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Self-linking boundary question.
November 9, 2001 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Self-posting question:

I know it is poor form for me to post a front page link to my own web site. What about to a site that I have other involvement in? For example, say I were Editor in Chief of a newspaper and I post a link to a controversial article from said paper. Is that bad? Does it make a difference if I am up front about my involvement in the paper?

Just trying to get a feel for what the community standards are.
posted by jewishbuddha to Etiquette/Policy at 1:38 PM (33 comments total)

i don't have any threads handy, but i recall this being discussed before. the consensus then was that no, you shouldn't post a link to a project you're involved in -- even if you're upfront about it.
posted by moz at 1:40 PM on November 9, 2001


Why not buy a textad?

< !-- or an a href="http://www.kottke.org/notes/0111.html#011105">iBook. -->
posted by perplexed at 1:56 PM on November 9, 2001


Doh. Cut, paste.
posted by perplexed at 1:56 PM on November 9, 2001


well, it was a pseudo-hypothetical question. i was reading a link posted earlier and thought the poster was familiar. so i did some digging and found out he was connected to the link he posted. but i didn't want to call in the mefi police only to find out what he had posted was perfectly legit.

so now i know for next time.
posted by jewishbuddha at 2:08 PM on November 9, 2001


Okay, now you gotta narc on the poster. Who was it?
posted by ColdChef at 2:16 PM on November 9, 2001


Here's the thread

I never actually want to call in the cops. not my style. but I htought if I saw it again, I might send the lad an email.
posted by jewishbuddha at 2:23 PM on November 9, 2001


I'd agree with the consensus that linking to a project that you're involved in should still be forbidden under the self-linking rule. It's ambiguous enough to be considered an understandable mistake, rather than just flagrant MeFi abuse, but it's still not good. The problem I can see with it is that people have a hard time thinking objectively about the quality of projects they have a personal stake in. If I work on a page, I'm more likely to consider it MetaFilter-worthy than I would if I just read it.
posted by moss at 2:30 PM on November 9, 2001


crap, I thought that post smelled fishy. I knew I should have deleted it. crud.

Yeah, don't self-link to projects you were involved with, especially if you're an editor-in-cheif, because of course you automatically think it's great writing, etc, due to your involvement. I have deleted threads written by people in group blog situations as well for the same reason. If you're connected with something, you have no objectivitiy.

Look at the dartmouth thing, that guy posted something most people said wasn't good enough to warrant a new link. If he wasn't involved with it, it probably wouldn't have been posted. It's a small way of ensuring only good stuff makes it on this site.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:14 PM on November 9, 2001


I thought that post smelled fishy.

no pun intended, i'm sure....

Sorry!
posted by jpoulos at 4:43 PM on November 9, 2001


Courteous etiquette would be to privately email the guilty poster if possible, and simultaneously alert Matt.

Standard etiquette is to call the guy on his faux pas directly in the MeFi thread in question. This almost always distorts the thread in question beyond the poster's original intent, as others will follow suit almost immediately and insure that the guy knows how much of an utter boob he is, utterly humiliating him publically so that he never does this in the future. Even if Matt chooses not to delete the thread in question, those who militantly enforce this rule will get their way, and the bad meanie poster guy will have sufficient rugburns which makes everybody feel all giddy inside.

That's standard etiquette, but just emailing the guy personally AND telling Matt is the proper thing to do. It's better for your karma.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:15 PM on November 9, 2001


What I love about this place is that, sooner or later, somebody will tell me what I'm missing, even if I can't backtrack to the source myself. Thanks, gang.
posted by realjanetkagan at 7:24 PM on November 9, 2001


The original thread started by none other than yours truely.
posted by geoff. at 10:18 PM on November 9, 2001


The original thread started by none other than yours truely.

sorry geoff. didn't mean to step on your toes. i'm new to this whole mefi ethics thing.

funny thing is, i found all this out because i was looking up his address to email him a "congrats" for posting some dartmouth stuff i found interesting (what can i say, i would find almost any mention of darmtouth interesting). but i recognized his name in the dartmouth directory from a Review article i had just read while trying to get some background on this same issue. silly.

well, now i know how to handle a similar situation in the future.
posted by jewishbuddha at 10:56 PM on November 9, 2001


Matt..

but does anyone here really have any objectivity?

