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.
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.