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SOLVED Feedback - Inline affiliate links point to a domain that "appears suspicious"

HoneyBadger

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While I understand that affiliate links are a thing, and I'm certainly not begrudging iX for wanting to expand their revenue streams, I do have to point out that the domain in question doesn't exactly "look safe" on first inspection.

In my mind, "tkqlhce dot com" looks like the kind of thing you'd see your files renamed to after a ransomware attack, and it's sure as hell not going to get me to click on it, so purely from an advertising perspective it's failed pretty badly. There's no mouseover or other callout to suggest "this was inserted by an AdWords-equivalent engine" so all I see as a forum user browsing is "why is this person embedding a link to a dodgy looking site?" Makes me think it's blogspam/SEO manipulation/etc.

Is it possible to have the link go to a URL that's "internal" to the iXsystems.com domain instead, such as "affiliate.ixsystems.com/referral-code-goes-here" or a similar domain? It would make it more obvious that the URL is considered "OK" or "safe" to click on.

I mean, now that I know they're safe (thanks to a mod reply) I won't be concerned with them; but I wanted to provide my feedback as a fairly active forum user.
 

jgreco

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Yup, I have to agree, it *looks* really suspicious. If possible, it would be better to have a CNAME from something within ixsystems.com to the target. I don't really do too well with alphabet spew and I didn't recognize it immediately; I got around to the point of editing the post in question, "hmm where's the link," turned off BBcode, still no link, went and looked at the original post again and finally a light went on. (ok yes a dim one, tired!) Any chance @JoshDW19 or @Tigersharke could maybe tweak this? It'd be appreciated.
 

Tigersharke

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Yup, I have to agree, it *looks* really suspicious. If possible, it would be better to have a CNAME from something within ixsystems.com to the target. I don't really do too well with alphabet spew and I didn't recognize it immediately; I got around to the point of editing the post in question, "hmm where's the link," turned off BBcode, still no link, went and looked at the original post again and finally a light went on. (ok yes a dim one, tired!) Any chance @JoshDW19 or @Tigersharke could maybe tweak this? It'd be appreciated.
I am unsure what else can be done, but I could add a tag or other styling to it. I am aware of the autolinks and can style them, I can even limit the styling to some groups. @Ericloewe and I got stung by one as well, so I will see what I can get in there for styling that would obviate the terrible (suspicious) link construction. Maybe even adjust the hover? I'll have to look into the hover, the tag works in stylus addon, css mentioned in this staff thread.
 

jgreco

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Well the thing to do is to see if you can add a CNAME in DNS pointing from affiliate.ixsystems.com to www.tkqlhce.com, and then bang out www.tkqlhce.com in the forum module that's doing this and change that text to affiliate.ixsystems.com.

That way when someone notices the link they see a reasonable and non-threatening URL. And in theory it should still work fine.

Our industry has failed at this because we can't even get the web "developers" at places with a vested interest in trust, like banks, to do this sort of thing correctly. The web has become a steaming load of crud with all sorts of suspicious stuff, but just because everybody else does bad stuff doesn't mean the bad stuff is actually a good thing to do.
 

Tigersharke

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I can take a look at the settings for the affiliate link stuff but I might not be able to do anything there. I cannot do anything for DNS or CNAME, but aside from any configs accessible via xenforo admin online interface, my magic is mostly with CSS or templates. I tend to avoid modifying templates if at all possible. I am unsure if a widget might help in any way but I will have to look at that too.

EDIT:
I don't see anything in the configs that I can do anything about, so your suggestion about the CNAME will have to be something @JoshDW19 will need to investigate. I am fighting with the CSS to get the "tag" to appear on :hover but I might be stuck unable and may add "(affiliate)" ::after instead, and as this may be seen by ordinary users as suspicious, I think I'd not limit it to any groups. I could style it differently (make it stand out more) for some groups though.

PS. Got the CSS working! Woo Hoo!
 
Last edited:

Tigersharke

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The CSS is now live. It affects all styles equally, identically. The affiliate links in quote boxes (and code boxes or any other I believe) will not have the hover effect since hover was problematic there. In normal text, there will be a hover "(iX affiliate)" for those suspicious-looking links. If or when the CNAME adjustment is made, the CSS could be removed/disabled.
 

Tigersharke

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I happened to notice that my nicely formatted/spaced "hover" was no longer so nicely done, so I have given up on the hover baloney. Though if I need such a thing in the future, I know how to combine ::after and :hover.
 

HoneyBadger

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Besides plex, what else triggers the affiliate link stuff?
Honestly, I'm not certain; that was just the one that jumped out at me (because it was in a thread by a user with only one post) - Plex is the only ad I've seen at the top banner, maybe it's the only official affiliate link?

Amazing turnaround time on implementing the CSS and the disambiguation though; I wish I had that kind of turnaround from my Sev1 tickets from (hardware vendor who will remain nameless due to their own shame)
 

Tigersharke

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Honestly, I'm not certain; that was just the one that jumped out at me (because it was in a thread by a user with only one post) - Plex is the only ad I've seen at the top banner, maybe it's the only official affiliate link?

Amazing turnaround time on implementing the CSS and the disambiguation though; I wish I had that kind of turnaround from my Sev1 tickets from (hardware vendor who will remain nameless due to their own shame)
Thanks! There were a few reasons for a quick response this time. Firstly, I had already had something mostly implemented for stylus, and the delay was for the fancy stuff that I had to abandon. The other reason being that this is a slow period for my $work so I have a bit more free time. Regardless though, I do try to solve issues as quickly as I'm able when it is within my area of expertise, or something within reach.
 

danb35

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Not exactly the same issue, but still related to the new auto-links--they break quoting. If I highlight a sentence containing one of these links, like this:
1578253446490.png

...and then click the Reply button, this is what happens:
1578253486262.png
 

Tigersharke

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Not exactly the same issue, but still related to the new auto-links--they break quoting. If I highlight a sentence containing one of these links, like this:
View attachment 34916
...and then click the Reply button, this is what happens:
View attachment 34917
That is strange and unexpected. The only solution is likely what was suggested by @jgreco since the CSS is only adding the text after the autolink, though I can check again whether a hover would be conducive to quoting (though I somewhat doubt it).

After some testing:
The affiliate link itself, not any of my CSS, is causing the breakage of the quotes that might include such a link. This is true for any theme that is covered by progenitor after I commented-out the CSS affecting it, and for the Vanilla XenForo Style which is not inheriting anything from progenitor.

Unfortunately that means the solution suggested would not solve the autolink quote issue but simply make them recognized as intentional (not actual spam).
 

danb35

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The affiliate link itself, not any of my CSS, is causing the breakage of the quotes that might include such a link.
That suggests an obvious solution to me, but...
 

diedrichg

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I'd like to see iX get into business with Emby. I'm a big fan of the Emby ecosystem and the development is logical, user suggestions are always considered, and the devs are constantly directly interacting with the users.
 

Jeremy

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While I understand that affiliate links are a thing, and I'm certainly not begrudging iX for wanting to expand their revenue streams, I do have to point out that the domain in question doesn't exactly "look safe" on first inspection.
We'll be discussing this in a meeting on Monday. Thanks.

I'd like to see iX get into business with Emby. I'm a big fan of the Emby ecosystem and the development is logical, user suggestions are always considered, and the devs are constantly directly interacting with the users.
Never heard of this. Looks interesting. Is it any better or different than what Plex offers?
 

danb35

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diedrichg

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Never heard of this. Looks interesting. Is it any better or different than what Plex offers?
The biggest difference is that Emby supports managing YOUR media YOUR way.
 
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