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Why was my account suspended for a year without any warning? I had posted answers wherein I recommended software made by the company I work for. I tried to be thorough with my responses and only post relevant answers. My intention was not to astroturf or spam as I thought my answers would be helpful.

One day I logged in and I had a message indicating that my account was suspended for a year. Is there any kind of arbitration or any way I can undo the suspension by demonstrating my participation will be more generally contributory?


I think I should post on SE Philosophy thoughts on how spam is defined. Let's pretend that every user on SE worked for every company or organization who made each piece of software which they recommended in every post that they made across SE. If you worked for a company who made software that provided a solution to the question being asked would you simply not post a reply? And what would be the reason for not posting a reply? Fear of reprisal or the sincere feeling that you were wasting people's time by offering a solution by a company that you happen to work for? And if it is the latter, is that really a logical reason?

I generally think of spam as unsolicited and seldom relevant to the interests of its target recipient. If what I posted was thought out and offered as an actual solution to the problem then I think I'm missing something. Granted, I could have disclosed in my post that I worked for the company that makes the software. Would that have been enough to keep my posts from being deleted? Something tells me it would not be enough. Even with full disclosure it seems like it would still be considered wanton self-promotion.

So, how, then, does one go about offering solutions to people's questions when they work for the company who makes the software? Wouldn't the people who work for the company be the most qualified to explain how their software works as a solution to the questions being posed?

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What account are you referring to? The one that you're posting from doesn't appear to be suspended from any sites. –  mmyers May 21 '12 at 17:42
@mmyers Looks like it's their SuperUser account (out of your jurisdiction =P) –  jadarnel27 May 21 '12 at 17:44
Did you clearly indicate in these answers that you work for the company that made the software you were recommending? If not, they were likely marked as spam. –  Jim May 21 '12 at 17:48
Spam does seem to be a reason for a preemptive, year-long suspension. –  Jon Ericson May 21 '12 at 17:58
Spammers don't deserve a warning. –  Yannis May 21 '12 at 18:12
Btw, is this also you? –  Bart May 21 '12 at 19:13
Sweet Jesus, how many accounts can one person create? –  slhck May 21 '12 at 19:17
Given the evidence provided in answers I'd love to hear what you planned on presenting in arbitration since you haven't addressed any of it here (beyond your initial posting). –  Mike B May 21 '12 at 19:30
@slhck, about 127 when using the same email address, and it can get one quite some reputation too ;-) –  Arjan May 21 '12 at 20:06
Regarding your edit: there's a loooong discussion on this very topic linked to from my answer. Yes, it's a sticky and somewhat controversial topic. But ultimately, it's the decision of the community (through flagging) and moderators (when responding to flags) as to what constitutes spam - most of them will happily work with you to help tailor your answers into a form less likely to raise the ire of the readers, but the onus is on you to realize that you're being rejected and not just keep pounding away: the more persistent you become in the face of opposition, the less slack you'll get. –  Shogging through the snow May 21 '12 at 22:16
Please don't take your rants to Philosophy. We get enough of those there already. –  Cody Gray May 21 '12 at 22:26
@Shog9 Thank you for your post. I'm sorry I didn't read the post that you linked to. I will. Also, I wasn't aware of the flags or comments dismissing my posts. Seeing the screen shots posted here is the first time I've seen people's responses. Is this because I'm not aware of where I can view the comments and flags after my comments have been deleted? –  swilsonmcss May 21 '12 at 23:24
Possibly, yes. You'll want to read: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/new-global-inbox and then maybe bookmark stackexchange.com/users/1471979/swilsonmcss?tab=inbox - note that you may find messages that appear in the former but not the latter when, as in the case of the post in Arjan's screenshot, the community deletes it before you return to the site. You also received a moderator message (email + notification on-site) regarding this on Super User. –  Shogging through the snow May 21 '12 at 23:29
The real problem here is that you're asking for help on how to post appropriately after being banned several times (not really rocket science - stop doing the things that got you banned), but you're ignoring all the advice, refusing to read the FAQ and blog posts, and your attitude seems to be that you think we're the ones who are wrong. –  RivieraKid May 22 '12 at 9:07
@RivieraKid This. OP came here to reverse his ban because he wasn't warned.. then argues that his methods are legit after suffering through several warnings, bans, and deletions. Stop trying to wiggle out of this by splitting hairs on spamming. The community values real people suggesting products they have experience with. Not markets looking to push their wares on another community-driven site. –  Mike B May 22 '12 at 12:44

6 Answers 6

up vote 12 down vote accepted

The FAQ clearly states:

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.

