# How Ethical is it to Use Actual Institution or Commercial Brand Names in Examples?

In some examples in the main forum, I have seen code examples which contain the following scenarios.

1. Using names of actual institutions, where the institution is no way a known-to-everyone one. Using the names here will promote the name of the institution, and the act may be considered to bordering on commercial promotion. Moreover, use of the actual name is not essential at all for the example. Other names could have been easily used, perhaps making the example more interesting.
2. Using commercial brand names in examples. Again, the act may be considered to bordering on commercial promotion. And again, use of the commercial name is not essential at all for the example.

I refrain from putting actual links to those examples for two reasons,

1. I do not want to point finger to any particular member.
2. Putting links will actually aid the commercial promulgation.

Now the issues we can discuss here are,

1. How ethical do you think these acts are?
2. How do you think we can stop the acts? Simply reporting them will not solve the issue. The examples are otherwise very good and useful. Editing and getting them peer reviewed will be very time consuming for the community.
• We don't cherrypick users (unlike other networks might) to bash so you can safely include the real examples. In fact the owners of those posts can also give their own opinion. – percusse Sep 9 '13 at 10:27
• You're probably talking about tex.stackexchange.com/posts/132325/revisions (where you removed the brand name)? I really don't think that that was an attempt to promote the brand. The user just put the name of some watch company on the picture of a watch. Insinuating that the user has some kind of vested interest is a bit of a stretch, in my opinion. To answer your questions: 1. Unless we're talking about spam, I don't think these "acts" are unethical. 2. Again, unless we're talking about spam, there's nothing that needs to be stopped. – Jake Sep 9 '13 at 10:43
• And also please include where you draw the line for commercial products. Windows and Acrobat are also commercial. Is it fonts like MTPro2 or websites like ScribTeX (though it has a free part too)? Or WinEDT which you can use without paying but is commercial? – percusse Sep 9 '13 at 10:46
• @Jake I would appreciate it if you do not include the link. As you might have noticed, I refrained from doing that. Picking up one particular post, in my opinion, is not very proper. I asked the question since I have seen other examples. – Masroor Sep 9 '13 at 11:02
• @percusse You might have missed my particular point where I said something about the name being not so known. If you put Windows, or Acrobat, or Boeing, or Parker, the names are not benefited at all. If the brand or name is not that known, it is completely different. But other people might different opinions. – Masroor Sep 9 '13 at 11:04
• @MMA Why not? For example, I don't even know what Parker is. Would that be OK if the brand was Rolex or Longines ? – percusse Sep 9 '13 at 11:06
• @percusse I know about Rolex but not about Longines. So, perhaps we are talking about a gray area. And Parker Pen Company has been in this world since 1888. But as I see, Longines is in this mortal world from before that, 1832. – Masroor Sep 9 '13 at 11:13
• @MMA: I will not remove the link: It's easy enough for others to come to the conclusion that this is one of the examples you're talking about (since this was one of your recent edits), and it's important to me to stress that I am convinced that there is nothing unethical about this user's behaviour. Perhaps it would be more "proper" if you could edit your question to remove the allegations that "a few people are always using the above mentioned technique to promote institution/brand names": It is by no means evident or proven that people are doing this. – Jake Sep 9 '13 at 11:21
• I don't think there is any problem to solve, there are many reasons that brand names or institution names have to be included, problems with commercial fonts or editors, or publishers journal files or institution thesis files all don't make sense without naming names. For the rest, it doesn't happen that much but I don't see any problem with it unless it is obvious spam inserting links for no reason. Certainly a criterion based on how well known you think the company is is not workable at all. – David Carlisle Sep 9 '13 at 11:42
• @Jake Last part of your comment is agreed on and edited my post. – Masroor Sep 9 '13 at 13:10
• @DavidCarlisle May be a related issue, may be not. Why does SE always converts all Amazon links to rads.stackoverflow.com links? – Masroor Sep 9 '13 at 15:17
• @MMA I didn't know it did, you could always ask on meta S.O. why they do that, but in any case linking is only slightly related to the issue that you raise which is mentioning the names at all. – David Carlisle Sep 9 '13 at 15:24
• @DavidCarlisle I am not talking about SO. The conversion (Amazon to rads) occurred for my posting in other SE site several months back. That gave me the initial impression that perhaps SE has an aversion to putting commercial site names in the postings. That psychological triggering several months back, and watching some examples in this period made me ask this question in meta.tex.SE. – Masroor Sep 9 '13 at 17:02
• Even though you have a good observation (sometimes it's better to mention the names as David suggested), I think It should be left to the User's Wisdom/Judgement rather than a moral policing/peer reviewing on each and every post since a magnifying glass scan is literally impossible Just for eg: MMA might stand for www.mma.org , www.mma.org.my logo/name and many more brands in google search... – texenthusiast Sep 9 '13 at 19:55

Without an example, it's very difficult to know the sorts of problems you are seeing. Certainly the network has clear policies on self-promotion. But it does not seem like the instances you see are actual violations of that policy. They are, rather, potential violations of this community's scruples. If so, it's very important that the entire community knows and the majority of the community agrees to the standards. For that to happen the examples would need to be clear and the purpose of the restriction should be laid out.

Since your personal scruples go so far as to want to avoid bringing attention (even censorious attention) to examples, we're in a little bit of a Catch-22: you can't explain the ethical dilemma without examples, but pointing to such examples would violate your ethics.

## Good writing often involves using concrete examples.

Stack Exchange values and encourages good writing. Excellent answers tend to be more than just techinically accurate; they also engage to the reader. Consider the following paragraph:

When Knuth taught Concrete Mathematics at Stanford for the first time, he explained the somewhat strange title by saying that it was his attempt to teach a math course that was hard instead of soft. He announced that, contrary to the expectations of some of his colleagues, he was not going to teach the Theory of Aggregates, nor Stone's Embedding Theorem, nor even the Stone–Čech compactification theorem. (Several students from the civil engineering department got up and quietly left the room.)

Stanford (along with the final two sentences) is entirely extraneous to what the paragraph communicates. And yet, it's a detail that adds more than enough to leave it in. Even if Stanford were a complete unknown, the name of the institution paints a picture in the mind of the reader. Being specific makes for better writing.

## Summary

It can hardly be said that using the names of institutions or commercial brands is promotion of those names in all cases. Cadillac answers might even go out of their way to include such names.

• So there are some network-wide moderators who can write wonderful answers without belittling the mortal users :P Thanks a lot. – percusse Sep 23 '13 at 23:13