I'll take "problems we solved correctly in the 80s" for $100, Alex


It's 2020 and developers still think "reverse chronological order, scrolling until I see something I vaguely remember having seen before for half a second" is the way to go. Good job everybody.


Proper threading, a real editor, post scoring, and kill files: trn was the pinnacle of user interfaces for keeping up with the social media feed.

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Since the mythology is that Facebook's advertising engine is a hypnotism mind-control ray that can turn anyone into a Nazi in a week, sometimes it's good to reflect upon how absolutely terrible they are at advertising.

Every few days I scroll through Instagram. Regrettably, I do this using the iPhone app, since they barely have a web site. This means that, unlike the rest of my existence, I don't have ad blockers, and it's awful.

For a while, every time I saw an ad, I reported it as "offensive". Because I find advertising offensive, so where's the lie? What I learned from this process is that if you report an ad as offensive, it will stop showing you that particular ad, but will still show you other ads from that account! So instead I started blocking every account that showed me an ad. That works, though it takes 5 clicks, but hey, everybody needs a hobby.

The Instagram accounts I follow break down roughly like this:

  • 70% unpopular bands;
  • 28% burlesque performers;
  • 2% people who do horror-themed prosthetic makeup.

So with that as the input, and after years of blocking ads, the ads that Instagram shows me are:

  • 95% realtors;
  • 5% financial investment podcasts.

There's a smattering of other weird ads in there, like the occasional ad for the gift shop of a museum in a state I've never visited, which can probably be attributed to an intern's first failed attempt at ad targeting. But, pretty much realtors.

It's always realtors no matter how many I block.

Maybe this is because realtors are the cockroaches of commerce; no matter how many you squash, there are thousands more, and they just keep coming. This tracks with paper spam, too: realtor postcards outweigh political advertising at least 3:1. The realtor mindset has a "firehose" mentality.

It did please me to report an ad for the only competing ad network as spam, though.

Also, most of the time Instagram shows me ads every five photos. Five photos, one ad, repeat like clockwork. It didn't used to be this bloodthirsty. Maybe my blocking triggered it, or maybe they do that to everybody now.

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