Sunday, October 04

Matt Gemmell’s ‘Negotiations’

Matt Gemmell’s post on the ad blocking controversy should be required reading for any and all parties entering the discussion:

In order to work out why people are angry about blockers – beyond the simple reality that people are taking their content for free, and bypassing their means of compensation – we have to look to the think-pieces sprouting daily that try to introduce a moral element to the issue. The moral angle says that ad-blocking is in some sense wrong, and is akin (and tantamount) to theft. Theft is probably morally wrong in most circumstances, thus we have our conclusion.

But that’s some intellectual sleight of hand.

It may be correct for you, if you agree with the assumptions it makes, but it’s still a crooked argument for not addressing those assumptions. So let’s briefly do that. The two main assumptions being made are of implicit contract, and of implicit consent. And they’re big ones.

Friday, October 02

Block & Save

A new developer API included in the latest release of iOS (iOS 9) provides a quick & easy way for developers to implement content blockers, specifically to block web-based advertising and tracking. I am not opposed to all advertising or even tracking1, but mobile advertising has reached ridiculous levels of ridiculous. As it turns out, installing and using ad blockers might not just save you some annoyance, it could potentially save you time and money2.

Before he decided to pull it, I purchased and installed Marco Arment’s Peace app. I recommend you install and use an ad blocker as well. Ben Brooks put together a multi-part review of some of the most popular ad blocker apps so far, so check out his recommendations.

One more important note: after you install the app, you’ll need to take some additional steps to activate the content blocking in mobile Safari, so be sure to follow the steps outlined by the app you install. Trust me, it is well worth the effort.

P.S. While you’re messing around with iOS 9, you may also want to consider disabling Wi-Fi Assist if you don’t have a high capacity mobile data plan.

  1. I’m sparing you the nuance of this debate because it will lead to intense and unnecessary rambling.  ↩

  2. It’s worth pointing out that ad blockers generally block tracking scripts/cookies and custom web fonts, which typically slow down web page load times. This site uses a custom web font, so I apologize if things look a little strange after you install an ad blocker. I’ll get to work on finding a more graceful fallback. ↩

Sunday, September 20

You Get What You Give

It should come as no surprise to me that my favorite, and perhaps most level-headed, reaction to the ad-blocking brouhaha that emerged this past week comes from none other than The Macalope.

Oh, ad blocking. See, despite Patel’s contention, it’s very clearly about business and user experience. If it’s not at all about user experience, why in the heck are people paying for ad blockers? Because Apple told them to?

Marco Arment’s decision to pull his ad-blocking app Peace from the App Store after only a few days on sale revealed his humanity as a developer, but that certainly didn’t end the conversation on ad blocking. A common refrain among Arment’s detractors was the irony of selling an app to block ads. Insinuating that selling something to someone who is willing to pay a fair and reasonable price – or, for that matter, any price at all – only revels how vapid content creators on this issue have become. Irony, in Arment’s case would have been releasing the app for free, but somehow supporting its development with in app ads, not selling it to willing buyers.

Back to The Macalope, who astutely concludes that content creators are not the sole contributors to the economic model of publishing gone awry – yes, we the content consumers, carry the burden of blame as well (emphasis mine):

Sadly, the Macalope has to leave you with a pox on both houses that, as Patel correctly notes, is going to affect us all. People who say “Ad blockers are evil!” are wrong and so are people who expect to get the web for free. There’s a middle ground to be had here, but the chance to find it is probably gone and Patel’s hell is a very real possibility.

The lesson: Find something you like or need, pay a fair and reasonable price for it, and don’t groan and complain every time you find it somewhere else for a dollar less.