Blocking adverts

Gary Marshall's big mouth: Shirt happens
Gary Marshall’s article in .net magazine about blocking adverts … next to an advert for Blacknight Solutions

I haven’t used an advert blocking add-on for my browsers until now, and I haven’t looked back.

In this month’s .net magazine regular journalist Gary Marshall has an article entitled “Shirt happens: When does object handling become outright harassment? Whenever you turn off your ad blocker…”

In the article Marshall described how when browsing from one site to another the adverts… well, followed him!

Being spied on

I’ve had the same experience. You know when you unconsciously just know that something’s not quite right?  I had that feeling while browsing the Web a couple of weeks ago.

I tend to ignore adverts on Web pages but this particular one caught my eye.  I wish I’d taken a screenshot at the time.  It was showing me stuff that I’d been looking at on another site a few minutes before.  Not just similar stuff, the exact same items that I’d been looking at.

I felt I was being spied on.

Gary Marshall again:

The ads are new, and they’re known as retargeting. Cookies track what you’ve looked at and follow you around the internet, shouting at you to look at them.

In theory, they’re supposed to offer extra inducements – “I see you looked at this shirt and decided not to buy it. How would you feel if I make it TWO POUNDS CHEAPER! Oh, mercy me, and here I am with a wife and three children to support” – but in practice it’s just the same things you’ve looked at, thrust in your face again and again and again. The implication is that you’re so utterly stupid, you’ll buy any old crap if you see it often enough.

Avoiding adverts

The fact of the matter is that advertising works, and we really are gullible enough to see something on the telly, or glance at it in a magazine or newspaper, and race out to buy it believing that it will help us become happier, more content, more attractive, cool.  That’s just the way that we’re wired.

However, these days Jane and I don’t tend to watch much live TV any more.  With BT Vision we record most of the programmes we want to watch, and then fast-forward through the adverts.

When listening to the digital music service Spotify I realised the other day that I completely switch off during the adverts.  I stop listening, or distract myself with something else.

It’s not a conscious thing.  I found myself, the other day, thinking it odd that there had been no adverts while I was listening.  And yet I suddenly realised there was an advert playing right now!

I’d just tuned it out.

The same kind of life skill that I see Reuben and Joshua are learning even at the ripe age of two when we tell them that it’s time for bed.

I object to adverts on my clothing. I don’t really like wearing rugby shirts that advertise whisky or stout, because I don’t drink.  Why should I be a free advert for alcohol?

I do notice adverts in magazines, though.


I get a lot of emails inviting me to add ads to my blog or website. I always say no.  Well, not always, I sometimes write back … but that’s another story for another day.

I always say no because, although they could potentially raise a couple of hundred quid a year adverts on blogs just annoy me so I presume that they will annoy other people too.

Besides, I’d have no control over what was being advertised on my website.

So … no adverts now or ever on this blog, folks.

AdBlock plus

Once I’d read Gary Marshall’s article I fired up my PC and installed AdBlock Plus for Google Chrome and AdBlock Plus for Mozilla Firefox.  A couple of tweaks later (to let me watch YouTube videos) and I was off…

I’ve not had a single annoying advert since, and to be honest I really don’t miss them.

Of course, the irony of seeing a piece of software advertised in a magazine which led me to immediately downloading and installing it there and then hasn’t passed me by.


I’ve been really enjoying playing with for the last wee while.

Got this in an email from them the other day:

Coming Soon!
Here are 12 things we’re working right now that we can publicly talk about (yes there are some surprises still in the bag):

  1. Improved scalability
  2. Video replies
  3. More comment functionality
  4. Shorter urls posted to twitter, etc.
  5. Email settings
  6. Privacy control
  7. More 3rd party site support
  8. More mobile integration
  9. Account deletion
  10. Upload from web page
  11. Improved tagging, grouping, and navigation
  12. Improved recorder

Really looking forward to the video replies feature in particular.  Good stuff!

Is it Christmas?


Online calendar applications, such as Google Calendar, Yahoo! Calendar and CalendarHub, are getting increasingly more popular these days.

They enable you to keep track of your busy schedule no matter where you are. With the right software or plugin you can even synchronize them with your main desktop calendar such as Microsoft Outlook or Apple iCal, or with your PDA.

Well, here’s a highly specialist calendar application: Is it Christmas?. It even has its own RSS feed.

It does only one thing, but it does it very efficiently and very well: it tells you whether today is Christmas or not.

My only criticism is that it doesn’t tell you in which time zone the site is hosted.

For example, San Francisco is 8 hours behind UK time, so if the site is hosted in London and some poor kid in SF might check out the site at 16:01 his time and spoil his whole Christmas experience by opening his presents a day early.

Maybe it should be called Is it Christmas (give or take 12 hours, depending upon in which time zone you live)?.

Deleted Images

View out of a window

If Flickr is about sharing your best photographs with the rest of the world, then Deleted Images: The junkyard of art is about sharing your worst.

The idea is simple: brings unsharp, moved, blurry and unfocused pictures back to life. So before you delete you images on your camera. Have another look and start sharing what you would have deleted with the rest of the world.

I’ve got a collection of similar types of photos in my days of using real 35mm film. Somehow I was loath to bin them. These photos captured something unrehearsed, unposed and natural.

I should dig them out, scan them and create a special category on my Flickr account, or submit them to Deleted Images.

Why not submit your worst photos today!


David Cameron standing in front of the Reichstag in Berlin

While I’m not a supporter of the UK Conservative Party I am very impressed with their leader David Cameron’s blog:

Not only is it a great pun on ‘webcam‘, it is, as far as I am concerned, the most accessible and personal website of any of the major political parties in the UK.

This is a perfect example of the power of the Web to connect with people.


The site contains regular video blog updates from David Cameron as he is out and about. Recent video blog postings have included:

  • Meeting Angela Merkel in Berlin
  • Launching National Citizen’s Service
  • The unveiling of the Mandela statue
  • Making sure we succeed in Afghanistan

You get a good insight into what the leader of a major political party does, and what he believes, what for him are the important issues. I’d love for the other political leaders to do something similar.


As well as the broadcast media, visitors have the option to register on the forums and discuss issues that are important to them. It would appear that David Cameron himself replies to some of these questions; and given all the furore over recent television shenanigans about fixed phone-ins, I guess these replies really must be from him.


The site is very well put together, it has a clean modern design and very easy to navigate.

I only really have two criticisms about the site:

  1. No link to The Conservative Party website
    I can’t find a link to The Conservative Party website anywhere on the site. Anywhere. At all. That’s not a good advert!

  2. Click here?
    On the First visit page there are a couple of badly placed links. One says “To register as a new user, click here.” Links are often the first thing people spot, so you need to give them keywords, give them actions, give them what they want. That sentence would have been much better as: “Register as a new user.

I’m not sure, however, that I’ve got enough webspace to list my criticisms of The Conservative Party! I remember the 80s!

Other political parties are available

Full list on Wikipedia