The chat has come across a case where one user does something similar to Ira. From the few of his recent answers I looked at, it seems he hasn't done it as badly as Ira Baxter did. But then he goes out and actively searches old questions (new ones, too) and plugs his products.

Yes, he adds a disclaimer, but still, I object. This site is such an immensely useful resource because so many programmers devoted so much of their valuable time and energy to giving away their knowledge for free. That's what made SO the success it is. Now people like Ira or this guy come along and ride on the back of that to advertise their commercial products. As I wrote elsewhere:
If only 10% of us did the same, the site's usefulness would drop very quickly.


It's worth noting that a fair number of well-respected members do use Stack Overflow in something of a professional capacity. And I certainly don't have a problem with folks affiliated with a commercial product answering questions asked about that product.

Even when folks are referencing their work in answers to questions on related topics, I think you should be a bit tolerant... As long as the reference aids significantly in answering the actual question!

However, the examples you link to fail even this "good, relevant answers" test. Thanks for bringing this to the attention of the moderators.

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Round three? I sense a meme.

I initially deleted them, but then undeleted them because I saw the disclaimers. I didn't realize that there was a larger, more widespread problem here (it was hard to see in the mods queue, we had a number of spam flags on these answers).

That said, I've looked into this and made sure to get the point across that this isn't acceptable.

I'd consider the bar lowered for tolerance on this kind of behavior, as per the second part of the FAQ on self promotion ("you're probably here for the wrong reason..." yada yada).

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    If it takes creating a meme to get rid of spammers, I'll do just that. I hate ads, never browser the web without AdBlock, and then those §°P($(/"`? come along and spam in answers. Really, next thing they'll come up with is flooding blog comments... – sbi Sep 20 '12 at 17:00

I realize this is likely to be wildly unpopular, but how about Stack Exchange allow those who want to advertise products do so by paying a small fee ( by using the existing ability to buy ad space in the right sidebar ) so people who want to see ads can go to a specific place or places to view them? Then advertising links in questions and answers would be banned.

Bottom line is people are violating the spirit of SO while arguably still following the letter of the rules. I think it cheapens SO when it's allowed to become a free advertising venue.

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  • If this would solve the promotion issue, I'd be up for it. Maybe something that could do something like AdWords and return relevant ads to questions/answers, so you wouldn't be looking at a C++ question/answer and get an ad for a C# product. – Drise Sep 20 '12 at 16:54
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    You do realize that Stack Exchange has a program where people who want to advertise products do so by paying a small fee to have their ads appear on the right sidebar? This is mentioned in the same FAQ entry saying that people shouldn't have too much self promotion. – Mooing Duck Sep 20 '12 at 16:55
  • @MooingDuck My solution goes further in forcing advertisers to do so using the built in methods rather than getting it for free by violating the spirit of what SO is about. – Chimera Sep 20 '12 at 16:58
  • Yea, but his suggestion was to not allow any self promotion at all. – Drise Sep 20 '12 at 16:58
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    Tricky line to police and it might lead to more astroturfing. – Flexo Sep 20 '12 at 17:15
  • @Flexo possibly. But if it to be banned, the offending material can always be flagged for investigation. That would make it easier to police. – Chimera Sep 20 '12 at 17:19
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    "Small fee"? Unless ad rates have gone down it was quite expensive for what you got. I had a SE 1.0 site and pursued promotion on SO, and the rates were easily twice the going CPM rate. – John Sep 20 '12 at 17:28
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    Some of this exists - see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/33081/…. I don't see us ever selling in-post ads though; the cost in terms of community goodwill would be prohibitive. – Shog9 Sep 21 '12 at 5:39

From my prospect sbi is with the good stand, we are not here for promotion of our products we have developed yet we are on SO for getting solution of our problems from others and vice versa for others.

SO is popular just for its excellent record of great solutions in it, if we so not restrict these type of activity site soon will be captured by our SEO and BD friends who will use it for promotion promotion and promotion and site will become wage for solution hunters.

Keep in mind suggestion is good but promotion gives it another direction.

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It seems people are assuming the guy is following the community rules and is only objectionable in quantity.

But these two answers (just from the top of the first page of @Flexo's search query) don't currently have any disclaimer saying the poster is involved with the linked product, as of 2012-09-21T07:12:00Z:

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The site operates on gamification, so it is not true that people are giving away time and knowledge for free (even for Jon Skeet). If they really believe they do, then perhaps they are playing it wrong.

That said, the more irrelevant and deliberate plugs are indeed annoying, I definitely encourage mob behavior to rein in the duds who should not be allowed to go cheap on the paid ads.

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  • Realistically, the "game" bit only goes so far. – Shog9 Sep 21 '12 at 5:36

I applaud it. Good for him.

The community has made guidelines as to what is acceptable, and he seems to be following them.

He's wearing his 15 pieces of flair, but you don't seem to be happy yet.

