Testing some new ads from Carbon July 17, 2018 10:44 AM   Subscribe

You may have noticed: we've just started testing some new ads from Carbon, on the front pages of MetaFilter and Ask MeFi. Please let us know about bugs, issues, etc.

The details:

We're trying out some Carbon Ads units as, basically, replacements for what had for a number of years been ads from The Deck. This is a similar kind of ad with similar placement: top right corner of the front pages of MetaFilter and Ask MetaFilter, visible to both logged-in and logged-out readers, with a small, well-behaved image-and-text rectangle from a constrained set of advertisers. Carbon has the same general quality-over-quantity approach that Deck had, which is a big part of why I want to see how these do.

This is part of an effort to diversify and beef up our ad revenue, following on the recent financial shortfall; these particular ads may or may not stick around, but I wanted to start here because they feel like a reasonably good fit.

The ads should be visible on mobile as well as desktop, and in both Classic and Modern themes; on mobile they'll appear after the first couple of posts on the front page as you scroll down.

If you have an ad blocker, these may not be visible, which is okay. If you don't run an ad blocker but just plain don't want to see 'em, there's a big minus sign on the "Advertisement -" title bar that you can click to hide 'em, which will set a cookie that keeps them out of view.

Please treat the ads like you'd treat any ad anywhere; avoid any "clicking just to help" type stuff, etc. The most useful thing our end is to just see how they perform naturally while we test this out.

Let us know if you see any display issues with the ads or the box they're appearing in, etc.
posted by cortex to MetaFilter-Related at 10:44 AM (45 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Yarp.
posted by Melismata at 10:48 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Ads are also absolutely hideable in the Classic themes: There will be a link below the ads reading (hide carbon ads). A further note to that: Hiding the ads is, like most Metafilter preferences, specific to the device you're using, so don't be surprised if you hide them on your phone and then they end up showing up on your computer regardless.
posted by frimble (staff) at 10:48 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Huh. I’ve got Purify on my iPhone and your ads seem to be sneaking past it. I don’t mind, though. They seem to be not terribly intrusive, and if it helps Metafilter, I’m on board!
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:53 AM on July 17, 2018


Hit refresh a few times, ads seem consistent to what people could be interested here. Displays ok in Modern Dark here (Chrome, W7) and mobile (Chrome, Android 5). OK in desktop, a bit obtrusive in mobile.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:57 AM on July 17, 2018


I turned off uBlock Origin for Mefi but I'm still not seeing any ads on the Blue. Did I turn them off somehow without knowing it?
posted by octothorpe at 10:57 AM on July 17, 2018


Crystal on iOS showed a small box that said “Advertisement”. I clicked on it to see what it was, but appear to have clicked on the - sign and hidden it.

Anyway, I’ve whitelisted MetaFilter now, for what that’s worth.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:00 AM on July 17, 2018


I just deleted all the cookies for Mefi and relogged in and now see a block that says Advertisement but no actual ad.
posted by octothorpe at 11:02 AM on July 17, 2018


Viewing MetaFilter in Firefox, Classic theme, I can see the ads and they look great! Modestly-sized, visually pleasing. It's a little jarring that the ads themselves are different sizes on MetaFilter and AskMetaFilter but I will almost assuredly live.
posted by kate blank at 11:08 AM on July 17, 2018


There are likely still some styling tweaks to sort out; feel free to send us details and screenshots with browser/OS info if anything is seeming visually inconsistent etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:15 AM on July 17, 2018


Chrome, iOS and displaying OK. Haven't found them intrusive, very similar to the Deck.
posted by arcticseal at 11:29 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Safari, iOS 11.3, minimising the ad from AskMe redirects to mefi.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:54 AM on July 17, 2018


minimising the ad from AskMe redirects to mefi.

That was an oversight on my part and should now be fixed.
posted by frimble (staff) at 12:07 PM on July 17, 2018


I think it's great you're trying this out, and I love the idea of this kind of ad.

a small, well-behaved image-and-text rectangle from a constrained set of advertisers

Note that they don't just include an image and text. Some of the ads also include a tracking pixel from Doubleclick. The tracking pixel url looks like this:

https://ad.doubleclick.net/ddm/trackimp/N728909.734586CARBONADS.NET/B20652854.213032112;dc_trk_aid=416746103;dc_trk_cid=99770752;ord=[timestamp];dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=?

Since cookies and a referrer header can be sent along with this request, this could allow Doubleclick to track browsing behavior of Mefites across Metafilter and other sites, whether or not we ever click the ads.

It looks like Carbon chooses the behavior of each ad individually -- some, like the "XMind" ad, just load an image from Carbon, while the "monday" ad also comes with Doubleclick tracking. So they might be supplying tracking information back to the individual advertisers.

