13

I mistakenly flagged this answer as spam. The flag was rejected. At first I tought the reason was that in first place the answer, on-topic or not, didn't refer to any paid software, but just to a bash script released under Public Domain license. But upon a second look the answer even looked on-topic. So indeed the answer didn't qualify as spam, and that was my mistake. But it's unclear to me when exactly an explicitly self-promoting answer about free software qualifies as such, if it does. For some reason, people spam-promote free software as well: link for those who can see deleted questions and link for those who can't, and to be honest it's unclear to me why this happens. Now the linked question wasn't a question in first place, so there's no concern about whether it should have been deleted or not. But since similiar, even tough maybe not so explicit things might happen even in answers, this is something I feel it should be taken care of, since such answers indeed do not make up a high quality post.

So, in general, where do I draw the line and why? And once I've determined that a post have stepped out of it, should I limit myself to downvote it or should I flag it when it's too explicitly self-promoting?

21

I strongly suspect "Free PDF to JPG Converter 2015" of being malware.

  • There's no source code to download
  • Only 1 .exe file.
  • New project
  • Very keyword-heavy summary
  • It's Windows only and being spammed on Ask Ubuntu.
  • It's not a question. It's not even close.

These are only suspicions but if it is malware, that would explain why they're spamming it around. Malware earns its creators money by doing various illicit things. That said, you really don't need to get this intimate with this question. It fails the "is it a question" test even before you try to work out if it's spam. It needs to burn.

With regard to your rejected flag, occasionally linking directly to an application or script is a valid option though, especially if the question requests it. Solicited relevant posts are fine (even ones that are self-promotion) as long as that self-interest is disclosed.

There are also times when we'll reject spam flags because it's not spammy enough. An accepted spam flag has network-wide ramifications for users so we occasionally let self-promoting users off with a warning.

  • I see, thanks for the clarification. – kos Mar 23 '15 at 14:59
12

Yes, we should keep an eye on them

Spam is bad for the site, it does not help anybody and it clutters all those good questions and answers we have here.

No, we should not flag and delete them all

These are my personal criteria that I keep in mind for cases where I may welcome a self-promoting answer, and I also upvote them:

  • it does answer the question and helps solving an issue.
  • the application was free and Open Source.
  • the answer was more than a link only. It should at least explain the benefits and ideally give instructions on how to use it (screenshots are always great).
  • the software is available for Ubuntu, or was specifically designed for Ubuntu.
  • an installer for Ubuntu was provided (e.g. DEB or PPA)
  • in some cases (that did happen!) the application project was initiated following a question here. Then of course the answer given would be the ultimate and best solution we can think of. That would be Ubuntu and Ask Ubuntu at their best!

The more of these criteria are met the more should we not be too harsh on self-promoting a good, free, and voluntarily initiated software project.

Very rarely, and for some very problematic issues even a closed source, or a commercial solution can be the best answer. In these exceptional cases it would not help anybody if that answer disappeared, but we should not allow self-promoting just another application on a given topic.

  • As pointed out by Oli, probably the question I was referring to was just linking to a malware, so really my question has no real foundation anymore. I agree with drawing the line focusing on the actual content tough. Thanks for the answer. – kos Mar 23 '15 at 15:00

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