Attracting e-rubes en masse: a business model as ancient as the carnival
April 6, 2010 7:50 PM   Subscribe

Google Is Butchering The Written Word, or “How to Buy PEX Tubing Online”

the Google ad referenced in the introduction, "with the identity-forming noise, character, and narrative of TV advertisement"
posted by blasdelf (64 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wagsturgidflaffling.com, more like. An article about Google advertising that reads like a sociological paper from Kids' Fantasy University. The sentiments, once you get to them, are spot on. They could have been written on three pages.
posted by jet_silver at 7:56 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I could barely get past the first page. That interface is atrocious, almost as though it wants to actively harm the reader. Does anyone have a link to a Google cache or something so that I can read it in plain text?
posted by explosion at 7:58 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Those PEX tubing instructions, over which Litton performs such how-could-it-come-to-this histrionics of shame, are far better writing than the awful David Foster Wallace impression in which they're wrapped.
posted by RogerB at 8:02 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus, that's an awful interface. I gave up two pages in.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:06 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


PDF via
posted by swift at 8:10 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I kind of liked the article, but I am unduly swayed by unnecessarily elaborate footnotes, which almost always amuse me.
posted by Scattercat at 8:12 PM on April 6, 2010


I tried to read the first page, then Googled PEX tubing.

Did I miss anything?
posted by Floydd at 8:13 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Indeed, among the companies vying for supremacy over “The Internet and Stuff Used to Log Thereon / Navigate Therein,” Google has managed a peculiar feat: Unlike Microsoft, with its aura of an impenetrable, viral-ridden, and merciless hegemon; or Apple and its smarmy, scenester-escent, and totally over-aestheticized Justin Long charm; Google has maintained an immaculate public image.

This hash of an egregiously ungrammatical, unsyntactical mess actually seems much more a butchering of the English language to me than anything Google has or has not allegedly done.
posted by blucevalo at 8:13 PM on April 6, 2010 [13 favorites]



Jesus, that's an awful interface. I gave up two pages in.

I tried. I failed. Second page in. The content reads like an over-exuberant grad student.
posted by Benway at 8:19 PM on April 6, 2010


Exactly, Blucevalo. It is a horribly written article dedicated to critiquing bad writing.
posted by LarryC at 8:21 PM on April 6, 2010


I feel fully justified in not reading this.
posted by nutate at 8:21 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


It does get better around page 91, though I'm afraid that Litton never stops referring to himself as Your Essayist.
posted by Iridic at 8:32 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I actually read the whole thing excepting the footnotes. It's overblown and way too wordy but he makes a decent point that Google's search engine in combination with AdWords inadvertently causes the creation of huge amounts of low quality content to fill as many search results as possible. He worked for a company that basically wrote a shitty version of AskMetafilter, answering thousands of the most popular questions put to Google in the most superficial and unhelpfull way just to be first on the results pages for those questions.
posted by octothorpe at 8:33 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


It would be super awesome if people realized they're not DFW. Also, never will be.
posted by lattiboy at 8:34 PM on April 6, 2010


LarryC: He discloses in a footnote that "it was his harrowing, doldrums-inducing spat as a freelancer [with (Demand Studios, Suite101.com, Examiner.com)] that inspired this essay." — he's criticizing the writing style he was paid to use!

Here's the link to that Google ad that's borked in the post
posted by blasdelf at 8:38 PM on April 6, 2010


I hate this guy. That interface is literally the worst interface I've ever seen - it somehow completely breaks the back button even though it appears to just be regular HTML/JS. Apart from that, though, he's so in love with himself I wish Google would somehow enable me to punch him over fiber optic cable. You know how in magazine interviews, they'll put some particularly good quote by the interviewee in large type with the text flowing around it? He fucking does that with HIS OWN WORDS.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:40 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


He has a point but those sites, while they do technically make money, make less than you think and they're generally only borderline profitable.
posted by GuyZero at 8:41 PM on April 6, 2010


Skip to the postscript.
I agree the style was a bit tedious but there was still enough in there to interest me.
posted by awfurby at 8:45 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The orchestrated string music suddenly vaults toward a crescendo"... wow that is spectacularly bad writing. Some interesting points though buried beneath the chip on his shoulder brought about by selling himself out.
posted by BobsterLobster at 8:53 PM on April 6, 2010


