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Singapore metablog Tomorrow.sg and a discussion on Linking Policies

Lately there has been a flurry of debates online about Singapore metablog, Tomorrow.sg‘s linking policy, and its policy of not asking for permission before linking people's blog posts.

Some of the debates go right to the heart of issues like whether it is an accepted practice to link to blogs without the need for asking for permission, whether is is morally acceptable, and privacy issues.

The post has attracted high readership and a great deal of participation in the comments section. There are also many spillover posts in other Singapore blogs on this matter. Try Geekazoid who is very upset at having been linked without permission (very strong language).

Idle Days, one of Tomorrow‘s editors, posts some reaction to the controversy. An excerpt:

All I can say that this ‘debate’ has been of much interesting and in some ways slightly baffling one to me (for all the reasons I have stated here) and of course when you look at metablogs like boing boing, Slashdot, Metafilter, etc, you hardly see cries of foul play in their comments. If readers and those bloggers whose posts have appeared in these metablogs demanded permission, they would have gone the way of the dinosaur by now. Perhaps as Singaporean bloggers, we simply don’t get blogging after all.

Adrian Loo at A Life Uncommon finds such reactions arrogant:

Tomorrow, in propounding its linking policy appears to have been caught up in its own expectations of its own rights, without due regard to the rights of others, many of whom provide the substance from which Tomorrow draws its breath.

An anonymous commenter at Adrian Loo's blog disagrees:

Pray tell, how could it be that they are advocating an absolute rights model which theirs triumph over all others when the very tag (“tomorrow I’m not free”) that they respect is created by a blogger, not themselves? If that’s not acceptance and respect of bloggers who do not want to be linked, I don’t know what is.

“tomorrow I’m not free” is a logo some bloggers use to indicate that they do not wish to be linked to by Tomorrow.sg.

The trackbacks beneath Tomorrow.sg's linking policy post show just some of the Singapore blogs and forums discussing this topic (with passionate comments and debates igniting at these places as well). There are other Singapore blogs that discuss this issue, but because those blog owners have indicated that they do not wish to be linked by Tomorrow.sg, they are not linked to.

What do bloggers around the world think of this debate? Are similar problems cropping up in other countries? Please hit the “comments” button and let us know!!

13 comments

  • A

    mb, you make me sound very anti-Tomorrow.sg leh. I don’t like the attitude behind the linking policy only lah. Later I get flamed, how?

  • […] Link […]

  • Dear MrBrown, on the grounds that if a site were publicly available on the web, we should have the “right to link”, which includes the privilege of not needing anyone’s permission to link to them. However, this recent event wasn’t a simple case of unwanted attention due to links.

    I must point out that much of the Tomorrow.sg editors’ stand missed the idea of “context”. The point was that they were eventually responsible for the surge of unwanted attention to the pregnant unwed teenager. In effect, this reaction would not have reached such proportions if the catalyst were not introduced.

    This event required a higher sense of ethics, not so of logic. Did none of the thirteen editors realize that it might have been detrimental to the girl’s well-being when a few decided to publish her blog?

    Understandably, the better situation would have been one where she were taught the social implications of blogging, before realizing it’s full impact only after this painful mistake. Bloggers fresh off the boat would not yet have the chance to realize the various social functions of blogs, let alone understand the various web technologies at their disposal to limit their exposure to the private few. Therefore, I feel that the right thing to do would be for us, responsible & experienced bloggers, to help out new users where possible.

    The blogosphere is still an evolving formless thing, so much of these rules evolve over events such as these. As such, I wish for an equally-adaptable Tomorrow.sg

  • […] Then, I happened to find a timely post entitled “Singapore metablog Tomorrow.sg and a discussion on Linking Policies” on Global Voices via Technorati, written by none other than MrBrown, an editor for Tomorrow.sg. In his article, he addressed the world on their views on linking policy, especially with regards to non-consentual linking (or as he calls it: not asking for permission before linking people’s blog posts). Since I felt that it was a case of an uneducated blogger making her first big mistake, I had to say something for the sake of fairness (even though I HAD to sleep 3hrs ago!). […]

  • […] Late to the party (again), and I really cannot understand what it is about the people who get their knickers in a twist about having their posts linked to on Tomorrow. I won’t re-hash the arguments that if you put in on a public website it’s free for the linking, but the editors at Tomorrow ought to ask for permission before linking, etc. […]

  • The reason boing-boing, Slashdot, and Metafilter don’t get any flak is because they don’t usually link to personal posts. I guess its a different ball game when you’re talking about a young mother’s unwanted pregnancy or someone’s extremely lavish lifestyle.

