Why some adverts work, and why most don’t…

Yeah, sorry, this isn’t really related to gaming. Sorry for the length, too. Something that turned up in the New York Times today just caught my attention.

It’s no doubt come to your attention that many people are using AdBlock Plus. You probably use it. I certainly use it; the majority of advertisements served by any site are of zero relevance to me, either being for goods and services I’m not interested in, or being for something I am interested in, but prefer to rely on word-of-mouth, trusted recommendations or detailed reviews for when deciding whether or not I want to purchase it.
If a site cares enough to ask the audience not to use AdBlock Plus because the revenue for adverts helps defray the cost of running said site, they probably also care enough to make sure adverts are very specifically targeted to their audience; so I turn AdBlock off if a site cares to ask. I want the site to stay up and they deserve not to have to pay through the nose to do that.

Anyway, this start-up, AdKeeper, thinks that people will accept their product as an alternative for AdBlock Plus. They think that, in some circumstances, viewers will accept advertisements. I don’t disagree with them on this.
Sometimes a person really needs, say, double-glazing installed. In which case they look in the local Yellow Pages equivalent, or Google for a solution. Yellow Pages/Google listings are advertisements, as much as they’re directories of contact information.
So, not exactly what AdKeeper’s Mr. Kurnit is hoping for. The reason banner adverts get so little click-through is two-fold; first, the audience for advertisements like that is extremely limited, as you need to catch the right member of the audience at exactly the right time and right place, when they have a reason to be interested and haven’t already found what they’re looking for. If I urgently need a roofing specialist as the summer storms have once again caused my ceiling to start crying, I’m not going to be browsing the LP Archive, which is one reason they don’t run adverts relating to roofing. I don’t want a car, I don’t want fifty free emoticons, I don’t want a dubious offer for a free iPod if I just sign up for some scheme, and I don’t want- actually, I am interested in adverts for MMORPGS, so long as they’re not marketed like Evony was.

Second – and this is something I picked up from A-Level Communication Studies, or even GCSE English, it’s that elemental and basic – it needs to be engaging. Every single advertisement in any form needs to be engaging. It needs to catch the audience’s eye, and be memorable. This is the backup idea in some of the utter dross out there, and the primary concept for some of the best advertisements I’ve ever seen. If your actual audience doesn’t want double-glazing or a car right now, you want them to remember the advert and hence your product when they do want a car or something to occupy their time or… why do those free iPod scams even get advertising? Are they that popular?
Well, I suppose the lottery is popular.
Most advertisements out there are dross. Some are entirely dross and others are dross to the wrong audience. Some of them with a good idea of how people work try to make the advert funny in some way. People remember the good, entertaining advertisements, even if they forget all the facts. Especially if there weren’t any facts beyond the name of the product. Even if they weren’t the intended audience for the advertisement. Then they suddenly need a car and think ‘what was that advert I saw last month? The one with all the pieces?’, visit Google or Youtube, and find this again. Or this. Or even this. Two of these use car pieces in ways I’m certain were never initially intended. One only has a very tenuous link to cars, involving lots of things going down a road. I’m reasonably sure anyone reading this post can make a good guess at all three of those advertisements just from those descriptions. I’m absolutely sure that I consider the first two of those three advertisements to be the best advertisements I’ve ever seen for anything; they’re wonderful to watch and think about what was achieved with what was never intended to do things like that, and they don’t bore me with car facts. (Note: I watch Top Gear. That doesn’t bore me with car facts, either.) Most importantly, and impressively, even someone vehemently opposed to learning to drive because she’ll probably drive into some[one/thing] with her horrible reflexes and coordination, and hence absolutely not in the intended audience for any of those advertisements, finds these things incredibly memorable.

Car advertisements seem to do things like this better than most. Possibly because you can’t actually throw out any facts at all and have it still appeal to the not-immediate-audience of people-who-want-a-new-car. Or even the immediate audience, as some care about fuel economy, some care about speed, some care about appearance…
Top Gear tried to make a car advertisement, once. I liked some of the ideas that got shot down by the Alan Sugars. They sounded memorable and entertaining. Just like… Top Gear.

