Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

posted by LaminatorX on Monday August 18 2014, @11:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the TV-ate-the-apple dept.

The Atlantic has posted an interesting article on internet advertising calling it The Internet's Original Sin. Written by Ethan Zuckerman, who worked at Tripod during the birth of online ads, the article does a good job identifying the issues with relying on ads as the primary source of funding behind the internet. Ethan also speculates on some possible solutions to the problem—which mostly lean toward subscriptions as funding.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by kaszz on Monday August 18 2014, @11:36PM

    by kaszz (4211) on Monday August 18 2014, @11:36PM (#82822) Journal

    The problem with subscription is that people often jumps between different sites. And sometimes it's not the site that has the value, but the users that it attracts. Put up a paywall and you filter out any intelligent community.

    Another is that internet has stagnated in the model: users -- centralized network -- big corporate services.

    As soon as you need these giant super servers. Well you also need subsequent income..

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by schad on Tuesday August 19 2014, @01:05AM

      by schad (2398) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @01:05AM (#82852)

      The problem with subscription is that people often jumps between different sites.

      That's not a problem with the subscription model, that's a problem with the sites in question not having enough content to be worth paying for. If I read one article per week on your site, then it's frankly not worth any amount of money to me. As long as it's free I'll read it, but the instant you require any payment from me -- even "payment" so trivial as creating a user account -- I'm gone forever.

      And this is more than a little circular. Why do sites go for breadth rather than depth? Well, the more pages, the more page views; the more page views, the more advertising dollars. You get stuck. You can't get away from advertising, because nobody will pay for a subscription because your content is so poor. But you can't get better content because you don't get enough money from advertising. (Not unless you're lucky enough to be bought by Google or Facebook or whatever.)

      And sometimes it's not the site that has the value, but the users that it attracts.

      I understand your point but the fact is that those services do provide some value. In the case of sites like SN, it's a forum (in the traditional, non-Internet sense) where we can gather to talk about things which interest us. But there are tons of fora on the Internet; why do we come here instead of those other places? Well, many of us are here specifically because we didn't like the software on a certain other site. And we stay because we think the editors and other staff members are doing a better job. This is the value that SN specifically brings. That's not to say that we commenters don't bring value too, just that it's not only us.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @12:11AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @12:11AM (#82838)

    Advertisements pay out based on views or clicks. Are there any firefox addons that auto-detect and clickbomb banner ads?

    With enough noise in the system filtering it out will cease to be profitable.

    Brute force solution, but it could prove effective.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Horse With Stripes on Tuesday August 19 2014, @10:12AM

      by Horse With Stripes (577) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @10:12AM (#82992)

      Do you mean "Are there any Firefox add-ons that make click fraud [wikipedia.org] even worse?" The advertisers get screwed with click fraud, not the site owners. Sure, enough fraudulent clicks will wreak havoc to some degree but putting the site out of business isn't your end goal, is it? If so why not just avoid the site and pretend that it doesn't exist.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @02:01PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @02:01PM (#83072)

        That is exactly what I mean.
        Not a tactic that should be used on a whim, because on a large enough scale it could reshape how the internet works. A lot of sites would shut down.
        This is a trade off, because the ones that remain would be less concerned with turning a profit and more concerned with doing what they started out to do.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @12:28AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @12:28AM (#82843)

    ...without them, EVERYTHING on the Internet would be paywalled/'signup_(for_free [at first])_then_loginwalled' or otherwise disappear from the Internet for good!

    As more and more people block ads with the HOSTS file and 3rd-party software like NoScript, this might actually come to pass!

    Yet another reason to move Planet Earth to a cash-free, resource-based economy where money can be TRULY said to be 'no object' and non-existent as it SHOULD be...as it was in the beginning if you believe....

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Venus_Project [wikipedia.org]

    http://www.togetherweteach.com/TCB/Old/01Genesis/o01gen01.htm [togetherweteach.com]
    http://www.togetherweteach.com/TCB/Old/01Genesis/o01gen02.htm [togetherweteach.com]
    http://www.togetherweteach.com/TCB/Old/01Genesis/o01gen03.htm [togetherweteach.com]

    If you want an ad-free Internet supported by cash, then Big Business won--EVERY WEBSITE ON THE INTERNET has to turn into a store with products and services for sale in order to pay the bill(s) to their owners directly to even REMAIN on the Internet at an absolute minimum! :( :P

    Internet search engines are the best tools available to find ANY website on the Internet. Take the ad money away from ALL of them and they are gone in a heartbeat with NO OTHER WAY to easily pay for the MASSIVE technological infrastructure REQUIRED to operate a truly SERIOUS search engine like Google and Bing.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by GWRedDragon on Tuesday August 19 2014, @12:46AM

      by GWRedDragon (3504) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @12:46AM (#82849)

      Slow down on the capslock there :)

      There have always been, and continue to be, tons of not for profit sites which are run as a hobby by enthusiasts. These tend to be the best sites anyway, and when they become commercialized to the point that they are no longer fit for purpose then people defect.

