Pop go the weasels

So, I was thinking about posting this on OnU, but I decided it doesn't go there since it's mostly speculation.

Ever since Blizzard announced their (now limited) deal with Facebook, I've been thinking about the whole revenue-through-advertising model that is the latest craze on the web. Now, I know a lot of people make a lot of money on this, and that it's helped a lot of groups - especially the early progressive bloggers - stay viable and do a great public service without having to charge their users.

But there's always been this underlying sense of warning. As I've said before, I approach my intuitive/creative side in a way that I can best describe as the sensation you have when you're in a pitch-black room next to a large object: you can "feel" it there, not really physically but in an almost ESP way. Really, what you're "feeling" is awareness of normal sensory perception you don't normally "hear", but in the absense of other stimuli, your brain listens and you notice it.

That's basically how I approach ideas or relationships (conceptual, not romantic): I get this sense that there's something there that I can't quite make out, and then spend a lot of time mentally poking, prodding, and walking around it in my head to get the notion of its true shape. I've had one of the amorphous lumps in my mind about the Google Ads model (to give it flavor), but it hasn't taken full shape yet.

This weekend, something helped to nudge the outline into focus: I went and saw "Wall Stree: Money Never Sleeps". I won't go into the details (it's a pretty good movie; I never saw the first), but many of the financial conversations in it focus on the concept of bubbles - mainly the real estate bubble of 2008, but also past and future bubbles. That was the key concept.

Almost everything has value because of scarcity. Without scarcity, diamonds are just a pretty form of carbon and gold is a mostly-useless metal (outside of electronics). Food and fresh water are about the only things that have native worth, since they're the only things that the body can actually use in any situation. Even without those two, however, the rarity of the item - Maine lobster, Kobe beef, San Pellegrino - affects the pricing far more than the actual usability.

So what does this have to do with advertising?

Advertising is about exposing a message to an audience. A man can stand on a street corner and hawk wares - and generally did for centuries. However, this reaches a very small audience. He could then hire a bunch of other people to stand on other corners, but this has high costs associated. The billboard really started as a stand-in for the guy on the corner - someone shouting, but without the someone. When someone realized that some corners are more trafficked than others, or that some corners are more trafficked by the kinds of people you want to reach than others, the whole business of paid advertising was born.

Historically, paid advertising has been the darling of media outlets: theatres, newspapers, magazines, radio, television. All of these outlets could charge decent rates because of scarcity: there's only so much air time, so many commercial slots, xxx number of full-page ads, etc., and (in general) a large number of people trying to occupy them. Along comes the internet, the new media, and for the most part it's treated the same: there are a limited number of web sites and a larger pool of advertisers seeking placement on them. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Except it's not.

Publishing is obviously limited by physicalitieS: paper requirements, distribution, etc. Radio, there are only certain frequencies. Same with broadcast television. A slightly less limited model is cable since there's theoretically a much larger number of channels, but as anyone who has ever channel-surfed knows, finding anything on cable is pretty difficult.

The internet is not limited, not in any practical sense. Any limitation placed on it can be (and naturally will be, just through demand) overcome by pretty simple technology. What started out as a dozen websites changed to a few hundred, a few thousand, a few million - and if you count all the channels, forums, personal blogs, etc., is probably in the billions by now and still growing.

So what's the relevance? In the beginning, advertisers still had limits in the web, since most of the viable "channels" - forums, blogs, etc. - had no mechanism for contacting the majority of advertisers and there was no real pricing model for such small-time ads. But along comes Google Ads (and various other forms), where almost anyone can start generating revenue based on their volume. Now, almost literally, every page of the web can become an advertising channel.

Obviously, some channels are still preferred because they have more volume or are better "targetted". But, if we have a million pages with ten hits each or one page with ten million hits, we don't care so long as we're just paying by hits. Google's marketting strategy has, in a sense, commoditized advertising, and in doing so spells the doom for their own market.

Because it's all based on scarcity. Today, there may be 1 billion channels. Soon, there's likely to be double that. The more channels that are available, and the more web sites Google Ads signs up, the less valuable each individual click becomes to the advertiser because there are simply so many more potential clicks available. As a channel owner, your survival depends less on your number of clicks (or impressions, or whatever) than on the ratio of your traffic to the total aggregate traffic across all channels. This is why ratings on TV and box office results are important: they define those ratios.

