The Endless S[l]ideshow to Hell

They Lure You In and Don’t Want To Let You Go

The starry-eyed young lady in the above photo is the first image in one of those multi-page Internet slideshows that are there to devour your time. This one is about tattoos that people got and later regretted. (Actually, I think most tattoos are ultimately in that category.) You can view the slideshow by clicking here. I remember taking one slideshow this last week that purported to tell me my IQ. It had 100 pages, covered with “Hey look at me!” clickbait opportunities. There would be a picture of Oprah Winfrey, and I had to identify it as belonging either to Oprah Winfrey or a Gila Monster. In the end, I got 100% right, and was told I was probably a college professor. I never did get my IQ.

That’s not unusual. These slideshows are like carnival barkers trying to lure you in. According to the Business Insider website:

Practices like splitting articles into multiple pages or delivering lists via pageview-mongering slideshows have been with us since the early Web. I figured they’d die out quickly, but they’ve shown great resilience—despite being crude, annoying, ineffective, hostile to users, and harmful to the long-term interests of their practitioners.

There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of media executives who misunderstand how the Web works and think that they can somehow beat it into submission. Their tactics have produced an onslaught of distractions that are neither native to the Web’s technology nor inevitable byproducts of its design. The blinking, buzzing parade is, rather, a side-effect of business failure, a desperation move on the part of flailing commercial publishers.

The sad thing is that most of these links to slideshows are interspersed with real news and help pay to subsidize that news. Sometimes they are (inadequately) labeled as sponsored content; just as often, they aren’t.

Below is a rough graph of the effect on an Internet user who gets dragged into one of these seemingly endless slideshows (I almost said sideshows):

Units of “Microhate” Graphed Against Number of Pages in Slideshow

Business Insider concludes:

If you’re on a web page that’s weighted down with cross-promotional hand-waving, revenue-squeezing ad overload and interstitial interruptions, odds are you’re on a newspaper or magazine site. For an egregiously awful example of how business linking can ruin the experience of reading on the Web, take a look at the current version of Time.com.

 

The Trivialization of News

Corporate Advertising Is Making It Difficult to Distinguish One from the Other

What, really, is news? According to one definition, it is “newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events.” But the question is, important to whom? The news media themselves are owned by corporations, many of which have entertainment divisions. So suddenly, one finds the latest Game of Thrones episode is newsworthy. Is it perhaps that the news medium is owned by the same corporation that creates Game of Thrones.

Then, too, one finds “sponsored content” that is vaguely news-like and interspersed with real news stories about the happenings of the day. For example, the following “sponsored content” comes from today’s NBC news website:

  • Deliver native mobile apps seamlessly
  • The airline miles trick that airlines don’t want you to know (this phraseology is a dead giveaway)
  • Collaborate in the classroom with OneNote
  • Born before 1967? Don’t miss out on these exclusive benefits
  • Experience the best-selling third-row SUV
  • These river cruises are the cream of the crop
  • Play this for 1 minute and see why everybody is addicted

There is a close relationship between sponsored content and clickbait: The act of suckering you into clicking by promising you a lot more than will ever be delivered. The classical attempt sends you to a long video which doesn’t get to the point for up to twenty minutes, if it ever does.

None of the above refers to a newsworthy event. All are attempts to get you to buy into a product or service. When sponsored content is interspersed with real news stories, the hope is that you will be more interested in what is being marketed. One easy way to tell the difference is that real news tends to make one feel nauseated, whereas sponsored content merely makes one feel uneasy for missing out on a good deal.

