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January 3, 2002 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Now that it's becoming a trend (#1, #2, #3), does anyone else think publicly sharing accounts to circumvent site registration is a bad idea?
posted by rcade to Etiquette/Policy at 6:10 AM (34 comments total)

Not me.
posted by sudama at 7:25 AM on January 3, 2002


hell no
and this gets more people to actually read the story.
posted by chrisroberts at 7:46 AM on January 3, 2002


I don't know what the NYT does with all this marketing info, everyone I know just randomly picks answers to their questions and uses fake email accounts. The end result is going to be the same between registering or just sharing the mefi account. The latter saves people time and sends a message to the NYT people.

If the NYT wanted to crack down on this they easily could.
posted by skallas at 8:09 AM on January 3, 2002


How hard is it to register for the NYT? Not hard at all.

Is it really unreasonable to humor a site by registering, when they are providing you with free content?

I'm surprised the NYT hasn't noticed the probably ridiculous number of repetitive logins from differen't IP's for the same user. I would be hard-pressed to believe the NYT would allow such a thing to happen, if they knew about it.

Although, I admit, in a few of my more retarded moments, when I'm on a different computer where my cookies aren't saved, I just use metafi metafi without remembering I ever registered in the first place. That being said, I disqualify myself, and anything I've just said.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:42 AM on January 3, 2002


They must know, if they even care to inquire.
posted by sudama at 8:57 AM on January 3, 2002


I'm a bit confused about why it would be a considered bad idea in the first place rcade. Reasoning?
posted by eyeballkid at 9:43 AM on January 3, 2002


I am a registered nytimes user, but I also use a whole lot of different computers (including public ones) and not only is it easier for me to just remember metafi/metafi or metafilter1/metafilter (another one), this way I don't have to leave a trail of password crumbs letting everyone know where I've been.
posted by rabi at 9:50 AM on January 3, 2002


Most sites dont at all use the user behaviour information that they collect thru login related browsing data. But that's not the point. NYT is giving us a free service on the net and if the requirement to access it is a login, they have a right to impose that. Even if that the login information never gets used by NYT, it is not right to subvert it deliberately.

Re: "I'm surprised the NYT hasn't noticed the probably ridiculous number of repetitive logins from differen't IP's for the same user"
I think that the people who would notice this are the sysadmin folks. The people who may get worked up about the importance of collecting the login information are usually the marketing/circulation folks. The twain rarely meets ....

Even if NYT figures this out, they may not necessarily want to deal with the associated hoopla/PR nightmare that they would have to contend with if they try to clamp down on it. May not be worth it for a liberal orthodoxy like NYT. I still dont think it is fair to subvert the procedures set by a publication deliberately.


posted by justlooking at 10:44 AM on January 3, 2002


I am a registered nytimes user, but I also use a whole lot of different computers (including public ones)...

I'm in the same boat, and often I'll find someone else has left a NYT cookie for me! Bad practice—I could sign them up for NYT spam, change their address, password, steal their email. I always change it to metafi/metafi.
posted by rschram at 10:47 AM on January 3, 2002


I still dont think it is fair to subvert the procedures set by a publication deliberately.

I don't think it's fair to require me to give up personal information to read something on a public network.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:48 AM on January 3, 2002


Oh, and, the most interesting thing about NYT's site is that they closed the alternate subdomains that MeFi posters used to circumvent signing in, but they allow this.
posted by rschram at 10:49 AM on January 3, 2002


Really, it would just take one malicious person who sees MeFi to fsck the whole thing up...*

*Disclaimer: I'm not advocating that sort of activity, I think that would be lame
posted by insomnyuk at 10:59 AM on January 3, 2002


New York Times knows of these 'public accounts.' A few years ago they did clamp down on a very well known public account. There aren't that many 'secrets' and 'under ground' stuff on the 'net' anymore as before. And many working now at NYT have grown up using these back-alley techniques themselves.

