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I'm speaking of this user.

Many of their posts are merely links to a couple blogs, and I have flagged them as "not an answer" and left hopefully helpful comments for the user.

But while looking at their answers, I also noticed that it seems likely the blogs in question are their own; A number of their answer/links point to blog posts that were made on the same day as the answer was posted, and there are two blogs which are repeatedly linked to.

I know (suspect) that the requirement to share when you are affiliated with a product is not the same thing as requiring sharing when you are affiliated with a blog/site you are using as a reference. Of course, when sharing reference links to ones own content properly, it would seem to be beneficial to share that information.

But in this case, it seems the user in question is making blog posts almost directly targeting SO questions and then posting links as answers to them.

I suspect the "Not an answer" flags and comments left to indicate what we expect as an answer is probably sufficient here. Am I correct?

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Only 7 answers right now, some of which seem okay to me. Has stuff been deleted/converted into comments already? (Then the flagging worked, and I guess this user will indeed learn from that.) –  Arjan Dec 5 '11 at 14:21
    
@Arjan Yes; Five posts of theirs were already moderated in the interim. –  Andrew Barber Dec 5 '11 at 14:22
    
(Okay, nice work!) –  Arjan Dec 5 '11 at 14:24
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Unfortunately, I've seen this behavior become more popular lately, particularly in the [android] and [ios] tags. I think people have figured out that they can just write blog posts targeting specific questions and make money off of SO by directing traffic to their own ad-supported blog. The query here has identified some particularly bad abusers: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/99699/… –  Brad Larson Dec 5 '11 at 18:35
    
@BradLarson I share your opinion of the practice, definitely. I just 'faved' the question you linked so I can check out the queries now and again. –  Andrew Barber Dec 5 '11 at 18:45

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you suspect they're just looking for questions to answer to promote their own blog, you can politely refer them to the relevant section of the FAQ:

May I promote products or websites I am affiliated with here?

Be careful, because the community frowns on overt self-promotion and tends to vote it down and flag it as spam. Post good, relevant answers, and if some (but not all) happen to be about your product or website, so be it. However, you must disclose your affiliation in your answers.

If a huge percentage of your posts include a mention of your product or website, you're probably here for the wrong reasons. Our advertising rates are quite reasonable; contact our ad sales team for details. We also offer free community promotion ads for open source projects and non-profit organizations.

You can also just flag a few of their posts and have a moderator notify them privately if you're not comfortable leaving a comment.

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+1 I'm certainly comfortable leaving comments! (hehe; sometimes, way too comfortable... :p) but thanks for linking to that section of the FAQ; for some reason, I was thinking that section mentioned products, only. Not sure why I thought that... hmm.... –  Andrew Barber Dec 5 '11 at 14:20
    
@AndrewBarber Yeah, I figured if you brought it up here on Meta you'd be willing to comment. :) –  Bill the Lizard Dec 5 '11 at 14:22

In this case, you should flag one of the user's answers as "requiring moderator attention". The dialog that pops up allows for you to write a custom message to the moderator.

In that box, you would outline that the user seems to be promoting their blog in their answers.

As a result, the moderator handling the flag will more than likely review the user's answers to look for astroturfing (excessive self-promotion), and take the appropriate action if it is deemed this is in fact the case.

If the flag was deemed helpful, then your flag will be marked as such, or, if not, it will be declined.

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+1 On reminding me of the "custom" flag reason, and using that on a single one of their posts. Of course in this specific case, I think I've sort of already brought them to the attention of the appropriate folks by posting this Q! :D –  Andrew Barber Dec 5 '11 at 14:21
    
@AndrewBarber Yes, you have, but at the same time, the flags are really the more appropriate way to get a moderator's attention for something of this sort; much of what we do stems from the flag queue, and we handle this kind of thing all the time from there. –  casperOne Dec 5 '11 at 14:25
    
That thought actually occurred to me the moment I pressed "Enter" to post that comment. As much of a "process" person as I am, I'm disappointed in myself! Self-flagellation will commence presently! ;) –  Andrew Barber Dec 5 '11 at 14:30
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@AndrewBarber: No, really, no need to go that far. I think you've learned what you need to. =) –  casperOne Dec 5 '11 at 14:32

If the purpose of the answer is, in someway, just to post the link to the blog, then I would consider the answer spam too.

That is what I would think if somebody would keep posting answers that don't really answer the question, always adding a link to the same site (even if that site is drupal.org). It is what I would think also in the case somebody would answer to different questions about Drupal, always suggesting the use of a specific Drupal module, which could really be useful for the OP, when the OP is asking how to use a different module.

