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Self-links on AskMe
March 1, 2009 8:39 AM   Subscribe

I was wondering about the self-link policy on AskMeFi.

In a recent thread user opus788 linked to a pay site with what sounded like a canned response. So far this is his only contribution to any of the sites.

I see no harm to self-linking in threads (I did it myself) provided that it is acknowledged as such. This is not.
posted by cedar to Etiquette/Policy at 8:39 AM (47 comments total)

The self-link policy is pretty harsh in Ask MeFi, because we get A LOT of it, on the order of half a dozen every single day. Obvious ones are always instantly deleted the moment we find them. If people post several, they get banned instantly. There are at least 4-5 people doing this every week in order to try and increase their pagerank with crappy comment spam SEO. We'll see some user hitting every ancient thread about the same general topic, posting loads of links to a web store of some sort.

We have a variety of tools for ratting these people out and they're working pretty good at all the blatant SEO crap. This comment you see is slightly weird because there's no obvious connection to the profile, it doesn't appear they signed up just to post it (they signed up over 24hrs before), they don't appear to be working for the company that owns the site nor are they even in the right area of the world, and finally they didn't make a link or an obvious spammy SEO keyword phrase to try and fool google into going there.

So in short, yeah, we usually stamp this stuff the instant it goes up (and we have a boatload of pissed off SEO spammer email to show for our efforts, as well as fradulent reports to paypal for "ripping off" the comment spammers by charging them $5 and then banning them instantly) but this particular example isn't cut and dry.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:46 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you sure this link is "self-linking"? Is the site he referenced his own site?
posted by hal_c_on at 8:48 AM on March 1, 2009

Self-links
Looking for Self-links?
Find exactly what you want today.
www.eBay.com
posted by Rhomboid at 9:17 AM on March 1, 2009 [22 favorites]


Would self-link again. A+++
posted by gman at 9:22 AM on March 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I do wonder why you think this is self linking, rather than just an example of a new member's first post/response.

As a side note, I use the Jacquie Lawson ecard site myself, and like their cards quite a bit (and it is only a 12 bucks a year membership fee.) I thought about mentioning that site myself in that thread but got busy at work and forgot about it. (Note: I have no relationship, commercial or otherwise, with the Jacquie Lawson ecard site).
posted by gudrun at 9:25 AM on March 1, 2009


So if you've done some academic research on a subject that someone's asking about, can you point them to that?
posted by dunkadunc at 9:30 AM on March 1, 2009


This is not.

Unless you've got some evidence you're not sharing with us, you would do well not to call specious allegations on the user. I'm guessing that it's not a self-link. It's a pretty well-established site that's even been posted to the blue before and not just some fly-by-night operation. It's also not even a clickable link, which would greatly reduce any benefit that an SEO clown would get out of it. And it's just one comment.
posted by dhammond at 9:33 AM on March 1, 2009


One thing mathowie doesn't mention in his response is that (in my understanding) it can be OK for a member to link to their own site or sites they are involved with in AskMe answers, if it is an appropriate answer to the question. If it were me, I would be damn sure there was no other place online to get similar information before doing it, and I would be very up front about it being a "self-link".

I have also had good luck with using the "Contact" form to clue mods into possible comment spam and/or inappropriate self-linkery.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:34 AM on March 1, 2009


I do wonder why you think this is self linking, rather than just an example of a new member's first post/response.

Self-link was probably the wrong term... maybe shilling would have been a better choice.

The new members first, and only, post reads:
"It's not free, but recipients generally enjoy cards from www.jacquielawson.com...
Now, unless this guy is David Ogilvy's son, people just don't talk like that.

So if you've done some academic research on a subject that someone's asking about, can you point them to that?

Of course you can, by pointing out that you have done some academic research they might be interested in. The same way this poster could have said, "I have enjoyed sending cards from [insert site here]."

I may be a little quick on the trigger, but am interested in whther or not opus
posted by cedar at 9:41 AM on March 1, 2009


I may be a little quick on the trigger, but am interested in whether or not opus...