      Often, when these sites have ads at all, they are directly contracted with businesses. This type tends to be the most useful and least obtrusive form of ads on the Internet.

      The great thing about liberty is that people are free to choose the business model that best fits their needs; if there are enough people willing to volunteer their time, free happens. If you as a consumer demand things which cannot be done by hobbyists, then you should expect to pay in some manner, because you are asking for something of value.

      And just in case you were going to say there are no hobbyist sites on the Internet, keep in mind that you are using one right now. Also keep in mind that things run for free by volunteers will tend to be more ephemeral than ones making a profit, but that by no means makes them an inferior choice. Slashdot, for instance, was a great site for awhile, and most of us got a lot of enjoyment out of it. Now, on to the new.

      --
      [Insert witty message here]
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @03:21AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @03:21AM (#82893)

        The Green Site's beta program was the LAST straw for me and I found my way here.

        Thanks, NCcommander! :D

        If you HAVE to 'sell out' to keep SN going, please read this first:

        http://soylentnews.org/comments.pl?sid=3447&cid=82880 [soylentnews.org]

        If you have to 'sell out' FOR REAL as /. did years ago, SN faces the similar fate of its users leaving for another site elsewhere on the internet like SN is RIGHT NOW at the time of this post....

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @12:59AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @12:59AM (#82850)

      Yet another reason to move Planet Earth to a cash-free, resource-based economy

      So, what, back to the barter system? Fuck that, I don't want to have to go through a bunch of Legend of Zelda-style miniquest exchanges just to get food. Even in Roddenberry's futuristic utopia, where human society had 'evolved beyond the need for money', money still existed and was widely used (gold-pressed latinum).

      The CONCEPT of money - an abstract placeholder for resources or labor - is great, and is basically the epitome of the barter system, so its not going nowhere. It would be nice, however, if money was not required to live and only used for optional luxuries. Thats communism though, and only people who worship Satan and bathe in the blood of the virgin babies they've sacrificed after raping them want to force communism on everyone.

      • (Score: 4, Funny) by cafebabe on Tuesday August 19 2014, @01:23AM

        by cafebabe (894) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @01:23AM (#82860) Journal

        only people who worship Satan and bathe in the blood of the virgin babies they've sacrificed after raping them want to force communism on everyone.

        Dammit! Have I been pushing communism without doing the fun stuff?

        --
        1702845791×2
      • (Score: 1) by Darth Turbogeek on Tuesday August 19 2014, @02:12AM

        by Darth Turbogeek (1073) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @02:12AM (#82869)

        Funny about what you say about Communism - the early Christian community is described in Acts as being pretty much the Communist ideal and if anything, the current capitalist system is the spawn of Satan.

        Might want to think that one over :)

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by aristarchus on Tuesday August 19 2014, @04:14AM

          by aristarchus (2645) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @04:14AM (#82906) Journal

          Yep, charging interest is the sin of usury, very bad sin, might keep you out of heaven, you and your camel.

          The questionable part of capitalism, however, are the related features of commodity fetishism and alienation. The first is an obsession with objects, property, or wealth and the incorrect notion that things are important in themselves, or possess intrinsic value. Alienation is the displacement of self-identity into external things, such as wealth, which separates people from others as well as themselves. Actual, real natural human are what they do, not what they own, and they will do things (this is called "labor") even if they are not paid, once past the level of sustenance.

        • (Score: 2) by Ryuugami on Tuesday August 19 2014, @05:13AM

          by Ryuugami (2925) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @05:13AM (#82924)

          Ah, the moneylenders in the temple, the time when Jesus went all (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ on their sorry asses.

          Not to mention the fish-and-wine-duplicating incident. It's quite possible that FWAI (Fish and Wine Association of Israel) are the ones who pushed Romans to crucify him, I say!

          --
          If a shit storm's on the horizon, it's good to know far enough ahead you can at least bring along an umbrella. - D.Weber
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @07:15AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @07:15AM (#82950)

          Gordon Gekko's 'Greed is good' and other memorable quotes from WALL STREET (1987)

          http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094291/quotes [imdb.com]

          Advertising itself as a whole feeds on peoples greed and pride when the items advertised are 'big ticket' ones like luxury cars like the notorious Lexus ads....

