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I'm new to the Stack Exchange family of sites. Yesterday I posted a solution to an open question ("How can I access a database stored in my .apk without copying it?") in the hopes of helping future developers who might stumble upon said issue.

Hours later, no trace of it remains. A moderator seems to have deleted it without any discussion and with no recourse. And I can't even find a way to send this moderator a message! It's a rather frustrating experience for a first-time contributor.

The answer I posted might be viewable with this direct link: http://stackoverflow.com/a/10558007/1390231 (if you're a moderator?)

Update: Thanks to everyone for their assistance in restoring my answer; it seems as though I've hit upon a sensitive spot as regards the self-promotion. I'd like to suggest that in the future, moderators should try to pay more attention to first-time submitters; at the very least, a message indicating why the answer was deleted would have helped.

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Your answer existed almost entirely to promote your own work, and that is frowned upon here. –  Michael Petrotta May 12 '12 at 5:51
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@MichaelPetrotta He made it clear it has his own work, and it is freely available and non-commercial. How is that any different than linking to another SO answer he also wrote? –  agf May 12 '12 at 6:02
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@MichaelPetrotta I've read the FAQ. He seems well within the guidelines; the answer was relevant and it's clearly not spam. I don't doubt it was flagged as spam or that it was deleted as such with little consideration since it was his first post. –  agf May 12 '12 at 6:05
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@MichaelPetrotta I'm with agf here. I guess that's taking the FAQ line a bit too far... I don't see a problem with one post that's seemingly relevant to the question and has been clearly mentioned that it was their own work. I can accept arguments that say it links to an external source, code is at his mercy and he can take down the repo anytime, etc... –  Lorem Ipsum May 12 '12 at 6:19
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The question in my mind is how many of these answers did you post? A single answer, even if it looks a little spammy, is forgivable as long as you actually provided an answer to the question and complied with our other guidelines (e.g., more than a mere link to an external resource). As well, you seem to be complying with the FAQ about disclosing your own affiliation here. However, if you posted a whole bunch of these same identical answers to multiple questions, then that's not OK and they should have been deleted, perhaps your whole account. –  Cody Gray May 12 '12 at 6:21
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I don't see how disclosure is an escape hatch here, @Yoda. Relevance is, though. –  Michael Petrotta May 12 '12 at 6:24
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@MichaelPetrotta I wasn't saying that it's an escape hatch, but rather that we shouldn't be judging solely by the letter of the FAQ without going into the merits of the post (and the question). I'll admit, I know nothing about the question. But suppose it were a hard one, and the issue was a common sore point among Android devs and some chap writes up a fix for it, I'd say he should be able to post it as an answer. The OP seems to have done it in a fairly decent way — even gave an example of how to use it. I can see the link to the repo being problematic, but that's all. –  Lorem Ipsum May 12 '12 at 6:28
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BTW, I think the main reason the mod deleted it is because the first sentence "I've just started developing for Android, and ..." is exactly how 99% of the low quality and question-as-answer posts begin. The mod must've quickly glanced at it (given the volume of flags processed, a glance is a lot) and not found much to convince him otherwise –  Lorem Ipsum May 12 '12 at 6:31
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@Michael: "That's against the rules here" No, it isn't. The FAQ clearly states that "overt self-promotion" is frowned on, but explicitly not prohibited. The basic rules outlined in the FAQ are that the answer must be relevant (ie: a legitimate answer) and any affiliation must be stated clearly. If a moderator deleted this post solely because of self-promotion, then I would say they are being a bit trigger-happy. Granted, it was the user's first post, which is generally not the best way to start. –  Nicol Bolas May 12 '12 at 7:29
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If every answer I'd given which referred to one of my articles, blog posts or bits of code were downvoted, both my reputation and the site would be worse off, IMO. This wasn't promotion for the sake of promotion, it was "hey, that looked like a problem which needed solving - so I solved it, go and benefit from my effort." Not something to be punished, IMO. –  Jon Skeet May 12 '12 at 7:34
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@MichaelPetrotta: You seem to have missed the other clear language in the FAQ: "Post good, relevant answers, and if some (but not all) happen to be about your product or website, so be it." This is clearly a "good, relevant answer". It's not even promoting a product or the user's website - it's just a library on bitbucket. This sort of behaviour is not the kind that the FAQ entry was written about, IMO. –  Jon Skeet May 12 '12 at 8:22
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Was this the only answer you posted and only on this question? Or did you post duplicate answers too? –  Flexo May 12 '12 at 8:36
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@JonSkeet We tend to interpret the language "product or user website" very broadly. If it's a library, open-source project, etc, it all still falls under "promotion". It's a balancing act. Not speaking about this specific incident, we've had people pimp open-source projects and then try to use that as a basis for massive spamming of the site without providing good, relevant content. The point being, if you're promoting anything that repetitively and not giving good, quality answers that can stand on their own without the promotion, then you're probably doing something wrong. –  casperOne May 12 '12 at 14:39
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@casperOne: I fail to see what difference the authorship of the project really makes in that case. Take Java date/time questions, for example - they almost always recommend using Joda Time instead of java.util.Date/Calendar. (Certainly my answers do.) Now if Stephen Colebourne were to post exactly the same information as I do, would that suddenly count as "promotion" (and be discouraged) because he's the main author of the project? I think we ought to apply the "judge the post, not the author" criterion here too. The usefulness of the answer and reference does not depend on who wrote it. –  Jon Skeet May 12 '12 at 14:42
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@JonSkeet I do think the content needs to be taken into account more heavily than the author, but the real test of the usefulness of a library is if other people are using it and recommending it. If the author of the library is a) the only person promoting it and b) not providing any answers besides promoting their own library, then that's something we can do without. –  Bill the Lizard May 12 '12 at 15:05

