8

Zach Lipton recently flagged this answer.

OP has also posted another answer with the same content.

I asked chief prosecutor Lipton to provide the evidence. Turns out the CEO of the company which sells the app is clearly the same guy (photo and name) who posted the answers. This is not disclosed in the answers, as is required by the rules here.

What should we do here? The TSE community are the judges.

  • 3
    This did not pass under the radar. I flagged it multiple times and it was never deleted by the higher-ups. – JoErNanO Sep 20 '16 at 12:09
  • 1
    We are not the morality police - our #1 driving goal should be to create a site with content that is useful to travelers. To me it is clear that deleting a potentially useful answer hurts this goal much more than adding an affiliation notice. We should evaluate each answer on its merits first, and secondary criteria, well, second. If the app is a good solution to the posted question, it will get my upvote, if not - downvote. Would the usefulness of the answer to the travel community really be different if it was a random user posting about an app they like, as opposed to the app creator? – Eugene O Sep 20 '16 at 14:28
  • @EugeneO yes and no. A random user posting about an app they like is great. What we dislike (and it's in the SE terms) is spam/blatant self promotion without affiliation. So it's a blanket rule. We ususally try to warn first or ask them if they're associated, but for many they join the site, post it, and never return to answer questions, they're just driving traffic :/ – Mark Mayo Sep 20 '16 at 14:36
  • @JoErNanO Perhaps, at the time, it wasn't confirmed that the guy was indeed affiliated with the app? – Revetahw Sep 20 '16 at 14:45
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    I understand the rule and the problems with self-promotion, but I think that we already have 2 mechanisms to fight it: (1) Any user can edit the answer and add an affiliation warning, and (2) if the app turns out bad, there's the downvote mechanism. I don't think we need a 3rd mechanism, outright deleting an answer that may be genuinely useful to someone (unless it's outright spam - promoting an app/site that does not actually answer the question where it's posted as an answer). – Eugene O Sep 20 '16 at 14:47
  • @EugeneO You argue your point very well, consider posting it as an answer. – Revetahw Sep 20 '16 at 14:48
  • @EugeneO I liked your comments, so I included them in one of my answers. Let me know if you don't like it, I can remove it again. – Revetahw Sep 20 '16 at 15:37
  • Flag it so the higher-ups can delete it. If I'm the first on the scene, I'll be likely to post a comment like "this is a HORRIBLE product! Avoid at all cost"" – Gayot Fow Sep 20 '16 at 16:01
  • 2
    @GayotFow Even if you haven't tried it? And, only assuming you somehow know the OP is affiliated with the product? – Revetahw Sep 20 '16 at 16:05
  • @Fiksdal yes and yes. It's a HORRIBLE product. – Gayot Fow Sep 20 '16 at 16:51
  • @GayotFow You're saying you have tried this particular app that was being referred to in OP? – Revetahw Sep 20 '16 at 16:55
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    @Fiksdal spam is as spam does, and it has prevented repeats and floods. until the higher-ups arrived. So yeah, I tried that app once and all my pubic hair fell out. – Gayot Fow Sep 20 '16 at 17:02
  • @GayotFow LOL, thanks for clarifying. So earlier you were talking about what you would do to this particular example of spam, not other cases where you haven't tried the app? – Revetahw Sep 20 '16 at 17:06
  • @Fiksdal if I haven't tried the app I keep my mouth shut! But if it's a clear cut case of spamish abuse, then anything goes. Anything. That app is a RIPOFF. I tried it and spilled spaghetti sauce all over a clean shirt! Be creative. Go for a haiku. Try it some time. It's fun :) – Gayot Fow Sep 20 '16 at 17:11
  • @GayotFow Haha! :) :) – Revetahw Sep 20 '16 at 17:20
16

As "chief prosecutor" here, I'm in the delete camp, and wanted to explain why.

Ordinarily, disclosure is great. If someone comes and provides a useful answer, and says "btw, this is my app; let me know if you have any feedback or comments," that's a helpful answer and should be encouraged. The SE rules explicitly allow for this kind of behavior, unlike some online communities that ban all self-links (and generally ban the users who make them too). This is a good thing. But that's not what happened here. This user breezed in, dropped links to his own app on two questions, and split, without ever explaining he had any connection to the app. He's demonstrated no interest in participating other than self-promotion.

Most people wouldn't tolerate this behavior offline. What would you think if you asked your neighbor to recommend a plumber, he said "oh I know this great guy, does excellent work at a good price," you call him, and a few hours later your neighbor rings your doorbell wearing overalls and a hat, carrying a pipe wrench? I suspect you'd be peeved that he conveniently failed to mention the fact that he was recommending himself. Even if he turned out to be a good plumber, you likely wouldn't get past the fact that he omitted this material information from his recommendation.

Spam destroys communities. What some are proposing is that we just add a note to the answer and move on. But how would that work for other similar situations? We get tons of answers of the form "need a visa? go to myvisahqtotallylegitvisaservice.xyz" that are deleted as spam without a moment's thought. Should we really just all a disclaimer to these answers and keep them?

Can we catch everyone who posts self-links without disclosing that fact? Of course not. Had this user not used his real name and picture, it may well have slipped by (though obviously the tone of it was suspicious enough for several of us to investigate, which is something I don't exactly make a habit of here). But when someone is clearly only interested in using the site for self-promotion and blatantly fails to mention that fact, delete the answers.

15

Delete both answers as spam

We should send a clear message that advertising one's own products without disclosing one's affiliation is not alright. In this case the problem has been left unresolved for over a year, which is unfortunate. Both answers should now be deleted.

-3

Add disclosure/warnings to the answers

While the OP didn't disclose his affiliation, which is certainly bad, it doesn't mean the app is not useful. It does appear to answer the questions, and may be useful to readers.

We need to add very visible warnings which state that OP is the CEO of the company selling the app. OP may not have known about TSE rules, so him not disclosing affiliation himself should perhaps not be penalized quite so severely as to delete the answers. However, he did not respond to comments regarding it, which does detract from his case.

@EugeneO has written some good reasoning in favour of this answer. I'm including it here, because it is well written.

We are not the morality police - our #1 driving goal should be to create a site with content that is useful to travelers. To me it is clear that deleting a potentially useful answer hurts this goal much more than adding an affiliation notice. We should evaluate each answer on its merits first, and secondary criteria, well, second. If the app is a good solution to the posted question, it will get my upvote, if not - downvote. Would the usefulness of the answer to the travel community really be different if it was a random user posting about an app they like, as opposed to the app creator?

I understand the rule and the problems with self-promotion, but I think that we already have 2 mechanisms to fight it:

  1. Any user can edit the answer and add an affiliation warning.
  2. If the app turns out bad, there's the downvote mechanism.

I don't think we need a 3rd mechanism, outright deleting an answer that may be genuinely useful to someone (unless it's outright spam - promoting an app/site that does not actually answer the question where it's posted as an answer).

3

First time I've seen this in the mod queue, although I've only been a mod again for a few months. It's technically not a great answer - and some would class it as spam. To not be, you need to:

  • actually answer the question
  • if you provide a link to your own content, disclose that you are affiliated with the content

As the post fails the second criteria, I've deleted. In future, you can simply vote to downvote it and also vote to delete it (if you have the privilege level), which given the attention it's had since then would have gotten it removed earlier than now, when I'm looking at the mod queue. But both ways do work!

3

Spamming is uncivilized behavior, and I have to be pretty desperate to reward a spammer with my business, no matter how good their company is. In other words, if an answer is spam, that automatically makes it a recommendation against the product.

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