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Limit to advertising revenue for "free" platforms

A widely popular zeitgeist is that software should be free and vendors should make their money in other ways. Of course the only "other way" that seems to scale is advertising. Some of the big tech players, notably Facebook and Google, are playing this to the hilt, already raising concerns about privacy and how we, the consumers, are being targeted in ways that don't entirely square with the "greater good of humanity" stances that those companies frequently parade.

But there's another consideration. No resource is indefinitely scalable; advertising is no exception. Companies who advertise have to see return on their advertising dollars. And we consumers aren't as passive as investors and advertisers would like to believe; we will only tolerate so much and will turn to other options, or ad-blocking, when we've had enough. The Economist just ran an article suggesting the peak for advertising may not be so far away. We may have to find other ways to monetize new products including, dare I suggest, fees.

Arthur Hanson

Active member
Bernard, what's really scary is that they have worked the psychological angle with advertising to the point it has become a very subtle and dangerous form of brainwashing. The very devious use of so called advertising can now shift the perceptions and thinking of entire populations. I could even see this as an adjunct to warfare that will become part of every countries arsenal in the very near future. So called advertising/manipulation has become a factor in all major business, political and decisions and must be treated accordingly.

For individuals the sad part for some, if not many, is that is can be used to manipulate us to hurt their mental health. It can make them want services and objects they don't want, need or can afford that add little or nothing to their lives and may even be detrimental. It's already been found on a wide scale Facebook leads to depression/unhappiness for many. All advertising does this to some extent, but as we all know from experience, online advertising/persuasion is relentless and literally follows you and your browsing.
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New member
While I'm not quite sure what you mean by "free software," if you mean anything related for Richard Stallman's Free Software Foundation, as you most likely know, cooler heads prevailed long ago and decided to call it the "Open Source Movement" which has the "virtue" of being baffling non-evocative to anyone other than those who know what "source code is." Which reminds me of a line from technical-writer Robert Persig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," in which he defines a technical manual as something that you can't understand unless you already understand it. If apologists for what's called Free Market Capitalism were to find out that what they're really advocating is an alternative to the profit motive: cooperation. So I'd like to suggest to you some concepts disguised as terms. Concepts in the sense that they proved a handy armature upon which to hand your ideas sot that you can step back and take a good look at them. "Social contract" and "cause and effect" are two examples what I'm attempting to get at. Neither one really exists but they both are handy concepts. The first concept is courtesy Tim O’Reilly. IMHO the Internet would not be what it is today absent hs company's books and conferences (and all the software that runs the Internet is Open Source, by the way). I don't know if I could lay my hands on the article he wrote a while back, but the gist of it (as best I can recall he quite likely is not the only one to advance this concept) that he distinguished between :"push marketing" and "pull marketing." By which I understood him to mean that for "pull marketing," you first create some sort of a scene that pulls people in. After than, you concern yourself with monetizing it. In publishing, I can cite both "Sky & Telescope" and "Guitar Player" magazine (which it first came out). Without Sky & Telescope, or something like it that is just as superbly edited and which always carriers the perfect mix of content for both beginners as well as experts, there would be no amateur astronomy movement. No magazine distributor was interested in the pitch for Guitar Player. So it's founder developed his own distribution network: namely having music stores sell it. Guitar Player, again, was superbly edited, with mix of news, information about guitar players and makers, as well as short lessons by experts in various kinds of guitar playing in it's back pages. There is not doubt that Guitar Player, among other things, created a marketplace for small firms and individual luthiers to sell their products in a market that had been dominated but just a few large makers of instruments plus makers of really cheesy, hard to play, cruddy sounding ones that were private labeled for sale by giant retail forms like Sears & Roebuck that caused untold legions of potential players (and repeat customers) to give the whole thing up in frustration and just buy canned music (Edison's cylindrical recordings were, in fact, shipped in real cans, hence the origin of "canned music." Disc recordings came about mostly as Edison-patent busters.) The other term is one I just heard recently where the writer lumped the record industry, the movie industry, the TV Industry, the Cable TV industry, the streaming media industry, professional sports (and all the shows where they yak endlessly about sports (as opposed to old-fashioned enthusiast publication like The Ring and Sporting News) Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tweeter, Toaster, and for all I know the people who make Pez candy, into the Attention Industry [!]