In response to this answer question I commented that:

When you work for the company that makes the product, it is normal practice to explicitly include a disclosure at the beginning or the end of the post (even though it is in your profile and you imply it by the use of "we")

Ira Baxter (the answerer), replied

It is official Stack Overflow policy that the phrase "Our" ... is adequate disclosure. That was resolved many years ago.

They are correct, in that the use of Our was established in a Meta-post many years ago.

I would assert that this define the default stance for all sites on the stack exchange network, but that we are fine to establish higher and more stringent requirements for this site.

I think we should do so. Given that Recommendations are off-topic for most sites in the network (and I think were off-topic on all sites when that policy was created.), but are on-topic here, the scope for the amount of promotions is much higher. Thus to match, that our requirement for disclosure should be much higher.

I suggest that implicit disclosure, via the use of world like "we" and "our", should not be considered sufficient. And that instead a sentence stating with the bolded word Disclosure: and going on to say the appropriate detail, at the beginning or end of the post, be required.

Don't get me wrong, answers from people who made the tools are not bad answers. They are probably some of the best people we can have answering: they know there tools better than anyone. And yes, biases exist that are not from employment (just think of any tech where somone can be described as an X-Fanboy)

But I think the reader would really like to know at a glance, if a post comes from someone who was involved (financially and/or developmentally) with the product in the answer. And I think the best way to do that, is to have very clear and very explict disclosures in such answers.

I basically agree – though I wouldn't close/delete an answer based on that. Stating "my"/"our" etc. the poster already gives a certain disclosure (if OTOH the poster tries to hide the fact, posing as "happy user" or the like, those fakes of course should be banned and definitely counted as spam if proven).

Rather than close/delete, I'd place a comment and strongly recommend to make the disclosure more explicit – the way described in the question here. This "very explicit disclosure" should be the standard here indeed – but give "newcomers" a decent chance to learn that :)

  • "close" an answer? Possibly you mean close a self-answered question? Or downvote an answer? – Lyndon White Oct 17 '17 at 8:28
  • @LyndonWhite I explicitly mentioned both to cover all. Being a mod I can delete – users can only flag answers. And yes, that includes self-answered – though if you explicitly ask for that, a self-answered question of this type should be checked more thoroughly as it's much more likely to be "plain promotional" even if containing a disclosure. – Izzy Oct 17 '17 at 8:33
  • Not even a mod can "close" an answer, surely? Questions can be closed, but answers? – Lyndon White Oct 17 '17 at 8:34
  • @LyndonWhite Answers cannot be "closed" – only "downvoted to earth-core" (with a core of -3 or lower, they will be "grayed out") or deleted. Or both, of course, if done in exactly this order :) (no voting possible on deleted stuff, not even for mods). – Izzy Oct 17 '17 at 8:38
  • Ergo your answer hear should say "downvote/delete", not "close/delete" – Lyndon White Oct 17 '17 at 8:39
  • Not exactly. See the self-answered example. But downvoting/flagging (as spam) would be the equivalent for non-mods. – Izzy Oct 17 '17 at 8:43
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    Downvoting spam is fine. Downvoting an answer that is not spam, and that discloses to the extent required by SO is unreasonable. If you don't like the disclosure policy, get it changed. Izzy and the OP seem to have an opinion about it, but those opinions don't change the policy. I'm happy to follow any rules that the community has made official. – Ira Baxter Nov 13 '17 at 8:34
  • @IraBaxter which basically is underlining my answer: not to be "punitive" but rather "helpful". Implicit disclosure, after all, is a form of disclosure – and not a form of "false pretense" which often makes a post spam. Especially new users cannot know our complete "policy collection" by heart. – Izzy Nov 13 '17 at 9:28

As the guy that at the center of the discussion resolved many years ago, I'm happy with any policy that is defined, used, and not re-litigated by anybody that disagrees with the policy after the fact. Why change it?

That discussion was pretty painful for all involved; there a people that are virulently against anybody with any kind of interest in a software answer.

