Category Archives: Evolution of the WWW

Stop whining about privacy: YOU are the one GIVING it away

Following Facebook’s announcement of their “Home” app, many people seem to have read Om Malik’s melodramatic cry over spilt milk:

Om says, “But there is a bigger worry. The phone’s GPS can send constant information back to the Facebook servers, telling it your whereabouts at any time.”

Yes, it can Om, you’re right. And how does it do that, exactly? I’ll tell you shall I… Here’s a step-by-step;

  1. You download the app
  2. You agree to the app using  your GPS
  3. You open the app
  4. You allow the app to take over the home screen

OH MY GOD! I’ve suddenly realised how awful Facebook is – taking all that information from you without your consent(!)

Justifying his lying on the floor kicking and screaming, Om continues, “Facebook, a company that is known to have played loose-and-easy with consumer privacy and data since its very inception..”

Again, he’s spot on. But rather than make his point this shows how pathetic his argument is. If anything, that should have prepared him for the inevitability that Facebook will use his data. He appears to be saying,

“I can’t believe Facebook is using the huge amount of data about my life that I handed over!”

My response to Om, and anyone else whinging about their privacy within the Facebook wall, is;

If you willingly hand over any data about your life to any company whose terms, which you agreed to, state they can use that data then they will bloody well use it. If you don’t like it, don’t fucking hand over your data, you moron!

My next rant will be about why I LOVE handing over my data! 😉

Update: Instead of of that second rant, just read this which I agree with completely. In fact, I’m already allowing Google to track my every move and loving the benefits I’m getting.

Why I backed App.net

Given the choice I’d prefer to pay for a product than be the product.

I want ownership of my own data, my own mutterings, musing, incoherent rants and drivvle.

My own words and creations should be available to me in the format I want them in, not subject to someone else’s corporate branding guidelines and platform stifling despotism.

Being in a walled garden feels anathema to the world wide web that was envisaged by TBL and that I fell in love with so many years ago.

So many people whinge about being delivered ads on Facebook, in their Gmail, or promoted tweets on Twitter. Yet often (not always!) those same people don’t seem to get that they are the product.

App.net lays the foundation (important: Alpha does not equal App.net) for that relationship to fundamentally change, in their favour.

This is why I love Google…

Whilst watching the Olympic marathon I wondered about the length, so I asked Google what 26 miles is in kilometres, knowing it’d give me an instant conversion. A pleasant surprise was that Google figured I was probably watching the marathon given the timing of my query and also showed me the live results, as you can see from this screenshot.

image

Occasionally I see articles pop up from people (mostly copyright holders) whining about this kind of use of information by Google. The fact is, it’s incredibly useful to the user. These kind of intelligent results show exactly why Google commands such a massive dominance in the search market.

Bad ads

Finally, I  plucked up the courage to purchase my shiney new Samsung Galaxy S3 (more on that later) and whilst reading the latest news on the Guardian app I noticed that they (or their ad server people) still don’t know how to do ad targeting properly.

See my screenshot of the app below, taken on my new Samsung Galaxy S3 and showing me an advert for… wait for it… the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Obviously I’m never going to click that ad. I already own an S3. I’m using it!

The worst bit is that it’s easy to detect that I’m using it. They should know that I’m using an SGS3 and remove that ad accordingly. Any marketer wanting to keep their job should be aware of this and be eliminating such horrendous wastage from their marketing budget. You’d think the Guardian would want to make their offering useful, too.

image

Okay, rant over. As you were.

Think open data is just the realm of geeks? Not in Lichfield…

This is partly the reason why I love Lichfield so much. Our council CEO recently joined Twitter and was last night tweeting (much revered) webmaster, Stuart Harrion;

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/Ninadawesldc/status/133285420699095042″]

Where else do you get a council chief exec tweeting her webby on a Sunday evening about the Open Government License?!

Fantastic!

There is no web 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0

This is deliberately similar to my first Posterous post, “There is no new vs. old media“…

There is no web 1.0 or web 2.0 or even web 3.0. There is only the evolving web. I despise the use of the phrase “web 2.0” when it relates to web design, for example – it implies that it needs to have cool jQuery and Ajax stuff going on. You know what, if you’re building a site figure out your user need and build it using the right technologies. Don’t just build a “web 2.0” site ’cause it’s what all the cool kids are doing.

Okay, rant over. But who’s to say I’m right. Disagree at will using the comments.

This was posted via web from Philip’s posterous

Free your post code!

Today, Ernest Marples Postcodes was shut down by Royal Mail. The service enables great sites such as PlannngAlerts.com and The Straight Choice as well as many others.

The action is stifling digital innovation in the UK and really needs to be freed up. So, in order to combat this let’s free up the postcode data by creating our own version of Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF).

UPDATE: It turns out, this isn’t such a good idea. Read Matthew Somerville’s comment.

