I wrote a long, involved piece of historical research about the Peekskill Riots, a seminal event in the beginning of America’s 1950s anti-Communist hysteria. Whenever I write a long post like this on which I lavish lots of time and attention I naturally try to drum up readers to read it since my site does not draw a large readership.
I’ve scoured the web for discussion forums on various subjects appropriate to whatever topic I’m writing about like Egullet.com (food), Typepad Users Group (TP and web technology issues), CharlieRose.com (news), Middle East Information Center (Mideast peace), WorldMusicCentral.org (world music). When I post to these discussion groups I summarize the story in my blog (or sometimes quote it verbatim) & insert a link to the post. I’ve actually met some very fine and interesting people through these message boards. In addition, the board readers of my posts often bring me insight and data that I would not have been able to uncover otherwise. It has also brought some new readers to my blog. So far so good.
In the last six months ago or so, I’ve discovered two discussion forums which absolutely prohibit links within posts and signatures. For example, after writing a series of posts about the struggle between intellectual freedom and copyright protection (specifically the issue of Fair Use), I wrote a post in the Webmasterworld.com discussion forum. When the post was rejected I inquired why and was told that the various discussion groups run by the site are so large, and members have so many commercial interests, that the tendency to hucksterism and shilling is simply too strong for them to allow linking. When I pointed out that neither my blog nor my post fell into that category (since they are non-commercial and created only for educational purposes), they replied there couldn’t be any exceptions made otherwise every other member would demand similar exceptions.
The administrator was really very nice and kind in rejecting me. He suggested that I post the entire blog post in the discussion thread (without a link). But I told him my post was so long it wouldn’t be appropriate to include it in its entirety. He suggested an edited version. But after the entire dicussion with him I just felt it’d be too exhausting and demanding to reedit the piece after I’d spent so much time creating it in the first place.
I had an even more distressing experience with Able2Know.com. After writing the blog post I mentioned at the top of this entry, I wrote a similar summary with a link in a post in their History forum. I received a few interesting replies from members. But when I attempted to reply to them I received an obscure message saying in highly technical language I could barely follow that the post had been eliminated. I could still view the thread, but couldn’t reply. As of this writing, the thread is gone entirely.
I wrote an appeal to the forum moderator noting that after I’d posted my entry I read the site FAQs and noted that no posts may contain links to the poster’s own site, whether it was commercial or non-commercial in nature unless an exception is made by the moderator. This policy seems to imply that poster’s could add links to site not their own, which seems a bit odd (what’s to prevent a member from posting a link to a friend’s site or a business partner’s site which may or may not be commerical in nature?). I asked for such an exception because of the non-commerical, research, educational nature of my post and link. I also added that if the site could not make an exception I would cease participating.
Here is the reply I received from an unnamed Able2Know.com staff member:
No exception will be granted to you, and it’s a little late for your concern with complying with the rules.
Regardless of whether or not you think it appropriate we do not allow posting of one’s own URLs. Some of the most zealous spammers of our boards are not commercial sites but other varying personal interests.
This is, in fact, the standard we maintain, and we have found that we typically only lose persons whose only interest in this website is to use it as a vehicle to solicit visitors.
We do not have a problem with losing such members as we are disinterested in serving as such a vehicle in the first place.
See, if you really want to discuss history you can posts your texts, if however your interest is in getting visitors then there is incompatibility with the rules.
The rules do not hamper the discussion you were pursuing, just the invitation for visits. If your emphasis was on the latter the measures were obviously vindicated.
I’m quite astonished that any online company would allow its staff to communicate with members in such a condescending and dismissive fashion. I wonder if the discussion forum members know how rude the company’s staff is? Or would they care?
I am also astonished that someone like me who wishes to include a link such as the one I did would be viewed with such scorn. What is so evil about trying to draw attention to one’s blog especially if it’s nature is completely non-profit? In one sense, I can understand that a discussion forum would prefer that members devote their energies to enriching the content of the forum, rather than increasing readership of an external site. But such a narrow proprietary philosophy seems anathema (at least to me) in the web environment. I believe that the more open the borders the richer the interaction. The more one restricts discourse, the less knowledge is disseminated (not that this would mean much to the folks who run Able2Know).
The full Help Desk discussion is available at this time at http://help.able2know.com/index.php?_a=tickets&_m=listview&_i=GYF-67975. If Able2Know.com removes the discussion it is also available here: https://www.richardsilverstein.com//files/able2know.com web page.htm
THe Able2Know.com approach to linking leaves me absolutely cold.