The only people actively tracking 'multiple-IP single login/password' are the smut industry. They have a vested interest in clamping down on rogue login/passwords. In an interview a few months ago, someone from Adult Check said that as part of their 'customer service,' they even call up registered members to verify their location/IP/usage so that they accidentally do not cancel accounts of loyal customers who are also frequent travelers. New York Times has no such vested interest in tracking down their users since dropping the paid International subscription plan.

I wonder why more MeFi members who want to discuss NYT articles don’t take it to Abuzz, NYT's own (and rather intelligent) discussion forum?
posted by tamim at 11:28 AM on January 3, 2002


I'm a bit confused about why it would be a considered bad idea in the first place rcade. Reasoning?

It's simple: How would you feel if someone circumvented Matt's signup rules on MetaFilter by creating an account and publishing the username and password publicly for others to share?

I don't think it's fair to require me to give up personal information to read something on a public network.

The stories on the New York Times site aren't public, though. They're restricted to registered users of the site.

Maybe it seems harmless because the account is currently free, but it's still an intentional effort to bypass the site's rules, and MetaFilter users are actively encouraging it in their front page posts.

How can we turn a blind eye to that while maintaining our status as one of the most nitpicky self-policing rules-conscious communities on the Web?

posted by rcade at 11:32 AM on January 3, 2002


It's simple: How would you feel if someone circumvented Matt's signup rules on MetaFilter by creating an account and publishing the username and password publicly for others to share?

The two are not the same type of accounts though. With the NYT account people are reading news articles, they are not posting threads or comments.
posted by gluechunk at 12:14 PM on January 3, 2002


How would you feel if someone circumvented Matt's signup rules on MetaFilter by creating an account and publishing the username and password publicly for others to share?

a. MetaFilter is free to read (and so is the LATimes and most other print newspaper online versions).

b. Signing up to MeFi only requires a username and a password.

c. NYT already makes their money from advertisements both online and in print. They don't need anything else from me.

d. If a group of users circumvented Matt's rules and signed up to MeFi under the same name, it would be useless to them. What would more than one person do with a username that is used to identify oneself in a conversation?

If the NYTimes chooses to use a system that can be easily and legally bypassed that would otherwise be just another form of data collection then I have absolutely no problem with it.

How can we turn a blind eye to that while maintaining our status as one of the most nitpicky self-policing rules-conscious communities on the Web?

Easy, my membership to MetaFilter doesn't dictate my actions elsewhere on the web.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:24 PM on January 3, 2002


I disagree. If it tells the NYT there are quite a few MetaFilter members reading certain articles then they've more than been paid for their service.
It tells much more than a bunch of made-up names and randomly chosen demos. MetaFilter has a community persona and I think it's honest to use the Metafi/Metafi sign-in.
Rebeccablood does the same on her website. It's only fair. We use the NYT a lot. Give a little back.

Of course if the username/password was something unfathomable I would agree with rcade.

Plus they(specially the authors and editors)of reading free, independent discussions of their work. Which has got to be worth a lot of money. Focus groups being the price they are these days.

When I register for a free site I always provide as much truthful information as I can - and sign up for all their span - for the same reason. If we want an important part of the Internet to be free then we should do our bit to contribute to those forking out good money for our pleasure.

It's simple: How would you feel if someone circumvented Matt's signup rules on MetaFilter by creating an account and publishing the username and password publicly for others to share?

No disrespect, rcade, but that is a not an acceptable comparison. People don't need passwords to read MetaFilter. And creating a multiple account on MetaFilter goes against the MetaFilter ethos and guidelines.

Whereas the NYT, I'm sure, is only too happy to be able to count referrals from MetaFilter.

