SitePoint Podcast #142: The Last Panel of 2011

Episode 142 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week the panel is made up of Louis Simoneau (@rssaddict), Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves and Patrick O’Keefe (@ifroggy).

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Episode Summary

Here are the main topics covered in this episode:

Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/142.

Host Spotlights

Interview Transcript

Louis:: Hello and welcome to another episode of the SitePoint Podcast, we’ve got a panel show this week, Patrick and Stephan are on the line with me, hi, guys.

Stephan: Hey, Louis:!

Patrick: Hey, Louis:!

Louis:: Our newest member of the panel, Kevin, could not make it this week so there are only three, but we’ve got a lot to talk about so I reckon it will be a good show.

Patrick: Yeah, we didn’t like him so we kicked him off the show, no, (laughter), just kidding, just kidding.

Louis:: That’s not true.

Patrick: No, that’s not true.

Louis:: Kevin’s great and he’ll be back next panel show which I believe will be in the New Year because next week I’ll be doing an interview and then we’ll be taking two weeks off for the holidays.

Patrick: Yes, two weeks vacation that we get every year (laughter).

Louis:: Well deserved, it’s been a great year of podcasting.

Patrick: Excellent, yes. You joined the team, so.

Stephan: It’s hard to believe it’s been a year.

Louis:: I don’t even remember when I came, when I started doing the podcast.

Patrick: I don’t know, we’ll have to look that up, but —

Stephan: We’ll have to look that up, yeah.

Patrick: It was in 2011 I’ll tell you that.

Stephan: (Laughs) Thanks, Patrick.

Louis:: It was #110 on the 1st of May 2011.

Patrick: May 1, 2011, excellent. So a good seven months into the show come January 1st. And of course you had been kind of the interview host in some ways; Kevin had secretly snuck you in.

Louis:: Yeah, I’d done a couple of shows before that.

Patrick: To do some of his work (laughs), and then we brought you on officially, so, excellent!

Louis:: So this makes it the last panel show of the year so the pressure’s on, but we gotta kill it.

Patrick: Yes, absolutely, let’s kill the show.

Louis:: (Laughs) with that in mind I’ll throw it to you, Patrick, for the first story.

Patrick: Cool. So my story is about Firefox, and Firefox is my browser, I still have not yet downloaded Chrome. Actually I said on this show that I was going to finally download it, and to test a bug, but the person emailed me back and said the bug has resolved itself (laughter), so I still didn’t need to. But plenty of other people are downloading Chrome because according to Statcounter.com it became in November the second most popular browser in the world, behind IE, and got ahead of Firefox; it has overall the market share of 25.74%, Firefox, both versions 3.7 and 4.0+ are down to 25.24%, so Chrome is up .5%, half a percent, and Firefox lost a full percent of ground, more than a full percent of ground in just one month with Chrome gaining .69, and I guess, finally, it’s been on a steady ascent, achieving that number two browser mark. And I guess one of the things I’m wondering about Chrome is does it have the metal, I guess you could say, to challenge Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer did see a gain in November as well, it went from 40.18 to 40.63, it say a marked gain in the U.S. going from 46.11 to 50.66, so a 4% gain in the U.S., but then again Chrome hasn’t lost in months and months it seems, it just continues to go up. So, can Chrome challenge Internet Explorer?

Louis:: To me the interesting thing here is I always see the Chrome and Firefox use as sort of being championed by the more techie crowd, and they’ll get all their family and friends to upgrade their browsers and to switch away from IE, and I wonder if that’s going to be slightly less the case with the new IE, right. From IE9 and IE10 we’re seeing great performance, good security, good support for standards, and I’m wondering whether if someone gets a brand new Windows computer tomorrow would you be less likely to try and get them to upgrade or switch their browser than you would have been five years ago when someone got XP with IE6.

Stephan: That’s a good question.

Patrick: That’s a fair question. I don’t know the answer to that question.

Stephan: Well, it’d be really great if we could see the numbers on how it did with the conversion, it’d be awesome; I’m sure Google wishes they knew what the conversion rate was on different things because I notice in certain plugins that Google has, like Google, I think it’s Analytics, they — I’m using it in WordPress, and if I use Safari it pops up and tells me that I’m using and outdated browser, the AdSense, or the Analytics plugin for WordPress. So, I find that interesting, so do you think like people that are publishing websites using WordPress or some kind of plugin that Google makes are getting these popups and going, hey, I’m gonna go download that because it’s from Google or do you think that it’s really family members that are driving this?

