Self-link, or not? September 11, 2002 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Self-link, or not? [more inside]
posted by mr_crash_davis to Etiquette/Policy at 1:15 PM (40 comments total)

Without debating whether it was a front-page-worthy post, did Steve_at_Linnwood commit the sin of self-linking by taking a document from a mailing list, converting it to .PDF and hosting it on his own server, or is he providing a service to the reader who might not otherwise see this document? Would he have been better served by finding the document on the Web and linking to it directly? The thread is pretty much trashed, maybe discussing the finer points of what is and is not a self-link can prevent similar derailments in the future.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:15 PM on September 11, 2002


Thank you Mr_Crash_Davis.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:18 PM on September 11, 2002


Yes it is a self-link, tho' of the most benign kind. Steve should have linked to the word file directly and then offered his pdf. He should also chill out a little.
posted by sylloge at 1:19 PM on September 11, 2002


There was an even easier option: Link to the politechbot message, which contains a link to the .doc file, itself.

Steve, chill just a bit and you might see the reason. Self-linking is probably one of the steepest slipperiest slopes there is around here. There was absolutely no reason to stand at the top of it and start walking.
posted by mediareport at 1:22 PM on September 11, 2002


I think all of you are missing the point.

Self linking is if, for example, some one write an entry in their own weblog, and links to it.

All I was doing was hosting a file. I didn't write the file. Nor did I claim to. Just trying to be helpful. Not every one can read MSWord files.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:28 PM on September 11, 2002


Honestly, I don't think the self-link derailed the thread. When it was first brought up, if Steve had said something along the lines of: "Dang, you're right, I'm sorry. Here's a link to the original on the web. I converted it so it would be easier to read. I won't do it again," then there might have been an entirely different outcome.

When you're wrong, defensiveness doesn't pay. Just suck it up and move on.
posted by frykitty at 1:28 PM on September 11, 2002


"Steve should have linked to the word file directly and then offered his pdf."

That's what I was thinking, too. I definitely appreciate Steve taking the time to convert it, because I won't usually open a .doc file from the Web, but doing it the way you suggest could possibly have saved a worthwhile thread.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:28 PM on September 11, 2002


Was there a disclaimer of any sort inside the thread? I just tried to check, but it's been deleted.

The best method probably would have been to put a link to the .doc file and also a link to the .pdf he converted with a disclaimer letting everyone know why he did it.

When it was first brought up, if Steve had said something along the lines of: "Dang, you're right, I'm sorry. Here's a link to the original on the web. I converted it so it would be easier to read. I won't do it again,"

Why not bring it up in metatalk so that Steve (if he doesn't mind me calling him that) can defend his point without derailing his thread? He had a seemingly valid reason for doing what he did, and the least people could do is give him a chance to explain it before tossing his thread in the shredder.
posted by The God Complex at 1:36 PM on September 11, 2002


There was an even easier option: Link to the politechbot message, which contains a link to the .doc file, itself.

Steve, chill just a bit and you might see the reason. Self-linking is probably one of the steepest slipperiest slopes there is around here. There was absolutely no reason to stand at the top of it and start walking.
posted by mediareport at 1:22 PM PST on September 11


The swift, just, hand has spoken on the original thread. Someone could take up Mediareport's suggestion, perhaps including a link to Steve's PDF. I'd do it but I'm on my way out.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:37 PM on September 11, 2002


Calling something like this a self-link is like calling "niggardly" a racial slur.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 1:38 PM on September 11, 2002


Why not bring it up in metatalk

Also agreed--it should have been over here much sooner.
posted by frykitty at 1:38 PM on September 11, 2002


yes, i called the thread a self-link. (i also said "boo!", as that's what i thought when i saw the link. i'm not a perfect person, and at that moment i felt like saying what was on my mind.) that, in addition to my comment here, is what i suppose steve refers to as "a big stink."

regarding steve's comment, "Didn't you mother ever tell you...", that has already been commented on pretty well. steve is right to say i added nothing to the thread, for i believe there is nothing of much value to add to a self-link other than to say "this is a self-link." (you can blame me, i suppose, for the audacity of voicing my opinion; but, you know, you're allowed to speak up every now and then. blame me for saying "boo" if you like.)

steve wrote, at the end of a comment, "By doing what you did, you are just a troll." (he means this comment.) i think the self-link was pretty obvious to a reader, and thus it was inevitably going to be called out; and i think that the most damage consequently done to the thread was done by steve. those comments italicized were his. i made my comment out of frustration that steve have such a chip on his shoulder.
posted by moz at 1:40 PM on September 11, 2002


Steve: Just to clarify, the prohibition is not about linking to your own words, it's about linking to your own site. The point is that if we could post such links, MeFi would be clogged with them, most of them made in large part to draw traffic. That was clearly not your intent, but I hope you can see why people reacted the way they did. I think everybody agrees the link was to a useful document and knows you were trying to be helpful -- but boy, were you ever touchy.

