I am an expert on the topic and answered a set of questions. I am wondering if it is OK to mention the solver that I develop given that it is commercial but has freemium plans. All my answers are about the question and I mention the solver because it is relevant. Please let me know what you think should be improved.

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    Perhaps more to the point explain that you posted half a dozen answers in rapid succession, all with a link to your site. Most of these posts have now been cleaned up from the promotional link. See also discussion in comments at stats.stackexchange.com/a/366319/23810 – tripleee Sep 11 at 5:39
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    @tripleee I don't see it as relevant that many answers were posted in quick succession. The answers are related but not identical, and each can stand or fall on their own merits. And OP has removed the links and brought the matter up for discussion here, so I'm inclined to think this is a simple misunderstanding of community norms. – mkt Sep 11 at 7:52
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    Regardless of what's allowed, if you want to avoid a negative reaction to hawking your wares my advice would be, rather than writing many short, high-level answers, to write a few detailed ones - perhaps using your solver to illustrate how an optimization method works, or explaining a unique approach it takes to certain problems. – Scortchi Sep 11 at 9:26
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    +1 Kudos for having the sensitivity and awareness to bring up this topic. – whuber Sep 11 at 13:39
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    @whuber Fortunately, tripleee corrected me and noted that there is a possibility to bring this question. I didn't know about the meta. – IndieSolver Sep 11 at 13:44
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    Aside from the self promotion... I do not think that it is correct to answer a question with a brief statement like 'your problem can be solved with this software/algorithm/tool/method, here is a link'. – Martijn Weterings Sep 11 at 14:53
  • @MartijnWeterings None of my answers were a brief statement like 'your problem can be solved with this software/algorithm/tool/method, here is a link'. – IndieSolver Sep 11 at 14:55
  • They may have been a bit longer and stated somewhat different. But, in my opinion (and that is just opinion) they where much like that or at least in a similar spirit. Here is a typical example: stats.stackexchange.com/a/366310/164061 – Martijn Weterings Sep 11 at 14:56
  • @MartijnWeterings Please see stats.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5402/… for a relevant discussion – IndieSolver Sep 11 at 14:59
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    "Links to external resources are encouraged, but please add context around the link so your fellow users will have some idea what it is and why it’s there. Always quote the most relevant part of an important link, in case the target site is unreachable or goes permanently offline" stats.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer "Brevity is acceptable, but fuller explanations are better." – Martijn Weterings Sep 11 at 15:02
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    I was not arguing about similarity of the answers but about the answers being brief statements without any explanation. This might be good for comments or possibly as an answer when you do not have much time or capacity to write a better answer for the moment. But note that the meta-discussion that you link to is mostly about another type of issue. It is specifically about the additional part better than no answer. And even then a shorter or incomplete answer should still not be a simple statement or just a link without providing context. – Martijn Weterings Sep 11 at 15:13
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    The following four answers are basically like "you can use the ... optimization method", "this method is fast/can do this/etc", "here is a link" stats.stackexchange.com/a/366319/164061 stats.stackexchange.com/a/366310/164061 stats.stackexchange.com/a/366306/164061 stats.stackexchange.com/a/366302/164061 Technically you can consider them as answers, but they are very brief with the link occupying most of the information and the link is not explained (if it is helpful at all, it only links to a commercial website that explains nothing further about the question). – Martijn Weterings Sep 11 at 15:49
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    IndieSolver, I don't doubt that you have a deep knowledge of global optimization strategies & the underlying mathematics. But please take a moment to familiarize yourself with how other users have answered similar questions; you can search the site for keywords & sort the results by score. I think that doing this research will give you some helpful context for what makes a good answer. In particular, it is not sufficient to make a claim without supporting reasoning. A template: "X is a good way to solve [your problem] because it has Y and Z properties which are important because..." – Sycorax Sep 11 at 15:59
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    @Sycorax thanks for your suggestion. I think that my answer at stats.stackexchange.com/questions/205727/… nicely followed "X is a good way to solve [your problem] because it has Y and Z properties which are important because..." – IndieSolver Sep 11 at 16:10
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    @IndieSolver my comment might have been incorrect. But you seem to be very pedantic and misread my intention. This makes it difficult to discuss this topic. When writing 'commercial' I was just copying from the title in this topic. I am not writing an academic article here and intent to be perfect. I am just making a point. I am just someone that clicks on the link of your website and finds nothing else but a commercial product (which yes my also be freemium, but that is besides the point). I am just someone that you might learn from concerning the way how your answers might be perceived. – Martijn Weterings Sep 11 at 16:24
up vote 18 down vote accepted

Welcome to the site! Expertise is always welcome here, and it's to be expected that many people with such expertise will also use it to develop commercial products.

However, it does violate a community norm to link and discuss your product unless there's a good reason to; it tends to come across as spammy. I see that you mentioned it in about half of your answers, and that you edited them to remove the link after you got complaints. Notably, 1) removing the link did not detract from the quality or message of the answers, and 2) no other edits were required to make the answer complete by your own estimation. This suggests that the links do not belong there.


From the help:

Avoid overt self-promotion.

