Not on the internet? Impossible! October 19, 2009 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Let's say I find something in a book or magazine that doesn't exist on the internet - is there an OK way to include it in a MeFi post without self-linking?

I'm totally behind the "no self-linking" policy, but what if I find a cool article in a magazine with no internet-linkable counterpart - for sake of example, let's say somebody famous is in the news today, and I'd like to include in my MeFi post something that was covered in a magazine interview thirty years ago, but I can't find a linkable source for the same info online. It isn't the primary content of the post, but I think it's an important point that needs to be included. I also don't want to sound like I'm pulling things out of my ass by including it without citation. Also, this is a blog, not Wikipedia, so people want links. At this point, it feels like it's up to me to put it online somehow, but if I do that, it sounds like I can't use it at MetaFilter.

If I scan the article and put it on my blog to link to, that obviously counts as self-linking. Posting a scan to my Flickr account also constitutes self-linking, from what I understand - recruiting my brother to post it on his website so I can link to it is pretty much self-linking, too, especially if the smart and observant MeFi users notice I do it more than once. Making up identities and fake Google or TwitPics accounts is a sneaky, underhanded way of doing it, and I don't want to go that route. I don't want to break the rules, and I don't want the self-linking rule changed - but is there any way to include something like this?
posted by AzraelBrown to Etiquette/Policy at 4:34 PM (49 comments total)

No, we've pretty much got an "if it's not on the internet and you have to upload it to post about it, it's not okay" rule for these things. It's a weird peripheral territory that we'd prefer to avoid mucking around in.

If it's something that constitutes making a real project out of, there's no reason you couldn't then post it to Projects, but of course depending on the nature of the thing you're uploading you may want to consider what that looks like from a rights perspective as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:39 PM on October 19, 2009


A compromise would be to put in the first comment, as opposed to the post, and clearly mention that it's a self link.
posted by dhruva at 4:40 PM on October 19, 2009


dhruva: A compromise would be to put in the first comment, as opposed to the post, and clearly mention that it's a self link.

Yeah, that's what I was about to come into the thread to suggest. I'm not sure why that wouldn't make me bat an eyelash (as opposed to linking to it in the post) but that seems okay to me. The front page is sacred somehow... or maybe it's because links from the front page lead to so many more hits than links in the comments.
posted by Kattullus at 4:45 PM on October 19, 2009


The point is that you found it on the internet. If you find it elsewhere and put it on the internet just to link to it, the point is missed.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:45 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Best of the rest?
posted by davejay at 4:54 PM on October 19, 2009


if anyone wants to publish a magazine that focuses entirely on cool stuff that cannot be found anywhere on the internet at the time of publishing, I would like to subscribe to your newslettermagazine
posted by davejay at 4:55 PM on October 19, 2009


No, we've pretty much got an "if it's not on the internet and you have to upload it to post about it, it's not okay" rule for these things.

Pretty much that. If you don't have a post without content that you'd have to upload yourself, you don't have a post.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:58 PM on October 19, 2009


What about in 2054, when there's only one remaining thing not on the Internet? How will MeFi post about it? Or will it have to be the elephant in the roomnot on the internet?
posted by DU at 5:06 PM on October 19, 2009


I'm pretty sure I saw that elephant photo on the internet someplace.
posted by box at 5:14 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


DU: "What about in 2054, when there's only one remaining thing not on the Internet? How will MeFi post about it? Or will it have to be the elephant in the roomnot on the internet?"

Depends. Is that one remaining thing not on the internet an elephant?
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:15 PM on October 19, 2009


So is posting it in the comment, while labeling it a self-link, OK? Assuming the post is substantial enough without it of course. I see people self-link stuff in comments all the time. I've done it myself when sharing code on askme/meta and no one gave me trouble over it.
posted by cj_ at 5:18 PM on October 19, 2009


I could tell you, but then it would be on the internet. Or is mentioning "last thing not on the internet" enough to put it on the internet?
posted by DU at 5:19 PM on October 19, 2009


What about in 2054, when there's only one remaining thing not on the Internet?