On preview: Shadowkeeper, you're wrong.
posted by languagehat at 1:45 PM on September 11, 2002


if he doesn't mind me calling him that
No, I don't mind

I email Matt, and asked to have the thread deleted, no sense in having it waste front page space since it was derailed and is now in realm of MetaTalk.

When it was first brought up, if Steve had said something along the lines of: "Dang, you're right, I'm sorry. Here's a link to the original on the web. I converted it so it would be easier to read. I won't do it again,"

Sorry, I don't agree that it was a "self-link", though I do realize that I should have posted the link to the .doc file as well.

God Complex, I couldn't agree more, I read MetaTalk almost more than MetaFilter, if some one had an issue, this would have been the place to bring it up. I always read everything here in MetaTalk and would have seen it in right away.

File Links:
PDF
Original .doc File from Mailing List
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:46 PM on September 11, 2002


I think all of you are missing the point.

No, I get the point that you weren't promoting your own work, Steve. But you've failed to address the slippery slope argument. The line between "Here's something I reformatted for your convenience at my own site" to "Here's an argument I restated more clearly for your convenience at my own site" isn't as clear as you imply.

I agree that making a .doc file your main front page link would be less than ideal, and do appreciate the thought and effort you made. But you had a perfectly easy other option -- linking to a well-respected Net observer's excerpts of the doc. What was wrong with that? In fact, I'd argue that it would have been *more* helpful to the community to point us to Declan McCullagh's selected excerpts than to point us to a 40-page bureacratese-filled DOJ document.

The God Complex: deleted threads and comments can be found at lofi MeFi.
posted by mediareport at 1:47 PM on September 11, 2002


it's about linking to your own site

I didn't link to my site, Linked to a file on a server.
Would it mattered it the same file was on a different server? No it is the same content.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:50 PM on September 11, 2002


Now who's missing the point? The point is you were hosting the document. Slippery slope out the wazoo.
posted by mediareport at 1:53 PM on September 11, 2002


Matt, if you're reading this..
Any chance you can add some code to put the text of the front page post at the top of the comments_deleted.mefi page?
posted by PrinceValium at 1:53 PM on September 11, 2002


i'm with shadowkeeper. slippery slope or not, this was in no way his own work. there's a HUGE and relatively obvious difference between "here's someone else's work that i reformatted to make it easier on users" and "here's my work restating someone else's argument". i understand that it is important to make it obvious to all the other users that something like this doesn't mean it's okay to post self-links, but for chrissake, i think you guys are going a little bit overboard.
posted by pikachulolita at 2:08 PM on September 11, 2002


The point is you were hosting the document Answer me this: if a primary source of a linked document goes down under the bandwith of Mefi readers, and another reader mirrors it on his own server so that people can read it - is that against the rules?

This may have been technically a self-link, but I don't think it violates the principle thats behind the no self-link rule. He wasn't promoting himself, he wasn't promoting his work, he wasn't promoting his website.

Instead, he got what could have been a very interesting thread basically shouted down over a what is at best a technicality.
posted by schlyer at 2:10 PM on September 11, 2002


I'm with Shadowkeeper and Schlyer on this one. Steve should have let us know about why he did what he did, but I think that what he did was totally fine.

