If there is one thing I hate with a burning, red-hot passion in a website/blog/whatever, it’s content that autoplays when I access a site. To have a John Philips Souza march start blaring unexpectedly or some video start suddenly and noisily is a jarring experience, and I consider such content to be an abomination, a blight on the web that must be eliminated. I particularly hate such content when it’s an advertisement.

That is why I must reluctantly but nonetheless angrily note that our usually benevolent Seed Overlords have seen fit to place just such an abomination on ScienceBlogs, specifically the West Governors University ad in the right sidebar that starts playing immediately. In fact, it’s even worse than the typical ad that autoplays in that it appears to be part of a rolling set of ads, from which one pops up at random. Consequently, I never know when that damned ad will appear and start talking. Even worse still, the ad doesn’t just autoplay, it appears to play on an endless loop. Those of you in cubical farms, I feel your pain. My postdoc’s desk is close enough to my office that she can hear when I hit that ad while taking a break from pummeling my brain in the course of writing a manuscript describing results that are rather difficult to explain. I hate the ad, and I’m quite annoyed at Seed for accepting such a vile form of advertising. Indeed, in this I agree with Matt Nisbett, and you know that these days I seldom agree with him anymore. I’ve complained on your behalf, and supposedly the ad was to be removed, but a few minutes ago I was jarred out of my reveries about my NF-κB manuscript again by that damned ad.

I’m not ready to take the step Greg Laden threatened to take yet (a boycott that lasted a mere few hours), but I really, really hate this ad and want it gone ASAP.


  1. #1 The Chemist
    August 26, 2008

    Thank You! I was in the coffee shop the other day using the wi-fi only to find out that my laptop’s speakers were set to maximum the hard way. I was startled enough to spill coffee on my laptop bag. At least I didn’t have headphones on.

  2. #2 Dave
    August 26, 2008

    One alternative, though one that advertisers utterly hate, is to run Firefox and download the Adblock Plus (not the regular Adblock) software. Works like a charm. SEED, I have no doubt, would not like this solution.

  3. #3 Chemgeek
    August 26, 2008

    This is the exact reason why I no longer visit websites such as ESPN.com and others. I would hate to put ScienceBlogs on that list.

  4. #4 Zombie
    August 26, 2008


  5. #5 Rev Matt
    August 26, 2008

    I’m fortunate in that I surf with sound turned off at work, but at home autorun is extremely annoying, and that includes main content as well as ads. The thing I don’t get about the aggressive in-your-face ads (be they audio, video, animation, popovers that prevent you from reading the actual page content you’re interested in, etc etc) is I’ve never talked to anyone who didn’t hate them. I know plenty of people who claim they will never even consider buying a product from a company that uses those kinds of ads. So why do advertisers waste their money on them when something like AdWords is much more effective?

  6. #6 Liz Ditz
    August 26, 2008

    THANK YOU! I couldn’t figure out where the damn noise was coming from.

    I’ve been reading a lot of blogs in RSS (which tends to protect from the ads), but have been trying to click through more….

    Dear Seed Overlords: if you want me to read SciBlogs at scienceblogs.com instead of RSS feed, you will kill ads with sound. Now.

  7. #7 Karl Withakay
    August 26, 2008

    Those ads are the devil incarnate.

    I run Firefox, and have PrefBar installed. I can kill all the Flash on a page/tab with a click of a button or disable Flash entirely with a different button. You’ll find most of those animated ads go away when Flash is killed.

  8. #8 Northern Blot
    August 26, 2008

    I find flashblock useful, it blocks all flash in Firefox but leaves a placeholder that you can click if you wish to see the content. Find it here http://flashblock.mozdev.org/

  9. #9 Alex Besogonov
    August 26, 2008

    FireFox + FlashBlock = WIN.

    Seriously, just install FlashBlock and forget about horrible Flash ads.

  10. #10 D. C. Sessions
    August 26, 2008

    Here’s a cheat for you: set FireFox to direct audio to a dummy handler. Flashblock takes care of the worst of the rest.