Granted, there's still likely a pool of potential advertisers to sign up, but there is a wall sommewhere out there beyond which the increase in clients cannot compete with the increase in distribution channels. At that point, the model of support-through-advertising on the web disintegrates, because the value-per-click starts dropping. There may be a bottom, but once the wall's hit, it'll be a long drop.

I don't know when it'll come, but there is, from a rational perspective - a bubble in the web-based advertising market that *has* to pop at some point. Either Google needs to proactively limit the number of channels (web sites) they're willing to work with (and pray every other web-based advertisement system does as well) or they're going to simply put themselves out of business (or at least that business) by oversaturation. I'm no advertisement exec; as I said at the beginning, this is speculation on my part. But it seems, to me anyway, to be a logical conclusion.

(And just to lighten the mood a bit: I absolutely love sugar-free Popcicles.)

Weekend highlights

No woman who expects a man to open a door for her is a feminist.

Straight boys are cute when they start flirting with gay guys - especially when they (the straight boys) don't realize they're doing it.

Temperature ranges should not shift 50 degrees in a matter of hours.

Dead bunnies are sad. :( (see prior line)

Explaining the general physics behind photography is very useful to laymen; jotting down equations for determining the amount of light hitting the sensor is probably pushing it.

Getting carded at the age of 33 is far less annoying but much sillier than getting carded at 23.

Fish tacos rock.

It's impossible to promote diversity without also potentiating stereotypes; the essential factor in both is recognizing differences in populations.

Getting cruised by a cute guy is a nice ego boost.

I seriously need to get a new job.

Against one perfect moment, the centuries beat in vain

I have conversations with myself. A lot.

Well, "with myself" being in my head with hypothetical versions of other people. This isn't re-hashing conversations I've actually had and wishing I'd said something different; this is complete new discussions on various topics or concepts. Sometimes they go on for hours, or even spread across multiple days - I can put on "on hold" one afternoon and pick it up again the following evening.

I also run a lot of "movies" in my head. Sometimes they're actual movies, where I'll re-watch (from memory) movies I like. Sometimes they're visual "movies" of books I've read. Sometimes they're just odd daydreaming-type scenarios that I stick myself (or others) into, just to see how they turn out.

I do this a lot. At almost any time of day, either a conversation or scenario is running through my head; I hesitate to call it daydreaming because I'm not distracted by it - it's just there in the background. I do it while driving, while working, even while having real conversations.

There have been moments when I've even had *two* running simultaneously, but that's just when I'm having one of my "hyper" phases. I suppose those deserve a little explanation.

I may have mentioned before that I'm hypersensitive in the physical sense - I've got a lower activation threshold than most people. This is probably related to the acronym soup (ADHD, AS, OCD, etc.), but under normal circumstances I can keep it under control: I can put a kind of conscious block on sensation so that, while I know it's there, I'm basically just ignoring it.

Once in a while, though - the last time was in Maui - I'll hit a period when it seems like my brain's on overdrive. If most people have a threshold of 5, and I normally operate at 3, it drops to 1 for these periods. I notice everything, actively, and it even feels like time slows down for the entire duration (which is usually the first effect I'm aware of being aware of).

One time, I was having dinner with Phil at a Hamburger Hamlet in Sherman Oaks when it kicked in on the drive to the place. Phil ended up commenting on it: I was anticipating actions and reactions so often that it started to bother him. Things like grabbing a glass just as he started to knock it over (my hand was on it just as his arm hit it), moving out of the way of people who were behind me (seeing them in the reflections of things), listening in on several different conversations and using that information with the waiter, etc., all while having a normal conversation with him (normal for us, anyway, which tends to be above the heads of most people). The rest of the night was the same way, where no matter where I was I picked up on a huge amount of detail for the environment.

It's very draining, so luckily it usually only lasts a few hours; I think the longest I was ever "hyped up" was a couple of days. It isn't just normal hyperactivity, either - I go that fairly often, and while I feel energetic I don't get the same time-slows-down type of effect or the added sensitivity.

