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Related to this old question but less obvious: how do we handle (new) users who self-promote in almost every post?

I can imagine that aggressive marketeers have the (unconscious) habit of putting their site url under everything they post, yet I don't think it's fitting for SE. Yet, I'm averse to what regularly happens now: the user's first few posts get downvoted (arguably rightfully so), and they'll probably turn tail.

Is there a guideline about self-promotion we agree about and can forward these people to, without being too harsh? If not, should there be one?

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Adding to the existing excellent answers, out Help Center has a very nice message we can invite users to check, I think it's written in a way that is not scary yet succeeds in making a point:

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.

Source: https://graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/help/behavior

Two points I really like it:

  • Community-focused, there is no 'rule' against it, but it's generally frown upon, and:

  • You must disclose your affiliation (sort of a rule, but an understandable one)

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We have had users who join then basically spend a day finding anything related to their product and posting links. Generally, the first few posts are commented explaining that self-promotion is fine in the profile but frowned upon in answers. Sometimes links are edited to be removed when commenting.

If the user then understands that answering with a direction to their own product is okay provided they also have a valid, more than one sentence, answer but simply throwing links around is not, generally things are fine afterwards.

However, if the user ignores comments and continues to post the essentially link-only answers, then down votes seem to pile on and the user seems to soon leave.

Truth is, if a user is determined to only self-promote they will get discouraged rather quickly, realizing that due to the everyone-can-edit, and down-votes-can-kill-your-answer, nature of SE sites this is not a great place for self-promotion unless you are actually putting in effort to solve the question as well. Most marketers or self-promoters don't want to spend the time to actually fully answer a question.

While not self-promotion in any way. I've provided many, many links to a company which I feel is making worthwhile Illustrator plug ins. If I were somehow compensated for these links I still think my posts would be valid because I provide non-plug in answers at the same time. I think that maybe the key for the marketers - answer how to do things without the product, then answer how much easier it is with the product. Unfortunately, I think this is often just too much work for the self-promoters.

While I somewhat agree with @Ryan that too many "shopping list" questions may be left open. I can only cast my single vote, so the community rules and I can't complain too much if the community feels they need to remain. I also think the actual nature of the question is irrelevant. If a question even remotely touches on a products area, a marketer will try and promote their product. The shopping list questions simply seem like a place less likely to have links frowned upon.

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  • Did you see my edit (all the stuff under implementation)? I think trying to get those questions to be more defined could open up a lot of new and interesting questions. Whats your take on that?
    – Ryan
    Apr 28 '14 at 18:37
  • It's a good idea, my experience shows that most new users asking the shopping list questions are uninterested in editing anything or don't grasp the difference being suggested. So they leave. Which is why the community possibly doesn't vote to close such questions. I feel guidelines are guidelines and age of the user really shouldn't matter. But it's a balancing act because growing the community is important as well. Leaving questions open doesn't bother me as much as the consistent up vote for any new user question, regardless of how off-topic the question may be.
    – Scott
    Apr 28 '14 at 18:45
  • Ya age/SE experience shouldn't matter. I'd rather pander to the few that want to make an effort then the masses that don't.
    – Ryan
    Apr 28 '14 at 18:52
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In general the issue is we've allowed too many reference/shopping requests which really don't have anything to do with Design and are against our FAQ:

  • Anything not directly related to graphic design
  • Questions that are primarily opinion-based
  • Questions with too many possible answers or that would require an extremely long answer

An example (and probably what caused you to post this question):

Tips and resources for beginning designers

This question should've never been able to stay open in its current format. It is primarily opinion based and it has too many possible answers

As a result of it staying open though I don't think its fair to punish someone for leaving a link to their own blog that is about design. Downvote it if you don't agree with what that blog says but not because it is his own blog. Instead you're welcome to downvote or vote to close the question.

I was overruled it seems since others deleted it, but I don't at all agree. Dan Waterworth posted a link only answer and it received 7 upvotes. Our regular user Plainclothes left an almost link only answer and it received 1 upvote. A new member posts a similar valid response but because the link is their own it gets deleted? That isn't right to me. The question is flawed and he shouldn't have been blamed for that.

In other cases however I do think the burden falls on the Answeree. I think that occurs only when the question is valid.

As a mock example:

How can I get InDesign to do XY

And someone posts a single link to their own commercial plug-in for doing it.

In that case the burden to me falls on the Answeree because the question is valid but the answer is not. The question didn't ask for a resource, it asked for how to achieve something. If the person who made said plug-in gave advice on how to do it without the plug-in and then also said they've made a plug-in to make this process easier I wouldn't consider that to be spam.

Solution

Again though the reason this is happening and seems so ambiguous is because we're allowing far too many shopping/resource questions to begin with. "What font for this?" "What software for that?" "What website to learn this?" "What book to help my kids learn that?" None of these should be left open as Questions. We can make them into Wikis if we want instead or simply remove them. As long as we continue to allow questions like this then I don't see how we can fault someone for suggesting their own font, book, software, or website.

Implementation

I've decided to start voting to close any topics I see for references. I hope some of you all will do the same.

The most common concern from the established members here are too many questions, "How do I do X effect in Y software?"

We could offset this by being stricter on the other questions though. For example "Whats a good resource for teaching my child design?" instead of answering with links and books that can soon disappear or be outdated we could Vote to Close and request the user instead ask "How can I teach my child X?" Or even "In the most basic terms how can I grasp what X is? I get it works like so and so but how does this process happen?"

I think a lot of our users would take a lot of joy explaining most design concepts to others and it would fix the resource requests.

Essentially, http://www.graphicdesign.stackexchange.com needs to be the resource.

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