The line between advertising, promoting and spamming

While the recent brouhaha over specific ad-related harp-l posts is
probably best dealt with off-list, it does raise a significant question
as to what is appropriate on-list in terms of advertising and the like.

The basic rule has always been simple: minimal advertising on harp-l,
which has usually been defined as no more than one ad per month.  There
have been exceptions (Doug Tate's SPAH Convention postings, but as SPAH
foots the bill for all this it's the exception which proves the
proverbial rule).  However, for the most part people have stuck with the
policy and it has helped to keep the amount of direct advertising,
salesmanship and spam to a minimum.

That said, there is often a fine line between "information" and
spam/advertising, one that I feel it would be good to more clearly
define.  A post might be sent answering a question and containing a link
saying something like "more information on this can be found at my
website", or "item x is great, you can hear it on my website".  On the
face of it, there's nothing wrong with that, but what if the website is
essentially a commercial entity?  What if the reason for the website is
to sell product x and the information is essentially part of a

To me, that would be the equivalent of an advertisement, and thus fall
in the once-per-month spiel rule.  Perhaps others disagree, but just
because something is offered free of charge doesn't mean it's not an ad.
I'm not charged for spam, and sometimes it's actually of interest, but
it's still spam nonetheless.  Now, the problem comes when a website both
educates and offers services.  My take then becomes how it is presented.
Are these two areas fairly separate, ie, is every bit of educational
information linked to a sales page?  Thus, if an alternate tuning is
described is there a "buy it here" link at the end of the text.  To me,
that's advertising, perhaps with useful and valid information, but still
an ad.  A good example of that might be, say, the Lee Oskar website,
where Natural Minor tuning is explained in detail, but for the purpose
of selling more harps.

An example of a website where something is truly offered without
significant (or any) commercial content would be something like Pat
Missin's website (  Here, the greatest
collection of alternate tunings as derived for the harmonica can be
found, and nowhere in that is there ever an "I can make this for you"
type link offering Pat's services.  The information is both free and
without any attachments.  Thus, if Pat were to post "you can find this
info in altered states at my website", I wouldn't define it as

For a look at something that might come in-between these two extremes
you might try G's "HarpOn" website.  I haven't checked it lately, but
there are distinct sections for pure information and services rendered.
As long as distinctions like that are made clear when the author posts,
then the distinction between what is offered without significant
ulterior sales motives can be easily seen, and the difference between an
ad and an informative post maintained.  G is pretty good about this,
IMO, but I'm not trying to single him out except as an example of a site
where the two are present, but whether a link therein is an ad or not is

Similarly, a lot of people list mp3s and the like in responses.  This is
fine in and of itself, but again there is a line between presenting
information for information's sake and advertising one's mp3 site
(assuming the site generates revenue in some manner).  Thus, if
someone's response to a question of how to do vibrato on a bend contains
a link to their song, is it an ad or just an attempt to help?  My take
is rather simple on this: if you generate revenue of some sort from
people listening to the song via the given link, then it's an ad.  If
one simply wants to give the example, then one could send the mp3 as an
attached file to the person who asked the question (something like "you
can here an example of this in my song `n', give me your email address
and I'll send it to you as an attachment.")  That way the information is
being offered, but the line between advertisement/spam and communication
is maintained.

Now, what about when the person has a link to a commercial site of sorts
in their signature?  I think there the question becomes how it's
presented.  If it's pure advertisement such as "buy my cd here (link)"
or "get mics here (link)", than it would definitely seem to me to
violate the once-a-month rule to have that on every email sent to the
list (unless one only posts once-a-month, of course).  But, if it's just
a plain link with no text advertising sales or services, ie, (don't try, AFAIK there is no such thing, but,
if the link works I'd be interested to see it:), then it is a lot less
blatant, and probably can be just considered part of a signature.  One
can make a service available without necessarily advertising it.  

Thus, note the difference between the two following signatures:

J.R. "Bulldogge" Ross
& Snuffy, too:)
Buy their highly acclaimed cd at 

Which is just an ad which has been placed in such a way as to imitate
being unobtrusive, and:

J.R. "Bulldogge" Ross
& Snuffy, too:) 

Which is still a bit of an ad, but as there is no spam/spiel around the
link, it can be seen as just a link for interested parties.

NB: I am not now nor have I ever been an official of harp-l.  This post
has no authority whatsoever beyond that which I have gathered over the
years (not much:), and is certainly not binding on anyone.  It's just my
take on what would be a good practice for people to follow vis-à-vis
advertising issues.  The list-owner and administrators may very well
disagree with these guidelines in any way, shape or form they feel fit,
and it is their decisions on this which are the rules.  Doesn't mean I
or anyone else will agree with their decisions, just that harp-l is a
dictatorship, however benign.

 ()()   JR "Bulldogge" Ross
()  ()  & Snuffy, too:)

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