Users often put links to their projects on the userinfo pages (for example, Jon Skeet has a link to Amazon selling C# in Depth) and that looks quite allright. However some users push this to the limit creating accounts solely for advertising purposes.

What is the policy for advertising on userinfo pages? How much is too much?

  • 8
    Who's going to be your example of this? – random Dec 1 '09 at 8:29
  • User 221878 on SO (sorry, no direct link). – Greg Hewgill Dec 1 '09 at 9:50
  • 2
    Oops, we just fell into the trap to view his ads. At least I did. – o.k.w Dec 1 '09 at 10:02
  • I flagged that user. Moderators should delete the account. – user136634 Dec 1 '09 at 10:07
  • 1
    @Developer Art: Is there a feature for flagging users or did you flag his post? – sharptooth Dec 1 '09 at 10:36
  • the link to 'C# in Depth' should be going through SO's affiliate link – warren Dec 1 '09 at 11:06
  • I flagged his question and wrote a comment to moderators. – user136634 Dec 1 '09 at 11:08
  • As a matter of fact, lately there's been quite a wave of abuse, mainly cheap hosting advertisers, lost count already. The "Report user" feature is urgently needed. – user136634 Dec 1 '09 at 11:09
  • 2
    Looks like the user mentioned above has just changed his user name and description to remove the advertising. – Greg Hewgill Dec 1 '09 at 11:50

What is the policy for advertising on userinfo pages?

There's no official policy, and this is dealt with on a case by case basis. Until the user attains a certain level of reputation, all the links on their page are NOFOLLOWED so the search engines don't give those links undue attention.

Beyond that, the system works pretty well.

  • If they don't contribute, then no one visits their user page, so the ads have no effect.
  • If they contribute spammy answers/questions, then the spam/abuse flags are set by other users on their posts, and the moderators generally take a look at the account to see if there is a pattern of abuse before determining the best action to take.
  • If they contribute good material to SO and:
    • Their ads are not offensive, then all is well and they are receiving a benefit from their work on SO
    • Their ads are offensive, then whoever got offended is welcome to report the account to team@stackoverflow.com, or flag one of their posts and note that their user page is offensive. It will be reviewed.

How much is too much?

There is a limited amount of space in the user page, and not all of the fields are free-form, so at most any excessive advertising can only take up perhaps 50% of the above the fold space, and 25% of the overall userpage.

If it's not offensive, then there's really no reason to complain - no one will come if they don't contribute to SO, and if they contribute a lot of good stuff then they will get a few hits on their user page, but it still won't be significant in the scheme of things.

If they find a way to subvert more of their user page into advertising, and somehow draw people in, then that's abuse of the website, and should be reported on a case by case basis.


When possible flag the user for moderator attention and it will be investigated.

This can be done by flagging a post from the user. If the user has no posts to be honest it is not major issue, since chances are people will not find the profile anyway, and the account will be auto deleted after a period of inactivity.

There is very little censorship or control over the user profiles due to the strict rules around having signatures in posts, and in this case, it has every sign that it is a spam account and will be deleted. Generally we would investigate and make a decision based on the details we have access to whether or not the account is valid and should be kept, should be edited or should be removed.

The only reason there are 23 profile views is most likely due to it being posted here, and generally these accounts don't do much damage.

  • 2
    Yea, I contributed to 1 view count :P – o.k.w Dec 1 '09 at 11:05
  • Looks like all the profile views are from Meta. Counts are off only slightly. – random Dec 1 '09 at 12:01

What was in this user's profile?

We made some changes recently to lock down profiles a bit for new users, as this was an oversight on our part..

  • There was some viagra-type stuff with a very big and bold font to be seen from a mile. – user136634 Dec 1 '09 at 17:00
  • Cialis to be exact :P – o.k.w Dec 1 '09 at 23:47

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