory in brighter detail, eh?

I sometimes wonder if I should have seriously pursued all the site ideas I had back when all this was beginning. I started doing a backpacking/backcountry site, one of the first, but just didn't sustain my interest. I could have been a gazillionaire… but would I be happier? I kinda doubt it.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:26 PM on March 7, 2010


If they want impressions while running flash ads, then simply run flash ads in an iframe that displays images along with a flash pixel the orders the image ad replaced by a flash ad using ajax, pretty fucking trivial. Bonus, you're site looks more reputable for flash block users who might care. Even easier, just serve images for firefox and flash for IE.

I'll wager however their advertisers simply don't care enough about the flash blocking crowd, despite the positive appearance of the content provider. In fact, I bet they'd simply switch to animated gifs if enough people used flash blockers to get their attention.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:38 PM on March 7, 2010


Another thing that occurred to me, after walking away from this thread for a bit, is this:

If you want to contribute to the internet, CONTRIBUTE to it.

This isn't done by "supporting" sites by viewing ads, or subscribing, or anything of the sort. It's done by writing about what you do, what you know, or what you hope for, and making it available for others to see. It's not a business model, it's a communication tool.

It costs a pittance to host your own site. I get unlimited storage and bandwidth for around $10 a month, so cries of "we're going broke" really puzzle me.

It's an attention economy, and we can pay attention to something other than cars and tooth whiteners if we choose to.
posted by chronkite at 7:41 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]




It's pretty funny that not a single person has actually addressed my point, despite many talking around it - that if someone provides you content and asks you to accept advertising as a condition of accepting that content then you only morally have two possible actions, taking the content and the ads, or taking nothing.

All the arguments above amount to "Websites do things I don't like, so I feel I should be able to take content from them for free." Sorry, that's simply morally wrong. If you don't like 'em, don't visit 'em. If you don't like their advertising policy, don't visit them. Write them a letter telling them why, if you like.

But if a site asks you politely, "If you take our content, please take our ads," I don't believe you have a moral leg to stand on if you take the content and reject the ads - and I believe you all know it because not one of you provided a moral argument in favour of it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:12 PM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


If a website doesn't want me to look at their data in a way which I prefer, they are morally obligated to paywall it.

Advertisements are wholly immoral. They lie. If somebody relies on an immoral means for generating revenue, then they are fair game.

And Lupus, you have neatly skirted around other people's responses to your query. Do you, or do you not, sit though all television and radio commercials?

If you don't, you have no business preaching morality to the rest of us. The model is fundamentally the same.
posted by Sukiari at 8:28 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Gosh it's easy to tell the marketing and business drones from other people, when having an informal chat.

Because it seems that the only people who care about this are those trying to launch some start-up or blog where web advertising is their revenue model.


I have never taken a marketing or business class in my life, nor have I ever tried to launch a business or start-up. Also, I am increasingly irritated with the class of MeFites who, in lieu of reasoned debate, fires off snotty one-liners labeling their opponents as "drones," "programmed," "sheeple," or similar things.

If a website doesn't want me to look at their data in a way which I prefer, they are morally obligated to paywall it.

False. Might does not make right. I agree they should at least tell you about it, preferably in a nice, visible way so you can know the expectations. But your statement is like saying a store that doesn't want to you steal is morally obligated to frisk you at the door.

Advertisements are wholly immoral. They lie. If somebody relies on an immoral means for generating revenue, then they are fair game.

False. You'd make a good Scientologist. That is not even remotely how morality works.

And Lupus, you have neatly skirted around other people's responses to your query. Do you, or do you not, sit though all television and radio commercials?

Non-sequitur. If the TV stations required of me that I do this as a condition of watching their shows, then the right thing for me to do would be to either start doing that, or not watch TV. This would be a stupid move on their part, but that doesn't mean it's OK to take advantage of their stupidity. Currently, TV stations do not require this. Currently, Ars requires ad-blockers to be turned off.
posted by Xezlec at 9:02 PM on March 7, 2010


I find using ad blocking software on that site to be bizarre. I think the argument about the site declining is a red herring; if it's declining, don't go there. If you still get enjoyment out of it, recognize that someone has to pay for all of the things that go into that, and think about what you want your relationship to that situation to be.

For me, it's not a red herring at all. I will not view ads from the ad brokers, period, end of report. Will not happen. My further discussion is, "why I used to subscribe and no longer do". If they want to get any money out of me, it's going to be subscription-basis or nothing. Well, I do also 'pay' with some content on their forums, but I'm not a heavy user there.

So, the thrust of my arguments is simply that if they want money from me, they need to stop focusing on presentation and start focusing on content. If they return to something resembling their old habits, I may resume my subscription. If they don't, I will continue to use the site out of routine, mostly, because I did like it at one time, and still check it every day or two. They absolutely won't convert me if I'm not reading, so it's my belief that having me read is probably better for them, even if they don't believe that to be the case. I will continue to do so, with adblocker enabled, until I lose interest completely. This thread has actually brought that time a lot closer, because my dislike of what they've turned into has come into rather sharp focus for me with the comments I've made here. The old habit of checking Ars simply isn't very useful to me anymore, but I plan to continue, at least for the moment.

Should they decide to make their hatred of ad-blocking official, by actually blocking me from reading the site with my adblocker on, I'll just shrug and move on. And maybe I'll do that anyway. Their only possible source of revenue from me would appear to be subscription, and I'm not going to pay them until they give me more than a simple way of killing time.

If they're definitely not going to go back to being the technical site they were, then yes, they'd be smart to block me, because barring some major transformation into some amazing new entity, that's the only way they'll ever monetize these eyeballs.
posted by Malor at 9:08 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


People are actually criticizing the use of adblockers? Let me make it simple for you:

The computer is not a television. It's not the open end of a sewer where you can flush down it whatever shit you want so you can make money. It's my computer. It's my internet connection. It's my monitor, and it's my browser. I display want I want to display, and I don't display want I don't want to see. You can't make money if I don't show your ads on my screen? Sucks to be you. Find another way to make money. Or find another line of work.

Furthermore, let's dispense with the veiled threats: "the sites I love might disappear." Most of the time I have no idea what site I'm on because I found the article via a link from somewhere else. Did I read that on Engadget or Gizmodo? Does it make a difference? If the site "I love" disappears, there are another thousand like it.

You know what I would like to see? I would like to see Microsoft release the next version of Internet Explorer with ad blocking turned on by default. You want to be in the publishing business? Learn to make money off your content, not off the ads.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:21 PM on March 7, 2010 [20 favorites]


There is an oft-stated misconception that if a user never clicks on ads, then blocking them won't hurt a site financially. This is wrong. Most sites, at least sites the size of ours, are paid on a per view basis.

Why? Surely click-throughs are no harder to measure than views, and surely click-throughs would be a much more meaningful estimator the value Ars delivers to its customers (i.e. the advertisers)?

I've seen nothing in this thread to persuade me that anything I said last time around wants revising.

Even assuming there's some actual statistical formula that relates page views to business value in some genuinely meaningful way: the use or otherwise of ad blocking software would necessarily be a less significant factor in that calculation than sampling noise. The overwhelming majority of people who install ad blockers are people who object to being advertised at and are therefore not going to respond to web ads even when using non-blocked browsers. If you truly believe that my use of an ad blockers is Hurting the Commercial Internet, but you're not prepared to go so far as to say I am morally obliged to buy stuff advertised on Ars because I saw it on Ars if I wish to keep looking at Ars, I feel no need at all to engage with your arguments; you've clearly not thought them through.

In fact the entire advertising industry, as far as I can tell, is built on utterly meaningless numbers pulled straight out of advertising executives' arses. There's no more truth in the value advertisers offer to businesses than there is in the advertisements they inflict on the rest of us. The whole insane commercial juggernaut will continue to roll at a speed dictated by the habits of those with more dollars than sense, and what you and I choose to block or not as we use the Web will not make a lick of difference.
posted by flabdablet at 9:28 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


@lupus

It's pretty funny that not a single person has actually addressed my point, despite many talking around it - that if someone provides you content and asks you to accept advertising as a condition of accepting that content then you only morally have two possible actions, taking the content and the ads, or taking nothing.

I think most people will accept that you should whitelist sites you often visit or stop going, but in general...No, I'm not turning off my ad blocker. I play World of Warcraft, my WoW account has more security than my bank account but people still manage to hack them, and malware ads are one of the vectors. I'm not putting myself at risk for that and I can't individually evaluate every site I go to, and if I stop browsing there will be no ad revenue from me FOR ANYONE.

That is the main failure in your logic, if people walk away and the ad revenue dries up the sites will be just as screwed.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:31 PM on March 7, 2010


But if a site asks you politely, "If you take our content, please take our ads," I don't believe you have a moral leg to stand on if you take the content and reject the ads - and I believe you all know it because not one of you provided a moral argument in favour of it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:12 PM on March 7


A moral argument? Is that a joke? We have to give you a moral argument for rejecting content which is by its very nature deceptive, misleading, and distracting? If you DVR a TV show, do you watch the commericals? Do you review every ad in a magazine or newspaper?

Your whole premise is morally bankrupt. "Take the content and take the ads" does not imply that I'll read the ads. What you want is simply for people to download the ads regardless of whether they are even read, so that the advertiser can pay the content provider regardless of whether the ad is read. That is immoral. Ad blocking ensures that the advertiser doesn't have to pay for me ignoring their ad.

Charge me for the content. But you'd better have content worth paying for.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:33 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


What happens when I get a link to an Ars Technia article posted onto Fark or Metafilter generating a ton of traffic and ad views? Where do I go to get my slice?

Surely there is a social contract here, I made them income by generating those visitors, where do I get my pay for that?

Every link I post gives them Google pagerank generating more traffic and more ad views. You think you are entitled to that for free? Welcome to the Internet, where word of mouth advertising is way better than spammy annoying flash ads. Guess what, one adblocked viewer could bring in millions of hits from people who have never heard of the site before, advertise to THEM. The dedicated readers don't see the ads anymore and won't click anyway.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:43 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


A moral argument? Is that a joke?

No, it isn't a joke. Nor is being rude an argument.

Your whole premise is morally bankrupt.

Perhaps, instead of insulting me, you could consider addressing my point?

Someone says, "If you take our product, please don't block our ads."
This is not enforced - it uses the honour system.
You say "I will take your product, but block your ads."

How is this ethical? If you don't want their ads, don't take their content. Why is that so hard to understand?

What you want is simply for people to download the ads regardless of whether they are even read [...] that is immoral.

Where did I say that? And please refrain from insulting me!

If you DVR a TV show, do you watch the commericals? Do you review every ad in a magazine or newspaper?

I have never DVRed or VCRed a TV show. Why, exactly, am I supposed to review every ad in a magazine? What's that got to do with anything at all?

I'm not saying you have to either read or not read any ad - you're free to ignore them, or to ignore the whole site, but the site operators have reasonably politely asked you to not block ads if you take their content - what's your moral justification? Why do you get to take the product of their work and give them back literally nothing? Yes, I know you can but that's not the essence of this, is it?


Charge me for the content. But you'd better have content worth paying for.

How much money do you pay for content a year? Can you name a successful paid content site aside from The Wall Street Journal?

You might ask yourself the following - if you don't think what I say applies to you, then why are you so angry with me?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:55 PM on March 7, 2010


I would like to see Microsoft release the next version of Internet Explorer with ad blocking turned on by default.

Well, I think IE 7/8 turn on their popup blocker more-or-less by default, which people here consider theft, so there you go.

Seriously, do the "ad-blocking is theft" people get up to take a piss specifically during a commercial? Or change the channel on their car radio when the commercials come on, or -- God forbid -- fast forward (or SKIP!) the commercials on their DVRs? Because if so, you are every bit the thief that you high-horsedly claim the rest of us to be.

And if you don't, well, you're a sucker. Enjoy your malware.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:55 PM on March 7, 2010


Sukiari wrote: "Advertisements are wholly immoral. They lie."

Wow, ads are immoral? All ads? I agree that some, or even many ads are immoral, but I fail to see the lie or the immorality in the Lotus ads Ars is currently serving. Oh, it was a straw man? Sorry about that.

I don't like ads, but that doesn't make them immoral.

Pastabagel wrote: "It's my monitor, and it's my browser."

So nobody is forcing you to view anything you don't want to (it is your monitor, after all)? Why the hostility towards the concept of not viewing sites whose ads bother you? It's your computer and your monitor. Control it.

Directed to nobody in particular: If you are concerned about malware, perhaps the best option is to run software that isn't vulnerable to such exploits, rather than using a band-aid?
posted by wierdo at 10:04 PM on March 7, 2010


And on not-preview, I think popups and popunders are quite a different animal to on-page advertisement. (As are those idiotic flash ads that move crap around the entire screen)

Certainly the obtrusiveness level is radically different.
posted by wierdo at 10:05 PM on March 7, 2010


Surely there is a social contract here, I made them income by generating those visitors, where do I get my pay for that?

I'm not sure where you live, but I've never heard of anything like that.

For example, I told a lot of people to see Avatar, and several of them went to see it and wrote to me saying they wouldn't have without my recommendation. I don't expect to see a penny from James Cameron - the fun is for me is to turn my friends onto something good.

In the same way, I recommend music and restaurants, and link to websites, with no "social contract" implying I expect to see anything in return.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:09 PM on March 7, 2010


Can you name a successful paid content site aside from The Wall Street Journal?

You are seriously asking this? Millions of porn sites, Netflix Streaming, Rhapsody, the Kindle store off the top of my head.

Not to mention sites like Metafilter or Something Awful and Totalfark with subscription models or one time fees for commenting.

How about stuff like iTunes? There is no doubt people are willing to pay for shit on the web, that was just ignorant for you to suggest otherwise.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:11 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure where you live, but I've never heard of anything like that.

For example, I told a lot of people to see Avatar, and several of them went to see it and wrote to me saying they wouldn't have without my recommendation. I don't expect to see a penny from James Cameron - the fun is for me is to turn my friends onto something good.

In the same way, I recommend music and restaurants, and link to websites, with no "social contract" implying I expect to see anything in return.


Yes! Because here on the Internet we know word of mouth is great advertising, which is why we don't drive people away from our content, if they can't see it they can't pass it on.

But think of those poor viral marketers! When you do this for free you cost them money! I think you owe a donation to our good friends over at Pepsi Blue.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:17 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, do the "ad-blocking is theft" people get up to take a piss specifically during a commercial? Or change the channel on their car radio when the commercials come on, or -- God forbid -- fast forward (or SKIP!) the commercials on their DVRs? Because if so, you are every bit the thief that you high-horsedly claim the rest of us to be.

No to all of those - not that it matters to my argument.

I almost never watch TV, entirely because there are too many commercials these days. I don't particularly dislike commercials but they're so frequent that I can't really get any "flow".

I've never owned a DVR nor a car. I don't listen to commercial radio - I run my own commercial-free internet radio station instead.

But again, it's as though you're deliberately misinterpreting what I say. I'm absolutely not saying you have to watch, read or interpret every ad that appears on your computer. God, no. It's exactly the same as TV commercials - they get sent to your TV and if they aren't interesting enough to keep you in the room, that's the fault of the advertiser.

And, of course, this doesn't address the moral issue one bit. The TV station isn't begging you to not leave the room during the commercials! For that matter, Ars isn't asking you to read the damned ads - simply not to block them.

Again, it's their content - seems to me that there are only two moral things to do, they being to take it under their conditions, or not take it at all. I fully understand that you can take their content without their ads - that doesn't make it right.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:27 PM on March 7, 2010


Ars Technica's user agreement has this section:
I. The Website also contains other graphics, text, photographs, images, video, audio, software, code, and other material that is provided by Service Provider or its licensors and is not clearly identified as, or intended, for your use, including without limitation the organization, design, compilation, and "look and feel" of the Website, and advertising thereon ("Website Content"). The Website Content is protected by state, national and international copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws, and is the property of Service Provider or its licensors. The copying, reproduction, publication, display, rearrangement, redistribution, modification, revision, alteration, cropping, re-sizing, reverse engineering, movement, removal, deletion, or other use or change by you, directly or indirectly, of any such Website Content, including but not limited to the removal or alteration of advertising, is strictly prohibited.
Absent a section which defines terms such as "display" and "alteration", both of which could easily mean "the transformation of a stream of bytes into an image on a monitor" (and have, I think, in some lawsuits), I think it's quite possible to read their User Agreement as prohibiting everyone from viewing their site in a web browser at all, with or without ad blockers. In fact, that prohibition on "other use or change by you" alone would probably cover it. That's just the section on the non-content part of the site. They have this to say about the actual content:
H. The Website may contain graphics, text, photographs, images, video, audio and other material that is clearly identified for your use ("Assets"). The Assets are protected by state, national and international copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws. Nevertheless, we (and our licensors) grant to you the limited, non-exclusive, right and license to use the Assets solely as described on the Website, as limited by this Agreement, and provided further that you keep intact any and all copyright and other proprietary notices.
If you can find where they have "described on the Website" how it is they allow me to use their Assets, I'd love to see it. Because I can't find it, and that means to me that I am prohibited from viewing their site, whether I use an adblocker or not.

I'm probably also prohibited from quoting their user agreement here. Oops.
posted by hades at 10:33 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]



And, of course, this doesn't address the moral issue one bit. The TV station isn't begging you to not leave the room during the commercials!


Mainly because they know it is pointless to ask and the backlash is worse than the skipping.


ABC HAS HELD DISCUSSIONS ON the use of technology that would disable the fast-forward button on DVRs, according to ABC President of Advertising Sales Mike Shaw, with the primary goal to allow TV commercials to run as intended.


"I would love it if the MSOs, during the deployment of the new DVRs they're putting out there, would disable the fast-forward [button]," Shaw said.

While MSOs risk losing some of their DVR customers if fast-forwarding were blocked, Shaw said the cable operators--who are beefing up their own local ad sales operations--"are in the same business we're in." "They've got to sell ads too," he said. "So if everybody's skipping everybody's ads, that's not a long-term business model for them either."



I fully understand that you can take their content without their ads - that doesn't make it right.


It isn't right that they take free word of mouth advertising from their users without paying either, but that is the reality we inhabit.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:38 PM on March 7, 2010


You are seriously asking this? [...] ignorant

I'm kind of reaching my limit in the number of insults I can take in an evening. Again, I suggest you ask yourself why my rather formal and certainly very polite arguments are making you so angry...

I should have been more clear. There are of course tons of sites that sell products like videos and music that make money. By "content sites" I meant "text-based content sites" like Ars Technica - "web publications".

Metafilter is certainly not a good example of a financially successful paid content site. In over 10 years, Metafilter has taken in less than $200,000 in subscription fees (source) which I estimate as being roughly the same as its operating costs. I don't believe Metafilter has a single paid employee.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:40 PM on March 7, 2010


Why the hostility towards the concept of not viewing sites whose ads bother you? It's your computer and your monitor. Control it.


I certainly do. For years I prided myself on running a fairly low-end XP machine that never once crashed or had a virus, spyware, or malware. I attribute this immunity to completely locking down my web experience. Nothing runs on my computer unless I want it to.

To that end, there is no such thing as "a site" from my point of view. I'm looking at content. The way you design a site and the way I see the information stored in a database on your server are not even remotely the same thing. The extent to which I fuck with the presentation of websites on my end is not limited to adblock.

but the site operators have reasonably politely asked you to not block ads if you take their content - what's your moral justification?

Justification for what? They asked me politely to take the ads with the content and I politeyly decline to do so. I chose to take the content alone. That's ana option the site operator makes available to me. Someone making a request of me does not impose a moral obligation on my part to grant that request, however. I am responsible for what ends up on my computer. So I'm doing the responsible thing when I browse the web, which is to only load content I want from the sites I browse.

But let's turn it around: how is the site owner morally justified in allowing their site to be used as a vector for other sites outside of their control to run javascript or flash on my machine? Oh right, they make money doing it.

More importantly however, morality and ethics don't enter into this. I don't have a relationship with the site operator. I have no reason to trust them. They have even less of an idea who I am, so it would be insane for them to trust me. What we have is a business relationship. They are in the business of putting content on the internet for free. That's the business they chose. I consume that content. End of discussion. The problem, as we've said before, is that the content is free, but that isn't my problem. That was a choice they made to maximize their traffic.

There are a lot of ways to make money online besides ads. You can charge for the content. Or you could charge for premium content. Or access to message boards. Or you could find a way to collect money from "enthusiasts" or superfans, the way Metafilter has or the way other sites have that hold conventions or other site-related events, and charge admission. You can get sponsorships, in which you add an image to your site advertising for the sponsor that isn't blocked by adblockers (I believe lifehacker does this).

