WaPo paywall January 21, 2016 6:16 PM   Subscribe

Could we try to avoid linking to Washington Post articles?

I'm really getting sick of seeing "You have read your ten free articles for this month. Please subscribe". In general it's policy here to not use links to things behind paywalls, and this pretty much is a paywall.
posted by Chocolate Pickle to Etiquette/Policy at 6:16 PM (108 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

US Federal employees, higher education students, and military personal can read WaPo articles for free. Amazon prime members can get a 6 month digital subscription for free. That's likely not an insignificant amount of Metafilter members.

Further, a little over a year ago cortex addressed this issue saying it was a gray area and "most readers don't seem to run into an issue with it, and that there seems to usually be pretty simple workarounds..."
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:30 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Plus, they do often have pretty good material.

Is the alternative to find a different way to link to the same article, or to find a different source entirely?
posted by wenestvedt at 6:48 PM on January 21, 2016


I am 4 months into my Amazon Prime 6 'free' months and I got a "please subscribe" cockblock message when I clicked on that link. Is that the fault of the WaPo, or how the poster set up the link?

BTW, because I check out the weekly "Cartoons from the Issue" slideshow, I run up against the 10-article monthly limit at The New Yorker a LOT.

Let's face it, these leaders of Old Media aren't eager to have MeFites reading, they want us subscribing.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:52 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I disagree with the notion that "ten free articles a month" and "paywall" are the same thing.
posted by duffell at 6:58 PM on January 21, 2016 [42 favorites]


WaPo is a very major news source in the US, it may not be practical to avoid them entirely. If they break a story or the FPP is about original opinion content, they deserve a link if we are going to discuss it. However, people could avoid linking them when they are just repeating the same thing every other paper is.

Part of me wants to say in these situations, if you are reading ten articles a month from an outlet maybe you SHOULD be subscribing. But on the other hand, where are we as users who read many sources when everyone starts doing this? Obviously, this is a problem the internet economy hasn't quite figured out yet.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:00 PM on January 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


Open the link in private or incognito mode.
posted by COD at 7:03 PM on January 21, 2016 [34 favorites]


As long as Post articles are clearly labeled, I'm fine with the links. I get bent out of shape when I find I've used one of my ten free visits for some damn article or other. I use my allotment exclusively on the pretty pictures in the Real Estate section.

I figure the news is everywhere eventually, so if the Post doesn't want me to read their news for free, that's their prerogative. But looking at fancy digs is a family pastime I'd rather not miss.

In short, please label Washington Post links, they're a resource I don't want to waste.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:04 PM on January 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


First I can't read because of the Moonies, and now this.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:37 PM on January 21, 2016


Since many of us non-Americans are much, much less likely to fall into any of the categories listed by Rob Rockets (US federal employees, US HE students, Amazon prime members), I would appreciate if posters are aware that a link goes to a site where there is a limited number of free visits they indicate the source in the post. This way I can decide whether to use up my allotment of free articles, not read the piece, pay to subscribe, or go incognito.

Generally, now that many of us access Metafilter on mobile devices I feel it is polite to indicate the site in discreet brackets, and I always appreciate the posters who do so.

I certainly don't agree that we should 'avoid' linking to any site aside from Stormfront and its ilk. The internet has enough barriers (BBC) without adding self-imposed ones.
posted by tavegyl at 7:42 PM on January 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


Regarding paywalls: I'm pretty averse to them as well, but as long as paywalled articles are not the only or the main link in a post, and are clearly marked, I feel they are fine to include. I would not object to a standard warning text (of the NSFW variety) which goes to a FAQ page listing known site-specific and general workarounds. But again, this would be best practice for posters (and commenters).
posted by tavegyl at 7:50 PM on January 21, 2016


> Open the link in private or incognito mode.

This is my technique. It works. I hover over the link to see where it's going and then I just open it in a private window if need be.

I mean, this suggestion could apply to a large number of publications: Do we disallow all of them if they put a cap on free articles per [time period]?
posted by rtha at 8:16 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Personally I think we should. Functionally there is no difference when you get denied access to a link between straight up paywalls and sites with teaser access where you are over your allotment.
posted by Mitheral at 8:31 PM on January 21, 2016


I hover over the link to see where it's going and then I just open it in a private window if need be.

How do you do this?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:33 PM on January 21, 2016


I'm really getting sick of seeing "You have read your ten free articles for this month. Please subscribe". In general it's policy here to not use links to things behind paywalls, and this pretty much is a paywall.