. By which I think he meant the point of an old, and not funny at all joke I heard a couple of times when I lived out in the country. It goes like this. One farmer is having an impossible time to to get his mule to move (which we didn't find that hard to do when my Scout troop spent two weeks at Philmont - the pack mules they issued us with were docile and quite cooperative). So another farmer says he knows what to do. So he picks up a heavy length of wood (probably hickory) and hits the mule on its head as hard as the can. Whereupon the mule drops dead. Distraught, the first farmer exclaims, "Why did you do that?" The second one re[plies, "Well, first you've got to get their attention." So yes, starting with the handsome and charming JFK's win over the Nixon (who was, as most forget, a fierce and effective debating but who did not have both JFK's one on one charm, and more importantly, JFK's extensive experience on talk shows, and so did not know how to play to a camera lens). That lesson was not lost and since then, yes indeed, big bucks have been spent of very expensive specialists to discover and refine how to sell on TV. On the other hand, first came digital channels on TV that (a) multiplied the number of channels and (b) made it a lot less expensive to advertisers to advertise on these new channels. And how did they sell news, home shopping, cooking shows, and a whole bunch of other shows? With the enhanced-JFK-charm methods which include charm schools, acting lessons (gestures, pacing and tone of voice), makeup and dress-for-success costuming, for those first on camera. Which explains among other things that the news used to be newspersons reading the news to us while they sat behind a news desk are now a combination of doofuss looking middle-aged guy and much younger female beauty contest winners siting on sofas chatting endlessly about the news others have reported and who grin like s**t-eating possums continuously for no apparent reason when they're not talking (I suspect that like beauty contest entrants, they coat their front teeth with petrolatum (Vaseline) right before going on which reportedly a lot easier to smile continuously and fixedly. Speaking of the success of Fox News (we were speaking of Fox News, weren't we???), first let me say that I used to ride my motorcycle with an informal group of unreconstructed knuckle-draggers back when I lived out West, two of whom, who did not speak of word of Spanish, other than food items, swore up and down hat they regularly watched Telenovelas because the girls in them were so hot (which those mamacitas are, verdad, but that's beside my point). So I am caused to wonder how much of the success of Fox News is due to the first class leg show they put on (so much for desks and modesty panels!)? But, those that measure Internet usage, reported that the average web surfer read absolutely nothing on a site, but instead skimmed in and "F" pattern (obviously this can't be true for Arabic and Hebrew readers) - once across the top of the page, back to the left margin, droped down a bit, and then skimmed less to the right, and then clicked away never to return if their interest was not captured, averaging four seconds per hundred words skimmed (which meant that writing copy for a web site was more like writing copy for billboards than writing copy for conventional ads). This dismal research (for advertisers) probably explains why many sites today don't try to cram everything onto a single, pretty much impossible to "navigate" where the web-designer sense of the term "navigate," in practical terms, meant stumbling around at random, playing the Internet version of Concentration with the added excitement of sub-menus to sub-menus to sub-menus that tended to jump out at you unexpectedly and brain-dead keyword searches, but are laid out like tabloid newspapers only they're for people who don't read so good; that is lots and lots of cool looking photos that the viewer can scroll down, and down, and down and down on, but but hot much in the way of text to slow up the scrolling down (it's been proven than tablet and smartphone users are perfectly happy scrolling down - swipitty, swipitty, swipe, swipe, swipe - but if they have to scroll across they quickly quick away, never to return). But that begs the question (not really, if you know what "begs the question really means"), what, if anything at all, is even being noticed, let alone absorbed to the point it engenders action on the part of the scroller that puts money in the pocket of the advertisers? So yeah, with the Internet and cable TV and texts and e-mail and FidoNet (believe it or not, FidoNet is not completely dead!), since the capacity the the human brain to re-wire its axions to handle nothing but a constant barrage of high-velocity, and concomitantly short info-bites (at the expense of such pathways the might have formerly been devoted to concentrating on a single subject for extended periods of time) is limited, beyond a certain point that varies per person, advertising morphs into, at best, a denial of service attack. Add ot that effect that Google, et al, have (a) monetized everything in a desperate, last ditch to make a buck in attention deficit-ed markets by retuning mostly ads and be (b) "personalized" ads, which is to say computerized preaching to the choir - in this case, a choir of one (Andy Worhola - he was Polish and for some reason dropped his terminal "a" - famously and slyly quipped back in the 1980 that "in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." With the Internet, perhaps that should be revised as, "With the Internet, everyone will be famous to 15 people.") Well, what's a body to do in response to the tsunami of ads and factoids? Only pay attention to those few emanations from the Attention Industry that you can count on to tell you what you want to hear about what you want to hear about and nothing else is my WAG. Or to borrow a technique from the aforementioned Fox News and make a point by asking an unanswered hanging question, "Why did so many women want to smell like Paris Hilton, that when they put her name of a perfume bottle, they sold something like $5B worth of it (more than the previous record setting, Elizabeth Taylor's "White Diamonds" and WAY more than Carroll Shelby's attempted marketing at a man's deodorant called "Pit Stop" - clearly he should have stuck to his Cobras and Shelby Mustangs)? Some people are making money advertising completelyh worthless procuds like Paris Hilton perfume and Justin Beiber these days. What's their secret? Could that secret be monitored and sold by something like Trump University, only less illegal?


charles, after reading the above and all you said about baffling open source code and short attention spans I'm not sure if the lack of formatting was intentional or not. In any case I read it and I think there were a few very good points contained in that wall of text.

