We all knew this was coming at some point. Employees of vendors or their sales partners jumping in to answer questions.

Vendor employees or sales partners can be great resources to answer questions about their equipment, but where do we want to draw the line? In this example there are some great points made (knowledge of EoL, etc), but then some of it sounds very "sales".

We obviously don't want this site to become a "sales" floor with every other vendor slinging their products as answers, but we also don't want to exclude their knowledge from the site.

Perhaps someone from SE can help us draw this line based on experience from other sites?

4 Answers 4


If you are a product representatives here to provide helpful technical support, we actually welcome and encourage posts directly from the source:

Using Network Engineering SE for Product Support

But if you find yourself recommending a product at every opportunity the subject comes up, you are likely here for the wrong reason. If you are posting good, relevant answers, and if some — but not all — of your posts legitimately and organically include information about products that are being asked about specifically, so be it.

But we have disclosure requirements — you must disclose your affiliation with a product you are recommending in a post.

If you are simply providing technical support for a product, affiliation becomes less of an issue. But when you are recommending one of those products, we simply require that you disclose any affiliation you may have with the product… right there, front-and-center in the text of your answer.

Full disclosure avoids accusations of good-faith versus bad-faith recommendations. But disclosure does not excuse excessive self-promotion across the site. If you choose to become a widely-productive member of this community — beyond your product recommendations (with full disclosure) — then your contributions are welcome. But please don't use every mention of a subject as an opportunity to recommend a product, even with full disclosure. That's where we draw the line.

  • 1
    I agree, this site is about technical support, if they offer that, brilliant! Shopping questions aren't allowed across the SE sites, NE is no different, users shouldn't be asking for vendor recommendations and so there should be no place for sales people or resellers etc to offer such input.
    – Baldrick
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 12:13
  • 2
    To clarify, this isn't always about shopping questions, per se. The author may simply be asking how to solve a problem when the purveyors swoop in recommending their wares as a solution. Without fill disclosure of their interests, we call that astroturfing — en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing. Commented May 30, 2013 at 15:23
  • Point taken !! No more Sales Pitches!! However just for the record, I was trying to offer advice and not just pitch products. The question was asking advice on designing a new network though... would like to understand how to answer these questions without pitching a product?
    – Jez
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 16:10
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    @Jez That sounds good. Your expertise is welcome and appreciated. When recommending a product or service your associated with, just follow our full-disclosure guidelines and it shouldn't pose a problem at all. Enjoy! Commented May 30, 2013 at 16:26
  • @RobertCartaino, excellent response. I would like to see the SE platform enhanced to address vendor answers (or even planted questions) by requiring that vendor affiliation in profiles and highlighting, flagging, or positioning these answers in a way that offsets them. Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 9:53
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    @generalnetworkerror We're not likely to do that because, for one, it would have the unfortunate side effect of designating "official accounts" from user curated content, and that's not what we want. Also labeling someone as 'vendor' doesn't excuse them from placing that information in the text of the answer. Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 19:20

Thanks for the clearing up on this. I was worried that advice seen as a sales opinion would raise some concerns.

In this particular case, the customer was asking for differences between two vendors solutions. I now understand that its considered 'bad form' for VAR's and vendors to offer a third solution to a 'Best Practises' question based on designing a new network, as we will have a natural inclination to promote solutions that we know best. Sorry, please be aware that my answer wasn't meant to be a sales pitch. I will keep this in mind in my future responses :)

Ref, "The poster even confuses trunking and port channels, which I am sure could cause quite a bit of confusion."

Just to clear something up. The original poster was asking the question, "Do I really gain by trunking the switch to the router?" and was proposing to use an HP ProCurve switch to a Cisco Router. How would you define this question, knowing the following:

In Cisco, the term trunk refers to an interface that you configure to support 802.1Q VLAN tagged frames. That is, an interface that you configure to support multiple VLANs is a trunk interface in each VLAN in Cisco. In the HP ProVision operating system an interface that supports multiple VLANs is a tagged interface in each VLAN.

In addition, HP ProCurve refers to aggregated interfaces as a trunk, while in Cisco it is EtherChannel.

This is common misconception that needs clarification, hence why I asked for them to Define Trunking.

  • Given the predominance of Cisco over HP, we'll have to go with the Cisco definition. ;-) No offense. Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 9:49
  • Hint: "VLAN trunk" and "ethernet trunk" Every vendor has their own language. In the bay/nortel/avaya world, "trunk" means multiple ports. (because that's what broadcom calls it.)
    – Ricky
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 5:00
  • @generalnetworkerror Ref Offense: None taken.. i'll reprogram you soon ;) However, its questions and definitions like these that make NE worthwhile!
    – Jez
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 10:02

Not from SE, but wanted to throw my opinion into the ring.

First, as introduction, I am NOT a VAR or vendor. I work for a very large manufacturing company, which has a very large IT department.

I think VAR's and vendors do have a place at the table, and can offer a lot of very good information. However, the help needs to be technical, not sales in nature. If the answer isn't technical in nature, and only attempts to sell a solution, I think it should be down-voted, and if possible removed.

As for the example that you linked to...I see that as sales only. For each item, the poster offers an HP product, not an technical stance or answer. The poster even confuses trunking and port channels, which I am sure could cause quite a bit of confusion.

Hope this adds to the conversation. Thanks.

  • Ref, "The poster even confuses trunking and port channels, which I am sure could cause quite a bit of confusion." > Please, see my comment below.
    – Jez
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 10:47

If it's verboten to ask for shopping recommendations doesn't it also follow that -making- specific product recommendations is also a problem? One of the big objectives on SF has been to avoid excessively localized questions. It seems like almost any specific product recommendation is going to be problematic as it ages. A switch that was optimal in a professional setting 5 years ago might be an ebay curiosity, for example, but specific questions about said switch (i.e. how do I do X?) would tend to have a much longer shelf-life.

I agree with the points made about disclosure but would also point out that there are a lot of non vendor employees whose particular technology religion makes them far more vocal/aggressive than actual employed salespeople. Clearly there's a fine line here, but at some point selling is selling.

Also - Keep in mind that there may be plenty of folks on here who happen to work for a vendor but don't act in the capacity of sales (or even general representation) when contributing. Just as many (most) shy away from revealing exactly where they work for reasons of confidentiality, so too might some who happen to work for a vendor/partner/etc.

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