Louis:: Yeah, maybe, there’s something to be said, I mean Google did put out a pretty significant marketing push for Chrome, they did some ads, they did some TV ads, and I think the Google name resonates for a lot of people with respect to the Internet, and it gives you an impression, of speed at least, that was considerable I’d say a year or two ago; I think the other browsers have sort of caught up now. Yeah, I’m not sure, I mean personally like you, Patrick, I’m a Firefox user, and I’ve switched to Chrome on my work machine because I have a lot of stuff open and it’s kind of a little slightly underpowered machine, and I find that Chrome does better on limited resources, but on my home machine which is a pretty powerful box I use Firefox because I just prefer the feature set. To me it seems like it was definitely a hugely important thing for the Internet and for us as web developers to have at least one browser that wasn’t put out by a private company with ulterior motives. And I think Firefox is super important on that respect because the Mozilla Foundation’s only goal is trying to make the Internet better and trying to advance standards, so I think it’s super important that they stick around at the very least, so hopefully Chrome won’t put too big a dent in.

Patrick: Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see what exactly I guess the plateau is for Chrome because looking at the chart I mean it’s just been up, up, up, up, up. It has gained year over year about 13%, 12 to 13%, and that’s come directly from Firefox and IE; Firefox has fallen 6% and IE has fallen about 8%, so 8+6, 14, 13% gain, I mean it’s coming right from it, so I don’t know what the plateau will be for Chrome but it’ll be interesting to watch I guess.

Stephan: The gain is about to be the Chrome version number, I mean once they hit 15% gain, you know, we’re on Chrome 15 now, so; every show I bring this up, any show that we talk about Chrome I gotta bring up the version number because they’re like on version 15 and we’re on IE8, you know (laughs).

Patrick: Maybe that’s how they have to dumb it down, that’s how they have to dumb down the marketing. Is IE on version 9, version 10, what is that, those are pitiful numbers, we’re on 30 America, the world; we are double what they are!

Louis:: Chrome doesn’t really advertise its version number at all, like you have to dig a little to even see what version, you go onto the website and you just download Chrome and it updates itself in the background, you don’t even know you’re getting a new version.

Stephan: Exactly.

Patrick: Yeah, that’s a good point, good point.

Stephan: Isn’t that the way Firefox has kind of gone?

Louis:: Firefox is doing that but it’ll still tell you, it’ll still, like it told me recently we’ve recently updated to Firefox 8, you want to restart and it’ll be running. I still think the background way of doing it is probably the best because it allows them to push across updates rapidly and transparently without disrupting users.

Stephan: Yeah.

Patrick: Right, yeah, just to draw a conclusion to the numbers, I mentioned the U.S. numbers, IE’s like 50.66, Firefox is still number two in the U.S., 20.09, and Chrome is third at 17.3, and where Louis: is, Australia, IE has a 40.72, Firefox
23 ½ almost, and Chrome just almost 21, so, Firefox is still number two in the U.S. and in Australia.

Louis:: Where are those gains coming from for Chrome?

Patrick: Well, Chrome is strong in the UK, I know that, I pulled up the numbers for the UK as well, IE is 42.82%, Chrome is number two, 24.82, and Firefox is 20.56, so Chrome has been number two in the UK for a few months, since July; so that’s one country where they are strong. I don’t have an easy way to look at necessarily which countries they’re the strongest in, but the UK is certainly one area that they are leading the way and are just, looks like, 18% below IE. So, yeah, I guess part two of this discussion that I wanted to bring up is an article about — at ReadWriteWeb by John Paul Titlow, the headline was, Is Firefox Doomed? And there are two reasons he asked this question, first, of course, is the market share slip, and then second is that Mozilla’s three year partnership with Google is coming to an end or has come to an end in November. Back in 2008 they signed a three year deal for Google to be the default search engine in Firefox, and Google has contributed about 84% of Firefox’s total revenue during that span. Three years is up, the deal is up, haven’t heard any news about it being renewed, so you have a sizeable chunk of the money that, I guess you could say powers Firefox, may disappear. Now, he says Microsoft might just jump right in line to pick up if Google lets that lax and take that default search engine mark from Google, but right now there’s no news about that. So, is Firefox in trouble or did Firefox accomplish its goal?

Louis:: Like I said before, I think it’s hugely important that there be an independent browser on the market, so I think that for us as web developers and for geeks and people who love the Internet I think it’s a huge benefit to have something that’s not driven by the need to sell advertising or the need to convert customers. I think already even the Chrome new tab pages has changed a little bit and is kind of gradually edging into the direction of trying to get you to install Chrome Apps or to use Google products, and that’s kind of a concerning slip away from just being a tool that you access the Internet indiscriminately with. So for me it’s hugely important, but, so when you said that 80-something percent of the revenue, is that 86% of the revenue coming into Firefox or that Firefox generates or is that of the Mozilla Foundation’s operating revenue in its entirety?

