Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stuff I Found Out

Apparently, Justin Bieber is a real person. Huh.

...I have got to turn on the mainstream media more often.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Little Things That BUG Me #1

Coupon code sites with listings trying to pass off the existence of an entity as a coupon for that entity.

I'm on the site because I want coupons for free shipping or sales on an online store; posting a link to their front page with a note claiming they have "everyday low prices" is spamming and people who do it bug me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What He Would Have Wanted

Having lost two very close relatives within the last year, I've had occasion to think about (if not necessarily hear all that often) the phrase "what he would have wanted." (It can be "she" too, but English has no singular gender-neutral third-person pronouns save the non-personal "it" and made-up ones like "xe" which are awkward to use at best.)

"What he would have wanted" is a troublesome phrase. When you die, you cease to exist and thus have no wants. Considering what someone would have wanted if they hadn't ceased to exist at that particular juncture is a perfectly valid thing to do, but it's often equivocated to "what he does want now." This doesn't tend to cause a lot of trouble in comparison with many of the other flaws in our reasoning, but treating the theoretical needs that the dead would have if they weren't dead as being equal or near-equal to the actual needs of the living can have negative consequences, as can any other form of irrationality.

I find it especially silly to hear people talk about what the dearly departed "would have wanted" with regard to funeral arrangements. Functionally, the phrase "what he would have wanted" is identical to "if he were alive right now, he would want," so using it with regard to funeral arrangements of any variety is absurd. If he were alive, you wouldn't be holding a funeral. The funeral presumes he's dead, which means he doesn't have any wants at all.

I'm not old or rich enough to have a will, but when I do I will make a point of reminding all involved in it that when I die, I will be dead and will thus lack desires of my own, so don't do anything on my account. I will also remind them, however, that if any of my organs or other body parts are medically or scientifically valuable, then there are living people with actual needs and desires who would benefit from having them; the only reason to burn or bury the parts is idle sentimentalism.

Hopefully, it'll be a long time before that becomes necessary.

And thus begins my second day of blog-have.

Vital stats:

Comments: Open.
Date: Today.
Current Mood: Morbid.
Sleep Status: Maybe.
Word of the Day: Ignostic.
Points: 3,923.
Nickname: Hamilton.
Nick's Name: Nick.
Weather: Sunny.
Fag?: No thanks.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ad Targeting From the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy

Third post and I'm biting the hand that feeds me hosts this blog. But then, Google has its hands in a lot of pies so it's bound to get bit. And I'm breaking metaphors and stitching their corpses together like the venerable Dr. Frankenstein (or maybe, I haven't actually read the damn thing it's still on my to-do list).

So ad targeting is a simple concept; use extremely invasive tracking cookies, flash cookies, web beacons and so forth to track the pages people view, figure out what they're interested in from said data, and target the ads served to them based on that information. This simple concept is virtually impossible to execute.

Turns out, knowing what people look at doesn't help you figure out what they want to buy. The concept of bile fascination means that people may very well be viewing information about products they hate. And evaluating what products people view is the easy part; most of ad targeting attempts to derive what people want to buy from what interests they have. I'm a photographer, ergo I must want to buy cameras... well, not quite, since being a photographer means I've already got all the cameras and lenses I need, I take good care of them so I don't have to buy new ones, and since I consider them the tools of my trade rather than fancy toys, I'm as miserly as possible with my equipment budget, making sure to buy exactly what I need and not waste a penny on stuff that I don't.

Some fun facts about me, as obtained from my own personal experience with Google Ads.

-Apparently, I'm bilingual. I briefly looked at one Chinese web page, so now the Adwords Engine assumes I speak Chinese and is targeting Chinese-language ads at me.

-I've failed primary school maths lessons. One ad that appears with astonishing regularity is for a company called Fingerhut, which charges as much as double retail price for their products. Their gimmick is that they offer financing; pay twice as much up front, and in exchange, they'll let you pay interest too. On towels. Seriously, it's not like they're selling cars or something people might not just be able to pay cash for. Only the most innumerate of morons could fall for it, but apparently that's how poorly the Adwords Engine thinks of me.

-I'm an idiot in other ways as well. The Adwords Engine has figured out that I view a lot of websites which cover news and politics and has rightly deduced that I'm interested in politics and current affairs. However, it hasn't quite yet figured out that I might hold actual positions instead of passively consuming what other people say, with nary a thought of my own. Google's "Ad Preference" panel (which can be viewed here) confirms it; my interests as they've assumed them to be include several listings for "news and politics" and several more for "law and government." Armed with this knowledge, they target ads for right-wing lunatics, secure in their presumption that someone interested in "politics" must actually give a shit what those delusional fucksticks have to say.

