Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Advertising Blues

So I got home around 9 tonight, not because I just finished a late night at the office, but because I haven't finished my work yet and just decided to get some food and finish it at home. I could rant about that, but it's more of a mild annoyance than a topic worthy of a full blog post. That is, assuming that it stops occurring so frequently, an assumption I hold onto like a battered wife holding her black eye and smiling as she reminisces about the golden days and tells herself they're coming back, just around the corner. I'm not sure what my "golden" days are in this metaphor since I have been crunching constantly from the day I entered the industry, an unfortunate side effect of being put on a game being rushed to completion in less time than it should really be given, laid off, then being hired and put on another game being rushed to completion in less time than it should really be given.

This post is about what was waiting for me when I got home. An apple software update. An innocuous yet pesky blue-iconed window that I usually close out of habit while I'm trying to get work done. Since I am waiting for a build to finish, I decided to go ahead and accept the updates to get it out of my way. After telling it that I don't want to reboot my computer now (have we still not found a way to ubiquitously update software without bringing the user's system to a full halt?), I was greeted with a followup window advertising some new software that I might want to download.

So next I decided to play some PC games. I opened my Steam client, which took a while to load as always, possibly because it's loading these ads in the background of this software suite that I paid for. That I paid a lot for, as Steam games, despite digital distribution, are just as expensive as boxed games. And yet they still feel the need to open a second window of ads and further peck away at my dwindling economy of attention when I just want to enjoy some games that I have paid for in a short break period sandwiched by long hours at work. They don't call them ads; no, they call it "Update News". Closing that window, I see an animation in my main steam client (which defaults to the "store" tab instead of the more useful "my games" tab upon opening, to guarantee diverting your attention to their advertising) that cycles through a list of huge budget games that everyone knows exist anyway. Particularly interesting is the ad for Fallout 3, boasting a "100/100" score on Gamespy, a site that uses a 5 star rating system. Yes, there is a huge difference between 5/5 and 100/100, but who am I to judge marketing spin. Even more remarkable is that I purchased the PC version of Fallout 3 from Steam on the day it came out! And they're still advertising it to me??? They know what games I purchased from them! Not only are they wasting my time and attention, they aren't even doing it efficiently!

It would be interesting to see a study of our modern economy of attention and how much advertising and constant update reminders cost us in this economy. How many times a day do you find yourself updating something? Do you even know what you're getting when you update it? Is it improving your use of the software, or just moving some GUI components around so you have to relearn where things are? I recently had a stressful time trying to put together hospital bills and insurance statements after heart surgery due to the piles of junk mail that would pile up when I got home from 12+ hour shifts at work. Do you ever have these problems? spam, pop unders, telemarketers? Seconds of your life, robbed from you by a faceless corporation's childish need for attention. A shame really, as time is the most nonrenewable resource.


Eric Ritz said...

It's been over a year since I've been using Ubuntu exclusively for work and home, and its update system is rather pleasant. And extremely frequent. Rarely does a day go by when something isn't being updated. One thing I like about it is that updates requiring reboots are uncommon; they're only necessary when it's an update to something critical like the kernel itself. But the overwhelming majority of updates require no shutdown or anything.

The other nice bonus about how Ubuntu handles updates is that it shows me a nice list of everything it's going to install. I always scroll down glancing at the names just to have an idea of what's going to be changed. It puts me one click away from changelogs if I care to see them in detail. And I can selectively refuse to upgrade certain packages.

Honestly most of the upgrades present little to no visual change. Most of the time they are simply bug fixes

As for advertisements... Well to be honest I don't run into that with any software I use. Being on Linux puts me in a small demographic that no one cares to target lol. I get my share of junk mail though, and that always wastes a good ten or fifteen minutes of my day. Spam filters help but I still find myself have to manually intervene every time. I'm also paranoid that spam filters will blast false positives, so that doesn't help.

eiyukabe said...

"Being on Linux puts me in a small demographic that no one cares to target lol."

Heh, brilliant!

I'm so time stingy these days, I think that even scrolling through an update list every day would annoy me. I usually just let Windows updates pile up (and they don't happen nearly every day), and then every few weeks/couple of months when I happen to find some time or want to reboot my computer anyway I will install them, then proceed to not notice any difference in my OS.