Why I’ve started using an Ad Blocker — Three Dot Lounge for July 12, 2015

Also in this issue, some thoughts on the 25 year Anniversary of the 1988 fires that burned much of Yellowstone National Park, and the normal Quicklinks (subtitled the “oh, we’ve really screwed this planet” edition)

Why I’ve started using an Ad Blocker

I have in the last couple of weeks finally chosen to install an Ad Blocker on my browsers. This is a choice I long felt I would never make, but the state of online advertising has gotten so ugly I feel it’s now time to protect myself from it.

Glenn Fleishman wrote a nice overview of the problem for Macworld that I recommend you check out. The problem for me is not actually the ads. I understand sites need to pay the bills and that advertising is how many sites do that. But so many of the ads today have gotten so aggressive about hiding content from me or blaring unrelated crap into my eyes or in my ears that I have finally had it.

Beyond that, an even bigger problem for me is that more and more networks are using these advertising inclusions to install trackers and beacons to watch me as I wander around the net, and these trackers and beacons are in almost all cases things I have no way to opt out of, have never agreed to use and cannot see what’s being collected and sold about me along the way.

That is why I have finally installed an ad blocker. The ads are in many cases intrusive and annoying, but the growing trend of tracking without my permission and without any way to opt out of the tracking is abusive of me, my privacy and my online experience. And because of that, I’m now blocking the trackers and beacons that do this, and as a side effect the ads have gone away as well. This may hurt the sites that depends on the advertising, and I’m sort of sorry for that — but they are also the sites that have allowed these networks to install these tracker systems onto them, and so they are indirectly complicit in that way.

As long as these tracking systems are out there, I have decided to do what I can to keep them out of my browser. If that throws out an occasional baby with the bathwater, so be it. And having lived on both sides of the “pay the bills with ads” argument, I’m sad to have finally been driven to this point.

The blocker I’ve chosen to use is Ghostery, which seems to be efficient and unobtrusive and effective. It can be installed in most desktop browsers through their extension stores. and as soon as IOS 9 ships and ad blockers are supported on my mobile devices, I’ll stick it on there as well.

I am not, by the way, blindly blocking everything. I am letting many common tools continue to operate, especially the analytics tools like Google Analytics. But the sites that are pushing ads, trackers and beacons are for the most part now being turned off. I think it’s useful and important to allow sites access to their analytic data — I just don’t want the advertisers grabbing data I didn’t agree to. Now with the Ad blocker, I have that choice. It’s too bad they didn’t give it to me up front and forced me to take it away, because now I’m going to block more of their content than I might have allowed otherwise in return.

What amazes me, and frankly it shouldn’t, is how much faster, cleaner and easier to read sites are with all this stuff blocked out. And that’s good for my enjoyment of the net, but sad that it’s gotten to this point, but anyone who’s been up with the TV on at 1AM knows this kind of low-rent noisy garbage thing isn’t limited to the online world….

Some other interesting links on the topic:

The Year Yellowstone Burned: A Twenty-Five-Year Perspective

[chuq_serve1ad name=”yellowstone” noreview=”yes”]

Twenty Five Years ago Yellowstone burned. That summer of uncontrollable brushfire was a major media sensation and fired up a national debate on the role of National Parks and the policies of fire management and supression.

Jeff Henry, who was there and part of the ranger staff and firefighting effort, has written a fascinating book looking at that summer and talking about some of the challenges and problems, many of which remain unsolved. It is well worth your time if you’re at all interested in these topics and I recommend it strongly.

I was able to visit the park a few years after the first and the images have long stayed with me. Having been able to return to the park in 2008 and again last year for my photo trip, it was encouraging to see how the scars of that fire have been healing. I’m starting to think about a trip again next year for another photo journey, and if I do, trying to identify and document some of the remaining scars might be part of that.

While reading that book, though, I was struck by the parallels to the situation and the natural environment of Yellowstone at that time, and how similar it is to what we’re experiencing here in California and across the Western states with this severe drought and unusual weather patterns. We’ve been having a very busy fire season so far, one that started early and has shown no signs of settling down — and the only thing missing has been a truly catastrophic fire. It feels to me, however, that this is only a matter of time.

Reading this book gave me a sense I was reading about what is going to occur here, not just what happened to that part back in 1988. You really ought to read this.

(found on and thanks to National Parks Traveller for pointing me at this)

Quicklinks

About Three-Dot Lounge

Three Dot Lounge is an email newsletter that collects interesting things that catch my attention and the opinions they generate. Current interests include high tech, living in Silicon Valley and California, the challenges of protecting our wild areas and the impact of the drought on those areas, but content in this newsletter will vary wildly. Three Dot Lounge is written and produced by Chuq Von Rospach. Chuq is a long-time high tech and internet citizen who’s places of employment include Sun, Palm Computing, HP, Cisco, National Semiconductor and a 17 year tenure at Apple. You can follow Chuq on twitter at @chuq or on Google+ or Facebook.

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