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What makes an option strategy long or short?

I got the impression that if it is a net debit (you pay to open the strategy) it is classified 'long' (strangle, straddle) Then I learned about the call butterfly which is short (when debited to open) and long (when credited to open) and got confused. What became further confusing is that the long iron butterfly http://www.optionseducation.org/content/oic/en/strategies_advanced_concepts/strategies/long_iron_butterfly.html has the same PL characteristics as the short call butterfly http://www.optionseducation.org/strategies_advanced_concepts/strategies/short_call_butterfly.html

Is there some generalized rule that would apply to all strategies and provide explanation as to why a strategy is classified long or short?

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there are standard market-accepted option structures and the definition of a long or short structure is well-understood. You can't create a custom structure and assume anyone understands the exact structure by just communicating it is long or short. You need to show the side of each leg that makes up your custom structure. Please see a recently raised question that is very similar to yours. –  Matt Wolf Oct 24 '13 at 6:31
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