 

 

Tarnmoor’s First Law of the Internet

Trash Reigns Supreme

Trash Reigns Supreme

Tarnmoor’s First Law of the Internet is very much like Gresham’s Law: Bad money drives out good, except in this case news is driven out by dross. In the end, the Internet tends to resemble that garbage dump the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. In terms of websites that purport to concentrate on informative news, I see this trash as being of five different types:

  1. Outright clickbait, usually hinting at something surprising or earth-shattering and featuring a picture of an attractive thirty or forty year old model.
  2. Articles about television series on news sites, not surprising considering that news sites frequently own production companies.
  3. References to “viral videos” usually featuring cute animals or spectacular fails.
  4. Links to videos where the video adds nothing to the story and consists of a few seconds buried within a boring talking head sequence.
  5. Articles about dumb things that wingnuts on all sides of the political spectrum say.

Places where I turn expecting to find something I can sink my teeth into, yield instead a kind of digital styrofoam containing no intellectual nourishment. Instead, one finds what I call WABAW (WAste of BAndWidth). Look what I found on CNN’s website today:

  • Odd houses come straight out of ‘Flintstones.’
  • Reason #1 not to pose for a selfie with a rattlesnake.
  • Mother duck guides her ducklings past swerving cars. (Awww!)
  • Water balloon explodes with man inside.
  • See Paula Abdul recreate ‘Opposites Attract’ video.
  • What ‘Back to the Future’ got right about 2015.
  • ‘Sharknado 3’: the tweets, the cameos, the crazy.

If you want to see even a more determined effort to send you down a brainless rathole, go to Weather.Com. My eyes glazed over when I saw “Ever put coins in dry ice?’ and ‘WATCH: He dropped a basketball of a dam and didn’t expect what happened.’ I presume that if you are reading this, you do not go hunting through multiple windows following an attractive woman who promises to show you something that would really make the IRS, TSA, Catholic Church, or your beloved Lhasa Apso furious.

Not Enough Panem, Too Many Circenses

Gladiatorial Combat: A Giant Distraction?

Gladiatorial Combat: A Giant Distraction?

The phrase “bread and circuses” (in Latin, panem et circenses) comes from the Roman poet Juvenal’s Tenth Satire: “Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions—everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”

Politics in America has become a costly form of entertainment. Costly because, as a society, we put so much time and money into the process—at the expense of what we should be doing to insure justice and polling access to all Americans, shore up our sagging infrastructure, feed our poor, and begin transitioning to technologies that protect us from the vagaries of climate change.

The 2016 presidential campaign is in full gear, with scores of wannabes who intend on becoming Sarah Palins. It’s a splendid career: Serve half a term in office and make big money giving occasional speeches to people who are outraged about … about … oh, well, you name it! And with very little effort! Donald Trump will spend untold millions, but he will become a hero to the feeble-minded who want to hear what he has to say. Ditto Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, and even some of the Democratic candidates.

You might call them political clickbait. They promise much, but in true American political style, deliver little—and certainly nothing that’s to the point.

I urge you not to be entertained by the whole process. Elections are a serious business, not a gladiatorial combat. If we vote in a lot of people who will spend their entire terms posturing and japing, we’re through as a nation.

 

This Morning’s Harvest

Go On, Believe It! Be Stupid!

Go On, Believe It! Be Stupid!

It appears that one of my e-mail addresses has made the Numero Uno suckerbait list. Here’s a selection of just some of the garbage offers that ended up in my mailbox:

  • Interest too high? Find the perfect card—from “Zero Interest Cards.” Yeah, well, did you ever hear of fees?
  • Uncover your ancestors and your family tree. Try it – 14 days no/cost. Give us your e-mail address so we can send you even more clickbait.
  • Most Wanted summer-slim-down – ready for delivery!  You, too, can experiment with your health by using expensive and untested meds.
  • Final Notice: Your gift card is about to expire.  Why would Chilis Bar & Grill, which I’ve never heard of, send me a gift card?
  • 10-second trick makes Diabetes go away. This is from Harvard Research Dept (whatever that is), so it must be true.
  • Do you want to Improvement your hearing in 1-7 days? No, but I’d love to Improvement your English!
  • Cover all of your Appliances with Choice Home Warranty. Whaddaya mean you won’t reimburse me $1,000 for my bum toaster?
  • You have been selected for inclusion. This is from Eddie Lopez, who sent the same e-mail twice, so he must want me real bad.
  • Fabulous and wonderful in your kitchen. Why thank you: I didn’t think you knew!
  • Avoid the Hassles of Home Repair. Get Your First Month Free! It’s those Choice Home Warranty (CHW) people again. In essence: Pay us and say goodbye to your money.
  • When you lose something finding it fast with this! What about that quarter that fell through a hole in my pocket in 1956?
  • (Wow!) Satellite photos make amazing discovery. That’s nice….

