I love using Google’s services, but I think everybody knows they (and Facebook and Twitter and many other big internet companies) make most of their money via advertising, and that’s based on what they know about YOU.
Like they say, the service is not the product — you are.
How much do they know about you? Quite a bit.
As F-Secure’s Mikko Hypponen remarked at a recent conference: “Go to Google and buy an ad. Go to Facebook and buy an ad. Go to Twitter and purchase a ‘promoted tweet’, because it will open your eyes.”
Google popped up yesterday with a link to review my privacy settings. Amongst the information it showed was what Google thinks I’m interested in, based on my browsing history. It’s quite enlightening.
Here’s my list:
Apartments & Residential Rentals
Bus & Rail
Business & Productivity Software
Cleaning Supplies & Services
Computers & Electronics
Food & Drink
Food & Grocery Retailers
HVAC & Climate Control
Internet Clients & Browsers
Linux & Unix
Mobile & Wireless
Music & Audio
TV Sci-Fi & Fantasy Shows
Web Design & Development
They all look like things I’m interested in, with one notable exception: fishing. I have no idea why it would think that. I’m also not sure why Cleaning Supplies and Outdoors would be in the top 30, but I assume in all these cases I’ve gone to some web sites looking for something else, but featuring both those categories.
Perhaps it’s a similar scenario to the legendary (and quite amusing) 2002 article about people who get categorised by their Tivo as gay, or Neo-Nazi, or Korean, based on a program or two that they may have watched, and then try to “fool” it by watching the opposite.
Still, if Google fairly accurately flagged 28 out of 30 interests of mine, it makes one wonder just how much the big (and small) online companies know about us all as we gleefully use their free products.
Those with Google accounts might like to try the Privacy Checkup themselves.
Both the Washington DC ads above and the book show examples of rail authorities that are aware of the importance of promoting their new rail lines.
Today it’s a month until Regional Rail Link opens on 21st of June, and there’s been no promotion of it at all.
So far I’ve seen no posters, no ads, nothing online (the official project web site doesn’t even seem to indicate the precise date; it only says “June”), and recent media stories about it (not since the ones advising that the opening was delayed).
I’m told even the new rail map, which would have highlighted the new line to Metro users, has been delayed until later in the year. This is a real shame — it would have been a perfect way to promote the new stations to existing users, including those who might currently be driving from nearby suburbs to the overcrowded Werribee line.
Way to get people excited and interested in the first new major suburban rail line to open in 80 years!
Let’s hope local residents hear about it opening. At least they’ve seen construction going on.
But wait a minute, I hear you say, why does the rest of Melbourne need to know about this? I don’t live anywhere near Tarneit and Wyndham Vale; how will it help me?
As former Western Australian transport minister Alannah MacTiernan pointed out in a presentation in 2013, when the new Mandurah line opened in Perth, it actually resulted in patronage growth right across the Perth rail system.
My guess is it’s a mix of the benefits of the new line serving destinations previously difficult to reach, and the halo effect — oh, look at that, a new rail line just opened — it looks so modern — I haven’t caught a train in ages, but maybe I should take another look and see if my local trains are any good… oh, they’re more frequent than they used to be… I’ll give it a go.
Most of us don’t look as happy as the people in the first ad when riding trains.
But I think the “Good times are ahead” message resonates because it reminds us of something important — better public transport means better access to jobs and education and other opportunities — whether or not you can drive — and an option for getting out of the traffic. I can say with some certainty that my life is better thanks to good access to PT.
So too the Regional Rail Link will be of huge benefit to the residents of Wyndham Vale and Tarneit — and the frequency boost expected on the rest of the Geelong line and on the neighbouring lines thanks to freed up capacity will also help many others.
There’s certainly political promotion — this week I’ve received two sets of flyers about the forthcoming level crossing grade separations; at the station, AND in the mail… and let’s not forget ridiculous ads for non-existent infrastructure like last year’s promotions of the proposed airport line — designed not so much to promote the line, as to influence your vote.
With the huge investment now going into the system to produce these upgrades, it’s time PTV and the government started better promoting projects as they are completed, to ensure people know about the benefits, and the return is maximised by getting more passengers on board.
