USS Pioneer: These are the voyages of a LightWave starship model I released…

In 2007 I made my own Star Trek starship in LightWave 3D. I’d made a few others before, but this one became a labour of love. The USS Pioneer had a lot of little details, some subtle textures and a fairly elaborate lighting rig designed to make renders look good. The ship was intended to be an earlier-era version of the Constellation class starship.

When it was finished I released it1 for others to use. Then I forgot about it! This is my own rendering of the ship from that time:

USS Pioneer

I also made a video rendering2 showing off the animated textures and shuttlebay doors (the model includes a shuttlebay interior).


Seven years later…

Last night I was Googling my username, as you do, and I saw an image I hadn’t seen before:

A Light in the Darkness by Rob Caswell (April 2012)

A Light in the Darkness by RobCaswell

Someone liked my ship enough to make a nice rendering of it! The comments are amusing too. Not all are complementary as the 4-nacelle configuration divides opinion amongst Treknologists, and as someone put it: “My, what big nacelles she has!”. Later still Rob quips “When you turn the speed dial all the way, it goes to ‘Warp 11’.”

The big engines were quite deliberate. I imagined this ship as a fast response vessel of some kind, but looking at it again I would probably make them a bit smaller. But for every person who didn’t like the concept for its imagined technical rule breaking, there is someone who likes the design. In fact, there seems to be a few big fans of it.

Then I carried on looking to see if there were any more images of my ship out there. Turns out that Rob Caswell had made quite a few…

See more cool USS Pioneer renderings →

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Does Internet advertising work at all?

The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson asks a dangerous question: Does Internet advertising work at all? My gut answer is that it can’t be terribly effective. Thompson sums up my personal instinct about advertising perfectly: “We seek information, so we’re more likely to trust it; marketing seeks us, so we’re more likely to distrust it.”1

Also, online advertising is plagued with problems like misleading stats reporting and the ‘I-was-gonna-buy-it-anyway bias’:

Let’s say I want to buy a pair of glasses. I live in New York, where people like Warby Parker. I’ve shopped for glasses at Warby Parker’s website. Facebook knows both of these things. So no surprise that today I saw a Warby Parker sponsored post on my News Feed.

Now, let’s say I buy glasses from Warby Parker tomorrow. What can we logically conclude? That Facebook successfully converted a sale? Or that the many factors Facebook considered before showing me that ad—e.g.: what my friends like and my past shopping behavior—are the same factors that might persuade anybody to buy a pair of glasses long before they signed into Facebook?

Maybe Facebook has mastered the art of using advertising to convert sales. Or maybe it’s mastered the art of finding people who were going to buy certain items anyway and showing them ads after they already made their decision. My bet is that the answer is (a) somewhere in the middle and (b) devilishly hard to accurately measure.

Nothing in this article was surprising, but it did make me wonder if this might be the most effective way to fight to get our online privacy back? In other words, rather than fighting Google or Facebook et al, why not reveal how ineffective the kind of crappy advertising that has made those companies some of the biggest in the world really is? If that money falls away, so will these corporate surveillance industries.


Dat footnote

  1. However, I do think that ‘brand awareness’ is a powerful side effect of good advertising, but this is hard to achieve with text ads or even flashing banners and annoying popovers.