Link Biases

Other folks have started to complain about these things too - take a look at this.

Warnings About Unethical Web Sites and Companies

In general, most online business are ethical. Do business with online businesses with a good reputation like However, there are lots of unethical businesses out there. My mother got ripped off by When she went back to try to get her money back, she couldn't find an E-mail address of anyone to contact. Never, ever give your credit card information to any online business that does not have easy-to-find contact information. She did finally find a phone number. The phone was answered by someone whose English made the phone call difficult. When she called back later, she got an answering machine.

Beware postal or E-mail from Interland, which advertises itself as a "Network Solutions Alliance Partner." They are sending out things that look like bills for domain registration. But what if you never registered your site through Interland in the first place? How ethical is sending out an advertisement disguised as a bill? You are under no obligation to use them. This is similar to the practice of slamming practiced by some phone companies - your service is changed almost without your consent. Be sure to read all mail about domain registration very carefully, and register with the company you choose, not some outfit that's gotten your domain information out of the whois database.

There's a site called RemarQ (formerly Supernews), that copies and alters USENET postings and treats them as if they were special newsgroups at their site. This is a particularly appalling, scummy practice. They put links in your posts without your permission! Here's additional information about the company.

Kill Trapping Frame

I've noticed a real increase lately in people using frames to "capture" the browser - instead of opening a new window, or refreshing the whole browser window when a new site is displayed, the new site is inserted in one of the frame windows. I don't want nested frames within frames - when I select a link, I want to see the new site and not see a frame from the old around it.

I think this practice unethical - kind of like ABC grabbing part of the TV screen after the user switched to CBS.

Using frames like this makes it difficult to create a bookmark to the page that's trapped in the frame. Yes, you can do it but it isn't as easy as just saving a bookmark. And unsophisticated viewers might think these pages are part of the site doing to trapping, when they're someone else's work.

Most sites, especially CNN, handle links out of their site in a much more ethical manner. I will not link to sites that grab part of the screen after you've left their site. John Dvorak wrote of this practice, calling it "the prison effect" in in a zdnet article a few years back.

Almost all of my pages now include code that automatically break pages out of trapping frames. So if another site tries to "imprison" one of my Web pages, this code puts my Web page in the browser without the old frame around it. Here's a copy of this simple code, which you can put in the head portion of your Web pages:

<script src="/scripts/sitewizbreakout.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

<body onload="breakout_of_frame()"> 

Create the following file in your scripts directory and name it sitewizbreakout.js:

function breakout_of_frame()
  // thanks to
  if (top.location != location) {
    top.location.href = document.location.href ;

The script I had documented here earlier no longer works consistently, so it should not be used. This new JavaScript seems to work consistently. Many thanks to the folks at for figuring this one out.

Poor Privacy Practices

Companies that do not let you opt out of getting junk E-mail or phone calls easily should be avoided. I was going to buy some products at the Quicken Web Site, and was annoyed that the common "Check here if you don't want us to give your E-mail address to receive online offers" checkbox was not available. Instead, you had to select a link and send them E-mail!! So, I sent Quicken the following letter:

I was going to purchase your products on your Web site, but your privacy procedure was so draconian that I will not be purchasing products at your Web site now or in the future.

Most online companies (at least the ones I purchase from) let you select a checkbox on a "purchaser information" page to restrict information (no telemarketing, no spam, et.c.). The fact that you required separate E-mail, and then even coded the information page so you couldn't even cut and paste the restrictions was extraordinarily user hostile.

(If I had any other choice other than Microsoft Money, I'd be tempted to not upgrade Quicken and Turbo Tax at all!)

A Few Words About Spammage/Spewage/Data Manipulation


Why You May Not Find Some "Good" Sites Linked from

Increasingly, I find misuse of the Internet a real pain. Just call me an old Internet user...and tired. I hate spam, whether it's newsgroup, E-mail or on pages. Some of you may not know what spam is. You've probably seen E-mail spam, as junk-commercial E-mail has been skyrocketing. You may not have seen as much of it in newsgroups, since there is some "search and destroy" software which can delete multiply-cross-posted articles before they clog up USENET newsgroups. Newsgroup spam has a cousin though, which is the "takeover" technique. What's the "takeover" technique? Well, did you know that soc.women was not created merely as space for babbling boys?

But back to good, old-fashion spam. The basic point of spam is to get "something for nothing". On Web pages, the way this works is when people engage in data manipulation tricks to try to make their Web pages "more visible" in some search engines. I don't want to describe what this is in detail, but it's a technique basically done because the person writing the page doesn't understand how search engines work. There are ways to fool some search engines, so rather than learn how to write coherent English and use meta keywords properly, they choose to spam.