Gazoo, a word, re: web technology

In this thread, you claim that “cookies are not welcome”.

In the interest of not hijacking that thread, please defend this ridiculous, ignorant, and frankly, stupid remark with cites and technological reasons why this is so.

I put this in the pit because it’s the place for calling people out on issues, it seems. I guess this could be IMHO, but it seems a little confrontational.

I wish that everyone would just calm down with the cookie paranoia.

Dunno why Gazoo doesn’t like cookies, but I can tell you from a web marketer’s perspective that most websites and ad servers use them for purposes that are much less evil and insidious than most people think.

Right now, cookies are needed to address the following marketing problems:

  1. Web surfer views ad banner, decides not to click on it, but returns to the site advertised at a later date. Marketers need to know that the ad had some branding effect and they need to attribute the site activity to the ad that referred it. No, your personal information (name, credit card info, SS#, etc.) is not being collected.

  2. Marketer wants to show ads to prospects in a given sequence (e.g. - first Ad A, then Ad B, then Ad C). Without a cookie, the ad server can’t recognize web surfers it’s encountered before and thus can’t serve the sequence.

  3. Marketer wants to cap the frequency of exposure to its ads. Without cookies, you can’t tell whether a web surfer has seen one of your ads before and thus the marketer can’t cap it. Seeing the same damned ads over and over? Try accepting the ad server’s cookie.

Cookies also help database-driven websites to remember you on subsequent visits. Or would you rather just type in your account information every time you visit? Maybe you also want every e-commerce site to “forget” what you had in your shopping cart as you surf from item to item.

All right, I do realize that there were a bunch of companies out there who wanted to do some really invasive shit with cookies, but the majority of that stuff is over now. DoubleClick and AdForce wanted to link cookies to Personally Identifiable Information at one point. DoubleClick has backed off on this, and AdForce is out of business. Engage Media wanted to use cookies to track surfing and purchase behavior across its network of websites, but they’ve since walked away from their network business.

Really, folks. There’s not a lot to fear from cookies. I’m an insider in the online advertising industry. If there was a substantial risk of having my privacy violated, wouldn’t you think that I would be among the first to install Cookie Cutter or some such app? Trust me.

Exactamundo, THespos. It just so happens that I am a programmer for a Web-based business that is driven by a database, and we use cookies to keep track of who people are. We also use them as a sort of security measure, to make sure that someone else is not accessing your account. They basically store your user ID, so we can check if the page you’re requesting is actually “owned” by you. If not, they either get our home page or (my preference) a nasty note.

In short, Gazoo: Lighten up.

Viva la SDMB cookie!!

Correction: Marketers want to know this. Since there is little way to know this in traditional, mainstream advertising, it’s not unreasonable to expect some fuzziness in web advertising as well. How do you know whether a TV or print add had a branding effect? How do you attribute me buying Oreo’s with Doublestuff to the print add in last Sunday’s comic section? And it’s not unreasonable for the consumer to say, “that’s more info than I want you to have”.

Cookies are only a tip of a disturbing iceburg: Transparent tracking of us via our computers. This is done without our knowledge, and we never get a chance to opt-out. That is the problem: It’s something being done to our property (personal computers are personal property) without our knowledge or consent and without a method to stop it within the system.

Cookies by themselves are nearly harmless: They’re just tiny little text files, like a laundry ticket is a tiny little piece of paper, that can be created by any computer you link up to on the WWW and then read by any computer you link up to on the WWW that knows what to look for. It is a feature (or misfeature ;)) of your browser. And it can be blocked by a simple proxy. I suggest Guidescope for a good free program that blocks cookies extremely well (allowing you to opt-in to cookies you want) and ads very well.

But Guidescope and other programs are outside the system. They are workarounds, if you will, to fix a flaw in the system. That flaw is the lack of consent. No advertiser has ever told me upfront exactly what they are doing to my machine as it’s happening. No advertiser has ever given me the option to opt-out. That’s my problem with it.

Now, I wonder what Gazoo has to say… :smiley:

ShibbOleth, speaking as a guy who worries about losing his job on pretty much a daily basis, marketers do need to know this stuff. Point taken about attribution, though. While no individual medium on a communications plan works in a vacuum, online advertisers have this annoying tendency to want to see results, or they won’t spend money in online media. It’s a sucky double standard, but I’ve got to live with it. Right now, there’s a tremendous disparity between the time spent by consumers with Internet media and the dollar volume of online advertising. If the Internet is to survive as a commercial medium, things are going to have to even out a bit. Proving that the medium works will go a long way toward attracting ad spending.

