Publisher payments and browsers like Brave aren't the answer and may hurt long term

As you may have noticed, I don't really have any ads on this site… or at least I didn't when I wrote this, but if you're reading this in the far future I probably sold out already.

Many blogs have way too many damn ads, talking ads, tons of shit in the way all the time, making your computer go slow with god awful JavaScript and even more terrible Flash video or needlessly super high HD HTML5 video. You complain and nobody listens, they just say "that doesn't happen on my computer!"

So there are ad blockers, but that hurts publishers because there's no ads to make money.

So there are solutions like Flattr and browsers like Brave which seek to fix this problem by having users put in money and then distribute the money to the content they most like and/or consume the most.

Actually, that sounds awesome, innovative, genius even, and that's not sarcasm, it does sound really cool.

But of course there's a problem with it.

The reason ads make more money is because people are more likely to click on ads than they are to pay cash, in fact nearly no users at all will pay cash, even if it's an easy option. What do I base this on? Well, unlike many of you I interact with other human beings and don't simply work from my ultralibertarian Aeron chair thinking about the benefits of mutual exchange.

I often see people, primarily dorks from the development world like me, say things like "I'd pay for content if I liked it enough", well first of all these people aren't clicking ads anyway, but also it's total bullshit too. Most people will still watch commercials on broadcast TV than pay for subscription services (which often still have commercials these days), in fact the vast majority of people will do this… so suddenly you'll have an influx of people paying for your site about Magento hacks? Give me a break dude.

You may make some money from donations or subscriptions, but almost always you'll make far more money with ads. Yes I'm sure some dumb fucks out there will say they make more money with subscriptions and donations than they ever did with ads, but that's probably because they:

  • Have niche content consumed primarily by people like them who don't click ads.
  • Have niche content which ad companies don't want to support, or if they do support they payouts are low (e.g. pornography)
  • Are liars and they're just full of shit anyway, but think it makes them seem noble even though they may have never had ads on their site to begin with.

This whole thing reminds me of another issue, payments of software.

Remember that?

How you can be open source / free and just charge for support and accept donations!

Remember all the start ups that did that model… and then went right out of fucking business? There are only a handful which made it work, and they all have a big brother (or sister, for the ladies out there) sponsoring them.

It's still an issue too, as I wrote about before in my post: The best way to support yourself being a free software developer is apparently getting another job.

And that's where this shit puts publishers in the same boat, because most people simply aren't going to donate, they aren't going to pay for the content they consume, and by blocking ads you are hurting publishers.

Some overload their sites for their clickbait articles, yes, but most sites aren't over the top and people really depend on it, it may only make $1,000 – $2,000 a month, and there's no way in fucking hell anyone is gonna Flattr or Brave that much money for cats that look like Hitler pictures in posts about which restaurants have the best meat ball salad. I'm sorry, it's not going to fucking happen, and in the handful of cases it does is like suggesting playing the lottery, you're not helping.

As with the linked post above, it reeks of elitism and self-importance, but in an indirect way. If you are reading this I can gather that you:

  • Probably are a developer or web designer, or work near them in some way.
  • Probably never click ads.
  • Possibly use an adblocker.
  • Possibly have some sort of philosophy you think is in line with paying for content you like, but in reality you consume things all the time you wouldn't pay for anyway, such as simple fixes on a blog like this. Nobody's sent me money, but you bastards link to my unicode and Geonames articles all the time.

So let's not break our arms trying to jack each other off, you may pay if you think it's cool enough, but even if you're there all the time, if you can get it for free, or you think maybe the publisher has slightly different politics than you, you probably won't ever pay, so don't try to pump sunshine up my skirt, I know you're full of shit. If you asked me in public though, I'd totally lie and also say "yeah, I'd pay for content I like," but it'd be a lie, just like when you say it.

I do think services like Flattr and software like Brave are really cool and I want to somehow build a world where we can have those and good ads. I'm not just complaining, I do have some ideas in mind, but I lack experience in advertising so they could be shit ideas, like have a browser or extension which does the following:

  • White listing only approved ad companies; make the voting democratic in some way or have multiple private companies with different motives reach a consensus.
  • Have a grey list when rules are violated, this can be done by users clicking a button near the ad to report it, and if enough do from enough places, it's automagical.
  • Rules that we can all pretty much agree on like: no fucking talking or auto-play, no intensive CPU usage, no HD video, no attempts to hijack the browser, and probably other shit too. Google's own rules for their advertisers aren't too bad.
  • Set a limit on ad to content ratio for each page load.

This alone will solve 99% of bullshit.

If you don't agree, I don't really care, but feel free to reply to express your opinion, and feel free to be as hostile as you want, because I'm going to return the favour, even if you agree with me.

Disable autocomplete / autofill in Chrome 51 for typeahead

So all the old insane tricks don't seem to work anymore, right? Well, I've seen one where you create a bunch of retarded hidden fields, but that's inelegant and adds too much complexity. So, based on something I found rarely mentioned, I manged to assemble this:

The type "search" makes it to where Chrome will not apply autocoplete or autofill, however some browsers like Firefox still will, so you also add the classic autocomplete="off".

It works with typeahead and Bootstrap 3 just fine, however if you have specific styles for input[type='text'] you'll have to include 'search' as well.

It's also a valid HTML5 element as well, and in HTML4 or (X)HTML 1.x most browsers will fail to text even though it says search, so it may not be valid, but it will work, and that's more important.

So, good luck, until Chrome changes this shit too and wants to punish developers. As they claim, turning off autocomplete isn't really a security feature, that's nonsense because I'm not using it for security.