Self-links are about content. If I'm afraid that a site will be slashdotted by traffic, or shut down by the chinese, or for a variety of other reasons (convenience being a much lesser reason, but, all in all, a valid one), I'll just host the file on my server as a service. I can't see the orginal post, so I can't follow a link to Steve's PDF, but I think that this might come down to something quite fine-grained:

If steve linked us all to his homepage, where he included a link to a DOJ Doc (now a PDF), then he's guilty as charged - Self Link. If he linked directly to the PDF, and moz happened to notice the URL, then that to me, is no self-link at all.


posted by zpousman at 3:13 PM on September 11, 2002


Steve_at_Linwood, my first inclination is to side with you. but there is some important history dealing with this issue that you may not be aware of. early in my "mefi career" i did a similar thing - when al gore came to town and i took a bunch of pictures from my office window. i thought it was of interest, and it was certainly something NOBODY would ever see unless i made it available. my own webspace was the logical choice, and i was quite insulted at the carping. at that time, i didn't really use the domain for anything, so there was nothing to promote, and i think that plus the fact that it WAS campaign time is why it avoided the axe AT THAT TIME. however - since that time mefites have been witness to all sorts of nefarious and devious examples of deliberate self-serving linkage, and what mediareport says about the slippery slope has been unarguably shown to be true. so, it is one of those unavoidable gray areas and the consensus has become settled at "err on the side of not linking one's own webspace in posts - comments are ok". my post, and yours, are good examples of the pro's, unfortunately the con's have been repugnant and the issue has basically been settled through discussion in the past. no harm, no foul, now you know!
posted by quonsar at 3:15 PM on September 11, 2002


To the self-link defenders: What about the point that the original link at politechbot.com was perfectly sufficient and probably even better? I say the self-linkage in this instance was completely unnecessary.

The mirror argument is different and interesting, schlyer. Valid, even. And certainly the first person to comment about Steve's self-link (I don't remember who) should have just made their comment a MeTa thread link. But in this case, Steve had absolutely no good reason to self-link. I think the precedent his move might have set for lots of less thoughtful folks was worth the callout. Matt apparently agreed.
posted by mediareport at 3:31 PM on September 11, 2002


Thank you to those of you who understand what I was doing.

I did not create this content and that is the fundamental difference. The way I have seen the "self-link" shout out used over and over again is on a link to the link author's own material. No matter where it is hosted. If my website was reviewed by an online magazine, and I linked to the magazine's article, that would be a self link, even though it is not on my web server. It is not about were the content is, but you wrote it or who it is about, in relevance to the poster.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:32 PM on September 11, 2002


Matt apparently agreed

Apparently you don't even read the comments. I emailed Matt, and asked to have it deleted.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:34 PM on September 11, 2002


I read it but there was a beer in between reading and posting. Sorry. But do you get the point I'm making about how a simple link to the discussion you initially saw would have been perfectly sufficient -- better, even?
posted by mediareport at 3:42 PM on September 11, 2002


Chalk up another for someone who thinks this is a load of anal nitpicking (are you all trainee lawyers?). And for f*cks sake enough of the slippery slope argument - it's either wrong or right. Drinking tea is on the slippery slope to caffeine addiction that leads to other drugs that leads to heroin, but nobody cares.

All he did was think something useful and translated it so others could see. It wasn't his own work. Wasn't his own site. Wasn't anything special.

And as for this obsession with the guy apologising - I wouldn´t apologise either. He's done nothing wrong.

If this is the worst crime on MeFi at the moment god knows what I've just been looking at in blue...
posted by andrew cooke at 3:52 PM on September 11, 2002


it's either wrong or right

Can I live on your planet? I mean, is there room?
posted by mediareport at 4:21 PM on September 11, 2002


This is a very good MetaTalk thread that discusses a similar problem.

Yes, Steve, there is a difference between self-generated content and stuff you're hosting (could someone at an ISP post a link to a client site?), but when there's any option (even proprietary formats) other than your site, it's best to take it.

Also, self-links of any sort are explicitly mentioned in the "What makes a bad post" of the posting guidelines. You broke the rules, despite the grey area. When you break the rules, you're going to get told. Whether or not you were told in a good way, it looks significantly better on you if you accept it and discuss why you broke the rules, rather than trying to argue you didn't.

The rules are flexible, Matt's often stated that he doesn't want to rule anything out just because it matches one or some criteria. But that doesn't change the fact that you broke them.

It's also important to note that Matt's allowed self-links to slide in the past, if they lead to quality discussion or are of a significantly higher-than-average quality themselves.

That's why it's important to take such things to MetaTalk, so whatever potential the thread has to be salvaged isn't affected by discussions about it's appropriateness.
posted by cCranium at 5:42 PM on September 11, 2002


You know, I really think there is an element that thrives here at MeFi that is only happy when they can nit-pick things and argue about them. And there is no reasoning with these people. They are so isolated on their high horse, to dare think they are wrong, goes against everything the hold true. The belive that they have some duty to point their fingers at others, because if they don't they whole system will fall apart. This self appointed duty, leads to self self-righteousness, and to an inability to concede they are wrong about anything. I find it funny that some (not all) of the people who are in this group pose to have such open and liberal (not as in the political) minds, yet are the first to latch down on some one.

