Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bring On the Targeted Ads

I keep reading about website tracking and data gathering so that advertisers can target people more effectively. They make it sound as dire as an 9.0 earthquake followed by a 200' tsunami.

I don't get it. I'd prefer some targeted ads. From a list of recent advertising I've seen, I can tell you that I'm absolutely, unequivocably not the least bit interested in Budweiser, Jack Daniels whiskey, energy drinks, feminine hygene products of any sort, mini-blinds, double-pane windows, the AARP, right-wing political websites, left-wing political websites, foreign cars and trucks, domestic cars and trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, vacation getaways, forclosed homes, credit repair, reverse mortgages, network TV shows, cable TV shows, celebrity gossip, celebrity anything else, nor golf products. And no quicky oil-change companies, either.

Also anything that's in my spam folder, including discount prescription meds, hard-on pills, enlargement pills, diet pills, hair-loss pills, in fact any kind of pill at all; also counterfeit watches, online degrees (I can print my own diploma on my own color printer), ink and toner cartridges, nor the kind of porn that's still illegal.

I actually have a few hobbies and interests, yet I rarely ever see ads for those things. One day last week I was on a website and I nearly fell off my chair because I saw an ad for a company I recognized, liked, and it was actually relevant to my interests. I couldn't click on it fast enough. I wanted to give the site some kind of positive feedback.

I spent a fair amount of time weeding the ads on Facebook. If you look on the right-side pane, there are usually four ads. If you hover over one, there's a little X that shows up in the upper-right corner. If you click on that you can "hide this ad" or "hide all ads from the organization." It then asks you why you don't like it.

Presumably this is so they can figure out which ads you want to see, which would be mutually beneficial. So far it hasn't worked. I'm still inundated by crap. Even on the occasion when I see one ad that's connected to a hobby or interest of mine, it's still not something I'm interested in.

Supposedly, considering the nature of web-surfing, computer advertising should have it hands-down over TV broadcasting, which still has to aim their ads at broad-based demographics. Yet it still seems as if I'm in the broadest based demographic there is: someone who's loaded a webpage.

You'd be better off advertising in the Pennysaver.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Politics. You Have Been Warned

[Written last summer but (for reasons I don't understand) never posted. I still feel the same way, though.]

On some webpage or another, I just came across another "Save NPR!" ad. A few months ago this was a big thing during the budget debate: whether NPR (National Public Radio) should be defunded."

I like NPR. I don't agree with their political bent, but their news coverage is still a level better than anything else I've seen or heard. It's like any kind of news coverage. It's not perfect, but it's a very good.

But I don't think it should be funded by the Government.

I'm old-fashioned in this regard. I don't think the Government should be the Charity-in-Chief. The money the government spends is my money, in part, and I have to pay it whether I like it or not. I don't think I should be forced to support The Arts, because the arts are going to go on whether the government funds them or not. And that includes NPR.

And yes, if I thought NPR was the Replublican mouthpiece instead of the Democratic house organ, I'd still feel the same way.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Case Against Borders and B&N

It's not much of a cheese shop, is it?
Finest in the district, sir.
Explain the logic underlying that conclusion, please.
Well, it's so clean, sir.
It's certainly uncontaminated by cheese.

I've written and rewritten this numerous times and scrapped it, but this time it stays.

I'm sick of watching various businesses go under, blaming everyone but themselves for their demise. There are outside factors that contribute, but I believe many businesses refuse to examine themselves and address their own faults--it's easier and more satisfying to blame competition.

The latest: Borders Books' flagship store in Ann Arbor is closing its doors. A sign supposedly says "No public restrooms--try Amazon."

Yeah, it's all Amazon's fault.

I grew up in suburbia and most of the bookstores were small. The major ones were located in malls. The two biggies where I lived were Pickwick (which later became B. Dalton) and Waldenbooks. They were nice because the alternatives were department stores, whose book departments were mainly best-sellers, drug and grocery stores, which had only the top sellers, and a few independents which were always on the other side of the city. The mall stores didn't have huge inventories, but there were better than non-bookstores and a lot easier to get to.

