Posts from February 2005

Yahoo! Web Services

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the new Yahoo! Web Services API. I wrote some thoughts and a quick tour of the API for O'Reilly Network: Yahoo! Web Services.

I'm looking forward to seeing what people do with all of that search data—images, local listings, news, video, and (of course) web. But before you tear off and write your own Yahoo! applications, just make sure you're not going to use Yahoo! Web Services to "operate nuclear facilities" as it's prohibited by their terms of use. I know most people don't read those things, so I figured it would be good to point out. But don't let that limitation stop you. There are plenty of other less-obvious uses for Yahoo! Web Services that are even more compelling. ;)

Here's the official scoop from the Yahoo! Search Blog: Announcing the Yahoo! Search Developer Network and Search Web Services

RSS Ads Continued

My mini-rant turned extended-rant about RSS ads was very cathartic for me personally, but it probably wasn't the most constructive way to get my point across. I unleashed some negative energy on Wednesday, so I'd like to start this post with a picture of my cat.

awww, my cat

Now that some balance has been restored to the universe, perhaps a more constructive way to talk about ads in RSS is to think about alternative models for revenue. People aren't putting ads in RSS with the intention of inconveniencing their readers. I assume many are advertising in RSS because they're loosing web readers to RSS readers, and they need to find a way to pay their bandwidth bills and keep their business/site running. I further assume that they assume any loss in readership because of ads is a necessary price for the revenue it brings, and many of their readers won't blink.

Advertising on the web isn't going to go way (no matter how much I complain). It has become the business model for web publishing. Google is building their empire on the long tail of would-be advertisers and ad-hosters. And ads are becoming ubiquitous across both personal sites run by individuals and business sites. If you publish on the web (and via rss), what else is there?

I don't know. But I believe there has to be creative, alternative ways to fund web publishing. I like Jason's turn of the term donation to micropatronage, and I hope his experiment is a huge success. I generally like the idea of patronage, and I think it should be more widely practiced—and not just at the micro level. For example, I bet people at Sony, Nokia, Danger, and other gadget makers read Engadget and Gizmodo (and a bunch of similar sites) religiously. I bet they're also reading private gadget and hacking message boards. They're not reading these sites because they're advertising venues. (Though some probably are.) They're reading them to stay on top of their industry, see how customers are interacting with their products, and find out what people want to happen next. They're reading them to connect with a community of potential customers. This is an incredible value for these big companies, and they should be willing to support it. (Perhaps even anonymously to avoid putting the authors into a conflict of interest.) I bet a tiny sliver of Sony's R&D budget could keep ten Gizmodos running well into the future.

Another potential source of revenue is patronage via aggregation. When I pay my cable bill each month, I'm not only supporting Comedy Central and the handful of channels I watch. I'm also supporting Disney, Lifetime, A&E and everything else in the lineup. I could see a similar strategy for websites that want to group together to find patrons. Say a group of 20 sites puts together the "gadget network", and encourages donations to a single fund. Each site is paid out of that fund, and the 20 sites are working together to promote and encourage people to support their site through the "gadget network" fund. While not as good as a one to one direct donation, I think this could be a way for sites to pool their audiences toward a common goal.

And in general, I think the idea of paying for what's valuable to you on the web needs to be promoted.

These ideas aren't going to solve my frustrations with advertising on web, because ads work. But I think there is still room for experimentation, and there are ways to make money by serving readers directly and without diminishing their experience.

Ads in RSS Explained

I've been thinking about my mini-rant against RSS advertising that I posted last night, trying to pinpoint why it bothers me so much, exactly. There's advertising everywhere else, right? It's just a reality of our culture that I should be used to.

I spend time and effort to avoid ads. On the web I block ad image servers and popups via firefox and I add advertising service IP addresses to my hosts file. I opt-out wherever I can. I own a TiVo and fast-forward through any commercials. I listen almost exclusively to listener-funded stations on the radio, and put up with minimal advertising there. Why? It's a simple matter of signal to noise ratio. I want the content without having to tune out noise.

