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By bsletten in News
Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 12:31:09 PM EST
Tags: Please Choose a Topic (all tags)
Please Choose a Topic

There is a very vocal subpopulation of the kuro5hin community who vehemently opposes the slightest hint of advertisement or self-promotion. I'm kind of wondering who these people are, where their limits lie and how this volatility translates into their real lives. Please keep in mind I am interested in understanding and discussing, not criticizing.

I'm not concerned with the particulars of the stories that drew this ire because I'm more interested in the reaction. Plus, I imagine it comes up time and time again.


Advertisement can be said to have two main purposes:
  1. To inform
  2. To persuade

It is my understanding (certainly my hope) that the opposition to advertisement is because of the latter purpose, not the former. Self-styled smart people should never be offended by being informed. And yet, there is a caustic reaction to the notion of self-promotion. Several editorial comments have said things to the effect of: "If someone else had submitted this, it would have been ok...." Why? What possible distinction could there be between someone believing what he is doing is cool and someone else believing that?

I believe that noone would get their knuckles in a bunch over a new open source project promoting itself. I can understand perceived distinctions between such an effort and a commercial venture, but where do you draw the line? A non-profit company doing something cool? Ok or not? An open source project sponsored by a for profit company? A commercial company revolutionizing energy production to the ultimate benefit of society? A political candidate keen on furthering the goals of the open source world? I am generally interested in people's thoughts on this.

And what of the mention of spam? Everyone is familiar with the traditional definition of the term (well, both traditional terms <grin>), but how does it apply in a weblog environment such as this? An article posted because the author finds it cool (self-promotion or not) is a contribution to the community. At kuro5hin, the community is empowered to vote on that. But rather than simply voting it down, there seems to be a need to lambast. Do the anti-spam zealots feel obliged to decry everything to which they disagree ("We don't care about that project! That's spam. Leave it on Freshmeat!")? How does one equate mass-mailing unsolicited crap with an article posted to a self-published/self-monitored environment such as this? If nothing else, I'd like to suggest that one need not be offended by the content of what one reads.

So, let's get back to advertisement. I expect that the real complaint is the perceived attempt at persuasion. We are too hip, too ultra-post-modern, and too savvy to be persuaded by Madison Ave. Wonks. In fact, we delight in the recent trend of having this sophistication acknowledged by the very medium we abhor.

Certainly I'd understand a kuro5hinite getting her hackles up at perceived manipulation, but does that have to be the case for all forms of advertising/self-promotion? If someone is genuinely doing something different, interesting, beneficial, etc., why is this not a valid forum to discuss it? Why is the "to inform" aspect of "advertisement" taboo? Why insist that it be filtered first? Particularly in the light of all the "bought journalism" claims of late, I'd think that the unfiltered exposition is more honest.

And what then of RL? Do these anti-advertising zealots carry their concerns into their daily machinations? Do they eschew television, radio and news media? Do they rip the "Intel Inside", "Penguin Computing" and other tags off of their computers? Do they avoid the "Pornstar", "Abercrombie", "Nike", "NIN" and "Korn" apparel?

Is this reactionary attitude merely a desperation to the encroaching envelopment of an otherwise Sponsored Life? Are the online weblogs the last remaining advertisement-free environment when even urinal mats contain slogans and phone numbers?

I am genuinely just asking questions here. Again, I don't care to discuss the recent pieces that prompted this discussion. Despite what you may think, I am not criticizing the zealots. I use the term descriptively, not pejoratively. I am new here and am just curious about the kuro5hin community's sense of self, its limits and its hopes for the future.

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Advertisement | 35 comments (32 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Blatant Self Promotion (3.00 / 2) (#2)
by shevek on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 11:38:42 AM EST

One strategy that an email list i run uses to distinguish between content and advertisement is a subject line tag: BSP. This stands for Blatant Self Promotion and alerts readers that they are reading just that: content that is biased, and blatantly so. Perhpas K5 could adopt a similar policy.

i myself have been a little disturbed at the recent trend in self-promoting articles. mind you, some of them have been interesting and have had good content, but they are clearly attempts to influence the community to buy or buy into a service that will clearly benefit the poster financially.

to paraphrase: "i can't define it, but i know it when i see it." i doubt that the K5 community can do much better than that: we can't really define the difference between advertisement and content for all cases, but we know it when we see it.
-- Philosophy:Cosmology::Signified:Signifier
One rule of thumb (3.00 / 3) (#3)
by nuntius on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 11:41:10 AM EST

I really don't care whether a project which promotes itsself is open source or closed. It depends on the _spirit_ of the promotion.

