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(related to "what does rg mean?")

Yes I like the SO/SF/SU series of sites, and yes I think 99% of advertising on these sites is fine.

But RedGate is now sponsoring tags that are way off-topic, like "performance" and "email".

This post is meant as a protest and a request. Please restrict advertisers to tags that are trademarks of their products.

If this is an inappropriate way to protest and this question is closed, I would invite someone else to reword / post in a way that is acceptible to the SO/SF/SU community.


clarification: Here's an example.

What is the fastest way to unzip textfiles in Matlab during a function? The original poster wants to know how to improve performance in a Matlab script. This has absolutely nothing to do with [rg]'s products, but they get to advertise on this page, and a user has no way of tagging a question "performance" without helping [rg] advertise.

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I'm torn between wanting Jeff to be able to eat (so -1), and finding it somewhat irksome that Red Gate owns "performance" (so +1), for a net +0. –  Dominic Rodger Feb 16 '10 at 17:00
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I want Jeff + company to eat too. I don't know what percentage of advertising income comes from tag sponsorship of tags that are not trademarks of the advertiser, but I would guess it's a very small percentage. Aesthetics is a strong component of these sites and allowing companies to sponsor tags that they don't have trademarks on degrades the aesthetic quality of the site. –  Jason S Feb 16 '10 at 17:08
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I agree with this in general. "Performance" is a way too generic term to be a sponsored tag, and it's extremely poorly targeted advertising IMO. I bet 90% of people interested in performance have never heard about RG, and more importantly are not in their target group. This is probably serving neither the users, nor the advertiser. On the other hand, if the performance and email tags bring a lot of bread to the table, it's still a very minor annoyance. –  Pëkka Feb 16 '10 at 18:06
    
I question whether a performance tag has any value at all, for anything. OTOH, if we're going to have it, I'm not sure why the advertising policies for it would be different than other tags. Whether or not we should have such a vague tag is, of course, a separate issue. –  Craig Stuntz Feb 16 '10 at 18:50
    
@Jason S, any content you create on Stack Overflow helps someone advertise. That's just a fundamental of advertising-supported content. –  Alex Papadimoulis Feb 19 '10 at 23:36
    
"Why do you keep saying that?" "'Cause they pay me every time I do" goo.gl/Oowa –  Jeff Atwood Apr 27 '10 at 9:25
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4 Answers 4

how much to buy the tag "homework"?

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Chances are good that the only way to prevent poor tag advertising practices is to buy up the tag advertising slots yourself.

However, I'm certain that a small bit of greasemonkey could alleviate the problem.

Tags are contained in this div (for the front page, more investigation may be required for other pages):

<div class="tags t-flash t-actionscript-3">
   <a href="/questions/tagged/flash" class="post-tag" title="show questions tagged 'flash'" rel="tag">
      <img src="http://sstatic.net/so/img/tag-adobe.png" height="16" width="18" alt="" style="vertical-align:text-top; padding-right:4px;">
      flash
   </a> 
   <a href="/questions/tagged/actionscript-3" class="post-tag" title="show questions tagged 'actionscript-3'" rel="tag">
      <img src="http://sstatic.net/so/img/tag-adobe.png" height="16" width="18" alt="" style="vertical-align:text-top; padding-right:4px;">
      actionscript-3
   </a> 
</div>

So a script to remove all img tags inside divs that match the class tags will probably resolve the situation for those that are irritated.

Otherwise, you might start a more level-headed discussion regarding the site's advertising policy, which is really not up for discussion, but in the past they have taken notice and changed advertising behavior based on feedback. The OP here, though, is quite combative, and doesn't give a really good reason as to why it harms the user experience to have tags sponsored by any given company. Do you protest that Google sells adwords to anyone, even if their product doesn't necessarily have anything to do with a given word they bid on?

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4  
That is disgusting! Those <img> elements should have classes! –  XMLbog Feb 16 '10 at 17:41
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-1 Sorry, 'buying up the tag advertising slots' is a terrible way to lead people. It is doing a dis-service to SO to bring it down the lowest common denominator like that. There should be a way to manage this in a sensible and fair manner. –  David HAust Feb 17 '10 at 5:33
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Your protest and request has been noted. However, we'll have to just agree to disagree.

The sponsored tag is a way to help associate a brand with a concept (in this case, redgate == email) and, while we certainly understand your dislike of allowing brands to associate themselves with concepts, that's just how the world works, and has since the history of brand advertising.

Think about cars. Now think about the word safety. What comes to mind? 90% of people will say Volvo, and Volvo has worked very hard for decades to "own" that concept.

What we're doing is no different.

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Thanks for explaining you reasoning. When I read the question I was like "Yeah, why the fuck does red gate get the email tag?" But now I'm like "I'm surprised Microsoft doesn't get the problem tag"... :P –  jjnguy Feb 18 '10 at 15:56
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This makes sense for the contextual ads, but the logo tags are just weird: the little (rg) looks like a qualifier on the tag itself; it's not "performance", it's "rg performance"! I think the real solution here is to get RedGate a better logo... (Really? Volvo?) –  Shog9 Feb 18 '10 at 16:54
    
@Shog9 - I suspect the issue is partly that the [rg] logo is just not that well known (which is what they're obviously working to change). I suspect a big, yellow-over-red, arched [M] would be instantly recognized (though highly inappropriate for SO), and not questioned as much. –  Alex Papadimoulis Feb 18 '10 at 18:28
    