... 788 continues to post on these sites.
posted by cedar at 9:43 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I saw this when it was first posted and my general feeling was "huh, seems weird. Is the users likely weird or an inept self-linker...?" I figured without any evidence to the contrary I'd assume weird. If there's a pattern of it we'll definitely reconsider. And mathowie's got it, we look pretty sharp at these sorts of things when we see them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:54 AM on March 1, 2009


What if you use your URL as your username? I never understood why that was allowed.
posted by milarepa at 9:56 AM on March 1, 2009


We have a variety of tools for ratting these people out

Rooting them out, that is. We don't really do any active ratting-out, per se.

it can be OK for a member to link to their own site or sites they are involved with in AskMe answers, if it is an appropriate answer to the question

Yeah, this is the flip-side of the situation: there's nothing in principle wrong with saying "I have done a lot of work on issue x about which you are asking, and here is my or my company's website that is the answer to your question", and folks doing that without any sketchiness is a-okay. It's generally not a problem if it's an established user posting with full disclosure.

With brand new users, there's not that trust built up, and an active problem as Matt says with newbie shills and spammers and SEO jerks actively abusing it. We're pretty aggressive about deleting and banning if something is obviously sketchy.

So something like this is in that middle ground where it seems a bit sketch but we've done some due diligence and having turned anything up, and so we let it sit and maybe keep an eye on that person for next while to see if it turns into a pattern of behavior.

We catch a lot of these early (whether they turn out to be trouble or not), but flagging anything that looks weird is always a good idea, in case something hinky manages to get by our toolset.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:57 AM on March 1, 2009


It came up with MagicWandShop, and apparently the decision was that it was that the situation was borderline, but okay, since the answers weren't off-topic for the posts. The relationship between the poster and business was very open, too.

Here, we don't even have any reason to know that the poster is affiliated with the business.
posted by dilettante at 9:59 AM on March 1, 2009


What if you use your URL as your username? I never understood why that was allowed.

Weird choice of username is usually about five or six rungs below the most commons sort of actionable behavior; someone who uses their domain as their username but is an awesome citizen is an awesome citizen with a weird username, and someone who uses their domain as their username and spams the site gets banned just like any other spammer, basically.

It comes up pretty infrequently, regardless. Just observing new accounts behind the scenes as they're created, I'd venture too that the weirder the username, the less likely the account is to see any significant activity anyway. I attribute it more to confusion than to malice most of the time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:59 AM on March 1, 2009


The internet's such a big place. I would be a little wary about the sentiment (which I've seen recently in more than one thread) 'people just don't talk like that.' Not everyone speaks English exactly the way you do, even among those for whom it's their first language. How about UK English vs. US, or Australian, or South African? Phrasing and vocabulary aren't absolute, even within the same country. Add in the possibility that whatever-flavor English is not their first language and things diversify even more.
posted by tomboko at 10:16 AM on March 1, 2009


Don't do it. You'll go blind.
posted by Eideteker at 10:20 AM on March 1, 2009


Yeah. Not everyone can use the special 'C' word like Artw can.
posted by gman at 10:21 AM on March 1, 2009


!

I accidentally another six word comment.
posted by Eideteker at 10:23 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had no idea there was so much spamming on AskMe.
posted by shothotbot at 10:58 AM on March 1, 2009


If it were me, I would be damn sure there was no other place online to get similar information before doing it, and I would be very up front about it being a "self-link".

Okay, second part I get, but why the first? If I had a site with totally relevant information, why would I waste my time seeking out another site with the same info? When it's been relevant, I've pointed people to the Smithsonian Institute's Archives of American art. I always disclose that I worked for them for a while. Would I even bother trying to find another organization that also storehouses collections of artists' works, just so I have a "unbiased" source to send them to?

In my opinion, there are two situations in which you should not self link: when you really are spamming, and as a FPP on the blue or green, where it just isn't allowed. Other than that, if you have relevant info, share it, because it sure as heck isn't going to get found by you sitting around and being "virtuous". Creating links to pages is what the web is all about. You don't have to apologize for or be shy about actually creating or being involved with content relevant to a discussion. You just have to be up front about it.