Is it Ghostbusters 2?
posted by inigo2 at 5:26 PM on October 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


I have been thinking about this issue myself since I was considering putting up a post about a Brooklyn judge in his battles with foreclosures, it's an interesting story, but his opinions I would need to self-link, or do all of you have access to Lexis?

My solution is to not post. And when solutions result in the wrong answer, the rules are wrong.
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 5:27 PM on October 19, 2009


If only there was a trite 4-letter acronym to describe what to do in this situation...
posted by GuyZero at 5:27 PM on October 19, 2009


So is posting it in the comment, while labeling it a self-link, OK? Assuming the post is substantial enough without it of course.

Assuming it's not a thin song-and-dance around the post not actually being substantial enough, that sort of thing can fly, but it really needs to be carefully considered in a "what if this comment didn't exist" sort of way. It shouldn't be a wink-and-a-nod sort of thing at all.

I see people self-link stuff in comments all the time. I've done it myself when sharing code on askme/meta and no one gave me trouble over it.

Generally speaking it's fine to link to your own stuff in comments when done in moderation and with sensible disclosure, yes. The specific case being discussed here is, well, more specific and so see above, but the general rule is don't do it too much and don't be abusive about it and you're fine.

We see folks who will sometimes contribute very little to the site in terms of sheer volume of comments and who will of their few comments make a substantial portion into self-links, and that sort of thing we very much frown on—I write new folks email now and then about it when it's happening, and on the extreme end we ban folks who seem to be here to do nothing but. But those are the ugly exceptional cases, not general occasional "what ho! this link is relevant!" stuff from good-faith contributors.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:28 PM on October 19, 2009


It is the best of the intenet, not the best of your closet.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:29 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


but his opinions I would need to self-link, or do all of you have access to Lexis?

I'm all for more open access for documentation of all kinds, but personally intentionally circumventing publication rights stuff for the sake of post content is one of the sorts of things we're trying to avoid having to grapple with with this. I've refrained from making a post in the past because it depended on stuff that lives behind the JSTOR wall, and it's a bummer that that's so but a bummer is just a bummer, not a mandate to rewrite site policy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:31 PM on October 19, 2009


The point is that you found it on the internet. If you find it elsewhere and put it on the internet just to link to it, the point is missed.

It is the best of the intenet, not the best of your closet.


OP was pretty clear that we're talking about subsidiary links here, not the primary content.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:32 PM on October 19, 2009


but personally intentionally circumventing publication rights stuff

publication rights stuff of legal opinions?
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 5:37 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


But those are the ugly exceptional cases, not general occasional "what ho varlet! this link is relevant!" stuff from good-faith contributors.

Fixed &c.
posted by dersins at 5:37 PM on October 19, 2009


There's a dead tree magazine called "The Week" that does more or less what you guys are describing. It collects the best articles from newspapers and magazines for the week.
posted by chrchr at 5:41 PM on October 19, 2009


publication rights stuff of legal opinions?

Perhaps not so much with legal opinions, fair. Point being that yanking stuff of varying provenances out from behind a paywall/access barrier, whether JSTOR or Lexis-Nexus or whatever, is kind of sticky territory on top of the main upload-it-just-to-post objection.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:44 PM on October 19, 2009


I think it's sticky territory if you ignore that what most Lexis publishes is and should be public access.

My point is that this rule (to me) is like chatfilter, that self-linking (and chatfilter) aren't necessarily bad, but the rule is strictly enforced when what you are trying to accomplish (self-marketing) isn't always the intention of self-linking.
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 6:01 PM on October 19, 2009


So is posting it in the comment, while labeling it a self-link, OK?

