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I'm proposing a small change to amazon URLs
January 28, 2006 11:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm proposing a small change to amazon URLs here [more]
posted by mathowie to MetaFilter-Related at 11:47 PM (94 comments total)

In the past couple weeks I've caught a person here and there inserting their own personal amazon associates code into front page posts that mention amazon. It's something that has always been frowned upon here because it financially benefits the person making the link and their motives are in question if they append a amazon link to a post about a larger topic. Everyone for the most part has always entered amazon links here sans any associates ID.

I was trying to figure out a way to combat this, to clean up URLs with a search-and-replace function and then I remembered that people often say I should add the mefi associates code to amazon links to help offset hosting costs (I have no idea what possible revenue they could generate). Jason came through again, writing a function to strip out anything after a ASIN in amazon URLs of various formats, so that people gaming comments or posts could be blocked, but then I realized it's also trivial to add "metafilter-20" to the URL after cleanup.

I don't want to do anything sly with everyone's content here so I wanted to be upfront. I am testing it out right now on main posts to MeFi (not comments), and only on the thread pages (not the front page or archives), but in the future I could see applying this whenever someone submits a new comment across the site or makes a new thread post. Before I go further with it, I wanted to get some feedback and make sure it is cool with most people.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:47 PM on January 28, 2006


Go for it. Direct any and all revenue to a philanthropic Mefi venture. The return of the Mefi Scholarship, or a charitable donation, or whatever.
posted by cortex at 11:57 PM on January 28, 2006


Sounds cool to me. Any idea how much Mefi would actually make off doing this, though?
posted by Jimbob at 11:58 PM on January 28, 2006


Oh good idea, funding the scholarship with the money from this is something I hadn't thought of.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:01 AM on January 29, 2006


Go for it. Direct any and all revenue to your pockets. Seriously.
posted by scarabic at 12:39 AM on January 29, 2006


Yes, it's a great idea.

And you know what would make a cool promo? Raffle off a chance for one lucky Metafilter user's Amazon ID to be in that affiliate ID field for a day!
posted by brownpau at 12:40 AM on January 29, 2006


Great idea. Go to it.
posted by cmyk at 12:44 AM on January 29, 2006


Makes sense to me.
posted by brundlefly at 12:50 AM on January 29, 2006


So the idea is, the commenter writes the comment and the link, and instead of getting any money for his effort, Matt gets paid? Doesn't Matt already get the money from the ads on the site, ads generated by posts and comments mostly by people other than Matt?

Matt came up with a great idea, and I'm glad he got to quit his job to live on the proceeds of it -- that's the American Dream, and more power to him. But the truth is, all of "Matt's" content -- the content to which he attaches ads -- is generated, gratis by the Matt's site's users.

Why begrudge them them sixty-nine cents (or whatever it is -- I've never had an Amazon referral id and have no idea how much a referral pays) they might get for taking the time to add more content to Matt's site?
posted by orthogonality at 12:53 AM on January 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


Orthogonality:

(a) They can add content to the site without needing to get paid. The rest of us do. Adding your associate code is equivalent to spamming, really. But more clandestine.

(b) Matt's not getting the money. As has been suggested, it will go into the scholarship find.

(c) Doesn't really affect me either way - does it affect you? Why would you begrudge matt the opportunity to stop people making money of metafilter while funding the scholarship?
posted by Jimbob at 12:58 AM on January 29, 2006


Excuse my typos. Kids, don't mix Stone's Green Ginger Wine and Metafilter
posted by Jimbob at 1:00 AM on January 29, 2006


I have no qualms about Matt being the only person to monetize this site. And I have multiple qualms about introducing ways for anyone to do so. The incentives on this site are already overwhelmingly algined with making Matt enough money to stay alive, and keeping the rest of our experiences "gratis." You could look at it 2 ways. Number one is what you said: it's already overwhelmingly tilted toward making Matt money, why begrudge others a chance? Number two is: members making money off MetaFilter is not an incentive that has played a primary role in making this site what it is. Matt making some money definitely does play a role. Why distract and corrupt the user incentive with money? And why quibble with Matt over donating Amazon money to charity and not ad & signup revenue?

