Wednesday, November 28, 2007

RSS advertising -- Google Adsense vs... that other guy.

In the TechCrunch RSS feed, there's an ad. Go ahead, have a peak.

That thing that looks like broken HTML is, in actuality, a Shockwave ad. It's some kind of mis-shapen video-player. Sometimes the splash-screen of the player hints at the video's contents, sometimes its just a big, black, empty rectangle. If you're curious enough to click the miniature 'play' button you'll be treated with a completely irrelevant video short that's too small and non-contextual to be interesting.

Now, check out Xbox 360 Fanboy's feed very carefully. Near the bottom. It's a Google Adsense unit, and it's blended so well you'd think it was part of the feed's content rather than an ad if it weren't for "Ads by Google." The ads aren't well targeted, but given the content that's to be expected. However, one thing the ads all share in common is the subject: they are all about Xbox 360s. All of them. They are appropriately in sync with the feed's overall content.

The ads running in the TechCrunch feed (I don't know whose they are -- they're just anonymous out of place blobs with no markings what-so-ever) are not.

It doesn't take a fool to see that the click-through rates on the Google Adsense units are going to be higher -- much higher, if only by the virtue of them being relevant to what the reader is interested in.

That's not what I want to talk about, though. The real question that's burning in my mind is why: why would you do that?

The blanket carpet-bombing style approach of advertising in TechCrunch's feeds is just a way to burn money. It's a swing and maybe-you'll-hit-maybe-you-won't. Since the videos don't even auto-play (god save whoever decides that's a good idea), it doesn't even work as a branding approach.

It's so... ancient. It smacks of old-school media who haven't caught up with the rest of the world. Did someone out there just forget about what made Google Adsense work? The contextual relevance? The small, unobtrusive ad elements that are easy to blend into content?

I mean someone really, seriously, honestly thought this was a great idea.

"Let's put video units in RSS feeds", they said.

"Let's make them tiny and hard to watch," added another.

"We'll make sure that there's no interesting splash screen on the player!" someone jubilantly shouted.

A part of me feels really bad -- I know they're not getting any airtime aside from the curious, "did someone really just do that?" viewer. Is this some kind of experiment? Do they want to see how many people will watch anyway?

I need to know. It's *EATING* me.

Someone tell me -- please!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hilarious blog that I've been keeping secret...

...but there's no need to keep it a secret now that the farce is over. In fact, since he's supposedly stopped blogging, it's only a matter of time until the hosting goes down and this precious gem is lost forever!

Here it is:

BeerCo Software Blog

If you're wondering what makes it so hilarious, jump back a few pages into their archive and start reading. I've been trying to express some of the funnier part into a few short sentences, but its impossible. You really have to experience it to get the funny.

The guy is basically a complete fruit-cake. It goes way beyond Linux fanaticism into "I'm gonna destroy Google with my mini-search!!!!" to dramatic pleas of, "I can't do all this alone! I need... more... power..."

Direct links of awesomeness:
* Talking about Rory Blyth of Microsoft Fame: "He worked 4 hours per day, then decided it was too grueling and quit."

* Begging Rory to help him complete his Google-crushing "mini-search" right after insulting his talents. Oh, he's not willing to pay Rory, though: "I can not afford to pay cash for a team to do this right now so you would have to do it based on earnings in December and so on from the time billing starts."

* His 'RentACoder Whitepaper' experiment -- I'd link to the actual RAC project, but he changed the description text so it's no longer half-way as xenophobic was it was before. (hint: before the change, he asked bidders to be ready to describe how poor they were and what it felt like having to 'dumpster dive' since they couldn't possibly live on 3k a month). Although, in the comments, he does say this about outsourced workers: "You never give something of high worth to desperately poor people. I’m sorry if that offends you."

* His last blog post is about the Canadian Government trying to destroy him. Alright, maybe I embellished a bit, but that certainly does come across in the way he writes it.

Anyway, have fun -- don't stay too long, it's funny but it'll waste your whole Sunday if you're not careful.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Reminder to myself: Don't use LiteSpeed.

LiteSpeed: Crazy EULA; don't trust people who will model technology licenses around moral issues; might do something stupid and screw you in the future.

Also, dedicated server options: apache, lighttpd, nginx (prefer lighttpd if they ever support apache-style .htaccess). apache, mod_proxy, mod_proxy_balancer + mongrel looks good for Rails.

(why do I keep forgetting this?!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

VS2008 + .NET 3.5 is out!

Wow. I had no idea... I wasn't even tracking VS2008, and its already been released (RTM on the 19th of this month).

It includes .NET. 3.5 (which is apparently a 127MB download), which has LINQ, ASP.NET AJAX built-in, and some other stuff...

Well, that's pretty much everything I have to say about that. I'm still good with .NET 2.0 and Ruby (sometimes on Rails!) for my current projects. I probably won't upgrade / update unless a client specifically requests it.

I might take a better look at 3.5 when ASP.NET's MVC framework is released.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Using oDesk as a buyer: the other side of the coin

So, I recently created an oDesk Buyer's account -- I wanted someone to redesign the front-end of a website. I don't have the time, skills, or aesthetics sense to do it myself as quickly as I want, and so like all great Americans, I'm willing to throw money at the problem until it goes away. =D

I chose oDesk because I'm comfortable with how it works from the provider's point of view. There's a few downsides to having both types of accounts (they're not tied together Single Sign On style): you can't use the same email address you use as a provider, although if you're using gmail you can use an address like and it'll work.

Signing up was pretty easy -- took me about a minute, 30 seconds of which was trying to figure out whether it was a + or a - in the trick I just described above.

Lots of candidates, but I've noticed some providers just spray and pray -- not reading the cover letter is a good example of this, but inviting a provider to an interview and then having them cancel a day later due to them trying to "maintain their job application quota" is kinda like, "omg wtf?"

I've narrowed it down to about 3 providers -- I know for sure I'll pick one of them, so I wish I could close or hide the job entry so new applicants can't waste their time applying to it.

Also, interestingly, one of the provider's emails went straight to gmail's spam box. The weird thing is, nothing in the email seems like it would have marked it as spam.

Anyway, so far so good. It's kind of a pain working at oDesk + buying from oDesk, since I keep having to sign out of one account and into another, but, besides that, big thumbs up, yo.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Just saw ScratchBack featured in this TechCrunch post. I just wanted to check it out, but it only took about 1 minute from account creation to having a fully-fledged widget! Not one to waste'em, I slapped one into my dashboard.

I doubt I'll get any tips, but ScratchBack seems like a nice way for more high profile bloggers to earn a little extra income on the side.