How To Turn Off Every Annoying Notification, Fake News Site, Advert and Political Post In Google Chrome

Lately, news websites and blogs have got very ‘creative’ about how they get our attention.

Browsing the web means having to put up with endless pop-up email newsletter subscribe forms, requests to enable notifications, and autoplaying videos. I hate these things with a passion.

In this post, I’m going to show how to turn these things off in Google Chrome.

Turn Off Autoplaying Videos

News websites like CNN and the Daily Mail have recently started adding auto-playing videos to their site. This is no doubt so they can tell advertisers how popular their video content is, despite the fact that very few of us are paying any attention to it at all. For me, there is nothing more annoying than trying to read a news article whilst hearing a reporter yammering away in the background, so I’d prefer to turn these things off.

The best way to turn off autoplaying videos in Chrome is with the HTML5 Video Autoplay plugin for Chrome and Firefox.

  1. Go to the ‘HTML5 Video Autoplay’ extension in the Chrome and Firefox Extension stores
  2. Enable the extension

This extension does have the effect of blocking some things you might prefer to see (it blocks videos / GIFs on Twitter, for instance). If that’s the case, you can enable videos on a per-site basis by clicking on the extension in the top right of the screen and clicking enable.

Turn Off Notification Requests

Chrome recently added a feature where websites could ask you to be sent a notification when they publish new content. Not only are these super annoying, I’ve sometimes ended up subscribing to notifications by accident just to get rid of the dialog box. I can’t see personally why anyone would want this feature, so I disable it as soon as I install Chrome on a new computer.

  1. Type chrome://settings/ into the Address bar
  2. Click on ‘Advanced’
  3. Click on ‘Content Settings’
  4. Click on ‘Notifications’
  5. Change the toggle to ‘Blocked’

Turn Off Location Requests

For some reason, websites have now also started asking for your location. While I can understand how this might have its uses for some websites (so Google Maps can use your current location for directions), it’s simply not a piece of information that most websites need to know. As with Notification Requests, it’s also something that you may end up enabling by accident just to get rid of the notification.

Disabling location requests is simple:

  1. Type chrome://settings/ into the Address bar
  2. Click on ‘Advanced’
  3. Click on ‘Content Settings’
  4. Click on ‘Location’
  5. Change the toggle to ‘Blocked’

Block Popup ‘Email Subscribe’ Modals

Popup ‘Email subscribe forms’ are probably my least favourite thing on the Internet. I’ve never subscribed to someone’s email from them, and I almost certainly don’t want the crappy ‘eBook’ that comes with it. They’re increasingly hard to close down as well.

Blocking email subscribe modals is (unfortunately) not quite foolproof, as they all work in a slightly different way. The best thing I’ve found, however (and I’ve tried a few), is the Poper Blocker extension for Chrome.

  1. Go to Poperblocker.com
  2. Click on the big button to enable the extension.

Poper Blocker automatically removes all ad pop ups, pop unders, and overlays, and works by far the best of any I’ve tried.

Install AdBlock

While strictly not a type of notification, site can sometimes load literally hundreds of ad trackers while you are using them, slowing down your browsing experience and draining your battery.

I prefer to nuke advertising trackers from orbit, so install two trackers, uBlock Origin and Ghostery. I don’t use AdBlock Plus as I’ve found that it slows down my machine, and ABP also has a ‘Acceptable Ads’ program that allows people who pay them money to let their ads through the firewall.

How to Install Ghostery Adblock

  1. Go to the ‘Ghostery’ extension in the Chrome and Firefox Extension stores
  2. Enable the extension

How to Install uBlock Origin Adblock

  1. Go to the ‘uBlock Origin’ extension in the Chrome and Firefox Extension stores
  2. Enable the extension

Block Fake News Sites

While you’re at it, you may wish to go ahead and block Fake News websites too.

Fake News Blocker uses a crowdsourced list of so-called ‘fake news’ websites that publish falsified news with either monetary intent or the intent to spread misinformation.

If you happen upon one of these sites with the Fake News Blocker plugin installed you’ll get a notification alerting you that the current page has been known to publish fake news.

How to Install Fake News Blocker

  1. Go to the ‘Fake News Blocker’ extension in the Chrome and Firefox Extension stores
  2. Enable the extension

How to Install B.S. Detector (also works in social media feeds)

Seen as Facebook doesn’t seem to want to carry out a Fake News flag itself, B.S. Detector is a useful detector of Fake News and conspiracy sites that also works in social media feeds.

  1. Go to the ‘B.S. Detector’ extension in the Chrome store.
  2. Enable the extension

Block Politics From Social Media

Over the last year, our social media feeds have become overloaded with politics, depressing stories and negativity.