The only unacceptable behaviour would be some idiotic member sharing his own, indecifrable password with his fellow MeFis. You know, like someone from sunny Portugal when he was young and innocent....
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:24 PM on January 3, 2002


This is just to say that eyeballkid and I did just now, posting at the exact same time and saying essentially the same is not easy and takes a hell of a lot of intercontinental coordination.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:27 PM on January 3, 2002


actually, if you recall the days before people giving away their NYT logins (perhaps say, pre-election2000), whenever someone posted a link to the NYT the first comment would almost always be:

"oh great, another fsking NYT link asking me to register, can you people stop linking to the NYT?"

which would quickly be followed by:

"uh, dorkass232, how hard is it to signup once and never have to complain again?"

which would bring the next comment:

"oh yeah, leftynut42? why should I have to signup to everything people post here, if it's good enough to post, it should be syndicated elsewhere"

and it would continue ad infinitum, derailing any argument.

Personally, I can't understand why people haven't created their own accounts, I did it in 1998 or so, and haven't had to worry about it since. It's the New York fucking Times, you know it's a good paper and the content is worth the one-time pain, and they exude some trust in their brand, so I don't fear I'll get spammed by them. It takes seconds and you never have to worry about it ever again.

Of course, as the NYT has gotten more popular online, I've noticed a few not-so-supreme publications asking for the same type of login. There's a Dallas paper I forget the title of that works like the NYT. Not being a texan, I don't know if they're a reputable paper, if it is worth the effort, or if they'll spam me to death after I signup, so I haven't signed up and I doubt I ever will. I don't know if their writing is up to snuff, I don't know if I should trust them, and all I want to do is read an article about Foo because someone linked to it.

Maybe that's how the NYT non-registered people feel.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:48 PM on January 3, 2002


I forgot to add:

So I guess the solution is a non-solution. People don't like registering, so the helper reg works for them, but then it does circumvent the system. I don't know what to do about it, personally I created my own NYT login.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:52 PM on January 3, 2002


"I don't think it's fair to require me to give up personal information to read something on a public network."

Content to my mind is 'Intellectual property'. The terms of usage of that IP - even when it is free - should be dictated by the owner. I dont know wheather the content being distributed by NYT and the terms of its distributions over Internet is owned by the writers themselves or by NYT. What I do feel is - NYT as a distributor has a right to choose how they want their content accessed. Specially when its free.

If I had a sophisticated weblog and if I were to institute a login, my content would still be 'Public content'. But I wont feel terribly good about it if someone were to post a username/password combination for my weblog on the net. If I were to want personal information as a price for accessing my content, that would have been my privilage.

Also, NYT's registration form appears to be geared to handle individual members rather than organizational members. Therefore members of a community going and checking content as a representative of that community is probably not valid.

I myself -when I have read something particularly good on NYT online - have passed on the link and the username/password to friends who I knew would be too lazy to go thru yet another registration form. But that doesnt make what I did right. Likewise here. I understand the logic of posting the username/password on the frontpage. But I dont think its terribly ethical.


posted by justlooking at 12:59 PM on January 3, 2002


NYT already makes their money from advertisements both online and in print. They don't need anything else from me.

The demographic information you provide to the Times and other free sites at time of registration is used to create a profile of the site's usership for advertisers. That's presumably the whole reason for annoying users by making them sign up.

The paper in Dallas is the Dallas Morning News. Even though I'm from Dallas, I avoided reading the site for years because it was a hassle to join.
posted by rcade at 1:03 PM on January 3, 2002


Re Mathowie's post: I have been a registered New York Times member since around two weeks after they instituted the policy (I'm guessing it was 1996) and have never received junk email at the address I gave them. Just so's you know.