  • Projects which say "You need our product" or "We have a product called ABC" are spam.
  • Projects which say "Our product does x, y, and z" are borderline. Here the free vs profit incentive issue comes in to play. If the product is of an old genre, then its closer to spam. If it announces a new type of project, its less so.
  • Projects which say "We've noticed that many people have problems with x, y, and z. Here are some clever ways to solve x, y, and z. BTW, for further news check out our product at..." are the best. Especially if they leave personal promotion on the other side of the link.
I think in general that people will hold posts by a project to higher standards than those of individuals. Bacisally, its just like how we hold public speakers to a higher standard than we hold ourselves in private conversation.

I think that's a Good Thing(tm:), but overdoing it is not.

What do others think of these guidelines? Areas for improvement?

We should hold all things in moderation. (pun intended ;-)

Where to draw the line? (3.00 / 2) (#4)
by cthulhu on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 11:51:06 AM EST

Personally, I hate drawing lines. However I give you a rough idea where it's at. If the point of the article is technical in nature, I care to see some mention of technology in it.

A prime example is a recently submitted article on distributed parallel processing. The submitter put up a link to their commercial site and in the description made it sound as if they had just invented the concept of distributed parallel computing. There was simply no other information provided. However, had they put information describing what was different about their product and invited serious debate into the theory behind whatever it was I would have gladly joined in.

But, this may have been the crux the submitter was in. The link was commercial in nature, and they did not desire to release what may have been considered proprietary information. Thus, by this very conflict the nature of the article turned into little more than publicity.

Turning back to the argument of promotion to inform or persuade, a commercial project has exercise greater care when publicizing itself. Too often do commercial entities try and wrap persuasive around informational material. Thus, the general attitude is one of bias that all publicity arising from a commercial entity is persuasive first and informational second. In reality this is not always the case.

Finally, if someone posts a publicity piece about their own project they will face a similar bias as a commercial entity. In the case of a GPL project, they may or may not be motivated by economic reasons. However, their close association with the project is assumed to be biased in favor of the project. This is not a bad thing. After all, I'd hate to see all GPL project members hating their own projects.



It's the nose of the camel. (2.50 / 2) (#5)
by Nygard on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 11:55:07 AM EST

Personally, I rather like the idea that a community can define itself. If this group declares an ad-free zone, then so be it. The inhabitants have a right to defend it.

Information, persuasion, and trust (5.00 / 4) (#7)
by error 404 on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 12:27:58 PM EST

The goal of an ad is to persuade. An ad may also inform, either in order to further the persasion goal, by mistake, or by subversion on the part of an individual with editorial control over the ad.

But always, the persuasion part is the key. The economics are clear: the buyer pays for information, the seller pays for persuasion. Even in the best case, where the interests are perfectly aligned and I have something to sell you that you need. I inform you that it exists, and by doing so persuade you (it was easy - the information that it exists was enough) to buy it. Even in that case, I'm paying to persuade you, informing you is a happy accident.

Now, information without trust is of little or no value. That is why, for example, I won't build any dangerous device based on instructions from some random web site.

If my doctor reccomends a diet program, that is valuable information. The exact same information, in a spammed email, is worth less than nothing. I pay a stock broker fat commisions in order to get her advice. The exact same words show up in my email, and I delete them unread. Because trust is an essential component of the value of information.

Information in promotional materials comes with very little trust, in most cases. Information in promotional materials is, at best, biased. At worst, it contains flat-out lies.

I'm not one of the extremists. The fact that an article promotes the authors economic interests doesn't automaticaly make me vote against it. But the value of the information is reduced. The information in the same story, posted by someone without an economic stake, would be more trustworthy, and thus more valuable, because the information would be the goal, not the persuasion.


..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

when we get sections (3.00 / 3) (#8)
by eries on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 12:40:31 PM EST

We should just have a self-promotion section/category so that people can self-identify. Perhaps these should get posted to their own section, but not to the front page. Then we can also have an MLP section :)
Promoting open-source OO code reuse on the web: the Enzyme open-source project
Re: when we get sections (1.00 / 1) (#22)
by malikcoates on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 02:57:02 PM EST

It's probably a silly question but what is MLP ?

[ Parent ]
Re: when we get sections (3.00 / 2) (#23)
by bsletten on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 02:59:48 PM EST

Mindless Link Propagation

[ Parent ]
for anti-spam overreactors (3.33 / 3) (#9)
by madams on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 12:48:40 PM EST

We're not dummies around here! The K5 readership is intelligent enough to take a biased view for what it is. The recent submissions about distributed computing over the Internet obviously contained a biased view (every point of view has some biases). Why not just read the article and say, "I'm intelligent enough to know the point of view the author comes from. I can see past that, so his view won't affect me. No I can vote on whether the post raises any interesting points or whether I think it'll generate good discussion".

