17

If your answers keep on mentioning a specific product or site, you might be an expert on it. It’s possible that such an expert would actually become affiliated with said thing in the future.

If this happens, then what needs to happen to all those answers (or questions) where affiliation wasn’t mentioned (because there was none when it was written)? Would the answer be different for comments?

Is “I wasn’t affiliated at the time” a valid defense against either spam flags or an account suspension?

17

I do not believe that it would be necessary to edit all of one's own, old answers or else they'd have to be labelled and deleted as spam.

Instead, once you are affiliated with a specific product or site and mention it again in an answer, make your (new) affiliation clear. You could also do so on your about page. In this case, you'd be honest and disclose your affiliation. It's easy to see that the previous answers are actually earlier answers, since they have a time stamp.

Retroactively labelling them as spam would cause quite a disruption (e. g. deleting good content) and may people make actually more reluctant to be honest (because if they hadn't disclosed it, they wouldn't have the trouble then). We shouldn't punish honesty.

The answer shouldn't be much different for comments, and they are second-class citizens, which could be deleted anytime anyway.

  • 3
    My 2¢:  The person should edit their profile page to say when they became affiliated with the product, to make the status of pre-existing posts clear. – Scott Dec 16 '18 at 21:38
  • 1
    @Scott yes, even something like this would work: "I'm one of the foremost experts on the installation and configuration of Spacely Sprockets. In December 2018, I became a marketing consultant for Spacely Sprockets, inc., the manufacturer of Spacely Sprockets, Farnod Gizmos, and Saturnian Quaternions." – Robert Columbia Dec 17 '18 at 12:51
  • @RobertColumbia: That's funny, because, for some reason, I was thinking about the Slate Rock and Gravel Company. Spacely Sprockets, Inc. (or, to be slightly more accurate, Spacely Space Sprockets, Inc.) is obviously a better example. – Scott Dec 17 '18 at 18:45
4

I believe Anne Daunted is on the right track here, but one other thing to consider is that Spam is inherently promotional in nature. The gravamen isn't the mention of the affiliated product or service (it is not a playground "forbidden word" game, where saying the name of the thing makes you "lose"), it is the promotional intent, or at least the potential for it, that makes the post so concerning that it deserves red flag treatment. If there was no affiliation at the time of the post, there was likely no significant pressure on the part of the poster to whitewash or otherwise paint a glowing portrayal of the product. It's like a professional "conflict of interest" - if there was no conflict at the time you made the decision to perform a professional act, no later role conflict can go back and improperly influence that unless you have also gained time-travel technology (in which case please share it with us). Consider: You're a physician, and occasionally you prescribe one of those new, really expensive designer drugs because you think they would be really effective for one or two of your patients. That's not unethical, it's your professional duty and judgment to do so. Now, one day, the manufacturer gives you a huge grant. Now things are decidedly different, and you should consult with a professional ethicist or at least make full and complete disclosure to any patients you are currently seeing before prescribing this drug again, because your judgment is at least potentially clouded by visions of green.

The pressure on the poster to post truly promotional content rather than informational or helpful content changes when the affiliation happens, so I would support a rule that only later posts truly require disclosure. Non-trivial or disruptive edits of prior posts could also trigger a disclosure requirement, depending on the substantiality and/or frequency (e.g. a quick spelling fix to one or two posts probably would not, a major enhancement probably would, and repeated, minor serial edits for the purpose of bumping the posts to gain more exposure for the product or service definitely would, and would probably be discouraged through suspensions).

3

Nothing.

The spirit of the rules is meant to prevent folks from primarily using the site for self promotion, and practically speaking, as enforced, there's little difference between someone shilling for a company or service they like a lot or one working for them.

I've always said disclosure is necessary but not sufficient. A sufficiently good, clear answer that would be alright on its own doesn't magically turn into spam cause someone got a new job.

We should be looking at quality and tone, over well, people's personal lives ;).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .