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  1. #1
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    Ethical question: rewriting forum links
    let's say someone links to a book on amazon on my forum. is it ok to rewrite that link so that it includes my affiliate tag? what about other merchants?

    it strikes me as a good way to monetize existing content, and would defeat the problem of people trying to profit by putting their own affiliate links on forum content.

  2. #2
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    I wouldn't have a problem replacing links with my own aff links on MY OWN forum. You're paying for the bandwidth, forum software and hosting. If someone drops an aff link (or even a link that is 'affable') overriding it with your own seems legit to me.
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  3. #3
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    I would say that it's wrong.

    Would you tell the person that you're doing it? If not, I'm always leery of things that are done as secrets.

    It's your forum, if you don't want people posting affiliate links then say so, and delete them as it happens.

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador DesignerWiz's Avatar
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    I think you have that right.

    It's your forum and if someone (or spammer) is going to drop a link to a product then your site should be compensated by either a paid membership, advertising rates, or ability to rewrite the link w/your aff code.

    Just be sure to clearly state this in your TOS.
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  5. #5
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    It's flat out wrong.

    If it's not forbidden to post affiliate links in your TOS, then that means it's OK to post them, by default - so leave it alone. You made the rule - or didn't make it, whichever the case may be. Sure it's your forum, but if it's allowed, what makes over-writing (or replacing) their affiliate ID with yours any different than a parasite over-writing cookies because the shopper happens to have a toolbar or software installed?

    If it's forbidden in the TOS to post affiliate links, then just remove the link altogether and enforce or have your moderators enforce the rule.

  6. #6
    ABW Ambassador newestuser's Avatar
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    Thats how all the deals forums work. Google for "Deal Forum" and every one of those places re-writes links that users post as affiliate links.

  7. #7
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    Well, I'm referring to "normal" forum sites that build communities of users. Ethical ones like Haiko's - they just aren't allowed.

    But what about deals sites - do they disclose that they're over-writing them?

  8. #8
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    I think this is a decision that each forum owner must make himself. Fatwallet goes much further than re-linking affiliate links. They turn a plain text mention of any merchant they are affiliated with into their own affiliate link.

    As to the OP's question, I have absolutely no problem with that at all.

  9. #9
    ABW Ambassador newestuser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcia
    Well, I'm referring to "normal" forum sites that build communities of users. Ethical ones like Haiko's - they just aren't allowed.

    But what about deals sites - do they disclose that they're over-writing them?
    Well, I think Haiko's audience here wouldn't like it, and would start thinking of this place as competition, rather than a resourse.... So business-wise, this isn't a great place to implement that.
    But other than the few sites like this, I think it'd make sense, and users aren't inconvienced or charged more, so why not? you're providing the forum, so you deserve it.
    As a forum owner myself, I think my users are happy to avoid all the popup ads & other stuff they see elsewhere, and have us make $ on sales of items clicked through instead.

    As to where it's stated...Most have it buried somewhere in their Terms & Conditions, about cookies & stuff, but a lot don't even say it.
    Last edited by loxly; June 5th, 2007 at 10:31 PM. Reason: fixed typo :)

  10. #10
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    and what about from the affiliate program's perspective?

    does ebay or amazon have grounds to cancel your account if you change hundreds of links from free links to affiliate links?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by joakimn0ah
    and what about from the affiliate program's perspective?

    does ebay or amazon have grounds to cancel your account if you change hundreds of links from free links to affiliate links?
    I have never seen that addressed in a merchant's rules. With all of the forums that do it, I'm sure we would have heard if a merchant forbid that practice.

  12. #12
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    I don't see a problem with it but put it in the terms of the forum. There's ways you can turn affiliate links or straight links to merchants with affiliate programs into your own affiliate links.

    One is:

    http://www.bounce.cc/

    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...9&page=1&pp=25

    And there are other programming methods a lot of forums use.

  13. #13
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    Just because something is done doesn't make it ethical - or honest toward users. And why should affiliate managers care? They'll get their over-ride or performance bonuses either way. In fact more so, since if they reward forum owners who wash members cookies, it'll encourage forum owners to allow affiliate links. So their own wallets get fattened and they look good to their employers - or their wives if it's a one man shop.

    Just like they allow parasites to make the affiliate channel look good. Same for most networks - do they care about anything but their cut on the commissions or fees?

    I wouldn't expect to be seeing it in merchant or network TOS any time soon, which has nothing to do with behavior that exploits users without their knowledge.

  14. #14
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    It's not unethical. Read the first post again.

    If you have a forum, links to merchants will either be straight or affiliate links.

