Housekeeping: Letter from the Publisher Re: New Site and TTAG Emails

Robert Farago, publisher, The Truth About Guns (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

TTAG will have a brand new website soon. Same basic blog format and comment functionality, only cleaner, faster and shinier. While we regularly update our site to keep up with the internet gestalt, our readers have made it clear that our current site is kludgy and worse. The new site will solve a lot of the problems bedeviling the Armed Intelligentsia, but please be aware . . .

that the redirects and autoplay audio ads are an ad server issue. We depend on our ad supplier to fix these annoyances. If an ad causes a problem please email thetruthaboutguns.com with the words REDIRECT or AD SUCKS in the subject bar. If you can send us a screen grab or at least ID the ad we’d be much obliged.

Meanwhile, we’re also working on creating TTAG emails. With a choice of frequency and easy opt-out, of course.

TTAG emails will be unique to each reader, delivering content depending on your interests and the articles you read. Security sensitive readers will note that this system requires user tracking. I want to assure you that TTAG does not and will never share your email or IP address with anyone else, ever. That is our solemn pledge.

We’ll be able to generate emails that provide firearms-related information you like, excluding content you don’t. More than that, the user data will let us know what kind of content we need to create to satisfy our readers’ tastes. While Google analytics already does a pretty good job in that regard, the new system will be far more granular. TTAG will become more responsive and, well, better.

Also, from time to time, we’ll ask you questions about your preferences, to further refine our understanding and cater to your specific interests. Again, there will be an easy op-out, and this data is for our eyes only. We take your security and privacy very seriously. Our man Leghorn — former nuclear risk data analyst for the Department of Homeland Security — is our guide and conscience in this regard. I trust him. So can you.

We appreciate your patience and understanding. TTAG is committed to providing our readers with the web’s best gun-related news, reviews and editorials. We couldn’t do it without you. Thanks.

comments

  1. avatar Ryan S. says:

    Thank you for your continuous improvement, TTAG is my 3 times a day refuge from the non-gun world for the last 5 years.

    1. avatar Nemo says:

      @TTAG, so now, instead of “blaming the user” as you tried to do in your last missive on the subject of how’s the site functioning (paraphrase), you’ve switched to blaming the ad server for hijacks, redirects and autoplays.

      DO YOU REALLY THINK WE’RE ALL THAT STUPID?

      Again, I have to ask the question, who owns TTAG, you or the advertisers or is it now the ad server company?

      How about TTAG being proactive with its ads and vetting them to ENSURE that ads which hijack or redirect a users browser are rejected until the ad is cleaned up? How about putting a clause in the contract with the advertiser that prohibits ads that hijack or redirect? How about putting a clause in your contract with the ad server company that prohibits ads with such behavior and imposes a penalty on the ad server company for each instance that the ad is run on YOUR site? How about doing business with a REPUTABLE ad server company that does not allow such ads to begin with?

      Based on the length of time that hijack and/or redirect and/or autoplay ads have been a topic of discussion here, it seems that TTAG has never understood or forgotten that YOU are running a business and that the type of ads that run on YOUR site reflect on YOUR business’ reputation.

      Ads that hijack and/or redirect my browser speak to me of a site that’s more concerned about ad revenue than about me as a user, despite the overall quality of the rest of the site.

      1. avatar Robert Farago says:

        Good points. I’ll do it. Thanks for the poke.

        1. avatar Jim Bullock says:

          Well, you have an interesting balance to maintain. Better you than me. I deal with webby stuff when I have to, but avoid this nonsense as aggressively as I can. (In the biz, I bias toward embedded systems.)

          I’ll be hitting the “donations” button I noticed the other day, because while I won’t allow ads to run, neither am I a parasite.

          In TTAG-world, the good news is that enough users and therefore sites are getting annoyed by the level of ad-intrusion that there’s general push-back. As one site, you’d be hard pressed to get this kind of granularity from an ad-server service. So, good on you to use the customization and throttling available from the ad servers.

          The bad news it it remains a kind of arms race. With ad-supported “free” services, “they” benefit from pushing more, more involved, more targeted stuff, because the advertisers pay more for that. And “they” are motivated to create ever more granular users’ profiles for targeting, because the advertisers pay more for that. They’re very creative, from synthetic “browser signatures” creating an ID from your configuration, to magic “tracking cookies” as Verizon is doing.

