Whoa! Very cool. A welcome and smart way to bring users and company together in a way that benefits everyone involved - exactly the kind of advertising we need more of.

Is this something that'll be open to any company who owns the product(s) behind an SO topic? Or only ones with Adobe's weight/checkbook?

  • @random added ss. – Rex M Sep 30 '09 at 5:25
  • Why do the Nazis always appear no matter what? – random Sep 30 '09 at 5:27
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    I see no freehand circles! – Super Long Names are Hilarious Sep 30 '09 at 5:45
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    @Chris Lutz fixed. – Rex M Sep 30 '09 at 5:55
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    Without those freehand circles it could have been about Telerik. – random Sep 30 '09 at 6:07
  • I hope you're joking??? – fretje Sep 30 '09 at 16:30
  • @fretje of course not. I think this is fantastic. – Rex M Sep 30 '09 at 17:06
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    I don't get it... why would you need more advertising? – fretje Sep 30 '09 at 18:10
  • @fretje everyone wins - people who are engaged in the Adobe developer community get a new avenue to interact directly with the company and with each other in the same forum; Adobe gets exposure and another ear to the people who matter most (the people using their stuff), and this amazingly helpful QA site ensures profitability. – Rex M Sep 30 '09 at 18:20
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    @Rex: and the people who are not engaged in the Adobe developer community? They just have to endure the intrusive icons scattered all over the place? That doesn't sound like a win to me... – fretje Sep 30 '09 at 18:38
  • @fretje ignore them? that issue was fixed. – Rex M Sep 30 '09 at 19:01
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    @Rex: I don't want to ignore them, I just don't want those eye-catching icons next to them, but it seems that's already fixed as well: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/24065/… ;-) – fretje Sep 30 '09 at 19:12
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    I want to start up a collection and sponsor the jon-skeet and boat-programming tags. – Tom Ritter Sep 30 '09 at 22:07
  • See my answer below for downvote explanation. – Dhaust Oct 1 '09 at 7:10
  • wow, how did i miss this for a whole week? i guess adobe didn't buy the coldfusion tag, which i'm pretty active on... – Kip Oct 6 '09 at 0:34

21 Answers 21


Thank you for the positive feedback. Mutually beneficial was our goal in developing this.

Is this something that'll be open to any company who owns the product(s) behind an SO topic? Or only ones with Adobe's weight/checkbook.

Tag sponsorship is available to all sponsors (big or small)... and it really comes down to how dominant of a sponsor they are on the tag. Getting 100% of the ads for a particular tag will most certainly get you the tag sponsorship... but 1%, not so much.

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    Where can we look for information/rates on tag sponsorship? – Bill the Lizard Sep 30 '09 at 15:45
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    Are there any restrictions? It makes sense for Adobe to "own" the Flash and Flex tags, but some potential uses might be more controversial. Could one company "buy" all tags relating to a competitor's product and use those pages to entice people to switch to theirs? – Dan Dyer Sep 30 '09 at 19:44
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    @Dan: there are tons of restrictions, but they're not written or even considered yet. We use our discretion for what's appropriate, and (using your example) we would not allow DevExpress to sponsor the [telerik] tag. Unless they included a yacht in the deal. Sorry, all bets our off when yachts are included. What's that, you don't like it? Oh sorry, I can't hear you from my yacht! – Alex Papadimoulis Sep 30 '09 at 20:11
  • Good discussion on this question, but this does actually answer the question :) – Rex M Oct 3 '09 at 15:31
  • Alex is "On a Boat"!! (youtube.com/watch?v=R7yfISlGLNU) [explicit lyrics] – Nathan Koop Oct 7 '09 at 12:34

It's clever-ish, and no doubt very effective, but it is kind of visually jarring. It also gives Stack Overflow a distinctive Adobe feel, as if they're more than just a tag sponsor. What I mean is that I went to the main page this morning, and there were several instances of Adobe-sponsored tags on the first page that stood out from all the other, non-sponsored tags. Clicking one (I mean, what else can you do?) you have to click the Adobe tags) took me to a page with even more Adobe paraphernalia. Now, don't get me wrong, I use and like Adobe products, but if this continues I can see three possible results:

  • Stack Overflow will look like it's run by Adobe (as it does today) or MS or whoever buys the tags
  • when a new user goes to Stack Overflow, it's possible a subconscious question develops around "Can I ask non-Adobe questions here?"
  • or, with more sponsorships, it ends up looking like a NASCAR product.