On a personal note: If I had an AskMe about wanting to buy a foo, purchasing it from a MeFite would, to me, be cooler than purchasing it from a random site. So I would totally want someone to say something like, "Actually, I hand knit foos out of shedded cat fur, and sell them on my website here." I recognize that's not really MetaFilter's policy, but I'd personally be totally cool with that, and I really don't understand users who aren't cool with that. Maybe it's just because I am self-employed and I know how challenging it can be to support yourself when you don't have a steady paycheck coming in from an employer.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:02 AM on March 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


In my opinion, there are two situations in which you should not self link: when you really are spamming, and as a FPP on the blue or green, where it just isn't allowed. Other than that, if you have relevant info, share it, because it sure as heck isn't going to get found by you sitting around and being "virtuous". Creating links to pages is what the web is all about. You don't have to apologize for or be shy about actually creating or being involved with content relevant to a discussion. You just have to be up front about it.

This is exactly right, and I wish it were better understood. It always irks me to see people being excessively coy about "self-links" in comment threads: "Oh, I wrote something about this but I don't want to self-link so you can write me if you want the link." Sheesh.
posted by languagehat at 11:19 AM on March 1, 2009


Deathalicious, I think the distinction I want to make here is between a helpful answer that happens to be a self-link and a self-link for its own sake.

We don't have a problem with an established member saying "hey, I do x, here's my work, this should help solve your problem". That's fine.

We don't even necessarily have a problem with someone signing up just to say "hey, I do x, here's my work" when it's explicitly relevant and the site in question isn't otherwise sketchy.

What is a problem:

- When the person doesn't disclose that the site they're linking is something they're involved with. (Or even actively dissembles on that front. We see a lot of coy "oh I found this site the other day" bullshit.)
- When the person displays poor/lazy/opportunistic judgement in their "answering", tossing a link into a thread where it's not really helpful so much as just nominally topical.
- When the person adds a link to a dormant thread, suggesting that they have gone searching for places to link their site rather than come across the question in good faith by reading the site.
- When the person's links to their work make up a significant portion of their contributions to the site, suggesting they have little to no interest in the community beyond using it as an advertising platform.

We typically see a combination of those factors from spammers and shills; many are totally unsubtle about it (and hence really easy to catch), and others or only a little subtle (and so still generally easy to catch with the expanded toolset we've built in the last couple years).

There are some folks with opportunistic or bad-faith intent who slip through that net. And there are other folks who are well-meaning who manage to send up some red flags regardless out of bad luck or bad presentation. This last set of stuff gets more time and attention when we come across it so we can be as confident as possible what we're dealing with. And sometimes the end result there is that we just aren't sure, and we keep an eye out to see how it goes with a given user in the future.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:34 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The self-link policy is pretty harsh in Ask MeFi, because we get A LOT of it, on the order of half a dozen every single day

Wait a minute ... this means you are making US$30 per day from (deleting) spammers - over US$10,000 a year.

You, sir, are a goddam genius.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:43 AM on March 1, 2009


(this comment is closed to further snark)
posted by blue_beetle at 11:44 AM on March 1, 2009


we have a boatload of pissed off SEO spammer email to show for our efforts

I'll bet this could make for some very enjoyable reading.
posted by adamrice at 11:55 AM on March 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll bet this could make for some very enjoyable reading.

i too would love to read it! name and shame preferred, but even name redacted would be fun.
posted by lia at 12:08 PM on March 1, 2009


as well as fradulent reports to paypal for "ripping off" the comment spammers by charging them $5 and then banning them instantly

Is this a problem for your relationship with Paypal, or anyone else? Will you wind up on anyone's crap list? I hate to think that we'd be in trouble due to some assholes ignoring the guidlines and such.
posted by Melismata at 1:19 PM on March 1, 2009


Not to speak for #1, but it seems like yes.
posted by Science! at 1:55 PM on March 1, 2009


