Hi

I see StackOverflow questions like :

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/864282/excel-vba-to-check-if-a-row-exists

and I am tempted to reply with :

" You could run a query such as

'SELECT COUNT(), COL1, COL2 FROM A GROUP BY COL1, COL2 HAVING COUNT() > 1'

using my Excel Add-In QueryCell. See www.querycell.com "

Would this be appropriate or spammy ? On the one hand it's relevant, on the other it's a blatant plug for my commerical product ?

Cheers

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see: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/8323/… –  waffles Aug 9 '09 at 12:14
    
Duplicate? meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/10174/… –  deleted Aug 9 '09 at 22:29
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7 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

I say that if it is a relevant answer, then post it.

You might want to put a disclaimer, but I don't see anything wrong with it. And if others don't like it, it won't get voted up.

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I agree: feel free to mention your product (if relevant), but be up-front about the affiliation. –  Jonik Aug 9 '09 at 12:29
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A Proper disclosure is absolutely necessary IMO. –  Adam Matan Aug 9 '09 at 14:27
    
case-in-point stackoverflow.com/questions/101366/… –  bobobobo Aug 9 '09 at 14:30
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I've recommended my own product a couple of times on SO, but only when it's directly relevant, and with proper disclosure. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, and no-one's ever complained (quite the opposite - people have thanked me for it). –  RichieHindle Aug 9 '09 at 14:35
    
(-1) I disagree –  devinb Aug 9 '09 at 21:57
    
@devinb what is your reasoning? just putting "i disagree" is the same as downvoting without a comment at all. –  Rex M Aug 9 '09 at 23:33
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@devinB - would you mind explaining? If a person happens to work for a company that has a product that honestly helps to solve a problem, then they should be allowed to mention it. I completely agree with Udi, they must disclose that information. And if they are agregiously trying to sell a product when they shouldn't be, their answer will get voted down. –  epotter Aug 10 '09 at 2:07
    
@epotter and rex, I have explained in my answer. Although my answer is similar to yours, I think your answer is too terse, and it disagrees with the tendency on SO to downvote anything they consider self-promotion. Also, relevant is relative, and to someone who's been working day-in and day-out on a product, it seems relevant to EVERYTHING. –  devinb Aug 10 '09 at 11:54
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I'd agree with everything Jon said - but it would also depend on the numbers; if every answer you post is a plug for your product, there is a chance you will get flagged as spam - and possibly even astro-turfing.

But within reason as long as the posts are on-topic (and not the sole reason for your SO existence), then great! Another possibly-helpful answer.

Being clear in your disclosure will help; people can often tell when you're affiliated with a product, and based on the usual responses people prefer openness.

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While making every post a plug for your product isn't appropriate, it may well make sense for someone to only post answers to questions related to their product seems okay to me. (For instance, I wouldn't mind if Eric Lippert only posted on C# topics!) –  Jon Skeet Aug 9 '09 at 13:55
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@Jon - Oh, I agree entirely; but my point is about the reality of what happens. I get very direct visibility of the spam/etc flags, and it is very common for a number of a user's posts to get flagged at once - meaning: somebody has seen one posts as spam, checked the user's profile, and flagged all the likely candidates as spam. I was referring to the behaviour of the SO community at large. –  Marc Gravell Aug 9 '09 at 19:54
    
The issue itself is a complex one, and we've had a number of off-forum discussions about both specific cases and general policy; but the brutal reality is that if you start getting enough "spam" attention, then eventually "steps will be taken". –  Marc Gravell Aug 9 '09 at 19:57
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Just to pipe up before anyone else mentions it :)

If it's relevant and will help, I think that's fine. I've referred people on SO to C# in Depth before, and others on SU to Google Sync.

I would think of it like this: I don't think it's any more wrong to refer to your own product than to refer to anyone else's. If the answer would be okay if someone else posted it, it's okay for you to post it. If it wouldn't be useful if someone else posted it, you shouldn't post it either.

