Why I don’t like advert blockers (and why I use one)

People shouting about advertsAdvert blockers – the scourge of publishers and saviour of browsers. Or, at least, that’s the way they’re portrayed in myriad blog posts and articles across the Internet. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, advert blockers do exactly what the name suggests; they block adverts from appearing when you’re browsing the Internet.

Before we get going, it’s worth mentioning that I don’t run adverts on Geek-Speak. I used to but haven’t for quite some time. I also ran adverts on my YouTube channel until very recently but, again, no longer do.

Despite the fact that I don’t run adverts on my own content anymore, I understand why people do. I know running a website can be a costly business and publishers want to recoup some of that cost. Advertising is one way to do that. And that’s why I’ve always thought advert blockers are an unfair tool to be using when browsing the net. If a publisher has gone to the trouble of providing content for you to consume, it’s perfectly acceptable for them to include some way for them to make a living from their work. As I mentioned above, this argument isn’t entirely personal to me but it was at one point… and could be again.

If everyone on the net starts blocking adverts, publishers start to see their revenues drop. If publishers start to see their revenues drop, they’ll either go out of business or find another way to make their money, say by introducing paywalls or (and I hate this) asking you to fill in a survey before getting to view the content. In short, the money to run the Internet has to come from somewhere and if it’s not via advertising which, let’s face it, is free to you and me, it’ll be by some other means that won’t necessarily be as free!

OK Chris, but didn’t you mention you use an advert blocker?

Yes. I’ve just started. And I feel dirty.

Oh alright, I don’t feel dirty. Let me explain why I started using an advert blocker and what I think it means for the future of the Internet.

I started using an advert blocker because of bad adverts. Most of the sites I visit have adverts on them in one form or another and that’s perfectly fine. What started to get on my nerves was the number of sites I was visiting that had completely irrelevant adverts on them. I’ve lost track of the number of times I visited a site to take a look at someone doing car repairs (yes, I really do enjoy watching those videos) only to find the sidebar peppered with “Local mum tells you how to make £2000 a month from the comfort of your sofa” or the dreaded picture of a bride in a skimpy dress with the headline, “The photographer got more than he bargained for at this wedding!”. I mean, seriously. Those have nothing to do with the subject I was actually interested in and visited the site for.

Some of the adverts were bordering on pornographic. I’m an adult, but it gets a bit tricky when your wife notices some dodgy pictures on your computer screen and you have to convince her you really were trying to learn about MIG Welding.

After one bad advert too many, I came to a decision. That was it. I was going to have to install an advert blocker. The sad thing is I recognise it will block other less intrusive ads and, potentially, reduce the income of publishers I trust and care about.

So what can publishers do?

Stop showing bad adverts! I know that sounds really simplistic but if some adverts weren’t so annoying people wouldn’t need to resort to using ad blockers. Adblock Plus has a feature that allows you to let some “acceptable ads” through the filter, and the criteria look pretty sensible. Take a look at the Adblock Plus Acceptable Adverts page for details on that.

An alternative would be to stop showing adverts altogether and introduce another means of generating income like a paywall or subscription. That’s not going to be popular, but there has to be some means of income if a publisher wants to pay its hosting fees and salaries.

Is a paywall likely to work for smaller publishers (like me) though? I mean, if you were able to only see the introduction of this post would you have paid to read the rest? I think I’m a pretty good writer, but even I think paywalls aren’t the best means of generating income for small bloggers. Services like Patreon might be the way forward here though. Patreon lets you become a content creator’s “patron”, paying an amount of you choosing to support the content creator in their work. So, for example, you could decide to pay $1 per month to support Geek-Speak. It’s not a subscription as such because the site would be open to non-patrons as well as patrons, but it’s a way of showing your appreciation.

Before you think I’m about to go on the scrounge, I don’t have a Patreon set up (although I do have a link to send me a little Bitcoin if you enjoyed this at the end of the article). It is something I’ve thought about doing, however; especially as my desire to post more and more YouTube videos grows. It is very much a nascent thought, though, and not something I have plans to do in the immediate future.

So what do you think?

What do you think about ad blockers? Are they a problem for publishers? Will they cause a shift in how publishers make their money? And will that shift be for the better or worse?

Are adverts an annoyance to you, or are they a necessary part of life on the Internet?

And what do you think about ideas like Patreon? Does it seem like the future of supporting creative content? And, purely for interest at the moment, would you support a Patreon for content creation on Geek-Speak and our YouTube channel (admittedly, if I were to post content more often)?

