blue_beetle's comment on reddit September 12, 2010 7:56 PM   Subscribe

blue_beetle's insightful comment on how the Internet funds itself has prompted a front-page reddit post.
posted by spiderskull to MetaFilter-Related at 7:56 PM (84 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Oh shit, I just realized we were all set for a completely MeTa-free Sunday. Sorry.
posted by spiderskull at 7:57 PM on September 12, 2010


IT'S NO PROBLEM I WAS AWAKE ANYHOW.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:57 PM on September 12, 2010 [35 favorites]


Heh.
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:03 PM on September 12, 2010


spiderskull, there are Time Zones!
posted by vidur at 8:04 PM on September 12, 2010


Good thing you posted this, 'cuz I wasn't going to bed until there was a new meta.. I was going into withdrawal!
posted by HuronBob at 8:11 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


... and from there to a moderately popular front-page post at ycombinator's Hacker News.
posted by koeselitz at 8:12 PM on September 12, 2010


d a m n y o u . . .

j/k. Good on blue_beetle
posted by edgeways at 8:18 PM on September 12, 2010


man, I just lost $20.
posted by boo_radley at 8:20 PM on September 12, 2010


And posted to Daring Fireball, too.
posted by aaronbeekay at 8:21 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


boo_radley: man, I just lost $20.

How funny, the same just happened to me, except it was in town.
posted by Kattullus at 8:23 PM on September 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


And posted to Daring Fireball, too.

How do you "overhear" something on the internet? People are weird.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:24 PM on September 12, 2010


jessamyn: How do you "overhear" something on the internet?

When I used to work for Rhode Island Services for the Blind I had coworkers who used JAWS and I would overhear stuff on the internet all the time. Somehow I doubt John Gruber overheard the quote that way, though.
posted by Kattullus at 8:28 PM on September 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


This is precisely the reason I ponied up the $5.
posted by googly at 8:30 PM on September 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


How do you "overhear" something on the internet? People are weird.

Internet synesthesia is one of the primary indications of an approaching singularity, isn't?
posted by carsonb at 8:30 PM on September 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was glad to see that comment show up on a few blogs days later (Simon Willison's blog was the first place I saw it repeated) because it was brilliant, short, pithy, and spot on. People write entire books on the subject and there in one single sentence was the raw truth of internet economics. Brilliant, and I'm glad a quick comment in a long thread has gotten in front of thousands of others.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:33 PM on September 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Don't miss Richard Serra's Television Delivers People (1973).
posted by nobody at 8:38 PM on September 12, 2010


Or from Noam Chomsky's "What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream" in 1997, implying that you are the product even when you are paying for it (with reference to the "worldwide web"):
Take the New York Times. It’s a corporation and sells a product. The product is audiences. They don’t make money when you buy the newspaper. They are happy to put it on the worldwide web for free. They actually lose money when you buy the newspaper. But the audience is the product. The product is privileged people, just like the people who are writing the newspapers, you know, top-level decision-making people in society. You have to sell a product to a market, and the market is, of course, advertisers (that is, other businesses). Whether it is television or newspapers, or whatever, they are selling audiences. Corporations sell audiences to other corporations.
posted by nobody at 8:50 PM on September 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Poor idiopath...
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:06 PM on September 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't understand this one bit.

Exactly the same has been said and repeated on Metafilter in the past, in as few words, in almost precisely the same words, at least half a dozen times that I can remember, most frequently about Facebook.

I'm sure I didn't dream it this time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:26 PM on September 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whoops, I see that Ian A.T. already linked to one of the instances.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:26 PM on September 12, 2010


Thank goodness I didn't imagine it this time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:27 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't understand this one bit.

It's all in the timing and the zeitgeist regarding how it resonates with people.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:47 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, I've been watching this thing bounce around twitter for like two fucking weeks. It's nuts. I've got a mefi dragnet set up in Tweetdeck, which is handy for seeing where people are chattering about mefi content (and to some extent to see where people are being spammy about it) but it gets a little weird when one thing just eats twitter's brain like this. That usually lasts a few hours or a day, though. This has been relatively epic.

And there's a lot of luck and a lot of zeitgeist going for it, and some situational context—I suspect it wouldn't have gotten so much twitter love if this kind of observation wasn't exactly the sort of thing a lot of self-satisfied marketer douchelords like to pass around knowingly as if by repeating some bit of pith on twitter they're actualizing the shit out of their social media strategies or whatever the fuck—but all that aside it's a nice tight expression of the thought, and blue_beetle seems to be a mensch and so hey.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:08 PM on September 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


What is above the douchelord in the douche taxonomy?
posted by killdevil at 10:22 PM on September 12, 2010


doucheking?
posted by that girl at 10:48 PM on September 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


What is above the douchelord in the douche taxonomy?

