- I have meetings about pricing where the decisions are based on the historical performance of what is being sold, meaning impressions and clicks.
- The vast majority of first conversations between bag-of-money-holding advertisers and publishers like me, the very first questions I’m asked are about performance metrics.
If the outputs generated by tracking turn out to be inaccurate, then shouldn’t they lose their status?
But that line of reasoning shouldn’t even by necessary. We shouldn’t stop tracking users because it’s inaccurate. We should stop stop tracking users because it’s wrong.
What’s interesting to me about the changes to Apple Mail are that they might be the factor that finally forces companies and marketers to stop building logs of user location + other things
Chris Coyier wrote a follow-up on CSS Tricks:
I’m interested not just in the ethical concerns and my long-time complacency with industry norms, but also as someone who very literally sells advertising. I can tell you these things are true:
That feels largely OK to me. When I go to the store to buy walnuts, I want to know how many walnuts I’m going to get for my dollar. I expect the store to price the walnuts based on normal economic factors, like how much they cost and the supply/demand for walnuts. The advertising buyers are the walnut buyers — they want to know what kind of performance an ad is likely to get for their dollar.
What if I said: I don’t know? I don’t know how many people see these ads. I don’t know how many people click these ads. I don’t know where they are from. I don’t know anything at all. And more, you aren’t allowed to know either. You can give me a URL to send them to, but it cannot have tracking params on it and we won’t be tracking the clicks on it.
Would I lose money? I gotta tell you readers: yes. In the short-term, anyway. It’s hard enough to land advertisers as it is. Coming off as standoffish and unwilling to tell them how many walnuts they are going to get for their dollar is going to make them roll their eyes and move on. Long-term, I bet it could be done. Tell advertisers (and the world) up front, very clearly, your stance on user tracking and how it means that you don’t have and won’t provide numbers via tracking. Lean on supply and demand entirely. Price spots at $X to start. If other people have interest in the spot, raise the price until it stops selling, lower the price if it does.
This highlights the dilemma for publishers. If we agree that advertisers are valuing the wrong metrics, how do you change the narrative?
It’ll get there but there are first-mover costs. And by the way, UTMs are probably the best privacy-respecting metric right now.
Jason Kint puts it roughly like this: targeting and measuring ads is possible in a way that’s privacy-focused and within consumer’s expectations (reasonable people can disagree on whether email spy pixels fall under this, but the ICO is quite clear that users need to consent).
“Tracking” across vendors/services, that users wouldn’t know about or expect, falls outside of this. (Apologies to Jason if this mischaracterises his position in any way).
And there’s more to this. Many people don’t realise what’s going on under the hood. Email spy pixels are a good example: marketers know they can collect the data, but might not realise what data is collected, how or the implications of it.
From Chris’s piece:
As I write this, I’m poking around in the reporting section to see what else I can see. Ughghk, guess what? I can literally see exactly who opened the email (by the person’s email address) and which links they clicked. I didn’t even realize that until now, but wow, that’s very super personally identifiable analytics information. I’m going to look into how I can turn that off because it does cross an ethical line for me.
Now, Chris is a smart cookie. He knows code, he knows marketing, he understands how the web works in a way that many people don’t. And he didn’t know this stuff is going on.
This isn’t to say that naïvety makes this fine, but there will be lots of people innocently collecting this data without realising it.
[tracking] is just a prettier word for surveillance.
As Jeremy highlights in his piece, “analytics” can often be substituted for “tracking”. And, as Bob Hoffman notes, “[tracking] is just a prettier word for surveillance.”
No prizes for guessing which of these words features in most SaaS advertising…
This is part of the drive behind Below Radar: help business owners, marketers, freelancers make better choices, understand the options. Yes, it’s grassroots stuff, but we have to start somewhere.
From Lush’s CEO:
“I just thought ‘That’s their own research and they’re ignoring it and we are attracting people to their platform.’ We had no choice whatsoever. Lush attracts an awful lot of girls of that age.”
The article also includes this line:
He offers up the excuse that social media is as addictive to companies as individuals.
Certainly true and something to think about.
Cory Doctorow on GDPR:
Enter the GDPR. Under Europe’s landmark privacy regulation, companies have to ask you a plain-language question confirming your consent to every piece of data they collect and every use they plan on making of that data. They can’t punish you for refusing consent – by locking you out of a service or degrading its quality – and you can withdraw your consent at any time.
This is deliberately burdensome. It takes the position that consent is a weighty and serious thing, that personal data is genuinely valuable, and that the transactions in which data is gathered and processed should be solemnized by a thoughtful, substantial ceremony. It calls ad-tech’s bluff: “If you think people are really OK with all that spying you’ve done, let’s ask them, in depth, before you do it.”
Cory also references this study
Behavioral ads are only more profitable than context ads if all the costs of surveillance – the emotional burden of being watched; the risk of breach, identity-theft and fraud; the potential for government seizure of surveillance data – is pushed onto internet users. If companies have to bear those costs, behavioral ads are a total failure, because no one in the history of the human race would actually grant consent to all the things that gets done with our data.