I’ve never seen this for Washington Post articles. It could be because I’m running µBlock, but I have no idea.

In contrast, all articles linked going to Newsweek fail to load for me because the site always thinks I’ve gone over my limit. (I even Asked about this problem.) I don’t really expect anyone to stop linking the stories, but I will admit that it’s vexing.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:35 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


How do you do this?

you hold the mouse arrow over the link, the address pops up in the status bar thingy. you see that it is the washington post. you right click on the link and select "copy link location". you open an incognito chrome window and "paste & go" the link into the linky place bar thing. the page opens and a fanfare sounds and balloons and confetti fall from the ceiling. also there's a cake.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:29 PM on January 21, 2016 [22 favorites]


then we smash cut to the laugh-in party scene
posted by poffin boffin at 9:30 PM on January 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


All these people here complaining about free stuff! I just wanted to buy a used car.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:32 PM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


you hold the mouse arrow over the link, the address pops up in the status bar thingy. you see that it is the Washington Post. you right-click on the link and select “copy link location”. you open an incognito chrome window and “paste & go” the link into the linky place bar thing. the page opens and a fanfare sounds and balloons and confetti fall from the ceiling. also there’s a cake.

You can also just right-click the link and go down to the “open in new incognito window” option. No confetti, though.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:40 PM on January 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


I agree that it would be a best practice to avoid WP and similar paywalled sites for routine news widely available elsewhere. It would also be nice to identify them with text for mobile users so that they can make an educated decision whether or not to click, since hovering to examine the link is not an option.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:50 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Library cards allow access to major US papers.
posted by brujita at 10:16 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can we not link to HuffPo because they don't pay writers?
Can we not link to Buzzfeed because reasons?
posted by Ideefixe at 10:16 PM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


then we smash cut to the laugh-in party scene
god how i missed you until i realized it was you.
posted by chococat at 10:23 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


... since hovering to examine the link is not an option.
In iOS, press and hold on the link to see where it's taking you.

Pretty sure we've had this conversation several times and the outcome is 'would be better to find an alternative if possible, but a limit on articles is not the same as a paywall, in effect'.
posted by dg at 11:15 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Library cards allow access to major US papers.

US library cards, maybe. My Warwickshire public library card allows no such thing.
posted by Dysk at 1:33 AM on January 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


Can we not link to HuffPost, Slate, Salon, and Buzzfeed because they all inevitably crash Safari on my iPad2?
posted by hydropsyche at 3:06 AM on January 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can we all just walk this pony to the glue factory?
posted by hal_c_on at 4:23 AM on January 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


If you're reading more than 10 articles a month, you're obviously getting some value from the publication. You could consider paying for it.
posted by phunniemee at 4:23 AM on January 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


First I can't read because of the Moonies, and now this.

You do realize that the Washington Post (the major national newspaper until recently owned by the Graham family) and the Washington Times (the right wing rag owned by the Moonies) are two different papers, right?
posted by firechicago at 4:32 AM on January 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


US library cards, maybe. My Warwickshire public library card allows no such thing.

Do they even have libraries in Middle Earth?
posted by XMLicious at 5:15 AM on January 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


Library cards allow access to major US papers.

This is very very region dependent and usually involves some pretty terribly UX. So yes, but also no. I'm not against linking to WaPo generally but I do appreciate that people are saying they can't get access to it through normal "click and read" methods.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:45 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do they even have libraries in Middle Earth?

Har har where you live is funny and mythological. It's a fucking place name, it's mundane as shit. The list of English counties with the -shire suffix is very long indeed.
posted by Dysk at 5:52 AM on January 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


We link to the NYTimes on a daily basis and that has the same kind of paywall.
posted by smackfu at 5:53 AM on January 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


ITT: jokes
posted by shakespeherian at 5:58 AM on January 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I live in a place named with a -shire suffix too; I apologize if that was excessive levity.
posted by XMLicious at 6:01 AM on January 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


MetaTalk: excessive levity.
posted by Fizz at 6:05 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Singling out the Wapo for this call out instead of the biggest newspaper on earth is ... [Smashcut to LinkedIn Office Christmas Party]
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:20 AM on January 22, 2016


Just wondering, wouldn't it be possible that at post creation the system checks against a list of paywalled or otherwise limited access sites, just like it does against tags and existing links, and warns the user something like "your post leads to a site with viewing restrictions, please consider adding a secondary source"?
posted by lmfsilva at 6:35 AM on January 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


US Federal employees, higher education students, and military personal can read WaPo articles for free.