--
Mark Adams
"But pay no attention to anonymous charges, for they are a bad precedent and are not worthy of our age." - Trajan's reply to Pliny the Younger, 112 A.D.

Pretty Simple (4.00 / 4) (#10)
by Neuromancer on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 12:56:18 PM EST

I don't log on here and just slam everyone who writes in a slightly self promoting article as being a spammer, I just print what I want to read, and don't print what I don't. Pretty simple. I write little notes as to why I voted the way that I did. If you want to blatantly advertise, heck, pay for it and you'll get it on the site, but nobody wants to read advertisement garbage. Nobody wants to sit through commercials on TV, and nobody wants to print ads except to gain revenue. I really don't give a shit if you advertise, as long as I really want to read the story, I'll post it. If you say, I have a new car I designed, and it's really cool, and has a dumb name, I am not going to post it, and I'm going to write a comment like. "I really don't care about 'The LardMobile'." If you say "'The LardMobile' is jet propelled, this is how the jets work, the artificial intelligence that enhances the image in the vanity mirror uses this algorithm, here is some psuedocode." Then, I'll probably post it. In fact, if someone wrote an article on the actual contents of "SPAM" as in the luncheon meat, and where it comes from, and a brief history of how it is processed, I would vote it up in a heartbeat.

Blame it on Eddie Bernays (3.00 / 3) (#11)
by marlowe on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 12:57:38 PM EST

He's the cynical bastard who invented modern marketing.

It's okay to inform. It's okay to persuade. It's NOT okay to dun hapless audiences. It's profoundly disrepectful, and a public nuisance.

Marketing is about trying to get people to buy what you have for sale, without any regard as to whether anyone has any use for the silly thing. If it weren't for this sort of thing, there would no reason to resent advertising.

Nowadays, if anyone has anything important to say, he's met with hostility and sales resistance because of all the marketing assholes who've conditioned people against any effort to persuade. It's grossly unfair to both the would-be persuader and his intended audience.

Yeah, we need to flame anyone with a marketing mentality. Hound anyone who insults our intelligence, or lies to us, tries to manipulate us in hamfisted ways, or promises instant wealth. Give them all the abuse we can muster. Shut them out if at all possible. But let's remember to be selective. There are still a few out there who are trying to sell us ideas for reasons other than for the sake of selling us. There are still ideas worth buying. But right now they're drowned out by all the noise.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
Re: Blame it on Eddie Bernays (1.00 / 1) (#20)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 02:30:30 PM EST

Marketing is about trying to get people to buy what you have for sale, without any regard as to whether anyone has any use for the silly thing

I beg to differ. I've just sat through a course on my MSc which included several lectures on marketing principles, stuff in practice, etc, by a real life marketing guy (i.e. highly paid consultant. He wore a suit to lectures, you get the idea).

Anyhow, what he said is that marketing is about the OUTSIDE-IN approach, as opposed to the INSIDE-OUT approach (the technique adopted by most geeks). He was constantly frustrated on the course by the techies whose attitude was more akin to 'we've got the technology to do it, so let's do it'. If you want a successful product, you don't follow the line of least resistance (do it because it can be done). Do it because people have (or you can convince people that they have) a genuine need for the product.



[ Parent ]

Re: Blame it on Eddie Bernays (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by ubu on Sat Jul 15, 2000 at 02:36:07 AM EST

Do it because people have (or you can convince people that they have) a genuine need for the product.

These are two extremely different things. Modern marketing is about convincing people they have a need for the product; it is less and less about identifying people who actually have the need (as if anyone actually needed a Dr. Pepper to "make the world taste better").

What your friend actually meant by people who have a genuine need for the product was a concept called "a market", otherwise known as "people who will buy the product." The reason for his differentiation in the lecture was almost certainly to justify organizational expenditure on product development, not to justify the product itself as a genuinely useful thing.

The short version of all this is that marketing is driven by a desire to sell units, period. It has very little to do with actually getting good products into the right hands, or with providing useful information.

In light of this, blatant self-promotion accompanied by useful information should be considered a step in the right direction, if not the ultimate ideal.

Ubu
--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
"Spamming is not tolerated here. Any comment (4.50 / 4) (#12)
by blixco on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 01:15:01 PM EST

This is directly from the little paragraph under the Post Comment header. It's the first thing you see when you post a file....your only guidance, as a matter of fact, when you click to post.

I work for a Large Copmputer Company in Austin. I want to tell you about this cool new feature of my latest box, the Server X. The Server X has an extensible chipset that allows the OS or a programmer with the right API to plug directly into the firmware and change things like emulation, timings, health and welfare of the machine, etc. Server X is the only server out there that has it. Here's a link or two to Server X's adverstisement.

