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Earlier tonight, I found myself at a party chatting with an occasional Travel.SE contributor not on the Travel.SE Members meetup list. Other than a little banter over how many questions I've both asked and answered, the discussions turned to answers and apparent self promotion.

The StackExchange network has some quite strict guidance on self promotion, including Meta.SE questions like this. The person in question has read them, and tried to abide by them when answering questions on the area they know well (which overlaps with the area their travel startup covers). They felt they were doing their best to give generally useful answers, and only link to their site as appropriate, but apparently they've received some push-back on some of their answers.

I know that we do suffer from a fair number of people promoting themselves or their business on our site, which does mean some of our mods have to stamp down hard. However, I would've thought that we ought to be welcoming to people who join our community, and offer answers to questions in a fair and transparent way. Unfortunately, my discussions at the party tonight seem to go against that.

Given our relative profile for a number of search terms, and the spammers that come with it, do we need to have harsher rules than many SE sites about self promotion? Or otherwise do we need to be more friendly to those who try to provide useful help and answers within our rules?

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I believe (When I was mod at least) the general rule was that there were a few cases:

  1. If it's clearly spam, kill it with fire.
  2. If it's clearly self-promotion and not really that relevant, warn them to please read the [help] and remember that all self-promotion must be relevant
  3. If they self-promote and it is relevant, that's fine, but also as per the [help], they MUST declare their self-interest (eg "this is my site, my blog, I'm employed by...)

If they do all that, my understanding is that it benefits the question-asker, stackexchange and the referrer, and nobody has a cause to complain.

Fun when you run into people who've used Travel.SE in real life, eh? :)

  • It would be really nice if we could pick one really well done answer from somebody with a self interest somehow. I remember commenting on one once that I thought it would make a good example. – hippietrail Jan 13 '14 at 8:13
  • This one is pretty good and this isn't too bad but I can't find the one you were referring to at the moment :/ – Mark Mayo Jan 13 '14 at 8:29
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    I think what it should come down to is - are they trying to answer in order to help the OP, or in order to promote their own site. I realise a lot of them search for questions that their site 'might' help with, but I think you can usually tell when it's really meant to be helping. – Mark Mayo Jan 13 '14 at 8:31
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    what about travel.stackexchange.com/questions/20875/… – Dirty-flow Jan 13 '14 at 14:12
  • @Dirty-flow: That's not the one I commented on but it's certainly a fantastic example we should promote as a model of how to do it. – hippietrail Jan 16 '14 at 14:39
  • @MarkMayo, when are you coming back as a mod? I do hope soon... – Gayot Fow Apr 26 '15 at 0:35
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I think first and foremost that stackexchange should take a clear position here. They may want to use ads to finance all their sites. Then they will have trouble to explain to their customers why they have to pay for an ad, whereas anybody can come here to wrap an ad for his site in an answer.

Personally, I don't work for stackexchange. Nor do I take any stake in this company. Hence my opinion is different.

I think there is nothing wrong with a person coming here and advertising his or her website or company. The same standards as for other answers should be applied. I don't think that there should be a double standard. If the answer is pure spam, the treatment seems obvious. Otherwise it depends. If the answer is of low quality or only vaguely related to the question, but not really big fat spam, you can flag it or downvote.

The problem with these "advertisers" is that they are rarely objective. They do everything to promote their product and to draw your attention to it. They will not compare themselves to competitors or if they do, it will be succinct. I have rarely seen useful posts from these "advertisers" and to me these initiatives are more of the deterring kind.

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    Free English lesson: You can't explain a person. You explain a situation, a problem, a decision, a law, etc. You explain to a person. – hippietrail Jan 16 '14 at 14:36
  • Not sure why the downvotes, I do agree with the sentiments here. – Ankur Banerjee Jan 16 '14 at 18:52
  • Downvotes = because it's me – user3470 Jan 16 '14 at 19:01
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    By 'more of the deterring kind'. do you mean 'we should downvote such answers', 'mods should be quicker to delete', or 'we should have a policy to deter them'? – TimLymington Jan 24 '14 at 16:02
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Maybe most spam is dealt with before I even get a chance to see it but I notice at most one such message a day, which does not suggest any particular need to do anything.

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    We get 2-3, sometimes 5-6 real spam messages a day. – Ankur Banerjee Jan 28 '14 at 12:50
  • OK, that's more that I thought. Is it growing? A concern for the moderators? – Relaxed Jan 28 '14 at 12:59
  • Definitely growing off-late, ever since we graduated actually. But it's usually dealt with quickly. – Ankur Banerjee Jan 28 '14 at 13:08

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