I'm curious about this. I didn't find a link at WaPo about this but I know that one of the two major dailies in the Twin Cities does this as well and it's by IP. At work I never get nagged or blocked on WaPo and I wonder if it's automatic and intentional. I work for the State, but we do have several Federal agencies on overlapping IP space here, so maybe that's it. Does anybody have more info?

As to the OP - I agree that this is annoying but I don't think we shouldn't have the links here. There are a few easy ways around these as is noted and I also agree that if there is a limit on free articles per month it's not a paywall and if I am reading that many it might be worth it to me to pay for the content. I do agree on the policy against links that are behind a paywall where there is no reasonable way to read the link without paying, but this is not the same thing.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 6:42 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another thing to do is a keep a second browser open for such purposes, one you don't use for logged in surfing anywhere, and clear it every once in a while.

On iOS I like Dolphin for this, because when you copy a URL in Safari (from the URL field or by a click-hold) and switch to Dolphin (or launch it) it asks if you want to load the URL you just copied to the clipboard. On a Mac, it's the only thing I ever use Firefox for anymore.

That said, not an issue for me as I have unlimited access to WaPo. And I consider it far too important a source of opinion and major original news to imagine ruling it out on a US-based site with MeFi's portfolio of interests. I also think 10 free articles is not at all the same as a "paywall," and means that the vast majority of Internet users should not experience any blockage hitting any given WaPo link (since most people do not read it regularly online, just by the numbers). So I'm sort of on the side of "if you routinely exceed 10 views a month maybe you should subscribe, but it's not Metafilter's problem if you don't and other MeFites shouldn't be hobbled by it and anyway there are easy workarounds" side of this argument. Like it or not, it's a major news source, employs major opinion writers, and is influential in US politics.

The NY TImes has the same policies, pretty much, about limited access. Has anyone called for us to stop linking to them? It's not even imaginable. I wonder what percentage of MeFi primary FPP links over the years have been to one or the other of those papers, and I'm guessing it's not a negligible percentage.

WaPo articles are constantly linked in GoogleNews, for example. Yeah I know, Google. And Jeff Bezos. Once you're down that hole, you can find a reason not to link to anything, very much including HuffPost and other "free" aggregators or content who are variously screwing over creative talent (hello, YouTube?). And if we were serious about not liking Jeff Bezos on Metafilter, maybe we should not allow Amazon product links in comments either. Except that would be a revenue killer (does Mefi still make much scratch off Amazon links?) and then maybe cortex would have to put up a paywall after 10 AskMes.

So no, I would hate to see any limitation on WaPo links, nor do I feel there is any reason they must be labeled.
posted by spitbull at 7:16 AM on January 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Asking posters to do the work of figuring out the freebie status of the links rather than readers doing the work to find ways around these (very deliberately leaky) paywalls seems arbitrary. Linking things that are almost always hidden, a la PubMed, seems kind of different.

My approach to things that are too rigorously hidden behind paywalls before I can decide whether or not to pay for them is to shrug and move on to something else. I'd simply apply the same logic to metafilter posts.
posted by phearlez at 7:17 AM on January 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Big second for Dolphin on iOS. I have it set to permanently be in private browsing mode and I use it anytime I have a link I don't want easily tracked or there is something that is otherwise blocked. It's also easy to set it to be always in desktop mode which I used to use so that I had a quick way to view the non-mobile version of sites. It's always worked very well for me, but it doesn't do as nice of a job at blocking popups and redirects as other browsers.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 7:27 AM on January 22, 2016


Has anyone called for us to stop linking to them?

Yes. But not recently.
posted by zarq at 7:41 AM on January 22, 2016


I can allegedly use my Pittsburgh Post-Gazette subscription to log into the Washington Post but the link that the PG sent me goes to a 404 page on the WP site and none of the FAQs on either site answers my question. Sigh. Why do newspapers have the most god awful websites on the internets?

There's a huge list of local papers on the WP site that they claim to have partnerships with so if you do subscribe to one of those, you might be able to figure out how to use that to log into the WP site.
posted by octothorpe at 7:49 AM on January 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Dysk: "The list of English counties with the -shire suffix is very long indeed."

Well, 26 or so. That's not *that* many.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:52 AM on January 22, 2016


Right-clicking to select "Open link in incognito window" (or whatever the equivalent is in your browser) is a basic internet skill. It's unreasonable to ask people to not post links to one of the most prominent newspapers in the US because you personally have failed to master this skill.

Pls learn2internet, kthxbai.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:01 AM on January 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


There are a bunch of ways that will avoid paywalls. I'd advocate for moving that direction, rather than excluding sites.

