Should we have community ads? | PhysicsOverflow
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  Should we have community ads?

+ 4 like - 0 dislike

On Stack Exchange sites, there is the practice of “community ads”, which are basically small banners in the sidebar describing tools or whatever that may be of use to the community. I wonder if the PhysicsOverflow community would welcome a similar feature on PhysicsOverflow? Note that the ads are not for money, and the only purpose of community ads is to tell the community about tools that they might find useful.

These ads would be decided completely by the community, through a thread where members of the community can propose the advertisements and vote on the proposed advertisements. Just to get an idea of what these community ads could be for, it would make sense to have community ads for

  • MathOverflow
  • The nLab
  • Zotero
  • ArXiV
  • Arnold Neumaier's Theoretical Physics FAQ
  • DeTeXify
  • ShareLaTeX
  • The Reference Frame
  • ViXrA (?)

Basically, it should be of interest to the PhysicsOverflow community.

Note: This is not the community ads proposal thread, this is just a poll question asking the community if they would like to have such a feature.

asked Jun 19, 2014 in Discussion by dimension10 (1,955 points) [ revision history ]
edited Jun 19, 2014 by dimension10

Related question on MathOverflow meta: Will MO have Community promotion ads?

For one, will there be legal issues to promote ?

@JiaYiyang There surely won't be legal issues in promoting (that's what SOPA would have been about), but I guess many users may disapprove of it.

2 Answers

+ 2 like - 0 dislike

It is a very good idea, and the adds might include advanced features of this site as well.

But additionally to be voted by users, I think the adds should be eventually accepted by moderators, in order to avoid adds with commercial interests. For instance, I would suspect of an add of the non-free software Mathematica.

answered Jun 19, 2014 by Eduardo Guerras (435 points) [ revision history ]

And I would vote against Vixra too. Sadly, Vixra is nothing but a joke and a repository of crap, because it does not implement any voting mechanism.

Computer chess is an example of business whose hidden commercials literally flood internet. From years now, in every forum there are users constantly giving the message that the product of a certain firma is the one and best and that the main competitor is a cheap inferior substitute. Even famous Grand Masters are probably paid to insert such statements in his columns constantly and even now, after the free GNU program Stockfish 5 has proved to be the strongest one and therefore provide the best analysis of any position.

I'm not sure what you mean exactly by "advanced features of the site as well". Do you mean something like "Did you know you have a say in the moderation of PhysicsOverflow?" with a link to moderate, or "Submit a paper to PhysicsOverflow!" with a link to submission creation requests? That may be a good idea.

Regarding ads for commercial products, you are probably thinking about it from the perspective that for-profits probably have enough money to advertise their products elsewhere. But the main purpose of the community ads is not to help the organisations behind the tools or sites (though could be some sort of a positive side effect), but more of to tell the community about useful tools or helpful sites. So does it really matter if for-profits (mis)use the platform to promote their products?

By the way, I think that PhysicsOverflow will have a long way to go before for-profit organisations, especially a sci-comp giant like Wolfram think of using community ads for commerical purposes : ) 

Regarding ViXrA, I agree with you, which is why I put a "(?)" next to the suggestion. Philip Gibbs had a great vision in mind when starting it, but it didn't turn out to work out that well. So an ad for ViXrA could do more harm than good, since it may look unprofessional to many physicists.

Yes, I mean using the adds too for sort of a "tip of the day" feature. I am very lazy about investing time in learning such features unless I immediately need them. For instance, I only discovered the SE chat after some months reading and answering questions.

+ 0 like - 0 dislike

I don't think unpaid advertizing is a good idea, as it cheapens the paid advertising potential of the site. Ads are a way to make money, although you can accept free advertising from certain non-profit organizations of community interest, it should not extend to entities which have money or benefit financially from the exposure.

answered Jun 27, 2014 by Ron Maimon (7,535 points) [ no revision ]

Open source stuff relies more on generous donations of time and money. The real cost of running this site is more to do with the time of the volunteers here, in particular Dimension10, Pokernel and Dilaton who have done a great job so far.

The cost of the server is peanuts in comparison, less than $50 a year.

@physicsnewbie I'm not sure how your comment is relevant to Ron's answer. I don't know if you were using the term "peanuts" figuratively, because as far as I know, web hosts charge money, not peanuts in return for hosting. The hosting cost isn't worth "peanuts" either, it's $15.60 a year, and I think peanuts are cheaper than that.

@dimension10 Ron made the point that unpaid advertising cheapens the money making potential of the site, whereas I'm saying the site isn't built around the idea of making money eventually, but upon open source software and the generous donations of volunteers giving their time freely. "costs peanuts" is an English idiom meaning "very cheap".

I don't think that it is wise to rely on people's good intentions for the indefinite future. Getting a small revenue stream is essential, as once you do this, you are stable forever, and you don't have to bow down to political pressure. For example, if dim10 becomes a grad-student, and suddenly has new time commitment issues, or Dilaton's employer doesn't like something on physicsoverflow. If you are independent financially, you are less susceptible to interference.

@physicsnewbie Ok, but part of what Ron says is right. It is useful to have a small amount of money coming in to pay for hosting, or if we ever have to buy a non-free plug-in (which could cost quite a bit).

I think Ron is talking about the idea of "paid academic advertising" he proposed previously. I agree that academic advertising is a good idea, and it's easy to prevent it from causing politicisation on PhysicsOverflow. But I disagree that community ads would cheapen the potential for academic advertising. When we reach the third phase of the reviews section (polarkernel is currently working on the second), we could simply add a note on the "Community ads (proposal and voting)" saying that community ads may not be used for advertising one's papers, or something like that.

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