Or you can be lazy, turn over 60% of your page real estate to the javascript of google and others that does who the hell knows what, and hope for the best. Good luck with that.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:43 PM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Marketing has gone from
"Hey, we have this product, and you might like it" which is useful, some of the time, because you might want to know what's playing at the maxiplex, and ooh, look, a coupon for chocolate Doritos, let's try those.
to
We're going to stuff your mailbox, stuff your email until email is essentially broken for some people, clutter your screen with blinking, flashing, noisy crap, popups, popovers, toolbars, keyword popups, and lies, mistruths and more lies. We want you to feel unclean if you don't use our sparkling douche, we're going to tell you this crap-in-a-bag salty, greasy, artificially -flavored, -colored, additive-laden garbage is good for you because it has no trans-fats (but extra HCFS) or low carbs(but extra fat). We're going to hammer you with ads until your desire to throttle the Free(not really) Credit Report guy keeps you awake at night.

You know why I like Google? Because, pre-Google, every time I looked for a printer driver using Altavista, I got gobs of search results that were actually paid placement ads for printers or ink. Google moved the paid search results to the top, and tagged them as ads, and put ads on the side, also labeled, and I could actually find my result. I occasionally notice the ads, because I'm shopping, and searching helps me find what I actually want, not what somebody tells me I should want, or an ad interests me, and I want to find out more.

Marketing has become, in many ways, a force for evil. If there's a little bit of collateral damage, sorry Ars, too bad. In the coming years, content delivery is going to keep changing. Possibly in ways more annoying than blinky, annoying flash ads. People seem to accept advertising everywhere; they cheerfully wear clothing with ads all over it. Not use AdBlock? You've got to be kidding. The inventors of AdBlock should get an award. I only wish I could wear adblock glasses, and have adblock on teevee.
posted by theora55 at 10:47 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


It isn't right that they take free word of mouth advertising from their users without paying either,

WHY is that wrong?! As I explained above, I recommend things to people all the time and never expect a penny from the things I recommend - in fact, I imagine my friends wouldn't value my recommendations at all if I were paid to make 'em.

Let me ask you - have you ever gone to any company you recommended - a store, a restaurant, a band - and told them, "I recommended you to other people so I deserve to get paid by you"? Or, if someone said that to you, would you pay them?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:47 PM on March 7, 2010


How did advertising become a moral issue?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would like to see Microsoft release the next version of Internet Explorer with ad blocking turned on by default. You want to be in the publishing business? Learn to make money off your content, not off the ads.

The overwhelming majority of people who install ad blockers are people who object to being advertised at and are therefore not going to respond to web ads even when using non-blocked browsers.

These two sentences, from consecutive commenters who are ostensibly on the same side of the argument, help to illustrate some difficulties. Is blocking ads ok because content providers shouldn't be making money from advertising at all? Or is blocking ads ok because only me and my friends do it and we aren't in the target market anyway. These justifications seem to be at odds over the moral status of advertising, and they have their own independent problems. Demanding that cultural content support itself without advertising would drastically reduce the ranks of cultural producers. I don't want to pay that cost: I'd rather websites slap up some google ads and focus on doing what they love to do and do best, rather than worry about how to monetize their business in a different way. The other 'fork' of the 'dilemma' (it's a false dilemma because I'm claiming that these are the only two arguments available) might be wrong-I don't think it follows that you don't respond to ads merely from the fact that you object to advertising-and even if it is right, it won't scale.

The computer is not a television. It's not the open end of a sewer where you can flush down it whatever shit you want so you can make money. It's my computer. It's my internet connection. It's my monitor, and it's my browser. I display want I want to display, and I don't display want I don't want to see.

Nothing in any of that goes any distance towards establishing that there is a relevant difference between computers and television with regards to advertising. However, it's unclear why you want to develop such a distinction: one of the arguments for your position is that no one has any problem with not watching television ads.

If you truly believe that my use of an ad blockers is Hurting the Commercial Internet, but you're not prepared to go so far as to say I am morally obliged to buy stuff advertised on Ars because I saw it on Ars if I wish to keep looking at Ars, I feel no need at all to engage with your arguments; you've clearly not thought them through.

Having to view ads with your content is easy to obey; having to clicking through and buy products is onerous. I don't like the moral language either, but it didn't take very long to find a non-moral difference that distinguishes between those positions.

What you want is simply for people to download the ads regardless of whether they are even read, so that the advertiser can pay the content provider regardless of whether the ad is read. That is immoral. Ad blocking ensures that the advertiser doesn't have to pay for me ignoring their ad.

I know that you're responding to a commenter who introduced moral language, but I think that the moral language just clouds the discussion. I don't have moral obligations here. I don't have an interest in keeping the advertising company afloat-they don't add value to my life in the way that the content provider does. The terms that the advertiser and the content provider negotiate don't concern me-if they sustain their operation with ads based on pageviews, that is-I submit-a small burden, that I'm willing to help shoulder to keep the good content flowing.

Furthermore, let's dispense with the veiled threats: "the sites I love might disappear." Most of the time I have no idea what site I'm on because I found the article via a link from somewhere else. Did I read that on Engadget or Gizmodo? Does it make a difference? If the site "I love" disappears, there are another thousand like it.

I don't understand this at all. My life involves any number of irreplaceable cultural institutions, including Metafilter. If yours doesn't, than perhaps we aren't coming from as common a ground as I might have thought.

I guess what I'm pushing for, insofar as I'm pushing, is this

I think most people will accept that you should whitelist sites you often visit or stop going

...as long as the should is a non-moral should. "It would be in your interest to whitelist sites you often visit" is closer, but still not quite right.

This is a novel, and I now have to go to bed, but I'll be watching this thread with some continued interest.
posted by Kwine at 10:48 PM on March 7, 2010



I'm kind of reaching my limit in the number of insults I can take in an evening. Again, I suggest you ask yourself why my rather formal and certainly very polite arguments are making you so angry...


The web is a capitalist wild west, yes, you sound ignorant when you ask for examples of paid content. It's not anger.

I should have been more clear. There are of course tons of sites that sell products like videos and music that make money. By "content sites" I meant "text-based content sites" like Ars Technica - "web publications".

Again, it's just ignorant, even when you slice it down to that. Lexisnexus, scientific journals, porn again, the Kindle store, tons of magazines like Cooks Illustrated, etc.

It's easy to do as long as you have unique and robust content, it doesn't matter if it is video, music, games, or text.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:51 PM on March 7, 2010


For that matter, Ars isn't asking you to read the damned ads - simply not to block them.

You argument is that I shouldn't block the ads so that the advertiser can pay Ars for my download of an ad I didn't read? Is that moral? Why should the advertisers pay for ads that aren't read? In other words, if you are going to assume that I wouldn't read the ads even if I turned off adblock, then wouldn't leaving adblock on allow the site operator to more accurately relate ads viewed to ads-read? In fact, when viewed from this standpoint, ad-blockers increase the quality of advertising metrics by allowing site owners to distinguish between page views and ad views, because the page views of people like me (who would ignore the ads) don't get counted.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:52 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter is certainly not a good example of a financially successful paid content site. In over 10 years, Metafilter has taken in less than $200,000 in subscription fees (source) which I estimate as being roughly the same as its operating costs. I don't believe Metafilter has a single paid employee.

I don't see how that makes it a bad example, Metafilter is doing fine, right?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:52 PM on March 7, 2010


The decision to block advertisements against the wishes of another person can be thought of as ethical, in that you are defending yourself from another's lack of ethics:
  1. Advertisements are manipulative, because they attempt to convince you of the truth of something without making an argument.
  2. Manipulation is deception. It is based on the idea that people must be led to the conclusion you wish them to reach, without being aware of your leading.
  3. When you attempt to restrict people's choices to an arbitrary outcome, you are interfering with their ability to choose freely.
  4. Therefore, to refuse advertisements is to refuse manipulation, deception, the circumscription of choice.
posted by Ritchie at 10:56 PM on March 7, 2010


How did advertising become a moral issue?

This is New Improved Advertising - now 27% more moral!
posted by flabdablet at 10:57 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]



WHY is that wrong?! As I explained above, I recommend things to people all the time and never expect a penny from the things I recommend - in fact, I imagine my friends wouldn't value my recommendations at all if I were paid to make 'em.


What does that have to do with anything? You may live in a world where people give away recommendations for free all the time, but I'm not doing it for free. I need money.


Let me ask you - have you ever gone to any company you recommended - a store, a restaurant, a band - and told them, "I recommended you to other people so I deserve to get paid by you"? Or, if someone said that to you, would you pay them?


Nope, and if I did I expect they would react the same way I am to Ars Technia right now. You are asking to be paid for something I am used to getting for free.

But REMEMBER, we are making a MORAL argument. I got them money with my links, why SHOULDN'T I be paid? Take what actually happens in the real world out of it, like you are doing with ads.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:58 PM on March 7, 2010


Having to view ads with your content is easy to obey;

Okay, and when my WoW account or something important gets hacked by a malware ad?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:00 PM on March 7, 2010



I don't understand this at all. My life involves any number of irreplaceable cultural institutions, including Metafilter. If yours doesn't, than perhaps we aren't coming from as common a ground as I might have thought.


Well, Metafilter is pretty irreplaceable to me too. But Metafilter is a bad example, because Metafilter LLC does not create any of the content on Metafilter.com. I come here for the links and the comments, which are written by people for zero financial compensation. Ars should seriously consider the significance of that. People want to write for free, and what they write is compelling enough for other people to want to read it.

But to your latter point, no we aren't all coming from common ground. The internet is not one big happy collective. The internet is populated by the same people who in real life who won't toss a dollar to a homeless person the pass on a cold street. I'm not advocating that everyone run adblock, so I'm not suggesting we all have to agree. But I do chafe and the suggestion that I am somehow immoral because I don't let googleanalytics.com record my online reading habits. And I'm a shareholder.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:03 PM on March 7, 2010


but the site operators have reasonably politely asked you to not block ads if you take their content - what's your moral justification?

Justification for what?


I'm getting a little tired of this but here's the argument.

A pays money to make content.
A tells B "You may take this content if you take these ads with it."
B takes the content and doesn't take the ads.

More importantly however, morality and ethics don't enter into this.

Morality and ethics enter into every human endeavour.

I don't have a relationship with the site operator.

You most certainly do - you are taking content that they paid money to create. If you don't want to have a relationship with the operator, don't take their content.

They are in the business of putting content on the internet for free.

No, they are not. Did you not read the original article? They are in the business of putting content on the internet as a delivery mechanism for advertising. If everyone blocked their ads, they'd be out of business overnight.

The problem, as we've said before, is that the content is free, but that isn't my problem.

Yet again, this argument says that you can take their content. But I never denied that.

My claim is that it's wrong, not that it's impossible.

When I was a kid, there used to be newspaper boxes where you'd simply drop a quarter in on the honour system. As far as I'm concerned, the ethics are very simple - you either give them the quarter or you don't take their paper - you can't keep taking papers and never pay with a series of excuses about how the ink gets on your fingers or how you don't like their editorial page.

Your sole argument against that appears to be that morality and ethics don't apply - I believe that's an argument that's never applicable in any case at all and certainly not in a case where we are talking about people's livelihoods.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:04 PM on March 7, 2010


But REMEMBER, we are making a MORAL argument. I got them money with my links, why SHOULDN'T I be paid?

I've explained this, clearly, concisely and in detail, twice above - which you've ignored. I don't think you or any reasonable person would really believe that if I put an unsolicited link to your site on my site that either of us would owe the other anything.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:10 PM on March 7, 2010



No, they are not. Did you not read the original article? They are in the business of putting content on the internet as a delivery mechanism for advertising. If everyone blocked their ads, they'd be out of business overnight.


And if people didn't link to them for free they would be out of business, overnight. They want to take advantage of free marketing and want to be paid for it too by the reader base that has rejected the model. Tough, get a new model or die.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:12 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like this piece said, (smart) consumers neither trust or need advertising. You can only rely on ad-supported access to the extent that you serve content that dumbish people also care about. We need a more paywall-tolerant culture. How would that come about? May I suggest that sites like Metafilter begin to ditch rules like this, and not just for free registrations?
posted by Anything at 11:13 PM on March 7, 2010


I don't think you or any reasonable person would really believe that if I put an unsolicited link to your site on my site that either of us would owe the other anything.

Unsolicited? What are those digg this, facebook this, tweet this, email/share this links there for?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:13 PM on March 7, 2010


Servers and bandwidth are expensive. Content creators who are ordinary users aren't going to be able to afford to foot the bill for that themselves, except those who are rich from some other source. And even then, they will lose the ability to run the site as soon as they get slashdotted and their traffic exceeds what they can afford to serve with their disposable income.

Amen - I've had a project slashdotted once and it gave me a thousand dollar bill.
posted by rodgerd at 11:13 PM on March 7, 2010


Kwine: Having to view ads with your content is easy to obey; having to clicking through and buy products is onerous.

Is that the difference? That after a point, the obligation becomes "onerous" and no longer reasonable to expect or ask people to do it? Because I consider it onerous to be asked to expose myself to the noisy flash and drive-by installation of malware that has been repeatedly mentioned in this thread. In light of the Antivirus 2009 thing, it's not enough to say that we can take it on faith that the site we're visiting won't run ads that do that. Internet without an adblocker is dangerous, and no site's expectation of ad views trumps my expectation of not having my identity stolen or my computer destroyed.
posted by kafziel at 11:14 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Internet without an adblocker is dangerous, and no site's expectation of ad views trumps my expectation of not having my identity stolen or my computer destroyed.

Follow the thread, we have been over this. The solution is you just stop using the internet! Once we all walk away and there are no more users those ads will rake in the dough!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:17 PM on March 7, 2010


The decision to block advertisements against the wishes of another person can be thought of as ethical, in that you are defending yourself from another's lack of ethics:

[...]

Therefore, to refuse advertisements is to refuse manipulation, deception, the circumscription of choice.


Your argument is a little broad, but here's my rebuttal. While I'm not at all fond of advertising and in fact have given up TV and radio because of it, I do not agree that advertising is entirely a worthless lie as you seem to think.

And even if advertising were a complete rip-off from stem to stern, it would not justify our being dishonest, in the same way that it's immoral to steal from someone just because they attempted to steal from you.

I repeat - if you don't like the conditions that the content comes with, don't take it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:21 PM on March 7, 2010


I don't believe Metafilter has a single paid employee.

Actually, it has four.
posted by Ritchie at 11:21 PM on March 7, 2010


"Hm. Hang on. Ars Technica's User Agreement does contain this clause:
The copying, reproduction, publication, display, rearrangement, redistribution, modification, revision, alteration, cropping, re-sizing, reverse engineering, movement, removal, deletion, or other use or change by you, directly or indirectly, of any such Website Content, including but not limited to the removal or alteration of advertising, is strictly prohibited.
I'd be a little more impressed if they put the link to this user agreement a little more prominently, but I'll have to agree that it does exist. Took me two tries to find this language."


The intent at least and I'm guessing the actual clause is pretty obviously prohibited (in the states anyways) by the ADA. Anyone who has experienced what a screen reader does to a web page would understand that immediately.

It also shows a (possibly intentional) fundamental misunderstanding of HTTP and the client server relationship of data served off port 80. The people blocking ads control the client; there is no support in HTTP, neither the original concept nor any implementation of it, to support the server rigidly controlling the display of the client. Lots of such systems exist and many more have died over the years, AOL pre internet integration for example; advertisers should looking them if that is the control they want. As it stands I'm going to feel free to change your text colours to my default black on grey, bit bucket images when I'm on a 14.4 modem, reflow the page when I'm running my window maximized at 1600 pixels wide and generally make my browsing experience good for me. A site's markup is merely a guideline of what the authors think would look good.

"I don't believe Metafilter has a single paid employee."

It's not discussed much but I know there is one and I'm pretty sure there are at least three.
posted by Mitheral at 11:26 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


furiousxgeorge: Do you really believe that if I put a link from my site to yours that you'd owe me money?

By what moral justification could I request this money from you?

Let's get specific here. The very cheapest you can get a real click from someone through advertising is $0.05 - most clicks cost more than that, sometimes a lot more.

Suppose I linked to your site and you got a million hits. Would I be reasonable to come to you for $50,000?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:27 PM on March 7, 2010



I repeat - if you don't like the conditions that the content comes with, don't take it.


I'm waiting for you to explain how they make money on ads once their readers, who generate their page views, leave.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:28 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]




furiousxgeorge: Do you really believe that if I put a link from my site to yours that you'd owe me money?

By what moral justification could I request this money from you?

Let's get specific here. The very cheapest you can get a real click from someone through advertising is $0.05 - most clicks cost more than that, sometimes a lot more.

Suppose I linked to your site and you got a million hits. Would I be reasonable to come to you for $50,000?


If I voluntarily just did a thing to make you a bunch of money, you wouldn't cut me in? You are cold as ice.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:32 PM on March 7, 2010


Fascinating, Mefi has four employees! (And I realize that the Wikipedia page talks about the paid signups as of 2008, what's with that?)

I should not have allowed myself to be diverted - it's sort of irrelevant to the main argument - but it's hard to see Ars or any of the myriad sites like it ever becoming paid content sites. I like Ars fine, but I read it once every few weeks, and there are a hundred sites I read as often. If they all became paid, I'd keep about five of them; if a few of them became paid, I'd drop 'em.

The reason a Metafilter can generate such activity is precisely because it doesn't have "original content" (in the meaning of "paid writers" - clearly in another sense this is all original content).

Regardless, the correctness or not of the business model is irrelevant to the moral issue.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:38 PM on March 7, 2010


furiousxgeorge: I do understand that you enjoying the case where money flows to you - but I'm actually talking about the reverse case, where you are required to pay me...

I have just put some big link on my site and you got a million hits. Do you feel you should pay me $50,000?

Let's take another case... I'm a book reviewer and I write a glowing review of your book and sales skyrocket - should you have to pay me?

When Oprah mentions some product on her show, sales go through the roof. Should she then be able to go and ask for money from the company that makes that product?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:43 PM on March 7, 2010


Having to view ads with your content is easy to obey; having to clicking through and buy products is onerous.

Well, that's a personal view. Myself, I find it completely obnoxious to have a constant barrage of sales pitches distracting me from stuff I'm actually interested in.

I think the point Pastabagel makes so concisely when he says

In fact, when viewed from this standpoint, ad-blockers increase the quality of advertising metrics by allowing site owners to distinguish between page views and ad views, because the page views of people like me (who would ignore the ads) don't get counted.

is key.

Given the choice, I always use a browser with an ad blocker installed. There are those who say that this choice is immoral, because I am breaking an implicit contract: content creators who support their content with advertising are expecting me to download the advertising as well as their content, so that an advertiser will pay them for my doing so. The counter-argument is, of course, that I have no moral obligation to help content creators rip off their advertisers by inducing them to pay for advertising downloads that have a completely negligible chance of resulting in a sale. Both these arguments strike me as ludicrous; advertising has no moral dimension.

If we're going to argue about ad-supported web content as a sustainable business model, we need to get away from spurious moral arguments and just look at the value chain. Ultimately, the price an advertiser pays a content creator for advertising space is dependent on the amount of sales revenue that the advertisements placed in that space generate for the businesses so advertised.

Those of us who make a point of never buying stuff whose advertising we object to - and we form what is near enough to a pure superset of those who install ad blockers - generate very close to zero return on advertising investment, and this remains true whether we browse with ad blockers installed or not.

If a site like Ars enters into a business relationship with an advertiser on the basis of a fixed price per advertisement downloaded, then the price the advertiser will pay per view is going to be determined by what the advertiser knows about how page view numbers relate to sales return on advertising investment.

If everybody who currently views Ars with a blocker turned on were to turn it off, then in the short term, the advertiser might pay a little more to Ars because of an apparent rise in Ars-related advertising downloads. But the advertiser will fairly quickly find out that the ratio of product sales volume to ads downloaded has fallen, and will end up paying less per page view to compensate.

In other words: the net amount that Ars makes on advertising must ultimately depend on how much advertised product Ars actually sells for the businesses advertised on its site. No other model is actually built on business logic. Since people who install ad blockers are, pretty much by definition, not people who would click through and respond to web advertising, we have near enough to zero effect on this sales volume. This remains true whether we browse Ars with an ad blocker turned on or not.

So I say again: if you truly believe that my refusal to turn off my ad blocker is harmful to Ars or anybody else, then you really need to be persuading me to buy stuff from Ars's advertisers because in fact that's the only thing I can do that will ultimately affect Ars's advertising revenue bottom line. And if you're not prepared to try to persuade me to do that, but you still think I really ought to turn off my ad blocker, then I still think you haven't thought your position through.
posted by flabdablet at 11:44 PM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Should she then be able to go and ask for money from the company that makes that product?

I'm amazed that you seem to believe that this is not precisely what she has done beforehand.
posted by flabdablet at 11:45 PM on March 7, 2010


furiousxgeorge: I do understand that you enjoying the case where money flows to you - but I'm actually talking about the reverse case, where you are required to pay me...

I have just put some big link on my site and you got a million hits. Do you feel you should pay me $50,000?