I don't think it makes a difference if the user is not affiliated with that blog, when he keeps answering with a link to that blog, and the answer doesn't really answer the question being asked.

To make an example, I am a site maintainer on drupal.org, which means I volunteered to make some tasks on drupal.org, and I have been given a rule that allows me to do things normal users cannot do (in some way, it is like being a moderator on a Stack Exchange site). I am not affiliated with the site, which means that I don't gain anything if there is an increment of visitors for drupal.org because the links I leave on other sites. Still, I think it would be inappropriate if I leave links to drupal.org in an answer that doesn't really answer the question; if, vice versa, I would leave an answer that is really an answer for the question, and I would give the link to drupal.org (or api.drupal.org, the sub-site for documentation) that is pertinent for the answer, then that would be appropriate.

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+1 An interesting and helpful viewpoint, I think; Spam is spam, regardless of the connection (or lack thereof) of the poster to the linked content. In this specific case, the links were at least passingly related to the question. –  Andrew Barber Dec 5 '11 at 14:27
    
On drupal.org, we consider spam every post with a link to an external site, where the link doesn't have any connection with the topic being discussed; so, for example, it is spam if the link is for a link for a site not build with Drupal to buy lingerie, and the topic "give me a list of commerce sites build with Drupal." (drupal.org has forums, and I could be interested of successful commerce site built with Drupal.) We don't consider it spam if we can show the OP is associated with the linked site, and gains something by letting other users following the posted links. –  kiamlaluno Dec 5 '11 at 14:42
    
I must say that on drupal.org we have policies about users cross-posting the same post in different places, or posting off-topic posts without spammy links; those users are first warned and, if they keep doing it, they are blocked. –  kiamlaluno Dec 5 '11 at 14:44

I usualy check the post against the four bullets here How can I link to an external resource in a community-friendly way? and if they don't have all four, leave them a comment with the link. If the answer is just a link, I flag as NaA no matter who wrote the target page. If they have made some effort to paraphrase, but haven't mentioned their affiliation, I comment "this appears to be your own blog" and then carry on with the link to the answer above, so that subsequent readers understand the affiliation.

It's not bad for someone affiliated with a product to answer (case in point: Eric Lippert answering C# questions) but the less well known products might be using SO for promotion, so should say so. In the same vein, it's not bad for someone who knows a topic well enough to blog about it to link to that blog, but the link should provide a service to SO, not use SO to provide a service to the blog.

I get livid when accused of spamming for including links to my blog. I make no money from my blog, it has no ads and I host it myself. I link there for convenience and laziness, which are not particularly defendable traits, but are not the same as being a spammer. A gentle reminder not to be lazy is usually all that's required to get better behaviour from a non-spammer.

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Good advice; and as someone who has probably linked to his own blog once or twice, I appreciate the note that not all linking to one's own blog or commenting on your own product is remotely bad at all, when done properly. From everything I've seen of yours, Kate, I'd be a bit miffed to see someone accusing you of spamming, too! +1 –  Andrew Barber Dec 5 '11 at 14:34

I think the number one rule is:

Are the answers helpful to the person that asked the question?

I find it very hard to consider a truly helpful answer to be spam, likewise if someone sends me an unsolicited email that solve a detailed problem I have at that time. (We are hitting the general problem of “how well targeted does spam have to be, before it is spam?”)

If unsure, flag one of the answers and explain the issue – then let the moderators do their job.

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Even if the linked blog post is relevant, I still consider it spam if it's a link to the user's ad-supported blog. They're deliberately using the popularity of Stack Overflow to make money off of the traffic here, rather than contributing the same material on this site. I find this distasteful. –  Brad Larson Dec 5 '11 at 18:31
    
@BradLarson Are you saying that if I see a question on another site, that has been answered on SO, I should post a copy of the answer to the other site, as it would be wrong to post a link to SO, as SO has adverts on it? –  Ian Ringrose Nov 8 '13 at 15:49
    
My older comment was in reference to people who only go and post links to their ad-supported blog in every answer they can find here. However, all of SO's content is CC-licensed, so you'd be perfectly fine in copying it over somewhere else (with proper attribution) if you thought it would answer another question. I do think I've eased up a bit on how we handle answers that link to a person's blog in the two years since I left that comment, though. –  Brad Larson Nov 8 '13 at 20:45

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