          One of the old jokes from the desktop days riffed on “What’s the difference between the OS – usually Winders – and a virus?” Lately the riff is “How, exactly, is Windows 10 distinct from other malware?” Ads on web sites are the same problem. They make money by siphoning something off from what you really want to be doing.

          One lovely example of the arms race is running a fairly locked down browser on a desktop system, and the same browser on a smartphone. The defaults and configurability are different. The phone version does more automatically, is twitchier as you lock things down, and has levels of platform and data integration that you don’t see (or can get around) on the desktop. It’s a deliberate choice. They are more invasive on the smartphones because they can.

          “Clear all history data” on the phone version removed all my downloads via browser, as it does not on the desktop. (I like snark little clip art things. The guy eating popcorn never gets old.) Similarly, requested downloads on the browser keep running in background, though the application is “closed.” (BTW, there are now more mainstream multi-platform secure broswer projects derived from Mozilla / Firefox and Opera. You could always get away from a bunch of this stuff with more niche browsers.)

          It’s like they are trying to drive bandwidth consumption by using every opportunity to get you to move more bits. It’s like they get paid for the bandwidth you use. Oh, wait…

          Since this is a gun interest site, consider electronic “smart gun” technology, of course wired into the interweb of things. Do you really want your holo-site held up by an ad downloading, while the problem that caused you to draw has no such delay?

          If you want fodder for how things can go wrong with computers in them, look up “Computer Related Risks”, which has been a simple feed of actual failures that started as an email distribution. (Really.) Any congress-critter or “advocate” feeding at Bloomie’s trough who hasn’t addressed the failures and failure modes inventoried there … is talking through their hat. It ain’t about “risk.” But, we knew that.

      2. avatar Anner says:

        Close out, reload the page, done. Now go take your blood pressure meds.

        1. avatar cenonce says:

          That hasn’t always worked for me (on iPhone 6 running latest iOS). Closing out and reloading the page has had to be done 3 or 4 times to get rid of the endless ad loop I get stuck in.

        2. avatar Anner says:

          Using the same phone, and closing out and reloading has worked for me. The ads are certainly aggressive, and the redirecting 4x while it loads is probably directing web traffic/click $ to ISIS, so yeah it’s annoying. As long as they’re working on it and getting the new site as controlled/clean as possible, I’ll be happy.

  2. avatar ATTAG Reader says:

    In the last couple of days the ads have become nearly impossible. Even to get to this post today I got a series of at least six ads attempting to take over this iPhone. Ending with Download Porn Now best porn for only $1 for the app. Seriously?

    1. avatar John says:

      Wow I was gonna say I use my iPhone and don’t have issues. Don’t get me wrong I HAVE had the add jack. But that has mainly been some other gun sites.

      Guys keep up the good work. And I’m one of those who pings the site every few hrs depending on work!!

    2. avatar Steve in MA (now RI) says:

      The best porn app for just a dollar does sound like a steal, though.

      1. avatar Swarf says:

        Hey-o!

      2. avatar Anonymous says:

        It does – but it’s probably going to be the kind of porn your not going to want to watch.

      3. avatar peirsonb says:

        In today’s Internet, if you’re paying even $1 for your porn you’re doing it wrong.

    3. avatar Tim says:

      Try getting an adblocker off of the App Store. I downloaded one called Purify that stops redirects, but still shows banner ads so the site still gets revenue. I haven’t been redirected off of TTAG since I got it.

    4. avatar Jim says:

      I had an immediate redirect when I opened the homepage today, and closed it out and reopened it. Then I had another redirect when I clicked on the “more” for this article.

      It’s now to the point where I am going to this site less. In spite of the good content.

      Don’t blame the third party. Own this. Or TTAG will see a huge drop in clicks.

  3. avatar Priest of the center mass says:

    Ive never experienced the issues some others face, thanks for your dedication, sometimes eye brow raising wit and the entertainment of every opinion under the sun.

  4. avatar Mk10108 says:

    No need to send me a preference list. I read it all. Do the good work, hammer 2A and gods speed to the TTAG crew.

