Is it ok to use SO to push a (open source) product for which you are offering (commercial) support? By pushing I mean mentioning your product and how it is doing "better" than concurrent products in every possible answer (note that I'm not affiliated to any of them).

Some answers/comments to illustrate this:

Is it illegitimate to name an JPA entity "Group"?

EclipseLink: Query to MappedSuperclass fails

How to implement equals() and hashcode() methods in BaseEntity of JPA?

Is this Astroturfing? Is this allowed?

Edit: Thanks for your answers so far. I realize there are similar questions on Meta but I find it hard to extract any official consensus from all answers (which are in my opinion sometimes giving opposite or divergent points of view).

For example, I tend to find the answer given in the second example above irrelevant (the question is about product X so why answering "my product Y supports this") - which is actually why I opened this question on meta.

So I'll keep this question open a bit to gather (maybe) more opinions/feedback.

Similar questions:


The long-standing SO policy has been that this is allowed, as long as you clearly point out your affiliation with the product, and it's in the context of a useful answer.

I personally would like to see people explicitly point out their affiliation in the answer text, though, and not only implicitly through the chosen user name as seen in the DataNucleus example.

To me, the proper way to do this would be "The company I work for has a product that provides a solution for this ....." or "I have created a commercial library designed for this purpose..." but I guess DataNucleus is doing it correctly, and offering full disclosure, and not in violation of SO rules.

Similar case: Help this poor spammer out

  • 1
    Why does it matter if the answerer is affiliated with the product? An answer is an answer, good or bad, regardless of who wrote it. – polygenelubricants Jul 5 '10 at 11:09
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    Because you don't talk bad about your own baby ;-) – Ivo Flipse Jul 5 '10 at 11:14
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    +1 The "problem" is that the frontier between useful answer and plug is sometimes hard to define. – Pascal Thivent Jul 5 '10 at 13:23

As long as

a) you are up front about your involvement with the product,

b) you are up front about the fact that there might be costs involved, and

c) you actually answer the question rather than just pushing a link,

then you should be OK.

I'd certainly vote "spam" if the answer was just along the lines of:

Hey, you need Product X which you can get here

  • 1
    I agree with the theory but find the practice not so simple. – Pascal Thivent Jul 5 '10 at 15:22

See How do I mention my own products in answers?

"Astroturfing" is (specifically) pretending that you are yourself a customer, when in fact you're actually an author/owner/employee.

  • Thanks for the clarification, I think I abused the term. – Pascal Thivent Jul 5 '10 at 13:25
  • Where's that term from? (I mean, I know what Astroturf™ is, but why that particular link?) – detly Jul 5 '10 at 13:43
  • @detly From politics: pretending that you have support from ordinary people a.k.a. the "grass roots"; fake grass => astroturf. – ChrisW Jul 5 '10 at 15:47
  • Hah! I love it! New word of the day. – detly Jul 6 '10 at 0:58

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