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For several years we've had advertising solely on technology-related sites. But many of our sites aren't about technology at all, so we haven't sold ads for them. Traditionally, that hasn't been a hardship since Stack Exchange sites have required only a small investment from the company to set up and keep live.

However, as we've continued to grow, the resources needed to maintain our network have also increased. Thanks entirely to the efforts of the network's communities, we have become an amazing resource on the Internet. Generating revenue from non-technology sites will enable us to dedicate more resources to meeting your needs so this is good news!

The test has been in effect since May 21, 2019, and our advertising team will be monitoring to see how ads are performing. We don't know how many ads will run on each site, we're testing different solutions. It could be just a few or a bit more. In either case, these ads will be carefully vetted and we'll be keeping watch to continue to provide good content.

If you see any ads that are inappropriate or have any questions about this experiment, please let me know by starting a new question and tagging it with . This is a work in progress and we are expecting a time of learning and refinement as we move forward.

A few things to be aware of:

  • We've received reports about ads that redirect, and those have been removed. We've also received reports about ads that are spammy and those too have been removed.

  • If you wish to report an advertisement, please take a screenshot of the ad and paste the URL (if possible) along with the site where you saw it to a comment or answer. I'll report it to the ads team and we can track it down to investigate.

  • Some of the network sites will show more ads than others. This is not due to reduced ad privileges (which don't exist right now for the network) but rather to inventory allowances.

  • This is an experiment that will take us to about the end of the year. As such, we're learning about what advertiser networks will work for us and which can offer the quality of ads that we desire. I ask for your patience and understanding during this testing period.

  • Due to an already existing agreement, MathOverflow will not be getting ads and is not a part of this experiment.

Thank you for your help in reporting what you see and for forgiving us of the mess as we do some remodeling!

  • 245
    Can we please get some concrete revenue numbers that justify having to put up ads on the other sites? – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Jun 20 at 1:05
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    @SonictheBracketedHedgehog No, we're not going to do that. – Juan M Jun 20 at 1:43
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    If you tell people about the experiment won't people act differently and thus the experiment is not well done? – Outsider Jun 20 at 2:00
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    @Outsider: Strictly speaking, that is correct. But it's impossible to prevent people from noticing the experiment (what, afterall, is the goal of ads?), so it's worthwhile to have a place for people to learn about it if they are curious. A bigger potential problem is the novelty effect. When the novelty has worn off, there's a better chance to get useful data. – Jon Ericson Jun 20 at 2:36
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    just a quick question. Instead of trying to rely on generic ads providers, have you even considered proposing ads space to actual companies that may interested to advertise here? I think Sony / Microsoft / EA / Nintendo etc could actually be interested to have ads on Arqade (and user would probably prefer those to an ads for some snake-oil... ). Same could be said for Canon / Nikon on a site like Photography.... Give the user info they can be interested in, and make those come from the actual producers. – Hitodama Jun 20 at 9:43
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    I mean.. you already have the community ads program going on many sites... no one would probably get mad if you pushed some reasonable ads thru the same channel. – Hitodama Jun 20 at 9:46
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    You may want to elaborate whether animated ads are considered inappropriate in general. – Wrzlprmft Jun 20 at 10:21
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    @Wrzlprmft two days ago they clarified in comments of related meta discussion: "Animated ads will be allowed during the experiment..." (not that this makes me happy) – gnat Jun 20 at 12:59
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    Why was my comment about malware serving ads removed? This is a genuine avenue for attacks en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malvertising. Since the ad networks don't stop this happening is SE? I come to this site to help me code against such things, not get infected by them. You already sandboz user submitted JS on SO - why not ads? – razethestray Jun 21 at 18:10
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    The same networks that use cookies to track you everywhere you go online. An absolute security and privacy nightmare indeed. – razethestray Jun 22 at 0:10
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    "We've received reports about ads that redirect, and those have been removed." It disturbs me that you had to wait to receive reports for such things to be removed. What is SE doing to actively, rather than reactively, prevent misbehaving and malicious ads? – Kyralessa Jun 25 at 11:45
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    @JuanM Hmm...well, I will be leaving my ad and stats blockers enabled: cubicspot.blogspot.com/2014/03/… You've already failed test #1! It's 5 years after I wrote that post and ad server operators haven't changed in the slightest bit. If anything, the situation is worse than ever because now you think you've achieved "high standards". Your standards are clearly not even remotely close to the minimum standards where I'll consider unblocking SE. This is a website security, safety, and DOM performance issue, not a monetary issue. – CubicleSoft Jun 26 at 13:20
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    Stackoverflow already has problems with their ads attempting to track users. What sort of protections will be built-in to this expansion in order to protect users against this sort of misbehavior? That is, what will StackExchange do to make it actually safe for us to view these ads in the first place? – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Jun 26 at 18:11
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    @JuanM Clearly the standards are not high enough. You guys used to have a very high standard: nothing but a static image (or text) was permitted, period. No video. No audio. No JavaScript. Now you're letting networks place ads with JavaScript on here, and we're getting the same malvertising that plagues the rest of the Web. Well... stop it! Put the standards back where they were. No JS on any ad for any reason, no exceptions, no excuses. – Mason Wheeler Jun 26 at 21:57
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    @ProQ well..... if it wasn't for users shouting at SE, this post would have never been posted. They were going to make this 100% silent without telling anybody about it, hoping nobody will notice or care. So no, I am not glad people need to shout and complain in order to get a response. It's bad in all aspects. If they would have posted this BEFORE starting the "test" things could indeed be very different. But they didn't. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jul 1 at 10:51

43 Answers 43

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Please forbid animated ads.

From the discussions on this Meta.SE question and this Workplace Meta question (there are probably others), it's pretty clear that the community does not want animated ads -- especially obnoxiously-animated ones with lots of movement and eternal looping.

SE's longstanding policies on the sites with curated ads (SO and a few others) bar(red?) animation, for good reasons. Those good reasons apply to the rest of the network too; even though the mechanics of delivering ads have changed, this aspect of our quality standards should not. This announcement is currently silent on the subject of animation, which is why I'm raising this here.

(I've also seen one report so far of a video ad. Video is a special (noisy) case of animation and should similarly be barred.)

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    If I could upvote more than once I would – linuxandria Jun 21 at 12:30
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    Could I add, please for the love of all things good, don't do Taboola or Outbrain or any of those trash merchants. They constantly push out brain dead pseudoscience, gross out ads, pornography, borderline defamatory celebrity articles, and other horrible crap. These things are the scurge of the internet and are frankly hateful. – Shayne Jun 25 at 3:14
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    I'll respond here as I have elsewhere. Animated ads will continue to be a part of the experiment. We carefully watch these before they roll out to the network but some do get by. There are limitations on the kinds of controls that advertiser networks provide and we are doing a lot of this in-house. Asking users to report what they see is usually step #3 in a process that starts with heavy regulations on these ad types. Because we require so much care, many networks are not willing to sign up with us - and we're fine with that! Again, we're seeking for benefit on all sides of the table. – Juan M Jun 25 at 21:28
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    @JuanM are you saying that "no animation" is still your goal but some will slip through because of the tools in use, or are you saying that animation doesn't violate your rules so long as (conditions TBD)? Reporting is currently hard, so you need other review processes or to make flagging easier. – Monica Cellio Jun 25 at 21:42
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    Related: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/386487/… – user474678 Jun 26 at 16:18
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    Repeat after me: AUTO-PLAY IS NOT OKAY. – No U Jun 28 at 18:07
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    @JuanM If you are using Google as you main ad provider, your promise to watch out for animated ads is worthless. Some of their ad spaces are sold to the highest bidder while the page is loading. Google also provides little control over what is displayed. I am also disappointed that you only posted here after intense pressure from Workplace StackExchange. It seems your supervisors would have preferred this would have gone by unnoticed. All SE sites have now been blocked and as I am migrating to Firefox I will enforce even stricter privacy controls on your domains. – Alex Jun 29 at 10:04
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    @INLOwnerInnonetlife You can always post a bounty on a good answer if you think one upvote is not enough. – pacoverflow Jun 30 at 8:49
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    @JuanM: if “[animated] ads will continue to be a part of the experiment” then adblockers will continue to be a part of my browsing process. Animation, autoplay and spontaneous noise is a garbage experience, and falls well below the standard SO set for itself on foundation. – David Thomas Jun 30 at 17:47
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    The more I think about it, the more I wonder if animated ads are a particular sort of red herring here... – TTT Jul 21 at 12:40
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    Firefox has protection against media containing audio from starting by default. It won't do anything to ads (good thing we have ad blockers), but it'll incredibly useful if someone decides to push auto-play video ads with sound into production... – Zoe Aug 17 at 16:05
  • Animated ads -> scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/12691/… – xdtTransform Sep 16 at 14:09
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    @m69 I'm seeing that too now -- both ad replacement and animation loops, both of which add frequent, invasive motion to the page. It makes it hard to use the sites sometimes. – Monica Cellio Sep 22 at 16:59
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    And I'll be testing AdBlock Plus across the same network! – geoff Oct 11 at 21:46
  • I've heard good things about uBlock Origin – Zhuinden Oct 21 at 13:49
410

Contributors shouldn't see these ads, especially if they're not content curated specifically for the topic of the stack.

You don't need revenue from impressions/click throughs from active community members. We already freely give you the content that's generating the "100K page views per second", despite being such a small, small footprint of the total traffic on the website.

In other words, you're already monetizing us and our contributions. You don't need to monetize us further.

