Category Archives: Geek Stuff

Amazon Closed My Associates Account, Now What? Help for Affiliates in California

Californians can use VigLink to keep participating in Amazon Associates

Gov. Brown signed the Internet Sales tax law and Amazon promptly dropped tens of thousands of Associates in a heartbeat. The state still doesn’t get their sales tax and now are missing out on the combined loss of income taxes from affiliates and their reduced spending. The state loses and so do we. We knew this was coming and I had briefly looked into creating an LLC in another state, but it would be a hassle and there was a question of California charging a $800 out of state business fee. Jumping through hoops wasn’t really my idea of fun so I looked around for another solution. My first thought was auctioning off my affiliate links to the highest bidder. I could probably get a little buzz going about that, but didn’t want to mess with that arrangement with some stranger. I did a little more research and found some discussion about VigLink.

VigLink essentially rewrites your links with JavaScript to be routed through their system. Any earnings are tracked back to your ID and then they pay you after taking a commission. For those of us in states that are now locked out of Amazon Associates this is better than nothing. I signed up the other day and will have to see how things go. The commission takes a little bit off the top, but since VigLink funnels clicks through their own accounts they get to the higher tiers which could help make up for it. If your Amazon links are producing $0 then try VigLink at least until you can get something else going.

An additional minus point is that users of AdBlock Plus will probably not have their click-throughs converted. One more plus though is that you aren’t stuck just with Amazon. If you wanted to post to other sites or do a price comparison between different sites then you can still participate in other programs easily. I think VigLink has over 12,000 sites they cover.

Humans vs Aliens vs Zombies

Had a vivid dream this week that went something like this:

Earth is at war with an alien planet on the far side of the galaxy. Neither of us have the technology to actually transport living troops to each others planet so the war is waged by lobbing stuff across the vast emptiness of space. Besides kinetic projectiles we are both attempting to infect each other with disease.

One biological attack from the aliens is particularly effective and spreads unchecked across the globe; zombie apocalypse becomes reality. Humanity breaks down and is reduced to ragged bands of survivors. I am part of a well armed group whose sole purpose is to help those who have succumbed to the disease. We do not know what condition the infection leaves the human mind in, but we won’t allow fellow humans to persist in that irreversible state.

I am armed with a M1 Garand rifle chambered in the stout .30-06 cartridge. My team members handle nearby zombies with ease, but I am more selective with my targets. I increase the challenge of our job by dispatching zombies two at a time. I take the old sharpshooter “one shot, one kill” adage and kick it up a notch: “one shot, two kills”.

From a well supported position I silently peer through my iron sights at a group of zombies down the road. Their meandering movement is slow and random when they are unaware of living flesh, but becomes frantic once they lock onto our sweet scent. As the group shuffles about I mentally calculate their trajectories and wait for that moment where one zombie head passes behind another. I notice two infected on opposite sides of the street moving towards the center turn lane. Experience and instinct direct my aim to an empty spot between them.

A minute passes while the zombies steadily approach each other. In my peripheral vision I see the zombies disappear behind the rear aperture of my sight. I know in the next moment they will reappear inside the aperture and I will have the briefest moment to deliver my shot. The zombies emerge inside the aperture and their bodies become obscured by the front post. I slowly release my breath as one starts to pass behind the other and the next instant I squeeze the trigger. My round passes through both zombies’ skulls, releasing whatever is left of their imprisoned and tormented minds.

At about this time alien landing pods containing small combat robots start landing around us, but I woke up so that’s all you get. I blame this dream on science fiction books, Left 4 Dead, Monster Hunter International, sniper books and recently shooting my M1.

Google AdSense Kind Of Sucks

I’m sure there are a lot of people who have good success with Adsense, but I could never get it to work on this site. I get a lot of traffic from my WordPress plugins and some other posts. I configured my blog to show Adsense ads to incoming external visitors and ran ads for 2 years. The result? $75.

I think we’ve become blind to text ads if we haven’t already hidden them. I run Adblock Plus so never really see that many ads and even if I do I never click on them. There’s just something about allowing a third party to display content on your site that may or may not be completely relevant or trustworthy. I never click on ads so I’m not sure why I would expect other people to.

I had to close my entire AdSense account to get a pay out. The regular $100 threshold wasn’t too far away, but the way things were trending I doubt I would have ever gotten there. The last 4 or 5 months saw tens of thousands of impressions with zero earnings.

I’ve had much more success with Amazon’s affiliate links during the same time period. I think a fundamental difference is that visitors are getting to my posts because they are already interested in buying something. For example, the links in my posts about replacing the stereo in my Toyota Tacoma have a very high conversion rate. I link to all the items needed at a popular online retailer with low prices and free shipping and I get a cut of their order. I could remove the affiliate links and just put ads up, but I don’t know what’s going to show up, if people will click them and how much I’ll get (probably just a couple cents).

Maybe I just got lucky with my WordPress plugins pushing my other posts up in Google’s search results. All I know is more people bought Tacoma dash kits and wiring harnesses over clicking stupid AdSense ads.

Google Reader’s Recommended Items Sucks

Whenever I read or clear out my Google Reader subscriptions I’ll browse through my Recommended Items list to see if there’s anything of interest. The problem is Google populates this list based on some unknown factors and it’s currently impossible to customize. Clicking “Not Interested” does nothing and I’m pretty sure Google knows this considering the number of support threads started about it.

I’d say the current algorithm is about 30% accurate. The funny thing is all the stuff Google is assuming about me:

  • That I like sports in general
  • That I really like baseball
  • That I like the Seattle Mariners
  • That I live in Kansas
  • That I like University of Kansas sports
  • That I live in Tulsa
  • That I’m on a paleo diet
  • That I like Apple products
  • That I participate in the martial arts
  • That I have an Xbox 360

The other problem is some items show up from sites I’m already subscribed to. I’m subscribed to xkcd, but every time a new comic is published it shows up 2 or 3 times in Recommended Items.

Mass Effect Impressions

Just finished a play through of Mass Effect on Normal difficulty in about 30 hours. Probably could have bumped the difficulty up since it was pretty easy. As far as content goes, the main story line was good, but short. A lot of the side assignments were a little repetitive and just took a good amount of exploring and conversation with NPC’s to collect them all.

I’d give it a solid B, nothing revolutionary. I’ll probably pick up Mass Effect 2 once it’s on sale for $5 like this one was.