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16hPBsw2Uy4 [youtube.com]

          The sad thing about this ad is that it's basically a ripoff of the famous MAXELL breaking glass ad Ella Fitzgerald did back in the day.

          Alas, I can't seem to find it on YouTube so here is the next best thing with the MythBusters

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9CeUoEgOYM [youtube.com]

          The ONLY difference between a luxury car and a used $300 'beater' from 15-20 years ago is basically the pricetag--both are vehicles that will get you from point A to point B without walking, riding a bycicle, riding on/in someone else's vehicle, or taking some sort of public transportation. If you want to get to point B in speed snf/or in style you WILL pay for it...or steal it to go joyriding or as a professional car thief.

          Another factor is commercial broadcast televison where the advertisers are the customers and the audience is the product sold to them by the TV networks. This was POWERFULLY AND VIVIDLY summed up by Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) in NETWORK (1976)

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKkRDMil0bw [youtube.com]

          Yet another factor is product placement. Advertisers know people ignore 'real' ads that are shown in 'commercial breaks' so they 'slip' them into the entertainment programs they watch. For observant people, product placement is PAINFULLY obvious unless it is SUBTLY done or is the point of the program!

          I only know of three examples:

          1) The 'breakfast scene' from SUPERMAN (1978).

          This product placement for Cheerios is the GOLD STANDARD of the technique and is the ONLY one of its type. All the rest I've seen stick out like sore thumbs with varying degrees of obviousness. For example, I've seen a number of Jackie Chan's contemporary action films. They were underwritten in part by Mitsubishi Motors through the use of Mitsubishi cars in his films. The way the camera is set up to frame and linger on the Mitsubishi logo on the car's hood is quite 'convenient' and obvious. If you can ignore/overlook that you can enjoy Chan's contemporary actioners like POLICE STORY (1985) and NEW POLICE STORY (2004) which I deem to be Chan's two masterpieces--one directed by him! :D

          ...Action set-pieces are fast and stylized, and there's a memorable climactic showdown on top of the Hong Kong Convention Center, spoiled only by blatant - and intrusive - product placement. Otherwise, this is top-notch entertainment all the way, conceived and executed with genuine cinematic flair.

          --iMDB user Libretio [emphasis mine]
          http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0386005/reviews-19 [imdb.com]

          See, even someone else noticed product placement in a movie and it took them 'out of the moment'! :(

          The other two movies that 'ran' on product placement were

          2) THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998)

          This movie revolves around a reality show that revolves around the title character Truman Burbank portrayed by Jim Carrey. Instead of commercial breaks, the producers use product placement in order to underwrite it with bizzare and disturbing results!

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Inscky6EyQ8 [youtube.com]

          At the time of this post, it seem the uploader mixed in additonal audio to try to avoid YouTube's 'copyright bot'. It didn't work as the content was identified but the copyright owners of either the song or the movie have not acted and had the clip taken down due to copyright infringement.

          3) THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD (2011)

          http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1743720/ [imdb.com]

          A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement that is financed and made possible by brands, advertising and product placement.

          Taglines:
            He's not selling out, he's buying in.

          This film is 'exactly what it says on the tin'. I didn't waste my time watching this film as you get a peek at what goes on behind the scenes to put product placement in the movies and TV shows you watch.

          Here is a whole discussion about good/bad product placement moments:

          What do you think is the best/most obnoxious Product Placement?
          http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1743720/board/nest/180492187 [imdb.com]

          In order to keep the gears of capitalism going around and around stuff must be purchased by consumers constantly. Essential consumable commodities are understandable like food but the captains of industry aren't satisfied with that so they came up with the concept of
          'planned obsolscence'. This topic is explored in the brilliant, chilling documentary PYRAMIDS OF WASTE (2010) aka THE LIGHTBULB CONSPIRACY.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViI6uAxqEOY [youtube.com]

          Writer Vance Packard wrote about this topic the book THE WASTE MAKERS which was originally published in 1960.

          In one celebrated case, the mayor of Sao Paulo Brazil, South America had a law passed and had ALL outdoor commercial signage REMOVED!

          Here is an example image--literaly 'before' and 'after'!

          http://www.worldchanging.com/postimages/article/6926_largearticlephoto.jpg [worldchanging.com]

          Disturbing at first but welcome relief to the citizenry constantly bombarded by sales pitches from all the outdoor advertising that was in place before the ban.

