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The FAQ for this states:

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.

I'm having trouble thinking of examples where enforcing an affiliation disclosure would benefit the answer. It seems to me that most people looking for an answer to their question won't really care if the person posting owns the website or product. The person just wants an answer. Not specifying their affiliation would make it look like any other answer, and that seems fair.

Considering answers that are just links aren't real answers, where do we draw the line on what needs to have an affiliation disclosed? Thinking of this nice line:

Link-Only Answers (Delete Them)
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Detailed and Informative Answers that appropriately use their link as a reference

Where exactly does the "this answer needs affiliation disclosure" part fall? Can someone provide an example of where affiliation actually improves the content? I'd be interested to hear why people think it's so important that someone disclose their affiliation. Seems like if they follow the general rules for writing a good answer and providing a link as reference, it shouldn't really matter. So why are people so obsessed with users disclosing their affiliation?

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Your last point, "So why are people so obsessed with users disclosing their affiliation?" is more a comment to the related discussion you linked to, and not really relevant to this discussion, unless of course you got some evidence to back it up. I really don't think a [feature-request] qualifies as people obsessing with users disclosing their affiliation though. –  Yannis Aug 31 '12 at 20:24
    
Oddly, link-only answers can often be very useful, if misguided in the attempts to provide help. But I won't start a tangential discussion on that here. ;) –  Stuart Pegg Aug 31 '12 at 20:30
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@StuartPegg Good point, often non promotional link only answers are just noobs unaware that this isn't yet another forum, and there are chances they will improve their answer if properly guided. Self promotional link only answers on the other hand rarely get improved, to the point that I just don't bother and delete them (on Programmers). If the guy/gal couldn't bother writing a couple of paragraphs to promote their own product, I won't bother trying to help them salvage the answer... –  Yannis Aug 31 '12 at 20:39
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Enforcing the affiliation requirement also makes it much easier to spot a user's pattern of inappropriate self-promotion. –  David Robinson Aug 31 '12 at 21:30
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I am sure this question would have better score if asked by a 100 rep user (it doesn't look bad to me, or did I miss something?) –  ajax333221 Aug 31 '12 at 23:36
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@ajax333221 the question looks good to me, too. 1st revision has been a bit slippery which could cause a few downvotes but given that it has changed to current form in about 15 minutes it looks like majority dumbvoters just blindly followed the "outdated lead", without putting effort into reading the question –  gnat Nov 20 '12 at 11:24
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4 Answers

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Not specifying an affiliation makes it look like a neutral answer, affiliation means it's not neutral. It might still be the best answer, but at that point you need to disclose.

So I'd say the point where you need to disclose is the point where you name a web site, book, product, training course, or whatever that you have some promotional interest in. You don't have to make a big deal about it; a simple "Disclosure: I work for $company" at the bottom, or a clear reference like "my book $title", is sufficient.

The benefit to the answer is that the reader is fully informed of that potential bias. Yes, there are other possible biases that don't get disclosed; it's not a perfect system and you still need to do your own review of the content. But this removes that first hurdle, is easy to do, and does not impose an undue burden on posters.

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Exactly; Most answers are considered to be a reasonably 'honest, unbiased' view. When something is your own, it's impossible to be unbiased, to some degree. That's not to say the answer is wrong, but the reader should expect to be notified of that potential bias. –  Andrew's a Unitato Aug 31 '12 at 20:51
    
@AndrewBarber and Monica: It's nearly impossible to tell whether the answer is self promotional or not, if it's a good answer and the OP doesn't disclose their affiliation on their own. It's easier for poor answers, but there's absolutely no way to tell if a five paragraph answer with a link at the bottom for reference is self-promotional or not. I get the bias point, and it's an important one, but I feel it's mostly theoretical. –  Yannis Aug 31 '12 at 21:05
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I believe the community wants to avoid the addition of biased answers to maintain Q&A credibility - other sites may have been troubled by attempts of "astroturfing" by posters that don't share their affiliation.

While it's true that an answer is an answer, revealing one's monetary affiliation with a product that one is touting is a key component of integrity. It's one way for readers have sufficient data to do a fair evaluation of the benefits of the proposed solution versus other potential unaffiliated solutions.

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To answer your strict question here: always.

Even if the answer is a great, informative one, the user should disclose their affiliation, so that the reader understands that the information does not come from a disinterested, third party. That knowledge can make a big difference in how one sees an answer.

The idea of a post being spam and needing to be wiped out is separate, though related. Astroturfing is itself 'spammy' largely because it is dishonest and promotional, even if it is marginally 'useful'. On the other hand, a properly attributed answer's spamminess can be weighed more on the content itself.

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The "this answer needs affiliation disclosure" line is right before "Detailed and Informative Answers that appropriately use their link as a reference". Anything else should either become a detailed and informative answer or be removed.

However you do have a point, this isn't really about enforcing the affiliation requirement, most answers that would be removed because they didn't disclose their affiliation would probably also qualify as "not an answer" as well. And most people who take the time to write detailed and informative answers, almost never fail to disclose their affiliation. I think with good answerers is more a point of pride that their product solves the OP's problem than self-promotion.

If all of the above is true, it might seem that the requirement is useless. It's not, it's our "we don't like spam" notice in the FAQ. Who in their right mind likes spam? Well, spammers. What do we do with spammers? We usually destroy their accounts. And what if they come back and complain their account was wrongfully deleted? We got documentation to point to and tell them "tough luck, but you clicked the 'I agree' checkbox when you signed up, sucker".

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