I've found it incredible that one of the founding members of this site can, with a straight face, bring attention to the practice of digital sharecropping on his blog, and profit handsomely by developing a platform for people to practice digital sharecropping. Not only that, but train them to actively discourage even the slightest breaking-out of self-promotion.

Are you upset with this user, or upset with yourselves that you don't have the gumption to do the same?

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    I am upset because it is violating the spirit of SO and it cheapens the quality of the site. SO is not intended to be a place for free advertising. BTW, I'm not upset with myself or these users. I don't like the practice. – Chimera Sep 20 '12 at 17:16
  • @John Though there is a difference in branding yourself through the knowledge you contribute and thereby implicitly branding your "product" (via interest in you and what you have to offer beyond your contributions here) and outright branding your product. I can somewhat see how the latter irks some. – Bart Sep 20 '12 at 17:18
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    You are joking, right? I sense a troll in our midst. – Drise Sep 20 '12 at 17:24
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    No, not a troll, someone who just sees things differently. See also: meta.money.stackexchange.com/questions/578/… – John Sep 20 '12 at 17:31
  • You appear to have somehow interpreted that sharecropping blog post as "don't base your site on user contributions ever", which is pretty obviously not what he meant – Michael Mrozek Sep 20 '12 at 17:36
  • @MichaelMrozek No, I didn't interpret it that way. I interpret the post, taken in the context of others he wrote, as "Don't digital sharecrop ... except on my sites." It has nothing to do with site owners, but how people direct their creative efforts. – John Sep 20 '12 at 17:42
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    @John Nobody is forced to use SO. They do so because they get something out of it such as answers to questions or the joy of helping others out. Or the ability to put links to ones product pages in a profile etc. – Chimera Sep 20 '12 at 17:49
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    @Chimera And I do too. But there appears to be a witch hunt going on here because people are mildly disgusted how some people can follow the rules and also promote themselves more than the average SO user. So make the rules more explicit and chase these evil entrepreneurs away. Problem solved? – John Sep 20 '12 at 18:02
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    Thanks for the link. You're being a tad hyperbolic with the "even the slightest breaking-out" bit. Users are welcome to advertise their companies/products/projects in their profiles (website, About Me) and even usernames. Also, I think Jeff would argue that contributing to SO isn't exactly sharecropping because you can build SO's brand and your own brand with the same content. After all, your top posts and total rep show up in Careers, right? On the whole though, interesting point. – Pops Sep 20 '12 at 18:19
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    The strong anti-self promotion sentiment here is certainly not something that Jeff or anyone else has "trained" people to have. It's a genuine impulse that comes from the community. – Pekka Sep 21 '12 at 2:42
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    Hey @Pekka, so nice of you to join the party. :) At least you deigned to comment on the post, and I appreciate that. The training happens all the time here; that's essentially the same thing as coming from the community, I think. I like low-noise as much as the next guy, but if I had a tool that could solve someone's problem, why shouldn't I be able to explain how to do it in an answer to a question here? What would it matter if I gained financially? To me, this anti-self-promotion sentiment looks too much like "I don't have anything to sell, so you can't sell your stuff either." – John Sep 21 '12 at 3:51
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    @John most people here do have something to sell - their expertise. But they consciously choose to give some of it away for free on this site, and you have to understand the skepticism towards others trying to make a buck (and as said, I think this is a genuine sentiment in the community.) And at the end of the day - while I have nothing against self-promotion within certain limits - I believe in one basic rule: if a product is awesome for solving a problem, someone else is going to recommend it over time, from their own experience with it. That will then make a good answer. – Pekka Sep 21 '12 at 4:18
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    John, this is a decision you have to make for yourself, and folks have been making it for much longer than the Web - or the Internet - have been around. I can hardly fault anyone for not wanting to give away their time and expertise... But, if that is what you decide to do, then you should do so honestly - using the pretext of answering as a cover for advertising is nothing more than an abuse of those who are playing it straight. – Shog9 Sep 21 '12 at 5:54
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    @Shog9 Sure, I enjoy helping people here (for free) as much as anyone who does the same. However, I guess I don't see what is dishonest about (1) answering a question using a product you sell as the solution, and (2) disclosing that you have a financial relationship with that product. These seem to be the rules of engagement, and yet there are still issues because of meaning of intent ascribed beyond the rules. If the answer (as given above) is poor, then downvote it or flag it, but if it's good and helps the person asking the question, what is wrong with it? See what I'm saying? – John Sep 21 '12 at 15:25
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    @John: see my answer here - the primary issue is when these answers don't actually answer the questions they're attached to. This is a problem with or without the presence of promotion, but promotion tends to give a bad impression all by itself - so if you're here mostly posting links to your own stuff and mostly not actually answering anything, then it becomes very, very hard to argue that you're acting in good faith. – Shog9 Sep 21 '12 at 16:31

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