The trick is that I am promoting my server. I am actively promoting my server. I mention the API and the chipset to make you think it's a neat thing, but that's a feature of it: the Neat Thing that makes you want to buy it. I want to sell it to you. If I were telling you about my technology (and only about my technology), I would make this post slanted towards my technology, and I would not include a link to the advert.

If I promote a project that has neat technology, I would promote the technology, and not the project. To promote the project would be spam.

You have two lines here that bug me:
"If nothing else, I'd like to suggest that one need not be offended by the content of what one reads." OK, you're an idiot. That shouldn't offend you, right? It's an attack and all, and I meant it, but you're not affected by it, are you? Words don't carry any sort of ability to affect behavior, do they? I mean, they're just words.

Language is *not* passive. Every word is used to further the message. The underlying message. And the posts recently have been advertisement oriented. The point of the messages was "here's my product, buy it. Oh, and it does these neat things that I had better mention so the post doesn't get deleted."

"Do these anti-advertising zealots carry their concerns into their daily machinations? Do they eschew television, radio and news media? Do they rip the "Intel Inside", "Penguin Computing" and other tags off of their computers? Do they avoid the "Pornstar", "Abercrombie", "Nike", "NIN" and "Korn" apparel?"

Yes. Television, when it is on, is on a movie, a non-commercial station, or the Simpsons...but the commercials are ignored or the channel is changed. Radio? What's that? News media sponsors are looked upon with a very wary eye....any news by / about the sponsor is simply not believed.....
....and that's just your traditional, passive media examples. What we have here in places like k5 is the chance to do it differently, and do it right. This is a place where ads are not warranted as copy. If you want to advertise, buy a banner.

And if you ever see me on the street wearing any of the clothing labels / band merchandise mentioned above, feel free to skewer myself and my family.

"I am genuinely just asking questions here." Your linguistics are terrifying. I'm impressed...claiming to be non-partial when you have an opinion, however, smacks me as being a bit silly. This is a place where you can have an opinion....as long as it's not clothed in a Nike ad.

-------------------------------------------
The root of the problem has been isolated.
Re: "Spamming is not tolerated here. Any comm (2.00 / 1) (#17)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 02:12:45 PM EST

Well said. The purpose of most advertising is to inflame desire, to make a person more suggestible for a commercial transaction that will benefit the person that inflamed the desire.

[ Parent ]
Re: "Spamming is not tolerated here. Any comm (3.30 / 3) (#19)
by bsletten on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 02:23:29 PM EST

> This is directly from the little paragraph under the Post Comment header.
> It's the first thing you see when you post a file....your only guidance,
> as a matter of fact, when you click to post.

Yes, I am quite aware of the statement. What I was seeking was a definition. This site solicits opinions, articles, stories, etc. My line of questioning was directed at deducing where the lines are drawn.

>> "If nothing else, I'd like to suggest that one need not be offended by the
>> content of what one reads."
> OK, you're an idiot. That shouldn't offend you, right? It's an attack and all, and I meant it, but you're not affected by it, are you?

No, actually, I'm not offended in the least bit. #1, I understand the point you are making and #2, you know nothing about me and therefore your opinion on that subject is irrelevant. If after lengthy discourse you still thought I was an idiot, I might have a problem with that.

> Words don't carry any sort of ability to affect behavior, do they? I mean, they're just words.

Of course they do. My intention was to suggest that one allows oneself to be offended. In the larger context of my message, the comment suggested that merely voting against something was comment enough. The incessant self-indignation is ego masturbation.

> Language is *not* passive. Every word is used to further the message.

And intelligent people are able to filter and react accordingly. An educated mind is not a plant incapable of doing nothing but reacting to external stimuli. > And the posts recently have been advertisement oriented. The point of > the messages was "here's my product, buy it. Oh, and it does these neat > things that I had better mention so the post doesn't get deleted." No. The points were: "this is what I am doing, I think it is cool. What do you think?" I know this because I know the guy who posted them. The secondary post was response to the community's reaction. It was an attempt at concialiation and further discussion. The vote was split down the middle, so obviously a large section of the community agreed with the author. Half of those who voted no suggested a rewording would be suitable to make them vote "yes". Quite obviously, it was not enough and it was voted down. So be it.

> Your linguistics are terrifying.

And, your language is reactionary. Now that we understand each other....

> I'm impressed...claiming to be non-partial when you have an opinion, however, smacks me as being a bit silly.

Where do I claim to be impartial? The fact that I am asking the question in the first place is an indication of my position. In fact, the first two sentences of my post delimit myself from the perspective I am describing. I am seeking answers to questions about behavior. I'm trying to understand the different facets of a new community.