"Reduced ad privileges" should be an absolute priority implementation for the rest of the network, and this ad testing should be opt-in for registered contributors. The only reason you need us to see these ads during testing is because the "drive by" traffic that will generate the majority of the views are by nature not going to provide the feedback you need to flag unsavory or malicious ads.

  • 31
    "and this ad testing should be opt-in for registered contributors" It's worth pointing out that the reduced ads privilege already has the baked in feature of being able to turn it off, for anyone who wants to support the site by being served the full ad suite. – Servy Jun 20 at 16:00
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    @Servy Good point. But as this is an "experiment", I was thinking more along the lines of opting-in to beta testing. Consenting to being experimented on is, IMO, ethically different than OKing being advertised to. – Web Head Jun 20 at 16:05
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    It'd be nice if this applied network-wide, too. I mean, I'm currently a member for 150 stacks, and that number seems to be growing all of the time. It's annoying to have to re-earn the same basic privileges on site after site, and it'd be yet more annoying if doing so were necessary to have some control over ads. – Nat Jun 21 at 0:05
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    @Julie And they can get that money from the non-contributing visitors that outnumber the users a thousandfold. If I'd known that SE was going to use my content on not-tech stacks to make ad money, I would have reconsidered those contributions. I'm very careful with how and where I decide to provide content. Then to be punished with ads on top of it is like a slap in the face. – Web Head Jun 21 at 4:09
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    I agree with you in principle. In practice, are ads really such a "punishment"? – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 23 at 13:05
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit more a burden and a pollution for the mind. Cognitive load from ads is a poison. – aloisdg says Reinstate Monica Jun 24 at 8:57
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    @WebHead Well I mean SO has added ads to sites before, usually when they become sufficiently successful. And they certainly never said that all non-tech sites would be ad free forever. In the past they've just said it wasn't worth putting ads on them from a business perspective. – Servy Jun 24 at 13:47
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    Ads, by their nature, are designed to force your attention to them. Especially considering that animated ads are allowed, and probably 0 limitation on how otherwise obnoxious they are. Additionally, they heavily increase the load of the web page you're viewing and the number of trackers and cookies you're exposed to. So, yes, they are a punishment, whether you look at them or not. – Web Head Jun 24 at 15:42
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    I enjoy the ads on SO, there is a suprising amount of ads on topics I had to work on and nowadays hate... so whenever I see one, I chuckle and whisper "not today, [x], not today!" – dube Jun 25 at 12:02
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit They're monetizing us by displaying the ads, period. They don't need to further monetize us by (keep) displaying the ads to contributors (the "us"). – Web Head Jun 25 at 15:43
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit I think the vast overwhelming majority of ads (well over 99%) are nothing but the lowest kind of filth. ;-{ – xxbbcc Jun 25 at 19:18
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    @kraftydevil I think you're misunderstanding. I'm not saying "all ads, ever" should not be shown to contributors ("active users", whatever term SE uses internally), I'm saying this experiment's ads shouldn't be shown unless we opt-in. This is not a final-stage implementation, it's a live experiment with features that include off-site tracking of ad networks that have admittedly not yet been fully vetted by the company. The long-term solution is the "reduced ads privilege", when this is no longer an experiment. This test is ethically different than, say, testing a new page layout. – Web Head Jun 25 at 19:53
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    While I agree with the spirit of this answer, in practice, I'd prefer that contributors are not exempt from this trial period. Contributors are more likely to give useful feedback, and so during this important calibration time, I'd rather see more ads and be given more of an opportunity to critique. Though, after the trial period, YES give us our reduced ad privileges. – TTT Jun 25 at 20:15
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    @WebHead Yeah, I saw that. I understand your point, but I tend to think forcing us users to experience the terribleness that is advertisements here would be better for the site long-term. Animated ads is a good example: Those that really hate animated ads probably wouldn't opt-in, yet their vocal voices are the most valuable in expressing disgust at such advertisements. Besides, those that really don't want to see the ads can (probably) use an ad blocker. How about a compromise: an opt-out button after the first month? – TTT Jun 25 at 21:05
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    @TTT I'm not sure anything is really going to be changed, anyway. The SE team has been pretty silent after the first 24 hours or so, leading this to feel like another one of their drive-by "we're doing whatever we want" announcements. I just felt it important that SE be made aware of some strong, reasonable objections to the practice and the way this was rolled out. This was pretty much a disclosure that they'd been doing experiments on us for 6 weeks already, and that's the way it is. I expect to be treated that way by the likes of Facebook, but I'm disheartened that SE would do it, too. – Web Head Jun 26 at 15:25
366

If you see any ads that are inappropriate or have any questions about this experiment, please let me know by starting a new question...

I am not quite comfortable with above. Using meta to report inappropriate ads sounds like a sensible idea at a first sight but the thing is, it was already tried with job ads at Stack Overflow and has proven to work rather poorly.

That prior attempt of handling ads issues at SO, it eventually ended in a technical solution allowing users to just directly report inappropriate job ads - and, given that meta complaints essentially disappeared after this was rolled out, I would say it has proven to work well.

I suggest that this time, we just skip repeating that painful part of learning about how meta is a poor way to handle troublesome ads and proceed directly to the way that was proven to work so much better with job ads at Stack Overflow.

There is even a ready feature request for that: Please give us an easy way to flag inappropriate ads


Given that experiment is going to run for over half year at multiple sites I would expect that effort invested in porting mentioned SO feature used for job ads will be sufficiently paid back.

  • 89
    I agree. If the ad is reported on meta, it gets more attention and that is the goal of an ad, is it not? – Burkhard Jun 20 at 18:21
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    We're looking at the best way to do this. Details to come. – Juan M Jun 25 at 21:30
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    Even better, why not curate the ads before displaying them in the first place? – James Jun 27 at 18:00
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    @JuanM I am absolutely happy to hear that, but for the sake of the smooth use of the planned feature you better consider how it is going to interplay with animated ads. Voting on the top answer here strongly indicates that people will pass negative feedback for animated ads and you better prepare to handle it. (personally I would prefer animation to be just completely banned but as of now your options appear to be open in that regard so you may confidently expect some complications with feedback) – gnat Jun 28 at 9:25
295

I'm glad to hear that topical ads are still your goal. It's obviously going to take a while to get there, so in the meantime, are there any coarser filters that can be applied? Certain types of ads that are not generally inappropriate might nonetheless be inappropriate on particular sites; can we do anything about that?

Examples:

  • ads for mail-order meat (like Omaha steaks) on Vegetarian & Veganism

  • ads modelling lingerie, underwear, or bikinis on some of the religion sites (I have seen such ads on Workplace)

  • ads promoting particular political or religious positions, well, almost anywhere but especially on Politics, Skeptics, and (other) religion sites

  • ads for essay-writing services (i.e. homework sites) on Academia, Writing, and maybe language sites (we have some persistent spammers from these services; I assume they also do ads)

  • ads for junk science, paid-entry journals, and the like on science sites

Since there is some level of implicit endorsement when a site runs ads, can we figure out how to prevent the eye-rollingly inappropriate "endorsements" on specific sites? That bikini or suntan-lotion ad that's topical on Travel could be problematic on Mi Yodeya.

If you can't do per-site customizations of the ad parameters, is it possible to exclude sites from this trial entirely if they make a good case for it on their metas?

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    To be fair, I don't see much need for number two in your list on ANY of the site in the networks. I would really like to put a big no on some things BEFORE we start to get really horrible ads on sites like Anime... – Hitodama Jun 20 at 8:03
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    @SPArchaeologist I'd expand that for points 4 and 5 as well; I think they're pretty much always considered morally dubious at best, (much like the "have a secret affair" type ads.) I'd hope SE would take a policy in blacklisting any such inappropriate ads across the whole network. – berry120 Jun 20 at 8:49
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    The criteria for identifying "junk science" would be interesting. I'm interested in hard science - eg Science a la Popper where-ever it can be managed - but too much of our "Science" does not seem to care about falsifiability or experiment or ... . Too many of the "currently rteceived truth gate keepers" are prepared to bar Science that is "as real as it gets" for whatever reason. – Russell McMahon Jun 20 at 11:25
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    @RussellMcMahon I don't know how to specify those criteria either, but I suspect that people on the affected communities do. If we let communities say "these kinds of ads are not ok here", and if SE will honor it, then we don't need to work out all the rules centrally. – Monica Cellio Jun 20 at 13:22
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    @DamianYerrick I'm imagining that the members of each community would be able to say which journals are legit and which are fake. I don't know myself; I've just heard people talk about the problem. – Monica Cellio Jun 20 at 16:59
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    I feel like ads modelling lingerie, underwear, or bikinis shouldn't really be on Workplace either... keep it professional – Kelly Bang Jun 22 at 16:13
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    I feel like any NSFW ads should not be on the network. A lot of people use all of the SE sites at work. – mag Jun 22 at 20:33
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    @Magisch The concept of NSFW is too fuzzy and culture dependent to be any useful in a global context. – Massimo Ortolano Jun 23 at 5:37
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    While imperfect, there are obvious lines for NSFW that do work globally and have done so for decades – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 23 at 13:03
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    @MassimoOrtolano As Lightess pointed out, there are some things which are nearly universally unacceptable at office environment, such as for instance lingerie advertisements. Such should not be shown at least on any work related SE stacks. – mag Jun 24 at 6:10
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    @Magisch Given the number of mechanical workshops where you can still find calendars of naked women hanging on the walls, I keep my claim that there's no such thing as a universally accepted concept of NSFW. And, personally, I find lingerie ads as much as inappropriate as car ads, since I don't need any of them. – Massimo Ortolano Jun 24 at 6:46
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    @MassimoOrtolano You're right of course, but this network's demographics are inextricably linked with IT office workers. Even sites that have nothing to do with either have a much higher concentration of IT office workers then elsewhere on the topic. So it's fair to expect some concessions in forms of ad choices for that respect. – mag Jun 24 at 7:06
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    @Magisch One of my pet peeves of these communities is the assumption that everyone is an IT office worker (if I'm not much mistaken there have been already complaints about this on Workplace SE, isn't it?). For instance, even though I spend long hours in front of the computer, I'm not an IT office worker, and as such probably many others. No one in my office would be offended by a lingerie ad as such, but everyone would feel annoyed because of it's irrelevance. – Massimo Ortolano Jun 24 at 7:20
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    @MassimoOrtolano Of course there were. Just one example: naked people. It's not that you couldn't find any workplace where it might already exist; it's that this was a widely established "this is NSFW" line on the internet. Disagree? – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 24 at 10:10
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    Please take the discussion of what is or isn't safe for work in various workplaces throughout the world to chat. Thank you. – Monica Cellio Jun 24 at 13:02
166

I am quite sorry, but I don't think I can help you at these conditions.

