Click Fraud?

I have a very hard time swallowing this:…”click fraud” could still prove to be a major challenge for Internet giants such as Google Inc., which make their money through search advertising. The concern that people fraudulently click on sites to drive up a competitor’s ad costs or to boost their own ad revenue was one of the potential pitfalls cited in a published report over the weekend. [Ed.’s subliminal message: PUNT THE CHEESE] Google shares fell 4.6 per cent yesterday after Barron’s warned that its stock could be overvalued because of click fraud, ad pricing pressures and heightened competition.

“The whole idea of fraudulent clicks really relies on the premise that you have a competitor out there that is trying to suck up your ad budget,” said Nick Barbuto, who buys Internet advertising for clients at Cossette Media.So…you set up a system that is measured by an innocuous activity like having surfers of the web clicking through from one page to another and then you penalize someone for doing it too much? What is that about? [Ed. again: no really…PUNT THE CHEESE!] It is not like there are armies of third world clicker throughers out there…is there? Is it just that people realize that by encouraging others to do exactly the activity company X tells its clients they will encourage, driving traffic to their websites.

So what if it is false bubbly economics based on no real production? [Ed.: Foot? Cheese? KICK!] Isn’t that the real issue? That by doing a certain unproductive activity that somehow valuation is ascribed and two cheques are cut, one to BigCo and one to little guy? What do you think? Is it really “fraud”? How can it be fraud when it is indecernable from successful use of the system?

When Is Theft OK?

If I never read the Boingsters, I probably would never encounter the “right to take” as a great new idea. But two recent posts point out something of the hypocrisy and the case-by-case arbitrary judgement that really is at the core of the arguments against respect for authorship – let’s call them the “anti-authorship” group – who call themselves “copyfighters” and part of the “remix” culture:

  • On June 29, 2005 Boing confirms that big Nike stole little rock band’s imagery without payment. The taking of the stuff of others wrong.
  • On July 6, 2005 Boing praises an essay in Wired which states that the new era of takery is here:

The remix is the very nature of the digital. Today, an endless, recombinant, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of creative product (another antique term?). To say that this poses a threat to the record industry is simply comic. The record industry, though it may not know it yet, has gone the way of the record. Instead, the recombinant (the bootleg, the remix, the mash-up) has become the characteristic pivot at the turn of our two centuries.

So because it now can be done, it must be ok…except when we like the band and the company that takes is big. The sad thing is that people by what Boingsters like Cory Doctorow and Wired and they say about the appropriation of copyrighted material because he has successfully leveraged status rather than successfully argued the point. It is a tyranny of the self-described cool, which is a very weird tyranny. Sadder still is that there may be good arguments for specific accommodations of digital media which are lost through this broad and craptastic “remix culture” pap that sounds so neato…until it is your website layout, your icon, your text, your music and your art that is taken.

Not The Cover Of The Rolling Stone

So there I am, in the last paragraph 14th story in The New York Times, Business Section, Media and Advertising page, web edition index at 6:37 am Monday morning with the precious URL, all live and linky:

No seized web site or anything. No referrers yet as I can see. Oh well. Wait for the entire workforce of New York City to get to work and turn on their computers to slack off for the morning by flipping through the web edition, I suppose…

It was an interesting process being interviewed via email by the reporter who has lots of web industry writing experience but not a homebrewer or anything. She noticed this post I made January on the nutty idea of an “open source beer”. Too bad they did not use the full quote – which I thought was really helpful – but, true, would have needed a separate section:

I have not tried the but think from what is provided that I would not like to try to make it or drink it. Making the beer would be difficult for most homebrewers given the volumes provided. Most homebrewers brew in lots of 20 litre or perhaps double that but an 80 litre boil as required in this recipe would find the brewer facing over 200 pounds of boiling sticky sugar syrup needing transferring by the brewer, a near impossible task in the average kitchen. By contrast, even the small end of the microbrewing scene expects an entry point at the 5 or 7 barrel scale of brewery. One barrel of beer is about 170 litres. Here is some information from the brewery manufacturer DME: which may help understand the scale: So it is unclear for whom this scale of recipe is devised. Recipes can be scaled up or down but you might want to start with a point that is useful – or even safe – for one type of brewer or another.

That being said, there are issues with the ingredients, too. Beer is basically made of four things: water, yeast, hops and malt. In this recipe, there is detail provided about only hops and malt. As a result, it the same ingredients were used and made with the soft water of Dublin or the hard water of Burton-upon-Trent, England, the resulting products would be very different. These effects can be reproduced by adding water treatments which mimic one location or another. But without any guidance as to water quality, there is a great deal of variation left to the imagination of the brewer. The same is the case of the yeast. The recipe does not tell us whether it is lager yeast or ale yeast, the two general hemispheres of the beer world. Further, it does not state which of sub-type might be used. Consider this web page of a homebrew supplier which offers 33 ale yeasts and 16 for lager, aside from the 18 for the specialized wheat and Belgian styles of beer: Selection among these yeasts will greatly affect the outcome of the brewing process. But no guidance is given.

