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When is spam not spam?

This morning when I opened Instructables to the Workshop page I found that out of the 30 'ibles displayed in "Recent" no less than FIFTEEN of them were from Popular Mechanics; now popular mechanics is a really good magazine in fact I used to buy it regularly but no matter how good it may be it isn't a person it's a business & everyone of the "'ibles" contains links to it's web site.
While all the articles which have been taken from the pages of the magazine & published as 'ibles are well written & informative they are also a blatant advert for both the site & the magazine & as such in my eyes at least are spam, I know that there have been a few 'ibles published by Pop Mech in the past but I really feel that fifteen or more all at once is extracting the urine just a bit when it comes to copping for a bit of free advertising.
Any constructive comments folks?

21 Replies

canida (author)2013-09-30

Sorry for sending so many out at once - we'll meter out future PM Instructables so as to avoid flooding the feed. There are lots of great projects in their offline archives, and we are helping them share these projects via Instructables.

A well-written, informative project is useful regardless of the source. Most Instructables are posted by individuals, but there are plenty posted by companies, by individuals starting (or hoping to start) a business, and every point in between. Linking, in a tasteful and useful fashion, is a good thing. In this case, it's two links to tell you where the projects came from - just useful, practical stuff.

Overall, we want to encourage everyone to post Instructables, pros included, because that means more great projects to inspire our community.

Nostalgic Guy (author)canida2013-10-02

Thanks for the reply, I would agree that they have a great deal of really good information on their site & doubtless much more that isn't.

However plenty of things published by companies are flagged as spam by members like me & removed as well.
The membership agreement for the site states that advertising is not permitted:-

Terms of Use,
13. Rules of Conduct. While using the Site you will comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations. In addition, Autodesk expects users of the Site to respect the rights and dignity of others. Your use of the Site is conditioned on your compliance with the rules of conduct set forth in this section; any failure to comply may also result in termination of your access to the Site pursuant to Section 18 below. You agree that you will not:
Bullet point five:-
"Any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letter,” “pyramid scheme” or investment opportunity, or any other form of solicitation."

Every 'ible has a flag button for spam, so apparently "we want to encourage everyone to post Instructables" isn't entirely accurate.

When I see fifteen 'ibles all published at once with no indication that they are part of some sort of deal between Instructables & Pop Mech it all looks a bit dodgy.

Surely when such a deal is struck & lots of new 'ibles with links to a company web page suddenly hit our screens it would make sense to include a line or two at the start saying so.

I see it as implemented in "the spirit of the law" from the viewpoint of big business Ibles is now part of the corporate collective and will act as such. I don't think they have it down on how to deal with people who still have the original ibles vision, at least what we think it is. It's all numbers and gauging response by analyzing web stats. Yeah, it would be nice to maybe have an icon or badge associating the ible with an approved or vetted company so we don't regard it as spam. There are some video ibles that annoy me as infomercials for molecular cooking which are just relayed on as an instructable.
The whole slew of techshop stuff was kinda in your face until I realized the big A had an investment in it. I see more and more contests that are trying to promote a certain product or software but I'll just remain "You can buy the website, but you can't buy the community."

canida (author)caitlinsdad2013-10-03

This is almost exactly the same wording for people concerned about OMG TOO MANY K'NEX GUNS IN MY FEED! Maybe zachninme can write you a greasemonkey script? :)

More seriously, just because it's posted by someone with an affiliation or interest you don't share, that doesn't make it spam or an official action from some corporate collective. Example: I'm into molecular gastronomy and like those videos, though I'd prefer them in Instructables format as it's much easier to use. (We have no business relationship with them.) TS sees Instructables posts as a form of inspiration/grass-roots advertising, sure, but saying where you got the tool is essentially the same thing as identifying where you sourced a part - and potentially quite useful if the store/shop is near you. Sponsored contests are part of a grand scheme to redistribute the resources of Fortune 500 companies to Instructables authors. YMMV.

