Addicted to novelty since 2001

Ethics Check: Am I Evil?

Back in February, we ran an accidental but successful project called Flowers for Al and Don. We raised a bunch of money to buy flowers for gay and lesbian newlyweds in the US, and made donations to organizations that defended their rights.

As a result of a lot of people linking to that page, it has great search engine karma. I’m averaging 5000 visits a month from people searching for the term ‘flowers’ (and only about 1000 for the term ‘gay’, and about 190 for ‘gay wrestling’, but that’s something else entirely). When I noticed this trend, I had a few thoughts:

  • Almost all those people are disappointed when they visit Flowers for Al and Don.
  • This is an opportunity to educate people about gay marriage.
  • This is an opportunity to make a little cash via Google AdSense.


On the education front, the page does pretty well by itself. The list of names alone has a certain power. I added a prominent statement that says ‘Do you believe gay marriage should be legal in the US? Support Lambda Legal and the ACLU Gay and Lesbian Rights Project.’ I think that’s enough. It’d be kind of underhanded to foist a gay marriage agenda on random folks searching for flowers.

I have mixed feelings about including the ads. On the one hand, it might actually be helpful to people seeking flower vendors (there are, of course, a bunch of flower vendors already listed throughout the page). Hopefully when Google indexes the page, the ads might become more relevant. At the moment they’re for MADD and donating your car to charity.

More practically, I’ve got bandwidth costs to cover. AdSense certainly isn’t going to make me rich (those ads might be worth US $1-2 a day, maybe?), but it helps to cover those costs every month. Excepting karma, I didn’t profit from Flowers from Al and Don. Clearly, though, I’m skeptical about the ethics of running an ad there, or I wouldn’t be posting about it.

Maybe the right thing to do is give a portion of this page’s AdSense revenue to Lambda Legal and the ACLU. What do you think? Am I evil? What should that portion be? Feel free to leave disparaging, anonymous remarks in the comments.

5 Responses to “Ethics Check: Am I Evil?”

  1. donna

    Pfft. You’re not making a profit off of it, you’re helping to pay for your site. Even non-profit companies get to make enough money to cover operating costs.

    Verdict: Not evil. AdSense away.

  2. Richard

    I serve ads to search-engine referers through PHP magic, because I figure people coming in from search engines are not my regular readership, and my regular readership–if indeed I do have one–wouldn’t click on the ads anyway. Since my site is non-commercial, I don’t really care who clicks on them or why. If they do, that’s their business and not mine (though the few cents I get from the click will be mine).

    Do you separate out the money you get from that side using Google Adsense’s channels feature? That way you can know for sure how much you’re getting and how much you should donate to put your mind at ease.

  3. Heron

    As an original “Flowers for Al & Don” supporter, I think it would be great to keep a trickle of support flowing to both of the organizations.

    I think you could easily donate a token amout per month (estimated revenue divided by half, then 25% each to the orgs, for instance) and perhaps wrap that into a yearly donation if the dollar amount is not high enough to justify a quarterly check.

    Having just spent a bunch of time campaigning against the Utah anti-gay-marriage statute, which passed with a disappointing 60% majority, I think this is an important issue that is just not going to go away.

    Tomorrow I am sending flowers to my best friend, who is going down to city hall in New York to register for domestic partnership with his longtime lover. I think it’s absolutely criminal that their relationship will be essentially illegal in his home state.

  4. Elle Wiz

    You’re not evil, and I like the idea.

    I run a blog devoted to my losing weight through Weight Watchers, exercise, nutrition, etc. I have resisted putting AdSense on that blog, because I do NOT want to be advertising every weight loss scheme and quack out there. How much control does one have over the ads that appear on one’s site? Would love to know. E-mail me at the above address.

  5. bree

    Not evil, especially if you donate to charity any revenue above that which is needed to cover bandwidth costs.

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