November 11, 2008

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Terry Heaton calls Keystream‘s SmartAds “the dumbest idea I’ve heard in years”. What’s “smart” about SmartAds is that they appear in “blank” spaces in online videos. Those blue skies over the ocean? The wide green fairway of a golf course? The wall beside your sweetheart’s smile? Slap an ad in there. Same idea as billboards by highways, only worse, because it’s rationalized as a “dramatic improvement in user experience”. Robin Wauters at Techcrunch doesn’t like it either, and says so in Keystream Unveils SmartAd, Wants To Turn Watching Videos Into A Painful Experience.

It’s one thing to come up with a sucky advertising idea, but to fail so spectacularly at PR is two-fer of fatal dimensions.

One quibble with Robin, who writes, Obviously, there is a need to open the advertising spigot when it comes to Web videos, but this is not the way to do it. It’s 2008. Isn’t it time we thought past advertising, toward revenue models based on serving customers, rather than guessing at them?

Advertising even at its best is still guesswork. That’s the “pain point” we should be trying to relieve, and where ideas should show up that VCs can fund. Improving a pain in the ass doesn’t make it a kiss.

These are a few among the many salt ponds that ring the south end of San Francisco Bay. Once considered and agricultural innovation and an economic boom, the practice of “reclaiming” wild wetlands for industrial purposes is now considered ecologically awful by environmentalists, especially here on the West Coast of the U.S., which has precious few wetlands in any case. Many environmentalists have been working to get Cargill to close the ponds and return the Bay to its more natural state. Cargill hasn’t budged. In fact, <a href=”http://www.cargill.com/sf_bay/saltpond_ecosystem.htm”>Cargill has its own views</a> on the matter, plus some interesting facts about the ponds themselves.

It’s worth pointing out that the Bay is actually one of the youngest features on the California landscape, having flooded within only in the last couple thousand years, as sea levels rose. (Global warming has been happening, in fact, since the last ice age.)

I took this shot two days ago on approach to San Francisco on a flight from Boston. Here’s a set of all the photos I’ve taken of salt ponds, both here and in the desert. And here is the whole set of shots I took from coast to coast. Most were at the ends of the flight, since the sky was undercast most of the way.

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