Patrick: So, where that number comes from is ZNet’s Ed Bott, and he mentions in an article that in 2010 84% of Mozilla’s 123 million in revenue came directly from Google, that’s roughly 100 million in funds that will vanish or be drastically cut if the deal is either not renewed or is renegotiated on terms that are less favorable to Mozilla. So, I don’t know how you want to read that necessarily, if it’s 84% of Mozilla’s revenue is what he says, but 84% of Firefox’s money or 84% of Mozilla’s money, either way I guess it’s still a sizeable sum.

Louis:: Yeah, that’s huge. It seems like what you were mentioning that this is an opportunity for another competing search provider to jump in and snap up that partnership. It sounds pretty reasonable, right, I mean as far as I can tell Bing is still somewhat struggling, and this would be a great way to bump up the share. The question is would that be acceptable to Firefox users, you know; if you download Firefox and suddenly you’re on Bing, is that somewhat of a jarring experience if you’re a Google user.

Patrick: Does Firefox signing a search deal with Google, with Microsoft or with whoever, fly in the face of the idea that we need a browser that doesn’t need to sell ads and doesn’t need to sell things if they’re selling the default search engine, or I guess do we understand the need for them to have money, or how does that, I guess, coexist?

Louis:: I don’t know. It feels to me like it’s a pretty minimal item, right, I mean there’s going to be a default search engine one way or the other, right, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that that search engine would be either Bing or Google because those are pretty much the two major offerings, sorry to all the other players in the search space. So, you know, if they can get a deal and get some money out of it I think it’s a win-win. The thing is that’s not influencing any other aspects of the code, and they’re not changing the user interface in response to these pressures, so I still think they have a stronger independent position than the other browsers in the market.

Stephan: As long as they don’t sign a deal with Yahoo I think they’ll be okay (laughter). Sorry, had to insert a little humor there, you know.

Louis:: That’s alright, that’s alright, that would be hilarious. I can imagine loading up Firefox 10 and suddenly Yahoo is the default, what’s going on? (Laughter)

Stephan: Delete, delete!

Louis:: I can’t find anything, where am I?!

Patrick: Whoever will give them the hundred million.

Stephan: I don’t think Yahoo has a hundred million to do it.

Louis:: Is that the amount; is it a hundred million dollars?

Patrick: Well, that’s the estimate if you take 123 and 84% of 123 million is about 100 million dollars, so, and I think that’s the end.

Louis:: Wow. Sorry, I’m just testing Yahoo, wow, that’s awesome. I just searched for SitePoint on Yahoo because I hadn’t done it in forever, and the first result is a sponsored ad for eBay.com.au/guitar, which says bargain SitePoint here, bid and win SitePoint on eBay Australia.

Patrick: SitePoint’s available, finally! And it’s not on Flippa?

Louis:: And it’s ebay.com.au/guitar so I assume, oh no, it’s actually SitePoint items, that is weird. Anyway, just a moment of passing nostalgia for the Yahoo search engine there. Alright, I apologize to all our Yahoo listeners; you got a lot of great products.

Stephan: (Laughs)

Louis:: Oh no, wait, they sold Delicious (laughter).

Stephan: Ha, ha, ha, ha, snap! They still got Flickr.

Patrick: I gotta step in now and say that, you know when I was coming up and developing websites for the first time I loved Yahoo, and I still hold hats and glove for Yahoo because they do have some good products. Now, put Delicious aside, they’ve always been strong in like Yahoo Finance, that’s a strong product, Yahoo Sports is a strong product.

Louis:: Oh, yeah, that’s true. Yeah, that’s a good point.

Patrick: The fantasy sports stuff they do, they have these niche products that are very strong that I’ve always used, and then of course they do so many different things and a lot of things they don’t well, and that’s really the problem I guess, but, you know, Yahoo, I hope Yahoo comes back and these strong products get the shine that they deserve I suppose.

Stephan: Bring back Pipes.

Patrick: (Laughs) bring back Pipes.

Louis:: Is Pipes dead?

Stephan: It’s not dead it’s just not, I don’t know, it’s not up-kept really well.

Louis:: Right. That’s a good — it’s a good product, it’s a great idea.

Stephan: I still use it, it’s just that —

Patrick: It’s still there.

Stephan: They haven’t put a lot of use, they haven’t done a lot to it, like they’ve just given you this — like there’s so much more they could do to it. Anyway, I’m getting off-topic, sorry.

Louis:: I think we’ve been off-topic for a little while here.

Patrick: No, we’re already off-topic, this is the Yahoo segment! (laughter).