Please don't get me wrong, but as I read this announcement I can't help but to get a "let's try an see what happens, maybe they won't get too angry" vibe - I really don't get how much research has been done BEFORE and how much you expect to learn from the users having to face actual incidents.

we're learning about what advertiser networks will work for us and which can offer the quality of ads that we desire.

By this claim, it seems you are still trying to learn what ads provider are working for you. Luckily enough, it seems we agree on the basis of which ads are just intolerable.

Inappropriate ads are full screen takeovers, punch the monkey, scam, pornographic, racist, etc. Some divergence from topic is ok but we'll monitor for exaggerations.

While this is indeed good to hear, the mere fact we are considering the eventuality of things like these is quite worrisome to me. I would love to think this is just an hyperbole, an extreme example of a "will never be" incident that could happen to the best of the provider, but from what I heard so far I am not sure. Some users like Monica had to see lingerie ads on "The Workplace"... Really???

I will be quite frank. I am used to see a lot of ads pushed to mobile "freemium games" - being the tech pony means that every time a relative or friend notices something odd you will be the one that will be asked for suggestion.
I always wondered... why some companies that produce pegi-3 games are somehow able to get trustworthy kid-safe ads provider straight from the start and some other producers strive to understand that online casinos advertisement in a game meant for kids probably isn't very appropriate. Why some managed to just use "safe" providers from the beginning while other are still learning what to use after years... I don't know.

I am not sure that some providers are really deserving to be checked in the first place, especially on a network like SE. While I totally understand your needs, I somehow feel the approach here is a little too much on the "reactive side". As far as I get it:

  • multiple providers are being tested, but I can't access a list of the ones under scrutiny to see if we are talking of high-quality established ones or high-paying scammy-looking keep-changing-names-every-two-weeks malwertising factories. So far, the empirical data I get from some really bad samples that were posted seems to indicate that at least part of them are more close to the second option.
  • I can't know where they are being tested, so basically it is a "can came up at any time" situation. That means that from my viewpoint it is useless to try to do some testing since I would just lose my time trying to even decide where I should be doing the testing in the first place (apparently, some sites are getting worse ads that others, so not each site is equally significant. Also, geo-localization seems to be a big part of the issue since I seem to receive far less scam ads that users like ShadowWizard do)
  • I really hope this is just me being pessimistic but I also get a very unsettling "we are still testing which providers work for use, know that some of them could be serving bad stuff since we don't know" vibe. Yep, right, we are told to flag the bad content and so far it worked for fixing the errors... but I am not sure I want to be the one who will get the honor to report the adult site advertisement he got while at work or the one ads who tried to silently download a nice Trojan on his home computer.

Again, don't get me wrong, I know you need the money and I would love to get you some in some way. But as now, I am not sure I can really see myself taking part in this test.

It is time for some filtering.


Update 1 July 2019: in the latest days I have collected some info on the various incidents that have happened in just about two weeks of testing.

I am pretty sure all those incidents have been resolved or are being worked on right now... But how can I be sure it is safe to drop the shield and check if the rain of arrow has indeed ended?

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    any ad provider that pushes ads like you mention in your (predated?) update should be instantly removed. Not just that ad, but the provider pushing the ad should be considered the vector for attempted malware distribution and blacklisted. And their names be made public. – jwenting Jul 2 at 5:33
  • and thanks to @jwenting for noticing too. – Hitodama Jul 2 at 12:03
153

Stack Exchange sites are the only sites I have ever whitelisted in my ad blocker. The second I see an animation, I'm going to block all your ads. Your choice.

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    Probably the answer I most resonate with, aside from generally removing adds for active contributors. It is an honest statement without any threat - a matter of fact. – Akixkisu Jun 27 at 8:02
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    Or running any JavaScript, playing any audio, making any popups, hijacking any portion of the page outside of its specific box, in any way whatsoever beaconing, redirecting, or... (All things, mind you, that ads currently do.) – Nic Hartley Jul 2 at 18:19
123

It seems that this system into which I have been investing my time, mostly by answering questions, has taken an important pivot in the business model.

I understand that organizations need revenue. I understand that although I thought of it as "investing", and I have spent many days learning the community standards and working within the communities here, these "investments" have no weight in the economic decision.

I also understand that we, management and the contributing user base, have built a brand, a powerful reputation, and a market presence. Also, that blank screen space is a tempting placement for ads, and that you, the economic owner of this space, have the means to open that blank space to ads and monetize the goodwill we all have accrued.

Nevertheless, even with all my understand and compassion, it is a loss. It is another great, cooperative, Internet venue turned into a revenue engine. This may be your only option. Supporting this operation is expensive. When I saw the announcement of the enterprise version, "Teams", I was pleased that you had found a way to thread the economic needle.

I read this move as an indication that "Teams" is failing.

This may be a move of desperation, in which case please communicate that. It may be that the earlier placement of community ads was a strategic probe and the good words that came with it was a deliberate manipulation and deception -- management clothing itself in a shining mantle of virtue. With the ambient cynicism in my world, without testable, transparent communication from management, it is difficult for me to take another view.

This is your site, and you may do as you wish. My loss is the illusion that I was a valued part of it.

Is the day coming when answers are presented, one per page, starting with the least up-voted, surrounded by ads and encouraging notes that the best answer lies just ahead, through the next click?

  • 2
    "starting with the least up-voted" - maybe that's why SE has such high standards on what kind of non-answers it's willing to delete. – John Dvorak Jun 20 at 14:42
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    @alephzero I've been around a long time and have been the dasher and the dashed many times. I was enjoying the ambience and the feeling of community. I know it was an illusion, but I enjoyed it and through it I found pleasure here. That may change. Such is the way of life. I am "used to it", but I wanted to communicate to management that there is a pain of loss they are causing, and not only outrage at content and so on. – cmm Jun 20 at 14:43
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    I think more that just Teams is failing. To be, this is decision is more than a red flag, and more of a burning inferno of a signal fire. 18 months ago there was a 20% reduction in staff. A few months before that, Documentation was sunsetted. And a few months before that, shut down Blog Overflow. Teams hasn't appeared to pull in enough revenue, and Careers is apparently not enough to maintain. – Web Head Jun 20 at 14:53
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    This is just all sorts of wrong. We've been serving advertisements since almost the beginning of the network. This test is an attempt to find a way to expand that to all sites on the network, where we were previously unable to serve them because of the site topics. Nothing is failing, and trying to frame this as the beginning of the end is just plain unconstructive here. (PS, there's even a list of sites that had advertisements enabled before this test.) – animuson Jun 20 at 15:05
  • 65
    @animuson This is, however, only half the truth either, though. May this answer be a little hyperbolic, but this test doesn't just mark the arrival of SE ads on other sites but also, as measured by the content of the served ads, a stark departure from SE's previous ad philosophy. So yes, SE has served ads in the past, but certainly not such ads. Of course it in fact doesn't mean a difference for SO (the site), but SO is largely peripheral to this discussion. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Jun 20 at 15:16
  • 6
    @ChristianRau Our philosophies have not changed at all. The entire point of the experiment is to determine if there are possibilities out there that match our philosophies. We are very much not attempting to downgrade quality of ads. – animuson Jun 20 at 15:24
  • 40
    @animuson If nothing is failing, then why is SO's ad revenue suddenly not "enough"? – Web Head Jun 20 at 15:24
  • 37
    @animuson Then you may want to clarify this a little more in the announcement, since from things like e.g. off-topic and excessivley animated ads being seen as "appropriate" in the test, one would easily conclude that they're appropriate for the test's result, too, will definitely be a change to SE's ad philosophy. So far noone has clarified yet, if e.g. a resource heavy animated ad for an online casino is okay for SciFi.SE. If it is, then that is a departure from the ad philosophy. If it only is for the test but somehow not for what commences thereafter, this would be important to know. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Jun 20 at 15:25
  • 14
    @WebHead I suspect, rather than things "failing" as such, SO's private investors have come calling, and its time to pay the piper, as it were. Cut costs, bump revenue, demonstrate growth, get the thing in shape for an IPO so people can cash out before the current US business cycle slows down (maybe the yield curve has put people a little on edge). – mbrig Jun 20 at 17:22
  • 37
    Related: A World of Endless Advertisements (by one of the founders of Stack Overflow) – Peter Mortensen Jun 21 at 8:36
  • 10
    "This may be a move of desperation, in which case please communicate that." Why on earth would anyone do that? – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 23 at 13:08
  • 1
    Communicating desperation makes the product totally unacceptable for all the businesses that could have opted to invest into it, because it signifies "end of life" stage of the project and its soonest departure from the market. Before desperation is communicated, such project can still be salvaged by a smart business idea. – polkovnikov.ph Jul 9 at 23:03
  • 1
    "Desparation" is a strong word, and probably not felt as such in the board room. To users who expect a certain moral contract with the company, a change in that contract feels like either moral flippancy, which we hope is not true, or s desperate need to change the contract to survive. From the board room it is simply business. – cmm Jul 10 at 3:07
112