Basically it's about the answer rather than the person.

(Having said that, I do usually try to include a disclaimer if I have any personal involvement, just to avoid charges of trying to do sneaky advertising.)

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However, in your case, when you're plugging the book you wrote, it's after you're answering the question (How do I do XYZ). You aren't saying "You can have your answer after you pay for it" –  devinb Aug 9 '09 at 22:01
    
@devinb: No, but sometimes it's a case of "Here's a quick answer, there's more info in the book" which could sound almost as bad. –  Jon Skeet Aug 10 '09 at 5:32
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I would suggest you put links in cautiously. Take a step back, look at what it looks like to the person you're helping, and decide if it really is helping them, or you are just plugging. Where ever you would put your link, consider seeing your compeditors link in the same place and see how you like the idea.

If you come along trying to fit your link into questions, you'll almost certainly come off as being spam to the user.

The text you posted above as-is I would consider spammy initially, but I'd be likely to check your post history first and see if you have a penchant for self promotion.

If it was obvious your account existed here with more than 20% purpose being to link to your site, I'd be inclined to go through and delete links in your answers, and report you :).

  • Try answer the question as fully as possible without linking to your product.
  • Link to your product as a last resort
  • As everyone else has said, disclosure is a must.
  • As an advertiser, you are here to serve the community, the community is not here to serve you. If you want to reap returns, you have to give back at least as much as you expect to receive .
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I would down-vote that answer if I saw it attached to that question. And probably flag it as well.

The guy didn't ask for tools or add-ons. He asked for help with his VBA code or a built-in formula - your answer provides neither. So your code falls into pretty much the same category as the "Use jQuery" answers on JavaScript questions, or "Use Firefox" on IE questions... Except that those products are at least widely- and freely-available, while yours would presumably need to be bought and installed for every machine where the spreadsheet would be used.

In short, it's bordering on unhelpful at best, and stinks of self-promotion / spam at worst.


Now... If you were to provide a good solution to his problem according to the parameters he outlined in his question (a VBA script) and then suggest your add-on as an easier way of accomplishing similar things in the future, that would look a lot better.


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As mentioned in other answers:

If the poster is asking for an answer involving code, then you should provide a code related answer.

If the poster is asking about third party tools that do XYZ, and your product does those things, then absolutely! Tell them about it!

A fairly good metric would be to consider someone who had NO financial involvement in the product. If they would consider it to be a good answer to the question, then you can consider posting it, if they would consider the product placement to be irrelevant and/or completely useless to the task at hand, then you should not be putting it in there.

Lastly, because the community does not tend to tolerate spammy behaviour (even well intentioned) I would suggest that you err on the side of not putting in advertisements. Or at least choosing better questions to advertise it.

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I've worried about the same thing. I have occasionally recommended an open-source framework I wrote and maintain, and have received a few downvotes seemingly just because I mentioned it. I think that proper plugs can be fine if they're in context and actually helpful.

I try to only link to it if it relates to the question (e.g. the asker is wondering how to implement something that my framework does), and I always try to answer the question before plugging my own work. I respect others' right to disagree, but I'm a firm proponent of appropriate code reuse. It's sure hard to reuse something if you don't know about it.

I'm mostly active in the Objective-C and Cocoa tags, and a huge chunk of the questions are only because the asker isn't familiar with the APIs. It's quite frequent that people try to do something that the framework does far better and more efficiently than home-grown code. Would we really suggest that it's bad form to point out a library or tool that can make things much easier, particularly if it's open-source?

I think a lot of people are too quick to classify an answer as "astroturfing" regardless of the merit of the answer. Perhaps only "famous" programmers are allowed to suggest their own code? I would hope that people would give the answer a chance rather than rejecting it out of hand. Happily, I think most SO users are reasonable and will vote based on whether an answer is truly helpful, not just based on whether the answer includes a reference to something the author wrote.

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