Why Paywalls Don’t Work

I don’t have a problem with paying for quality content and I believe, a large number internet users don’t either. If millions of people used to pay to have their newspapers delivered, why shouldn’t that work in the internet age?

Especially in the last few years, with adblocker user base steadily increasing, online newspapers would try to fight back by setting up paywalls.

The general consensus is that people are just less willing to pay for things online. But online shopping is booming, so which is it? Is it because we’re talking about digital, intangible goods? Then why are people spending billions of dollars on coins for their social farming games? Other theories state that it’s a barrier between them and the user or an overabuncance of competitors and free offerings.

So even though publishers want to push for this model, they have to admit that it doesn’t work and take it down whenever they realize that someone actually wants to read their content.

Here’s my thesis about why paywalls really don’t work.


Dithering Explained – For Humans

Dithering is a technique used to mitigate the loss of depth in a quantization process of any signal and is often used in computer graphics to reduce the perception of “steps” and increase visual fidelity.

There are different approaches to this and the original concept is way older than computer graphics. However, even though it’s widely adopted, it often isn’t done right.

In principle, the idea is to apply noise to make use of spatial resolution to make up for the lack of depth-resolution. In computer graphics, this means that, if the color depth isn’t sufficient and you don’t have enough distinct colors at your disposal, you can scatter dots of different colors around your image to trick people’s perception into seeing more colors, because they “blend” colors together. Dithering works for systems where there’s a certain inertia in place – like the human eye.

The big fallacy here, however, is the assumption that noise can be applied after the quantization process. The Wikipedia article on this is technically correct, but potentially misleading.

The proper way to dither is to apply noise as part of the quantization process itself and keep the brightness values between the quantization values above and below the original value which I’ll explain here.


The vicious loop of urbanization and the internet

Urbanization is typically self-reinforcing.

People move to urban centers (or places convert into urban centers) because there is better infrastructure and coverage of services like education and shopping opportunities.

Parallel to that, whenever people are living close together, infrastructure and amenities can be more efficiently provided.

This means that urbanization leads to more urbanization.

As this New York Times article elaborated over 20 years ago, whenever there is a new technology that has the potential to shape landscapes, there are winners and losers.

When electricity was introduced, it was urban centers that were the first to get access to the power grid. Even running water was quickly picked up in developed countries hundreds of years ago and was an important milestone in development, both for health but also the economy (people spending less time fetching water).

In a historical context and especially considering their significance, the few decades these developments took are short.

However, considering the rapid technological developments at the moment, it needs to go way faster with access to broadband Internet.

Mainstream internet access has been around for 20 years, yet even in first-world countries like Germany, you can’t get broadband internet everywhere, but mostly in cities. As a result, companies that rely on connectivity, and with them, people, move into cities, abandoning the countryside.

Now here’s the catch… unlike electricity or running water, the technology evolves faster than it “dissolves” into the countryside. In theory, everything will eventually be available anywhere. But by the time it is, it’s already outdated.

I can’t believe, I’m writing this in 2018, but the Internet does need a little push for general availability, or the difference between urban centers and remove areas and with it the income gap will get worse.

(Image credit: NASA)

A toaster that's rendered obsolete because it, according to its large touch display, can't connect to the

obsolescence by software

As the software running the internet of things gets more and more complex, it won’t even require hardware failure to render our future cars, refrigerators or toasters obsolete.

VR bluescreen

Why the first VR format war is already decided

There were Head-tracking VR-Devices before. But now, the time seems to be right for a breakthrough. While I'll watch the race between the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony Playstation VR closely, I'll already declare a winner: Playstation VR.

It may sound absurd, given the theoretical technical advantage of its competitors. Not only the higher display resolution but larger computing power of desktop machines compared to the Playstation 4 should make the Rift and Vive superior choices. But, like previous format wars have shown, consumers don't necessarily make the technologically best choice. This doesn't mean they necessarily make the worse choice either. But here's the reason, why the Playstation VR will be the best choice for consumers.

plain text passwords…

Ok, It happened again. I registered at some website and they've sent me the password in plain text. Yes, this post was really written in 2015.

A Stack of reminders containing annoying internet related tasks

micro maintenance

The fact that something will "only take a couple of seconds"  is no excuse for disrupting the user experience and when considering to ask users for a favor, developers should not only think about what it means for their users, but what it would mean if similar products employed the same functionality.


A Chess Animation Generator for Autodesk Maya

This script for Autodesk Maya 2011 will read the notation of a chess game  and convert it to an animation.

You can simply get the notation of  a chess game (for example, from the OS X chess game app), do some search&replace, put the string in like 53 (hardcoded because i''m lazy :P) and run the script in the provided sample scene.

Feel free to replace the pieces with anything you like, but I provided a set of 3D chess pieces with the sample scene.

Download Chess Animation Generator for Autodesk Maya 2011

Why I print stuff

Let me, even as a justification to my inner geek, explain to you why I print things from the internet for myself.

Selling social, evolving games

Many video games are designed to evolve over time. The development process isn't finished once the game is released but is to be continued as long as there's demand. Most games designed that way are subscription-based online games. The demand can easily be foreseen by looking at the number of active subscriptions and the development of additional content and updates is funded by the subscription fees.

Until about 5 years ago, additional content for anything but MMORPGs was usually delivered by releasing a sequel to the first game, based on the same engine or by releasing an expansion pack.