Not to mention the reality of it all: I pay 75 cents a day for the Times, pretty much every day. If they wanted to give me a combination subscription I'd sign up in a second. So why not register for the freebie as they ask?
posted by werty at 1:06 PM on January 3, 2002


By the way. I'm pretty sure even the marketing folk at the NYT and other signup sites know something's up. They must be somewhat alarmed by the massive number of online subscribers from Schenectady.
posted by whatnotever at 2:09 PM on January 3, 2002


My NYT profile says I am a 80 year female zoologist working in the Lusaka office of "Affiliated Zoos and Menageries." I make over $100,000 a year, and I like autos.
posted by rschram at 2:52 PM on January 3, 2002


rschram: want 2 cyber?
posted by holloway at 2:57 PM on January 3, 2002


The paper in Dallas is the Dallas Morning News. Even though I'm from Dallas, I avoided reading the site for years because it was a hassle to join.

rcade, we can agree on this, and maybe this same statement can be applied to the NYT for some people. It may be the longer login form at the DMN, or my mistrust of their quality, but I've never gone through the hassle. If someone were to link there on metafilter (and they have in the past), I've only read the story when a user/pass was provided.

I hear the same response regarding hassle towards the NYT signup all the time. I remember an argument between my wife and I that sounded pretty much like the ficticious argument I posted above. She thought it was a hassle, I pleaded with her to just signup and not worry about it, and we continued. I think to this day she still hasn't gone through the trouble of signing up for a NYT login.

Maybe if the NYT was more upfront about what they do with the data, people wouldn't be so reluctant to provide it? Conversely, they could let people through to the content unhindered, but issue a popup asking for a quick signup if there is no NYT cookie. With this setup, anyone could view the site, and those who find the content compelling and the popup annoying could signup and be done with it (how many of you have picked your version of CNN between the US and Europe, just to get the popup to go away?). It's a way of giving people what they asked for, showing them the value of it, before asking for their signup details, which currently a user has to give before ever seeing the NYT.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:59 PM on January 3, 2002


i am not an advertiser, of course, but were i one i am not sure i would think the demographics provided by the NYT's online signups would be worth much. at present there is no incentive to provide accurate information, so why would i want to pay money for what may largely be bullshit? i don't mean to justify or excuse any behavior, but that looks like the reality as far as an advertiser might see things.
posted by moz at 3:05 PM on January 3, 2002


Don't expect people to sympathize with a big company like the NYT and don't expect the NYT to take down their site because of registration woes. It would be suicide for a big paper not to give at least a few choice articles on the internet for free. Hey, lets go read the post or the trib!

Even if they took down the website down and everyone stopped buying the paper in protest they would hand the paper out for free and still be able to make money. The NYT doesn't sell papers it sells a product (us, the audience) to a market (advertisers).

No one cares about some fictional woes or ethics regarding the NYT. If you hassle internet users they'll just find a way around it.
posted by skallas at 4:01 PM on January 3, 2002


Years ago, I was at a bar with a particularly notable view of a beautiful sunset and I told the owner/bartender that I would wait for my friends to join me before ordering a drink. She responded "Honey, the sunset ain't free." I have been under no illusions since.

The internet isn't free. When a great site goes under, we mourn the loss of it. By making the demographics (which is what the owner's of the NYT sell to advertisers) unreliable, we make the site less profitable. We make advertising on the internet more suspect and it becomes less likely that other, less mainstream sites, can use advertising as a way of providing us the content we all want. I have no sympathy for the NYT. I do think that making advertising on the internet a joke is not a good thing. If a site wants my demographic information as the cost of admittance, I make my decision on a case by case basis. I decided a long time ago that if I don't trust them with my info, I probably shouldn't trust the content that I am trying to access. I opt out of all advertising. If I use a site alot and they don't have many ads, I donate. I have never gotten spam. Not even porn.

