Tag Archives: Google

Interested in sponsoring Media Nation?

I don’t consider myself at liberty to disclose where I got this, but I’ve been reliably informed that a Google employee looked at my AdSense account, determined it had been hacked and is in the process of restoring it.

That would be great, but Google really needs to find a way to deal with this problem in a systematic way. In my case, I knew somebody who knew somebody, which is good for me, but ultimately no way to run a railroad.

In any event, the experience has got me thinking about what I ultimately want to do with what’s now a blank space at the top of Media Nation. Even if Google does make good, I would rather sell that space on my own. It would have to be a very simple transaction — more of a sponsorship than a true ad.

If anyone is interested, please drop me a line at (oh, irony of ironies) dkennedy56 {at} gmail {dot} com.

Fighting back against the Googletron

I just got back from the post office, where I sent this letter — and the five attachments to which I’ve linked — to Attorney General Martha Coakley. I have no illusions that my little consumer complaint warrants much in the way of time and resources. Rather, I’m hoping that she or someone in her office will understand the fun and publicity that would come their way by taking on mighty Google. I’ll keep you posted on what happens.

By the way, if you click on Attachments #1 or #2, you’ll see an unfamiliar e-mail address for me. Don’t bother sending me anything there. I used it only for AdSense, and I’m probably going to shut it down.

January 20, 2011

Attorney General Martha Coakley
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108 -1518

Dear Ms. Coakley:

I write to you today about a matter of consumer fraud so small that your first instinct may be not to pursue it. Yet it involves one of our largest and most important companies, Google — which, as you know, has a substantial operation in Massachusetts. And what Google has done to me is just the tip of the iceberg. I have learned that I am one of many people whom Google has essentially defrauded under its AdSense program.

For me it began in September 2010, when I signed up with Google to have advertising automatically posted on my blog, Media Nation (www.dankennedy.net). The earnings were slow but steady. When I checked my account several weeks ago, I saw that I had earned about $120 to $130, and that I would receive a check after January 31.

Then, on January 16, I received an e-mail from Google informing me that “we’ve determined that your AdSense account poses a risk of generating invalid activity.” My account was shut down (which is why I can’t tell you exactly how much money I’m owed), and I was informed that the money I had earned would be refunded to the companies whose ads had appeared on Media Nation (see Attachment #1). I filed an appeal, and on January 20 was informed that it had been rejected (see Attachment #2).

I have no idea why Google did this. As you can see, no information is provided in either of the two e-mails I received from the company. What I have learned is that this high-handed behavior is characteristic of the way Google runs its AdSense program. See, for instance, Aaron Greenspan’s article in the Huffington Post (Attachment #3) and Dylan Winter’s column in Duckworks Magazine (Attachment #4). I have also read about similar complaints on various Internet message boards. I wrote about my own situation for Media Nation earlier this week (see Attachment #5).

I hope you will agree with me that this is outrageous behavior on Google’s part. My strong suspicion is that no human has even looked at my account — that this was all determined by Google’s software sniffing around my site and finding a traffic pattern that seemed to suggest a problem, even though it was perfectly innocuous.

The amount of money may be small, but it is time someone in government stood up to Google executives and told them they cannot confiscate the earnings of people with whom they do business and without even giving them a reason.


Dan Kennedy

The Googletron invades Media Nation

I am trying to keep my anger under control, and perhaps things will work out. Today, though, I learned that Google has suspended my AdSense account for undefined “invalid activity.” Actually, it isn’t even that specific — it’s because “we’ve determined that your AdSense account poses a risk of generating invalid activity.” Yeah, well, you never know when I might go off.

I began running a Google ad strip over the header of Media Nation last fall. It had generated a very small amount of money — barely over $100 — which was supposed to be paid to me at the end of January. Now I’ve learned that Google is grabbing the money from me in order to pay back “the affected advertisers.” I guess there really is such a thing as a free lunch, but not for me.

What did I do wrong? I have no idea. The only thing I can think of is that, sometime in the last week or two, I accidentally clicked on the Google ad on my site — a no-no, since advertisers pay by the click. Knowing how much that’s frowned upon, I practically freaked out. But I can’t believe that a one-time stray click would be enough for the Googletron to cast me into the void. Indeed, Aaron Katz tells me, “An accidental click or two shouldn’t affect anything negatively.”

I’ve filed an appeal, hoping for the best but not really expecting anything. Certainly it doesn’t seem that anyone else has had any luck. In the meantime, I may need to think about whether any local advertisers would be interested in buying what is now a blank space along the top of Media Nation.

Google’s new slogan: “Be Evil.”