You can’t do that with a banner advertisement. Not positively. Evony (probably) tried and got mocked relentlessly for it; I remember it, despite not being terribly interested in browser-based things like that. It’s that much more difficult to make a still image at that size amusing and/or engaging in the same way that a two- or three-minute commercial can be. It’s very easy to make it as dull as the average TV advertisement and hence just as easy to ignore and forget.
There’s one single still advertisement that I remember, outside of the Evony fiasco. It’s for a game I already played at the time I saw it. Here.

So, back to AdKeeper. Once people save an advertisement – in other words, once they’ve already shown a little interest in it already, if only by interacting with it to make it go away – the click-through rate goes up to 3.4% from 0.1%.
In other words, if they think the advertisement is in some way relevant to themselves in the first place, such that they saved it for later viewing, they still don’t click through 96.6% of the time. That article doesn’t say whether saving an advertisement replaces the one on the webpage with another, or leaves it there, or makes it vanish from the page; I think that behaviour will have more of an impact on whether people use AdKeeper than the apparent primary function of the thing, saving banner advertisements unmemorable enough that they don’t make any lasting impression.
So AdKeeper has a purpose, and does make sense, but its audience is ‘advertising agencies and networks who think they or the people using their adverts and networks can stop people from just using AdBlock Plus, or relying only on the people who will not use AdBlock Plus’.

AdKeeper and RealMedia think that most of the time people don’t want to be pulled away from the page they’re currently reading. Today, even Internet Explorer has tabs. Chrome’s had tabs all along. Firefox has had tabs far longer than Internet Explorer. A person nowadays can very easily open a link in another tab for reading once they’re done with the current tab.
I think people don’t pay any attention to advertisements because, 99.9% of the time, banners simply aren’t relevant, or interesting.

This iConji thing looks interesting

Slashdot recently – well, in the past few days, haven’t been checking RSS too often as I’ve had to work – had a post about something called iConji. The best way I can think of to explain it is call it a mediator between different languages. Symbols represent words, but unlike those words are not connected to any language. iConji is attempting to be as language-independent as it can get – the app has suggested meanings for symbols in your own language, but it’s obvious that a clock is related to time, isn’t it?

Didn’t Final Fantasy XI have something like this? Menus of words for which the equivalent words in other languages were known, and could always be shown in the local language to other users. Rather than attempting to take input in one language and translate it properly to another, like Google does.
Commentors at Slashdot are going on about things like ‘why don’t you just learn their language?’, but I’m not sure all of them understand how difficult it can be to learn a new language. They’re also going on about how this is ‘a step backwards’ for language, again. My main issue with these statements is that they’re treating iConji like it was designed to be a language; as  I mentioned earlier, to me it’s not – it’s a language-independent means of getting your meaning across, like drawing pictures. Something like iConji is readable at a glance; a picture of a spider signifies a spider, a picture of a flag signifies whatever country it belongs to, a wrench means a ‘tool’.
Why don’t I learn their language? Maybe I’m trying to talk to someone in Brazil and someone in Russia at the same time, and we don’t share a mutual language. iConji could work in that situation (…if it had Russian translations for the symbols, too.)
This is a step backwards? It’s not supposed to be a language, and at any rate languages, like species, gradually change as the environment does. I thought we’d gotten over the idea of ‘devolution’ by now. Granted, I do not like overt laziness in typing, myself, but it’s not the same thing.
I think iConji has promise. Some. Their symbol-set doesn’t appear to be overly-reliant on culture for meaning, which is one of the problems I’d be worried about encountering.
…but Google’s language tools are easy enough to use nowadays that you can conduct conversations by translating whatever you want to say into the target’s language and relying on the other person to do the same in return for you.

iTunes, Songbird and iPod Troubles (and Joy)

So I have an iPod. I’ve had one for a month or two now, since my last MP3 Player died and it turned out Creative discontinued that particular model.
Apparently people don’t want lots of storage.

