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RE: Politics of webbing, Part Duex
I respond to a response

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

I wrote an article, "Politics of webbing", which earned a rebut (Bridge for Sale: The politics of webbing, part duex) from Jonah Jones over at MacOS Daily. Hey, no problem, I like having my articles and ideas challenged. So much so that I sometimes respond.

Basically, Jonah goes off on a nice counterpoint article, refuting the premise that "News sites linking other peoples stories hurts those websites". The problem is that I never said that, nor anything close -- nor do I think that. In fact, I think the exact opposite. I love it when people link to my content -- it is not stealing my work -- it is promoting it. Even articles that are meant to rebut are a way to promote my content (and site) since everyone who reads it SHOULD reread my article to see if I am saying what the other person says that I am saying. So I don't personally care if 10,000 news sites link to me -- other than I like it. My only point was that I (and others) would get a little frustrated or overwhelmed if they all asked for links back -- and got mad at me if I didn't.

So sadly, Jonah's excellent points on "the benefits of cross linking" are like running a marathon on the wrong day. Nice effort -- wrong goal achieved. But thanks for caring...

My point by point response follows:

Remember, the stuff I don't counter point in Jonah's article is stuff I don't disagree with. So I don't have that many problems with it. But there are a few clarifications I want to make.

On MacOS Daily, the article "Bridge for Sale: The politics of webbing, part duex" says:

Calling David K. Every! Calling David K. Every! I've got a bridge for sale, and it's got your name on it. Now what do I have to do to put you in this bridge today?

Hmm... I mentioned that I wasn't buying in the first place. Nothing like pushy salesman to get on your nerves. "What part of 'No' don't you understand?" [smile]

Then there are the people who link to your site, without your knowledge, desire, or consent. In David's eyes, the worst culprits of this sort are those who create News sites but no real content.... people who produce no content of their own but simply link to the stories on other people's sites detract from the true content providers' business? David seems to say yes.

Jonah mentioned that my main concern is about linking or news sites -- unfortunately it wasn't.

If I was to sum up my article:

  1. WebMasters are opinionated individuals, with individual (and sometimes conflicting) agendas, that are going to have personality clashes, and spill on the net. It is best to ignore that.
  2. Because they are people, they are going to sometimes feel threatened by competition and have these little battles.
  3. Lots of people try to do new sites because they think it is easy -- but that is a saturated market. The market is starving for content. If you want a successful site, see what unique content or perspectives you can offer.
  4. Some sites clone other sites and just do the exact same thing as them (and borrow their material). That is going to cause hostility, and it is not offering anything new.
  5. If you see battles going on, just chuckle, and don't take it too seriously -- it is just people defending their turf.

While I mention that news sites have problems with people getting angry with them for not providing links, I never said that News sites were "culprits" -- just a saturated market. I certainly never went on to say that they detract from content providers business, since they are in the business of promoting content providers.

The only time I have a problem is when they just steal articles and put them up somewhere else without permission. I will usually give permission, when asked.

My view is 180 degrees, diametrically opposed to what Jonah seems to think it is... and I am really confused as to what lead him to his conclusions. I wish he had quoted what he thinks I said, and what made him think that -- I would try clarify or correct it. Unfortunately he only implied what I said, and never used quotes.

I've had bad experiences with people paraphrasing me. For quite a while I assumed it was just me (and I realize that we all have a responsibility in clear communications). But I've learned that a lot of the time, it is peoples tendancy to read into something what they want to be there. In fact one of the biggest problems with the web is that it is based on the written word. Communications are hard enough in person [read my article on Communications] -- but when you put it on paper (electronic or not) there is more room for mistakes in interpretation, and so on. It is easy to take things wrong (on all sides). [This is not an attack on Jonah, just a comment in general]

I did speak with our publisher Matthew Linton about the subject. He said, "unfortunately, we had to move away from linking all together for the same reasons Stan Flack did at MacCentral. There were simply hundreds of daily emails asking for links and we could not go through and select the top five or ten without upsetting many people. However, It pains us to do so when terrific sites such as MacSurfer, Thessasource, Insanely Great Mac, MacsOnly, and countless others link daily to MacOS Daily's articles. Without the help of these sites we would be nowhere today, but we had to decide what MacOS Daily was going to offer and that was not the same links found across the net."

