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Recently I've seen a number of answers that contain a link to an online shop, but aren't necessarily blatant spam. I think these are a problem because the links won't last forever, aren't always relevant (e.g. geographically) and we're not a shop recommendation service.

Examples

For example this one, which begins "If EBay is not convenient" and provides a shop URL when eBay wasn't mentioned.

Or this one, which would be a great answer to a shopping question if such things were allowed. As it stands the answer doesn't really address the original question.

Or lastly this one about a current sensor, with a link to an Indian web shop. The question doesn't mention India, nor does the user's profile. But the actual part recommendation might be really useful to the original question.

Possible actions

When reviewing or reading these I have considered the following actions:

  • Ignoring them and moving on.
  • Adding a comment, downvoting where appropriate.
  • Editing the question and changing the URL to the datasheet or manufacturer's product information (instead of a specific shop).
  • Flagging.

So my question is are these types of answer worthy of more than simply downvoting and leaving a comment? Is it unfair to edit an answer to a more generic link?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't see any links to ebay or shops in the first two examples. I have edited to replace links to a datasheets with the manufacturers, either to replace a shop, or because I was concerned about 'link-rot'. I do post comments with 'shop' links, on the assumption comments will die eventually, aren't part of an answer, or may help make a comment concrete while a discussion is happening within comments. However, I don't know what the 'correct' policy is (I only started posting last month). \$\endgroup\$ – gbulmer Sep 24 '14 at 0:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ See the answer from Dave Tweed, he fixed the first two already. \$\endgroup\$ – David Sep 24 '14 at 12:44
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I don't think a question that satisfies the conditions of the question and also has a link to a product is necessarily a bad thing.

It is best to link to the product page or datasheet itself, instead of a vendor's page, but sometimes links to vendor pages are meant as a shortcut.

For example, this I think is acceptable:

You could use a BR549 Widgifier, such as the ACME series on Mouser.

The vendor link is subject to break and become out of date, but I don't think it's necessarily spam or an unwanted advertisement.

However I think it would be inappropriate to only link to a vendor page.

That said, depending on the context of the answer, a link to a product page or datasheet might come across as spam or an advertisement. It can be difficult to tell sometimes.

Q: How should I design this circuit to increase gain by at least 4X?

A: You should get the new Whiz-Bang 9705 from Zorg Industries! It amplifies, it gainerizes, and even takes out the garbage. Be sure to visit Zorg Industries for all your weapons electronics needs!

So that's a clearly obvious spam, but consider:

A: One way to increase gain is to look for an op-amp with these characteristics [...] or try designing your schematic this way [...]. If you prefer an all-in-one chip solution to save room on the PCB, you could try a Zorg 9705, I have had luck with them in the past.

Now the part has some credibility based on context from the poster. But there are all kinds of in-between variants and determining whether to keep it or delete it can be difficult.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. These considerations are why I asked the question. Certainly my third example had a potentially useful part referenced, just the URL was not as good as it could have been. It's useful to get a steer on what the moderators find useful if flagged. \$\endgroup\$ – David Sep 23 '14 at 22:35
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At a minimum, you should flag them in order to bring them to the attention of the moderators. In addition, downvoting and adding a comment would also be appropriate. Changing one link for another would not change the fundamental problem.

I've dealt with your first two examples, but the third one is attached to a question that will probably be closed soon by the community reviewers anyway — it's either a shopping question (off topic) or a "complete design" question (too broad).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks - what would you suggest flagging them as? \$\endgroup\$ – David Sep 23 '14 at 8:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Flag them as potential spam. Very often, you'll find that these answers are created from an account that was created just for that purpose, and has no other participation on the site. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Sep 23 '14 at 12:05

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