> This is a place where you can have an opinion....as long as it's not clothed in a Nike ad.

This is precisely the perception I was hoping to elucidate. Thanks for your participation. It needn't be personal.

[ Parent ]
Speedfreak motto (1.00 / 1) (#30)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jul 15, 2000 at 06:52:17 PM EST

I didn't realize that the speedfreak motto was by hunter s. thompson, got a cite?

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
Re: Speedfreak motto (1.00 / 1) (#32)
by blixco on Sat Jul 15, 2000 at 11:21:36 PM EST

Ya know, I have no idea where this originally came from. I saw it first in an article about speed on paranoia.com, then saw HST quote himself in a 1995 cycle world article about a Ducati.
-------------------------------------------
The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]
So only kinda a quote... (1.00 / 1) (#33)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 16, 2000 at 01:18:12 AM EST

Hmm, and I thought it *was* a quote, but it was just HST quoting something else.

Maybe those should have different markup than <quote><return>--<quotee>

Like: <sayer>:<pithy quote from someone else>

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
Re: So only kinda a quote... (1.00 / 1) (#34)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 16, 2000 at 02:59:32 PM EST

iirc, it's from HST's "Hell's Angels"... he was talking about riding a motorcycle in San Francisco in the rain at night along the beach. something like that. can't remember for sure... must've somehow damaged my brain slightly, so that my memory of the book is fuzzy... but the letters were all moving around on the page and dancing, and the lights were so pretty...

[ Parent ]
kuro5hin's purpose (3.50 / 4) (#13)
by Matthew Guenther on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 02:03:04 PM EST

Many of the comments already echo my sentiments, so I'll just comment on a few things I think have been missed:

It is my understanding (certainly my hope) that the opposition to advertisement is because of the latter purpose, not the former. Self-styled smart people should never be offended by being informed. And yet, there is a caustic reaction to the notion of self-promotion. Several editorial comments have said things to the effect of: "If someone else had submitted this, it would have been ok...." Why? What possible distinction could there be between someone believing what he is doing is cool and someone else believing that?

Go read the mission statement; kuro5hin is not a news site, or a tech site, it's a place for discussion. That's why articles are generally longer and have some point to them. I'm not offended by being informed, I'm offended by someone trying to inform me in a very biased manner in an inappropriate forum. There's a very subtle distinction between attempting to inform and distributing propaganda, and most ad "stories" tend to be the latter.

And what then of RL? Do these anti-advertising zealots carry their concerns into their daily machinations? Do they eschew television, radio and news media? Do they rip the "Intel Inside", "Penguin Computing" and other tags off of their computers? Do they avoid the "Pornstar", "Abercrombie", "Nike", "NIN" and "Korn" apparel?

Yes. Unlike "pro-advertising zealots" I don't watch TV... as for radio I listen to the CBC, which has no ads... I run junkbuster on every computer I use, I have a spam filter in place that works quite well, and I don't wear name-brand clothing if I can help it, and have no stickers on my computer.

Since junkbuster can't filter advertising stories on K5, I try to filter them by voting -1 every time.

MBG



Re: kuro5hin's purpose (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by bsletten on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 02:45:56 PM EST

> Go read the mission statement; kuro5hin is not a news site, or a tech site, it's a place for discussion.

I'd read it before, but I went back and re-read it. Thank you for the discussion. There is nothing that suggests to me that self-promotion is taboo if it is intended to promote discussion. In fact, the phrase that caught my attention was: " It's a site for people who are on the ground in the modern world, and who sometimes look around and wonder what they have wrought."

Sounds a bit like the posts in question.

[ Parent ]
I think it is simpler than you suggest (4.33 / 3) (#14)
by hubie on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 02:05:17 PM EST

It is all a matter of context and credibility. This is a discussion forum that depends on reader-submitted stories, so any unsolicited submission that are self-promoting do not lend themselves well to this forum because it isn't the best format to elicit discussion. I think some people react negatively because it comes across basically as a commercial. Also, as another person suggested earlier, there is the additional fear of the camel's nose getting under the tent.

I think there are better ways to submit an article. It is quite different to say "I'm working on a product that does X, Y, and Z. What do you think of this approach?" instead of "I'm working on SmartProgram X. You can visit our company's website here. Here's how you can order it. It does X, Y, and Z. Any comments?" The first approach mentions functionality and a design approach in a non-product specific manner. The second sounds more like a cheap attempt at free advertisment. People would be more willing to discuss after reading the first approach.