Self-linking in comments just any old how if it's a small part of your overall participation is totally fine. Self-linking as the first comment if the point is to add material to your post that isn't strictly kosher, less okay. Linking to stuff behind a paywall isn't any good. Self-posting that stuff in front of the paywall so that you can link to it in the first comment a post is also not any good no matter how good your intentions are or how much of fuckers the paywall trolls are.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:11 PM on October 19, 2009


My solution is to not post. And when solutions result in the wrong answer, the rules are wrong.

Is it possible that your assessment of the solution being wrong is, in fact, correct?

The larger issue is that we need a bright line distinction in the guidelines so that we don't have to say "well you can do it if you have a really good reason...." and then set ourselves up as the arbiter of reasons, which is a job I do not want and would not be good at.

We need a guideline that 45K people can understand and can see being applied fairly. Do not upload things in order to put them in your posts is a clear guideline.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:21 PM on October 19, 2009


IMO, if the post stands without the additional content, then post it without the additional content. If it doesn't, then just skip the post.

If the conversation turns in such a way that the content is worth posting as a comment, then I guess go ahead and do it, but I wouldn't do it as a first comment.
posted by empath at 6:30 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you have a meaty badass post, and there's one extra primary source you scan up and post it in the comments, it probably wouldn't bring the mods a'bannin.

Actually, exactly what empath said.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:11 PM on October 19, 2009


JSTOR is some bullshit. Also, if "publishers" wanna justify the massive fees they hit libraries with, everything should be full text.

Sorry. Little bit of a tangent, but it gets me all frothin'. GRR.
posted by klangklangston at 7:12 PM on October 19, 2009


Nice name for a band, Paywall Troll Fuckers
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:13 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is a certain musicality to Jessamyn's cursing.
posted by empath at 7:15 PM on October 19, 2009


Do not upload things in order to put them in your posts

I first read "posts" as "pants". FYI.
posted by DU at 7:17 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


jessamynAdmin: "how much of fuckers the paywall trolls are"

They are very much of fuckers. I'm currently working on a top secret project where we've had to grapple with this sort of thing from the early stages. We've managed to get beyond the paywall by simply posting fine-grained summaries of the material in question and providing a citation if anyone cares to read further. Of course, it also helps that our target audience is grad students with institutional access to huge databases.
posted by The White Hat at 8:28 PM on October 19, 2009


Ghostbusters 2: Vy Am I Covered In Goo?
posted by loquacious at 9:56 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


It seems like your basic question is: say you have idea for a post with at least one link to something that's actually on the web and not hosted by you (or your family members etc.). But you also have related contented that is hosted by you. Is it OK for you to post the non-self-link part as the FPP, and then immediately post the self-link as the first comment in the thread? I can't imagine that this would be acceptable. That first comment would practically be part of the FPP. If that's allowed, then the door is wide open for people to self-link and use the excuse, "But it was just in the first comment, not the FPP."
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:56 PM on October 19, 2009


As the first rule from whence all others is Don't Be An Asshole, I'm sure that people who made a habit of it would have those comments deleted and a polite but firm note sent to them. Folks who kept doin' it would get banned.
posted by klangklangston at 10:11 PM on October 19, 2009


If it's something that you'd like to mention, mention it. You can cite things and give it proper citation without linking to something on the internet. People did it for years before the internet existed. Check your latest MLA guide for proper citation formats.
posted by inturnaround at 11:38 PM on October 19, 2009


a bummer is just a bummer

What ho! indeed
posted by setanor at 1:12 AM on October 20, 2009


I gotta say I'm a little surprised at this one. I understand the no-self-linking rule, because without it people would be flogging their own blog and generally spamming incessantly.

But where's the harm in someone uploading something in order to link to it? It doesn't seem like it's necessarily harmful to quality in the same way that linking to your own content is.

