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Question

Dear Mitch,

I think I understand why you want to wait another couple of days to reveal the correct answer to the St. Patrick's Day balance scale problem, especially since many schools just got back rom Spring break and are in the midst of various standardized tests that high school and middle school teachers have to take now, so I won't push you to do that earlier than you planned.

However, after taking a short break myself from the Internet myself, I now see that since I last logged onto your site a change has ocurred:   You now accept advertisements.  One of my colleagues pointed out that by doing so you would be able to keep the site completely free to anyone who wishes to find your great questions and answers, but there was one thing about the ads that did surprise me.

I coun't help but notice that many of the ads are from direct competitors of your site and/or direct competitiors of the private services you have offered from time to time to students applying to college or taking standardized tests, etc.  Are the ads within your control, or does google or some other company post whoever pays the highest price without running it past you first?

Just curious,

Jack C.

Answer

Dear Jack C.,

You are correct regarding my holding off on revealing the solution to the St. Patrick's Day balance scale problem, though I think another few days or so should be plenty of time; I will then reveal the solution as well as show you (and everyone else) how I managed to arrive at it.

The advertisements....

Yes, you are very perceptive, and I was shocked at how many regular readers wrote in with questions and comments about all sorts of things related to math and some of the other fields I address, with only a few either noting or taking the time to comment on the left-hand margin's array of advertisements.  (Perhaps they are so used to seeing such advertisements on virtually every site the Internet hosts that they have become almost blind to them -- though I gather they are being opened and read more than I would have predicted, so 'blind' or not, such advertising obviously works.)

To answer your question specifically, you are correct:  I have very litle control over who gets their advertisement posted on one of the thousand or so pages this site contains, though a friend who helps me out from time to time was wise enough to check off a few boxes to assure that nothing inappropriate for an educational site would ever show up.

As far as the advertisements of direct competitors, I welcome them, as competition makes everyone more likely to perform at his or her best. And, to be honest, so far the ones that have appeared, or, at least the ones I've noticed in one of the margins, do not frighten me in the least!

Hoping this answers your question,

Mitch