Where do we stand with users asking for monetary incentives before providing an answer / idea?

If you take a look at the comments** on this question: Replacing a Switch and Avoiding body diode conduction. You will see that someone has mentioned being paid for their answer and I was just curious as to whether or not this is deemed acceptable?

You may notice that the question is being asked by me and I have no issue with the person themselves saying that or asking for that sort of incentive I was just wondering where the EE.SE stood regarding this.

The user is clearly an experienced member of the EE.SE so there probably is no issue with it but again - just wondering.

[** Below are the comments in question. They have since been deleted in the original thread.]

Bounty doesn't put any food on the table, and If you're going to sell it and make some money, I'd like to see some of it if you use my idea. Email me if you're interested. – EM Fields

@EMFields I am afraid you are mistaken... Unless your idea has a patent or something I would really appreciate the help. – elliotdawes

Patent??? I'm not trying to restrict you in any way, I'm suggesting that I can help you, for a fee, if you're interested in paying for help you're going to use to make money with. If not, oh, well... – EM Fields

• I've read the linked post and its comments a couple of times now and couldn't find the reference you mentioned. Maybe it's been deleted? Without it it's difficult to form an opinion on the issue. – Ricardo Jan 24 '15 at 0:29
• It isn't George Harrison's comment "(and how many dollars?)", is it? Because he's just asking what your budget was. You said you wanted a cheap solution... – Ricardo Jan 24 '15 at 0:31
• @Ricardo: Yes, the obnoxious comments have been deleted. Unfortunately that leaves this question without some context. I would be good if a mod could copy the comments into this question. – Olin Lathrop Jan 25 '15 at 2:02
• Elliot, the issue seems to be that my offer upset at least one person (not you, of course, since you have no issue with my offer) enough to get my comment deleted and me kicked off of EESE for a day, which is the reason for the delay in my response. There seems to be some confusion surrounding the content of my offer, so just to clear things up, here's what it was, in a nutshell: I suggested that, since you were going to use the information you obtained for commercial purposes, that I'd be willing to create a design for you, for a fee, and that if you were interested you could contact me. – EM Fields Jan 25 '15 at 11:24
• @EMFields I guess you've been misinterpreted, but that was not the cause of your suspension. That was just a side note. The real reason was due to unneeded provocations and inflammatory posts. – clabacchio Jan 25 '15 at 16:13
• @clabacchio I guess I somehow missed the distinction between needed and unneeded provocation, where the line is drawn with respect to what is and what isn't inflammatory, and the degree of literary freedom afforded - apparently selectively - to the various denizens of eese. Not knowing to which posts you're referring and how they were singled out as being offensive puts me at a definite disadvantage in terms of trying to prepare myself to not be offensive in the future, and I'd be very appreciative if you could/would post that information publicly. Thank you. – EM Fields Jan 25 '15 at 18:00
• I think that the Ask-a-mod chat would be a better place to have this discussion. – clabacchio Jan 25 '15 at 18:04
• @clabacchio I'm unable to log in to chat, but I'd prefer to talk about it here, anyway. Since this thread is tagged "discussion", is it not possible? – EM Fields Jan 25 '15 at 19:02
• @EMFields I would rather avoid going too much off topic on here. Plus, perhaps it'd be better to talk about it with the mod who sent you the message. – clabacchio Jan 25 '15 at 19:42
• @clabaccio I understand, and I appreciate your input. Dave Tweed was the mod who sent me the message and if he'd like to continue this discussion here, I'm amenable. – EM Fields Jan 25 '15 at 20:21
• This whole free culture thingy never seemed to go well on the EE side of things. CS folks like me are shocked to learn how The simplest of IP is charged for. I guess IP has more intrinsic value if it has a physical dimension such as a chip. – user148298 Jan 29 '15 at 21:35

However, sometimes the person asking a question could clearly benefit from some professional help that would go well beyond writing a answer here. I don't see anything wrong with giving a basic answer, and mentioning that there is a lot more to it and that you're available to consult professionally on this topic. Further communication should then be outside this site, but making initial contact here is legitimate.

This should be done sparingly and politely, preferably after providing at least a basic answer customary to this site. The example you cite is too in your face and obnoxious. I think it's OK to be more direct in a short comment, but being a prick about it, as in the example you cite, is not OK.

In summary:

OK: You need to do X, Y, and Z. However, this is a deep subject that can't be answered reasonably here, and your problem would take some time to properly address. I am available to consult in this area. Contact me off site if you want to discuss this further.

