a paid for pony April 11, 2021 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to return, if possible, to the previously discussed pony request that the site find some way to label/tag/denote paywalled or subscriber locked articles (or sites which haven't bothered updating to GDPR regulations, but this is a small side pony as I'm aware it doesn't apply to everyone). Clicking a link in a post only to smack into a wall is getting increasingly tiresome (and happening with increasing frequency).

The last time this was raised, cortex noted that it might be possible to add an automated symbol to the heavy hitter sites, or possibly a provide a prompt when someone includes a link on their post to ask for a flag/tag or alternate source. Is this still in the pipeline?

In other online communities like Reddit, paywall links are often banned altogether or require the poster to copy/paste the contents of the article into the comments. Personally I would prefer a solution which actively encourages or even requires the poster to find an alternate source instead of just flagging the link, so at least that way people who can't access it have a way of getting involved in the discussion instead of being shut out, but I understand why this might be problematic.

I would also like to note that suggestions like "just use that one Chrome extension" or "you can open it in an incognito window" are 1) not a solution and 2) incorrect, so please don't jump straight to those.
posted by fight or flight to Feature Requests at 10:20 AM (41 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

We discussed this at the team meeting today, and the main points are:

1) We will not be adding any automation to this at this time. We have too many other priorities for frimble.

2) We will not be banning paywalled links or requiring people to copy/paste the entire article.

3) We are happy for the community to discuss other solutions, including but not limited to:
--encouraging a culture where people flag paywalled links, like maybe you put "Article here, NYT ($$)" to indicate a paywall
--encouraging people to post an alternate link
--encouraging people to find multiple sources so more people can access it
--sharing tips like extensions, incognito windows, archive sites, etc., that may help

Right now solutions to paywall problems will have to be culture/community shifts, rather than staff-driven or technology changes. But we definitely welcome a community conversation about how the MetaFilter community should handle them!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:26 AM on April 11 [9 favorites]


Also feel free to flag these and if we can find a simple alt link from one of the Archive sources we'll drop it in there.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:27 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


I hate using up one of my three articles because I clicked on an ambiguous link. I really appreciate the folks who identify a link as NYT so I can decide.
posted by InkaLomax at 10:44 AM on April 11 [28 favorites]


Also I guess we should mention we're drawing a distinction between hard-paywall (i.e. no one can access this without paying or having institutional access) and soft paywall (i.e. certain number of links per month, geolocative speedbumps, need a login but it's free) situations. In nearly every case, hard-paywalled stuff we'll delete--obviously there are some exceptions when they're not very flagged or people have an in-thread solution before we see them, the Sesame Street one was a recent one I saw--soft-paywalled stuff we encourage community solutions for.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:08 AM on April 11 [6 favorites]


How do we feel (ethically, as a site) about posting things that dodge a paywall, like archive.is links (which is one way to read the NYT)? Is that OK?

One can also read NYT articles (and from many other paywalled sites) by opening them in a "private window"/incognito mode, but that can't be linked to.
posted by chavenet at 12:15 PM on April 11 [4 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: "--sharing tips like extensions, incognito windows, archive sites, etc., that may help"

On preview, from what Eyebrows McGee said, I guess we're ok with it!
posted by chavenet at 12:16 PM on April 11


As someone who posted one of the most egregious, hard-paywalled examples recently without having any idea that it wasn't open access, part of the problem is that it's difficult to know when you're doing it. I'm going to open every link in a never-logged-into-anything browser from a non-institutional IP address from now on. But, despite my shame, even I'm not willing to fiddle with VPN settings to try it from multiple countries.

Does anyone know of an automated tool that lets you check if a site is restricted? It doesn't have to be implemented as a metafilter thing, but it sure would be handy for people of good will making posts.

(Also, on the list of things the OP asked us not to talk about - reading soft-paywalled links in a text browser almost always works for stuff from newspapers and sites that refuse ad-blockers. I happily pay for many publications, but there are some worth discussing that I actively refuse to give money to. And my ad-blockers aren't implemented for the ads, they're for the privacy violations that can't be divorced from the ads. Somebody please invent a micropayment system that actually works!)
posted by eotvos at 2:14 PM on April 11 [3 favorites]


Turning off javascript works 100% of the time with NYT and Wash Post in my experience. There are numerous extensions that make it a one-click process.
posted by COD at 3:02 PM on April 11 [1 favorite]


I agree with the frustration and also understand why it needs to be a community rather than technical solution. The bane of my personal existence is the Washington Post.

