Policy on affiliate links...?


#1

Out of curiosity, what do people think about the use of affiliate links in this forum?

I’ve been noticing that they are turning up more and more, and as some people have mentioned they do lead to questions about the intent of the person posting them. While I’m not convinced that anybody has been talking up DreamHost in order to get referral payments, I definitely prefer to see people giving their honest opinions without even the false impression that there is astroturfing going on. A lot of these links aren’t very clearly labeled as affiliate links, if at all.

Aside from that, if a person has found the DreamHost forum on their own, if they sign up via a referral link in the forum they weren’t really “referred” to DreamHost by that link anyhow, as they already knew about us by that point. Odds are also pretty good that they were even already referred (truly referred) by someone else, and that the referral cookie is being overwritten.

So, I’m thinking of proposing a new rule banning the use of referral links of any kind, either for DH or other services (web hosting or otherwise).

Anyone else have thoughts about this? I’ve noticed (and received, privately) more than a few grumblings about this lately, but I’m sure there are those who have unexpressed opinions one way or the other…

  • Jeff @ DreamHost
  • DH Discussion Forum Admin

#2

Ban 'em. Those things just muddle things up.


#3

Didn’t know referral cookies could be overwritten- is there a way to prevent that, or to somehow prevent the original referrer from “losing out?” People post referral links in at least their siggies in e-mails and forums, and it doesn’t seem wrong to me. It’s like the Avon rep who wears the jewelry and makeup to attract buyers, and displays the “I sell Avon” signs in car and home. Harmless, non-annoying and even expected sometimes. And boy! Is it great for Avon! Sometimes a person posting here says “that one last thing” that gets a potential client to become an actual client. Why not compensate them for their time and knowledge? Probably the good words, wrapped in an affiliate link, posted here about DH are sincere. Who would waste their time promoting a bad host?

~Chell


#4

I no longer include referral links in my postings. But, I think they should be allowed. If someone found the site by themselves, and is reading the forums it may be a posting here that pushes them over the edge to sign up with dreamhost.

If they didnt have any questions they’d have signed up. if they have questions, and this is the easiest place for them to do their research then the poster should get credit. It also serves as motivaiton for people to answer pre-sales questions quickly and accurately.

Of course they could submit through the support Queue, but that was 600 messages long last I looked.

Allow referrals. With Redirection there is no way to avoid 'em anyway.

-Jason

I40.com - Home Page
MP3Mystic - Personal Streaming Music server.
(Neither of these sites are still hosted at dreamhost)


#5

I thinking banner referral links that are DreamHost-related is wise. If a customer has found the forum of their own accord (in otherwords, they have not followed a referral link) it seems unfair for DreamHost to pay for an unwarranted referral.

Third-party referral links seem okay to me, however, and here is a good example of why I think this: If a customer (or potential customer) asks for assistance in looking for a good book on web authoring, and I take the trouble to find a book and link to it in a reply, it seems reasonable that I should be able to add an affiliate ID to the URL. In this post, for example, I referred someone to some books that included my Amazon affiliate ID.


Simon Jessey
Keystone Websites | si-blog


#6

Affiliate links are usually NOT allowed in most forums out there. And yes, I also feel funny about using it right here, since like Jeff said, people should have already known about DreamHost BEFORE they arrive here. :wink:


DreamServers.net :: DreamWhois.com :: DreamRegistrar.com


#7

My opinion on the matter is known. Referral programs leave a bad taste in my mouth anyway – not that there’s anything wrong with them in and of themselves, but they’re abused almost as much as they’re used legitimately. Their very existence encourages misuse by the more unethical individuals out there (and for the record, that isn’t directed toward anyone here, but mainly toward all the amateur spammers out there who use them as a quick way to make a buck by spamming porn site referral links and such).

So yeah, I say ban them on any DH-affiliated site, including (but not limited to) these forums and the wiki. Speaking for myself, I regard with suspicion recommendations from someone who stands to profit from it. People who want to use them can still put them on their web site or anywhere else.