On the other hand, if the discussion was about different ways of doing X, Y, and Z, then I wouldn't see it being too obtrusive if a person responded to the discussion with a description of their product. Also, if some unconnected person talks up a product, then that comes off more genuine; this is why people are willing to purchase a magazine filled with product reviews (from supposedly un-biased reviewers) rather than purchasing a magazine filled with nothing but advertisements.

My take on this is that I am not an anti-ad zealot and Luddite. Ads are inescapable, and can even be important supporters of web sites. However, if I am expected to monitor and vote on story submissions (which we all are because that is the basis for this site), I want the ads in the banner section and not in the submission section. It is really that simple. Otherwise I'll come up with a thin physiological explanation of the human metabolic process and stick it on a LOSE 30lbs IN 30 DAYS! message and submit it for review.

Whatever but... (2.50 / 4) (#15)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 02:06:52 PM EST

you can't expect the advertiser to be objective.

BSP (2.00 / 2) (#16)
by 3than on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 02:11:25 PM EST

I've been guilty of submitting irate comments about advertisement submissions. I can see how this might freak some people out, so let me say a few words.
First of all, I don't have any rules in my mind; I call them as I see them. Some commercial companies have very cool things that they can offer, and I could see a scenario where I would positively moderate a submission directly from a company. But there are some things that I react to very badly in this forum. For example the story on the company which had a scheme to charge for distributed computing-but I saw that as a perniciously bad thing, an example of something which could have been done in a free, open source method instead being done for money by a corporation. As well as it might be done, I'm not going to react well to that anywhere on a discussion site; not in story selection OR discussion.
But that's a worst-case scenario for me; there are other examples, like the person that posted an ad for her open-source research project. I moderated that one badly because it was obviously snipped from her site. It could have been a very cool thing, if she had written an appropriate story, but she obviously did not. I don't react well to PR bits as stories, I'm afraid; they aren't appropriate for a site like this, IMHO. A company that obviously too the time, however, to write a good story which would entice k5 readers might be very cool though. The distributed-computing company actually did a good job of that; if I liked their idea, I might have reacted well to their method.
It's a tough issue today; and with the barriers between advertising and personal communication deterioratig all the time, it's only going to get tougher. But that's why we have moderation power. There's really no other way to deal with this than to take each story and comment individually. That's what the real issue is for me; I want to see stories that are unique to this forum. Why else would I be here?

Yawn (1.33 / 3) (#18)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 02:19:03 PM EST

To be honest, if every open source project person started submitting their oh so cool idea to kuro5hin for review, it would become a very boring place very quickly. In fact, there is too much talk about GPL and open source on here already, for my liking.

Of course you won't get companies like Microsoft or smaller ones like Orchestream promoting themselves directly in a forum like this. They will have paid thousands and thousands of pounds to make their product known.

Personally, I think that TV is a brainwashing medium. That's why I don't have one. Not only do you get adverts blasted at you every 30 minutes (unless you're watching the BBC), the programs themselves try to dictate what you think.

There's no doubt how effective adverts can be. When scanning rows of washing powder in a supermarket, thinking what shall i get, the words 'Better Buy Bold' spring to mind. Or you get products sold on augmented features such as 'it smells nicer' or 'the clothes are more springy' rather than core features of how clean the clothes are washed. But that's getting into marketing theory...

Of course there is no way you can avoid adverts. But I'll try, rather than waste my time listening to someone's blatant self-promotion. Besides, if they're the only people prepared to promote the thing, it can't be that good....

It's really very simple (4.00 / 3) (#24)
by KindBud on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 08:43:48 PM EST

If you post an article under the guise of a privacy alert, and the article turns out to be more concerned with promoting a product to close the privacy hole, I have a problem with that.

I practiced this briefly in my youth, struggling to make a living, I took a job selling fire alarms door-to-door. My schtick was supposed to be to tell people I was showing a free film on fire safety. If they let me in, they were treated to images of charred bodies and smoldering homes. At the end of the presentation, I made the pitch for the fire alarms.

One head of household called me on it. I folded like a house of cards, admitted that I felt pretty sleazy decieving him and everyone else I had visited, and apologized. Walked off the job next day.

The OptOut article is kind of like that.

(By the way, I never sold a single fire alarm, which made it easier to walk off the job. I was losing my shirt anyway spending money on gasoline :)

--
just roll a fatty

my .02$ (4.50 / 2) (#25)
by Arkady on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 09:57:22 PM EST

Well, I'm implicated pretty heavily here, and in a weird way. ;-) I'm the fellow who (with Rusty's collusion) is responsible for the little link in the K5 header to the survey at AFI. But I'm also the one who wrote the article last month on DNS which has now grown into a project.

