Let's start with an example question on Super User:
I want to insert pictures and words into a video, and the graphic file is in PNG format.
Here's an example answer:
You can easily do that with PNG_superimposer. You may try it for free, fully featured for 15 days and do the job. And it is total easy to use. (superimposer.info)
Now, the user is quite obviously affiliated with the product mentioned. And it's a promotional message, that's for sure. It also doesn't follow the FAQ, which clearly states that any affiliation with a product should be disclosed. However, one could say that the post might be useful – let's not consider the fact that the OP asked for open-source/free software here.
In this particular case @sblair edited the post to:
You can easily do that with PNG_superimposer (which I am affiliated with). You may try it for free, fully-featured for 15 days and do the job.
… which would now be an answer that fits the rules and is probably not worth flagging as spam. Now, I ask myself: Does the benefit of doubt still apply here? Shouldn't such an answer be flagged as spam anyway?
Because, in essence, there are two types of spam:
- Targeted spam (i.e. semi-"useful" answers that fit the context of the question)
- Untargeted spam (i.e. not even related to the question or otherwise very fishy stuff)
Note: The meaning of "Spam" is applied very broadly here. The above is not a completely irrelevant post trying to sell Viagra or stuff like that. However, it is still promotional without disclosure.
Here are some arguments that in my opinion apply to this kind of "targeted" spam:
Why flag as spam:
- The user is advertising a (commercial) product — and I think we have less concerns about open-source freeware advertisement.
- The user does not mention their affiliation, although it was requested by the FAQ
- The user is not likely to ever return to the site, thus being able to actually help the OP
- The user is not likely to ever contribute in any other way than advertising their product
- The user never had the intention of ever helping somebody for the right reasons (namely, participating here, getting reputation, etc.), but just to promote their software
Why not flag as spam:
- Somebody might still find the product useful
- Maybe there is only one of these products out there and it is the solution to the OP's problem
So, what is the community decision here? Flag as spam because there were no good intentions behind the answer, or edit and leave it because it might be helpful?