Could URLs be rewritten to do so? If you add a google or social media referrer, that often works. Could the authors be encouraged to do this?

Alternatively, when a common paywall site (nytimes, wapo, wsj) is linked to could a short link be automatically appended to the post? something like:

FAQ: How can I open this link?

With a brief list of suggestions on how to do that?

Paywalls and regional blocking are always going to be problems (Youtube is another source of frustration here, and that's not a paywall, that's just copyright idiocy). The answer isn't to subscribe to every news site on the net. Should people have to pay $30 or $40 US dollars a month to get access to the top two or three sites linked to? For at least a quarter of mefi these news sites aren't even domestic. That's pretty unreasonable in my view.
posted by bonehead at 8:01 AM on January 22, 2016


Singling out the Wapo for this call out instead of the biggest newspaper on earth is ...

the usa-centric comments in this thread are amazing.
posted by andrewcooke at 8:17 AM on January 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


That's because America is amazing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:23 AM on January 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


That's a pretty amazing thing to say.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:26 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


best county in the world (actually 12th) (and that wasn't what you were thinking of anyway).
posted by andrewcooke at 8:29 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a huge list of local papers on the WP site that they claim to have partnerships with so if you do subscribe to one of those, you might be able to figure out how to use that to log into the WP site.

I had no idea, but I'm delighted that the (very small, very local) paper I subscribe to is on that list! Thanks for sharing. Off to see if I can log in and make it work on WaPo...
posted by iminurmefi at 8:31 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Further, a little over a year ago cortex addressed this issue saying it was a gray area and "most readers don't seem to run into an issue with it, and that there seems to usually be pretty simple workarounds..."

Yep, and that remains status quo. It's not perfect, but it's also not what we talk about when we say that literally paywalled links are bad post material. If a reader literally has to pay to have any chance of access to a link—this comes up mostly with academic papers, or sometimes firm subscription-only sites that the poster forgot they had subscription access to when drafting—that's pretty much a no go. If it's a per-month limit that's can generally be dodged easily enough when you do run into it, that's less of an issue even if it is an annoying wrinkle in the web reading economy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:33 AM on January 22, 2016


First I can't read because of the Moonies, and now this.

That's the Washington Times, which should get it's own entry in your /etc/hosts file:
127.0.0.1 washingtontimes.com
I'm guilty of linking to Washington Post articles frequently in discussions where it is appropriate (examples: 1 2 3 4). My household has a subscription to the actual physical paper, so I get unrestricted access to their content. I read it every day on an iPad through an adblocker, but I know that my reading experience isn't the same as else's here. If it's an issue for people I'd be glad to clearly label my links to their content.

But no, I wouldn't make a FPP with just a Washington Post article. That is pretty weak, a little effort to provide some context and other sources would have gone a long way.
posted by peeedro at 8:40 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm really getting sick of seeing "You have read your ten free articles for this month. Please subscribe". In general it's policy here to not use links to things behind paywalls, and this pretty much is a paywall.

It's a metered paywall. In a metered paywall, users are allowed to view a specific number of articles before a demand is made for a paid subscription. The Post and Times and some other publications have been experimenting with various forms of them for years now.

Studies have shown that metered paywalls are less of a financial risk for a site than the no-access-for-free subscription-only model. The Guardian notes that on average, the no-access paywall model will turn away 90% of readers, and with them, any potential ad revenue. Metered paywalls are more of a soft sell. A 'try before you buy' approach.

Since metered paywalls rely on cookies to determine number of visits rather than recording IP addresses, you can almost always get around them by opening an incognito session in your browser. An unpublicized loophole.
posted by zarq at 8:59 AM on January 22, 2016 [2 favorites]




I can't imagine the howls here if UK-based The Guardian did a five- or dozen-and-done paywall though.
posted by bonehead at 9:15 AM on January 22, 2016


Do they even have libraries in Middle Earth?

Har har where you live is funny and mythological. It's a fucking place name, it's mundane as shit. The list of English counties with the -shire suffix is very long indeed.


Well, I guess we know where the Sackville-Bagginses moved to.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:17 AM on January 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Follow up: I contacted my local paper who sent me an updated link to the WP partner sign-up page and I was able to log into the Washington Post site.
posted by octothorpe at 9:46 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Right-clicking to select "Open link in incognito window" (or whatever the equivalent is in your browser) is a basic internet skill.

