7

While I was going through the review queues today, I came across this answer:

Answer ID 978173

My original reaction was to flag it as spam, but then I reread the description under the spam flag:

spam

Exists only to promote a product or service, does not disclose the author's affiliation.

This answer does exist only to promote a product (or rather, several of them [among others, Gnome and the GNOME OS X II GTK theme]).

However, the author of the post is most likely not affiliated with OMG Ubuntu or the software described on that page.

Since the spam flag description implies that a spammer must be affiliated with their spam, should this question actually be flagged as spam, or something milder, like Not an Answer?

  • 6
    Its just "not an answer". It is no spam, just a bad answer which in no way relates to the question asked using a link to a very much frequented Ubuntu blog. – Videonauth Nov 19 '17 at 22:47
  • 3
    An answer starting with “It worked thx” is probably a comment and not an answer. – dessert Nov 19 '17 at 22:49
  • 3
    link-only answer = "not an answer" – pomsky Nov 20 '17 at 11:07
13

OmgUbuntu is not Spam; it is a much frequented Ubuntu blog and links to it pop up occasionally, and I don't believe we want such posts being Spam-flagged when we use links to it in chat or on the site, so this is not Spam. It is however not answering the question; it's saying thanks, so it is delete-worthy.

As I was likely the first one to review this particular answer, here is what I did.

  1. I placed my comment after I have read the question and could not find any relation of this answer to the question.
  2. I flagged it as not an answer, since it only contains a link (which is not Spam).

When you came across this answer in the review queue, it should have been already been in low quality review and a proper action would be then to recommend deletion because (and here you could choose to add a comment if you wanted to):

  1. It's a thank you comment posted as an answer.
  2. It's a link only answer and not Spam.
  3. It should have been a comment.

All would be sufficient and not wrong in this case.

You may ask why I did not down-vote it already. I wanted to give the author time to reconsider before I would down-vote, as this answer was only about 15 minutes old when I saw it. Needless to say it got a down-vote from me meanwhile too.

5

In addition to Videonauth's answer, which points out that the site mentioned is popular with Ubuntu users and linking to it is not normally considered spamming, I would suggest that we can't actually tell whether the author of the post is affiliated with the site they link to. The condition you mention in your question title:

Should a post be flagged as spam if an author is clearly *not affiliated* with the promotion?

is really difficult to meet. How do we know someone is not affiliated with a product or service they are promoting, unless they say so, and we decide to believe them? If the author of the post in question stated

Disclaimer: I am the author of this OMG Ubuntu article

Then the post would be not spam by definition (but it would still be considered NAA by most reviewers IMHO). This is a bit worrying, because it suggests that if spam of the most obvious kind were to start appearing with disclaimers like "I am being paid to promote this product on random websites", we would not be able to flag it as spam... I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Anyway, in deciding whether something is spam, I think affiliation of the author only matters insofar as it is suggested by something in the post, but is not stated. There may be nothing in the post that suggests affiliation, but it may still be considered spam.

Sometimes a post "promoting" something without disclosure of affiliation appears to be a good faith attempt to contribute to the site. Judging whether this is the case probably involves considering what is being "promoted" and evaluating whether the post tries to answer the question. Extolling the virtues of your favourite open source application would probably not usually be considered spam, but a post linking to a Windows-only non-free product site probably would be...

In this case, it's the content of the post and the link, rather than anything relating to affiliation, that makes it seem made in good faith rather than an abuse of the site.

  • I'd just want to point out that, adding a disclosure of affiliation shouldn't automatically make it "not spam". And removing the disclosure, shouldn't automatically make it spam. You did mention the latter in your answer. But IMO, I think the relevance of the content is what classifies a post as spam, not an affiliation disclosure. For example: Check this link on my post which promotes car repair services. Disclaimer: I wrote that post./I work at that company. My example may be extreme, but I'm just trying to give an example. – Dan Nov 21 '17 at 8:17
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    @Dan «a disclosure of affiliation shouldn't automatically make it "not spam"» Correct. «removing the disclosure, shouldn't automatically make it spam» Not really: disclosure is required by SE rules. – Andrea Lazzarotto Nov 21 '17 at 13:07
  • @Dan Agreed, relevance of the content is important. If the link is actually relevant to what OP wants to do in question, then it reduces chances that it's a spam. Still possible, but much lower chance. Spam has goal of driving traffic and promoting products. A good answer is aimed at actually solving problem via use of content mentioned on the linked page. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Nov 29 '17 at 11:08
0

I propose that the guidelines you referred don't adequately describe all of what is spam.

Their definition:

Spam

Exists only to promote a product or service, does not disclose the author's affiliation.

  • Spam can and often does disclose the author's affiliation.

  • Whether it's disclosed or not, whether or not the author is affiliated doesn't bear much on whether it's spam. The promotion of a site or product is spam if it's unwanted; in the context of an answer to a question it's unwanted if it does not reasonably try to answer the question, and therefore exists "only" to promote the site (or product, service).

You could cut the guideline's description of spam in half.

Exists only to promote a product or service.

Or if you wanted to clarify more,

Exists only to promote a product or service, without adequately addressing the topic or question.

  • Actually, the "does not disclose the author's affiliation" part is a link, to askubuntu.com/help/promotion, which does cover the things you say in a reasonable manner – muru Nov 27 '17 at 3:46
0

Here's my two cents on this:

  • Core of the issue is that it's a link-only answer. One of the main criteria for voting on answers is usefulness. A link-only answer becomes absolutely useless if the linked site goes offline and all information there is lost. An answer with a link to an offline site is as useful as any random array of words.

  • A well written answer that describes contents of the link, steps to making the solution work or how to use the solution described in the link - that shouldn't be treated as spam hence shouldn't be flagged. Remember, spam's goal is to drive traffic to site or to get people interested in product. If the post in question is more interested in solving the problem via means described in the link that's not spam. Some really good answers are often well-researched with lots of links, and look a lot more like mini-academic research paper, where sources (in this case links) should support what you say. In fact that's exactly what the site rules mention.

  • One of the things Videonauth touched on, but didn't say explicitly is trust. Omg Ubuntu site is trusted, it has certain established reputation, just as GitHub or paste.ubuntu.com. Going gung-ho on every answer that uses links without evaluating those links makes absolutely no sense; lets use discretion and logic, please.

  • Affiliation should be disclosed by rules , however this is where things can get a little murky. You don't have to robotically write "I am not affiliated with this product" for every link to GitHub, or OmgUbuntu, or other well known site ( in fact it would be absolutely counter productive, in my opinion; it's about the same as a user knowing about malware but goes "yeah, yeah, whatever" and clicks OK button anyway ). However, say you wrote a program or a script, and it just happens to be published on GitHub. I think saying "my script" or "my program" is already enough of disclosure that yeah, it's your work.

  • As Dan mentioned in the comments, disclosure of affiliation doesn't necessarily mean link isn't spam. That goes back to my earlier bullet point - links must support what you say, not be the only thing in your answer, and actually...well,answer the asked question...you know, it's what this site is all about.

  • You said: "Since the spam flag description implies that a spammer must be affiliated with their spam..." Almost. The goal of spam is of course to sell, drive traffic, get people interested in the product. But we're getting into the murky waters of what "affiliated" actually means. Someone who is overexcited about a program/script/theme/solution could be spamming links to those just because they really want to tell the world all about it. Are they affiliated in the monetary sense ? If it's out of altruism and wanting to "spread the word" - well,they're not gaining any monetary advantage here. But they're still spamming if it's really not answering the OP's question. Again, content and context matters; good answers don't just focus on "spreading the word".

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