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I suppose this might be a necessary evil when asking for product recommendations, but do we have an official policy on people suggesting products from companies that they work for (directly or indirectly)?

This answer is what prompted the question. Now, the answer is perfectly relevant to the question, so I wouldn't call it spam. However, the way the poster put up a photo for a competing product (which shows it doing exactly what I want) is a bit misleading. Also, the fact that he downloaded the image from the original web site, and re-uplaoded it to photo.se is a little odd.

I did a little more digging, and both of this user's two posts on the site are suggesting Lowepro products. Both suggestions are relevant to the question, and are done in a non-spammy manner, but the poster does not disclose any relation to the company.

Maybe I am just being paranoid? According to the user's profile, he works for a marketing company. Could this be part of their services?

To be fair, I really don't know if the user in this case is a shill for Lowepro. He might just be a satisfied customer, who messed up when posting the image.

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  1. The answer must be an organic part of the thread.
    If the authors mention of the product answers the question, that's okay. If product mention isn't even peripherally related to the question, it should be edited out or flagged as spam.
  2. The author's affiliation with the product must be disclosed.
    There are users who are experts on a subject simply because they work for the company. If their product happens to solve the problem in question (i.e. complies with (1)), disclosing their affiliation with that company/product is in their best interest… and required.
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  • The participation of company members can be very useful, so we should not discourage that, subject to your proviso No 2, that they declare their affiliation. There is another related problem. A number of members are using every opportunity to drag in mentions of their favoured make of camera. This is thinly disguised advocacy which should not be taking place in a site like this. – labnut Oct 20 '10 at 20:46
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It's really a bit of a grey area. If you have a connection to a product or service you endorse that may be a conflict of interest, then there should be a disclaimer.

If someone has a conflicting relation, and has not made it known, then their post might be removed if it is seen as spam. How that is determined is the difficult part. At this point, the answer that you mentioned seems like a benign mistake, but that could change.

Also, any time there is an answer that is clearly spam, it can be flagged as such and moderators will take the time to look at it.

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Shouldn't we ask the user in question what's going on before accusing him of improper behavior? Is he even aware that this meta thread exists? Maybe he's just a satisfied customer.

I put a link to here on the answer. I think doing so is proper if we are going to make an accusation.

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  • Yeah, I did ask if he had any connection to the company. This question wasn't really meant to be an accusation so much, as a discussion. I only mentioned the question that sparked the idea to give some context. – pkaeding Oct 23 '10 at 18:21
  • That's fair, and sorry for sounding cranky. I suppose my point is that it's very easy for something like this to be interpreted as an accusation even if it wasn't intended to be one. – Reid Oct 24 '10 at 3:49
  • Thanks for the level-headedness. – Drew Stephens Oct 29 '10 at 18:32
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This is discussed at length in a Meta.SO question.

Here's a copy of my answer from that post:

If the best answer to the question happens to be a commercial product, it seems entirely irrational to me that it can't be posted by any user.

Forbidding the person most likely to be familiar with the product from doing so would seem to go against the real goal - getting good answers.

That said, posting your own product without disclosures is essentially misrepresenting something - most readers will assume that your opinion is unbiased, and it's not.

Still, this seems pretty easily solvable:

  1. Post good, relevant answers, and if they happen to be about your product, so be it. That means that it's okay to list your own product if it really meets the criteria, but if it's wildly off what the poster asked for, it's SPAM.
  2. Clearly disclose conflicts and biases. While I think "our" or "my" probably conveys it, some folks obviously don't, so why debate it: You're only posting your own stuff when it's appropriate, and helpful, and it will make people love you, right? What's the harm in getting used to pasting this: (Disclosure: I [work for/own/whatever] the company that makes it, but I think it's a logical fit for your need).

It seems as though the last thing you want is some guy who knows that his app has a rarely-discussed feature to solve the problem sitting around waiting for some other user to discover it. On the other hand, those that blindly post their own product to any borderline-related query should be down-voted and flagged.

The original was posted here.

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This forum is valuable to those in the business of supplying us with our cameras, lenses, tripods and all other photo gear. It is a great resource for people to learn and understand about problems and issues photographers are having. So are many other forums. It is in our best interest to make these people feel equally welcome here because it greatly augments the chances of having products designed in consideration for our issues. Naturally, any answer provided here by makers of photo gear ought to aim at solving the question at hand.

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    I agree, people should be allowed to suggest their won companies' products, where it is appropriate. I feel like they should disclose their connections to the company, though, so consumers can consider that when reading their recommendation. – pkaeding Oct 25 '10 at 16:32
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I haven't been back to the site since I posted that answer, but I can say with complete assurance that I have not connection to LowePro. In fact, I don't even have any LowePro stuff, but I've got a friend who has Every Piece Of Photo Gear There Is, and he uses mostly LowePro cases. Why? Because they're really good—if you read the phenomenally thorough and accurate reviews on The Digital Picture (case reviews specifically), he speaks very highly of LowePro stuff.

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    Good to hear, and for what it's worth, thanks for handling this so well. – chills42 Oct 29 '10 at 18:42
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    Thanks, I hadn't actually read the title of this post until just now, and I'm a bit more offended :-( – Drew Stephens Oct 29 '10 at 18:44

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