Why shouldn't I? You just made me a ton of money, I don't want to drive you away. As I make my money from people viewing my site, asking them not to or doing things that would push them away would be a very silly choice.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:50 PM on March 7, 2010


I'm waiting for you to explain how they make money on ads once their readers, who generate their page views, leave.

You're not being serious with this question, but I'll answer it seriously anyway.

They don't. In fact, these places barely make money as it is and I suspect most of them will be out of business in a couple of years, which is a shame because I do enjoy this sort of thing.

However, you seem to be missing the terrible tiresome point that I've made oh-so-many-times-now which is that you have two ethically defensible positions to choose from - either don't take the content OR take the content and the ads.

Presumably, some people would accept the second case if the content were compelling enough and the ads inoffensive enough, and the site would make money. Conversely, if the ads were too annoying or the site too dull, no one would come, and the site would have to figure out how to get 'em back, either by making the ads less annoying or the content more appealing.

But that's completely irrelevant to the ethics. Perhaps what they're doing is so annoying that no one will accept it - it still doesn't justify taking their content for free.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:53 PM on March 7, 2010


you seem to be missing the terrible tiresome point that I've made oh-so-many-times-now which is that you have two ethically defensible positions to choose from - either don't take the content OR take the content and the ads.

And you seem to be simply restating that pair of positions as if the choice were both real (which it totally isn't unless technical measures are in place to enforce simultaneous delivery of advertising and content) and ethical (which it isn't, because my choice to collect or not collect advertising that I am completely committed to ignoring along with the content I want must ultimately make no difference at all to the content creator's revenue stream - see above).

I'm unconvinced.
posted by flabdablet at 11:58 PM on March 7, 2010


However, you seem to be missing the terrible tiresome point that I've made oh-so-many-times-now which is that you have two ethically defensible positions to choose from - either don't take the content OR take the content and the ads.

Presumably, some people would accept the second case if the content were compelling enough and the ads inoffensive enough, and the site would make money. Conversely, if the ads were too annoying or the site too dull, no one would come, and the site would have to figure out how to get 'em back, either by making the ads less annoying or the content more appealing.



What you seem to be missing is that the readers are Ars Technia's advertising. They post the links around the web, they generate the page views. Every reader who walks away is someone who isn't going to post a link bringing in 20 more users.

I understand your point, I posted WAAAAAAY back that I agree people should whitelist or stop viewing, my point is that the moral argument is secondary to the commercial reality. Users walking away is NOT what they really want.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:58 PM on March 7, 2010


It's exactly the same as TV commercials - they get sent to your TV and if they aren't interesting enough to keep you in the room, that's the fault of the advertiser.

Jamie Kellner, former Turner CEO, disagrees. According to him, there is a "gentleman's agreement" that you watch all ads associated with a TV program. Do you do that, or are you a thief? Do you skip the trailers on a DVD? Do you pay attention to your driving or to the billboards?
posted by dirigibleman at 12:09 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see yet another argument along the line of "morality doesn't apply here" and I'm no longer willing to go on with this.

It baffles me that many of you see no difference between a paid endorsement and an honest recommendation.

You've expressed such hostility to the website operators that I wonder why you even visit the sites at all, but Ars Technica has very clearly asked that if you take the content they paid money to generate, you take their ads, and if you don't do that you're being dishonest in exactly the same way as someone who takes a paper from the box without paying is.

If you don't like their ads, don't take their content, simple as that. Endless arguments about the crappiness of advertising are irrelevant. If you don't like their ads, don't take their content. Otherwise you are simply taking something from someone against their wishes, and there is a name for that activity.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:10 AM on March 8, 2010



You've expressed such hostility to the website operators that I wonder why you even visit the sites at all, but Ars Technica has very clearly asked that if you take the content they paid money to generate, you take their ads, and if you don't do that you're being dishonest in exactly the same way as someone who takes a paper from the box without paying is.


I don't visit sites that call the readers who are the only reason they make any money at all thieves. Most site owners know that they get free advertising from the goodwill of their users that is better than any they could pay for.

I have no hostility to content generators, I paid $10 just tonight to a particularly awesome WoW podcaster with no obligation to do so at all.

I'm not going to join in a suicide pact that means the sites I love die for lack of readership just so I can be "moral."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:22 AM on March 8, 2010


If they were serious, they'd leave their technical enforcement measure in place. They don't do that; therefore, they're not serious. Therefore, they know as well as I do that turning ad blockers off makes no difference at all in the long term, and they're simply trying to game their advertisers for a short term, totally unsustainable revenue boost. I have no moral obligation to help them do that.
posted by flabdablet at 12:23 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


When Oprah mentions some product on her show, sales go through the roof. Should she then be able to go and ask for money from the company that makes that product?

Oprah got paid before she mentioned the product.
posted by PenDevil at 12:56 AM on March 8, 2010


Gosh it's easy to tell the marketing and business drones from other people, when having an informal chat.

Because it seems that the only people who care about this are those trying to launch some start-up or blog where web advertising is their revenue model.

I have never taken a marketing or business class in my life, nor have I ever tried to launch a business or start-up. Also, I am increasingly irritated with the class of MeFites who, in lieu of reasoned debate, fires off snotty one-liners labeling their opponents as "drones," "programmed," "sheeple," or similar things.


The majority of people who expect to gain money from the internet are those trying to launch a start-up or blog where advertising is the revenue model. The other people tend to sell goods, fall ass-backwards into internet money, or make none at all.

If a website doesn't want me to look at their data in a way which I prefer, they are morally obligated to paywall it.

False. Might does not make right. I agree they should at least tell you about it, preferably in a nice, visible way so you can know the expectations. But your statement is like saying a store that doesn't want to you steal is morally obligated to frisk you at the door.


True. I am under no particular moral or legal obligation to accept whatever somebody is attempting to ram down my throat. I cut off Flash and started growing a pretty impressive hosts file because the ads could often wake the dead or induce a seizure in a person with no history of epilepsy. Stealing is illegal and morally wrong. Choosing not to poison my eyes and brain with flashing ads for masturbation gels and mortgages is neither illegal or immoral. There is also the issue of malware and spyware to consider. What if I am in charge of sensitive information, and am obligated to protect it?

I am perfectly content to read people's web sites and accept the ads when they are presented in a meaningful and non-insulting way. Several web sites seem to do just fine by saying, at the end of a review of a product or service, "If you liked this article please get a burger at Joe's place." I drew my line years ago. Should I rubberneck all the billboards on the highway, even though they distract me from what is in my opinion a more important task?

Advertisements are wholly immoral. They lie. If somebody relies on an immoral means for generating revenue, then they are fair game.

False. You'd make a good Scientologist. That is not even remotely how morality works.


Believe me, I know how morality works. It is a subjective thing. For you, serving ads might be morally acceptable. For me, viewing them is not.

And on the immorality of ads, they are not merely informational tidbits about a product. Many claim that they will work some sort of magic that is not even remotely achievable and therefore are lies. Many more insinuate themselves into your mind in ways that people who are not specialists in the field can not believe. I am bombarded with enough bullshit when I wander around in the world. I do not need it in my castle.

And Lupus, you have neatly skirted around other people's responses to your query. Do you, or do you not, sit though all television and radio commercials?

Non-sequitur. If the TV stations required of me that I do this as a condition of watching their shows, then the right thing for me to do would be to either start doing that, or not watch TV. This would be a stupid move on their part, but that doesn't mean it's OK to take advantage of their stupidity. Currently, TV stations do not require this. Currently, Ars requires ad-blockers to be turned off.


Ars "requires" this? They say they do, but I doubt they have any authority under the law to enforce their wild statements. If I say you must suck my cock in order to ensure that your water is not poisoned, will you buy it?

By the way, television stations obviously work on the same ad model as web sites. They might not attempt to semi-legally force you to agree to one sided "contracts" for tuning your TV to a certain frequency, but they clearly have only one revenue model and that is advertising. So, I will ask again - do you watch all the ads on TV when it's on?

I will retain control over what gets executed or parsed on my machine, and shown to me on my screen over my bandwidth. If sites decide to use extraordinary measures to prevent me from doing so, or decide to paywall their sites, I will not hack into them in order to read their articles. If they are worth it, I will pay. If their model is based on the idea that they can show ads to me, then they are out of luck.
posted by Sukiari at 12:57 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Weirdo said:

Wow, ads are immoral? All ads? I agree that some, or even many ads are immoral, but I fail to see the lie or the immorality in the Lotus ads Ars is currently serving. Oh, it was a straw man? Sorry about that.

If only there were some way to tell what ads were bullshit and which weren't before they loaded and displayed. If there were, then I might agree with your comment. There is not.

Web sites are not likely to mess with the goose that laid the golden egg, and I am under no obligation to eat the curate's egg. So I block the ads.
posted by Sukiari at 1:00 AM on March 8, 2010


Lupus says:

Where did I say that? And please refrain from insulting me!

With all the righteous indignation of a nun who caught you looking up her habit, at the same time saying to me, You'd make a good Scientologist.

Granted, Lupus never said he was consistent.
posted by Sukiari at 1:08 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am bombarded with enough bullshit when I wander around in the world. I do not need it in my castle.

Amen to that.
posted by flabdablet at 1:23 AM on March 8, 2010


This has been a really interesting thread. I have one final question for the people who use ad blockers: do you hope that one day every web user blocks ads? Or do you prefer it the way it is now, where you the 10% get the "commercial web" ad-free and the 90% support it by accepting the ads?

Just to give some rough numbers: in the US the online display advertising market was worth about $7.5bn in 2009. If we say that for every $7.5 made on advertising, $1 was spent on content creation and delivery, then that's $1bn a year of ad-funded content in the US.

Do you ad blockers hope that one day everybody uses an ad blocker and that $1bn of advertisers' cash switches to funding other media that can't be easily adblocked (like e.g. outdoor billboards)? I'm genuinely interested in the answer.
posted by runkelfinker at 1:33 AM on March 8, 2010


Pastabagel wrote: "But let's turn it around: how is the site owner morally justified in allowing their site to be used as a vector for other sites outside of their control to run javascript or flash on my machine? Oh right, they make money doing it."

It's their site. They don't need any moral justification whatsoever to put anything they like on it or, like Metafilter, let other people put anything they like on it. You're always perfectly free not to view it if you don't like it.

furiousxgeorge wrote: "And if people didn't link to them for free they would be out of business, overnight."

Not really. Ars has a pretty regular readership. It's been many years since I've seen any link to Ars Technica's content that I hadn't already seen or wouldn't have seen soon.

They're more akin to Time or the New York Times than some random blog whose readership is almost entirely linked from other sites.

kafziel wrote: "Internet without an adblocker is dangerous"

Internet without an adblocker is only dangerous if you run broken software.

Sukiari wrote: "True. I am under no particular moral or legal obligation to accept whatever somebody is attempting to ram down my throat."

What you don't get is that nobody rammed anything down your throat! You visited the website completely voluntarily. It's not as if your browser just suddenly ended up on the site without any interaction from you.

This whole discussion has become one of those music copying things. Plenty of people illicitly copy music. A large subset of those try to defend it on some moral basis, saying record companies or evil or whatever else. It's all a bunch of fluff attempting to disguise the fact that they just want shit for free, don't want to go to the record store, or whatever else.

If you would find it annoying if some company took some GPL software, modified it, and failed to distribute the changed code with the binary software, you ought to see where the problem is here. That you can do something doesn't make it right.

Not that viewing web pages without their associated advertising is some major moral issue or anything, but arguing that you're in the right when doing so is like arguing you're doing the right thing when you illicitly copy software, music, movies, or whatever else. I don't give a shit if you do it, just don't try to make yourself out to be the victim when somebody asks you to please stop.
posted by wierdo at 1:35 AM on March 8, 2010


Sukiari wrote: "If only there were some way to tell what ads were bullshit and which weren't before they loaded and displayed."

On not-preview, if you're so concerned about ads, why are you visiting ad-supported websites? Nobody forces you to click that link or enter that address in your address bar.

I suspect the answer is that you want the content more than you don't want to view the ads.
posted by wierdo at 1:39 AM on March 8, 2010


If you don't like their ads, don't take their content ads, simple as that.

Fixed it for you.
posted by Sukiari at 1:45 AM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


This has been a really interesting thread. I have one final question for the people who use ad blockers: do you hope that one day every web user blocks ads? Or do you prefer it the way it is now, where you the 10% get the "commercial web" ad-free and the 90% support it by accepting the ads?

Just to give some rough numbers: in the US the online display advertising market was worth about $7.5bn in 2009. If we say that for every $7.5 made on advertising, $1 was spent on content creation and delivery, then that's $1bn a year of ad-funded content in the US.

Do you ad blockers hope that one day everybody uses an ad blocker and that $1bn of advertisers' cash switches to funding other media that can't be easily adblocked (like e.g. outdoor billboards)? I'm genuinely interested in the answer.


Technically, most people treat the computer the same way they treat the TV. I doubt that, unless most mainstream browsers default to a no-ad mode, there will be more than a minority portion of people blocking the ads.

But, in a way, yes, I do hope that everybody blocks all ads. I hope marketing dies as a discipline. People like us, frantically typing in rants on MeFi are creating more interesting stuff than most of the sites that have paid employees. Then we can settle into an internet that is more akin to a tea parlor from the days of yore. If you like my rants and raves, you can sign up for the Sukiari-gone-wild web site which costs money to view, if you please. Or you can do a Dwarf Fortress and throw a dollar or 500 into the tip jar if I amuse you enough that you care.

With paid advertising and content mingled so, it is difficult to determine what level of trust I should afford a site owner. If that is removed from the equation, I only have to analyze you as an individual, without having to consider your business model.
posted by Sukiari at 1:58 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Someone says, "If you take our product, please don't block our ads."
This is not enforced - it uses the honour system.
You say "I will take your product, but block your ads."

How is this ethical?"


What if they said, "If you take our product, please become a member"?!

Ethics simply does not figure in to it, because there is no reasonable assumption on the part of either the site or the vast majority of its audience that this request is expected of them. Rather, it is an attempt at a friendly request, which can be ethically rejected for all sorts of perfectly good reasons.

I know that in the case of LiveJournal, we knew people would, for one reason or another, take our product without paying for it. In fact, we counted on it.

The fact is, most of the people who paid for LiveJournal were once free users. Most had been free users for about five months or so on average before deciding to become paid members.

One of the really basic lessons of sales in any industry is that "making the sale" is based on creating and building a relationship with your customer. That's what leads to "closing the deal". It's silly to think that every first-time user of a website will immediately want to go out of their way for a site they have no relationship with or feelings for. That's why there are a lot of sites out there with limited or trial accounts.

Likewise, just because you have those who are long-term free users, that doesn't mean that they are a bunch of leeches.

There are good reasons that a forteen-year-old who uses a journal to talk about their personal life with friends can't go to their parents and ask to use their credit card to pay, just as there were good reasons that your average person in India or Russia might not be able to do so as well. These are people who *might* pay one day, but who most certainly can contribute to the success of the site on some level, through their support, their evangelism, their content, or even through their direct assistance. Some of the most active developers LiveJournal had in its earliest days were Russian members of the site.

Attracting free users can create real value for your business. Considering how important LJ has been in Russian journalism and politics, where even President Medvedev has a video blog, and considering that the site was eventually bought by a Russian company, it's really hard to argue that supporting millions of Russian leeches was a bad business decision.

Free access means growth, new users, potential new customers, new content, and new opportunities. If you give people something that they value for free, and if they listen to you and your feedback, don't be surprised if they come to value that relationship more than someone who spams them or asks for their money upfront.

If you create a website and want your customers or readers to support you, it's *your* job to listen to, build trust, and communicate with your customers, and to convince them to want to support you. If they visit your site one day and find that they've been blocked from accessing it without warning or user feedback, as we saw with Ars, that's pretty much the opposite of building a relationship with your customers. That's damage control, plain and simple.

If you're like me, you don't let your ad blocker down for any site without a damn good reason. If a site blocked you without warning and without caring what their users felt about such a draconian policy, isn't it perfectly normal to wonder whether they'll *really* care enough about their customers to screen all the ads they allow, making sure that only safe advertisers are allowed in the future?

Trust begets trust. Ars has only now come to realize that fact, and they still have work to do to rebuild lost trust. They most certainly have *not* closed the deal.
posted by markkraft at 2:00 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


What you don't get is that nobody rammed anything down your throat! You visited the website completely voluntarily. It's not as if your browser just suddenly ended up on the site without any interaction from you.

This whole discussion has become one of those music copying things. Plenty of people illicitly copy music. A large subset of those try to defend it on some moral basis, saying record companies or evil or whatever else. It's all a bunch of fluff attempting to disguise the fact that they just want shit for free, don't want to go to the record store, or whatever else.

If you would find it annoying if some company took some GPL software, modified it, and failed to distribute the changed code with the binary software, you ought to see where the problem is here. That you can do something doesn't make it right.

Not that viewing web pages without their associated advertising is some major moral issue or anything, but arguing that you're in the right when doing so is like arguing you're doing the right thing when you illicitly copy software, music, movies, or whatever else. I don't give a shit if you do it, just don't try to make yourself out to be the victim when somebody asks you to please stop.


I am not a victim. I take measures to ensure that my eyes and ears and brain are not victimized.

I am also not obligated to accept ads with other datastreams. The solution for the web sites is simple - paywall or deal.

Then there is the concept of drive-by malware. What site has offered to pay a victim for their error? Sure, I fired the gun, BUT I DIDN'T MAKE THE BULLETS!
posted by Sukiari at 2:06 AM on March 8, 2010


I suspect the answer is that you want the content more than you don't want to view the ads.

I think you have it surrounded!
posted by Sukiari at 2:07 AM on March 8, 2010


I have one final question for the people who use ad blockers: do you hope that one day every web user blocks ads?

Speaking for myself, I really don't care what the ad industry does. I will ignore whatever advertisements I want, whenever I want. If there is a tool available that will make it easier for me to do so, I will use it. If not, then I will ignore them to the best of my ability, and punish those businesses whose advertisements annoy me by not using their goods and services.
posted by moonbiter at 2:10 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess I forgot the irony tag on my last post.
posted by Sukiari at 2:17 AM on March 8, 2010


You always hurt
The sites you love
The sites
You shouldn't hurt
At all

You always block
Their blinking ads
Block them
Until teardrops fall
posted by fixedgear at 2:30 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's strange how morality tends to drift over time.

I bet five years ago if anyone had announced with a straight face that there was a moral obligation not to block ads, practically the entire internet would have ruptured themselves from laughing. That this responsible and prudent contraceptive measure is going to result in Killing the Internet is hyperbole worthy of the Catholic Church: "You're aborting potential click-throughs! It's God's Will that you download this Flash animation! How could this meek and innocent banner advert be evil?"

It's 2010 and amateur casuists are actually committing brain-power to arguing this with enough Jesuitical hair-splitting to make Ignatius of Loyola proud.

What's the next five years going to bring? Am I going to be sitting here with my jaw on the floor (again) because someone has suggested in all seriousness that because I saw some advertising, I owe the advertiser?
posted by Ritchie at 2:30 AM on March 8, 2010 [8 favorites]



Not really. Ars has a pretty regular readership. It's been many years since I've seen any link to Ars Technica's content that I hadn't already seen or wouldn't have seen soon.

They're more akin to Time or the New York Times than some random blog whose readership is almost entirely linked from other sites.


You seriously think those sites get more regular readers than random folks from links? How more out of touch with reality could you be?

If it was so they could easily switch to a subscriber model.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:41 AM on March 8, 2010


I am genuinely sorry that their business model, IT HAS CANCER. But you know, nobody promised them CERTAIN CASH or that they would find earning advertising RATES A CINCH. ARSE CHAT INC isn't the first company to find a CATCH ARISEN in their business model. ARCHAIC NETS like I CACHE RANTS will have to act like other obsolete business CHAINS: TRACE out a new model and hope that it CHARTS A NICE course towards A RICH ASCENT.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:18 AM on March 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


I have one final question for the people who use ad blockers: do you hope that one day every web user blocks ads? Or do you prefer it the way it is now, where you the 10% get the "commercial web" ad-free and the 90% support it by accepting the ads?

Never mind the "commercial web"; I yearn for an ad-free planet. I hope that one day, irritating, intrusive, unsolicited advertising will disappear from the face of the earth, to be replaced with something more like the Yellow Pages and less like an animated billboard placed atop a major road intersection.

I agree that this is incredibly unlikely to happen.

Until it does, though, I intend to do my level best to ignore and/or block unsolicited sales pitches, in whatever form they attempt to present themselves. If other people choose to object less strenuously, as I'm sure they will, that's just something I'll have to live with.

The idea that those of us who object to the advertising we experience as intrusive and distracting noise, and therefore fit our browsers with ad blockers, constitute some kind of slippery slope toward the Death of Commercial Media has about as much validity as a claim that more doctors smoke Camels. It seems to me that only those who are truly naive enough to believe that all-pervasive advertising has no deleterious effect on their judgment could possibly give it a moment's credence.
posted by flabdablet at 3:23 AM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Am I going to be sitting here with my jaw on the floor (again) because someone has suggested in all seriousness that because I saw some advertising, I owe the advertiser?

