Why is Firefox blocked

It seems that there will never be an end to to the world’s supply of stupid people. I use a wonderful add-on for Firefox called Adblock Plus which stops adverts from appearing. You know the ones; flashing banners inviting you to whack the mole and their ilk. Those things are the scourge of the web.

However, some people seem to think that is bad. They aren’t not going to get a link from me, but the people behind "whyfirefoxisblocked dot com" assert that:

Software that blocks all advertisement is an infringement of the rights of web site owners and developers. Numerous web sites exist in order to provide quality content in exchange for displaying ads. Accessing the content while blocking the ads, therefore would be no less than stealing.

Is that right? My using Adblock Plus to stop annoying, obtrusive and in some cases downright offensive (to the eyes) adverts from appearing on my screen is stealing? The developer of Adblock Plus links to lots of articles about this subject, one by the estimable Michael Arrington of Techcrunch which states about one such blocker-of-the-Fox:

… he objects to the fact that some of those Firefox readers are using an ad-blocking extension to block ads showing on the site. To counter the problem, he’s thrown the baby out with the bathwater and kicked 13% or so of the Internet off his site … in my opinion this is not a good strategy to build a blog. Users are solid gold. Even the ones that block ads.

Absolutely. You don’t have a right to force me to view your adverts any more than you have a right to force me to view your site in the first place. There is ALWAYS somewhere else to get the same information on the web, and blocking me from your site isn’t going to endear me to you, is it?

Be grateful I’m on your site at all. I could have gone to one of the millions of other sites, but I chose yours.

Let me tell you a fact. If I didn’t have Adblock Plus and your site had assailed me with garish and obtrusive adverts that get in the way of the information I want (you are providing useful or entertaining content, aren’t you? If not get off the web) I would have left. Immediately.

Another fact. I have never knowingly clicked on an advert in my entire time online (slightly more than a decade, I think). That’s with or without Adblock Plus. I will never knowingly click on an advert. So what good are they doing me? None, they are there just on the off-chance you catch out gullible people of which I am not one.

So who are you befittingly by blocking about 13% of your possible audience? It’s not your users and potential customers, that’s for sure.

Perhaps we should try the same thing with a bricks-and-mortar shop. You know, stop people coming in if they don’t want someone to walk around the store with them shouting things like "Buy that item now!" and "You need this product!". That would work, right?

HotSwap, selling cars online with Web 2.0

There’s a new online second-hand car site called Hotswap.com (hat-tip) which allows account holders to upload videos about their car. The design is good and there are some neat tricks thrown in with nifty AJAX (for instance filtering cars by colour). But there are two points to note which I think are indicative of the way the web is moving.

Firstly is the use of Jeroen’s Flash video player, a free Flash player for video. Just like his Flash MP3 player (which I’ve used all over BeatsBase.com) it makes it easy to provide good-looking media capabilities to a web page. HotSwap have certainly benefited from Jeroen’s generosity.

The second point is that hosting for the videos and images is handled by ,a href=”http://www.amazon.com/s3″>Amazons S3 service, the massively scalable solution I mentioned a few days ago. So HotSwap don’t pay directly for the bandwidth they use, and they also have the technology scalability of one of the worlds largest websites behind them. Good move.

So there’s two ways that a new start-up is harnessing the power of the web: using the high-quality free tools available, and using commercial services designed to scale. This, I believe, will be a model for a lot of new websites to come.

Mosso – the hosting system

Although I’m very happy with Dreamhost, my dream host this new internet services company looks interesting. I suppose they’re making a similar kind of system as Amazon’s S3 and EC2 products – big bangs for your buck.

For people running large web applications this type of hosting is a must. For work we’re using a local, but very large, company for our hosting (which includes email, websites, extranet systems and much more). I took a look round their datacentres a couple of months ago, but as (regular reader of this blog) Mark says “once you’ve seen one datacenter you’ve seen them all”. Wise words. There are only so many rows of rack-mounted servers a man can take.

The good thing about this Mosso offering is they seem to straddle the gap between the “serious” hosts (of which I count Dreamhost one) and the really huge stuff such as Amazons systems. I’m sure there’s a market for it, and their mix of technology, user-friendliness and slick design makes me think they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Web developers in short supply

A recent article in Computing.co.uk highlighted the fact that web developers are in short supply. I’m sure this is true, with more and more companies waking up to the potential of the web. However there’s one bit I’m not sure I agree with, a quote from Atsco chief executive Ann Swain:

‘It was relatively easy to publish a decent web site back then, but now it’s difficult without expert programming skills.’

Really? I think it’s easier than ever to publish a decent website – as long as you’re not wanting all the latest bells and whistles. And even if you do want an AJAX-ified, People Powered, Social Media 2.0 web application there are easily utilised methods for putting the click-candy into a site.

Still, I’m glad that quality web developers are getting the attention they deserve. It’s a tough job, being a mix of many different disciplines none of which is easy to master. It’s good news for me, as the need for my services isn’t diminishing.

Improving customer relations

Wow, it’s been over a week since I wrote here. Great was the rejoicing, but now I’m back. It’s been a busy week, not least because I’ve been without an internet connection since last Thursday thanks to those that shall forever be known as The Worst Internet Service Providers In The World.

The saga ongoeth, but when I’ve got a bit of time I’ll put down here the entire story so hopefully other unsuspecting punters won’t get caught out by these cowboys. In the meantime I’d like to draw your attention to this gem from Guy Kawasaki. My favourite bit is this:

Question: What’s the best way to improve customer relations?

Answer: This is almost too simple—actually take care of customers! I am sure we have all heard the recorded message, “you’re call is very important to us.” Well, if the call were important to the company who has recorded the message, maybe they would answer it in some reasonable time instead of either playing music or bombarding the caller with advertising messages. When you make a mistake, fix it and admit responsibility. Tell the truth. By the way, the airlines seem to be the worst at all of this, with a few exceptions.