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Ad tracking, and how to do it right

Now, long time readers (I know you’re out there. Show yourselves!) will realize that I’m not a very commercial guy, being in favor of free data and Creative Commons and new patronage, where the community at large sponsors their favorite artists by donating money to them. Part of it has to do with the fact that most ads, regardless of how manipulative  they are…. are just retarded. It’s to the point that I (an amateur at advertising) think I can do it less offensively, if not necessarily as effectively.

This one is a few years old, but I remember seeing it, and other similarly themed ads like “Is it real or fake”, and everyone’s favorite, “The ugliest dog ever” plaguing Youtube for a few months. Now, Google has an option where users have advertisements tailored to their needs, but I’ve turned that off. I imagine that their adwords and targeted messages probably have all sorts of desperate pleas and painfully obvious scams floating about them.

Now, as I see it, there are two solutions, and both of them involve filtration by humans. One of them is to have the operator of a site choose which ads display or don’t display, which is one of the main functionalities of Project Wonderful. Obviously, this only really works on specialized sites like webcomic hosting, but a competent user is going to end up with ads that are less obtrusive and more interesting to viewers than on average.

The other, more general solution is just to put a like/dislike toolbar under your advertisements, and let the viewers choose which advertisements they want. Now, if this is implemented, you’re probably going find that dislikes significantly outnumber likes, which makes sense, especially if you haven’t been paying much attention to what you advertise. But even then, you’ll have some chance to determine what kind of advertisement offends your audience the most, and shift towards less blatantly idiotic adverts. This would work better on more diverse, heavily traffic’ed sites, like news portals or Youtube, mainly since the increased mass of community would reduce the effects of vote manipulation.

“Less obtrusive” and “More interesting” seem contradictory, perhaps, but an unending stream of garbage advertisements is going to drive the more intelligent viewers away and reduce brand loyalty. As you should know, the elites have all the money; pushing them away is going to destroy your support, unless you somehow manage to get enough pay-per-view rates to finance your website. That’s right, get those autorefresh scripts out.

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Crazy Theories – Starcraft II as an interquel

Nerd alert!

I had this idea many aeons ago, as a result of looking at the plot of Wings of Liberty, and some of the stuff in the original and Brood War that didn’t get mentioned. The end result was that I found it wouldn’t take very many retcons to make Wings of Liberty take place between SC1 and Brood War, but actually making them probably would be fairly ill advised.

Now, I’m aware that a lot of things were retconned and expanded between the release of Brood War and WoL, and also that attempting to shoehorn this plot in creates problems of its own – but the main idea here is that forcing WoL between Starcraft and Brood War does resolve some of the issues that the chronology creates.

Examples:

1. The UED makes no appearance in WoL. Is it likely that everyone forgot about them, especially considering that they supposedly conquered the Dominion, however briefly? Besides, very little UED-related technology really shows up. Medics do show up in the campaign, but it’s not like the Koprulu sector Terrans would be unable to develop such technologies themselves.

2. Kerrigan supposedly was worried about the New Overmind on Char. If we assume the interquel theory, it would suggest that Kerrigan did in fact lose some of her powers as a result of the deinfestation, lending more weight to fear over control by the new Overmind. Brood War, at least, implies that Kerrigan is willing to make quick alliances of convenience.

3. Jim Raynor’s attitudes towards Kerrigan make more sense this way. At the end of Brood War, he has sworn to kill Kerrigan for the various murders, but at the beginning of Wings of Liberty, he’s desperate to save her. Is it more likely that he is capable of getting over the betrayal, the murder of Fenix, or that such events hadn’t occurred to influence his decisions?

4. The Dominion. Remember, in Brood War, Mengsk was forced to work with Raynor and Kerrigan in an attempt to get the Dominion back from the UED. However, the rebellion that Raynor’s Raiders caused appears to have had limited effects at best, and the Dominion was undoubtedly weakened by Raynor’s decision to work with Valerian in an attempt to “de-infest” Kerrigan, and the substantial casualties that occured. In the interquel theory, this may have given the UED’s small expeditionary force (the one that relied on already existent production, such as the Dylar Shipyards) an advantage in the conflict.

Notes:
– There are outside sources that I am ignoring due to lack of familiarity with.
– An interquel theory has problems of its own, such as:
A. Disrupting the timeline.
B. The issue of Samir Duran/Narud is left unsolved.
C. This causes issues with Zeratul’s prophecy, as well as the hybrids, although if we assume the interquel thing, it may have played a role in Jim Raynor’s “trust” in Kerrigan.

Remember, this is just a hypothesis that shifts things around substantially, and Heart of the Swarm may add details that render this illogical and obsolete.

On an unrelated note, how about Colossi that act like the Headcrabs from Half-Life? Full sized Colossi, in case anyone asks.