Besides, some of the best discussions were ones that no one had any objectivity at all.

The whole backlash against the 'anti-blog' thing, for one...

(smirk)
posted by rich at 10:56 PM on November 9, 2001


Okay, looks like I'm gonna be devil's advocate on this one again. I think it is silly for us to impose "standards" upon ourselves that go so far beyond what is customary in other media. If MSNBC can post articles, pro and con, about Microsoft, so long as they make their affiliation clear with a disclaimer, then why should we deny ourselves the same freedom? Would readers of msnbc.com benefit from a blackout on all coverage of Microsoft? Do readers of MeFi benefit from a blackout on any content to which the poster has an affiliation, even a distant one?

I, for one, find the presumption that affiliation necessarily negates objectivity offensive. We're all (sorta) supposed to be grownups here; why this need to assume the worst of our moral behavior and block it in advance with such heavy-handed (and, I would argue, irrational) restriction?
posted by rushmc at 8:45 AM on November 10, 2001


If MSNBC had thousands of owners, who would each benefit greatly if they wrote about themselves, it would quickly fall apart.
posted by D at 8:53 AM on November 10, 2001


I am only offended by someone "self-linking" when it's done with purposeful intent to fool the audience. I really like it when Charles Gibson or Peter Jennings says something about Disney in business news or something, and then adds at the end of that report, "ABC is affiliated with Disney by the way..." It keeps everything in the free and clear. Yes this is publicity, but it's being reported on ABC both because it's newsworthy AND because it's publicity. As long as they're not trying to hide it, I got no problems with it.

I think self-linking should be acceptable IF the person self-linking is up front about it. However I'm in the minority here so that ain't never gonna happen. As Matt's made it clear, if he allowed it once it would be abused beyond his ability to control it. So it has to be censored across the board.

We all have our personal agendas. I support local music for example. I don't care if you live in Timbuktu, I want to see music in Dallas thrive. In the past I've posted about that in here. Didn't get much of a response. Nobody yelled at me though cuz I don't personally make those websites. I just talk about them.

Now here's where I confuse myself though. I can't front page postlink to anything on my own doman. That's a given. or any page in my old online journal even though I don't update it anymore and could really care less about it. It appears that I'd be trying to pump my own goard and appearance seems more important to some people in MeFi than the truth. So these are givens. No confusion here.

I can't link to my mp3 artist page because that's blatant self-linking. I also can't link to my Station pages because my name's on them, even though in most cases my station pages are supporting other people and not myself. Again, appearances indicate that I'm getting some kind of kickback or that hitcounts or something would be of interest to me.

However, I could opt to link directly to any one mp3.com artist, like Jenny Bruce who I do NOT know personally (well she's emailed me once or twice but that's it), or The Touch who I DO know personally (the bass player just invited me to some airplane museum today with his friends and family. I said no but will probably catch their gig tonight).

In fact a year or so ago I posted a link in MeFi to Kristy Kruger saying that she was gonna be playing out of state for a couple months, and if anyone here in MeFi wanted to listen to some cool live music to give her a shot. She sent me a sweet postcard a few weeks later saying that a couple MeFi posters actually did just that, and mentioned my name to her. That was neat. I didn't get anything more than a postcard from her about that, and her sincere appreciation for me being a fan and turning other people on to her music, but it was a personal agenda of mine to support her endeavors. Was using MeFi in that context wrong?

I do try to abide by the rules in here, but I see a lot of grey areas that others seem to overlook. If a person can't post about what interests them, that goes against the grain of what MeFi's all about. However, if Lance came in here every single day and linked to his own site saying, "come look what I just did ain't it keeno neato!" well that would piss me off. However if he did that maybe just a couple few times a year, it wouldn't bother me much.

