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Is any commercial content allowed?

  1. I've been playing around WordPress and trying to stretch what it can be used for beyond personal journaling--I've found it's so easy for non-computer savvy people to use that I've been recommending it just about everywhere. So here's the problem:

    The most recent candidate for web help has been an old friend of my father's who has his own little mom-and-pop travel agency that he started in the 70's. He has no clue/barely a clue about the web, and time and online airline bookings are passing his company by. They can't afford a dedicated web code monkey, but they do have one person on staff who could use WordPress to do basic updating of content. They need a basic site with basic info about them, plus a News page (blog), and WordPress would be a perfect match.

    However, I don't know if this violates the TOS--It's commercial, but it's not a site designed to drive users off WP, it's a content center of its own. They might have links to specific airline/hotel sites, but that's hardly seems like spam to me, because the links would exist as genuine resources, not as ads. As has been pointed out before, some businesses (like plentyoffish) have blogs ABOUT their businesses, and that seems ok; is it different if the blog IS the business?

    The easy answer would be to skip the theorizing and just use WP.org. I could set this up for them, but I'm worried that in the long term there may be weird esoteric technical issues that will need extensive support, that they certainly can't handle themselves. WP.com seems more stable, though I may be wrong.

    Thoughts on this?

  2. Forget wordpress.com. The risk of someone happening upon the site and reporting it as spam because it has links to hotels in the sidebar is just too high.

    WordPress.org is actually much more stable than wordpress.com, since Automattic like to use this place as a testing ground for new code, and as a result you're more likely to encounter 'weird esoteric technical issues' here than running 2.0.5. Thousands of people use the .org version and trust me, not all of them are technical whizzes. It also gives you a much bigger range of themes to choose from, some of which will inevitably be better suited for your purposes than the limited range we have here and will make the site look a lot more professional. As long as you have a decent host you shouldn't have too much difficulty.

  3. I agree. WordPress.org is the best solution for them for many reasons, not the least of which is the absolute certainty that they won't get reported as spam. The way I read what you've written, it does seem like the blog would be commercial in a way that doesn't fit with the TOS, ie the blog itself would bring them money. I'd report it as commercial, myself.

    I have a WordPress.org blog myself, and I can tell you that if you don't want to fiddle with templates and add bells and whistles and every new gadget that comes along, it is DEAD EASY. Once the install is done, you can just maintain it and it's really not that much different from WordPress.com in terms of running day to day. And there are support forums there as well. They'd need some hand-holding for the initial install and tweaks to give them what they want, but after that it is pretty clean and self-sustaining.

  4. I'm also weighing in saying that I would like to see people who want to use their blogs to make money leave wordpress.com alone and boogie right on over to wordpress.org where they will have options and benefits that businesses require and expect.

    The options are (1) self hosting or (2) paying very modest fees to be web hosted.

    The benefits are (1) being able to hack your blog template to your heart's content and (2) being able to plaster every bit of white space in your blog with advertising that brings a petty income. And (3) being able to place lots of affiliate links in sidebars which can also be used to bring in a petty income.

    However, interestingly enough, every time this has come up in the past we have had wordpress.com bloggers whining that they do want to make money from their blogs but don't want to spend any. Well, that's not the way the business world works. In the business world you spend money to make money. There are no free rides.

    IMO if Automattic were to give "free riders" (those who want to use blogs to make money) the boot right over to wordpress.org then they would be taking a giant step forward when it comes to creating unity here.

  5. Clarification and correction: Please note that in the last sentence above I typed "unity" where I should have typed "community".

  6. veltis, as suggested, practicality suggests self-hosting.

    The challenges otherwise include that blog linking to sites it has a financial incentive to link to and most importantly content that's value is primarily limited to transactions with the authors. Neither match well our current general offerings, nor the communities desires and would likely lead to complaints.

    As you sugest, there are many blogs here that are free sharing of expertise with an About page if a reader is interested in a commercial relationship.

  7. I have a WordPress.org blog myself, and I can tell you that if you don't want to fiddle with templates and add bells and whistles and every new gadget that comes along, it is DEAD EASY. Once the install is done, you can just maintain it and it's really not that much different from WordPress.com in terms of running day to day.

    Eh? How is it easy?? I just want the same template I have now. Nothing fancy or plug-ins. Just the same thing I have now. How is it easy when my head starts spinning by reading the .org forum? And we have to write our own code for something, psp or php or something like that.