You’re right about the customer’s right to say “that’s more info than I want you to know,” but I doubt your average consumer would care if the credit for their purchase was attributed back to the ads that contributed to the sale. No personal information is recorded. We just want to take note whenever someone sees an ad and is driven to action. That way, we can optimize our marketing efforts and put the right ads in front of the right people. The alternative is crapola like X-10, which runs untargeted almost everywhere and annoys the living hell out of web users.

The company I work for spends a boatload on advertising, so I know most of the game, and I appreciate the tough sell you have. I just personally wish some of the tech geniuses out there could find a seemingly less intrusive way to do this. For example, how about give me an incentive to let you track me. I know the advertising helps pay for the internet, per se, but let’s make it more tangible. Maybe some form of discount or couponing if I let you track my habits and spending. Kroger’s is doing something like that now, by getting their shoppers to use a scan card which gives them discounts. They always ask to scan your card, regardless of what you buy, so I assume that they use this to get your buying patterns (which Krogers, average spend, what’s bought, then target their advertising on these patterns). Something similar is certainly technologically feasible via the internet. It would be more acceptable if everybody wasn’t paranoid about receiving huge amounts of spam whenever they touch a merchandise site or ad.

My original point was that the television, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards, ad nauseum, seldom have a feedback mechanism, but still seem to florish. So theoretically net advertising should be able to do this without generating spam about how I can add inches to my package. A way to ease people past this is to incent them to opt in to the web marketing game, rather than to automatically opt everyone in. I understand that’s sort of the Internet equivalent of the holy grail, but I’d be personally happier if it felt like someone were reaching for it.

Gazoo is a word concerning web technology? That just doesn’t make any sense. The Great Gazoo from The Flintstones showed up on the scene long before the Internet existed. Of course he could have been based on something related to ARPAnet. Let me just check the thread to see if you’ve got a cite.

Derleth, you seem to be misinformed. A cookie can only be read by the domain that sets it. No one is tracking your behavior web-wide.

From a technical and hypothetical perspective, this is what happens when a marketer “tracks” an online ad campaign:

  1. Unca Cecil visits the Van Halen News Desk, because he (like all people) wants to know whether or not David Lee Roth is getting back together with the band.

  2. On the site, there’s a space carved out for a banner ad. An ad server (let’s say it’s hypothetically) serves an ad for DLR’s autobiography in that space and writes a cookie to Unca Cecil’s machine.

  3. A week later, Unca Cecil sez to himself, “Oh, man. I want to read all about Roth’s sexual escapades in the early 80s” and decides to go to to purchase a copy.

  4. Unca Cecil arrives at the purchase page for the book. Cleverly, the marketers who set up the ad campaign have placed 1x1 pixel transparent GIFs, served from the server, on this page. When the page is requested, it pings the server, which then has the opportunity to read the cookie. “Aha!” says the server (if it could speak), “I’ve seen this dude before. I served him a banner ad a week ago.” The server attributes a lead to the banner that referred Unca Cecil.

  5. Unca Cecil purchases the book. The confirmation page returned after the sale is similarly tagged, and the server attributes the sale to the ad that referred it.

Notice that no personal information is requested. What is occurring here, from a privacy perspective, pales in comparison to what is being done with consumer information offline. For example:

  1. Credit card companies and other direct marketers routinely sell personally identifiable information to partners (a term that denotes “anyone with the available cash.”)

  2. Those “Valued Shopper Club” cards you might use at the supermarket track your spending behavior and attribute it to whatever personal information direct marketing databases may have on you. This information is also sold to partners.

  3. Direct marketers are familiar with a process called “appending,” which synchs up the data between two different lists of customers. Hypothetically, if a mail list broker has data files on customers that consist of name, address and store purchase behavior and another direct marketer has data files with name, address and catalog purchase behavior, the two lists are merged, enhancing the profiles. The process is called “appending” because additional information has been appended to the original file. This kind of thing happens all the time.

I do, however, see your point, Derleth, regarding permission to read and write cookie files to your computer. Most responsible websites will include information in their privacy policy about how information gleaned from the presence of a cookie will be used.

One last thing… Consider for a minute how ad-blocking software affects the publishers you visit. Publishers depend, either wholly or in part, on ad revenues to pay the bills. Widespread use of ad-blocking software could be very detrimental to the ability of the Internet to survive as a commercial medium.

[Fixed the coding. -JMCJ]

[Edited by John Corrado on 11-28-2001 at 08:00 AM]

Preview, dammit. Preview.

Mods, a little help here?

ShibbOleth, you’ve hit the nail on the head with regard to one of the problems that we’ve been having as an industry. We sold Internet advertising on the merits of its accountability, and now we are paying the price.

Most publishers consider the impersonal tracking to be part of the implied contract between the publisher and the consumer (i.e. - You look at my content, you agree to look at my ads, too.)