Do you want a user number?*

* Other than 41040.
posted by maxwelton at 10:49 PM on September 12, 2010


douchedaimyo?
doucheduke?
posted by that girl at 10:50 PM on September 12, 2010


God Emperor Of Douche
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:57 PM on September 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


Douchemari Douchacy
posted by carsonb at 10:59 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Her Grace Summers Eve Massengill, Douchess of Douchenshire
posted by vorfeed at 11:15 PM on September 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


The product is privileged people, just like the people who are writing the newspapers, you know, top-level decision-making people in society. You have to sell a product to a market, and the market is, of course, advertisers (that is, other businesses). Whether it is television or newspapers, or whatever, they are selling audiences. Corporations sell audiences to other corporations.

I like to think at MetaFilter we are all employees.
posted by Chuckles at 11:32 PM on September 12, 2010


It is true that blue_beetle's formulation was probably the pithiest so far, and the tweetlesphere or whatever it's called is all about the pith, so: huzzah!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:38 PM on September 12, 2010


What is above the douchelord in the douche taxonomy?

Lord of the Douche.

I know lord is in douchelord, but douchelord does not highlight the dancing skills incumbent upon the Lord of the Douche.
posted by grapesaresour at 11:41 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dushy, as in the Dushy of Massengill.

(via Wikipedia.)
posted by From Bklyn at 11:53 PM on September 12, 2010


no offense to blue_beetle, but it's hardly an original thought with him. I've posted more or less the exact same comment, and I know I read it somewhere else first.
posted by empath at 12:12 AM on September 13, 2010


Yeah, it's a regular fact to anyone working in advertising.

It's also why advertising and marketing was thrown into such an upheaval by the web. Being able to precisely track the effect of advertising at a much lower cost only points out how much shooting in the dark was going on before. I suppose in a way, the money from advertising in the era when print was king was its own bubble.
posted by nomadicink at 12:52 AM on September 13, 2010


cortex: "I've got a mefi dragnet set up in Tweetdeck"

Could you maybe share some secrets as to how you do that? Interested minds would love to know...
posted by gen at 1:35 AM on September 13, 2010


cortex: "I've got a mefi dragnet set up in Tweetdeck"

*tweets* OH HAI CORTEX I'm in the Mefi dragnet!
posted by IndigoRain at 1:58 AM on September 13, 2010


Maybe I just reflexively hate all blanket comments, but I don't think this is true. It's definitely true of a lot of sites, Facebook high among them, but not all free sites. For instance, I can use Amazon for free. I can use Identi.ca for free. (According to AdBlock+, Identi.ca is attempting to show me a single ad, but that's a little different than me being the product.)
posted by DU at 3:02 AM on September 13, 2010


Maybe I just reflexively hate all blanket comments...

What about Snuggie® comments?
posted by nomadicink at 3:51 AM on September 13, 2010


Could you maybe share some secrets as to how you do that? Interested minds would love to know...

Nothing fancy, just a search bar in Tweetdeck. Download it and start up a new search column and throw in your appropriate keywords, and exclusions with -keyword for false positives and stuff that you just don't need to see. My current string is:
metafilter OR mefi OR metatalk -DZTHERAPPER -mefigreen -mefiblue -mefi_tweed -iHaveNewsNow -AnonymousAskme -LB4406
First three are the meat of the search; everything after that is stuff I don't need to see: first is some rapper whose tinyurl for some song he tweeted and retweeted about fucking constantly contained the string "mefi", next two are official feeds, then two third-party who-the-hell-is-this rss-tweeter, another official feed, and another who-the-fuck collision.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:20 AM on September 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't even try with Reddit, but I want to like Hacker News but have a really hard time finding the good discussions. Page o' links is overwhelming. I tried RSS but with no context around the link I don't get much out of it. Plus nested discussions bother me. I do keep seing familiar names from Mefi on Hacker News, though. Who is active over there? At least there aren't user avatars or signature files.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 4:31 AM on September 13, 2010


Before anyone jumps on my statement about me actually being a customer of Amazon, a free site: I know they probably sell browse/purchase behavior data and so I really am a product. But I'm also a customer.