Anyway, during these hyped-up phases I often have 5 or 6 active levels of thought going on (as opposed to the 4 that seem to be standard for me - usually two parts of me paying attention to whatever I'm doing, the part of me analyzing those parts, and a fourth separate piece that mostly just seems to map everything without critiquing but is generally the source of my intuition). I think, in general, it's whatever "active" thread that isn't busy that does the daydreaming, so that if I end up with more than 2 active threads I can have more than two daydreams going at once. Even meditating, there's always at least two of me with the "other" piece being the intuitive mapper in the background.

There are moments - all too brief and rare - when I can condense all the levels in my head into one single thought or thread. Interestingly enough, these also tend to happen in the hyped up phases, but I've had a few outside of that. For the lack of a better phrase, I usually refer to is as a "perfect moment" - something I stole from Terry Pratchett's book "Thief of Time" and, really, the trigger for this post since a friend brought up a quote in a conversation today.

Anyway, this has all been fairly stream-of-consciousness, and I'm not sure if it's relevant to anyone else. Not that that's ever stopped me.

(Random note - I can't find "imprementeur" in any dictionary, French or English, in any variation of spelling, and even yahoo and google only have three matches. Is it really that odd a word, or am I just horribly butchering it?)

The talk on a cereal box

Nothing is true, everything is permissable.
-- Hassan ibn Sabbah (attributed)

The most thoroughly and relentlessly Damned, banned, excluded,
condemned, forbidden, ostracized, ignore, suppressed, repressed,
robbed, brutalized and defamed of all Damned Things is the individual
human being. The social engineers, statistician, psychologist,
sociologists, market researchers, landlords, bureaucrats, captains of
industry, bankers, governors, commissars, kings and presidents are
perpetually forcing this Damned Thing into carefully prepared
blueprints and perpetually irritated that the Damned Thing will not
fit into the slot assigned it. The theologians call it a sinner and
try to reform it. The governor calls it a criminal and tries to punish
it. The psychologist calls it a neurotic and tries to cure it. Still,
the Damned Thing will not fit into their slots.
-- Hagbard Celine, "Never Whistle While You're Pissing"

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp - else what's a Heaven for?
-- Robert Browning

Audiences know what they expect and that is all they are prepared to believe in.
-- Player King, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead"

Pain in the ear

I rarely get ill. It's just one of those things. My step-mother is a nurse and can verify that, at one point, I quite literally had the 48-hour-flu for less than 24 hours.

When I do get sick, though, it's usually a doozy. This time is no exception.

In July, just after getting back from Maui, I came down with an ear infection. Nothing major, the doctor gave me some topical antibiotics (neomycin ear drops) to put in 4 times a day for a few days and that was that. After about 5 days, it cleared up and went away.

In mid-August, I started feeling the same kind of thing happen, so I went to the doctor again and told him. He looked slightly askance, gave me the same drops plus an oral antibiotic (amoxicillin) for 10 days. After 10 days, it was mostly gone and seemed to come and go. I went to Big Bear for Labor Day, and most of the time it was fine.

Well, I get back from Big Bear, and my ear's been "clogged" the entire time since. I gave it a few days in case it was just the altitude change, then scheduled an appointment for yesterday. So, now I have two brand new antibiotics (ofloxacin drops and ciprofloxacin orally) and an antifungal drop (clotrimazole), because he saw weird stuff on my ear drum as well as discharge.

Yay me.

I've also got a referral for an ENT and a culture of whatever-is-in-my-ear going, so hopefully next week we'll find out more fun stuff. This, though, can soon be counted as the most visits I've ever had to do for a single issue. Even with my hernia operation, I had 2 clinical visits (one PCP, one specialist), the surgery, and then 2 follow-ups with the surgeon. I'm already at 3 for this one; one more followup with my PCP on the culture and the ENT referral makes 5, and I'm likely going to need more than one visit with the ENT.

Good thing for having great medical insurance, though. I know a lot of people outside of California hate Kaiser, but SoCal Kaiser Permanente is awesome.

The good news, though, is that with all these antibiotics flowing through me, the only things I should have to worry about for the next few weeks are viruses.


(Wrote this for a friend of mine on a different forum, but having been in mountains the last weekend, decided to put it here.)

It isn't that we conquer, for we aren't always strong.
It isn't that we succeed, for we can't always win.
It isn't that we prove, for sometimes we are wrong.
It isn't that we finish... only that we begin.

For no one builds strength without struggling against weight,
No one crosses the finish without first crossing the start,
No one proves a theorem without assumptions he can state,
And no one learns to love without risking a broken heart.

