Bill P. Godfrey et al


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Newgrounds and Me

I've mentioned the website Newgrounds a couple of times now, mostly in the context that I won't link to them when I do my Animated Short of the Week feature.

Newgrounds is a website where people can publish their flash files, including animations. Other people can then review them with the built in comment system. So long as your piece doesn't get too low a score, it can be used by animators as a free web host.

Sounds great, and yet I seem to have an obsessive compulsive hate of this website.

My aversion to all things Newgrounds started when I first saw a link to an animated version of a short-lived comic called Pupkin.

While I was watching it, I saw something I wasn't expecting. I had a minimised window called "Inbox" on my taskbar. At the time, I only used webmail and didn't have any mail readers installed, so this new presence on my computer got me worried. I fired up Adaware, a popular adware/spyware scanner and found that software from 180 Solutions was running.

I certainly don't recall clicking [Yes] to any Active-X dialog box or license agreement, but somehow this unwanted software was running on my computer. This was the first time I had ever even heard of Newgrounds and it felt like I was being welcomed to the community with a smack about the head.

Once I had cleaned up and calmed down a bit, I sent an email to someone at Newgrounds, asking them what had happened. I could forgive them if this was an accidental incident or resulting from misplaced trust, so long as they apologised for it and took steps to prevent it from happening again. (I have not yet heard a response.)

(It happens. About a year ago, techie news website The Register had an advertiser serving up the Bofra virus to readers. When they found out the problem, they fixed it. Once the dust had settled, they published a frank apology. No weasel words. I remain a happy reader.)

This was all around two years ago. I don't know if they are still serving up 180's software or not. As I don't have a sacrificial computer, I'm not about to visit them with a unpatched copy of Internet Explorer to find out.

(Update: Here's a Newgrounds BBS thread from someone also unhappy with this practice. Use it only at your own risk. BPG.)

Now, I'm in a concilitory mood. Linking to Newgrounds hosted animations is still problematic with their insistence on "launch pages", where visitors have to find and click on a "Watch this movie" button. I hate those, but if that were the only thing, I could work with them.

What's more, they have a couple of animators whose work I enjoy; Dustball (Play, American Idle) and Andrew Kepple (I've got some falling to do, Can O'Swedes). Both publish a lot of their work only on Newgrounds.

Should I forgive Newgrounds and link to them? Any (non-spam) comments are welcome.

9 Comments:

  • You'll only encourage them if you do that.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 10:42 AM, December 16, 2005  

  • Keep in mind, Newgrounds doesn't put the actual ads on the site, it's done through third party ad agencies. Recently, they have switched to Casale Media.

    It's on many other sites too. Most webmasters may not be even aware of it, as it is part of a rotation of advertisements with certain ad agencies. If you want to be mad at someone, be mad at 180 solutions for using such tactics.

    Moreover, the launch pages allow people to read the description of the animation or game, as well as view the score, reviews, etc. without having to load the movie unless they think it's worth watching. It saves viewers time and saves bandwidth, too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 7:56 PM, January 19, 2006  

  • From your (anonymous 1) description, the situations sounds comparable to the Register's inadvertant distribution of the Bofra virus.

    Have Newgrounds apologised for serving 180 software? I don't know. I've searched their site for a statement, but I may have missed it. They can make a statement in a comment here if they want to.

    Have they taken steps to stop it happening again? Switching ad providers sounds like such a step, score one point.

    Would they do it again if offered enough money? I don't know.

    As for the use of interstitial pages, I've got another article in the pipeline, watch this space.