@Alex: you make a compelling argument - rg should offer fries with product purchases! –  Shog9 Feb 18 '10 at 18:49
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"What we're doing is no different" ??? So if I tag a question about how to send email messages via php, now that [rg] has paid stackoverflow $$$$, they allow me to help them advertise their email-related software that has nothing to do with my question? –  Jason S Feb 19 '10 at 16:04
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Volvo pays its advertising agency to promote the concept of "safety" on their commercials. They haven't paid dictionaries and phone books to list Volvo every time the word "safety" is printed, nor do those publishers have the tastelessness to entertain the idea of doing so. –  Jason S Feb 19 '10 at 16:17
    
@Justin jjnguy - the difference is that Volvo wants to be known for "safety"; RedGate wants to be known for "email"; but Microsoft really doesn't want to be known for "problem". one could argue that all of their marketing dollars in the last decade+ have been spent to counter that perception. (yes, even while their dev dollars have been increasing it... :) –  quack quixote Feb 19 '10 at 17:02
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Alex, I can understand your Reasoning, but I just want to remind you about how Scientology was associated with The Daily WTF at some point, and why/how you changed that around. It's about users trust, which I think is something you guys deserve so far for your really good efforts in tasteful and fitting advertising, but just as Google threw away years of users trust with Google Buzz, you might end up losing it as well. Especially combined with the planned sale of SO to some VC (which arguably is not your idea, but I just want to point out that this could amplify the negative effect) –  Michael Stum Feb 19 '10 at 17:51
    
@Jason S, we are not a dictionary. Sponsoring a tag is not unlike google's ads. Write a page about string parsing in PHP, and you've just help Industrial Wires and Strings, Inc. advertise on your page. Arguably, everything you write or tag on SO helps someone advertise on SO. That's basically how ad-supported stuff works. –  Alex Papadimoulis Feb 19 '10 at 21:19
    
@Michael Stum, there still is very heavy "filtering" going on; in fact, just today we walked away from a big sale because they wanted third-party banner hosting. It's clear that the concept of tag sponsorship offends some (not easy to ad block maybe?), but I don't see it at all unreasonable. –  Alex Papadimoulis Feb 19 '10 at 21:23
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@Alex it's not completely unreasonable, but it's starting to cross the grey area. Google owning Android? Perfectly Okay. Adobe owning Flex? Perfectly Acceptable, the fast-lexer just has to bite the bullet as Adobe actually owns that brand. But advertising on non-brand terms? Hmmm... I see the point now, as it's advertising after all, and companies want to advertise on keywords (Google search for performance shows sponsored links as well), but it's a grey area already. –  Michael Stum Feb 19 '10 at 22:16
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-1. Saying '..that's just how the world works...' is a terrible defence. I thought SO was about CHANGING the way things were done? I have no problem with RedGate banner/sidebar ads showing when I'm on an email/performance question, but the logo in the tag is just going too far. Only my opinion, but SO is really starting to lose credibility with some of the advertising tactics/decisions. (And that’s not a personal attack on you Alex) –  David HAust Feb 23 '10 at 2:13
    
My two bits: Tag sponsorship doesn't look like advertising to the casual user. When I see the tag "[adobe] flash", I think "SO officially associates Adobe with 'flash'". When I see the tag "[rg] performance", I think "SO officially associates Red Gate with 'performance'". (One could argue that this implicit endorsement is the very reason that companies are willing to pay for these ads.) –  TSomKes Feb 27 '10 at 2:56
    
These "sponsored tags" don't look like sponsored tags at all and that's the problem. "rg performance" looks like a tag about redgate product performance. I'd like for you guys to earn money, but this is the wrong way to do it. You adding noise which is the anti-thesis of the concept of this site! –  Pyrolistical Apr 22 '10 at 18:43
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I don't think your question is inappropriate -- you're entitled to your opinion. But I'm not sure why any company wouldn't be allowed to sponsor anything. Red Gate is in the business of improving app performance. Why can't they promote that?

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They might be in the business of improving app performance, but they shouldn't get to own the word "performance". –  Dominic Rodger Feb 16 '10 at 17:03
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They don't own it. They have an ad near it. –  Craig Stuntz Feb 16 '10 at 17:04
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They're not in the business of improving app performance. They're in the business of improving specific apps' performance. There's a huge difference there. –  ceejayoz Feb 16 '10 at 18:35
    
@ceejayoz, I agree that the tag is way too vague. But I don't think Red Gate caused that problem. –  Craig Stuntz Feb 16 '10 at 18:39
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So (for arguments sake) if Microsoft is in the business of using Silverlight to put Adobe out of business, it's ok for them to sponsor the 'Flash' tag? –  David HAust Feb 17 '10 at 0:30
    
@David: First, that's not what's happening here. As for what you ask: Google does this, a lot. (So does Bing!) Should SO? I don't think I would, but, then again, I don't own the site. –  Craig Stuntz Feb 17 '10 at 1:10
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@Craig: I think you took me too literally. I was trying to make the point that allowing companies to sponsor tags that are things they don't own (Adode owns 'Flash'. RG does not own 'performance') opens the door to all kinds of abuse/misguidance. What if someone posts about a problem they are having (and tags it 'performance') while using non-Red Gate product. All of a sudden it looks like a post about Red Gate due to the RG logo in the performance tag. This is incorrect and misleading. Red Gate doesn't own performance. Yes, they are related to it, but so are lots of other companies. –  David HAust Feb 17 '10 at 5:29
    
@David: It seems to me you're saying that sponsorships change the meaning of the tag. That's perhaps true, but I'm not sure it's any more true for "performance" than "flash." (Just differently.) –  Craig Stuntz Feb 17 '10 at 13:51
    
Craig, the point of branding is surely to change the meaning associated with some brand. What's at issue here is that attempting to change the meaning of "performance" or other meaning-laden terms is not legitimate; the meaning is already in the hands of the community and is not a legitimate target for usurpation by a sponsor. –  bignose Mar 23 '10 at 12:21
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