The community tends to vote down overt self-promotion and flag it as spam. Post good, relevant answers, and if some (but not all) happen to be about your product or website, that’s okay. However, you must disclose your affiliation in your answers.

If a large percentage of your posts include a mention of your product or website, you're probably here for the wrong reasons. Our advertising rates are quite reasonable; contact our ad sales team for details. We also offer free community promotion ads for open source projects and non-profit organizations.

And:

How to not be a spammer
...

Here are some specific behaviors to avoid - even with the best of intentions, these will nearly always result in your posts being flagged as spam:

Don't talk about your product / website / book / job too much. Folks will read your answers for their ability to solve a specific problem; if you're good at doing that, then they'll find themselves more interested in who you are and what you're working on. If you respond only to questions where the answer can be something you're selling, they'll assume you're just here to sell.


  • My decision to add links was inspired by the following reply which had +8 score given at stats.stackexchange.com/questions/160479/…: "@Marc When you provide a link to something you're involved with, you should make your association with it clear (one or two words can suffice, even something as brief as referring to it as our Optunity should do); as the help on behavior says, "if some ... happen to be about your product or website, that’s okay. However, you must disclose your affiliation" – IndieSolver Sep 11 at 11:59
  • I disagree with "removing the link did not detract from the quality or message of the answers" I think that after removing the links, most users are left with what they had before - guessing how to deal with their problems and which approach to use. IMHO, providing the link to the solver was providing the actual useful solution. – IndieSolver Sep 11 at 12:05
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    @IndieSolver To your first point: mentioning one's association with a product one is recommending is good practice and a fairly standard norm for openness. That ought to be uncontroversial. – mkt Sep 11 at 12:27
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    @IndieSolver As for your second point, we will have to agree to disagree. I have read all your answers (upvoted a couple of them, FWIW) and personally do not see that adding the link helped in any way. If you feel that the answer is not useful without the link, then I'd invite you to edit the answer to make it useful. Or, if you explained in your answer why the link was helpful by following the great advice of Scortchi ("using your solver to illustrate how an optimization method works, or explaining a unique approach it takes"), it might make the link more relevant and helpful – mkt Sep 11 at 12:38
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    Thank you for providing your point and answering my question. I guess I was too fast and could do a better job. – IndieSolver Sep 11 at 12:46
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    @IndieSolver You're welcome, and I would like to reiterate that your participation and expertise is welcomed here. – mkt Sep 11 at 12:47

There are two issues here.

One pertains to self promotion; @mkt has done a good job with that. Let me add a small piece of complementary information. You mention that it is recommended to mention your association with a product, which seems to imply discussing your products is not frowned on. But there is a distinction between mentioning your association with a product (given that your product has come up as an intrinsic part of the discussion) and mentioning your product in the first place. If your product comes up, you must disclose your association, however, it is better to leave your product out if it isn't really necessary. Note that many users here have developed products related to the topics they provide answers for, but (with one notable exception) you can't tell from most of their answers. (On the other hand, you certainly may discuss it and link to it on your user page.)

The other issue is posting very similar answers to multiple threads. This is also generally frowned on. In particular, you should not post identical answers to multiple questions. If you really believe that a thread is answered by a post identical to an answer you wrote elsewhere, you should not repost that answer to the current thread. Instead, vote to close the current thread as a duplicate. Users (such as yourself) that have lower reputation will not be able to vote to close; however, you can flag to have the thread closed as a duplicate, and that's what you should do in that case.

On the other hand, what if answers aren't identical, but are very similar? That is, how similar is too similar? This is a judgment call, and the moderators generally lean towards having a lighter touch. (In this specific case, I only deleted one answer.) Nonetheless, it is better to see if there is something that can be added that is unique to that question that would provide additional value for that OP. Again, if there isn't, you should vote / flag for closure. The best option, as @Scortchi noted, is to develop a longer, more detailed, high-quality answer that is canonical for you. Then you could leave a comment on similar questions in the future ('This is a case of _____, it may help you to read my answer here: ____'). You won't be able to comment until your reputation is >50, but with a good answer that level should be achievable before too long. Likewise (or in the interim), you could provide a brief answer with information specific to the OP's situation, and link to your main post on the topic.

I appreciate that you have expertise specific to this topic, and I hope you will continue to contribute useful answers on that issue here.

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    Is there a difference here between "product" and "scientific paper"? I.e. are there any reservations for citing one's papers? Is it true that one must disclose it? – amoeba Sep 11 at 13:58
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    @amoeba, I would think that one should disclose that they are the author of the cited paper, but I don't think citing papers has the same feel as saying how good your product is (& implicitly that people should buy it). That seems like a good topic for a separate meta question. – gung Sep 11 at 14:23
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    gung and @amoeba: At the risk of getting off-topic: I don't see a fundamental difference. In the first place a paper/product may be relevant to the answer. If it is, fine. And I'm in any particular relation to it, I disclose that. If it is not relevant, it should not be mentioned. In other words, I'd frown on advertising irrelevant papers just the same as advertising irrelevant products. That being said, I think the nature of CV makes it more likely that a paper is relevant, and authors of scientific papers may be may be less pushy in their marketing - so trouble with that is less frequent. – cbeleites Sep 14 at 14:13

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