Louis:: Alright, maybe time to move on to the next story. I’ll take this one. So this is something that I spotted on Hacker News yesterday, and what has happened is that the jQuery plugin site is offline and has just been shut down by the jQuery team. Now what the comments here on the post on Hacker News, there’s a couple comments by some of the core team at jQuery and mentioning that they’re working on a new plugin site and they’re gonna blog about that in the next few days. But basically what happened is they were concerned with a lot of sort of spam in the plugin site, so this was at plugins.jquery.com, so if you go there now you see just a simple message saying “The plugin site is currently unavailable, we’ve been looking to provide a high quality spam-free experience for some time, and we’ve just decided to temporarily shutter the existing site and will be providing more details on the new site soon.” So basically they’ve just shut the whole thing off and said, look, we’re working on a new one, but basically as we were working on the new one we came to the conclusion that a lot of the content on the current one was so spammy that rather than just try and clean it we’d turn it off, so it’s a pretty drastic move.

Patrick: Yeah, and by the time we do another show a month from now or there around they’ll probably have the new site up, so we’ll probably be talking about that.

Louis:: Yeah, I’m interested to see what’s going to come out of it and how it’s going to differ from the previous one. I have to say I didn’t really use the jQuery plugin site very much, usually a lot of times when you search for a jQuery plugin for something on Google the results you’d find would actually be the developer’s personal site where they posted the plugin rather than on this central location. But there are definitely other examples of this kind of thing done well, if you look at WordPress, WordPress’ plugins and add-on site and Mozilla’s add-on sites are really well done, and they’ve got a good way of floating the quality content at the top and curating it by the community reviews. So it’ll be interesting to see what the jQuery team’s put together, but I just thought it was an interesting move rather than wait until the new one was ready and do a switchover and like, hey guys, we got this new plugin site, they just went, oh, yep, the old plugin site is crap so you can’t use it, and we’ll build a new one eventually but we’re not gonna tell you when.

Patrick: Well, when you put it like that, yeah (laughter). Because in my head is was like, well, you know, we didn’t like what we had so we’re gonna take it down for a few days, it’ll be back soon, and we love you; that’s how I read it, I don’t know.

Louis:: (Laughs) Well, I think there are a couple of different ways to read this, right, and it seems to me like a bit of a blog post rather than suddenly hitting — I don’t think there’s actually even a blog post on the jQuery blog about it, yet; they said there was gonna be a blog post about what happened soon, but basically some developer was just working on this and decided, well, you know what — I mean I know we’ve all had those days, right, when you’re looking at the thing and thinking ‘this is all crap, I just want to tear it down’.

Patrick: The podcast sucks, my life is ruined, shut it all down, it’s garbage.

Louis:: Yeah, right, you have those days, but it looks like someone really carried through on this one.

Patrick: Is that an ultimatum of a dare? I’m just kidding.

Stephan: Wow, I’m just reading through some of these comments, it’s just, you know, it’s funny to see people get really upset, and there’s other people like trying to justify it, and then there’s other people giving the technical reasons; comments are hilarious, I love comments (laughter).

Louis:: I love comments in some places, it’s not always — if you ever find yourself reading the comments on like a major news outlet’s website that will make you hate humanity in record time.

Stephan: We’re gonna get to that. We’re gonna get to that in my story, so don’t jump the gun yet.

Louis:: Okay, I won’t jump the gun, but comments, I mean obviously on Hacker News and Reddit, you know, these sites thrive on the quality of the community, and you get great insight and great trolling as well, even, you know, even when they’re trolling they’re entertaining.

Stephan: Nothing like good trolling. Nothing like good trolling (laughter).

Louis:: Well, on that note, do you want to just jump into your story?

Stephan: Yeah. Yeah, so, Brent Simmons who runs Inessential.com has a blog post up called The Pummeling Pages, and it’s quite a good read just from a perspective of you reading a website and what the Web has become in the past, oh, I don’t know, five years, six years. And he really talks about how his use of Reader, in the Reader button in Safari, and how quickly he’s using it when he goes to different websites. Just from the idea that you know there’s all these ads, there’s comments everywhere, there’s just junk all over what used to be useful pages, and it’s not just run-of-the-mill blogs, it’s news sites that we actually use, and he draws a comparison to the merchants war where this was predicted before; lower class people would be subjected to a ton of advertising while upper class people were being insulated, and I don’t know if that’s actually true, but I know that we’re being hit with a lot more advertising for what amounts to not better content, right. So, it’s a good read about just getting rid of the junk off your page. And I just want to know what you guys think.