Capitalism is great and Stack Overflow is great and all that. Ooo-rah. I'm just suggesting that care be taken. Today, Stack Overflow looks like Adobe is slightly more than just a sponsor.

(EDIT: The tag sponsorship concept is interesting, and I love the blatant business angle. It has a kernel of genius. My only beef is the unintended "Made by Adobe" feel StackO verflow just took on, and where this is going. So, do it, just think harder about how you do it.)

(EDIT: Seriously, no problem whatsoever making a living or selling tag sponsorships or ads or whatever. I'm just saying be careful about the vibe that's given off. When it looked like an Adobe site this morning, I did a double-take, and the thought briefly crossed my mind that maybe they were running something now.)

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    NASCARoverflow. Nice! – p.campbell Sep 30 '09 at 15:48
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    +1 I also have the impression stack overflow is all of a sudden run by adobe. I hate it! – fretje Sep 30 '09 at 16:29
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    This argument could be made for any ad or sponsorship, but I'd like to think 99.999% of readers understand how ads work. We do take great care to bring Responsible Advertising (inedomedia.com/Responsible-Advertising.aspx) to the table And just to clarify on the "capitalism" bit... just because you quit your job to create a great free resource doesn't mean that your mortgage, kids, food, etc. are suddenly free, too. That ain't "ooh rah, captilism," that's making a living. – Alex Papadimoulis Sep 30 '09 at 18:23
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    @Alax, i'm not trying to slam the practice; on the contrary, i've tried to be clear that it's pretty interesting. My only concern is that when i looked at SO this morning it looked like Adobe was running things and that might not be an intended effect. It is the only logo i saw on tags. Also, didn't mean to hit a nerve--the "ooo-rah" was from me (as in "go team!"). Wasn't intended to be mocking. – b w Sep 30 '09 at 20:06
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    @Bill - I'm continually amazed by the perception that earning a living through an employer is fine, but when you decide to go at it on your own, you're now a "greedy capitalist". Glad that you don't share that setiment! – Alex Papadimoulis Sep 30 '09 at 20:40
  • @Alex - Hecks no! More power to entrepreneurs! – b w Sep 30 '09 at 22:08
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    Yeah, what bill said. I too thought adobe were running some kind of special. It's nice, but jarring. That jarring that I came to meta to see what was going on :-) – Dan F Oct 2 '09 at 2:30
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    @Dan F - the Adobe feel is growing on me. Makes me feel like i got an additional free support site after paying for their software all these years. And hey, nice photo! – b w Oct 2 '09 at 13:54
  • A first look perspective: When I first saw the Adobe logos I actually felt that they where there because there was a logo for Adobe and not for other stuff, I never though of it as sponsorship. When I saw some other logos of companies I didnt know (like the rg logo on tsql), I then realised it was sponsorship and came here. – Kieran Dec 6 '10 at 23:28

I hate it, as it draws my attention away from more important things.

Please give me a preference to make it go away. And fix ignore, it seems to be broken w.r.t. these tags.

Edit: After thinking about if for a while, it might be clever to attach the logo only to "interesting" tags. I think I'd actually like it if it helps me find the things I'm interested in.

Edit 2: No, scrap that. Please keep content and advertisements separated.