There are other free sites out there that don't sell you. MeFi, for instance. Sure, you have to pay $5 to get in, but:
  1. that doesn't cover the cost of the site, it's more a simple barrier to entry. I can imagine free signup processes that I'd be willing to pay $5 to skip.
  2. you only have to pay $5 to write, you can read as much as you want for free.
And speaking of reading, that's another one: Wikipedia. And in the real world: the library.

The more I think about it, the more I realize I'm not just being contrarian either. I guess my problem is this: "They have to pay for it somehow" is a double-edged sword. It can help you figure out that someone may be being evil OR it can justify that evil. I actually usually see the latter.

One typical conversation about Facebook goes like this:

A: Facebook is so awesome.
B: You know they are selling your data, right?
A: If it let's me do this awesome stuff, I don't care!

Except this is illogical. There are many ways they could have funded Facebook (Amazon, MeFi, Wikipedia and the library all offer models). It is not necessary to (pretend to) be uncaring about privacy and still get awesome things.
posted by DU at 4:55 AM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


-DZTHERAPPER

This is useful as shorthand for internet noise, as in, "Let's talk about blue_beetle's comment again -DZTHERAPPER", or "The new Google Instant search shows too much DZTHERAPPER."
posted by oulipian at 5:02 AM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've been seeing it bouncing around in Tumblr too, but I get the impression that's based on the Daring Fireball mention.
posted by harriet vane at 5:04 AM on September 13, 2010


I've been telling college students this about all media for years.

The cost of a magazine subscription isn't cheaper than at the grocery store for any reason other than it gives guaranteed "readership" numbers that the ad people can sell to...advertisers.

Your cable package payment isn't what's keeping (I don't have a tv, just throw in your favorite cable show here) on the air. And whatever is on "regular" tv certainly isn't being paid for by the viewer.

That $1.25 you pay for the newspaper? That probably doesn't pay for the paper and ink, much less the writers' time, etc.

When you turn on the radio? Why do you think radio stations make such a big deal about having the longest runs of songs, the triple play, the power hour? They want to remind you that it's the same (or worse) on every other station.

If you are consuming content and someone is making money on that content, you are being sold. There are no two ways about this.

(Average time spent looking at an ad in a magazine? Practically none. Why? Because you're flipping through the pages to get to the content. These ads are designed to get in your brain within that miniscule portion of a second. Which is why so many of them are so upsetting when you spend any amount of time actually contemplating the juxtapositions of words and images.)
posted by bilabial at 5:24 AM on September 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


no offense to blue_beetle, but it's hardly an original thought with him. I've posted more or less the exact same comment, and I know I read it somewhere else first.

Yep. Interesting to see how the same thought can get a wildly different number of favorites (100+ vs. 0).
posted by John Cohen at 5:31 AM on September 13, 2010


How do you "overhear" something on the internet? People are weird.
you can only do it if they aren't SHOUTING.

I want to like Hacker News but have a really hard time finding the good discussions.
Many of the discussions are very good. The trick is not to only read them once. The idiotic threading and re-ordering of comments makes it impossible to find out what's new when you're returning to a thread without manually re-checking each post. That's fine if you're a 22-year-old San Franciscan with time to spare, but not me. So wait until the thread hits 100-odd posts and read it then.

Also, the "threads" link in the nav is their equivalent of recent activity, and makes it very easy to follow your replies.
posted by bonaldi at 5:44 AM on September 13, 2010


Well, it's nice to have my 5 minutes of internet fame... but honestly as many have mentioned, it's a pretty common sentiment around these parts so I can't take credit for the idea, only the happenstance of putting the words in that order at that time.

Also, when do I start getting the checks? I mean, do I need to sign up somewhere to make money from this, or can I just go to any ATM?
posted by blue_beetle at 5:53 AM on September 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


The phrase "God Emperor of Douche" made coffee shoot out of my nose. It hurt. But it was totally worth it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:16 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, when do I start getting the checks?
You have been approved to claim a total sum of 2,500,000.00 USD for your insightful comment. Please contact me immediately. You only need to provide further small processing and transfer fees which we will discuss genially.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:19 AM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, when do I start getting the checks?

You're being paid in theoretical internet money.
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:24 AM on September 13, 2010


"I've got a mefi dragnet set up in Tweetdeck"

"This is the internet: Metafilter. I work here. I'm a mod."
posted by octobersurprise at 6:35 AM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you are consuming content and someone is making money on that content, you are being sold. There are no two ways about this.

