About the ‘hidden’ links in WP-Cumulus

Recently, I came across discussions on Twitter, and a blog post about ‘hidden links’ in my WP-Cumulus WordPress plugin. Quite frankly, I’m a little embarrassed by this, and I’d like to explain how the situation came to be, and what I plan to change in upcoming versions.

History

When I did the first couple of versions of WP-Cumulus, it was not hosted on wordpress.org. All there was in terms of user support was the comments section of a blog post on this blog. To help people troubleshoot flash plugin trouble, I linked to that post in the alternative or “no flash” content. This content is shown only to user without (the right version of) Flash. It is very common among Flash developers to link ‘home’ this way. I was aware this would also be shown to search engines, but at the time there were only a couple of users. My reasoning back then was that providing a helpful message was important enough to warrant putting the link there.

Whoa, millions of incoming links…

Then, Cumulus started catching on. I moved it to wordpress.org, where it made the top 10 most popular plugins a few times. People were starting to port the plugin to other platforms, and I started getting tons of support requests. Some days, just answering these would take hours. I was overwhelmed. Around the same time, I started noticing an increase of traffic on my blog. At first I thought it was because people were googling for the plugin, but it soon became apparent that there was more going on.

As an unexpected side-effect of the ‘no flash’ link, my blog now had thousands of incoming links, causing it to rank well in Google. Because I sometimes write about things like hosting, advertisers were starting to show interest, and I have to admit I jumped at the opportunity. As time went by, it became increasingly ‘difficult’ to remove the links. Here I was, making a little extra money because of a link I forgot to remove somewhere along the way. But even so, I no longer feel comfortable with the current situation, and have been planning to remedy it for a while.

Future versions

As you may have read on this blog, I’ve been trying to get more people involved in the project. It needs a better programmer than I am to keep it up to date. Unfortunately, this has not proven very easy. As a result, WP-Cumulus 2.0 has been in development for over a year, and one of the things it aims to fix is this ‘hidden links’ situation. I’ve decided that any link in the alternative content should be optional, and disabled by default. And it should probably point to the wordpress.org page instead of this blog. By default, it makes sense to show the regular (html) tag cloud to users without Flash. Version 2.0 will probably do it that way.

I’ll be working on Cumulus 2.0 this week (with one of the best software developers I know, whoohoo!), and I hope to have a rough version some time this month. It’ll put you in control of what is shown to users, search engines and everthing else. As it should have been all along.

12 Comments

  1. I think you *deserve* whatever remuneration you get from this great plug-in. I’d disclose that there’s a link and leave it in place.

    Comment by Chris Brewer — August 9, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

  2. Lucky to be on the first comments page.
    Thanks for your great works! I’m looking forward to an update for asian lanuage users, maybe with flash 10.0 we could use system fonts.

    Comment by Jiang — August 11, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

  3. Eerlijk gezegd zou ik er niet wakker van liggen. Je hebt een geweldig mooie plugin gebouwd en dan is het toch niet erg dat je daar wat traffic voor terugkrijgt?

    Comment by Trendmatcher — August 11, 2010 @ 9:17 pm

  4. Ok, thank you for tell us.

    I’m using the WP-Cumulus adapted for Blogger that you talk about in another blog entry, and I didn’t notice this yet. RSS Feeds are a nice thing, specially in these cases.

    Comment by JH — August 15, 2010 @ 6:41 am

  5. Hi JH. If you’re using an adapted version, chances are this does not concern you at all. Whether or not the links are there (or different ones in fact) depends on the implementation of the port. There’s a link in the Flash movie as well, but since there’s no search engine benefit to that one it’s not as controversial.

    Comment by Roy — August 17, 2010 @ 7:54 am

  6. Why not a rel=”nofollow” in your link ?

    Comment by Seb — August 18, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

  7. That would improve the current situation, and we may do that. On the other hand, should a user choose to allow the link, as a way to sponsor the project, perhaps we shouldn’t…

    Comment by Roy — August 18, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

  8. Make Cumulus mine! Thanks for the snazzy plug-in – really spiced up my blogsite. Keep up the good work! MM

    Comment by AndrewM — August 21, 2010 @ 3:44 am

  9. People use your plugin for free, you deserve a link!

    Comment by Charles M — September 8, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  10. WP-Cumulus now in Greek. Thank you for your beautiful plugin. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Pano — September 9, 2010 @ 10:41 am

  11. Anyone know how to solve tagcloud.as

    line 67 warning 3596 duplicate ?

    var _loc_2:* = _loc_2;

    Comment by steve — September 10, 2010 @ 9:06 am

  12. You do not charge for this plug-in, and it is simply beautiful.

    I do not think that ANYONE would mind in the slightest if:

    1) Enabled by default
    2) Have a checkbox under plugin options to disable it

    Just a simple checkbox.

    My 2 cents

    Comment by Guest — April 27, 2012 @ 4:43 am