I really appreciate it when posters flag paywalled or limited-view sites in the post, and also when they quote enough of the article to give those of us who can't get in a sense of what's going on.

I'd also like to encourage people to think twice about building an entire post around one paywalled article, even if it is a soft paywall, even with work-arounds.
posted by rpfields at 4:21 PM on April 11 [4 favorites]


One can also read NYT articles (and from many other paywalled sites) by opening them in a "private window"/incognito mode, but that can't be linked to.

This doesn’t always work anymore.
posted by corb at 4:45 PM on April 11 [7 favorites]


Selfish maybe but I can't remember the last time I actually couldn't figure out how to access an article.

I appreciate that I think your message is "Fear not! These things are often able to be bypassed" in an objective sense, but that doesn't actually mean people will have the combination of

- information
- ability
- time
- giving a fuck

to do that. And that is okay! I think, speaking just as my end-user self, I often appreciate that if someone has to link to something that is, or turns out to be, paywalled, they try to include additional links/reporting that are available so that people can at least get the gist of the idea they're trying to share. While we can't outright, as the mod team, say "Just offer to email people the PDFs!" for obvious reasons, most other workarounds are going to be okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:22 PM on April 11 [6 favorites]


One can also read NYT articles (and from many other paywalled sites) by opening them in a "private window"/incognito mode, but that can't be linked to.

This doesn’t always work anymore.
posted by corb at 6:45 PM on April 11

So I hit a paywall, copy the link, open an incognito tab and *that* doesn't work. OK, ao then I'll open a different browser, usually Opera, and if *that* doesn't get me in I open the ungoogled Chromium browser, and if *that* doesn't work ... Well, it pretty much always works. Annoying? Yeah, a bit.

Plus every week or 10 days I totally clean out all three browsers, kill any/all cookies, anything else that might have me fingerprinted.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:22 PM on April 11 [1 favorite]


I have wondered if it's ok to comment "this is NYT" for a link that isn't identified in the FPP or is this setting the discussion on a negative? I have flagged stuff asking that a NYT note be added but I think the mods don't like editing post text without permission. Plus mod workload.
posted by freethefeet at 9:34 PM on April 11


I've recommended it before, but I'm using Firefox and there's a plug in called "Bypass Paywalls" and it seems to work effortlessly with most sites.
Here it is for Chrome over on GitHub.
posted by Bill Watches Movies Podcast at 3:22 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]


Do not all of the "you can bypass this by disabling [javascript|cookies|magick]" comments also count as a vote for "please encourage posters to flag paywalled links"? With a flag, we would all know to go to outline/archive/chicken-bones for that link.

FUCK I JUST SAW A MOUSE (NOT RELEVANT, SORRY).
posted by pompomtom at 7:47 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]


I’d also advise everyone to check their local library—I’m a member of two libraries that offer free NYT access.
posted by girlmightlive at 7:50 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]


Define: "local"
posted by pompomtom at 7:51 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


I’m not understanding what you seem to be implying.
posted by girlmightlive at 7:54 AM on April 12


I was implying that not all users of Metafilter have access to a library within the United States of America.

This is the list of newspapers provided by my local library.

If you could tell me how to access these USAian sources, I'd be very grateful.
posted by pompomtom at 8:02 AM on April 12


I wasn’t trying to indicate that’s a solution for everyone, just as an idea for people to try if they can.

Funnily enough I can’t access the list on that link. I’m not sure how to access other country’s sites outside of a VPN.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:10 AM on April 12


I subscribe to my local paper and a couple national newspapers, but the library's difficult because of Covid and I can't subscribe to everything. Please support journalism if you possibly can. Meanwhile, most 3 articles a month sites are per-browser. I have Ffox, Chrome, Edge, IE on my laptop, and a couple browsers on my phone.
posted by theora55 at 8:39 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


What I'd like is for the linked site to be labeled, i.e., Vaccine Refusal Will Come at a Cost—For All of Us (Atlantic, soft paywal), because I forget to look. I also prefer video to be labeled.
posted by theora55 at 8:43 AM on April 12 [6 favorites]


How do we feel (ethically, as a site) about posting things that dodge a paywall, like archive.is links (which is one way to read the NYT)? Is that OK?