…so I have an iPod now. I like it, and I love Song Summoner. I still don’t quite like how it looks as much as the Creative Zen, and the clickwheel is at times overly sensitive or utterly numb, and that can be annoying.

I don’t like iTunes, however. It’s slow, and whenever it’s running it tends to drag everything else down with it. Editing certain tags for songs – such as track or disc numbers – is also complicated, as you can’t quite do that from the list, like you can with song names or album titles.
It also absolutely refuses to pick up on ratings from the iPod, and automatically overwrites them all. ‘Liked that song from Soma Bringer when you heard it on the bus? Too bad! I’m going to erase your rating and you’ve forgotten it already!’
Nothing I do seems to let the iPod keep its ratings; some people talk about setting it to sync manually only, but that still doesn’t really work. I still lose my ratings, and whilst iTunes pushes to be a primary media player, I like WinAMP more. It plays all of my music, sparse DRM’d files aside… and would probably play those, too, with a little tweaking.

So. Songbird. Songbird is supposed to be compatible with iTunes and iPods, so I downloaded it yesterday, meaning to give it a try.
I love Songbird. It still probably doesn’t play everything like WinAMP will, but it works so much faster than iTunes, and is really handy for working on a song’s tags. I just spent a few hours playing music in Songbird rather than WinAMP, and it wasn’t inconvenient at all.
Songbird’s supposed to be able to work with iTunes and iPods, anyway. It does successfully pull the library from iTunes with no problem whatsoever. It also detects songs on iPods, and happily pulls ratings from THAT, instead of substituting its own ratings of currently-nothing.
However, it completely fails at syncing with an iPod. The attempts I’ve made thus far have either been non-starters, or just locked up at some point. I’ve found nothing talking about this problem, and I can’t think of how to fix it, so for the moment I’m still stuck with iTunes for my iPod needs.
Bah.

‘Second Glance’

Second Glance (grinding.be)

Silly mental images aside (thinking about the front of an entire crowd of people waiting at a subway shaking their heads at that, whilst everyone who can’t see the device looks on, bemused) the applications of this device look pretty thoughtful.

It does look like it’s a reverse of an exhibit in the London Science Museum Launch Pad area, though… or as it was about a decade ago, anyway – that thing with the projector and the white bar.

Random: just-a-minute.org

I don’t know why, but the voice reading the meditations at this site reminds me of GlaDOS, minus the random changes in pitch.
I’m fairly certain it’s because the voice sounds very artificial, and pretty closely hits one of GlaDOS’ three pitches. Even though it tells me to relax, I really don’t think I’d be able to, even if I did this kind of thing by listening to a voice and following instructions, rather than reading a book and meditating in silence.
If I could stand to meditate in the first place.

Blog Stats and the ‘Search Engine Terms’ (AKA, Aunt Lio Answers…?)

I check my stats often. For this blog, I mean. I check a lot of stats normally, but they’re usually in whatever games I’m playing; my levels in Destruction, Restoration, Mercantile and Stealth, for instance.
Wordpress blog stats, anyway. How many people visited; usually an increase of some kind after writing a long, essay-length piece, like my last post (18 ‘today’, or yesterday by my clock, when I write this). Masses of people searching for impressions of Portal: Prelude on the 11th, most hitting my review/rant.
There’s also more constant traffic, rather than traffic depending on what’s currently popular, to play or talk about; usually at least one person daily looking for something about Blaze & Blade, who may or may not be someone I know. Likewise Etrian Odyssey, but no one’s commented on those posts, sadly. I love chattering about those games.
I’ll post more soon, promise. Etrian Odyssey 2 is on the top of my ‘must plaaaay’ list, and shall be returned to after I beat Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations. Which is much, much easier, but I don’t play that game for the difficulty.