Without this, it will certainly be flagged (appropriately) as spam, and often result in suspension or deletion.

Our moderators deal with a bunch of spam cleanup among other tasks, they can't take a long amount of time to differentiate what clearly looks like spam.

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thank you for your salient point. Yes, the FAQ makes sense and I would have been happy to comply had I been pointed to the FAQ some time before I started this thread. –  swilsonmcss May 25 '12 at 23:22

Relevant answers? You were posting your advertisements to old posts. You have 3 Stack Overflow accounts deleted (that I know of) and you keep creating new ones. You're saying you didn't notice that?

And here's what happened on Super User, before you posted yet another reference to that software, which rather than a deletion got you your suspension:

Warning: If you spam this product again, you will be suspended.

By the way: this seems to be a colleague who, if true, is doing the same?

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The first "colleague" post you link to actually seems like a solid answer, and not at all spammy. It does link to the blog on the company's site, but that's perfectly all right. –  Josh Caswell May 21 '12 at 18:04
@Jacques, the first link makes clear that the other person wrote a blog post on that companies site, hence I assume he works there. Given that, the second link then qualifies as spam, I'd say. (And the same person has posted a few more.) –  Arjan May 21 '12 at 18:06
Oh, I see, you meant it as evidence of collegiality. No argument about the second link from me. –  Josh Caswell May 21 '12 at 18:07
How does the comment "If you spam this product again, you will be suspended." from a diamond moderator not count as a warning? @swilson –  Cody Gray May 21 '12 at 22:29
That colleague apparently posted more on that blog, and has been asked about disclosure by others too, but keeps posting undisclosed nonetheless, @Jacques. :-( No direct link though, which makes me wonder if they think it's harder to detect spam then... –  Arjan May 25 '12 at 2:26
(Oh, all answers from my previous comment have been removed already too! Need to get myself 10k on SO, so I don't need those screen captures just in case someone comes whining about being banned!) –  Arjan May 25 '12 at 2:45
@TheEstablishment without the screen shot I never would have seen nhinkle's comment. I don't count that as a warning given that the screen shot was posted in this thread. Do you? Since comments are not copied in emails messages by default how am I able to read the warnings (ever) unless someone took a screen shot? This goes true for all warnings, etc. for all deleted posts in question. Perhaps someone at SE would look into fixing this issue because to me it is unfair. Warn me all day long but if I never see them then how am I to know? –  swilsonmcss May 25 '12 at 23:14
They go to your inbox, @swilson. You can see your own deleted answers. –  Cody Gray May 26 '12 at 7:26
@TheEstablishment, thank you. I found it! For anyone as unelightened as I am go to your profile, click on the reputation tab, scroll down and check the box that says, "Show removed posts". I wish that had jumped out at me a couple weeks ago. Now I get to read all of the scathing, er constructive, comments that brought us here ;) –  swilsonmcss May 31 '12 at 21:03

FWIW: this looks a bit confusing, since you actually had your Stack Overflow account deleted after your messages there were flagged and removed. Twice. So even though your current account doesn't have anything incriminating on it, the Trilogy moderators are quite familiar with you and your product by this point.

Whatever you're doing, it's not working - as Nick notes, folks here tend to be extremely sensitive to spam, so be extra-careful not to look like you're spamming them...

A year is a long time for a suspension, but frankly it's generous when you consider that most sites just destroy accounts where the first post is flagged as spam. If you can demonstrate your ability to post things of value that don't promote your own products - even a little bit - you'll have a much easier time arguing for a reduced suspension.

If you keep it up, you'll probably find the name of your product blacklisted in short order. You don't want that.

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Having an account nuked from SO for spamming sounds like warning enough if you then create a new account and repeat the pattern –  random May 21 '12 at 17:56
And then repeat that, @random. 1, 2, 3 and 4 probably awaiting the same... –  Arjan May 21 '12 at 18:00
I'm not sure why you're accusing me of creating a new account and repeating the pattern. I posted similar responses to other questions at other SE sites. You need an account to post to other SE assets. I'm not sure how you can count these as new accounts when your account on SO gets sucked into your account on META automatically. Please keep in mind, to my knowledge, I was NEVER warned. The only proof of any warning are in a couple of screen shots. Which, given that the screen shots were posted on this thread (after the fact), they can't be considered warnings. –  swilsonmcss May 25 '12 at 23:20

(Disclaimer, Long time/high rep user on SU, and I keep an eye out for things to flag because I want my Marshal badge. Spam is about the only thing I can flag, outside not a answer at this point).