Up the river or down the river? Laws, I don't want to be sold down the river.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:39 AM on September 13, 2010


Oh, you selfish jerks. blue_beetle, here's a check: √
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 6:56 AM on September 13, 2010


...and it's not a screengrab. I was wrong!
posted by Artw at 7:01 AM on September 13, 2010


There is a definite variant with some forms of media - free-to-play games, like Facebook games, are a good example. In that case, The vast majority of people never pay a dime, but the small fraction of nutbars who pay hundreds of dollars every few months fund the rest of the game, and you need to pan the millions of free ones to sift out the gold.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:15 AM on September 13, 2010


Also, when do I start getting the checks? I mean, do I need to sign up somewhere to make money from this, or can I just go to any ATM?

"If you're not getting paid for it, you're not the producer; you're the one being... "

No wait.

"If you're not getting paid for it, you're not the producer; you're consuming..."

No that's not it. Hold on; I know it's in there somewhere.
posted by albrecht at 7:31 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


John Cohen writes "Yep. Interesting to see how the same thought can get a wildly different number of favorites (100+ vs. 0)."
Being the first comment in a thread helps a lot.

I missed that digg thread the first time around. It explains the crapification of the Digg front page that'd I'd observed but was too casual a user to investigate.
posted by Mitheral at 7:52 AM on September 13, 2010


You're being paid in theoretical internet money.

That episode was my final straw when it comes to South Park. I will never understand why such ignorance is celebrated. Or rather, I understand it too well and it disgusts me.
posted by muddgirl at 8:18 AM on September 13, 2010


And in the real world: the library.

My favorite thing to do, when i'm in particularly "fuck capitalism" mood is to see if I can make the argument that the public library actually exists to serve some sort of capitalistic "let's get more money to businesses at the expense of the taxpayers/citizens" goal and not, you know, helping forward democrazy. Interestingly, with each passing year, this argument gets easier to make. Originally, taxpayer dollars [once we had taxpayer funded libraries in the first place] went to basically buy books, pay the librarian's salary, and keep the building lit, heated and open.

Nowadays, if you look at the line items, some of the biggest things libraries pay for, especially big libraries, are

- health insurance for staff [going up double digits every year, hello big insurance]
- licensing fees for digital content/databases [which are also going up a shocking amount yearly particularly in the academic realm, hello big media companies]
- maintenance fees for software licenses for things like online catalogs, and software costs generally and blanket licenses for "public performance" of movies which is just fear money going to the MPAA [hello RIAA, MPAA and Microsoft and like three other software companies]
- digital content which we don't own but merely rent [hello big publishing]

And of course we still buy books, and puppets, and pay librarians [fewer and fewer lately] but a lot of money, tax money, is going pretty directly to big business. So this is a different model than the "you're the product" sort of way of looking at things, and I don't totally believe in this retelling of events, but some days it makes my MeFi job look positively pure by comparison.
</soapbox>
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:21 AM on September 13, 2010 [41 favorites]


Also, when do I start getting the checks?

You are the product, and Metafilter is the seller.
posted by smackfu at 8:55 AM on September 13, 2010


There are other free sites out there that don't sell you. MeFi, for instance.

Well, last time I looked at the site when not logged in, I saw there were ads on the page...

MeFi isn't selling you directly, as they aren't aggregating information about you and using that in a feedback loop with advertisers to target you or provide information about how their products are being used... But MeFi does sell its (non-member) readers to advertisers as eyeballs.

Are the ads that run on the Blue and the Green targeted to go with the page content? I don't read it when not logged in often enough to really know.
posted by hippybear at 8:56 AM on September 13, 2010


I recall the pre-internet version of this sentiment:

Television is not in the business of providing programming to viewers; it is in the business of providing eyeballs to advertisers.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:07 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


rAe the ads that run on the Blue and the Green targeted to go with the page content?

Seem to be, which can make for hilarious and/or odd moments. The thread about the making of the opening scene of Blade runner has ads about Adobe's Creative Suite and being an interactive designer, even after refreshing repeatedly.

Meanwhile the thread bout the woman addicted to online gaming has ads for drug addiction.

The one about a reformed Al Queda member has ads for a Counter Terrorism Degree or a degree in Intelligence, with the military.

The Askme from yesterday about containing an old flame on Facebook has a video ad for the Facebook based movie "The Social Network", or other Facebook related stuff.
posted by nomadicink at 9:08 AM on September 13, 2010


I'm the operator of my pocket calculator.
posted by pianomover at 9:14 AM on September 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Are the ads that run on the Blue and the Green targeted to go with the page content?