yokozuna (author)canida2013-10-05

There have also been a large rise in the number of instructables that push people to their site to buy something. For example, here is an instructable that I found extremely cool, but there are no actual instructions on how to repeat the process yourself. Even if they did a basic version, then had more complex designs on their own site, I would be okay with that. This on the other hand, I felt was a waste of my time: https://www.instructables.com/id/Lamborghini-Aventador-A-E2-Ultimate-Papercraft-Sup/

Kiteman (author)yokozuna2013-10-06

That author puts a massive amount of work into his projects, and has, in the past, had to put up with a lot of flack from people moaning that he did not provide his plans for others to follow. Given that those projects took hundreds of hours to design and build, I think it's fair for him to ask for a few dollars to recoup some of the costs, don't you?

yokozuna (author)Kiteman2013-10-11

Sure, I think it's fair, as I said the project is really cool. But that doesn't change that he's marketing his product on ibles, where there is an expectation of learning how to repeat someone else's project. There is a marketplace section in the forums, and that's what it is for.

caitlinsdad (author)canida2013-10-03

I think the only concern is if we boast that there are 100,000 instructables, what percentage of that is SPAM or SPAM-like enough to devalue the user impression of what an instructable is. Maybe zachinme should be writing the test scripts for all the new features that are rolled out.

Kiteman (author)caitlinsdad2013-10-02

I think the Techshop projects earn the authors free tool lessons at Techshop, which they have to take to be allowed to use the cool tools.

canida (author)Nostalgic Guy2013-10-03

If you'd seen these one at a time would it still have looked like spam to you? As I said, we shouldn't have let them all go live at once. The previous projects went up one or two at a time, and that's how any future projects will go as well.

We definitely want everyone, novice to pro, to post well-written, informative Instructables. Spam is not an Instructable, and we work hard to make sure you don't see any spam. The fact you're flagging PM projects as potential spam means we're doing an excellent job of that. :) For that matter, go ahead and continue flagging things that you think might be spam - our community management team is here to monitor edge cases, and will review anything that gets flagged. Better to be safe than sorry.

Nostalgic Guy (author)canida2013-10-03

Actually yes they would have, the volume of them simply added to the irritation of what seemed like yet more spam.
I accept that Instructables has to enter into agreements with outside companies it is the nature of the business & without such agreements there would no advertising revenue, far fewer competitions & essentially no site however when I see 'ibles that are produced by ANY company they ring alarm bells, when I open an 'ible & find links to that companies web pages where the very first word is "Subscribe" the bells get louder & when I can find no mention on either site about any kind of deal, relationship or competition link between Instructables & the author company they get even louder.
Plenty of spam does get onto the pages, it is very seldom a week goes by without a few, weekends & US public holidays especially seem to be attractive to spammers, I have flagged spammers trying to sell legal advice, specialist tiling, holiday companies, pet adoption, car hire, boat hire, plane hire, fishing trips, IT support services, vehicle repair shops & a good deal more; if Instructables gave away twelve month memberships for every flagged spam that is removed I would be leaving lifetime memberships to my grandchildren in my will.
With the greatest respect contrary to your claim " we work hard to make sure you don't see any spam. The fact you're flagging PM projects as potential spam means we're doing an excellent job of that." while I have no doubt that there are people working to filter it out & remove it expeditiously a quick browse through the questions & forums at the threads discussing various outbreaks of spamming & many many suggestions as to what could be done to prevent it suggest that spam is something that many members find annoying & on occasion it has got out of hand;
At the end of the day had there been something on these 'ibles to indicate that they were being posted by a company that was in caitlinsdad's words "approved or vetted" I would not have felt the need to start this forum in the first place, I see no reason why there couldn't be something & in fact when it comes to partnership deals it could indeed lend the 'ibles more kudos in the eyes of the members.

makendo (author)2013-10-05

These instructables are high quality - in the normal course of things probably all worthy of featuring - and I'm hard pressed to see the downside of PM sharing their content with a different audience. There is less advertising on these ibles than on plenty of more conventional "amateur" projects that link to amazon/youtube/etsy/blogs/websites selling kits.

