Building Insights. Breaking Links.

March 7, 2012

David Roberts just commented on the last-but-one post, Winkling licence information out of Elsevier, bit bit bit:

David Roberts Says:
March 6, 2012 at 11:41 pm e

The extra rights for sponsored articles page is now linked to from

And he’s right: here’s a screenshot of the Sponsored Articles page:


So this is a step in the right direction, isn’t it?  Movement in the direction of openness. (Not openness of the actual articles, of course; just openness about the non-open status of the articles. But still.)

Except …  What do you get if you click on the new link?


So in the spirit of collegiality and just generally being a helpful kind of chap, I suggest the following modification to Elsevier’s “building insights, breaking boundaries” motto:


“Oh, har har har”, you might say, in your best sarcastic voice.  “What is the purpose of this pointless snarking at Elsevier?”

Simple.  It shows that they just don’t care.

It takes ten seconds, max, to check that a link works.  All you have to do is click on it.  That they didn’t even take that ten seconds shows just how much they don’t get it.  I wanted to believe that adding the “User Rights” link showed that Elsevier recognised the importance of being explicit about such things, that they see that authors deserve at the very least to be actually told what rights they are giving away along with their $3000.

But if they had learned to care about this stuff, they would have done it right.  They they just shoved up a link and moved on without even clicking on it says to me that it’s just a cynical get-people-to-shut-up move.

So, no, it’s not pointless snarking.  In Elsevier, we are dealing with a corporation that has learned, through years of market dominance, author passivity and unchallenged exploitation, that it can do whatever the hell it wants and it doesn’t matter.  Which is why it routinely treats authors with contempt.

You’d hope the Cost of Knowledge boycott (now closing in on 8000 signatories) would have taught them better.  Apparently not.

Building Insights.  Breaking Links.

13 Responses to “Building Insights. Breaking Links.”

  1. Alf Says: – there’s a link that works (and has been there for a while) in the middle of the “Sponsored Articles” page.

  2. David Roberts Says:

    Actually I didn’t see the one you pointed out – it was a different one that is in the text, namely at the end of the sentence “Sponsored Articles have a specific set of user rights – for more information, please follow this link.” But the rights set out are _user_ rights, not _author_ rights. We are trying to find out author rights, here. In particular, do authors retain more rights qua authors than they do for a non-sponsored article?

  3. Liz Smith (@lexemes) Says:

    Hi Mike. I’m sorry you’re reading so much into a broken link, which was caught and fixed very quickly. Note that it will still resolve to the Page Not Found notice if you’ve bookmarked that URL. It’s best to start from the Sponsored Article page and click the link again. I hope this helps. Feel free to email me if you come across other broken links. In any large website they can unfortunately happen despite best efforts to the contrary.

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Liz. It’s evident that there are individuals at Elsevier who do care (and that you are one of them). But I am afraid the overall impression stands — as a company, Elsevier communicates that it just wants us to shut up and go away, not that it is interested in actually changing.

    You say “In any large website they can unfortunately happen despite best efforts to the contrary” but we both know that’s not true: only one link was added, only one link needed a single-click test; but that test was not done. We all recognise that link decay happens — you make a link, then a year or six later it breaks because the destination’s not there any more — but that’s not what happened here. A new link was added, and it was broken right out of the box.

  5. ech Says:

    Mike, this kind of thing happens. Building a quality website is hard, and Elsevier is obviously no Google. Broken links on launch can happen for a variety of reasons. I’d focus more on the content of the user rights page now that it works—I think there’s plenty to be concerned about there without railing too much on Elsevier’s QA.

  6. Matt Wedel Says:

    Nah, I’m with Mike, this is totally lame. We have been asking for more than a month now, in public and in private, to individual Elsevier employees and to the corporation as a whole, for clarification on their ‘faux-A’ license. And no-one, anywhere, at any level within the organization, has been able to tell us a damned thing. Now they finally put a link up, and it’s broken? Thanks, Elsevier, for showing us you give a crap. I regret that I have but one signature to give to the boycott.

  7. well, it seems the educational plan is working: the link now works. I have about as much trouble with my kids, but they are 4,5 and 3 years old…..

  8. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    … and don’t earn quite two billion dollars each year.

  9. […] include that information. A while after I posted that, they added a link to this page.  It was initially broken, then briefly mended, and now seems to have been completely removed again — hardly a sequence […]

  10. […] term “Sponsored Articles“.  [For anyone who needs to catch up: part 1, part 2, part 3, unofficial part 3-and-a-bit, part […]

  11. […] incredibly long time to get them to make these terms clear: see previous articles one, two, three, three and a half, […]

  12. […] on my part — that's how it is on Elsevier's own site, too. It's not the first time we've seen this kind of carelessness. Does no-one click on these […]

  13. […] pathetically, their site’s link to the most recent annual report is broken, but that’s a different bug for a different day.) Is it unreasonable to expect that two years should be long enough for them to fix a trivial […]

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