As the "spammer" in question, I think it reasonable to rise to my own defense.
I think this question is a knee-jerk reaction to anything which has a whiff of commercialism, regardless of its utility.
Spam is defined by wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_(electronic) as
"use of electronic messaging systems (...) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately."
My responses are not indiscriminate. Nor are they unsolicited.
While many of my posts (not all) might be argued as commercially biased,
they are NOT spam by this definition. I challenge Michael or others to find a response which is not reasonably related to the question posted by the OP, or in fact even very good
answers. The OP explicitly requests information and my responses are, I claim, on-topic.
The fact that they are upvoted by some readers indicate that they believe the
answer to be a reasonable answer. The fact that OPs sometimes mark them as best
answer shows that the OP believes he got a good response to his question.
Presumably if the post was made by somebody other than me, and the upvoters didn't know the difference, they would have upvoted anyway.
The implications are that my responses are useful to the OP and to the readers.
While I don't always (or even often) note that I am a principal at the company, my
icon bio data is extremely clear about my status and what my responses might mean.
(EDIT 72 hours after original post: A policy of making this connection explicit seems to have formed at about 12 hours after original post. Immediately thereafter I
agreed in a number of comments to various responses to this question to implement
that policy on future answers, and revise previous answers as time permits. But the storm still rages on; read the rest of this post).
StackOverflow is useful because it gets answers for posters. Objecting that an
answer has some commercial property doesn't negate the value of that answer if it
is relevant. There are lots of answers that point to commercial products (e.g., Microsoft)
and they aren't marked as spam. Why should posters not be able to get information
about useful results, just because my company is small and not a lot of people know
about it? Nobody here seems to object to Microsoft getting what amounts to free air time, just because it has mindshare and therefore a non-MS person will provide a MS-biased answer.
While I do make a living from selling my tools, as far as I can tell everybody else at SO pretty much makes a living doing something that is commercially valuable. I'm passionate about the tools I build. I believe they are extremely good at what they do, and of considerable value to the community.
I believe I am doing the community service. I think you should allow any vendor (oh that awful word) that has useful responses to provide such responses.
And I don't think this position should be repeatedly argued at SO, but rather become an explicitly embraced policy.
You are of course allowed to have your own opinion about the quality and relevance of individual answers, and up/down vote answers accordingly. You can downvote because you don't like commercial products, but I just think you are doing the OPs a disservice.
EDIT (12 hours after original post)
There now seems to be an additional new objection, which is that there is a large quantity of posts that refer to a (my) website.
If a question gets asked, then a reasonable answer should be a reasonable answer. (Whether a question gets closed as a duplicate doesn't change this).
If the answers are reasonable, why does it matter what site they link to, or how many times that site is mentioned across all the SO answers?
In case anybody is paying attention, one of the reasons that I have a lot of answers is because my company builds a lot of different tools (using a common engine, check my bio if you want to know how this might be possible).
I think I'm getting singled out on this partly because I can provide a lot of useful answers. That seems downright unreasonable.
EDIT (36 hours after original post)
There appears to be a proposal for a policy suggesting that marking one's own products explicitly in an answer would be A Good Thing. I've agreed (see various comment threads where I seem to have to repeat my agreement repeatedly) to do this, and have in fact gone back and made changes to some of my posts.
However, it is entirely unclear that having a policy proposal is the same as
- having a policy
- having that policy be known
- having the policy be followed. Consider a malcontent that doesn't like the policy. (It may be obvious there are some working this SO thread). S(he) simply decides to take matters into her own hands and mark policy-following
answer as spam anyway. A blinking "somebody marked this as spam" is likely a magnet to a other malcontents, and thus you are likely to get a piling-on effect. Small numbers of malcontents then produce almost predetermined outcomes; its called exponential decay. For those malcontents, I suggest this link.
I guess I'm not thrilled with how "community consensus" works. Welcome to the Internet.
In any case, I'll make the commitment that if policy is decided, "no self promotion", then I'll quit providing my-tool answers where my tools make sense, even if I think that's dumb. It'd be nice if the malcontents would make similar commitments about SO "policy".
I don't hold a lot of hope based on some of the vitriol present.
EDIT (48 hours after original).
In spite of the invective, I do not recall having answers I have provided removed as spam. (It is possible there were some; early on in using SO it was pretty hard to tell why my rep went up or down). What I find very disturbing is that since the start of this discussion, I have suddenly had a number of answers apparantly spam-buttoned-out, as indicated by several roughly 100-point drops in rep. The coincidence strongly suggests causality. Apparantly there are those that have read the thread(s) here and aren't interested in a positive policy outcome, and have simply gone vendetta.
EDIT (64 hours after the original)
Here's an answer which I think has just been spam-tagged. I'd like somebody to explain to me how it is not a direct answer to the OP's question, regardless of attribution. This looks like outright spam-button abuse.
(It was visible when first tagged; if you can no longer see this message, that's because it has been spam-deleted. Its harder to make your case when the evidence in your favor is deleted.)
EDIT (July 27). The vigilantes are killing good answers.
Here's one upvoted by the author of the question.