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SE has some automated ads which take a recent question from another SE network site and present that question's title, tags, and the site title. It's a neat little way of showing what else is out there on the network. You know, these things:
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I think it'd be helpful if the community ads were weighted a bit so Science sites tended to see questions from other Science sites, Tech sites see Tech ads etc. It wouldn't need to be completely insular; you could show some, but just less, ads from unrelated areas.

The SE network has grown large, and I think the ads need to be a bit smarter; users on Physics are very likely interested in the Biology and Chemistry sites, maybe even Cognitive Sciences. Prioritizing related sites seems like a big win, especially for the non-tech sites which tend to feel a bit more isolated from the network.

For reference, the categories SE currently categorizes sites under are: Technology, Culture, Recreation, Science, Life, Arts, Business, Professional

A possible problem I note is there are very few Business and Professional proposals. So maybe rather than setting a system where x% of ads must be in the same category as the site they'll be shown own, ads in the same category just get X% more weight than less related ads.

Ideally these ads would be hand-tailored of course; the Graphic Design and Cognitive Sciences sites are very related to the User Experience site, but they're all in different categories. But at that point you'd need more than a dumb weighted filter to tailor ads.

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Perhaps instead of using explicit categorization, ads could be weighted by the number of users that are active on both sites –  murgatroid99 Aug 17 '12 at 20:18
    
@murgatroid99 that's problematic in that it might just indicate which sites are larger; SO probably wins active on both sites for many sites very unrelated to programming. You might be on to something percentage-wise though –  Ben Brocka Aug 17 '12 at 20:27
    
OK, using raw numbers would probably be a bad idea. But you could use something like product of fraction of users on "this" site that are also on other site times fraction of users on other site that are also on "this" site. This should connect sites that are relatively popular among each others' user base. –  murgatroid99 Aug 17 '12 at 20:43
    
Something smart would be good, but I wouldn't want to bias the pool against showing new related sites. Ideally if I was at UX and a brand new Graphic Design site started, UX should heavily get GD ads. But I'd settle for Physics heavily getting Chem ads –  Ben Brocka Aug 17 '12 at 21:06
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maybe even some user-targeted adds based on their other accounts would be good too (user-targeted adds is the future) –  ajax333221 Aug 18 '12 at 0:59

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