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11 Answers 11

Fundamentally, there is very little wrong in believing in one's own product and recommending it to others. However, ethically, a poster should provide some sort of disclaimer of their bias.

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In a couple of the posts, he actually did admit it was a shameless plug and that he was the developer of the product. –  paxdiablo Nov 25 '08 at 1:51
    
Thanx Pax, though I probably should consistently do that in the future I see now... ;) –  Thomas Hansen Nov 25 '08 at 1:57

Hi Daok, thank you for noticing me :)

First of all, I'm not a "vendor". Ra-Ajax is LGPL and Free of Charge to use, and yes as Mezoid says, I truly believe in my own product.

But more importantly I try to only post links to Ra-Ajax where it makes sense within the frames of the question. Is this wrong...?

If it is I will modify my behavior, though I feel it's quite OK...?

Fundamentally I don't see the difference between someone posting a link to some jQuery or Prototype solutions for a question...

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I don't think it's an issue so long as you follow the guidelines Bill spells out above. I'm not sure why your answers were voted down, unless it was vindictiveness that caused them to. –  George Stocker Nov 25 '08 at 2:13
    
Thank you Gortok :) I will none the less try to be a little bit more "careful" in the future and always state 2shameless plug" when I link to Ra-Ajax and try to not link to Ra-Ajax in places where it doesn't make sense... –  Thomas Hansen Nov 25 '08 at 2:16
    
I am NOT the original poster of this POST Thomas Hansen.. I only edited the tag. –  Daok Nov 25 '08 at 13:23
    
Hi Daok, sorry, I am still getting used to the system here at SO... –  Thomas Hansen Nov 25 '08 at 13:57
    
I think "shameless plug" might give the wrong impression, "full disclosure" might be a better way to put it. –  Sam Hasler Nov 25 '08 at 15:19
    
@Sam Yes, I've been thinking about that myself. As in trying to create another word since the "shameless plug" doesn't justify it I feel. I guess your comment just made me more confident in constructing one ;) –  Thomas Hansen Nov 25 '08 at 15:39

I think SO is working as designed here. Of the posts you mentioned:

In addition, some of the answers are marked offensive, presumably as spam since I couldn't detect either abuse or hate-mail in them.

If you're unhappy with the answers, vote them down or mark them offensive. But it should be on the merits of the individual answer; don't be vindictive towards a user simply because of behaviour (what if you get a question "I'm looking for an product that a friend mentioned, sounding something like Re Ajacs but Google isn't helping. Does anyone know its real name?").

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If it's not an answer to the question, down vote it. If they do provide the best answer (or even just a good answer) I'd up vote. If they're shamelessly plugging their company when there's an obviously better answer (define "better" however you wish), then I'd consider it offensive.

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Looking at your links, this particular poster seems to put disclosures (that he works for it), besides his library is open-source (LPGL), so if (and only if) the answer really fits to the problem, it seems ok for me. I mean, you can generally use the code, try it, etc...

Otherwise, like on the first link where the question is about jQuery, it is off-topic, and it should be downvoted I think.

For a commercial proprietary product, it's different, unless there is no other clear solution to the problem, I would consider it as an ad, so as spam.

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Personally, Thomas is recommending an LGPL library in a manner which seems very on-topic for the questions he is answering. I have no problem with his doing it, though I would like to see always that the poster has included a disclaimer of affiliation so I could be aware of possible bias.

If it were a commercial offering, I would, as others have suggested down-vote it and expect that they pay for advertising on SO. I would also flag it and tag it SPAM.

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You just have to downvote him and write a comment with a reason if you do not like. At least his post doesn't spam for a product that make non-sense like Viagra.

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I work for a large software company that makes a product that has been asked about on SO a few times. When I see a question about the product I work on, I try to answer it as best I can with as little marketing-speak as possible. I also put a disclosure on my answers saying that I work for the company.

I joined Stack Overflow as a "private citizen", not as an employee of my company, and it is not part of my job description to answer questions about our products. But my product is part of my overall skillset, just like C, perl, python, etc.

If I see a question asking "What's a good product for blah" where blah describes a feature of my product, should I not answer it?

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If its a real vendor, I think it should not be allowed, It wouldn't be fair for Jeff Atwood and other owners of stack overflow. If they want to advertise the should really contact the SO team. Or maybe SO should have a vendor type account, which incur some fees to register.

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A "vendor account" with fees is actually not such a bad idea, might be a GREAT ad model for Jeff, Joel and Co, though they should be flagged when posting though (obviously) - though Ra-Ajax is not a commercial product. It's Open Source (LGPL) and Free of Charge to use... ;) –  Thomas Hansen Nov 25 '08 at 2:44
    
I can't think of a reason why it should not be allowed. If it is a legitimate solution/answer then it qualifies as a good answer. the poster should of course disclose. –  tim Dec 21 '08 at 22:09

Spam. (Unless the question happens to be, "can someone recommend an AJAX library for ASP.NET")

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just saying 'Spam' doesn't address the question which is about what the SO policy is on this matter and whether the practice is encouraged or discouraged by people on this site. –  mezoid Nov 25 '08 at 2:59
    
The SO policy for dealing with spam is down-voting and marking offensive. There are tools for each attached to every answer posted. I honestly don't understand what logic would lead you to think that using answers on tangently-related questions as an opportunity for advertising would be encouraged. –  Shog9 Nov 25 '08 at 3:27
    
@Shog9, not all of them were off on a tangent - some of the answers were relevant to the question. –  paxdiablo Nov 25 '08 at 5:46

Spam. In most cases this person has been reasonably up front about it, but is still spam.

For questions about ajax libraries and so forth, if I wanted a vendor perspective, I would ask a vendor. I turn to SO for community opinion and consensus, not canned marketing speak. You can get that anywhere.

Edit:

To clarify, I don't think Thomas was being in anyway offensive in these cases, and had a fair degree of disclosure, but as a matter of principle, if vendors want exposure on SO, they should pay for ad space. That's what keeps this afloat.

Otherwise, we will end up with people making a commercial venture of seeding SO with product plugs, just like digg. It's bound to happen eventually, but would be nice if we could keep SO useful for a little while.

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