3 Answers 3

Your answers (here and here) were:

  • Originally flagged for being duplicate content
  • Another user also pointed out that they were self-promotional in nature
  • The answers were also posted on very old posts that had already been answered (one of them with an accepted answer).

Put those three things together and 99% of the time it's spam. That doesn't appear to be the case here though, since you disclosed your affiliation and your posts are far more than the typical bare URL that most spammers leave. Your answers are relevant to the questions, and you even give example code (which I always encourage when I see people promoting their own libraries).

Since you did cover all the bases in providing good answers, I undeleted them for you. I apologize for the mix-up, but I do want to point out that if you see two questions that you're tempted to leave exactly the same answer on, we prefer if you flag them as duplicates so one of them can be closed instead.

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I can understand the first two points, but the third should be absolutely irrelevant. –  Andreas Bonini May 12 '12 at 11:42
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@Koper It's relevant when coupled with the other two points, not at all by itself. Spammers frequently copy/paste links on a bunch of old posts at once. Leaving actual relevant answers on old posts is not in any way discouraged. –  Bill the Lizard May 12 '12 at 12:08

I would recommend reworking the answer a little bit, and explaining the gist of the technique you used in your library, and mentioning the library at the end of the post. I don't develop on Android, but I found the second paragraph of the README more informative than your current answer.

As it stands, I don't think it's worthy of many upvotes, but I don't think it should have been deleted either. Once you make the edits, I am going to flag the post for the moderator to reconsider. I made some edits, and flagged the post for moderators to reconsider the deletion decision.

Any moderation system will occasionally produce false positives and false negatives. This should not detract from Bill's excellent work.

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I was involved in flagging both of those posts, so I'll offer some explanation and opinion, too.

First, just some plain facts for consideration of their applicability:

  1. I found these via the "Late answers" moderator tool, and was drawn to them due to the fact that they were posted so close to one another, and started off with the same wording.
  2. I am not the one who flagged them as duplicate content; I flagged as Spam
  3. I noted that the site that was linked (a bitbucket project) belonged to the poster, as evidenced by the name of the user and the link contained in their profile.
  4. I noted no other contributions from this brand new account.

Now for my opinions and the conclusions I drew; correction of which I welcome.

The first thing that drew my attention to these posts was that they started off with the same wording and were posted within minutes of each other, to old questions. This suggests to me a very non-organic method of using the site.

Next, when I read the posts, it seemed to me that they were not necessarily written as direct answers to the question; They seemed to be worded more generally, and the sample code was introduced as "Example usage", not, "Here's some possible code that might solve your specific problem".

So, although the answers were long and detailed, they did not seem to me to be directed specifically at the questions they responded to.

I also noted before flagging that they were the only two answers you had provided, in basically just a day of being a member. Your user name and profile website confirmed the content was yours, although you were also clear about that in the content itself.

Taken all together, it seemed that this account had only been created to promote this bitbucket project, and that the user had simply searched for some key words to find posts they could post a pre-written answer to. That is why I flagged them as Spam.


That said, I think you have also done the one thing that most strongly indicates against spam: You have taken ownership of your content, and inquired about it, here. As a result, I think the reversal of the deletions is appropriate, and I welcome your continued contributions on SO. Not that you need me to welcome your contributions - but I'm just saying! I would offer some gentle advice for the future, though.

First, try to contribute organically. That is; naturally. Rather than seeking content specifically related to something 'product-wise' you can offer, look more for content related to your more broad areas of expertise. You will come across cases where mentioning your product (open-source or not) is appropriate. When you do, be sure you tailor-design an answer for the person's question. When you do that, no one could mistake them for being spam.

Maybe take a few minutes each day browsing tags that are of interest to you, and post some answers here or there. Had I seen exactly what I saw, plus a dozen other answers that made no mention of your project, I wouldn't have dreamed of flagging as Spam.


Finally, keep this in mind; Things actually worked out well. If my spam flags are any indicator of overall rates, almost all posts/accounts deleted as Spam never even bother returning here to find that fact out; they have just driven by, posted their spam, and left, looking for other places to spam. You came here and took ownership and asked, and as a result, your content has been reinstated and both you and we have learned some nuances to take into account in the future.

Beyond that, I encourage what Sinan Ünür answered and what he tried to do with your post.

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