I like it when something I’ve written gets seen; I think everyone feels at least a mild sense of achievement when they do something they like, other people witness, and no one disapproves without reason. Mostly, though, I check that page to see how people found this lair. Whether it’s something I wrote that they’ll be interested in, or they found it by mistake because some of my tags matched their terms.
Quite a few search terms seem to be more active queries, and I always get the urge to answer those. Which is really why I’m making this post. The five I got today range from random things to some of those actively questioning queries, and one recurring query – the one about Etrian Odyssey and its password – so you’ll see a nice selection.

To the adventurer who asked about ‘blaze and blade canyon path’…
I think it’s a bit of a tedious area, but that’s partially highlighted by that collapsing bridge right at the start. It looks like, for once, you’re going to get a quick path – you know they might take it away after the boss – but, no, you have to walk the long way both times. I wouldn’t mind it if, say, the long path led to something interesting, like an optional cave or somewhere with history, or… well… anything. But it doesn’t, and there opportunities have been lost.
What do you think of the place?

To the guildmaster pondering the mystery of the ‘etrian odyssey password’ – and, uh, everyone else turning up here since I first posted about the game…
I had the same problem, I think. Hit select when on the menu, after loading a save, and you’ll get the option screen with the password available. The one from the game’s main menu is a nasty red herring, and I’m surprised it was left in on that particular screen, considering how many people it’s confused.
I abstractly knew I should have checked the manual, but I didn’t, either. I thought I had to beat EVERYTHING to get the password, and thus all my headaches over fighting Primevil. Then again, it gave me something to do while my foot healed, so anyone finding this post from now on should know they’re not alone, and that I probably went through more thanks to my own idiocy anyway.

To the possible member of the Hunter’s Guild, Pioneer 2 Chapter, wondering about ‘the ruins 2’:
Ahh, sorry you didn’t find what you were looking for, if my guess on the above line is correct. Completely coincidentally… or not, as that game really does share a lot of qualities I love with Blaze & Blade, including a whole boss in Ep. 2… I’m rather fond of PSO, and I’m disappointed that PSU wasn’t quite as good, in my opinion, trading the whole ‘item collection’ thing for a ‘make your own’ mechanic that’s implemented in a worse manner than Monster Hunter’s.
Ahem. PSO, Ruins 2. Where enemies come in nigh-neverending waves, and a humble FOnewearl on her tod has to inhale most of her ‘fluids to deal with each room. Which is all well and good, since the value of the loot by that point tends to exceed the cost of the ‘fluids, but it does get a little ridiculous, thinking about it. Still, it’s a beautiful, if deeply frightening place.
‘Revolution to the origin PART 2’ is one of my favourite musical pieces in that Episode, discounting the boss themes, thanks to the strings right at the beginning. Manic strings. Glee.
This probably didn’t help you at all, whatever you were looking for, but if you did play Phantasy Star Online, I hope this provokes fond thoughts of Ruins 2, rather than nightmares.

To the gamer… um… hmm. I’m running out of synonyms for ‘aski-‘ okay, I’ve got it.
To the gamer seeking a ‘rpg fantasy first person’… which technically was what I was writing about in my last post, but probably wasn’t quite what you were interested in…
Oblivion’s good, seriously, even though I can find enough things to poke about it to write an article like that. Morrowind is also good if you don’t mind older graphics, and is available in a single box with both of its official expansions from, well, anywhere that sells games. Even Tesco.
I also mentioned the Ultima Underworld pair of games, spinoffs from the successful Ultima line of PC RPGs, which were good enough to keep me playing even though I sucked horribly at them. They’re proto-Oblivions, if you think Oblivion is a good game.
On the consoles, you might want to try finding the King’s Field series of games on the PSX and PS2; I never played them, aside from Eternal Ring, a sidestory. Which I never got far in, but was enjoyable like Ultima Underworld 2.
Um. Other than that, I tend to go for anything that isn’t first-person, I’m afraid. You’re asking the wrong person. Do you know of any good games I might want to try?

