Nov 7, 2005

this could get worse

I was thinking the other day about how blogs are going to progress from where we are today. My stream-of-consciousness thinking went something like this. Google AdSense has allowed an individual to make some money by drawing ad clicks to their site in some way. The original idea was you write something useful and the odds go up that people will come to your site and potentially click on a related ad. You get paid for your creativity or usefulness.

But then I got to thinking. While I generally state that I believe that humans behave irrationally, I only really state this so I can poke fun at people. I don't truly believe it. I think humans behave quite rationally. And they behave rationally and incredibly creatively when well defined rewards are dangled in front of them. AdSense is such a reward. And when people get creative and think rationally you get all sorts of things you don't expect. Usually nefarious things.

So my first line of thinking is that some kind of back scratching will occur. You click my ad and I'll click yours. This clearly is not in the spirit of the reward system. Perhaps this goes on a great deal now and Google has to combat against this. I haven't looked into it.

Then I started thinking that people will offer some kind of silly reward (non-content based) to click an ad. In a way this has already happened although not like I thought it would. The most maddening example is that "How much is my website worth?" image you can put on your blog. I'm sure this works well if for no other reason than I see this damn image and link everywhere. You click on it because you want to see how much your website is worth and put an image up on your site (the reward) and that increased traffic could lead to an ad click for the originator of this 'service'. The person who created that was smart by making the value some obscenely high value that you just had to click through to see how much your website was worth.

This concept has started to propagate with the worst example being "What indie rock album am I?" Huh? If any blog I read puts this kind of crap up they are instantly unsubbed from my Bloglines list. This is my small contribution to make sure this kind of crap doesn't take root. My first idea of how this would happen was different however. It was more along the lines of offering a free Starbucks latte to some random ad clicker. This probably goes against Google's terms of service but that was my original idea.

Then I figured that someone would figure out a way to make an ad link not look like an ad link. Perhaps using some technique to overlay something over the top visually or modifying what the ad link looked like. I'm sure ad brokers like Google work hard to avoid this kind of thing.

But then I realized it's pointless to try to figure this out. People are always more creative and clever than I expect them to be. Someone will figure out a way to abuse this AdSense system that is largely undetectable or largely unstoppable (I can see the website now - "My New AdSense Fraud Technique is Unstoppable"). That's my supposition anyway. And if that is true, isn't it possible this causes Google business model to collapse? Google's patrons must believe Google's program is robust for them to use it. But I'm not sure it's possible for Google to maintain a robust program with so much money at stake. What's necessary is for the technique to be unstoppable and heavily propagated. I'm not sure if this will happen. It seems like something like this would have happened by now but perhaps not.

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