While this is okay in moderation, there’s a lot of research now to suggest that social media actually makes us sad and might not actually be all that good for us.

The very useful SadBlock extension helps cut down on these kinds of stories by blocking posts that include common key phrases associated with politics and negativity on Twitter, Reddit and Facebook.

Best of all, you can toggle SadBlock off if you want a dose of the real world again.It runs entirely in the background, and you’re not even aware it’s running.

How to Install SadBlock

  1. Go to the ‘SadBlock’ extension in the Chrome store (sadly there doesn’t seem to be an equal for Firefox)
  2. Enable the extension

Which Tools Do You Use?

It’s sad that it now takes as many as five browser extensions to make actually browsing the web tolerable.

This should be a wake up call to websites to clean up their act, really.No doubt there are other annoyances that I haven’t covered here. Which extensions are your favourites?

 

Russian operatives used Facebook ads to exploit divisions over Black Lives Matter and Muslims

By Adam Entous, Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin in the Washington Post:

The batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook is preparing to turn over to Congress shows a deep understanding of social divides in American society, with some ads promoting African American rights groups including Black Lives Matter and others suggesting that these same groups pose a rising political threat, say people familiar with the covert influence campaign.

The Russian campaign — taking advantage of Facebook’s ability to send contrary messages to different groups of users based on their political and demographic characteristics — also sought to sow discord among religious groups. Other ads highlighted support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women.

Is anyone really surprised?

The right has its own version of political correctness

Alex Nowrasteh in the Washington Post:

But conservatives have their own, nationalist version of PC, their own set of rules regulating speech, behavior and acceptable opinions. I call it “patriotic correctness.” It’s a full-throated, un-nuanced, uncompromising defense of American nationalism, history and cherry-picked ideals. Central to its thesis is the belief that nothing in America can’t be fixed by more patriotism enforced by public shaming, boycotts and policies to cut out foreign and non-American influences.

I’m sick of your bad takes about Toys R’Us

Some people have turned Toys R’ Us impending bankruptcy into an opportunity to pontificate on socio-economic matters, using the collapse of a frankly tired retail franchise to signal about the direction of society as a whole.

Take this sentimental bilge from Alberto Brea on LinkedIn, which I will then take apart line by line.

Did video games and Amazon kill Toys R’ US?
Toys R’ Us kill itself with bad customer experience.

Toys R’ Us declared bankruptcy on Monday.
This is a BIG DEAL, the largest ever by a specialty retailer.
What happens next will determine the future of the company’s 64,000 employees and nearly 1,600 stores.

Today people go to a toy store for the experience, not just the product.
They want to learn the latest games.
They want to interact with the product at a whole new level- augmented reality video games.
They want to have fun in the store, even host birthday parties.
They want to engage with knowledgeable employees, who are passionate about games.
They want to buy simple, not do lines.
They want frictionless experiences that bridge the online and physical world.

Toys R’ Us feels old, dirty, disorganized, overwhelming and overpriced.

As a father of a 6-year-old, I am always playing or looking for new toys.
We all have a kid in us. We stop growing because we stop playing.

I’d love for Toys R’ Us to reimagine the future of toy stores.
A magical place to let your imagination run wild and have fun.

Feeling suitably inspired and engaged? Here we go.

Did video games and Amazon kill Toys R’US?

An opening gambit, but I have a feeling that Brea isn’t going to be answering this in the affirmative.

Toys R’ Us kill itself (sic) with bad customer experience.

Hmm so Toys ‘R Us bankruptcy has nothing at all to do with the fact that kids now have tens of thousands of games available to them through a smartphone, for free?

Little Timmy is really saying to mommy “Mommy, Toys R’ Us really aren’t doing enough to engage me through their multichannel customer experience?” Or is this going to be an extended treatise where you hem and haw about customer experience for a bit before giving us a totally shoehorned solution?

Toys R’ Us declared bankruptcy on Monday.

Actually, TRU filed for bankruptcy protection. When you get your facts wrong in the first sentence, it’s not an encouraging start.

This is a BIG DEAL, the largest ever by a specialty retailer.

I’m not sure why Brea wants to separate out “specialty retailers” or how this is in any way more significant than the wider “retail apocalypse” that’s happening, and Brea sure as hell isn’t going to tell us. Anyway, if you hadn’t noticed, lots of retailers are going bust at the moment.

What happens next will determine the future of the company’s 64,000 employees and nearly 1,600 stores.

I’m guessing they should start looking for other work.

Today people go to a toy store for the experience, not just the product.

That’s nice, but if people go to Toys R’ Us for the experience and then buy the product somewhere else, that doesn’t really help Toys R’Us much does it?

