Consistency in Labeling Ads as “advertisements” on Content Sites

Some newspaper and magazine web sites visibly label some ads on their web pages as “advertisements” but don’t mark other ads including their own in-house ads on the same pages. Their intentions are journalistic: They want to visibly differentiate their editorial content from ads. (Though that doesn’t explain why they don’t label their own in-house ads.)

Sites should be consistent in visually differentiating journalistic content from advertising and other types of content. Either they should label all ads consistently or not label any.

In specific cases where the Editors believe advertising content may be confused as editorial content, they should label it as an “advertising section” like they do in print.

However, some sites choose not to label ads as “advertisements“. Their reasons:

  • Readers can differentiate an ad from editorial content in over 99%1 cases of web pages.
  • Ads are not visibly labeled as ads in print publications, except in special cases when the Editors feel that ad may be confused as content.
  • Why stop at ads? Why not label everything on the web page that is not editorial content?

Presenting an entire advertising section as that does make sense. The same way the sports section is branded sports in both print and online, it is useful to brand an advertising section as such. It also does make sense to label ads that look like editorial content (in the Editor’s opinion), such as text ad links and ads in between content.

A related article on this subject at MediaPost.

  1. This 99% is not based on a survey, but I believe the actual percentage would be even higher. []

Suggestions to Nikon for future DSLR cameras

[amazon-product align=”right”]B001ENOZY4[/amazon-product]At present, Canon is dominating the digital SLR-type (DSLR) camera market. We need strong competitors to keep innovation high and prices economical. Since I use a Nikon D70 DSLR , I suggest a few features Nikon should consider in their upcoming DSLR cameras:

  • Enable the photographer to compose the image using a flip out LCD monitor in addition to the SLR-type view finder similar to most non SLR-type electronic viewfinder (EVF) digital cameras.
    • This feature would be useful to photo journalists and pro-photographers in certain situations where such photos using an SLR view finder would be impossible. For e.g.:
    • When raising the camera high above a crowd to get an important photo. In such a situation, using the LCD is the only way to compose the photo.
    • When it is physically impractical for the photographer to lean and put his/her eye behind the view finder. For example, when the camera is extended over a water body or over the edge of a cliff or building.
  • [amazon-product align=”right”]B001G5ZTLS[/amazon-product]

  • Vibration reduction image sensor — where the sensor moves to cancel out camera shake, similar to the one in the Konika Minolta Maxxum 7D camera. Benefits:
    • This will increase the value of all past, present and future Nikon Nikkor F-mount (and compatible) lenses since on the VR image sensor Nikon, using them the result will be VR-enabled.
    • Since VR should be a feature common to almost all lenses, it makes sense for it to be in the camera and not in each lens.
    • This will result in improved image quality since the additional optical element required in current VR/IS lenses won’t be required anymore.
    • This won’t hurt Nikon by decreasing demand for Nikon VR lenses since current Nikon film and DSLR bodies that don’t have this feature will still need those VR lenses. On the long run, it will help Nikon.
    • Nikon can either invent a technology that achieves the same outcome the Konika-Minolta one does, or they can license Konika-Minolta’s technology.
  • Tilt-shift mechanism built into the image-sensor system. This would allow high-quality architectural and other photography without requiring special tilt-shift lenses. This would be good for Nikon’s business for reasons similar to those mentioned above for the VR image sensor.
  • Have one or more high-end DSLRs with a 35mm full frame size sensor. As a lens-compatibility improvement over Canon, this camera should even work with Nikon DX format lenses meant for the 1.5x crop APS-C size Nikon image sensors. When used with such a lens, this camera would provide a lower resolution crop (but higher frames/sec rate like the Nikon D2X), and the lens would still be usable like it is on other Nikon 1.5x crop DSLRs.
    • A 35mm sensor is necessary to compete with Canon’s 35mm full frame digital cameras. A bigger frame will always be able to have more pixels and provide better image quality. Canon is competing with medium-format film cameras with their 35mm DSLRs. Nikon must keep up.
    • Having a high-end 16-plus megapixel DSLR will increase Nikon customer confidence that Nikon is a competitor in the top end, resulting in improved Nikon brand loyalty and better sales of other Nikon equipment.
    • The compatibility with even Nikkor DX lenses (even in a cropped lower resolution mode) will strengthen the statement that Nikon cares greatly about lens compatibility, resulting in greater brand loyalty.
    • To my knowledge, Nikon mainly makes 35mm and some large-format lenses. Having a Nikon DSLR that produces medium-format film quality images (like the Canon EOS 1ds Mark II does), may make the medium format go away, establishing Nikon as one of the leaders in 35mm as well as large-format.
  • Build in a horizontal level feature that helps align the camera properly while viewing through the optical view finder as well as composing via the LCD.
    • This will allow horizontally correctly-aligned photographs when shooting landscapes without a tripod.
    • Having an alignment view within the optical view finder would be more convenient and faster than using a bubble-level or similar attached to the camera and the camera being on a tripod.
    • Once the shutter is pressed half way, the alignment should lock and work with the anti-shake CCD to compensate for camera shake tilt as well.
    • This feature should work when the camera is held in landscape as well as portrait mode.
  • Include a movie-mode like in EVF digital cameras. Just because these cameras are for pro-photographers doesn’t mean having such a mode would not be a benefit.
  • Nikon as a company should encourage third-party components and compatibility for the Nikon system, e.g. third-party lenses and accessories for Nikon cameras and third-party cameras for the Nikkor F-mount lenses and Nikon accessories. This will help Nikon as photographers will be able to collect Nikon-compatible components as their budgets permit. Ultimately, they will get the Nikon lenses and other Nikon-made components since Nikon’s quality is among, if not the very best.
    • This will create innovation, features and accessories for the Nikon system from companies partnering with Nikon.
    • It will increase industry support for the Nikon system.