NOT OK: I know the answer, but you're going to have to pay to get it.

By the way, I do EE consulting for a living. I have written over 2800 answers here in 3 ½ years, and offered professional services maybe around three times. It's just not approriate in the vast majority of cases.

Any experienced consultant can verify that telling someone you have the answer and they have to hire you to get it is not how to get a job. The best way to get a job is to provide as much help as possible in the initial (free) consultation. If you can solve the client's problem in a two hour meeting, then there wasn't ever a consulting job there anyway. I've actually had cases where I didn't get the job because I solved the problem up front. That's perfectly fine. The client goes away happy, and you've built some trust. When they have their next real problem, you're going to be the one they call.

Most problems are of course too big to solve in the first meeting, but do your best to dig in and be as effective as possible right up front. Trying to hold something back so that you get paid for it later is professionally irresponsible, and just plain stupid anyway. You're much better off showing the client you're really going to work for them and not take them for a ride, which is the number one fear of most clients, especially unsophisticated one. That's actually a good reason not to take a job. A client that won't trust you is going to be a pain to deal with. No matter what you do, they'll always think you're taking advantage of them, constantly trying to squeeze you on price, regularly second-guess you, and probably say bad things about you to others. Whatever money they might pay you isn't worth it. Consulting requires trust both ways. You have to do your part by being trustworthy, but you also have to know when to walk away if the client isn't ever going to trust you anyway.

• Very nice answer! – Pam Jan 23 '15 at 23:07
• That's what I call professional ethics - a model for all of us. +1 – Ricardo Jan 24 '15 at 0:24
• First sentence is the most important, and taking it together with the "Bounty doesn't put any food on the table" statement it makes clear that not everyone here seems to see this exchange as the primary reason to be on this site. – PlasmaHH Jan 28 '15 at 13:30
• (+1) Great answer! Especially the part about how a real professional should behave with his/her (maybe prospective) clients! I wish more people behaved like this (and not only in the EE field!) – Lorenzo Donati supports Monica Feb 1 '15 at 12:20

As Olin correctly points out, sometimes the question is asking for a full design, and in some cases it may trigger an offer for a full consultancy service. In this case, one may answer with a general overview of a possible solution, and suggest that the OP refers to a professional to get the job done. In this case, with full disclosure, it is not inappropriate to offer your own service, but the key is that the answer must be informative for any reader.

• Clabacchio, There was no hint involved. The offer was made clearly and the request made that interest in the offer be made off-site. – EM Fields Jan 25 '15 at 11:30
• @EMFields you're right, this answer was hastily written and needs some rewording. – clabacchio Jan 26 '15 at 13:12
• "As Olin correctly points out," is just your acquiescence to his imprimatur, yet you follow up with an interesting statement in your own right. However, I made no technical disclosure of any kind, so by your logic my offer was appropriate. Additionally, as I recall, I posted no answer, so the mandate of keeping the readers "informed" is a non-issue. Especially in this case, which is tantamount to a magician being commanded to give away all of his tricks while being discouraged from selling tickets to the magic show. ;) – EM Fields Jan 26 '15 at 14:52
• @EMFields except this is not a site of magic tricks, and people come here for the content. You're not obliged to answer, but the etiquette would be to first give some pointers, and then to propose to go further with you. Otherwise it becomes just an advertisement. BTW, I only credited Olin for the basic idea, I hope not to have misinterpreted him. – clabacchio Jan 26 '15 at 14:57
• Hmm... This seems to be heating up a little, so maybe I'll just disengage before I get booted off the site again... OK? – EM Fields Jan 26 '15 at 15:10
• @EMFields I'm super-cool here ;) And I'm genuinely trying to help, I'm sorry if I'm perceived otherwise – clabacchio Jan 26 '15 at 15:43
• Well, OK. :) As Arthur C. Clarke noted: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.", so most of the querents who show up here MUST think this is a site full of magic tricks, and they want us to show them how to do the ones they're interested in. While etiquette is nice, it's not always practical, since if giving pointers is going to give away the , then silence is a better alternative. I'd give an example using my trick, but I'm running out of space and last time I tried to piggyback two comments one got deleted. As an aside, what do you mean by "help"? – EM Fields Jan 27 '15 at 12:07
• @EMFields indeed, this site is based on free dissemination of knowledge, not everyone is comfortable with that. By "help" I mean trying to mediate in this kind of quarrels, and try to keep fellow users happy and adhering to the policy. Tough job ;) – clabacchio Jan 28 '15 at 9:26
• If you care to examine my posting history, you'll find that a large number - if not most - of my answers have been original, fully worked out, viable circuit designs given freely to querents. Others just hint at solutions or intentionally abuse querents not meeting certain nebulous "standards". Of the two, which do you think comes closer to meeting the criterion of "free dissemination of knowledge"? Also, since asking for a fee without giving up the trick is acceptable, I fail to how this whole brouhaha isn't more than just a witch hunt. BTW, IMO you're doing a tough job well. :-) – EM Fields Feb 1 '15 at 9:18

