Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Road not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

This year I am embarking on a new journey.
I formed a new company called Definiti Media, which focuses on Mobile advertising with emphasis on publisher services and enhancement of their monetization process .

From all the various marketing, management and achievement literature I am reading, I find that Robert Frost's poem gives me this extra push I need to travel the road "less traveled by" and I hope this will truly make "all the difference".


Monday, October 31, 2011

Goodbye DMG

Dear friends and colleges,

After nearly 3 years with DSNR Media Group I am off to explore new ventures and opportunities.

I had an amazing run at DMG, during which I was introduced to the world of online and mobile advertising by one of the leading companies in the industry. I was privileged to work under and with great people who taught me a lot and gave me a free hand to learn, explore and be a part of the rapid evolution of this industry.

I have grown to deeply understand the business and technology behind the industry and hope to put this knowledge to good use as I have done with DMG.

As you may have noticed, as part of my whole rejuvenation process, I have updated the look of this blog and  I will also be focusing more on the business side of the industry rather than the technology side, as this is where I intend my professional focus to be in.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Thoughts on the Yahoo Global Partner Summit - NYC September 2011

Last week I attended the Yahoo global partner summit.
I left the summit with mixed feelings.
On one hand, we did not get any dramatic announcements (I think they could and should have announced the cooperation with microsoft and AOL in the summit rather than one day after), we got to hear an "interim" CEO and had many of our direct questions returned unanswered.
On the other hand, we got to hear a company with a rather unified message, we heard a company that seem to know where it is headed and according to all I have read since Carol Bartz's departure, seems to headed in the right direction of being first and foremost a publishing house and a publishing platform.
The main thing that bothered me though was, RMX role in all of this. I understand Yahoo's need for the exchange's demand but I fail to see the value that Yahoo generates from the exchange's supply. Moreover, it seems to defocus them towards a technology and services company rather than a publishing house and platform. I will give them credit that they are making an effort to talk about and act on the fact that the RMX at its entirety is important to them, but we need to remember that both Yahoo and RMX do not have permanent CEOs and it would be very interesting to see where the new CEOs will take it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What is an impression?

I often find myself explaining what exactly is an "impression" in online-advertising.
I tried to look up a definition on the web but could not find one that I feel describes an impression. All I could find was a definition of an impression as a measuring unit to count advertising dollars (, and that, in my opinion, missed the whole point. It is like saying a head is a measuring unit for people (i.e. "head count") whereas a head is first and foremost a... head (eyes, ears, nose, hair - to the lucky ones etc...), which can also be used to count the number of people in a group.

So, what is an impression?
An impression is a combination of a placement and a person, looking at this placement (in a specific time).

...And, a placement is...?
A placement is a space on a web page in which an ad is displayed.

Thus, a single page can generate several impressions for a single time a user opens it (assuming this page has several placements thus showing several ads).
In online advertising we try to create a match between an impression and an ad, meaning, we try to match an ad to a person, browsing the web in a specific location (page) on a specific time.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Random thoughts about flight and blog posts

I am now on a plane en-route to Ad:Tech San Francisco. It is an eleven hour flight from Frankfort after a five hour flight and a connection from tel aviv. All and all a 20-24 hours journey.
Long flights are bad for me.
The plane is a Boeing 747-400 and the entertainment system is a central one that I have not seen in ages in transatlantic flights. I must say it was very disappointing to find this out as the flight from tel aviv was an excellent one (the airline, by the way, is Lufthansa). Other than that the flight is good, but as there practically is no entertainment system (all we have is one microscopic, out-of-focus, with red areas TV which luckily - so as not to see the red areas, is half blocked by the overhead compartments) I decided to sit (as if I have much choice) and try to think how to pass the time. It is a morning flight and so an occasional nap crepes on me and is welcomed with open arms (or actually with shut eyes) but its bliss is usually very brief and elusive. Then I decide - I will write. Lately I love to write. I actually had to will myself to write about 2 years ago, but over time I came to love it. The problem is what to write about and actually who to write to (as these two questions interlink).

Its like a writer's block. 
Or not. 
I am no writer and I do not feel blocked. Just without ideas. 
Or not. 
I am writing something now, aren't I?

I discovered I am writing two types of articles. The first are professional articles. Their ideas are hard to come by since epiphanies are rare and simply coherent and structured thoughts and ideas (by the way, we are now over Iceland, the sky is clear and it is spectacular) are also not extremely common, and when already formed, do not seem so interesting for someone else to read.
The second type of articles/essays are just random thoughts running in my mind. Like this raving here. These mostly find their way to some forgotten folder as they surely do not interest anybody. But then again, isn't this why I opened my own, personal blog? Who is this blog for? Me! So why shouldn't I post there my random thoughts? (After all it was originally called "random thoughts of a CTO"). Or not. Who cares what my random thoughts are? So why publish? I can just save to the folder. Or not. Can't explain it. It is different when it is out there.

I do like to write. Don't know why. But I am missing ideas. And so I am rambling on, in the hope that these words will form into an idea worth reading. It has not happened here but it did happen once, not long ago, and so I am hoping it will happen again.
Or not.

Is this post about how to pass the time on a long, boring flight? Is it about how to get ideas for things to write about? Is it about how to start a post with a vague idea of what you want to write and develop it as you go along? I do not know. Probably non of the above (but they sure are good ideas for future posts). It probably is not a "how to" post at all. I am actually not sure it is even a post...
Or not.
I said that long flights are bad for me...
Or not.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pixels and other vegetables

What are pixels, how they evolved and why is their implementation so problematic.

A "pixel" is an online advertising term for snippets of code used to track conversions on an advertiser' site.
A conversion tracker reports to the ad server or any other platform that a conversion has occurred, but equally as important, it associates this conversion with the impression that initiated this conversion process thus allowing for optimization and billing of the right partner (the one who bought the impression).