Funny that you mention incentivizing people to be tracked online. Several companies have built their business around this principle. Few, if any, are still around today. Incentivizing people alters their behavior. It was a problem experienced throughout the lives of sites like Freeride, MyPoints and any other “get rewarded for looking at ads” sites.

Sorry for posting all these in a row. I forgot to address your point about web ads generating spam.

There’s a definite line between the type of marketing that porn sites employ and those techniques used by responsible marketers. Many porn sites see nothing wrong with exploiting a security hole in your browser to obtain your e-mail address. They also see nothing wrong with using that address repeatedly to send you junk on increasing your endowment. Reputable marketers would not consider this tactic. They also steer clear of hijacking your desktop with consoles, or using “the Hydra method” (i.e. - Clicking a pop-up window away merely spawns two more in its place).

The tracking I described in my earlier post does not contribute one way or another to the amount of spam appearing in your inbox.

This is completely false. Cookies can be read only by the domain (and optionally only specific paths on that domain) from which it was set.

You have an option to opt out by turning off cookies. All browsers support cookie permissions so you can accept and reject cookies as you please. If you use a browser that doesn’t suck, you can specify a list of domains from which you do not want to receive cookies.

Prolly the same thing he started out saying, which was correct.

Whoops, my last sentence was referring to Flymaster, not Gazoo. Sorry, THespos, I read your last statement wrong.

Well, something’s generating a decent amount of spam for me, and I never go to porn sites. This is nothing moral or ethical, I am as immoral and unethical as they come, just there’s this firewall, see… So most of my surfing is the SD, Sports sites, some travel and news sites, and things related to these.

As for your other point, THespos, I know it hasn’t been successfully done, but I have hope that something along the lines of a tie in with the evil Internet Explorer people (;)) and the marketing folks, which you could opt out at install time, or opt in anytime, cleanly cutting ties in either way. Not everybody did the Frequent Flier thing in the early days, either. It’s just that there needs to be a wedding of sound technology, or in the least, truly promising technology, and extremely strong marketing to do this. Unfortunately when it does come along it will take some real visionaries to recognize it as good, since there is such a “cried wolf” mentality surrounding the Net failures on this.

What some folks in the Internet Marketing game are either failing to realise or ignoring is that you are pissing off your target audience. This is similar to having annoying commercials that blare the sound. Some people may fall prey to that crap, but there’s a big potential market that you just turned against you, many forever. For example, I may actually want a webcam someday. But I will go out of the way to buy one, when that time comes, for which I have never been harassed by a popup.
PS: to Kayla’s Dad99, Gazoo and Great Gazoo are also both Dopers.

Well, everyone else has done a wonderful job of making my points (sorry, I was busy doing work), but I’d just like to point out that I didn’t know we had a Gazoo and a Great Gazoo. I’d have specified that I was indeed speaking to “The Great Gazoo”. I apologize for any confusion.

Sorry Cookie Monster, you missed the point.

Those of us who don’t want to be tracked, impersonally or personally also don’t need to have cites, or even particularly good reason for feeling that way. We are the consumers, and if you want to suck the tit of the great consumer system, you will damn well please us, or we will take our money elsewhere. You think that is unreasonable, go reason with someone else.

If you track me, I stop buying. Period. No cite, no warning, no explanation. No apology.

If I have a chance to promulgate my distaste for the general arrogance of the techno advertising industry, and foment a little arm chair rebellion, great! If it makes their job a living hell, also great! I don’t want anyone to like that job. I want it to be the second worst job in the world, next to telemarketing.

Yes, the advertising world WANTS to have consumers line up and sign up, and fork over the bucks to pay for the lining and signing. But want is not need. What you need to do is please me, and then get the hell out of my life, until I feel like spending more money. If you don’t, I will spend my money with someone who will. The current shift in the winds of economics would be a great opportunity to teach humility to the .com world.


“How come no one does things you want done when it’s ‘something for your own good.’”

Easy mistake to make fly, football prognosticator Gazoo, the original, can be found here weekly.

Cookies are not necessarily a bad thing, but one thing I watch out for is spyware - there are all kinds of programs that hide themselves on your computer and report all kinds of information to their servers. On networks where the users are allowed to install various free programs like Gator, Bonzi, certain file-sharing apps, etc., the spyware can account for a significant portion of bandwidth usage.

I use Ad-Aware to get rid of them - my workstation at work is used by several people and they frequently install crap on it that reports what kind of sites you go to, your email address, and other info without my permission. Some of it can be very difficult to remove even if you know it’s there (often hiding duplicates of itself on the computer and making registry entries to ‘resurrect’ the programs should they be deleted). Ad-Aware will wipe it clean.

You can get it here. It’s not a very big download, and you will probably be surprised by how much stuff it finds.