On detainment paranoia – a possible antidote

So there’s been a lot of buzz lately about a relatively large amount of detainees on 9/11 related paranoia. Suffice it to say that now is a very bad time to live in the Western world if you have even the slightest drop of Arabic blood in you. Technically, you should be careful if it’s enough to alter your appearance, since your average person isn’t going to consider the universal ancestor fallacy.

More importantly, I may have figured out a way to hold the wrath of such police at bay. It’s very simple – just pass a law that requires the government to pay a significant amount of money to anyone who was detained by law enforcement officials, and later found out not to have been wanted/guilty of any crimes, or having the intention to commit such. Exactly how much money I’m not sure of. It should probably relate to the severity of the charges, and the overall ranking of the officials (I.E someone who is wrongfully accused of first-degree murder by an FBI agent should be compensated much more than if they’re accused of possession of marijuana by a normal cop). Most importantly, it should probably be limited to more serious, rare crimes, especially relatively simple, clear cut ones in which a bad ruling would indicate error amongst law officials, rather than legitimate ambiguity, like a hung jury. Amongst other things, if the amount of money is large enough, the governments would hold their police to a higher standard, because the alternative would be losing cash. In addition, the victims could put the money received to various uses (most likely hedonism, but if we’re lucky, they could do something productive like starting a business). Of course, if the amount of money is large enough to be effective, we might see people trying to game the system. It’d be hard to prosecute to a point.

I’d like to hear your opinions on this. Like any raw idea, it needs further input. As far as I can tell, we especially need a clearly defined scope for people and cash, but anything else is appreciated.

PS: With this in mind, it strikes me that attempting to hijack a plane or otherwise engage in acts of terrorism on a plane is a particularly foolish idea, especially because of the heightened security measures of the time. Anyone with a shred of creativity can think up all sorts of mayhem that doesn’t require boarding a plane (or even getting near one). I’d share my own ideas, but that’d defeat the purpose of getting you to use your mind, am I right?

Quickie – Password Policies

So today, in order to use some of the new functionality at the University of Rochester’s wireless services, I had to change my password. This isn’t just any change – the new passwords must have symbols, numbers, and so forth. Also, to prevent some sort of Bobby Tables incident, certain symbols (I’m guessing SQL syntax) aren’t allowed. It’s nothing particularly draconian, but it does strike me that in most cases this sort of guideline is… somewhat slightly useless.

The key here is that once a user passes beyond the most obvious errors, like matching username and password or using a common word as the password, it becomes rather difficult to bruteforce someone’s passwords, especially if some degree of encryption is applied. I sure hope that security measures of some sort are used to keep UR’s passwords safe… but no guarantee. Still, even without it, a password merely composed of ASCII keys, such as, perhaps “{}{}{}{}[][][]a” would take thousands of years to break in the worst case, assuming high end current hardware, and even a government organization would need an impractical amount of time to break such. And considering that even the password storage on an internet service is often encrypted, we might want to worry a little bit less about our password security, and a bit more about other insecurities in our life… like, you know, like political corruption.

Pre-Algebra World – when edutainment meets drugs… maybe

2015 update: Mathrealm is dead. Pre-Algebra World was apparently created by a company called Cognitive Technology Corporation, perhaps based out of Maryland. Information on this title has grown even scarcer. Word on the street is that the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium has a copy of this floating around in their system.

pre-algebra world

So I’ve been investigating my childhood, under the belief that it might explain why I am myself. There are some really crazy things there – some are well known, like Animaniacs and Pokemon. And some… what can I say?

Anyways, I had computer access as a small child, and as a result, my parents showered me with access to edutainment software. This was during the mid ’90s, when the big paradigm in computing was “multimedia”… which then basically translated to “omg u can has a picture of somethin in ur text while a midi plays omg omg omg windowsgasm!!!11!!”, and probably resulted in some of the worst excesses of the early Internet before games like Half-Life, Unreal, Final Fantasy VII, etc shifted this madness into 3D gaming. But there’s a lot to be said for what may as well be referred to as the “Super VGA era”, named after the standard resolution of 640x480x256. And I digress.

So anyways, I remembered that there was, outside the rush of hackjob “activity centers” and god knows what, this title called “Pre-Algebra World”. It was released in 1997, and has some of the trippiest visuals (if I remember correctly) of any video game, short of something like Rez. And all for the sake of teaching kids fractions, prime numbers, base systems, estimation, and such.

Looks pretty out there for math teaching, doesn’t it?  By now, some of the freakier members of the audience are probably like “Dude, where can I find this?”… and it’s going to set you back a hefty fee. Unlike Oregon Trail, which has entered cultural meme status, and Math Blaster, which has at the very least been immortalized in SNES ROM Goodsets, the average edutainment stuff has fallen into an abyss, probably due to the limited appeal and use of it. This is probably included, but if my memories serve me right, this needs to be rescued from the claws of time.