    How about Tomorrow.SG practise a “One Meta-Blog, Two System” policy? For entries that the editors deem personal, ask for permission first. For not-so-personal entries (eg concert reviews, political commentaries, etc), just continue doing what you guys have been doing.

  • Erm, Mr Brown, sorry, that anonymous commentator was actually me, in reply to Adrian. Somehow I’ve managed to leave my name out when I click submit. Can kindly change that to my name please? Sorry, I’d like to be attributed if my comment is used. Thanks v much.

    p/s Kindly delete this comment.

  • Han

    Kevin:

    You made one crucial mistake there Kevin. You did not check your source before commenting.

    There was no unwed teen mother. There was only one woman in her mid-twenties, with a masters in aeronautics engineering, talking about her relationship problems and getting pregnant.

    Suddenly, the context changes, does it not? This is no wet behind the ears kid. Furthermore, if you read the contents of her blog, you begin to wonder about her motives behind writing what she wrote.

    Get your facts right first.

  • Taking this over from Linda’s blog and several other bits from Tomorrow.

    This issue has taken a long time to resolve because it really contains 3 issues. Yes, 3.

    (1) Does Tomorrow have a right to link without permission? Probably – but bear in mind that Tomorrow’s rights may be subject to some limitation. The analysis of Tomorrow’s right to link has been confined to US and Singapore thus far.

    (2) Has Tomorrow acted appropriately linking without permission? Again, probably – but bear in mind that in asserting an absolute right to link, Tomorrow -may- have ignored the interaction between their right to link and the social norm of “respect thy neighbour’s turf”. I don’t think the issue is as clear cut as asserting a right to do so.

    (3) Has Tomorrow effectively communicated this to its users/linked blogs? Probably not. In asserting an “absolute rights” argument, I feel Tomorrow came across as being a tad heavy-handed – made a lot worse because Tomorrow is now seen as a “big-boy” bullying “little boys”.

    I’m not saying that Tomorrow is -indeed- bullying. I’m just saying that ANY big enough organisation trying to assert an absolute rights argument WILL encounter this problem – regardless of whether they are actually bullying or not.

    A simple acknowledgement of the arguments from its critics (i.e “We understand the concerns of our readers that this behaviour may not be appropriate. We think it is…here’s why”.) might have been far more effective.

    Conclusion

    As it stands, I understand Tomorrow’s dilemma. It’s internal structure and organization simply does not accord it the resources to do what some critics want without also killing the blog. The editorial board should not be dissolved – the resultant posting would increase the sound-to-noise ratio to unacceptable levels and kill readers’ interest. Tomorrow also cannot ask for permission before they blog – not all blogs have a means where the writer can be reached, or reached easily, or will respond positively. Result – Tomorrow loses a majority of its interesting links and dies.

    What -can- be done, I think is when making an annoucement, to write it in a manner that is at least a little bit more PR than what it’s been doing so far.

    As I told Linda, however, I disqualify myself from the equation – I’m anything but PR, cos I’m hot-tempered. I suggest someone like Tym, Mrs Budak or even Linda. Linda, I believe has some concerns about her own temper. :D

  • Han: I thought I had missed something crucial… So let me get this straight, the Tomorrow.sg editors see it as:

    Unwed mother teenager… not sure to publish
    Unwed mother in mid-twenty… OK to publish

    Does the context really change? I think you’re still missing the point…
    Even if it happens that we’re dealing with a sixty year old grandma who’s inexperience with blogging accidentally renders her private life published online, the point I’m stressing is that as veteran bloggers, we should practice discreation when it comes to linking (or creating controversy) over certain blogs/web sites. Instead of a simple policy of non-consentual linking, some form of moralistic judgement should be employed by editors… after all, that’s what makes human editors more valuable than rule-based moderating bot/scripts.

    From this I will also add that blogs tend to be volatile as an information source because of the ability for the writer to edit or even remove parts of the content after it is published. Thus what we see on her blog, might have changed many times over since the attention brought about by Tomorrow.sg.

    Based on what you said, if indeed her blogging motive were that questionable from the outset, why did the Tomorrow.sg editors contribute to the tasteless controversy? Why did they make the crucial mistake of not checking their source?

    ***
    Han and Kevin continues their discussion on http://theory.isthereason.com/?p=333
    ***

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