          A full 'after' slide show: Sao Paulo: No Logo

          http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonydemarco/sets/72157600075508212/show/ [flickr.com]

          It is strange to see all the emptiness left by the removed signs but it allows one a respite from the 'hard sell' sensory input--giving them a chance to meditate and reflect on the situation at hand and how it affects them and continue to do so in the future.

          Webpage article linked to the above slideshow

          http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/006973.html [worldchanging.com]

          As long as money makes the world go around, there will always be capitalism.

          At least in one case mentioned above, something was done to keep it in check with EFFECTIVE results! :D

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by krishnoid on Tuesday August 19 2014, @02:50AM

    by krishnoid (1156) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @02:50AM (#82875)

    Would this be the case for newspapers, magazines, or television as well? Or did the situation for those media differ?

    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday August 19 2014, @03:06AM

      by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @03:06AM (#82885) Journal

      New media - Advertise - Content is "adapted"

      Sounds familiar somehow. I heard Seattle has the expertise :P

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Tuesday August 19 2014, @03:59AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 19 2014, @03:59AM (#82904) Journal

      Advertising would have crept into the net regardless of what these early guys did.
      It was inevitable.
      Its already everywhere else, and it was always coming to the net no matter what anyone did.

      I don't see why the guy is singing mea culpa for something that could never be prevented.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @02:55AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @02:55AM (#82880)

    Since 'cash is king' and ads on the internet are here to stay, there is a SIMPLE way for websites to display UNBLOCKABLE advertising on their websites... Link-based ads--like Google AdWords and AdSense--placed at the very top of content webpages hosted on the exact same domain as the content itself...below said link-based ads!

    This makes the ads 'bullet-proof' so that they WILL be displayed at least.

    This could be done by the site's webmaster editing the ads into the HTML pages directly or, better yet, served up randomly using CGI like Perl or PHP and an online database like MySQL to contain the ad text and destination URLs. The ads can be paid for by the impression and in advance in bulk by the third-party advertiser. I know advertisers would rather pay by the click but that is unfair to the webmaster when virtually nobody clicks an ad and unfair to the advertiser when griefers/protesters clickbomb their ad to waste their advertising money.

    The first site that I remember 'self-serving' ads was Mr. Cranky years and years ago before they were 'bought out' by ShadowCulture in 2001

    http://www.mrcranky.com/ [mrcranky.com]

    Looks like they 'regwalled' their content--all their past movie reviews. You now have to use the search box to find them/bring them up. I remember when they were all available from a single link page. Maybe that is available to people who register with the site--I don't know and don't want to waste time finding out....

    ...I just now used the site's search box to look up some old movie reviews...it is essentially WORTHLESS or the results 'top posted with ads (of course)! The Mr. Cranky that I remembered is GONE...likely behind the 'regwall'...but hey, the Mr. Cranky store is readily accessable to all WITHOUT REGISTRATION on the home page though!... :P

    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday August 19 2014, @03:10AM

      by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @03:10AM (#82888) Journal

      "UNBLOCKABLE advertising on their websites... Link-based ads--like Google AdWords and AdSense--placed at the very top of content webpages hosted on the exact same domain as the content itself...below said link-based ads!"

      Aha, you mean load_page() regex() ship_to_browser() .. ads-gone! :P

      • (Score: 1) by GWRedDragon on Tuesday August 19 2014, @03:58AM

        by GWRedDragon (3504) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @03:58AM (#82903)

        Yeah, I don't get how an ad can be 'unblockable.' It is the same sort of problem as creating a new type of captcha: you can't have any sort of template, because as soon as you do the template can be recognized.

        The only ways an ad could be unblockable would be if nearly every one were of a different form, or if the browser was DRM'd*.

        *This would of course just make them unblockable in the legal sense, in the US.

        --
        [Insert witty message here]
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @04:39AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @04:39AM (#82914)

          Years and years ago I used to use Juno to have an email address and internet access.

          It was TERRIBLE...barely usable at all!

          Ads were 'everywhere' in the programs GUI! The MAJOR offender was a floating 'adbar' that took up a sizable chunk of your desktop when you were online and could surf the internet. It ALWAYS stayed in full view on your desktop and COULD NOT be moved 'offscreen'! (>_<);;;

          I am SO glad I don't use Juno anymore!!!

          Read more about them if you want....

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juno_Online_Services [wikipedia.org]

      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @04:23AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @04:23AM (#82911)

        Funny you should say that because I wrote code that strips out EVERYTHING I can't see when a webpage is rendered in a webbrowser window.

