12 Dec

Adblock Plus – Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus

Starting with Adblock Plus 2.0 you can allow some of the advertising that is considered not annoying. By doing this you support websites that rely on advertising but choose to do it in a non-intrusive way. And you give these websites an advantage over their competition which encourages other websites to use non-intrusive advertising as well. In the long term the web will become a better place for everybody, not only Adblock Plus users. Without this feature we run the danger that increasing Adblock Plus usage will make small websites unsustainable.

via Adblock Plus – Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus. I’m all onboard with this, in fact I’ve even written my own Adblock Plus filters to enable ads that are both interesting and un-intrusive.

02 Oct

NYTimes.com – Deal Sites Have Fading Allure for Merchants

Just a few months ago, daily deal coupons were the new big thing. The biggest dealmaker, Groupon, was preparing to go public at a valuation as high as $30 billion, which would have been a record amount for a start-up less than three years old. Hundreds of copycat coupon sites sprung up in Groupon’s wake, including DoubleTakeDeals, YourBestDeals, DealFind, DoodleDeals, DealOn, DealSwarm and GoDailyDeals. Deal sites were widely praised as a replacement for local advertising.

Now coupon fatigue is setting in. Groupon’s public offering has repeatedly been put off amid stock market turmoil and internal missteps; the company says it is back on track, but some analysts say it may never happen. Dozens of copycats are closing, reformulating or merging, including Local Twist in San Diego, RelishNYC and Crowd Cut in Atlanta. Facebook and Yelp, two powerhouse Internet firms that had big plans for deals, quickly backed off.

Even the biggest Web retailer, Amazon.com, has had trouble gaining traction in oversaturated New York, where it started offering deals with great fanfare a month ago. There are at least 40 active coupon sites for the city, according to LocalDealSites.com.

Shopping coupons have a long history, and they will undoubtedly continue to play a significant role in local merchants’ efforts to attract customers. But what has become apparent is a basic contradiction at the heart of the daily deals industry on the Internet.

The consumers were being told: You will never pay full price again. The merchants were hearing: You are going to get new customers who will stick around and pay full price. Disappointment was inevitable.

Some entrepreneurs are questioning the entire premise of the industry. Jasper Malcolmson, co-founder of the deal site Bloomspot, compares the basic deal offer with lenders’ marketing subprime loans during the housing boom.

via NYTimes.com – Deal Sites Have Fading Allure for Merchants. Oh yeah, right now is starting to look like a bad deal.

24 Sep

Scripting News – Facebook is scaring me

What clued me in was an article on ReadWriteWeb that says that just reading an article on their site may create an announcement on Facebook. Something like: "Bull Mancuso just read a tutorial explaining how to kill a member of another crime family." Bull didn’t comment. He didn’t press a Like button. He just visited a web page. And an announcement was made on his behalf to everyone who follows him on Facebook. Not just his friends, because now they have subscribers, who can be total strangers.

Now, I’m not technically naive. I understood before that the Like buttons were extensions of Facebook. They were surely keeping track of all the places I went. And if I went to places that were illegal, they would be reported to government agencies. Bull Mancuso in the example above has more serious things to worry about than his mother finding out that he’s a hitman for the mob. (Both are fictitious characters, and in my little story his mom already knows he’s a hitman.)

There could easily be lawsuits, divorces, maybe even arrests based on what’s made public by Facebook.

via Scripting News – Facebook is scaring me. Count me in the group of people now staying logged out of Facebook by default.

12 Sep

Read Write Web – How’s Mozilla Doing with Do Not Track? Not So Good

Get the picture? Don’t get me wrong – I love the idea behind DNT, but the implementation is wholly ineffective. So much so that Firefox ought to include a big warning in its privacy preferences lest users be lulled into a sense of complacency. Another suggestion for Mozilla and other browser vendors that support DNT? Include a big warning for Web sites that don’t honor DNT settings.

via Read Write Web – How’s Mozilla Doing with Do Not Track? Not So Good. Do Not Track, is a nice idea but not much more than that.

10 Sep

paidContent – More Bad News For Groupon: Sales Team Files Class-Action Suit

Earlier this week came reports that the daily-deals site, suddenly unpopular with both users and investors, is considering shelving its long-expected IPO. Now comes more bad news—Groupon’s own employees have filed a class-action suit against the company.

In a filing in Chicago federal court this week, former salesperson Ranita Dailey confirmed she will be lead plaintiff on behalf of Groupon employees who seek to recoup overtime that the company allegedly failed to pay. The suit claims that Groupon violated federal and state labor law, and demands three years of back wages and punitive damages for hundreds of employees.

The lawsuit coincides with a rise in negative comments on sites like Glass Door by people claiming to be Groupon employees. They have posted comments like: “a boiler room”; “Immense pressure to hit unrealistic sales goals” and “Sales staff cries all the time.”

Groupon did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the class-action suit.

via paidContent – More Bad News For Groupon: Sales Team Files Class-Action Suit. Obviously can’t speak to validity of this lawsuit but it wouldn’t shock me. What a cruddy business.

05 Sep

Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care?

I get a lot of e-mail from writers starting out who want to know whether it’s worth trying to get published by major houses. The odds are poor – only a small fraction of books find a home in mainstream publishing – and the process can be slow and frustrating. We’ve all heard horror stories, both legit (‘‘Why is there a white girl on the cover of my book about a black girl?’’) and suspect (‘‘My editor was a philistine who simply didn’t understand the nuances of my work’’). And we’ve all heard about writers who’ve met with modest – or stellar – success with self-publishing. So why not cut out the middleman and go direct to readers?

