I try to lay down very few rules around here, as the member base is generally self-policing. The unique flavor of this forum is made up, in whole, by the contributions and efforts of all of our regular members. However, there are occasions when it is necessary for one of us to step in.
I have been noticing a general trend over the past many months of users creating threads, making elaborate signatures, or soliciting viewership, advice, and opinions about personal web sites they have created. These posts or threads are started with the chief intent being to use the broad viewer base and high traffic of these Forums for the personal gain of the users or webmasters involved. Please understand that I am in no way targeting any one person specifically with this message. No one posting or postings over the past few days have prompted this sentiment. I have been seeing this more and more for some time, with signatures advertising new updates, new content, or postings and threads created inviting users to view new updates, or new content.
I have no issue with a simple, single link/reference to one's website in a signature. After all, this degree of site promotion is allowed on most any forum. (By a simple link or reference, I am referring to one line with the title of the website, linked to the main home page, without any supplementary prose or verbiage referring to updates, content, etc.) It is when a user goes to greater lengths to redirect eyes from this domain, to theirs, that I begin to take issue.
To be sure, nothing in life is truly free, whether that be in monetary terms, or in terms of one's time spent on something. Keeping these forums and websites up and available in a serviceable state every month costs me (in monetary terms alone) probably more than many of us "young adults" make in two weeks at a steady job. This is directly out of my personal earnings, and is not assisted by any family or friends. If one were to consider the time and effort spent on upkeep, new features, etc., it becomes evident how truly costly all of this is.
However, I pay and do these things happily, without any expectation of donations or other compensation. We are providing a service that is, by definition, here to assist and inform.
As you may remember, by popular demand, over a year ago I removed all paid advertising from these pages, as users expressed their opinions that it was too intrusive and irritating. It detracted from the user experience. Removing the ads, in turn, removed a small, but helpful, chunk of income with which I helped support the website. I made a post about this here, and to date there have been just two replies. I do not want to resort to paid advertising again, whether it be promoting random sites, or rail sites of other users. In fact, I do not want to resort to any advertising, as it would give specific sites an unfair advantage over those not featured. This same philosophy carries over to general posting on the forums for soliciting viewers for personal web sites.
One can argue that the posting and sharing of others' web site content is useful, as successful rail advocacy and railfanning depends on the free exchange of information, and promotion of new ideas and content. That is fine. If a topic or subject comes up where a user's personal web site contains content that is directly and uniquely helpful or beneficial in the context of the thread, by all means please do post a link directly to the content in question. Some users may even wish to directly link an image, or display an image they have taken within the thread. This is also welcomed. The practice with which I find a problem is that of making new posts or threads with little or no benefit to an existing thread, and no substance other than "please visit my new route data or photos", "tell me what you think about my web site", or "you can find all of what you are looking for at my website". By allowing this practice to continue, one could even erroneously infer that I, or we, are endorsing specific web sites, by permitting such blatant advertising, which of course would also be unfair. But, I digress.
I do appreciate your consideration of these issues. Please note that any new posts or threads created without regard to the above policy will be automatically deleted. Existing threads or posts will be allowed to stay, but new posts made within them which do not conform will fall under the new guidelines.
Users with forum signatures that do not conform to the above guidelines should alter them as such, at their earliest available convenience.
Thank you and happy "rails"!
No Promotion of Personal or Commercial Web Sites
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