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In a Walled Garden

Garden_wall As part of my Typepad account, I can see referring links to my blog as they happen. If it's a link I don't recognize, I'll often click through to see in what context a post is being referenced and to (hopefully) find someone new to add to my network.

Periodically though I'll click on a link, only to find that to get to the referring site, I must enter a password. In others words, my content--which I make freely available--is now in someone else's walled garden where I can't see how it's being used, what's being said, etc. What really bugs me about this though isn't so much that my work is being shared somewhere. It's that it's not being shared in the same open, transparent manner that I've established as a policy on my own blog. Maybe I'm just being crabby, but it seems to me that the only one who should have the right to put my content into a walled garden is me.

Part of this is my fault. I hadn't updated my Creative Commons license to include the Share-Alike clause, something I've now remedied. But 1) I wonder if everyone really pays attention to CC licenses anyway and 2) it's not entirely clear to me that the Share-Alike clause is saying to someone "you can only use this information in an open environment, not behind your organization's firewall." I would guess that it doesn't.

So I'm back to my original point, which is to say that it bugs me to have my work in someone else's house where I can't see it. I guess that's what happens, though, when you put your stuff out into the world. You can't really control where it goes or what happens with it when it's gone. Kind of like your kids.

What do you think about this? Do you care if your blog posts end up behind someone else's firewall or are you OK with that if it happens? And what about that Share-Alike clause? Do you think it implies you must share in an open format?

Photo by yuan2003


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I'll be honest that I mostly don't care how people use it, other than being irritated when it's attributed to someone else (which happens on splogs, but not usually with real people). I do CC-By for my license though, which is basically a big sign that says, "Do whatever you want with the content, just give me credit."

Partly it's probably the fact that I work in for-profit education and create courses that are at least theoretically inside a walled-garden LMS. It's kind of hypocritical for me to look down on others who are doing the same. (I never use SA content within a course though. I might link to it, but I don't include it within the course, regardless of whether I alter it or not.)

The few restricted sites I've had link to my blog all seem to have been educational. When I can see Blackboard or Moodle in the URL, I know that's someone's course resources, and I'm fine with that. Are your closed referral links from schools or from something corporate?

Even though you're getting a referral link, that doesn't tell you whether it's anything more than just a link. They might not be really using your content at all. I certainly post links to online resources in my courses, often with little more than a summary. Nothing in the CC-NC-SA license (or anything else) prevents those links.

The SA license only says the derivative work has to be open "If you alter, transform, or build upon this work." Even with that, a short quote still should fall under fair use, especially for educational or critiquing purposes. A short quote and link with attribution can still meet the requirements of the CC-NC-SA license, at least as I read it.

Thanks for your thoughts on this, Christy. Most of the links are from schools, which bother me less, but several seem to be corporate and those do get under my skin. I agree with your interpretation of the Share-Alike license--that's how I was seeing it, too. And you're also right that it doesn't necessarily mean that a referral is anything other than a link. Not sure why I'm irritated by any of this, but for some reason it bugged me. Thanks for giving me some perspective.

I had a similar experience, but the walled garden was commercial (required a membership fee) and I asked to have my feed removed, which was done promptly by the site admin:

Thanks, Harold--the next time it happens I'm going to follow up. Up to now I haven't had that much of a problem, but lately it seems to be happening more often.

Corporate ones don't meet CC-NC-SA license (unless there's something else happening that makes it OK). Harold's situation seemed pretty clear to me that they were violating his license. Following up for the corporate ones is probably a reasonable response. They can always ask your permission and you can grant it (or not) on a case by case basis.

If you're seeing a big increase in it, that could be why it's irritating you.

Of course, I personally have been feeling a bit grumpy just because the weather's been so lousy. Two weekends in a row with freezing rain/sleet/wintry mix is not my idea of a good time! Everything just seems a little more irritating to me when the weather is so crummy.

An interesting issue.

As a thought experiment: I could print out a copy of this blog post and circulate that (providing I wasn't commercial gaining from doing so) around an office / group of people - and because it's paper there is no track back. You might never know. Is that as irritating?

For myself trying that thought experiment - the frustration is realising that there are conversations about the content I can't capture and be part of. But I have to realise that when I couldn't possibly be part of all the conversations about my content in the physical world - so I have to settle is overhearing / being part of one or two.

In the online world, by contrast, I feel more able to be part of the conversations around my content - as the technology can help me aggregate all the strands of discussion... so if its the case that my digital content is behind someone else's wall where my perfectly good comments / discussion area has been replaced by someone else's, I may be rightly irritated. (And this is a situation I've had to tackle before... I don't mind content being republished in most cases, but I do mind it being republished in a way that fragments discussions into other people's private spaces when that discussion could take place in the open)

So in practical terms - one option may be to include a clear statement that your site offers commenting and a fully qualified link to your comment area as part of every post. If I were to repost that post, it would have to include that link back to the 'mother post' and comments area there - hopefully driving discussion to one open space. And if I wanted to remove that statement, I would be creating a derivative work and there may well (depending on interpretations of the Share-Alike clause) need to ensure that my modified post was in the open.

Summary: For my the issues is fragmentation of conversation. As long as readers of my posts wherever they are know they can potentially join a discussion on the blog the post originates at, I'm fairly happy.

Tim, I think you've actually captured the part that's bothering me--that there may be conversations going on that aren't in the open. Of course I don't want people reposting my work, but the real issue for me is that the nature of blogging is more public--it's designed specifically to have conversations in the open, to be more transparent. It bugs me that people might then take what is, by nature and by my intent, meant to be something more open and put it behind a locked door, effectively removing a portion of the conversation from the larger world. It's about transparency and openness.

And Christy--maybe it's the weather, too. :-)

I guess in most of those situations, it seemed to be corporate intranets. I guess I think that probably falls pretty closely into the fair use situation. Or if a teacher provided a feed of a site to their students.

I pretty much always assume that it's a very small audience, and don't worry so much about it. It's true, for the most part, blogging conversations are meant to be public - but they aren't always - how many times have you talked in a small group about a particular blog thread, or talked with a friend? This is sort of similar. In the end, I think, it does eventually all feed back.

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