        No scripts...no cascading style sheets...just content!

        This excellent site:

        https://www.medium.com/matter/ [medium.com]

        'hides' their content IN the script(s) in the webpage. I've written code to extract the content out of the scripts.

        Recently, I tried to load this page:

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/28/molly-schuyler-steak-eating-record_n_5405554.html [huffingtonpost.com]

        and sorta gave up--the scripts KILLED IE's responsiveness! :P

        So I loaded the URL in my custom 'crap stripper' and after several seconds the content came up so I could read it.

        That right there tells you we may be at/past the point of no return of internet advertising when there is SO MUCH crap unseen in a webpage that it takes a NOTICEABLE amount of time to get rid of it all before you can read it! (>_<);;;

        I used to use the OFF BY ONE to load sites like this but it is a bit too old for the task and such sites either block it because its HTTPS support is too old or its User-Agent HTTP header doesn't identify it as an ad-friendly browsersaurus like IE/FIREFOX/OPERA or the site text comes up with lots of 'unreadable crap' due to content encoding problems handled correctly by IE/FIREFOX/OPERA or simply 'sabotaged' by the server at the webmaster's behest to feed bad HTML to OFF BY ONE to try to get you to use an ad-friendly browsersaurus like IE/FIERFOX/OPERA so they can have a better chance of getting their ad money. Most the times, sites come up in OFF BY ONE where you can read them and see pictures not imbeded in script tags that it ignores because it doesn't support scripting but the pages are formated like crap--I guess their is no CSS support either but that is OK, I can still read the content and see the pictures! :D

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @05:54AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19 2014, @05:54AM (#82933)
    Put up the paywalls. Subscriptions only!

    And we'll have back the internet before you advertising shitbags got here.
    And it will be BETTER.

    Amazingly enough there was a great deal here before advertising became a thing.

    I ran my bbses for free. I've run my websites for free. And if i never make a dime. I'll still do so.
    And millions will do the same. Because we like it. We enjoy it. And it's not about the money.

    So do it. Put up the paywalls.
      However we reserve the right to block you from the 'free' internet just for kicks.
      Because it's not about the money. Or you.
  • (Score: 2) by Boxzy on Tuesday August 19 2014, @07:13AM

    by Boxzy (742) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @07:13AM (#82948) Journal

    manipulation and anywhere in the world I can delete them from my life you bet I will. Every time.

    --
    Go green, Go Soylent.
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by PizzaRollPlinkett on Tuesday August 19 2014, @01:03PM

    by PizzaRollPlinkett (4512) on Tuesday August 19 2014, @01:03PM (#83039)

    I'm so old I can remember that the Internet worked fine before ads. I don't see that they've added any value to the Internet at all. If the web sites that depend on ads vanished overnight, life would go on. And probably be better. We wouldn't have as many low-quality sites (InfoWorld etc) and sites that split articles over a lot of pages (Ars). They'd all vanish. We'd be back to 1993 again, and maybe even go back to decentralized services like Usenet. If a Usenet node goes down, there are plenty of mirrors. If Stack Overflow goes down, a decade or more of accumulated knowledge vanishes overnight. And would anyone really miss low-quality sites like eHow, about.com, etc?

    --
    (E-mail me if you want a pizza roll!)
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20 2014, @04:00AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20 2014, @04:00AM (#83378)

      To start, here is a brief history of spam/U(C)E [with apologies/acknowledgements to Stephen Hawking :) ]

      Please take time to read this webpage:

      http://www.templetons.com/brad/spamterm.html [templetons.com]

      It is a quite informative historical overview of bulk posted unwanted (commercial) email. If email (abuse) interests you, please read this page.

      I'll just add here a few other infamous megaspammers I know of that are not mentioned in the above page you might (not?) already know about:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanford_Wallace [wikipedia.org]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Ralsky [wikipedia.org]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Richter [wikipedia.org]

      -------------------

      I'll add here my online history as you've mentioned yours....

      I first got online via America Online. I had used 'Wintel' PCs for quite a while back then but the Internet was new to me. So with the help of AOL's GUI, I learned how to get around this wonderful communications medium.

