answerable

I think we are all aware by now that Automattic are generally averse to having official policies on anything much, apart from affiliate links/adsense/spam/miscellaneous profiteering etc. being Teh Evil (unless they are doing it, in which case it is OK). Official policies, like, totally stifle your freedom to make the rules up as you go along. Hence, while having over a dozen tagegories on your posts probably will get you kicked out of the global ad tag pages and labelled a spammer, it’s ‘not a published rule‘ (in fact, the exact nature of the rule is a closely guarded secret) and the FAQ blithely insists there is no limit on the number of tags you can have. Who knows, one day Scoble might experience an urge to tagspam. It’s so much easier to change the rules if they’re obscure in the first place.

Inevitably, however, sometimes the freedom to invent policy on the hoof leads to staff inventing entirely different policies on the same thing without each other’s knowledge.

Last January, Mad at blog-well.com appealed for the ability to redirect traffic from their old wordpress.com blog to their new wordpress.org blog. Matt responded in comments with a workaround:

Did you try adding the domain to this blog, making it your primary URL, and then switching the DNS back to GoDaddy? It should redirect all visitors from blogwell.wordpress.com to the new domain on the new host, at least as long as you pay the 10/yr for parking.

Yay! Mad was very happy and grateful for this solution, as were several people who showed up later in the same comments thread. In response to the support issues arising from this thread, six months later Mad produced a PDF tutorial on how to make the move from .com to .org. Yay again.

Unfortunately, Matt appears to have neglected to tell his head of support that he has been promoting this feature, and when a year on from Mad’s how-to guide somebody shows up on the forums asking for clarification Mark censors the link to the tutorial, says it’s ‘unsupported’ and could stop at any time, then suggests that accounts caught doing it could be nuked. Raincoaster backs him up, having experience of seeing such blogs deleted.

Look, I know it can be hard for everyone to be on the same page because you’re all in different countries in different timezones doing different things, but your communication breakdowns should really not be the users’ problem. The original poster’s question was very simple: is it allowed, or is it not allowed? That should be answerable with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Qualified ‘yes’ and ‘no’, perhaps, such as ‘you would need to have hosted your blog here for x amount of time’ or ‘you would have to have bought your domain through us’, or ‘only if you opt out of global tags’. Or even, if that would be too boring and straightforward to fit with the way you like to do things, the standard business-blog response of ‘contact support detailing your individual circumstances so a decision can be made’. But still, you know, some sort of reasoning other than the whim of whoever happens to be answering the question today. People who are promoting solutions given to them by your boss can be forgiven for thinking the solution is company-approved.

15 Comments »

  1. Actually it goes a bit more deeper than that. I was doing that for my two domains when I moved them offsite and onto MT. There’s been a number of threads on the subject during my moderation days but I always kept my mouth shut on how to do it. You can read the bit in the ToS about “driving traffic to another site” to mean the domain redirect although it would be a very big stretch. I never did get an answer out of staff when I asked about explaining what I did the few times I asked.

  2. I never did get an answer out of staff when I asked about explaining what I did the few times I asked.

    In that case, maybe they’re abiding by the principle outlined in my first paragraph; keeping quiet about the rules so they can enforce or ignore them depending on their mood. Or maybe they didn’t know what the official line was and couldn’t get a straight answer out of Matt. Or maybe it was already staff policy to ignore your emails. Possibly there’s a long-term plan to introduce redirection as a paid feature, and that’s why they’re being so evasive. Or maybe evasiveness has just become the default response to any policy question. I don’t know.

  3. Kissing Bandit said

    And there’s still one very large issue that’s overlooked…sure the .com blog can be redirected to the .org hosted version, but guess what? It’s a 302 (Temporary) redirect.

    Assuming the original .com blog had become established and well referenced (via links) around the web, one would need to keep dishing out the $10 fee annually to keep the redirection going because the moment it lapses, .com would start recouping the link love and search engine traffic from that original .com blog.

    If Automattic truly cared about sending those people on their merry way, no harm no foul, that 302 would be a 301 (Permanent) redirect that tells the search engines and other crawlers that the blog has found a new home — a non-wp.com home.

    But that would open up a whole new can of worms.

    -KB

  4. Kissing Bandit said

    TGA, I do believe I’ve been eaten by Akismet (or thrown in moderation–unsure which one). Do you mind?

    Thx,
    -KB

  5. Su said

    In the interest of possible (in)accuracy, your FAQ link doesn’t give me the impression of being at all related to this. It seems to be about a cap on total tags, not the secret per-post threshold you’re talking about.