Sure you can dismiss me by my MeFi member number, that is another form of elitism that is practiced here. But I'll tell you this. I have been reading this site for a over a year now, and I see the same group of people make the same nasty, pointless comments over and over again.

I do not have to defend my self on this point, but for the final time, that was not a self link, so don't point to the rules and tell me I was wrong for self linking.


posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:24 PM on September 11, 2002


I guess he told us.
posted by rcade at 6:28 PM on September 11, 2002


I do not have to defend my self on this point

No, you don't, and I very much appreciate the fact that you are willing to talk about it.

See, here's the thing:

It is not about were the content is, but you wrote it or who it is about, in relevance to the poster.

It is certainly that, but it is also about where the content is. The page was at linnwood.org. Visiting some random-to-me page at some random-to-me site is a lead-in to browsing that site, especially if I enjoy the original link. I'm not nearly an original enough person to be the only one who does that.

While it's not your intent to draw traffic to your main site, you're going to get some residual fall-off, and you benefit from that, regardless of your intentions with the original link.
posted by cCranium at 6:39 PM on September 11, 2002


cCranium:
I could see your point if I had linked to a page on my site that further had a link to the file, and forced you to visit some part of my site. But I did not, it was a direct link to the file. My site would not have received a "hit". All you had to do was click on it and Adobe Acrobat would have launched (or you could have right clicked to save the file), and you would not have to had seen my web site, or even know that it was hosted at linnwood.org.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:49 PM on September 11, 2002


Steve: I agree that it was not a self-link in the sense of promoting content created by oneself.

However, I think there is another issue here. MeFi is not just supposed to be (according to mathowie's "about" pages) a collection of materials to discuss; it's supposed to be a collection of links to materials online to discuss. The "slippery slope" here is the slope toward members finding something they found offline that does not exist anywhere online, scanning it or transcribing it, putting it online themselves, and then linking to it.

Now, maybe that wouldn't be the end of the world either. But as limitation breeds creativity and necessitates discretion, I think that if such posts were allowed, we would end up with an increasing number of posts to the effect of "Hey, look at this wacky flier someone stuck in my mailbox this morning. Thoughts?"

Of course, this specific instance is different, because you were linking to an article that you had (apparently) found when it was already online. Is it really so wrong to ask users who make front-page posts to include direct links to the original material in question, if they know where it can be found?

I think that if you had done so, it would have been completely appropriate for you to follow that up with something to the effect of "For those of you who have a hard time with that link, I've posted a mirror here.

You indeed didn't do any harm or engage in any self-promotion with your post, and some of those members flatly calling it a "self-link" may be oversimplifying and/or looking for a fight. But what you did was unusual, and it raises certain questions about how MeFi works that I think are worth examining. I don't think you need to apologize, but I do think that your reactions are themselves a bit reductive.
posted by bingo at 7:08 PM on September 11, 2002


Was it a self-link? Absolutely yes, simply because at first glance we didn't see where he got the document. There was no referral or reference; we just saw his website URL. But then he explained himself, and others explained which would have been the preferred way to word the post. (Link to his PDF version; a "found at" link to the Politech email.) Everything should have been dandy.

But was derailing the thread appropriate? No. If there's a etiquette/policy issue or whatever, bring it up once in the thread. If it merits further discussion, bring it to MetaTalk. It was good content that was poorly linked, and there could have been good discussion. We look like a bunch of babies when we start to pile on and whine about crap not immediately related to the thread.

(On preview: Dude, Steve -- just admit it was a self-link. It was wrong of everyone to pile on you, but do you see their point about how you should have linked to the source first? Because otherwise it looks self-serving. Yeah, we didn't see your home page or whatever, but a lot of people get off on sending people to their site for whatever reason.)
posted by jennak at 7:08 PM on September 11, 2002


(long post to follow! sorry for the length.)