They want to learn the latest games.

They have them on their phone.

They want to interact with the product at a whole new level- augmented reality video games.

Toss a few buzzwords in there, why the hell not?

They want to have fun in the store, even host birthday parties.

No-one has ever wanted to host their birthday party at a shop.

They want to engage with knowledgeable employees, who are passionate about games.

Or they can read hundreds of online reviews from people who have actually used the product.

They want to buy simple, not do lines.

This is kind of the thing driving people to Amazon in the first place.

They want frictionless experiences that bridge the online and physical world.

And what better place to do that than a bricks-and-mortar store?

Toys R’ Us feels old, dirty, disorganized, overwhelming and overpriced.

Oh shit, I wonder why no-one wants to host their birthday party there?

As a father of a 6-year-old, I am always playing or looking for new toys. We all have a kid in us. We stop growing because we stop playing.

Nothing in this sentimental mush speaks to why people would buy things from Toys R’Us.

I’d love for Toys R’ Us to reimagine the future of toy stores.
A magical place to let your imagination run wild and have fun.

I am sick to death of this “retail stores need to re-imagine themselves as experiences” line that gets trotted out every time a retail store goes south.

First of all, what if you sell fridges, or carburetors? Are you going to try to give me a white-goods based sensory experience? Second, no kid *wants* to be driven to an out of town aircraft hangar style retail store to play with some overpriced Lego when they have Snapchat and Candy Crush sitting right in front of them.

Every time the concept has been tried, it’s failed. HMV gave it a bloody good go, going as far as to buy out music venues and open their own cinemas. And every time it fails, the analysts just say “oh, it wasn’t executed right”. It’s an idea that exists only in the mind of analysts and it falls apart every time it comes into contact with the real world.

Toys R’Us is a corporate bankruptcy. They happen all the time. Usually when executives try to force their vision of the world onto a customer who doesn’t want it all that much.

So turn up, ride the bikes round the store one last nostalgic time, and then watch a franchise you didn’t care about all that much slide into oblivion.

Response from Tom Goodwin on LinkedIn:

Totally with you. The reality is the retail as experiences costs an absolute fortune to do and in tier one cities can just about work, or if you sell ACG items over $700 at 50% margin ( hello Apple) it works. But this idea that stores can become places people can love all aspects of shopping and be a treat to look forward to at the weekend, just won’t work outside a few freak cases. It’s certainly worth stores getting modern, having amazing apps and good website, training staff better, but retail is just really really hard and its nothing like as simple as everyone on this thread assumes. It’s a great goal but it’s not easy. Especially paying over $1m per day in debt interest per year.

 

 

The PR Agency is dead

I have a fondness for PR. PR gave me my first break into the media. It allowed me to meet many amazing people along the way. But PR is dying.

The demise of Bell Pottinger encapsulates broadly what has happened with PR for a while:  that the era of “getting the word out” either via Press Releases, boozy lunches, backroom deals or glamorous events, is coming to an end.

Bell Pottinger is a high-profile casualty of these changes, but the agency is the symptom and not a cause of an industry that has allowed itself to grow lazy and complacent and which has consistently refused to upskill to meet the demands of the digital age.

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It looked for a while like social media might offer a brief respite, or a new opportunity to beleaguered PR agencies. But after the first novelty, people’s appetite for branded schlep and gimmicky ‘activations’ wore thin.

Brands themselves also discovered that they could pay to reach people themselves using Facebook Ads or Google AdWords. And that these campaigns often delivered more measurable return on investment than anything the agencies had served up.

And for all the bluster about becoming more “data driven” and “branded storytelling”, nothing ever seemed to come of it. While brands and digital agencies were racing off into the sunset with techniques like retargeting and embracing tools like Google Data Studio and Tableau, PR agencies were uploading a video to YouTube and calling it a multimedia strategy.

Ah but influencer marketing! Ah but no. Much as the PR industry would like another set of gatekeepers to glom to, it turns out the secret to engaging influencers is … to pay them a lot of money. Then they might tweet about you. Or something. You’re not really sure what you get actually, and they can’t  tell you. It doesn’t just offer false hope, it reincarnates the same problems PR has had all along.

In response to the Bell Pottinger case, the PRCA ‘issued a statement’ (how else?) saying that “The PRCA has never before passed down such a damning indictment of an agency’s behaviour.” The industry will then go back to pretending nothing has happened.

The tide of Press Releases that no-one will reads will continue, hacks will continue to “sell in” non-stories that boost a client’s ego but have no impact on the business, and people will continue to tweet their stupid photo’s from award shows attended only by their friends.

Stick a fork in PR, it’s done.