The Stack Overflow guidelines under Help center > Our Model specifically state the following:

The community tends to vote down overt self-promotion and flag it as spam. Post good, relevant answers, and if some (but not all) happen to be about your product or website, that’s okay. However, you must disclose your affiliation in your answers.

If a large percentage of your posts include a mention of your product or website, you're probably here for the wrong reasons. Our advertising rates are quite reasonable; contact our ad sales team for details. We also offer free community promotion ads for open source projects and non-profit organizations.

We have at least one user here at Photography.SE that includes links to their own website in practically every answer that user has posted here. This user never discloses that the links are to that user's own website.

I've flagged a number of them for moderator attention, and yet nothing seems to ever be done.

Are specific communities at SE allowed to blatantly disregard the core guidelines of the entire SE network?

If the site isn't disclosed as their site, it is definitely in violation of the policy and it is correct to flag it as spam. I have not seen these flags come across my queue, so I'm not sure if they are being handled by another mod or if they are being resolved some other way without getting processed. I would be happy to hit you up in a private chat if you like to get more detail on the specific situation so I can look in to it.

It sounds like the user is making valuable contributions that don't require going to his or her site, which is fine as long as they are really investing in the community, but they need to be clearly mentioning it is their site every time they reference it. The only part this would arguably be in violation of would be the part about "should be a minor portion of overall contributions", but that is generally about product promotion rather than linking to a site they have that provides further details (as long as the answers still stand alone without the link).

  • I continue to flag such answers from the same user and nothing is being done to encourage the user to disclose their ownership of the site that contains the vast majority of links in their answers. – Michael Clark Aug 2 at 6:01
  • The most recent posts both clearly indicated affiliation. The one was a bit weak since the answer itself wasn't particularly relevant, though it was more relevant to a previous version of the question (which was current when answered). The other seemed fully relevant. – AJ Henderson Aug 3 at 4:34
  • I can't remember which ones they were, but I'm pretty sure one of them didn't until you edited in into the answer after I flagged it. – Michael Clark Aug 3 at 4:58
  • Yeah that was the first of three flags I'd seen. After my comments explaining he started referring to it with attribution in the next two posts I saw. I've only personally seen those 3 flags since this post. – AJ Henderson Aug 3 at 13:18

If we know this site is the poster's, we should edit the posts to reflect that, and communicate clearly to that user that we're doing so, and advise him/her to do that as well in the future. I agree that we shouldn't be removing quality answers, but it's definitely a conflict of interest to link to another site without disclosing a personal interest in it.

  • it's definitely a conflict of interest to link to another site without disclosing a personal interest in it. Is it definite? Hypothetically, assuming there is nothing for the poster to gain financially at the off-site content (no affiliate links, no google adwords, etc.), is there really a conflict of interest? Mind you, I'm not commenting on to what degree the answer here is good/bad, or whether it's effectively a link-only answer to their off-site content (which would be another wrong issue altogether). But if the off-site content isn't monetized, purely just long-form content, is it COI? – scottbb Jul 22 at 17:01
  • 2
    @scottbb For the purposes of transparency, it's a conflict of interest - presumably, people run sites because they want traffic, even if they're not gaining monetarily - but it's a minor one. Still, it should be disclosed, and it's trivial to do so. "I have a discussion on the matter on my website, xxx." – Jim MacKenzie Jul 22 at 17:03
  • 4
    Still, it should be disclosed, and it's trivial to do so. <-- This. This is the bottom line, 100% agreed. – scottbb Jul 22 at 17:08

I've had similar thoughts. What has kept me from flagging the user for spam, however, is that their posts are always substantial and useful. I think that's the key distinguisher from most other promotional drive-by posts.

Also, the quality of the information found at their site is high. Along the lines of something like Cambridge in Colour. To me, this distinguishes it from typical astroturf posts, which are driving traffic to a site that is actively pushing/selling.

I don't know exactly where the line is, but there's a qualitative difference between the user & site in question vs. the more typical spam/drive-by ad posts.

The user's site is listed on their user profile page, but perhaps they could be persuaded to more prominently mention their site in the information text on their profile page? Just a suggestion.

  • I don't have a problem with the posts or the links. I have a problem with the total refusal to play by the rules everyone else is expected to follow and disclose the connection. – Michael Clark Jul 18 at 22:17

You must log in to answer this question.

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