No it totally isn't. It's great if people want to show people ways around things like these pseudo-paywalls, but I'd suggest doing it in ways that don't imply they're already stupid for not knowing.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:54 AM on January 22, 2016 [36 favorites]


Celsius1414: "Well, I guess we know where the Sackville-Bagginses moved to."

Well, of course Lotho Sackville-Bagins was murdered by Sharkey's men. Lobelia later moved back to Hardbottle in the Northfarthing.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:57 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Obviously the answer is for the mods to impose a strict limit of ten WaPo-link FPPs per month. Nobody exceeds their limit (browsing WaPo outside the auspices of MetaFilter should be discouraged, maybe we can add something to the FAQ?), no complicated browser-sorcery is required, you do not have to give your personal info to The Man to get some "library card," and all the little hobbitses in the Shire are happy.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:34 AM on January 22, 2016


I'm really getting sick of seeing "You have read your ten free articles for this month. Please subscribe". In general it's policy here to not use links to things behind paywalls, and this pretty much is a paywall.

FT is a much harder paywall and that gets linked a bunch. The Times is a true paywall and hasn't been linked in an FPP in calendar 2015.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:39 AM on January 22, 2016


"US library cards, maybe. My Warwickshire public library card allows no such thing."

According to their site though, they supposedly do:

http://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/onlinereferencelibrary
posted by I-baLL at 10:46 AM on January 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Obviously the answer is for the mods to impose a strict limit of ten WaPo-link FPPs per month.

Metafilter is pretty much the only way I see WaPo or NYT content. I certainly don't seek either out on my own. And yeah, around mid-month I often hit the limits.

I certainly don't expect the mods to run a quota, but simply saying that one should pay for subscriptions if one hits the limit implies a minimum bar of wealth to participate on the blue.
posted by bonehead at 10:50 AM on January 22, 2016


Dysk: "US library cards, maybe. My Warwickshire public library card allows no such thing."

I-baLL: "According to their site though, they supposedly do:"

Man, I love the hive mind.
posted by zarq at 10:54 AM on January 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Coincidentally it was 20 years ago today Berners-Lee taught the NY Times to play. In that post they mention that initially, at least, no subscription or access fee would be charged for readers in the United States and that the electronic paper would generate revenue from advertising.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 11:12 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


From your MeTa to the weather gods' ears:
NOTE TO READERS
The Post is suspending its paywall on the Web through the weekend to provide readers unlimited access to weather coverage and important safety information.
(Stay warm & safe, DC mefites!)
posted by Westringia F. at 12:03 PM on January 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


According to their site though, they supposedly do:

In practice however, that system does not and has never worked. I was aware of it.
posted by Dysk at 1:37 PM on January 22, 2016


In fact, I'm not sure it is intended to provide any subscription-level access, so much as be a reference list of online newspapers.
posted by Dysk at 1:41 PM on January 22, 2016


I live in a place named with a -shire suffix too; I apologize if that was excessive levity.

u better lock that shit down, Lolly McLolzenburg
posted by Sebmojo at 1:51 PM on January 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


"In fact, I'm not sure it is intended to provide any subscription-level access, so much as be a reference list of online newspapers."

Eh, the link I failed to point in that list is the one labelled as "Press Display eNewspapers". There's a few other links below that but the one I was checking out was:

http://library.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/accountingloginlibrary.aspx?returnurl=%2fpressdisplay%2fviewer.aspx



Which seems to just require your library card number to login. However, I don't see the Washington Post listed but I do see a bunch of other papers. I'm not from your area so I couldn't do more indepth research on what's available. I got into looking for these free side benefits stuff when I found my local libraries were offering similar things and I kinda want to compile a list of these things a la Steal This Book.
posted by I-baLL at 2:14 PM on January 22, 2016


Do they even have libraries in Middle Earth?

Actual resident of Middle Earth here, can we please not do this?
posted by bongo_x at 3:00 PM on January 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


[pedantry] Middle-earth [/pedantry]
posted by Chrysostom at 4:49 PM on January 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


There is a museum in the shire.

Small collection.
posted by clavdivs at 5:29 PM on January 22, 2016


Well, I have been online for god knows how long and no, I did not know some of the things mentioned in this thread. (Yes, I am completely and utterly stupid.) So thanks for the info, because god knows I've been wondering.

