I'm looking at the Community Promotion Ads submitted, and am wondering if they are being used in the best interest of the community.

I envisioned that these ads would be used to promote products and activities that, frankly, can use our help. My original vision was that these ads would be used to promote interesting activities and conferences that might, otherwise, have few outlets to get the word out.

Community promotion ads were supposed to be the counterpart to Stack Overflow's Open Source Advertising program. But when I see ads for Firefox and Gimp and Dropbox and Gmail — who frankly do not need our help — I'm wondering if including these types of less-needy services will only crowd out those that this program was intended for.

I'm not saying that there IS necessarily a problem. I would just like to start a dialog.

Should there be a stated of purpose for how these community ads are used? What would that policy be? Is this program being used to it's fullest potential? Should we just leave things the way they are?

  • Question @Robert: how do you feel about the community ads being used to promote things directly relating to SU, such as the blog, question of the week, and promoting the ads themselves? I feel like this is more beneficial to the community than the ads for products, because it gets users more involved with SU itself. Does this fit with your vision of what community ads are meant to be?
    – nhinkle
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 20:53
  • 2
    @nhinkle: I am 100% in support of using community ads to promote those extra-curricular activities such as the blog or a podcast or anything else that folks put in so much effort and need our our support and recognition. 100%. But that's a good point. Promoting the community blog is competing with another ad spot for Firefox and 7-Zip. Really? Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 22:01
  • 1
    see related discussion at meta.superuser.com/questions/2444/… Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 22:21
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    Other (related) question: how exactly does the ad's score affect how often it's displayed?
    – nhinkle
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 22:31

4 Answers 4


Maybe we should look at this from the other direction.

Community ads are a service TO the community. The top-voted ads should build a unique "community bulletin board" where users can pin up notices to let the everyone know about intriguing events or services which might otherwise have been missed. It's there for those situations where you say

"Man, I wish there was a way I could get the word out about …"

So what fits that criteria?

  • Community events — contests, meet-ups, giveaways, elections, etc. - GOOD
  • Conferences, tradeshows, etc. - GOOD
  • Blogs, podcasts, video tutorials, educational resources, etc. - GOOD
  • Stack Exchange API apps and scripts (Stackapps) - GOOD
  • Open source projects actively looking for contributors - GOOD
  • Ubiquitous applications and websites already well-known by the community - NOT SO GOOD
  • Commercial applications and services that are more advertisement than announcement - BAD
  • Broader announcemenets not really specific to that community - DEBATABLE

My wish is NOT to have to wrap a hard policy around what is permissible. This isn't really about "commercial" vs. "non-commercial."

Perhaps If we could instill these criteria into the submission/voting process — make it clearer what the INTENT of the ads are — the community voting can better decide which ads provide community value and which should remain at the bottom of the pile.

But right now a bunch of "Hey, cool! I use that!" ads and voting does not add anything to this community.


Interesting how no one but mods/team members have chimed in here... So I figured why not voice my opinion as a humble user?

I personally feel that the majority of users have a "follow the leader mentality". It's really tough to gauge what the community response will be to any given topic, so they wait for someone else to take a leap and then follow what the others do. In this case we started off with projects everyone knows for example: 7zip, Firefox, and Ubuntu so this naturally leads to people posting similar big name projects: VLC, Virtualbox, process explorer, no one wants to post something that gets downvoted (even if they don't matter on meta people still like their peers approval).

You can see the same trend with blog ads: one ad shows up and is received well because everyone likes the blog, it has interesting topics, and no one is going to down vote something that publicly represents the community. Thus we get a ton a blog ads since they are safe bet to post...

Personally I think if we want this to promote lesser know projects that's how we should set the tone. Instead of starting with 7-zip why not purge the popular projects and start with something small and lesser known?

...I may be totally off base here since I don't know anyone in this community very well, just my 2 cents.

  • 2
    Interesting point. I'm always saying that a site is defined by the questions on the front page; That users will imitate what they see. Perhaps it's the same problem with the ad choices -- Simply a false start. Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 15:47
  • Your interpretation of the blog ads is slightly off - I made almost all of them, because promoting the blog is (sort of) one of my jobs as an editor. We get a ton of blog ads because I love the blog :P
    – nhinkle
    Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 16:28
  • That's fair @nhinkle although bloodphilia and George Edision did post 3 of them... Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 16:39

I understand your concern about 'the big guys' getting the attention that should be going to smaller Open Source products that have a greater need of attention. But unlike on SO where the devs of these products might be a user and use the ads to promote their products, I don't think we have such users on SU.

Furthermore, the community is very adverse to self-promotion and advertisement of products, so I don't think anyone would even dare propose an ad for their product.

The result is that users submit projects they are passionate about, which unfortunately are products everybody already knows. As you suggest, this probably defeats the purpose, but we don't have any insight into what products could use our support either.

If you feel strongly about not allowing these big brands to use our free ads (like Jeff mentioned elsewhere), than I would drop promoting products altogether and use the ads for other things like other SE proposals, promoting blog articles or hot questions on SU itself.

  • 3
    Thought: could we present a poll to the users asking them what free, and preferably open source software they use frequently and find useful? We could even have the poll announcement appear in the ad slot.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 22:56
  • I think Ivo's right. This site does have a thing against promoting products, I personally don't mind seeing good programs and guides as the ads. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 20:37

Recently there was a nice contest going on that would award a Thermaltake Level 10 GT to the lucky draw. No strings attached. One didn't even need to subscribe to anything.

I did think introducing this as an add. But it felt so out-of-place with everything else on that thread, I just gave up on the idea.

What are popular product ads doing there, beats me entirely. It didn't take me more than one reading of the rules to understand that is entirely legitimate. And in fact falls perfectly well within the tone of the rules. For example, with:

The goal is for future visitors to find out about the stuff your community deems important. And to click on it for great justice!

So the problem is really not with the ads. Putting there some Microsoft product ad is perfectly acceptable and on-topic. Whether it gets voted or not, is another matter. But this to me demonstrates the rules have been made too generic and didn't account for the popularity or commercialization of certain products that simply don't need (or shouldn't have) community-driven ads.

I'd rather see a different mechanism for community-driven ads that didn't rely on a single discussion thread based on popular votes. But rather several discussion threads (or a new web interface altogether) each pertaining to a specific product type (apps, site twitter, cool events, etc). This would allow for different topics to become more visible to potential promoters and could allow for server-side weighting scripts based on ad type (with product placement definitely not being the focus).

  • For future reference, feel free to submit ads for things like that. We'll let you know if we feel like they're out of place, but I expect they would be welcome, provided that it really is free, no strings attached.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 5:22

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