I guess I can see somebody linking to stuff on their own domain in order to drive traffic there and get ad revenue, and if that's the concern I can see prohibiting that on the grounds of self-linking—but why broaden it out to include all uploading, everywhere? If someone uploads something to, say, Pastebin (thinking of the case of legal opinions), it's hard to see any way that they're going to profit from it.

It seems as though there are basically two separate situations that get covered under the general heading of "no self-linking":
  • Linking to something you wrote/created, wherever it may appear on the Internet
  • Linking to something on your own blog or site, regardless of who wrote it
Both of these are considered bad, because both would lead to spamming. Accepted.

But someone uploading something that they didn't create to a common-carrier service that they don't benefit from the increased traffic to (e.g. Pastebin, Scribd, etc.) doesn't seem obviously harmful or like it has a potential for abuse. Plus, it seems like it could lead to some really interesting posts and could increase post quality by letting people bring in additional material that wouldn't otherwise be there for all members to see (e.g. Lexis-Nexis or PACER), which could lead to a lot less uninformed speculation in the discussion.

I certainly understand doing whatever it takes in order to hold back the infernal floodgates of spam and to keep quality high, but it seems like in this particular case the effect might be the opposite.

It seems like it would be fairly easy to draw a "bright line" that prohibited toxic behaviors while leaving room for exceptional cases where a currently-offline resource really brings something to the table, by just saying that things you link to can't be anything you wrote or had a hand in creating, no matter where they are on the Internet, and that regardless of who created the content it can't be hosted on a site that you in any way derive benefit from increased traffic to. That would seem to cover all the bad cases that I can think of while leaving room for the odd court case or scan of an old magazine article here and there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:32 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not just spam. It's also that people are not good judges of the worthiness of their own content. "I scanned this, and it took all afternoon, and I'm going to post it because that was a lot of work, even though it is a little thin."
posted by smackfu at 6:50 AM on October 20, 2009


Yeah the policy isn't about self-linking as much as a few other things

- "best of the web" even though it's a deprecated phrase generally still means we want you to be talking about things online. This is why we don't do "open threads" and other stuff on the blue.
- tracking down whether you do or do not benefit materially from content you uploaded and linked to is work. Ferreting out self-linkers as it is is a lot of work. We don't want to have to gauge whether you've uploaded content and linked to it because there's an angle for you or because you just think it's terrific. Also see what smackfu says as far as the judging of the worthiness, etc.
- you say it would be useful in exceptional cases, but if it was something we allowed we'd have to basically say that it's okay for ALL cases [the bright line again] so that we're not making judgment calls. We're not comfortable with that.
- we are totally and 100% okay if the exceptional case that would have been an awesome post doesn't get made to MetaFilter because of that. Maybe you want to make it into a project or its own website and then have it make its way to the blue that way? We're not exactly hurting for content.
- not that this is a huge concern of ours but the copyright violation angle is something we at least think about. We generally don't like it when people copypaste entire magazine articles that are behind paywalls and having to figure out if something on ScribD is going to stay there or vanish in a cease and desist order is something else we think about.

Certainly, once discussion is going we've definitely seen people doing this sort of thing, to clear up discrepancies etc. But for something that's pretty much integral to the initial post then yeah it's still on the "please don't" list.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:04 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


What smackfu said. One element of the prohibition on self-links and friend-links has always been the lack of objectivity that comes into it—when you've got a personal emotional/intellectual investment in the thing you're posting about, things can get a bit muddy.

It seems like it would be fairly easy to draw a "bright line" that prohibited toxic behaviors while leaving room for exceptional cases where a currently-offline resource really brings something to the table, by just saying that things you link to can't be anything you wrote or had a hand in creating, no matter where they are on the Internet, and that regardless of who created the content it can't be hosted on a site that you in any way derive benefit from increased traffic to.

Which would, to really make it a bright line, require us to (a) establish a white list of sites on which someone is allowed to post without any concern about kickbacks or whatever and (b) investigate anything that looked like it might be a violation of the spirit of the guideline to figure out if someone is trying to pull a fast one and (c) deal with disputes from folks who feel we've mishandled the question in either direction, either by being too cynical or too credulous about any given is-it-or-isn't-it bit of uploadery.

