TV Tropes/The Situation

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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This page is about the very earliest events which eventually led to the original TV Tropes Wiki's enthusiastic embrace of censorship as a way of keeping the money rolling in life. It is maintained here as a historical record. All links to the TV Tropes Forums are retained for the morbidly curious, although there is no guarantee that they still exist, thanks to constant Stalinization. TV Tropes has always been at war with Eastasia.

— The Mgmt.


The problems have been addressed; all is well

  • The TV Tropes web site depends on advertisement revenue to cover operating costs
  • Google AdSense is the chief ad provider
  • Google AdSense prohibits "mature and adult content"
  • Some of the site content tripped Google's radar
  • Google disabled ad serving, cutting off ad revenue (October 26th, 2010)
  • Panic ensued (along with some saner responses, fortunately)
  • Fast Eddie wrote a lot of code quickly
  • Potentially NSFG (Not Safe For Google) content was moved behind the Curtain (a click-through confirmation system)
  • Google restored ad serving; ad revenue is resumed (November 9th, 2010)

The above came to be known as The Situation and The Google Incident. Also known as The Strange Case of the Missing Ads, named after the thread that started it all. Not to be confused with the other Situation. Read below for the gory details.

Other Things Of Note

The Gory Details

The Plan

  1. The button to pass through the curtain by default is on the profile pages and working.
  2. Every page has a "Report This Article" button on it.
    • It's on the sidebar, immediately below the "Toys" button.
    • If the "Report This Article" button has a blue circle-M icon, it is already on the NSFG side of the curtain.
    • Clicking that button opens a window asking for a reason. Please give us a coherent reason to move the page. It will make things go much more easily if we don't have to guess what you saw.
    • Use the report button if you think a page that's already on the NSFG side should be moved back to the SFG side as well. Again, give us a coherent reason.
  1. Any Troper can report any page; any mod can isolate it. Reporting a page does not automatically put it behind the NSFG curtain; a mod will have to do that.
  2. Any new page launched will be automatically put on the NSFG side until a mod can vett it. Better to be safe than sorry. The mods have an automatically updating list of new pages, and will do their utmost to check them in a reasonable amount of time after launch.
  3. The ads we are currently running sitewide are from Casale Media and Amazon. Casale does run both pop-ups and pop-unders; we are negotiating to have the pop-unders limited as to how many each user will get in any 24-hour period. We are also still continuing to look at other ad providers as well.
  4. All discussion pages, all reviews, and the forums are behind the curtain.
  5. Turn off anonymous editing in the wiki. This is so that we can tell Google, "See, we do have standards, and we can identify and take action against people who violate them." This has already been implemented.
    1. To make a edit on a wiki or discussion page, or to post in the forums, you must agree to our TOS [1] and Get Known.
    2. You will have to do the "I agree" thing for each computer (not IP) you use to get to the site. It's a cookie thing. If you delete your cookies at the end of each browser session, you will have to re-agree each time you log in.
    3. We still don't require an e-mail address; there's no confirmation email rigamarole. Just make a handle and enter a password and you're Known. Don't use punctuation, special characters, or non-alphanumeric characters in either one; doing so just causes problems.
  1. Segregate "adult and mature content" behind some sort of barrier that you will have to explicitly agree to go through. This has been implemented.
    1. This will probably be set up as a simple warning page that the page you are about to go to may contain "adult or mature content" and a button to click stating that 'Yes, I get it, and I want to go there anyway'.
    2. Known Tropers will be able to set their profiles to opt-past this warning, meaning that the barrier will be completely transparent for them when they are logged in.
    3. Pages behind this barrier will still have ads; they will simply be provided by some other adserver than Google Adsense.
    4. The forums will also be behind this barrier.
    5. Once the wall is in place, every page will have a "Flag This Page" button. Users will be able to flag a page that they think should be moved to the other side of the wall.
  1. Nofollow tags will be attached to outbound links on wiki pages. This is an invisible-to-users tag that tells the Ad Server "The following link goes somewhere that isn't us. Don't hold us responsible for their content."
  1. Find additional and/or replacement revenue sources.
    1. Other sources of ads. We're giving Casale a try right now. We are also considering using Amazon Associates. Other suggestions are welcome; please add them on the discussion page for this page (the little orange speech bubble icon at the top of the page will take you there.)

