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Why I disabled Ad-Block

I find website ads annoying, so for many years I’ve used the Firefox Ad-Block add-on to block adverts on websites. Today I disabled it. Not that I was unhappy with it or anything like that. It has worked quite well over the years. But today I realized it is a filter bubble that might be impairing my ability to do my job well.

The prompt came in the form of an email from a person I’m connected with on LinkedIn. He sent me an email that simply said:

boundlessWhich made me go huh? I’ve viewed Boundless books many times and have never seen an ad. And when I followed the link in the email to the Boundless textbook in question, I didn’t see any ads.

noAds

Then I remembered that I had Ad-Block running. I installed it a long time ago and often forget that it ticks along in the background. So I went in to disable it and, lo and behold guess what I saw?

boundlessAd

Google ads.

Now, this isn’t a judgment against Boundless. They need to do what they need to do to pay the bills. But it hit me that blocking ads, while removing an annoyance from my personal view, was also blinding my ability to effectively analyze an open learning resource. I need to be able to do that. Knowing a site uses ad revenue to subsidize their free offerings is an important bit of information that I need to know in order to properly do my job. A filter bubble that I voluntarily put in place affected my ability to do my job, and I didn’t even realize it until this morning.

When I talk to people about “free” resources, I need to know that the “free” is ad subsidized. And I know a lot of educators that will not use a resource that is ad subsidized, especially if those ad’s are auto-magically generated based on content algorithms. Would a Psych instructor find the above ad for a counselling service inappropriate when used in a classroom setting? Some would.

At least that ad is tasteful. You’ve no doubt seen auto-generated ad’s based on article content on media sites that are highly inappropriate in the context they are presented in. A note about the previous link: I don’t think many of the examples on that page are “hilarious” as the title suggests. But it shows just how risky using ad-supported content in an educational setting can be.

Needless to say, I’ve disabled Ad Block. And have become just a bit more conscious of the voluntary filter bubbles I’ve put in place around me.

CC BY 4.0 Why I disabled Ad-Block by Clint Lalonde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Comments

  1. __ In your post you pointed out the importance of being aware and able to effectively analyze an open learning resource. I expect many people are not aware that Boundless textbooks are a hybrid of copyright protected and open content. On one hand, the promotion claims _ https://www.boundless.com/open-textbooks/ _ “These textbooks are published under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license, which means anyone is welcome to quote, mashup, reuse, and republish any portion of any book, anywhere, so long as proper citation is given.” However, Boundless Terms of Service page is a must read _ https://www.boundless.com/terms/ _ “While much of the Content is Creative Commons Content, the rest of the Content available through our Website is not necessarily licensed under the Creative Commons license. For clarity and without limitation, the following are not licensed under the Creative Commons license:” After reading the terms, a user will realize there are constraints on ways one can use content – it’s challenging to reason out how a user is affected. If OER advocates were aware, they might point out Boundless openwashing. [Audrey Watters, et al, Openwashing: n., having an appearance of open-source and open-licensing for marketing purposes, while continuing proprietary practices.]

  2. __ Perhaps you’re looking at Boundless in a new light and with post-lawsuit foresight about its poor prospects for profit / or for a VC exit plan.
    Conditions of the lawsuit settlement would explain Boundless shift away from their original vision of selling to Students directly, now the focus is on Educators’ adoptions, while marketing a kind of Educator Platform to customize OER textbooks and Educators’ recommendation to Students to buy a Boundless textbook. Changes that have been made through the mediation stages are not by choice, and despite Diaz hubris, this won’t work.
    However, we don’t have the full story since Publishers have never made any public comments about Boundless, or even now, about the lawsuit conditions of settlement.
    Ariel Diaz is really the only one who has commented – he talks quite a lot with journalists and Boston VC start-up peers. this post-lawsuit article “Boundless UnBound” _ http://venturefizz.com/blog/boundless-unbound _ “Boundless might be THE pillar EdTech start-up; not just in Boston, but anywhere.” sums up how Ariel Diaz sees and is positioning himself as a successful start-up leader, despite failure and being blocked.
    Last year, you’ll recall the story was about Flat World Knowledge move to a pay model and about Saylor Org. and Archive Org. preemptive harvesting of FWK open content. Scott Leslie _ http://www.edtechpost.ca/wordpress/2012/12/14/all-i-want-for-christmas-3/ _
    Perhaps BCcampus would find value in coordinating a similar preemptive action concerning Boundless introductory courses open content textbooks.

  3. Clint, since I can’t find a way to get rid of the silly ‘photo’ image placed here, nor can I delete the duplicate messages, I’d appreciate it if you’d do that for me. Thanks.

  4. __Advertising is yet another shift for Boundless – ads weren’t present when I’ve previously reviewed these textbooks, sans ad-blocker. I recommend that BCcampus and other Government funded OER initiatives as well as University/College Libraries seek to harvest & index & correlate all Boundless textbook open content as part of their OER library/repository. Considering all of the media hype and self-promotion he’s generating in media serving venture capital circles, I sense Ariel Diaz [CEO] is looking to make a move now that his ‘big idea’ to copy/sell cloned HiEd textbooks has failed. It’s likely that Boundless free materials will go offline soon, as investors bail out.

    1. That is very interesting. So, the ads on the site are _completely_ new. Hmmmm, I wonder if this is somehow connected to the lawsuit that recently got settled? You may be right. Could it be a sign that they are withdrawing completely from the field and might be looking to snag some cash on the way out?

    1. Yeah, it’ll be a different experience going back to ad’s and I imagine I’ll come to a happy balance with when to turn it on and when to turn it off. But the risk is not knowing.

      There are known unknowns

  5. You and your morality!

    A few thoughts/questions…

    * Do you know for sure the ad revenue is declined if blocked? I mean from the server end, the ad has been served, and I would guess Adblock is only hiding from your view. My hunch is that the render it hidden via CSS (wild guess)

    * I don’t use Firefox (but know why you do); the AdBlock extension in Chrome allows me to tell AdBlock to not block per page or domain, essentially whitelisting a site for ads

    * I’d like to see orgs needing money do more than ads, why not a paypal button or other form of way to support?

    1. Would no doubt preserve my sanity, Challenge is knowing when something is being hidden from me. In this case, I didn’t event think to turn off ad blocking until someone brought it to my attention.

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