Louis:: Well, I think like I was saying before, there’s a distinction here between the way mainstream publications approach this versus the way sort of Internet publications approach this. So, a traditional newspaper site that’s been ported into the Internet definitely tends to suffer from this problem where you’ve got a thousand share buttons and widgets and comments, and it’s like a 1200 word article split onto seven pages that each take about seven seconds to load. I love the first sentence of this essay, by the way, he starts the whole thing off with, “I made the mistake of going to a website today,” period; great way of kicking into it, so I really like this essay. But there are a lot of specialized blogs out there targeting a specific niche or just, you know, that started this Internet publication that are a lot leaner. And do you think maybe it’s just because these traditional publications have leases on offices and have all this staff that they need to support, and as they’re declining revenues from their print publications they’re constantly under pressure to jack-up the amount of money that they can bring in through the sites where a lot of the newer generation of Internet based content providers were sort of lean from the start, and whatever money they make from their ads by providing quality content that differentiates them from the rest isn’t enough to cover what they need to pay.

Stephan: Well, he kind of touches on this, and he talks about he worked for a company that worked with a bunch of publishers, Taplinks is the name of the company, and he said that the number three thing that they had in common, that all of these different publishers had in common, was the unanswering, unswerving faith in supreme value of analytics. So they would look at their numbers and say, well, that article got a lot of hits, let’s write another one like that, right, and that’s the totally wrong way to do it, right. I mean if we’re writing articles just to get hits then we’re doing the wrong thing, we should be writing articles because there’s something to be written, not because we want ad money, so maybe that’s the first step.

Patrick: Well —

Stephan: But you need money, right, Patrick?

Patrick: Awkward laugh. Right, I mean I don’t know — if that’s wrong then I would say a lot of people are doing it wrong right now. And I think it’s — I don’t think it’s all bad to write articles that people want to read, I don’t think. Because that’s another way to read that sentence, that’s another way to say that same thing is that people are writing content that people come for, right?

Stephan: Eh, but I don’t know about that, though, because to me you can make —

Patrick: In some cases.

Stephan: — money without forcing people to look at a bunch of ads for a good article, like why do you have to fill the page with a bunch of junk.

Patrick: So this is a tough discussion because I’m not sensitive to advertising, ads don’t bother me, really, they don’t; ads on the Web don’t bother me at all. The only thing that bothers me is, and it’s only occasionally, is when there’s sound that plays automatically in-ad, that is decidedly rare on most publications that I read.

Louis:: But what about when it affects the load time significantly, and when they artificially —

Patrick: That doesn’t bother me.

Louis:: — try and inflate the pageviews for those advertisers by paginating the article needlessly.

Patrick: Okay, so that, the paginating, great word, is, uh, you know, I’ll confess to being maybe a little bothered by that, slightly perturbed perhaps (laughter), but it just doesn’t bother me that much because, you know, when most people complain about ads on a website I look at that site and I say that’s no big deal, because I look at content and I look at ads in percentages, most pages that I visit don’t have ads in even 30% of the page, and/or even 30, 35, 40%, more than half the page is other stuff, content, logos, navigation, etcetera, and that’s what I try to weigh on my sites, which I would say have less than average volume of advertising versus let’s say similar sites or other websites on the Web, because that’s where websites are, on the Web. So, I almost feel just to — I guess to present the counter to this is that there’s a sense of entitlement that shows its ugly head sometimes because there’s such a subjective thing that goes on with these comments where some people feel these ads are too — or there’s too many, they don’t like the type of advertising, they don’t like what the ads about; these publications have to make money to sustain themselves, and it’s not always one ad a page or a couple ads a page, and it’s not always going to be targeted to the topic. If it isn’t showing nudity, right, or cigarettes or alcohol, and it’s not popping up and it’s not playing noise, then I don’t have a problem with it for the most part, it doesn’t bother me.

Stephan: But that’s kind of the point though, Patrick, I think is that in some of these places they are popping up.

Patrick: But that’s rare though.

Stephan: But these are supposed to be reputable sites some of them.

Patrick: I mean that is so rare though on news sites to have a popup ad these days for the amount of pages that I visit.

Stephan: You’re saying you never get — like I’ll be on my phone and I’ll go to a link that I see on Twitter and it’ll be to some news site, some reputable news site, and instead of me being able to go to the article I get a little popup that keeps me from scrolling through the content, and I gotta wait five seconds.

Patrick: Right, so an overlay or an interstitial, yeah.

Stephan: Yes!

Patrick: I get those ads and honestly they don’t bother me. I can see why they bother some people, but they just don’t bother me all that much. Not so much that it makes me hate the Web or hate the publication or want to find a way to screw them of that revenue by viewing their content in some other means, it just doesn’t push me that far. I understand it pushes some people that far, but, I think that this is a case where this is an issue people complain about, but instead of complaining show me how I can make the same revenue through another method, show me that; if I can’t then we have a problem because people want to make more money, they want to do it more often than not in a way that’s appropriate for their audience, show them a way to do it, and if you can then you’re a genius and you’ll be a millionaire. If not then it’s one of the challenges we have to face today as a publisher online.

