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Recently, we have had a few members who, in the course of answering a question, recommend or refer to the member's own product (or their employer's product). I do not see anything wrong with that as long as the answer is more substantive than an advertisement. However, I also think it is appropriate for the member to disclose their affiliation in an obvious way. In those circumstances, what is the appropriate way for a member to disclose their affiliation? For example, is it enough to put the employer's URL on their profile page? Is it enough to use a phrase like "Our product" to describe the product? Should they be even more explicit, e.g. "By the way, I work for Company X"?

See for example Web Consistency Testing & Selenium : is there any tool which we can integrate with selenium to perform Web consistency testing, Alternatives to HP Quality Center for small business, How far would you go in ETL and data warehouse testing?, and Test case design standards- friend or foe?.

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This really depends on the person. I've seen a couple of people do it well but most just name / URL drop because they don't care / know any better.

In the case of the Web Consistency question I saw the links nirvdrum provided and then checked his profile. He's got the companies website in his profile and I remember seeing him in a GTAC video - he runs the company that he linked to.

If / when I provide a link I'd provide a notice for example "in my blog" or "my company". I like the way newspapers disclose an affiliation between what the company and the subject matter. For example "The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp which competes with / owns ".

What constitues a good enough disclosure?

  • Simple is probably better so it's easier for people to comply.
  • "If you link to something that you have an affiliation with, tell people (aka check out my companies product or I blogged about this problem here). It doesn't matter where in your post you tell them or how, just try to make it easy to see where you might be biased."
  • Ask the community to hold others accountable.
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  • Welcome to SQA, ckenst. I agree that individuals do it differently. My question, though, is where the low bar should be. What constitutes a good enough disclosure? – user246 Mar 7 '12 at 18:24
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    People who recommend their own product have a bias, and readers deserve to be warned about that bias. I do not believe I should need to check someone's profile to determine whether their answer is colored by their interest in your becoming their customer. – user246 Mar 7 '12 at 18:40
  • I just edited my comment to talk about a good enough disclosure. I agree with you on checking people's profile but I'd probably do it anyways just to be sure. =) – Chris Kenst Mar 7 '12 at 19:08
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    @user246 For what it's worth, I'd check their profile to see their experience, language of preference, background, and many other attributes to put peoples' answers into context. For example, most of my C# answers on SO start with "I'm not a C# guy, but it appears..." I know there's a stark difference between those attributes and commercial affiliation, but I think there are some parallels to be made. – corsiKa Sep 16 '12 at 14:10
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I will typically flag or downvote an answer that looks like an ad for a product. These often can be picked out when it is a new/low rep user that has an answer of "Try this product xyz.." that has minimal information and may or may not even be relevent to the question. I do think that disclosure is a good idea and I don't see any particular problem with people from given companies promoting their product if is relevent and disclosed. It is even better when they participate in the community and answer questions related to their product or other topics if they have expertise.

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With reference to the Site FAQ, in particular the statement:

However, you must disclose your affiliation in your answers.

It is not enough to include the information in your profile.

Having said that, pragmatism is appropriate - including a comment such as (my employer) or (on my blog) or even (I get paid $0.10 per click through) is adequate... I wouldn't want to start seeing long tag-lines and disclaimers on SE

And notwithstanding the FAQ statement, including (see my profile) as part of the answer should be considered OK

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  • StackOverflow discussed this at rather long length several years back. The phrase "Our <product>" is considered to be adequate. Readers should consider such phrasing as "this is not an independent recommendation" (because it isn't) and should surely check the bio page of the author. In addition, the answer should provide more than "Try our <product>"; it should say something specific about why the product answers the question singularly well, or show something about how it is used to achieve the requested effect. – Ira Baxter Dec 11 '15 at 10:12

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