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Moore or Less?

by Chris | Rant

We’re now decades into the information revolution. Moore’s Law has correctly predicted the doubling of computing power every couple of years since 1965, but things are getting worse. So, what’s put the “SH” into IT?

Over the weekend my phone told me I was interested in a news article from a national newspaper. I dismissed the “join our mailing list” popup, and consented to the “of course you want personalised ads” one, to reveal the six lines of text afforded enough importance to take up a sixth of the screen. I attempted to close the fixed ads, and the video player, but they wouldn’t budge. Scrolled on regardless to reveal blank white space. Eventually a very large two-year-late ad about baby formula loaded, but I had lost patience, so scrolled back up to take the lazy option and watch the video instead. But the video wouldn’t play, nor would it let me scroll anymore. Eventually: “Aw Snap!”. The browser gave up.

This is not a dig at the publisher. It’s the opposite. We’re in the same boat, frantically scooping out water while we drift from the shore in the pouring rain. We too have annoying ads, well-meaning-but-awful GDPR interruptions, and stuff just going wrong because too many things are plugged in at once. Not because publishers are greedy, but because it’s getting tougher to make money, and the boundaries of the law are moving, and fuzzy.

But the internet has democratised content! Now we can find our information from anyone, and they’ll get paid. Well, anyone who knows how to keep Google’s bots entertained, with “optimised” content that stuffs whatever you searched for into whatever space the ads permit, with so much repetition that my toddler sounds shakespearean in comparison. And for this, Google gets paid.

It may not be wise to attack a company who ditched their own “Don’t be Evil” motto, especially when they’re a global monopoly, but they started it. They recently banned us from serving their ads because we’re “gambling”. They banned us?! We’d say good riddance, if they weren’t a monopoly, sucking up all the money and ducking the well-meaning-but-awful attempts to regulate them. We toyed with the idea of voluntarily requesting to be de-indexed from their search results, but we chickened out.

Twitter also banned us from advertising with them, because… we’re “gambling”! No amount of correspondence would convince them otherwise. This is made all the more irritating, by the ever-present betting ads that litter my feed. When your algorithm is targeting an anti-gambling free “lottery” with gambling ads then you probably need some human intervention. If human intervention is what you want, you should visit the High Street. Wait…

Apple have become a jewellery business. My Macbook cost more than a car. You can’t plug anything into it, and it cooks my lap as I use it. Apparently we don’t call them “laptops” anymore, so that’s my fault. All I do is type and browse, yet it consistently grinds to a halt. I’d go back to Windows but I struggle to see how they’ve improved on XP, and that came out 18 years ago. Back when we used to just type and browse…

Come to think of it, a pre-social media computer would go down quite well these days. Who still loves Facebook? If you are still engaging with social media you most probably have some very strong opinions that everyone agrees with, apart from trolls.

The smartest thing about my phone is it’s built-in obsolescence – the battery life closing in faster than December evenings. My Alexa is next to useless, and can’t even answer me why. All she/it can do is put The Wiggles on a million times a day as our children conspire to torture us. And she’s almost definitely snooping on our private moments, if we ever had any.

You can’t push a button on a TV remote to take you to a channel any more. Instead you’ve got to launch an operating system or, at best, press three buttons to get to Channel <5. Children can’t sit through a meal out without Youtube, which consistently funnels all children to the same creepy, and copyright-infringing video of Elsa from Frozen dancing to Lady Gaga with a T-Rex (genuine).

Tim Berners Lee invented the world wide web and gave it to us for free. Since then, the tech giants have built their monopolies on top, concreting over small business as they go. If that’s not enough reason to do something about it, the fact that it’s no longer any good should be. Two books on my Christmas list: Don’t be Evil, and The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.

Apologies to anyone who saw scam (“Congratulations! You’ve won an iPhone 12”, etc) popup ads over the weekend. Apparently, they came out because it was Thanksgiving in the US, Google et al were OOO, and they’re not scared of well-meaning-but-awful legislation. Despite doing everything we could to try to stop them, we couldn’t.

I miss the 90s.

(Full of )Chris(tmas cheer) x