Louis:: I think, Stephan, coming back to the original point, it seems like this is a divide that’s maybe always existed in news, right, if you look at traditional newspapers, right, the division between sort of, what, the tabloid approach and a broadsheet approach, is pretty much that, right, I mean the tabloid papers have traditionally gone this same route of analytics, and you know this headline will sell more copies and it doesn’t matter how good the content is we just want a headline that’ll sell more copies, and if that happens to be trashy celebrity gossip then that’s what we’re gonna print. And there’s always been space for both approaches in print media, and I think there will be space for both approaches in online journalism as well, in online content publication of all kinds you’ll have people with the attempt to create good content with an attention to design, and there’ll be other people who are driven by analytics to just cram the whole thing full of ads and headlines that’ll get the most clicks, and paginate out the content and do all these other dodgy tricks to try and get more ad revenue. And maybe the jarringness, though, comes in the sense that some of the businesses that were on one side of the line in the print world have gone over the other side of the line in the digital world, right. So, you know we’ve seen a lot of traditionally, what you said, reputable or respectable news sources that have sort of embraced this more tabloid style approach to their online presence. And like what I was saying earlier, I think that a lot of the newer, the newer generation of dedicated online publications, a lot of them have taken the approach of really just focusing on the design, providing quality content, and a few targeted ads with partners that give them good rates based on conversions instead of just pageview banners from old print advertisers, if that makes sense; that was a bit of a rant.

Stephan: No, I agree. So do you click on ads, though, when you go to new sites?

Louis:: No.

Stephan: I’m interested.

Patrick: He’s gonna say no. He’s gonna say no, no, everyone says no.

Stephan: Do you click on ads, Patrick?

Patrick: No one ever clicks on ads. I will click on an ad if I find it interesting, I mean the funny thing is, and I have this conversation with people who are technical, I’m sure you guys do too sometimes, and no one ever clicks on ads, they don’t look at ads, they don’t know ads, they just don’t see them. And my response to that is always, sure you do; unless you have them blocked through Ad Blocker or something similar, if they allure on the page advertising will have some impact on you, it might be minor, but, advertising isn’t there just to be clicked on either. Let’s not forget there’s other forms of advertising besides cost-per-click, CPM ads and ads that are meant to establish a company or for branding or whatever, and even if you don’t click on ads, ads still have value for the advertiser, for the publisher and possibly for the viewer. And, I mean, yeah, so that’s my thought on that. I have clicked on ads before and I’ll click on ads where they’re interesting, and what I always tell people, though, is to vote with your feet, right?

Louis:: Yeah, I mean I agree with you, I’m not going to say I don’t click on ads ever. I don’t click on ads on these mainstream news sites because most of the time they’re crap.

Patrick: Right.

Louis:: Most of the time they’re ads for cars or new phones or shopping or, you know, just —

Patrick: Nothing that you partake in.

Louis:: — mass market crap. Whereas if you look at design or development sites that I read, if they have ads they’ll be for either books or courses on web design and development or new tools or things like that, that even if I don’t intend to buy it I might want to find out what it is or what it’s about, so I’ve definitely clicked on ads in a niche, it’s just that usually the stuff on the major news outlets are just not stuff that I have any interest in so I tend to ignore it. But as I was saying earlier, I don’t regularly read on those sites either because the experience, as this essay has put it, is so unpleasant that it makes it really not worth the while.

Patrick: Yeah. Just to comment on what I was saying about voting with your feet, what I mean is that if you like someone’s content then visit their website or subscribe to it in the means that they provide. I don’t necessarily believe in the idea, though I know many do, that if I like someone’s content I’ll find some other way to read it outside of ways they allow and do what I want to it. A lot of people do that, a lot of people feel that way, I don’t feel that way; if I don’t like the experience they provide and it bothers me enough then I don’t feel that I’m also entitled to consume their content. That may seem idealistic, I suppose, but that’s just how I view it; if someone does do that to their website where they butcher it so badly or there’s ads I don’t like or the experience is so poor that I can’t enjoy the content then I don’t visit the website and they lose traffic, that’s the approach that I recommend that people take.

Stephan: See I’m not saying people should go out there and start stealing content, I think for me, you know I use Instapaper, I’ve said that before, and so sometimes I will grab an article on a news site because it won’t load fast enough on my phone, I’m just like I can’t wait for this so I just download it to Instapaper and then I’ll read it later. So am I stealing the content, I don’t know, I still read the website when I can get on my computer, you know, like the New York Times, I’ll still read it on my computer, and I’ll still look around the site, so am I stealing the content, I don’t know. What do you think, Patrick, give me your moral opinion on that.