  5. avatar MamaLiberty says:

    No thanks to any tracking. I can decide for myself what I want to read and want to skip. I run no-script, ad block and Ghostery. Right now there are 11 tracking items and 11 script items being blocked. I very seldom see any ads, and ignore them when I do. The videos never “autoplay” for me, so they are irrelevant. I would like to see a return of email notification of new posts to threads I’ve commented on.

    If the blocking prevents me from reading the pages at the new TTAG, then I won’t be reading it. I’d rather continue to visit TTAG, so I hope the new site isn’t too unfriendly for those who don’t need or want to be spoon fed…

    1. avatar dph says:

      ^this +1. Besides the NSA is probably tracking my viewing choices.

      1. avatar peirsonb says:

        If ALL you’re worried about is the NSA, rest assured they’re doing that anyway.

        1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

          NSA cannot see the trees from the forest. They chase after the Tea Party and ignore the Muzrats. Very obvious.

  6. avatar Swarf says:

    I have no problem with ads supporting this site. I do have a problem with hijackers, auto play and the malware that often accompanies ads. Those are not my problem to solve. Especially the malware. That’s why I run 1Blocker on my phone and AdBlock+, Ghostery and FlashBlock on my larger machines.

    I have to say that so far I have liked all of the sponsored content (question of the day, etc). There was even one a day or two ago where every comment was along the lines of “sponsored content or no, that is a fantastic product.” I agreed (although the product escapes me at the moment. It’s early on a Sunday), and I’ll bet the sponsor loved seeing all those positive comments.

    Of course that can go too far to where TTAG is just a series of billboard posts, but so far it seems to be working.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      Rest assured we hate all the hijacks as much as you. We’ve had serious discussions with our ad supplier and will continue to do so until they fix the issue.

      1. avatar beefeater says:

        Obviously the “serious discussions” haven’t done anything. Drop them and find a new ad supplier. Or better yet, stop using an ad supplier and vet your own ads. Whichever way you go, if you continue to stick with your current supplier, you are putting your readers at risk for scams and malware.

        1. avatar JSF001 says:

          This 100% you have been having these issues with ads for the past 4 years now. This website is the entire reason I got ad blocker about two years ago, and is the only website I regularly visit that I run it on. If they can’t fix this problem permanently then you need to drop them. If they where a legit company, they should be scanning the ads first before accepting them to push them out.

      2. avatar Sian says:

        I just tried disabling adblock and noscript on this page.

        Took about a minute after I hit post for me to get the text entry window. The page is still loading, well, something. Hell if I know what.

        I’m not doing that again for a while.

  7. avatar Martin Gomez says:

    Thanks for providing this service (old and new versions). Good luck with the new stuff.

  8. avatar Crowbar says:

    I am a big fan of TTAG. Keep up the good work.

  9. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    Do what you must Robert to keep this going.
    It wont scare me away…………………

  10. avatar UofUdavid says:

    Would love TTAG to have two sites! One for all the interesting gun stuff and one for all the depressing and boring political stuff.

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      Dude… You have interesting gun stuff because of all the boring political stuff.

      1. avatar peirsonb says:

        I’m thinking the political stuff is boring because of the gun stuff…

  11. avatar Anonymous says:

    So I just made some desiccant packs out of some aluminum wire screen and desiccant. They were old spent packs now in a new container ready for baking (re-activation). I’m going to pop them in some ammo cans for dry storage of some ammo.

    TTAG didn’t have any desiccant articles that I could find.

    1. avatar Mr. 308 says:

      Too dry of a topic.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        For the win!!!

    2. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Desiccants most certainly have been mentioned, probably not an entire article, but they have been mentioned.

      I personally like the granular type you need to bake when saturated, and a low wattage bulb with it…

      1. avatar Swarf says:

        So… re-purposed Easy Bake Oven?

  12. avatar Dez says:

    FWIW- I don’t have any ad problems on iPad gen4, but then I am a 30+ year IT guy who knows how to set up a device. “Just saying”!

  13. avatar ahil925 says:

    I run adblock plus on my laptop and am safe from the redirects and most autoplays when using it. On the iphone its hit and miss when seeing if I’m going to be able to view an article or have the appstore open and try to sell me something.

    Regarding the new site: I am cynical and wary of any “updates” and “improvements”, too often have I had sites and apps I frequent become annoying or unusable messes after an “upgrade”. I wish you all luck making the transition but I hope you guys thoroughly test it before making it live.