  8. Well, I've never actually been to the .org forum. My friend the techie installed it and I've done nothing but post there ever since. You can see it at http://shebeenclub.com. My friend did make me a custom header with our name on it, and he's upgraded the WordPress software once since it started, but otherwise nada. I just post away. Who needs javascript, forums, yadda yadda. If you don't need them, you dont have to learn all that stuff.

  9. I had a standalone WordPress (.org) blog for two years and when the opportunity to move here to WordPress.com became possible, I was thrilled to be hosted here.

    My web host -- Media Temple (mt) -- were and are strong and fast but I want to concentrate on content and not the back end.

    When you're on your own, you have to manage your database, optimize your MySQL tables when they go wonky; you have to track down bad behaving plugins and you have to continually update your WordPress software and then modify any themes you customized when a new version becomes available.

    None of that was terribly hard, but I'd rather plant more flowers than tend old weeds if I have a choice.

    I never cared about mastering any of the really sophisticated technical yabber-jabber and when things went nutty during a move or a crisis, my old pal Podz (aka Mark!) would ride in to the rescue and fix me up again.

    In talking with the WordPress.com Gods about moving a big blog with 800 posts and 18,000 comments here we talked about all the options and features and it was just a divine setup: Blogging without worry. 100% focus on content and comments. No more logging into Plesk every day for database management. No more bad-behaving anything because everything here is pre-cooked and e.coli free!

    They also run a more recent WordPress version here than you have in a stable release standalone version so you can really see the new stuff first just by having a blog here. The new visual editor and the auto-save and fancy categories were not available when I was alone.

    If you like having cool stuff first that is safe and tested -- and you don't need tons of customization that you get with the standalone version -- then WordPress.com is where you want to hang your blog.

  10. @boles
    I think you have expressed the reason most of "the choir" choose to be here at wordpress.com to blog minus geekery.
    @ everyone
    Veltis titled this thread: Is any commercial content allowed?
    Her question to other bloggers was: Your thoughts on this?
    Do you care to share your thoughts?

  11. timethief --

    Your question is disingenuous on the surface and transparent at the core.

    I'm not interested in answering any questions from you and you know why.

  12. no, boles, her question is on point. wordpress.com may be great, but that's irrelevant to a business blogger asking what level of 'commercial' is appropriate here.

    if you have a personal issue with timethief, this isn't the place for it.

    as for me, i have a hard time imagining a travel suggestion blog having links that aren't 'commercial speech'. however, i'd still love to see more clarity in the TOS.

  13. sunburntkamel --

    timethief edited her comment after I replied.

    She originally asked only me for my opinion on the basic question she now addresses to "@everyone" and the whole "@boles" stuff is new and added later after I replied as well.

  14. I edited my comment to make it clear that I was asking everyone what they thought and not just one person.
    The original was comment version was:
    @boles
    Is any commercial content allowed?
    Your thoughts on this?
    _______________________________________________
    The final version is:
    @boles
    I think you have expressed the reason most of "the choir" choose to be here at wordpress.com to blog minus geekery.
    @ everyone
    Veltis titled this thread: Is any commercial content allowed?
    Her question to other bloggers was: Your thoughts on this?
    Do you care to share your thoughts?

    So everyone would you care to share?

  15. My thoughts are that if the blog is going to directly produce revenue for anything other than a nonprofit, it should be a paid hosting situation. That seems to be the case here, as they're looking for travel bookings online, etc.

    I've started my own business, and I know there are inexpensive solutions out there, and that WordPress.org is among the best.

    I read some of the business blogs on WordPress.com, and I enjoy them, but they are very much NOT about selling. I've read some of the blogs, the Paradigm Shift for instance, for quite some time before realizing exactly how the blogger made a living. The articles themselves were worthwhile and while they are obviously a PR activity, they're not commercial so much as professional. Does that distinction make sense? There is no transaction is what I mean.

  16. Thanks everyone for responding! Actually Boles' point IS relevant, because this kind of php/messing around with SQL databases/reloading new versions business is EXACTLY what "mom and pop" can't do. I can't set them up with a system that requires constant technical maintenance.

    Also "The new visual editor and the auto-save and fancy categories were not available when I was alone." They're definitely going to need both the visual editor and the fancy categories. Do they exist on .org now?

    After reading all this I think you're all probably correct in your interpretation of the TOS, now the question is, do I dare put them on .org or not? I'll ask this on the .org side, but what it does bring up for this forum is that if WP.com had the option for small businesses to pay to have their own blog, I'm sure quite a few people would be delighted--just because you're a business owner doesn't mean you can afford a true geek to babysit .org for you.

