A user is writing about the ReplicationWiki in a lot of posts about applied econometrics. There is usually weak relevance. An example:


Is this spam?

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe we should suggest that Jan add this as a comment rather than as an edit. If it were a comment, it might be more palatable. $\endgroup$ – jmbejara Feb 9 '16 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ I have for now rolled back that edit - which really should not have been approved in my opinion. Whether it is okay to edit other peoples answers content-wise is pretty clear imo, if there's need for discussion we can open separate post on meta. I think this one is rather about the replication wiki spam. $\endgroup$ – FooBar Feb 9 '16 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ Many users voted up my answers and accepted my edits. However, you write Ithere is "usually weak relevance". Also the way you ask your question (promoting at every excuse) bears the answer in it. Please be respectful. $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 10 '16 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHöffler One of the users who upvoted some of your answers is me. I am also one of the users who is voting to keep your question open. In some edits you made the mention of the replications is very relevant and linking to the site is useful. As it has been pointed out a disclaimer saying you are the founder would be nice in such cases as well. I find that in some answers and edits there is no improvement whatsoever by linking to RW. I did mean to imply my opinion with the leading title of this question. Users are free the express their disagreement with me. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Feb 10 '16 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ Express your opinion is of course ok, and you convinced me that the particular edit you pointed out was better as a comment but I think you should not disguise a complaint as a question. Ask questions neutrally, give your own view below. Sounds fair? $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 10 '16 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHöffler As this is a discussion question on meta I think I am more free to express opinion even in the question. Yet I changed to title to be 'fair'. I hope you too will start adding disclaimers when you link to RW in an answer. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Feb 10 '16 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ You want me to write every time that I answer a question with information that is available on a site that I created: look here at the site that I created (as you already see when you click on my name)? The wording of your question (Is frequently promoting ... spam?) still implies the answer. A neutral question would be "How can we restrict posting links to external economics pages to avoid spam?" or "Is this way of posting links spam?" $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 10 '16 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHöffler Yes. Maybe it is just me. Maybe not. As noted you also insert the link into community edits where your name is not shown. About the wording of my question: As stated I wish to imply my opinion in the matter and I think that in case of discussion questions in meta there is a larger degree of freedom in this respect. An example is also provided so people can become better informed. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Feb 10 '16 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ When an answer is edited by a user different from the one who started it the name of the additional editor is also shown. This was the case both in what you complained about here and in the roll back here. And they were both first approved by others. Is that different in community wikis? Adding into an answer of someone else my name and an explanation that I founded the page that has the relevant content I link to seems inappropriate to me. Your general point is well taken but in my eyes you are overdoing it. $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 10 '16 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHöffler I think having listened to each other we can agree to disagree. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Feb 10 '16 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ I found the rules. Affiliation needs to be given every time. Inappropriate actions should be flagged. I flagged yours because I find rude that you worded "frequently promoting" and wrote about "usually weak relevance" in spite of the fact that many users found the content useful. You should have provided that view in an answer to your own question. $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 12 '16 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHöffler Very well. Thank you for editing your answers. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Feb 12 '16 at 15:55

Two questions are mangled here:

  1. Is it okay to advertise an (on-topic) site?
  2. Is it okay to edit this into other people's content?

1. The first question I would answer with a clear yes, when relevant to the answer. When not relevant to the answer, simple down-vote of answers filled with irrelevant content should be sufficient. When the answer does not address the question at all, down vote and flag as not-an-answer.

2. Editing other people's answers. It is almost never okay to edit other people's answers, beyond perhaps fixing up grammar or typos. This is especially true if you edit the intended meaning or content of intended meaning of the answers.

On Stackoverflow, where we can look for rough guidance, it is never okay to fix code in an answer. If the code is dangerous (or outdated), it is okay to edit a big warning into the beginning of the answer, and referring to different answers that address this answer. It is even in these cases not okay to fix it (the code) within the original answer.