I'd like an "ask tell" policy. IF someone's MeFi front page postlink is a personal agenda thing, they should be up front about their relation to the link in question. If they abuse that, then people could get on their case. If they don't tell up front and get caught, then people could get on their case. So I guess what I wish we all could do would be that golden rule thing: Do to other people what you'd like done to you. That's just not easy for Matt to enforce though. So it can't work. I won't shut up about it though cuz it's my opinion and I'm welcome to it. =) Maybe someday a better solution can be reached. Until then we got what we got. Open dialogue from all points along the spectrum can help to someday find a better answer.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:23 AM on November 10, 2001


If MSNBC had thousands of owners, who would each benefit greatly if they wrote about themselves, it would quickly fall apart.

And yet, unlike reporting the news, isn't the basis of blogging supposed to BE writing about yourself?
posted by rushmc at 12:02 PM on November 10, 2001


However, if Lance came in here every single day and linked to his own site saying, "come look what I just did ain't it keeno neato!" well that would piss me off. However if he did that maybe just a couple few times a year, it wouldn't bother me much.

I agree (and I don't remember who Lance is, and I'm not clicking to look, so my agreement is for all cases), but as you say, we are in the minority.
posted by rushmc at 12:04 PM on November 10, 2001


I, for one, find the presumption that affiliation necessarily negates objectivity offensive. We're all (sorta) supposed to be grownups here; why this need to assume the worst of our moral behavior and block it in advance with such heavy-handed (and, I would argue, irrational) restriction?

The rule is set in place after running this site for 2 and a half years. I've seen what people do, watched them interact with this site on a daily basis for that long, and the rule wasn't set in place on day one. It came about because the things you say I'm being presumptious about are the things that were observed for about the first 9 months of the site.

I'd really don't like making rules, I feel that people should feel free to break them when they deem it necessary, but not everyone has the same regard for "what is good enough for metafilter" that I do, or that you do, and these rules are in place to give people some boundaries, since they cry when people say they've done something wrong (my inbox used to be filled with "well, I didn't see a rule in place, so I thought it was a great idea to use your site to announce my company's new widget release").

There have been a handful of self-links that were good in the past couple years. It's hard to communicate that to people though, that what they have just created may be the one-in-a-thousand self-link that is a-ok for the site. The last one I can remember being good was a person that built a site about their african peace-corps style project, and they were setting out to go to africa for a year. Once in a while, a really cool project comes out of the metafilter community, and the metafilter projects list has listed a few things I would have considered worthy of a self-link.

Since people were going to such extreme means to self-link on MetaFilter even after the rule was in effect (creating new usernames to talk about themselves in the third person, etc), the TextAds were introduced, and have worked well for their intended purpose. A few of the textads were good enough to be mefi threads though.

So rushmc, what should the rules state about self-links in your mind?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:14 PM on November 10, 2001


Do readers of MeFi benefit from a blackout on any content to which the poster has an affiliation, even a distant one?

It's not a blackout. Other people are free to link to that site.

posted by rcade at 6:26 PM on November 10, 2001


So rushmc, what should the rules state about self-links in your mind?

It's not easy, obviously. My personal preference would probably be something similar to what ZachsMind laid out:

IF someone's MeFi front page postlink is a personal agenda thing, they should be up front about their relation to the link in question. If they abuse that, then people could get on their case. If they don't tell up front and get caught, then people could get on their case. So I guess what I wish we all could do would be that golden rule thing: Do to other people what you'd like done to you.

Of course, he, himself, is pessimistic about how well this would work.

I guess what bothers me about an outright ban is that I'm not clear on why people are allowed to post bad links, get flak and instruction for doing so, and (we hope, in the majority of cases) learn from the experience, do better the next time, and become productive additions to the community; but we don't trust the self-regulating system to treat similarly with self-linking.