We're very nearly there. When was the last day you didn't walk past several people proudly displaying their ability to pay a considerable premium for the privilege of advertising the manufacturer of their clothes, shoes, eyewear and/or luggage?
posted by flabdablet at 3:30 AM on March 8, 2010


This has to have been one of the funniest threads I have seen on MeFi. I sorely hope when I come back tomorrow and refresh this page, it's twice as long as it was tonight.
posted by Sukiari at 3:40 AM on March 8, 2010


runkelfinker: So your bandwidth is precious? What about the website publisher's? You're probably on an "all you can eat" bandwidth deal - trust me, they're not on an "all they can serve" bandwidth deal.

If their bandwidth is precious, maybe they should consider not hosting quite so much content?
posted by Dysk at 4:29 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


My dad used to tear out the ad pages from the magazines he bought. He thought that they were intrusive and detracted from his reading experience. I understand that by some modern standards he should have been banned from buying magazines altogether.
What next? Whining that users/readers are blinking during ads and force them to use lid clamps?
posted by elgilito at 4:30 AM on March 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


What you don't get is that nobody rammed anything down your throat! You visited the website completely voluntarily. It's not as if your browser just suddenly ended up on the site without any interaction from you.

You seem to be treating the internet like Outside. They are different. Ads are being rammed down my throat - I chose to direct my browser to a certain site, and then I will probably choose to download the assets from that site. I might not choose to download the assets on other sites that are also referenced, and if my browser just did this for me automatically (as they do, by default), I would be in a situation where my browser ended up interacting with the ad site without any interaction from me.
posted by Dysk at 4:57 AM on March 8, 2010


Hell, here's a suitably ridiculous (yet apt) analogy:

Consider web content (or a webpage) like an airfix kit. It comes unassembled. You then assemble it, to get to see a miniature plane or whatever. Would you honestly argue that it'd be morally wrong not to put the manufacturer's logo decals on the wings?
posted by Dysk at 5:09 AM on March 8, 2010


No, because you have paid for the kit already. What if the only way for the kit manufacturer right now was for a decal printer to know that its decals were on the plane?
posted by patricio at 6:08 AM on March 8, 2010


*...only way for the kit manufacturer to make money...

I appreciate that this may not be the only way for the kit manufacturer to make money(subscribe to my crappy magazine at this cheap intro price and get three models free...), but it is the way that this manufacturer has done, and you know this when you get the kit.
posted by patricio at 6:10 AM on March 8, 2010


"I have one final question for the people who use ad blockers: do you hope that one day every web user blocks ads? Or do you prefer it the way it is now, where you the 10% get the 'commercial web' ad-free and the 90% support it by accepting the ads?"

I don't really have an opinion on this though I reject the hypothesis that content is only available because of ads. So I guess I'm in the latter camp officially. WebMasters are free to serve what ever they want on port 80. Users, including me, are able to look at that data however we want but are no more obligated to look at everything served up on 80 than they are obligated to look at everything served on port 20 or 119. And in fact one of the central tenents of HTML is that users be able to control how a site looks seperate from the content being delivered.
posted by Mitheral at 7:25 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I used Adblock on Firefox. I didn't think I relied on it much, but when I switched to Chrome and suddenly there were ads everywhere, I quickly found the extension for Chrome.

(Now I'm back to thinking that I don't rely on it.)
posted by yeti at 7:35 AM on March 8, 2010


Several people have equated ad blocking to cutting ads out of newspaper before reading. Newspaper clipping services are not only available in real life but are 100% legal. Normally of course they are directed to clients looking for specific subjects but if you think of a newspaper as a web site and each article as a web page then when I go to Ars to read an article on say the iPad with an ad blocker enabled I'm not doing anything different than paying a clipping service to send me an article, sans ads, in the New York Times on the iPad. Except in the latter case I'm paying a wage slave and in the former I'm directing my little silicon slave to do it.

Admittedly the latter would only be available to the rich on a regular basis but I love how computers are a great equalizer.
posted by Mitheral at 7:37 AM on March 8, 2010


Am I going to be sitting here with my jaw on the floor (again) because someone has suggested in all seriousness that because I saw some advertising, I owe the advertiser?

That's certainly the position of Ars. That because the ads are based on counting views, unlike other advertising, so if you don't look at it, you're stealing that view.
posted by smackfu at 7:37 AM on March 8, 2010


though I reject the hypothesis that content is only available because of ads

I didn't say that content is only available because of ads - obviously there are plenty of other business models out there [get your MetaFilter t-shirt here]. In my comment I said that it's pretty clear that there's at least $1bn a year from online advertisers which directly funds content on US web sites. If everybody ran an ad blocker, advertisers would take that $1bn and spend it on other media, like building lots more outdoor billboards (good luck blocking those).

I don't think there's anything particularly controversial in what I said - it's the logical end-game of ad blocking online. My question was just, is the excision of that funding channel from the web something that the current ad blockers would like to see? And from some of the antediluvian replies I got ("we can settle into an internet that is more akin to a tea parlor from the days of yore"), it seems that it is.
posted by runkelfinker at 7:50 AM on March 8, 2010


Am I going to be sitting here with my jaw on the floor (again) because someone has suggested in all seriousness that because I saw some advertising, I owe the advertiser?

That's certainly the position of Ars. That because the ads are based on counting views, unlike other advertising, so if you don't look at it, you're stealing that view.


That's the reverse of Ars' position. They are saying, please pay us for the content we produce, and BTW, instead of paying with cash money instead you can pay by allowing these ads to be served. You ar edescribing one possible reaction from the advertisers themselves, but that's not really what's being discussed here.
posted by patricio at 8:07 AM on March 8, 2010


As an ad-blocker, I'd like for people arguing against ad-blockers to argue their point honestly. I'd like for you to take me at my word when I say:

"I will never, ever buy anything from an advertisement. Ever."

Almost all of the pro-ad arguments hinge on disbelief of this fact.

"Surely he only means some ads, or most ads, or almost all ads... but surely there's that one magical ad for the product that only he wants that will force him to consider buying it. SURELY!!!"

No, there isn't. There never will be. I learned this years ago and save myself any trouble by installing and using adblock on every site. I use every means possible to avoid advertisement in all forms, because it makes the same mistake that your arguments do - it insults me by claiming that my position is a lie.

I will not buy your advertised product. If you happen to already enjoy monetary compensation from advertisements that's wholly and completely irrelevant to my interaction with the ads.
posted by odinsdream at 8:10 AM on March 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Someone says, "If you take our product, please don't block our ads."
This is not enforced - it uses the honour system.
You say "I will take your product, but block your ads."

How is this ethical?"


No. No.

Someone says, "We have some content that we are willing to give away to some users (text browsers) with no expectation of remuneration. We have never discussed this content with you - you may or may not find it interesting, and it may or may not be of high quality. There are no agreed upon norms for the exchange of like content. There are no laws governing your obligations with respect to the consumption of this content. Nor are there any consistent social standards for the expectation of remuneration for such content (indeed, competitors give away similar content for free). Further to this, we have contracted with people we barely know who are generating additional content that neither your nor I have vetted, and which may or may not be abusive or offensive to you (and even if we try to vet it some of it ends up abusive or offensive anyway, though we always fix that problem eventually!). This additional content is created by a committee of individuals trained in how to precisely manipulate emotional cues, negative stereotypes, and cognitive biases to create desire and shame in you. Even though no serious bystander would possibly think that this additional content will be of any benefit to you, its presentation will make us money and we are willing to predicate our gain on your being manipulated. And just so you know, you don't by default have any say in the matter - we're sending this extra stuff along with our product whether or not you want it. So now that we've preemptively decided on the nature of our relationship with you, we're asking you to acquiesce to our continuing to do to so in the future. And if you don't do so you we'll call you a thief [I know Ars did not say this, but so many others seem to think it's a valid point]."

Somehow that doesn't strike me as a situation where the ethics of my response is in the forefront.
posted by mister-o at 8:16 AM on March 8, 2010 [12 favorites]


Nothing in any of that goes any distance towards establishing that there is a relevant difference between computers and television with regards to advertising.
I think this has been explained. Ads can damage computers, either by temporarily degrading their performance, or semi-permanently by installing crapware. A computer with adblock is a computer that's less likely to be damaged by malignant advertising.

As for the moral argument, what ethical system are you using here? utilitarianim? ethical egoism? ethical altruism People using different ethical systems would probably arrive at different answers, so without specifying which ethical framework you're using it isn't really possible to say that act X is "immoral".

If you say "not viewing the ads is immoral because you implicitly agree to view the ads when you hit the page" That begs the question? Do you really implicitly make that agreement? And more importantly, is it actually immoral to break an implicit agreement? Does the morality of the agreement itself come into play?

If the ads are misleading, or dangerous is it moral to display them? All advertising is based in part on deception.

Secondly, in the real world people do things that theoretically immoral all the time. So who cares?
posted by delmoi at 8:20 AM on March 8, 2010


I'm absolutely not buying (ha!) the argument that if I want to read something on a website, I have to accept whatever shitty/disruptive/destructive ads they blare at me, and that if I don't, I'm an immoral jerk who steals.

But I do want to support sites that I like, and I want to be able to send them a message about how I do that.

So I'm going to try an experiment. I've disabled Adblock, but kept flashblock. We'll see how this goes.
posted by rtha at 8:41 AM on March 8, 2010


I suppose I have a "moral obligation" to give money to mimes I see on the street, too.

I laugh and I laugh and I laugh at that very thought.

Good luck with your morality argument there, lupusboy. It's inane and incorrect and fruitless, but you just keep worrying that idea like a dog with a chewtoy. Honestly, best of luck You're going to need it.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:07 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Surely he only means some ads, or most ads, or almost all ads... but surely there's that one magical ad for the product that only he wants that will force him to consider buying it. SURELY!!!"

No, there isn't. There never will be. I learned this years ago and save myself any trouble by installing and using adblock on every site. I use every means possible to avoid advertisement in all forms, because it makes the same mistake that your arguments do - it insults me by claiming that my position is a lie.


I usually go one step beyond this. If you're persistent enough as an advertiser that you manage to evade my countermeasures, I will blacklist your company for as long as I remember your ad. The more obnoxious, the more stupid your ad impression is, the longer you will be blackballed. There are companies that I will never buy from again for this very reason.
posted by DreamerFi at 9:07 AM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


mister-o: I think that's a pretty good summary (apart from the first sentence where it might be more accurate to say that those users are so small a segment of total visitors that they are being cross-subsidised).

On the other hand, once you know that's what a website is saying to you, what does it mean if you go back to it? It would seem like a tacit acceptance of those terms to visit again.
posted by patricio at 9:13 AM on March 8, 2010


Here's an early result of my flashblock-only experiment:

On the home page of my local paper, flashblock tells me it's blocked an ad that runs above the top three stories/photos. If I want to click on one of those stories, hovering over tells me that the URL is actually that of the flashblocked ad. If I click on what appears to be a link to the story, the ad unfurls (it's for Staples) and covers the top third of the page. When I close the ad, I am then allowed to click on the link for the story.

This. Is. Bullshit. This is exactly the kind of disruptive and deceptive behavior that encourages so many of us to run adblockers. And I may re-enable it specifically for sfgate.
posted by rtha at 9:17 AM on March 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I suppose I have a "moral obligation" to give money to mimes I see on the street, too.

A street mime's business model is that out of the number of people who view their performance some percentage will give money. It's not a "moral obligation" to give them money if you happen to see them on the street, and not even if you simply watch and enjoy their performance, but if you spend a good amount of time enjoying what they do, and then you not only don't give them money but you loudly dismiss anyone who gives as rubes to the power of some outmoded structure then, yeah, you are not really walking in the light, as far as I am concerned.

I think we've reached (long ago) the point in this discussion where nobody is willing to give an inch. Regardless of the worth of any point. I think it is clear that the ad system is broken, that ads suck, and that lots of ads are intrusive. I also think it is clear that the business model for lots of sites includes the viewing of ads and that if that revenue stream goes away so will those sites.

Again, I'm not crazy about ads, but I'm less crazy about there not being an economically feasible way to fund content on the internet.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:27 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]



On the other hand, once you know that's what a website is saying to you, what does it mean if you go back to it? It would seem like a tacit acceptance of those terms to visit again.


In no way am I comparing the severity or societal impact of the two scenarios, but contrast: "Once a wife knows that a husband is beating her, what does it mean if she doesn't leave him? It would seem like a tacit acceptance of those terms to stick around."
posted by mister-o at 9:32 AM on March 8, 2010


"If everybody ran an ad blocker, advertisers would take that $1bn and spend it on other media, like building lots more outdoor billboards (good luck blocking those).

"I don't think there's anything particularly controversial in what I said - it's the logical end-game of ad blocking online. My question was just, is the excision of that funding channel from the web something that the current ad blockers would like to see?"


Honestly if everyone ran an ad blocker and that actually resulted in the complete withdrawal of ad marketing dollars from the internet and specifically the web I think the web would be a better place.

Doesn't seem like likely to happen though. People as a group like advertising, at least a little. The two Honda ads Sense and Cog each garnered 20+ comments when they were posted to the front page. See also the spectacle of super bowl ads and the apparently profitable existence of home shopping channels. The latter especially; who the heck watches that channel? It's 100% ad. And yet you'd be hard pressed to find a cable system without at least one. And people already bypass via white-listing ad blockers they actually had to go out and install. I can't see that behaviour changing even if ad blockers were the default.
posted by Mitheral at 9:35 AM on March 8, 2010


I suppose I have a "moral obligation" to give money to mimes I see on the street, too. I laugh and I laugh and I laugh at that very thought. Good luck with your morality argument there, lupusboy. It's inane and incorrect and fruitless, but you just keep worrying that idea like a dog with a chewtoy. Honestly, best of luck You're going to need it.

That's another fairly poor analogy - of course you wouldn't owe a street performer anything if you encountered them on your way to work if it wasn't your intention to do so (I doubt the websites you frequent are as random as that). However, if you went to the corner of Smith and First to eat your lunch at noon every day specifically because you knew that a busker who kicked ass played there at that time, no, you still wouldn't be financially beholden to the guy, but if you enjoyed his playing and wanted to make sure he didn't pack up and move to Grant and Eighth, it'd be in your interests to make it worth his while to stick around.

I don't much care about where people other than myself stand on the issue, but it would be nice if they could cut down on the specious crap arguments, even if it meant a reduction in their zinger output.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:35 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I block ads because I'm on dialup. Flash ads bog down sites and cause them to take too long to load. Just to log into Yahoo email or Ebay can take up to a half-hour, all because of ads. If I like a site enough to pay for subscription to avoid ads, then I'll pay. Otherwise, ads are worthless.
posted by cass at 9:36 AM on March 8, 2010


mister-o: I don't see the comparison (and find the fact you made it somewhere between offputting and vaguely offensive).
posted by patricio at 9:43 AM on March 8, 2010


Unless God told us to host ads on our browser, this is not a moral issue. And trying to moralize it is a convenient way to bully somebody into doing something they don't want to do, and should always be suspect.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:48 AM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you're persistent enough as an advertiser that you manage to evade my countermeasures, I will blacklist your company for as long as I remember your ad.

Let's broaden this out a little bit: if you make it clear through your site's UI that you regard readers as little more than disembodied clicks and pageviews for the benefit of ad revenue calculations, then you've already ceded much of the moral highground.

(The Ars model is not that dissimilar from the tactics of warez FTP operators back in the day who sent you off to click fifteen banners before handing over the real login credentials.)

If a link or search result takes me to Ars or a similar gear-enthusiast site, I'm not going to back away. But I'm not going to decide to visit those sites without prompting, because I already know what they think of me as a reader.
posted by holgate at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2010


patricio: The example intends to show that participation/presence does not eo ipso entail consent or any other kind of binding relationship, absent some antecedent agreement. I apologize for using such a charged example.
posted by mister-o at 10:19 AM on March 8, 2010


As an ad-blocker, I'd like for people arguing against ad-blockers to argue their point honestly. I'd like for you to take me at my word when I say:

"I will never, ever buy anything from an advertisement. Ever."

Almost all of the pro-ad arguments hinge on disbelief of this fact.


What are you talking about?

Anyway, the difference between ignoring television ads and blocking web ads is obviously that the advertisers in the second case know when you are doing it and punish the content providers for it, even as you benefit from their content. If I accept web ads but pay them no attention, I don't consider it, as people have suggested here, some kind of shadowy collusion between me and the website to defraud the stupid advertiser. The advertisers cannot purchase anybody's actual attention, anyway, just the opportunity to get a crack at it. And yes, fuck them, but if a little light pretending helps out a site that I like, then I'm willing, and that doesn't make me some ad-loving drone-sheep with something to sell. I mean, that couldn't be less true.

And to be clear, pretty much everyone totally objects to the nature of most online advertising, which is hideous, deceptive and obnoxious, as well as potentially malicious. Personally, I don't even begrudge anybody their adblocking software, not really. I just find the hostility towards the idea of people's wish to be paid for their work online really and hard to understand.

On preview, Astro Zombie, I don't know if this is a moral issue, but if people are treating it as such, can we please assume it's because they really see it that way and not simply to be evil?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:35 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just find the hostility towards the idea of people's wish to be paid for their work online really and hard to understand.

Ooh, what happened there? Let's just say I don't get the hate for people who are just trying to get paid once in a while.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:38 AM on March 8, 2010


A street mime's business model is that out of the number of people who view their performance some percentage will give money. It's not a "moral obligation" to give them money if you happen to see them on the street, and not even if you simply watch and enjoy their performance, but if you spend a good amount of time enjoying what they do, and then you not only don't give them money but you loudly dismiss anyone who gives as rubes to the power of some outmoded structure then, yeah, you are not really walking in the light, as far as I am concerned.

I think we've reached (long ago) the point in this discussion where nobody is willing to give an inch. Regardless of the worth of any point. I think it is clear that the ad system is broken, that ads suck, and that lots of ads are intrusive. I also think it is clear that the business model for lots of sites includes the viewing of ads and that if that revenue stream goes away so will those sites.

Again, I'm not crazy about ads, but I'm less crazy about there not being an economically feasible way to fund content on the internet.


This is where I stand/have stood in this thread, dirtdirt, but it's not a position that's getting listened to. I wish that the dozen people sneering about moral obligations would take it a little more seriously, but I do not have magic powers.
posted by Kwine at 10:48 AM on March 8, 2010


I just find the hostility towards the idea of people's wish to be paid for their work online really and hard to understand.

The key is that I have no problem with other people paying for it for me. Namely the people who don't know enough to use adblockers.
posted by smackfu at 10:52 AM on March 8, 2010


I adblock and flashblock. I am also a content generator. I designed and help maintain a small local news website; everyone else who writes for it are also volunteers. Our goal is to someday be able to sell ads for local businesses, and we have some interested businesses already. When we do, we will serve them from our own site, not by contracting with an ad server like Doubleclick (may they burn in hell). They will never, ever be animated or generate sound. They will fit with the aesthetic of the site and in this way I hope they will not offend people enough to add them to their adblock list.

I think what’s being forgotten is that Adblocker came about as a response to the annoying, loud, and deceptive (YOU WON!) flashing banner ads of the earlier internet. And those ads are still out there, though fortunately I see almost none of them. I hope that the poor advertisers whose ads are quiet and unoffensive will remember who it was that made us all so pissed off about online advertising in the first place, and when they see them at whatever conventions they both attend, will sock the dancing monkey people right in the face for ruining it for everyone.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 10:55 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know what I would like to see? I would like to see Microsoft release the next version of Internet Explorer with ad blocking turned on by default.

This is exactly how the Internet (mostly) got rid of popup and popunder advertising. X10 is still in business.
posted by toxic at 11:15 AM on March 8, 2010


I think I have a solution for Ars that will satisfy both sides of the argument without having to put up a paywall: they should start distributing all of their content as PDF files, replete with ads on every page.

This will allow the Adblock side to keep running Adblock without raising the ire of the unethical-to-block side, and as far as I know there isn't a mechanism for Adobe Reader or the other popular PDF viewers to remove specific content from documents, so readers would have no choice but to view them. There wouldn't be a way for Ars to track page views, but they could sell document-wide campaigns (akin to the site-wide campaigns that many gaming-oriented sites use), or they could switch to a pay-per-click model.

Of course, PDFs suck in all kinds of ways for onscreen reading, and many users wouldn't bother to download them. But that's exactly what Ars is saying they want, right? Users who value their content enough to tolerate the attendant hassles of accessing it?
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 11:17 AM on March 8, 2010


[user was fined for this post], I don't think they're interested in solutions, compromises or changes. That or they are supremely uncreative, because there are a ton of ways they could advertise within the content of the article, or otherwise try to get you to buy something without using ads that can be blocked by adblock.
posted by cashman at 11:29 AM on March 8, 2010


"I will never, ever buy anything from an advertisement. Ever."