Public transport in the media is so often dominated by bad news — crowding, delays, breakdowns — the good news stories need to be told as well.
Washington Metro ads found via Marcus Wong and commenter wxtre
The appallingly catchy tune is Melbourne band Architecture In Helsinki. I once saw them in support of Belle And Sebastian and was thoroughly unimpressed. Perhaps they were having a bad night.
Update: RRL finally had a launch at the end of June (for timetables) and an official opening on June 14th (a week before services start). I haven’t seen TV ads, but there’s been a lot of online ads, newspaper ads, and flyers sent out to locals, such as the example below:
Apart from regularly stocking up with Van Heusen and Gloweave shirts when the sales are on, I’ve been trying out Charles Tyrwhitt shirts — you know, the online shirt company that at one stage seemed to be placing endless ads in newspapers.
Some observations on Tyrwhitt shirts:
The orders have come through within about a week. Be aware that once you order from them, you will receive a truly incredible amount of advertising in the mail from them.
The quality seems quite nice. The 40/41 neck, regular sleeve length, slim fit seems to fit me well. They also do an extra slim version which I suspect wouldn’t sit on my slightly pudgy body so well. Classic fit is also okay, but I prefer the slim fit.
Despite proudly boasting their Britishness on all their literature, and pointing out items in the catalogues that are made in the UK, none of the shirts I’ve bought from them have clearly stated where they are made on the packaging or labels.
And despite appearing at first glance to be steeped in the tailoring tradition of Jermyn Street, London, they have only been around since 1986. Mind you, that’s still almost thirty years.
My most recent order was made when I probably wasn’t paying enough attention — I accidentally bought two of the identical white with blue stripes design. Whoops, But given Karl Stefanovic’s littleexperiment wearing the same suit on TV for a year, which went unnoticed, I doubt it’ll be a problem.
It appears that Tyrwhitt takes the Kathmandu approach to specials, but moreso. Basically nobody in their right mind would pay full price if they can possibly avoid it. Shirts evidently go on sale at full price for a while, then are heavily discounted down to a more “real” price, which most people end up paying. As Wikipedia notes: Tyrwhitt uses a high MSRP, high discount model (also called high-low pricing).
That said, the strategy has me sucked in. I’m happy to pay $35-40 for a good shirt. You could pay a lot more, though I suspect you’d get better quality.
I’d be more reluctant buying other items such as suits and shoes from them, given sizing issues, though I have bought a few pairs of shoes from Florsheim online, as they seem to be pretty consistent in their sizing (and I hate shoe shopping).
But I’ve been happy with the shirts I’ve ordered from Tyrwhitt, and will keep using them.
Update: As Philip says in the comments, once you’ve bought shirts from Tyrwhitt, you’ll be bombarded with catalogues in the mail (and email). Today I had something different — an unmarked envelope from James Way, Milton Keynes (UK), which turned out to be them again, with a $20 voucher for my next purchase.
Over the weekend at the supermarket: I was suspicious of this (which is why I took the photo).
Would these Pink Lady apples be $5.98, or $6.48 per kilogram? (The Granny Smiths to the left were a different price again.)
Come the checkout, sure enough… the higher price. Was I ripped-off?
If I had the time and energy, I’d have asked. Perhaps I’ll ask next time if the contradictory signs are still up. It’s only 50 cents, but I think it’s misleading.
I’m not sure where it’ll go in the long run in terms of job numbers, but I’ve come to love the self-serve checkouts. (They came to our area about five years ago.)
I’d never use them if I had lots and lots of stuff, because skilled staff members are faster, but I tend to buy items in dribs and drabs, typically $10-$20 of groceries, but never more than about $40 — in part because there’s a supermarket right next to the railway station so it’s very convenient to buy things on my way home. And unless there’s a long queue, I prefer to be able to pack my items the way I like them for the walk home.
Plus it avoids the dropping of the apples into the bag with a bruising thump, which I have seen occasionally from the human checkout staff.
Amusingly, the self-serve checkouts include a picture of a type of cloth green bag no longer sold — Aldi and Woolworths now sell thick plastic ones instead, though my cloth green bags (perhaps a decade old, perhaps more), live on. Which was the point, wasn’t it.