March 26, 2009

When not showing an ad is better

The Mike on Ads blog had an interesting post a while back referencing some research by Yahoo about how not showing ads might be better for you.

Instead of showing crappy CPA offers the publisher should show either nothing at all, or some relevant site content. Show a snippet of the friend-feed, or maybe a list of 'online friends'. Show "interesting related links", or "new photos posted"… it doesn’t really matter. Show something that is of interest to the user. The point of the exercise is to train the user to start looking at this specific space again.


If this is obviously so good, why is nobody doing it? Well there’s only one small insignificant problem… Publishers have no way of identifying the top 20% of impressions. You see, especially on social networking sites a huge portion of that 20% are impressions that are sold behaviorally via ad-networks and exchanges. Those ad-networks and exchanges need to see the full 100% to be able to cherry-pick the 10% that are valuable to them thereby making it quite difficult for the publisher to “not show ads” on worthless impressions.

Showing something other than ads when there is no money involved is a great idea. Unfortunately, most traditional ad networks have no interest or capability to do this. Even 'behavioral' targeting folks aren't in a position because they have only a few 'behaviors' rather than a full tagcloud of interests.

Our Others Online affinity profiling system has behaviors, interests and a measure of the commercial value of those interests which means we can power ad units that know when its the right time to show an ad, or whether it's better to show relevant news or other content.

March 17, 2009

A clean desktop. The hard way.

My hard drive has been complaining recently and yesterday gave up the ghost. I found a few decent replacement drives online, but needed a new one right now. We had a gift certificate to Staples and what do you know - they had a reasonable 500GB SATA drive for $80. I called them last night just before 9pm - not only were they helpful late at night, but they put one behind the counter for me. Nice people there.

This morning I backed up all my files to my Linux server here at home and swapped in the new drive. I re-installed Win XP Pro and my machine was now a blank, default machine with no drivers for all the hardware plugged into it - like the big monitor, the speakers, power management, etc. I finally figured out Dell's horrible user interface for installing drivers and soon was back to a running machine with a clean desktop (first time in several years).

The only oddity was the clock was off by an hour. The old Win XP install didn't know about Congress changing when Daylight Savings Time started.

After restoring all my files, I needed to update Win XP and install all the old applications again. Not too hard, but time consuming.

Here's the order that I restored things

  • Dell drivers
  • Firefox browser
  • iTunes (so I could have music while restoring everything else)
  • PuTTY
  • PasswordSafe
  • Windows XP service pack 3
  • Microsoft Office 2003
  • Java 6 SDK
  • Eclipse
  • Apache 2.2
  • Tomcat 6
  • DBVisualizer
  • TortoiseSVN shell
  • GTalk

March 02, 2009

Yahoo Query Language and Open Tables

I've been looking at the Yahoo Open Data Tables and Query Language documentation. This is truly amazing stuff! It provides a service API that accesses many well known data sources (many are Yahoo) and transforms the data into XML or JSON. The data sources can be external URLs that provide XML and Yahoo does the fetch, parse, extract and transform that you want. You can provide a definition of some other external data source and they will hook it into their unified API fetch/query/transform service.

Some of the data sources are Flickr, local listings, geo location info, web search, image search, news search, weather and so on. One stop shopping for lots of great data.

Their console is a great way to see what's possible.

This is what I've wanted for many years. A long time ago I wanted to build a service that would provide "XML data sources" (I even registered for everything available on the Web - now it looks like Yahoo has actually done it.

Let's hope they keep this data access service open to all.