Matt has done the right thing to notify us to clarify what's going on. Unfortunately, when you do this kind of thing, many people who would never have known the difference suddenly feel like they're giving something up.
posted by scarabic at 1:13 AM on January 29, 2006


(b) Matt's not getting the money. As has been suggested, it will go into the scholarship find.

Dude. Don't jump to conclusions.
posted by scarabic at 1:13 AM on January 29, 2006


orthogonality : "Why begrudge them them sixty-nine cents (or whatever it is -- I've never had an Amazon referral id and have no idea how much a referral pays) they might get for taking the time to add more content to Matt's site?"

If your disagreement is with referral use by posters itself being frowned upon, that's a slightly different issue, and not one I suspect that matt is going to change his mind about within this thread, but the direct answer to your question was actually provided before you asked it:

mathowie : "It's something that has always been frowned upon here because it financially benefits the person making the link and their motives are in question if they append a amazon link to a post about a larger topic."

So, within the parameters of this thread ("If A is true, what is the opinion of B?") the question is: "If removing user referrals is true, what is general opinion about placing a mefi referral instead of just stripping the referral and leaving it blank?"

In which case, we're comparing two choices:

1) Matt gets ad money. Poster gets no referral money.
2) Matt gets ad money and referral money. Poster gets no referral money.

Seems that 2 is by far the better choice: the movement of money is neutral in regards to the poster, and the only money moving is from Amazon to Matt. I have no problem with Amazon giving Matt money.

(By the way, matt, in line with the above: I buy stuff from Amazon. So my money would go from me to Amazon, and then from Amazon to you. You're an environmental type, how about recycling that money by providing it back to me?)
posted by Bugbread at 1:19 AM on January 29, 2006


Will the MeFi code be added to all Amazon links that don't have an associate code? If not... why not?
posted by fleacircus at 1:33 AM on January 29, 2006


I feel that my earlier comment was very long and unclear, so let me rephrase: the people who create the content are exactly the people who shouldn't be getting any money. With money out of the equation, they'll create content that interests and satisfies them. Allowing money to enter the equation, as Matt hints at with "motives are in question," only presents opportunity for spammyness - and handing out 69 cents here and there isn't worth it.
posted by scarabic at 1:34 AM on January 29, 2006


My feeling has long been that referrals are invidious: as Bugbread points points, the money ultimately comes from Amazon customers. using referrals at all marginally increases costs to customers; if nobody gets referral money, Amazon could afford to sell more cheaply.

So I'd -- personally -- eschew referrals, in the (forlorn?) hope that by doing my bit to avoid the tragedy of the commons, others would tale heed and follow the example. To forestall objections, I'll admit upfront that that's probably too idealistic, of course.
posted by orthogonality at 1:39 AM on January 29, 2006


I have occasionally used my Amazon associate code when I've suggested books in answer to AskMeFi questions. I've never made more than a few bucks from the practice, but on principle it seems to me that if someone comes up with a book that's a sufficiently good addition to a thread that someone actually buys it, then they've earned whatever pittance they get from Amazon. Of course since it's a pittance, in practice I don't really object much to Matt getting it either, as he can do a lot more with everyone's collective pittances than any of us would do separately.

I expect, however, if people really want to post Amazon links with their referrer code, they will continue to do so regardless of any munging the site does on the backend. There are plenty of ways to do so, ranging from URL encoding to HTML entities to redirection services (e.g. MakeAShorterLink).
posted by kindall at 1:48 AM on January 29, 2006


Money inevitably turns everything to shit.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:56 AM on January 29, 2006


How is it any different from posters deserving the AdWords money generated from their post? They create the content, the service automatically inserts relevant ads... Haven't they "earned" any proceeds, there, too?
posted by scarabic at 2:02 AM on January 29, 2006


I have a pretty simple rule when it comes to admins at sites I frequent attempting to make money off the web:

If it doesn't impact my user experience, privacy, or computer then more power to them.