To the hunter wondering ‘how to kill a cephadrome with a bow’… and this was the second query in the list, but it’s long enough and detailed enough that it might be a bit much for someone not playing MHF(2) to skip past, so it’s here at the bottom.
Exactly how you kill a Cephalos with a bow, really. But just stopping there is a bit cheap. Cephadromes, like their smaller kin, are weak against Ice, so take your trusty Blango Fur Bow * for this trip, along with two less than as many Sonic Bombs as you can pack; Cephadrome really aren’t any trouble to take down with one or two Bombs, once you get the hang of it, but it’s always worth taking as many as you can the first time, whilst you learn when you can safely fire or not.
Presumably you know the range of your bows. If you don’t, take a trip to the Snowy Mountains and snipe some Popos; knowing how far you can stand from ANY Wyvern or Primatius boss is essential, and it’s even better when you know just how far away to stand and fire from to hit, say, a Yian Kut-ku’s ears. Knowledge of your weapons is essential; take some stones and practice throwing those if you’re not sure about Sonic Bombs, either.
That out of the way, actually taking down the Cephadrome. I recommend taking the Sonic Bombs from the supply box every time, as if you use only one of them, you’ve gotten a free Bomb in addition to saving the ones you made yourself. Take the rest of the stuff as you feel necessary, down a Cool or Hot Drink, whichever’s needed, and head out to the desert. Virtually every time I’ve taken this mission, the Cephadrome’s been on this screen; its fin is larger than those of the Cephalos, and if it IS there it tends to start trying to knock your feet out from under you almost immediately. Run to the centre, wait a little, and go search for it elsewhere if you don’t hear the ‘something big’s watching me’ piece.
Once you’ve found it… it’ll still be underground. What you’re aiming for when you toss each Sonic Bomb is its fin, and that usually means timing a throw to coincide with the fin missing you as it rushes past. The range of the soundburst a Sonic Bomb produces is about the size of a hunter, but if you get  it right on the fin the Cephadrome will react without fail. If you hang around long enough without doing that, whether because you keep missing or because you’re out of bombs, the Cephadrome’s fin will dip beneath the sand, and shortly afterwards it’ll arch its head out and spray sand at you. When the fin disappears, just make sure you’re moving, and this shouldn’t hit you; it’s a good opportunity to spike it in the head with a few arrows, or a better opportunity to throw a Sonic Bomb at it than as it goes past, as there’s less chance it’ll move out of the range before it goes off.
Having convinced the Cephadrome to please surface, it’ll flop around for a bit, just like Cephalos. Make sure you’re not standing in front of it, and throw off charged bowshots at it. Always fully charged shots unless you’re almost out of stamina, or have to dodge NOW, as uncharged shots do much less damage than fully charged ones.
Eventually it’ll stop thrashing, and get to its feet. This is very important; do not stay in front of the Wyvern. Never stand in front of any Wyvern without being in the middle of going to stand elsewhere; it may make hitting the head, or head and then straight through the body to the tail with a Piercing bow that much easier, but almost all Wyverns’ most devastating attacks can only be applied to a Hunter standing right in front of them. Hunters who stand still in front of Wyverns get spat, burnt, poisoned, bitten, stepped on, jumped on and shocked to failure. Not simultaneously unless there are some REALLY unfair missions out there, though. At this point in the game, you’re still able to easily heal the damage you’ll take there with Potions and other restorative items, but by the time you reach Red Khezu, you can get KO’d from full health instantly that way. Get out of that habit now and you won’t do stupid stuff like simultaneously wear Lightning-weak armour AND stand in front of Red Khezu later on.
Ahem. Ranting about my own stupidity aside, you can rather safely stand at a nice range from Cephadrome just slightly away from dead ahead; directly facing you is bad, facing 10 degrees away is pretty safe, as its sand breath, though it possesses a very long range ahead of the Wyvern, is much more a line than a cone or quarter. Work out what’s safe; it’s nasty, but it shouldn’t be deadly if you’ve picked decent armour. Bows are probably one of the best weapons to use against Cephadrome, as its weakness is its neck, and all its attacks save spitting sand fall much shorter than the comfortable range. Take your time aiming, try to make most of your shots fall against the Cephadrome’s long neck – preferrably whilst its spitting, as it should know better than to  leave itself open like that – and practice using rolling rather than running to dodge, if you feel like it. If you’re using any form of the Blango Fur Bow, the Cephadrome shouldn’t take long to fall, but just use a Sonic Bomb to convince it to surface properly again, or practice quickly aiming with the bow as it pops out of the sand; you’ll want to be good at that for a certain later Piscine Wyvern or two…
Oh, and remember to watch out for the Cephalos that may be lurking, depending on the area. They’re easy to dodge if you move every so often, but they’re an irritation, nethertheless.
I know that was long, but I don’t believe in knowingly being vague; Cephadrome was the first Wyvern I ever managed to take down, and I never managed it without a bow, so I never got further than the piscine livers quests in the original game.
As a very happy bow-using hunter, I hope this advice helps you… if you ever return here. Not likely, I know, but if you ever come by in future, tell me how it went!