Out of curiosity, why should referral cookies ever be overwritten? Once one is set, no others should be written until the original one expires (30 days sound like a reasonable expiry time?). Further, I think I once read here that the “Referred by:” form on the signup page is ignored if a referral cookie is present. This also seems backward to me – the user manually filling in a name should take precedence over any previous referral cookie, IMO. If this last isn’t actually the case, disregard. The original poster here may have been mistaken.


If you want useful replies, ask smart questions.


#8

I agree with kcrist that affiliate links should be banned in all official DH discussion groups and docs (wiki, KB, etc.). But, I hope that it will still be OK to link to pages that contain affiliate links (e.g., I hope the links in my sig below will continue to be acceptable).

I’m also curious about kcrist’s questions, especially about which takes precedence, the cookie or the ‘Referred by:’ entry in the sign-up form.

Infinite Ink ~ http://www.ii.com
Deflexion & Reflexion ~ http://deflexion.com


#9

I make an effort to answer newbie and especially potential customers’ questions about DH services and options. This would help to gather customers for DH, and for that I should be rewarded. As you can see, I always have referral links, but why not? If the folks were already referred by somebody else, my referral isn’t counted anyway. If the folks were not referred, I’ve helped them and that’s gotta count for something – right?

One of the reasons that I hang around this forum so much is my philantropic vein – I like to help people get good results. Of course the reward factors in as well, so if you were going to take away that benefit from me, would I keep up this philantropy?

(Besides, would you really spend your resources policing this new policy, or would the time and effort be better spent on something else?)

TorbenGB
Try out DreamHost with a free WebIDPrices, options


#10

It’s not had to do a search for rewards.cgi sort of links on the database to find out who’s posted a link.

I agree that referrall links should be banned on DH pages. It’s just trying to get as much money as possible, especially as people have to add the ref link themselves.


#11

[quote]It’s not had to do a search for rewards.cgi sort of links on the database to find out who’s posted a link.

[/quote]

Thats VERY easy to mask. http://hosting.i40.com/ doesn’t look like a referral link does it?

Heck I can get even more clever than that. I can have it go to a page that refreshes to a referral link in 2 seconds. That way the http_referer gets set correctly too.

If your going to ban referral links, you will have to ban all non site5 links as well. and wont THAT be fun. Want to know the address to download WikkaWiki (which I prefer over MediaWiki) Sorry. can’t tell you.

-Jason

-Jason

I40.com - Home Page
MP3Mystic - Personal Streaming Music server.
(Neither of these sites are still hosted at dreamhost)


#12

[quote]Well, hey, that’s really sweet of you to take the links out of your sig’.

[/quote]

Hello Bob,

I have been using similar signatures (without the hyperlinks) in quite a few busy forums out there (and you could guess they forbid affiliate links of any kind, and some of them are quite strict about that).

I must admit that my hotlinking them before yesterday had something to do with OTHERS doing that (incl.yours). It’s the “hey he did it, why don’t I?” kind of mentality, which I have no problem getting rid of if a clear policy on affiliate links is in place. After all, my guess is that the overwhelming majority of my rewards does NOT come from here. :wink:


DreamServers.net :: DreamWhois.com :: DreamRegistrar.com


#13

Jason has a valid point. Banning referral IDs on the forum would be very hard to police; nevertheless, I still think that should happen. If a potential customer has wandered into this forum without clicking on an existing customer’s ID, it means that they have found their way here by DreamHost’s own promotional efforts. It seems wrong that DH should then have to cough-up $97 to someone who doesn’t deserve it.


Simon Jessey
Keystone Websites | si-blog


#14

Another example for this sort of thing, but on a much larger scale, is a car dealership. Auto shoppers wander onto the lot, a salesperson makes the sale and a commission, and the dealership makes money. I think the person offering whatever information brings a customer should get credit.

~Chell


#15

If a user is in the forums, it’s because they couldn’t find the answer on Dreamhosts site, or the Knowledgebase. So Dreamhosts promotional efforts HAVEN’T worked at least not 100%.