Replacing the link in question does not affect me at all in the slightest, nor anybody else who isn't trying to use Metafilter to make a cheap buck in a sneaky manner. So who cares? If Matt wants to keep the money, that's cool. If he wants to donate it, even better. Either way it doesn't involve me - or anyone else here - in the least bit.
posted by Ryvar at 2:43 AM on January 29, 2006


I think that the idea of shuffling Amazon's uncertain philanthropy into the hands of a deserving third party is an outlandishly good idea.
Also, those caught trying to game the system will give us all another vector to harrangue and disparage. Which can only strengthen the community. Of course.
posted by NinjaPirate at 4:22 AM on January 29, 2006


I'm really torn about this. I think it's wrong to characterize people who use their own id's as somehow sleazy. I would suggest that it would be more democratic to strip the associate IDs if you must, but not add a metafilter one. But that's pointless and wasteful -- someone should get the money. Might as well be Matt.

Hey... does Jess have an ID?
posted by crunchland at 4:31 AM on January 29, 2006


I think it's a great idea. It would be nice if the money would go to the scholarship fund, but I don't have any problems if a link I post generates food or diapers for mini-mathowie.
posted by sebas at 4:31 AM on January 29, 2006


Just do it, Matt. Posters aren't supposed to make money off of their posts and if somebody can't be bothered to recommend a book on AskMe or whatever without amending their Amazon associates ID I really don't think they're worth taking recommendations from.
posted by sveskemus at 4:48 AM on January 29, 2006


Ryvar has a good set of points. If one wants to prevent anyone from making money, simply find a link for the book you want to link to that points to another site.
posted by OmieWise at 4:57 AM on January 29, 2006


What bugbread said. Also Omie:

If one wants to prevent anyone from making money, simply find a link for the book you want to link to that points to another site.

Linking to Amazon is lazy. I do it myself all the time because I'm lazy, but there are usually more interesting sites for a book.

To Matt: Do it.
posted by languagehat at 6:02 AM on January 29, 2006


Yes, do it. Use money earned at own discretion, but consider these attractive options before making final decision:

1) Buy a round at next meetup.
2) Solid platinum iPod (bling-schwing!)
3) A mansion and a yacht.
4) Old standby: hookers and blow.
5) Recumbent trike for young Miss Howie.
6) Next MeProjects prize.
7) MeFi limo with DD chauffeur to drive folks home after booze-drenched meetups.
posted by mds35 at 6:17 AM on January 29, 2006


One thing, though: please let us continue to use affiliate links in our own user profile pages.
posted by brownpau at 6:24 AM on January 29, 2006


I link to amazon all the time, and I don't have a problem with it -- go for it, Matt.



Money inevitably turns everything to shit.


I assume you don't cash your paychecks because, hey, that would turn everything to shit, too, right? must be nice to live on free chicken feed and rainwater
posted by matteo at 6:33 AM on January 29, 2006


does Jess have an ID?

Nope, I just use a Powell's affiliate link for all my links on my own site. I don't use it here. I like the idea of channeling the money into some prize or scholarship thing or another, but it seems like a basically good idea in any case, though I'd suggest a BookSense or Powell's affiliate ID just because I like supporting the underdogs.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:45 AM on January 29, 2006


I don't see a difference between this and the other advertisements on the site, all are needed to keep the place afloat. Go for it.
posted by LarryC at 7:07 AM on January 29, 2006


Definately strip posters affiliate code. Adding a MF code would be good if it helps keep the site free.
posted by Mitheral at 7:55 AM on January 29, 2006


Money inevitably turns everything to shit.

Well, it seems to be that everything turns to shit eventually, money-related or not.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 8:02 AM on January 29, 2006


It's your house, your rules, I say go for it. You have that right as a webmaster. If someone has a beef with it they can always open the URL sans the referrer code, as I do when some sites (cough BB) do it way too much.
posted by cavalier at 8:02 AM on January 29, 2006


Are we talking enough revenue to worry about? I spend a lot of time on MetaFilter. I have a house full of books. But I have never followed a MetaFilter link to Amazon and bought the book right then. Has anyone here?
posted by LarryC at 8:06 AM on January 29, 2006


The one thing that is guaranteed to fuck things up is greed. Each and every time.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:26 AM on January 29, 2006


Matt, I think this is a fine idea, whether directed towards a MeFi scholarship, or simply to keep the site afloat. You should do it.
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:40 AM on January 29, 2006


I'd rather Matt and Jessamyn (or some charity) get the money than have Amazon keep it all.