Even the .PDF is horribly formatted. Gahhh.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:56 PM on April 6, 2010


For the essayist.
posted by felix betachat at 9:08 PM on April 6, 2010


[fixed the second link]
posted by mathowie at 9:16 PM on April 6, 2010


Can you fix the first link too? Make it readable? Maybe do a lot of copyediting?
posted by incessant at 9:32 PM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Your Commenter is sure there was a point to be made in there somewhere, but it got lost in the insanely pretentious and needlessly complex footnotes.[1]


1. Some of which seem to have gotten together and had little footnotes of their own.[2]
2. Like this one.

posted by Spatch at 9:41 PM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


He fucking does that with HIS OWN WORDS
This.

Everyone already voiced my response, but I wanted to do my part to boost the search results for this thread for when this jackass goes ego-surfing.

William Litton William Litton William Litton William Litton William Litton William Litton
posted by hypersloth at 9:49 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know how in magazine interviews, they'll put some particularly good quote by the interviewee in large type with the text flowing around it? He fucking does that with HIS OWN WORDS.

It's called a pull quote, and it's normal.
posted by orthogonality at 9:52 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know it's obnoxious to post a response consisting entirely of one Internet catchphrases, but in this case I think it's more than appropriate.

TLDR.
posted by elmwood at 10:07 PM on April 6, 2010


In footnote 10 he writes

If you care to know the details, just
fucking Google it.


God I wish I could write that and get away with it.
posted by water bear at 10:07 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


seriously, isn't that the best footnote ever?
posted by water bear at 10:11 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


The ad is adorable. Why would they use stealth bombers to deliver cell phones to slack-jawed midwesterners? I get that they're trying to convey the advanced-technology and uniqueness of the product, but sometimes when you try to jam too many benefits into one narrative you get this kind of delightfully incoherent conceptual gibberish. I think the agency didn't tell them in sufficiently emphatic terms that this was so.
posted by clockzero at 10:15 PM on April 6, 2010


From a footnote:
Because Google holds a near monopoly on search traffic, and because it commands such fervent brand loyalty, it has relatively little incentive to innovate at this point (the sauce ain’t changing much). Individuals and companies are now extremely proficient in gaming Google’s ranking system
I don't think that's really true, there are a ton of things that Google is doing that are innovative. Their translation system is one. Stuff in google labs like Google Squared which is both an impressive display of AI and also totally useless for everyone except maybe people wright high school english papers on random topics.
posted by delmoi at 10:20 PM on April 6, 2010


Repeat after me: The web is not print, I cannot design for a single page size. The web is not print, I cannot design for a single page size. The web is not print, I cannot design for a single page size.

His page size is taller than my laptop screen; add in the crazy magazine-turning UI and long, complex sentences, and you have a document that screams "Please do not read me".
posted by egypturnash at 10:26 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


forced justification is killing the written word, actually. good god, that was hard to read.
posted by mrballistic at 10:30 PM on April 6, 2010


add in the crazy magazine-turning UI and long, complex sentences, and you have a document that screams

they used to use JPGs of whole page images

Also, The Droid ads are all pretty terrible. They're all so totally derivative and unimaginative. But I think they are going for the same demographics as all those 18 blade razor ads.
posted by delmoi at 10:31 PM on April 6, 2010


"Attracting e-rubes en masse: a business model as ancient as the carnival"

"e-rubes"?? Ancient?

ouch...

I feel bad for blasdelf.
posted by paulsc at 10:32 PM on April 6, 2010


The article makes the same point as this article: The End Of Hand Crafted Content, except done in the style of Jon Katz.
posted by robla at 10:33 PM on April 6, 2010


They have a PDF of the whole magazine available for download, the essay in question starts on page 45.
posted by delmoi at 10:33 PM on April 6, 2010


I think the Stealth Bomber droid ad was made for/by Verizon and not Google specifically. If you want an example of google advertising for it's own sake check out the Nexus 1 banner ads that show up around the internet. They're fairly subdued.

That, and the ninja unboxing video that made the rounds last year. It was pretty charming.