One slight problem: the publisher (some Mathrealm company that I’d never heard of until today) is basically the only place to get this. They are asking $39.95 for this. Let that sink in – a company wants $39.95 for something they made in 1997. You could find much newer edutainment for a similar price, and the average game from this era rarely commands this price unless it’s highly rare or hard to set up (like an arcade cabinet). I don’t know WHY they’re charging this, or who still buys this stuff, but if anyone can shed some light on what’s up with this, or get some native resolution screenshots up for the public to see, it’d be interesting. Maybe. Just look at the cone guy with the bulging eyes.

This basically boils down to someone being willing to spend $40 dollars on this thing, or just happening to have it in their basement.

5 random black metal albums to check out

If you people are into the genre, you’ll probably know about these bands/albums. If not, these may be interesting starting points, if not the most obvious choices. No particular order hyar. Note that these are not reviews, quickie or otherwise.

1. Darkthrone – Under a Funeral Moon (1993)

I did a quick write-up of this one a while back. For those too lazy to look, it’s basically the dissonant counterpart to the blackened epics of “A Blaze In The Northern Sky”, and the simplistic droning melodies of “Transylvanian Hunger”. Chosen mainly for said dissonance – sure, most black metal tends towards melody and a sort of minor key consonance, but it makes this all the more unique.

2. Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vestuta I  (1996)

This one, on the other hand, is basically the poster child for melodic black metal, with prominent basslines, a decent bit of counterpoint, and plenty of ambience. In addition, it’s probably more accessible than the average BM, what with a better production, some clean singing, and so forth. Not that it’s a bad thing – this, along with its predecessor Ultima Thulee  is one of my all time favorites in the genre.

3. Limbonic Art – In Abhorrence, Dementia (1997)

A lot of black metal bands shed some of their ambience to write more aggressive and/or epic material on their second album – cases in point being “Frost” by Enslaved, “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk” by Emperor, and this one. It’s kind of cheesy, but it also has a lot of intricate riffing and play between the keyboards (this album is very much drenched in them) – sort of a “maximalist” approach to black metal as opposed to the minimalism that a band like Burzum would work with.

4. Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales (1984)

It would be an extremely poor idea to discount the existence of the first wave of black metal (mainly an aesthetic shared by a group of heavy/speed/thrash/and early death metal bands) – Celtic Frost was hugely influential in the ’80s. This is probably their most straightforward work – ripping “primitive” thrash metal with a healthy helping of doom (not only the metal, but the occult), and a hint of experimental work. Of course, if you want something filthier, predecessor band Hellhammer has you covered.

 

5. Beherit – Drawing Down The Moon (1993)

Rather different from the majority of their Norwegian friends in sound, if not in overall effect. Imagine what would happen if someone left Hellhammer/Celtic Frost’s discography on some planet where intelligent life was just beginning to aggregate in cultures. Come back a few thousand years later, and something would this would be the music used in religious worship. Filthy and raw for sure, but few bands would rival this one for their ritual/trance-like effects, especially after they released “Electric Doom Synthesis” in 1995 – full of entirely electronic music.

 

I might do something similar for other genres in the future.

 

Quickie: Time Warner Cable

This company advertises incessantly, almost as if they don’t know they are about to die. Trust me on that last bit.

You see, they offer not only cable TV, but internet access, and in some areas, digital phone services. The thing is that the average computer these days is perfectly capable of performing all of those roles with just an internet connection – even some netbooks can handle high definition video streaming while retaining their battery life. Computer manufacturers know enough to promote these qualities, basically hawking their more mainstream stuff as cheap yet powerful multimedia centers with good productivity that can be hooked up to a large monitor to create  a good home theater.

Kind of an improvement over the old HDTV, eh? And it’ll save you a lot of money in the long run, too.

One slight problem – TWC is rather obsessed with remaining profitable, but it doesn’t seem like they’re willing to restructure themselves in the way that would make them competitive competitive. Right now, I guess they’re relying on a combination of three factors:

1. Many people don’t know/don’t care/have ethical qualms about websites that allow you to watch the entirety of a show at will, or don’t want to buy DVDs. Or something.

2. Time Warner tends to have a low tolerance for  outside sources, arguably on the grounds that “the creators of the show wouldn’t get enough money” (Only a mere 20-30x the salary of the average American, but open to donations and merchandising, I hope).

3. Small concessions mimicking the internet “boosts” on a lesser scale. For instanc, they seem to offer a service that allows a person to rewatch a show for three days after it aired.  That would’ve been nice in 1990, or even 2000. This decade, we can get a bit more.

But it’s basically just an example of old media moguls today – The internet is reducing their ability to stay profitable, but they don’t want to adapt, because it would hurt their profit margins. Sure, drag out the inevitable.