Where there is some guidance, we are still uncertain. We are told that “1 kg of caramel malt” is required. That usually defines a class of malts with a sugary aspect but they differ in the taste they impart according, among other factors, to the degree they are roasted. As a result, a pale crystal malt may give a slight nuttiness to a beer where a dark one provides a strong raisiny flavour. Just saying “caramel malt” in not specific enough. Similarly, the recipe includes 4 kg of sugar but we are not told if it is corn or cane, light yellow or dark demarara or even whether Belgian candi sugar is to be used. Sugar is not sugar is not sugar.

So in the end it is very difficult to determine what a brewer might do with the recipe as it is really only part of a recipe. If you take the information provided and run it through a popular beer recipe calculator used by homebrewers for planning you get a beer which is somewhat pale and normal strength at 5.2% but a bit cloying due to the moderate hops and likely richness of some residual sugars. It would also have no to very rich yeastiness with anything from a slight nuttiness to a strong raisin flavour. Here are the results from when I ran the test: Except for the odd ingredient “300 g Guarana beans” this could be half the beers I have ever encountered depending on how the unstated variables are addressed by the particular brewer. It is interesting to note that guarana bean is included in the new Budweiser product, B-to-the-E: this author does not find that product very pleasant:

I do go on, don’t I.

Internet Memories

Along with the lack of any coherent or useful organization or indexing, this medium suffers from a lack of its own history. Sure there is the Internet Archive capturing something like one front page screen shot in every 12,486,081,230 and those high level no details stuff time lines about when the first email was sent.. but you were not there. What we need to do is create anecdotes to capture what the experience was really like when you first plugged in. Here are some of mine:

  • German Web TV – around 1996 or so someone had set up a system where you could watch screen shots from German TV. I do not recall any audio. I do recall they were about the first site to try to do this and there seemed to be about 15 channels or so. They refreshed every 3 to 10 seconds. Soccer was hard to follow. Blue movies at suppertime were a bit of a startler in the days of far fewer cable channels in smalltown Canada.
  • Operating stuff through web cams – sort of related to the above but interactive. You could run the switching of a toy train set in Germany and usually you had to wait a few minutes for your command to come up in the line up of global command givers. Somewhere else there was a garden in a small room which you could look around with a camera, dig a bit and even plant a seed. Probably the most nicest most innocent amateur sites you will ever see.
  • Usenet – an actually working uncensored universal bulletin board system where you could find the greatest nerds in any topic you wanted debating the issue of their affection in fine and incredibly nasty detail. Killed by cross posting porn spammers and, I think, take over by Google.
  • The coffee pot and the aquarium – just so someone else won’t mention them first, there were two sites with extremely early web video. The cameras were static, one aimed at a coffee pot and one aimed at a tank of fish. We stared for hours.

Some of these things may sill be there but I don’t go looking for them anymore.

Share your web anecdotes. It’s been ten years now since I started playing with this damn thing so its about time to get nostalgic. If you have a link to that German toy train, it would be a nice touch.

Internet and Defamation Decision

I came across an interesting case on defamation and the internet today in a newsletter passed around the office. On 4 June 2004, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in the case Barrick Gold Corp. v. Lopehandia, the key facts of which are set out in paragraph 12:

Mr. Lopehandia embarked upon an Internet campaign by posting a blizzard of messages on “bulletin boards” or “message boards” on various Internet web sites. The web sites in question are dedicated to providing information to those interested in the gold mining industry, including those interested in investing in the stocks of gold or gold-industry companies. Some of the web sites are dedicated to discussions concerning Barrick specifically. The web sites include (in the financial markets message board sections dedicated to Barrick and another company, Durban Roodeport Deep Limited (“Durban Deep”)); and (in the financial markets message board section dedicated to Barrick);;; and

Cut to the chase and the internet slagger was ordered to pay to the internet slaggee $75,000 CDN in general damages and $50,000 CDN in punative damages. In support of that award, the Court of Appeal found at paragraphs 75 and 76 that:

Mr. Lopehandia is ordinarily resident in British Columbia, but there is no way to determine from where his postings originate. They could as easily be initiated in an Internet café in downtown Toronto or anywhere else in the world, as in his offices in Vancouver. Given the manner in which the Internet works, it is not possible to know whether the posting of one of Mr. Lopehandia’s messages on one of the bulletin boards in question, or the receipt of that message by someone accessing the bulletin board, traveled by way of a server in Ontario to or from the message board. It may have, however. The highly transmissible nature of the tortious misconduct at issue here is a factor to be addressed in considering whether a permanent injunction should be granted. The courts are faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, they can throw up their collective hands in despair, taking the view that enforcement against such ephemeral transmissions around the world is ineffective, and concluding therefore that only the jurisdiction where the originator of the communication may happen to be found can enjoin the offending conduct. On the other hand, they can at least protect against the impugned conduct re-occurring in their own jurisdiction. In this respect, I agree with the following observation of Kirby J. in Dow Jones, at para. 115:

Any suggestion that there can be no effective remedy for the tort of defamation (or other civil wrongs) committed by the use of the Internet (or that such wrongs must simply be tolerated as the price to be paid for the advantages of the medium) is self-evidently unacceptable.