Almost all of the pro-ad arguments hinge on disbelief of this fact.

What are you talking about?


My apologies if I wasn't clear. What I am saying is that people who argue that my ad-blocking behaviour is somehow immoral have an argument that it ultimately based on the utility of advertisements themselves.

This means that you believe an ad will cause at least some people to actually buy the product advertised.

Having agreed on the utility of advertising, we can further agree that people who absolutely refuse to buy from advertisements would have no impact on the ads. Therefore, their blocking of the advertisements is completely irrelevant.

Since people clearly think it is not fine, they do not genuinely believe people who claim to refuse to buy from advertisements.

We also mix our reasoning in this discussion, because we're talking about specific people but we're also taking about herd mentality. Ads aren't presented to specific people, they're presented to groups based on demographics or other factors. Ads are consumed individually, however.
posted by odinsdream at 11:45 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, I take that back about Ars. I guess I didn't read the article well enough, because at the end, their position seems to be a "adblock if you want, just think about not doing it" one: "So I'll end this part of the discussion by just reiterating my point: blocking ads hurts the sites you love. Please consider not blocking ads on those sites."
posted by cashman at 11:46 AM on March 8, 2010


Unless God told us to host ads on our browser, this is not a moral issue.

I don't think that's an especially useful guide for determining morality or ethics. You could cross out "host ads on our browser" and replace it with all sorts of things that are clearly, for most people, moral and ethical concerns.

What I am saying is that people who argue that my ad-blocking behaviour is somehow immoral have an argument that it ultimately based on the utility of advertisements themselves.

I don't see that at all. I'm a pretty firm believer in the general uselessness of internet advertising. The arguments that I'm reading in this thread don't depend on the effectiveness of those ads. They're simply stating that, if a publisher on the internet asks you not to disable ads in exchange for otherwise free content, you should honor his request if you view the content. That, on its face, doesn't seem like an unreasonable request, setting aside the concerns of bandwidth and malware. The publisher gets paid for page views, and it doesn't matter to the publisher whether you actually click on the ads in this case. Ultimately, of course, if the ineffectiveness of online ads can ever be clearly demonstrated, the publisher will presumably need a new business model, but in the here-and-now the publisher just wants to be able to charge the advertiser for the page view.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:14 PM on March 8, 2010


I think I have a solution for Ars that will satisfy both sides of the argument without having to put up a paywall: they should start distributing all of their content as PDF files, replete with ads on every page.

I have zero doubt that the next step in that battle will be some sort of development which will allow popunder/overs, and flashing loud annoying moving expandable crap in PDFs. I'm comfortable with saying "mark my words" on that, too. A quick look back at the history of advertising on the internet is all you need to look forward.
posted by nevercalm at 12:24 PM on March 8, 2010


Thanks for the clarification, odinsdream - but I think me & my monkey has it. I'm sure web ads don't work on you, or really any sensible person, but it doesn't matter. All that matters is that advertisers are willing to pay sites to display them, and that it's then up to readers and their adblockers to decide whether that actually happens.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:29 PM on March 8, 2010


Having agreed on the utility of advertising, we can further agree that people who absolutely refuse to buy from advertisements would have no impact on the ads. Therefore, their blocking of the advertisements is completely irrelevant.
-odinsdream

From the second paragraph in the Ars editoral:
There is an oft-stated misconception that if a user never clicks on ads, then blocking them won't hurt a site financially. This is wrong. Most sites, at least sites the size of ours, are paid on a per view basis. If you have an ad blocker running, and you load 10 pages on the site, you consume resources from us (bandwidth being only one of them), but provide us with no revenue.

Ars is not asking that you buy anything. Ars is not asking that you click on anything. They're not even asking that you look at anything (if you notice, ads and content don't share the same space). They're simply asking that you let the ads load so that they can get paid.

I'm not at all against AdBlock, but I also think Ars is being completely reasonable here. As someone who doesn't use AdBlock, I also think Ars is clearly one of the good guys. Their ads don't annoy or get in the way, and as their creative director commented:
"Ars is built in such a way that a slow ad cannot hold up the rest of the page."
posted by SAC at 12:31 PM on March 8, 2010


setting aside the concerns of bandwidth and malware.

But this is a big concern, as are those ads that spread out over a third of your screen when you don't even ask them to - or when you're clicking on what you think is a link to a story, but turns out to be the URL for an ad.

Ars doesn't run these kinds of ads, and that's great. But they're among a tiny minority of internet sites that don't, and until those sites stop sending me blinky-flashy-real-estate-grabbing-malware-giving shite, I can't feel bad about using adblock/flashblock to ignore that content.
posted by rtha at 12:39 PM on March 8, 2010


"Their ads don't annoy or get in the way..."

I find their animated ads annoying (I just went and looked at the main page with a non-adblocked browser). Not as bad as some, but definitely bothersome.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 12:41 PM on March 8, 2010


cashman, while I would be interested in having the PDF discussion as a different approach the larger issue, it wasn't an entirely serious suggestion on my part. The "solution" I proposed was more of a (perhaps unsuccessful) effort to obliquely highlight the flaws in an assumption I'm noticing here: that a website can maintain a viable business by continually annoying its users, and that users can be expected to continue being annoyed voluntarily out of a sense of devotion.

I probably should have added a HAMBURGER, but frankly, my half-serious suggestion makes a lot more sense than others that have been offered here in all seriousness, such as the "switch to Linux, risk malware, or get off the internet" solution.

Anyway, I agree with your statement that Ars isn't interested in solutions or changes. The basic attitude expressed in the article boils down to, "We've been doing it this way for 12 years, and if it's no longer working it's because our users are killing the site." It's as if, like members of other content industries, they're completely oblivious to the ways in which the world is changing around them.

nevercalm, I'm sure you're right, but I don't think a site like Ars that publishes several times daily would really be able to use PDFs. We might see it more for online versions of periodicals, however, and I certainly don't trust Adobe to protect their users from the kind of garbage you've predicted. (Hopefully the makers of Foxit, Preview and so forth would be more user-focused.)
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 12:46 PM on March 8, 2010


I just find the hostility towards the idea of people's wish to be paid for their work online really and hard to understand.

Because putting information on a website is an invitation for other people to link to it, download it to their computer, and read it. That's what a webpage is. And has been since long before anyone got it into their head that they ought to get paid for making a web page.

I was here first, and I'm not gonna let someone sell my eyeballs to an advertiser just because they put information on a webpage and I clicked on a link and read it. That's not the way the web works and if they don't like it, they can get their own medium. Publish that information in a magazine and try to sell it to me.
posted by straight at 1:05 PM on March 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't think that's an especially useful guide for determining morality or ethics. You could cross out "host ads on our browser" and replace it with all sorts of things that are clearly, for most people, moral and ethical concerns.

There is a world of difference between moral and ethics. Which are we talking about? Because I refuse to discuss whether or not I load ads onto my browser as a moral issue.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:17 PM on March 8, 2010


But (bandwidth and malware are) a big concern, as are those ads that spread out over a third of your screen when you don't even ask them to - or when you're clicking on what you think is a link to a story, but turns out to be the URL for an ad.

Ars doesn't run these kinds of ads, and that's great. But they're among a tiny minority of internet sites that don't, and until those sites stop sending me blinky-flashy-real-estate-grabbing-malware-giving shite, I can't feel bad about using adblock/flashblock to ignore that content.


But that bypasses the actual question. Ars isn't asking you to stop using adblock or flashblock generally. They're asking you to stop using them with their site specifically. Do you feel that's a legitimate request? Clearly, you don't have to. On the other hand, they don't have to give you content. And eventually, I suspect that the delivery model will change to enforce their request - there are plenty of relatively easy technical solutions to make ads unhideable and unremovable.

There is a world of difference between moral and ethics.

Really? I'd genuinely appreciate a clear distinction between the two, if you can draw one that doesn't include morality as a component or subset of ethics.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:29 PM on March 8, 2010


setting aside the concerns of bandwidth and malware

Unfortunately these can not just be set aside. Curate's egg and all that.
posted by Sukiari at 1:48 PM on March 8, 2010


flabdablet wrote: "Until it does, though, I intend to do my level best to ignore and/or block unsolicited sales pitches"

I argue that when you visit a website or watch a television show which you know contain advertising, you solicited said advertising. It is only unsolicited when somehow they manage to hijack your browser into displaying a website you didn't intend for your browser to display, or they somehow manage to force your television to tune to an ad-supported television station.

flabdablet wrote: "It seems to me that only those who are truly naive enough to believe that all-pervasive advertising has no deleterious effect on their judgment"

Strangely, there is essentially nothing I buy that I've ever seen an advertisement for. I don't buy things on the basis of advertisement. I buy them based on their merits. For example, when I go buy fast food, I buy the fast food that I think will be the least revolting at that point in time. It's got nothing to do with ads. Neither did my laptop, my television, my amplifier, my video game console, or anything else. I bought the item I desired based on its merits.

Brother Dysk wrote: "I chose to direct my browser to a certain site, and then I will probably choose to download the assets from that site. I might not choose to download the assets on other sites that are also referenced, and if my browser just did this for me automatically (as they do, by default), I would be in a situation where my browser ended up interacting with the ad site without any interaction from me."

If you are some time traveler from the year 1995, I might believe you had no idea that your precious browser was going to download images/flash/whatever from an ad server somewhere. That you use an ad blocker is a strong indication that is not the case. You know exactly what will happen when you click on that link or type that address in your address bar.

odinsdream wrote: "Almost all of the pro-ad arguments hinge on disbelief of this fact."

No, my argument has nothing to do with whether you'll actually look at the ad if it were there in your browser. I certainly don't, unless I'm specifically looking for it for some reason (like to see whether ads served on a particular site contain lies).

delmoi wrote: "I think this has been explained. Ads can damage computers, either by temporarily degrading their performance, or semi-permanently by installing crapware. A computer with adblock is a computer that's less likely to be damaged by malignant advertising."

Use better software, and your computer will not be at risk. As with receiving the ads in the first place, the choices you made put you in that situation.

holgate wrote: "Let's broaden this out a little bit: if you make it clear through your site's UI that you regard readers as little more than disembodied clicks and pageviews for the benefit of ad revenue calculations, then you've already ceded much of the moral highground. "

You honestly think that the two ads on each Ars page (since you mentioned them specifically) are that obtrusive. One is at the tippy top of the page, and the other is near the bottom of the sidebar. That seems to indicate some amount of respect for their users compared to many sites whose ads really are annoying and intrusive. (You know what..I don't visit those sites!)


two or three cars parked under the stars wrote: "And to be clear, pretty much everyone totally objects to the nature of most online advertising, which is hideous, deceptive and obnoxious, as well as potentially malicious. Personally, I don't even begrudge anybody their adblocking software, not really. I just find the hostility towards the idea of people's wish to be paid for their work online really and hard to understand."

Thank you. This is exactly what I'm trying to communicate, very poorly. If people want to block ads, I really don't care. I do care that they're trying to take the moral high ground in doing so.

cashman wrote: "because there are a ton of ways they could advertise within the content of the article, or otherwise try to get you to buy something without using ads that can be blocked by adblock."

All of which are far more annoying than mere banner ads.

On a final note, I dare say that Ars' little stunt has done a lot to raise our awareness of what we're doing. Whether it changes anybody's behavior is an open question, but they got us expending a lot of words on the subject.
posted by wierdo at 1:56 PM on March 8, 2010


Unfortunately these can not just be set aside.

Well, actually, in many cases they clearly can be set aside. For many people on this list, bandwidth usage probably isn't a concern. Ads are not the most common source of malware - and for those who are specifically concerned about malware, simply not viewing ads is not sufficient protection from malware.

So both of those issues seem tangential to me. Plenty of people, including you upthread, raise arguments that have nothing to do with bandwidth or malware. If bandwidth and malware weren't issues, would you then simply accept online advertising as it is? I don't think you would.

Curate's egg and all that.

You seem especially enamored of that expression, having mentioned it previously in the thread. But it seems to me that the alternative may well be an entirely rotten egg, as ultimately content providers may be forced to implement alternatives that everyone find less palatable.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:04 PM on March 8, 2010


Do you feel that's a legitimate request?

Personally, sure. Especially if they're not going to serve up those Bad Kinds Of Ads that I and others have outlined above.

mathowie said, if you want to participate in this here place, pony up $5 - and you won't have to look at ads when you're logged in! If other sites offer me no way of supporting them except by viewing their shitty ads, then I'm only going to view the site using an ad/flashblocker. If they want to see that as thievery and block me from viewing their content at all if they detect I'm using an adblocker, well, then they lose my eyes anyway, not to mention the traffic I might have sent them by sending links to their site to friends of mine.

I feel I have a responsibility to support places I like. And places I like also have a responsibility to not fuck me over for wanting to read their content.

John Gruber handles this well. I've bought things from sites that sponsor his feed. About this issue, he says (apologies if this has been linked upthread and I missed it):
I have no easy answer, but I will point out that there’s no inherent reason why ads have to be something people are tempted to block. It’s not enough to ask readers not to block ads — you’ve got to work hard at providing ads that readers actually enjoy, or at least aren’t tempted to block.

Update: There’s a prisoners’ dilemma problem with ad blockers, where it doesn’t matter if one site shows reasonable ads if others show crap ads, because those crap ads will drive users to install ad-blocking software, and ad-blocking software casts a wide net and blocks as much as it can. It’s unlikely that most ad-blocker-using Ars readers installed their ad-blocker because of the ads on Ars Technica.
posted by rtha at 2:10 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Personally, sure. Especially if they're not going to serve up those Bad Kinds Of Ads that I and others have outlined above.

Well then, there doesn't seem to be much to disagree about.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:13 PM on March 8, 2010


Unfortunately these can not just be set aside.

Well, actually, in many cases they clearly can be set aside. For many people on this list, bandwidth usage probably isn't a concern. Ads are not the most common source of malware - and for those who are specifically concerned about malware, simply not viewing ads is not sufficient protection from malware.

So both of those issues seem tangential to me. Plenty of people, including you upthread, raise arguments that have nothing to do with bandwidth or malware. If bandwidth and malware weren't issues, would you then simply accept online advertising as it is? I don't think you would.


How do you now that ads are not the most common source of malware? I have helped several people in the past year get rid of their malware collection, and they are not downloading warez. It seems to me that the most likely cause of their infection was drive-by installs. The other main vector is shareware, which I noted the absence of on their machines.

And, no, I wouldn't accept internet advertising even if it were malware-free. I'm sure you read my position that I will not have my eyes and ears and brain assaulted above. However we can't pretend that excessive bandwidth consumption, battery draining, and malware are not issues.

Curate's egg and all that.

You seem especially enamored of that expression, having mentioned it previously in the thread. But it seems to me that the alternative may well be an entirely rotten egg, as ultimately content providers may be forced to implement alternatives that everyone find less palatable.


Yeah, I have been reading classic Punch thanks to Google Books.

Don't you get it? The "good" portions of internet advertising (if there are any!) are suspended in the matrix of the bad, making the entire internet advertising world unsuitable. Any threats that it could become worse are therefore hard to believe.

I have very simply stated my position above - if you want to make money from me with your web site, you should paywall it, or offer a donation jar, or just add a sentence into the article recommending a retailer or service. If it's worth it to me I will pay. I will respect a simple text recommendation that does not come from an ad network that is also seeking to monetize me by destroying my privacy and building up a database of my every preference. As it stands now, I drew the line and decided not to allow myself to be assaulted. I am under no obligation to allow myself to be assaulted, and as in real life, will take steps to prevent this.

And do you really thing that in an escalating war or ads, the content providers have any prayer of winning?

Another thing to note: Stating to people that they should just avoid sites that have ads, instead of clicking on their links or otherwise navigating to their site, is not realistic. Every fucking site but a handful has ads now. One might as well suggest that a person stops using the internet entirely. I would suggest, in the same half-honest light, that the content providers take their fucking ball and go home.
posted by Sukiari at 2:23 PM on March 8, 2010


m&mm, I'd be interested in your response to the line of reasoning I laid out here and elaborated on here.
posted by flabdablet at 2:23 PM on March 8, 2010


You honestly think that the two ads on each Ars page (since you mentioned them specifically) are that obtrusive.

No, what I honestly think is that dribbling relatively short pieces across multiple pages takes the piss. That Ars makes access to a single-page version a "premium" feature suggests that they know they're taking the piss, and what that says to the reader is that you are valued for click-click-clicking your way through content, refreshing the ads and larding up the stats.

I will say that on paying the site more attention than I've done in ages, it looks like the "new direction" is less tied to the model it used to follow, and which more hardware-orientated sites still follow. But it had already alienated me as a reader before then.
posted by holgate at 2:29 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I owe it to a site to not turn off the ads IF that is the payment that they explicitly require.

It enters onto the definition of "require", distinguishing it from "suggest" or "ask", that the party doing the requiring has some form of teeth and is, ultimately, willing to bite. The government requires that I pay my taxes, it doesn't ask or suggest; and what makes it a requirement is the ultimate possibility of arrest and jail.

Can a site "require" users to unblock ads when it has not, and is not going to, take any form of punitive action to enforce their requirement? Nope, it can't. "Requirement" entails that there be some real possibility of coercion.

But, I hear you cry, what about the ethical requirement to keeps one's agreements? That's a different form of requirement, like the requirement of standard arithmetic that division by zero must be undefined or the whole game collapses. I acknowledge that kind of requirement, of course, but it doesn't come into play here because there was never at any point any agreement to violate.

It takes two to make an agreement. At no point have I ever come to any mutual agreement or made any promise to Ars Technica, so there is no agreement to violate; no promise to break. Ars said "Don't browse our content if you won't accept our ads." I said "Forget that one, monkeybrains." No agreement.

Ars could fix this two ways:

1. Create a real agreement. Set Ars up as a site with only one point of entry, and the only way through the POE is to click through a formal terms of service agreement.

2. Create a real requirement. Go ahead and block browsers with AdBlock or FlashBlock or NoScript turned on. You gonna shoot, shoot. Don't talk.

I actually don't see how anyone could have a problem with no. 2. I certainly have none. You say "Download our ads." I say "I won't." So you block my access. Fine, I go away. Everybody's happy.



> OMG. It'll be as if there were no internet at all!
> posted by five fresh fish at 9:32 PM on March 7 [+] [!]

Now that reminds me of usenet. Imminent Death of the Net Predicted!
posted by jfuller at 2:37 PM on March 8, 2010


Really? I'd genuinely appreciate a clear distinction between the two, if you can draw one that doesn't include morality as a component or subset of ethics.

Why should I draw one that doesn't include morality as a component of ethics? Morality is generally defined as the adopted code of conduct within an environment, while ethics tends to be identified as the specific application of that morality. "Do not steal" is a moral statement. "I think looking at a Web page without loading the ads is stealing" is an ethical statement -- it's the way you have chosen to apply a moral viewpoint. But ethics aren't universal, and are sometimes in conflict with each other. If the history of online advertising has been so unethical as to regularly deceive or even infect the user (as literally just happened to me, which is why I have taken so long to respond), is it actually unethical to refuse to load those ads? If your understanding of the Web is that people are loading up content, but when you utilize that content, one of the features of the Web is that you can choose to look at what you want and not to look at what you don't want to, is it unethical not to load up the ads?

I don't think this is settled -- or even can be settled -- and by superimposing a broader morality on top of it ("You're stealing"), the person who argues morality insists that it has been settled. Which is why I won't have that discussion. Because it starts from a viewpoint that people who use adblocker are inherently wrong -- are, in fact, stealing -- and that's a hell of a jump to make in an online world in which ethics are still evolving.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:45 PM on March 8, 2010


How do you now that ads are not the most common source of malware? I have helped several people in the past year get rid of their malware collection, and they are not downloading warez. It seems to me that the most likely cause of their infection was drive-by installs.

My knowledge of malware, like yours, is mostly based on my own anecdotal experience of cleaning up others' machines. That said, I do try to follow what's going on in the computer security, although I'm certainly no expert.

I have run into lots of specific malware issues that don't have anything to do with ads. Lots of sites get compromised into serving all sorts of things via various attacks: SQL injection, XSS. Simply visiting a compromised site can install crap if you (the end user) aren't careful. PDFs are a tremendously vulnerable format right now - at least, with Flash Player, Adobe does a decent job of closing holes fairly quickly. With Acrobat and Reader, there are typically several open vulnerabilities at any given time allowing attackers to execute code, etc. Currently, the fix is to disable or limit JavaScript in Acrobat or Reader. Most users don't know how to fix that.

On the other hand, I typically don't use ad blockers, and have never personally had a machine infected as a result. I generally avoid sites with ads that appear dodgy, though, and I know better than to click on anything that comes up even if it looks legitimate, unless I know exactly what it's going to do, unlike many people who don't work in IT.