Maybe I AM being too naive. I understand that you have seen what you have seen in the past and are doing what you think best to deal with it. You may even be right. I guess it's the pessimism about human nature that bothers me (boy, that's ironic!). When I think of self-linking, I think of one of the regular contributors posting a link to a pet project that they've worked long hours on and put their heart and soul into, are proud of, and want to share and get feedback on from people whose opinions they respect. You raise a good point, though: not all (perhaps not even most) of the self-links that MeFi would get might fit into this category. Specifically, the idea of advertising is disturbing. It's one thing to bring attention to a project you are involved in; quite another to shanghai MeFi as a vehicle for your commercial interests. And I suppose people WOULD do that. I don't want to encourage a whole new kind of link being posted here (e.g., advertising); I'm speaking of the kinds of link that would already be appropriate and welcome if only they had been posted by someone uninvolved with and unrelated to them. Perhaps the self-regulation (including the selective deletions of the inappropriate that you currently provide) could deal with it; perhaps it would prove too much and overwhelm the system, and the site. I don't know. I'd like to think that the system was (or could be made to be) robust enough to cope. It just seems so contrary to the spirit of the place to say "meta means everyone but YOU."

At the very least, I think it would be an asset for the system and rules to somehow accommodate and encourage such usage as Steven Den Beste's in-thread self-link to a more detailed reflection on a front page post/topic, to which those who chose to could read and then respond to in thread. It might be a way to address complex issues in more depth than is possible within a thread, which might result in less of the misunderstanding and simplistic us vs. them camp mentality which so often interferes with a meaningful exchange of views and ideas. Currently, even an in-thread self-link like this is a questionable bending of the rules and makes many people uncomfortable, since they aren't quite sure whether it works within the rules or violates them.
posted by rushmc at 10:18 PM on November 10, 2001


Other people are free to link to that site.

So either a) one must wait for a MeFi user to serendipitously stumble upon the site (it's a big Web--by the time this happens, the site may no longer be relevant, unique, or timely) or b) do an end-run around the system and email a MeFi buddy and get them to post it for you (which, as far as I'm concerned, is indistinguishable from posting it yourself in the first place; it complies with the letter of the law, but not the spirit). Doesn't really address the problem, does it?
posted by rushmc at 10:21 PM on November 10, 2001


Self-linking in comments is fine, and SDB does it well all the time.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:44 PM on November 10, 2001


rushmc, it's good to hear you understand the spirit of the law, and you understand how hard it is to convey it.

I'm finding a similar problem is cropping up with images being posted. If you look around at UBB style or discussion sites that allow images in sig files and the like, they are often choked with large, pointless images in threads. They're not pertinent to discussion and a distraction.

Now, in the past there have been one or two posts a week with images in them, and recently it's approached a sort of critical mass, and I'm seeing them several times a week. Someone just asked me how to code an image tag. If things continue, six months from now there will be no image posting allowed, simply due to the people "not doing it correctly" or doing it too often or not showing restraint (I've maybe posted 2-3 ever). It's hard to convey what expected behavior new users should follow, without some hard and fast rules.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:00 AM on November 11, 2001


I've pondered this whole dillemma long and hard, and have been painfully guilty of bad behavior in my fight to have my opinion heard. I've unfortunately ticked off a lot of people over the past year or so, but I felt very strongly about this. And I still do.

In 20/20 hindsight I wish I had found better ways to convey my thoughts and feelings on the subject. As things are now, I am VERY very veryvery pleased with the compromise Matt and others have conjured up.

First there's the textad thing. I try to click on at least one of those each time I come into MeFi now. Every time I see one that looks interesting, just cuz I want to support dat. GREAT idea! If you want to self-link, financially support the site. I see that as a VERY veryvery suitable compromise and alternative. I could go on for paragraphs but some people hate it when I do that. Just pretend I just typed eight or nine paragraphs praising Matt's good judgement on that. I simply can't say enough about it.

