19

I noticed that one of the answers to this question about CloudFlare is from a user named damoncloudflare. Looking at other answers from that user, they are all about CloudFlare and it's clear from the wording that it's a CloudFlare employee.

None of the answers I've looked at seem like spam to me, but I just wanted to put up the question to see if anyone sees any problems with this.

36

In this case:

  • the answers are helpful
  • the user is not trying to promote the company
  • the user isn't trying to hide that they're connected to the company

To me this adds up to a benefit to the site and no downside, so it's ok.

(And I got to use the nifty ask and answer check box!)

  • 3
    I don't see anything to worry about there - he's answering questions about the product, not pushing the product as a solution. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica May 30 '12 at 6:45
  • 13
    I think that while vendor agents "behave", their participation should be encouraged. It can only improve the quality of answers on the site, right? – Rob Moir May 30 '12 at 9:07
31

I think we should be encouraging vendors to participate on the site as much as possible. The major caveat is that it has to be an actual answer like you would expect from anyone else. For example it should not:

  • Just tell them to contact support (unless maybe it gets to the point of being a bug, in which case they should include the resolution later)
  • Be non-technical, this is a technical site. This means no marketing

It should:

  • Be a direct and technical answer to the question
  • Come from a developer or high tier support usually

A good example of this is Willy Tarreau, the main developer for HAProxy who regularly answers questions on this site and Stack Overflow (even though that is a free open source load balancer).

On the vendors side, if they do it right, in my opinion it is better than any advertising they could possibly buy from Stack Exchange. Seeing the engineers behind a product reach out beyond their normal support methods says to me that the company is passionate about making something awesome. That puts them at the top of my list if I ever need a solution that they offer.

  • 2
    Couldn't agree with the last paragraph any more. If particular vendors caught my eye on here, you can be sure I'd be pushing for them. – Dan May 31 '12 at 12:43
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    I have to whole heartedly agree on the advertising it provides. I've seen it work in another space and the impact is far far better than any sidebar ad. – sysadmin1138 May 31 '12 at 23:18
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    Hi Kyle ! Thanks for the kind comment :-) I've had the same issue on the haproxy mailing list where I had to ask a handful of posters from a few companies (including mine) to focus on technical content and not spamvertising. They understood and reacted very positively. In the end, it brought them more than advertising, because due to their numerous helpful posts, now everyone knows that some of them are really skilled in their areas and would blindly go with their products if needed. – Willy Tarreau Jun 5 '12 at 22:50
9

The ServerFault FAQ states that answers from people affiliated with a product or service are allowed, but that the affiliation must be disclosed in the answer:

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 some (but not all) happen to be about your product or website, so be it. However, you must disclose your affiliation in your answers.

If a huge 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.

Besides, the best answers often come from the vendor, since they have the highest familiarity with the product. As long as it's not spammy and overly promotional, I don't see why we shouldn't allow vendors to answer questions relating to their products.

3

Often the vendor knows answers that other people don't. Why would we want to exclude them from participating. Sure - the vendor might be trying to promote their product, perhaps by actively engaging with their community via Stack Exchange sites. But honestly, what's not to like?

  • 2
    There is a fine line to walk for vendors. Unfortunately many of them try to use the site to promote their products (spam) rather than just use the site as another way of supporting their users. That's what's not to like. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jun 3 '12 at 21:07
  • 2
    OK - but that's something else. Allowing vendors to participate (and add value) vs. allowing them to use it as an advertising channel. Sure it's a fine line to walk - but for me, if a vendor is actively engaged with their community by answering or asking questions here, that's a good thing, even if having a thriving community is good for their marketing position. What the heck - we're all motivated by something, but as long as everyone plays by the rules, it's fine. The moderators can easily act against spammers, while allowing genuine participation to continue. – Dominic Cronin Jun 4 '12 at 8:28

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