Don't you get it? The "good" portions of internet advertising (if there are any!) are suspended in the matrix of the bad, making the entire internet advertising world unsuitable. Any threats that it could become worse are therefore hard to believe.

I can easily think of many ways it could become worse. Someone upthread mentioned using PDFs for delivery. Likewise, Flash could be used for delivery. Just because we use HTML now for delivering content doesn't mean that we'll use something so easily manipulated in the future. And if the iPad ends up being a success, and as people move to platforms where they have less control, ad blockers may largely become a thing of the past.

So, in summary: things can ALWAYS get worse. Your failure to see that is simply a lack of vision.

And do you really thing that in an escalating war or ads, the content providers have any prayer of winning?

Ultimately, yes. The history of the internet so far has been largely an anomaly in favor of users, and there's no inherent reason to expect it to continue this way indefinitely. The money is on the other side of this battle.

Stating to people that they should just avoid sites that have ads, instead of clicking on their links or otherwise navigating to their site, is not realistic. Every fucking site but a handful has ads now.

Right, except there's a wide variance in the ads from one site to another. Many sites have fairly unobtrusive ads. Some have really crappy ads. Some have interstitials. Etc, etc. But in any case, that's really beyond the scope of the Ars question. Most sites don't ask you specifically not to use ad blockers with their site. Ars did, and arguably that raises an issue that one might not have when visiting other sites. The ads on Ars seem fairly unobtrusive - I never noticed them, myself.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:51 PM on March 8, 2010


Sukiari wrote: "Don't you get it? The "good" portions of internet advertising (if there are any!) are suspended in the matrix of the bad, making the entire internet advertising world unsuitable. Any threats that it could become worse are therefore hard to believe."

Don't you get it? Your ad blocker has this nifty capability of whitelisting specific sites. You know, the ones that don't have incredibly offensive ads. Like the one we're discussing. It isn't all or nothing.
posted by wierdo at 2:52 PM on March 8, 2010


I'd be interested in your response to the line of reasoning I laid out here and elaborated on here.

If I were an online advertiser, I'd be very interested in that approach. But since I'm not, I think it's irrelevant. Ars happens to be in the business of selling page views, not clickthroughs, as far as I can tell. Personally, I don't think that page views are an especially useful metric for measuring ad success, but that's irrelevant to Ars' success in selling page views. Somehow, they've gotten someone to agree to pay them based on how many people download the ads. Good for them. I don't think it's so unreasonable for them to ask their readers to allow these ads to be downloaded, in exchange for otherwise-free content.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:56 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I argue that when you visit a website or watch a television show which you know contain advertising, you solicited said advertising. It is only unsolicited when somehow they manage to hijack your browser into displaying a website you didn't intend for your browser to display, or they somehow manage to force your television to tune to an ad-supported television station.

My home doesn't have an antenna capable of receiving broadcast TV, so let's leave that aspect aside.

When I visit a website that contains advertising using a browser with an ad blocker, that's a pretty clear indication that I do in fact consider any advertising that would be blocked by that blocker to be unsolicited.

In fact every interaction between my browser and Ars's servers constitutes a negotiation. Ars's initial offer, as a well known site known to include web advertising is this: here is some content for you to download, and we would also like you to download this associated advertising material. My initial counter-offer, implied by requesting content from Ars using a browser fitted with an ad blocker, is this: I would like to download your content without the associated advertising material. Ars's usual response to counter-offers of this sort has been: OK, here is some content for you to download.

Now, Ars has just run a 12 hour experiment where they tried out a different response to that kind of counter-offer: Sorry, we won't serve you our content ad-free unless you subscribe. The fact that they only left this response in place for 12 hours is a pretty clear indication that they believe their traditional response makes them more money.

I still completely fail to see how I am bound, under any kind of moral or ethical framework, to accept another party's initial offer in any negotiation. I also fail to see how the rise and rise of web advertising could possibly imply that ad blockers are killing the commercial web.

It's not up to me to keep your web based business viable. That's your job, as a business operator. And if you truly believe that nagging your reader base to turn off its ad blockers is a vital component in your business strategy: well, as others have said, good luck with that.
posted by flabdablet at 2:59 PM on March 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Morality is generally defined as the adopted code of conduct within an environment, while ethics tends to be identified as the specific application of that morality.

That is not the identification given to ethics, in my own experience, which may explain our disconnect. My own, likely imperfect, understanding is that ethics is the underlying philosophy used to guide the development of moral reasoning. So, for example, as a "virtue ethicist" I might approve or reject the use of ad blockers based on what I see other people doing - people I've identified as role models.

it starts from a viewpoint that people who use adblocker are inherently wrong

I think that's arguably an overstatement of what's going on here. One specific site asked its users not to use ad blockers when visiting their site. That's quite a different thing from saying "don't use ad blockers". And it's a different thing for users to use ad blockers generally than to use them specifically on a site where the content providers asked them not to.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:05 PM on March 8, 2010


Well, regardless, when people make the claim that not behaving in a certain way is immoral, or dickish, it really does come from a point of view that the ethics have been settled.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:08 PM on March 8, 2010


I fucking love my dick — it's pretty much the greatest thing ever.

Hopefully, though, you don't use it as a moral exemplar. Think with the big head, not the little one.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:10 PM on March 8, 2010


it really does come from a point of view that the ethics have been settled.

When are the ethics ever settled for anything? We're still working on "thou shalt not kill" for crying out loud.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:11 PM on March 8, 2010


Somehow, they've gotten someone to agree to pay them based on how many people download the ads. Good for them.

You haven't really addressed my point, which is that the rate they're paid for those ad downloads is in large part the result of what their customers know about the ratio of advertising downloads to actual sales; that if every Ars reader with an ad blocker were to turn it off tomorrow, Ars's advertising-downloads-to-sales conversion ratio would drop (since very few people inclined to use an ad blocker would ever respond to an ad); and that the total amount Ars would then make, ceteris paribus, would quickly be the same as before.

I don't think it's so unreasonable for them to ask their readers to allow these ads to be downloaded, in exchange for otherwise-free content.

They can ask whatever they like. So as long as you also don't think it's unreasonable for me to get my browser to make a standard counter-offer to collect their content without the advertising, we're in agreement.
posted by flabdablet at 3:13 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't love websites. It's one-sided and the sex is unfulfilling.
posted by Eideteker at 3:25 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't you get it? Your ad blocker has this nifty capability of whitelisting specific sites. You know, the ones that don't have incredibly offensive ads. Like the one we're discussing. It isn't all or nothing.

Ad blocker, yes, sure I can whitelist ads. But the ad blocker is only layer of my approach. As soon as I see an offensive ad by say, Doubleclick, it goes into my hosts file and gets blackholed. That file is now several thousand lines long, and I DO NOT REMOVE an ad host once it goes in there.

If you were to steal stuff rom my house, and I caught you doing it, I run you out of there. I don't let you back in next week even if you aren't feeling as sticky-fingered as you were before.
posted by Sukiari at 3:26 PM on March 8, 2010


flabdablet wrote: "When I visit a website that contains advertising using a browser with an ad blocker, that's a pretty clear indication that I do in fact consider any advertising that would be blocked by that blocker to be unsolicited."

I think your logic is unsound, and serves only to make you feel better about your choice. I make the same choice for most sites, but I don't try and defend it on any terms other than "that's what I want to do, so deal." If they send you ads without you asking for their content, that's unsolicited. When somebody sends me junk mail, that's unsolicited. When I ask for a magazine that includes ads, the contents of the magazine are not unsolicited. Unwanted, perhaps, but not unsolicited.

Moreover, there is no counter offer at all. It's not like your browser sends an HTTP 404 "Fuck Off" message. You're just not doing what they would like you to do (but choose not to enforce).

"I still completely fail to see how I am bound, under any kind of moral or ethical framework, to accept another party's initial offer in any negotiation."

It's not a negotiation. You asked for what you're getting.
posted by wierdo at 3:28 PM on March 8, 2010


I don't think it's so unreasonable for them to ask their readers to allow these ads to be downloaded, in exchange for otherwise-free content.

See above. If their ads come from a provider that also serves awful, loud, blinking ads, that ad provider has lost its chance of ever sending me another bit or byte.
posted by Sukiari at 3:29 PM on March 8, 2010


It's not a negotiation. You asked for what you're getting.

See, this is where you're wrong. If you were right, then adblockers wouldn't even be possible.

There is negotiation, and it's happening every time a page loads sans ads.
posted by Sukiari at 3:31 PM on March 8, 2010


Sukiari wrote: "There is negotiation, and it's happening every time a page loads sans ads."

Unilaterally choosing to do or not do something is not a negotiation between two parties. If you want to twist the meaning of "negotiate" in your head, I suppose that's no skin off my nose.
posted by wierdo at 3:35 PM on March 8, 2010


You haven't really addressed my point, which is that the rate they're paid for those ad downloads is in large part the result of what their customers know about the ratio of advertising downloads to actual sales; that if every Ars reader with an ad blocker were to turn it off tomorrow, Ars's advertising-downloads-to-sales conversion ratio would drop (since very few people inclined to use an ad blocker would ever respond to an ad); and that the total amount Ars would then make, ceteris paribus, would quickly be the same as before.

It's not clear that (a) this is actually correct, or (b) this is relevant to the core question. I have no way of knowing the relationship between page views and clicks, or if it affects their advertising payments. And if Ars asks me to do something, in exchange for viewing their site, it doesn't matter whether doing this thing is good for them or not. I trust them to determine their own best interests. It only matters whether I'm willing to do it - that's the open question of the thread.

There is negotiation, and it's happening every time a page loads sans ads.

This is "negotiation" in a strictly Humpty-Dumpty sense of the word. It's not even negotiation in the technical sense of protocols agreeing to transmit data. Your computer is receiving a big piece of data, then parsing it and determining which additional pieces of data to request based on rules you've already determined. How you get from there to "negotiation" is anyone's guess.

If you were to steal stuff rom my house, and I caught you doing it, I run you out of there.

That's a great analogy! Except no one's stealing anything from you - in fact, they're giving you things you don't even want! And arguably, it would be better turned on its head - you're in the content provider's "house" taking things for free without taking out some of the trash like they asked you to. See, aren't analogies great?
posted by me & my monkey at 3:43 PM on March 8, 2010


Unilaterally choosing to do or not do something is not a negotiation between two parties.

Serving ads that come from a different host than that which I clicked on, without letting me know that they will be using this information to hopefully build a database of my habits that will follow me around for eternity, is not negotiation either.

They did not negotiate with me, to say serve text-only ads that are inoffensive, and so therefore I do not owe them the same favor.
posted by Sukiari at 3:48 PM on March 8, 2010


No, monkey, it's as if when the UPS guy came to my house to deliver something, he also chucked his weekly garbage into my yard as well.
posted by Sukiari at 3:49 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


me & my monkey wrote: "See, aren't analogies great?"

I like it. "You can have the change in my couch if you take the couch, too."
posted by wierdo at 3:50 PM on March 8, 2010


All this talk of business models and social contracts hurts my brain. I really hope ad blockers do become universally used, the commercial web dies and we can get back on track creating a wonderful open information resource free of regurgitated crap that's sole purpose is to get as many page views as possible.
You affect the world by what you browse.
Tim Berners Lee
If Mr Berners Lee is correct I feel I'm doing the planet a good turn by not browsing shite.
posted by twistedonion at 3:53 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sukiari wrote: "Serving ads that come from a different host than that which I clicked on, without letting me know that they will be using this information to hopefully build a database of my habits that will follow me around for eternity, is not negotiation either."

OK. I'm not the one who brought negotiation into it. I'm the one saying they aren't negotiating. They are stating terms which you are free to agree to or not. I'm arguing that ethically, if you choose not to accept their terms, you ought not take their content.

As I've written many times on this thread, I really don't care whether people use ad blockers (I use ABP myself!) or not. It only bothers me when they try to somehow justify their choice in moral or ethical terms. Just recognize the reality of what you're doing and stop trying to shove it into a box in which it will not fit.
posted by wierdo at 3:55 PM on March 8, 2010


"See, this is where you're wrong. If you were right, then adblockers wouldn't even be possible."

It's impossible to prevent use of ad blockers. The Client can _always_ run a man in the middle attack on what ever anti-circumvention measures you could possibly enforce from the server.
posted by Mitheral at 3:58 PM on March 8, 2010


And see this stealing shit analogy... nonsense. Everything increasingly for profit these days and we'll all end up poorer for it. 'Content creators' need to get a grip. Just because there has been this business model for a century or so that allowed them to profit from the duplication of their content creations does not mean it always has to be so. It may end up being detrimental to human progress that all this stuff is freely available without profit (though personally i think it will be a good thing). One thing I know for sure is that it does not mean content will stop being created.

I make web sites for a living. If someone wants to take my work and regurgitate it I couldn't care less, in fact I'd be flattered. If they take the work I have produced for a paying client then that is up to the client to deal with, it's their work once they've paid for it. If people feel they no longer require my services because they can grab any design for free, fine. I'll work out another way to make a living and carry on designing because it's something I enjoy.

The less profit driven content creation out there the better.

Yes, I'm a damn red lefty.
posted by twistedonion at 4:09 PM on March 8, 2010


I'm arguing that ethically, if you choose not to accept their terms, you ought not take their content.

I don't agree. Ethically, sites should not have started serving awful banner ads a decade or more ago that grated on the brain. Ethically they should not be partnering with third parties that I do not know about and almost certainly do not trust. Even bringing ethics into a discussion about advertising, which is designed to manipulate you down to the synapses of your reptilian hindbrain, seems a bit silly to me.

It's the same with TV ads. The TV executives, bless them all, would have you believe that skipping or muting their ads, or leaving the room, is akin to mugging Granny on the street. They don't seem to have a problem with making the ads 6 decibels louder than the programming. It's the same sort of one-sided discussion that the content providers would have with me.

I have already said I have no problem with ads, if they are served from the same host that the content comes from, are text ads, and are not obtrusive or offensive. These, by the way, would also be the very most difficult to block. It's harder to monetize though.
posted by Sukiari at 4:11 PM on March 8, 2010


Sukiari wrote: "I don't agree. Ethically, sites should not have started serving awful banner ads a decade or more ago that grated on the brain."

I think the old adage "two wrongs don't make a right" is perfectly tailored to this situation.
posted by wierdo at 4:50 PM on March 8, 2010


A man creates a unique public park. Anybody can enter this park to exchange ideas, collaborate and communicate regardless of nationality or language.

To foster open communication and protect visitors, the park gives every visitor a mask. The mask provides a certain degree of anonymity. It allows visitors to voice personal opinions without fear.

Mimes discover the park.

Mimes give free access to their performance in the hopes that some of you will put a coin in their cup. Those of you who cannot (or will not) spare a coin can help the mime in other ways by referring them to friends, giving feedback or even participating in the performance!

The people who argue "watching the performance without giving a coin is stealing" are missing the point entirely.

Why?

In this public space called the Internet, the mimes have gorillas standing beside them, behind them and in front of them. These gorillas use ear-piercing megaphones to push products through misinformation, commercialism, sexism, fear and inadequacy.

Worse yet, these gorillas try to tear off our masks of anonymity!

That's the problem here. It's not about mimes, cups or coins. It's about the gorillas with megaphones trying to rip our masks off.

NoScript is an earplug. AdBlock is an extra rubber band on my mask.

Mimes who respect their audience will tell the gorillas to go away. They will replace them with smaller, friendlier monkeys or find other ways to monetize their performance.

These mimes will prosper.

The mimes who respect gorillas more than they do their audience will ask us to remove our earplugs and masks.

What happens to them?

Well, in the center of our park is a talented musician in a light-blue t-shirt who would be more than happy to play them off.
posted by stringbean at 5:40 PM on March 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


That is an incredibly tortured analogy, but I'll play along. Why are you watching the mimes who have these gorillas surrounding them instead of those that do not?

Perhaps if you don't like gorillas, the best thing to do is to stay away from them, and by extension, those who choose to surround themselves with gorillas.
posted by wierdo at 5:43 PM on March 8, 2010


OK. I'm not the one who brought negotiation into it. I'm the one saying they aren't negotiating. They are stating terms which you are free to agree to or not. I'm arguing that ethically, if you choose not to accept their terms, you ought not take their content.

I feel like I'm beating a dead horse or screaming into the void at this point, but only one site -- one site -- has ever explicitly requested that I not block their ads (and it was not Ars). I immediately whitelisted the site. To my recollection, not once -- not a single time -- has a website ever, in my 16 year history of using the internet, ever explicitly stated terms of use involving the viewing of advertisements on their website. Not once have I been asked to accept or even consider such terms. Not a single time. Let me repeat that: no websites are stating terms. That being the case, how can I possibly agree to or not agree to terms that do not exist? Unilaterally deciding to allow a third party to follow as a rider on your published content -- at least once (first visit) without the knowledge, consent, or participation of your consumer -- does not constitute negotiation, statement of terms, or the creation of a social contract by which I must abide.

And to repeat something I already argued, my return visit to your site does not (cannot) eo ipso constitute agreement to any "terms" (that we already agreed do not exist). There is not even a prima facie reason to believe that it does or can.
posted by mister-o at 5:44 PM on March 8, 2010


When I ask for a magazine that includes ads, the contents of the magazine are not unsolicited. Unwanted, perhaps, but not unsolicited.

We're not talking about magazines. We're talking about browsers that make HTTP requests on my behalf, and servers that respond to them on behalf of a content publisher.

Moreover, there is no counter offer at all. It's not like your browser sends an HTTP 404 "Fuck Off" message. You're just not doing what they would like you to do (but choose not to enforce).

I'm sorry, but this is simply not true. The initial offer (here is some Ars content that you may collect if you also request some third-party advertising) is explicitly stated in English (if you go digging through the site sufficiently diligently to find its terms of service) or implicitly understood. The counter-offer (I wish to collect the Ars content without requesting any advertising) is implicit in the behavior of my ad-blocked browser, which sends, on my behalf, certain HTTP requests but declines, on my behalf, to send others.

As the 12 hour experiment clearly demonstrates, the Ars server is perfectly capable of detecting this pattern of requests and distinguishing it from a pattern that includes requests for advertising, and is free to respond to it in any way its operator chooses - up to and including sending me a bunch of 404 "fuck off" responses. If instead it chooses to respond by serving me the content I requested, then it has accepted, on Ars's behalf, the counter-offer that my browser made on mine.

It's not a negotiation. You asked for what you're getting.

Any time Alice asks Bob for anything, that's the opening round in a negotiation. Bob can respond by (a) accepting Alice's terms (b) rejecting Alice's terms or (c) making a counter-offer. I can't see why this is controversial, and I can't see how having some of the steps performed by automated agents can make a negotiation into something else.
posted by flabdablet at 5:49 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Perhaps if you don't like gorillas, the best thing to do is to stay away from them, and by extension, those who choose to surround themselves with gorillas.

And if you don't like (some aspect of) America, maybe you should move to Russia! Maybe it is best to just stay away from the gorillas (I have yet to find a compelling argument for this position, but I'll play along too). But that's not the point under contention. The position under contention is whether it is morally wrong to undertake any action but staying away from the gorillas. And so far no one has made any good faith effort to establish that position by linking actual honest-to-goodness premises to the desired conclusion.
posted by mister-o at 5:52 PM on March 8, 2010


I'm still bemused at this idea that putting freely available data on the public web can impose any sort of moral obligation on the viewers.

However, there appear to be enough brainwashed consumers out there that I suspect I could run a viable business by hiring a skywriter to post "Did you read this? Send one dollar to FFFish, now!"
posted by five fresh fish at 5:55 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm still bemused at this idea that putting freely available data on the public web can impose any sort of moral obligation on the viewers.

Presumably, then, if there's a freely available interface that unintentionally allows me to send malformed requests to a public server, or embed XSS commands within a form submission, I am under no moral obligation not to do so. After all, the interface is freely available!

Presumably, if there's public data about, say, abortion providers, there's nothing wrong with me gathering that data, reformatting it, and using strikethrough every time one of them is offed, right? After all, the data is freely available!

Or, more succinctly: just because you can doesn't mean you should.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:06 PM on March 8, 2010


But, in this case, you can and should block ads.

It's not quite civil disobedience but it's close.
posted by Sukiari at 6:10 PM on March 8, 2010


if there's a freely available interface that unintentionally allows me to send malformed requests to a public server, or embed XSS commands within a form submission, I am under no moral obligation not to do so. After all, the interface is freely available!

Indeed, you probably have a moral obligation to do just that - provided you've politely informed the site operator of its vulnerability and they have chosen to ignore you. Better you do it to ram home a security warning than that somebody with genuine ill intent does it for nefarious purposes.

Presumably, if there's public data about, say, abortion providers, there's nothing wrong with me gathering that data, reformatting it, and using strikethrough every time one of them is offed, right? After all, the data is freely available!