Honestly, I just think we need to label the links whenever they're Washington Post or NYT or any other limited-viewing site so that people can make up their own minds if they want to blow one of their allotment for the month on reading it. (And if possible, find a similar link on the topic from some other website. That would be good too.) I really hate blowing mine on an article that wasn't that super important to view after all because I didn't know it was the Post/NYT until it was too late (and again, yes, I'm stupid and should check first.) A lot of the reason why I don't subscribe is because those websites are limited in their share-ability, which is much less fun, and yes, I think that is somewhat of a problem with links in general and on a site like this in particular.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:38 PM on January 22, 2016


Honestly, I just think we need to label the links whenever they're Washington Post or NYT or any other limited-viewing site so that people can make up their own minds if they want to blow one of their allotment for the month on reading it.

I stopped labeling where most of the links in my posts go several years ago, because some folks apparently viewed 'em as an invitation to snark about sources in threads without actually clicking through to view the content. Posts that labeled content being linked from the Atlantic or the Times (for example) unerringly attracted disparaging comments about those publications, and I found the constant derails stressful. Always felt guilty for making more deletion work for the mods, too. So I don't label my links anymore unless absolutely necessary. For say, autoplaying content, or pdf files.

If someone ever wants to know where any link on any page goes, they can mouse-over it. If they're in a mobile browser or touchscreen, they can hold a link down with their finger until the url is shown to them.
posted by zarq at 12:57 AM on January 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


Eh, the link I failed to point in that list is the one labelled as "Press Display eNewspapers". There's a few other links below that but the one I was checking out was:

Yeah, that's a system where library card login has just never worked for me at all, though it does work when I'm physically located in a library, using one of their computers.

(It also doesn't provide access to web newspapers, but to eReader versions of print newspapers. Usually this is the same content, but not always, and it's much much much easier to access older content on a website than going through back issues for those papers where that's even possible.)
posted by Dysk at 1:08 AM on January 23, 2016


If they're in a mobile browser or touchscreen, they can hold a link down with their finger until the url is shown to them.

I did not know I could do that. I use the basic built-in no-name browser for Android which has very few features, but this still actually works. So that's useful.
posted by shelleycat at 3:52 AM on January 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


So someone tell me please how I can access a link in an incognito window thus avoiding the paywall / count out thingy when I am on a mobile device, specifically Android.
posted by adamvasco at 4:16 AM on January 23, 2016


First, open an incognito window.
posted by box at 5:41 AM on January 23, 2016


If I look up to the top right of my no-name Internet browser on android and tap the thing that says "more", one of the options in the drop down menu is "new secret tab". Then I can copy and paste the link in question (using the long press thing mentioned by zarq above to copy) in to that tab to get it open in incognito mode. I'm sure better browsers let you do it in less annoying ways too.
posted by shelleycat at 10:08 AM on January 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another way around FT's paywall, on a comp or phone, is gleaning the headline from the URL, and then googling the headline. For whatever reason, clicking through Google to FT will open the entire article, but a direct link will not. Last I checked anyway. Might work for other semi- to fully-paywalled sites as well.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:23 PM on January 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


So someone tell me please how I can access a link in an incognito window thus avoiding the paywall / count out thingy when I am on a mobile device, specifically Android.

If you're using a recent version of Android (4+, aka Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop, or Marshmallow), where your default browser is Chrome, you do a long-press on the link. It will be one of the options.

Alternatively, you can install Javin, which is all incognito, all the time.
posted by qcubed at 7:40 AM on January 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thank you qcubed. I don't know how I missed that.
posted by adamvasco at 8:43 AM on January 24, 2016


There's also Orbot, which will let you route all your traffic through Tor.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:38 AM on January 24, 2016


On the original subject, I'd be happy to have some kind of icon (⛽? 🏦? 🏧?) next to the big metered paywall sites that says they're on a metered paywall. I'm guessing there's about 10 sites that would need it, and presumably implementing it automatically would be pretty similar to the existing YouTube code.

On the subject of libraries in England, I share Dysk's irritations, both with the tedious frequency of being mocked on MeFi for being a British resident, and for the fact that the online resources for library card holders are a UI travesty.
posted by ambrosen at 10:29 AM on January 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can we at least have a flag for inaccessible content, please? There's another one on the front page right now.
posted by bonehead at 10:21 AM on January 25, 2016


Can we at least have a flag for inaccessible content, please?

Is it inaccessible to you personally because you happen to have exceeded your number of articles per month, or to anyone who clicks?
posted by zarq at 11:07 AM on January 25, 2016


There are now two metered paywall links on the front page.
posted by bonehead at 11:15 AM on January 25, 2016


And no, I don't have access to a US public library card either.
posted by bonehead at 11:16 AM on January 25, 2016


If you're talking about the WaPo links did you miss the preceding 70 comments about using your browser's private/incognito feature?
posted by phunniemee at 11:19 AM on January 25, 2016


Given that I posted exactly that remedy above, no, I don't think so.

