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I'm thinking that one way Jeff and the Stack Overflow team could squeeze some extra money out of this site would be to automatically convert all Amazon links posted here into affiliate links, e.g. Stick "tag=codinghorror-20" (or more likely a new site-specific tag) onto every Amazon link. This would bring in some additional revenue every time someone purchased a book via a link on this site.

They could do similar things with other links as well. Amazon's simply the most obvious choice.

So my question is, would anyone have a problem with this?

I know I wouldn't mind, but I don't know how other people would react.

What does everyone think? Is this a horrible idea, a great idea, a waste of time?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jul 30 '09 at 11:37

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

marked as duplicate by Martijn Pieters, ɥʇǝS, Hugo Dozois, Makoto, djechlin Dec 26 '13 at 6:12

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1  
Surely this is completely obsolete. –  Rosinante Oct 14 '13 at 21:38

12 Answers 12

@pbh

The only place I could see this being a problem is when somebody posts their OWN affiliate link and gets it transformed into a SO affiliate link. Otherwise, I think it's a good idea, and maybe you could just transform the links not already affiliated.

I actually think that everyone else's affiliate links should already be filtered out (though I doubt that they currently are). I think it's extremely uncool to post affiliate links on someone else's site, especially someone else's commercial site.

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18  
I don't see a user posting their link as being a problem. If you're the one referring the person, whether it be through word-of-mouth, email, another site, etc. you should get the reward. Unless it's against the "rules" of the site. I signed up with DropBox through a referral link someone posted on SU and I don't think it bothered anyone. –  Travis Jul 30 '09 at 14:01

I don't see this being a problem as long as terms & conditions say that if anyone posts their own Amazon affiliate links they will be transformed to Stack Overflow links.

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(Two different respondents said:)

Amazon affiliate links should be a bannable offense.

I'd post any user-generated Amazon referrer link as offensive.

Ok, WHY?

If a person follows the link and buys a book, something is going to happen to the affiliate fee. Either it goes to a SO member, or Amazon keeps it.

Why is it so vitally important that Amazon keeps it? Are you stockholders?

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7  
Exactly. Couldn't say it better myself. –  Rich Bradshaw Oct 23 '08 at 23:05
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It encourages people to spam amazon affiliate links even when it is not relevant. –  Albert Apr 21 '09 at 20:24
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If the link isn't relevant, the purchase wouldn't be made... –  Rob Allen May 26 '09 at 20:33
    
That won't prevent people from trying it and hoping some readers will click the link and buy the product anyway (or buy something else, which still gets you a fee). –  Michael Borgwardt Aug 19 '09 at 14:19
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Stackoverflow is editable. Remove irrelevant content and links. Leave the relevant content and links. –  brian d foy May 19 '10 at 0:58
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Last I looked, we had a perfectly good "flag as spam" option. We've also generally agreed that recommending ones' own commercial software is OK, provided it's a legitimate response to the specific question and there is full disclosure. I don't see the practical difference between "Buy my program" and "Buy this book and I'll get a cut". –  David Thornley Aug 27 '10 at 16:30

@pbh101

The only place I could see this being a problem is when somebody posts their OWN affiliate link and gets it transformed into a SO affiliate link. Otherwise, I think it's a good idea, and maybe you could just transform the links not already affiliated.

How about if they refrained from transforming links that already contained an affiliate link a certain percentage of the time. I'd see it as something of a reward for contributing to the upkeep of the site. By explicitly allowing the posting of affiliate links it would encourage users to post more Amazon links which would (hopefully) increase the revenue Jeff and Co could generate from such a scheme.

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If I ask a question about a book, and someone points me to a very nice book, that really is a response to my question.

I'd have no problem with the link being his affiliate thingy..

Though, if he's a jerk posting random links in every topic where title contains the word "book", that would not be okay.

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Agreed. In those cases the community has the FLAG AS SPAM, DOWNVOTE, and CLOSE buttons and are just itching to press them. –  JohnFx Oct 21 '09 at 3:12

I completely agree with Derek... there's simply no reason why affiliate links should be allowed in posts. Personally I'd just start banning people that are trying to make money with affiliate links, but maybe I'm a little harsh when it comes to spamming.

Replacing the affiliate codes is a really great suggestion.

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Affiliate links and spam are two completely different things. I don't see anything wrong with members using affiliate links as long as the post adds value. The community can determine what is eggregious use of affiliate links based on the content. Otherwise, what is it hurting if people can make a buck off donating their time to answer a stranger's question? It does raise an interesting issue given the ability to edit other's content/change affiliate codes in links to one's own. =) –  JohnFx Oct 21 '09 at 3:11
    
No reason? IF I'm the author of the book that talks about the problem and has the detailed solution, I shouldn't be allowed to post an affiliate link to my own book? I don't do that, but that's a good reason. That other people might abuse it doesn't make it any less of a good reason. –  brian d foy May 19 '10 at 0:56

The only place I could see this being a problem is when somebody posts their OWN affiliate link and gets it transformed into a SO affiliate link. Otherwise, I think it's a good idea, and maybe you could just transform the links not already affiliated.

Update: To be clear, I certainly agree that posting one's own affiliate links on another site would be rather bad form, but I can already see the tiresome irate blog posts: "Jeff and Joel are a bunch of money-grubbing barnacles! They blatantly stole my affiliate links and trampled on my post for their OWN PERSONAL GAIN!"

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It doesn't have to be either/or. They could only transform them a certain percentage of the time. See my answer. –  Sam Hasler Oct 22 '08 at 17:16
    
That just sounds crazy, though. I've never posted an affiliate link but I could see the one time I do, just crossing my fingers hoping the site doesn't swap my link. –  Travis Jul 30 '09 at 14:06
    
If it does, though, I'd probably just delete my post and re-create it. –  Travis Jul 30 '09 at 14:07

I'd flag any user-generated Amazon referrer link as offensive.

It would effectively be abuse of SO for their gain.

If the stackoverflow team were to override all links to be referrers of some kind would be a great idea, but they should add some visual indicator to show that that's what's happening.

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1  
Wow, -2 and offensive. Why? –  Keith Oct 30 '08 at 14:00
    
People moderate their opinions sometimes. –  Robert S. Oct 30 '08 at 14:05
    
0 better than -1 –  Moulde Mar 11 '09 at 10:30
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Everything on SO is already for everyone's own gain. That people provide help for free isn't good enough for you? –  brian d foy May 19 '10 at 0:57

I think that's a fine idea, even though my own experience with posting some amazon links was an abject failure. ;-)

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I think this is a pretty nice idea. I've seen other forums do something similar and if it means that they get a few extra bucks then I'm happy to see it implemented.

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In my experience, affiliate links never pay out well. Perhaps with such a huge member base SO might do better.

But how often do you click a link from SO and buy the item right away? I have certainly bought one book I've seen mentioned here (and other places), but I didn't buy it straight away, I went back to Amazon a week later, searched for it and bought it.

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That's where you wrong. The Amazon affiliate program keeps a cookie and will reward the recommandation even if the act of purchase is made days after following the link. –  rds Aug 19 '11 at 13:00

Please don't rewrite affiliate links without giving each user an option in their preferences to set their own affiliate tag; then, you can safely rewrite to that tag if it's set.

Spending time to post a relevant answer which references a relevant book, and not getting the revenue from that link feels like I've been robbed of my time. The first time it happened, anyways.

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