John McCain, Google and the politics of advertising, Part 1
Rubyji is not the only one to have noticed the John McCain ads that have been popping on the site lately.
Last week I got pinged by Azi Paybarah, of the New York Observer's Politicker fame. I guess Azi needed to check out how babelicious I am and was perusing my (soon to be updated) bio and photo at lizasabater.com.
To his horror, he found this :
Yes, that's a John McCain ad right next my mug.
Now, there's the "sensible" explanation for this freakish political mashup and then there's the conspiracy theory. The explanation, though, will shed light into some of my web development skills and the techniques I have used to develop my sites.
So grab yourself a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and get yourself comfortable. Some major geekatude is coming your way.
I really wasn't looking into creating a community site when I first decided to switch from a MovableType to a Drupal publishing platform. My intention first and foremost was to have a system that could easily organize and index all the content in the site through a combination of categories, keywords and taxonomies.
MovableType's main archiving feature was it's chronological organization of all published content. Just like Blogger/Blogspot, a blog was defined by it's chronological archiving of posts. That's because their definition of a blog is more aching to a diary or a journal.
I've never really looked at blogs as journals. I am a big Nietzsche fan. Which is why I am more of an epigramatical writer than a diarist. I am more interested in capturing snapshots of my thought process than snapshots of my day. Hence, I consider blogs to be tools for organizing reality as I perceive it.
Google's web crawlers or googlebots love this site exactly for that reason: This site is so rich in keywords, links and categories that are organized in taxonomies that it's easy for them to make sense (most of the time) of the meaning of our posts.
Web Crawlers cannot read a site like a human does. That's why their considered "blind readers". They "feel out" a site by how many times a word appears on the post and how it links to other places.
Drupal has a whole framework for organizing content around categories and keywords. Web crawlers like Drupal because its taxonomy architecture allows them very little margin of error in mining context from a web page.
Traditional media companies are in a persistent state of confusion when it comes to Google. The question that keeps these media executives up at night isâ€¦ is Google a friend or a foe? If recent conversations Iâ€™ve had with such executives are any indication, Googleâ€™s recent deals and initiatives (e.g. acquiring YouTube1, selling newspaper2 and radio3 ads, etc.) have only served to heighten their frustrations to an all-time high.
From where I sit, the answer to this vexing question lies in oneâ€™s ability to foresee what Google is planning from a product development perspective. If you read through all the announcements and analyses about their recent deals and initiatives, it becomes clear that a common vision unites them all. Simply put, Google is building what is essentially an operating system (â€OSâ€) for advertisingâ€¦ one that will work across all media.
Which means another thing as well : In the post-media age, Google has become the operating system for political campaigning and activism. It's not the neutrality of the internet we should only be concerned about for the sake of our democracy. Google has become by default the system through which politics flows.
"Do no evil" is their corporate motto. Yet, the question is to whom? To citizens? To democracies? Or is it "do no evil" to their stockholders interests?
Now ... do you want to know why I haven't blocked the ads? Keep on reading.