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The definition of the spam flag is:

Exists only to promote a product or service, does not disclose the author's affiliation.

And it links to the site's /help/promotion page. Based on the tips provided for not being a spammer, it seems like you would still be a spammer if you regularly and overtly promote your product or service, regardless of disclosure. Failure to include relevant information in the answer itself also makes the post not an answer.

Flagging posts as spam come with automatic penalties related to reputation loss and spam blocking algorithms. This can be seen as a good thing. However, the guidance seems to suggest treating such posts as you would posts that aren't an answer with down votes and/or votes for deletion without the penalties that come with spam.

Is there any reason to treat a post that does not stand alone to directly answer the question and points to the poster's product or service as spam, even if the affiliation is disclosed in the post? I can't think of one, but the guidance on the flagging page suggests otherwise.

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    I VTC'd towards the FAQ as, IMO, the guidance we have there is pretty clear on that part: being attributed doesn't exempt something from being unsolicited. Freely flag as spam. Dec 21, 2022 at 13:30
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    @OlegValteriswithUkraine No. I'm asking why that guidance is what it is and if it still makes sense. That link doesn't answer my question. The guidance seems to indicate a preference toward treating posts as low quality or not an answer rather than spam, which doesn't make sense. It's quite clear that as soon as you include attribution, you shouldn't flag it as spam, as implied by the flag description and explicit in the Meta SE post you linked to. However, that guidance is years old at this point. Dec 21, 2022 at 13:49
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    So you're asking about cases where someone posts "Low price limo service New York [link]. Best prices, superior service with Big Apple Limo. Disclosure: I work for Big Apple Limo." as an answer to a programming question and whether that is spam or simply NAA? Dec 21, 2022 at 14:02
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    @RobertColumbia No. Consider if someone posted "I wrote an open-source library that solves this problem. Check it out on GitHub." It's both solicited (technically answers the question) and attributed (the post makes it clear the poster is the author of the library). By the current definition, it would not be spam. At most, it would be "not an answer", down voted, and perhaps voted for deletion. It would not trigger the -100 reputation for spam or feed into the anti-spam measures that exist. I'm not convinced this is correct. Dec 21, 2022 at 14:32
  • @ThomasOwens I am not sure I get what's unclear about the policy we have: "A post should be marked as spam only if it promotes a product, service, or similar; and is unsolicited or lacks disclosure of affiliation."... Whatever the probably ambiguous wording of the company may suggest, it bears no weight in community curation unless it directly contradicts it. After all, moderators are community representatives, not the company's. An unsolicited disclosed post is spam, there is no other interpretation of it I can think of. [1/2] Dec 21, 2022 at 20:04
  • [2/2] If a post directly answers the question, and is not NAA (i.e., is not a link to the service / whatever), it likely shouldn't be flagged as spam (unless you notice a pattern of the user posting such answers too much). Otherwise, it is blatant spam, no two ways about it. Speaking of your last example, it does seem like it qualifies for just being an NAA "link-only" if it directly addresses the question. Dec 21, 2022 at 20:07
  • @OlegValteriswithUkraine It's not that the policy is unclear. It's quite clear. I'm asking why the policy is what it is and if we should reconsider that policy. I'm beginning to think that posts that exist only to promote products or services and don't stand on their own to answer the question should be treated as spam. I can't find any rationale for why the policy is what it is, only that it is what it is. Dec 21, 2022 at 23:10

1 Answer 1

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I think the general view I have is "disclosure is necessary but not sufficient"

At the single question level - I'd say a tailored answer showing how to use a product to specifically answer a question is fine. Such answers are not basically regurgitating ad copy, but rather using subject matter expertise to show how to solve the issue with specific tools you'd be familiar with due to your affiliation.

However...

At an account level ideally the user's contributions shouldn't be focused entirely (or very substantially) on promoting the product. The text for the moderator message for spam - is titled "excessive self promotion" starts "We noticed that some of your posts seem to exist only to promote your product or website.", which reflects this.

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  • I'd agree that a tailored answer that shows how to use a product is allowed. However, what about just a one-off (or two-off or something that is not excessive) pointer to a product, service, website, etc.? Effectively, an answer that is "I wrote a tool to solve this problem - check it out on GitHub". The current guidance is to treat it as not an answer rather than spam. Does that make sense and, if so, why? Dec 21, 2022 at 14:34
  • Also, the why aspect is what I'm really getting at. I've been noticing a trend where people will post answers with links that answer the question, whether it's a tool on GitHub or a blog post on another site, without giving sufficient detail to answer the question in a stand-alone form. It seems like the anti-spam measures would be appropriate for these, but there may be good reasons why it's not. Dec 21, 2022 at 14:37
  • Well - that's one of the reasons I'd take a look at both the singular question and the aggregate is - it makes sense to treat one as not an answer and advice the user, but if the user has a bunch, we have other issues Dec 21, 2022 at 14:38
  • So specifically - I'd go with user education and nudging them to do 'better' answers before the spam-hammer in such cases Dec 21, 2022 at 14:43
  • It's more about a trend across users, though. I guess I'm not convinced that nudging is worth the time, especially since it doesn't scale. Bringing out the spam-hammer fast is good. If a user goes to meta to ask, then that's a good opportunity for education and helping, since the only real loss is reputation points for registered accounts. Dec 21, 2022 at 14:48
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    @ThomasOwens "Effectively, an answer that is "I wrote a tool to solve this problem - check it out on GitHub"" That's a link-only answer. If it's only once or twice, I'd go with NAA. Spam flags are too heavy-handed for that. Even if it starts becoming obvious (say, 6 posts in succession but not within a spammy timeframe), most moderators prefer a mod-flag pointing out the behaviour instead of a wave of redflags. Some users don't realize what they do is wrong. That is, assuming the content is relevant. If it's not, or barely, it's just spam.
    – Mast
    Dec 21, 2022 at 18:33
  • @Mast Still, I don't get why going with NAA is the preferred or accepted route and why spam flags would be considered too heavy handed. I think a spam flag is very much appropriate, but everything disagrees with me. What is the rationale behind that? Is this something that we should reconsider? Dec 21, 2022 at 23:07
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    The whole assume good intent really. That we can teach someone who doesn't know better to know better. Dec 21, 2022 at 23:21

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