      After a few years (I guess), I was skilled enough in using the Internet that I only used AOL as an ISP to get online so I dropped them to get away from their ad-laden online walled community. Leaving AOL was difficult and time consuming dealing with their account retention department and telling them repeatedly and politely that I wanted to cancel my service. I finally did and found out they had changed my long distance phone carrier to 'The Phone Company' a company they own! I was so surprised when I found out about that! I guess that was something buried in the fine print of their user agreement when I signed up with them in the first place. Remembering this 'dirty trick', the next time I started phone service I made a point to tell the customer service representative to put a 'lock' on my account to prevent my long distance carrier from being switched without my knowledge or consent. Nowadays, it is all moot as I only have a cellphone and use a cellular-based ISP to surf the Internet. Anyway, I was basically online at the start of the World Wide Web and one/two things were INSTRUMENTAL in erroding its value as a global communications medium as a way to make a buck:

      1) JavaScript

      2) window.open [the NOTORIOUS JavaScript 'popup' command! (>_<);;; ]

      Popup ads got SO BAD back then that 3rd-party blocking software appeared to automatically close them the instant they opened. They did this by reading the titlebar text of the opened window and closing it on sight if the text was on the block list. Knowing this, the marketers changed around this text to evade the popup blockers. It was an epic, yet fruitless war between the two camps--essentially a stalemate. Two other things I remember related to popups was the (defunct?) website 'popups must die!' and the (true?) ghoulish story of the guy who created JavaScript who died and was buried and was repeatedly disinterred by 'graverobbers' as a 'popup' and protest of it and all the trouble online it caused by its abuse by marketers! o_O;

      Then email spam became a problem and I took steps to try to to avoid it.

      Then sometime after that, email malware started showing up with names like ILOVEYOU, Melissa, and the like.... :P When run, the malware turned your PC into an email spam relay to blast more unwanted email spam out onto the internet at large. If I remember right, at its height, email spam accounted for over 90% of the email traffic on the internet!

      Unscrupulous marketers/scamsters were STILL not satisfied!...

      So they primarily abused Internet Explorer to get malware on user's PCs in the form of 'drive by' downloads. This form of malware is TRULY insidious as it is programmed to trick you into divulding logon information that is attached to money-bearing accounts you own so they can clean them out--making YOU a victim of fraud and theft that you have to prove to the firms you do business with that are affected.

      This is almost impossible to do! Here is a true story that illustrates this:

      Long ago, I used to have a membership at a particular national video rental chain. You know which one it is but I won't mention their name as you will soon see. One day I start getting notices in the mail for overdue movies I NEVER REMEMBER RENTING!!! Upon further investigation the rentals were in VHS format. By the time these notices appeared, I had already switched over to using DVDs to watch movies so I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I didn't rent the movies in question. In short, I was a victim of identity fraud. I tried to explain this to the collection agency that was hounding me for tapes I NEVER RENTED but they didn't belive my word. So I had to go to a police station and fill out an affidavit that explained my innocense in this matter and sent it to them. Only then were they satisfied that I was telling the truth and stopped mailing me.

      Recently, some banking malware got on my PC. After that happened I went to my bank's online site to do business and I got certificate errors from the browser. I dismissed this as a problem on their end but was careful to keep my guard up. At that time I did business with a particular firm that my bank flagged as suspicious so they contacted me about it. I assured them the charge in question was legitimate. When this was done there was a change in the logon proceedure where there was additional information required for me to sign on and use my account....

      I ALMOST FELL FOR IT!!! o_O;;;

      One piece of information prestented to me as a 'hint' was WRONG! Had it been correct I quite likely would have been an identity theft victim AGAIN!!! (>_<);;;

      It was then I was convinced I had truly insidious malware on my PC that would do something like this. Thankfully, I was able to find and remove it. Apparantly this malware is named 'Zeus' and tries to impersonate banks you do business when you go to their online websites. The tipoff are the security certificate errors your brower alerts you about. DO NOT EVER IGNORE THESE! If you ever get one after reading this post, immediately scan your PC for malware--you just may have Zeus as I had.

      I said all of the above to come to this conclusion: The Internet is a great source of information but some people either abuse its resources to make a buck or use it as a malware delivery platform to outright steal money wholesale from unsuspecting victims.

      This problem has gotten SO BAD you might need THREE COMPUTERS to use the Internet....

      1) A computer that stays off-line PERMANENTLY, beyond the reach of online thieves and fraudsters due to the 'air gap'. Only retail software distributed on 'pressed' CDs / DVDs are ever loaded into this computer to minimize the chance of putting malware on it.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_gap_(networking) [wikipedia.org]

      2) An 'online money computer' that goes online to ONLY directly visit HTTPS-secured online sites you do business with for REAL MONEY and NOTHING ELSE! NO SOFTWARE WHATSOEVER IS installed by the owner/user on this computer. To increase security, use a 'guest' system account
      to go online to avoid the 'unlikely' case of getting 'driveby malware' from these sites you do business with.