But he's also said previously that when a banned SEO-scum complains he gladly offers to refund the $5 rather than risk the person filing a paypal complaint.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:25 PM on March 1, 2009


So what do you guys think of my awesome blog? And while you're there, ask yourself if you enjoy clicking the adverts (you should probably try a few to get a better feel for it). Finally, the ordering mechanism for my products, please let me know what you think of the entire process up to the bit just after you click 'Confirm Order' and get your receipt.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:04 PM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be honest, I read his comment as him being too lazy to type "It's not free, but [the people that I have sent greeting cards to in the past have] generally enjoy[ed the] cards [I sent] from www.jacquielawson.com - and it's a great site for sending out piles of Xmas cards or whatever..."
posted by davejay at 3:15 PM on March 1, 2009


I had no idea there was so much spamming on AskMe.

There is probably a lot of stuff that goes on here that most people don't ever know anything about, because the mods do such a good job of cleaning things up before many people see them.
posted by orange swan at 4:28 PM on March 1, 2009


the mods do such a good job of cleaning things up before many people see them.

Plus we are actually sort of modest. One day I'd love to do a "day in the life of" sort of thing and delineate exactly what we do all day when we're "at work"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:58 PM on March 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


11:02 - check flag queue. See 27 flags on post.
11:03 - delete post. Reason: "please do not put craigslists ads for your porn collection on the front page."
11:04 - clear out flag queue.
11:06 - receive email complaining about deletion, declaring mod staff "thought police"
11:07 - send Jessamyn obscenity-laden IM complaining about email
11:08 - receive link to picture of cat attacking a roomba via IM, feel better
11:10 - send polite reply to user's email w/ pointer to FAQ
11:11 - locate some scotch
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:10 PM on March 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


11:04 - wake up, delete post. see that cortex has already deleted it.
11:07 - cortex is swearing at me? wtf?
11:07 - have more coffee, squint at screen
11:08 - have the Cortex Calmbot IM something appropriate, go back to bed
12:15 - wake up and read eleventeen emails including cortex's polite reply to op crazymail
12:16 - do ritual "thank jehu for cortex" dance
12:17 - answer eleventeen emails while repeating "I am the smiling buddha" and looking out the window at my birdfeeder
12:28 - delete chatfilter AskMe
&c.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:20 PM on March 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


12:16 wake up to stomping in other room
12:17 walk in to investigate; witness Jess slaughtering a goat; sofa is on fire
posted by not_on_display at 5:53 PM on March 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


10:03 - Knowing the mods are asleep, post the most outlandish shit I can find.

Oh, never mind.
posted by gman at 5:57 PM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


receive link to picture of cat attacking a roomba via IM, feel better

How does a cat attack a roomba via IM?
posted by adamrice at 6:38 PM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


very carefully!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:53 PM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gato873: heya, sup
ScoobaDoo: not much, u
Gato873: chillin
ScoobaDoo: i hear that
Gato873: oh btw *POUNCE*
ScoobaDoo: oh damn lol
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:40 PM on March 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


How about UK English vs. US, or Australian, or South African?

And CANADIANS, you forgot to mention CANADA, we also speak English in our own unique way in case you forgot to include CANADIAN in your little list there.

11:03 Hear rustling in the crawlspace, begin heating Vienna Sausages in microwave to feed cortex.
11:04 Check astral mod panel, note that as always it is pure and unchanged. No action needed.
11:15 Head out to Qwik-e-Mart for scotch.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:36 AM on March 2, 2009


TINC (There Is No Canada)
posted by Rock Steady at 5:34 AM on March 2, 2009


cortex gets Vienna sausages and scotch? Are you guys hiring?
posted by Mister_A at 6:30 AM on March 2, 2009


Nope; we blew the HR budget on vienna sausages and scotch.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:57 AM on March 2, 2009


and a new couch.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:05 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can you just end this thread right there? (And delete my comment, too?) Because the one-two punchlines you just delivered, cortex and jessamyn, just finish it off so nicely.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:08 AM on March 2, 2009


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