Posted by William Charles on April 19, 2017
Misc

Published on April 19th, 2017 | by William Charles

68

The Problems With Letting Readers Share Referral Links

We regularly let readers share their referral links. The aim is to give readers that provide helpful comments and alert us of deals a way of getting some extra points/miles/cash back from other readers. For the most part it works well. I’ve been noticing a few issues recently and I thought I’d address them in the hopes of getting some feedback and possible way to combat these issues:

  • A lot of people that either aren’t regular readers or aren’t active readers share their links. I try to encourage readers to use links from other readers that they recognize as providing useful content/comments but often people will just come across the first link they see.
  • People lie, cheat & steal. Unfortunately some people take advantage of the fact we allow this type of referral sharing and will lie to try and get more sign ups (my link does ZYX when it doesn’t for example). We used to allow people to offer small rewards (like an extra Amazon gift card) for using their link but it ended up with people just yelling at each other and lies all over the place so we had to discontinue that.

 

  • Posting multiple links. A lot of people will post their link multiple times, it’s usually fairly obvious but sometimes they go to great lengths to hide this fact.
  • It’s time consuming to moderate. It takes time to enforce the rules we try to put in place, find comments in spam and a variety of other issues.

Ideally we’d have a more robust commenting system where you can tag users that provide helpful comments (that way you can find their referral links later) but realistically that isn’t something we’re going to add in the short term if at all. I’m not sure if I’m just venting or looking for a possible solution.

Readers sharing and using each other’s referral links is a good thing, don’t ruin it by being greedy.



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Ender
Ender

Another room of improvement I can think of is to let us retreat the referral links. Most banks have referral bonus caps, and if people could retreat their links after reaching that cap to give the chance to others (presumably not reaching thecap), a lot more of us could max out this benefit.

windyfly
windyfly

Have never had that kind of sweet concerns. Sigh…

Ender
Ender

I have never max out any referral bonus either. But I feel now only a few people post their links first max out the benefit quickly but their links kept get clicked.

Although we are encouraged to use the links from those we feel helpful, but I really doubt many would remember and search for IDs… S

windyfly
windyfly

I have posted only once my ref. link with my timelined personal experience & thoughts and got 3 clicks so far. I’m very grateful. But I do feel your point and think it could be improved.

Hopefully we are not pushing Doc too much to improve it. It does discourage the community without a robust tech to ensure the policy.

SkydiverEMT
SkydiverEMT

One way to modulate some of these problems would be to limit a referral post to the (non-shortened) URL ONLY, much like how it was on r/churning.

That way there’s no “help me pay for my honeymoon,” or “this sign-up has 50k miles instead of 40k.” It’s much easier to police, the comments are cleaner, and it prevents people from trying to use URL-shorteners to hide multiple links.

Hell I’m sure someone could write a script that would automatically scan for duplicate links.

Rox
Rox

+1 to this suggestion.

Then something like rankt.com is possible.

John Gibson

Are you able to do a password protected post to allow for referral comments from subscribers and then after a certain amount of time you take off the password protection and also take off the ability to comment.

That way only subscribers would be able to post their referrals, but all of the readers would be able to use them as soon as the password protection comes off the post.

Daniel
Daniel

second this idea, helps filter some of the users who aren’t active readers

Dan
Dan

This is why I just never use credit card referral links, unless its from someone I personally know. I never post mine publicly either. Reddit has an even bigger problem because people mass downvote other redditors so their links won’t display on the referral pages. Better to reward no one at all than take a chance on rewarding greedy, bad behavior.

Gonzohawk
Gonzohawk

The mods at r/churning share your frustration. Moderating the referral threads has to be the most difficult part of their job. And the problems you described have lead to many changes and rules enacted to combat them. Between the ReferralLinkBot and rankt.com we finally have a system that works pretty well. Unfortunately for you Doc, if you want to keep reader referrals alive there will be more growing pains ahead.

JL
JL

One suggestion is for the you to maintain a list of “active contributors” and post only their referral links in a dedicated referral post. You can define how to qualify as an “active contributor”. The order of referral links can be randomized to give all the active contributors a chance.

Dusty
Dusty

This would be my suggestion, personally. Limit it to those who contribute meaningfully to the site. Of course if you define it only terms of number of posts then you will have people spamming with low quality posts/spam, and evaluating things qualitatively is a lot of work. I would understand if this is more than you’re willing to tackle, especially given that I don’t know how difficult that would be for you technically on the back end of things.

Dusty
Dusty

I forgot one other thing: If you do keep referrals, I would limit the text that can be included to the referral type (having exact text to copy in the comment containing which referral offer it is), and the referral URL only, eliminating the annoying begging that goes on.