Though I do think most advertising is plainly insulting, there are more important reasons to dislike it. First, of course, is the intrusion of commerce into every sphere of life. By allowing blatantly promotional articles here, we accept that K5 is an appropriate venue for commerce. I don't think that's true. Other forms, i.e. not in articles but in banners, give the advertiser a form of power over K5, since if burst.net pulled out, K5's income would evaporate. Thus, Rusty is beholden to them. This is the reason we came up with the AFI project in the first place.

Most advertising, however, pisses me off because it's ugly and it defaces its environment. Look at the top of this page and tell me you like the way that damn blinky box looks, yes?

So, obviously, I hate advertising. I had a hell of a time writing the article that introduced the AFI concept to K5, since it _is_ promotional. It promotes a project which will, in fact, bring me money. Perhaps that can help me explain another consideration you brought up: self-interest.

I think some promotion is fine, but a big concern is _why_ you're promoting it. Self-interest, as several others pointed out, lowers the value of information. So, consider where the self-interest is.

To move to concrete examples:

  • I started AFI, so I have an obvious personal interest; you could call this the evangelist self-interest
  • I designed the system and wrote the prototype perl code; you might call this the ego self-interest
  • AFI is being set up so it contracts it's actual operations to the consulting cooperative through which I make my living, since it's part of our "let's start new companies to be clients so we can stop consulting for big annoying companies" project; this is the economic self-interest

These are the points of self-interest that need to be understood when reading the article I wrote for K5 about it. I think I explained at the top of the article, in the second paragraph since it wouldn't be appropriate in the front page blurb, what those interests were. At least K5 moderated it up, so I assume I did OK. So, what's different and which types of self-interest need to be considered in what ways?

First, I think we can agree that evangelical self-interest is great, though it should make us careful with the information. Without the evangelical impulse, very little of the Net would exist and anyway, it's great to see folks excited about things they're doing. So it's cool.

Ego interest should make us much more wary of the information, since ego seems to be an extremely fragile piece of self-image in many people and is generally the point that will get you attacked the hardest if you insult it. But ego, or pride or whatever, is also an important part of the excitement in building things that makes the geek world what it is. So it's dangerous, of course, but not undesirable.

Economic self-interest, of course, is what folks usually mean by the term "self-interest". It's definitely the one to watch out for, since in the modern world small actions can lead to large results. Look at spam email. It wouldn't exist if it didn't pay for itself, though it's usually the spam selling spam products that is most profitable. But a single click on "send" in a spam program can get you hundreds of orders; the spammers aren't lying about that. So getting an article about your product posted to K5 could potentially generate sales, or simply improve your mindshare which many organizations are realizing can be much more lucrative in the long run than any single sale.

The thing I measure economic interest against is the product or service being discussed. Is it nifty? useful? Is the "need" real, or is it just something for which they are trying to create a need? How big is the economic interest weighs against its social benefits and niftyness. Is it an Open Source (nifty, useful) project paying the authors a wage by subsisting on CD and shirt sales (small interest) or is it a publicly traded company making money for its shareholders (big interest) by selling a closed source product (not nifty) that does something stupid (not useful). In my case, I think the AFI service is sufficiently nifty, useful and socially beneficial to override the economic interest that I have in it and I tried to make this clear in the article. If this had not been the case, K5 would almost certainly have voted it down before it got to the front page.

Wow. I hadn't intended to type that long; it was just going to be brief note, since the other comments on this article are generally long and covered most of the points I'd want to. I was only trying to get into some stuff I thought was overlooked. Oh well, I guess I'm just naturally into polemic.

Cheers,
-robin


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


an idea... (2.50 / 2) (#27)
by thomas on Sat Jul 15, 2000 at 04:28:30 AM EST

Some of these self-promoting articles are actually quite interesting, but just a little too self-promoting for many people's tastes. How about having an extra voting option for articles, to tag them as "Blatantly Self-Promoting"?

War never determines who is right; only who is left.

Blatantly Self-Promotoing +1 (1.00 / 1) (#29)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jul 15, 2000 at 06:40:22 PM EST

Personally, I'd prefer it if we sent it back to the author, and had him sanitize it, and offered a slashbox/something-similar to put in his plugs/promotion. Those who want to know more about the product/person, can click on the advertisement/promo, the 'zealots' can filter it out.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
Redundant, but... (4.00 / 4) (#28)
by sugarman on Sat Jul 15, 2000 at 01:13:50 PM EST

Alright, I've gone through some of the discussion, and I know my points below will echo some of the points made below, but enough with the disclaimer...

I'm thinking there are a couple main reasons for the neagtivity. They do flow from one to another though, so lets see if we can pinpoint the source of this community's dislike for advertisements.

Hold on, community. That's right. This place is a communtiy, complete with a mission statement. In that mission statement, we are (paraphrasing here) allowed to decide the direction of the site. Rusty has given us carte blanche, save for the provisio about spamming.