Patrick: (Laughs) Uh, no, I don’t think so. I don’t think you’re stealing the content. We’re at a crossroads, I think, and we’ve been at the crossroads for a while, and I don’t know who’s winning or losing or what the longterm effect is going to be, but you know there are a lot of tools out there that are used to circumvent advertising, and those are concerning just because people want to think that there’s a limitless way to make money online, but there’s not, right, there’s essentially — everything goes back to two main things, either get money from the people who enjoy your content or you get money from the people who want to reach the people who enjoy your content, and from there there’s a lot of division. But, it’s essentially always those two things, so there’s one or two parties you’re getting money from, and it’s definitely challenging and getting harder and more difficult I would say to, in some ways, and less difficult in others, because advertising online the revenue spend the companies are allotting is going up, so that’s a good thing, but there are more companies out there and there are more tools that people are using to circumvent the advertising, whether it be Adblock or something else. So it’s definitely challenging, and what I encourage people to do is just to, you know, if they enjoy someone’s content support them and do what they can to make sure they’ll be here tomorrow.

Stephan: So here’s a question for you guys, just kind of a theoretical question. If you had a donate button on a site for someone whose content you really enjoyed, would you prefer to do that or would you prefer to click on an ad for them, which is more genuine?

Louis:: Oh, the donate is definitely more genuine, it’s definitely a clearer expression of, hey; it’s a tip jar, right? You know, this is great content and here’s two bucks or here’s whatever; clicking on an ad I’m sort of indirectly supporting them by supporting someone else, and maybe it’s disingenuous because I click on the ad and then not buy the thing. If I’m clicking on the ad just to provide them with revenue then that’s needless, right, that’s costing this other company that’s advertising money to make the site look less pretty so that I can give a small fraction of money to the person that I like their content, right, that’s needlessly circuitous, but does it work better than donate, and I guess it depends on how direct and how personal a connection you have with your readers. There are some people whose blog I read that if they asked for donations I would definitely give it to them because they’ve established themselves as a clear personality that’s doing this because they love to do it, and I like their website and I like the content they put out and I know who they are, I’d give those people money, but there are some other organizations that I just don’t have that connection and it might be a bigger leap to click donate, right?

Patrick: I agree with Louis: about clicking ads to click ads, that’s a bad thing, don’t do it, it throws the whole value proposition out of whack for everyone, it inflates numbers for publishers, it inflates numbers for advertisers, it’s just bad. So you don’t wan to click ads just to support a publication, click an ad if you have any interest in it; if that’s why you’re clicking it then it’s genuine and do it. You know and as far as like donate, donate buttons, donate buttons to me I would never add one because they look desperate to me, and maybe this is just a matter of verbiage, right, and a semantical thing I’m saying, but instead of having a donate button play with micro-payments however you can. Now maybe that is subscription, maybe they can subscribe to your content for exclusive content or to see it first or to see it without ads, you know, make that sort of thing available, three dollars a month, five dollars a month, ten dollars a month, depending on the value of what you provide and how much you think you can get; I think it’s good to have that. Now as far as what would I do, you know, right now I don’t subscribe to any publications like that, and I am in a place financially where I don’t necessarily want to do that right now, but when I’m not in that place I would definitely consider it. If given the choice between viewing ads or paying something, I would say I’m more likely to want to just view ads or have ads on the page, and have myself be counted in whatever analytics program is serving the ads, and then I’ll benefit them in that way as well, but if you can you know it’s great to provide options to your readers.

Stephan: So maybe I’ll do a little experiment and say support my writing and have a little donate button and just see what happens on my site.

Patrick: (Laughs) for badice.com?

Stephan: Yeah, yeah, I don’t know, maybe I will.

Patrick: (Laughs)

Stephan: We’ll see. What’s so funny about that?

Patrick: I might just give you money.

Stephan: (Laughs)

Patrick: I don’t know; you got to have regular content.

Stephan: I do have regular content now; I’ve been blogging a lot more, thank you very much.

Patrick: Now? Okay, yeah.

Stephan: Yeah, see; see you don’t even read it so it doesn’t matter.

Patrick: No, no, I’ve subscribed, November 30th, November 29th, November 13th, November 4th, four posts in November.

Stephan: Yeah, that’s pretty good.

Louis:: That’s not bad.

Patrick: (Laughs)

Stephan: It’s quality stuff, man, it’s quality; quality over quantity (laughter).

Patrick: Put up a pay wall!

Louis:: Alright, I think we should wrap this up and go to spotlights because it’s turned into kind of a long discussion.