As ever, let us know your thoughts in the comments.

The Day Facebook’s App Strategy Suddenly Made Sense

I’ve been annoyed at Facebook for some time. Not because of anything particularly serious, but because of the irritating habit they have of creating standalone apps for various functions.

For example, there are now apps for:

  • managing your pages
  • sending and receiving messages
  • sharing private photos with friend and family
  • managing groups
  • managing adverts (as an advertiser)
  • … and more.

This is all before we get to what I would call the “main” Facebook app. You know, the one that lets you use Facebook as a social network.

All of the core functions used to be in the Facebook app. You could send messages, chat, manage photos, and, of course, post to your timeline and your pages. So why on earth has everything been separated out into different apps? It frustrated me no end.

And then one day it made sense to me. I decided I was spending too much time on Facebook but I didn’t want to leave altogether because I manage a couple of pages; one for Geek-Speak and one for my IT company. So I deleted the Facebook app.

Suddenly I wasn’t tempted to spend all day looking through my friends’ status updates. If I wanted to do that I had to load the site in the browser and that pretty much meant I would only do it when I was sitting at my laptop. Yes, I know Facebook works in a mobile browser, but I never really got into the habit of using it like that. The key thing is that I was still able to send and receive messages for my pages, still able to keep my pages updated, and still able to keep up with what was happening in a few groups that interested me without the temptation to get bogged down in what I previously thought of as the central Facebook experience.

Now, you may very well be reading this and thinking, “Duh – tell me something new”, but I had never considered ditching the personal part of Facebook before and now that I have… well… Facebook’s app strategy makes sense to me. It lets me tailor which parts of the platform I want to use. Sure, if I want to use everything it means I have to have a load of apps on my phone, and that’s still a bit annoying, but it also means I can cut out any particular app and disregard that part of Facebook.

I still check Facebook regularly, and I’m still fairly active on my personal timeline… just less so than I used to be, and you know what? I feel better for it.

This blinding flash of the obvious has been brought to you by the letter F :)

Help your children learn to code with Code.org

Computers are everywhere. They make modern televisions, washing machines, and cars work, they control the flow of electricity into your home, they control the sequence of traffic lights on your local roads, and they are used to track and transport the food to your local supermarket.

You get the idea.

Hour of Code - Star WarsI passionately believe that learning to code is a valuable life skill for children to pick up as early as possible, and I was impressed that my children’s school held an Hour of Code event back in December of last year. That’s where I came across Code.org, which has loads of resources for introducing children to coding. I mean, I would have killed to have a Star Wars programming course when I was little… kids today don’t know they’re born!

If you’re looking to get your little ones interested in making technology work for them, you could do a lot worse than checking out Code.org. Who knows, you might even learn something yourself!

A Soft Murmur … of background noise while you work

A Soft MurmurSome time ago, I wrote about a website called Coffitivity. Coffitivity plays the background noise of a cafe so that you can have some ambience while working. I work alone (not in the Chuck Norris sense, it’s just that I work from home) so sometimes a bit of background noise can be welcome.

More ambience sites have sprung up since then, and one of my new favourites is A Soft Murmur. But why is it different?

Simply put, it’s because it offers a variety of sounds. The coffee shop is still in there, but you can mix it with thunder, rain, white noise, singing bowls, and more. Each sound has a slider (on the desktop version of the site) so you can get the relative levels you want. Personally, I like listening to the rain and thunder so that’s the combination I usually go with.

I find having a little background noise does help with my concentration, and these sites have an advantage over “live” noise in that I can turn them off anytime I want to. It’s kind of hard to get everyone in my local coffee shop to be quiet on demand! The disadvantage, of course, is there’s no counter to buy coffee from!

Have a listen at http://asoftmurmur.com/ and see if it works for you.

 

Terrapin Leather Case for Samsung Galaxy S6 [review]

Samsung Galaxy S6 - red leather wallet style caseI have to be completely honest; my phone is the one accessory and gadget that I always have with me. No matter whether I am leaving the house for 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days, my phone is with me. Although my husband loves his many and varied gadgets, for me it’s all about my phone. New discoveries come and go, but the phone is the one luxury I don’t mind spending a little extra money on.

Since I see it as such a necessity and since I have been known to be a little clumsy in the past, a pretty but functional phone case is an essential. Terrapin Accessories offered me the chance to try out one of their cases, and I chose  a red leather wallet type case.

