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Brad Fitzpatrick

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Sad, but true... [Jan. 23rd, 2007|07:29 am]
Brad Fitzpatrick
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[Current Mood |sadsad]

czircon writes:
LiveJournal is really going to shit lately. The "sponsored communities" are bad enough; now we have to put up with ads on the front page as well? And not just banner ads, but ads with Flash and fake forms to fill out because they think it's more likely to trick you into clicking on it? Ugh. Unfortunately I'm pretty much stuck here.
*sigh* I feel ya on the ads. (Not necessarily on sponsored communities, if done right...)

You don't know how much I've fought against ads on the homepage. I'm all for ads when users want them, can tolerate them, and tell us so by choosing the advertising level. If ads are a better deal for them than paying money, great!

But ads on the front page affect paid users and "Basic" users who don't want ads because they have to see them when they're logging in. It also taints the image of the site in the eyes of new users who wouldn't otherwise know LiveJournal is different. Flashing Flash ads on the front page? Sure, we're different.

Any short-term revenue gains don't make up for the long-term losses (interrelated: users, paid accounts, advertising volume) due to loss of "cool" image and jacking with long-time users, IMO.
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: punk_apple
2007-01-23 03:53 pm (UTC)
Oh I would totally disable flash on my system if there was a way .. so tried CSS filtering, domain blocks ... but I would just want to not see a single flash thing without choosing to. And even then it would be for a game maybe, once every year or so, not for seeing ads.
As long as it doesn't start to look like bravenet ...
Maybe needs more trying to force them to get that the users should be able to select their ad level.

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[User Picture]From: brad
2007-01-23 03:54 pm (UTC)
This extension for FireFox is great:
http://flashblock.mozdev.org/
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[User Picture]From: chezmax
2007-01-23 03:57 pm (UTC)
Flashblock is the best invention ever. (Though it does break a few web pages).

In other news, the ads suck, and it's unfortunate that you've lost that much control. :/

I never see them cause I rarely go to the front page :)
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From: ex_ex_mcm69
2007-01-23 03:59 pm (UTC)
AdBlock Plus is more convenient IMO :)
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[User Picture]From: punk_apple
2007-01-23 04:39 pm (UTC)
ah yes. then again as i use safari, shiira and camino as well, i tend to solve the annoyances fully ... so no matter what browser i use :)
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(Deleted comment)
From: jamesd
2007-01-23 11:57 pm (UTC)
If using Windows save the following to flashoff.bat:

REGEDIT4

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\ActiveX Compatibility\{D27CDB6E-AE6D-11CF-96B8-444553540000}]
"Description"="this prevents Macromedia Flash from running when flags are 00000400"
"Compatibility Flags"=dword:00000400

double-click on it to turn Flash off. To turn Flash back on:

REGEDIT4

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\ActiveX Compatibility\{D27CDB6E-AE6D-11CF-96B8-444553540000}]
"Description"="this prevents Macromedia Flash from running when flags are 00000400"
"Compatibility Flags"=dword:00000000

Shockwave off:

REGEDIT4

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\ActiveX Compatibility\{166B1BCA-3F9C-11CF-8075-444553540000}]
"Description"="this prevents Macromedia Shockwave from running when flags are 00000400"
"Compatibility Flags"=dword:00000400

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\ActiveX Compatibility\{D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000}]
"Description"="this prevents Macromedia Shockwave from running when flags are 00000400. This key found on space.com"
"Compatibility Flags"=dword:00000400

Shockwave on:

REGEDIT4

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\ActiveX Compatibility\{166B1BCA-3F9C-11CF-8075-444553540000}]
"Description"="this prevents Macromedia Shockwave from running when flags are 00000400"
"Compatibility Flags"=dword:00000000

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\ActiveX Compatibility\{D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000}]
"Description"="this prevents Macromedia Shockwave from running when flags are 00000400. This key found on space.com"
"Compatibility Flags"=dword:00000000
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[User Picture]From: jgrafton
2007-01-23 04:05 pm (UTC)
Is there somewhere useful to complain so it's more than just you fighting against the ads?
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From: jamesd
2007-01-24 12:00 am (UTC)
Set the ad preferences to things you will never buy. Every day click on each ad link that you see, once per ad. This will decrease the buy rate and decrease the value of ads on LiveJournal.
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[User Picture]From: crackmonkey
2007-01-23 04:10 pm (UTC)
Was this decision made after testing to see if revenue went up (due to click through rate), or was it just put in place?