Fine by me. In fact, I encourage this.

One can also read NYT articles (and from many other paywalled sites) by opening them in a "private window"/incognito mode, but that can't be linked to.

This doesn’t always work anymore.


Something I'm finding DOES work is switching the page to Reader View, in Chrome or Firefox.
posted by Rash at 8:45 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


I have wondered if it's ok to comment "this is NYT" for a link that isn't identified in the FPP or is this setting the discussion on a negative?

I've wondered about this too and whether it's useful to other Mefites who might be about to open the links. Ditto articles on sites that haven't signed up to GDPR, so they're completely inaccessible unless you're willing to jump on a VPN (which is possible, but may not be preferable to everyone).
posted by fight or flight at 8:49 AM on April 12


People used to flag single-link-to-YouTube links with the notation "[SLYT]" for the YT-averse. No one seems to do that anymore, but I had found it helpful when I was reading on my iPhone.

Can we encourage something similar again, like "[WaPo]" or "[paywall]" or "[subscrition req]"?
posted by wenestvedt at 9:14 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


I have wondered if it's ok to comment "this is NYT" for a link that isn't identified in the FPP

It's fine to mention this. It's less-fine to complain about it in-thread. We see a lot of people just kvetching that they can't read it which, I get it, it's supremely frustrating sometimes, but it's one of those small speed-bumps that is best addressed by trying to find a solution when possible or flagging-with-note when not possible. If you're going to take the time to mention it, you could offer an alternative link if you have one (Archive.org or Archive.is if that works). I'm aware that especially for people on mobile, this is non-trivial, but "Hey let the mods know" should be something that is not too onerous. I mean, if we're going this direction, I'd love it if people pre-warned for blinky content, uncaptioned videos or un-transcribed audio while we're thinking about how to make stuff here accessible.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:57 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


For the NY Times, I have found that if I hit the Escape key immediately after the article appears, it doesn't bring up the paywall (with the escape stopping the loading of the paywall script). It's a matter of quick timing, but it's not hard to do.

For other websites with a paywall, sometimes the Mercury Reader extension on Chrome, can bring up the entire article - in the case where the entire article has been loaded but has been occluded by the paywall (that's not the case with the NY Times).
posted by ShooBoo at 9:42 PM on April 12 [1 favorite]


I am all for better labeling of where things link to.

Good journalism costs money, though; if you're hitting a paywall so often it's a chronic annoyance, perhaps that's a sign that you should consider subscribing! I know times are tough all all over, but journalism is absolutely dying and outlets need subscribers. If you want good journalism to survive, and you want to read it, consider paying for it.
posted by Charity Garfein at 10:29 PM on April 12 [6 favorites]


I feel like we're in an unstable place with regards to media, because on one hand, writers need to get paid, but on the other, it's not sustainable to expect people to subscribe to 20+ sites. Also side grouse: after roping you in, some newspapers make it very difficult to unsubscribe (as in you have to call them to do it), which is poisoning my good will on this.

Unfortunately the way things are going is very much counter to the web 1.0 approach of metafilter. *shrug*

(I've found saving articles with pocket can circumvent most paywalls, regardless of system)
posted by Alex404 at 5:33 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Also....I might want to read a NYT article but I don't want to give that paper any money, ever. Supporting Trump was a bridge too far, and I wasn't a fan of them before either.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:23 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


For recipe sites that tend to waste a lot of page real estate with essays about growing up on the farm or whatever before getting to the actual recipe, this is invaluable: Just the Recipe.

I'm a NYT subscriber, and I own the hardcover NYT cookbook. The fact that Just the Recipe can get around the stupid NYT Cooking web site paywall, a completely different NYT paywall, is a godsend.
posted by emelenjr at 10:38 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


I nth the utterly pointless complaint that I cannot subscribe to every website that needs money, i.e. all of them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:37 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


I know times are tough all all over, but journalism is absolutely dying and outlets need subscribers

This is completely true, but with the caveat that a lot of the FPP paywalls hit the NYT, which is a rare newspaper in today's age that is 100% fine, for reasons other papers mostly can't copy. And their success doesn't trickle down. Subscribe to them if you want their paywall free stories, but not to support journalism. It'd be like reading about the decline of retail and patronizing Walmart.