I, personally, think the author should get a more constructive hobby.
posted by hellojed at 10:34 PM on April 6, 2010


dearest william,

i wish it didn't have to come to this; i would have rather told you in person. the recent publication of your essay, however, has left me no recourse. you have caused irrevocable damage to my reputation through my association with you. before you write me another word, stop. please just stop.

as of now, you are no longer my essayist. looking back, i was bored and in a weak place; i thought that i needed an essayist. this experience is a lesson learned. i am stronger now. i have learned to be on the lookout for hot air, half-baked ideas, and david foster wallace complexes.

with any luck, i bet some cofeehouse on a campus somewhere will offer you some freshman english major that does not know any better an opportunity to be their essayist. i hope that they will suffice because you can not do any better, and i need to you to stay away from me. forever.


sincerely,
the aloha

p.s. it's not me, it's you.
posted by the aloha at 10:35 PM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


I tell you, those Droid ads that refer to the thing as "a bare-knuckled bucket of does?" I keep reading that as DOES, the plural of doe, a deer, a female deer.

It causes me a lot of cognitive dissonance.
posted by KathrynT at 10:43 PM on April 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


oh man it gets good around page "91", 55 in the PDF:
Your essayist and some of his closest friends spent several months under the employ of eHow’s parent company, Demand Studios, and during that time (a very dark time, indeed) they produced some of the most heinous how-to articles to ever pollute the Web. The Demand Media Company has a computer that tracks relatively popular search terms and their projected Google AdSense revenue, and then synthetically generates titles based on that data. Freelancers can then claim and crap out the articles for $5 to $15 payment. The computer comes up with some absolutely bat-shit ridiculous titles. As a reflection of fairly common search phrases, these titles are also a reflection of the sheer weirdness of the modern condition, and they beg to be anthropologized.14 A lengthy though certainly not exhaustive selection, to wit:

How to Buy Different Kinds of Faux Leather, How to Design Your Own Dog Bandanas, How to Make a Tree with Little Debbie Swiss Rolls, How to Make a Keytar, How to Declare a Missing Person Dead, How to Use Multiple Condoms, How to Know If Your Contraceptive Fails, How to Grow Taller at 40, How to Use a Hitachi Bread Maker, Helpful Hints for Proper Use of a Meter Stick, Making Broom Puppets, Words You Can Make Using the Periodic Table, Pee Wee Tennis Rules, DIY Build a Dog Casket, Heely Trick Tips, How to Start a Reflective Essay, How to Change Body PH, How to Make Eel Traps, How to Make Lamps From Deer Antlers, How to Make a Homemade Flame Thrower, How to Make Your Own Parrot Toys, How to Use the Words of the Serenity Prayer, How to Answer IQ Tests, How to Prepare for a Colostomy Reversal Operation, How to Use Sugar Sweetener, How to Prevent Alcoholism, How to Have Dinner with Diabetes, How to Treat Lice on Goats, How to Kiss After a Dental Extraction, How to Eradicate Tiredness, Apple Cider Vinegar Cure for Shingles, About Tui Na Massage for Dogs.
The second half of the essay makes a good argument for killing off these content farms. Even for people who complain about google a lot, this issue isn't one of the bigger ones. Pretty much everything I search for, I get a wikipedia article, which is actually what I wanted.

But they've already drunk from the poisoned well, just like facebook and farmville. The sleazy company (or companies) funnel money back to the legit companies, who become addicted.
posted by delmoi at 10:48 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, The Droid ads are all pretty terrible. They're all so totally derivative and unimaginative. But I think they are going for the same demographics as all those 18 blade razor ads.

Which isn't me because I'm a conspicuously over-40 neo luddite. I tried to read the article past that sentence, but it got stuck in my head like a stray popcorn hull that gets stuck so far in your gums that you miss the whole middle of the movie trying to pry it out with makeshift toothpicks fashioned from the remains of a junior mints box.