The other neato thing is the MetaFilter mailing list that someone else (and I'm sorry I forgot his name or the link I'm ashamed) put together. You can get on this mailing list thingy and whenever you have something personal and pertinent that you'd like to post to MeFi but it'd be self-linking, you just write that guy and it can get put up on the mailing list. He used to send updates about once a week. Sounds like he's thinking of shutting it down, cuz with the textads thing it's now kinda redundant, but I really like that idea now and have since it started. For people who can't afford even the small cost of textads, but do want to self-link, that mailing list is another good alternative, and further verifies that idiots like me have no room to complain now about self-linking.

I was idealistic but am pessimistic about the ideal solution for self-linking. I wanted it to work. I wish we could be self-policing about it. I fought hard. I stepped on toes. Often I was wrong in my approach and am still learning, but never wrong in my resolve.

Ultimately, Matt's right. It's simply not viable cuz some people will exploit it. He's tried everything else and the moratorium on self-linking was simply the only workable solution. However I'm endlessly grateful that he is open to differing views, and worked hard to come up with compromises and answers that as best as possible please the majority of the community.

I owe ya's a beer, Matt! =) And soon as I find a job and get some paychecks under my belt, I'll probably submit a couple textads for some local bands I'm always wanting to support. Just cuz the idea is so keano neato great. =)

And maybe someday we'll find a way to make self-policing and "ask/tell" work. But not today. With 12500 members and growing, it's just not feasible. Until then this is pretty darn great, what we got right now.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:48 AM on November 11, 2001


somewhat off-topic here

If you look around at UBB style or discussion sites that allow images in sig files and the like, they are often choked with large, pointless images in threads.

also, I've been noticing traffic from these UBB sites because some of the posters -- without enough web know how or without storage space -- link directly to images on other people's sites. Unless the image is yours, linking only to the picture removes context that might be helpful. I've taken to changing all my images so-linked on UBB sites to snarky pictures saying "don't steal bandwith" I'm all in favor of banning the IMG tag. If it's so important, make a web page for the image and do a plain old HTML link.

Back on topic -- my personal opinion on self-linking is that it's never okay on the home page. Yeah rushmc, it is a big web, but at the same time that assures that MeFi will continue to have fodder for good links without resorting to self-linking. There's all sorts of great ways to self-link in comments, or even on MeTa without bugging anyone, or other ways to get the word out about your site.
posted by jessamyn at 6:41 AM on November 11, 2001


If it's so important, make a web page for the image and do a plain old HTML link.

Or just link to the image directly. :)
posted by gleemax at 6:50 AM on November 11, 2001


The other neato thing is the MetaFilter mailing list that someone else (and I'm sorry I forgot his name or the link I'm ashamed) put together.

kindall. and i'm pretty sure it's still alive and kickin'. the confusion was that something was just wrong with his email account and he didn't think anyone was sending in things to advertise anymore.
posted by lotsofno at 7:47 AM on November 11, 2001


Fair enough. I reserve the right to regret the necessity, however.

Self-linking in comments is fine - Mathowie

I think that more of an effort needs to be made to make this common knowledge. I have seen questions raised a number of times as to the appropriateness of this, and I, myself, was not aware it had this unequivocal official stamp of approval.

Also, I wasn't aware of kindall's list. I wonder how many of the 10,000 people who've come after me knew?

I liked and like the TextAd concept, but sadly, they've already become invisible to me.
posted by rushmc at 9:36 AM on November 11, 2001


I think that more of an effort needs to be made to make this common knowledge. I have seen questions raised a number of times as to the appropriateness of this, and I, myself, was not aware it had this unequivocal official stamp of approval.

From the guidelines:

(note: it's ok to link to your own things as comments in threads, if it adds to the discussion and/or saves space because you're written a reply elsewhere)
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:34 AM on November 11, 2001


So either a) one must wait for a MeFi user to serendipitously stumble upon the site (it's a big Web--by the time this happens, the site may no longer be relevant, unique, or timely) ...

So what? If you publish something and MetaFilter doesn't link to it, does it cease to exist?
posted by rcade at 6:32 AM on November 12, 2001


If you publish something and MetaFilter doesn't link to it, does it cease to exist?

No, but you do.
posted by mattpfeff at 6:49 AM on November 12, 2001


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