And if they are on the fence, and something I say pushes them to signup?

(I’m of the opinion if someone is reading the forums over the last 3 months there is no way they would sign up, but thats beside the point.)

Whats the next type of link to be banned if we ban Affiliate links? Links to other hosts? Links to sites that promote other hosts? Links to sites that mention other hosts? Links to sites hosted on other hosts? Links? Non links to other hosts? non links to sites that promote other hosts?

If I can’t pimp Dreamhost in dreamhosts own forums where can I pimp Dreamhost? (Note, I removed ALL Dreamhost affiliate links when I became an unhappy customer, because I refuse to pimp something I am not happy with. And since I will never EVER be a happy customer of dreamhost I wont ever post another dreamhost affiliate link ANYWHERE EVER. So I am arguing this for everyone else. I don’t have a horse in this race).

-Jason

I40.com - Home Page
MP3Mystic - Personal Streaming Music server.
(Neither of these sites are still hosted at dreamhost)


#16

That analogy fails because the salesperson is an employee of the dealership.

I don’t agree with that. I didn’t follow a referral link when I discovered DreamHost. I did some research, which included studying data at Netcraft and even checking WhoIs records, and then came to the discussion forum to lurk for a bit. I wanted to get a feel of the place before committing myself. In fact, if anyone convinced me that this was the place to be, it was Will Yardley, and he’s departed for pastures new.

Why do you inhabit this forum (and for that matter, the wiki), Jason? I’m not saying you have no business here - I am merely trying to figure out why you bother.


Simon Jessey
Keystone Websites | si-blog


#17

For one thing, some folks make it a habit to routinely erase their cookies, like me, believe it or not. :slight_smile: Edit, Preferences, Clear in FireFox.

What does that have to do with anything? If someone deletes their cookies, any referral info will be removed whether it’s an old cookie or a new one.

Also, as previously discussed, whether one credits the first person ever to slip someone a referral cookie, or the last person just before signup, is a debatable and arbitrary question.

This is somewhat solved by having the referrals expire. If someone doesn’t sign up within 30 days (say) of following a referral link, the referrer loses a chance at a commision. If someone is convinced by later information, the most recent referrer should get the kickback. And remember, the new user can always fill in a referral ID in the sign up form (which should take precedence).


If you want useful replies, ask smart questions.


#18

[i]> A lot of these links aren’t very clearly labeled as affiliate links, if at all.

Get used to it. It’s everywhere. And how does that hurt anybody who clicks one?[/i]

Transparency is good. Disclosure is good. It should always be clear when someone stands to profit from something like this. People can make a more informed decision when they know the poster’s motives.

Here’s an idea, how about appending the text “(referral link)” after any link with a referral URL in it? That should make everyone happy.


If you want useful replies, ask smart questions.


#19

I don’t think it matters whether or not the person is employed by DH. DH offers and affiliate program, which makes them money by gaining them new customers. Same basic concept.

kchrist, that is a good point about the signup form. If a new customer expressly states they were referred by someone, that should be the bottom line.

~Chell


#20

[quote]Why do you inhabit this forum (and for that matter, the wiki), Jason? I’m not saying you have no business here - I am merely trying to figure out why you bother.

[/quote]

I’m still a customer… Wait… Thats not accurate. I’m a bennifactor since I have paid Dreamhost but don’t receive any services in return.

I want to make sure people get fair and accurate information (good and bad) about dreamhost. And I want them never to forget dreamhost WILL dump support messages from the Queues without resolving them.

The Wiki? I’m a fan of Wikis in general. And there is some good information in there. And as Im updating my own wiki, I plan on adding the information, that pertains to Dreamhost, to it. Do you have issue with any of my Wiki Edits? (I’ll admit ONE of the edits was for fun, but not detrimental).

-Jason

I40.com - Home Page
MP3Mystic - Personal Streaming Music server.
(Neither of these sites are still hosted at dreamhost)