One of our most trusted users in Puzzling.SE was suspended for... uh... promotional content?

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This seems to be pretty harsh with like a half year suspension for this user. In the blogpost, A Day in the Penalty Box, it doesn't explain what this means. I am not asking why he was suspended but rather what is the definition of the reason he was suspended for.

So as said before, what does it mean to be suspended for promotional content?

  • 1
    I retracted my "belongs on a per-site meta" close vote because of the "what" question instead of "why", but I still think this is probably a site-specific question. What constitutes "promotional content" is probably going to vary from site to site depending on the topic. Oct 21 '15 at 23:53
  • 7
    That happens if the user posts a lot of spam or does a lot of astroturfing.
    – Mysticial
    Oct 22 '15 at 0:07
  • This answer to an earlier question may help feed into a definition: meta.stackexchange.com/a/133200/215590
    – PolyGeo
    Oct 22 '15 at 0:22
  • 2
    You may want to block the top tab and URL, because they identify the user (I got the impression that you don't want to bring them specifically into it).
    – HDE 226868
    Oct 22 '15 at 0:30
  • 3
    The mods there wanted to ... puzzle you. Oct 22 '15 at 1:09
  • 5
    @HDE226868 its a fairly notable topic (that mentions the name) on their meta, that has gotten a bit of tangental questions too even by the person in question - trying to hide names doesn't accomplish much. With this case, there is a fair amount of backstory going on. I'd wager that this is the "most appropriate of many that are all ok but not great fit messages" for the lock.
    – user213963
    Oct 22 '15 at 3:22
  • 4
    Worth to mention, this user has a chatroom here on MSE if anyone want to contact him/her directly. Oct 22 '15 at 10:15
  • I published the actual suspension message the mods sent me (in the Sphinx's Lair chatroom), and also the reply they sent to my appeal (in the Rand's Reception chatroom that Shadow Wizard mentioned). The short version is: I posted ONE question, from a fully disclosed sock account, which mentioned a website I co-own, and ONE comment on the answer to that question which mentioned the same website, and the moderators saw fit to kick me out for a year. Oct 24 '15 at 12:27
  • @randalthor Not even surprised it'd be you, considering the last fiasco in which you were bountying away most of your rep to your "close" buddies.
    – yuritsuki
    Oct 24 '15 at 21:06
  • @Rusemaster I never did that; you must be thinking of someone else. (PS: you need to include the apostrophe when @-pinging me, or else I don't get the notification!) Oct 27 '15 at 1:29

The short suspension reasons that are publicly displayed are linked to the moderator message template that is selected when suspending. In this case the template is the following:

We noticed that a substantial proportion of your posts seem to exist only to promote your product or website. Per the help center:

Be careful, because the community frowns on overt self-promotion and tends to vote it down and flag it as spam. Post good, relevant answers, and if some (but not all) happen to be about your product or website, so be it. However, you must disclose your affiliation in your answers. Also, if a huge percentage of your posts include a mention of your product or website, you're probably here for the wrong reasons. Our advertising rates are quite reasonable; contact our ad sales team for details.

Any type of "astroturfing" promotion is not acceptable. It brings down the overall value of genuine recommendations for everyone on the site.

If you can stay within the above guidelines, and offer questions and answers of genuine benefit to the community which happen to mention your affiliation or product in context -- and with full disclosure -- then your future contributions are welcome.

This is pretty much the official definition for this specific suspension reason. In practice a suspension might not be as clear-cut and often multiple issues are involved. The official suspension reason only tells you which template a moderator started with, nothing more.


This is what I've always considered to be the definition of promotional content (my wording):

One or more posts that focus on some product, organization, company, etc. that the author is connected with in some way to an extent that is inappropriate in the given context.

Here's an example of what might be construed as promotional content. It is an answer to the question of "How long will a star with a mass of ten solar masses stay on the main sequence for?"

I wrote a program for this in Python a while back that takes various factors into account to solve this problem. You can find it on my website, www.[redacted].com. It's free. Anyway, I plugged in your mass (ten solar masses) and my program output [X] million years. Cool, huh?

Besides being short, this answer unnecessarily focuses on the product being mentioned, in this case, a software program. You could easily just mention the program in a few words and focus the rest of the answer on the result (or you could quote the vast amount of scientific literature out there on stellar lifetimes).

If a user writes a bunch of this sort of answer, whether they be about the same product or not, they might be suspended for posting overly promotional content.

See also Limits for self-promotion in answers and Defining the limits of self-promotion.


Other answers have addressed your main question (the meaning of this suspension reason), but since you also brought up its length: suspensions generally follow a progression of increasing length, and this is orthogonal to the reason. This suspension isn't a year long because it's for promotional content; it's a year long because it is not the user's first suspension. A particularly egregious problem could, in principle, lead to a one-year suspension right out of the gate, but that would be very unusual and the community team would review that for appropriateness.

Usually a first suspension is for a week. The goal is to get the user's attention and correct the behavior quickly. Sometimes that doesn't work, unfortunately.

  • Worth noting that this length increase doesn't always happen. Without naming names, I know of an SE user currently on a week-long suspension who has been previously suspended on the same site. Nov 19 '15 at 18:19
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    Right, suspensions generally follow a progression, but there's room for variation. I once handed out a 7-day suspension to a user who had been previously suspended, but more than two years ago with reasonable behavior since then. It's a judgement call. Nov 19 '15 at 18:42

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