Cents and Nonsense

Standing on an ethical mountain alone can be pretty isolating. Sure your ego keeps you warm, and your martyrdom stands you tall but after a while you start to feel silly. After all, this is the Internet, not the Oracle at Delphi.

What I'm talking about is the use of ads on websites. Originally most of us who uploaded our infant pages felt pretty certain that the Web was a source of tremendous education and information-sharing, akin to the Gutenberg Bible dressed as the Yellow pages and sitting free of charge on everyone's doorstep. Well not exactly free: you had to have access to a computer, of course, and some expertise in using it. But otherwise the flow of ideas was theoretically limitless and its implications exhilarating. We felt so damn powerful! The keyboard was our 18th century fife and drum corps with its call to freedom.

But something changed on the way to the Forum. The free interplay of ideas became stuck in the quicksilver of monetary exchange. Ads began to appear. Patent issues cross-dressed as lawsuits muddied the waters, and all of a sudden it was too easy to break the law and confuse ethics with expedience. All this time I kept telling myself that education was my goal and ads had no place on giraffe.com.

It was difficult, however, to ignore the siren calls of Google. I was fairly bombarded by fairy tales of people retiring on their Google ad income. I soon began to feel not noble but idiotic. Why not try a few small, tasteful ads and bring in a dollar or two every now and then? I wasn't expecting any kind of windfall, just enough for a modest espresso once in a while (that was before I had checked out the current price of espresso). So this is why you are now seeing ads sponsored by Google at the bottom of some of the giraffe.com pages. It is an experiment, and like most experiments liable to be trashed if the response is sufficiently negative.

For the moment the monetary response has been negatory, better known as nonexistent. I will let you know from time to time how it progresses, as I hope you will let me know how you feel about this issue. One unexpected highlight has been the types of ads that are appearing. Supposedly geared to the content of each page, I am seeing some truly comical results. For one thing, giraffe.com is a fairly unconventional ezine that tends to use jabberwocky words and elastic topics. This appears to be dumbfounding Google's creepy crawlers. August's Electronic Quill article, called IoBioSynthoGeo, included a brief mention of beehives, and lo and behold an ad for bee control appeared. The eMusings article on Web Chair Traveling produced an ad for law enforcement jobs (was someone thinking electric chair?), and the following day saw an ad offering Help for Anxiety and Panic. The Readers Feast article brought in an ad for the Royal Botanical Gardens one time, and an invitation to join a Roman Catholic Dating service another. Blob of the Month really pulled in some gems: an ad offered you the chance to lose 37 pounds of stomach fat in three months if you followed just one rule; next to it was an ad saying you could lose 9 pounds of stomach fat every two weeks by obeying ten rules. (How about those upper arm pillows? Too many rules to count, I presume). And then there are those enigmatic arrows beneath the ads: clicking on one took me from Quill Office Supplies to Quill Sutures for wounds. Even more curious to me is how the ads change from day to day on pages that stay the same for a month. There is undoubtedly a logic here that works for Google's site scanners but doesn't compute for me.

I recently spent a few hours back in Carmel,California, where part of my heart still resides. It was impossible not to notice how dirty the beach had become, with slime-covered rocks and pipes drooling sludge onto the sand. Seaweed cluttered the area. Flowers that loving neighbors used to weed and replant monthly seemed neglected. The two little outhouses, subject of much local controversy, were beyond filthy. Is this what happens when a caring community is replaced by multi- national corporations? Certainly Tiffany's doesn't spend much brain power worrying about the local environment. Am I a Tiffany neighbor on the Internet?

You'll find the tiny ads at the ends of some of the pages. Each time you click on one I am supposed to get a penny or so ('or so' means 'or so they have told me'). I have choices, like making the ads larger and more obtrusive, or coloring them, or placing them at instant eye level. I think for the moment I will stick with the tiny banners on a few page bottoms and see what happens. Keep an eye on them with me: there's surely a tv sit-com in the making here, if not a cash flow.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2008