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Should self-promotion (without disclosing one's affiliation, in the context of posts referred to as "spam") inside of comments be always a flaggable offense or not?

I would have guessed that it is just like for posts, but apparently at least one mod disagrees with me in the cases where there is still some value in the comment (e.g. if the link points to a possibly helpful blog post or video [of course only as long as it stays up]). It's also worth noting that these links are marked as nofollow so this makes it less of a problem from the search engine side of things.

Examples:

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    Highly-voted posts can have nofollow removed. Presumably that can't happen with comments. I don't know if that changes anything — the threshold is secret, but it's pretty high. – mattdm Jan 14 '17 at 1:30
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I don't think it's okay to link to your own site without disclosure, whether in a comment or an answer. I mostly agree with terdon's answer here. I see this as just setting a slightly higher bar: if you can potentially benefit from people clicking on the link, you should probably be letting them know, even in comments, and even for blogs.

Of course, as with most bad things, there are really bad forms and not so bad forms, and so appropriate responses may vary.

This is mostly about not misleading anyone. A link is an implicit endorsement: it says, "I have looked at this site, and I think it will be useful to you." If it's your own site, it's a biased endorsement. To avoid potentially misleading anyone, it's best to always disclose that.

It's also about fairness to site owners. There are plenty of naive site owners who excitedly link to their blog when they see a relevant question, and don't think to disclose affiliation. There are also plenty of site owners who know that links affect their traffic and search engine ranking, and therefore actively seek out opportunities to create links. Sometimes they may not see anything wrong with this, sometimes they may know it's iffy, and deliberately try to make it look like an unbiased third-party endorsement. The most straightforward way to keep the bad stuff under control is to just apply the same standards to all self-promotion.

Fortunately, it's not a large burden: "from my site: [link]" isn't much harder to write, and doesn't really detract from genuinely useful links.

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    Your point about a link being implicit endorsement is very valid. – terdon Jan 8 '17 at 18:01
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    Like I mentioned, the links are marked as nofollow, so it shouldn't affect their ranking, at most it might make the search engine bots notice the site more (because unlike what nofollow implies they still follow the link). – phk Jan 8 '17 at 18:07
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    @phk Yeah, but authors don't always know that, so they still potentially try to do it for that reason, and there are always indirect effects: this link is nofollow, but if you increase traffic, you increase likelihood of more links and so on. In the end maybe the exact reason doesn't matter that much, only that people are strongly motivated to link to their own sites. – Cascabel Jan 8 '17 at 18:09
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I feel it's OK for very specific cases. The trigger for this discussion was a user who had posted links to relevant posts on their blog as comments on various questions/answers here. Yes, they had not mentioned that the blog was theirs, but the posts they linked to were indeed relevant.

I feel that if the following criteria are met, there is nothing wrong:

  • The comment must be relevant.
  • The self-promotion is limited to linking to your blog (not trying to flog a product or anything like that)
  • The content linked to is free.
  • It is just a comment and not an answer.
  • The only thing wrong with it is not disclosing affiliation. If the comment would have been fine if it were linking to someone else's blog, why shouldn't it be fine if it's linking to the author's?

If all of the above are met, I don't see any problem with leaving comments like "Have a look at this relevant blog post: http://some.blog.com". However, things like "You should read this blog, it is excellent!" or other overtly promotional messages are not cool. But just a link to a relevant blog post is fine by me, irrespective of whether the person leaving the comment also mentions they're the author of the blog.

Please note that this isn't the mod laying down the rules. This is just my take on the matter, so if anyone disagrees please post an answer and we'll see how the community at large feels about this sort of thing.

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I'm quite new to this whole SE universe, so either my comments are uneducated, and therefore serve no value, or they are fresh eyes and could be helpfull. So, here goes...

I think a link, answer, comment, or elsewhere, that is "affiliated" should be disclosed as such. If it meets the points set by terdon's answer, and it isn't disclosed, maybe a moderator could edit it to show that disclosure, and sent a note to the author reminding them to disclose in the future. Repeated failure to disclose, after being reminded, could be interpreted as intentional, with proper measures taken.

This may entail to much work for moderators. (I did say "universe" didn't I?) However; if such edits and notices are possible by members with high enough rep, then it may not be such a monumental task. I think that's how this place works anyway.

As Jefromi said,

it's not a large burden: "from my site: [link]" isn't much harder to write

so it's not much of an edit either.

I suspect that if someone is doing it flagrantly, they will limit there activities to an area small enough that others who frequent the same area will notice it quickly, and can flag them or notify someone else higher up the chain.

Bottom line, curtail abuse without punishing lapses and/or removing content which may be useful for others.

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    Comments can't be edited at all after five minutes; they can only be deleted. – Wildcard Jan 13 '17 at 8:20
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    Can the moderators, or others with enough rep, send notices to those who have made such comments, and remove them if they don't reform? A couple , or three, links shouldn't make much difference in their traffic, so if it is intentional they'll probable continue doing it, and end up being deleted, or banned, while the honest mistakes won't be repeated after a reminder of proper etiqute. – Gypsy Spellweaver Jan 13 '17 at 18:47
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My rule-of-thumb is simply, "stick to the point." If your link (or what have you) is indeed relevant to what you are saying and is beneficial to the eventual reader's understanding, then "that's fine with me." You should of course tell me in context why the link is present, when it was last updated, what it contains, and why on earth I should click it. All to add value to your comment, reply, or post.

However, if you are simply "tooting your own horn," then that's uncalled for. (If a horn is to be "tooted," then of course it should be my horn, not yours!) ;-)

A little of this goes a long way. "Stick to the point," and make it very clear to the reader why you said what you did. It all exists for the usually-frazzled reader's benefit, so make that benefit clear.

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