  14. avatar Swobard says:

    Looking forward to coming upgrades. Dunno why I’m so lucky, but have never suffered an auto play ad nor a hijack while on TTAG. Whether on iphone or Windows laptop.
    I find myself referencing your reviews time and again when considering purchases.

  15. avatar Ralph says:

    Geez, RF, that picture makes you look like an armed Mouseketeer.

    1. avatar That's right (you're not from Texas)... says:

      Best laugh I’ve had in a while!

    2. avatar RealityCheck says:

      I was going to say it looks like the single worst Princess Leia costume in the history of … ever.

  16. avatar Carl says:

    It is obvious that R. Farago is a gun guy – not a computer guy.
    Maybe somebody should tell him that.

    I come here for the gun guy part. R.F. should hire (and pay) a computer guy so I can stop bitching about the spam.

  17. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

    I come here anyway despite the never-ending glitches. Yeah I hope it gets better. Sorry RF-I’m not holding my breath. Oh yeah-don’t send me any E-mail(unless I win something or make money off of it)lol

  18. avatar JasonM says:

    Have you gathered metrics on how much revenue the ads bring in per user?
    I stopped viewing this site on my phone, because Chrome on Android doesn’t have an adblocker, and I don’t care which celebrities are actually transgender or which celebrities are cheating on their spouses (actual TTAG ads I’ve seen). When I do view it, it’s on a computer with an adblocker, so the ads never load (the site is SO much faster when it’s not loading garbage). That means TTAG doesn’t see any ad revenue from me.
    I’d love to be able to subscribe to TTAG for a small annual fee and not have to see any ads on any platform.

  19. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    So RF, not only haven’t I been receiving the emails about new article postings, the “follow after comments” option is also gone.

    Additionally, I searched the site to re-subscribe (without success) and sent an email to you guys regarding the lack of posting mails (without a response).

    I am now confused as to what is coming from TTaGs. This is my favorite site fr gun articles.

  20. avatar barnbwt says:

    Yay! A whole new frontier of obnixious ad possibilities to explore!

  21. avatar Hoplopfheil says:

    I’m sure the “VG Link” ad links are a good way of continuing to get ad revenue in the age of adblockers, but I really dislike them.

    The best thing about web articles is the ability to hyperlink anything for comedic effect, or just cross reference. So when I click a link expecting to go to a product page (or an old review, etc) and instead go to an entirely unrelated Amazon page, it’s pretty frustrating.

    Example:
    “As you know, we here at TTAG loved the last version of the SIG P22x(hyperlink)” So you click the hyperlink and it takes you to an Amazon page for a SIG 226 Airsoft gun, instead of what you expect.

    1. avatar Matt says:

      Yes the vg links are quite annoying to me. The most annoying part is that when you mistakenly click on them thinking they are a link included in an article for our convenience or reference, they rarely actually bring you to anything that makes any actual reference to the underlined word.

  22. avatar Mr. 308 says:

    Just do’t go all Breitbart, or even worse, pull a Jharles Cohnson.

  23. avatar Stinkeye says:

    Question: if one opts out of the e-mails, does that also opt them out of the tracking? Or will you be tracking everyone all the time, and “opting out” just means no e-mails, but you’ll still be building a profile?

    I would advise you to tread very lightly in this area. Lots of gun folk take their privacy extremely seriously, and unfortunately, TTAG has an absolutely abysmal track record on security and privacy issues. Four years of malware hijacks and the like being served in your name (you can try to blame your ad service if you want, but it’s your brand being dragged through the mud every time it happens) understandably makes some of us a bit nervous when you start talking about building a database of our preferences and browsing habits.

    I would wager most of your more intelligent commenters are the ones most likely to be worried about privacy, too, and you can’t afford to lose the content they generate. There are about a half-dozen or so people here whose insight and commentary amount to about half the value of the site (in my opinion – at least, that’s why I come here so frequently, to read what those folks are adding to the discussion).

    1. avatar MamaLiberty says:

      Good question! If the tracking goes on in spite of opting out of the emails, a few of us will be gone. It doesn’t matter what the motives might be for doing that tracking, and TTAG will be no more safe from hacking than any other web site or server. I understand that tracking is the big cheese for marketing these days, but it’s not going to help you in the long run here.