All without addressing the too-close-to-it-to-be-objective angle.

We're not coming at this from the mod side with a belief that the rule is perfectly satisfactory or that it handles all good-will cases correctly. I totally understand the totally reasonable motivation behind the counterarguments.

Where we're coming from on this is that the rule as it stands simplifies greatly a muddy periphery of the core self-link rule, and does so in such a way that does not create onerous limitations on how posts here work. There is just a ridiculous amount of material that already exists online, and more going up every day—it is, indeed, a little bit of a bummer when something isn't post material just because it's not for whatever reason actually on the web, but that's such a non-constraint for posting in general that greatly complicating how we deal with this side issue doesn't seem like something worth the payoff.

A lot of the same arguments here can be made about the core self-link rule: why not let established users who can do so in a non-cheeseball manner do posts with self-links if the quality is good and they don't seem to be just scumming for traffic? But the answer there is the same—it's not worth the headache of trying to adjudicate all of that, it's not worth giving the people with questionable intentions or even just questionable quality meters about their own stuff a leg up in the inevitable arguments about what should vs. shouldn't fly, etc.

We put up Projects (and there was kindall's projects mailing list before that) specifically to create a bit of an outlet for the core self-link issue; there's no reason that something interesting in this specific domain of uploaded-stuff couldn't be dealt with along the Projects route where appropriate if it needs to be a post of some sort, and barring that folks have their own blogs and many, many other sites they can post stuff on that don't have the same ruleset that Metafilter does. It's not a do-or-die issue for any given bit of content that falls into this particular black hole of mefi's posting guidelines.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:04 AM on October 20, 2009


Also remember that if you upload a bunch of stuff and bind it together with some good internet links as the "Doohickey Project" or whatever, other MeFi members have the option to promote your project from Projects to the blue. This happens not infrequently, so IMHO the system works well and the good stuff rises if there's enough interest.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:49 AM on October 20, 2009


If you scan something and post it to the internet, it belongs on projects.

If it's good enough, someone else will post it to the front page.

But realistically, if it's not on the internet, it's not worth a whole lot. HAMBURGER.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:14 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're uploading stuff, you already have your own blog, yeah? Problem solved.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:36 AM on October 20, 2009


Eh, scanning an interview from 30 years ago seems like an odd "project" to me. You didn't create anything, you're just copying old material. But if you had a blog or a site devoted to sharing old interviews, akin to Letters of Note, then you'd have something pretty spiffy by my count.

What about in 2054, when there's only one remaining thing not on the Internet?

Is it Ghostbusters 2?


No.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:45 AM on October 20, 2009


My solution is to not post.
Correct. There are many, many wonderful things in the world that are not on the Internet. No, really. They don't have to be on Metafilter. There is no shortage of posts. There is always room for great posts, but something you think is really cool is not necessarily a great post. It's okay if a really cool thing in the world does not get brought here.
posted by theora55 at 10:05 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, actually, this is the exact reason I didn't make a FPP on the death of George DeMerle. However, I did post about it on Metachat.

Perhaps that'd be the place for such things, AzraelBrown?
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:22 PM on October 20, 2009


Kadin2048: could increase post quality by letting people bring in additional material that wouldn't otherwise be there for all members to see (e.g. Lexis-Nexis or PACER), which could lead to a lot less uninformed speculation in the discussion.

I think that goal could probably be accomplished via fair-use quotation, when preparing the post itself or, as has already happened multiple times in hot-and-heavy discussions on hotbed issues, by citation of people making the arguments. Metafilter has a lot of intelligent people; I daresay there's less uninformed speculation in discussions than on most Internet forums.
posted by WCityMike at 10:04 AM on October 22, 2009


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