Software Recommendations is especially about getting good answers to questions about tools: that's what software is. To the extent that the answer is neutral and addresses the OP requirements, one shouldn't prevent responses of "this tool usefully addresses the problem", regardless of the source of the facts, unless you believe the source is deliberately inflating the answer (vendor saying he's a "happy user") or spamming ("irrelevant").

[I do respond to such questions. I try to be neutral. I cause controversy because my company makes a lot of tools, so I have a lot of answers.]

I agree that bad answers should be downvoted and/or deleted, mine included. I don't agree with downvotes because the reader doesn't like commercial tools, doesn't like the author (especially because he represents an evil [boo, hiss] commercial vendor), or doesn't like the disclosure policy.

  • Just to point out: If your company "makes a lot of tools" and you find matches, it is of course fine to recommend them here at SR – and I'm sure nobody objects that – as long as you disclose your affiliation. As for "defined": it is, on all SE sites AFAIR, on the /help/promotion page. Quite clearly. Except for how exactly a disclosure should look like, or what it must contain. But you certainly agree it should be a "clear disclosure" – and not one hidden in easily overlooked two-letter-words like "we" or "us" (which of course are better than nothing, but IMHO not enough). – Izzy Nov 13 '17 at 9:38
  • You'd be surprised how many people don't like tool vendors (specifically, "nonfree" tools), even on SR; I take a lot more abuse than I think reasonable considering I am following policy. The argument about "clear disclosure" was resolved by the use of "our"; the assumption is that people smart enough to use a programmer's site aren't going to "overlook" that. If in YHO you don't like it fine; if you want to litigate that again be my guest, whether for SO or only for SR. But I think SR, not your opinion, should establish a clear policy and stick to it. – Ira Baxter Nov 13 '17 at 11:58
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    A "we" or "us" can easily be misread: Who is "us"? We who use the software? We who wrote the software? We who sell the software? Or, as the one posting the answer is a single person, pluralis maiestatis? I might sound finicky here, but not everybody can abstract it "in a snap". Having the disclosure explicit makes it clear to grasp in a second. And is it really so hard making it easier for the reader that you need a "written rule" enforcing that upon you? :) If your primary goal is to help (and selling only secondary), your answer to that must be "No." – Izzy Nov 13 '17 at 13:28
  • I don't use "we" or "us". I use "our", which is a lot harder to misinterpret. There are lots of things I could do to make answers easier to understand beynd what I do; I don't do most of them. There's a policy. I stick to it. – Ira Baxter Nov 13 '17 at 13:58
  • "There are lots of things I could do to make answers easier to understand beynd what I do; I don't do most of them. There's a policy. I stick to it." That sounds like "I don't do more than absolutely required by policies by the letter". Our consense was a bit different., as I understand it. But well, I won't discuss this in depth here – I see where our opinions differ. I just wish a few more folks would take part here – voting and writing answers. – Izzy Nov 13 '17 at 15:44

I don't think that more visible disclosure is useful on this site. You must disclose your affiliation, that's a general policy, but our answer guidelines¹ are designed to keep spammy answers away even if they're undisclosed.

An answer must explain how the recommended product meets the requirements of the question. If an answer recommends a product that isn't actually suitable, then:

  • either the answer doesn't actually match the product's features to the requirements, and in that case it does not answer the question and therefore can and should be deleted;
  • or the answer matches features to requirements, but lies about the features, in which case it's a wrong answer and should be downvoted.

Additionally answers must mention applicable limitations. Once again, failure to mention downsides can be grounds for deletion as low quality. For example, if it's reasonable to expect free tools to solve a problem, and an answer recommends an expensive tool without mentioning the price, that would be against the guidelines and could warrant deleting the answer.

Potential spammers should also remember that anyone can edit posts here. It's perfectly fine to edit a post to mention important, relevant facts about a product, including up-to-date price information and applicable limitations.

¹ Note: I largely wrote the current formulation of these guidelines. This answer here represents something I had in mind when writing them. If what I wrote here is not clear enough from the guidelines, then please contribute to improving their wording.

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