Not always possible for me though.
posted by bonehead at 11:22 AM on January 25, 2016


There are now two metered paywall links on the front page.

Posts of region restricted YouTube videos are allowed on the front page. Those will be inaccessible to specific countries.Posts of quasi-porn sites like playboy.com are allowed even though that site may be banned in certain workplaces.

A metered paywall means that many people will still be able to access a site's linked content, making inaccessibility user-specific. An imperfect workaround to the WaPo and NYT metered paywalls also exists.

I think partial inaccessibility is not a great standard for which posts should and shouldn't be allowed on the front page.
posted by zarq at 11:29 AM on January 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think partial inaccessibility is not a great standard for which posts should and shouldn't be allowed on the front page.

I don't know that a link to the BBC iPlayer or to a JSTOR article would survive, even though a number of readers are in the UK or have institutional access rights.

Please note that that's not what I'm asking for in any case. Ideally I'd like a tag system. We should be able to flag those badly behaving posts, so that the mods know that a lesser or greater number of readers are having trouble with a link.

Secondly, ideally, we'd have a notice system warning people that these are inaccessible links for some. This could possibly be autogenerated. We've been doing this with video and PDF links informally for years. I think content blocks should equally fall into this category. It's not always obvious when they're in force, at least to me, and it clearly isn't obvious to many who post those links.

If you're in a privileged set of users, you may never run into barriers that others see all the time.

I'm not asking for site bans or mods to delete certain sets of links on sight.
posted by bonehead at 11:43 AM on January 25, 2016


These are not 'badly behaving' posts. They are links to content that, for people in your specific circumstances, are mildly inconvenient to access. Things like metered paywalls such as WaPo use don't present any barrier to me (and that makes me privileged?), but there are often links that present various levels of barrier to me and not to you, such as content that is ' not available in my region'.

Unfortunately the Web is imperfect like that and there is plenty of great content not everyone can access easily. This is not a problem MetaFilter can solve. If it's available to the vast majority of people, I think that's good enough.
posted by dg at 1:10 PM on January 25, 2016


How about not linking to them because they have 35+ analytics, ad networks, tracker, beacons, scripts and god knows what else. That's above the ones I've whitelisted.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:19 PM on January 25, 2016


How about not linking to them because they have 35+ analytics, ad networks, tracker, beacons, scripts and god knows what else.

"...And what do you call your act?"
"The Internet!"
posted by phunniemee at 1:22 PM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is the difference between seeing an icon indicating "leaky paywall" and (presumably?) not clicking really substantively different than clicking and discovering you can't load the page because of a leaky paywall? I get that finding you can't open a link is annoying but is it so annoying that it justifies using Metafilter's limited coding resources to provide a warning that maybe you're going to have that issue?
posted by phearlez at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


For the same reason people like warnings for other content, yes, I'd put access restricted content on exactly the same level.

Think of it this way, it's to prevent the inevitable three or four comments noting that they can't access the article, followed by a couple recapitulating much of what's been said above, with the original post author chipping in that they were sorry, they didn't know. It doesn't happen every paywall post to be sure, but it happens enough.

I think putting a few resources toward enhancing reader awareness to cut down on some of that chatter are worth it, yes.
posted by bonehead at 2:10 PM on January 25, 2016


I don't know that a link to the BBC iPlayer or to a JSTOR article would survive, even though a number of readers are in the UK or have institutional access rights.

JSTOR is inaccessible to the general public except by subscription. With the exception of specific articles that are offered for free. So that's out.

I don't know what the status is of BBC iPlayer links. But since they're only ever available to a mefi minority demographic, it wouldn't surprise me if they were not allowed on their own.

Please note that that's not what I'm asking for in any case. Ideally I'd like a tag system. We should be able to flag those badly behaving posts, so that the mods know that a lesser or greater number of readers are having trouble with a link.

I'm not asking for site bans or mods to delete certain sets of links on sight.


OK. My confusion was that flags are used as "take a look at this" signal to the mods. You are asking for something that does not exist under the current system.
posted by zarq at 2:29 PM on January 25, 2016


I think partial inaccessibility is not a great standard for which posts should and shouldn't be allowed on the front page.

