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Here's the chronology:

An inexperienced programmer posted a question to SO. He had a weird behavior that he didn't understand.

I saw the problem in his code and posted an answer highlighting where his problem was and why it was a problem. I suggested how he might rectify the situation.

He posted a comment a while later asking me for specific details of how to do that.

His follow-up question (in the comment) was a fairly basic question that even a beginner should know or could figure out by looking in the documentation or a simple google search. I had moved on to other questions that were more interesting so I didn't go back and respond.

Since then, he has deleted and reposted that comment 6 times. I get a little inbox notice every time. This is annoying. I get that he wants me to write his code for him, but I don't want to. How should I handle this situation (perhaps not this particular situation, but in general, if this should arise again)?

For completeness, this has taken place within a 24 hour period and no one else has answered or commented on his post.

Related: What do you do when someone ask for clarification after clarification in the comments of an answer?

However, that has to do with an ongoing exchange -- my issue is that the user keeps deleting and re-commenting and that little red badge keeps alerting me to this fact.

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This is why I am ecstatic over the lack of a PM system. – dmckee Oct 12 '11 at 22:33
Random thought... you could delete your answer, then the user has no way to direct a comment at you, and they have to suck up the 'punishment' of no longer having a viable answer.... – slugster Oct 13 '11 at 0:02
Just use non sequitir responses, I dunno , ask him a random Q or mention the NY Giants. – Adel Oct 13 '11 at 1:21
Not that smart at programming, brilliant at annoying. – Won't Oct 13 '11 at 15:43
@ShelbyMooreIII Is there supposed to be a sequitur in there? – dmckee Dec 10 '11 at 19:18
up vote 25 down vote accepted

This is clearly not to be encouraged. Some users grasp for anything you can give them, but some take it too far. We all try to help, but we're not online 24/7 – well, maybe some are, but they have better things to do :)

Notifications are there for comments and answers that are new and possibly need your attention – you don't have to read the same comment over and over again.

First, kindly ask them to stop doing this. Maybe tell them you don't have time to look at their particular problem, but actually, you shouldn't need to explain yourself.

If they continue doing it, I'd suggest flagging either your post or one of their comments for moderator attention, asking them (the mods) to drop the user a friendly notice about not doing this anymore.

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His follow-up question (in the comment) was a fairly basic question that even a beginner should know or could figure out by looking in the documentation or a simple google search.

Advise them that the best way to get a response to their new question is to either update the original question or ask a new question.

Leaving a comment like that teaches this new user what the appropriate behaviour is and can also be seen by new users in the future.

Simply ignoring the comment doesn't teach anyone anything about appropriate behaviour.

However, what's interesting is that this person knows enough about the SE engine to know that comments trigger notifications. Maybe in this particular case a Mod follow up is appropriate but as for the general case I'd recommend an informative reply.

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