On free and open blog posts: this post is free

October 21, 2009

I'd like to criticize and stress some opinions on free and open blog posts, including such appearing on planet MySQL.

Some rants follow; skip if you're only after technical stuff

1. On free reading

This post is completely free. You don't need to pay or register to read it, not will you require to pass personal details to comment.

If you happen to see this post on some website, which only provides you with 1st couple of sentences, then asks you to login in order to view the complete text -- you should know you need no registration to read this.

Apparently some websites do human aggregation of articles. This in itself is just fine: it is a service. But I don't like the way they work: they publicly publish the headlines and snippets of aggregated articles, but upon clicking the title, you're asked to login. There is no reference to the original post; nor to the website where the post has been published; nor to the author.

I've noticed some of my articles get this treatment. I have no idea if website owners then make money by use of ad-words or whatever. I don't mind aggregating my posts - on the contrary: I'm glad they're being circulated. But:

If you're going to require login to read my posts:

  • Either provide additional link to original posting, thereby giving free access
  • Or only let your clients know about this post if they're already logged in; then too: respect the author by providing credit.

I don't like the bait, where you publicly publish the title, then ask for login for the content. It makes the random reader confused, thinking the article is some super-secret-paying-gold-members-only stuff.

It is not so. My posts are free for all to read, with great respect to the open source community and model, who made these posts possible in the first place.

2. On Planet MySQL non-open aggregation

I would sincerely appreciate it if Planet MySQL would only aggregate non-registration-required feeds. It feels very odd when I click a planet feed and then asked to fill in some details. In my opinion planet posts should be completely in the open.

These posts are published by companies pushing commercial products. Rest assured this does not do good service to those companies: instead of openly telling me about their products (which is just fine, as long as it is related to general content the planet is all about), they lose me by asking for login. I encourage these companies to remove this requirement.

3. On Planet MySQL participating blogs, commenting closed, or closed for members

I  encourage blogs aggregated in planet MySQL to allow for as open platform for commenting as possible. I think there are many common ways to allow for user comments: some use Google accounts, some OpenID, other yet only require an email address, and some just ask for CAPTCHA. These are all fine!

Most will alow you to choose from the most popular platforms. I wish to encourage websites participating in Planet to allow for this choice. If you're using the "blog-a-dog-a-mob" platform, please do not require that I be a member of this desolate platform; allow me to use my popular platform's account to comment.

That is, there's nothing wrong with such websites, it's their right to be like that! (and perhaps their platform will not allow anything else). But then - I would rather not see them aggregated within planet MySQL. I already have accounts at MySQL, Google, WordPress, others. These are general-purpose accounts. I wouldn't want to create a website-specific account just for sake of commenting.

And commenting is important. If someone publishes an article, aggregated on planet MySQL, that someone expects the community to read through the article. But if he/she does not allow for free and open feedback, what's the point?

With respect to anyone who is doing hard work to build, maintain and promote the Planet.

[UPDATE: I've had a chat with one of the Planet's maintainers, who promised to check up on those websites closed by registration. Thank you!]

  • Hi Shlomi,
    Thanks for your feedback.
    While we don't have powers on the openness of comments, we can indeed check on the openness of contents.
    Most of the problems with open contents come from wrong feeds, which happen because a feed was changed and not properly checked after submission. So what can appear at first sight evil to the readers is often just a simple mistake.
    I have done some controlled censorship(*) by removing the offending feeds and told the authors to submit a better one.
    Hopefully, this will result in better satisfaction for Planet MySQL readers.

    If I may add my own list to your Cahiers de doléances, I have two of my own:
    * No indication of what format is accepted (HTML? which tags? CR conversion?) so I am often shooting in the dark when commenting.
    * No preview for comments, which, paired with the previous item, leads to some embarrassing posts.



    (*) Hey! it's a joke! We don't do censorship

  • Bjorn

    Agreed. If you do want comments on your blog, please let anyone participate without registration.

    I'd say AKISMET is the best way to fight spam, very effective and user-friendly. Its a simple web service which tells if a comment is spam or not based on some rules and (I think) an internal database. It's part of wordpress but you can also use it standalone.

  • @Giuseppe,

    Thanks a lot!
    Regarding you two additional points: Ouch! I fail them both!
    Will update my theme...

    Askimet is not foolproof. I do manual moderation on comments and get a lot of spam even with Askimet turned on.
    May I suggest reading Baron Schwartz' couple of posts on this?

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