This entry has been sitting in my drafts for the better part of the year. I feel that it is about time to publish it.
Last fall, the Harvard Crimson, the most popular daily on campus, redesigned their website. From a web designer's perspective, the new website was not that much better than the old one - it still uses tables, has completely non-standards compliant HTML, and does not make good use of CSS stylesheets. It is also difficult to navigate. In fact, the only good thing I have to say about the redesign is the fact that there are now official RSS feeds. Unfortunately, nobody in the Crimson's IT department thought to add the few lines of code that would make them auto-discoverable.
But such concerns are trivial when compared to the main problem with the Crimson's website. While this issue actually predates the fall redesign, I had hoped that a new website would resolve it. Unfortunately, it seems that my hopes were misplaced.
The story starts last May. Firefox developer Blake Ross, angered at the willingness of certain college newspapers to whore out their websites in order to get advertising revenue called out several websites, including that of the Harvard Crimson (see his initial post here). Believing that the administrators of the Crimson website were decent people, I emailed them last summer, hoping that this issue had not occurred to them. I received no response.
I am not generally one to complain about advertising, partially because I use the Adblock extension in Firefox, and partially because I realize that advertising is necessary for several of the websites I visit (the Weblogs Network, for example). But the ads that are on the Crimson's website are fucking ridiculous. It would be one thing if the advertisers there were advertising on the Crimson's website in order to attract Harvard students or other readers. Instead, it is clear that they are solely interested in a higher PageRank.
For example, here are some of the page I found after clicking on advertisments: