I dealt with a strange request from Vodafone this week. They wanted to fix a broken link in one of my blog posts from four years ago. Not to point it to the material it was citing, but to marketing material for Vodafone’s current iPhone plans.
I reckon that missed the point of that link from 2008, but read this exchange of email and see if you agree.
Here’s the first email from Vodafone, dated Friday 14 December 2012:
My name is [REDACTED] and I am contacting you on behalf of Vodafone.com.au
We have noticed that you have linked to our website from your page (http://stilgherrian.com/internet/vodafones-iphone-plans-better) to http://store.vodafone.com.au/iphone
This page is no longer the most relevant for our users. Are you able to change the destination web address to the following instead: http://www.vodafone.com.au/personal/iphone/home ?
Please let me know when this change has been made. We truly appreciate your assistance in this process.
Search Engine Optimisation Manager
Vodafone Hutchison Australia
Now I’ve always found it strange when people start emails by telling me what their name is, because I already know that. It’s clearly shown in the “From:” header.
Still, here’s how I replied later that day:
The thing is, that link is meant to reference the iPhone plans as they were at the time, in July 2008, because that’s the source material for the claim being made in the post. Linking to Vodafone’s late-2012 plans would be to link to completely the wrong data.
What’s the URL to the July 2008 iPhone packages?
Vodafone’s reply came on Tuesday 18 December:
That page no longer exists, thus the reason for my email. I believe the page (http://www.vodafone.com.au/personal/iphone/home) would be the most relevant, but if you think there is another page that would better benefit users that would be fine to link to also.
If you have any other questions please let me know.
This struck me as just plain wrong, and I replied within minutes.
I think you seem to be missing the point that the links on my website are for the benefit of my readers, not your customers.
In this particular instance, the purpose of the link is to show the readers the details of the plans I was referring to, as commentary on the industry at the time of writing, July 2008. Its purpose certainly isn’t to market your current mobile phone plans to my readers.
If you don’t have that material online — and I presume that you do what so many companies do, which is to consign everything to the memory hole rather than keep it as an archive so people might confirm what plan they were on previously should the need arise — then I’ll grab that historical information from somewhere else and host it directly on my own website.
There’ll be no link to the Vodafone website at all, because the material I was linking to isn’t there any more. To link to something else would be both misleading and a disservice to my readers, such that they are.
And that’s where I’ve left it. I have indeed changed the URL. Not to point it to material hosted on my own website, though, but to the Internet Archive’s copy of the page.
The format of that web page is screwed up, but the facts of the July 2008 plans are plain enough. And that, I think, is what we should be linking to in that post. But what do you think?