That was fun. And I really don’t mind comments, even if it’s about how my opinions differ from yours. I don’t know everything, and I enjoy rambling and listening to people ramble about this stuff, so TALK, darnit. And post if these help!

General Update

So tired… I think I’m proof that 7am mornings are bad for one’s health.
I also managed to lose my glasses, but I’m apparently due an eye exam anyway, so… eh, even if I don’t find them, I’ll work on solving that soon.
Oblivion’s finally installed, as I started wanting back when I was trying to play Two Worlds. Complete with Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul, too. Might post on that sometime.
Also been playing Battle of Wesnoth recently. That’s a good game, too. I don’t know what it is about turn-based strategies, recently, but I’ve even been looking at ways to make them – Sim RPG Maker 95, which won’t test things properly, and a set of scripts for RMXP, which actually started and let me do stuff before it crashed. Right now, the scripts are looking more reliable.

A (potential) solution to (some) spam

Introduction

A part-preventative, part-reactionary ‘solution’. Obviously it isn’t an entire solution, but it is a possible method of limiting spam generated, at least until the inevitable workaround is developed.

Remember when Googlemail was only available to people who had been invited? If you wanted a Googlemail/GMail account, you had to know someone who was giving away invitations to the service. You also had to have a non-Google e-mail address to receive the invite, but that’s not relevant.
Towards the end of its not-exactly-open-beta period, users could hand out up to 99 or 100 invites to friends before they couldn’t send any more, or needed to wait for Google to hand out more. We still can, but now people can sign up for GMail without needing to go through another person, and that’s probably simpler.

There isn’t any way for users to see the ‘family tree’ of their GMail accounts – the account that spawned their invite, the account that spawned that accounts invites, all of that accounts spawned invite. Maybe Google doesn’t track it, and even if they did, some of that ‘family tree’ probably wouldn’t be visible to users; seeing one’s ‘direct descendent’ invites is all well and good, as is being able to see who the ‘parent’ account was, if a user forgets either of those, but should a user be able to see all other accounts born from invites spawned from that parent account, or children accounts? Probably not; for a user, the most this should provide is a reminder of what invites they’ve sent out, and whose invite – if any, now that people can sign up without them – they accepted for the account.

So, about that spam solution.

Say Google decides to track e-mail account ‘families’, if they don’t already, as detailed above. Say, also, that Google can peer at the activity of any GMail account; what percentage of the outgoing material from any account matches definitions of spam, malicious content (viruses, scams, et cetera), or other undesired uses of an e-mail account, for example. If Google determines that a specific GMail account is being used for spam, they can temporarily suspend privileges, permanently suspend privileges, just remove the account… whatever they do normally, in such a case.
Now, as GMail families are tracked, Google can also examine other GMail accounts spawned from the account-determined-to-be-spamming; examine what proportion of outgoing material in those accounts is spam, malicious… whatever. Determine what proportion of descendent accounts are spam-generating. Google could also check whether the ancestors of the account originally identified as spam-generating are also generating spam; they can examine the entire family of accounts, and do whatever they want to all of them.

