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In answering Learning Design for UI and Website Design I found myself linking to a lot of books at Amazon. Because it felt like an abuse I did not use my Amazon Associate link as a means to link to each book. However, I am not sure that everyone would have the same opinion that I do. Does the site actively prevent the use of affiliate program links or does it rely upon moderators and users to flag circumspect questions/answers?

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How would people think if you link like this: www.link.com?book (aff.) with aff. linking to your affiliate url and the normal link not. In that way people can choose or they want to click your affiliate link. –  Peter Smit Jul 22 '09 at 5:17
    
@Peter: NO - that will get messy very fast, and doesn't really add anything of value to the answer - it would most likely just get edited out very quickly! –  a_m0d Jul 22 '09 at 5:26
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You're probably not going to get any answers in the affirmative, because they run the (near certain) risk of being down-voted. –  Brad Gilbert Jul 22 '09 at 6:00
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I will risk the downvotes. Are you harming anyone by using an affiliate link instead of a non-affilite link? If the answer is no, then why not? –  billpg Jul 22 '09 at 12:33
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@Brad, if they run the risk of down votes it's probably against general consensus. Stop treating down votes as attacks and view them as what they are, different views. –  Ian Elliott Jul 22 '09 at 13:26
    
Just because it is against general consensus, doesn't mean it isn't a valid argument. –  Brad Gilbert Jul 22 '09 at 13:45
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How is it an argument if I can't counter it with my views? An argument generally involves at least two sides... If I can't down vote your view then how is it an argument at all? I hope that you re-access the meaning of rep and the definition of argument because you have a big misunderstanding. I down voted you because it is an argument, and I don't support your side. –  Ian Elliott Jul 22 '09 at 16:44
    
possible duplicate of Affiliate links (Amazon and others) –  Bo Persson Mar 28 '13 at 20:43
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7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Jeff has spoken... MSO Q# 2716

(In summary, no affiliate links in answers, even if the answer is otherwise good, useful, etc.)

I disagree with him, but this isn't my website.

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This IS your website. Jeff has a valid opinion but the idea behind SO is that the people in here should shape the character of this site. If Jeff was to decide on everything, we wouldn't need a meta site. Although I agree with Jeff on this, you should provide your opinion, not somebody else's. –  edgerunner Jul 29 '11 at 9:31
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As far as I know there is no filtering of affiliate programs. But out of personal opinion I would consider it very bad manner. SO isn't a place for you to generate money, especially by doing activities others do for free. Allowing this type of activity would also lead to excessive posting of links when it contributes no real value to the actual question.

Personally I would flag any links I see with referrals hidden inside because it just isn't necessary. If you want to place them in your personal profile, that's another story since users go there to find out more about you, but as a solution to a question it is unacceptable IMO.

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agreed. [15 char] –  ahsteele Jul 22 '09 at 4:42
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I disagree with you, but I don't want to downvote you. So this comment is my downvote in spirit, without it actually counting. (I've expressed my opinion elsewhere on this question.) –  billpg Jul 22 '09 at 12:32
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I would say that posting affiliate links is easily considered spam. There's no automatic system that will prevent them being posted, but at the same time you could easily find yourself on the wrong end of the "flag as offensive" mechanism, as anyone with 15+ rep can (and likely will) flag it as spam, forcing its automatic removal and a -100 rep penalty.

So, in short, unless you're Jon Skeet, I wouldn't try it.

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I don't really have a problem with it, as long as you make it clear to all those reading the answer that you are doing so. Post a disclaimer or something, so that they are not taken by surprise - this is common courtesy.

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Wouldn't it take less time just to not do it? –  Marc Gravell Jul 22 '09 at 7:48
    
Maybe - I am not sure how the referral system for amazon works - does it add the referral to all links, or do you have to manually add it yourself? –  a_m0d Jul 22 '09 at 9:17
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@a_m0d: You have to add it in yourself. There's a dashboard at amazon.com if you're an affiliate where you can create links. If you look at a referral link it isn't hard to reverse engineer, though. The referral id is added as a simple attribute, so they can be edited in manually to existing amazon links. –  Bill the Lizard Jul 23 '09 at 11:53
    
@Bill: Thanks for the info - that clarifies things a bit –  a_m0d Jul 23 '09 at 13:28
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Keep the dev team employed!

I wouldn't mind if there were a tag something like

<amazon.com:0201634740>

which would translate to something like

with a stack-overflow referral.

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Don't care about the referral link, but a simple way to link to Amazon would be nice. I'd also love to be able to link questions like that, too. –  DisgruntledGoat Aug 6 '09 at 11:45
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I note that some affiliate schemes offer a benefit to the new customer, such as a discount.

The people offering the service or product benefit from knowing where their new customers come from (at the cost of the discount) and the new customer is incentivised to use a referral.

Are affiliate links still bad in this case?

I will acknowledge there is a privacy argument, but most of us already leave the Referrer: header in anyway. The sort of person who makes the effort to remove those is probably not the sort of person who would click on links with long id numbers on the end anyway.

(NOTE: I broadly agree with a_m0d. Its okay as long you clearly disclose its an affiliate link.)

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Ask yourself this: how would you feel if I edited your answer - which cited a book but didn't link to Amazon - and added my own affiliate link.

Is the effort I made to link to the book really worth the reward?

How 'bout this: what if I edited your answer, which already included your affiliate link, and changed it to my own... Keep in mind, this probably wouldn't show up in the revision history unless you actually viewed the source, which you wouldn't do if I made a bunch of other changes to mask it.

Now it's getting ugly, eh?

So my take on this is that at best it's trying to get paid for something the rest of us are doing for free, and at worst it's a slippery slope down to a morass of secret spamming. We should avoid it, unless/until the SO Team decides to implement Mark Harrison's suggestion.

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Good point. I was thinking about adding a similar thought on my own answer, while I was posting it. –  Brad Gilbert Jul 22 '09 at 14:44
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