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A new user asked a very off-topic question; as a music composer, they asked what game developers look for when hiring a music composer. As part of the question, they note that they have created a website, to which they include the web address. They proceed to ask why a game developer would go for them over another music website, of which they also provide the web address. An edit has since been made purely to remove the authors address. It is worth noting that the competitor address was not removed.

My question is, assuming it has some bearing on the question, does posting a link to our website automatically constitute spam? If not, is there any reason why it would be considered spam, in this case?

I am asking purely for future reference, as I see this edit behavior, infrequently. For the purpose of discussion, we should not be looking at the quality of the question, nor its validity as an on-topic question. Since posting this question, a user has edited the question to bring it more inline with what we consider on-topic. If you wish to look at the original question, make sure to review it's edits.


The flag description for spam reads as follows:

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

In such cases, the author is disclosing that it is their site, and it does have purpose including the site in the post.


The "How to not be a spammer" help page has some key points as follows:

  • Don't talk about your product / website / book / job too much.
  • Don't include links except to support what you've written.

In such cases, the link is provided to support the post. In the above case, the user is asking why their work would be favored over somebody else's. In itself, off-topic, but given the context of the question, the website is very relevant to the question. If you disagree, consider explaining why as part of the "If not," caveat to this question. Other cases of link removal are very clear on the relevance of the address. For example, we may have an answer that states "You can solve this problem by using a script I wrote. Here it is on my website".


I can only find one other meta post detailing actual consideration between legitimate use of linking to our own website and actual spamming. The post clearly implies that linking to the authors product is not always spam, in part due to the fact that the author discloses their affiliation, and in part due to the fact that the author has clearly provided content that did not link to his site.

I feel that the inclusion of past activity makes this a bit of a grey area. On one hand, not all users who are marked as spammers in this way have a history of activity on our site. On the other hand, I feel we should not assume the worst unless the post actually reads as a self advertisement.


So where do we make that distinction?

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My question is, assuming it has some bearing on the question, does posting a link to our website automatically constitute spam?

Nope.

I mostly agree with Alexandre's answer, I'd just like to add that I think there's two broad kinds of spam:

  • the malicious kind, where the user is really just trying to be a jerk and get quick hits to some product or service
  • the ignorant kind, where the user doesn't really understand the rules about what is an isn't appropriate for this community and creates a post that is a little too spammy

Apply spam flags to the first kind liberally. With the second kind, I'd much rather see restraint: editing, commentary, and flag-for-moderator-attention if really needed. Spam flags can prevent the user from posting again, which is what we want if somebody is being a malcontent but not what we want if somebody just needs a gentler introduction into the idiosyncrasies of StackExchange.

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Does including a link to our website in a post automatically constitute spam, even if relevant?

No. The key here is "even if relevant". Is it relevant in the first place? If so, we can wonder if it's spam. If it's not, let's remove it and consider the rest of the post.

[...] assuming it has some bearing on the question, does posting a link to our website automatically constitute spam?

Nope, it does not.

If not, is there any reason why it would be considered spam, in this case?

The website of the author had no bearing on the question. I felt that it was there only to promote it.

Removing the URL to the author's website did not change the core of his questions which were "What are things that you look for when hiring a composer to make music for your games?" and "What would make you hire a composer like me over using stock websites like [3rd party site] that provide cheap or free effects / music etc?"

That second question was asked after he described the way he was working, thus removing the need to visit the website.

So where do we make that distinction?

I don't think there is a line to draw here. As you've mentioned, it's a grey zone. It's to be judged on a case-by-case basis. And since where human (at least most of us, I guess), we'll have different opinions (and even the same human can have different opinions over the same topic over time) about whether a link fits in or not, or if a link constitutes spam or not (although there are obvious situations).


Things worth noting:

  • The flag description can be misleading; unfortunately, I can't remember where I've seen this, but the comma in this text should be interpreted as "and/or". This means that it's not because that the author's affiliation is disclosed that the post is not spam.
  • The flag acts on whole posts, not on specific parts. So it should be used only when the whole post is spam and can't be salvaged by editing out the spammy part.
  • The context in which the link occurs can be relevant:
    • Self promoting links in questions about a service are rarely something other than spam, or disguised spam.
    • Self promoting links in answers often end up being 'link only answers'.
    • Self promoting links in comments are in a grey zone. Are they relevant to the post at hand? If so, they're not spam. See the answer given by Josh.
  • Links to outside resources tend to rot. This is why they can be used to support a post, but they should not be mandatory for a post to make any sense. In the SE philosophy, we like canonical questions that can stand the test of time, but products and services change a lot over time.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ It would be nice if the downvoter left a comment :) \$\endgroup\$ – Alexandre Vaillancourt Mar 11 '17 at 0:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Retaining downvote out of disagreement \$\endgroup\$ – Gnemlock Mar 16 '17 at 12:28

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