It's a quiet night tonight...
I don't know whether to be grateful, or bored. My cell phone hasn't been bouncing around on my desk tonight (I use silent on vibrate when working). Email is fairly quiet insofar as there are no glaring, the-world-is-going-to-end-if-you-don't-respond-to-my-email-right-now, emergencies that need my attention. I have a few bits and pieces to deal with from a couple of advertising networks and whatnot, but all in all, things are quite peaceful. Here's hoping it is not the calm before the storm.
There have been some very interesting conversations going on, in the background, regarding the malicious banner advertisements that have been the focus of attention on this blog in recent times.
For example, as far as I am concerned, it is a *glaring* deficiency on the part of Macromedia/Adobe that there is no way for the end user to stop a malicious Flash advertisment from hijacking them. Unlike Web browsers, which have various security "zones" and other menu options where you can turn off active content, Flash does not provide that ability.
Realistically, what can the end user do to avoid malicious banner advertisments? Uninstall Flash? Yeah, but that kills everything Flash related. Block all advertisements using a HOSTS file or similar? This is not fool-proof (yes, that's right, the HOSTS file is sometimes ignored as I have learned from a fascinating discussion on a private security based mailing list), and then there is the ethical dilema of web sites losing income from banner advertisements - you see, every tradesman is entitled to his wage, even if his "trade" is writing content for whatever web site, but that wage should not be earned in such a way that places a client (even a freeware client who doesn't actually pay anything) at risk. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and, in the end, the web sites that are hit by the malicious banner advertisements as as much of a victim as we are.
Do we set IE's security settings for the Internet Zone so high that it "breaks the web"? The end result of *that* protocol is that your users, if they can, will add all of the sites that they know and love to IE's Trusted Sites Zone, and you and I know what will happen if a web site in the Trusted Sites Zone is hit by a malicious banner advertisement. If the user is running the Trusted Sites Zone in its default settings, then the PC will be 0wned.
Some people are saying that the current outbreak of malicious banner advertisements will kill online advertising - and they may be right at least insofar as Flash based advertisements are concerned, if we can't get this under control.
I honestly believe that avoiding all advertising is the wrong way to go. Some say that if something is free then it not only has no monetary value, it has no other value. But, for those of you that think that, did you read Vlad's blog post about the issue of free content? It puts across, quite succinctly, why we need to provide some sort of financial support to those who provide free support and content. I ask you, do you want my blog to remain as it is, or do you want it to end up like this one, teetering under the weight of crappy advertising? Please, let me never get to the stage where I am willing to host advertisements that say "Do not click here unless you are 18".
You see, I flat out refuse to ask for monetary support from the Web sites or companies that I help. I don't care if they are AOL, or MSN, or Yahoo, or Google, or Sensis, or ESPN, or Akamai. All I care about is protecting users who view their advertisements, and getting the malicious advertisements out of circulation.
BTW, you may have seen Wayne's post about me ... guess how much was donated to my Paypal account after that missive was published... nothing, nada ... a big, fat, zero. Wayne's verbatim response, when I told him about the zero donations, was "Yup - I figured - sorry that your efforts amount to nothing. I can understand if you want to give up - I would too."
"your efforts amount to nothing" .. they are harsh words. But I won't give up. Maybe "they" are right. Maybe I am a fool to keep doing this, for free, getting up at 4.00am, going to bed at midnight or later, and not charging a cent for my efforts. I look at my credit card debt and get so tired - but then I take a phone call from an advertising network or computer naivette asking or help and I just keep going - sometimes they are old and naive - sometimes they are young and naive - but I just can't leave them to cope as best they can. Even when the big advertising networks phone.. I don't see the megarich conglomerate... I see the naive Mom and Dad and all I want to do is protect them.
So, I am going to go to bed and get my 4 hours of sleep. I am going to shove my credit card debt in a conveniently deep desk drawer, and if the phone rings tomorrow because somebody wants help with a high traffic web site that has been hit by malicious advertisements, then I will find the bad guys and I will get them shut down. And when the bad adverts are shut down I will smile, shoo my visitor out of my home, or my web site, and go on to the next task.
Let the you-are-not-wothy-to-be-an-MVP-or-even-breathe-on-the-ground-on-which-I-tread flames commence....