Despite my advanced age, I would really like an 18 bladed razor. Not to shave with, heavens no. I need it for self-defense purposes.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:48 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn, the lack of sleep and the Ivar's fries and clam nectar and my love of PEX tubing but it took me an embarrassing while to figure out what the fuck my Seattle mefi buddy blasdelf (don't hold it against him please) is communicating via this post. After maybe 409 words buried in coy:
So goes the fairly recent Verizon/Google ad for their new Droid smart phone. The ad is remarkable for more than its sheer inanity; it’s also one of the few times Google has associated its brand with the identity-forming noise, character, and narrative of TV advertisement.
Google is succumbing to being big. I'm actually surprised that it has taken so long. It's happened to Apple certainly, Ben & Jerry's somewhat, and seems unfortunately inevitable when any organization, no matter their founders original intent, gets big. See also: Jesus.
posted by vapidave at 10:54 PM on April 6, 2010


Does Google have anything to do with the Droid ads? I thought it was strictly Motorola?
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:18 PM on April 6, 2010


No, I'm quite sure google has nothing to do with the droid ads.

Here is how Google advertises it's phone.

(There's quite a contrast.)
posted by delmoi at 11:58 PM on April 6, 2010


Y'know, if your first footnote is longer than your first page, then maybe it's time to consider rewriting or running it by an editor or something. Or taking up a more socially useful profession, such as carnival geek.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:20 AM on April 7, 2010


More like William Bulwer-Litton, amirite?
posted by Floydd at 2:20 AM on April 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't even like real David Foster Wallace, so why would I want to read a fake David Foster Wallace?
posted by cropshy at 3:15 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Google ad reminds me of Singularity Sky by Charlie Stross, where less advanced civilisations were bombarded with technology far beyond them so that they could also experience the singularity.
posted by Joe Chip at 3:40 AM on April 7, 2010


tl;dr
PEX tubing is some of the strongest, most versatile home plumbing and heating tubing on the market. One of the best ways to purchase PEX tubing quickly and cheaply is from online suppliers.

1. Visit various wholesale suppliers’ websites online, such as PexSupply.com, BlueRidgeCompany.com, and PEXHeat.com.

2. Browse the various PEX tubing options. There are a wide range of lengths, diameters and strength grades for different prices.

3. Find the option that is right for your needs and click “add to cart.”

4. Follow the website’s guidelines for purchase and shipment.

Tip: Browse several different websites to find the best price before buying.
the trick is to imagine an internet of content driven by metafilter favorites instead of SEO...
posted by ennui.bz at 5:06 AM on April 7, 2010


Freelancers can then claim and crap out the articles for $5 to $15 payment.

How to Buy Different Kinds of Faux Leather

You summon the Invisible Hand! Your purchasing power has decreased! You gain Different Kinds of Faux Leather!

Alternatively, do the Tourist Area quest.

How to Design Your Own Dog Bandanas


See article on How to Design Your Own Bandanas. Use less cloth according the size of your dog's head.

How to Make a Tree with Little Debbie Swiss Rolls

Take rolls, put them one on top of the other to make a stump, make primitive branches and wait for the rolls to melt so you can stick them together. Take photos, lick hands, add macros.

How to Make a Keytar

Jump to my yaguar babe.

How to Declare a Missing Person Dead

a) Do you stand to gain more than $50,000?
b) Yes
c) Get a lawyer

How to Use Multiple Condoms

Put one on each finger. Or use them one after another on your penis: there can be only one.

How to Know If Your Contraceptive Fails

BABBY IS FORMED.

How to Grow Taller at 40

Visit your childhood room. Bask in your immensity.

How to Use a Hitachi Bread Maker

You didn't RTFM. You'll never read this either.

Helpful Hints for Proper Use of a Meter Stick

Expand and measure. See also: Helpful Hints for Improper Use of a Meter Stick: expand, explore, exploit, and exterminate.

Making Broom Puppets

Position legs on each side of a broom. You have a broom horsie!

Words You Can Make Using the Periodic Table


Uuh.

Pee Wee Tennis Rules


You don't talk about Pee Wee Tennis. Because you might want to take your kids to play Football, Football, Basketball, Baseball, Hockey, Cricket etc. according to your territory.

DIY Build a Dog Casket

Did you mean: "Hack a Dog Casket?" Get your old puddle casket and install your cat inside. Use your most expensive pillow or your favorite flower pot to lure her in. h4xx0r!

Heely Trick Tips

Heely tricks don't impress anyone.

How to Start a Reflective Essay


Reflect on that for a few seconds.

How to Change Body PH

Done.

How to Make Eel Traps

Use finger as bait. Google "How to Make Successful Eel Traps".