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    $\begingroup$ Great answer. As a comment, in this case the edit makes it appear as if the person giving the answer is advocating a website without his/her permission. This definitely isn't acceptable. $\endgroup$ – jmbejara Feb 9 '16 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ I thought that given editing of the question goes through "peer review" means it will only be accepted if the one who wrote the original answer accepts it or if someone else thinks it is uncontroversial. My very first post here was such an edit, at the beginning one is not allowed to comment, so it was my only way to add something to an answer that I thought I could improve.I see your point that this kind of editing can mislead others (I got a wrong impression about what peer-review means here myself) and won't do it again in the way that was pointed out here. Please also see my reply below. $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 10 '16 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ Please also keep in mind that is also noted under every answer if it was edited by more than one user. $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 10 '16 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHöffler Don't take it personal. You weren't completely aware of the "rules", made a mistake and that's that. As long as you're not intentionally trying to play our system here, nobody is mad. Yes, peer review is supposed to prevent bad edits, but sometimes people slip. And you can see that both who approved didn't have much experience (only few edit approvals before), and this has not been an issue so far on this site so there was no awareness. And also w.r.t. them, nobody is mad :-). $\endgroup$ – FooBar Feb 11 '16 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. It's ok, still learning how things work here. $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 11 '16 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ @FooBar looking at the user's main-site activity log, we do indeed seem to have a case of someone intentionally playing our system here $\endgroup$ – 410 gone Feb 11 '16 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ @EnergyNumbers i wish i could see his list of suggested edits $\endgroup$ – FooBar Feb 11 '16 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ I don't play any system, please be respectful. $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 13 '16 at 11:11

In the user's account we read

Founder of the ReplicationWiki, a database of empirical studies, the availability of replication material for them and of replication studies. It can help teaching replication to students. Seminars at several faculties internationally were already taught for which the information of this database was used.

So it is certainly (transparent) self-promotion. I won't speculate as regards the motives behind it, but since sometimes the motivation behind self-promotion may conflict with the scope and ethos of a website like economics.se, I would say that the "relevance to the question" criterion should be a bit more demanding in such cases.


Here is the content of the official help page on this matter.

These rules are determined centrally by Stack Exchange, not by the Econ.SE community.

My interpretation is that there are two important take-aways here:

  1. Any post that promotes a product in which the poster has a potential conflict of interests should include a brief but unambiguous disclosure statement.

  2. Once such a disclosure is included, posts should be judged on their own merits. Each answer should be evaluated based upon whether it contains useful information that addresses the question asked (and does so without being misleading). For example, this answer appears to directly address the question at hand and it is not clear to me why it should have been down-voted.

I agree with FooBar that editing other people's answers is a separate matter. In particular, users have the capacity to convert their answers into community wikis, which is the mechanism by which answers are created with the express intention that they be improved by others.

Edits to non-wiki posts should be restricted to minor corrections that do not change the substantive content of the post. If you believe that a substantive change is in order then the following instruments are available:

  1. down-vote the post if you believe that its deficiencies compromise its quality
  2. post a comment to alert people (including the original author) to the deficiency
  3. create a new, better answer.
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    $\begingroup$ The answer you've cited is a hijacking to promote this replicationwiki. The question is asking for datasets. The answer includes five links to the poster's website, none of which are links to the datasets requested. We find a comment on a paper; a search form; and a replication of a study that might have had the data being sought. If there is any useful dataset hidden behind the poster's site, then those datasets should have been linked. What we seem to have here is a poster determined to create many inbound links (and thus google rankings) to their own pet project. $\endgroup$ – 410 gone Feb 14 '16 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ @EnergyNumbers I strongly disagree. The question asks for data sets that can be used as examples of how IV regression is used. The answer points directly to a page that lists dozens of IV papers along with information about where to obtain the data used in the study. It's hard to imagine a better answer for that question. $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Feb 14 '16 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree - five self-promoting links, and not one link to a dataset - just secondary links at risk of link-rot. But it's your call as mods; as a result I expect we'll continue to get more and more self-promotion from this user, in addition to the astonishing flurry of the last few days. $\endgroup$ – 410 gone Feb 15 '16 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ @EnergyNumbers It is not our call as mods: this site is self-governing, not a dictatorship. But what is the alternative? To port the entire contents of ReplicationWiki's list of IV papers to this site and have that go out of date instead? I think if you put aside the fact that the poster founded ReplicationWiki, it is perfectly reasonable to have an answer that says "here is a site where you can find a list of dozens of data sets that meet your needs along with papers demonstrating how that data was used". If the question's OP wants direct links there are other answer that can be accepted. $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Feb 15 '16 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ we have a system of referring to scientific papers that is designed to minimise link rot: the DOIs. Across all of Stack Exchange, and particularly the mother meta, we find posts to the effect that we are trying to build quality content here, not mere links to content elsewhere. So when someone asks for a list of datasets, the place for that list is here - not merely a link to a list elsewhere. Ask yourself - if the hyperlinks were not there, would the answer still be an answer? $\endgroup$ – 410 gone Feb 16 '16 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ I find this last point very compelling. On top, often there's more than one link when one link sufficed - a typical SEO behavior. $\endgroup$ – FooBar Feb 17 '16 at 8:53
  • $\begingroup$ For once I have to agree with EnergyNumbers. I'm fine with someone editing my posts to better answer the original question, but not when it is a clear advertisement of an external site - especially when inserted to the same paragraph with the original answer. $\endgroup$ – John L. Feb 18 '16 at 13:43