If you want that kind of reputation, you go right ahead.

I'm tipping you don't, though.

Can we dispense with the straw men now, please?
posted by flabdablet at 6:18 PM on March 8, 2010


mister-o wrote: "And if you don't like (some aspect of) America, maybe you should move to Russia! "

That's a really shitty analogy. That would be like me saying you shouldn't use the park at all, rather than just not watching the mimes who have gorillas surrounding them.

mister-o wrote: "The position under contention is whether it is morally wrong to undertake any action but staying away from the gorillas"

Think of it like sitting in a restaurant for hours just drinking coffee and leaving without tipping your server. Sure, you can do it. It's not even a big moral/ethical issue. It is, however, a dick move.

I don't think anybody has claimed that ad blocking is some huge moral issue, only that it is a very minor one.

Let me analogize again. I quit watching CBS because I'm annoyed by their Super Bowl ad policy. I decided that the best course of action is to deprive them of my eyeballs. I could still download their shows from the intarwebs with the same effect, yet still allow me to watch shows that occasionally entertain me. Instead, I have chosen not to watch them at all.

Similarly, if a website annoys me with their ads, I choose not to take either their content or their ads. I don't get what's so hard about that. Perhaps someone can explain to me why the alternative is anything but whining by people who have a sense of entitlement. ("It's on the Internets, therefore I have a right to it!")

I'll say again, I don't consider it a big deal or anything, I've been known to do it myself on rare occasion when the content I desire is unavailable through other means. That doesn't mean I think it's ethical, only that, like most people, I'm willing at times to compromise my ethics in minor ways to get what I want.
posted by wierdo at 6:34 PM on March 8, 2010


Please don't bring ethics into this. As much as people would have you believe that you are ethically bound to poison your brain and subject it to careful programming, in order to look at words, you are not.

Paywall, tip jar, or text ads. Anything else is wrong.
posted by Sukiari at 6:41 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


What amusing and irrelevent examples, Monkey! Thanks for the laugh.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:56 PM on March 8, 2010


Sukiari wrote: "As much as people would have you believe that you are ethically bound to poison your brain and subject it to careful programming, in order to look at words, you are not."

You're right. There are thousands if not millions of websites with no ads at all on which you can look at lots of words. Why are you so opposed to using them, rather than the ones who do things you disapprove of?
posted by wierdo at 7:13 PM on March 8, 2010


Dude, if the data is available on the open, public web, it is there for me to consume in any manner I care to consume it. There is absolutely nothing — no tradition, no law, no habit, no desire — nothing to oblige me to do anything except use it any way I choose to use it.

You can rant and rave until the end of time. Doesn't change a thing. How you feel I should behave has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on what I am allowed to do, what I am obligated to do, or what I choose to do. It is an open, public web: I'll display its content to my screen in any fashion I choose.

Anyone who is unhappy with participating in the open, public web needs to adjust their sites. Either get off the open, public web; or quit belly-aching. No one promised you a rose garden. Get a real job.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:26 PM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


You're right. There are thousands if not millions of websites with no ads at all on which you can look at lots of words. Why are you so opposed to using them, rather than the ones who do things you disapprove of?

I'm not. Nobody warns me ahead of time that there will be ads on a page. And just like in real life, I will take steps that I deem necessary to avoid the ads, while viewing the content.

Years ago there was a World Cup soccer game on TV, with a constant adbar. I put some cardboard over it.

Was I wrong to do that?

What FFF said above - if a web site doesn't want me to skip the ads, figure out a way to stop me. I certainly don't feel sorry for them that they missed out on the nickel the got for allowing somebody ELSE to annoy me.
posted by Sukiari at 7:37 PM on March 8, 2010


Think of it like sitting in a restaurant for hours just drinking coffee and leaving without tipping your server. Sure, you can do it. It's not even a big moral/ethical issue. It is, however, a dick move.

Think of it like sitting in a restaurant for like three minutes. In that time, they flash big fat hairy manboobs at you, fuck with your car so it doesn't run right, shit in your pocket, and serve you by walking across everyone else's tables until they come to a stop standing right in the middle of your plate, at which point they scream at you and hurl your order, which you hadn't even asked for, in your face.

If you tip that guy, I hate you.
posted by nevercalm at 7:39 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Think of it as browsing the public, open web. Problem solved.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:45 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


nevercalm wrote: "Think of it like sitting in a restaurant for like three minutes. In that time, they flash big fat hairy manboobs at you, fuck with your car so it doesn't run right, shit in your pocket, and serve you by walking across everyone else's tables until they come to a stop standing right in the middle of your plate, at which point they scream at you and hurl your order, which you hadn't even asked for, in your face."

I haven't seen an ad in years that was nearly that offensive. And I have yet to get any malware on any of my computers from ads or otherwise. If you have that problem, I strongly suggest you get better software.

And FWIW, I don't make money on ads, internet or otherwise. I just fix people's servers.

I've never said you can't do whatever you want. It is your computer. That doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.
posted by wierdo at 7:55 PM on March 8, 2010


It doesn't mean that ad blocking is wrong, either.

It's a ridiculous business model, to be sure. And even though your experience with ads as of late has been okay, more and more people block ads every day, so it must be a problem for some people.

I think when you get down to it, people realize that most people aren't going to pay for content if a site is paywalled, so they rely upon banner ads because they don't have to make anything compelling enough to subscribe to.

But you studiously ignore the points made repeatedly, that by not putting your content behind a paywall, you are inviting people to take parts of what they want and ignore the rest.

Ever been to a meeting with a person selling a timeshare, in exchange for a free steak?
posted by Sukiari at 8:01 PM on March 8, 2010


I'm surprised that there isn't more of a product placement / advertising as content model on the Internet already.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:03 PM on March 8, 2010


The web interprets disruptive corporate advertising as damage, and routes around it.
posted by oulipian at 8:09 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Perhaps someone can explain to me why the alternative is anything but whining by people who have a sense of entitlement.

I've been doing my best, and as far as I can tell I've posted nothing resembling whining, but if you choose to misinterpret my position in that way, there's precious little I can do about it. C'est la vie.
posted by flabdablet at 8:31 PM on March 8, 2010


I'm pretty sure the SEO assholes are very much engaged in product placement as a content model. Those fuckers will do anything for a buck, including destroying all of real value on the internet.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:34 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"It's on the Internets, therefore I have a right to it!"

If there's an openly accessible server that responds to my browser's requests with content I find interesting, I see no basis for asserting that I have less of a right to download that content than any other web client. I don't think that means I have an inflated sense of entitlement. It seems to me that if there's a published, standard protocol for requesting content, and I use exactly that protocol to request content, and content arrives, then I have done no wrong.

The entire World Wide Web ships data by pull, not by push. A browser is a client, not a server, and it's the browser, not the collection of servers it connects to, that's in charge of selecting which data items it renders. The Web has worked this way from day 0. If you're running a business that relies on persuading people to pretend it works some other way, then your business model is broken. There are people available, many of them on this very site, who can help you fix it should you care to negotiate a suitable consulting fee.

If there's a whining sense of entitlement on display in this whole debate, it's coming from those who are trying to persuade me, via an apparently inexhaustible series of clumsy straw men, poor analogies, false dilemmas and assorted other specious arguments, that I have some kind of ethical obligation to configure the software on my computer in a way that puts some allegedly endangered business's interests ahead of my own. Well, I just don't. Deal with it.
posted by flabdablet at 8:51 PM on March 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Perhaps someone can explain to me why the alternative is anything but whining by people who have a sense of entitlement.

Which side are you referring to?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:56 PM on March 8, 2010


I think flabdablet has pretty much nailed it; browsing Ars Technica is a negotiated process. You hit the site, they send a list of what they want you to read, you choose what you DO want to read, and they accede to those terms and send the data.

They've now demonstrated that they're perfectly capable of enforcing their desires for how their content is consumed, so if they really believe the "leeches" are bad, they can block them at any time. If they continue to accept the counter-offer made by our automated agents, then the onus is on them.

Basically, Ars needs to shit or get off the pot.... either enforce their terms, or give up on the idea. Whinging about it to the world accomplishes little.

Now, if Ars did implement the blocks, and people used workarounds to read the content anyway, I'd agree with people calling that unethical, even stealing. But until they flip that switch, they're acceding to the idea of sending their content without ads. The transaction is entirely voluntary on both sides. No theft or deception is occurring.
posted by Malor at 8:59 PM on March 8, 2010


I've never said you can't do whatever you want. It is your computer. That doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

I've never said you can't run your web presence however you like. It's your web server. That doesn't mean I shouldn't configure my browser to negotiate for the best deal you'll give me on access to your content.
posted by flabdablet at 9:03 PM on March 8, 2010




Now, if Ars did implement the blocks, and people used workarounds to read the content anyway, I'd agree with people calling that unethical, even stealing.

What would be your position on the use of a hypothetical ad blocker that, instead of simply failing to fetch a site's third party advertising content, fetched and then discarded it - or even went so far as to detect common advertising scripts and simulate the minimal enforceable interaction with them without actually displaying them to the browser user?

Who would be acting unethically in that case? The browser user (who we can safely assume would never respond to advertising by buying an advertised item, even when browsing with no ad blocker installed)? The website operator (who is enforcing a pure waste of Internet bandwidth, possibly hoping to inflate its perceived value to its advertisers)? Both? Neither?

In other words, where do you draw the line between (possibly bizarrely complicated) data access protocol and "workaround"?

My own position is that neither party in this scenario is operating unethically. For me, the bottom line is that advertising-supported web sites, in order to be sustainable, must operate on the basis that X amount of advertising produces Y amount of sales and therefore attracts Z amount of compensation from the advertiser; that the relationship between these numbers depends on the aggregate behaviour of the population of site users; that any such population will always contain a certain percentage of individuals, among whom I number myself, who so rarely respond to advertising as to be considered, for all practical purposes, non-customers by definition of the businesses so advertised; and that interacting with people like that by using methods that consume more bandwidth than is necessary is probably bone-headed but not unethical.

Personally, I have contributed much more money to sites I value in the form of direct payments to site operators than their advertisers could ever have fairly paid them for my contribution to converting advertising into sales, which remains precisely zero. I have absolutely no problem with negotiating direct payment with a website operator for value received. But there is precisely zero value, either for me or for the operators of websites I browse, for enforcing the involvement of third and fourth parties (advertisers and the businesses they advertise) in my interaction with web sites. I DON'T LIKE SPAM! Not even lovely spam or wonderful spam.
posted by flabdablet at 9:37 PM on March 8, 2010


Techdirt? They get it. Bookmarked.
posted by flabdablet at 9:41 PM on March 8, 2010


oulipian wrote: "The web interprets disruptive corporate advertising as damage, and routes around it."

Routing around it would be not visiting the site.

flabdablet wrote: "that I have some kind of ethical obligation to configure the software on my computer in a way that puts some allegedly endangered business's interests ahead of my own"

Last I checked, you were specifically configuring your computer to do the opposite.

Why would you even want to view content from sites with offensive ads in the first place?
posted by wierdo at 10:47 PM on March 8, 2010


Use better software, and your computer will not be at risk. As with receiving the ads in the first place, the choices you made put you in that situation. -- wierdo
Wtf are you talking about? Exploits are found in all software all the time. Telling people to "use better software" that doesn't exist isn't a solution. I noticed you didn't even bother to specify what software you think I should be using. It certainly couldn't be Safari, or chrome. Obviously if you did specify anything in particular, it would be easy to google up some exploit that existed at some point.

It also doesn't do anything about bandwidth sucking, performance eating, etc.

Anyway, the "choice I'm making" -- to run adblock both takes me out of "that situation" and makes my "software better"

Also I'm not sure what point your trying to make with snarky, ignorant nonsense.
posted by delmoi at 11:12 PM on March 8, 2010


Routing around it would be not visiting the site.

Please try hard to loosen your grip on this false dilemma. It's not doing your clear thinking any good.

Visiting an advertising-encumbered site with an ad blocker turned on is to routing around network damage as choosing not to visit such a site is to dropping a packet on the floor.

Last I checked, you were specifically configuring your computer to do the opposite.

That would be correct. I see nothing wrong with configuring my own computer in a manner that serves my own best interests, and I suggest to you that if you do see something wrong with configuring your computer in a manner that serves your own best interests, your only ethical option is to turn off all firewalls, open all file sharing ports to the wider Internet, publish your Internet banking password and set your display resolution to 640x480x4 at 43Hz.

We can all do straw men, OK? Let's not.

Why would you even want to view content from sites with offensive ads in the first place?

Because the content is linked from elsewhere, I have reason to believe it might be worth my time to check out, and I have confidence that my ad blocking software will render any offensive ads completely moot.

The flip side of feeling no ethical obligation to accept advertising is feeling no ethical obligation to go on a windmill-tilting crusade against sites whose business model strikes me as broken.
posted by flabdablet at 11:19 PM on March 8, 2010


"I'm surprised that there isn't more of a product placement / advertising as content model on the Internet already."

It's for the same reason that ad blocking is oh so easy in the first place. The advertisers don't trust the content producers and the producers don't trust the ad suppliers. So each has to deliver their own piece of the page directly to the client. Other wise the content people would over report the number of ad impressions and the ad people would munge the content to serve more ads.

Websites like Metafilter who run some or all of their own advertising are much harder to block because the ads can be made to look exactly like content.
posted by Mitheral at 1:12 AM on March 9, 2010


And ads that look like Metafilter content are not irritating enough to be worth expending any software development effort on blocking.
posted by flabdablet at 1:30 AM on March 9, 2010


Think of it like sitting in a restaurant for like three minutes. In that time, they flash big fat hairy manboobs at you, fuck with your car so it doesn't run right, shit in your pocket, and serve you by walking across everyone else's tables until they come to a stop standing right in the middle of your plate, at which point they scream at you and hurl your order, which you hadn't even asked for, in your face.

I know you were trying to be funny, but that analogy is completely off the mark.
posted by jedro at 1:56 AM on March 9, 2010


I honestly can't believe so many people are so delicate that they get so offended by online advertising.
posted by jedro at 2:12 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have an image I found that explains what's wrong with online ads perfectly - especially for news/journalism..
posted by filmgeek at 4:37 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


That image is just someone griping about the good old days. Can you show me any real world examples of this?

Alternately, you could go back to print journalism. Oh wait - it's not free.
posted by orville sash at 5:35 AM on March 9, 2010


orville sash: That image is just someone griping about the good old days. Can you show me any real world examples of this?

Yahoo News 1997 vs. Yahoo News 2010

LA Times 1997 vs. LA Times 2010

CBC News 1999 vs. CBC News 2010
posted by oulipian at 6:33 AM on March 9, 2010


"A few years ago" does not, to me, equate to a decade ago. I know this sounds like semantics, but these ads have been around for a long long time. The examples you gave were from the web's infancy, before people hadn't really started to try and monetize content. Can you give me a "few years ago" example, as opposed to a 10+ years ago example? That one's just not cutting it for me.
posted by orville sash at 6:41 AM on March 9, 2010


before people hadn't really started to try and monetize content

had. before they had.
posted by orville sash at 6:41 AM on March 9, 2010


In other words, where do you draw the line between (possibly bizarrely complicated) data access protocol and "workaround"?

Well, for me at least, I see the current scenario as being negotiation, as you pointed out so eloquently. They make an offer, I make a counter-offer, and they accept the deal.

Your scenario, where you go ahead and accept the ads but actively don't display them, strikes me as crossing a line into misrepresentation. If they actually do put technical measures in place to deny content to adblockers, I'm not going to try to work around that limit, I'll just go away. I'm willing to negotiate about reading a site, but I'm not willing to lie.

I make no claims about universal applicability to others, but that's a line I won't personally cross.
posted by Malor at 6:43 AM on March 9, 2010


A few years ago, this magazine started up in San Francisco. They're still around, I think.

They gave away their first few issues (and maybe they still do); you could find stacks of them at coffeeshops and bookstores and bars. It's a hefty, glossy mag, with lots of pictures, and lots of ads.

Let's say that one time I picked up a copy - free, mind you - and discovered that inside was one of those smelly scent strip ads for a perfume. I asked my friend to rip the ad out, because I wanted to read the restaurant reviews but didn't want to have a sneezing attack or get a headache. I didn't even look at the ad that my friend ripped out of the magazine. I thanked my friend and read the reviews.

Is this unethical? Have I broken a contract with the magazine?
posted by rtha at 7:05 AM on March 9, 2010


There is a word for people who think that I am obligated to view advertising, and that word is delusional.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:13 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hmm. And another thing I'm now wondering about: I was standing in the kitchen here at work a few minutes ago, waiting for the toaster to toast my bread. I was reading a site on my ipod touch, which, as many of you know, does not not support flash. Some of the sites I read on it don't have mobile options. If there's flash content on the page, all I see is a little blue cube floating in whitespace.

Is it unethical for me to view sites that offer flash ads via my ipod?

(I'm not trying to be snarky. It's just what I was thinking about while waiting for my toast.)
posted by rtha at 9:01 AM on March 9, 2010


jedro: "I honestly can't believe so many people are so delicate that they get so offended by online advertising."

I'm not offend by ads. I just find them annoying. The straw that broke the camels back was animated ads (not even flash, just gifs) that had an animated mouse cursor. My brain was wholly incapable of ignoring them making pages they were on unreadable. Installing an ad blocker allowed me to block those ads on a case by case basis but maintaining the list required constant tweaking. Subscription block updates became available and life was bliss. Of course those lists tend to be thermonuclear indiscriminate but I don't really see any need for me to spend time to make ad agencies life better. The whole point of computers is to delegate tedium to our silicon slaves.
posted by Mitheral at 9:08 AM on March 9, 2010


I honestly can't believe so many people are so delicate that they get so offended by online advertising.

And I can't believe you read this thread. But let me rephrase your comment in a manner consistent with just one of the many reasonable complaints in this thread:

I honestly can't believe so many people are so delicate that they get so worried that online advertising might infect their computer with malware, or collect date about them, or in some way compromise their privacy, as has repeatedly been demonstrated happens.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:08 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just as many of the complaints in this thread seem to be about advertising in general being offensive. You have someone talking about covering up part of their television with cardboard to block an ad. I guess you can go through life that upset about advertising, but you're tilting at windmills and it seems like an unpleasant way to live.

Advertising is so ubiquitous that if it bothered me at all I imagine I'd go insane.

If you're hoping advertising will disappear from the internet, then good luck with that. This is primarily an issue for tech sites, and will always primarily be an issue for tech sites only, because the vast majority of people simply do not care enough to install an ad blocker.

As I mentioned hundreds of comments ago I fully retract that statement if a popular browser ever ships with adblock turned on by default, but why would they? Browsers make money from ads too, something I get the feeling Average Internet User doesn't even realize.
posted by imabanana at 10:32 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


the vast majority of people simply do not care know enough to install an ad blocker

ftfy
posted by Sys Rq at 10:35 AM on March 9, 2010


This discussion inspired me to disable the explicit ad blocking I had. But I still have image animation disabled, NoScript set to disallow javascript by default, and FlashBlock. And my user style disables background images, which may obscure other ads.

There's almost no difference. I see a few images I didn't before.

So, advertising-supported websites of the world, I'm ready to receive your ads. But not ready to run arbitrary amounts of code from unknown third parties in my browser, or to have moving things on my screen when I'm trying to read.
posted by Zed at 11:00 AM on March 9, 2010


five fresh fish wrote: "There is a word for people who think that I am obligated to view advertising"

You are completely correct that politeness is not an obligation, it is merely polite.
posted by wierdo at 11:12 AM on March 9, 2010


I honestly can't believe so many people are so delicate that they get so offended by online advertising

It's not that I'm delicate, just aware there's only so many brain cells left in my head and I'd rather pre-filter as much of the info as possible. You want to cram your head full of useless shit go right on ahead. I prefer to be as selective as possible regarding the nonsense I fill my head with.

Advertising is not useful to consumers. Even if you happen to enjoy a consumer society you would at least be consuming what you want without ads. Ads are corrosive. There is no meaningful information to be had, so as far as I'm, concerned they are useless. Why promote crap? If you think something is worth someone else buying write a review, explain to me why I need it, why I want it, what it will do for me. Stop being lazy by allowing someone else to sell me crap on your space just so you can get a few pennies. Be more intelligent than that.
posted by twistedonion at 11:30 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I honestly can't believe so many people are so delicate that they get so worried that online advertising might infect their computer with malware, or collect date about them, or in some way compromise their privacy, as has repeatedly been demonstrated happens.


I don't block ads, and have never been infected with malware. And there are other ways of addressing the privacy concerns.
posted by jedro at 12:47 PM on March 9, 2010


It's not that I'm delicate, just aware there's only so many brain cells left in my head and I'd rather pre-filter as much of the info as possible.

