What's our stance on relevant product recommendations? The paragraph in the FAQ is clearly not enough in this case.

As a recent example, a developer of an Outlook plug-in/addon started answering Outlook-related questions on this site. Nearly all of his answers recommend his own product, linking to a specific part of the product web page describing the relevant feature. After he was told he needed to disclose his affiliation, he promptly did so.

AFAICT, his answers are relevant, with almost half of them upvoted (none by me though). In most cases his software works around shortcomings of Outlook. It seems to me (as someone not using Outlook) that his answers are on-topic, useful, and adhere (after a reminder) to the rules. The link to the product page describes the particular feature answering how the product solves the problem.

Still, he was suspended for a week.

Maybe it's because of his one-sided focus on Outlook questions. But then again, you post about what you know, and as an Outlook addon developer, he knows it intimately. There's also one or two answers not about his product.

Related, and it seems I'm only on meta for topics like these, but I don't see how the user violated the rules in these. Being flagged for spamming is possible or likely, but being suspended by a moderator is still something completely different.

I'd appreciate if someone could explain to me, how the user violated the rules, and which of them.

  • 2
    Interesting, after looking over his answers it seems he is not your "typical spammer" and he did reply to DMA's request to add his affiliation. Just a guess but maybe the mods suspended him because his posts were getting flagged as spam. I think I may have flagged one of his posts before... Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 21:11
  • 2
    After reading this I'm really not sure how I feel about this...it's possible that he might branch into other topics because he IS giving semi-useful answers...but he'll probably never come back after this suspension.
    – Shinrai
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 20:34
  • Jeff started a new discussion on MSO: Defining the limits of self-promotion.
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 9, 2011 at 8:26
  • @Arjan In that topic, Jeff states: "whether it's genuinely suitable as a solution to the question" didn't seem to be in most cases, to me. At least it was quite a stretch a lot of the time. — I think this SU case would be more useful to base discussions on, since, as I wrote, the answers seem to be actually relevant. I may be wrong there, but so far none of the answers to this meta topic suggest that. Also, I started this topic with an emphasis on relevant -- even if my example might turn out not to be relevant, useful answers, it's a big difference if it's simple spamming or helpful.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Apr 9, 2011 at 9:46

4 Answers 4


Answering and recommending a product you're affiliated with is one thing.

Posting again and again with similar/same boilerplate wording on anything that might be related to your product is stepping over the line of decency.

  • 7
    +1, this would be my stance. And supported by the FAQ's self promotion section which states Also, if a huge percentage of your posts include a mention of your product or website, you're probably here for the wrong reasons.. As I've said previously, SU isn't some free advertising opportunity for companies to use to push their products.
    – DMA57361
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 7:50
  • 1
    +1, this was the reason I flagged one of his posts after looking at all his other posts. They were all the same link back to the same tool with no explanation of why that was his favored tool (until after DMA commented on the post that I had flagged).
    – N_Lindz
    Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 17:10

From the FAQ (previously quoted but I want to clarify)

Also, if a huge percentage of your posts include a mention of your product or website, you're probably here for the wrong reasons.

This generally ends up being the deciding factor. If ALL YOU DO is spam your link and "answer", you're not really participating in good faith.

If you answer questions and a few of those happen to be about your product (with disclosure), I'm much more inclined to tolerate that.

Sadly that is not common.


Side note: it's generally not done to ask reason for suspension, although if a number of posts were flagged as spam, AFIAK that's an automatic suspension.

Anyhow, from the FaQ:

May I promote products or websites I am affiliated with here?

Be careful, because the community frowns on overt self-promotion and tends to vote it down and flag it as spam. Post good, relevant answers, and if they happen to be about your product or website, so be it. However, you must disclose your affiliation in your answers. Also, if a huge percentage of your posts include a mention of your product or website, you're probably here for the wrong reasons.

If it's blatently obvious that the user has posted a link to a program and not declared that they are afflated with the porduct (the link in their pofile points to the site given in the link) then it's fair game to flag as spam. If they do put a disclaimer line in then leave it as OK.

If it seems potenially spammy, flag for moderator attention (not nessecairly as spam) and let them take action if needed.

  • The user was told he had to disclose his affiliation and did so. The moderator DMA57361 wrote in a comment that the user was suspended by a moderator for his posts, at least that's how I understood it.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 4:53
  • After reading the comment thread I see your point. I don't think this is a serious case of spamming - but not serving as a mod it's not for me to decide. Thanks for pointing this out, though, I'll be interested to see what happens.
    – tombull89
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 7:44
  • I feel that if someone is searching old questions to be able to post answers that relate to their product, and then still needs to be reminded about disclosure, then there is little chance that the disclosure was "forgotten" to start with. I would flag, and hope for suspension. I'd also leave a comment about disclosure, but merely for moderators and other readers.
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 9, 2011 at 10:32

Not an answer, but for completeness, here's the full comment thread connected to an answer where Daniel Beck and I had an initial discussion, before this meta question was posted.
(Note that I will now clean most of the comments from the post, they just add unnecessary noise to that thread, and they aren't really that relevant outside this post now anyway).

@thims, if you're going to only post answers that link to the same software each time, and without bothering to go in to more depth, then you make it look suspiciously like you're an advertiser/spammer. Please try to improve the quality and diversity of your answers as well, otherwise we may have to disable or remove your account if this spam-like behaviour continues. And remember, if you're affiliated with the software, you must make sure you make this clear in your posts (as per the FAQ, and even then we still expect them to be of high quality.
– DMA57361♦ [2011-04-05 12:58:19Z]

@DMA57361, thank you for your comment on this. I edited my answers by making clear that I'm one of ReliefJet Essentials for Outlook developers.
– thims [2011-04-05 14:05:54Z]

@DMA Linking to a specific anchor (about the specific functionality desired in this topic) on a product web page is far better than most other software-recs on this site and can easily be considered "high quality".
– Daniel Beck [2011-04-05 17:00:03Z]

@Daniel this is true, which is why I gave a warning. However, 5 or 6 more posts advertising only their own product in the space of a few hours has led to another ♦ activating a short suspension in my absence, which I think is warranted.
– DMA57361♦ [2011-04-05 18:53:13Z]

@DMA His product is a valid answer for every topic he posted it in, as far as I can tell. While he primarily advertises, he has one upvoted answer that is about Outlook in general. I don't see an issue here -- the answers are relevant, on-topic, useful and he discloses his association (after being told the rules, but we're used to it…). Granted, it's a bit one-sided, but everyone posts what he knows, and as Outlook addon developer, he knows Outlook intimately. Similar issue as with lobbyists in politics -- you probably shouldn't judge the content based of affiliation alone.
– Daniel Beck [2011-04-05 19:14:55Z]

@Daniel, SU isn't a free advertising opportunity for companies to use to push their products across. And I just don't think these are quality answers (personally I dislike most "use program X" answers regardless of affiliations - they just don't bring much info to the table). And please, If you feel the need to discuss this further could you raise it on meta, as a comment thread is hardly the right place for this (and if you do raise this on meta let me know so we can clean down this comment thread a bit).
– DMA57361♦ [2011-04-05 19:37:00Z]

@DMA It's on meta. Feel free to edit, I'm quite tired and have no idea if the topic actually makes any sense at all.
– Daniel Beck [2011-04-06 20:58:51Z]

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