Well, who would have thought that merely offering a solution based on remuneration would have caused such great consternation?

Certainly not I, since the practice is allowed under the site's guidelines, nor would I have thought that I'd be providing a platform for a vociferous rant on the evils of not conforming to a narcissistic mandate.

Oh well... :.(

• This question isn't really about whether Elliot had a problem with it or not. The question here on meta is whether or not this is deemed acceptable in general. So Elliot may be okay with it in this case, the consensus in the community seems to be that this is not OK. – user17592 Jan 28 '15 at 18:08
• That what is not OK? – EM Fields Jan 28 '15 at 20:49
• Again, if you want to discuss your particular action, start your own meta question. – Olin Lathrop Jan 28 '15 at 21:44
• The topic of this meta question: "users asking for monetary incentives before providing an answer / idea" – user17592 Jan 28 '15 at 21:44
• @Olin: If you look up to where there's a -3 with a triangle above and below it, you may come to the realization that this IS my question. – EM Fields Jan 28 '15 at 23:24
• @CamilStaps: So the topic of this meta question: "users asking for monetary incentives before providing an answer / idea" is what's not OK? – EM Fields Jan 28 '15 at 23:29
• Your question is an interesting one in philosophy of language. Do I refer to the title, or the object described by the title? – user17592 Jan 28 '15 at 23:31
• @CamilStaps: You tell me. Since what you earlier wrote should have read something like: "So [even though] Elliot may be okay with it in this case, the consensus in the community seems to be that this is not OK.", but read instead: "So Elliot may be okay with it in this case, the consensus in the community seems to be that this is not OK.", I'm not really sure what you're referring to. BTW, isn't this thread drifting off-topic? – EM Fields Jan 28 '15 at 23:58
• Please learn how this site works. The text by the triangles and the -3 is your answer to someone else's question. If you want to discuss a different issue than asked about in the question, which you seem to, ask your own question. – Olin Lathrop Jan 29 '15 at 0:04
• @Olin: Well, silly me, right you are! I guess, then, if someone comments on an answer there should be no replies to the comment? How convenient for the naysayers, eh? – EM Fields Jan 29 '15 at 0:22
• This thread started drifting off topic with your answer already. I'm sorry I'm not a native speaker. You sure you want to be a prick about language? Not cool. (this will be my last response) – user17592 Jan 29 '15 at 9:28
• @Camil, My answer to Elliot's compound question was that - and I'm paraphrasing - since the guidelines permit asking for compensation and make no mention of divulgence of the answer/idea prior to the asking, my stand on the matter was that it was OK, and that stance was implicit in my comment that I couldn't understand the consternation invoked by my offer. Consequently, my answer was on-topic. I do find it curious however, that others who pretend to higher motives have chosen to take the thread off-topic and use it as a whipping post in order to support their own agendas. – EM Fields Jan 29 '15 at 12:12
• @Camil: Your command of written English is excellent, and you know it, so your comment is disingenuous. More's the pity, you seem to have sullied your rhetoric with bad examples set by the less gifted. – EM Fields Jan 29 '15 at 12:19
• There are no laws or policies about walking down a public street picking your nose, but for some reason, I choose not to do it. If I didn't understand that it was frowned upon, and did it, I would hope that somebody would pull me aside and tell me it was frowned upon, and that I might consider not doing it. I honestly don't think anyone here has an agenda, is acting disingenuously, or has higher motives than anyone else. – Scott Seidman Jan 29 '15 at 14:36
• @ScottSeidman: The issue doesn't seem to be whether picking one's nose in public is offensive or not - since it's not prohibited - but rather that the METHOD one uses to pick one's nose is what the diatribe is about. Not surprisingly, the most vitriolic denunciation comes from a source uncomfortable with actions which parallel his own but are "committed" by others. – EM Fields Feb 1 '15 at 10:02