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Entries in web 2.0 (3)


Youtube ads are Broken

I never liked ads. About 5% of them are funny, interesting, or in any other way worth watching, but the rest is fluff you have to endure so you can watch whatever it is you really want to watch. In the era of broadcast TV, like 15 years ago, that seemed like a fair deal: stations have to make a profit, yadda yadda yadda. When an ad was especially good I'd remember it and walk away with a positive feeling towards the brand. When it sucked, as it usually did, I didn't mind.

But that was broadcast TV, and now we're in the age of on-demand internet content. And Youtube ads. And in this age, for the first time, some ads offend me by their very existence. I'll search for, say, a Sarah Bettens song, and find it among the first results, and I'm all excited and amazed at this awesome interconnected world that brings wonderful music to my ears, a single click and I can listen to the song — oh, wait, no, actually there's an ad for Gilette I need to get through first.

I understand the reasoning. Disk storage and bandwith aren't free, of course, and if I – the consumer – am not paying for them then somebody else has to. So, ads.

Except that they don't work. One minute ago I had neutral-to-positive feelings towards Gilette. Like all non-Unix-guru males I discovered shaving as I went through puberty, had to choose a razor brand and chose Gilette for no good reason. (Most decisions one makes as a teenager are ill-informed.) For 15 years I wasn't convinced that Gilette was superior to Wilkinson or store brands, but it was what I was using and I couldn't be bothered to rethink that original decision. Having committed to the brand ages ago, I was content to buy new blades every week without thinking too much about it.

Until now. Just this minute, Gilette has stopped being a benevolent partner in my personal hygiene and became the faceless corporation standing between me and a song I love. It is now the enemy. Whether Gilette shaves closer than Wilkinson I still have no idea, but for the first time in 15 years, thanks to a campaign that Gilette paid for, I now have an active interest in doing the comparison.

Google paid 1.65 Billions for youtube thinking it was the future of television, and maybe they were right. But what's obvious is that TV advertising can't transfer easily to Youtube advertising.


Facebook's Meta-Likes

Since facebook came up with the idea that you can like not only things but also "actions", (e.g. while you've been able to like one person's status for a while, it only recently became possible to Like another person's commenting on that status.) the site has moved one step closer to the realm of simple-yet-impossible-to-understand webapps so recently left empty by the demise of Google Wave.

See if you can make sense of the following screencap:

What the hell is going on here ? The first line is clear enough: Cécile, Julie and Sophie like Laureline's status. (Of course they do. She's in Thailand.) The "unlike" link implies that I too apparently like her status. This begs the question of why this shows up in my news feed when I've reacted to it before and thus am obviously aware of it. But never mind: the thing that really bugs me is the last line. Apparently eight people like "this". What the hell is "this"? Are they liking Laureline's status, or Cécile's liking of Laureline's status ? (If the latter is true, Cécile has apparently gone to the trouble of liking her own liking of Laureline's status.)

At some point I thought both lists referred to the same thing, (Laureline's status) and the "4 others" were just people I wasn't friends with. But that isn't the case : clicking on "4 others" reveal a friend and 3 people I don't know. It follows that either the first and last lines are lists of people liking different things, or there is a weird reason (or bug) in facebook that explains why one of those friends is counted in the last line but not in the first.

This kind of thing has been happening all the time for the last few days. Am I the only one who is confused by this? Is there a simple and obvious explanation that I'm simply too stupid to figure out? If facebook really wants to complicate its user interface, why on Earth doesn't it provide a "dislike" button? I've been hating Florent Pagny for years, yet it's 2010 and I still have no easy way to share that feeling with the people in my life…

By publishing this, I'm taking a risk that someone might come along with a perfectly sane and simple explanation, and prove me an idiot in the comments. It's a risk I'm willing to take for three reasons: first, even in the worst case I'll actually learn something. Second, I strongly doubt that any explanation can undermine my fundamental point, which is that facebook's "like" mechanism is fucked up. Just to make the point, I'm pretty sure this is a bug :

Last but not least, as a researcher working in knowledge representation, I can't help but see a silver lining in all this: in an incredibly roundabout and unexpected way, facebook is teaching the masses one thing: reification is bloody hard.


Here comes another bubble

A youtube video asks me to blog about it and I just oblige without thinking twice. There goes my free will I guess.