You’re Not the Customer; You’re the Product July 17, 2017 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Quote Investigator looks at the history of this quotation: Richard Serra? Carlota Fay Schoolman? Steve Atkins? Tom Johnson? Andrew Lewis? blue_beetle? Tim O’Reilly?
posted by Lanark to MetaFilter-Related at 7:00 AM (36 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

In 1999 the company AllAdvantage launched a service that showed advertisements to individuals while they browsed the internet. The ads appeared on the top or bottom of the computer display. Viewers received 50 cents per hour compensation with a cap of $20 a month.

Oh god, the memories. The awkward, cringe inducing memories.

Interesting read though, thanks!
posted by ODiV at 7:25 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Whatever the history of the concept, my opinion is that blue_beetle perfected the quote.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:52 AM on July 17 [16 favorites]


Neat!
posted by crush at 8:02 AM on July 17


I love the whiff of suspicion about this "blue_beetle" character in that cited book: "whose supposed real name is Andrew Lewis".
posted by Etrigan at 8:12 AM on July 17 [10 favorites]


I thought it was from Einstein
posted by thelonius at 8:32 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Related.
posted by solotoro at 8:46 AM on July 17


The resident teenager quoted that comment in a school project on internet privacy and cited it appropriately, so a) blue_beetle is now a scholarly source, for certain definitions of "scholarly", and b) I've semi-outed myself to the social studies teacher ("I recognize all the sources she's using except this one").
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:46 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


In 1999 the company AllAdvantage launched a service that showed advertisements to individuals while they browsed the internet. The ads appeared on the top or bottom of the computer display. Viewers received 50 cents per hour compensation with a cap of $20 a month.

> Oh god, the memories. The awkward, cringe inducing memories.

$20 a month? Was there a period where they paid out more, or was that just people gaming the system? I clearly recall people in college with bots that moved a mouse for hours, possibly with multiple AA bars on their screen, and the AA/Bot war of escalation where the AA program featured improved bot detection, followed by improved bots, and so forth.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:47 AM on July 17


$20 a month?

Same as in town.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:55 AM on July 17 [12 favorites]


Finally! I did some investigation myself some time back.
posted by Miko at 12:23 PM on July 17


If you're not paying blah blah blah
                           - Wayne Gretzkey
                                   - Michael Scott
                                       - blue_beetle
posted by blue_beetle at 12:37 PM on July 17 [16 favorites]


If you're not paying blah blah blah
- Wayne Gretzkey
- Michael Scott
- blue_beetle

-Todd Lokken
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:34 PM on July 17 [10 favorites]


If you're not paying blah blah blah
- Wayne Gretzkey
- Michael Scott
- blue_beetle
-Todd Lokken

- Melania Trump
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:28 PM on July 17 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure this is an Oscar Wilde quote.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:03 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


"He who payeth not, rather than a Cuftomer, findeth himfelf actually a ftore's wayres!"

-- Poor Richard
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:47 PM on July 17 [19 favorites]


Now THAT's the crypto-mefite t-shirt I want. Just
     -Todd Lokken
Nothing else.
posted by ctmf at 7:48 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


"He who payeth not, rather than a Cuftomer, findeth himfelf actually a ftore's wayres!"