For me, the mall stores went sour when they began getting away from books and selling other things, like toys and games and other crap that weren't books. Given their already limited size and space, this seemed monumentally stupid.

Not too long after this happened, the big chains arrived: Barnes & Noble and Borders. They actuall had BOOKS! Huge stores with tons of books! All of a sudden I could go to the store and find things on shelves. Books I'd only heard of before but never seen. Books I'd never heard of but just happened to be shelved in a section I was interested in. It was a golden age.

You know what happened? The same thing.

I think in the last 5 years, I've actually bought a book or magazine one-visit-in-seven to either Barnes or Borders. Maybe two out of six I left because I thought the book was too expensive (they heavily discount the best-sellers, but they do it on the backs of stuff I want, which always seems like it's $40). The other times I left in disgust because they didn't even have what I wanted.

They still had lots of books, but I began noticing that more and more floor space was devoted to crap. Not stuff that made sense to me, like magazines and newspapers (even though I've often not found what I wanted there either), but games, puzzles, collectables. Candy.


Now I realize that even in a huge store like Borders or Barnes, they still have limits on what they can stock. But I was continuously disgusted by the fact that they don't have room to stock something I thought they *ought* to have, but they sure as hell had space for the Lindt Chococlate display.

Some MBA will say that the Lindt chocolates generated more revenue per square foot that whatever exotic book I wanted, and turned inventory far more often.

That may be, but I didn't go into Borders to buy a chocolate bar. Or a teddy bear. Or a Lego set.

So more and more often I turned to Amazon to buy books, because *they had books,* and the brick & mortars became the retailers of last resort because I was tired of wasting my time looking for books they didn't stock.

Ah! But I could order it!

Yeah--but if I'm going to order it, I CAN ORDER IT FROM AMAZON!!!! The whole point of going into the brick & mortar was being able to actually SEE the book. See if it was really what I wanted. And if it wasn't--maybe something nearby on the shelf *was* a better fit for my needs.

That was something that really pissed me off about B&N (Borders not so much): I pretty-much can't find anything at B&N now without having to ask. I can usually find things by myself at Borders, but at B&N you have to cool your heals at the info desk, which is either empty because the clerk is helping someone else find something, or backed-up because several other people have to find something--which is almost everything if it isn't the new James Patterson novel which is prominantly displayed in the middle of the store. With Borders I can usually figure out where my book is, or at least was supposed to be. With B&N the clerk has to consult a computer to figure out what assinine location it would be stashed--if they had it.

There's never a wait to talk to the clerks who are selling the company e-reader, though; and you don't need a directory to find him.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What Is Step 2

Today is one of those days when it seems like I have no idea what the next step is.

I've been learning the game of darts. Unlike bowling, where there's a definite technique you learn to rolling the ball, dart throwing is more like batting in baseball: you have to develop the technique that works best for you.

I've gotten to where I can almost always hit the board. Now I've been trying to get all my shots within the inner triple ring. But once I get that, I'm not sure what the next step is. I haven't figured out how to really work on accuracy and placing the darts where I want. Maybe it's just throwing darts 10,000 times at a specific spot; but I dunno. Just throwing darts as I "develop" my throw seems like a haphazard way of improving.

I've been working another hobby: oldradios, and ham radios, and in particular, old ham radios. Recently I bought a project radio, something that wouldn't be too far gone. So I got it—and it's not too far gone. But it's gone to the point where I opened it up and I felt like the dog that caught a car: now what?

I'm not sure what.

I've got a similar thing going on another project—it's been like pushing a car with its parking brake pulled on. But so far every time I've hit an obstacle, I've figured out a way around. So I'm pressing forward on it, even though the car still has its brake on, and I feel like I can't figure out what's 2 steps away.


Sorry about the long delay. I have a list of excuses for not updating. They're great. Trust me.

That said, I'm going to try again. The goal is a new post every Sunday morning. I may post an extra one during the week if I have something great, but at least once a week, on Sunday morning. I've already got a few scheduled to go.