Steve:

You know, I really think there is an element that thrives here at MeFi that is only happy when they can nit-pick things and argue about them. And there is no reasoning with these people. They are so isolated on their high horse, to dare think they are wrong, goes against everything the hold true. The belive that they have some duty to point their fingers at others, because if they don't they whole system will fall apart.

you're right that some people come here only to argue. (i think so, anyway; i know there've been some like that in the past.) but i will say that metafilter is considered by most members a self-policed community. some people, like camworld, are willing to say that the site sucks for X or for Y and junk the whole thing. others feel that it's their responsibility to try to do the right thing: to say that this link is a double post, or a self-link. and among those people, some get caught up in their beliefs and (like BlueTrain) charge themselves with a quest to fix metafilter or be its conscience.

there is a real fear that if mefi is not maintained, it will suffer as a community. and i don't blame people for feeling that way. many community sites, when they get large, become unwieldy: slashdot is a good example. i think people here are very proud that no one shouts "FIRST POST!" when a thread opens, or that threads balloon to several hundred comments. i don't think you should blame people for having an opinion on how this site gets administered. that said...

This self appointed duty, leads to self self-righteousness, and to an inability to concede they are wrong about anything. I find it funny that some (not all) of the people who are in this group pose to have such open and liberal (not as in the political) minds, yet are the first to latch down on some one.

some people can carry these desires to police the site too far. extremes are bound to happen. an open mind is relative to a topic; rare is the person whose mind is open to all things, if indeed such people exist. you say that what you posted is not a self-link; i say it is. we disagree, and that's fine. we're entitled to differ.

the question of whether or not a self-link was made is open to interpretation in particular with this case. the guidelines state "Posting a link to your homepage and asking for feedback is a bad post." some people consider any content which is your responsibility, though not necessarily something you've written, to be your website (or homepage or whatever term you prefer). but some people don't. it's a grey issue, as has been mentioned several times. people can point to the rules and tell you that you're wrong. you can point to the rules and tell them that you're right. neither act is correct for all people.

should i have metatalked the issue first -- i don't know. i really believed the thread would have been deleted right away, which is why i pointed out it was a self-link. i don't think it's worth it to post a metatalk thread every time you see a self-link or a double post. but as the issue is grey, it probably would have been best to post on metatalk. blame me for that if you like: as i've said, i'm no perfect person. i'm sorry if i've caused much trouble.
posted by moz at 7:30 PM on September 11, 2002


Steve, I just tried your link to the PDF. Yes, the file opened in Acrobat, but Acrobat opened within my IE browser, so I saw the full URL in my address line. I sliced off the directory and file name from the URL and found myself at the minimal front page to your site, which redirected immediately to your blog.

From reading this thread and the original thread in lofi, I can see that you didn't try to benefit from linking to a file on your site. And you went out of your way to do so many courteous things (e.g. short front page post with a warning re the PDF format, more detail about the document inside) that many people here still forget to do, and you deserve credit for that. But I have to go agree that this kind of self-linking technique could be exploited by other people who do want to sneakily promote their sites, or who want to present almost any kind of non-web material this way, so it's fair enough for this topic to come up in MeTa.

We all screw up: hey, my history here includes at least one deleted thread and one badly phrased thread that soon derailed, so I'm hardly pronouncing judgement on you from Mount Olympus here. Try to give other people a little slack even if they seem a bit harsh to you, and thing should sort out.

(On preview: That was a very graceful explanation and apology, moz: thanks!)
posted by maudlin at 7:34 PM on September 11, 2002


Another thing -- people link to pictures/screenshots they're hosting on their site all the time, when they're afraid the original link will go away. No one shouts "self-link" because an explaination is given and there's usually some context or reference. (E.g, when someone gets hacked.)
posted by jennak at 8:08 PM on September 11, 2002


That's no moon, err, self-link.
posted by skallas at 10:16 PM on September 11, 2002


Steve followed all the cardinal guidelines for "what is a good post", but risked an interpretation of "Posting a link to your homepage and asking for feedback is a bad post. Self-promotion isn't what this site is about." If one reads this as "don't try to promote your site via Metafilter" they will probably agree with Steve's interpretation, but if it is read as "don't link to your site" they will not.

Quansar, Bingo and others have provided excellent arguments, with background, for a stricter interpretation, while agreeing that the post was made in good faith. Steve will certainly understand the reasoning there, but will probably not agree that he was "wrong". He does not believe that he violated the intent of the guidelines, and since this thread is meant to be a discussion of the issue it seems perfectly appropriate that he defend his point of view. Those who are frustrated because he is doing so, or who want him to apologize should remember that the explicit reason the thread exists is so that everybody, especially the person who has been challenged, can have their say.
posted by taz at 11:05 PM on September 11, 2002


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