Please Don’t Share Me

Sometimes in our rush to be the first to digg, seed, submit or social bookmark all of the breaking news and amusing curiosities throughout the Internets we overlook one important question, should this page be submitted?

Granted, unless the item is behind a paid registration wall, or against the terms of service, all items are more or less fair game to be submitted. Is this a sound policy? Are there not certain circumstances when a page is meant to be public, but the author would rather not have their link submitted to all the hot social bookmarking sites?

I’ve seeded an item before that the author would rather have left more private. I’ve seen other bookmarked items catch the attention of the original author, who would have rather the page not been submitted. There are certainly reasons for not wanting a web page socially bookmarked. What are we to do about it?

The author can always leave a nice message to not social bookmark the item. Of course this does not guarantee that anyone would read the message, or abide by it. It would be best if there was a technological method for designating pages as “Please don’t bookmark me.”

This reminds me of a past problem search engines ranking pages by their incoming links. Soon people would abuse this method and spam sites with their links to increase their search engine ranking. Google eventually proposed the idea of including the HTML attribute rel="nofollow" into the tags of user submittable links to discourage this form of spamming.

Regrettably the rel attribute poses little use to social bookmarkers, since most submissions occur while already viewing the page at question, not a link to it. However, the page at question does provide plenty of under-the-hood code for our purposes, mainly the meta tag.

It is my proposal to add this meta tag, <meta name="bookmark" content="false"> to any web page that the author has no interest in seeing submitted to a social bookmark site. Likewise, they could use content="true" to designate that it is okay to bookmark the page, however this would not be a requirement.

The submission bookmarklet for each social bookmarking site could include the following code, document.getElementsByName("bookmark")[0].content to determine whether the submission should continue, or not.

This proposal can even be extended further by including a meta tag to specify submission preferences for individual social bookmarking sites. This could be implemented one of two ways. The first idea would include a separate meta tag for each social bookmarking site the author wished to exclude from submission, using the name attribute to specify the particular site as such, <meta name="digg" content="false">. The bookmark designation would then function as a universal exclude.

The second idea would be to use just the one meta tag with the name attribute set to bookmark but instead allow the content attribute to contain a comma delimited list of sites to exclude. Thus, <meta name="bookmark" content="false, digg, newsvine"> would mean that the author prefers all submissions to social bookmarking sites prohibited except to digg or newsvine. Likewise, <meta name="bookmark" content="true, netscape, reddit"> would indicate that the author is okay with submissions to any social bookmarking site other than Netscape or Reddit.

An implementation such as this has an extra need in an environment like digg’s, where administrators have a rather liberal policy on banning domains. If the author of a domain is not careful and not able to control their items that are submitted to digg, they could soon find their entire site banned.

Other social bookmarking sites such as netscape, reddit, del.icio.us and newsvine have far less to worry about their entire domain being banned. However, there are still reasons why an author would want to stop their site, or particular pages of their site from being submitted. This is one proposal to respect those authors’ wishes while doing so under-the-hood of the web page.