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I know there's nothing stopping me contacting manufacturers and telling them about bicycles.stackexchange, but I was wondering how it is seen by the community here.

Specifically, I was thinking about contacting Gates who make belts and drive train components for belt-driven bicycles, in order to answer some questions I had that would best be answered by them.

Then I thought, I can ask them, but it would be better if they monitored the RSS for belt-driven chains, for instance. They can then contribute to answers or dispel any factually incorrect answers.

What do you think?

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  • I'll have to think more about the social side, but on the technical side they can use the interface at stackexchange.com/filters to automatically get emailed within 15 minutes of a belt-driven-chains or belt-drive question being asked. – freiheit Aug 23 '11 at 22:47
  • What social problems could arise? I'll edit my answer to this if need be. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Aug 23 '11 at 22:55
  • @NeilFein: "Excessive self-promotion" or generally any product promotion without clear disclosure of being part of the company. – freiheit Aug 23 '11 at 22:58
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As long as they're not spamming the site or answering questions inappropriately, I don't see a problem with this.

In general, when a potential for a conflict of interest arises (i.e., an employee of the manufacturer of widget X answers a question about widgets), it's best for them to add a disclaimer indicating the connection. If the answer is good, it'll get voted up. If the answer is bad, the community will vote it down.

Problems could arise if a manufacturer were to answer many questions with the answer that their product is the answer to problems it clearly isn't. Many comments along the lines of "this wouldn't have happened if you were using a belt drive" would not be tolerated.

Subscribing to a tag makes sense for them, although I'd encourage them to also stop by the site from time to time.

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  • You are right. Part of the reason I ask bicycle questions here is to get a real-world user view, rather than a marketed manufacturers view. I'll think about it a bit more first. Not to increase the moderators work-load but I guess users can also flag answers, comments as spam. I imagine there is no way of enforcing disclosure for manufacturers, they could use any pseudonym. – Jason S Aug 23 '11 at 23:06
  • @Jason - "I imagine there is no way of enforcing disclosure for manufacturers, they could use any pseudonym." True. The issue here is more one of should companies be invited to contribute. Perhaps the way to frame this is to indicate in the invitation that they should disclose commercial interests when there's a possibility of any conflict of interest, but that we'd otherwise welcome their contributions. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Aug 24 '11 at 0:26

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