I ask because, even at the heinously unethical advertising company I worked for (strangely enough right down the street from your offices), we did A/B testing with almost every ad we placed, in every position available. Like performance tuning, it's better to know than to guess.

Anyway, I haven't noticed any ads at all, but I have direct links to all the pages I care about.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2007-01-23 04:43 pm (UTC)
I'm sure short-term revenue went up ... I'm not debating that. They probably get a lot of money for that ad, and more than they do for regular ads.

The question is how you quantify the cost of the long-term bleeding.
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[User Picture]From: crackmonkey
2007-01-23 06:24 pm (UTC)
Right, sorry, that's more what I was getting at. We looked at the user's path through the site with each ad being on or off. Often times, with ads on, people stopped at the front page, or had fewer total clicks through the site.

Anyway, if you can measure it, you can make a case for it, but it sounds like you don't have a way of setting up a "control".
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[User Picture]From: brad
2007-01-23 06:27 pm (UTC)
We can, and do, do A/B tests. Not as often as we should, but we definitely do them and have the capabilities to do them.

Measuring the activity/paths of a logged out user with and without ads would be interesting... I'll bring that up, thanks!
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[User Picture]From: crackmonkey
2007-01-23 06:31 pm (UTC)
Good luck! And, if you can, please post the results. Alot of people at various places of business make that same decision without alot of data, and LJ is a great experiment to try this out with.

AKA, I won't have to fight people as hard about advertising if I have data from real world test cases ;)
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[User Picture]From: insomnia
2007-01-27 11:47 am (UTC)
"I'm sure short-term revenue went up ... I'm not debating that. They probably get a lot of money for that ad, and more than they do for regular ads. The question is how you quantify the cost of the long-term bleeding."

Stop sounding like me, or you may wind up losing your job.

I mean, really... how can you of all people really complain? You opted in for this new reality of longterm bleeding, profited nicely by it, and will continue to do so, especially if and when the company goes public or gets acquired.

And longterm bleeding is a reality. The site has been shrinking considerably for awhile now when it comes to what really matters to users -- reading posts from and interacting with their friends.

I understand your justifications for doing what you did, but I still think your behavior has been rather shortsighted and Bradcentric when it comes to the really important decisions involving LJ. Craig Newmark strikes me personally as a catty metrosexual egotist, but when it comes to making enlightened decisions mixed with considerable business acumen, Craig Newmark you ain't.

The "coolness" factor of LJ has long since worn down to the nub, and the general level of loyalty people have for the site has been significantly damaged. If you don't see this frequently, then perhaps you're surrounded by people who still have enthusiasm to spare. (That's not a bad thing, mind you, but it's not the larger reality.)

If you really don't think this state of affairs is a good one for the users, and think it is hurting the overall user experience and the site as a whole, you can always cash out at some point and use the money to create another LJ that everyone can migrate their accounts to.

Of course, LJ doesn't really support seamless syndication of both entries and comments from other LJ sites, so seamless migration is kind of a moot point. People will stay as long as enough of their friends do, and, barring a significant turnaround in policies on 6A/LJ's part, the site will continue its slow death spiral to the bitter end.

If you think that another potential longterm reality for LJ is possible from a business standpoint at this point, I'd love to hear it. Chances are I won't believe it a particularly likely story, however.
-------------------------

    The Goose Who Laid The Golden Eggs


Once upon a time there lived an old woman who had a number of hens, ducks, and geese. She used to send her little daughter to the meadow every day to take care of the ducks and geese.

But she had one goose that she never allowed with the others. This one had a little house and yard of its own. It was such a wonderful goose that the old woman was afraid of losing it.

Each day this goose laid a large golden egg. The woman could hardly wait for the new day to come, she was so eager to get the golden egg.

At last she said to herself, "I will kill the goose and get the gold all at once."

But when she had killed the goose she found that it was just like all the other geese.

In her haste to become rich, she had become poor.

Moral: Greed destroys the source of good.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2007-01-27 06:09 pm (UTC)
Mark,

I've said it a dozen times, but let me say it once more: at the time I sold LiveJournal, I was going fucking crazy. I'd been threatening to just quit and close it. There's no way LiveJournal would've continued to exist with me in charge, and the thought of CEO-hunting was just as stressful and potentially terrible (if I chose wrong) as selling it. (I'd actually talked to people about going down that path, but there aren't good leaders just sitting around to be plucked super easily...)

So of the dozen companies interested (which came at just the right time of my loss of sanity), I tried to choose the least evil one. I made a third of what I could have, had I chosen a big and/or evil company. Big companies were furious (knowing the details of 6a's deal), that I could choose 6A over their much better offer. But their offers included fucking the site for sure, as opposed to 6A's fucking the site maybe. But at least at 6A I'd have _some_ influence, as opposed to none at other places.