I block all ads, on all websites, without exceptions. Here is my feedback:

  • All ads are spammy.
  • All advertising networks are bad.
  • All ads are low-quality.
  • I don't care how carefully you vet them.
  • Ads are not good content.
  • If you have to sell ads to remain in business, your business model is, in the long-term, unsustainable, and you should be focusing your efforts on transitioning to a sustainable business model.
  • 16
    To hit on your last point - expansion is costly, and it will be for any website. Considering the sheer number of websites that SE runs (between meta sites and main sites), it's entirely acceptable that they need more revenue to be able to sustain. – connectyourcharger Jun 21 at 14:22
  • 9
    For some StackOverflow sites, I don't think they're ever going to have a sustainable income model aside from ads, since they have a tiny audience with a very specific interest. Most notably, the plethora of Area51 sites for various cryptocurrencies. There is a lot of value in having Area51 as a means of providing new SO sites, but it's presently all cost and no revenue. However, once some of those sites are established, better revenue models could be introduced. – Conspicuous Compiler Jun 21 at 18:12
  • 23
    I don't expect each StackExchange site to be independently financially sustainable. I mean the company as a whole needs a sustainable business model. Their current one isn't working, and selling ads on a few more sites is, at best, a stopgap measure. – Clement Cherlin Jun 24 at 13:25
  • 5
    @ConspicuousCompiler those tiny communities should be run on a donation-basis or just not run at all and let someone else figure out how to run that tiny community if SE can't figure out a better support model. – Rudolf Olah Jun 24 at 16:21
  • 36
    THIS ANSWER needs to be seared painfully into the eyeballs of EVERY business executive. I have a zero tolerance policy for spam, and site adverts are ALWAYS spam. If I go to the yellow pages to look for a plumber, the adverts on that site are perfectly reasonable; but if I'm reading an article, they are annoying spam. Period. If I could upvote this answer more than once, I would. – Sod Almighty Jun 24 at 23:01
  • 8
    Add to that list the fact that ads are a primary incursion source for malware, which is my primary reason for using an ad-blocker. – Jim Fell Jun 25 at 16:18
  • 4
    I don't wholly agree. Vetted and non intrusive ads give sites like SE a way to not force everyone to pay to access. And as long as you stick with (somewhat I guess) reputable networks like AdSense, they vet their ads thoroughly so chance of malware is smaller (I personally usually use adblock btw) – linuxandria Jun 25 at 19:54
  • However, a lot of sites don't use non intrusive ads or use crap ad providers so I use uBlock with great pleasure on those sites – linuxandria Jun 25 at 19:56
  • 2
    This is the answer I came here to post, and I wish I could boldface the last bullet point in particular and then laser-etch it on every available surface at SE headquarters. – zwol Jun 25 at 20:47
  • 10
    Using advertising as your primary revenue source is an unsustainable business model? So, basically all of the internet, television, and radio are under an unsustainable business model? – TTT Jun 25 at 22:15
  • 15
    @TTT Yes. It's really that simple. – zwol Jun 26 at 14:28
  • 1
    @pavon: have you ever received reddit gold? I even got a platinum once. It's totally useless, but someone paid actual money for it. – biziclop Jun 28 at 16:52
  • 2
    @biziclop that's a very good point, actually. What if one could donate to good answers that helped them, and SE took a small cut (10% etc) from that? – Ave Jul 1 at 12:42
  • 4
    I think there's only one site I've ever whitelisted the advertisements for. And there's. One. Very. Good. Reason. Why. Those advertisements are from the site's own user base without exception (heck, I bought an ad once myself). Or was, until a more recently. Those ads are still there, but they added a single banner ad served by Google. What'd I do? I blocked the one ad. – Draco18s Jul 4 at 3:12
  • 1
    @reirab File that under "the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent." All of those businesses, without exception, would have been well-advised to find better revenue streams from eight o'clock, Day One; all of them are already taking actions against their customers' best interests for the sake of keeping themselves funded, and this will only continue to get worse until they go bankrupt or turn into spam farms. The process happens faster online but is inevitable regardless of medium. – zwol Jul 7 at 15:31
96

Which sites is this experiment running on? As far as I've seen so far the exact list of site hasn't been documented officially.

I've said this before, but I really think that this kind of drastic change should be put on the relevant meta for each site that is part of the experiment (as long as it's a reasonably short list, otherwise it should be a globally featured meta post).

What does this mean for the principles SE has upheld previously for ads? The old standard was "excessively considerate, ludicrously on-topic", what has changed here? What kind of ad does SE consider inappropriate now? I've really no idea anymore on where SE draws the line for acceptable ads. This is probably the biggest damage this experiment has caused so far, it thoroughly confused the SE policy on ads.

What exactly are you testing for? Six months is really not a test in my view, this is close to establishing a new status quo for ads on SE. What parameters is SE observing here and using to decide on whether to go forward with the ads permanently?

  • 16
    The experiment will run on all SE sites in some shape or form during the 6 months. I won't post on each site about it, this announcement is sufficient. Inappropriate ads are full screen takeovers, punch the monkey, scam, pornographic, racist, etc. Some divergence from topic is ok but we'll monitor for exaggerations. Testing is for us to get an understanding of the quality of ad networks, profitability of the network, variety of availabilities, and other things as they come up. We're planning a recap of our findings at the end of the time period Stay tuned for that. – Juan M Jun 19 at 23:34
  • 3
    This already has been posted about on per-site metas for some sites. I'm just glad I am no longer seeing ads for Stack Overflow for Teams, which was entirely inappropriate for the site given the subject matter. Though now I'm not seeing any ads at all... – Michael Hampton Jun 20 at 1:01
  • 6
    @JuanM Can we gather from this that, in a departure from existing ad policy, animations of any kind (including resource intensive, long loading and/or highly distracting ones) are not considered "inappropriate" as long as they stay within their 300x250 box? Or is there any whatever-natured threshold to animation that you can give the potential reporters guidance on? – Chris says Reinstate Monica Jun 20 at 15:12
  • 9
    @ChristianRau We're removing and stopping resource intensive, long loading, and highly distracting animated ads as soon as we see them. It's not just about the dimensions of the ad, it's also the peripherals around it that matter. – Juan M Jun 20 at 15:36
  • 7
    @JuanM Some ads are resource-heavy for older computers or browsers without JIT. Pretty much any animated ad which isn't a GIF or APNG will max out the CPU on such systems. – The forest of Reinstate Monica Jun 23 at 3:07
  • 1
    @forest Noted and reported. – Juan M Jun 25 at 21:34
  • I'd like to see more "punch the turkey" ads. bytecode77.com/resources/sites/garage/software/… – biziclop Jun 28 at 16:44
89

For several days I've noticed that all "community ads" have disappeared, and intermittent "team" ads (irrelevant to the site) popped up for at least a day. The particular site is tex.stackexchange.

The community worked pretty hard to craft ads to call attention to non-stackexchange resources that would be useful to newbies first visiting the site -- resources that provide more general information and facilities than can easily be conveyed in a question/answer format. But these are now gone.

Will they come back?


Update

This was a and has since been fixed. Thanks for pointing it out!


Update by OP

As of right now (a day and a half after the report that the bug was fixed), I see both ads for teams and paid ads (for a Microsoft product no less), but no community ads. So something was changed, but not the fix that was requested. Please take another look.


Update

This is fixed and community ads are appearing (not on every single page, but that's the same as it always was). We've shifted them down one slot if a paid ad appears on page.

Tex community ad

Yet another OP update

It has now been a week since the last acknowledged update. And I have noticed an update in the interim that changed the appearance of the row of boxes that identifies the type of answer (probably to work better on a small screen, and probably effective for that). But the ad situation has not improved. They now seem to appear on fewer than 10% of pages, and team ads are much more frequent than community ads. Unless my memory is greatly deficient, before this change, the community ads used to appear on far more than 50% of pages, and were relevant in context. This is a very sad loss for our community.

  • 5
    @AlizaBerger -- How long before the fix is installed? I'm still seeing intermittent "team" ads, and none for the community. (I know that just a few hours isn't enough, so when should I check back?) – barbara beeton Jun 21 at 17:28
  • @AlizaBerger -- The "team" ads have now disappeared, but I still see no community ads. Granted they didn't use to appear on all pages, but they were much more frequent than absent. Now there are (still) none. I'll keep checking back. – barbara beeton Jun 25 at 15:55
  • Can you check a few questions that are answered? That's where I see them most consistently, and I do see them on TeX. I see one here, for example: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/497356/… – Catija Jun 25 at 16:27
  • 2
    @Catija -- Yes, there is an ad on that page, but it is not a community ad. It's for Microsoft Azure, which has nothing to do with (La)TeX. You can see all this year's community-approved ads here: tex.meta.stackexchange.com/q/8048 I haven't seen any of them on a tex.stackexchange page for more than a week. These community ads provide links to TeX-related tools, other forums, and the user groups and meetings around the world. All non-commercial. – barbara beeton Jun 25 at 18:14
  • Go to this question @barbarabeeton - hit refresh a few times if you need to; I get a community ad every single time there, across two browsers and three different accounts, even logged out. – Shog9 Jun 25 at 18:33
  • @Shog9 -- The community ads are indeed appearing, at least for the cited question. In fact, if I refresh the page a few times (after a brief delay), the ad changes. Yes, that's what is wanted, although I wouldn't mind (and I think other members of the community wouldn't mind either) if these ads also appeared on unanswered questions. Thanks. – barbara beeton Jun 25 at 19:09
  • 4
    @Shog9 -- Urk. Still getting Microsoft Azure and team ads on the home page for tex.stackexchange. Will this continue forever? – barbara beeton Jun 25 at 19:22
79

Thanks for putting this on Meta so we can condense a lot of the information here.

