I don’t use ad blockers. I think it’s a fair trade: You give me content and I see your ads.
I do, however, use content blockers.
The difference is not sophistry or comic book guy pedantry—an ad blocker blocks ads while a content blocker stops your browser from downloading many different kinds of data. This especially includes trackers, the little pieces of software that follow you around the web, cataloging your every move.
This means content blockers also block ads, but that is because the advertising networks track you across the web.
Does that mean they know specifically who you are? Name, rank, and serial number? Probably not. But we can’t know for sure, because the industry isn’t saying. What we do know is that when you visit a site that participates in an ad network—which is most commercial sites—the ad network uses the information it has on you to create an auction where different advertisers bid on the privilege to show an ad to you, or at least the demographic you’ve been lumped into. The auction takes milliseconds and then the ad starts to load.
What this means in plain English is that when you go to a site, your information is sold and aggregated. So it’s not a matter of if you trust the site itself, but if you trust the companies the site is selling you to. Companies you don’t know and can’t know without manually inspecting the source of the site.
Perhaps I’m over-sensitive, but the feeling of having my browsing habits sold to the highest bidder whenever I visit a site gives me the creeps. Content blockers are the weapon we have against this.
It’s not the ads themselves. You giving me content in exchange for exposing me to ads is fine, good, even. You giving me content in exchanging for selling my information to who-knows-who is simply not okay.
It’s also an amazing state for the media industry to find itself: They have outsourced the very thing that brings them revenue. This does not seem particularly bright, to put it mildly.
The solution is simple in principle but difficult and expensive to implement: Host your own ads. Accept that the internet is here to stay and that you need to own your own publishing and revenue stack. Accept that if you are a publisher today you are partly a technology company.
Nic reports his experiences so far with voice computing from Amazon and Google and is a bit mystified at the reaction to Apple’s HomePod.
After a few weeks of using iPhone X I’m ready to join the congratulatory choir.
Nic is interested in smart homes. His contractor let him know how the wealthy are already using them.
Apple’s neglect of the pro market is causing a lot of gnashing of teeth in Apple-nerd circles, but it’s true to Apple’s vision.
There is unrest in the Mac community about Apple’s commitment to the platform. Some are turning their eyes to building a Hackintosh to get the kind of computer Apple doesn’t provide. Here’s what it’s like to run a Hackintosh.
Car nerds are dealing with some cognitive dissonance as car technology changes.
The Oasis is Amazon’s best e-ink reader to date, but it’s not good enough for the price.
Nic buys an Amazon Echo and is indubitably happy with the fantasy star ship in his head.
The problem isn’t ads. The problem is being stalked like an animal across the internet.
The DS416j is a nice NAS for light home use. Just don’t expect raw power.
The Core Dump is moving to GitHub Pages. This is a good thing, most likely.
Thoughts on Apple Watch after half a year of daily usage.
Predictably, the Paris attacks brought the anti-encryption crowd back out of the woodwork. They're at best being willfully disingenuous.
Things to consider when planning to build a site on a compressed time table.
Nic provides some basic not-too-paranoid tips for securing your digital life.
Installing Jekyll on an EC2 Amazon Linux AMI is easy. Here are the steps.
After wearing the watch for over a month, Nic has thoughts on its future. Spoiler: Depends on how you define success.
Turns out “it's just a big iPhone” is a stroke of genius.
Some technical terms still confuse people who should know better, like journalists.
How to host a static site on Amazon S3 with an apex domain without using Amazon’s Route 53.
People fear change, so new technology is used as as a faster version of the old. This makes technologists sad.
Nic loves his Pebble and looks forward to the Apple Watch, but realizes he’s in the minority.
Nic loves books, but he loves their content more.
Nic is worried about the fragile state of our technology and thinks you should be as well.
Nic tries to understand the WATCH. It doesn't go well.
Nic thinks home integration could be Apple’s next major category. Read on to find out why.
Nic is frustrated with his Kindle and would love to see Apple make an e-ink reader.
The iPhone was announced Jan. 9, 2007. It now occupies a huge chunk of Nic’s life.
Nic is very impressed with the speed of the iPhone 5S and iPad Air.
Nic buys a Nexus 7 to test the Android waters.
Nic outlines some of the risks of ceding comments on news stories to Facebook.
Nic is bemused by the sturm und drang surrounding the iOS-ification of Mac OS X.
Web publishing used to require heavy-duty nerditry, but no longer.
Nic is creating an e-book. He shares what he’s learned so far.