Yeah, it's standard automated Adsense stuff—so targeted in the sense that Google does context-aware advertising based on the content of the thread, not targeted in any direct sense by us—which works pretty well as a general idea but can lead to really weirdly Did I Just See That situations in outlier cases. We removed the adbox entirely from the Russian Girls askme back when that was all going on specifically because of the weird "oh hey you want a Russian bride/girly/etc?" ads that kept showing up as, uh, contextually relevant.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:19 AM on September 13, 2010


I've posted more or less the exact same comment, and I know I read it somewhere else first.

It's less the exact same comment, and his was far more succinct. Still, just so there are no bad internet feelings, have an internet poesy: --;@
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:25 AM on September 13, 2010


spiderskull, there are Time Zones!

Cocktails, anyone? It's 5:00 p.m. somewhere.
posted by ericb at 9:27 AM on September 13, 2010


How do you "overhear" something on the internet?

Rest assured that the good men and women of the NSA are working 'round the clock to answer this very question.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:37 AM on September 13, 2010




In order to prove that internet famous doesn't mean much, I've put the quote on a t-shirt and am selling it on CafePress. Selling out is getting easier via the Internet, it's just unfortunately not very lucrative.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:13 AM on September 13, 2010


What is above the douchelord in the douche taxonomy?

Dukeouche and Douchesse
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:15 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


see if I can make the argument that the public library actually exists to serve some sort of capitalistic ... goal

An educated workforce is good for business.

But not too much! They might start asking for things like single-payer health insurance.

Therefore: Have a library, but hobble it. Never fund it so it can live up to its potential.

You're welcome.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:18 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, when do I start getting the checks? I mean, do I need to sign up somewhere to make money from this, or can I just go to any ATM?

You'll have to get in line behind me. I've got the "Ferris Bueller is Tyler Durden" thing going.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:20 AM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


turning internet fame into money is the new lead into gold.
posted by The Whelk at 7:56 PM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


"let's get more money to businesses at the expense of the taxpayers/citizens" goal and not, you know, helping forward democrazy

LOLDEMOCRAZY.
posted by albrecht at 7:58 PM on September 13, 2010


Congratulations, blue_beetle. But remember, as Samuel Johnson said, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:19 PM on September 13, 2010


Have a library, but hobble it.

Working hours, Mon. - Fri. 8-5. Library hours, Mon. - Fri. 8-5. Problem solved.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:24 PM on September 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


"I'm in the Mefi dragnet!"

Do we get goat pony trousers?
posted by arcticseal at 12:10 AM on September 14, 2010


Recently while reading the book "Environmentalism: A Global History" by Ramachandra Guha, I noticed, and am now reminded how the author speaks of the same threads of "environmentalism" having been tugged, and sewn together to form the fabric which we see today; "In the academy's division of labor, wherein historians study the past and sociologists and anthropologists study the present, earlier works have tended to concentrate on either the first or the second wave of environmentalism, rarely both. By contrast, this book locates the present in the past, showing the influence on contemporary movements of patterns and processes that have persisted over the years, or gone underground only to resurface once more." he then quotes Stanford poet Wallace Stegner, who remarks that
The tracing of ideas is a guessing game. We can't tell who first had an idea; we can only tell who first had it influentially, who formulated it in some form, poem or equation or picture, that others could stumble upon with the shock of recognition. The radical ideas that have been changing our attitudes towards our habitat have been around forever.
Guha then notes "I wish only to substitute, for the poet's 'forever', the less evocative but historically more precise phrase, 'at least for a hundred years'."

So... nicely evoked!
posted by infinite intimation at 7:12 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: $5 means I'm not a product.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:35 PM on September 15, 2010


Blue_beetle's version is nice because of its explicit generality, which is lacking in the other versions I've seen. The generality also happens to makes it more thematically coherent; every concept in 'If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.' is about money changing hands. 'Facebook' or 'TV' or 'Newspapers' have to do with other things as well, and including those in the phrase makes it more cluttered.
posted by Anything at 3:36 PM on September 17, 2010


In related news ...

How Facebook sells your friends-- "Web site plans to become the biggest ad juggernaut since Google."
posted by ericb at 7:08 AM on September 24, 2010


« Older Leave your issues at the door...   |   NYT registration wall, zarq's solution. Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments