AdSense and cookies

In the near future — 8 April 2009 — Google will be implementing something called “DoubleClick DART cookies”, which is a fancy name for a little text file stored on your computer.

What this cookie does may worry some of you. Whenever you visit a website with Google ads on it, the cookie records this, building up a picture of what you’re interested in. So if, for example, you visit lots of websites about sport, Google will notice this and serve you with more sport-related ads.

That really goes beyond what cookies are really supposed to do; in fact, when cookies were first invented, they were hobbled to prevent this from even being possible. Basically, a cookie set by can only ever be read by, so it shouldn’t be possible to track what websites you’re visiting.

But this new cookie is set not by, but by Google AdSense itself. Because Google AdSense knows which ads it’s serving to which website, this makes it possible to track your movements through the internet on any site served by Google AdSense. That’s a privacy concern.

On the other hand, it isn’t quite as bad as it might be. Cookies still can’t steal your private information, like your name, address, telephone number and so on. The information collected is difficult to match up to an individual person. You certainly won’t get spam or junk mail, but you will get ads served on the basis not of what’s actually on the website you’re currently looking at, but what kind of sites you habitually visit.

Luckily, Google have offered a way to opt out of this scheme. If you do feel uncomfortable about this new development, go to Google’s Privacy Center and click on the nice big blue button at the top of the page.

Lovely spam

I’ve recently been getting lots of automated spam via the contact form, so I’ve had to disable it for now. It seems to have been delivered in batches of about 16 or 17, once or twice a day: not a massive problem, but a waste of my time and something I can live without, thank you very much.

It annoys me to think that thanks to a few jerks who see nothing wrong in bombarding people with meaningless stuff (the title and text were all random letters and numbers, but each contained a link to somewhere) to the point where everything else gets drowned out, the rest of us have to put up with annoying inconveniences of one sort or another. Spammers, of course, will protest that they have the right to say anything they please, but when their freedom of speech makes meaningful dialogue impossible because nobody can find real posts among the trash, it starts to violate other people’s right to be heard, and at that point a line is crossed.

So yeah, sorry about that. I’ll try again after a couple of weeks or so, and if I still have problems I’ll have to start implementing more robust (and inconvenient) measures.

High quality issues (update)

Following on from the problems I had with the quality of my YouTube videos, I notice that my Relaxation technique video appears to have been fixed, in that the normal quality version is vastly improved (although the HQ version is still not being offered). In addition, another problem relating to closed captions has also disappeared.

It could be that there’s some problem which is taking a long time to get sorted out, or it could be that YouTube fixed that one video of mine because I shouted at somebody. (Well, not literally; I used a lot of capital letters in a forum post.) At any rate, my previous video, Sumo, is still exhibiting both problems.

It remains to be seen.

High quality issues

YouTube have done it again: they’ve meddled about with the back end and totally messed things up. This is affecting my videos in a bad way, which some of you may have noticed.

Take a look at my latest video, Relaxation technique. Now, had I uploaded this two weeks ago, you’d be watching it either in high quality, or in normal quality with an option to switch to high quality. For comparison, take a look at 51 things.

Now it’s changed. YouTube claim to have increased the quality of normal quality playback and will only give you the option of high quality if there is a large enough difference between HQ and NQ. In fact, many videos (mine included) now fail even to give you a decent normal quality version, with horrible compression artifacts everywhere.

It appears to be a particular problem with DV source material, and of course DV is what I use as being, ironically, the best quality video there is. In any case, it’s particularly frustrating because YouTube have recently allowed high quality playback in embedded videos… but that doesn’t help when high quality isn’t available in the first place. In effect, YouTube have managed to announce two improvements, but for many people it’s actually got worse.

However, there’s a little trick you can use to get high quality, because an HQ version is actually prepared: it’s just not given as an option. All you need to do is to add the string &fmt=18 to the end of the address. And suddenly you’re watching it in high quality.

So here it is: Relaxation technique (high quality).

So until this issue is fixed, I won’t be embedding any videos directly into this site. Instead, I’ll just give you links to the awful version (for the benefit of people with bandwidth issues) and the high quality version.


I’m not one for boasting, but this is currently showing on my YouTube channel:

Screenshot showing a figure of 1000 subscribers to rewboss’s YouTube channel.