Thank you for bringing this up. Would have been nice to just contact me directly but I have not yet seen a way how to contact individual users here. Is it possible? You can always email me, address is easy to find.

I came here because I saw someone had linked to the ReplicationWiki in the Quant Stack Exchange and someone had found this helpful. The information provided there was incomplete so I explained in more detail and as at the beginning I was not allowed to comment I could only edit the original answer and have it peer-reviewed. It was accepted, so I thought it is fine.

I then looked what other questions are already asked here and as you see from the votes a lot of users found the information I provided on the journals that publish replication of experiments useful, just as the overview of software that was used in studies covered in the wiki. Then I saw a question for examples of code for instrumental variables. All this information is readily available in the wiki, that's why I provided it here and posted the links to show how to find it. I searched for further questions that are already answered in the wiki and found one in the quant stack exchange on replication of a specific study and several questions on datasets in the open data stack exchange that I could answer and several users voted that they found the information useful: a, b, c. If you think I overdid it with links or anything or that the connection is too far fetched at some point just let me know and I am willing to learn.

I think for questions that are related to replication it would be nice to have a tag and I don't quite see why anyone would disagree. I have worked on the topic quite a bit and already posted much of the information I have on the internet, so I thought I should also share it here. Unavoidably that can be seen as self-promotion. I am open about it, and if you think something should be done differently the community wiki function allows to improve on it, and I am grateful for comments.

Regarding my question on how to find a mechanism to identify studies that should be replicated I already noticed that it was not asked in the right way because it only got one answer so far. The point is that I wonder why in psychology voting on such studies works whereas in economics we do not yet have anything alike that is used much. Could you help me to ask this in a way appropriate for this site?

In general I would suggest to introduce a way to approach new users directly if they do something that you think should not be done.

  • $\begingroup$ I did leave a comment under one of your answers that I have found to be overzealous. Such a comment is supposed to pop up in your inbox (new messages are signaled by red numbers at the top of the screen). I see there is an ongoing discussion under your question. I recommend you post a new question on the meta site to resolve the issue. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Feb 10 '16 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ Hi there, thank you. I only saw FooBar's comment on the replication question some minutes ago via such a red number. Your previous comment on that question had been constructive and helped me to improve it. The same question in the quant stack exchange already got a relevant answer. Did you mean a comment at some other question that I have not seen? $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 10 '16 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I meant this one. economics.stackexchange.com/a/10595/1601 $\endgroup$ – Giskard Feb 10 '16 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, thanks, strange, I had not seen this. $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 10 '16 at 20:49
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    $\begingroup$ You have repeatedly spammed in questions, answers and in comments. Please stop immediately. Please go back and delete comments where you've spammed - ie where you've advertised your site without disclosure. Your wiki is starting to look deeply disreputable, given this promotional style. $\endgroup$ – 410 gone Feb 11 '16 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ Have you read my answer above & the question I asked on meta? I have not spammed but added content that many users found helpful. Just clicking on my name (or searching for it on the internet) reveals immediately that I founded the wiki where the information I was referring to can be found. It is also not "my" website, it is a wiki that anyone with a background in economics can edit. If you have anything specific to complain about, please do so. I do not think any of my comments should be undone and I would like you to treat others respectfully, especially when real names are involved. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Jan Höffler Feb 11 '16 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ @EnergyNumbers I think disclosure is a separate issue: I've opened a new post regarding this: meta.economics.stackexchange.com/questions/1521/… $\endgroup$ – FooBar Feb 12 '16 at 10:55

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