I haven't the foggiest how much money it is, nor do I think it matters.
posted by I Love Tacos at 8:41 AM on January 29, 2006


Based on returns from my own site, a site as large as Metafilter could easily net Matt $500 to $1000 or more a quarter. And not just on items directly linked... Amazon cookies live for about 3 days. Unless a person clicks on a competing associate ID, anything they buy on Amazon for 3 days after clicking on a link here gets attributed to Matt.

And I know that whenever I've linked an item to Amazon, it's always been to point out a helpful item or book first, and adding the amazon link and associate code has been an afterthought. I resent the idea that it's somehow "gaming the system." If you are going to look at it that way, you should do away with associate codes all together, mefi's included.
posted by crunchland at 8:42 AM on January 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


One thing, though: please let us continue to use affiliate links in our own user profile pages.

Heck yeah! User profiles can't really become invasive -- they are completely opt-in viewing spaces. (Short of someone spamming the site with links to their user profile, of course. "That's fascinating, LarryC; I have more to say about it on my ad-laden profile!")

Someone (bugbread? lhat?) said that there's nothing inherently sleazy about using your own affiliate id in a link, and I agree.

But! It invites sleaze. The incentive to use mefi as a revenue stream through personal affiliate IDs can and will color the linking habits of those whose interest lies more strongly in what they can get out of mefi than what they can put in.

Folks like kindall, who have been around and obviously have considerable respect for the site -- they aren't the problem. If kindall, as he said, has included an ID in an AskMe response, I don't doubt his motives. He's a known entity. (Hell, he's kindall; dude ran Projects before Projects existed.) My inclination is to say, hey, don't do that -- but I don't think he was being sleazy.

If user #34765 pointedly responded to AskMe questions with affiliate-IDed Amazon links, though, it'd be time for some serious consideration. Why is he posting those answers? To be as helpful as possible, or to get that revenue flowing?

If things stay as they are right now, I doubt there'd be any problems -- a rare affilliation-farmer might pop up, but they'd run afoul of the Scooby Squad pretty quickly if they were aggressive.

But brownpau's brainstorm about a daily affiliate-id raffle? Bad. Bad, bad, bad. There's that heightened incentive toward sleaze.

I think that the scholarship idea is good because it avoids the user-sleaze incentive and removes the contentious issue of Matt's own direct profit (which is a non-issue for me, but that's just me).
posted by cortex at 8:47 AM on January 29, 2006


crunchland, not everyone that stuffs a amazon code into links does so for reasons of greed. You're an astute member and I trust that you're adding information when you do it. I've seen plenty of people try it on the front page of metafilter, and often it's just tacked onto a larger topic post and I have to question the motives there.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:54 AM on January 29, 2006


Or what cortex said before me.

To open the discussion a bit wider, affiliate links are frowned upon for not just amazon, I've deleted a dozen "help me get a free ipod" comments in the past year, and whenever web hosting talk comes up, people have questioned other users that prominently push Dreamhost with an affiliate ID (dreamhost pays you $97 for any new customer you refer to them). I actually had to ban someone that most likely did a search for "web hosting" in the ask mefi archives and proceeded to add one or more comments in every thread pointing to their affiliate revenue site for dreamhost.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:58 AM on January 29, 2006


From a policy perspective it's also easier to have a rule that says something like "no affiliate links" than one where they all have to be evaluated using some complicated math based on the longevity/intent of the poster, revenue potential of link, likelihood of link being included just for the purpose of affiliate program etc.

Most people use affilaite links responsibly and without malice, but I've definitely seen the Dreamhost pile-ons and I think twice when I see links to whatever that hipster t-shirt store is that has a really proactive "get us links to our site, get free gear" policy.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:10 AM on January 29, 2006


One other difficulty with including MetaFilter's referral code is that some members who might not be aware of this practice could construe it as an endorsement of the book in question by MetaFilter.

