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.

How to lose $620,000 in 5 years

It’s really simple, just buy this place in the middle of a massive cheap money binge:

10085 Lesterford Ave Downey, CA 90240

Date Event Price Source
Oct 27, 2010 Listed $350,000 MRMLS #M10113549
Aug 27, 2010 Sold (Public Records) 
This home was foreclosed and bank-owned.
$847,667 Public Records
Sep 15, 2005 Sold (Public Records) $970,000 Public Records
Aug 06, 2004 Sold (Public Records) $715,000 Public Records

Someone was actually able to get close to a $1,000,000 loan for this place. That’s about a $4500 a month payment before property taxes and PMI. Who wants to bet that this mortgage got bundled into a security now owned by Fannie and Freddie. The banks, brokers and Realtors© were able to push all the risk off to the taxpayer while reaping big commissions. This was done at the direction of Congress to loosen lending restrictions in the name of “affordable housing”.

Hey the upside is you can get this place with graffiti included for cheap now.

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Nikon and Canon lens Review

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX for Nikon and for Canon

Nikon’s DX zoom lenses like the 18-55mm start at 18mm (27mm after crop factor) which is just starting to get into the wide angle arena. Most of the time this gives you a wide enough field of view (FOV) and if you need to get more in then you can just back up. There are times though when you can’t or don’t want to back up. Sometimes you might want a wider FOV to get a different perspective in a shot. It’s not just about “getting it all in”, but rather looking at a shot differently and getting the composition you want.

I had never shot a DX lens wider than 17mm or one with a constant f/2.8 lens. We can see the difference in FOV between the Tokina 11-16mm, Nikon 18-200mm and Nikon 35mm:

11mm is wide, really wide. The test shots above were taken at about 5 feet from the TV. The first thing I notice in the 11mm shot is the perspective distortion, but that isn’t necessarily bad. The Nikon 18-200mm presents quite a bit of barrel distortion at 18mm. The Tokina gives nice straight lines, but going so wide starts to affect perspective. Things at the edge of the frame in this situation look stretched because of perspective distortion.

The best way I can describe perspective distortion is that the ultra-wide focal length allows you to move the camera forward into the scene. This has a large impact on the size of subjects depending on their distance from the camera. Subjects in the foreground will appear larger in size than subjects in the background. You can see this in the shot of Mt. Shasta below, the foreground right in front of my feet is balanced against the huge volcano in the distance. You have to use that foreground emphasis to your advantage and it is surprisingly hard to do. That’s about the best I can explain it, but you can read more about perspective distortion on Wikipedia.

The Tokina 11-16mm is a very interesting lens and can be considered special purpose. It’s definitely not for close up portraits as the perspective distortion can wreak havoc on your subjects’ faces if you aren’t careful. For a more distant portrait like my wife in front of Haystack Rock you can get away with it. Keeping the subject in the very middle of the frame helps avoid unflattering distortion like me with the moose in Coeur d’Alene.

The lens itself is very solid and well built. The focus ring pulls in and out to switch between autofocus and manual focus. I’m very happy with the lens and has whetted my appetite for more “pro” lenses, especially with a constant f/2.8. Overall this lens is a very good value.

For Nikon users, depending on your camera you might want to look at the comparable Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5. The Tokina does not have a built in autofocus motor so it will not be able to autofocus on bodies missing the motor to drive non AF-S lenses. The lower end bodies like the D5000, D3000, D3100, D40, D50, and D60 do not have the motor so the Nikon 10-24mm becomes your best option. The D70, D80, D90, D200, D300, and D7000 are all good to go.

Canon users will run into a similar situation if your body does not include an autofocus motor then you’ll want to consider the Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5. The only problem with the Nikon and Canon versions is the higher cost, slower apertures and more distortion.

The Nikon version is about $600 from Amazon and the Canon version is about $700