Why do we fight comment spam? Why did Google implement "nofollow"? Why do we install blacklist extensions? Because the extra noise makes comments useless. Likewise, advertising has made some of my favorite sites less useful to me. I can't visit boingboing via the web anymore. The ads make it look like a w4rez site circa 1998—there's more noise than content, and I don't want to manually filter it out.

Hello RSS, my last sanctuary. A place that I have also put much time and effort into by subscribing to those feeds I find valuable. My list of feeds feels like it's my space. Even though it's others' words, it's configured in a way that's uniquely mine. I save time with RSS because this place strips away the extraneous and gets down to business: the content. I can read boingboing there because there is no onslaught of sexy, flashing banners to filter out. It's the content and nothing but the content—highly efficient.

But now ads are starting to appear like graffiti in my RSS neighborhood. I feel like the authors of these feeds don't respect my time or space if they're increasing the amount of filtering I have to do. So it's my choice to tune them out. I can't stop people from putting ads in their feeds, and most likely the trend will continue. But I'm going to try to keep my sanctuary free from advertising as long as I can. I currently subscribe to hundreds of feeds, and it's not always easy to keep up with them. I may loose a few feeds with this new rule, but good information has a way of making the rounds and bubbling up to the top. And I'll have plenty of feeds without ads to keep me in the loop.

Update: I added some less ranty thoughts about this: RSS Ads Continued.

Ads in RSS

My new policy: I immediately unsubscribe from any XML feed with ads in it. Unless it's a feed about ads, then I might consider it. But then the post excerpts wouldn't necessarily be ads themsleves, would they? That might be unreasonable, but enough is enough. Buy nike.

kottke goes pro

Congratulations, Jason!

I'm a micropatron.

My Television Consumption

Last November 3rd I mentioned that, "'s time to eliminate the [television] from my daily life as much as possible." If you're following along at home, you might want to hear how it's going. I'm down to an average of one hour a day. I get almost all of my news online, so I don't feel any less informed. Now I'm not even watching "good" progams I used to love like News Hour, Frontline, and Nova. (My one hour/day is mostly The Daily Show, South Park, and some McLaughlin Group on the weekend.) sk and I recently removed the television from our bedroom—which was tough because we were both used to falling asleep with some background noise. But that has drastically cut down the remaining daily TV time.

I may be compensating in other ways, though, because I picked up a nasty PlayStation 2 habit in the last couple of months. ;) Ahh well, at least the experiment in cutting out television programming has been a smashing success. It may even be time to go completely off the tv grid and cut the cable cord. At least that idea doesn't seem impossible now.

Corvallis Bloggers

One of the best things to come out of the Gazette Times interview a couple weeks ago has been the increase in Corvallis weblogs at ORblogs. It's now the 3rd most blog-populated city on ORblogs behind Portland and Eugene. (Take THAT Beaverton!) Hearing more voices from my local community on a daily basis paints a more complex, detailed picture of this place. I hope it continues to grow.

I bet a similar jump in blog-population would happen if traditional media pointed their local audience to the ORblogs page for their town. (I'm looking at you, Bend and Salem.)

google map of local wireless

Here's the Google Map of wifi near Corvallis, Oregon. Now I know where I can take my laptop to surf. wow!

* crickets *

If I could embed a sound file of crickets chirping in this post, I would. My non-web world is busy at the moment, so the blog suffers.

Google Maps really is all that.

Here are some weblogs I read regularly, but aren't on my sitegeist sidebar: There are many many more, but that's a start. Back to the crickets.

tags at ORblogs

You've probably seen tags in action at, Flickr, Technorati, and Metafilter. (The kids are calling them folksonomies.) I set up a similar tag folksgeist page at ORblogs called ORblogs tags. The difference between et al, and ORblogs is that the Oregon Weblogs tag page is using categories that were found in RSS feeds. So while not technically tags, the effect is similar. And I think if people started aiming their weblog post categories toward a group goal, interesting things would happen.