I'm picking nits of course, but don't tell me nobody will do this.
posted by kindall at 9:12 AM on January 29, 2006


Given how few ads there are on Metafilter I think it's a good idea.
posted by clevershark at 9:45 AM on January 29, 2006


Ryvar writes "If it doesn't impact my user experience, privacy, or computer then more power to them."


What Ryvar said. Go for it.
posted by Penks at 9:47 AM on January 29, 2006


Even the fact that so many users arbitrarily link to amazon to begin with has always bothered me. When I recommend a book, I usually just give the title. If someone wants to buy it, they can find it at a vendor of their choice; I am not a purchasing agent. My behavior in this regard will continue whether this new policy is implemented or not.
posted by bingo at 9:53 AM on January 29, 2006


(a) I think affiliate IDs should be stripped out everywhere. I flagged an answer to AskMeFi last year that had one, but it was never fixed/deleted.

(b) I have no problem with Matt making money from MeFi. But, I'm afraid that adding his ID would cause some users to link to Amazon more often than they otherwise would, thinking that they're "doing Matt a favor". I don't think that encouraging more links to Amazon will improve the quality of posts, especially if users link to Amazon instead of another site that has better content.
posted by D.C. at 9:58 AM on January 29, 2006


Removing referral codes from everyone's links all the time is a reasonable thing to do, but adding the metafilter codes to every link seems like a dubious proposal.

I bet there are enough people, though, who would like to append metafilter referral codes as a way to support the site, so have you considered an opt-in thing instead? Like an option on the user page for "Please append metafilter referral ids to links I post, where applicable"?

You could then go out of your way, Matt, to enroll in as many referral programs as seem appropriate (Powell's, etc., so people don't feel like they should link only to amazon to "support the site"), and rewrite all links to those sites with the metafilter id for only those users who have requested that. You'd have the cooperation of users who support referral profit, and those who object to having their links rewritten would simply not opt-in.

Alternately, I guess, it could be an option instead to "Please append metafilter referral ids to links I see", but I guess that would require quite a bit more server processing.
posted by Lirp at 10:15 AM on January 29, 2006


I don't like the idea of someone making money off of my comments, so if this goes through I'll have to redirect all amazon links through my own website or something.
posted by delmoi at 11:18 AM on January 29, 2006


Even the fact that so many users arbitrarily link to amazon to begin with has always bothered me. When I recommend a book, I usually just give the title. If someone wants to buy it, they can find it at a vendor of their choice; I am not a purchasing agent. My behavior in this regard will continue whether this new policy is implemented or not.

I prefer links to amazon. Amazon has an amazing system for browsing through books. You click a link, and you see books like it, and you can really browse around for a while. And it works out great for regular customers if they want to buy it.

Anyway, I'm all for referal code stripping, but I don't want metafilter-20 inserted into my URLs.

Maybe if the user could get a warning, and an option to edit the URL, it would be OK.
posted by delmoi at 11:21 AM on January 29, 2006


But, I'm afraid that adding his ID would cause some users to link to Amazon more often than they otherwise would, thinking that they're "doing Matt a favor".

Huh. That's an interesting point, D.C. I thought of the spoil-by-self-interest angle, but I didn't think out the spoil-by-community-enthusiasm side.

Also, Lirp's proposal strikes me at first read as totally sound. I have no idea if Matt would want to bother setting something like that up, but I'm curious if anyone sees any arguments against.
posted by cortex at 11:24 AM on January 29, 2006


Definately strip posters affiliate code. Adding a MF code would be good if it helps keep the site free.

Um, the site is not free. It costs $5 to join.
posted by delmoi at 11:25 AM on January 29, 2006


The site is free, to view. The $5 is a donation. By donating, you are given the privelege to submit content. That's the way it goes.
posted by Roger Dodger at 11:40 AM on January 29, 2006


Someone asked this higher upalready, but it's a good point: what about links that have no affiliate ID? If the code is set up to replace the ASIN with MeFi's, then it kinda depends on people to keep trying to use their own, which they will eventually stop doing, since it's futile. I hope there's an easy way to do an insert as well as a replace.
posted by scarabic at 11:47 AM on January 29, 2006


