Is allowing users to submit ads going to be a problem?
September 21, 2010 2:31 PM   Subscribe

[Web dev filter] I work for a small parenting publication that uses advertising on the website. My boss wants me to create an online system where a user can upload an image, choose from a number of different options (length of time the ad will stay up, number of pages on the site it will appear on, etc), then check out using PayPal. Am I crazy to think that there will be many problems down the road with this?

My boss got this idea from a website similar to ours, but they have since removed the feature from their site. It seems to me that they must have run into some problems that caused them to decide it wasn't worth it, and to just allow customers to interact with the sales reps (which is what my boss is trying to avoid).

I guess I don't have a real basis for my concerns, except that my rule for my boss as the sole web developer in this company is generally "if you don't see it anywhere else on the web, there's a reason". This occasionally shuts down his wackier ideas. This idea of his is not going away, though. Does anyone else have any experience with a system like this, either as a customer or a developer? Can you think of ways people could exploit the system? Is there a different, automated system out there that would save me the trouble of trying to build this from scratch?
posted by coupdefoudre to Technology (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There are lots of commercial ad servers out there. Why do you think it will be so easy to rebuild one? Why not use OpenX? Running ads is about a lot more than just uploading the images. The reporting part alone will kill you.
posted by GuyZero at 2:36 PM on September 21, 2010

Or better yet, why do you think you can consistently generate higher revenues than AdSense?
posted by GuyZero at 2:37 PM on September 21, 2010

Yeah, trying to rig up your own advertising network is like brewing your own cola. Just grab a can of Coke/AdSense.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:43 PM on September 21, 2010

Are there images you would not want to see published on the webpage? Like a picture of a naked 14 year old? Or someone's butt?
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:44 PM on September 21, 2010

Also, do you trust your ad-buyers to be knowledgable enough to know what size and resolution their image should be? If not you'll be dealing with a lot of frustrating mop-up on that front.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:46 PM on September 21, 2010

I know absolutely nothing about web development or advertising, but right off the top of my head I question the idea that you will have no filtering going on, and anyone can upload completely inappropriate ads. By inappropriate I don't just mean porn, but crap quality images with mis-spellings and errors that in turn reflect poorly on your website.
posted by Joh at 3:00 PM on September 21, 2010

Can you think of ways people could exploit the system?

If they go up immediately and automatically, people can exploit it in *lots* of ways by uploading all sorts of pornographic and inappropriate content.
posted by Netzapper at 3:01 PM on September 21, 2010

Unless you are manually reviewing every single submission, you will get:
a) porn. a lot of porn.
b) other worse things. There are worse things.

In addition, unless you're very careful with your coding, when you let the public upload things you will open yourself up to hosting cross-site scripting, various viruses, trojans, etc.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:11 PM on September 21, 2010

I'd strongly adivse you to check out project wonderful. It's an advertising service that essentially puts advertising space on your website up for auction; displaying the adds of whoever is the highest bidder at any given time. From what I've heard its a really good way to have direct interaction with advertisers. Good luck!
posted by sarastro at 3:26 PM on September 21, 2010

My boss got this idea from a website similar to ours, but they have since removed the feature from their site. It seems to me that they must have run into some problems that caused them to decide it wasn't worth it, and to just allow customers to interact with the sales reps (which is what my boss is trying to avoid).

It could be, too, that this other site had a problem with their ad system and had to take it down. For example, OpenX, a popular free ad server, has had recent security problems complete with exploits.

Which means you should be asking the question, "Am I smarter than the people developing OpenX? Do I know more about producing a system without vulnerabilities?".

It's not *that* hard of a problem, but why do something that someone else has already done? At least, not if your core business is "disseminating parenting information to get eyeballs to sell to advertisers", and not "selling ad server software".
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 3:39 PM on September 21, 2010

> choose from a number of different options (length of time the ad will stay up, number of pages on the site it will appear on, etc)

This is the key problem. How will the system arbitrate between different people's wishes? Say everybody wants to be on the site all the time -- how do you solve that? Say everyone wants to advertise nine to five, Monday to Friday, what will fill the blank hole in your website over the weekend? What stops a page having four ads, all for exactly the same thing, which looks weird to users and doesn't really benefit advertisers either?

As everyone else has said, these are all solved problems you shouldn't be re-solving. You need OpenX, or similar, which you will administer, to do the ads.

If you want to create a submission system to make it slightly easier for advertisers to send you their graphics, and express their wish-list for where and when the ads will appear, that's great, but that's really just a utility to make the customer relationship easier. In no way should you give the customers control over your server.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:55 PM on September 21, 2010

I use OIO Publisher and it is fantastic - and you approve ads before they go live, so that gets rid of the 'porn' problem.
posted by thatone at 4:19 PM on September 21, 2010

I guess I left some key info out.
1 - porn going up immediately will not be a problem - there will be oversight and approval before the ad goes up. Customers will not control the server - although the boss wants uploaded graphics and info to be inserted directly into our live database so that approval can be one-click. I have a big problem with this, but having a hard time explaining it to him.
2 - openx is not really an option at this point - when I came into this company about a year ago, they had just launched a privately-built (error-ridden, awful, horrible) web system, including ad management.

I'm sorry this is confusing. I am confused. I hate this project and I am looking for ways to get it called off. Essentially I need to build a submission system, like AmbroseChapel says, for advertisers to submit their info. I suppose I can create a form, have the info emailed to someone at my company (including graphic as an attachment), and have them manually upload all the info once the see that the paypal transaction went through.

Thanks for all the feedback. ITA that I am NOT smarter than the OpexX guys, etc, nor do I have any desire to do that amount of work.
posted by coupdefoudre at 5:20 PM on September 21, 2010

AmbroseChapel has a really good point. Inventory management is a huge problem that ad networks solve for you.

This solution doesn't even keep your customers from having to deal with sales reps. If they are paying a set amount for a spot rather than paying for click they are not going to buy it without knowing more about the site. They will want to know your customer demographics, your traffic on the page they are buying the ad on, the CTR of previous placements, whatever. Why don't you ask the sales reps why this is a bad idea? They're the ones who are doing the work your boss thinks he can get rid of. I'm sure they'll tell you about all the questions they get and the customers who think they can scan their Yellow Pages ad and send it to them for placement on the site.
posted by phoenixy at 5:29 PM on September 21, 2010

Definitely use Project Wonderful. That's exactly what they do - allow users to upload their own ads and pay via PayPal. Meanwhile the ads go into a queue that someone can approve.

It's all the functionality you want, with none of the useless duplication of effort.
posted by ErikaB at 8:43 PM on September 21, 2010

It seems like it would take an awful long time to build what he's talking about, and that's time taking you away from other work you could be doing for him. I'd explain what the proven alternatives are, then explain how much time it will take you to get just to that point - with the end benefit being that you're pretty much at the same point that the proven alternative would get you to (at square one).

Plus it will take up more time than if the sales reps just interacted with the advertisers - some actual contact will stop some issues before they even start - because someone still has to manually review things. So it's your time to build this and test it, and someone else's time to review everything submitted.

I am not sure what his goal is - does he just like the idea of building these systems because it's kind of a cool idea? Does he hope to eventually sell them to someone else? Whatever his goal is, you should probably take that into account when you give him reasons why this won't work.
posted by mrs. taters at 6:18 AM on September 22, 2010

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