      3) A computer that can go online anywhere at all times EXCEPT to the websites accessed by computer #2. Try to use a 'guest' system account to avoid 'driveby malware'. Use an online malware scanner like

      http://www.virustotal.com/ [virustotal.com]

      to scan software distribution (.EXE) files BEFORE you download them and install them later. Be sure to have the needed software handy to re-install the operating system in case this computer is irreversibly comprimised. In that case, back up all the non-program-file content you can, reformat the hard drive so the system boots again and copy/move it all back. I have read an earlier story here or elsewhere on the internet about TRULY INSIDIOUS malware that can survive a total system reformat/refresh!!! o_O; If this happens to you, you might not be able to detect it or do anything about it if detected. If that is the case, consider the PC 'bricked' and buy a new one with cash at a reputable store that has been in business for five years [irs.gov] or more. If the cashier asks for your zip code to track the sale for marketing purposes, use a valid zip code that is NOT on your state-issued ID card. DO NOT use 90210 [imdb.com] unless you 'look the part' to the cashier. DO NOT order one mail order as this increases your chances of getting [techdirt.com] an 0wned [extremetech.com] computer that was diverted from the manufacturer/(online)mail order company to the state surveillance agency then sent on to you. Feel free to keep the 'bricked' computer as a permanently offline 'junk computer' that could be used as a media player/game computer that NEVER EVER has data copied/typed back to the primary three computers. Once it stops working for good, have it properly recycled or thrown away for maximum security to yourself and your business affairs.

      For VERY HIGH security, please do the following:

      1) Put a different BIOS level password [xkcd.com] (generated in an offline manner by using dice [std.com]) on each of all 3 computers.

      2) Use an operating system capabable of strong 'transparent encryption' where data is encrypted when written to the hard disk and decrypted when it is read back into the computer's RAM. Be sure to put a different system level password on each of all three computers as it is the encryption/decryption key needed to use each computer. For added security, these three passwords can be different from the ones in step 1 above. If you are unable to memorize all 3/6 passwords then writing them down and storing them in your wallet [wikipedia.org] or equivalient storage space appears to be sufficient. But whatever you do, DO NOT lose them or you are locked out of your data (and possibly your computers) FOR GOOD!!!

      3) NEVER EVER go online with computer #1.

      4) NEVER EVER visit a website you DON'T do business with with compter #2.

      5) NEVER EVER go online with computers #2 and #3 at the same time.

      6) NEVER EVER be online at all when transferring information among the three PCs. Do that like this:

          6a) Use 'burnt' CDs/DVDs to copy information from computer #1 to computers #2 and #3.
          6b) Use 'burnt' CDs/DVDs to copy information from computer #2 to computers #3.
          6c) Retype information from computer #3 into computers #1 or #2.
          6d) Retype information from computer #2 into computer #1.

      7) If you are 'on the go', take all three PCs (laptops) with you and NEVER EVER let them leave your sight/possession AT ALL COSTS! Only use PC #3 when away from home when needed or to interface/network with other PCs you do not own. Consider using metal case(s) [wikipedia.org] to store your laptops during transport.

      52. Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2014 @ 1:52pm

      I've actually met Andrea in person (she graciously agreed to sign my PGP key), and there's a couple things that seem to make an NSA interdiction more probable, in my mind.

      First, unsurprisingly, Andrea uses Linux. But that's not the point I want to make, in of itself. She's also a developer, familiar with tweaking source code, recompiling it, and using it in her daily activities.

      Further, she also uses a metal attache case to transport her laptop, specifically because it acts as an excellent Faraday cage. (I don't know if she was just joking when she gave that as her reason for using the case, but she sounded quite serious!)

      It wouldn't surprise me if somebody decided that it was too risky to try a software penetration (she alerted to the fact that my anti-virus falsely triggered on one of her emails, until I was able to demonstrate that it was normal activity), and somewhat difficult to remotely compromise one of her machines. They wouldn't even be sure that whatever bugs or backdoors they're using still exist, because she modifies and recompiles her own software on a regular basis. Conversely, a new hardware order would provide an excellent way to get access.

      Is it possible that it's just a shipping shenanigan? Yes, of course. But it would not surprise me if somebody felt they had to go hardware to try and compromise Andrea's systems, that's all I'm saying.