Absolutely on point.
The word priority came into the English Language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next 500 years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralise the term and start talking about priorities.
Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple first things. People and companies routinely try to do just that.
The NFT explainer I’ve been looking for from Cory Doctorow:
On Oct 26, an NFT bro calling himself Midwit Milhouse coined the term “right-clicker mentality” to refer to these spoilsports who insist on pointing out the inconvenient truth of his white-hot ponzi scheme.
Milhouse used the term to disparage an amateur chef who made his own version of a $2,000 “Salt Bae” steak for $90. Salt Bae is a trendy London chef who charges tens of thousands for gold-leaf-covered steaks that he showers with salt in a kind of tableside piece of performance art.
Milhouse called this person “a great example of right-clicker mentality,” whose homemade steak didn’t deliver “the satisfaction, flex, clout that comes from having eaten at Salt Bae’s restaurant.”
Milhouse went on: “The value is not in the cost of the steak. Go ahead, make yourself a gold-coated steak at home. Post a picture of it on Instagram. See how much clout it gets you.”
And then, displaying galactic-scale lack-of-self-awareness, “Salt Bae’s dish costs around 1500GBP because people want to pay 1500 GBP to show off that they can afford to pay that much. It’s all about the flex.”
You really couldn’t ask for a better encapsulation of the NFT bezzle: buy an NFT to “flex” and “show off you can afford to pay that much.” Ignore the intrinsic value or satisfaction of the underlying work. You’re doing this for “clout.”
Right-clicker-mentality is a value we should all aspire to. As Matthew Gault wrote on Motherboard: “Sometimes a word or phrase comes along that’s so perfect it almost makes you angry.”
“To right-click is one thing, but to have a right-clicker mentality implies an ontological break between crypto-fans and critics. Indeed, it implies the person saving the JPEG to their hard drive isn’t just wrong, they’re broken in some way.”
‘But some parents said they were unsure whether their children had been given enough information to make their decision, and suggested that peer pressure had also played a role.’
Surely, this is a decision that parents should be making? It seems incredible that this incredibly invasive tech would be entering the school for such a trivial ‘gain’.
It will be interesting to see the fallout from the first data breach.
‘A lot of companies could be still pretty profitable if they chose to go this route,’ Weinberg says. ‘They may be a little less profitable. But you know, it’s like—is that extra profit worth all this societal impact and problems? We don’t think so.
’Even some ad buyers are questioning whether endless tracking works; a survey by Digiday found that 45 percent of ad execs saw “no significant benefit” from behavioral tracking, and 23 percent found it made revenues decline.
Societal benefits vs pure profit.
A trade-off many companies don’t seem to be willing to make.
In 2014, Google released a report suggesting that 56.1 percent of all ads displayed on the internet are never seen by a human.
...the accuracy [of data profiles used for advertising] was often extremely poor. The most accurate sets still featured inaccuracies about 10% of consumers, with the worst having nearly 85% of the data about consumers wrong.
This interesting study suggests UK consumers would collectively pay over £1bn a year for control of their data. That’s a little over £1 per person per month.
Because they use emails to recognize people who have asked not to have their data shared, some ad technologies require an email address to actually enable people’s privacy preferences.
Just in case there was any doubt about how broken privacy is on the web, huh…
Still, if we don’t act to reclaim our data now, our children might not be able to do so. Then they, and their children, will be trapped too—each successive generation forced to live under the data specter of the previous one, subject to a mass aggregation of information whose potential for societal control and human manipulation exceeds not just the restraints of the law but the limits of the imagination.
Once you go digging into the actual technical mechanisms by which predictability is calculated, you come to understand that its science is, in fact, anti-scientific, and fatally misnamed: predictability is actually manipulation. A website that tells you that because you liked this book you might also like books by James Clapper or Michael Hayden isn’t offering an educated guess as much as a mechanism of subtle coercion.
We can’t allow ourselves to be used in this way, to be used against the future. We can’t permit our data to be used to sell us the very things that must not be sold, such as journalism. If we do, the journalism we get will be merely the journalism we want, or the journalism that the powerful want us to have, not the honest collective conversation that’s necessary.
Ultimately, saying you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say.
If you have the luxury to organise your schedule, realise you don't have to suffer overload.
Desktop browsers tend to render fonts at 16px by default. There is a rationale for reasonably large defaults: anything else risks alienating a huge swath of users, many from older populations whose eyesight has deteriorated. “But my audience is young and hip!” I hear you say. Sure, but generous font sizes don’t offend young, keen-eyed folks. The key to inclusive design isn’t to target specific groups, it’s to not exclude groups arbitrarily — there’s nothing to gain.
The key to inclusive design isn’t to target specific groups, it’s to not exclude groups arbitrarily — there’s nothing to gain.
There is no equation which shows that an increase in creativity is a direct cause of the time spent.