  11. #11 decrepitoldfool
    August 26, 2008

    If the SB overlords want to ensure that users 1) install Adblock and 2) do as much reading as possible using an RSS aggregator, they need only have sound in ads. Would that be their goal?

  12. #12 trrll
    August 26, 2008

    These guys are poisoning the well for other advertisers. I am personally willing to put up with well-behaved ads. I understand that ads support the web sites that I enjoy. But there are limits. I will not put up with ads that make noise, that obscure content, or those nasty green double-underlinings that pop up obnoxious irrelevancies when moused over. I am very close to simply blocking all ads; I certainly can’t be bothered to figure out how to block only the truly obnoxious ones.

    Seed needs to understand that by running ads like this, they are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. As more and more users are provoked into installing ad-blockers, advertisers will be willing to pay less and less for advertising.

  13. #13 Dan
    August 26, 2008

    Personally, I have never purchased anything as a result of seeing some ad off the internet and my wife and I (well mostly my wife) run an Internet business. We also do not purchase ad space on other sites, but do rely on link exchanges and so forth. More likely then anything ads just tend to annoy me and annoying ads more so. We mostly run our internet business as a mom and pop type store and increase it through word of month. On Labor Day weekend the business will be running 10 years.

  14. #14 Al
    August 26, 2008

    Seems like Firefox keeps me safe from that particular menace (and also provides instant access to NCBI via the Biobar add-on. Firefox: heals all wounds and makes a dull party better).
    You don’t appreciate my pain. I am working in a lab in Spain that plays a radio station that inflicts non-stop 80’s “classics”. You want to try reading up on NFkB’s role in chemosensitivity with “Poppa Don’t Preach” or the “greatest” “hits” of Roxette at brain-melting volumes all day…

  15. #15 Orac
    August 26, 2008

    How about that I worked in a lab during my postdoc where they blasted Howard Stern all morning, followed by Rush Limbaugh all afternoon?

    On second thought, you win. Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh can actually be kind of entertaining occasionally, and they were never blasted to ear-splitting levels.

  16. #16 Bill the Cat
    August 26, 2008

    Whenever I get an audio surprise I hit the kill button that silences the audio.

  17. #17 Calli Arcale
    August 26, 2008

    Ick. I hate those kinds of ads. They are why I surf with “mute” turned on. I don’t hate them quite as much as ads which suddenly erupt from their little corner of the screen if you so much as mouse over them, refusing to go away unless you play their little game and click on them. But I do hate them, passionately.

    James Lileks (Star Tribune humor columnist) once wrote something along these lines about those kinds of ads: “It’s like a mosquito whining in your ear, thinking, ‘If I bite him, maybe he’ll pet me.’ If you call a blood-spattering death blow a ‘pet’, then they’re right.”

  18. #18 Janne
    August 26, 2008

    Adblock and flashblock, the two best friends of any habitual surfer.

    No, I don’t mind unintrusive, well-behaved ads at all. Ads that stay silent and do not move (moving ads are as bad as audible ones, possibly even worse). Google’s text ads for instance are just fine. And if any such ad happens to get past my filters then that is just fine. But I’m not going to go out of my way to unfilter well-behaved ads either; if they get caught in the filtering then so much the worse for them.

  19. #19 Sid Schwab
    August 26, 2008

    Thanks. I find them enormously annoying, and left a comment about it on PZ’s blog, but not yours. I hope your overlords will take notice. For me, it’s enough to want never to surf to a scienceblog.

  20. #20 Cath the Canberra Cook
    August 27, 2008

    What ads?

    (Firefox, Adblock plus.)

  21. #21 Eyal Ben David
    August 27, 2008

    Firefox+Adblock plus+noScript=exactly what should be.

  22. #22 Azkyroth
    August 27, 2008

    Wasn’t there a previous promise from the Overlords to never run horribly intrusive and obnoxious ads after that stupid tornado thing for the History channel or whatever it was about a year back?