Patrick: I’ll go first, good discussion, guys. My spotlight is a skit that was on Saturday Night Live on this past Saturday, it is called Batman, it is an SNL digital short, Andy Samberg as Batman, Steve Buscemi as Commissioner Gordon, what else do I need to say (laughter), I think that sets it up perfectly, and if you haven’t seen it yet go check it out. Let’s say Batman is a little too attached to Commissioner Gordon.

Louis:: (Laughs) Ah, that’s terrifying. I will have a look.

Stephan: I can go next. I have an article in the New York Times called Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue. And it’s just a good read about all the decisions we make everyday and kind of the toll it takes on us mentally, physically, physiologically, just some interesting stuff, and I’d say we all need to read it just so, you know; everyday you’re making tons and tons of decisions, and it does play a part, it does stress you out without you even knowing it, which is interesting.

Louis:: Awesome. I love this kind of stuff; I’ll definitely give it a read. My spotlight this week is surprise, surprise, web development related. One of the designers, I believe, at GitHub, Director of Design at GitHub, sorry, posted this just today which is this Ruby based library that has the purpose of generating documentation for CSS. So it’s a lot like these other documentation generators for programming languages except for CSS, and it can be used either with plain CSS or if you’re using a preprocessor like Sass or LESS, and obviously it’s just been released on GitHub so it’s a brand new project, but I was having a look at it and someone who has a pretty constant inability to organize my CSS in any way, shape or form, it’s just one giant file filled with stuff, and I pretty much use control F to find the thing I want to edit, this looks like a really good way of organizing and providing clear documentation, sort of saying, alright, so this dot star is a button that lets you favorite your content and it looks like this, and in a hover state it’ll look like this, and it generates out some pretty good-looking documentation. So definitely keep an eye on this as it develops.

Patrick: Sweet.

Stephan: What’s this written in?

Louis:: It’s written in Ruby, so he’s written — he wrote a specification for it which is just how to write your documentation, which obviously is just in your CSS as comments at the top of each declaration, and he’s written a Ruby library which takes that and generates sort of an HTML documentation file from it.

Stephan: Yeah, that’s cool, that’s really nice. And in the corporate world documentation rules, so.

Louis:: (Laughs) And looking at the — so he’s got an example screenshot, I don’t know if you saw this, Stephan, of what the sort of the output style guide looks like.

Stephan: Yeah.

Louis:: And it really looks fantastic. I’m like if I came unto a new project and had to write CSS and I had a style guide like this, that would be, you know, a dream.

Stephan: Yeah, I mean that’d be really helpful, and I’m not even really into CSS, but I could see where this is really useful for someone new to a project, it’d be great.

Louis:: Awesome. So that’s a wrap for this week. I think we lived up to our expectations for the last panel show of the year, I think we really killed it, congratulations (laughs).

Patrick: It’s dead.

Stephan: It’s dead.

Patrick: There will be no more.

Louis:: Yeah, so it’s been a great year, guys, thanks for all your warm welcome on the show, I’ve had a lot of fun.

Patrick: Awesome. Thank you, you’ve done a great job.

Louis:: And I’ll be back next week with an interview show, and then we’ll be seeing — we’ll be, I don’t even know how to say this; we’ll be seeing the listeners in the New Year in some way, shape or form.

Patrick: We’ll be coming back with a vengeance, as I told Kevin (laughter). That was my guarantee; you’ll be back with a vengeance in January! Yes, dramatic.

So let’s take it around the table. I am Patrick O’Keefe for the iFroggy Network; I blog at managingcommunities.com, on Twitter @ifroggy, i-f-r-o-g-g-y.

Stephan: I’m Stephan Segraves, you can find me at badice.com, and I’m on Twitter @ssegraves.

Louis:: You can follow SitePoint on Twitter @sitepointdotcom, that’s sitepoint d-o-t-c-o-m, and you can follow me on Twitter @rssaddict. If you want to find out more about the Podcast go to sitepoint.com/podcast, that’s where you can find all of our past episodes, leave a comment on this show to let us know what you thought and also subscribe to the feed if you want to get it automatically, and if you want to hit us by email that’s podcast@sitepoint.com. Thanks for listening everybody, and to Patrick and Stephan wishing you both a happy New Year and I’ll talk to you again in January.

Patrick: Happy holidays.

Stephan: Yep, have a good one.

Theme music by Mike Mella.

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  • http://webkarnage.net Karn Broad

    We have also added a further link on our Delicious page to an article on Mozilla’s deal with Google for the default search engine position in Firefox. Well worth a quick read. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

    Karn.

  • http://jamespfarrell.com James

    Great podcast :)

    Am I the only one who has Firefox and Chrome open all day long?

    I use Firefox for developing and Chrome for Gmail and casual browsing…

    It gives me good seperation of concerns….