Carbon's script also includes code for individual ads to load in further javascript of their own, although I didn't see any ads that used this feature:
    // carbon loads the details for a particular ad into the "ad" variable, and then ...
    if (ad.fetch != null) {
        var fetch = document.createElement('script');
        fetch.type = 'text/javascript';
        fetch.id = '_carbonads_fetchjs';
        fetch.src = ad.fetch;
Not sure what kind of commitments you have from them so far about tracking. If it was me, I'd want a commitment from Carbon to only load resources from Carbon domains; to not use any kind of tracking pixels or otherwise track behavior of people who don't click the ads (so the "monday" ad wouldn't fly); to not track reader behavior across sites (so there should never be any cookies sent when loading the ad image, which is good, I don't see any now); and I'd also want to confirm that Carbon won't ever use the feature it included where ads can load in other scripts.

But I'm, like, way out on one edge of being freaked out about ubiquitous browser tracking. I get that other people might reach other compromises, as long as it's something you're going into with your eyes open.
posted by john hadron collider at 12:30 PM on July 17, 2018 [27 favorites]


What's the cookie called? I inadvertently closed the box and can't tell which cookie to nix to get it back.

(Also, do they require it to be on the post part of the page? I thought the Deck ads worked great at the top of the sidebar.)
posted by Rhaomi at 12:34 PM on July 17, 2018


Thank you for the post! I saw the Carbon ad (for XMind), thought "should that be there?" and went to MetaTalk, and sure enough, here is an explanation. Thank you!

For those who are interested in additional more-ethical online advertising networks, EthicalAds is "A developer-focused, privacy-obsessed ad network from the fine folks at Read the Docs" (Read the Docs's approach to advertising, their blog posts about it). The EthicalAds network may be another choice to try for MetaFilter subsites that skew more towards programmers -- or for other sites that want to follow MeFi's lead.
posted by brainwane at 12:48 PM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


there's an ad for monday.com and it's tuesday but it gave me a horrible moment that it's still monday and also it's thundering like crazy outside so i thought i was in a nightmare but then i realized it's just another rainy tuesday and i'm mostly fine, but i could use some coffee.

it works.
posted by numaner at 1:24 PM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


What's the cookie called? I inadvertently closed the box and can't tell which cookie to nix to get it back.

The cookie is called 'no_carbon'

(Also, do they require it to be on the post part of the page? I thought the Deck ads worked great at the top of the sidebar.)

On desktop, it's on the top of the sidebar. On mobile, it's after the second post, rather than at the very bottom, where the sidebar lives.
posted by frimble (staff) at 1:27 PM on July 17, 2018


Question: do impressions get any money for Metafilter? I generally never click on ads, so I'd probably hide them if they weren't providing any revenue without clicks. Happy to leave them up if it does.
posted by tavella at 1:41 PM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


octothorpe: "I just deleted all the cookies for Mefi and relogged in and now see a block that says Advertisement but no actual ad."

I can see the ad now that I'm home. Wonder if it was blocked by my office's firewall?
posted by octothorpe at 3:19 PM on July 17, 2018


When I see them, I always click on the ads here and poke around enough to make it look like I'm interested. Anything to put a few more shekels in the MeFi pocket. Good to see them back...
posted by jim in austin at 4:41 PM on July 17, 2018


The ads load inline-ish in mobile Chrome rather than up in the corner, but it's fine. Not particularly intrusive.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:08 PM on July 17, 2018


On mobile, modern dark, on askme, the color to the sides of the ad is the same dark blue as on the front page. The header changes color, though.
posted by yuwtze at 5:40 PM on July 17, 2018


On desktop, it's on the top of the sidebar. On mobile, it's after the second post, rather than at the very bottom, where the sidebar lives.

Weird... on my iPad, the ad box stays in the sidebar in landscape view but moves to the post area in portrait, even though the sidebar stays on the side of the page. Any way for the ad code to differentiate between a tablet in portrait and a true smartphone viewport the same way the sidebar does? The inconsistent positioning is making me itch.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:17 PM on July 17, 2018


I'll allow it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:17 PM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Is there any chance we can have a setting in our profiles to drop the no_carbon cookie on login? I use the Firefox Focus browser on my phone because my phone is terrible and it's the least demanding browser, but it's aggressive about clearing cookies (and blocks ads anyway).
posted by hoyland at 6:33 PM on July 17, 2018


I don't know how others feel, but I think ads on individual pages would be fine. I use the RSS feeds so I never see any ads even though I've always whitelisted the site.
posted by nenequesadilla at 9:19 PM on July 17, 2018


I'm not seeing any ads or a box for them on either the blue or Ask. The entire site is whitelisted on Adblock, I'm using Chrome, but in an incognito window.
posted by lesser weasel at 1:53 AM on July 18, 2018


Ugh, when this popped up on mobile I was pretty upset; I instinctively jabbed the 'minimize' button in the top right, and the page reloaded without the ad so I forgot about it until I saw this post.

