Rethinking transparent affiliate link disclosure as required by the FCC

OQO Transparent Desktop

I am an affiliate. When I review a book here that is available on Amazon, I normally link to it using an affiliate link that will earn me a few cents if readers buy the book using that link. I wrote about several suggestions for disclosing affiliate links per FCC requirements in Tips for Disclosing Affiliate Links back in 2010.

In the past, I’ve used a title attribute in the link to announce that the link is an affiliate link. I’ve been rethinking that practice since I read Using the HTML title attribute – updated at The Paciello Group Blog. Here are the findings the article discusses:

Situations in which the the title attribute is not useful due to lack of support:

  • Displaying information for web content viewed on mobile phone browsers. Typically in desktop browsers title attribute content is displayed as a tooltip. From what I could find, tooltip display is not supported in any mobile browser and alternative visual methods of accessing title attribute content are not supported.
  • Providing information for people who cannot use a mouse. Typically in desktop browsers, title attribute content is displayed as a tooltip. Although the tooltip behaviour has been supported for 10+ years, no browser as yet has implemented a practical method to display title attribute content using the keyboard.
  • Using it on most HTML elements to provide information for users of a variety of assistive technologies. Access to title attribute information is not supported uniformly by screen readers

It seems clear now that affiliate links must be disclosed in plain sight within the content of a post. There are two ways that can be done.

  1. A sentence at the beginning or end of a product review stating that the link to the product is an affiliate link.
  2. A notice in parentheses following the link that simply says affiliate link.

I may play with these two methods in the next few book reviews I write to see which feels most effective and transparent to me. I normally include a sentence at the end of a review disclosing that books were provided to me by publishers for review. An affiliate link statement could be included in that disclosure statement.

I have a book sitting on my desk waiting for a review, so I’ll get a chance to test this out very soon. Do you have other ideas about how this in-the-content disclosure could most effectively be accomplished?


Web Teacher’s Seldom Asked Questions

Okay, never asked questions. Seldom is an exaggeration. But always that philosophical question lingers in the air: why are you here? These SAQs (okay NAQs) will explain everything.

The famous Santorini Sunset

Q: Why are you here?

A: I started here because I wanted to talk about how non-web-standards-based and non-teachable most of the tech books I was using to teach with were. Books are better now, so I mostly talk nice about them.

Q: Do you have any really great tips?

A: I have a lot of tips, but this is the best one. In fact, it is such a great tip I’m calling it Virginia’s Law Against Unintended HTML. It goes like this:

Play with the way your content will look before the content is on the page, not after.

Virginia’s Law Against Unintended HTML is so all-encompassing it applies to blog users and Dreamweaver users, too.*

Q: What’s this teacher thing?

A: Well, I’m an educator. You thought I was a dream in PHP coder? No, I’m an educator. So when I talk about web design or technology or web education, it’s always through that peculiar filter.

Q: Who cares about that web education crap, anyway?

A: Mostly teachers and students and web standards gurus and accessibility advocates and corporate trainers and human resource managers and small businesses in search of a web site. Even self-taught learners scrolling among Google results. Are you anything like those people?

Q: You’re always going on about women. What’s up with that?

A: I support good work from others. I’m not the jealous type so it doesn’t bother me to promote other people’s work rather than my own. I support good work from both men and women, but I love to point out what women do because they are a misused and misunderstood element in the tech world. I’m a woman, so I know this. I’m also old – would you rather I was always going on about old people?

Q: What’s a good book to read about web design?

A: Start with books about HTML and CSS. Read a lot of those. After you get really good at those two things, read books about JavaScript or PHP. I’ve recommended a few books over the years. Read good books about design and Photoshop, too. Read the books I wrote, for gosh sakes, and buy them brand new, not used. Thank you.

Q: What are you learning about lately?

A: I’m quite interested in HTML5 and study it a lot. The new CSS is fascinating, too. I like new ideas. If your job is to produce HTML emails for big corporations, I recommend you study HTML 3.2 a lot. You can make big money by doing things from the old days that everyone else has forgotten how to do. HTML 3.2 anyone?

Q: Has social media changed the world?