So stand before the mountain crags that seek to block your way,
And brace against the winds that bring dark storm clouds above,
As rain pours down around you, smile, knowing that, one day,
You'll stand on sun-lit summits because you dared to fall in love.


It's one a.m., and I'm watching a fire burn in the fireplace. The heat it puts out fights with the cold air leaking around the seals of the windows; trench warfare, while I lay in no man's land. In that odd way that fires do, my eyes seem to feel the warmth more than the toes that are far nearer.

In the background, beneath the subtle buffetting of the flames, a clock ticks carefully. With each tick, some of the fuel is spent, some of the flame dies. Time wounds all heals, just as assuredly as it heals all wounds. In the face of eternity, even the lifespan of a star is but the tick of a clock. And yet the flame still burns.

I'm waiting for the flames to die, for the last burst of heat, the dying moment. Most of the fuel's gone; what now exists are but remnants of what was. Soon, there will be nothing - no heat, no light, just cold darkness and a faint memory that, once, there was the scent of smoke. And yet the flame still burns.

And yet, for now, it burns. Almost impossibly, bits and pieces that have sloughed off still flame, still refuse to go gently into that good night. As long as there is energy, as long as there is a spark, the whole rages on.

Gradually, it fades. Sections wink out, debris cools, and the room grows darker. Cold pushes forward, claiming more and more ground. And yet the flame still burns, still fights.

A crash of sparks, a structural collapse. There is no main body, no cohesiveness. Just debris. And yet the flame still burns.

And, alas, at the final moment, as the trickle slows, one last brief jet shoots to the sky, and all goes dark. The night has won the battle, and cold pours over the room.

One fire, one spark is gone. It cannot be duplicated, only replaced. It will never, in all of time, exist again. The characteristics of it were unique, a composite of the initial conditions that allowed it to form. The universe shall never see its like again.

And, yet, it was not alone. A single star may wink out in the sky, and though it be surrounded by billions of miles of emptiness, it was not alone: other stars exist, other stars still shine. The light it gave will travel out for the rest of time; the energy it spent will help ignite a billion billion flames. Nothing exists truly alone; nothing is ever in total isolation.

The fire has finally died; and yet, somewhere, the flame still burns.

And though it wins a battle, in the end, the night will lose the war.

Beneath the trees where nobody see

So, out on the deck at the cabin, laying back in my portable hammock and sipping pepsi max. It's not quite as relaxing as it could be for a few reasons.

1) I'm not nude; sorry if that's offensive, but, I really prefer enjoying nature au natural. However, there're a few houses around which might be able to see up on the deck, and (more immediately) the friend I brought still isn't really comfortable with it (and he's sitting in a chair next to me, reading).

2) One of the aforementioned nearby houses has someone doing construction work. Minor stuff, but there's a fairly regular sound of power saw and drill. Kind of breaks the whole "nature" vibe.

Oh well, it's still pretty cool. It's like 80 degrees out right now. I was laying out getting some sun earlier. In a few minutes, we'll probably grab the camera gear and go shooting pictures somewhere (most likely around the lake, at least today).

Tonight I'm going to bring my tripod out and try to get some star shots with the f1.8.

Anyway, off to find something to do.

If you go down to the woods today...

So, tomorrow I head off to the great white north. Or, well, in this case, the great brown-and-green east. I'm heading to Big Bear Lake (or thereabouts) with a friend for the long weekend (made longer by my taking Friday off). Should be fun - I've rented a 2bd/2ba cabin in the hills with a fire place and a hot tub.

I can think of a number of folks I'd rather take with me into such a setting, but the guy I'm taking has been pretty stressed out lately over a potential book deal and kind of needs the distraction. He's just a friend, so, this'll be purely platonic.

It's also a bit of a test, though. He wants to travel more (such as to Europe) but, unlike me, he's fairly insecure and hates travelling alone (he generally won't even go to the movies by himself). So he keeps saying that he and I should go on trips together. Now, I don't know that that would be a great idea, so this is something of a test scenario - we'll see how it ends up. It's only 2 hours away, so if the fit hits the shan I can always take him home and go back.

So, anyway, that'll be my weekend. I'll probably update at some point during the weekend, and there'll almost certainly be photographs afterwards.