This post is likely to be of interest mostly to those who are hosting a blog on WordPress.com.
Looking at Fire Fly’s blog, I noticed that she’s discovered that a new feature on her hosted-by-Wordpress.com blog. It turned up without direct notification, and is opt-out, not opt-in. … » Problem No.1 (She’s disabled it, and you should too if you blog on wordpress.com – see below for instructions)
This new feature generates a list of “Possibly Related Posts” at the foot of your own posts (rather like the list of “similar posts” at the bottom of this post, but crucially different – read on), and it searches through a database of all other WordPress.com blogs to do so. Now, just consider the variety of attitudes people have to the words “feminism” and “racism” for instance, and can you guess where this is going? Oh yes it did – the list of “possibly related posts” on Fire Fly’s feminist blog included links to posts written by white supremacists and anti-feminists (often in the same link) – fanfuckingtastic, eh? So your readers might well think that these posts are being recommended by you, instead of automatically, and what does that do to a poster’s credibility? …. » Problem No.2
Did I mention that these “possibly related post” links are not visible or able to be edited when you are writing your post? … » Problem No.3
Not only that, by having this feature enabled on your blog, it also means that posts from your blog are being included in the list generated by this “feature” on other people’s blogs, which for Fire Fly included those self-same white supremacists and anti-feminists, thus sending their readers to her blog. This is why she titled her post thusly: Warning! The new WordPress feature is utter trollbait. … » Problem No.4
I was very grateful for her post, because it enabled me to immediately disable this “feature” on Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog – can you imagine the imminent descent of the trolls if I hadn’t realised?
engtech from Internet Duct Tape lists these and further problems with the new feature, shows exactly how to disable it, and offers other advice on “fixing it”. He also links to the always-worth-reading Lorelle, who is also very much not a fan, and who points out:
Since the beginning of WordPress.com, one of the most requested features has been the ability to showcase related posts from our own blogs. WordPress.com has activated this ability, but the links link to WordPress.com blogs, not our own.
Lorelle also explains how to disable the feature:
To turn off the new related post feature on WordPress.com blogs:
1. Go to the Administration Panels > Design > Extras.
2. Check Hide Related Links.
3. Click Update.
Why has WordPress.com implemented this feature instead of giving users what they actually asked for? This new feature has nothing to do with what users actually wanted, which was to point readers to further reading of their own blog (like the “similar posts” feature that I have on this blog, which I have because I host this blog on my own server and can customise it). Lacking any control over which other blogs your own blog links to is really a very unattractive option.
The proposed solution, after a flurry of complaints, doesn’t really address the core problem:
In the next few days we’ll have an update that allows you to block specific blogs from showing up, and eventually that setting will also apply to the tag surfer, blog surfer, and top blogs so when you block a blog you should never see it again.
Both engtech and Lorelle point out just how much work this involves for users when WordPress.com is hosting over a million blogs. Again, why not an opt-in system so that users could choose a select whitelist of other blogs to link to rather than having to create a comprehensive blacklist? Why not make it an option automatically to only link to to posts from the blogs in their own blogroll? Why not make it an option to do what the users wanted in the first place – only link to posts from their own blog?
This lack of control that is a continuing irritation when using WordPress.com is why I haven’t moved Hoyden there, even though I’m generally a fan of WordPress software as a CMS. I like having the extra control that being able to customise my own WordPress.org installation on my own server gives me. I certainly didn’t like suddenly having to learn a whole new admin interface on WordPress.com all of a sudden last month, because as engtech points out, there was no carrot offered to users to compensate for them moving our friggin’ cheese. That’s why I have resisted upgrading to the latest version of WordPress here at Hoyden – where’s my carrot? (and stop sending me nagging messages on my current admin interface – stop using my server’s bandwidth to check whether I’ve got the latest update or not, OK?)