Lirp's idea is too complex for something so simple and straightforward. I don't want to add complicated multi-vendor, multi-affiliate options to everyone's prefs for something that only comes up once in a blue moon (a quick db search reveals about 600 links to amazon from the 48,000 threads).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:48 AM on January 29, 2006


scarabic, all links to amazon would have the mefi code added. So if someone was putting their own in, it would be stripped, but for links without any affiliate code, mefi's would drop in. It's like Ryvvar said, just silently adding metafilter-20 to amazon URLs that still point at the same page and everything.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:50 AM on January 29, 2006


It's something that has always been frowned upon here because it financially benefits the person making the link and their motives are in question if they append a amazon link to a post about a larger topic. Everyone for the most part has always entered amazon links here sans any associates ID.

Huh, I didn't realize copying the URL off of an amazon link (a) was different depending on whether you were signed in or not, and (b) is associated with personal profit. I apologize for not knowing the etiquette (I notice one of my links has been changed).
posted by mowglisambo at 1:11 PM on January 29, 2006


mowglisambo, associates amazon links aren't usually from copying and pasting, you have to append your code to it. And I was testing out code to change all old links in posts, so even if you didn't do it, it is changed at the moment.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:19 PM on January 29, 2006


Again, has anyone reading this thread ever followed a Metafilter link to Amazon, and then immediately purchased the item? Because if that isn't happening, we are arguing over nothing.
posted by LarryC at 1:19 PM on January 29, 2006


oh phew, I feel less embarrassed now. :)
posted by mowglisambo at 1:23 PM on January 29, 2006


Whatever the decision, and whatever the reasoning behind it, this isn't just about amazon. The reasoning will apply equally well to all affiliate programs eventually.

Personally, I am far more concerned about other users including their affiliate IDs than I am about mathowie doing it. It is easily as objectionable as a self link. This feeling probably comes from spending time at sites that are very commercial in nature, like redflagdeals, where personal affiliate IDs are seen as a serious abuse. A serious abuse because they interfere with the owner's revenue stream, of course, but more importantly here, they influence the quality of posts.

Others have objected to the notion of affiliate programs in general, and think MetaFilter should refuse to participate. I haven't thought enough about that, but for now I don't agree. There is a wide disconnect between charitable ventures like wikipedia, and commercial ventures like redflagdeals. I see MetaFilter as seeking a middle ground which our society sorely needs. So, I think it is important to exploit unobtrusive revenue potential when it is worthwhile to do so.

In summary, exploiting affiliate programs is probably a good idea and it is critical that we don't allow affiliate programs to influence posted content. To that end, I think any collected affiliate income must be pooled, and obviously at this time that pool is mathowie.

I often think about the tension between community and personal interest here. For now, it is a fantastic thing that mathowie has been able to turn community interest into a career, but eventually the ownership and revenue of MetaFilter will become a significant issue. Lately, I have been in the 'leave well enough alone' camp, but then an issue like this comes up...
posted by Chuckles at 1:24 PM on January 29, 2006


Go for it, Matt.

And maybe this would be a good time to dust off that "MetaFilter Recommends" idea.
posted by timeistight at 1:30 PM on January 29, 2006


another vote for Ryvar's position. By all means, go for it - I'd be happy to know any amazon links I put in will end up generating money for the site.
posted by jasper411 at 1:36 PM on January 29, 2006


I'll vote in favour of it as well, for what it's worth.
posted by ChrisR at 1:42 PM on January 29, 2006


Cool. I hope it turns up some copper.
posted by scarabic at 1:57 PM on January 29, 2006


I vote aye.
posted by Sinner at 1:59 PM on January 29, 2006


Oh god. I can see it now:

"Metafilter Recommends: Several Million More Increasingly Diminutive Pieces"
posted by cortex at 2:01 PM on January 29, 2006


Sounds good to me. I vote yes. I think you should consider keeping the revenue for personal use, too.
posted by nthdegx at 2:20 PM on January 29, 2006


To earn $50 you gotta sell $1000 I think, so it's not like it's printing money... But every little bit helps.
posted by Duncan at 2:41 PM on January 29, 2006


I vote yes, but I think it should be called out in the signup page and the FAQ. As far as users who want to opt out (of adding the mefi associate tag), I don't see that it's a great burden to look for another web site for the book instead of Amazon.
posted by whir at 2:52 PM on January 29, 2006


go for it. put the money in your pocket too.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 3:23 PM on January 29, 2006


Do it. And leave the money in an unmarked envelope in the usual location.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:24 PM on January 29, 2006


delmoi, why do you want to redirect Amazon links through your own site -- so that Matt doesn't have the ability to use the MeFi associate ID in the links, or so that you can use your own?