Key to this method is making signing up through an invite more painless than signing up without; if Google can more easily track spamming accounts if they’re all related, and it’s not more difficult to get a non-invite account (an account without a parent) then this won’t make it any easier to deal with spam. Spammers will just use less invite-spawned accounts and more parentless accounts, instead. Removing the ability to sign up without an invite would be even more problematic, as GMail is used in part thanks to its accessibility; a lot of today’s users signed up without an invite.
So, make it more difficult to sign up through the GMail site rather than through another GMail user’s invite; more checks and requirements for people signing up without an invite, and assume invited users have already been ‘checked’ by the inviter? Or otherwise invited despite knowing the intentions of the invitee, thus colluding with the invitee (spammer?).

Problems

Well, for starters, implementing the entire system if the key components of the solution aren’t already in existence. Even if the results of any changes made aren’t to be seen directly by users, it is still a lot of work planning, coding, testing and introducing any changes into any system. Then making use of it, and maintaining it. More work at GMail or any other e-mail service using the idea.

This system is partially only as strong as GMail’s non-invite signups are; it plays on the thought that spammers will tend more towards the easier method of getting new accounts  (from invites) rather than go through the tougher, more difficult method (from the site).
Spammers are likely to use both methods of signing up for accounts; both invites from other accounts, as it’s easier, and parentless accounts from the site, as they have no family full of also-spamming members for Google to hold against them… when they’re formed, at least. This system has the potential to deal with accounts from both origins, but there’s going to be a greater delay in detecting parentless accounts, unless GMail starts with a bias against them. The further down a ‘pristine’ family tree you are, or the longer an account goes without generating spam or invites to accounts that DO spam, the more ‘trusted’ an account is considered to be? ‘Trust’ is a different system indeed.

Any reduction in ease in signing up for a non-invited account is likely to reduce the number of legitimate users applying for GMail accounts. It may be made much easier, comparatively, to get an invite from a friend than to sign up ‘normally’, but there is always the chance that an individual does not know a user with an available invite, and would choose to use another e-mail service rather than deal with GMail and the process of signing up sans-invitation.
To really stand a chance at reducing spam, though, this method would have to see use in multiple e-mail services; if it’s just GMail that does this, what stops spammers from using Hotmail, or any other service?

False positives; say a random legitimate user is altruistic, and gives his or her invites to anyone who asks nicely and doesn’t ‘seem’ to be a spammer. Say a large proportion of that random user’s invites do, in fact, end up in the hands of spammers, and spawn much junk e-mail spam and invites to accounts that further spam. In such a situation, Google might decide that legitimate user’s account is actually owned by a spammer purely for the purpose of spawning more accounts that could be used to spam, even if outgoing traffic from that account appears legitimate. A false positive.
Likewise, ‘negatives’ where an account appears legitimate, but exists only to produce invites that go to spamming. Inaccuracies have always exists in any system designed to detect spam, whatever the means they use to detect it; GMail’s filters occasionally let spam through, and the university IT service flags the random legitimate messages as possible-spam – just adding something to the subject line indicating such, and I don’t filter out spam based on that, thankfully. In this case, Google could check how much outgoing mail such an account generated over time since the account was formed, and compared it to how many invites have been sent out over time… and see whether e-mail activity and invite-spawning activity matches, possibly determining whether the apparently-legitimate outgoing e-mail really is legitimate, or is just a few token pieces of ‘I’m a legitimate user, me’ e-mails designed to make Google think that.

A black market in invites from not-spamming, not-related-to-spamming accounts? It’s been an age since I last invited anyone, so I’m not sure how it’s handled, currently. Can invites sent to a person be distributed by THAT person to someone else? That’s a big hole, if they can…
Linking invites to the e-mail address they’re sent to? I’m soon to run into my idea-quota for the day.

Lastly, the inevitable workaround. I don’t know what this will be, but it really is inevitable, however it happens.