Also doubles as a prayer to an Old One.
posted by Gorgik at 7:51 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Look to the right. Look to the left. If you're not the product being served, you will be shown a goat, then you are t̶̨̝̩̦͓̰̰̪̟̼̼̞̱̑͒̓̍̚h̴̦̜̩͉̠͓̐̅͛̃̾́̔̇̈́̋͝ȩ̷̧̰̺̗͇͍͓͉̳̟̼͕̀̉̌̐̈͗̓̇͑̓͘͜ ̵̛̜̤̖̭̻͍̞̝̜͉͓̤̘̪͖̐͂̀̿̾ḟ̴̧̬̦̗̯̠͎̜͈̰̬͎͓̝̉̈́̾͝ą̸̗̟̜͔̣͕̻̺̞̼̞͎̦̙͛͊̀̾̾̐m̶̧̻̬͍̭̣̏̆̈̎͊͂̃̉͌̾͋̕͜ͅͅį̷̧̣͈̞͉͓̿̕s̶̡̛̹̫̗͍̺̤̗͖̹̻̓̀̋̐̊̋̿̃̑̈́̎̚h̷̨̯̪̭͍́̓́͗͒̀̿͗̔̓̐͛͘e̸̫̬̣̣̲̰̠͇̬͗̈͌̓̀̔̂̏́͐ḑ̸̢̡͈̠̪̦̞̫̙͕̱͓͂́ͅ ̴̨̘̱̪͙̬̲͓͎̤̰͙͒̀̐͐̄̕m̷̧̢͔̳͙̣̼͍̅͂̓̈́͑̇͝a̴̘̣̰͛͌͗́ẁ̶̢̯͔̝̭̟̙̺͉͈̗̤̬̦͎͌̾̔̈̐̽̎͊̃͂̇̏̿͝
posted by fleacircus at 9:16 PM on July 17 [9 favorites]


"It's a cookbook!"
--Rod Serling
posted by notyou at 10:21 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


This comment and this one predate blue_beetle's.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:28 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


( I'm not saying blue_beetle copied anybody, because he didn't, or that blue_beetle's version isn't the best one, because I think it is, just that there appears to have been a growing awareness of this issue around that time, and it's interesting that blue_beetle's version has endured while other similar comments from around the same time languish in obscurity god please don't hit me)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:13 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


That there is what the germans would call one a them sitegusts.
posted by mannequito at 12:00 AM on July 18 [3 favorites]


I think the real wisdom of blue_beetle (and of those who made comments on the same theme in the past) is often overlooked. That's why we should all vote #1 quidnunc kid, and he intends to make the sagicious aphorism in question a constitutional principle of MeFi.

To explain: under a quidnunc kid regime, every user will be treated a very highly-valued customer of this site, for a VERY highly-valued monthly charge. And if you don't pay that charge, I intend to harvest your internal organs for sale through our trusted affiliate (quidnunc's quality pet food LLC). So MeFi users would all have REAL choice again, as blue_beetle (and others) have so rightfully demanded: i.e. the choice to be a customer or a product being sold. And I think we can all agree that choice is an amazing and powerful thing.

And I think that explains why quidnunc kid has just been arrested on these so-called "charges" of "conspiracy to harvest the internal organs of the innocent". So whether you're the federal judge trying this case or just a member of the jury, remember - vote #1 quidnunc kid! And on that note your Honour, the prosecution re-- wait sorry, I mean "the defence rests".

Sorry, I got a little confused ... guess I shouldn't have harvested all my damn brain tissue to sell as pet food! Ha ha! No but seriously my lawyer was supposed to be here to say all this stuff ... it's just that I harvested him for pet food last week, and now he won't return my calls.

OK thanks your Honour you've been a great audience! Can I ... can I go now?
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:19 AM on July 18 [17 favorites]


Having a quick look through Google Scholar:

- Annoyingly mentioned but not cited in this 2014 paper on participative marketing.
- Ditto in this 2013 book on the media industry when participation is a product.
- Sigh. Ditto again ("As the saying goes...") in this rather chatty article about Liberation Technology and the Arab Spring.
- Oh finally an attribution on a 2015 piece: "A quote that went viral in the debate around Big Data, first posted in August 2010 by Andrew Lewis (username: blue_beetle) on community weblog Metafilter." Excellent!
- Partial quote and no citation (despite putting the partial quote in speech marks) in this 2016 Rochester University piece entitled "The Flânerie of Instagram".