BTW, The Dallas Morning News is a reputable paper and I've never gotten anything that I don't want from them. Well, maybe a few editorials...
posted by colt45 at 5:50 PM on January 3, 2002


colt45:

while you have a nice, ethical sentiment regarding marketing on the internet, i would think that advertisers would view the responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the information as that of the new york times.

many software companies, as an example, have free "registration" for their products; you are often privy to updates regarding the software and special offers if you sign up. of course, that information which you use to register will be used as demographics for marketing, and the accuracy is better because of the connection the company has created with the users through software updates or other offers. (no correct information and they have no way of sending you stuff or otherwise contacting you.)

the new york times does none of these things. that they provide a service to those who sign up is irrelevant, for that service does nothing to confirm the accuracy of the information. while morality might be a nice argument in favor of providing correct information, it's not very binding. i would have to think that would make a lot of advertisers blanch at the thought of paying much for that information.

re: the dallas morning news. doesn't crabwalk work for them? i seem to remember reading about that on his weblog.
posted by moz at 7:07 PM on January 3, 2002


Moz: I thought this discussion was about what our sentiments were. I don't think that site registration is the solution to advertising issues on the internet. I don't think there is one, really.

When you send in your registration card to a software company, all you have to do is fill out your address correctly to get the benefits of the registration. You can lie on all the questions relating to age, income, etc. that you want. As long as you give a correct email address, you get all the benefits of registering at the NYT. They do give you benefits - breaking news, headlines about the subjects you are interested in, etc. You are right, the advertisers do consider it the responsibility of the NYT to make the statistics as accurate as possible. To that end, I've gotten the impression that the NYT is starting to offer some services that you can only access via their emails. I haven't subscribed to them and I don't remember all the details. It is kind of along the lines of "subscribe to this newsletter and we'll let you know about articles that you won't hear about anywhere else". I imagine that we will be seeing all sorts of new strategies for making websites more profitable. People will work their way around them and the cycle will continue.

I don't have a weblog and don't really have any connection to the internet or the computer industry other than my modem and the fact that I live in Austin and the technology industry has a huge impact on the economy here. I get so much out of the internet. I've always tried to treat the things that I value with respect. I've always been someone who acted locally and realized that while I may not be able to solve large problems, my individual behavior does have an impact. Didn't eat tuna for years, don't do drugs because the dealers kill so many little kids, etc. I've always behaved online as I try to in real life. I had this dilemma a long time ago and what I wrote above was the conclusion to which I came. No one else need conclude the same. I must admit that it is surprising to me that so many people whose livelyhoods seem to depend on new technology are so opposed to a relatively non-intrusive method of making it profitable. If you don't want to give out your " real" address, there is always Hotmail. I guess I thought that "blanching advertisers" would be the last thing that most internet site owners would want. Obviously, there is a long history of hacking and doing all sorts of "subversive" things that have probably been good in the long run. I certainly see how outwitting the registration of the NYT would fit into that world view. It is just not mine.

Yes, there is nothing binding about any of this. I kinda like that.
posted by colt45 at 9:02 PM on January 3, 2002


She thought it was a hassle, I pleaded with her to just signup and not worry about it, and we continued. I think to this day she still hasn't gone through the trouble of signing up for a NYT login.

My guess is that thousands of people treat registration-only newspaper sites like that -- avoiding the hassle of a signup for a long time. I finally joined the Dallas Morning News site when it had a story that was worth the aggravation.

As for the paper's reputation, it's a large paper that's deeply conservative, friendly to big business, bought and shut down the competition -- the Dallas Times-Herald a decade ago, has an incredible sports page, and thinks of itself as being on a par with the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Washington Post.

One example of its pretentiousness: A few years ago, the News changed its style so that titles are used on second reference in news stories -- Mr. Clinton, Mr. Arafat, Mr. Hitler. For example:
Within a few weeks, Ms. Tripp would go to independent counsel Kenneth Starr and trigger the investigation that led to Mr. Clinton's impeachment. She had to, Ms. Tripp told Mr. Starr. After all, she was being urged by Ms. Lewinsky to commit a felony, to lie under oath.
Because of this policy, the News calls the most wanted man in the world "Mr. Bin Laden."

posted by rcade at 6:12 AM on January 4, 2002


Disclosure: I'm a former Fort Worth Star-Telegram staffer and an avid Dallas Times-Herald reader as a kid. So I've loathed the News both professionally and personally for years.
posted by rcade at 6:16 AM on January 4, 2002


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