…The posting of messages on that board constitutes at least an act done by the defendant that affects Barrick’s reputation, goodwill, and personal property in Ontario, and arguably constitutes an act done by him in Ontario. The courts in Ontario must have jurisdiction to restrain such conduct.

Common sense and an innovation that only a Court could provide. Based on the technological obscurity, the Court chose certainty. Beware my fellow Pajamistanians of the pitfalls of defamatory internet discussion in Canada.

Five Hundred

Five hundred posts in around nine months. I received my congratulatory prizes from Portland the other day: a T-shirt from a deep sea fishing outfit from California and a wind-up radio that includes a warning not to wind up until the batteries have had 5 hours charge from a 12 volt adapter (not included). So in honour of the passage of time a side-by-side shot to the southwest from the dome.

Two images of the same view mid-19th century and early 21st


I noticed the older photo down a hallway at work, a view from the dome of City Hall which I have twinned with one of my own from a couple of weeks ago. According to the St. George’s Cathedral history, the older photo must be from between 1838 and 1862 as you can see the second larger dome built in the latter year is not present. So it is around 150 years older than my shot from the other day. The church’s predecessor, more on the actual market square the row of houses to the bottom of each photo face, is the location of the declaration of government in Ontario in 1792:

John Stuart, “Father of the Anglican Church in Upper Canada”, was the Rector. On July 8th, Lieutenant Governor John Simcoe, standing on the steps of St. George’s Church, took “the required oaths” of office and read the Royal Commissions, thus connecting St. George’s with the beginnings of provincial government in Ontario.

The actual date of the first European settlement in Kingston was 1673 by the French at Fort Frontenac. La Salle, the great explorer [after whom a car was named and referenced in the All in the Family theme sung by Archie and Edith Bunker] was the first seigneur and used the fort as a base for his explorations into the interior..which did not turn out all rosy. In 1758 Fort Frontenac was taken by the English. Ransacked and abandoned, it remained unoccupied for the next 25 years. [An interactive map of the entire St. Lawrence area starting with Fort Frontenac in the west from 1776 is here.] In 1783, Major Samuel Holland was sent to survey the condition of the fort, and in the same year temporary barrack facilities were constucted. Sammy is well known in PEI as its first surveyor (though it was only a part of his larger works) and the briefly celebrated namesake of Samuel Holland Institute of Technology (a joke since at least 1993 – scroll down page) which was soon renamed Holland Collage.

Die Fax Die

The other day I got an email returned with a reply. Except it was a handwritten reply and the answerer had printed off my email, written his answer on it and faxed it back. It’s folks like that who are ensuring that fax machines continue to clog our lives – pushing up usage 40% in the last year alone.

When will the fax machines die off joining the Gestentner, mother of all ‘zines, itself now hiding its own toxic legacy.

The Tree

The Tree of Knowledge, that is.

Why can’t we have the following components of the internet put together today:

  • open source collaboration
  • creating a central web application which
  • uses RSS aggregation
  • to search by keyword
  • to report on everything available on the internet
  • and file it in publicly available space
  • classified according to an taxonomy of all understanding cascading from the general to specific in every field.

Add open source blogging tools available free with RSS feeds and all writers can pour what is known into the system by writing on their own pages. An automated global wiki.   The indexed internet, the free digital usable useful library.

The Internet of 1945

The interview with Tim Berners-Lee at BBC news this morning includes reference to the work of Vannevar Bush.

…the idea of hypertext and links had actually been invented some time ago. In fact it was 1945, I think. Vannevar Bush wrote a great paper about how it could be done. But he imagined it all being done using microfilms and electric sensors and mechanics because he didn’t have computers and he didn’t have the internet then, and then Ted Nelson invented the idea of hypertext.

The Atlantic has a 1945 article by Bush on his ideas here where he “urges that men of science should then turn to the massive task of making more accessible our bewildering store of knowledge”


Pay off Google?

From this morning’s Kingston Whig-Standard in a story about efforts to counteract the decline in local tourism from America and elsewhere:

…popular Internet search engine Google was paid to rank the Web site high in Google searches so that people who are looking for information on Kingston or tourism in Canada are sent to the campaign site first.

Surely Google would be useless if rankings were to be affected by payment.