Agreed. Many things are inaccessible to some people. I'm all for user-generated stuff that helps people end-run those if need be and maybe some sort of indicator (even a tag, I don't care) where people who are accessing, say, Comedy Central from Canada for the first time, can go and figure out how to access the content if they want it.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:38 PM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


My confusion was that flags are used as "take a look at this" signal to the mods.

To be clear, this is exactly what I'm asking for, so that mods can edit a post and add a note like [this is a paywalled site] or simply [paywall].

My second request is that perhaps, for a selected few domains that are very commonly liked, like the post or the times, that this might be done automatically, to lessen admin loads. We already have a url detector-rewriter thing for Amazon links. This isn't an entirely new bit of technology.

I think partial inaccessibility is not a great standard for which posts should and shouldn't be allowed on the front page.

To again be clear, this is absolutely NOT what I'm asking for. I am not asking for post deletion, link removal or whatever other heavy-handed thing you are imaging I said.
posted by bonehead at 2:42 PM on January 25, 2016


To be clear, this is exactly what I'm asking for, so that mods can edit a post and add a note like [this is a paywalled site] or simply [paywall].

My second request is that perhaps, for a selected few domains that are very commonly liked, like the post or the times, that this might be done automatically, to lessen admin loads. We already have a url detector-rewriter thing for Amazon links. This isn't an entirely new bit of technology.


I think this would be a huge mistake. I suspect people would take them as an invitation to derail otherwise acceptable threads.
posted by zarq at 3:04 PM on January 25, 2016


OK. My confusion was that flags are used as "take a look at this" signal to the mods. You are asking for something that does not exist under the current system.

Sounds to me like something most similar to how the "mod" or "retired" tags appear next to the name of posters.

I'm all for user-generated stuff that helps people end-run those if need be and maybe some sort of indicator (even a tag, I don't care) where people who are accessing, say, Comedy Central from Canada for the first time, can go and figure out how to access the content if they want it.

I think this is more a good use of boilerplate ("Can't access any of the links above because of locale or paywall restrictions? See this entry in the FAQ.") under every post and some FAQ links about this stuff. Presuming the MF powers that be don't buy into this theory some hold that telling people how to bypass leaky paywalls runs afoul of DMCA anti-circumvention rules.

I guess this is just in agree to disagree territory for me because, as Jessamyn says, so much stuff is always inaccessible to some people. Making it Metafilter's problem to keep track of who is a paywall and who isn't, in order to prevent some comments about "I couldn't open this" and keep people from clicking and being irritated... just seems like a weird shifting of hassle to me. I have a hard time thinking of it as the same thing as NSFW (this might get you fired if it's visible for a single second on your screen) or PDF (this is going to be a big slow load) since the experience is no more detrimental than if it did load other than being annoying.
posted by phearlez at 3:25 PM on January 25, 2016


Zarq, earlier: Always felt guilty for making more deletion work for the mods, too.

I don't know if you've noticed but paywall links are doing this already. The mods are cleaning up the "I can't see this" "here's a workaround" "oops sorry" chatter. Their small font footprints are the only survivors of the tale.

So maybe this is a damned if you do situation, but honestly this seems much more like the pdf or auto-playing media issue, an avoidance of admittedly small annoyance, but a real one none the less, that is already requiring mod effort.
posted by bonehead at 3:56 PM on January 25, 2016


just seems like a weird shifting of hassle to me

Just principle of least surprise. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to reduce mod workload and extraneous comments. Something that caught 2/3 of them would be worth doing, in my view.
posted by bonehead at 4:00 PM on January 25, 2016


Adding moving parts to the system to save ourselves work is basically always, at best, a compromise; we're trading one-off bits of flag checking and cleanup for long-term maintenance and user education headaches. Sometimes it's a worthwhile compromise, but I'm not to the point of feeling that on this one, as one of the folks who actually has to do the work in question. Folks promptly flagging gripey comments lets us clean them up pretty quickly and easily most of the time.

And for all that, there's nothing like this on the site that we proactively insert or require to be inserted into posts automatically; folks are encouraged to be thoughtful about what they label but are also trusted to do so on their own recognizance, and with the exception of the occasional TOTES NUDES WITH NO WARNING post or comment getting a post-hoc [nsfw] tag added by a mod and the occasional edge case thing this isn't something we've ever made a habit of doing, or telling folks to expect us to do.

I don't want anybody being a dick about how they post to the front page, but barring that there's a degree of caveat emptor to reading it, even if that occasionally means a bit of frustration or annoyance for individual readers.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:09 PM on January 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


God, I would love to have a notice that something links to twitter so I can avoid it.
posted by bongo_x at 12:23 PM on January 31, 2016


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