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Some of us from the Facebook Platform team have started answering questions with the "facebook" tag on Stack Overflow. I read in the FAQs that if you are "promoting your own products you must disclose your affiliation in your answers". As such I've been making sure to include "I work on the Developer Support team at Facebook" at the start of my answers. A user, genesis, has been removing that phrase from my answers saying it's not necessary. Is that true? It seems like a gray area and I just want to make sure we're doing the right thing either way. So yes or no to mentioning our affiliation?

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4  
Well someone's obviously going for that Strunk & White badge... –  Cody Gray Jul 21 '11 at 5:19
    
Aha! Good catch Cody. ;) –  Jeff Bowen Jul 21 '11 at 5:39
    
@CodyGray: I had that badge already ;) –  genesis Jul 25 '11 at 21:33
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7 Answers 7

up vote 16 down vote accepted

In general I would consider this a signature block, which is not necessary. I agree that removing the signature block is the correct thing to do here, since it's ultimately more words on the page that don't necessarily answer the question. Here at Stack Exchange we have an irrational love of signal-to-noise ratio. :)

The key point is that you're not promoting any specific technology, you are merely answering existing questions that are already about that technology.

Obviously mention your affiliation with Facebook in your user profile, of course, since that's relevant and interesting to anyone who wanted to know what your background is.

Oh, and thanks for participating -- and asking about this on meta!

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Cool. Thanks for the clarification! The speed and consistency of everyone's responses on this is pretty amazing. Lots of good answers. I'll share this thread with the team. –  Jeff Bowen Jul 21 '11 at 5:38
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It is indeed a gray area. My take on it is there's a big difference between promoting your products and answering questions about your products.

The user who asked the question is already using your product (Facebook), and wants to know how to use it to do something. In that case, you're not making a (potentially biased or spammy) recommendation that the user use your product. You're merely offering expert advice on how to use the platform that they already are using.

What the FAQ is talking about are those instances where the asker inquires about how to do something, and you answer with a recommendation to use your own product to do it. For example:

Q: How do I parse XML with Perl?

A: Oh, there's this super-cool, awesome, never-fails, 100%-reliable library that you can use called PerlXMLParsePro. Download it here <link>.

In the former case, disclosing your affiliations in your profile seems perfectly sufficient. If people really care, they can and should check there for details. In the latter case, disclosure of your affiliation in the answer itself is quite mandatory. (Though it need not be extensive; a short comment is fine.)

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oh God, your example is giving me 'nam flashbacks. That is exactly the kind of thing that is unwanted and happens all the time. (And it's nothing like the example in the question, of course..) –  Jeff Atwood Jul 21 '11 at 5:19
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If someone were asking a question like "Which social networking site should I use" where you were the one bringing Facebook into the conversation you'd definitely need to disclose your affiliation. (or if it's a question comparing Facebook vs MiscCompetitor)

In cases where the question is already about Facebook exclusively I don't think it's required. It's probably useful for people to know though, and I think he's being a bit overzealous by removing it. If you feel strongly about it or want to be absolutely sure of compliance you can just roll back the edits.

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I don't think he is being overzealous in removing the signature block, since we have an official policy that signatures are not allowed. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 21 '11 at 5:20
    
@Jeff: It would be the first time I've ever seen a user remove an affiliation. I did upvote your answer, though –  Robert Harvey Jul 21 '11 at 5:24
    
@robert well, the author of HAProxy answers questions about HAProxy, like so: serverfault.com/questions/253324/… and he doesn't need to put "-- Willy T, author of HAProxy" at the bottom of all his answers. The fact that his profile URL points to the HAProxy website should be sufficient .. though I wouldn't mind if he did put "author of HAProxy" in his user page about me field, either. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 21 '11 at 5:34
    
@Jeff: I don't have a problem with that. –  Robert Harvey Jul 21 '11 at 5:39
    
@Jeff - I guess if you consider it a signature then you're right. In this case I think it's useful because it helps evaluate the quality of the answer (I don't check every answer's profile to see if they're associated with the product in question) and acknowledges potential biases (though not as big a problem in this type of case). Perhaps those benefits aren't mutually exclusive with being a sig though. –  Brad Mace Jul 21 '11 at 5:40
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@bemace I didn't want to explicitly call this out, but I think each answer should be validated on its merits and not necessarily because "user X works at company Y". For example some of my answers here on meta have actually been wrong. (Not many, I think, but my point is that just because I work here doesn't mean I know everything or that my answers are even guaranteed to be correct 100% of the time!) –  Jeff Atwood Jul 21 '11 at 5:45
    
@Jeff - I guess you should've called it out, it's a very good point. While I can still see cases where it could be helpful to know, your reasons for favoring removal make sense. –  Brad Mace Jul 21 '11 at 5:50
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If the asker is already using the product you are affiliated with, then you are not promoting the product by answering the question. If the asker is using a competitor's product and your answer suggests using your product instead, then that is a valid answer but is also promotion.

To put it another way, if you are acting in a support role rather than a marketing role, then it will be quite obvious from your answering pattern and you do not need to continually remind the users of your affiliation.

However, any time that you link to an article that you actually wrote, or describe a particular feature that you participated in the actual development of, it is good useful information to state your affiliation.

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Your affiliation is not something that users should be removing from your posts, although we do discourage salutations, taglines and signatures.

If you are answering a question by recommending one of your products, you should always disclose your affiliation in your answer. If your product is already the subject of the question, you don't have to disclose your affiliation, but it's nice to know that the answer is coming directly from the Facebook team.

It goes without saying that you should mention your Facebook affiliation in your profile, so people know who you are.

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I'm a little late to this question, but i'd like to point out something: the DevExpress guys already have team members doing this, they use the user name to identify themselves (DevExpress Team and DevExpress Support Team).

Obviously it isn't foolproof - anyone could call themselves 'FaceBook Team', but if they did it and were being idiots with the name then the mod team can sort it out.

Also having you officially represented would be good as people can trust the answers you give - everybody wins.

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A valid point, of course, but I don't know... If I were given the option to pick, I'd definitely prefer the style that Jeff Bowen and his peeps at Facebook have adopted, rather than the DevExpress folks. I like having real names and individual accounts so long as the affiliations are disclosed somewhere like the profile. –  Cody Gray Jul 21 '11 at 5:58
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In case of answer like "We have fixed it few minutes ago", it is necessary and I forgot to rollback my edit it in this case. I'm sorry for that. For others, I feel that profile is right place for this type of informations.

If I hurt you, I'm very sorry for that.

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No worries genesis. –  Jeff Bowen Jul 25 '11 at 23:22
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