Maciej Cegłowski on the perilous surveillance of online advertising:
Ad fraud works because the market for ads is so highly automated. Like algorithmic trading, decisions happen in fractions of a second, and matchmaking between publishers and advertisers is outside human control. It’s a confusing world of demand side platforms, supply-side platforms, retargeting, pre-targeting, behavioral modeling, real-time bidding, ad exchanges, ad agency trading desks and a thousand other bits of jargon.
The winners in this game are the ones running the casino: big advertising networks, surveillance companies, and the whole brand-new industry known as “adtech”.
The losers are small publishers and small advertisers. Universal click fraud drives down the value of all advertising, making it harder for niche publishers to make ends meet.
Robert Lewandowski, a striker for Bayern Munich, scored a bunch of goals and sportsed quite successfully.
Robert Lewandowski came on for Bayern Munich at halftime in a match they were losing 1-0 to Wolfsburg. Five minutes and 40 seconds into his appearance, his first goal hit the back of the net. Almost exactly nine minutes later, his fifth goal did the same. This man is on fire.
It is starting to feel like Fall here in New York, and I am up to some new things since the last time I wrote here in January (!). By the way, those New Years resolutions? They are going terribly! So it goes.
The big news, if you hadn’t heard, is that I’ve left my job at the New Yorker magazine. I am still very proud of how the redesign turned out, and I learned a ton from my many amazing colleagues there, but after two years it just felt like time for me to move on. So I am back to freelancing, and feeling excited to work on some new things. And yes, I am looking for new clients, you should hire me!
In addition to freelancing, I’ve also started a fellowship at Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. I’m working with an awesome group of collaborators using telephony and wifi darknets as tools for gathering stories. I’ll be posting more about that here in the coming weeks.
Also, if you look around, you may notice I’ve updated my WordPress theme a bit. The underlying structure is very similar to what I had before, but I focused on a few key improvements:
The page layout is now responsive, so it works better on very small and very large screens.
Whenever possible, I’ve minimized my reliance on third-party tools (for example, I no longer use TypeKit for my header fonts).
So long green and red, hello pink! I’ve also made it easy to change the color scheme in the future through the magic of Sass variables.
Comments are gone! At least for now, maybe I’ll change my mind about that. I do love getting feedback about stuff I post on here, so drop me a line if you might have otherwise left a comment.
Of all the changes in this website update, the one I feel best about is cutting out the third-party tracking. I’ve noticed that YouTube embeds serve up a DoubleClick advertising tracker, just by loading a page with a video, which isn’t cool. Now video embeds only load on demand, after you’ve hit the play button (mobile visitors may need to tap two times). Naturally, you’ll still be tracked by Google if you play an embedded YouTube video, but otherwise the page shouldn’t leak data to any off-site parties.
The bottom line is I am in control of what goes up on phiffer.org, which includes things like hidden advertising trackers. Now there is slightly less ambient surveillance around here. Plus the pages should load marginally faster!
At work I have a desktop computer that’s dedicated to long-running processes—currently doing OCR on magazine archives—while I use a laptop to write and debug code. I have a few go-to videos I play on top of the background tasks, to offer a kind of virtual window out into the world when I need to look away from my text editor.
The container ship timelapse is shot by Toby Smith, who’s also posted a slower moving 90 minute view from a container ship, as seen in real time. Nothing is visible but the ocean and a distant horizon. Played at HD on a large screen, it has an amazingly soothing effect. This has emerged as the best option all around, and coincides nicely with my maritime-themed name plate (see also: The Loop).
Reading this made me wonder how much time any of us has left. To what degree do each of us belong to the future?
I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.
This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.