Looking for some Google calendar help

Pardon the interruption. I’m hoping to get some expert help quickly.

A little while ago I got an e-mail from a member of our church, telling me that the dates of a couple of services on our Google calendar — embedded in the church website — were wrong. I checked my personal Google calendar, which I use to post church events, and saw that they were correct.

But then I accessed the embedded calendar through the church website and saw that they were, indeed, incorrect. There was no rhyme or reason to what I saw. For instance:

  • Our Christmas Eve service, scheduled to be held on, you know, Christmas Eve, was listed as taking place on Dec. 21 — a three-day difference. Click on the item, though, and it says Dec. 24.
  • Our Winter Solstice service, scheduled to be held on Dec. 21, was listed as taking place on Dec. 20. Again, though, click on it and it says Dec. 21.
  • Most other dates were correct, including Sunday services.

I’m going to delete and re-enter and see what happens. In two and a half years of doing this, I’ve never encountered this problem. Any thoughts?

Media Nation’s new business model

The Boston Globe has nothing on Media Nation. Last night, I added Google AdSense above the header in the hopes of generating a bit of revenue. I had tried several years ago, but messed something up and could never straighten it out.

This week, I finally figured out how to undo the damage. The indefatigable Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub — who also supplies local bloggers with the “Flyerboard” ad that appears in the right-hand column — helped me with the coding.

We’ll see what happens.

How Google’s phone services are pushing the law

I made my first phone call with Gmail this morning — to Mrs. Media Nation, who was sitting in the kitchen, about 20 feet away. This is very exciting, and is likely to revolutionize phone-calling. Not just to the kitchen, either.

Farhad Manjoo of Slate tells you everything you need to know.

Gmail-calling does raise two interesting questions:

  1. Given how popular this may prove to be, is the series of tubes wide enough to handle the traffic? This may prove to be a huge test for broadband capacity.
  2. Will Gmail-calling prove to be the death knell for laws that prohibit you from recording your phone conversations without permission?

My second question requires some explanation. I am now planning to run out and sign up for Google Voice. Now that I’ve seen the glory of placing a call from my computer, I want to be able to receive, too. And Google Voice lets you record your calls if you wish.

This is fully in accordance with the overall Gmail philosophy. Google encourages you to save all except your most trivial e-mail messages. It does so by giving you enormous capacity to store your mail on its servers and to search through them instantaneously.

Gmail Chat, which I also use from time to time, saves everything as well.

Massachusetts is one of a number of states in which it’s illegal to secretly record a phone conversation (or a chance encounter on the street, for that matter). I teach my journalism students that if they want to record a phone interview, they should get permission, press “record,” and then say, “I just turned on my recorder. Is that all right with you?” That way, you’ve not only got permission, you’ve got proof.

But with Google encouraging a recording/sharing culture, are we going to end up with millions of accidental law-breakers? What will be the best approach for dealing with that — changing the law or educating the public?

Google Talk may well prove to be yet another example of technology running ahead of the law.

Instant update: Carly Carioli and Bob Ambrogi tell me that Google already offers protections against secret recording. See this. In fact, now I’m tempted to say that Google doesn’t go far enough. If it sends out an automated message informing the other party that a call is being recorded, then why not allow that on outgoing as well as incoming calls?

The resurrection will be (slightly) delayed

The idea that Apple’s iPad would save newspapers and magazines, always dubious, is so far not even getting a decent tryout. Evangelists for the iPad put forth a vision of users switching from free websites to paid apps.

Since a very good Web browser is built in to the iPad, it was never clear why any more than a handful would pay. And, so far, there are few apps. Among the better-known is the New York Times’ “Editor’s Choice,” a free, experimental app that doesn’t include the full content of the paper. (The Globe is reportedly working on an iPad app, but I have no details.)

PressReader offers some 1,500 papers around the world (neither the Times nor the Boston Globe is available, though the Boston Herald is). But it’s based on a PDF-like representation of the actual pages in the paper, which is no way to read online.

Meanwhile, because Apple has been slow in implementing subscriptions, we have absurdities like Time magazine’s paid app, which costs approximately 650 percent more than a print subscription.

If I had an iPad, here’s what I would want: a simple way to subscribe to the papers I read every day at a much-lower-than-print price. Since I wouldn’t pay $30 a month for an always-on 3G connection, I’d want to download the entire paper via WiFi, and then be able to read it whether I was in a hot spot or not.

It’s not as though what I’m looking for is particularly exotic. In fact, two very good alternatives already exist — yet neither one of them will work with the iPad.

