Playing with the new SE app, I came across an old meta answer of mine, and getting curious I looked at the guy's latest answers. Of the 30 latest answers on his SO page (as of now all from the last three weeks), one third of the answers either mention his business' products or link to them or link to answers doing this or show code for such a tool – or any combination of these.

Note that we have haggling been over this with him again and again. And again.

While I only checked his latest answers (I'm on mobile right now), if this is what he's been doing in the last year, it is a noticeable step-down from the extend he used to spam us with and the posts that I saw, are certainly more relevant than they used to be. Still, if he hadn't been even worse than this, I would not have hesitated at all to ring the bell on the current state of affairs. But even though I now do now hesitate (it's not as bad as it used to be, is it?), I post this anyway, because, as casparOne said:

I'd consider the bar lowered for tolerance on this kind of behavior

Please also note that I as well as others remember this guy pretty well from Usenet, where he was doing just that in the 90s.

Well, what do you folks say? Is this now toned down enough? Can you live with it? Am I just being paranoid?

P.S.: To save you the trouble of clicking through all these answers:

Note that I wouldn't object to many of these individually. It's the amount (11 out of 30) that I object against.

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    Am I allowed to remove all the bold formatting? It's seriously distracting. – Time Traveling Bobby Jan 31 '14 at 9:08
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    @TimeTravelingBobby go ahead, "OUR TOOLS CAN DO THIS"` lol – user221081 Jan 31 '14 at 9:10
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    I've noticed this before (spotted a suspect answer on a high traffic question I reached from google - turned out he had 100 answers at 100 rep), flagged for moderator attention with a message about it and they deleted about 50 of them – OGHaza Jan 31 '14 at 9:10
  • @Time Shrug. I happen to like it, but since there's already five of you, go ahead. – sbi Jan 31 '14 at 9:11
  • Thanks. I can understand what you mean, but the links already stand out on their own and it was nearly a whole paragraph in bold with some normal words in between, it felt more distractive then highlighting. – Time Traveling Bobby Jan 31 '14 at 9:15
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    Is it just me or should most of these questions be closed and deleted anyway? Looks like the user is answering mostly off-topic questions. I'd suggest to do a cleanup based on the profile of the user, close and delete inappropriate questions, do not downvote or delete the users answers, and when we're done with that, we'll see what is still there and if it needs to be handled. – Time Traveling Bobby Jan 31 '14 at 9:19
  • What happened to round 3? I don't remember that. – DeadMG Jan 31 '14 at 10:52
  • @DeadMG: Why don't you just follow the link and find out? – sbi Jan 31 '14 at 11:09
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    I'm just noting that we've seen this - and we're deferring to the Stack Overflow moderators. – Tim Post Jan 31 '14 at 13:45
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    Note, I'm raising this with some of the other SO moderators now. – casperOne Jan 31 '14 at 14:08
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    Note, only some. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jan 31 '14 at 14:28
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    Just a roundabout way of saying I'm lazy to deal with this particular user's contributions :P – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jan 31 '14 at 14:37
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    @sbi we like consensus. We're not a pack of monkeys, we're a tribe of monkeys. With guns in there hands. – George Stocker Jan 31 '14 at 15:22
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    Guns in there hands. There. – Tim Post Jan 31 '14 at 16:46
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    Oh no not this again – Pekka Jan 31 '14 at 20:02

The kind of answers that I summarily delete all the time are the ones that say "This may help you [link to product website or blog]", or "Our product will help you do this," without so much as providing a code sample or convincing reason why.

For the most part, Ira doesn't do that. A cursory look at Ira's answer history seems to demonstrate that the community finds his answers valuable enough to upvote and (in a significant percentage of cases) accept as the correct answer.

For Ira's part, he has stated that he only wishes to contribute to the community in ways that exercise his expertise, which apparently mostly encompasses the products that he is affiliated with. This is really no different than any of the rest of us who provide expertise in the things that we are familiar with, except that most of us are not quite as "productized" as Ira is.

For our part (the mods), we have had numerous conversations about this with Ira, and he's always made efforts to comply with our guidelines. The only remaining objection seems to be the quantity of posts that reference the products he is affiliated with. I would say three things about that:

  1. The time to catch overly promotional account holders is early, when we still have the chance to summarily destroy their accounts.

  2. It doesn't seem fair to Ira to tell him "if you're going to post promotional answers, this is the correct way to do it," and then come back later and tell him he can't do it.

  3. Time Traveling Bobby is right; close the questions that are asking for recommendations, since that will limit the footprint for those folks looking to post their recommendations.

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  • "It doesn't seem fair to Ira to tell him 'if you're going to post promotional answers, this is the correct way to do it,' and then come back later and tell him he can't do it.". Why not? We're not allowed to revise our opinion/change our mind? – DeadMG Jan 31 '14 at 20:53
  • @DeagMG: See points 1 and 3, above. – user102937 Jan 31 '14 at 21:21
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    Also worth noting: the volume of answers is irrelevant, as long as the answers are helpful. – user206222 Feb 1 '14 at 17:52
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    Well, guys, this is why I asked here, whether this is Ok. Now I know that the majority considers this acceptable. Thanks. – sbi Feb 7 '14 at 1:33
  • Typo?: "most of us" and not "most of use"? – user163250 Aug 10 '14 at 18:44

As a past critic of Ira, I have to defend him on this one.

My problems with him in the past were that he didn't used to clearly state his association with his products. He's being pretty clear now, and these answers are nothing like: "here's my product, go buy it".

I still have a minor issue, but maybe I'm imagining it. He'll sometimes just say, "Our product", or something to that effect. I've had a concern that this might not make it clear enough to readers whose first language isn't English. I've just realized that I do not know this to be the case, and since my first language is English, I'm not really in a position to say whether it's a problem or not.

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