(And there's loads more, but the majority don't have a citation or reference, or arrrggh grrrr they waft it away with a lazy "popular saying". Personally, as the librarian equivalent of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket this kind of thing seriously pisses me off, but noooooooo, if you circle and write "CITATION, MOTHERFUCKER, CITATION!" in red ink next to every example where he lazily does this on his grad students paper then he gets upset and you get hassled by a university admin even when you retort that the student has been in university for HALF A DECADE and somehow he still does not cite or reference ANYTHING and expects he will coast to a Masters degree at the end of it. And that's also why I sometimes imagine being on a TV show where a duo of librarian detectives solve crimes through using information science, and I am the "Bad Cop" of the duo, the one who sends the good cop out to make a pot of tea then immediately pins the suspect up against the wall and whispers in his trembling ear "Why should I not throw you in the worst jail for fifteen years when you refuse to give the correct or any attribution for your evidence? WHY?")
posted by Wordshore at 3:53 AM on July 18 [13 favorites]


In 1999 the company AllAdvantage launched a service that showed advertisements to individuals while they browsed the internet. The ads appeared on the top or bottom of the computer display. Viewers received 50 cents per hour compensation with a cap of $20 a month.

Oh man, AllAdvantage and Epinions must have been at least half of my pocket money in my senior year of college.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:23 AM on July 18


The chain from blue_beetle to Tim O'Reilly seems the most important to me. Tim's highly influential in the tech world, the perfect person to popularize a quote like this.
posted by Nelson at 7:10 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


On further consideration, the show will be called "True Librarians", and would star Jessamyn (Good Cop) and Wordshore (Bad Cop). The duo deal with crimes which visiting urban and city police have failed to solve; more of the detective work would take place inside libraries (multiple sources of information and archives) than in police stations. Jessamyn would obviously be the smarter one who usually ends up cracking the case, but has a strong streak of anti-authoritarianism and doesn't always arrest the culprits. For example, in (forthcoming) "The maple syrup contraband racket", the suspects are not arrested as long as they donate their stash to food banks and promise to be regular library users. Wordshore is the less patient one, more willing to find leads and information by, for example, corrupting the judging at a village fete to uncover the marrow rustler, rather than strictly following regular procedure. This sometimes gets results, though Jessamyn often has to deal with the damage. An owl appears occasionally, giving away the location of criminals hiding from the long arm of librarianship; the True Librarians drive a beat-up combine harvester which occasionally gets caught up in slow-speed country lane chases. Episodes are filmed in rural Vermont and rural England (think Fargo but with less snow and more properly made tea), with a theme tune sung by Cortex. The first episode, entitled "Two of our cheeses are missing", is on Netflix this Autumn. Further details on FanFare then.
posted by Wordshore at 10:24 AM on July 18 [27 favorites]


Well, make sure to tell us all about it when you do find cheeses.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:28 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


If you find cheeses laying out on your warm kitchen counter for longer than 3 days, do not eat cheeses. Cheeses that have already risen are no longer safe for transubstantiation.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:38 AM on July 18 [6 favorites]


"Bad Cop"

Citation needed for original source of that idea, concept, or purpose.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:38 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Risen cheese propels me. Stay out of the backblast area.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 7:37 PM on July 18


Lunch must be provided, and that lunch must appear to be free, before it's properly fitting to observe that there ain't no such thing. The blue_beetle version was the first I've seen that correctly creates the distinction: it's not just that advertisers are customers, it's that the user stops being a customer when the user stops paying for lunch. The alarming thing is not that advertising exists, it's the number of companies that provide major parts of our daily lives that won't even consider letting us be their customers.
posted by Sequence at 12:28 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


Even when you're paying for something you're often still the product, these days.
posted by ODiV at 7:32 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


Here's what I said in a Feb. 2009 thread:
The fundamental problem is that we, the people who use Gmail, Google search, Docs, GrandCentral, etc., are not Google's customers.

The advertisers are their customers. We are their product, the product they sell to their customers.
Not really all that close to blue_beetle's excellent formulation.
posted by jamjam at 12:09 PM on July 19 [2 favorites]


The product is a lie.
posted by flabdablet at 2:48 AM on July 20


Well, I don't think so..
posted by channave at 3:30 AM on July 20


« Older Metatalktail Hour: Shop Talk   |   All I want for GISHWHES... is youuuuuuu Newer »

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