There’s not a thing wrong with that plan, provided that it is a plan. Mainstream publishers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over decades learning and re-learning how to get people to care about the existence of books. They often do so very well, and sometimes they screw it up, but at least they’re methodically attempting to understand and improve the process by which large masses of people decide to read a book (even better, decide to buy and read a book).

I firmly believe that there are writers out there today who have valuable insights and native talent that would make them natural successes at marketing their own work. If you are one of those writers – if you have a firm theory that fits available evidence about how to get people to love your work – then by all means, experiment! Provided, of course, that you are pleased and challenged by doing this commercial stuff that has almost nothing in common with imagining stories and writing them down. Provided that you find it rewarding and satisfying.

via Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care? Cory Doctorow who certainly doesn’t seem to need traditional publishers, penning a nice piece in favor of publishers.

31 Aug

The Ad Contrarian – Advertising And The Future Of Apple

After Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple last week, speculation about the company’s future began immediately.

The consensus seemed to be that Jobs built a strong culture, hired smart people, and taught a way of thinking that will serve Apple well in the future. The story line went like this– while Jobs will be missed, he is no longer essential to the future of the company and it will go on brilliantly without him.

I don’t buy this for a second. Genius is non-transferable.

via The Ad Contrarian – Advertising And The Future Of Apple. Not a bad negative outlook of Apple post Steve Jobs, it starts with a pretty good premise but the conclusion doesn’t jibe. For instance I don’t think anyone argued Apple would stay the same or even that it should. Apple will change. The larger question and worry is, is Apple still the innovative company that it was under Steve Jobs? Would such innovations as the iPad (creating a whole new market) or the iPod (dominate per-exisiting market with superior technology and design).

The argument that genius doesn’t transfer is a smoke-screen, it’s a stupid question with a stupid answer, and doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. Is Apple able to remember the lessons of Steve Jobs and maintain it’s identity in the face of the man who created that identity no longer present? That’s the real question and the only one that matters.

If Apple is able to maintain it’s identity then it won’t ever hire people without vision and taste and turn into something other than maker of products at the intersection of Liberal Arts and Technology.

15 Jul

Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More

You’re not stupid, but you can be fooled. For millennia, the best salespeople have known how to exploit the vulnerabilities of the human mind. In the burgeoning field of behavioral economics, we’ve begun to give precise names to the mental weaknesses that make us all susceptible to a well-crafted pitch. Drawing on the insights of psychology, behavioral economists have explained why we buy more stuff at $0.99 than at $1.00 (the “left-digit effect”), why we commit to gym memberships we’ll never use (“optimism bias”), and why we don’t return things we buy as often as we should (“post-purchase rationalization”). The giants of the web, from Amazon to Zynga, use similar tricks to keep us coming to their sites, playing their games, and buying their goods. In fact, that’s how they became giants in the first place. Here’s how they game us—and how, in some cases, we wind up gaming ourselves.

via Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More. Always neat seeing psychology at play especially with companies that excel at it.

13 Jun

TechCrunch – Groupon Was “The Single Worst Decision I Have Ever Made As A Business Owner”

Since she wrote the post, she’s heard from other businesses who have had similar experiences. “What was the saddest part of it for me was that this had had happened to a lot of businesses but because no one had ever said anything we all just assumed (and myself included) we just assumed we were bad business people. That we just didn’t know what we were doing. If everyone loves Groupon so much, we must be wrong.” She estimates that she lost $10,000 in hard costs. Other businesses she heard from claim far greater losses.

The Groupon experience has soured her on similar forms of marketing. “Our most successful advertising is through Facebook. And that’s free. Even offering deals through Facebook, which is also free.”

via TechCrunch – Groupon Was “The Single Worst Decision I Have Ever Made As A Business Owner”. The more I read about Groupon the more I want this business to just go away.

More readings:

11 May

Clickable Bliss Blog – iAd Policy Change: No more kid-focused apps

And that’s how an iAd supported version of Dex died. No warning, no notice and inevitably no respect to the developers who have cenetered their app’s revenue model around the iAd platform.

Apple should target their ads better. I would have loved to have seen some ads that were better suited to kids in Dex. It’s a shame they don’t have the inventory to do so. However the manner in which they’ve made this policy change just stinks.

Furthermore there is no documentation of this change. Nothing is on the iAd developer page to alert people that the current fill rate for apps and games targeted at kids is zero.

As for what will come of Dex, in the short term it will remain the same: a free download, showing ads (now only from AdMob network) with an in-app purchase to show support and turn off ads. For the future, Dex will have to move to a normal pay per download model or lock some of the major features behind the in-app pay wall and continue to give out basic functionality for free. I’m leaning toward the latter but won’t make a decision until I’ve finished shipping my new iOS game TwizShow, which until recently was going to show iAds.

Today was another harsh reminder we iPhone developers are making a living at the beck and whim of a powerful platform vender. Be careful putting all your eggs in his basket.

via Clickable Bliss Blog – iAd Policy Change: No more kid-focused apps. I can totally understand Apple wanting to pull iAds from apps targeted towards children, however that has to really hurt app developers as apps targeting kids are probably most often ad-supported business models.