-My budget for pointless electronics is larger than the GDP of most nations. I have been known to follow tech news and laugh at the overpriced tablet PCs and other passing fads that are going to seem very silly in about ten years. So the Adwords Engine naturally assumes that I must be interested in buying such products, otherwise why would I be reading about them? I get adverts for tablets, smartphones, ebook readers, and computers, even though I'm still certain tablets are a fad that no one will remember or care about in ten years, smartphones are toys whose limited uses fail to counterbalance their massive price tags, ebooks are shit, and a new computer is absolutely beyond my budget at the moment; I'm currently using a computer I found for free in a bin.

-I'm approximately 50 years old. See, in addition to divining my interests from what websites I look at, Google divines my demographic information by cross-referencing my interests with what they've determined "most people" of a given age are interested in. Based on my interests, they've determined that I'm probably around 50, and I'm wondering where all those decades of my life went.

-And last but not least, I really want a Chromebook. I know this is sort of a bad example; Google using its ad space to advertise itself probably skips the Adwords Engine and just foists itself upon everyone, but I'm seeing a truly mind-boggling number of ads for these things. For those who have had the good fortune to avoid such things, the Chromebook is a netbook with most of the features removed that costs as much as a decently-spec'd laptop and runs Google's Chrome operating system. If you find that name suspiciously similar to the Chrome browser, you're not wrong; the operating system contains the Chrome browser and absolutely nothing else. If you want to write or edit documents, you're fucked. (Unless you use Google's rubbish online Google Docs service and put up with the headaches and privacy violations this entails.) If you need to review that spreadsheet, you're fucked. (Unless your boss puts sensitive information on Google Docs where anyone can see it.) If you want to view or edit photos, you're fucked. If you want to keep your private calendar or planner up to date, you're fucked. If you want to listen to music, you're fucked. If you want to install software, you're fucked. If you want to browse the internet, you can get a netbook for half the price and get a real operating system and some offline storage capacity too (hey, maybe you'll need it someday).

Now I'm going to delete my cookies and watch the targeting algorithms give up entirely. My internet connection is sent through a single shared line that I share with other people, so IP address tracking won't help them when the cookies (and flash cookies) are gone.

Financial Abortion

So I was reading a discussion on a real blog about men who advocate the right to a so-called "financial abortion" or male abortion. I was going to comment, but this being a real blog much more popular than this one, there were already 500+ comments and they already said the stuff that needed saying. So I'm saying it here, where no one cares.

The premise behind financial abortion is simple; since women have the right to control their own bodies, including the right to an abortion if they so desire, then men deserve to have a special right that women don't to make up for the offence of having to give up exclusivity on the right to bodily autonomy. Hence, the financial/male abortion; since men can't abort their pregnancies on account of not having them in the first place, they want to disclaim any financial liability for any real babies that are actually born as a result of pregnancies they caused but have subsequently come to disapprove of.

Feminists argue that this would mean special rights for men if it were allowed; men would be allowed to disclaim liability for their offspring, but not women. On the other hand, sexists argue that since women can choose not to have unwanted offspring through abortion, contraception, protection, sterilisation, or abstinence while men are not capable of any of those things, it's only fair to offer them the right to have children but not pay for them to compensate.

Personally, I think there's room for compromise. Men should be allowed to disclaim financial liability for offspring they don't want (but conceived anyway), but only once and only on the condition that they get the word "DEADBEAT" tattooed on their foreheads in large block letters.

I Think I Have A Blog Now.

This is a personal blog. That means I write random crap I think of and put it in a series of tubes in an appropriately pseudonymous fashion. Reading this blog constitutes your agreement not to whinge about how offended you are, because seriously, you don't have to read it. But fully justified complaints are always welcome because they're justified. Actually, whining may also be tolerated because hey at least that means someone is paying attention to me which is more than most bloggers can say.

So anyway, the reason I started this thing is because I kept having ideas where I'd think "oh, that'd be great for my blog... IF I HAD ONE!" Individually, they were passing thoughts. Collectively, they are a vast pile of verbiage commonly known as a "weblog."

Vital stats:

Blog: Yes.
Date: Today.
Current Mood: Verbose.
Sleep Status: No.
Word of the Day: Replevin.
Update Schedule: Whenever I bother.
Content: Highly limited.
Popularity: Un.
Blog Ranking: Last place.
Readership: Nil.

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