  17. If you're a business, you can try to see if you qualify for VIP Blogging:

    http://wordpress.com/vip-hosting/

    You would still be here at .com but be able to do whatever you want with your blog. But only if you qualify.

  18. Yeah, if you're a BIG business you can qualify. I'm talking about the little guy. :)

  19. They won't get enough hits, and it's way too much money. It's possible their current ISP offers some space, and it could be enough; I'd double-check.

    The visual editor certainly exists on .org now; I would be lost without it. I know my techie friend hasn't really done much with the blog, and certainly I haven't, yet it still lumbers on. If I were you, I'd ask advice in the .org forum, because they'll all have done this and can tell you exactly what you're in for with the current versions.

  20. Yep, I'm already there. (on the .org forums, that is) Thanks!

  21. hi veltis --

    Good luck with your search.

    One other thing about running standalone is if you have any technical trouble many web hosts will not help you with WordPress even if they "provide" an easy install route.

    The first thing they'll tell you is to remove all your plugins -- which usually means remove all the functionality and personality of your blog -- and then see how things go because they know there are plugin conflicts out there and, perhaps, some bad plugin code and they don't want to hunt down the problem for you.

    So you try to figure out what's causing your site to crash or not respond and it can take a long time to test different "feature sets" and that doesn't mean you'll ever find out what went wrong. Perhaps it was the latest security update that tweaked something the wrong way.

    Many times you'll be told to save your database and reinstall WordPress fresh from zero. That can be a daunting task to any inexperienced user.

    I realize there can be confusion here between .org and .com and VIP and free hosting and paid upgrades like CSS and domain mapping where money exchanges hands for "free" hosting and my advice is to directly ask support for a ruling and not open up a discussion with people who don't have the power to decide your fate.

  22. Most web hosts know zip about WordPress and, as boles discovered, there's little point asking them for support if things do go wrong; better just to head straight for the forums. If that bothers you, I would suggest going with a reseller that specialises in wordpress blogs, such as freshlypressed.net. The folks over at wp.org should be able to give you some more suggestions.

    As far as commercial content on wp.com is concerned, I think my line is the same as most people; I don't see why anyone should make money out of something they're getting for free. Where I perhaps deviate is that I have no objection to people using wp.com for commercial purposes as long as they pay for the privilege. Like the VIP blogs, and whatever donation Scoble's honour dictated ;) If wordpress.com were to offer a small business hosting package in future (probably more trouble to set up than it's worth in traffic and income terms, but I could be wrong) I would have no issues with that, but until they do businesses need to find alternative hosting options.

    I also think it's slightly cheap using wordpress.com to blog about your business rather than doing it on your own space, and any business doing so would lose a fair bit of credibility with me.

  23. Most web hosts know zip about WordPress and, as boles discovered, there's little point asking them for support if things do go wrong; better just to head straight for the forums.

    That's true for pretty much ever software package out there. Most hosts (even me) include it in their TOS.

    Although I usually know enough or how to search the support forum of the software in question to find the answer 90% of the time.

  24. I disagree. With the growing competition, free rides aren't much of a big deal. The whole bunch of information you are getting out here is also a free ride. What is your say on that? The whole of internet revolution is also a free ride to most of us who know nothing about it. All the essays I can read in the internet also falls under a free ride to me-I never paid to read. So, what is your say on this?

    And, the blog hosts are also not doing this out of utter generosity. Yes, it is optimal to have people pay a price so that the basic economic theory works but hey...when the members of wordpress can benefit(of course assuming the security issues to be of no threat), what is the harm in allowing them to earn?

    I strongly feel that wordpress should change its stringent rules over time to suit the demands of people and also to match the rivals.

    All you guys out here who do not want to commercialize your blogs are never forced to commercialize. So, what is the big hue n cry?

    As much as I would love to stick with wordpress, I felt like, if I can earn some extra dimes out of my writings, why not give it a shot? I moved from blogger to wordpress and I am re-activating blogger account...all but for the same reason.

  25. The only reason Google lets you have adsense on free Blogger blogs is because they own adsense and the more units they get out there, the better it is for them. There are also multiple sites which give you a share of the adsense revenue they're making from your blog, if that's your bag. If you're out to make a couple of extra cents without having to spend any, it's not like you don't have other options.

