Well, geeks do like cookies

Once upon a time, DejaNews spectacularly fucked up their monopoly of Usenet archiving with some boneheaded ideas about how to turn what they had into cash. Turning words in Usenet postings into commercial hyperlinks was a PR disaster; they simply didn’t comprehend how many people would object to it on the grounds that they didn’t want their text turned into a big fucking billboard.

It was also technically boneheaded, because it operated on the principle that a word has only one meaning, so a link from that word to some product reference was always relevant. Erk. No, not really.

Google, bless its nifty graphics, has so far been scrupulously careful to take one fully-thought-through step at a time into the world of hyperlinked advertising. They genuinely seem to know that it’s a minefield which could lose them a limb or two, if not blow them up entirely. Their placement of ads alongside Gmail entries might seem superficially to fall into Deja’s manhole, but they have realised the apparently-small but actually more significant difference between turning a user’s text into an ad, and placing an ad alongside the user’s text.

I despair of any real improvements in relevance, though, unless they bring to bear algorithms far more advanced than keyword matching. Here’s what they claim:

We go beyond simple keyword matching to understand the context and content of web pages. Based on a sophisticated algorithm that includes such factors as keyword analysis, word frequency, font size, and the overall link structure of the web, we know what a page is about, and can precisely match Google ads to each page.

Well, maybe. And maybe not. Using a web-site this morning which offers a free web-statistics service, what ads do I find that Google has ‘precisely matched’? –

Cookies. Send Mrs. Fields Delicious Treats For Special Occasions or Anytime!
Fresh Baked Cookie Gifts. Fishing creel basket with cookies our #1 Father’s Day gift for dad.
Chip-N-Dough Cookie Co. Our cookie gifts come hand packed with our award-winning cookies.
Taylor’s Mom’s Cookies. Home-Made Fresh Baked All-Natural We bake to order! Gift Tins & Boxes.

Can you see what happened here, kids?

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