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    If the 16x16 logo really bugs you that much, I'm sure you could greasemonkey it out or something. – Alex Papadimoulis Sep 30 '09 at 6:00
  • "it draws my attention away from more important things" Can they really be that important if they (a) are on stackoverflow and (b) can't compete with a 2-tone GIF small enough to fit inside a tag? – Rex M Sep 30 '09 at 6:03
  • I run the browser with colors turned off, makes the internet much more pleasant to read. So they really stand out. – starblue Sep 30 '09 at 6:04
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    W.r.t. "more important", a tag that interests me is by definition more important than tags I'm not interested in. I quickly scan the list of questions for something interesting, and that is slowed down. No, it is not that important to read Stack Overflow, so I might go away if this isn't fixed. – starblue Sep 30 '09 at 6:10
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    @RichieHindle: It's just as terrible an attitude to be pushy about something and say "I might go away if this isn't fixed." Although I am for as many users being happy as possible, throwing up your own visitation to the site like something worth a valuable ransom isn't going to get it done any faster either. – TheTXI Sep 30 '09 at 11:10
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    @TheTXI: To be that sarcastic and disrespectful to a user, especially a high-rep user like starblue, shows a terrible attitude on Alex's part. (Maybe he meant to be entirely lighthearted, but that's not how it came across. A smiley could perhaps have prevented this conversation.) What happened to "We don't run [Meta] Stack Overflow. The community does."? If a community member says something that team@SO finds arrogant, do they lose their right to respect? – RichieHindle Sep 30 '09 at 13:03
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    Ok. I didn't mean to be that sarcastic. Maybe half that sarcastic. If you would have heard the tone of voice in my head, you probably would have chuckled. Gotta use more emoticons, too. Lesson learned ;-) – Alex Papadimoulis Oct 1 '09 at 4:15
  • PS - @Alex - With a name like Papadimoulis, I'll never take you seriously... – gnarf Oct 4 '09 at 10:37
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    It does bug me that much, and I have created a greasemonkey script. At first, because the first two questions were adobe related, I thought it would be new feature to show the logo of all products in tags, which would let one scan the page really fast, if you just had to look at logos. But since it's only adobe, it's just really distracting. Also, to Rex M, 2 tone doesn't quite cut it when one of those tones is red. If it was greyscale, I could see it not being so harmful to the eyes, but right now it's just really distracting. – Kibbee Oct 5 '09 at 13:13
  • +1 since it's ignoring my ignore settings – tsilb Oct 6 '09 at 15:51

The logo in the tag background is a nice method, not unlike the woot! badge. That is indeed a cool way to bring the tag-based advertising on board.

Could open it up to all sorts of tag sponsorship...


Cue those who will decry any and all advertising on the internet as demon's blood soaking the denim of acid-wash jeans.

At least the questions disappear if you've got them on your ignored and hidden list.

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    Demon's blood, acid wash, etc. but <whine> what about those of us who use GNU Flex? </whine> – Super Long Names are Hilarious Sep 30 '09 at 5:45
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    +1: I think it's a fantastic way to draw attention to a particular sponsor (the goal of advertising) without irritating the user too much (the bane of advertising). Nicely done, very smooth. – EvilChookie Sep 30 '09 at 5:46
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    Is that a pterodactyl on his shoulder? ;) – gnostradamus Sep 30 '09 at 15:46
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    It's a parrot who's a little seasick. – random Sep 30 '09 at 15:56
  • @Chris Ouch - a hook in the face for avid GNU Flex and SO users. The (occasional) drawback of the simplicity of a tag-based taxonomy... – sblair Oct 3 '09 at 1:06
  • There is a gnu-flex for that of course, sensible given that it'd be tough to find those questions otherwise (there's 60x more for Adobe flex than GNU flex) - stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/gnu-flex – therefromhere Oct 4 '09 at 11:05
  • :-) :-) :-) :-) – David Rabinowitz Nov 11 '09 at 10:19

Sponsored tags suck.

You're half a step away from having flashing animated gifs, scrolling marquees and those terrible ‘Free Forever’ ads. (Oh, and to all those people whose knickers just got in a knot, it's called hyperbole ;b)

I think it comes across as visually jarring, seems like a clumsy grab-for-cash, add zero value to the question/answer and hinders usability by breaking the consistency rule.