I'll spell out exactly where you might be going wrong. It may be a little generic, since I hadn't noticed you enough to flag you so far.

1) Unless it's an unanswered question bumped up by community, or its an earthshakingly good post, thread necromancy is annoying as hell. Even if you weren't posting standalone, pretty vague answers promoting your product, it's annoying. See 3

2) You're acting like a spammer, not a poster with a professional affiliation. An example of how to post good answers for your employer's product would be ninefingers of macrium. His affiliation is clear in every post that needs it, and he posts good, detailed answers based off his knowledge of the product in question and engages the community, answering and asking other questions outside his company's product as well. Be a user with an employer who happens to have a product you want to share, not an employee trying to sell a product and nothing else. If your only reason to be here is to post about your product, something is wrong.

3) Answers need to standalone and in detail. Pretend you're repwhoring. Have snippets of script, screenshots of configurations. Compare "use our product, write a script, run an extractor" to "I'm from X, and you can use your free product Y to do this. Here's an example of what to do". Amusingly the examples of your co-worker or possible coworker linked to an answer for this question do both. Good answer Bad Answer

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Hmm, no. There is no such thing as "thread necromancy" here. If you have a good answer, post it, regardless of how old the question is. If it's not a good answer, then don't post it, regardless of how new the question is. The age of the question is completely irrelevant. This is not a discussion forum. We've evolved past that. I never understood people who used to rant on about "necromancy" before in the Dark Days of the Internet, and I certainly don't understand it here. The problem with spam is not that it bumps up old questions, it's that it is unwanted, unhelpful self-promotion. –  Cody Gray May 22 '12 at 4:32
Well, there's the sort of thread necromancy that adds to answers, and there's just bringing up the shambling ought to remain dead. I don't mind it when old questions get bumped up cause someone posted something useful. I find me too or low quality answers to old questions bad tho. Its not policy, but its a useful thing to keep in mind. –  Journeyman Geek May 22 '12 at 5:04
If it "ought to remain dead", it should be flagged for closure and/or deletion. And yes, bad answers are bad answers, regardless of the age of the question. –  Cody Gray May 22 '12 at 5:23
@JourneymanGeek, I'm going to have to agree with TheEstablishment regarding "thread necromancy". If it's a good answer then its useful. I also agree that I could have constructed my answers better. This is where feedback is useful, thank you. It's too bad the system is not set up to give feedback when it is so quick to remove its own feedback. Odd. –  swilsonmcss May 25 '12 at 23:38

Please note that none of the "answers" you have given here are even worth a single upvote even if they weren't posted by someone affiliated with the company. There is no information useful to the questioner or anyone else in these answers.

The only way this could be remotely acceptable is if you post source code tailored to each question in addition to disclaiming your affiliation with the company.

I don't think The Stack will suffer for losing you for a year. Before you return, please read Jon Skeet's helpful essay about answering technical questions.

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I wish I had my old posts to refer to but I did post "source code" for download in a couple of my answers. The source code was a direct solution to each of the questions posted. It took some time to develop the code for the answers and they would have either solved the issue in question or would have started them down the right path. Yes, I should have disclosed my affiliation. Now I know and I'll try to do better in the future. Does anyone know of a way to view the deleted answers and related comments?? –  swilsonmcss May 25 '12 at 23:42
@swilsonmcss: Sadly, getting access to your own content, once deleted, is fairly difficult. You'd pretty much have to have the post ids stored somewhere offline. –  sarnold May 25 '12 at 23:48

Given the suspension reason (suspended for promotional content) on SuperUser, it seems likely that while you admit here that you were recommending software produced by the company you work for, on Super User you either didn't make the association clear, or most (or all) of your answers were promoting your company (regardless of whether they answered the question, such shameless self-promotion is generally not OK).

Both behaviours are unwelcome on the StackExchange network. If you really want to advertise your company's products, then ad space is available on the network, but answers are not the place to be promoting your product.

EDIT: As to your question of how to get your account unbanned - I'm not sure there's much you can do. You could try emailing the team and explaining the situation, but I doubt there's anything anybody here could or would do.

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thanks for your answer. –  swilsonmcss May 25 '12 at 23:44

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