      As of early October 29th, Casale is looking like it might deliver. Insufficient data to be certain yet, (less than one day, and not including the most important part of the day, at that) but it appears to be getting close to the numbers Adsense was producing. Admin says "If we see the Casale numbers getting up close enough to the Adsense numbers, Adsense can take a long hike over a high cliff. "

      As of November 4th, Casale is doing well, but not well enough to take over completely.
    2. A Donation Button is already set up if you'd like to throw some money at us directly. (PayPal will take their little slice, and sometimes has problems with folks outside of the US. It may not let you donate. We're sorry about that.)
    3. This may eventually include TV Tropes merchandise, probably through a POD company like Zazzle, Printfection or Cafe Press. This option is being discussed here, in the forum. If you are interested in helping out, go there. We've got lots of ideas; what we really need are artists or designers and people who are good at organizing. (Not that we'll turn away more ideas, of course)
    • Merch Update: Oct 29, 9:30 PM server time: A crowner is now attached to that thread. Vote for the ideas you'd most like to see (or even better, be willing to buy) on t-shirts.
    • Second Merch Update: November 4th The Zazzle store is now up and running.

The Frequently Asked Questions

  • How dire is the situation, really? Is TV Tropes going to have to shut down or cut way back?
    • We have an operating-fund buffer that's good for about a month. If we haven't found a satisfactory solution by then, we'll have to cut back on the parts that are fun but not essential to the wiki's central mission of cataloging tropes.
  • Site X has NSFW content and they have Google Ads. How come they can and TV Tropes can't?
    • We got audited by a human and they haven't been yet. The most likely explanation for that is that someone officially complained to Google about something here. Also, many sites either use multiple ad providers or use some sort of segregation scheme similar to what we're building.
  • Have you considered switching to [X] ad provider?
    • We are looking at a number of ad providers. The problem is that we've been upleveling with Google Ads for 5 years now and we've moved up their rate chart considerably from the just-starting-out rate. We aren't going to get the same rate as a new account from anybody else. If there's one out there that you think is a good bet, please tell us about it on the discussion page.
    • What about Project Wonderful?
      • We tried Project Wonderful for two months; in that time they produced roughly the same ad revenue as Google does in a couple of hours.
  • How much money do you need, anyway?
    • While the admins haven't (and probably won't) make exact figures public, they have said "The operating budget is thousands per month." If it gives you a ballpark, our average daily pageviews are typically over 2,500,000 going up to 5,000,000 on certain days.
  • How about donations?
    • Donations are always accepted; you can make a donation from here. However, we simply can't run on donations alone. There is also a Paypal button on your user profile page.
  • Why isn't the donation button more prominent?
    • In the past, there have been issues with vandals donating small amounts and then immediately requesting a refund which almost caused TV Tropes to lose our PayPal account. The matter of how to make the button easier to find while still disallowing this is currently under consideration, but frankly, it's not a top priority right now.

The Good News

9th Nov '10 10:43:11 AM: Fast Eddie quotes Google:

It has come to our attention that ad serving was disabled to your site without proper notification. We have investigated the issue and it appears that a technical error in our back-end caused the notification failure. In addition, generally similar cases like yours will receive a notification requesting publishers to resolve the issue before ad serving is disabled. In this instance, again, a back-end error caused ad serving to be disabled immediately.

We've reviewed your site and it appears to be in compliance with our policies at this time. We have now re-enabled ad serving to your site. Please note that because ad serving to your site was temporarily disabled, there may be a delay of up to 48 hours or more before ads begin appearing on your site again.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused. We appreciate your patience and understanding.