It's actually a bit disappointing Jeff because in the past you have had quite a strong and honourable stance when it comes to advertising (See How To Advertise on Your Blog Without (Completely) Selling Out). I don’t know what your motivations are for expanding the SO family advertising in such a way, but in my opinion, the credibility, design and usability are all suffering as a result.

Please keep the advertising out of the content, our eyes will thank you for it.

@Jeff: It's your site and you can do whatever you want with it and I sincerely (for real) hope that you and Joel (and Geoff and Jarrod) make bucket loads of money out of it. I consider SO to be the best programming site out there and I consider you to be 'the good guys'.

But the content on the site comes from us, the users, so we do feel as if we have some right to at least comment and provide feedback on the direction of the site.

You don't have to heed the feedback, but due to the source of the content on the site, at least listening to the feedback (without getting cranky and sarcastic) seems like the right thing for you to do.

Yes, we can go to some other site if we don't like this one, but we DO like this one, and it sucks when it moves in a direction that makes us like it less.

And this is why I think this style of advertising has caused such a reaction amongst your users. It is pushing the boundaries (which are grey and muddy by the way), and we are just letting you know that.

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    downvote for implying that we would allow animated or flash ads, which we have repeatedly gone on record saying we will never allow. – Jeff Atwood Oct 1 '09 at 7:54
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    @Jeff: He's not implying you would allow it. He said you're only half a step away from it, and I agree with him. It's just too visually jarring! – fretje Oct 1 '09 at 8:11
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    "He's not implying you would allow it. He said you're only half a step away from it" oh yes, those are totally different things OF COURSE – Jeff Atwood Oct 1 '09 at 8:23
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    @Jeff: You really don't get it, do you? The guy is trying to tell you that you are close to breaking a rule which you have repeatedly gone on record with. And you're down-voting the guy in stead of listening to him?!? – fretje Oct 1 '09 at 9:25
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    Close to is not breaking. It's simple enough to say "we are on this side of the line, even if we're right up against it, and we will not cross the line." – Rex M Oct 1 '09 at 13:47
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    @Rex: It's indeed simple enough to say that, but what I'm talking about is "it just doesn't feel right". I can't put it better than David already has: "The credibility, design and usability are all suffering as a result. Please keep the advertising out of the content, our eyes will thank you for it." – fretje Oct 1 '09 at 14:30
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    feel free to use ad blocking if you feel so strongly about it. Personally, I find this entire post offensive, to the point that I would urge users who feel this way to find other sites on the internet they might perhaps enjoy using more. Life is too short to be unhappy. – Jeff Atwood Oct 1 '09 at 16:17
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    @Jeff: Please don't get me wrong. It was actually the fact that the stack overflow series of sites are so clean and clutter-free that attracted me to them. And I don't think that counts for me only. So I think it's normal that changes like this can upset some users. I only want to give you this feedback, let you know how those users feel about this. That's what this meta site is for, isn't it? What you do with this information is up to you, but please, don't be offended by it, use it for the better ;-) – fretje Oct 1 '09 at 16:53
  • @fretje: Thanks for the back-up and for helping to try and explain where I am coming from. – Dhaust Oct 2 '09 at 6:31
  • however much I might wish it is, it is impossible to satisfy 100% of our audience at all times. I invite you to visit eweek and compare: is.gd/3UfYU – Jeff Atwood Oct 4 '09 at 11:16
  • @Jeff: It's probably me, but I fail to see how the story you linked to (it's about Google Chrome Frame) compares to this thread. – fretje Oct 4 '09 at 12:00
  • take a look at the advertisements relative to the content. – Jeff Atwood Oct 5 '09 at 1:39
  • @Jeff: Dead link on the eweek article. You've got an extra '-' just before '--448967'. – Dhaust Oct 5 '09 at 2:17
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    @Jeff: I think SO already does a great job of 'targeting' the ads to the content. But that is not the issue here. The issue is that I feel that the Adobe ads are crossing a visual/layout boundary that normally enables users to easily distinguish between ads and content. Please keep the ads and the content where they belong - each in their own consistent, well defined areas on the page. – Dhaust Oct 5 '09 at 2:31
  • @Jeff: Ooh, now I see... you should have told me to disable adblock first ;-) Granted, this is indeed a lot less clutter-free than SO, but as @David points out, this is about mixing ads and content, which is not the case with the eweek article as far as I can tell. Also, they have a print-only version (eweek.com/…), which has about the same effect (even better IMO) as using adblock: that's what I mean: an option to browse SO without the sponsored tags wouldn't be bad, and would make everybody happy ;-) – fretje Oct 5 '09 at 9:03