    By Blogger Bill P. Godfrey, At 9:12 AM, January 20, 2006  

  • Hi, this is Dustball. It's funny, I happened to find this articel by being linked from Wikipedia so it was funny to find a reference to myself at the bottom. I just wanted to say that 1. I know that Tom has come a long way with his ads in the past year and I don't think he would intentionally put malicious ads on the site in the first place. That's a bummer that he didn't reply to you because he is actually a very friendly guy. 2. My movies are all available on my website www.cookiedoughrecords.com (unless they are brand new, then sometimes they are still just on Newgrounds) so you can watch them there all you want!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 8:40 AM, February 06, 2006  

  • Hi, long time NG user here. You really have a way of blaming others for your own laziness, basically. First you email Tom, who gets massive floods of mail daily (I'm talking thousands of emails), and like he's said on NG many times, his auto-filter deletes a lot of emails, so if you're having trouble contacting him or Wade, make sure you put "Newgrounds Help" in the subject line.

    You posted in your blog reply that if Tom wants to apologize, he can do it here. Yeah, I can see someone as busy as Tom going around making personal apologies for something he wasn't fully in control of, and probably alrady has apologized for publicly.

    Not to be crass about this though, Tom is a nice guy and apologizes when he can. You seek a public apology, well it's likely in the new archives. In the past 6 months or so, I can recall at least twice where he apologized for third-party ads doing unfriendly things like when he found out an ad was generating multiple pop ups (3-5) each time it was shown. I even recall him apologizing for a Flash ad that had an annoying sound in it!

    Tom's not unapproachable, and you have to do more than lie around waiting for him to come crawling on his knees to ask for your forgiveness. Just because he hasn't replied to your one email, and you never wanted to look for answers yourself (not sure why you'd use unpatched IE, or even IE, for that matter), you've held a big grudge against him for over two years. It's not up to Tom to seek you out personally and apologize. He's likely done so in the news, and if you can muster up the conviction, you can search through the news archives for yourself. Don't just sit there and cry. NewGrounds is a good site.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 1:03 PM, February 06, 2006  

  • Many thanks for responding.

    Searching google for site:newgrounds.com "180 solutions" brings up four results, three for the 180 Solutions: Kill The Sleaze Ads and one unrelated forum post. (No luck with similar searches. Ho hum.)

    If anyone has a link to a statement, please leave a comment or just mail me.

    By Blogger Bill P. Godfrey, At 9:58 PM, February 06, 2006  

  • Blame the third party advertisers, not NG. You seem to be avoiding this point.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11:33 PM, February 15, 2006  

  • Blame the third party advertisers, not NG. You seem to be avoiding this point.

    I can accept that the advertisers may have served up 180's software without Newgrounds admins knowing about it. (This situation would be similar to the Register's Bofra incident.)

    Once Newgrounds became aware of 180's software being served to visitors, did Newgrounds;
    A. Cut off the third party advertiser at thier first opportunity. Or...
    B. Let it continue.

    If A, great. I'd be surprised if this were the case as I could find complaints made over the course of a year. But still, if it really did take a year to find out what was happening to their visitors, I can forgive that.

    If B, they knowingly allowed 180's software to be served to their visitors. Was this because;

    C. They disagree that it is a problem. Or...
    D. They do feel it was a problem, but "hey, we get paid for each install".

    If C, and they've changed their minds, great! Show me an apology and we'll move on.

    If C, but they've not changed their minds, there is hope yet.

    If D, they can go do something unpleasently biological.

    By Blogger Bill P. Godfrey, At 8:10 PM, February 23, 2006  

  • Well, I can't say as to the exact timing of when the ads were pulled, but I can frankly say that, even using a standard IE browser, I've been visiting Newgrounds frequently for over a year now, and never have received any spyware.

    Outside the front page, each page only has one or two banner ads, which is quite remarkable, considering the site goes through several terabytes of bandwidth a day.

    Compare that, say to, Atom Films or Ebaumsworld.

    Moreover, NG uses some of the banner ads for it's own use, to advertise work of people who regularly submit to the site, and even offer $250 cash prizes to the authors of the best 10 flashes and a random user every month!

    It still seems a little silly to not take into consideration many very talented authors and works over what is essentially, an isolated one time incident.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 7:47 AM, March 05, 2006  

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