% fortune -ae paul murphy

Idiot frustrations

Sometimes the things non technical people do just amaze me - and I'm never entirely sure whether I should laugh or cry. Just now, for example, I heard a commercial on CBC-FM for their internet broadcast service which went something like this:

"Just boot-up"

"Connect" (sound of an acoustic modem negotiating a connection)

"Logon" (Not sure, there might have been a beep or voice over here)

"And enjoy glorious classical music" (sound of a big orchestra in full bellow - delivered with concert hall fidelity.)

I don't remember either the actual words or know what music they played, largely because I wasn't paying attention at the beginning and got lost in admiration for the expertise betrayed in the end - but the horrible truth is that a lot of the money spent on IT gets spent by people every bit as clueless as the CBC's pretend geeks.

I could cite Wintel, but have an illustrative challenge for you instead: try to find out, entirely via the internet, what Gerard's "Canyon Shake" metal roofing costs in US dollars per square foot, uninstalled.

I couldn't do it - despite spending a few hours last week trying. Do the obvious google search: Gerard "canyon shake" metal (roof OR roofing) cost, and you should get around 29 hits plus some sponsored links.

I got eight of these, some of which look like direct hits:

Interlock® Metal Roofing
Never re-roof again.
Slate, Shake, Shingle & Tile.

Roofing cost
Fantastic prices on roofing cost
Buy & Sell today

Winter Pricing In Effect
Modern Home Exteriors/Interiors Ltd
Deal Direct and Save

Metal Roofing Cost
Looking to find roofing info?
Browse our roofing directory.

Metal Roofing Cost
Looking to find roofing info?
Browse our roofing directory.

Roofing Installation
Trust the experts at Home Depot
Canada for your roofing needs!

Roofing Price
Hunting For roofing price?
Visit our roofing price guide.

Gerard Roofing
Free Gerard Roofing info
Find what you're looking for!

In reality, however, not a single one of these is useful - that pricing guide, for example, just refers its victims to other sites. Most are just catalog accumulators - redundant directories that are themselves in the business of selling google hits to others.

I think that's a general phenomenon: use google to search for a product, and you get many "sponsored links" to sites that are not just totally useless, but utterly frustrating because they promise information they don't deliver - and my question is this: these people are using google to prey on advertisers, so when will the people ultimately writing the checks discover that this kind of thing does more to annoy potential customers than to sell product? And if that ever happens, will google survive the fallout?

My guess is that it won't happen any time soon - just as the geek chic at the CBC are unlikely ever to understand what's so ridiculous about their commercial - but if it did, essentially all of google's directed ad revenues would go away. That would be bad for google, but a breakthrough for common sense and good for search users: meaning that google's vulnerability here isn't to an unlikely attack of good sense among advertisers, but to a competitor with a revenue model that doesn't depend on wasting a lot of user time and advertising monies.

Meanwhile, however, I know what a Decra stone coated tile should cost, but not how that compares to Gerard's pricing...

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.