Archive

Archive for February 17th, 2013

Top 20 Pages with Ads You Should See

February 17th, 2013 Comments off
In case you were wondering why “Top 10” and “Top 20” lists are so popular right now, it's the same reason why regular articles which are not that long are broken up into four parts, or why sites like the Christian Science Monitor offer so many “fun” quizzes and tests: to get money. It's all about the ad count. The more times you can make a reader visit a new page, the more ads they are exposed to. Numbered lists are perfect for this: each item gets its own page. Make it interesting, and you get 10 or 20 times the number of ads you can reasonably get away with on a page. Quizzes (can you pass a citizenship test?) are even bigger traps: users are drawn into finishing these as they get no payback until the very end; this is abused when the number of questions is not initially revealed and the test goes on and on and on…. Alternately, sites can double the ad views by giving a page to each answer as well as to each question. However, any quiz or numbered-item article should be approached with caution; they are the go-to gimmick these days, and are made not because they have anything interesting to forward, but simply because it's time for a new one. I understand that sites have to find a way to pay for everything, but there comes a point when it goes a bit too far. You know what would probably pull in more money from ads? Stop making them distracting. I'd love to see an ad service that guarantees no ads will move, jump, cycle, or otherwise distract from the primary focus of the page. If they did that, I would switch off my ad blocker (as would perhaps millions of others) and, if the ads were designed right, I would probably start clicking on them. But if Top 100 lists draw in enough yokels and lets those with ad blockers sail serenely past… well, so be it.

Categories: Economics, Entertainment Tags:

Recycled BlogD: The Futility of SETI

February 17th, 2013 1 comment
This is an article from 2006, and I stand by it just as much if not more than I did seven years ago. I feel it is important to reach out and find extraterrestrial life, and the recent discovery of so many exoplanets is an exciting step in this direction. However, for the reasons given below, I don't think it'll be accomplished using radio frequencies. To me, that smacks of assumptions that are almost childlike: we are in our technological infancy, barely just discovered how to use electricity a century or so ago, and we presume that this is the ultimate communications medium that everyone is using. Seen in proper context, we kind of look like a six-year-old working with string tied between tin cans. Not that the technology can't work, but rather than there are probably several generations of communications technology that are currently beyond our understanding. A commenter in 2007 added another point: we presume that evolution necessarily leads to intelligence, in particular an inquiring or social intelligence, when that may not be the norm.
I am very much a fan of science, as well as science fiction. I am pretty certain that other life and civilizations exist out there, and am quite keen on the concept of contacting that life. That said, I don't think SETI will ever accomplish anything. Here's why. Imagine there is a tribe of primitive people on a remote and small archipelago in the south Pacific (where these imaginary tribesmen are usually located), who have never encountered anyone else in the world. They are way off of sea and air traffic lanes, so they have never even seen any evidence of others living on Earth. They do know the Earth is curved (they see boats going to their most distant island disappear over the horizon) and vast, and they wonder: are there any other people, any other tribes out there? So they send their smartest people off to try to contact others using the most sophisticated communications technology they possess. These big brains climb the tallest mountain in the island chain, start a fire, and begin sending up smoke signals. The communications team figures that if anyone exists out beyond that horizon, surely they will see the signals, and if they do, they will reply in kind. The intrepid team spends weeks up on the mountain, sending signals and keeping a keen and vigilant watch on all horizons for any reply. Eventually, after receiving no answers to their many signals, they decide to pack it in. Either there is no one else out there, or they aren't watching for smoke signals, or they aren't advanced enough to understand or send them, or they just don't care to reply. Regardless of which is true, they cannot find any evidence of life out there. And as they walk down the mountain in resignation, they are completely unaware that at that instant, countless radio signals from dozens of highly advanced civilizations on Earth are coursing through the very space they occupy. In this analogy, we are the tribesmen. It has always surprised me that this probable truth is never discussed, that I have encountered at least, in public discourse about the search for intelligent life in the universe. No one seems to consider or at least speak aloud the most likely case that alien signals abound around us--but we simply don't have the technology to pick them up. Think of the scientific arrogance: we are supposed to assume that the long-range communications technology we possess--electromagnetic radiation signaling--is somehow the ultimate in scientific achievement. Here we are, just beginning our scientific development, still without a unified field theory on how the universe works, and yet the technology we developed just a hundred years ago--the blink of an eye by cosmological standards, and just the very beginning of what is likely a long technological evolution--is the end-all-be-all of cosmic telephony. I find the idea highly unlikely. You might say that there is no better conceivable technology than radio to communicate--but I'm sure that what was thought of the last best way to talk before radio technology was developed. I have little doubt that decades, centuries, or even millennia in the future, we will discover if not one, then many more advanced stages of communications technology, and when that time comes, we'll discover why things seem so silent in the universe when we listen just with radio telescopes.

Categories: Recycled BlogD, Science Tags: