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Advertisers and publishers have been telling us for over a decade that they need to track everything we do, and gather ever more and more data about us, so they can show us “relevant ads” – ads that we want to see, about things that we’re interested in.

And after all this time, and all the data they’ve collected, they’re still really bad at it!

They’re showing us more and more ads, but they’re not relevant for the viewer, and they don’t sell product for the advertiser, so it seems like:

  • users have given up their privacy for no benefit;
  • the advertiser’s money is just going down the drain;
  • the ad networks, despite their ineffectiveness, are getting rich!

To illustrate this, I’ll share some examples from Facebook. They have an option on each ad to show “Why am I seeing this ad?” Lately, I’ve been tapping on this option (right before I hide all ads from that advertiser, forever):

I’ll start with a doozy

NSW Cancer Council in Beijing

A couple of things about this:

  • I don’t live in Beijing, and I haven’t recently been there. Facebook knows where I live, because I’ve specifically told them I live in Sydney
  • Why would the Cancer Council NSW – an Australian state – be looking to advertise to people “who live in Beijing?”

I don’t believe that Cancer Council NSW wanted to advertise to people in Beijing; that makes no sense at all! But they’re being charged money for Facebook to present ads to people it thinks (wrongly, in this case) are in Beijing. Either that, or Facebook is lying to me about why I’m seeing this ad.

Or, alternatively, that they’re not lying, per se, but instead their systems are screwed up and are just showing incorrect data… because they’re incompetent. You may think “incompetent” is too strong a word, but this is actually Facebook’s core business – knowing their viewers and matching ads to them – so any errors in their core systems are important problems.

Here’s another series of screenshots. See if you can find a theme:

Now I live in Dubai
Now in live in UAE (still in Dubai, perhaps?)
Sharjah is also in UAE
Sharhaj again!

I should point out that, although I’ve travelled a lot, I’ve never even been to Sharjah, never lived in Dubai, and the only time I’ve ever spent in Dubai or the United Arab Emirates has been during refuelling stopovers while flying to/from Europe.

Plus, Facebook knows that I live in Sydney, Australia, because I’ve told them that!

Also, like the Cancer Council NSW targeting people in Beijing, why would Australians for Solar want to target people who live in Sharjah? Again, I find that hard to believe.

After more than 10 years of collecting our data, seriously, this is the best they can do? To me, it all looks like a scam.

The publishers tell the viewers – you and me – that they need our data to show us relevant ads, but the reality is that they just spray whatever ads they have and don’t actually care if they’re relevant or not, because they get paid anyway.

And they tell the advertisers that the ads will be shown to only people who meet the criteria the advertiser chooses, but that’s just bullshit too. And they charge the advertiser every time it gets shown.

Like all scams, it can’t go on forever, and I think we’re getting close to the point where both the viewers and the advertisers have cottoned on to the scam, and no longer want to play this game.

I really hope so!


This is the definition I got when I looked up “stupidity” in the dictionary.

stupid |ˈstju•pɪd|

adjective ( -pider, -pidest)

  • lacking intelligence or common sense : I was stupid enough to think she was perfect.
  • dazed and unable to think clearly : apprehension was numbing her brain and making her stupid.
  • informal used to express exasperation or boredom : she told him to stop messing with his stupid painting.

My own definition, however, is a little different:

stupidity |ˈstju•ˈpɪdɪti|


  • not knowing something that the person should know, or behaving as if the person doesn’t know something they should know

All of us are born ignorant about everything. As we grow older, we learn new things and, by the time we are adults, there are certain things all of us are expected to know—everyday things like how to get out of bed and dress ourselves, basic hygiene, not to walk out in front of moving cars, etc. Most of us know nothing about, for example, brain surgery but, unless we’re brain surgeons, we’re not expected to. That’s what I mean by “what a person should know.”

We all often do stupid things: for example, we all know that something that has been in a hot oven will become hot itself. But who hasn’t burnt their fingers by picking up something that they should have known was hot? It’s not that we didn’t know it was hot; we hadn’t forgotten anything; we just do stupid things from time to time.

I get that, and I’m willing to cut people a bit of slack for doing stupid things because I do stupid things too.

But my tolerance for stupidity is much lower—much, much lower—for people who do stupid things because they actually don’t know things that I think they should. In the brain surgery example above, I really wouldn’t tolerate a brain surgeon who didn’t know their hypothalamus from their medulla oblongata. They’re supposed to know that.

In everyday terms, I have expectations for what a normal, functioning adult in society ought to know. They ought to know how their country’s electoral system works, for example. They ought to be able to read and write and speak grammatically correctly in their native language. They ought to be able to do simple maths, and to be able to judge whether numbers presented to them in various contexts are reasonable. They ought to understand the concepts of “cause and effect,” and they ought to know that things don’t just happen “by magic” or just because people want them to, and so on. They ought to be aware of their surroundings and know, for example, that if they just stop in the middle of the sidewalk, they will impede the people around them, but that moving to one side will let others pass by easily.

There are millions of day-to-day details that we, justifiably, assume the people around us know or, at least, ought to know.

It irks me immensely when politicians or others claim that they “didn’t know” something, when it was their job to know. To me, know knowing something that they are meant to know (or, worse, that they are required to know) is not an excuse; it is an admission of stupidity. And, often, they are allowed to get away with it.

As I said, we all do/say stupid things from time to time—that’s a given for all human beings. We’re not perfect. But, if we’re not actually stupid, those times should be few and far between. They shouldn’t happen often, and they certainly shouldn’t happen regularly. And we shouldn’t be happy with ourselves when we do stupid things. We should make an effort to avoid being stupid in the future.

All too often, I see people make the same stupid mistake over and over again. These are stupid people! I don’t like these people; I have a very low tolerance for them and the stupid things that they do.