    I do wonder if they have any provision for creating exceptions. I’ve got an MT-based client who regularly tags the hell out of posts(64 there), all perfectly legitimate. The entire point of tagging, after all, is to create an aggregate of your information, not dodge around some mystery limit. But say a wp.com user shows similar behavior, and starts asking why the they’re excluded.

  6. at least they’ve moved the limit up by 2 tagegories, even if the punishment’s more severe ;) And yes, what’s legal depends very much on how good you are at staying within matt’s good graces. mark might delete the forum post, to keep people from doing it en masse. I think mark’s hand would be stayed before he could level any sanctions at mad.

  7. @KB: yes, you were Akismeted, what have you been doing to piss off Matt? :p

    @Su: that link is basically the only info they have about tags in the FAQ, and while it’s technically true nobody can argue that it gives the full picture. People are posting in the forums on a more or less daily basis wanting to know why they’ve been kicked out of global tags. The frequency with which this question comes up would, on most sites, qualify it for inclusion in the FAQ, but as usual Automattic move in self-consciously mysterious ways.

    I’m actually not convinced they have an algorithm for determining how many tags is too many. I think they just get the work experience kid to monitor the most commonly-used tags and exclude any blogs he considers suspect ;)

  8. @KB – yes, that’s true, but i don’t think it’s a no-harm-no-foul sort of thing. redirecting traffic is an ongoing service, especially for a blog that’s got a fair number of inbound links to the old address.

    @wank – i don’t think it’s necessarily the case that matt didn’t tell mark. they can (and probably are) both right. it’s probably a fuzzy policy in the same way that affiliate links are fuzzily allowed. if you have a blog that they view as too commercial, too spammy, to DMCA-takedown-inviting, it’s likely that such a thing would be frowned upon, and they wouldn’t be interested in forwarding traffic for you (albeit at $10/year). matt’s explanation is on a blog that helps people use matt’s software & services, whereas the forums are often populated by people whose blogs are much less beneficial (albeit needing of such help)

  9. Richard said

    There is another FAQ that cautions about using too many tags, but I can’t find it right now. As I remember it is buried a number of paragraphs deep.

  10. Richard said

    Well that was quick. I found it in the “more traffic” FAQ under the heading, “Use Appropriate Tags.”

  11. Here as well.

  12. That last one was added by tellyworth today. Yay! It might be better if he had tagged the post rather than letting it languish under ‘Uncategorised’, but never mind. (Automattic staff are unexpectedly bad at the art of tagging, as you’ll have noticed if you’ve ever tried changing themes here, but I’m hardly in a position to criticise them for that.)

    it’s probably a fuzzy policy in the same way that affiliate links are fuzzily allowed.

    So like everything else, it’s basically subject to the whim of staff — if they don’t object to you or your blog they’ll let it slide, but if for whatever reason they don’t want you around it’s another excuse they can use. I’m still not sure why they couldn’t just say it’s determined on an ad hoc basis, though.

    [wonders what Tutorial Guy had done to piss off Mark]

  13. Kissing Bandit said

    yes, that’s true, but i don’t think it’s a no-harm-no-foul sort of thing. redirecting traffic is an ongoing service, especially for a blog that’s got a fair number of inbound links to the old address.

    I understand that it would be considered on-going for the regular traffic that wanders in through old links, but the 301 redirect would be for the benefit of search engines and other spiders. If Automattic were to set up with 301 redirects, within a year’s time, a vast majority of the search engines would have dropped the wp.com version of the blog and started listing/sending traffic to the new blog (domain name).

    Based on Automattic’s track record with garnering AdSense revenue from search traffic, permanently redirecting to another domain would be bad because those wp.com pages would start becoming useless in the eyes of the search engines.

    With a temporary redirect, they’d still have their .com pages ranked over time, even if it’s redirected to a new domain in the interim and the robots will still continue to check and assign value the wp.com version of the page rather than bypassing it and going straight to the new home.

    It might be a stretch, but my guess is there’s some false hope that people redirecting their blog will either let the payment lapse and Automattic can have that search engine love back (which equals revenue) or the person will return to wp.com altogether (which still equals revenue).

    If that wasn’t the case, the proper* thing to do would be to permanently redirect the blog or at least offer it as a on-off service.

    yes, you were Akismeted, what have you been doing to piss off Matt?

    Oh, where do I begin with that? LOL

    That last one was added by tellyworth today.

    Methinks Automattic reads wank.

    -KB

    * I use the word proper because should someone decide to redirect her wp.com blog to a domain, it’s usually because she’s intending to move away from the wp.com domain name (or service) itself–i.e. a permanent decision. Of course, it gets fuzzy with the people who are only testing the domain name waters, but I would imagine that’s only a small percentage (think 0.1%).

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