I dislike the sponsored tags because they still draw my attention to this colorful tags despite they are in my ignored tag list.. Successful advertisement, I agree, but annoying.


Wouldn't work with Windows - Imagine a Microsoft designed tag icon

alt text
(source: invisiblecompany.com)

  • 1
    especially scaled down to 16x16 pixels... – An̲̳̳drew Oct 12 '09 at 2:18

I like this approach to advertising. One suggestion would be, though, to make the icon blend more with the site colors. Right now it stands out too much. A softer, more SO-compatible hue would make it much more pleasing.

More careful control of the colors will be increasingly important if this approach becomes popular among other tags.

  • I'd love gray-white logos, decent but still somewhat visible. – Georg Schölly Oct 5 '09 at 11:42

I hate to point out that I just installed the FIRST adblock rule I've ever manually written in over 3 years... On Stack Overflow of all places. Up until now I had even white listed ad blocking on the League of Justice sites based on your advertising policies. All because this company I'll never care about now has a RED 'A' to make its questions stand out to the eye MORE than the questions I actually care to read.

I'm taking Jeff's advice and adding an adblock for it, but I just lost a little faith in the 'above ground' advertising policies you had.

I think the problems I have with this would be solved if either (preferably both) of these things happened:

  • the logo was 'colored' in the same blue hue as the tag boxes - Tell me which tag you see first: http://img197.imageshack.us/img197/368/tagsr.jpg
  • there were more tags that had these logos, perhaps some tags like rss/html/etc (which I hope you don't plan on selling to the highest bidder) could pick up generic icons. (Maybe throw in a jQuery one as a donation to the project since you use it)
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    The blue one stands out more. It's just not Adobe enough. – random Oct 4 '09 at 10:34
  • @random - The thought had occurred to me as well. – gnarf Oct 4 '09 at 11:09
  • gnarf, I hear you, but no matter what we do, some will object. I invite you to visit eweek and compare. is.gd/3UfYU – Jeff Atwood Oct 4 '09 at 11:13
  • @Jeff - The point is taken - and actually meta.stackexchange.com/questions/24480/… - has basically done the second half of my suggestion for me. Now the adobe Icon fits in with the rest of em - playing with the site like this for a bit to see if it solves my 'eye catching' problem – gnarf Oct 4 '09 at 11:43
  • And TBH - I'm glad you got someone to pay you to put that icon there, I just don't care to get drawn to the adobe tags. – gnarf Oct 4 '09 at 11:53

It would be better in black and white. As said in another answer:

IT DRAWS MY ATTENTION AWAY from more important things.

Think about it

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    I could support this suggestion for the inline-tag logos. It could get crazy quickly with full-color logos of many sponsors. – Rex M Oct 2 '09 at 3:25

Disclaimer: I may not be an adobe fan.

Sponsored tags are not OK. Advertising is OK, just don't f**k with the content.

Jeff, I'm sure I don't need to remind you that StackOverFlow is all about the content. And that content is only valuable when it has a perceived credibility.

If I posted a question like "Flex, blah blah blah?", I was reasonably confident that the answers I got were genuine on SO. However, an answer with a sponored tag? Not so sure anymore. What might happen to an answer like "Flex is a pile of shit in that scenario. Here's why...".? A sly downvote because it might piss off the tag sponsor?

Surely, there are smarter ways to monertise this site without destroying the only value you have?