      Put up an anonymous poll and see how many regular readers will be willing to pay a subscription for a non-tracking, ad free premium page. You could have a “free” teaser page with a few articles and ads for new folks. I was webmaster/manager for a two tiered news website in the late 1990s, doing full html builds, so it should be no problem with programs like wordpress.

  24. avatar Yngvar says:

    I like The Truth About Guns, but guys, please stop with the clickhangers, ok? If the subject interests us we’ll read the post.

  25. avatar AR says:

    Nice shirt!

  26. avatar Matt in FL says:

    Since the emails stopped, I’ve stopped coming to the site. I still keep the commenting back end open in a tab (like so: http://prntscr.com/b4gj6a), so I can watch the spam filters do their thing (or not), but without the emails with all the headlines, I don’t read the articles. The only exception is if I see a witty (or not-so) comment in the backend feed that piques my curiosity.

    Email notification of new articles and new comments to articles I’ve commented on are a must-have for me to visit the site. I don’t have time to browse.

    I run an adblocker, and I’m not the slightest bit apologetic about it like some here are. I like this site, and I like the guys who run it, but when it comes to discussions about ads, I trust what I read about as much I’d trust a car salesman who tells me “we’ll fix that later” but doesn’t put it in writing. I’ve heard “we’re working on it” and “it’ll get better soon” for every bit of the several years I’ve been around here, and I have simply just resigned myself that it’s not going to change, and I’ve done what I feel is necessary to protect myself.

    1. avatar CarlosT says:

      I use RSS for that.

  27. avatar Michi says:

    Robert –

    If your ad network is the sort of organization that will approve into rotation ,hijacking and obnoxious ads, you asking them nicely to cut down on it won’t have any effect.

    Either an ad supplier believes in these tactics or they don’t. And if their clients aren’t hitting it where it counts, nothing is going to change.

    What I’m saying is, “discussing” with your ad supplier is weak sauce that won’t do jack. As far as they’re concerned, our complaints are simply evidence of “engagement” with the crappy ads.

    Maybe the visits aren’t going down enough to matter, but here when it comes to guns and 2A we’re a “put up or shut up” kind of group — yet you guys expect us to be OK with hand waving when it comes to ads that border on malware.

    If advertisers want to whine about people using ad blockers, they need to back the eff off on the tactics, and sites need to put up or shut up.

    Either motivate your supplier or don’t, but these “sorry about the ads” posts every few months aren’t serving any purpose but to aggravate readers.

    1. avatar Twisted Swifter says:

      Amen! Every time you guys say that things are going to get better I just make sure that my Adblock Plus and Ghostery are running properly. I’m blocking 21 ads and 14 trackers as we speak. Stop passing the buck, and give a F&$k!

      How much money can you actually be making by using these scumbags that you associate yourself with? Is it really worth it to piss us off over and over again. Worst of all, you guys have been giving us the same old speech for years now. Either fix it or STFU about it. I hate to be reminded every three months of how much I detest how you guys choose to do business.

  28. avatar Will Drider says:

    When I hit a highlighted link in a story it will occasionally run to a ad then the material. The crap I hate is highlighted links to referenced stories like in the WSJ that give you two lines and want you to subscribe to read the rest. I bail on those. I also refuse to download Apps to read sites or ” improve the experience” : B.S. I don’t have any use for a smart phone but do browse using a Samsung tablet: no problems.

  29. avatar ESKeith says:

    As a new gun owner and newly interested in gun “things”, I would enjoy reading more articles about guns and gun gear (sights, triggers, ammo, range bags, etc). While I enjoy the political side of the site, I want to read about guns and their stuff. Is there a way to enable the readers to submit articles regarding the items they purchase and use? I’m sure someone’s bought a new range bag that they could tell us about, or tried some new ammo that failed, or re-used a gun long hidden in their armory that others might one day like to buy. Thanks.

  30. avatar Henry says:

    One thing that chnged for the worse with the new website was the handling of RSS. I use an RSS reader (Vienna) to manage TTAG postings. Used to be that I could just click on the title of a posting and see the entire text of the article, then move on my clicking the next title. Now when I click on the title, I see only the header image the first few lines. I now have to double-click on that title to open the article in a new tab, select the newly-opened tab, read the article, close the tab, and re-select the index tab. I don’t see the upside in sending only a partial article to the RSS reader.

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