Alex
Alex

I like the idea of doing a password protected post as John suggests.

I am a regular reader — I visit DoC everyday and it’s a top site on my Feedly. However, I don’t comment much. Typically, any input I could provide had already been done!

If you are ok with regular readers, but not active commentators, participating (I have posted referral links in the past), PW-protected posts for newsletter subscribers seem like a good balance.

YRK
YRK

I second Alex.
Many barely comment but are regular readers.
And it be bit dealienting to those if chose on this aspect .
Anyone chosing referal does it randomly so its more of a lotto anyways that the posted referal is selected and then approved or not

Jon S
Jon S

+1 to this

Ben
Ben

Yes. I agree with you.

NoonRadar
NoonRadar

For people looking to game the system that’s the easiest thing to circumvent, they’ll subscribe once to get the newsletter and then spam their referral links a bunch of times as usual.

It’s prob lots of work to keep them off within the confines of this blog. r/Churning did a couple of good things about it: Only allowing the link itself with no other text, randomization of the order of comments and minimum karma, but those are patrolled by a bot. Even still trolls seem to try to game the system, from what I read.

In the absence of an easy spam-proof solution I’d recommend Will & Chuck manually reward some of their contributors, i.e. whomever sticks to their mind for the time (month, etc), kinda like they do by highlighting certain contributors and/or their comments. It’s not a huge profit for people who’d post their links but it would probably encourage more meaningful participation for the blog, which would bode well for both the blog owner(s) and its readers.

VL
VL

I am in favor of this idea.
Let Will & Chuck to approve readers who permitted to post referrals.

Not sure how easy it would be to implement on the back end, but basically you see a reader who is legitimate, so you add his email to the “white list” to allow that reader to post a referrals in the future. I doubt anybody who is here to learn and participate all of the sudden will start spamming with links only.

But if you decide to take referrals down completely, that would be fine too. Most people are here not for the referrals for sure.

Eric
Eric

What does “minimum karma” mean?

NoonRadar
NoonRadar

Reddit karma, accumulates with participation and in this case is set as criteria to prevent those don’t participate much on r/Churning from posting referral links.

Eric
Eric

I definitely agree that would be a great system to use then. Does it seem to work well over there?

MM
MM

Honestly, I don’t think referral links are worth your brainspace. They’re fun, sure, and I won’t deny I get a jolt of joy when an unexpected sum of points/miles pops up in my account, but if they’re that much of a pain to manage, just don’t allow them period. People can do it the old-fashioned way — getting their friends/family to sign up using their referrals.

Frito Pendejo
Frito Pendejo

I’d offload it to somewhere else if it were me. Seems like a pain to manage.

NoReferral
NoReferral

Using referral links = Giving money to other people

Peter
Peter

I for one appreciate the fact that you offer such forum to us at all. I don’t think the bad behaviors reflect poorly on DoC any bit, and as a reader I know how the comment section can be flooded with trolls so it’s upon me to be cautious of which links I click on.

Ben H

I like the idea of a separate dedicated post for referral links that is password protected. I don’t know how practical it is, but you could also enforce a rule of only allowing comments on the referral posts to be the referral link (non-shortened) URL ONLY with no other other text. I would hope this would reduce the amount of time required to moderate, since you could just delete any posts that include anything besides a link.

Like others have said I appreciate that referral posts take a lot of effort and the reward for me as a reader is minimal compared to the other content you provide. I would rather you focus your limited time on new content than getting bogged down with moderating referral links.

Dave P
Dave P

Maybe just point to the Rankt.com site that /r/churning users have set up, rather than having them posted here?

Can’t say I’m a fan of the current setup for sharing here, since it leaves out those of us who don’t care to use twitter. But – your site, your rules, of course!

Also, to repeat something said above, I read this site daily, but only comment occasionally. Hard to identify regular users only by comments.

Thanks!

Aaron
Aaron

The irony is the fact that those who post their links without reading your blog will not see this post.

Str8shooter
Str8shooter

Just a question, is it ok to post links from both my wife and myself separately. We both hold cards that may have the same primary account and share the same referral link. Is this unethical or against the spirit of the rules?

hiima
hiima

That is literally posting duplicate referrals.

John K
John K

Hi Str8shooter,

I’d be curious what the DoC thinks, but personally, here are my thoughts:
– If you have different cards with different primary numbers that have different referral links, I wouldn’t have a concern with you posting both under your username.
– If you have the same primary number and share the referral link, I think it would be duplicating referral links to post it twice, even if you are both authorized to use the account.

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