So, that's that.

I know it's probably easier for you to think I made off with a bag of cash as I laughed at the stupid users who were going to get ads everywhere, but that's not the case. I did and still care for the site a ton.
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[User Picture]From: agnoster
2007-01-23 05:36 pm (UTC)
I have direct links to all the pages I care about.

Yeah, I can echo this, in the sense that my "friends" page is what opens when my browser does, and I post to my journal by clicking from there, so I haven't really seen an ad on LJ yet. It still makes sense to be concerned about "first impressions", of course, but the bottom line is that most of us would rather see a few more ads and have LJ happy and healthy than seeing it with a cash-flow problem.

The question would be: why do people go to the homepage, what do they do afterwards, and so on. Then check the difference between historical data (before ads) and currents, see if there's a drop-off in any particular activity (sign ups are what it sounds like you're worried about). So yeah, you can quantify to some extent what people's a priori reaction to the ads is. If you're more worried about mindshare issues - well, that's a fickle thing, and not one well suited to quantifying without letting it just play out (emergent behaviour and all that good stuff).
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[User Picture]From: graceadieu
2007-01-23 04:22 pm (UTC)

:)

If you don't like the ads, just don't access the front page. And I do not agree that LJ is diminishing in quality. There are bound to be some 'packaging' changes when a product enters the mainstream and becomes famous.
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[User Picture]From: popcultureicon
2007-01-23 04:59 pm (UTC)

Going mainstream

That happened years ago, without ads.
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[User Picture]From: rival
2007-01-23 04:24 pm (UTC)
It always surprises me when you say stuff like this -- as the original founder of LiveJournal, why don't you have more control over company policy?
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[User Picture]From: brad
2007-01-23 04:45 pm (UTC)
You can't be involved in everything. I can give my opinions on lots of things pretty easily, often multiple times and passionately, but I can't follow every issue to completion, making sure I "win". So there's bound to be times that I lose, like this.
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From: evan
2007-01-23 04:49 pm (UTC)
I like to think (or at least wish, in a good-intentioned way) you have bigger and better things to worry about! That doesn't make it any less lame though.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2007-01-23 04:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's the tradeoff... I see a lot of things being done not how I'd do them, but at least by my not doing them, I have time for the things I am doing.
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[User Picture]From: satiredun
2007-01-23 05:25 pm (UTC)
I wasn't even aware of the ads until you pointed them out, because since i only post from home, its logged in all the time (not sure if that makes you feel better, but what the hell).
but i feel for you. i would imagine it would be like hearing a song you made used for some crappy commercial, against your wishes.
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(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: dakus
2007-01-23 05:36 pm (UTC)
*sigh* the days before money...
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[User Picture]From: scosol
2007-01-23 10:54 pm (UTC)
you make me all nostalgic...
ahh back when bandwidth rained down from the heavens and the servers grew on trees...

everything is about money- what do you think the paid subs are for?
i think the point is more that there are better ways to make money, for example by including features in paid accounts that people are willing to pay for, versus slapping up an ad on the homepage that only non-users see...
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[User Picture]From: dakus
2007-01-23 11:22 pm (UTC)
haha...

you need a doughnut!
:)
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[User Picture]From: foobarbazbax
2007-01-23 05:51 pm (UTC)
It's so frustrating when people don't think like me. Here at work we send out an email once a week to the members we tricked into opting in touting our latest "sales." Yuck. My argument against them is the same as yours, its a short turn gain with difficult to measure long term losses. I'm confident that this practice stunts our long term growth.

Their thinking is, "I send out an email every Monday night and I always have a great sales the next day! If I stop that I won't be able to meet my numbers for the month." (Yes, it's ridiculous we look at numbers on a monthly granularity).

Like you, I tried educating people, passionately and multiple times, but they really have to shift their thinking to understand this. My new approach has been to get them reading some books. Seth Godin has a bunch of great stuff. Most customer centric marketing book focus on making the right long term decisions. I also enjoyed "The Search" which covers, at least in part, Google's marketing strategy, which I generally agree with.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2007-01-23 06:12 pm (UTC)
Always glad to hear I'm not alone....

And yes, monthly/quarterly arbitrary goals to hit are silly.
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[User Picture]From: scosol
2007-01-23 10:56 pm (UTC)
> It's so frustrating when people don't think like me.

