An update to our discussion rules

The rules that govern discussions in the TR forums and comments haven't changed in over four years, but today, we've decided to update them in order to address a growing problem known as stealth viral marketing.

We've had a pretty confident suspicion for quite a while that a subset of the people posting here have alternative motives and agendas, even if you account for the fanboy phenomenon. The "contributions" these folks make to discussions tend to worsen the signal-to-noise ratio of many threads and to distort the priorities expressed in them. If you've sometimes thought certain discussions seem like a weird echo chamber filled with more marketing concerns than traditional PC enthusiast concerns, you know what I'm talking about.

Trouble is, definitively identifying and reining in stealthy viral marketing activity isn't easy. Still, we have decided to take the small step of adding a forum rule explicitly banning it. Here is the text of the new rule:

13.) Although we welcome the participation of representatives from industry firms, stealth viral marketing activities are strictly prohibited here. Participants who are employed in the PC hardware industry, either directly or via an arrangement with a third party, must disclose their affiliations up front, either in a public post, a note in their signature, or both. Note that "employed" in this context extends to those who are compensated in the form of product samples, attention, and other means. If you engage in stealth viral marketing activity, you may be banned, and you also immediately forfeit your protection under the TR privacy policy. You have been warned.

Our goal is to make clear that TR is not a hospitable place for stealth viral marketing activity.

We are, however, very open to participation from folks in the industry. We're just asking that participants adhere to the standard most good corporate social marketing policies already require: that you actively identify yourself as affiliated with the company you represent.

Also, please note the last part of the rule, where those who engage in stealth viral marketing lose the protections of our privacy policy. (That policy has been updated to reflect this change, as well.) We don't collect much in the way of personally identifiable information—e-mail address, IP addresses, and usernames is the extent of it—but if you engage in stealth viral marketing at TR, we may choose not to afford you the same protection we do everybody else.

In other words, stealth viral marketers may want to close their accounts now, because this rule change is going into effect. Consider this post fair warning.

Let me be clear: we are not going to post the email and IP addresses of obnoxious fanboys or suspected stealth viral marketers as a matter of practice. But if we conduct an investigation and can make a link between you and a viral marketing operation, we are giving ourselves leeway to make the results of that inquiry public.

For the vast majority of you, even the hopeless fanboys, the only effect of this rule update should be better interactions. Our hope is that we can maintain the discussion quality that has been so good here at TR for years. This step is just a small one, but we think it's necessary at this point. Please bear with us as we continue working to maintain the integrity of our community.

Tip: You can use the A/Z keys to walk threads.
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