If you're doing it so that you can use your own, then I just don't get that -- you're specifically taking action that tries to get you money via the community Matt's worked so hard to build and support. (And if I'm not mistaken, you well predate the $5 memberships, so you truly are a free particiant in the MeFi community.) To me, that's like setting your lemonade stand up smack in the middle of a plaza at Disneyland.

If you're doing it not because you'll use your own affiliate code, but rather just so that Matt can't insert the MeFi one, then again -- why? So that Amazon can make that extra money? Again, this is a site, and a community, that Matt has worked damn hard to support, and I can't think why it's a bad thing that Matt (and, in the end, the site) reap the benefits of any Amazon links that happen to pass through it.

I guess I might be a bit biased, being that I've spent a bit of time working on MeFi myself, but I really am having a hard time finding a reason why this is bad.
posted by delfuego at 3:32 PM on January 29, 2006


"All posts are © their original authors."

I'm uncomfortable with the idea of altering the content of users comments in any way. It's an unsavory precedent.
posted by TimeFactor at 4:04 PM on January 29, 2006


I assume you don't cash your paychecks because, hey, that would turn everything to shit, too, right? must be nice to live on free chicken feed and rainwater

Fuck you, dimwit. I meant what I said.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:50 PM on January 29, 2006


Sorry, I should have just said 'fuck you, matteo'. Literalism is sometimes a symptom of dimwittery, but doesn't necessarily indicate its presence.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:03 PM on January 29, 2006


I say strip the referral codes from any poster's urls and don't add Metafilter's. I don't think poster's should be profiting through the site and CHANGING the URLs just doesn't sit right with me that it would happen behind the scenes.

Matt, Why not just ask everyone here to give you $5 a year and be done with it? Why waste time debating something that is MAYBE going to generate a couple hundred dollars per year? Don't you think people here would pony up $5 per year to keep this place ad-free and churning along? I know I'd pay $20 per year without blinking. All you have to do is ask.

It just seems so much simpler to have everyone pitch in a teeny, tiny amount (1.3 cents/day) and be done with all the ads and silly discussion about Amazon referrals. EVERYONE can afford $5 per year.
posted by evoo at 5:57 PM on January 29, 2006


I frequently link to stuff on amazon (and I sort of work at a bookstore). It would be great if the site could make a little money off those links.
posted by drezdn at 6:03 PM on January 29, 2006


Why waste time debating something that is MAYBE going to generate a couple hundred dollars per year?

Because openly debating this sort of thing is part of what makes Mefi what it is?
posted by cortex at 7:00 PM on January 29, 2006


evoo, instead of a pledge drive, and begging people for money, it's so much easier if I could change some URLs in the archives and not require anyone to lift a finger or give a penny and come out the same. I just wanted to run the idea past everyone since I realized I could finally do what people often request that I do. The consensus seems to be that it's alright and not a big deal so I'll work on it this week.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:24 PM on January 29, 2006


Matt, I'm not talking about begging for money, or pledge drives. I'm talking about setting this site up as a real commercial entity... where people pay for the service you provide. Yes, we're a community and yes it's great that ads can pay your salary, but we all know that things cost money and that you need to eat. So why not just open up "subscriptions" to Metafilter? Like I said, I'd be happy to give you $20/year to not see any ads on the site. I'm sure there are at least 1000 others who feel the same way. There are people who could afford a bit more and people who could afford a bit less... but everyone who comes here can surely afford at least $5 a year to keep the site running and keep you happily employed.

It's not about begging or putting out a tip jar. It's more like a cover charge... like the $5 I gave you in November 2004. But I don't see why it can't just be a yearly thing.