A: Wait, I will answer as soon as I update my Twitter and take my turn in Words with Friends. Oh, look what my friend said on Facebook – isn’t that cute? Uhh, what was the question?

*Look! A Footnote: Some people refer to this concept as separation of content from presentation, but I refer to it as Virginia’s Law Against Unintended HTML.

Most Popular Posts of the Year on Web Teacher

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is my favorite event of the year.

Here are some popular posts from Web Teacher during the last year. Thanks for reading!

Happy New Year. Three cheers for web standards and web accessibility!

Some Personal News about Web Standards Sherpa

web standards sherpa I’m joining the Web Standards Sherpa team as Community Manager. I’ll be doing some behind the scenes work with their various activities, and will be in a more public role working with social media.

I might be the author of some of the tweets coming from @StandardsSherpa or I might be posting or commenting on the Sherpa Facebook page. Not much is happening on the Google+ page, but I’m planning to make it an active resource, too.

I’m happy to be a contributing member to this group of web standards evangelists and hope you’ll keep track of the groups’ activities on Facebook and Twitter.

Web Standards Sherpa defines itself:

We provide seasoned & aspiring web professionals the opportunity to receive feedback, glean advice, and learn best practices from industry experts.

That means you can go to Twitter or Facebook and ask a question. On the web site, you can request a site review. If your question or request is accepted by the Web Standards Sherpas, one of their experts will provide an answer or review your site.

In addition, expert articles about general web standards topics are published on the web site.

Web Standards Rock!

Keeping up

A good part of what I do here and elsewhere on the web as a writer and in my teaching life is keep up. I enjoy learning new things, trying out new ideas, and sharing what I learn with others. I don’t mind investing my time and energy in keeping up. In fact, I love doing it. I’m happy that at this point in my life I can do what I love – that hasn’t always been the case.

I live in a world where I don’t belong. Most people who are fascinated with tech and web accessibility and social media are young people who are still working. I’m a freak (or a time traveler): an elder, retired, who loves learning the newest stuff. Most people my age are afraid of their computers and can’t figure out how to send a text message. I don’t know why but I’ve been crazy about technology since I first got my hands on an Apple IIe. I was not a young person when that occurred, and I haven’t grown any younger since. I sometimes feel I should apologize for being an elder who is interested in topics that everyone thinks belong to the young. What was I thinking?

But keeping up is a double edged sword, because keeping up with hardware and software changes is an expensive proposition. No amount of love and energy can pay for a new computer or new software. My computer is so old it is no longer upgradable. Nor will it accept the latest versions of several of the software programs I use. Even my browser is telling me daily that it won’t be upgraded any longer because my OS is too old for my browser. And don’t even ask me how often Safari hangs.

But, keeping up is where my mind goes, so keeping up is what I’m doing, whether I can afford it or not. To celebrate adding megabucks to my credit card balance, I am writing this, my first post on my new MacBook Pro. After three days of setting up, upgrading software, fiddling with settings, serial numbers, and and mail accounts the world is fast and efficient again.

Sent with great speed from the latest version of MacBook Pro.

What feed are you using to read Web Teacher? – Updated

Feedburner may have been shut down by Google. It was supposed to happen on October 20, but may have happened today. It’s a little unclear right now and there’s no official word yet from Feedburner or Google.

In the meantime, how about some preventative action among subscribers to this blog.

I’ve had a Feedburner RSS feed link on the blog for years, along with a regular RSS link. I removed the Feedburner link in the recent switch to the new theme.

You may not remember if you subscribe through Feedburner or to the regular feed. From now on, everyone will have only the option of the regular feed.

Here’s the normal RSS feed for the blog. You may want to switch to it. I’m letting you know as a housekeeping measure. Plus, I don’t want to lose you, dear reader. So, please, resubscribe if you think you may have been getting the feed through Feedburner.

If you were receiving Web Teacher posts by email, you were definitely using a Feedburner feed. They only way to keep getting the news is to subscribe to the RSS feed.

Thank you for sticking with me. I appreciate it.

UPDATE: Finally some official word has come down on the issue that made everyone think Feedburner was dead. This simply means the previously announced October 20 date is still valid. I’m not switching my feeds to FeedBlitz or Google+ or anywhere else. My only feed will be the WordPress one I asked you to switch to.