Miscellaneous Stuff

This is something similar to CAPTCHAs; those (usually – there are the ‘pick a cat’-type CAPTCHAs that don’t involve as much text, and there are the ones that ask you to type out all letters from a set marked with some impossible-to-distinguish tiny icon that looks just like another icon you’re not supposed to type; I like the first variant, and detest the second as I keep failing those) distorted, obscured, difficult-to-read sections of text you have to type out in order to get accounts at forums or e-mail services nowadays, in addition to countless other online services. It’s just a method or tool for preventing or limiting spam, both relating to initially picking up an account, though this method doesn’t explicitly involve anything even humans have difficulty reading. This post was inspired by news that, recently, a number of CAPTCHAs have been broken; Google’s CAPTCHAs, Microsoft’s Hotmail CAPTCHAs, even the ‘pick a cat’ CAPTCHAs.
The idea wasn’t inspired by those – I came up with that years ago, chatting to someone else about possible other uses and ramifications of GMail’s system (back then) of gaining new users (‘our users give invitations to potential users – we get limited vetting at no extra cost AND a slight in-group mentality’ … or something like that; A-Level psychology and communications studies courses are still affecting how I think about these things).

If anyone’s still reading this mess of text pretending to be essay-like, have a cookie.

Back north again

Well, I’m back in my room (not) ready for university (in the slightest).
I stll have a week to go, as it’s Fresher’s week starting next monday, but I still don’t feel ready to go back to university yet.

I also have yet to adjust to a ‘sane’ sleeping cycle, and still happily sleep at 3am or later, and wake around noon. I suppose I’d better spend the last week free getting back to being able to get up at 7am without falling out of bed.

Musical Preferences

I’ve been thinking about it, lately. I don’t really have much overt preference.
I mean, there’s always a preference to pieces that are played well. (Unintentionally) off-key pieces have never been something I could stand to hear for long.

Other than that, though, if it’s music, I’ll probably happily listen to it. Classical, baroque, punk, heavy metal, chiptune, synth, violin, saxophone, hybrid heavy metal-orchestral pieces… I have biases, but I’ll enjoy anything. About the only things I don’t enjoy are reggae, blues, that trance/dance ‘music’… junk, and rap; even then that’s not blanket, as there are several videogame remixes in those styles that I love. Well, two raps that spring to mind immediately, and probably more pieces lurking on OCRemix that I can’t recall right now.
My bias is towards videogame music, you see. But I don’t think that’s it; Sonic Adventure 2 had at least one absolutely horrible rap that I detested. I don’t think that I simply enjoy pieces more when the source is a videogame’s soundtrack. Once upon a time, you could have said it’s an indirect result of music being from a videogame; the distinctive tones produced by a 16-bit console that combine to form a piece of music. I admit I love obviously-synthetic pieces like this – reflected in my similar love of original chiptune pieces – but nowadays music quality in commercial games is an entirely different world. Just listen to the stuff from Final Fantasy XII, or Archaic Sealed Heat.
Still, it’s not just videogame stuff that I listen to. Outside that field, I’m partial to… the Stranglers, Muse, and… uh… well, there’s an 8bitpeoples album sitting on my desk, but that’s chiptune and therefore in that hazy area between things. Random music I hear on the radio, sometimes, but a lot less nowadays than I used to. Half the stuff that appeared on Kerrang. I genuinely prefer the older-sounding stuff outside of videogames, Muse aside, I suppose.

I’ve just been thinking about it lately, as I’ve been listening to soundtracks to old Megadrive games, half of which I never owned or played, and a half again of the remainder being ones I owned and seldom did more with than access sound tests.

So, Megadrive game music I’ve listened to, today and yesterday:

Divine Sealing (not owned)
Mystic Defender (not owned)
Alien Solider (not owned)
Arcus Odyssey (not owned)

Comix Zone (owned, suck at it)

Dynamite Headdy (owned, never beaten – third level midboss is a pain, last boss is a worse pain)

Light Crusader (owned, beaten)

Soleil/Crusader of Centy/Ragnacenty (owned, beaten)

Edit: So, someone got here by searching for ‘Dynamite Headdy Soundtrack’?

You can pick it up at Project 2612. You may need a plug-in to play it, but links to various options are available on the site itself.

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