It's such a small amount of money for us, but it would add up to a huge amount for you. It seems like a no-brainer to me, and I want to think that everyone here would agree (ha!). Has this ever been seriously discussed?
posted by evoo at 8:07 PM on January 29, 2006


I would support evoo's suggestion, provided the yearly subscription fee eliminated all of the ads anywhere on the site while logged-in.
posted by odinsdream at 9:07 PM on January 29, 2006


Oh, and also, I don't mind adding metafilter's ID to the amazon URLs, but I would prefer just stripping any IDs at all.
posted by odinsdream at 9:09 PM on January 29, 2006


I'm in favor of adding the MeFi referrer.
posted by taz at 10:25 PM on January 29, 2006


I think this is a no-brainer. But, like languagehat, I too should be less lazy and link to non-amazon sites (and there are many great book sites out there)

Thats also the course of action I'd suggest to the few who are indignant at being "cheated" out of their five cent referrals.
posted by vacapinta at 11:09 PM on January 29, 2006


Anyone who sneaks in an affiliate code when they point fellow users to an Amazon page is being a selfish dick. You have every right to strip out those affiliate codes and do whatever you like with Amazon links, Matt.

While I agree that Mefi's users are providing amazing content for free, and have always thought Matt has certain obligations to the user community that often get overlooked by the "It's his site and he can do what he wants" crowd, the idea that some users have been siphoning off money with Amazon codes is really distasteful. I can't imagine respecting any MeFi user who did that kind of thing; it's patently obvious that 1) the community as a whole is what creates value here, and 2) the host of that community is the one who should benefit from affiliate links.
posted by mediareport at 11:22 PM on January 29, 2006


In favour.

Stripping out self-referrals anywhere should be a no-brainer. Trying to make money from someone else's site is exactly the same as comment spam. there's no dilemma here.

If you want to add an affiliate link, a way to do it might be something like "book [MeFi Affiliate]". Insert a short string letting us know that it's an affiliate link. I think that's the most polite way to do it, but don't really have a problem with it being done silently either.
posted by bonehead at 7:11 AM on January 30, 2006


Count me as one more vote in the "Matt should feel free to add in a MeFi Amazon ID, whether it goes to a scholarship or into his own pockets" camp.
posted by yankeefog at 8:24 AM on January 30, 2006


evoo writes "It just seems so much simpler to have everyone pitch in a teeny, tiny amount (1.3 cents/day) and be done with all the ads and silly discussion about Amazon referrals. EVERYONE can afford $5 per year."

I disagree. I'm cool with paying a $5 yearly fee. And you're cool with it. And a lot of people are cool with it. But I can guess with some confidence that there are more people who would complain about a recurring annual fee than there are people who would complain about the Amazon referral switch. Seems to me that matt is taking the easier path by using this route instead.
posted by Bugbread at 3:05 PM on January 30, 2006


Yes, bugbread, but the amazon referral switch is not going to generate tens of thousands of dollars and feed Matt's family. I guess I just don't understand why Matt is looking into ways to generate 50cents here, a dollar there... He has a quality product and a dedicated userbase from a demographic that has the money to spend. $5 a head / per year would probably generate a LOT more money than the ads are generating and it would take the pressure off of Matt to need go chasing after "pennies per click" advertising.

It's fantastic that this place is virtually free for all the users. I just think that $5 per year is pretty damn close to free and it would make a huge difference in Matt's quality of life and hence, the quality of the site, without the hassle of the ads. That's all.
posted by evoo at 8:48 PM on January 30, 2006


If metafilter makes no money off this, then so what? If metafilter makes zillions and matt uses it to pay himself a scandalous salary, so what? If he sells metafilter, then we are all in trouble... but if he doesn't because it's a cash cow... then we're golden! I vote for the cow option!
posted by ewkpates at 7:56 AM on January 31, 2006


evoo writes "He has a quality product and a dedicated userbase from a demographic that has the money to spend."

A lot of that userbase is going to evaporate if he starts charging even a small annual fee (especially if paypal is the only payment option).
posted by Mitheral at 8:58 AM on January 31, 2006


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