While its great to see this forum getting busy and growing, something is bugging me, and I want to bring it up before it gets to be a bigger "issue."
I understand photographers can tend to be entrepreneurial due to the nature of the job/career. My opinion is that these forums should be neutral and transparent of that. Contrary to this, I see some members somewhat obviously driving traffic to their own website or promoting themselves.
Nothing personal, but here are examples:
These forums are where many Canon users (many who are new and impressionable) come expecting unbiased help, i.e. the advice, suggestions, and recommendations come from other users as the best information based on the merits of the content and not the personal/commercial gain of any one user.
What are your thoughts on this? and what is Canon's official position (and can we have guidelines clarified to reflect this)?
It certainly looks like your samples are indeed people trying to use this forum to sell themselves & / or their products. Having been one of the original members of one of the forums Tripadvisor started. I know that it's tough keeping people from doing exactly that, but the normal routine was to use the "Report inappropriate Content" to have a moderator or staff member take & look & either ignore or remove the message. If the member kept doing it they also were removed. (banned from posting messages). I would expect Canon to have very similar attitudes & policies, but I doubt they will have their staff read every message should the forum take off, which puts the policing on the shoulders of the members, much like Tripadvisor did. It doesn't always work as intended, but it's better than allowing this forum to become a spammers gold mine.
That said I belong to 2 photography forums which do allow such practices, and I strongly suspect it's one of the primary reasons several working pro's & very serious amateurs belong to & use those forums. It gives them a place to show their tallent AND help teach / criticize / mentor. I've learned quite a bit of helpful stuff from them, so it's a 2 way street. With this being such a new forum it's hard to know who actually can walk the walk vs those who are just passing along info they read somewhere & took at face value because they don't know better.
It's a balancing act. Forums can benefit from full-time photographers as members but sometimes the price is some self-promotion. The OP has good examples of going too far. IMO, a one-line signature with a link is fine. Folks can go look if they like, search engines add more inlinks to the photographers website, and it's a quick way for the member to establish some authority.
Since this particular forum is just starting, I suspect the community managers are still deciding which direction to take it. There's something to be said about letting a forum grow organically. But there's always room for some gardening.
I help manage a large photography site that's been around for a while and its forums can be total chaos. Total chaos. I hope Canon decides what kind of place they'd like this to be, what kind of folks they'd most like to attract, and get staff experienced in building great communities.
I can see how this forum being a more public one has to tread more carefully than other photography and enthusiast sites, but I think its heading toward a direction of chaos more so than usefulness.
The other online forum/communities I've been heavily involved (for mobile devices, deals, and flashlights) each took a heavy hand to maintaining neutrality and banning self-promotion, and I'm probably used to that level of moderation; while this community is a bit different, I think the policies and protection should still be similar. The advertising I've seen here sticks out like a billboard in a library to me. This forum is tied to Canon's webpage, so it gets great SEO and a built-in audience with some assumption of credibility by users (more so by some who are a bit less technology-literate) -- it makes sense that users would want to capitalize on this. The powers-that-be have kept away the overt and literal spam, but by the moderators' inaction and lack of official response, it looks like the self-promotion on the forum so far is okay.
I agree that a signature line with link(s) is reasonable. Beyond that, I think self-promotion at the minimum is a nuisance and disruptive to the spirit of the community, and at the worst, borders on being unethical and deceptive, even/especially for a photographer who is working professionally to be advertising in self-interest without transparency. I'm sure its tricky for Canon who knows the pros and serious amateurs are going to be a lifeblood if this community is to succeed, but think we would all benefit from some contraints and guidelines to clarify where the line is drawn.
As another example, here's a new post that is somewhat on-topic but literally puts a personal blog page (of the exact same text) as the intermediary for a Vimeo link: http://forums.usa.canon.com/t5/EOS/Canon-EOS-6D-preliminary-hands-on-review/m-p/5087/highlight/true#... . This borders on 'link-farming'.
I won't name him, but there seems to be one particular "culprit" doing this more than anyone else. Read all the links in this thread complaining about this, and you will see all but like 1 of them is the same guy.
I actually wonder if that particular person has ever posted a single thing that was not just shilling for his website/business.