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I just saw this question and answer pair posted on SO.

Though I don't have a problem with either people posting own answer or people asking questions about specific software libraries, I feel a line has been crossed here.

What are your thoughts? Is this a legitimate use of SO? What should happen to the question?

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Bur-ni-nate ---- –  Pëkka Jul 1 '12 at 19:41
    
@DiscountGucciHandbags - Need image with that. –  Oded Jul 1 '12 at 19:41
    
Why, certainly. trussphotography.com/?tag=flamethrower –  Pëkka Jul 1 '12 at 19:44
    
Also blogography.com/photos18/Inflamed1.gif –  Pëkka Jul 1 '12 at 19:44
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@DiscountGucciHandbags - I bow to your burn imagery. –  Oded Jul 1 '12 at 19:45
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For the question itself, it's now closed as off-topic. Even if this was a legitimate question, licensing problem as never been on-topic for Stack Overflow. –  HoLyVieR Jul 1 '12 at 20:43

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Previous important discussion:

Yoda correctly notes that in general, vendors of programming tools are not forbidden - under certain circumstances, even welcome - to actively post self-answered technical questions here.

However, in this specific case, even without the spammy feel, the question would not be a good fit for Stack Overflow even if it had organically grown from a genuine user's specific need. The question deals with a licensing issue specific to the trial version of a product. Had it been asked by a genuine user, that user would most certainly have been directed to the vendor's support resources, and the question closed as off topic or not a real question.

While programming issues related to the product might have merit (if the product has any real relevance in its market, which I'm not convinced of) this one definitely does not IMO.

In the end, the community will have the final say by casting (or not casting) its votes, so a lot will be down to how you present yourself. From the FAQ:

The community generally frowns on overt self-promotion and tends to vote it down and flag it as spam, so be careful.

If you want your question to survive, strive to give it as much substance as possible, and make sure it's really relevant to the community. To borrow a StackOverflow catchprase, show that the Internet is a better place because of the presence of your self-answered question on SO.

Another good thing to do is to do other things with your account than just promoting your product. Being active within the community sure helps when it comes to judging borderline cases, and getting advice on how to fix them.

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Also, it doesn't help matters that the user's other 8 answers (now deleted) all promoted their products. I destroyed those, but let this sit because I wanted someone else's opinion on it. It didn't feel right, but I couldn't articulate what was wrong with it. They clearly seemed to be doing it for promotional purposes, based on their previous answers, but they had followed the rules as far as attribution. The fact that it was about licensing was clearly off topic, though, and that's a good enough reason for removal. –  Brad Larson Jul 1 '12 at 23:38

As far as I'm concerned, that FAQ belongs on their web site and in their documentation, not posted to every Q & A site that their users might happen to visit.

I've VtC'd the question as not constructive and the answer as spam.

Does that mean all such questions should be treated this way? No. Consider the case where a legitimate user asks how to do such & such with their product.

But the OP in this case clearly stated that he was piggybacking on SO's Q & A format - nice of him to be honest, but that doesn't make the behavior welcome.

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Merely saying it's ok if a user asked but not if they post it themselves is like saying "Hey, it's ok if you create a sockpuppet to ask and answer without stating your affiliation or denying when asked." You (and everyone else descending on that Q&A) should be more specific as to what exactly was broken — Affiliation disclosure? Check. Specific question w/ specific answer? Check. Relevance to the community? I don't know since it's outside my expertise. All that seems lacking in that pair of posts is proper tags and some editing to remove the unnecessary commentary at the top –  Lorem Ipsum Jul 1 '12 at 20:02
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I remember Joel explicitly saying that such Q&A were welcome here and the post coming from a developer/support team of the said product made it all the more authoritative (although I can't find that answer now) –  Lorem Ipsum Jul 1 '12 at 20:06
    
@yoda I disagree. While yes you are right it is tougher to catch a sockpuppet in action, do we really want to encourage companies to use SO as a FAQ instead of creating their own FAQ dedicated to their customers? I don't. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 1 '12 at 20:07
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@yoda I agree that all the formal requirements are being met here, but my "I know spam when I see it" meter is going through the roof on this one. It feels way too localized (being, presumably, one proprietary product among dozens others) plus it's a licensing question that would be borderline off-topic even if it had grown organically. Worthless question + spammy circumstances = downvote and closevote. –  Pëkka Jul 1 '12 at 20:08
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@Discount I agree that this particular post "feels" like spam, although that feeling can be edited out. Since the question was on a more general policy stemming from this example, I felt it should be pointed out that there are cases where such behaviour is legitimate and has been expressly approved by SE. Of course, the community can always override that if it so chooses, but we should also then accept the risk of increased planting via sockpuppets. –  Lorem Ipsum Jul 1 '12 at 20:12
    
@yoda yeah, you're right - the full disclosure was the one thing that I liked about this Q&A. I'll try to formulate an answer that addresses your point –  Pëkka Jul 1 '12 at 20:14
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@Discount and Aaron: The earlier discussion that I'm referring to is this: meta.stackexchange.com/q/133522/160166 Please also see Joel's answer there. –  Lorem Ipsum Jul 1 '12 at 20:15
    
@yoda so who gets to judge at what "point at which these questions start being spam and or advertisements"? In this case it seems like SO is an odd place to start putting answers to FAQs about their product. If people have a licensing issue and the error message tells them to contact their support department, or those people really turning to SO? –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 1 '12 at 20:18
    
@AaronBertrand It's tricky, and the community decides that. Like I said, my point was more general than specific to this post because your point was that it's ok if a general user asks this question but not if the developer does. I also disagree with your characterization of honest disclosure as "piggybacking on SO's Q & A format". The proper action w.r.t this specific question is that licensing issues are off-topic for SO, hence VtC as such. Short and simple. –  Lorem Ipsum Jul 1 '12 at 20:22
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I characterized it as piggybacking because it seems like a perfect example of a FAQ that should be in their own release notes, on their web site, etc. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 1 '12 at 20:23

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