I like Canon digital cameras — they are often market leaders using innovation for useful, practical features. Nikon makes good DSLRs too, but they need to do better to compete with Canon.

Related links:

On content sites requiring user registration

I wish I didn’t have to register at and maintain my profile for each web site that I use that requires me to log in. A shared (not necessarily centralized) registration/login system would be a big convenience and time-saver. The Liberty Alliance has been talking about one for a while, but don’t know when, if ever, it will materialize. Microsoft seems to be lowering the external marketing for Passport. I like Six Apart’s TypeKey, but wonder if they have enough backing and industry and public interest for it to last and remain free.

Some people worry about the privacy concerns of a shared registration system. I think it is safer to give your info to one shared system than to give it to dozens. What happens when I need to update my passwords (or anything else in my profile)? I’d rather do it in one place.

It does make sense for certain sites to ask for registeration: e-commerce sites, sites that provide utilities and services, and sites that charge for content. However, even for these sites, it would be nice if I could use a digital wallet — a common online digital identity, rather than manage my account on each site.

Also read the article by John C. Dvorak of PC Magazine on the topic of content sites requiring user registration before allowing readers access to content:

Thankfully, you don’t need to register to read his article :-),1759,1646213,00.asp

Searching Instead Of Browsing: Organizing Information Using Labels as Meta-Data

Being able to assign labels to content to organize information for searching is superior to placing content in folders for manual browsing. The folder concept may be suitable to physical documents on paper, but does not lend itself well to digital information. The labels concept combined with an effective search capability is a faster way to organize content and find information.

Organizing content is a means to the end goal of finding information. Since organizing content is not a goal by itself, it should be as simple and less work as possible required to meet the goal of finding information.

The folder concept has many limitations:

  • A particular item of content can only belong to one folder. Placing it in two folders requires either:
    • Making duplicates. This is problematic to maintain.
    • Using links. This is problematic too: With ‘soft links’ the content resides in only one folder and if that folder is deleted, the content is deleted too. With ‘hard links’, it is hard to know how many ‘folders’ contain this content and unlinking the last one may unintentionally erase it.
  • Similarly, folders can only be contained within one folder.
  • To organize content well in folders requires deep levels of sub-folders. These can be a challenge to browse.
  • All content must be placed in a folder for it to be well organized in this scheme. Doing this manually is a burden. Setting up rules for some of the content to be automatically placed in folders relieves the burden to a certain extent. However, after a rule has run and placed a content item in a folder, if the rule was found to have been flawed and it mixed the content in with other content in the wrong folder, it can be a bigger burden to find the content and place it in the right folder.
  • Folders are static. Search results are dynamic. With computing power available to the common person growing, dynamic search makes better sense than static folders which put some of the work on the user rather than the computer.

It should not be mandatory to apply all appropriate labels to all content. If the automated content categorization being used employs techniques like artificial intelligence and pattern recognition and can determine that this article is about personal information management or content management then that particular label should not be mandatory.

As the number of labels grows, the labels should not be organized in a taxonomy tree with a folders/sub-folders structure. Such a tree structure has the problems of folders associated with it. The labels should be associated with each other in complex relationships as ‘concepts’ in a language.

For example, placing the label “computing” should return the content in search results for “technology”. Placing the label “personal information management” should find it in the search results for the concept “email”. Note that in a traditional taxonomy tree, “computing” could be a child of “technology”, but “personal information management” could be a parent of “email”.