    There are multiple reasons why people leave wordpress.com and yes, not being able to monetize their blogs is one of them. They are also people who sign up because they don't want ads plastered all over their blogs. Mostly, there are various historical reasons why commercialisation of wordpress is a sensitive issue and Automattic has to tread carefully on this.

  26. indeed. google makes more money than bloggers do for every clickthrough on those adsense blocks. it's unreasonable to expect wordpress to give you adsense for no benefit to them.

    there are hosts out there who will hold your hand with wordpress. my situation isn't ideal, but there are hosts (freshlypressed.net) which are headed by people very acquainted with worpress.

    and running wordpress on your own isn't hard. i've learned and hacked a lot _since_ i installed it, but when i installed it, i knew next to nothing.

  27. I've been considering raincoaster's point of view above in terms of personally defining what I believe to be "commercial":

    The articles themselves were worthwhile and while they are obviously a PR activity, they're not commercial so much as professional. Does that distinction make sense? There is no transaction is what I mean.

    Yes, this does make sense to me. I certainly support global information sharing. And I think one of the most wonderful aspects of the internet is the fact that information is shared without the expectation of financial gain.

    IMO if your blog post articles are all aimed at driving business to your "affiliates" or to your own business ventures, or if in fact you only have a blog in order to pimp it to make a buck then your blog would be better placed in self hosting or web hosting with a wordpress.org template.

    As far as all the dialogue about the quality of hosting goes we know at the very least that one host whom wank and sunburntkamel have identified can offer quality wordpress support for an affordable fee. But more to the point IMO it's up to people in business to make their own arrangements to secure both the goods and services they need to remain in business. Hence IMO whether or not the blogger can cope with wordpress technology or whether or not most web hosts know how wordpress works and can provide their clients with effective support really has no legitimate place in this discussion.

    IMO in accord with the words in the ToS and the underlying intent there should be no business transactions of any kind conducted on a wordpress.com blog. Setting aside VIP accounts which I have no problem with, IMO the wordpress.com blogging community ought to be comprised of those for whom blogging is a passion. And the wordpress.org community ought to be comprised of those who blog for profit and/or a variety of other reasons.

    Relaxation of the policy interpretation is also likely to give rise to an influx of new bloggers from the legions out there who want to game the search engines, go SEO optimization competition crazy, and spam their blogs with ads all for a dubious few bucks a month. On top of that, within the inflow we will probably find blog scrapers who create no content of their own and have strings of blogs acting as prostitutes for gaining minimal ad revenue.

    Relaxation of the boundaries of policy interpretation will also mean that the members of the community who do answer questions on the forum will be helping those folks whom they do not believe ought to be given a legitimate place in the wordpress.com community in the first place. This will do more to unravel community than it does to knit it together.

    wank said:

    Mostly, there are various historical reasons why commercialisation of wordpress is a sensitive issue and Automattic has to tread carefully on this.

    Although I know that ToS policy must allow for staff discretion and I have no issues with that, I would like to see Automattic clarify the policy on this in a manner that demonstrates respect for the history wank points to.

    My thanks to Veltis for giving us an opportunity to speak to this important issue. And I hope others will also choose to enter the dialogue.

  28. vertis, the constant technical maintenance challenges of WordPress suggested by boles likely largely relates to both the fantastic quantity of content and his very large audience. As raincoaster describes many people are able to just have WordPress set up and work.

  29. Right you are, Lloyd! With WordPress.com I just let the blog happen and I can concentrate on content and writing cogent replies and the planning and execution of future articles. My blog is more discussion forum where we, at times, basically hold real-time conversations so things get heavy and intensive fast.

    In my standalone setup everything would sometimes crawl and slow down to the outrage of my readers.

    Reading the support issues that were detailed elsewhere here about the November slowness on WP.com because of a MySQL cache problem, I am rather convinced that was part of my problem while being standalone because my web host service mumbled something about that during one of many support phone calls.

    My problem was MySQL would not clear its cache properly and not even a server reboot will force that cache to clear. You have to dig in at the root level and manually clear it yourself and if you don't have a lot of memory dedicated to MySQL that cache can load up quickly and need to empty regularly as well.

    So... if you're busy and lots of readers are reading and commenting and pages are being loaded all over the place you being to get progressively slower and slower until everything stops and then magically comes back 10 minutes later. By that time, however, the heat is gone and the discussion has waned and surfing readers have gone away forever.

    WordPress itself -- here and standalone -- is well made and hardy and I've never had any blogging problem with the WP software. My problems have been with the hosted database and plugins that never really get resolved.

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