Matthew Linton and I are in complete agreement. Webmasters appreciate links from other sites -- but it hard to link back to all the others who want them. Differentiation (adding value) requires NOT duplicating the same old links, and trying to "think different". I have no illusions -- if it was not for all the links I've received from news sites, my site would have a small fraction of its current popularity.

When I first read The Politics of Webbing, I agreed with David. I even sent him an e-mail about it.... I've since changed my point of view somewhat. (I didn't receive a reply, by the way - I imagine his In-Box exploded after that article.)

I am usually pretty good about email. But I did get a couple hundred responses. I was also having email trouble during that time -- but it should all be worked out. I apologize for not responding.

A problem with the written word is miscommunications -- and if you don't ask a question, then I can't answer it. Jonah's sample of the eMail he sent read like another "hey thanks for the article, I agree". So even if I had received it, I would have likely said, "thanks". I just can't know that others may be misreading what I've said unless they ask (or tell me). So be clear and explicit (this is not meant as a reprimand of Jonah -- just an explanation to all).

Sure, maybe the cloners don't create new content - but they do offer a valuable service...

Hmmm. I think this is another problem - nomenclature. Cloners (to me) are sites that just copy another site directly. Basically mirroring their data, not adding anything new, and not even reformatting it (or rewording it) substantially. If I was to make a site that was an exact duplicate of MacOS Rumors, and copy Ryan's content daily, right after he put it up, without adding any value, insight, or credit, THAT would be cloning.

News sites are not cloners. But a news site, that "borrows" all of its News from other sites (down to the wording) probably is. Most News sites offer a service in paraphrasing articles, finding links from many sources (not borrowing solely from a few). Without adding value (in going to multiple sources) or offering content (summarizing), then I have no value for what they are doing -- and they are just cloners.

I apologize if I was not clear enough on what I meant by cloning.

The main reason I have difficulty with David Every's position on this issue is his seemingly implicit assumption that this is a zero-sum game . . . in other words, that if the cloner sites generate ad revenue, it necessarily detracts from "real content" sites' ad base.

Actually, I don't have that position at all. The market is growing, so it is not a zero sum game. But I did state that most webmasters see competing websites in that way (that is not the same as me seeing it that way). If they are the same kind of site, then webmasters feel in direct competition. It causes a threat, and treading on territory. And while the ad revenues may not be a zero sum game, the amount of readers for Mac news sites, may be closer to a zero-sum game (they are competing for the same readers).

Fortunately, sites that don't offer anything of value, tend to go away -- but they can detract from better sites for a while. The market will continue to grow -- but growth is not infinite, so short term you can dilute the good choices with a lot of bad ones, and too much choice is bad for business.

To me it is like the PC market. Sure there are 100 word-processors in the PC market -- but arguably 95 of them are crummy. Those bad products don't help the good ones, and may burn users out on word processors completely. I would rather have the Mac market where there is only 10 Word-Processors -- yet arguably 8 or 9 of them are good.

I used to teach Martial Arts, and I saw in business how an area could be supersaturated (with studios) to a point where none of them could afford to be in business anymore -- and then all of them would close. Eventually, someone would figure out it was profitable again -- but that could take years. Of course it was more common for one or two to survive the weeding out period. But competition is not always as good as people think -- it can be very bad short term, and it can drive services away.

So I think all webmasters should TRY to help those sites that are adding something new, and something of value for the users. But that the influx of newcomer sites can dilute those efforts, and make it harder to do so. The trick is getting the signal to noise ratio right -- by offering QUALITY content and links, not just more noise (and links to everyone). Each webmaster is going to have to make his own decisions. But no matter how he does it, those that he does not link to, are going to feel offended.

I hope this clarifies my views, and let people know exactly where I am coming from...

David K. Every
News Site Aficionado

Created: 08/04/98
Updated: 11/09/02

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