{xxxxxx} The Google Ad Sense Team

The Timeline

This is the draft of the timeline as composed by fellow Tropers.

October 26th, 2010:

  • About 11:00 AM: User:Fast Eddie notices that there are no ads on any of the pages. Asks the mods: "Just me, or are all the ads gone?" Mods concur -- ads are gone. Query sent to Google --Glitch? Problem? What's happened?
  • 10:33:08 PM: We still hadn't heard back from Google about what was wrong. "No news yet. Nothing at all out of google but silence. Just all of sudden the ad requests are getting a 403 Forbidden response."

October 27th, 2010:

While reviewing your site, we noticed that Google ads were displaying on your site in a manner that isn't in compliance with our program policies. As stated in our program policies, Ad Sense publishers may not display Google ads on pages with adult or mature content. While we understand that it may be challenging to monitor user-generated content, such as comments, on your site, we require publishers to check that the webpages containing their ad code complies with our program policies.

The initial plan at this point is to move all adult-like content offsite, to one of the <mediatropes> domains (which we own), and adding no-follows [2] to all links that go off the main pages. General freaking-out commences. So do efforts to calm the freaking-out by level-headed tropers. Alternate solutions begin being offered.

  • 5:09:28 PM: Madrugada starts talk on Wall; Tropers begin compiling a list of pages that will need to go behind the Curtain, and cleaning pages that only need a minor change or two to be able to remain outside the curtain (for example, taking down an NSFG image on an otherwise SFG page).
  • 5:12:09 PM: Threads opened for listing pages that are definitely in violation of the Adsense contract, and discussing pages that might be.
  • 7:55:18 PM: The TV Tropes Merch thread is revived from its moribund state. Much discussion and many ideas ensue.
  • 8:17:56 PM: Original idea of moving adult-like stuff off-site exchanged for Plan 302. Fast Eddie starts writing a lot of code.

October 28th, 2010:

  • 11:18:07 PM: The Situation page is created as a clearinghouse for official information. User:Fast Eddie is keeping the mods up-to-date, the mods are trying to keep everyone else up to date. Panicking begins to die down.

October 30th, 2010:

  • 5:45:33 PM: Talk begins on Wall Message. Fast Eddie is still writing code.
  • 7:48:00 PM: The Page Blank Incident. Due to bugs in new code implemented, pages blanked whenever they were edited. The problem was resolved quickly, but still managed to cause panic among uninformed tropers.
  • 8:10:19 PM: Coining of The Google Incident.

October 31st, 2010:

  • About 10:04:00 PM: NSFG wall implemented.

November 1st, 2010:

  • About 8:37:00 AM: Appeal submitted to Google. Fingernail-chewing commences in earnest.

November 2nd, 2010:

November 3rd, 2010:

  • 7:45:30 PM: Google search bar replaced by Bing bar.

November 4th, 2010:

  • No word yet from Google on the review. Word from a source inside Google but not in the Adsense division is that the review may take a week or more.
  • 2:59:16 PM: TV Tropes Zazzle store opens.
  • 5:59:30 PM: Bing search bar replaced by alternate Google search bar.

November 9th, 2010:

  • 10:43:11 AM: Google contacts Fast Eddie; evaluation is completed, we passed, and the ads will be restored.


We truly and deeply appreciate your concern and help. While it's a running gag that Tropes Will Ruin Your Life, for many people it's equally true that TV Tropes Will Enhance Your Life. We will figure out a solution. We aren't going to disappear.

  1. "We ask you to respect our need to keep the wiki family friendly. We don't really need lewd pictures or tons of cuss words to have the fun we're having. Anyway, clever is always funnier than obscene. Shocking stuff just gets old. This wiki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Here is a link to our Privacy Policy. No email address on file means you will have to keep track of your own password. We can't send it to you if you forget it or lose it." Yep, seriously. That's it.
  2. an invisible tag that tells the ad-server "this isn't our site, don't consider anything you find there ours"