Ignore the advertising then. I find it pretty easy.
posted by jedro at 12:50 PM on March 9, 2010


Well, and some of us don't, what with the popups and popunders and browser-hijacking slide-downs (or whatever they're called). It's frickin' annoying, and there's an easy way for me to not be annoyed by it, so I use it.
posted by rtha at 12:57 PM on March 9, 2010


Well, and some of us don't, what with the popups and popunders and browser-hijacking slide-downs (or whatever they're called). It's frickin' annoying, and there's an easy way for me to not be annoyed by it, so I use it.

I think it's fair enough to block those ads. Ars Technica doesn't serve those sort of ads, as far as I'm aware.
posted by jedro at 1:51 PM on March 9, 2010


I'm under no obligation to ensure that my computer displays anything on my monitor. Site owners are under no obligation to allow me to see their content for free. Either party going beyond their obligation does not impose an obligation on the other.
posted by spaltavian at 2:18 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of an entry-level ethics exercise where you offer to help me paint my barn. I accept your offer. A few months later you casually mention you're painting a barn. Do I have a moral obligation to offer my help?

If you ask me for help directly, does the nature of the possible obligation change?

If you help me paint one wall of the barn and then mention that you're planning on painting your barn in a few months do I incur an obligation to help you? Should you continue to help me paint my barn if I don't offer to help you? If I don't offer, or even explicitly state I will not help you with your bar and you quit, do I still owe you help with one wall of your barn?

Because, no matter how I try, I still end up with Ars originally offering to serve me content gratis. At some future point they changed their expectation with regards to reciprocation--i.e. they changed the nature of their action from a gift to a graft*. Does their change in expectation actually incur an obligation from me--even though they've made this explicit? I've thought about this question for a while and I keep coming up with "no." They're free to stop painting any time they like.

Additionally, the only reason Ars is in a position to sell my attention to the advertising cabal is because their practice of handing stuff out for free has created an audience of people like me--long before the expectation that we view the ads they sell space for was in place. My attention was just fine while they were trying to build the kind of inertia that is attractive to advertisers. Now that they have this, my attention is not? Who, exactly, is being immoral here?

I should add that this is purely hypothetical on my part. The only time I read Ars is when someone I do read links to their content. On the other hand, I ad/flashblock with impunity and subscribe to sites I read consistently that offer a subscription model.

* Just finished reading The Man in the High Castle and really like the appropriation of 'graft' to mean something like 'gift freely given but with an implied currying of favor for future reciprocation in kind' in that novel.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:36 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


But if a site asks you politely, "If you take our content, please take our ads," I don't believe you have a moral leg to stand on if you take the content and reject the ads

Lupus_Yonderboy, by itself that seems like a reasonable ethical position to take. But you're missing the context.

"If you take our content, please take our ads" is a completely unreasonable request to make on the web. It breaks the entire concept of what the web is and how it should be used. If you make information available on a public server, that constitutes an invitation to access the information and link to it. HTML is designed so that when a client requests information from a server, the client can render that information in whatever format is most convenient for the user of the client.

The request to only render webpages the way the server desires, or to only render webpages with other webpages (ads) attached (or the equally ridiculous request you used to see from newspapers for people to not link directly to stories on their site) is a request to destroy the web and HTML and remake them into something completely different, something more like AOL or Compuserve. We will not do that.
posted by straight at 3:02 PM on March 9, 2010




I laughed out loud at the idea that it is polite to watch advertisements. Polite! Watching advertisements is dumb and can only make you dumber.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:31 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's fair enough to block those ads. Ars Technica doesn't serve those sort of ads, as far as I'm aware.

I wouldn't know, because I have an ad-blocker installed. I think it's good practice to leave it on at all times, because most sites with ads have them served by a third party. As other people here have pointed out, these third-party providers have been used to distribute malware. Not just once, and not just little podunk providers, and not just on minor websites. So I leave my adblocking software on at all times. In fact I've just installed a new add-on that blocks unauthorised referrals from one website to another.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:41 PM on March 9, 2010


Techdirt is pretty cool. They don't have the scope of Ars, but within their niche they're the best around, in my opinion.

If you subscribed to their RSS feed you've probably noticed that they put entire articles in the feed - none of this business of truncating it after the first few sentences in order to get you to visit the site. These guys really have confidence in the worth of their product.
posted by Ritchie at 9:39 PM on March 9, 2010


That seems absurd to me. My entire reason for using RSS is so that I don't have to read the entire article. It's essentially NoNewsWire for the modern era: headlines and enough of a tidbit to know that you are better off skipping it instead of going to the site.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:57 PM on March 9, 2010


Your scenario, where you go ahead and accept the ads but actively don't display them, strikes me as crossing a line into misrepresentation.

This is quite an interesting point. I'd like to try to tease out a little exactly what is being misrepresented and to whom.

Let's start, yet again, with the assumption that I have made it a firm matter of policy never to respond to an Internet advertisement. In my case, this happens to be true. I imagine it's negligibly different from true for the general ad-blocking population, but the correctness of that imagining is irrelevant when what we're talking about is the possibility that I might be committing a misrepresentation.

Putting ads on my browser screen serves only to annoy me and reduce my enjoyment of whatever web site the ads are associated with. There is no value, either for an advertiser or the business it is advertising, in simply getting an advertisement onto my screen. If an advertiser wants to be explicit about sponsoring some kind of content of interest to me, and get its name and/or logo and/or a link to a relevant page included in that content as outlined in the Techdirt piece linked above, that's different; but we're not talking about that either - we're talking about the vastly more common kind of pure advertising served by third-party advertisers that an ad blocker would typically block.

Therefore, whether advertising is served to me or not makes no difference to the viability or otherwise of any business associated with the advertiser. From the advertiser's point of view, I'm simply a non-prospect; it's in their best interests not to waste bandwidth serving me with advertising content. From a site operator's point of view, my actual advertising-related value is negative since I dilute the ads-to-sales ratio that the advertiser will calculate in respect of that site.

I'm perfectly happy to be up-front about my position on advertising, and my automated agent's initial attempt to hit the site in an identifiably ad-blocked fashion gives the site operator's automated agent enough information to classify me as a non-prospect.

So if, after I've made an unsuccessful attempt to access site content with simple ad-blocking turned on, the site operator still offers me the opportunity to collect site content without paying directly for it provided I collect content from its advertisers as well, then isn't it the site operator who is misrepresenting my value as a potential prospect to its advertisers?

And once all of that content - site content plus advertising - has made it to my side of my firewall, whose business is it but mine which parts of it I choose to render, and what have I misrepresented by choosing not to render such portions as I can pre-identify as advertising?

It seems to me that the only way I could be accused of misrepresentation is to start from the assumption that my choice to collect a given chunk of advertising material constitutes an implicit agreement to give that material the kind of consideration that makes its chance of resulting in a sale non-zero. But that's an unjustifiable assumption, as my initial ad-blocked content request should have made clear.

I'd be interested in your response to this analysis, Malor.
posted by flabdablet at 10:12 PM on March 9, 2010


five fresh fish wrote: "I laughed out loud at the idea that it is polite to watch advertisements. Polite! Watching advertisements is dumb and can only make you dumber."

All I can say is...wow. Apparently other people live their lives in ways I do not understand at all. I can't say an seeing an advertisement has ever left me without my critical thinking skills.
posted by wierdo at 10:28 PM on March 9, 2010


Critical think this: what are the similarities and differences between advertising and taxation? Given the choice of abolishing one or the other, which would you keep, and why?
posted by flabdablet at 10:35 PM on March 9, 2010


Apparently other people live their lives in ways I do not understand at all.

That's quite a profound thing to have noticed. Well done.
posted by flabdablet at 10:36 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


weirdo: Apparently other people live their lives in ways I do not understand at all.

Eponysterical.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:02 AM on March 10, 2010


"Am I going to be sitting here with my jaw on the floor (again) because someone has suggested in all seriousness that because I saw some advertising, I owe the advertiser?"

The next thing you know, they'll be saying that just because you clicked on a link, you should be arrested, publically humiliated, or have your internet connectivity cut off permanently...

Oh. Wait. Nevermind.
posted by markkraft at 2:00 AM on March 10, 2010


I can't say an seeing an advertisement has ever left me without my critical thinking skills.

At the very least, that's what advertisers would like you to think.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:17 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish wrote: "At the very least, that's what advertisers would like you to think."

The closest they've come so far is advertisements for a restaurants that I already knew was there and I liked but hadn't thought of for a while. When I want to eat out and I'm indifferent, advertisement can influence my decision in that way. It wouldn't make me eat at a place I didn't like, or even try a new place sight unseen.

Unless, of course, you're counting an exterior sign on a business' premises which initially alerts me to their presence. I think that mere identification probably should not count as advertisement in the current use of the word.

And when I say they don't make me lose my critical thinking skills, I mean that when I see an ad for something that might interest me, I am occasionally prompted to do further research into the advertised product or service to decide if it might be worth purchasing. I do not, however, rush out and buy anything without engaging my brain prior to spending the scratch.

For people like me, advertisements serve only to identify, not to persuade. No matter how many Snuggie ads I see, I will never think of them as anything but moronic.
posted by wierdo at 11:57 AM on March 10, 2010


flabdablet:

Sorry for the slow response, I spaced on this thread.

I think your analysis hinges on an unproven assumption, that advertising on your screen really has zero value. Your argument mostly hangs together from there, but the foundation strikes me as unsound.

Consider that a substantial majority of advertising in the United States is broadcast-based; that is, there's no way for you to respond directly to it. When you hear an ad on the radio, or you see a commercial on TV, you can't click on them. There is no way for an advertiser to directly monetize your eyeballs, yet they find the advertising worthwhile, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

So, it's pretty clear that 'impressions' are important to advertisers, even when you can't possibly respond directly to their message. I recall studies showing that brand awareness is often driven at a pre-conscious level. When you're making a purchase decision, especially in lower-end, commoditized markets, you have multiple different choices that will probably all work pretty well. Why do you choose one over the other? Whether or not it's true, marketers believe you do this because of brand awareness. I still catch myself grabbing, for instance, Clorox bleach, even though there's no earthly reason to buy it over the supermarket brand. The more routine a decision is, the less your cognitive circuitry comes into play, and the greater weight your pre-conscious impressions can have on which bottle of product you buy. And those decisions are influenced, sometimes strongly, by the advertisements you've been exposed to, even if you weren't actively listening to or watching them. Simple exposure has value, sometimes great value.

And marketing works, at least sometimes. For instance, the last time I had a big online marketing discussion, we were talking about Subway for some reason. I was quite fascinated to watch myself decide to get a Subway sandwich that afternoon, even though I'd had no prior plans to do so. I happen to like Subway, though many MeFites seem to dislike it fairly virulently, and in that case, whatever marketing they'd done to prompt that conversation sold a sandwich.

I found it extra fascinating then, after reading your comment and thinking about my response, to remember the old Subway conversation.... and then, sure enough, I decided I didn't want to cook and popped over to the corner store for a sandwich instead. So Subway has sold at least two sandwiches directly to me because of their marketing, and I think of myself as a fairly marketing-resistant consumer. I think it's entirely possible that we all think of ourselves as marketing-resistant consumers, and yet we aren't very resistant at all.

I'm also reminded of the cognitive studies of the conscious mind; again and again again, we see that the rational mind very rarely makes decisions. Most decisions are handled at a pre- or sub-conscious level, and the conscious mind chases along afterward, making up stories for why you just did what you did. They keep seeing this from all different angles, from simple thought experiments up to a functional MRI. An example thought experiment: you're walking with a friend, deeply engrossed in conversation, and there's a puddle on the sidewalk. Without breaking stride or your conversation, both you and your friend walk around it. If someone were to stop you and ask, right then, "Why did you walk around the puddle?", you would probably say, "Because I didn't want to get my feet wet". But it was handled completely at an unconscious level without ever even impinging on your higher functions. And we're finding, more and more, that an awful lot of decisions are handled in exactly the same way, even very complex ones. With most people, most of the time, the actual abstract cognitive facilities are invoked very rarely, and they find them a bit unpleasant to use. It's hard work, not fun, and they avoid it. In this crowd, I guarantee that you'll have a great deal more thinking and a great deal less automatic pilot, but even a hundred times nearly zero is still a very small number. We are far more conditioned and unaware than we like to believe, and marketing targets that part of us, not the thinker that installs an adblocker.

So, in essence, I disagree with your premise that ad impressions have no value. In your specific case, that might be the truth, but cognitive science is very strongly telling us that that's not so, even if you think otherwise. Displaying ads, even on your specific screen, with your hyper-rational eyes, will probably have some value. Less value? Absolutely. But no value? Unlikely, at least if they advertise a product that's related to something you need.

You can also see this from another angle; the advertising agency is paying per impression, not per click. Per-click deals are fairly common, so by going for a per-impression deal, it's pretty clear that they at least believe this model works for them. They think it has value too.

So, because of that, at least on this particular site, I just don't feel comfortable with bypassing attempts to disable adblocking customers. If they'll give it to me for free, voluntarily, even if I don't accept the ads, I'll happily use their service, and I may someday re-subscribe. Speaking very generally, though, I'm not willing to accept ads and then hide them, because that feels deceptive to me. I would certainly make exceptions for that, in the case of abusive campaigns (slide-overs or punch the monkey bullshit, for instance), but in broad terms, I'm uncomfortable with misrepresenting my intentions.
posted by Malor at 5:20 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for that detailed and considered response.

I am also not happy to misrepresent my intentions. If I were ever going to bother to crank up a fetch-and-discard ad blocker, I would not do so as a first line. My first attempt to access any web site will always be made with conventional fail-to-fetch ad blocking turned on.

As for being persuaded by the hidden persuaders: I work fairly hard at staying out of advertising's way, and that makes it feasible for me to react to such advertising as I do see with a reflexive "Oh, fuck off." It really is the case that showing me your advertising will lower my value to you as a sales prospect. And in fact I'm practiced enough at staying out of advertising's way that I don't need to spend my entire life going "Oh, fuck off."

Case in point: when I finally got around to trying out a Subway, it was years after it first made its presence known in Australia, and the only reason I went in is because I was with my brother on his lunch break. I visited a couple more Subways elsewhere in the months that followed, and found the food pretty uniformly dull. So I now no longer attempt to turn off the instant "Oh, fuck off" I experience whenever I see the Subway* logo.

I feel genuine pity for folks whose reaction to living in advertising-saturated spaces and cultures is to pretend it doesn't matter, or believe it's all somehow necessary for society's continued operation, or has no effect on them at all, or some combination of those. Poor bastards have been breathing conceptual fumes for so long that they've forgotten what air is like.

* Subway, Subway, Subway. Enjoy your footlong :-)
posted by flabdablet at 9:36 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


when I see an ad for something that might interest me, I am occasionally prompted to do further research into the advertised product or service to decide if it might be worth purchasing

You and I are somewhat different in that regard.

When I see an ad for something interesting enough to bypass the initial "Oh, fuck off," I am generally prompted to see if I can find a competing product or service for cheaper or free. I usually can, because businesses that choose not to piss money up against advertising agency walls but rely instead on earning customer referrals can afford to compete on price even when the quality of what they offer is superior (and it usually is, in my experience).

If I can't, I will shrug and do without. If I didn't need it before I saw the ad, I still don't need it after.
posted by flabdablet at 9:46 PM on March 10, 2010


flabdablet wrote: "If I didn't need it before I saw the ad, I still don't need it after."

Neither do I. But if an ad happens to appear at just the right time, it might remind me to buy something I've been looking for. During that process of determining whether the product is worth buying, I look at competing products also. I buy the one that's the best value for money. Sometimes, shockingly, that happens to be the one whose marketing I saw. Sometimes not.

I know people who are strongly affected by advertising. My SO is one of them. I can't let her walk into a fucking Walgreen's unless I want her to come out with $30 of other random shit she decided she just couldn't live without as she wandered through the store looking for the product that drew her there in the first place.

Perhaps it's different in Australia, but around here, if I refused to purchase things that I had ever seen advertisements for, I wouldn't be able to buy anything. Nor would I be able to shop anywhere. Every store advertises somewhere. The local grocery stores send me junk mail every week which, as is par for the course, advertises their store brands (as well as the big brands).

I can't avoid advertising unless I go live in a cave somewhere. If I walk around the block, I get to see billboards. If I turn on the radio, I get to hear radio ads. It takes a strong defense mechanism to prevent being affected in a major way by advertising. It sucks, but my trying to do something about it is just tilting at windmills. For every person like me, there are a hundred or a thousand like my SO. Until that changes, advertising is just something I have to live with.
posted by wierdo at 4:42 AM on March 11, 2010


Not that different where most Australians live, in the big cities. I don't live in one any more (see profile) and one of the reasons I left was that ubiquitous advertising was giving me the shits.
posted by flabdablet at 4:50 AM on March 11, 2010


Also: taxpayer-funded broadcasters are a beautiful thing. So are subscriber-funded broadcasters.
posted by flabdablet at 4:55 AM on March 11, 2010


Pop quiz - Rate the following from most to least ethical:

1) Using an ad blocker to not download ad images
2) Using an ad blocker that downloads ads but doesn't display them on the browser
3) Using no ad blocker on your browser at all but arranging the windows of other programs to block the areas where ads appear so you can't see them
4) Using Post-it notes to block the areas of your screen where ads appear in your browser
5) Using no blockers at all but training yourself not to see or pay attention to ads
posted by scalefree at 6:47 AM on March 11, 2010


Use better software, and your computer will not be at risk.

I keep seeing this phrase. My answer is this:

I do use better software. It's called Adblock Plus.

Thanks you for your concern.
posted by Splunge at 7:01 AM on March 11, 2010


As web advertising becomes more disruptive and pervasive, an ad blocker will increasingly become just as essential for responsible web users as a virus scanner, e-mail spam filter or pop-up blocker.
posted by oulipian at 7:33 AM on March 11, 2010


I can't avoid advertising unless I go live in a cave somewhere.

Or, y'know, use an ad-blocker.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:21 AM on March 11, 2010


five fresh fish wrote: "I can't avoid advertising unless I go live in a cave somewhere.

Or, y'know, use an ad-blocker.
"

I have yet to find an ad blocker that works on billboards, newspapers, the radio, and my (postal) mailbox. And even with TiVo, I still end up seeing small snippets of television advertising even if I fast forward through the ads.

Splunge wrote: "Use better software, and your computer will not be at risk.

I keep seeing this phrase. My answer is this:

I do use better software. It's called Adblock Plus.

Thanks you for your concern.
"

That's like saying "I do use better software. It's called foo antivirus." What you're doing is a workaround. If you used a better OS, malware would be unable to do any harm to your computer. There is plenty of malware out there that doesn't rely on ad servers to get there, you know.

There are certainly other reasons to use ad blockers. (Namely, not wanting to see ads) Using them as a defense against malware is kinda silly, though. That block list is nowhere near comprehensive.
posted by wierdo at 1:19 PM on March 11, 2010


I have yet to find an ad blocker that works on billboards, newspapers, the radio, and my (postal) mailbox.

SeeFree. It's a start.
posted by scalefree at 1:56 PM on March 11, 2010


scalefree wrote: "SeeFree. It's a start."

If only it weren't $1500. I'd modify it to do more interesting things. Perhaps facial recognition so they could help me with my terrible memory for names.

Augmented reality is something I've been interested in. Odd that they choose to market it as an ad blocker.
posted by wierdo at 2:01 PM on March 11, 2010


Doesn't strike me as odd in the least. Which is, I guess, kind of predictable.

Might be interesting to wear one into an art gallery.
posted by flabdablet at 7:56 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Real time ad blocking would be a lot less computationally intensive than facial recognition I'd think. I'm not convinced it's a real product though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:59 AM on March 12, 2010


That's only because you haven't met their sales guy yet.
posted by flabdablet at 2:32 AM on March 12, 2010


I almost linked that except it's been barely a month since the last time.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:43 AM on March 12, 2010


I'm not convinced it's a real product though.

You could always go the DIY route.
posted by scalefree at 7:35 AM on March 12, 2010


Sure, but how many installed adblock because of particularly ad-heavy sites like Ars?

I really don't know. I've had it installed long before I read anything on there. I think porn or lyrics sites would instigate ad-blocking long before a news outlet of any type would, for most users.
posted by rubah at 10:40 PM on March 16, 2010


You have someone talking about covering up part of their television with cardboard to block an ad.

That was me. I just thought it was a good way to deal with the ads, and in fact the dozen or so other people in the room applauded my action.

Advertising is so ubiquitous that if it bothered me at all I imagine I'd go insane.

If you're hoping advertising will disappear from the internet, then good luck with that.


It doesn't bother me at all any more. I have eliminated it, for the most part, from my home and computer with technology.

And, I don't need luck to make advertising disappear from the internet. I made it happen with a little tiny bit of elbow grease deposited into /etc/hosts.

People who use the computers in this house are always delighted that the ads are gone. I am more than happy to explain what I did and offer them the same sort of pleasant experience in their own home.
posted by Sukiari at 5:01 PM on March 18, 2010


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