I'm wondering if we're going to see ads tailored to particular sites in the future.

I'm as glad as anyone that we can keep Joel caffeinated, and since the 2016 announcement and the 2018 update on the ads program, I was looking forward to this move a little, because there had been two major reassurances:

  1. Ads would have a very strict, excessively ludicrous quality control barrier, as Stack Overflow has stood by in the past.
  2. Ads would be topical, if possible, for some or all sites.

Point 1 has been talked about recently by a lot of people and no doubt will see further discussion, so I won't kvetch about that. I'll talk about Point 2, i.e. topicality. There was a lot of emphasis a couple years on back on why network-wide ads would be beneficial for a lot of users; namely, that entire groups of non-programmers could be drawn in by ads related to the topics they're hear to ask and answer questions about. To use Tim's continued example of Seasoned Advice, there's a whole bunch of cooks in that kitchen who might be interested in cutlery-related advertisements.

From what we've seen so far, there has been no tailoring of ad scope to each site. Arguably the opposite. Seasoned Advice saw some stuff that doesn't look like a spatula (kudos to y'all for addressing that quickly, though). All the ads seem generic; moreover, I'm getting the impression that SE doesn't have any quality or scope control over what ads we see - besides dealing with problematic ads after the fact and perhaps having a word with the party responsible. Which would imply that it's not getting better from here.

So here's my question: Are we ever going to see topical ads? We've got over 170 sites - I've given up counting by now - and it would of course be absolutely absurd to expect you guys to somehow figure out a whole bunch of ludicrously on-topic ads for each one. I'd be amazed if you pulled that off. But at the same time . . . not all of those sites are exactly prime ad targets, as had been acknowledged a couple years earlier. Maybe it would be possible to tailor ad topics if only a smaller subset of sites saw ads (it's easier to filter ads for 20 sites rather than 170+, right)? But from what you're saying, every site will get these ads eventually, at least in this phase of things.

As Tim said back in 2018,

However, you're the experts on these topics and we're very likely going to listen to you.

. . .

Ads aren't just an opportunity to sell stuff, they're an opportunity to really show people that we understand a given topic.

It kinda seems like that idea has been given up on, which is a bit disappointing, because I thought it could be an awesome way to forge connections with the network sites . . . but I'd like to know if it's truly the case that it won't be happening. Of course, if you don't know yet, that's also fine. But . . . this was one of the positive things I thought might come out of this, and I'm not seeing heads nor tails of it.

  • 18
    I love the way you presented this! Yes, our goal is to have on-topic advertisements everywhere. It makes no sense for us to advertise things that are unrelated. However, this is currently taking time and discovery with networks that can fulfill the requests we're making via the 100K+ page views we generate per second. It's tricky but it's the goal. We want relevant ads but sadly we're running into issues while finding the right partners. We are aggressively seeking and responding to reports of bad ads. We want to bring value all sides. No one on the ads team wants to hurt any SE site! – Juan M Jun 20 at 1:36
  • 1
    @JuanM Yeah, I figure it would take time - and I also figured that might be why the experiment is so long, trying to optimize for as many sites as you can under those conditions. Thanks for expanding on that. – HDE 226868 Jun 20 at 1:37
  • 3
    You're welcome! I agree that the experiment is long but in reality we're dealing with a lot more than just a few sites and a handful of topics. We want to get it right and we'll continue to push towards that. – Juan M Jun 20 at 1:40
  • 2
    @Juan with the talented people who work for you wouldn't it just be easier to build your own ad tech and not have to rely on finding the right partners, which from my experience don't exist? If your goals are a combination of profit and community relevance you might not find a network that can provide this as their usual goals are profit, profit, profit, profit and profit. – razethestray Jun 24 at 16:59
  • 4
    @razethestray That would be a large venture to do effectively, as you would have to invest a lot of resources in courting the interest of businesses whose ads you would like to host. SO could probably branch off an entirely separate business to do this if it successfully took off in the first place. That's a huge risk to take on. – called2voyage Jun 24 at 18:04
  • 13
    Alienating it's entire userbase is a greater risk I would say. – razethestray Jun 24 at 18:06
  • 4
    @JuanM -- You say "No one on the ads team wants to hurt any SE site!" But you have hurt at least one SE site by nearly completely removing the "community ads", which were crafted by the community to highlight non-SE sites that provide additional relevant information that is not suitably covered by a question/answer format. We keep hoping they will return, but it seems hopeless. – barbara beeton Jul 1 at 16:45
77

We've received reports ... We've also received reports ...

This is a big problem. Start taking some responsibility of the content posted on your site, before it goes onto the site. As a publisher, you are already legally responsible for it, so it will actually be in your own best interest to spend a minimum of effort into reviewing advertisements.

  • 45
    Agreed. Porn or scam ads are unacceptable and "we're just testing" is NOT an excuse. I already lost any trust in SE when it comes to ads, and nothing will bring that trust back, but hope they'll get better for the sake of other people. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jun 24 at 12:14
75

As a point for historic reference, you may want to consider the Spanish Fork, when the Spanish-language Wikipedia contributors left for a forked version of the project when Wikipedia announced it would consider running ads. It is why Wikipedia still does not run ads, puts more focus on its nonprofit status, and has so much focus on fundraising by donations instead.

(Searching for stories to link to for more information, I found this one and vaugely recall that the story might also be in this chapter of a book that is not handy for me at present.)

Even if a sufficiently critical mass of regular contributors to SE got so upset by ads that they chose to fork and leave, such a group would still face challenges of funding server bills, development costs, non-community moderation (DMCA etc.), and face an uphill battle for visibility. However, such a community might choose to manage the finances with greater transparency and orientation towards the good of the community instead of optimizing for shareholder value. The existing SE could get closer to that if it chose to do so.

It seems that lately, we've seen an increasing level of the SE team getting away from user-centered design and listening to the community (just one example here), and this ads initiative with all its flaws and lack of basic considerations (esp. around site appropriateness!) is the latest in that pattern.


As part of this "experiment," we the community members have repeatedly heard false assurances about what will and won't be allowed. For example, in a blog post about earlier ads on SO, Sr. Ad Ops Manager Steve Feldman stated (emphasis original):

We entered into an agreement with Stack Overflow users long ago that we wouldn’t subject them to low-quality ads. ...anything that doesn’t speak specifically to the Stack Overflow audience is not permitted. We also don’t accept rich media like animated ads, expandable ads, or video, which are the norm for most publishers today. This strict policy means we leave money on the table, but our team wants to protect Stack Overflow from those kinds of ads, as they run the risk of alienating that established trust. ...That focus on relevance and performance arrives early in the QA process. Whether it’s our sales people explaining that ads must have borders, or our campaign managers checking landing pages to ensure they adequately inform, we are thorough. ...Every single ad to appear on any of our sites is vetted by the operations team. We check copy and content on the ads as well as the landing pages.

In a report around animated ads being allowed in practice, readers learned that SE is not "thorough" and does not vet "every single ad." As explained by an ad teams member,

We do a manual check of all creatives before campaign launch. Both when we receive the ad tag, and when we launch the campaign. What typically happens when one gets through, is that an agency updates their ad tags after we've launched the campaign.

As noted following that explanation, there are automated ways to tell if something is animated or not. There are image formats that don't support animation, to which ads could be automatically restricted. If manual review of any new content is required, it's demonstrably possible and part of the system; changed content should be considered new content for this review's purposes. The same review process should apply. If an advertiser has 10 different creatives they want to test in and out, then all 10 should be reviewed and approved, with the approved hashes stored. If there is a required review step, only approved images should be allowed. Advertisers should be allowed to substitute approved images for other approved images mid-campaign as much as they want, but why even require an approval process if it's not reviewing the less appropriate content that will actually be shown?

It's clear that advertisers are circumventing review to serve up ads not appropriate for this site, including animated ads and script-running ads for browser fingerprinting (or, perhaps, whatever other malicious scripts an advertiser wants to run; trust is completely gone on this point). SE's response is to not turn off those ads or even restrict ads to static images, even temporarily for however many weeks (minimum/already passed) or months/years it might take to implement a more complex solution, without clarity about why the added complexity is needed.

We also apparently can't have an easy way to flag inappropriate ads, which further shows the truth behind any nice words about how SE might say it wants to listen to members of the community or fix what's broken about the premature rollout of the SE-wide ads system.


Maybe there is a sense that the ongoing contributions of the community are less important than they once were as a result of SE having already built up such a large database of useful content; this site or any mirror would continue holding significant value even if all new contributions stopped tomorrow. However, I caution against getting too comfortable in that position, and driving away contributions that are still core to the long-term success of SE's business model.

