Apologies for the Evil Algorithms

So the way a site like this works, in part, is that it data mines the conversations for whatever is under discussion and then appears to dip into the pool of ads for whoever has bought ad space here, computes the algorithms, and then sticks up ads that the software guesses might be of interest to readers. Consequently, if you write things like “Planned Parenthood is an evil demonic organization that profits from child slaughter and I long for the day when it is extirpated forever from the earth’s surface” the algorithm sees “Planned Parenthood blah blah blah” and fishes an ad for Planned Parenthood out of the database and slaps it up on the right rail somewhere.

I have some, but limited, control over this, as do the rest of the Patheos Catholic bloggers, but we need your help. First, I don’t read my own blog on the site as you do, typically. I see it through the back door where I edit my stuff and read your comments. I suspect most Patheos bloggers do the same. So I miss the bulk of the ads that flash by while youse guys see them. So I am grateful when a reader gives me a heads up when, as one reader pointed out, the Patheos algorithmbot puts up an ad for Planned Parenthood. I don’t want such ads on my site.

However, to get rid of such ads, what I need above all is a screenshot of the ad to send to our webelves so they can locate it and tell the bot not to run it on my site. Other Patheos bloggers are in the same boat. So if you see something like a Planned Parenthood ad, please take a screenshot and send it along and I will alert the techies. Mucho obligado!

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  • Nate

    Love this blog, and others that Patheos hosts, but Patheos kinda sucks. The ads are totally annoying, and the layout is excruciating, especially since they changed it and forced all us minions to click a million times just to read an individual post in full. Lame.
    Yes, these aren’t real problems.
    But they are annoying….

    • Adblock. just saying….

  • Solution: Click on the Planned Parent hood ads. A lot. Cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in ad expenditures.

    • Ted Seeber

      BRILLIANT SOLUTION! I’ve got to remember that one.

  • Richard Johnson

    A wise-but-evil overlord once told his subjects: “The ads in this column are not endorsed by the author. If you don’t like them, ignore them like you ignore commercials.”

    Yes, clicking on the ads will cost PP money (a fraction of a cent per click). It will also profit Patheos, and PP will be identified as a good revenue source. So instead of the pool having 1 PP ad it might end up with 2, or 3. And Mark’s blog will be identified as a good place to put these profitable ads, so they will show up 2, maybe 3 times more often.

    Algorithms are robots. They don’t know how to react to well-thought-out plots to bankrupt PP. They only think about reaping profit for their designer.

  • Ingvar

    There are people who challenge me about the morality of it occasionally, but I use Firefox or Chrome with adblock plus. No ads to bother me. It also deprives Patheos’s advertisers of the possibility of getting revenue from me to a large degree, but I really don’t like ads and shop very little on-line. There’s a question there for me though. If you want to try it, Download Firefox or Chrome if you don’t have it, go to add-ons, and search for adblock plus in the search field in the upper right hand corner. Install, restart, chose a list and away you go. Not sure if I got the order of steps there right, but the result is pretty much no more ads.

    • Paul H

      I use Adblock Plus too, mostly with Firefox. There is also another ad-blocking extension that works with Chrome; I think maybe it is just called Adblock?

      Anyway, there are some web sites where the amount of advertising is so high that I wouldn’t visit the site if I didn’t have ad-blocking browser extension. Patheos is one of those sites.

      • Paul H

        I conditionally take back my final statement above. I just turned off the ad-blocker and re-loaded the page, and the amount of advertising is less than I recall seeing in the past when I had viewed Patheos without an ad-blocker.

  • Kate

    I also use Adblock Plus (for Chrome). It’s the only thing that makes some websites bearable! I never click on ads anyhow, so I don’t feel like I’m depriving anyone of revenue really.

  • Thibaud

    I also use an Adblock. One of the greatest invention of all times.

  • Bob

    Done! DNT+, incidentally, stops most of the snooping on your movements done by organizations like Google, Facebook, etc…

  • B.E. Ward

    Does Mark still get paid if you use an ad blocker?

  • Michael

    “DNT+, incidentally, stops most of the snooping on your movements done by organizations like Google, Facebook, etc…”

    But what is DNT+?

    • Bob


      Those links explain it. Every time you visit a webpage, Google, Facebook, and a number of other groups track where you are going so that they can make money from selling this information, so that other people can target ads at you. It is not so much the ads themselves that bother me (although I am not in any position to buy just about 99% of the things advertised), as the fact that someone is following me around snooping at my movements, and collecting information about me without my say-so. DNT+ stops that.

    • Bob

      And the links, which explain it:

      download page, and


    • Marthe Lépine

      Maybe the problem here is that it happens sometimes that a comment does not appear on the blog immediately after the “post comment” box is clicked. Sometimes it could take several minutes. At other times, you have to wait until you have gone to something else, and then come back to Mark’s blog, and then as you re-open the comments section, your comment might finally appear.

  • In which case, Mark can simply adjust his heading to say: Patheos is cool for hosting my blog. Planned Parenthood is evil for killing babies. We’ve tricked the algorithm into wasting their ad monies on my site, so please click five or ten times, and then either disregard their site all together, or head to their forums to spread the gospel.

    Done. And done. 😉

  • Tim

    +1 AdBlock

    Sorry. I know that using an adblocker means no ad revenue for the hosting website. However, it seems to me that the ads are getting more obnoxious/larger, and taking longer and longer to load. Sometimes significantly getting in the way of displaying the content, which is why I’m there in the first place.

    Sorry. I’d really like to read the content, but life is too short to wait for pages that just won’t load.

  • R. Howell

    Clicking all those ads and encouraging others to do the same will cost the advertisers money in the short term. In the medium to long term it could get this blog or Patheos blocked from serving ads, and cost them money.

  • Marthe Lépine

    By the way, I have another problem with ads, but not usually on this blog. It happens when I try to read some of Mark’s entries into National Catholic Register: they have ads that keep moving, and it is difficult to concentrate on reading with such movement, particularly when it is a brightly colored shape, constantly attracting attention. However I have found an easy correction: I cut out a piece of fabric to match the width of the ad column, put a bit of Velcro on it, a corresponding bit of Velcro on the top of the computer screen’s frame, and voilà! Whenever I want some “peace” for my left eye, I stick the piece of fabric on…

  • Marthe Lépine

    Oh… I think it is the right eye…

    • never let your right eye know what your left eye is doing… 😉