Quote of the year.
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[User Picture]From: way2tired
2007-01-23 05:56 pm (UTC)
I'm actually really happy to hear you put it that way. If it makes you feel any better, the ads don't affect me much, but as one of those users who did the pay-to-be-permanent thing, ads like the one on the front page disappoint me.

I know when you agree to become part of a bigger organization (like 6A) there are always trade offs. Glad to hear you're a sane advocate.
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From: jonasnuts
2007-01-23 06:04 pm (UTC)

Everywhere is the same

Same fight here at SAPO.

For the moment, I'm still managing to keep ads out of our users blogs. I don't know for how long I can fight this war.

:/
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[User Picture]From: brad
2007-01-23 06:10 pm (UTC)

Re: Everywhere is the same

Good luck. :/
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[User Picture]From: atomic_seamonki
2007-01-23 06:52 pm (UTC)
oh...I guess this might be why it takes longer for lj to load pages? and I'm a paid user.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2007-01-23 07:24 pm (UTC)
No.

What page(s)? Things have been fine server-wise lately... not major load issues.
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[User Picture]From: mart
2007-01-23 08:41 pm (UTC)

Recently I've been having intermittent problems when posting comments. Usually the message is complaining about the lack of form_auth (can't remember the exact message) and asking me to go back and try again, but I've also seen some other novel things like it complaining that I must enter a comment when I actually did and that sort of thing.

At first I thought that you guys might have changed something in S2 that my custom layout wasn't doing right, but then it did it on your journal so I figure it's worth mentioning now.

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[User Picture]From: burr86
2007-01-23 09:29 pm (UTC)
Yeah, there's a bug that seems to be dropping POST/GET args randomly. :-/
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[User Picture]From: foobarbazbax
2007-01-24 09:20 am (UTC)
Yes, I experienced that bug about an hour ago.
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[User Picture]From: shadowsong
2007-01-23 09:59 pm (UTC)
i wonder if that's related to the problem i was having at the end of last week where comments unthreaded themselves. they were still in the right order, but not tabbed at all. no error messages or anything, and then some time this weekend it went back to normal.
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[User Picture]From: figg
2007-01-23 08:18 pm (UTC)
Satire is dead

I would link to the Original post but it seems the image there has died
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[User Picture]From: altamira16
2007-01-23 11:31 pm (UTC)
I was disappointed with seeing the ad on the front page before I logged in and was considering not renewing when my paid account expired in February. With the large ads on the front page, there is less distinguishing LJ from MySpace.

When they change something that you had to explain at length to the community as an option, I just wonder when they will think it is a good idea to have a banner ad at the top of your friends' page when you are not logged in or in other silly and distracting locations.

That said, I think the search functionality will be pretty cool. I read that it is set up to respect filtered settings, but will you be able to search filtered content that is available to you? Could I search for stuff that is on my Friends' filter?
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[User Picture]From: brad
2007-01-23 11:36 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the slippery slope is what scares me. Especially since it seems we keep sliding down it.

Yes, I believe you'll be able to search for f-o things that you could see on your friends page... basically it searches everything, then removes at the last second the things you can't see, iirc.
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[User Picture]From: lacey
2007-01-24 03:36 am (UTC)
I don't know what to say, except that I know it must be terribly hard for you to watch this happening to your creation. For what it's worth, even though I know it is hard on you, I am glad that you still fight for what you believe is right. It would sadden me to see you beaten down by corporate life.
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[User Picture]From: algeh
2007-01-24 04:20 am (UTC)
That ad has caused me to change my default livejournal "starting point" from the front page to the login page (I'm a permanent account holder so I don't see ads when logged in and I also don't leave my computer logged in because I want to avoid Teh Dramaz if I let others use it). I am massively disappointed about this.

The upshot is that I feel I should never have to see ads on a site that I once paid $100 to support because I believed in it and its not-screwing-the-user ways, and I'm beginning to wish I'd never bothered. At such time as there is no way to log in without seeing ads, I'm gone (which I know affects the bottom line not at all directly, but before the ads and increased commercialism, I used to buy other people paid time pretty regularly as presents). The immediate result is I'm more likely to miss news posts and important things, which frustrates me but I see no good way to solve (yes, news is on my friends list, but I don't always go to my friends list when I log in).

Bleh. I should have stuck with my first instincts and stayed on my own site back in 2001. I knew this was too good to last forever and I'd get frustrated with the lack of control.
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[User Picture]From: avatraxiom
2007-01-25 02:35 pm (UTC)
Wow, thanks to AdBlock Plus, I didn't even notice them--I've never seen them.

-Max
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