  • 29
    I would actually go as far as saying "lack of basic considerations (esp. around appropriateness!)". Some of the ads we saw aren't appropriate for any site in the network. – Hitodama Jun 21 at 7:57
73

I don't have a problem with ads in general. But I see that animated ads are being allowed. Animated elements of any kind make the web cognitively inaccessible for people with visual processing difficulties. Specifically, it violates WCAG success criterion 2.2.2 by including auto-moving elements that can't be paused by the user.

What happened to your stated commitment to preserving accessibility?

  • 4
    It probably isn't profitable enough, a factor which tends to cause for-profit companies to drop prior commitments, especially without strong incentives. Even if they are holding to the WCAG, can you find/cite more specifically which part would prohibit animated ads? I agree they're a bad idea, but a more specific citation in WCAG would help if making the accessibility argument about why. – WBT Jun 24 at 18:47
  • 1
    @WBT It's 2.2.2. I've updated the post, thanks for the suggestion. – autistOfSpot Jun 25 at 0:41
  • 1
    Thanks; that makes it a much stronger post. – WBT Jun 25 at 14:01
70

I am concerned based on the examples cited by Monica and HDE 226868 and what they've already seen on the network.

These examples - Bikini ads on Workplace and foreign language ads on Seasoned Advice - seem rather low quality. Frankly, they sound like something that should have been caught before going live.

Can you explain a little bit about how the quality / search for advertising partners / process of getting ads to appear is different from what currently exists? Perhaps that will help us understand a bit more of why these types ads are appearing when many of us are accustomed to higher quality ads (or fewer ads due to privilege level).

  • 22
    I only know of their current system, from what I've read around: advertisers send SE the ads in a way, SE staff review and upload it to the place serving ads. Obviously, that's no longer true with the new ads. I'm almost sure they just let those who pay decide what to show, and can ask them to remove specific ads only after they're being reported. Will glad to stand corrected, but afraid I won't be. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jun 20 at 10:47
  • 11
    (It was actually a lingerie ad that I saw on Workplace. Somebody else reported seeing bra ads; not sure if that was Workplace or SciFi. My bikini example was an extrapolation -- that could plausibly be relevant on a site like Travel, unlike the others.) – Monica Cellio Jun 20 at 15:27
  • 4
    @MonicaCellio bra on Workplace (not the one who reported but saw that one myself as well) – LinkBerest Jun 20 at 16:22
  • 1
    Yeah, that's not good. These have been reported. – Juan M Jun 25 at 21:37
  • 1
    hmm, bikinis could well be appropriate on the workplace. For some people they're proper attire for their job after all. Think professional swimmers :) – jwenting Jul 9 at 3:59
69

If you wish to report an advertisement, please take a screenshot of the ad and paste the URL (if possible) along with the site where you saw it to a comment or answer. I'll report it to the ads team and we can track it down to investigate.

Were any engineers involved in the discussion about how to report ads?

Why don't you have a proper "Report This Ad" button that captures all of that info?

  • 22
    Why don't you have a proper "Report This Ad" button that captures all of that info? Probably because that would cost money to develop and run (i.e. do the investigations etc.), which would eat into the profits of running the advertising. – WBT Jun 24 at 18:42
  • 7
    Relevant feature request: meta.stackexchange.com/q/329700/162102 – Monica Cellio Jun 25 at 14:51
  • 29
    @WBT: Yep, better to get us to do it instead for free. Like we do everything else... for free. – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 25 at 15:45
66

Everyone keeps talking about animated ads and video ads, but I haven't seen any mention yet of a far more important topic: JavaScript in ads.

Simply put, there is no legitimate reason for it to exist, but plenty of illegitimate ones. We've already seen malvertising showing up on Stack Exchange ads. So far, it's been limited to browser fingerprinting, but it can easily get worse if that much is getting through.

We need a zero tolerance policy on ads running scripts. The only acceptable standard is no JavaScript code on any ad, on any site, for any reason, no exceptions, no excuses. Anything less than this will get the site adblocked by a whole lot of tech-savvy users who want to protect their systems from malware.

  • to be fair, apparently it has NOT been limited to fingerprinting. Like I said in my answer, there are reports of ads that attempted to download actual malware, but I couldn't gather any more precise info. See here for one of such claims. – Hitodama Jul 4 at 8:56
  • Oh hey, first downvote on this answer. There must be a sleazy advertiser reading this... – Mason Wheeler Jul 7 at 14:48
  • no javascript is probably a non starter for SE. They're not rolling their own ad network, and all ad networks out there, especially google (the one they've chosen) require fingerprinting, tracking and full javascript enabled features for their partners. – mag Jul 8 at 6:08
  • You'd love uMatrix ... allows you to block scripts depending on where they're from, a bit long to set up, but really efficient once it's done. – m.raynal Jul 8 at 12:11
  • 1
    @Magisch Too bad. If Google doesn't care enough to filter things actively enough to keep malware out of their advertising--and they don't--then we don't care enough about their "requirements" to let them put security holes (such as JavaScript) in their advertising that people who want to stick us with malware can exploit. As we say on the Internet, "this is why you can't have nice things." – Mason Wheeler Jul 8 at 19:38
64

I am more worried about the next move.

OK, you have realized that your current buziness model is not so efficient and you need ads to make the sites running. I am not an expert and I should leave the technical complaints to the more qualified people. Some may even feel sympathetic and support this decision. Personally, I'll use my precious ad-blocker whenever I get annoyed and if the ad-blocker is out of hand (like when I'm on mobile) then I'll just curse. No problem.

But I'm imagining the situation that this model has a poor outcome, i.e. the ads get very few clicks due to the fact that most people are not interested in seeing them and block them. Then what would be the next move? May we get the message "please turn off your ad-blocker, or else you won't be able to see the content" whenever we visit the site? That is when the things get really ugly.

  • 12
    On sites that have ads already running, they also have "reduce ads" privilege with this statement (emphasis mine): "We want to emphasize that you should only re-enable banner ads if you want to see them, not because you're trying to support us financially. In fact, it doesn't really do us any good to show you ads for products that you don't want to engage with." I'd sincerely hope they don't change that policy. – Meta Andrew T. Jun 23 at 7:40
  • 6
    @MetaAndrewT. Actually I don't mind ads as long as they are relatively small and not animated. But unfortunately, most advertisers think that is the whole point of the ads! So they make them to be as annoying as possible. And if you are going to make money by showing ads, you have to bend by their rules. – polfosol ఠ_ఠ Jun 23 at 8:14
  • 2
    @MetaAndrewT. However, reduced ad privileges don't exist right now for the network and changing that is not a top priority for development effort, though another answer here emphasizes it should be (& I agree). – WBT Jun 24 at 13:35
  • @WBT I kind of believe the privilege will be enabled when the testing is done (i.e. ads run officially). AFAIK, they deliberately turn off the privilege for the experiment to get more feedback on the ads. – Meta Andrew T. Jun 24 at 13:40
  • 9
    @MetaAndrewT. Your optimism seems inexperienced. – WBT Jun 24 at 13:41
  • @polfosolఠ_ఠ if it comes to that, please remember that the content was originally licensed under the Creative Commons license. That means that you are allowed to republish it (with attribution) on some other site that won't hide it behind a wall of any sort. I hope we won't have to come to that, but it is still an option if things get really ugly. – Hitodama Jul 2 at 10:19
60

Generating revenue from non-technology sites will enable us to dedicate more resources to meeting your needs so this is good news!

"Good news, everyone!"

I'd like to hear more about this "good news". The response from Stack Exchange staff on the Photography site (see What can Stack Exchange do improve this site to better build a photography community of practice here?) has been quite underwhelming, with a lot of glib "this will enable the community" comments and clearly no reading at all of the existing community conversations even when I provided links to them.

Are there any active plans for helping sites like Photography reach their potential? To be completely honest, this feels like an afterthought to monetization (and therefore, the claim of "good news" a little... doublespeaky).

actual "good news"?

57

At least allow the current reduced ads privileges to continue operating

The people who generate the content that generates ad revenue shouldn't be subject to the same level of ads.

Don't block adblock users

I know I personally will delete my account if that becomes a thing (especially if uBlock even can't get around it :-) ). Glaring at you APKMirror. I'm primarily on mobile data so every MB an ad uses in addition to the site counts. Though if you don't implement anti-adblock and make double sure nothing shady or any viruses get in ads, I'll disable it. These sites have helped me so much sometimes it's worth it.

I'll reiterate what others have said: nothing intrusive like animated or video ads

This is key to ensure users can also focus on the content and not just the ads. Also some users who maybe have seizures or likewise will appreciate that.

I can't say it enough. Content. Moderation.

You won't let me post pictures of women scantily clad or of shady Asian dating sites or posts with malware, so why should advertising providers be allowed to even if they provide money? A way to mitigate risk of malicious ads is to forbid JS in ads. Also try to focus ads to the site subject matter.

Also please include a way for us to flag inappropriate ads. We know your moderation systems can't always catch everything.

And offer removal of ads for a small monthly fee

And I mean small. Like single digits USD. Take a look at XDA ad-free for an example



I'll be happy to discuss any disagreement in the comments.