The name "pixel" for this conversion tracker comes from the first method of implementing these trackers: the first trackers were implemented as small images of 1x1 size (1 pixel) which were transparent (so as not to be seen by the user) and resided after the action page (in the conversion page). This image was inserted into the page by a simple html "img" tag. The image itself is taken from the ad server and not from the advertises' server as the rest of the page, and the ad server records the call made to the image and counts it as a conversion.

Conversion types:
1. Image pixel: the image pixel's basic behavior is as I described it above and it has changed very little  since the time that the concept was born. There have been small improvements to its functionality. The first one is that today the url called for the image is not an actual image, rather, it is a script page that records the conversion and after it is done, it sends the browser back this 1 pixel, transparent image.
The second improvement was the addition of the cookie which is introduced to the browser with the impression and read by the ad server during the processing of the script mentioned above. This cookie is used to associate the conversion with the impression that started the conversion process.
This type of conversion tracker is being used less and less.

2. Script pixel: this is the most commonly used conversion tracker and it has nothing to do with any pixel image. It is a piece of JavaScript code that is embedded inside the advertiser page. Once the page loads, this piece of code is activated by the browser, and this code usually calls a page on the ad server. This page usually does 2 things: the first, it retrieves the user cookie (that was planted by the ad server with the impression) and records the conversion. The second thing it does is send the browser back some additional pixels (either image pixel or script pixel) so that other systems can know about the conversion.

3. Token pixel (or as it is more widely known as server side pixel): a token pixel  does not rely on the user cookie in order to be able to match the conversion to an impression, rather it relies on a token (usually an impression ID) that the ad server generates. This token is then passed from the publisher site through the ad server to the advertiser's site who is responsible for remembering this pixel in order to report is back to the ad server in case of a conversion. This type of conversion tracking is currently used for advertisers that cannot rely on the user cookie at the time of the conversion. example cases can be that a conversion is logged after downloading a ringtone and so the conversion happens on a mobile phone who has no access to the cookie in the browser in which the user saw the ad. Another example is registration from within a downloaded software etc...
In these cases we report the conversion ("fire the pixel") from the advertiser server to the ad server directly without using the user's browser, hence the name "server side pixel". But as these pixels are the most reliable ones out of the three methods, we are starting to use them in situations that we do have cookie access and can use the browser for the reporting action and so the name "server side pixel" no longer describes the pixel accurately hence the new name - "token pixel".

The problems with these conversion tracking methods:
  1. The first two methods rely very heavily on cookies:
    Cookies are quite unreliable as many of the users block them altogether and many other erase them for various reasons. The average lifetime of a cookie is about 3 weeks and if the user either blocked the usage of third party cookies or deleted them between the time of the impression and the time of the conversion, there is no way to attribute this conversion to the impression that generated it and thus no way of optimizing it or paying the right vendor for it. In addition to that, regulations on cookie usage are constantly increasing, causing this technology to be less and less reliable for billing and optimizing.
  2. Duplication and de-duplication:
    The first two methods described above usually cause many duplication problems. A duplication problem is the problem of two service providers being assigned a single conversion (which means they will both get paid for it). This is a result of the very basic data that is saved on the cookie so that if a user encounters two banners for the same advertiser by two different ad networks/agencies/affiliate, they will both plant a cookie on this user's browser. Later on, when a conversion occurs, they will both claim ownership on this conversion (who is to say which banner really triggered the user to buy the product later on). De-duplication is the process of trying to diminish the number of duplications for an advertiser.
  3. http protocol:
    All three implementation methods described above use the http protocol to report the conversion. This protocol is the least reliable protocol available. It makes a call without knowing or verifying whether this call was actually received, it is not persistent with its data transfers and has very little error tracking and correcting and very basic hand-shake process. It is a session-less protocol relying basically on one-way communication.
  4. Poor implementation:
    Pixels are usually implemented on the advertiser's website by one of the low level programmers. This in no way insinuates that they are not good programmers, but definitely not the most experienced ones. On top of that, the whole implementation is usually carried our in low programming standards (like exception handling, error checks, return codes etc...) as this is the current implementation standard.
    I was talking to Mike Nolet of AppNexus about hiring programmers in NY and he told me that the banking industry is taking all the best programmers because they are dealing with financial transaction and there is no room for error there. Well guess what, conversions are financial transactions as well, so why are they dealt with usually by the lowest level of programmer in the advertiser's organization, and in such low programming standards?

Monday, August 16, 2010

UI and UX - Its all about feelings

In my first "real" post I want to write about a subject that I regard very highly and sadly enough sometimes considered out of the realm of a CTO, and that is UI (User interface) and UX (User Experience).

I believe that the user's experience while working with my application will ultimately determine its success just as much (or even more) as the actual performance of the application's main task (provided of course that the application works correctly).

A user's experience is made up mainly by the feeling that an application triggers within the user and so my main task when creating an application (once its basic functionality works) is to create that feeling which will open up the user to embrace the application and accept it and its possible faults. This is particularly true with new applications mainly by startup companies as these applications are sure to have many faults in them and it is very important to have the criticism of these faults made in a productive and constructive manner rather then in a "bitchy" way, since this initial criticism is so very extremely important to the success of any venture.

I have encountered during my professional life as an applications developer and manager so many applications whose only faults were bad (or actually not good enough) user experience and almost all of them failed whereas applications with many faults to begin with, but which were able to inspire the right feelings, were successful because they were given feedback and criticism but were also given a chance to correct.

So if you are about to develop a new application/website/feature, make sure you inspire the right feelings even for the price of one or two features.