This is just a small selection of what parades through my mailbox every day, sometimes as many as several hundred in one twenty-four hour period.

 

Spare Me the Fame

Why Would Anyone Want My Help in Setting Up a Blog?

Why Would Anyone Want My Help in Setting Up a Blog?

Mine is not a particularly striking looking website, yet each week I get numerous requests for information on how I put it together, together with questions as to whether I would link to their website. The odd thing is that I don’t believe these people, especially since:

  1. Their e-mail address indicates they are in some dubious business, such as selling designer knock-offs.
  2. Instead of referring to a recent posting, they seem to be linking to my media file, especially to photographs from postings of several months ago.
  3. They never say anything that would indicate they actually read what I write—never any link to any actual content.

You never see these requests because I erase over 99% of the entries identified by WordPress’s Akamai (means “smart” in Hawaiian pidgin) Spam filtering system, and that’s where these usually end up.

Another group of pseudo-comments wants to see me get a lot more hits and to be at the top of Google searches. Why? Obviously, I’m not into blogging for the fame. If thousands of people daily visited Tarnmoor, my life would turn to crap: Imagine having to filter through hundreds of comments.

If you found this site because it was on page ten of a Google search, and you like what I do, you are most welcome. If you want to tell the world what a great blogger I am, I would think you would be doing me a disservice. If I have to spend all my time tending to this site, I would just as soon give it up.

In fact, I like to write. I like to use the process to think things through. And I like interacting with my friends. So don’t offer any suggestions how I could crud up this site by using clickbait the way that Weather.Com and most news websites do. There’s no clickbait here, and no advertising. If you like what I write, well and good. If not, there are other places you can go.

In Search of the Next Superfood

Is It Chinese Goji Berries?

So Is It Now Chinese Goji Berries?

This is a kind of continuation of yesterday’s post about Clickbait. I get this picture that everything the news or the Internet says about health and nutrition is about 90% wrong. Every week, there’s a new cure for cancer; or a new superfood is discovered that is the holy grail to health, longevity, and a clear brain. It seems that, earlier this year, the superfood of choice was kale, at which I poked fun in a post last May. Before long, there were kale chips, kale jerky, kale pizza, and even 5,000 mg kale capsules suitable for horses.

As for myself, I don’t much care about this sterile quest. I’ve always believed that it is best to eat a varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables. There is no single food that I rely on to supply the majority of my nutritional needs. I have this friend whom I shall call Nelson, who discovers a new superfood every six months and tells me all about the benefits of eating lots of it. It has changed his life … until the next superfood comes along and takes its place.

There is a PBS channel in Orange County that Martine watches from time to time. A parade of health and nutrition gurus is paraded before the viewers with packaged books, DVDs, pills, and exercise programs. They will prevent cancer, keep your mind clear through your declining years, and make you look like twenty even when you’re on Medicare. I see the audiences who are lapping up every word these gurus say. These people want to be saved. They will send in their checks and get the package and perhaps follow the program for a week or two. In a couple months, you’ll see hem in another studio audience listening to a different guru with yet another program.

I am reminded of the Chinese search for the Pill of Immortality. It was a very powerful pill because, although it didn’t exist, it almost brought down one of the world’s great religions—Taoism. I’m waiting to see this pill on offer through a clickbait ad on the Internet.