  • 6
    You won't let me post pictures of women scantily clad or of shady Asian dating sites or posts with malware, why should advertising providers be allowed to? Practical answer: because they are paying to post that. Due to a deficit in choice of metrics and SE being a for-profit business, contribution of funds is what counts as valuable in the eyes of the company, not contribution of content. – WBT Jun 24 at 13:40
  • 5
    @WBT That's not quite true. You can't just make a website full of ads and rake in the money. You need some mechanism to get people to actually look at the ads and possibly click on them. That's what the content is for. – nwp Jun 24 at 14:39
  • 6
    @nwp and they have plenty of content, collected over the prior several years. See my answer for some additional discussion. I think they are being a little short-sighted in their decisions about what to recognize as valuable here. – WBT Jun 24 at 15:54
  • 17
    "And offer removal of ads for a small monthly fee" No, don't. This is a huge slippery slope. – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 25 at 15:46
  • 3
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit not really. People may use adblock anyway and it'd give them a way to support SE without them forcing people to disable it – linuxandria Jun 25 at 19:48
  • 6
    @INLOwnerInnonetlife In terms of business decisions, it's one step away from a two-tier access model. – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 25 at 21:09
  • 2
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Which they could enforce for ad-blocker folks, anyway. At least this gives people a choice. – TTT Jun 25 at 22:20
  • 1
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit It does not have to be. Just think about how many people would donate (I do not say pay here). This could be sustainable, if SO just wants to do their job without too many experiments and side projects. And maybe it could even finance some side projects, because there are a lot of users and many users that could afford to pay a little bit. – allo Jun 27 at 11:35
  • 3
    @alloo And there are a lot who can't. Presto, you have a two-tier access model. The poor suffer, the rich don't. Nice! – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 27 at 12:05
  • 1
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit I would not propose any sort of advantage like rep or privileges (besides maybe a badge by your username) given to those who pay to remove advertising. Two tier access only matters if paying gives you some sort of advantage over non paying users – linuxandria Jun 27 at 12:25
  • 3
    @INLOwnerInnonetlife The advantage is in being able to use the site without advertisements. – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 27 at 12:40
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit but I fail to see how that's going to give a user an edge in anything. Not going to raise their rep or privileges. – linuxandria Jun 27 at 13:38
  • @INLOwnerInnonetlife This page is chock full of people saying that the experience without advertisements is better than the experience with them. Not sure how else I can put it, or why you're focusing on competitive advantages that nobody mentioned – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 27 at 13:41
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit my point is that I see no issue as long as it doesn't give you a competitive edge. Also of course I'd prefer no ads but they have to pay the bills and some of us would happily support SE but have no desire to turn off our adblock, so a donation of some sort is logical. That also gives users a reason to donate so maybe more will use it – linuxandria Jun 27 at 13:46
  • 2
    @TTT Trust me, considering that all the content - and that includes your own content - is licensed under the Creative Commons license... an armament race against the "evil adsblockers users that don't want our malware/scam/nsfw ads" isn't a fight SE can hope to win. – Hitodama Jul 1 at 10:06
44

The value in Stack Exchange, is its contributors. So Stack Exchange seeks to punish its contributors with ads? How is this a "good thing"? How is this the best way to generate revenue?

  • 17
    I mentioned it in another comment; they should just ask for donations and do fundraising drives like Wikipedia does. Seems to work for them and doesn't mess up the site with ads. – Rudolf Olah Jun 24 at 16:18
  • 2
    While not explicitly stated, I believe the reduced ads privilege for users with 200+ rep will apply. – LShaver Jun 24 at 17:42
  • 4
    @RudolfOlah This answer goes into more detail on the Wikipedia analogy. I'm not a fan of this new answer because it doesn't really answer the question or add anything that the prior 24 answers didn't already cover. – WBT Jun 24 at 18:36
  • 1
    @LShaver It is explicitly stated that "reduced ad privileges don't exist right now for the network" - that's only on certain sites. Developing it out does not seem to be a priority. – WBT Jun 24 at 18:58
  • As I attempted to allude in my statement. The (expert/quality) answers are the largest value. Why not leverage that? IOW why are those of whom provide quality replies to questions raised on StackExchange punished for doing so? – somebody Jun 25 at 8:45
  • 4
    The difference is that Wikipedia started as and still is a non-profit, while Stack Exchange (at least in recent years) has always been concerned about investors and making money while not scaring away too many actual contributors. – qwr Jun 25 at 13:54
  • There was quite a debate on Wikipedias protocol/polic(y|ies). Many feeling that it was just-plain-wrong for Wikipedia to profit so well off the backs of it's contributors. I won't cite anything here, because it 1) it may skew objectivity, and 2) this area is for comments. In any case other' chosen model(s) are not the only models available. Maybe StackExchange could use a unique model. Maybe poll it's users/contributors for thoughts on the matter in a Post(ing)/Poll of it's own? – somebody Jun 25 at 20:02
  • 4
    I also resent being charged with the duty of "AD police". Why aren't the ADs being screened in advance? Why are we charged with the responsibility? – somebody Jun 26 at 22:37
  • Sounds like they need to take this decision over to ux.stackexchange.com – DasBeasto Sep 26 at 18:07
36

I haven't seen anyone bring the following up:

Please do not have ads on beta sites.

These have enough problems as it is getting a community going. Until a site is graduated, it should be spared (non-community) ads.

36

I don't think monetization on its own is bad. You need to keep the servers running, and the employees paid and happy. But I will echo some sentiment on the part of others here; if you think "Reactive" is good enough, you're wrong.

It might be one strike or three for some users. I run uBlock Origin, most of the sites I visit are white listed; if I enjoy their content they get my ad views. However, when those ads become malicious or obnoxious those sites lose that white list status... and they stay there. Several large sites are on that list for a fairly lax approach to dealing with the issue.

So sure be "reactive" in your experiment; but bear in mind that a lot of users will be running their own experiment. Transparency can only help your case, but if we never learn about ad-partners that you no longer work with, or reasons for slips in the ad quality, we have no incentive to turn ads back on.

  • I love this answer and how it simply explain one of the central points here. Stack Exchange may be doing its experiment to see which provider is trustworthy, but at the same time the user are performing their own. Sorry, but being "reactive" to bad advertisements flags when it is MY machine that is risking to get infected.... is just a big no on my book. – Hitodama Jul 4 at 9:03
34

Please avoid using animated ads and video ads.

They kill my cell phone's battery, as well as being annoying.

  • 12
    This answer has been given several times at least. Here, here and here. And with 324 upvotes, here – Mari-Lou A Jun 24 at 22:22
  • 15
    It cannot be said enough. – Sod Almighty Jun 24 at 22:53
  • 15
    @SodAlmighty Yet here on SE, we are not a fan of duplicate answers. – WBT Jun 25 at 14:09
  • 14
    None of the linked answers have mentioned device battery drain so I don't consider this a duplicate. Most websites have transitioned to > 50% mobile traffic, so it's a real concern. "XYZ kills my battery" is shorthand for "developer doesn't at least performance test their code." Whatever happened to counting clock cycles? – CubicleSoft Jun 26 at 14:17
  • 2
    @CubicleSoft in the age of smartphones, and ever increasing Internet access, more and more people are using their phones to watch movies and videos online than ever before. Can an animated ad drain battery as much as surfing on the Internet, e.g visiting Stack Exchange, and/or watching a video? Is cell battery life as big a concern as it was maybe five years ago? I'm not saying that animated ads don't have any ill-effects, I'm just wondering how often it has happened to SE users that their cells died (they kill my cell phone's battery) because of this. – Mari-Lou A Jun 27 at 6:09
  • 6
    @Mari-LouA An animated ad triggers a repaint which results in executing additional code, which means more CPU/GPU time. So, yes, it will drain battery faster than a site that is completely static. If the ad is Javascript-based, any changes to the DOM trigger UI changes. If the ad is a video, it utilizes very CPU-intensive video decoding libraries and hit the GPU pretty hard. Also, most network ads include telemetry code, so they are regularly initiating additional network requests long after the page is done loading. I just had two Li-ion batteries inflate after 19 months of low use... – CubicleSoft Jun 27 at 15:15
  • @Mari-Lou A: Animated ads have a noticeable effect of my battery life. Your comment "...in the age of..." amounts to telling me I should buy a phone with a bigger battery. That's an arrogant attitude on your part, and you should think about whether you've the right to tell people how to run their lives. – Eric M Jun 28 at 15:53
23

Please consider rethinking your strategy.

There seems to be a push for monetization currently going on at Stack Exchange. A few examples of this:

  1. stackoverflow.com leading to a sales page for unauthenticated users.
  2. The countless UI changes and call to actions aimed at peddling Stack Overflow Teams.
  3. Stack Overflow Jobs.
  4. And now this.

It's gotten to a point where even some moderators are weighing in against these moves.

I think it's time for Stack Exchange to come out and clearly state what it wants to be. Do you want to be a services company or a community?

Wikipedia had to make such a decision regarding this topic, and they opted to hold donation drives instead, which is consistent with their commitment to fostering their community.

I think that, similarly, Stack Exchange has to face such a decision. It would be the honest thing to do, since right now it's staying on the fence and is not sure whether it wants to milk the community or invest in it by providing better moderation tools, etc.

Baiting and Switching

Lastly, I would like to comment on how this move looks like to a mere user like me:

To me, this feels like a bait and switch, similar to what other tech companies are doing as of lately.

All these companies are luring you in with a "community feeling" or "free" stuff, enticing you to spend countless hours of your free time contributing to their product, oftentimes with some numbers, badges or virtual medals as a reward.

All that is perfectly fine. However, it turns out that corporate has not revealed their full plan. See, when the userbase is well established and sizable, their plan is to come in and monetize everything, even if users are against it. Yes, feedback might change a minor thing or two, but the eternal quest will always be: How can we make even more money off our users?