The ugh is because this kind of placement of ads (mobile specifically) is in my opinion user hostile. It is roughly the same size and shape as legitimate content, placed literally in the middle of that content. It may not have been deliberate on your part, but this placement is in general absolutely designed to trick users into doing something (reading an ad) that they don't intend to be doing (they intend to be reading the site's content).

Since you added the option to hide permanently, I guess I'm satisfied, but still. I don't like the choice.

BTW, I loaded up my desktop browser to make this comment and I don't see an ad. Above, frimble says the setting is device specific but maybe on browsers with cross-device syncing this is not true?
posted by dbx at 7:03 AM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


placed literally in the middle of that content

in all seriousness, if your phone screen is 3-4 inches wide, where could the ad be that wasn't in the middle of your screen?
posted by kate blank at 7:55 AM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


placed literally in the middle of that content

in all seriousness, if your phone screen is 3-4 inches wide, where could the ad be that wasn't in the middle of your screen?


Not the original commenter, but: anchored to the bottom or top of the screen, generally, such that it stays in one place until you actively close it rather than being embedded in the page alongside actual content. There are a bunch of trade-offs with that, but it's a not-uncommon alternative that optimizes for 'separate ads from content' -- which may annoy people in different ways.

...

My only personal objection to this is that no one found a way to work an Altered Carbon pun into the post.
posted by cjelli at 8:17 AM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


The ugh is because this kind of placement of ads (mobile specifically) is in my opinion user hostile.

I loaded this up on my phone just to check if I could see what you were seeing. I had to scroll the screen up twice before the ad showed up after 2 FPP. It's a graphic ad, clearly but low-key labelled as an ad and easily scrolled past.

Placement is pretty much like the old Deck adverts that were on the site in the past. They are typically not intrusive, and they don't annoy me. I white-listed MeFi on all my browsers because maybe it benefits the site to get the impressions even if I don't click on the ad.

Let's be grateful it wasn't the Chevrolet ad from an April Fools Matt pulled a few years ago.
posted by arcticseal at 8:20 AM on July 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter is apparently the only site I have actually whitelisted

huh
posted by caution live frogs at 10:05 AM on July 18, 2018


Not the original commenter, but: anchored to the bottom or top of the screen, generally, such that it stays in one place until you actively close it rather than being embedded in the page alongside actual content.

Oh god, I would hate that. I'd hate it even more if I had a small screen. Half of my screen would by default be covered with the anchored ad. That would be very annoying.

Since Metafilter doesn't have images, it's immediately obvious to me that any images on Metafilter are ads. I don't mind the current placement and styling.
posted by clawsoon at 10:48 AM on July 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


Savvy advertisers will design their ads to look like text. It happens at other sites that have inline ads; a small disclaimer and/or colored border notwithstanding.

My experience, especially on sites with feeds like Facebook and Instagram, is that advertisements are designed to look just like normal posts, so that by the time I realize I'm looking at an ad I've read the gist of it already. They also have disclaimers / borders / language to indicate it's an ad, but the act of scanning a feed sort of encourages one to skip over that. Being predictably after the second post will help, but remembering that the third thing one sees is an ad is just brain space that in my opinion shouldn't have to be dedicated to spotting advertisements.

That said, I just checked out the current ad being served on mobile, and it's very colorful and looks nothing like the text of posts. So that's good. Maybe they'll always be obviously distinct, which would mitigate these issues.

Just a note, Imgur just made a very similar change and their community has been pretty vocally against it.

Anyway, I'm not going to dig in; I think I've made my point so I won't belabor it. Thanks as always for your thoughtful leadership, cortex.
posted by dbx at 1:51 PM on July 18, 2018


I would like to hear about the tracking pixel from the mod team as well as about scripts. A major reason I was ok with the Deck ads and actively encouraging of them was the lack of tracking and scripts, both of which I'm not ok with. Is this just the deal with these ads? Can you say more about why you feel it's ok? (I understand that question sounds passive aggressive, but that's not my intent. I genuinely would like to hear about why you think it's ok, and if I could think of a better way of wording that more neutrally I would.)
posted by stoneweaver at 2:10 PM on July 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


That said, I just checked out the current ad being served on mobile, and it's very colorful and looks nothing like the text of posts. So that's good. Maybe they'll always be obviously distinct, which would mitigate these issues.

Yeah, to be clear, part of why I want to experiment with Carbon is they pretty explicitly avoid most of the advercontent bullshit common with a lot of not-so-great ad networks. It's very similar in that sense to the styling choices Deck made: to use visually striking but not visually aggressive, small ad units, very clearly marked out as such, to be unambiguous about what you're looking at and the fact that it is in fact an ad rather than site content.