  23. #23 Josh in California
    August 27, 2008

    Safari AdBlock (http://safariadblock.sourceforge.net/) is what you want if you’re on OS X. Does custom filters, too, so if you just want to block a single annoying ad, it’s perfect.

  24. #24 Richard
    August 27, 2008

    Most people watch TV, read magazines, and browse the web for the editorial content, not the ads, so ads must be obnoxious and intrusive, just to get your attention.

    Unfortunately, they work, otherwise advertisers wouldn’t use them, which means that some of the people who say they hate this kind of advertising and would never respond to it, are lying.

    Recommendation: Firefox/Adblock Plus/Flashblock. Kills ads dead!

  25. #25 jayh
    August 27, 2008

    My speakers are always off unless I turn them on for a specific situation. So most of the time I’m unaware if a site has sound or not.

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    August 27, 2008

    Hey, don’t dis my boycott, man. I started the boycott and informed marketing at the same time. Within hours the ads were gone and so I called off the boycott. You should be buying me a beer. Maybe two beers.

    I admit that my boycott of the Olympics had less of an effect.

  27. #27 Orac
    August 27, 2008

    Except that the ads weren’t gone on my site until last night…

    Also, I wasn’t dissing your boycott; merely making an observation that it didn’t last very long.

  28. #28 themadlolscientist, FCD
    August 27, 2008

    Adblock+ is DA BOMB. Now, if only there were something we could do about ordinary websites that autoplay cheesy MIDI music (is it just me, or is it usually a loop of religious schlock?)…….

    Turning off my speakers gets rid of it, of course, but that’s kind of counterproductive if I’m listening to something good – today it’s Alex Fillipenko’s astronomy lectures (which are made of awesome in spite of the crummy sound quality) – on iTunes. :-\

    @ Greg: Wooooooaaaaahhhhhhhh d00d! Power to the readers (and the bloggers)! Activism TEWTALY RAWKS! 🙂

  29. #29 themadlolscientist, FCD
    August 27, 2008

    Oh, and while we’re at it, can we pass a law against flash-based websites, or at least a law requiring a non-flash alternate set of pages? That “hey, guys, let’s use every tool in the toolbox just because we can, ‘cuz we have MAAAAAD HTML SKILLZ, ALL YOUR BANDWIDTH ARE BELONG TO US” crap is just a bunch of showing-off by idiots with a social age of 14.

    Flashblock is my friend, but given the choice between [1] effectively blocking the entire page or [2] watching my old, slow, RAM-deficient ‘puter choke on loading the stupid thing, I choose option [3]: Screw ’em. They must not think their message is important enough to make it accessible. CUL8R kthxbai.

    Bitch, bitch, bitch. =8-O

  30. #30 themadlolscientist, FCD
    August 27, 2008

    Oops, sorry about the three-in-a-row, but I missed this before:

    set FireFox to direct audio to a dummy handler.

    How is that done? (I had the Stop Autoplay extension installed, but I uninstalled it because it didn’t play nice with Flashblock.)

  31. #31 Rogue Epidemiologist
    August 27, 2008

    That reminds me, next time I change the music on my MySpace page, I’ll make sure to uncheck “AutoPlay.” And here I thought people would appreciate my superior taste in music…

  32. #32 Johnny
    August 27, 2008

    Apple Safari + Pith Helmet = No ads + cookie control + Debug + no animated GIFs

  33. #33 Inquisitive Raven
    August 28, 2008

    There’s a lady maintains an anto-autoplay blogroll that she calls “Bloggers Against Music.” I think she should make the name more generic possibly “Bloggers Against Autoplay”, but maybe I’ll grab her code and do my own.

  34. #34 Inquisitive Raven
    August 29, 2008

    Further commentary: Seed‘s horribly intrusive ads that were not merely annoying but broke my browser are the reason I installed Adblock Plus in the first place. Hmm… maybe I’d better point that out them. Adblock Plus seems to have spared me this fiasco.

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