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There was a bit of a hubbub on gaming.stackexchange.com recently, where some people thought links to gold-farming sites should not be allowed in profiles, while others thought they should. I took the stance that they should be allowed, but that appears to be the less popular opinion.

However, according to similar questions on meta.SO, and even according to Jeff himself, as long as there's nothing illegal or (too) offensive, profiles are pretty much anything-goes, including advertisements for your businesses.

So let me take it to an extreme: if I have a site selling male-enhancement pills, and I do everything by the book (have the right paperwork, don't sell where it's illegal to sell, etc.), can I have a link to it in my profile?

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Think about it for a few seconds, and I'm sure you get the right answer. –  Toon Krijthe Jul 9 '12 at 23:17
    
Spam spam spam spam.... Yeah, couldn't resist. But I would say that's pretty much a no go. I think the "Within reason" of Jeff's answer applies here. I don't think the particular example can be considered "within reason". –  Bart Jul 9 '12 at 23:20
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Hi, I'm from Belgium, prostitution is legal here.. can you see where I'm going? Maybe we could share a server? ;) If these sites are for professionals and to be associated with professionalism then it should link only to professional and personal-professional-interest oriented sites within the context of programmers and programming. The only big blue allowed should be IBM if you don't want to detract from the general image and character. –  Harald Brinkhof Jul 9 '12 at 23:22
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Depends. Do the pills work? –  Yannis Jul 9 '12 at 23:32
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@Harold No, actually, I can't see where you're going with that. Are you suggesting that after years of a user's profile box being for whatever they want, now they be censored for professionalism? –  NickC Jul 9 '12 at 23:35
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Your profile is your own profile. As long as it's not blatantly offensive/a virus/live bobcat etc we don't really care –  Ben Brocka Jul 9 '12 at 23:43
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If this becomes a meme... –  CodaFi Jul 10 '12 at 0:19
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So does someone from Stack Exchange need to go set the record straight on Gaming? I think the reason the op asked this question was to make a point that a SE site is potentially, if not outright, going against SE policy, which pretty much says "anything goes" in profiles. –  jmort253 Jul 10 '12 at 0:20
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@jmort: see my answer - these sorts of profiles (links to dodgy sites + no posts / one or two lousy posts) are fairly common, and I'll wager most moderators destroy them on sight without really putting much thought into the sanctity of the bio text. In theory, someone with a proven track record could link to all sorts of dodgy stuff; in practice, folks who've invested time and effort into building a site generally care enough to not jeopardize it. –  Shog9 Jul 10 '12 at 3:11
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@Shog9, what about discount Gucci handbags? :) –  Benjol Jul 10 '12 at 5:36
    
Always gotta be one of 'em, @Benjol ;-P –  Shog9 Jul 10 '12 at 5:47
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Let me get this straight - you are a Viagra using gamer? I don't think I'll come to one of your LAN gatherings. In any case, nobody is forcing anybody to follow any links in any profiles. –  slugster Jul 10 '12 at 9:34

4 Answers 4

up vote 23 down vote accepted

So let me take it to an extreme: if I have a site selling male-enhancement pills, and I do everything by the book (have the right paperwork, don't sell where it's illegal to sell, etc.), can I have a link to it in my profile?

Not extreme enough. It's very rare for moderators to edit a user profile on Stack Overflow. When we do, it's (almost?) always because someone picked a user name or a profile picture (things that show up on every post they make) that was offensive.

Male enhancement pills are sold on television here in the U.S. I know a lot of people might feel a little bit embarrassed talking about them, but I don't know if I'd consider them offensive. If you were promoting them in a tasteful way (like on TV, not like on a porn site), and only in your profile, then I think the ad would stay.

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A recent example that seems to have been extreme enough: Flag a user's "about me". (Personally I think the alarm, and editing, were unwarranted.) –  Josh Caswell Jul 10 '12 at 0:59
    
Reminds me of a user I saw awhile back who's name was "fluffmyboner" -- I checked back in a few weeks and sure enough, it had been changed. –  Adam Rackis Jul 10 '12 at 3:04

In theory, you can put anything into your profile. But use common sense.

If it's offensive or illegal sooner or later somebody will complain and the profile is cleaned.

But look at it the other way. Do you want to be remembered by your excellent contributions to the site, or do you want to be remembered as the P pill guy?

Example: Second story. The human mind works in mysterious ways.

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I guess you just got downvoted by Ian Osterloh... –  Bart Jul 9 '12 at 23:34
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Had to Google Ian Osterloh in order to truly appreciate the comedy in that statement. –  nickb Jul 9 '12 at 23:57
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@Gamecat It's not really mysterious. These are (arguably) pretentious people who don't want any trace of dirt on their speck-free image. –  bobobobo Jul 10 '12 at 1:11
    
"But use common sense. If it's offensive or illegal" Whose common sense? Offensive to whom? Illegal where? –  AakashM Jul 10 '12 at 8:17
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@AakashM You may be interested in the legal term "reasonable person" and the "I know it when I see it" definition of obscenity. In short, these things are a judgment call by the people involved; they cannot be objectively qualified. There are obviously rough guidelines, which have been given. And SE is a US site/company, so assume US laws. –  Matthew Read Jul 16 '12 at 19:46
    
-1 for "use common sense." That doesn't mean anything. You're just saying "already know the community standards that we're trying to agree on in this very thread." –  AAA May 9 at 15:40

I think it might work under the following circumstance. You do not actually post about your little blue pills as an answer "Your wireless lagging? V1gr4!", and you probably mention that you are a sysadmin at "Not quite dodgy blue pill company" In addition to having a link to "bluepillcompany.com" on your profile. Make it clear that your reason for being here isn't selling little blue pills. You don't have anything else that may be offensive and rub someone the wrong way on your site.

Act just like any other user who happens to have a commercial affliation, and no one's likely to mind.

In short, It may be a good idea to take into account the totality of the situation rather than the link.

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Use a bit of common sense here: are we talking about a user who has spent time to get to know the site and its community, asked good questions and contributed valuable answers?

...or one who has never contributed anything to the site, and is obviously just using the profile as a toe-hold to post links (perhaps not realizing that profile links are no-follow'd for low-rep users and the "website" link isn't hyperlinked at all).

Because the second case is very common, and hardly merits discussion; spammer accounts are destroyed without warning or (apart from that user on Arqade) hand-wringing.

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