We're supplementing that with clear framing and a one-click "I don't want to see these" solution.

An ad is still an ad and at the end of the day the only utterly non-intrusive way to display them is to not display them at all. I'd love to have the option to do that but that's not where we are financially right now and it may never be. So the next step down the ladder of compromises is trying to find reasonably clear, reasonably low-impact approaches. Mobile's a hard challenge there because the screens have gotten so small compared to the typical desktop layout; given the deeply limited size of the mobile viewport on any phone, an ad that's on screen is going to take up much of the screen.

I very strongly prefer this kind of clearly-marked, not-immediately-visible approach of "scroll down a couple posts, one ad unit, that's it" treatment to something with an ad up top or fixed to the viewport which makes the default view of MetaFilter be HERE IS AN AD oh and also some site content, but I know that to some extent there's just always going to be different preferences on this stuff. That's a big motivation for running this test, to see how these land at all and suss out where people's preferences and reactions are compared to our assumptions going in.

I would like to hear about the tracking pixel from the mod team as well as about scripts. A major reason I was ok with the Deck ads and actively encouraging of them was the lack of tracking and scripts, both of which I'm not ok with. Is this just the deal with these ads? Can you say more about why you feel it's ok?

I'd prefer to minimize that stuff too. I haven't gotten into it in any detail with the Carbon folks yet because (a) I don't know how flexible their ad inventory is on that front yet and, more to the point (b) I don't know if the ad performance for this setup on MeFi is actually going to be mutually workable for them and for us until we run them for a little bit and see what's what.

If we come out of this test feeling like the Carbon ads are actually a workable solution for MeFi and that MeFi's overall ad economy needs works okay with Carbon's expectations, then it'll be worth digging in more seriously on that front. But for the next little bit we just need to straight up kick the tires and see if anything breaks, if the display stuff works well, if the ad-hiding processes behave correctly, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:16 PM on July 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'd prefer to minimize that stuff too. I haven't gotten into it in any detail with the Carbon folks yet because (a) I don't know how flexible their ad inventory is on that front yet and, more to the point (b) I don't know if the ad performance for this setup on MeFi is actually going to be mutually workable for them and for us until we run them for a little bit and see what's what.

Thanks for that info. Here's another vote that I'd really love it if MeFi could focus on ads that don't do cross-site tracking. I really appreciated that aspect of The Deck. I understand it's not all up to you, and can't all be broached in the first couple meetings, but just saying.

Also these Carbon ads seem to be working just fine on mobile.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 7:43 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


dbx: "Savvy advertisers will design their ads to look like text. It happens at other sites that have inline ads; a small disclaimer and/or colored border notwithstanding. "

Change your font and never get caught out by this sort of thing here. Deceptive "content" ads will stick out like a sore thumb.

clawsoon: "Oh god, I would hate that. I'd hate it even more if I had a small screen. Half of my screen would by default be covered with the anchored ad. That would be very annoying."

Also those sort of banners/footer tend to not support page at a time scrolling which is annoying as burn on the roof of your mouth.
posted by Mitheral at 8:30 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


My only personal objection to this is that no one found a way to work an Altered Carbon pun into the post.

I don't mind Carbon, it's a nice sleeve for The Deck.
posted by numaner at 5:32 PM on July 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


It wasn't clear to me on mobile (iOS, Adblock that didn't work) where to click to get rid of the ad. It was just a grey rectangle.

In other news, I would 100% pay to get rid of the ads.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:21 AM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh hrm. It's probably too late for this if you ended up figuring it out through trial and error, but if you're willing to nuke the MeFi cookies so you can duplicate it I'd totally appreciate a screenshot of that and browser info. It should be really clear and unambiguous.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:54 AM on July 20, 2018


5000 refreshes and still no B&M Baked Beans advertisements... call me disappointed. No adds for the cabal... no adds for ceramic dishes. No advertisements for $5 foot longs (SAIT)...

It doesn't seem to pick up on attributes of our key demographic.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:35 AM on July 20, 2018


I undid my ad blocker to help MeFi and wasn't too annoyed at the square ads that showed at the top of the sidebar. However, today an ad showed up in the Comments as a wide rectangle, as well as the sidebar ad. That was quite jarring. Now I'm thinking about restoring my ad blocker. Hmmm.
posted by MovableBookLady at 9:36 AM on July 20, 2018


I never thought I'd say this, but yay ads! Naturally, the first ad I got was for Slack, of which I already make extensive use. I look forward to seeing more!
posted by limeonaire at 5:52 PM on July 20, 2018


My only comment is that none of the ads have been anything I have felt interested in clicking through on, which is different from the previous ads sitting in the same space.
posted by hippybear at 9:11 PM on July 25, 2018


« Older Prime Day support MetaFilter   |   Add author and series to book titles in Fanfare. Newer »

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