First, the Times and the Globe are both available in low-cost “Reader” editions, built on top of the Adobe Air platform. The Reader, based on flipping pages, is seemingly made for the iPad. But because of Apple’s ongoing battle with Adobe, you can’t run Air on an iPad. (The forthcoming Google tablet, running Air, would be a great way to access Reader content.)

Second, many papers are available on the Amazon Kindle. But though Kindle software runs on a variety of devices, including the iPad, Amazon has restricted newspapers and magazines to its proprietary Kindle devices. If you’re running Kindle software on your laptop or smartphone, you can only use it to download and read books.

So far, it seems, the iPad has been very good for Apple, but not so good for newspaper and magazine publishers. That’s not surprising. What is surprising is that there are no good options even for people who are willing to pay.

Photo (cc) by Steve Garfield and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Seeking help with Google AdSense

Several years ago I tried to set up a Google AdSense account, did something wrong, and have never been able to recover. I just tried again, and the unexplained sins of the past continue to haunt me. If you think you can help, please send an e-mail to da {dot} kennedy {at} neu {dot} edu, and I’ll respond with a detailed explanation.

What Google and Verizon were really up to

Samuel Axton, writing at Mashable, is unstinting in his assessment of last week’s New York Times report that Google and Verizon were secretly negotiating a deal that would undermine net neutrality for their own benefit. The two companies yesterday announced a proposed regulatory framework that would more or less guarantee net neutrality on broadband land lines, but allow wireless providers to operate with fewer regulations. Axton writes:

The proposal we’re seeing is starkly different from what was described in The New York Times article from last week that accused Google and Verizon of conspiring to upend the principles of net neutrality. We didn’t believe it even then, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in the conference call that “almost all” of what the NYT reported was “completely wrong.” In particular, he stressed that this is not a business deal at all between Verizon and Google, but simply a joint policy statement.

You wouldn’t know it from reading today’s Times, which cites “reports that Google and Verizon had come to a private agreement.” I am not aware of any “reports” making quite that bold a claim except for the initial story in the Times, which Google and Verizon almost immediately said was wrong.

Still, there’s plenty not to like about the framework that Google and Verizon have proposed. As Jeff Jarvis points out at Buzz Machine, a wireless, ubiquitous connection is quickly becoming what we mean when think of the Internet. Guaranteeing net neutrality for a land-line network that may soon be obsolete not exactly in keeping with Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” philosophy. Jarvis writes:

Mobile will very soon become a meaningless word when — well, if telcos allow it, that is — we are connected everywhere all the time. Then who cares where you are? Mobile? doesn’t matter. You’re just connected. In your car, in your office, in your bedroom, on the street. You’re connected. To what? To the internet, damnit.

The Save the Internet Coalition puts it this way: “Google-Verizon Pact Worse Than Feared.” The FCC needs to be able to put a stop to this.

Earlier coverage here and here.

Now it’s the Times versus Google and Verizon

For now, at least, it looks like the New York Times is doubling down on its report that Google and Verizon are negotiating a deal that would allow Verizon to offer tiered levels of service for content-providers — a deal that would severely undermine the principle of net neutrality.

In a follow-up today, the Times’ Edward Wyatt reports that FCC chairman Julius Genachowski would oppose such a deal. The story continues:

His remarks came in response to press reports that Google and Verizon were nearing an agreement about broadband management that could clear the way for Verizon to consider offering such a service. The two companies declined to comment on any potential deal.

You will note that the link to “press reports” (plural) brings you to Wyatt’s Thursday story (singular), now disputed by Google. Indeed, writing that Google and Verizon have declined to comment may be true in a technical sense, but it strikes me as disingenuous given Google’s full-throated denial. Verizon has since denied it as well.

Scott Morrison of Dow Jones has more on the sniping between the Times and the two companies, quoting Google spokeswoman Mistique Cano as saying, “The New York Times is quite simply wrong. We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google or YouTube traffic.”

But Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty says her paper is sticking by its story, commenting, “Google’s comment about the New York Times story refutes something the Times story didn’t say.”

A Times commenter, Dan K of Brooklyn (not me, I swear!), has some links to other coverage that raise the possibility that Google is pursuing separate strategies regarding Verizon’s broadband and cellular networks, and that the Times may have confused the two.

But the Times story, if accurate, is a huge embarrassment for Google, which has long been a corporate leader in the fight to preserve the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Net neutrality is what allowed an upstart like Google to become a major media player in the first place, and it’s fostered independent news outlets ranging from Talking Points Memo to the guy in his mother’s basement who blogs about local zoning issues.

Save the Internet has responded to all this with a new campaign called “Dear Google: Don’t Be Evil.”