They say that we should take advantage of autocomplete and autofill, but that logic doesn't seem to include the fact that maybe people other than Google have search suggestions, or even hidden values like numerical IDs which need to be applied when the item is selected — something autofill doesn't do and Google doesn't seem to give a fuck.

Is PHP out of fashion?

One thing I keep running into is the claim that "PHP is out of fashion," which I don't quite understand considering PHP is the most popular server-side language on the entire Internet, and many of the top websites in the world use it. Indeed, even on Twitter recently I had this conversation (edited for readability, see link for context):

Faizan Javed (‏@faizanj): A bigger issue – what is it with valley startups and PHP?
Tony Showoff ‏(@TonyShowoff): What do you mean? The polarisation of it, to where either it's evil or it's the only thing used?
Faizan Javed (‏@faizanj): the intense focus and controversy over an arguably out-of-fashion language.
Tony Showoff ‏(@TonyShowoff): Java is also "out of fashion" but still used, PHP is used by more web sites than any other language. I think it's inadequacy. A lot of things go in and out of fashion, but fashion doesn't reflect usefulness. Remember the coming p2p/push/xml/etc revolutions?
Faizan Javed (‏@faizanj): one can argue Cobol and Fortran are also still useful in their domains. But hip, cool and mainstream they are not.
Tony Showoff ‏(@TonyShowoff): So is hand looming one could say, but half of all internet sites don't use COBOL and half of looms aren't hand driven.

Like underwear, PHP is becoming cleaner, as if it's been washed with Tempa-Cheer on double rinse at high heat.

I think he does bring up a good point and question though. Are COBOL and Fortran fashionable at all since they still are in use, mostly in the realm of maintenance? Well, maybe, but I don't think so. As I tried to point out as best I could on Twitter, niche use cases are not the same thing as something being ubiquitous. Just as you can still find handloomers that doesn't mean machine looming is falling out of fashion, despite the rise in custom hand made items on etsy.com

I think people often confuse what's cool with what's in fashion and what's useful or available. This is less of a big deal in pop culture trends, but in the computer world it doesn't really make much sense. Sure, PHP may not be cool, I'm not sure if it ever was, but that doesn't change the fact that to this day when you want to find a web host, almost always they have PHP hosting available and not much, if anything else. Despite Python and Ruby becoming more hip, along with Erlang and the less useful other things which are some goofy spin off of another thing, they simply aren't available everywhere or ubiquitous.

So, in a sense, asking whether or not PHP is in fashion is sort of like asking whether or not underwear is in fashion. Sure it may be cool, or sexy, not to wear it, but for the most part you'll find it everywhere you look. Is that a bad analogy for PHP? Maybe, but reflecting PHP's problems over the years, I think it's pretty apt, but like underwear, PHP is becoming cleaner, as if it's been washed with Tempa-Cheer on double rinse at high heat.

But what about the numbers (click image for source information)?

stats-w3techs

php-trend-201301-netcraft

And finally, what about as far as community help goes? After all, a programming language's success and usability these days often relies on thriving communities. Well…

tiobe-community-stats

Uncool? Maybe, but no programming language has ever been cool. Out of fashion? I don't think so.

Hamburger Icon, the illogical and unnecessary name

Stolen from the BBC
Stolen from the BBC

You may know the menu icon or navicon, sometimes called "bars", on your smart phone or tablet. When you click it or touch it, you get a menu, ta-da, pretty great.

Except lately I've seen some people, including people I respect, call it the "hamburger" icon. This is pushed further by the media, and in fact it mostly seems to be a media thing since, well you know how reporters often run out of things to talk about…

The BBC carried this article: Hamburger icon: How these three lines mystify most people.

Are people really mystified by a standard icon seen everywhere? Somehow I doubt it.

Here's why it concerns me:

Standards are important in computing, especially when interacting with regular, "non-technical" people. Having a clear and understandable name for things makes sense. People need to connect words to actions, and if someone says "hamburger icon" instead of the more obvious "menu icon" then we've sacrificed logic to be cute.

It's always been a menu icon since it was invented, and in fact originally the cutesy name was "air vent icon," which makes more sense than hamburger, speaking of…

Here's why it makes no damn sense:

It doesn't look like a fucking hamburger! If it were a hamburger, the top and bottom lines would be wider to signify a bun, but they're all equal. It seems like a really big stretch and attempt to try to apply a name to something that does not need another god damn name.

I always thought it looked like a gripper, as one can often see on the bottom of remote controls to make sliding the battery panel off, as well as many other places. This makes sense too with smart devices, because people use their fingers on them.

Other things it looks more like: a deck of cards, a list of items, an air vent, a stack of items… Would you say the StackOverflow icon looks like someone assembling a hamburger?

Plus when I click it, no matter what, I will never get hamburgers.

Here's what we should do instead:

I don't use the term "navicon", because it seems silly to me, but so does "favicon," and that seems like a good name for technical people and development, but not regular people.

Consider the fact that people, after playing with their phones, tablets, or a web site will see it brings up a menu and they will think "oh, it's a menu icon," and it always brings up a menu wherever they see it. I don't think they'll naturally say "oh it's a hamburger, no duh, of course, as it looks nothing like a hamburger!" even if they don't understand what it's supposed to represent, they'll just associate it with menus.

So when I say menu icon, they'll know what to click.

The best thing to do is to just not repeat this weird ass thing, it's so trivial and unnecessary.

So if it's so trivial why the fuck do I care?

Because I don't want to make interacting with users even more complicated by giving illogical, goofy names to them to be cute. We don't need to set precedent with this, otherwise what's next, calling bullets "M&Ms" because they're both round?

Want to make a list, click the M&Ms icon…

See what I mean, what's the difference? Oh yeah, bullets look more like M&Ms than the menu icon looks like a hamburger.