It’s really easy to do, and here’s how:

  1. Go to the Get Lat Lon site.
  2. Type your post code into the search box.
  3. Zoom in so you can see your house/location (use the Satellite view, top right).
  4. Centre the map so that the cross-hair rests on your house/location.
  5. Below the map will be two numbers representing the latitude and longitude. Copy/make note of these numbers.
  6. Go to the Free the Postcode site.
  7. Type in your details, and paste in the latitude and longitude you took down. (Note: you don’t have to use your real e-mail address, see Bruce’s comment below.)
  8. Type in the postcode of your house/location and click Submit.

You can also submit your address to the Open Postcode Database to free it from Royal Mail’s licensing restrictions.

Is Google AdSense really that bad, or are advertisers failing themselves?

From the Keep It Simple Stupid department….

Google’s contextual advertising doesn’t get a lot of love from anyone; publishers or advertisers. Publishers slam the low revenues and advertisers are disappointed with the high-cost, low-return they seem to get when choosing to advertise on the content network.

Having spent years managing campaigns through Google’s AdWords program (the advertising platform that supplies ads to contextual service, AdSense) I’ve experienced advertiser’s frustration over the content network. Indeed, one of the first things I did when creating or optimising campaigns would be to turn off the content network, ensuring that my client’s ads only ever appeared on Google search results.

This was the thinking;

Chart showing more wastage from the content network than search
Chart showing more wastage from the content network than search

About two years ago I re-visited the content network and figured that actually, it’s not that bad at all. You can target very effectively. I began taking a more traditional approach to online marketing. I researched the target market and found the sites that my target market was frequenting. Then, I pumped those sites into AdWords and it told me if they ran AdSense as well as some similar sites that definitely did. I could then easily create a campaign targeting only those sites that I’d identified. The situation then looked very different;

Chart showing more wastage from search content network
Chart showing more wastage from search than content network

It’s a very crued way of demonstrating the point, I know. What it does make you think about as well is the amount of wastage you get from search. I’ve always had great difficulty dealing with ‘keywords’ because it’s impossible to know what searchers are thinking when they type them in. Let’s take the common example of ‘mp3 players’. Is someone searching for ‘mp3 players’;

  1. Looking to buy an MP3 player?
  2. Researching MP3 players with the intention to buy at a later date?
  3. Trying to figure out what an MP3 player is?
  4. Looking for a supplier of MP3 players?
  5. Searching for a local shop selling MP3 players?
  6. Attempting to find software that will play MP3s?
  7. Researching in-car MP3 players?

I could go on… Imagine you are selling portable MP3 players by Sony. You find an MP3 player review site, add that to a Google AdWords campaign and target keywords including Sony. Your ad will only display on Sony MP3 player reviews. The great thing about that is you are catching your target market right at the point where they are trying to make a purchase decision. If they’re happy with the review there’s a good chance they’ll want to buy that MP3 player and conveniently, your (hopefully well-written) ad is sitting right along side.

I liken it to being able to cherry pick people off the street to pull into your high street shop. It really can be that powerful. So is it really the case that Google’s contextual targeting is flawed? Or is it just that advertiser’s aren’t taking full advantage of the system?

Well, it’s a bit of both. Google’s system needs to be smarter – showing ads for hotels in Lichfield isn’t very relevant on a site who’s target market all live in Lichfield. Google is also just doing what it can with the ads it’s been given though. Advertiser’s need to get smarter, too, and realise that this power is at their fingertips if they only look. Having said that when Google updated the AdWords interface a while back they manage to bury all the features I’ve just told you about. It took me ages to actually find them again!

Google make a big song and dance about how quickly and easily you can be up and running with AdWords. It’s true, anyone can do it in less than half an hour. It’s rarely successful though and to make a success of AdWords you need to really know your stuff, to the point that you can pass their certified professionals exam.

So what’s the solution? Pay a pay-per-click agency thousands to do it for you? Spend hours learning AdWords inside out? Well, yes ….and no. Why not KISS?

When we put AdSense on The Lichfield Blog we weren’t surprised that it didn’t generate a lot of revenue. After something like 3 months we switched to the much simpler and easier Addiply system. In the first month we had secured £42.50 of advertising revenue, beating those 3 months with AdSense by miles. It took some phoning around and it’s by no means a living but it pays some costs and considering it’s very much a ‘suck it and see’ effort, it’s gone very well.

There’s still some ground to be covered… Addiply is simple and easy to use, AdSense is feature rich and powerful once you know what you’re doing. There’s a middle-ground somewhere and in this period where local media is looking for ways to make the web pay, that middle ground is going to make publishers and advertisers everywhere very happy… as well as a small pot of gold for the person who gets to that middle ground first!

Hat-tip to Rick who prompted this post after finding Jeff Jarvis’ mood swing ads.