I have tried a few different styles over the years, and I have grown to love the wallet type. I feel this give the phone protection from the general bashes and bumps that I subject it to during a normal busy day. Immediately when I opened up this phone case I realised that it was a far superior quality to what I normally use on my phone. It felt soft, yet the case seemed very sturdy. My S6 easily fitted snugly and securely into the plastic holder in the case. A lot of cases I have used recently have had a more flexible holder but this was a more rigid plastic. It was still easy to slip the phone in, though, and it was obvious that it had been measured to perfection.

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Codemaster: Learning programming via board game

I think it’s important to teach children to program computers; as the world becomes increasingly reliant on technology the ability to make that technology do what you want is going to be a useful skill. There are so many ways to teach programming it’s unreal, and this one seems interesting: a board game designed to teach you to think like a programmer.

Codemaster Board Game The game consists of a series of puzzles where the aim is to move an avatar to a portal, picking crystals up along the way. The board itself is a matrix of coloured paths, and you complete the puzzle by selecting a sequence of coloured tokens matching the colours of the paths. If you get to the end of your sequence (or “program”) and you are either not at the portal or crystals still remain on the board, you need to rethink the program and start again.
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Terrapin Leather Case for iPhone SE [Review]

Terrapin Leather Case for iPhone SEYou don’t need me to remind you how much I love my gadgets; if you’ve been reading Geek-Speak for any length of time you’ll know that already! You may also know that I like my gadgets “naked”, without a cover or case. I think the design of technology these days has progressed to the point where gadgets look good on their own, not as if they’re there purely to fulfil a function.

When you drop a “naked” device, though, things can go really wrong really quickly. No cover means no protection and, since I’m not made of money, I can’t really afford to keep breaking things just because I don’t want to spoil the way they look.

Because I still want my gadgets to look good, I spend quite a bit of time choosing covers and cases, so when I was contacted by the people at Terrapin Accessories to see if I would like to review one of their cases, I spent quite a while looking through the range before deciding on the one I’d like to try. I finally settled on a leather wallet case for my iPhone 5S (which, I have to say, I’m very pleased is the same size as the more recent iPhone SE!)
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Testing the Syma X5SC Quadcopter

Syma X5SC QuadcopterIt’s flying season! Or, rather, it’s meant to be flying season but the weather doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. Despite the fact it’s the summer holidays here in Scotland, we’ve had some impressive downpours lately (no jokes about that being the Scottish summer, please).

Despite weather woes, I’ve been enjoying testing out the Syma X5SC Quadcopter, kindly sent to me by Mobile Fun. You may have seen my previous review of the Syma X4 Quadcopter, and the X5SC is its bigger brother. So let’s have a look at what Big Brother is like. [Read more…]

Getting started with SAM Labs’ Make

I love tinkering with gadgets and electronics. I remember as a child I would take different devices, like clocks, alarms, and cameras apart to try and figure out how they worked. If I’m honest, I always struggled because I had no idea what each individual part of the system did.

SAMLabs: MakeNow I’m a parent I’m keen to engender a similar desire for discovering how things work in my children so I was really interested when I came across SAM Labs.

SAM Labs is a system of interconnected blocks, each of which is either a sensor or an actor. The sensors may be things like a button or a tilt sensor while the actors are things like lights, motors or servos. What’s clever is that the modules are all Bluetooth-enabled, so there’s no need to wire them together to make a circuit; instead they all communicate wirelessly. [Read more…]

Taga 2.0 Family Bike Kickstarter

David Lumm is a professional programmer and all round geek with a passion for taking complex things and making them simple.

When you become a parent it’s inevitable that your priorities and perspective change; whilst we still get excited by the same things that excited us before, we also get excited by things that perhaps wouldn’t have interested us before we were parents. It’s in that vein that I noticed the pre-kickstarter adverts for the Taga 2.0 on Facebook – there’s a good chance that you saw them too. As a parent and an occasional cyclist I found the concept of a purpose built family bike intriguing, especially given the chance of getting such a capable bike for a mere $599 (or about £410).

If you haven’t seen the advert, or maybe if you just scrolled past it, you might not realise just how interesting this bike is, so let me tell you a little. First of all, you’ve got the tub at the front, a bit like the dutch bikes, but has three wheels with the front two moving independently of the cargo tub; much easier to steer and balance, much shorter too.

Taga 2.0 Options
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