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Many of you may know that a good portion of those who ask and answer on this site work for companies that may have a hand in different solutions or consulting services that could otherwise sway visitors one way or another.

My question is not about individual company policy, but overall transparency to the site and general community etiquette.

Should we have a disclosure on every post/comment where our answer/question/comment could sway or otherwise be skewed toward our company or is a disclosure in our profile enough?

Adding some examples per Paul as I do believe it will help the question.


Typical break/fix question

Question: I'm having a problem with XYZ, here is my error: Blah Blah blah, Sheep and Cows.

Extra Information: I work for the Sheep and Cow company. Assume the Sheep and Cow company does not require an official disclosure from its employees.

Answer #1, no disclosure: No, please don't use ABC as it causes XYZ.

Answer #2, disclosure added: .... I work for Cow and Sheep company and we've noticed this as a result. Please stop using ABC.

Answer #3, #1 with disclosure in profile: .....

My Question: Should I put somewhere in the answer, "Disclosure: I work for Sheep and Cow Company"? It doesn't seem to influence the answer, but if I work for that company could it be frowned upon by the community as I didn't disclose it.


Question with no public documentation

Question: When I click a button, a pop-up message comes up. Why?

Extra Information: Partially open source software, I am a contributor.

Answer #1, no disclosure: Yes, if you have X, Y, Z and sometimes Q the message will show, otherwise it will not.

Answer #2, disclosure: Yes, if you have .... Disclosure: I helped author part of this application.

Answer #3, disclosure in personal profile: Same as #1, but a disclosure exists in the profile of the user.

My Question: Which of these would be the best etiquette for the community?

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    I think that @sp_BlitzErik should be required to post a disclaimer each time, but only because his disclaimers are usually pretty funny. – Joe Obbish Jul 27 '17 at 23:18
  • This is a good question. I'm often not sure, but it only seems plausible space wise in answers, not comments. – Erik Darling Jul 27 '17 at 23:49
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    My only issue with these disclaimers is that they should actually be disclosures. – Andriy M Jul 28 '17 at 0:48
  • @AndriyM good point - regardless of the word chosen, the spirit of the question is what I'm still looking for. – Sean Gallardy Jul 28 '17 at 21:57
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If your answer tends to promote usage of a product, website, or technology where the you stand to benefit from that usage, then a disclosure (thanks, @AndriyM) should be added to the post. Adding details of your association in your profile helps, but I doubt it makes it clear to the typical site user. If you look at the number of people you've helped (~127k) vs the number of profile views (455) you've had, you can see the average user never sees your profile.

If a question asks for help with syntax, I don't believe you'd need to add disclosure saying you work for the company that built the product mentioned in the question. You could disclose, but I don't think it's necessary.

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    True, and that's why I asked :) So you don't believe there is any other community etiquette that needs to be followed? – Sean Gallardy Jul 28 '17 at 21:56
  • Not in my mind, however @mod might have other input. – Max Vernon Jul 28 '17 at 21:58
  • I would just add that it is best to work the disclosure into the answer in a natural way and it should be short. So not a big quoted banner or boiler-plate text, for example. – Paul White Jul 29 '17 at 5:05
  • Agreed... You don't need the fact you work there to become an advertisement – Max Vernon Jul 29 '17 at 14:15
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    Max - that's exactly what I am trying to avoid but I didn't want it to seem like I was being, sneaky or mal-intent. @PaulWhite sounds good, I think that's what I'll stick with. – Sean Gallardy Jul 29 '17 at 15:37
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Basically, sometimes you should add a disclosure to your answers, other times there's no need to, and still other times it can be helpful if you do (in my opinion anyway).

I believe the first two scenarios have been covered in Max's answer, and I would like to elaborate a little on the third one. That last scenario is when the question is about a specific problem using the product you are affiliated with and in the course of answering it you feel the need to mention some of the more obscure points about the product that few people outside your company/team could even have any suspicions, never mind know, about. Including this kind of facts might naturally raise eyebrows: "Does this guy know what he's talking about?" Adding the disclosure would simply give weight to your answer and (hopefully) eliminate any doubts.

Now about why I think the disclosure (where it can be helpful, as explained above) is preferable in your answer regardless of whether it's also in your profile. The reason is simple: your profile might no longer reflect your affiliation, for instance because you stopped working for the company/team developing the product (and cleared that part of your biography from your profile) or because for some or other reason you chose to stop participating in this site altogether (and, accordingly, cleared your profile completely, or even requested it be removed). In either event, your contribution stays intact and preserves, where necessary, your having been an authority on the matter, for the benefit of future readers.

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    That's a great point about if the user is removed, the answers/comments still stay. I definitely hadn't thought of that one. – Sean Gallardy Jul 29 '17 at 1:28
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    @SeanGallardy an example where you are not promoting a product but where I edited it in your answer. The comments are now gone but some people were confused because they didn't look at your profile. – Tom V Jul 31 '17 at 12:35
  • @TomV Exactly, I probably should have put something there but I didn't. That's where the main impetus of this question came from - thank you. – Sean Gallardy Jul 31 '17 at 12:52
  • The difference between disclosure and disclaimer is explained in the following post: “Disclaimer” vs. “disclosure” – hot2use Feb 2 '18 at 9:38

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