What you said about advertising becoming more of a denial of service attack was especially interesting, because on Google, a lot of ad buying is by companies trying to defend their brands rather than promote it. If Pepsi doesn't pay top dollar for the Pepsi key word, Coke will, and anyone searching for Pepsi will find Coke as the number one result. This locks companies in an escalating price war for ads not just to reach new customers, but to prevent competitors from reaching their customers. So at least the advertisers have that going for them.


New member
As for formatting, here I paraphrase the late Seymour Cray who said this of error-checking bits, "Copy editing is for farmers."

charles, after reading the above and all you said about baffling open source code and short attention spans I'm not sure if the lack of formatting was intentional or not. In any case I read it and I think there were a few very good points contained in that wall of text.

What you said about advertising becoming more of a denial of service attack was especially interesting, because on Google, a lot of ad buying is by companies trying to defend their brands rather than promote it. If Pepsi doesn't pay top dollar for the Pepsi key word, Coke will, and anyone searching for Pepsi will find Coke as the number one result. This locks companies in an escalating price war for ads not just to reach new customers, but to prevent competitors from reaching their customers. So at least the advertisers have that going for them.
Defending their brands? Thanks. I had not heard about that one. It just gets better and better. Why stay up late on Saturday night to watch SNL when it's SNL 24/7 these days!

I do have a sort of "defending the brand" story that's sort of like that story that runs each spring were some local tax controller nitwit tries to collect sales tax from little kids running lemonade stand.

A while back there was a young Canadian citizen (12, 13, 14 ... something like that) named Michael Rowe (you can probably guess where this is going already). He liked to write software and exchange it with his friends. So he applied for a domain name through a Canadian registrar so that he could set up a simple web site for himself and his friends. His domain name? I might not have it exactly right but it was something like

Now you HAVE to know where this is going! Sure enough, eventually he got a boilerplate nastygram from the other Microsoft's - the one that's not in Canada - paper mill. You can imagine the shock to a little kid, getting an official looking nastygram from a big company. But eventually the word leaked out and when adults who knew about copyright/trademark law (isn't there some notion of "possibility of confusion" in there somewhere?) and Microsoft - the one in the state of Washington in the U and not the one in Canada run by a teenaged boy - (a) got a collective Canadian horselaugh and (b) Mike Rowe reportedly sold his domain name to the other Microsoft (the one in the US) for a nice piece of change. I forget the dollar amount but I do recall that the story I read neglected for mention if it was in Canadian Loonies or our loonies (Federal Reserves notes).

Wait! Wait! One more. Can you picture the logo for the original Ghostbusters movie? Harvey Comics, or its heirs and assignees, owned the copyright to Caspar the Friendly Ghost (formerly Caspar the Friendly Little Boy) and three other supporting ghosts, one of which (Fattie?) looked vaguely like the Ghostbusters ghost. So they sued and the Judge granted a summary judgment to whoever owns the rights to Bill Murray & Co's logo saying, "There's only so many ways to draw a ghost."

Or how about all those crafty investors who bought up IPv4 addresses (four octal numbers separated by periods) only to have those pesky WWWC folks agree on IPV6 addresses, which if uou multiply out the bit hex numbers yields a number that is around the number of hydrogen atoms in known universe - well maybe a bit less but it's a big number. So I wonder, did they pull out of the IP address market soon enough tot invest in bitcoins?

I guess I should take things more seriously. But I just can't. Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-Trump per se. It's just that I think he's in the wrong job. With his bizarre appearance, his showmanship, his belligerent, bullying attitude, his extemporaneous nonsense-spouting expertise, and his penchant for puerile insults, I think he would make the greatest professional wrestling manager ever. Picture it. Half the audience would be screaming bloody murder at him, the other half cheering him, and he'd be the center of attention, down in the ring - he seems to enjoy being the center of attenion. And from what we've read lately about the Secret Service Presidential Protection detail, he'd probably be a lot better off being surrounded d by professional wrestlers than treasury agents.

Am I on to something here or what?