However, since web page URLs as they are commonly used, especially on static-html sites, are based on the concept of folders, this is a challenge. Now URLs don’t have to be folder-like in their appearance. For example, all the news articles on a site could have URLs like “” instead of something like “” or “”. In this fictitious example, “ra23px4” is an automatically generated, short and easy to type id pointing to the article like the shortcuts generated by services like and

Let us consider the organization of email. It seems to be headed in this direction. Some examples in the email space are Google’s GMail, Microsoft’s LookOut Search Plugin for Outlook, Nelson Email Organizer (NEO).

Some possible labels for this document: “personal information management”, “content management”, “computing”, “technology”.

Preserving URLs of Evergreen Content

Changing the URLs of pages containing narrative content like articles has several disadvantages, especially for a content site:

  1. Readers’ bookmarks to the site’s pages break
  2. Links archived in electronic mediums (e.g. emails, documents) & print mediums (e.g. books, magazines, newspapers) to evergreen content1 like articles or news stories break
  3. Incoming links from other sites break
  4. Search engines drop the ranking of the pages
  5. It becomes harder for readers of the site to find content
  6. The site loses credibility with the readers
  7. The points above result in a significant loss of traffic to the pages, which in turn results in a loss of revenue

The idea of permanent links to content is gaining renewed popularity with blogs. Almost every blog entry has ‘permanent link to this item’ link.

Years ago, when I decided to move my web site from an html+cgi platform to a better dynamic web site platform, I selected Microsoft’s Active Server Pages (.asp). I was disappointed that all my content page URLs were going to have to change from the .html extension to .asp, but I reasoned it would be a one-time change. Going with Microsoft’s new standard seemed a safe bet, so I did :-(

A few years later, when the .NET platform came along, I was even more disappointed to learn that I’d have to change my content page URL extensions to .aspx. I figured that with the criticism MS has received with the change from .asp to .aspx, MS would settle on .aspx for good. So this time, going with the new MS standard was surely a safe bet, so I again began to slowly change my pages extensions again :-(

Now MS came up with yet another extension for file names in URLs, .mspx which is beginning to show up on some content pages at Perhaps it is a sign to switch to a web application platform with stable URLs filename extensions like PHP or JSP. (The PHP developers listened to the user community when they tried to introduce the new .php3 filename extension and remained with .php.)

Yes, there are ways to preserve URL filename extensions while changing the underlying technology, but none of them is a good solution:

  • URL Rewriting. There are some URL rewriting engines on the IIS platform, but none is well-supported, strongly established in the market, or feature-rich like mod_rewrite on the Apache platform
  • Redirects. The way to do this correctly is via server configuration. On IIS sites at hosting providers, that is often not an option.
  • Mapping the old extension to the new technology. Since .asp, .aspx and .mspx pages are incompatible, it is impossible to slowly migrate the pages, a few at a time. This also results in an unsupported usage of the platform. Most hosting providers will not do this
  • Staying with a deprecated technology (keeping my pages .asp) is not an option either since that technology platform is on its way out and new features are not being added to it. Also, as a technologist, I don’t want my site’s pages to display an obsolete technology

The fact that’s own pages have been changing extensions from .asp to .aspx to .mspx is a sign that the way they have designed these technologies to not be backward compatible, sites will have to change their pages extensions.

Ideally, content publisher and readers should not have to deal with these issues. Perhaps I should use a URL rewriter and completely do away with url filename extensions on my site. Then I could have some pages as .asp, some as .aspx, some as .php and show readers only a uniform .htm extension (or no extension at all). Maybe I will move to PHP and do this as Michael Radwin at Yahoo suggests in his blog.

  1. evergreen content: pages expected to serve their purpose for a long time. []

Java Progammer? Use BeanShell

BeanShell is a fully Java compatible scripting language, capable of interpreting ordinary Java source files. You can also use it for working with Java interactively like an interpreted Unix Shell or Perl. You can try out Java’s object features, APIs, GUI widgets and other libraries hands on.

BeanShell is free and also ships bundled with popular applications such as BEA Weblogic, Forte for Java and the NetBeans IDE.

Other Web Search Engines

Can’t find what you are looking for using Google? There are other search engines too. For specific searches, some of these may have their own unique advantages over Google. Google is still great too, but isn’t the only option around anymore.

Update: 2008-Feb-02: The above list is now managed as WordPress blogroll links using a plugin called Blogroll Links. So as the Web search engine landscape changes, I can keep the above list current.