If you're happy to keep bypassing the paywalls, but start to feel guilty, put the money you would have spent towards a local paper or a less well known online news source.
posted by mark k at 1:00 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


bypass-paywalls-firefox-clean has been working well for me for some months. Frequent updates show that the dev is staying on top of the arms race. Can recommend.

There's a Chrome version too.
posted by flabdablet at 2:04 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


I always try to label sites with (NYT) or (The Atlantic), partly so people can know there may be a paywall, and partly because I think it's just nice to give credit. If there's a hard paywall, I also try to include an Archive.is link.

That said, if a poster forgets to label an article, please don't give them a hard time. If they've linked to a paywalled piece, try to link to an archived version if yourself, since that'll help everyone. Posters don't get paid on this site and it's discouraging to be told you're doing it wrong. Chances are most posters don't read Metatalk so they won't know about these recommendations.
posted by adrianhon at 3:03 PM on April 13 [9 favorites]


My understanding is this does not cost the library a cent, they buy an annual subscription and it doesn't nickel and dime them per use.

My library keeps its NYT pass behind a login wall, but I will say that on weekend in particular I have occasionally been met with the "all the passes for your organization are taken" message, so while I don't think it costs more there is not an infinite number of logins.

Of course in the physical times anyone could walk into a library and read the paper, whether they had a card or not, so I'm not sure it matters too much.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:44 PM on April 13


On the moral issue:

The fundamental principles here, it seems to me, are that nobody is obliged to do anything for anybody else solely because they're asked to, and that it's the job of the party being asked, not the party doing the asking, to judge whether or not what's being asked for is reasonable.

When my browser issues a request to a server, it's opening a negotiation on my behalf, asking for access to content I believe to be offered by that server's operator. I'm in no way morally obliged to accept the server's opening offer of content as final; I can make a counter-offer, and I can install whatever tools into my browser that I need in order to make such counter-offers on my behalf automatically.

I also have both the right and the technical means to refuse requests from server operators and their advertising partners to execute scripts inside my browser, and to refuse to accept bundled advertising content I didn't request and don't want.

If the server accepts my counter-offers then I receive the content I've requested from it; if it doesn't, I don't. Neither side in any of these negotiations can force the other to do anything because neither of us has agreed to any kind of contract with the other. If I decline to comply with an operator's stated terms of service then that operator is completely free to decline to provide me with the service to which those terms apply, and I naturally have no problem with that.

News sites could harden their paywalls if they wanted to, just like Elsevier does, in order to refuse access to anybody but people identifiable as paying customers, but they don't. They could also host and/or embed their own advertising, just like some YouTube content creators do, but they don't. I'm quite willing to take those priorities at face value. I have no interest in telling them how they should be running their businesses.
posted by flabdablet at 3:56 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Speaking personally, without addressing the macro or ethical issues:

This problem has irked me for a while. I hate running into paywalls when the post and comments don't warn me - and I'm in a position of relative privilege, being able to pay for some subscriptions while relying on a major university's library for some others.

When I hit a wall thanks to a MeFi post I try various ways of getting around it, most of which have been detailed in this thread: porn mode, multiple browsers, different hardware. Sometimes one of those works.

I really wish posters would signal the potential obstacle with a phrase or symbol. SLNYT is enough for me, personally. adrianhon's practice is very good. And I like theora55's formula: "Vaccine Refusal Will Come at a Cost—For All of Us (Atlantic, soft paywall)".
posted by doctornemo at 9:13 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Perhaps with a link to Bypass Paywalls Clean behind the word paywall.
posted by flabdablet at 10:30 AM on April 14


Can I add a complication that some US news outlets are still bouncing EU readers from the linked article to the front page of their website.
posted by biffa at 2:46 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Popular Mechanics does that to Australian readers as well.
posted by flabdablet at 9:21 PM on April 15


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