  • -1 for "there are smarter ways to monertise this site" but not telling us those smarter ways to monertise. – Alex Papadimoulis Oct 2 '09 at 3:21
  • +1 because I hadn’t considered this (albeit slightly paranoid) aspect. But, are all tags at least tinged with biased answers? (Reasonable) trust in the content is a huge advantage of SO (etc.) - surely the wisdom of crowds will dominate/rationalise any "local minima" that may evangelise a particular technology? – sblair Oct 3 '09 at 0:39

A few months ago, the excellent CBC Radio Show Age of Persuasion did a particularly good show called Breaking the Contract. It explores the idea (from David Ogilvy) that advertising is bound by a social contract with the audience -- if I see an ad, I should benefit from it.

These Adobe ads are a blight. They distract from the content, especially the other tags. They stick out like a sore thumb, like a row of billboards along the highway. They add absolutely no value. They look tacky.

Jeff, Joel, et al., I beg all of you to reconsider these advertisements.

(Or at least provide a way to have "text-only" tags -- perhaps at a certain level of reputation)


I don't mind the Adobe icon in my "interested" tags or within the context of a single question. However, it makes going through search results simply too difficult because there are so many of them on the screen and each one and every one of them is screaming for attention.

I am going to suggest limiting the number of sponsor icons visible on a given page.


I'm fine with the idea of sponsored tags. The Woot badge works for me (essentially the same thing from a UI/aesthetics perspective), but the Adobe one is ugly and doesn't fit the SO scheme at all... Maybe if it matched the blue tag background it wouldn't be so jarring.


The Advertising on top of a tag is perfectly fine. However, the little icon in the tag itself could be problematic, because you are giving away part of your branding to an external company and could give the impression that Adobe is the owner of StackOverflow as they are also the only tag-sponsor so far.

But the idea itself has potential if you have more sponsors, because they draw attention. A Flash developer can easily spot Adobe-Related tags. But for me as a non-flash developer, it looks like Christmas Decoration.


I didn't even realize the Woot! badge was an advertisement until now.


My biggest concern is what happens to the tags that don't have lots of money behind them?

Python, PHP, Apache, Perl, and so many others... their tags would eventually be drowned out by the eye-catching nature of the sponsored tags.

I like the little Adobe logo, but I don't want free software to get left out in the cold.

  • yeah, c'mon guys - give a little charity for the poor. OSS products need support too. If there were a few more icons, you'd get a lot less complaints about the Adobe icons being too visually intrusive. – gbjbaanb Oct 9 '09 at 14:11

This doesn't warrant a full question, but I thought I'd ask it where it's appropriate. Are you guys tracking stats on the tags (more specifically sponsored-tags) added to "Ignored Tags" before/after the adobe campaign?

It would be interesting to see what the community response is to the tags in an empirical way.

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    Seeing that the overwhelming majority of traffic comes from google... I can say, without a doubt, that an overwhelming majority of traffic does not ignore the tags. – Alex Papadimoulis Sep 30 '09 at 14:52
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    @Alex - We can filter out low-reputation users and users who don't stay and make an account to get a fairly accurate number. Sure, we're filtering out a lot of traffic, but this question isn't asking about the impact on our traffic, it's asking about the impact on our community, and through-traffic isn't really part of the community. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Sep 30 '09 at 17:07

I dislike the sponsored the links at the top of those tag pages. I would pay to get rid of them.


I think this is a great way to fund the site. Props to Alex and Adobe for trying this. The UI is a little jarring with so many adobe logos on the page but I am sure that will be changed in future iterations.

My only concern about this is that it could lead to censorship. If there are postings in an adobe sponsored tag which adobe doesn’t approve of, they could put pressure on SO to remove questions and answers. It would be re assuring if it was explicit that this can’t happen. Otherwise a bad question could get removed by the community (for being a bad question) and a user will complain that it is commercial pressure that got it removed.


I think that if there were logos on more things (but no "sponsor" banner on the tag), then this would be significantly better than if just the adobe icon is there, in bright red.

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