    As far as affiliate links, you should decide if you allow others to post their own or not. If you allow it, then you should't override it. If you don't then enforce it.

    If you want to monetize it, put that in the terms. Lots of forums have been doing this for many years. I don't think people who post in those forums mind it all, forums cost money to operate and nothing wrong with a forum owner wanting to make some money.

  15. #15
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    I did read the first post, more than once.

    Quote Originally Posted by joakimn0ah
    let's say someone links to a book on amazon on my forum. is it ok to rewrite that link so that it includes my affiliate tag? what about other merchants?

    it strikes me as a good way to monetize existing content, and would defeat the problem of people trying to profit by putting their own affiliate links on forum content.
    And if it's allowed to post such links without full and open disclosure that they'll be over-written, it's unethical and deceptive.

    As far as affiliate links, you should decide if you allow others to post their own or not. If you allow it, then you should't override it. If you don't then enforce it.
    Exactly.

  16. #16
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    If someone posts a straight link in his forum and he has it in the terms what will happen with it, I don't see a problem. In that scenario do you?

    Not if he lets people post their affiliate links and then he overrides it, then I see it as an issue. If you don't allow it, enforce it. If you allow it, don't override it.

    I think we're cross posting but I think we're agreeing basically.

  17. #17
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    Trust, we're agreeing. We're both saying "tell it like it is."

  18. #18
    Classic Rocker Mack's Avatar
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    In my forum if someone posts a link to a book, site, etc. as part of a legitimate post, I leave it. I would never change any part of any persons post in any way. (except to enforce TOS, then it's noted). To me it's just good manners. I don't like it done to me, I won't do it to anyone else.

    If someone posts an aff link, but still in context of the post/topic, I change it to a straight link and send them a polite reminder about manners. They are a guest, I'm not a storefront. I tell them it's the same as putting up a billboard on my lawn, I don't allow it. Go buy an ad somewhere.

    If it's straight out spam, I move it to our hall of shame. We have special things we like to do in the hall of shame. (It looks like part of the same forum but it's a different domain name.) We "creatively modify" spammers links/keywords so the post becomes as "productive" as possible. We have fun messing with them.


    edit: Not saying it's right or wrong for you. Whatever you feel comfortable with is up to you. I just commented on how I do it on mine. My 'rule' from the the very first system I ran up until now, a WWIV BBS on a 1200baud modem, I treat my electronic guests the same way I would treat a guest in my house, and I ask them to act the same.
    Last edited by Mack; June 5th, 2007 at 11:40 PM.

  19. #19
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    As long as the merchant allows it (which virtually all do), it's disclosed, and it doesn't break links, I don't see any problem with it whatsoever. The forum owner pays the bills and that gives them the right to set the rules. If forum visitors don't like it, they can make their own forum that doesn't do it. They can make the rules for their own forum.

    I've seen similar arguments about whether or not bloggers should be allowed to monetize their blogs. I think it's ludicrous for the "purists" to demand that people not monetize something they build.
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  20. #20
    general fuq mrbshouse's Avatar
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    Ethical...is spamming your forum ethical? it takes time and money to make these edits and it's likely someone or thing posting these links across forum after forum..I say detail it in your TOS and rewrite the affili links, but don't even think about touching the straight links..as that will provide an authority bump for you and they are not trying to spam you.

    if your running a clean laced forum like this of course it would be hands off and there are no such links to start, but you also have members moding that for you too...if your running the forum as your leverage to market why let someone else ride your horse?

  21. #21
    ABW Ambassador Snib's Avatar
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    I think it's just fine to add your tracking code to the link. And yes, it's important to put that in your terms. Just don't encourage affiliates to post their links and swap out their tracking code for your own.

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  22. #22
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    Ethical...is spamming your forum ethical? it takes time and money to make these edits and it's likely someone or thing posting these links across forum after forum..
    Yep, they sure are time bandits and so are "pretenders" spamming who are playing dumb and asking for help across different forums to get free link juice. It's not only spamming, it's showing disrespect for the efforts of moderators who volunteer their time to help maintain a clean forum as a valuable resource for their fellow community members.

    A truly legitimate direct link can be helpful to many forum members, but IMHO there's no reason for affiliate links to be posted - except by the forum owner, and even then it can be out of context in a discussion format.

    There's nothing wrong with anyone monetizing any kind of site they have, regardless of type, but undisclosed cookie washing seems like it's way over the line.

  23. #23
    ABW Ambassador newestuser's Avatar
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    I would think moderators of forums know how it works, and are probably paid somehow.

    I don't see cookie-washing happening either. Users visit a forum and click a link which sets a cookie... There was no previous cookie from this transaction to wash.

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