Nostalgic Guy (author)makendo2013-10-06

I think you are kind of missing my point.
I have no objection to companies that are authorised by Instructables posting 'ibles whether it be done under some kind of reciprocal arrangement as part of a competition sponsorship or any other way that pays for the privilege, anything that is commercially advantageous to the site can only be a good thing particularly if it is in the form of competition sponsorship; what I do object to is spamming of the kind which I have seen a number of times in the past on Instructables.
The best example that springs to mind was a specialist tiling company who posted "Advertibles" several at a time that looked quite good at first glance but turned out to be nothing but a series of adverts for their services with links to their web site, they were in no way shape or form authorised or in a partnership with Instructables & when flagged as spam were duly removed, a week or so later they set up a few more fake memberships & did it all over again, once again they were flagged & once again they were duly removed.
The problem is how are we supposed to know the difference? if you look back through the forum discussions about spamming members are actively encouraged to flag suspected spam, that is after all why there is an option to do so on each & every 'ible on the site, if deals like this are going to result in companies posting 'ibles with links to sales & subscription pages how are we supposed to tell the legitimate ones from the spammers?
Had there been some kind of indication on the Pro Mech 'ibles that they were posted legitimately I never would have started this thread but there wasn't & as such when I saw a slew if 'ibles containing links to their web pages spam was the first thing that came to mind.
I see your point about "amateur" projects containing links I seen plenty of them, I have also noticed many of them being removed fairly quickly too, but I feel there is a world of difference between a one man band earning a bit of extra cash selling a couple of kits a month & a company with dozens if not hundreds of employees using the site to get free advertising rather than use their advertising budget to pay for it.

Kiteman (author)Nostalgic Guy2013-10-06

I think identifying a "sponsored project" in some way is a good idea, but all it really needs is a disclaimer in the intro, which I have seen done by staff who posted projects paid for by, for example, Radio Shack.

makendo (author)Kiteman2013-10-06

Perhaps all that is needed is the spam flag option to be disabled once it has been adjudged OK.

Nostalgic Guy (author)makendo2013-10-06

If the site were actively moderated then that would solve the problem, but then if it were actively moderated there wouldn't be any need for a spam flag at all as none would get through to begin with.

Kiteman (author)Nostalgic Guy2013-10-06

There is a dual approach of filters and flagging.

I am told that the filters catch almost all the spam, and what we see is actually a very small fraction of what is actually attempted.

The bit that slips through doesn't last long, thanks to the use of the flag function by the general membership, and thanks to some members who spend time actively hunting spammers, flagging them up for HQ to deal with. I believe that data from the flags of members is used to update the filters' settings, so as the spammers change tack, the filters keep up.

wilgubeast (author)2013-09-30

Those projects are some of the fruits of a partnership deal between Instructables and Popular Mechanics. They agreed to share some old content with us. Now, it probably shouldn't have come out ALL AT ONCE, but there's nothing nefarious going on here.

Thanks for the keen eye and the quick forum topic, Nostalgic Guy. That many projects from a single author should raise some eyebrows and red flags.

Nostalgic Guy (author)wilgubeast2013-10-02

I'm glad Pop Mech have not fallen to the depths of spamming but how are the members supposed to know when a mass of 'ibles containing links to a business page are "the fruits of a partnership deal" or the kind of spamming we had on the site not too many months ago from a specialist tiling company? they also published lots of informative articles all at once, they were in no way shape or form in any kind of a partnership but simply stealing advertising space?
I'm not alone among the membership in having a dislike for spammers, in my opinion they are nothing more than thieves; they steal from Instructables as a company & for those members who have download limits on their internet access they steal from that limit.
Couldn't things that are published under some form of partnership agreement be announced as such at the start of the 'ible? it would make things a good deal clearer & be of great benefit to those of us who are not psychic.

wilgubeast (author)Nostalgic Guy2013-10-02

You're right. Announcing a partnership is a lot more useful than hoping you possess the gift of clairvoyance. Since we may not be able to make an announcement like that in the body or intro of the Instructable depending on the content licensing agreement, hitting the "Flag" button and creating a forum topic exploring the issue are the community actions we like to see.

Kiteman (author)wilgubeast2013-10-03

It's not too late to make an announcement in the forums...