      -- Comment post seen at:

      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140124/10564825981/nsa-interception-action-tor-developers-computer-gets-mysteriously-re-routed-to-virginia.shtml [techdirt.com]

      8) Forget about leaving the Continental ('Lower 48') United States. You won't be able to take your computers with you when leave due to DHS/TSA regulations. If you MUST travel out of there to another part of the USA/world with a computer, buy and configure a new computer as explained above. Next, encrypt and upload any data you need to an online email service you can access at home AND at your destination. Go on your trip allowing DHS/TSA to examine your computer. It boots up and there is nothing of interest on it. Once you get to your destination, go online, download your encrypted data and and decrypt it. This kind of encryption/decryption has to be done in a 'bootstrap' [gurus.org] fashion [bellard.org] as you don't want REAL crypto software like PGP [wikipedia.org] or GPG [wikipedia.org] or even Visual Studio [microsoft.com] on this computer AT ALL! when you are all done and ready to return home, encrypt and upload the data you want to keep to a (different) email service, then wipe [dban.org] the hardisk of data, wear gloves and wipe all the laptop/storage case [wikipedia.org] surfaces of your fingerprints, put the laptop in the case, close it (don't lock it!), and destroy and dispose of the CD-R [dban.org] after wiping it for fingerprints beforehand, and take the laptop/case with you--leaving it behind discreetly somewhere where you see no one watching you for someone else to find it. Be sure to travel during cold weather at your destination so you can wear gloves 'legitimately' and not leave your finger prints on the case handle. Be sure to include the cost of the PC/case AND the other 3 PCs at your home in your compensation so you are reimbursed for these expenses. When you get back home, buy three new laptops as explained above at 3 different stores in 3 different chains that are identical to the ones you already have and swap the hardisks with them. You now have three more 'junk computers' that might have been 0wned by state-level surveillance while you were away and three brand new primary computers you can trust again. However, if you can do this kind of work from home via encrypted means you can avoid the DHS/TSA and all the expense, inconvennience, hassle, and secret-agent-style machinations required altogether.

      If you live 100% alone at home with no one else ever allowed in your house/apartment unless you watch them at all times (no bathroom breaks!), then this policy/procedure is the ONLY way I know of to prevent malware from jumping the 'air gap' from computer #3 to the other two computers. It also has the added security benefit of protecting computer #1 from state-level compromise provided you are not 0wned by their use of TEMPEST [wikipedia.org] surveillance technology or are 'knocked out' somehow by them while at home and they 'break in', 0wn your PCs, and leave undetected while you sleep. When you wake up, your PCs are compromised and don't/won't know/realize it!

      Note that the security measures explained above are ULTIMATELY POINTLESS IF all computer manufacturers on the face of the Earth have been all subverted by their respecteve intelligence agencies--allowing them to manufacture 0wned computers at the manufaturing plants for sale and distribution worldwide! If that happens, privacy through encryption will be (utterly) dead as all the hardware is compromised. The last resort would be a (clandestine?) effort by privacy advocates to RE-INVENT exploit-free computer technology from the days of ENIAC [wikipedia.org] forward--a MASSIVE, EXPENSIVE undertaking!

      If you decide to embark upon (hopefully nonviolent) activites that may make you a state-level 'person of interest', consider doing them as anonymously as possible. This basically requires you to use an Internet connection you don't pay for located as far away from where you live as possible under the cover of 'strong encryption' by using disposable email addresses that are only used once to send a message and once to recieve a reply and contain the needed email addresses for the next 'one-off' email exchange. Changing the IP addresses/email providers used and varying the intervals of time between messages in a random manner will accord you all the security and peace of mind you are able to get in today's global surveillance state which is sadly regulated [doc.gov] for software/hardware programmers [cr.yp.to] in the USA which opposes the First Amendment [archives.gov] right to free speech there which reads:

      Amendment I

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      In closing, I ask this....

      Is it fair to consider mathematical transformations and the exclusive-or function that can be used to facillitate a private conversation through the use of encryption and decryption to be the same as dangerous, deadly weapons like these?...

      The Gadget: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_(nuclear_test) [wikipedia.org]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Boy [wikipedia.org]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Man [wikipedia.org]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivy_Mike [wikipedia.org]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Bravo [wikipedia.org]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsar_Bomba [wikipedia.org]

      The bad guys don't care about rules when they use encryption--if they ever do. They likey meet in person in hopefully 'unbugged' areas or noisy busy places and pass terse notes written on tiny pieces of rice paper that can be swallowed quickly if needed to each other to avoid a long, incriminating conversation between themselves being recorded at a distance by sensitive directional microphones operated by personnel working for (state level) intelligence agencies. So why not get rid of all the regulations on 'strong encryption' and join the rest of the world using it to keep their private matters private?...