How to Make Lamps From Deer Antlers

what

How to Make a Homemade Flame Thrower

If you are not old enough to have seen Arachnophobia, do you really think your mom will allow it in the house?

How to Make Your Own Parrot Toys

He appreciates it, but you needn't go that far. Feeding him some leaves of that delicious plant will please him more.

How to Use the Words of the Serenity Prayer

Accept the words you cannot change.

How to Answer IQ Tests

With a long diatribe on the ways IQ tests are unsatisfactory.

How to Prepare for a Colostomy Reversal Operation


Colostomy reversal isn't that far removed from my Engineering major, really. Let me check my freshman books.

How to Use Sugar Sweetener

Sprinkle sugar on stuff.

How to Prevent Alcoholism

Moderation in all drinks.

How to Have Dinner with Diabetes

My Engineering freshman books don't cover that, but let me rummage through my sophomore books. You have the right man, buddy!

How to Treat Lice on Goats

Treat 'em right.

How to Kiss After a Dental Extraction

Awkwardly.

How to Eradicate Tiredness

Sleep the big sleep.

Apple Cider Vinegar Cure for Shingles


A few drinks should make shingles the least of your problems.

About Tui Na Massage for Dogs.


What about it?


I'll be waiting for my $160–480, tyvm.

*Just like jazz, journalism, Bela Lugosi, rock n roll, books, blogs, my goldfish etc.

posted by ersatz at 5:09 AM on April 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


/adds "Monetized online content" to CV.
posted by ersatz at 5:10 AM on April 7, 2010


(The one female witness is attractive in a potato-fed kind of way.)

What the hell does that mean?

He was handsome in a Mac-N-Cheese consumer kind of way.
She is pretty in a yogurt lover kind of way.
They were good looking in a Fried Chicken gobblers kind of way.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:22 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


That guy is in love with himself, his writing, his wit and the breadth and scope of his references.

And the interface looks like a cheap knock-off version of Jstor.org (where, you know, real journals are presented).

Anyone else read "WAG" as "Wives and Girlfriends"?
posted by flippant at 5:42 AM on April 7, 2010


tl;dr
That guy needs to learn to either be funny or get to the fucking point.
posted by w0mbat at 7:05 AM on April 7, 2010


Firefox + Adblock = absolute and extremely satisfying inability to comprehend this essay and this post.
posted by gum at 9:20 AM on April 7, 2010


I note our SEO employees aren't speaking up about how important their work is, or how they only do it because they desperately need the money and have no other skills. I find that interesting, because the time I ranted vulgarly about how I hate those motherfucking asswipes and the turds they've dropped in our public internet pool, I got a lot of pushback from them. I do, of course, retain my loathing of all of them.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:39 AM on April 7, 2010


No, I'm quite sure google has nothing to do with the droid ads.

They sure did sell a lot of droids though.
posted by smackfu at 10:21 AM on April 7, 2010


They never had the droids I was looking for.
posted by Floydd at 10:42 AM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


It’s not news that you can’t trust what you read on the Internet, but the scary part is that perhaps the least trustworthy material often occupies the top search result spots.

Obvious to us, perhaps, but I thought it was still OK. Not horrible.

Pretty much everything I search for, I get a wikipedia article, which is actually what I wanted.

You can also search Wikipedia, ya know:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search?search=%s

(although for some reason, Wikipedia's search does sorta suck.)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:17 AM on April 7, 2010


No, I'm quite sure google has nothing to do with the droid ads.

They sure did sell a lot of droids though.


Verizon sold a lot of Droids, all of which were manufactured by Motorola. Google just provided the OS. But the only handset that Google has ever sold is the Nexus One.
posted by GuyZero at 11:26 AM on April 7, 2010


Yeah, the whole Droid commercial-Google connection was awkward and best excised.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:31 AM on April 7, 2010


It really doesn't make sense to buy the tubing online, but rather just the fittings and the tools. The tubing is a bulky, commodity product that can be bought just about anywhere without significant price differences. Whereas the price of the specialized tools and fittings can vary widely, in addition to the relatively low cost of shipping compared to the tubing. Maybe that's the problem the author was having, in addition to not being funny.
posted by electroboy at 3:43 PM on April 7, 2010


April Fool!
posted by 3.2.3 at 6:21 PM on April 7, 2010


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