This thread is a perfect example of this, as execs ponder whether to serve ads with JavaScript tracking and animated ads to volunteers that are basically the lifeblood of the site.

I think Stack Overflow will benefit from some introspection, to hopefully choose a different path.

  • 12
    Re "when the userbase is well established and sizable, their plan is to come in and monetize everything, even if users are against it": An example is Medium. – Peter Mortensen Jun 30 at 13:32
  • I like this answer. However, "How can we make even more money off our users" is just one way to interpret the push for money. The other possibility is "How can we make enough to keep the lights on." – Wayne Conrad Jul 2 at 20:04
  • 3
    The wikipedia model is untenable for stack. stack is a for profit company owned by shareholders, and as such has a fiduciary duty to maximize returns for said shareholders. wikimedia is a non profit org that has a fundamentally (and legally) different focus. – mag Jul 4 at 8:20
  • 1
    @Magisch I think the main takeaway from this post is that Stack Exchange needs to decide/say if it wants to be a "services company" or stay community focused. If it came forward with a decision, you wouldn't get this kind of community pushback, because the community would know what to expect and if they want to continue using the service or not. – Francisco H. Jul 5 at 18:40
  • 3
    @WayneConrad I think the push here is not to merely "keep the lights on". I can hardly envision Stack Exchange execs saying "To keep the lights on, let's test some animated ads and perhaps open up to third party publishers that will push ads with js tracking code to our unpaid volunteers". I definitely think that the hypothesis of shareholders trying to maximize profit makes more sense in this context. – Francisco H. Jul 5 at 18:47
  • 2
    @FranciscoH. it's always been a services company, being a vc funded for-profit enterprise. The community aspect of it is startup that you see from other companies in other industries similarly, you generate user interest and engagement first and only when you get a sizeable market share you start turning the profit valves. This isn't a new model and was always to be expected. – mag Jul 8 at 6:11
  • 3
    "Do you want to be a services company or a community?" Umm... you do realize this is SO, right? It's been actively, openly hostile to the idea of creating a community for years now. The sort of interpersonal interactions that lead to community formation are deemed "off-topic," closed, downvoted, and deleted with a vengeance. This comes directly from the top, with ideas like this treated as gospel. – Mason Wheeler Jul 8 at 19:45
23

I wouldn't mind (non-animated static picture) ads at all.

But I don't like tracking. That's why I use uBlock Origin. It's not to block the ads themselves; it's to block Google or whoever from following me everywhere I go.

Perhaps you could sell your own ad space directly instead of outsourcing it to a third-party network? Stack Overflow is big enough you could probably sustain it, and it might even make more money by cutting out Google. Not to mention people like me who block the ads not because they're annoying, but because Google is running them - I would probably whitelist Stack Exchange in that case.

20

In order to display ads on my computer (i.e. be whitelisted in uBlock Origin) you must adhere to minimum standards for ads.

  1. No animation/video
  2. No cookies
  3. No JavaScript code
  4. No tracking/ping backs
  5. No slowing down page loads
  6. No more than 10% of the screen space
  7. "Report ad" button next to each one
  8. No NSFW content
  9. Guarantee that any damage caused by your site (e.g. malvertising) will be rectified, i.e. paid for

These terms are fairly easy to comply with, the simplest option being to simply serve up human-reviewed JPEG files from your own servers.

  • Nice list :-) However: (4) is impossible, because the ads are coming from external sources. (5) is impossible, all extra functionality makes the site at least a little bit slower. But it would be possible as "no significant slowing down on most common computers". (7) is a google feature, the OP does not mention the google specifically (they could use any other ad services as well). Furthermore, I had exactly zero effect by reporting all the m$ spam hours long. (9) is impossible, no company would ever rectify anything what happens independently from it. – peterh says reinstate Monica Jun 28 at 15:03
  • 2
    Btw, imho you are still very fair with this list - I think, the typical behavior of most adblocker users that they simply block all ads, everywhere, without any feedback or discussion. – peterh says reinstate Monica Jun 28 at 15:05
  • For 4 and 5 the solution is to serve small image files from the same server as the rest of the content. Most slowdown is due to needing to look up and contact external servers, that then run an auction before returning the data. Using a local server also means no advertiser tracking. – user Jun 28 at 17:09
  • Oh yes, it would be nice :-) The problem is that SE commits all reasonable to do so many by external providers as possible. Even their javascripts are coming mostly from remote services, even the images are hosted by the imgur.com . – peterh says reinstate Monica Jun 28 at 17:20
  • @peterh I'm not aware of major problems with imgur, and in my opinion, imgur does a great job hosting images for SE. That is a sustaintable partnership and imgur was carefully choosen due to their excellence, stability and reliability. Also, hosting elsewhere in some very stable place pieces of javascript needed for major functionalities and developed by in-house developers with great care is also something really good. That is something veeeeeery different than allowing the execution of any random unknown snippet of javascript provided by someone else who nobody knows for certain who is. – Victor Stafusa Jun 29 at 2:53
  • @VictorStafusa It is true. But anybody external provider can track us, and in many cases, I simply can't see other option for them to make money (see, for example, imgur where you can upload unlimited pictures until the infinity). – peterh says reinstate Monica Jun 29 at 7:14
  • 1
    Using a few well known JS and image hosts is okay. Chances are they are already looked up in the DNS cache and the JS is already cached too. It's the ad servers that are the problem. Not just slow, but easy to infect with malware too. Remember when the WSJ served up malware for a whole weekend? – user Jun 29 at 19:20
  • @peterh you are right -most of those points are "impossible" with the common "modus operandi" companies have imposed over users in the last years. But since apparently malware isn't a company problem since it comes from external sources and therefore is only an end user problem if browsing their sites infect you with some virus due to malwertising.... I guess one could selfish say it is not our problem if working with unreliable external ads providers makes adhering to this list impossible. – Hitodama Jul 1 at 10:17
  • 6
    @SPArchaeologist if the site operator does not want to accept responsibility for malvertising, there is no obligation (moral or otherwise) on the user to load those adverts. – user Jul 1 at 10:41
18

May I make a suggestion? We should use feedback in our ads from the Coalition for better ads.

I think we should avoid these kinds of ads: https://www.betterads.org/standards/

And use more these kinds of ads (in green): https://www.betterads.org/research/

  • 5
    Can you summarise here? The links could become broken. – Peter Mortensen Jun 26 at 17:19
  • 1
    agreed, I'm worried stackoverflow are just straight up making dumb mistakes right now. I hope they improve - they have a reasonably good track record of ending up doing mostly reasonable things because of lots of people telling them to, but it's not always the case. – lahwran Jun 26 at 23:48
15

Guideline proposal

  • Static advertisements: only a raster image (or vector inlined in a data URL to avoid code execution), with an https link openable on click, in _blank target and with an explicit warning.
  • Upvote and downvote buttons for each ad, one of the major and most useful features of the network.
  • Report button allowing to specify a message, avoiding irrational reports.
  • Topic-targeted advertisements: each site on the network should show contents related to the site topic, without tracking the user in any way.
  • Careful selection by a well-trained staff, with graphic design knowledges among other things.
  • No animations, nor audio, nor video.
  • Avoid technological revenges against advertisement-blocking users, simply display a small message in place of the add telling them that they will only see useful and relevant static advertisements that don't disturb nor track them. This change should be felt as an improvement to the community, not only as «another way more to make money».

Way to go

Here we can add suggestions related to the management of the advertising network:

  • Create your own advertisement network for Stack Exchange sites, offering a high-valuable target: humongous collection of intelligent people that are willing -not exactly, but sounds well- to see relevant advertisements in moderate to low amounts.

Balance

Advantages:

  • Stack Exchange increases the revenue needed to keep working, expand their services, and fulfill their gastronomical needs.
  • The users can benefit of curated and purposeful advertisements.
  • All we will benefit from the economical progress of Stack Exchange.

Disadvantages:

  • Advertisements can clutter the clean user interface.
  • Generalist advertisement networks can pose many threats to the user security and well-being: inappropriate content, code execution...

Note: This answer is intended to serve as a constructive community wiki resource so we can centralize our reaction without repeating ourselves. Instead of downvoting the original post to show our feelings, we can simply expand this answer and upvote it.

  • 2
    I think there is way too much meta information in this answer (why this answer exists, etc.) and that meta information is way too prominent. Can you move it off to comments or deemphasise it by moving it to the end (e.g. make a section at the end titled "About this answer"), putting it in parentheses, formatting (making it smaller by sub / sup), etc.? – Peter Mortensen Jun 30 at 13:24
  • @PeterMortensen: I've done some minor changes to the wording and formatting in order to increase the solidity of the answer. Yes, it was too meta-meta. – Helio Jul 2 at 12:17
  • Note: I'm not a native speaker and you must find more errors, but the URL lowercase variation was a conspicuous fault. What was I thinking? – Helio Jul 2 at 12:19
11

My two cents.

  1. No animated ads. If I see an animated ad on a site, I turn on my ad blocker; you lose.
  2. I don't care which site I'm on, I'm still the same me. So this "targeted ads" thing means little to me. No matter if I'm on scifi.SE or on SO, an ad for the latest novel by GRRM has the same impact on me. Similarly, ads for coffee or beer only depend on whether I'm at work or at home, not which site I happen to be visiting.

You know me already, I have cookies enabled, my profile filled out, etc. So show me the ads I'm interested in, not the ads that would be appropriate to the URL I'm looking at. Thank you.

The rest I want to say has already been said, but better, in this thread, so I'll refrain from repeating all that.

  • Just had one Animated ads. – xdtTransform Sep 16 at 14:08

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