Wait a sec...there's a provisio about spamming. This is mostly to counteract the lame ads that propogate like rats in NYC, but also influences the general mood of this sight. We definetly don't want the little ads, so it stands to reason that we might not be thrilled about the larger ones either. Especially if they are masquerading themselves as "content", like the half hour infomercials that plague the shift-workers prime-time TV.

Hmmm. So we have a community oriented site, that is directed by the community as to what they wish to see. Now, why would they be pissed at spam from other sources? There seems to be a lot of negative mention to "Other Sites" or places. Kuro5hin itself is kind of young, but seems to have atracted a number of people who have been on the web for quite some time. This is not a place where clueless newbies cut their teeth.

So what drives them here? Here I:m going to have to leave the (semblance) of analysis behind and speak for myself. I've been on the net, off and on since my university days, 93 or 94. (Probably 94...I remember starting to use the net to get a list of M:tG cards and I think Unlimited had just came out...nother story, moving on). During that time, there have been a lot of places that I've visited, some that I've enjoyed, some I felt comfortable in. Few if any are around anymore. The few that remain have had several "focus shifts" since. Many fell into disuse. Why?

A lot of the sites stopped updating with information after a time. That was alright. Sometimes the thing they were supporting was no longer being produced. Ohter times, and I'm not alone in this, the content of the site changed, and went to shit. The site lost what the special feel that had brought us there, and we no longer felt welcome.

Currently I feel this way about another site that was dear to me. However, they started allowing ads in, and then it went to a "co-sponsorship" deal with a vendor, and now when I go to the page, instead of finding he info that I wanted, that the site was reknowned for, I get "This Week as CompuExpert". Not as a banner ad, not as a slashbox. Right in the Main news queue. So now instead of going to a site and finding the information I need, I get innundated for ads. Or contests. Or other promotional junk. Quite simply, Gone Gold has gone to shit. And I'm not happy about it.

What started the slide downhill? It was innocuos enough at first. Andy, Rich, and the rest, who had made a cooll little place, looked to expand a bit. They did this by letting in some advertising. Marketing got it's foot in the door. Now I can't stand to be there anymore.

And this is just my (recent) personal experience. There have been many more before for me personally, and I'm pretty sure for a number of other denizens here as well. We've seen places that we like "destroyed" by advertising, and we don't want to let that happen here!

Oh, what's that? The community chooses the stories? The community gets to comment about every single thing that hits the front page? Fucking eh! Sign me up. Rusty has opened up the community to allow we, the community to man the rudder and steer the ship. And the present community doesn't want a fucking Coca-Cola billboard painted on the side of the S.S. Kuro5hin!

At the moment anyways. The communtiy may change. The day may come when we see "New at the k5 store, k5 linux!" The place could be flooded with a legion of marketing execs who moderate up stories like "Photoshop 6.0 is out. Discuss." This is conceivable. But then once again, the community that was here in the earliest hours, that supported it in the beginning, will pack up their bags and leave, striking out for a new destination, and bid adieu to rusty and k5
--sugarman--

Let us be direct: who should pay? In other words, (2.00 / 1) (#35)
by TheDullBlade on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 01:41:05 AM EST

/. is messed up pretty badly. I believe, and I think others do, that they are primarily concerned with advertising revenue. This means hype and shocking headlines - in other words, top level trolling. I don't blame them, money is good, and capitalism works. The fault is that their money comes from other people than the users, so they serve the interests of these other people.

My personal opinion is that services should be paid for directly by the people who benefit from them. The fact that it is infeasible or undesirable to coerce this payment doesn't change it. As users of this valuable service, we should pay willingly, without being coerced or having a price set for us, according to how much we value it relative to how much we value the money in our pockets. If enough of us value it greatly enough, there should be no need for advertisements.

Rusty, I think you should solicity donations, quietly, in the corner of the kuro5hin main page. Add a page that explains why, and keep a public record of the amount you receive. You can accept PayPal and e-gold easily, with no up-front expense, and both are well-suited to small donations.

If it doesn't work out, you can always put up the advertising then. This income model offers the most direct benefit to the end users, but only if they cooperate; those groups of users who don't understand, don't get the benefits of this most direct and efficient of all revenue models.

BTW, I call this concept Mass Market Busking (like what street performers do), and I think it will eventually be the way most content is paid for over the internet and, eventually, for all information products, A.K.A. "intellectual property" (things like bandwidth, OTOH, fits neatly into the classical "withholding for non-payment" capitalist model). I've really got to get around to finishing up my essay on it ("Mass Market Busking - The Inevitable Economics of Software")...
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