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From what I've read on meta, multiple accounts by one user are "OK" as long as they aren't being used as "sock-puppets" to upvote eachother. Well I've come across someone who is registering multiple accounts to admittedly evade a question ban. This is a recent exchange I had with this person:

Dude, how many accounts do you have? I've seen at least 3, what's up with that? P.S. Might want to fix your question title.

Well the fact that they keep preventing me from asking questions so I had to create new yahoo accounts to get questions asked. Oops

I thought about emailing the team, but since I personally have fielded so many of this guy's extremely low-quality questions and he keeps coming back with more, I don't mind making it public - hopefully it helps keep stuff like this from continuing to happen (if that's even possible), or perhaps we can discuss what can be done to prevent it.

This guy is not trying at all to mask the fact that he's dodging a ban, and has 7 accounts. I can imagine how easy it would be to do if one were just a little more discreet about it. The red flag (besides the exact same user name) is this so-called "KOW Manager" project that he's been working on forever, posting scores of petty syntax error questions and other low-value delete-fodder to Stack Overflow. Any answers posted by these accounts are worthless self-answers, like "I figured it out, I had the wrong file name".

Here are the accounts:

* No activity on this account (yet), so it might not be applicable (but probably is).

So there are 3 things I want to ask:

  1. Can these accounts please be merged, or whatever it takes to restore sanity?
  2. Too late now, but was it right for me to address this here on MSO? There's no way this would have fit in a flag message, but should I have emailed the team directly instead?
  3. Since it's apparently very easy to bypass the question ban, and from what I've read on MSO, IP bans just don't work (understandable): Can anything be done to prevent this kind of abuse from happening in the first place, or is it a total lost cause?
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I thought that tracking of IP addresses would stop someone from doing this. –  Andrew Grimm Mar 24 '12 at 4:35
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None of those accounts have any privilege. I agree that they should be consolidated, but what harm can they do that the existing systems won't reverse? I don't necessarily disagree with cleaning up the trash but this user obviously wants to be an active member of SO. Perhaps a better approach would be to use your own sock puppets to down vote him ;) –  M.Babcock Mar 24 '12 at 4:40
    
My mistake - I was probably thinking of Wikipedia. –  Andrew Grimm Mar 24 '12 at 4:40
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@M.Babcock: Yeah, none of the accounts have privileges because the user is not a contributing member of SO but a leech, help vampire, whatever term you prefer, and on top of that - is cheating to evade a system imposed question ban. What's to debate about that? –  Wesley Murch Mar 24 '12 at 4:44
    
@WesleyMurch - No argument here. Their accounts deserve to be closed, shortly followed by (or possibly proceeded by) IP blocking if possible, but what good will consolidating his accounts do? He'll switch to proxies and use a different alias to spam SO (all the while laughing at your futile attempts at stopping him). –  M.Babcock Mar 24 '12 at 4:49
    
Don't get me wrong... I agree whole-heartedly, but I question what can really be done. –  M.Babcock Mar 24 '12 at 4:52
    
Well hopefully someone with experience in this field can answer those questions @M.Babcock –  Wesley Murch Mar 24 '12 at 4:52

1 Answer 1

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I've merged all of the relevant accounts (this one is a totally different guy and location, unrelated) together and suspended them for a year (for actively and knowingly doing this). There were another 3 accounts I found by IP sharing as well, same treatment.

I've thrown this in our team chat, we'll take a look at how to block this sort of behavior better based on the data available, I'll try and update this if we can do something more.


Note to others: please don't try and evade our bans, we will end up blocking your IP range and disable you accessing the sites at all. No, I'm not kidding, we block a not-so-insignificant portion of China for traffic abuse. The bans, nice messages, and our willingness to give second chances are there for a reason. We honestly do try and be nice about it...but if you threaten the quality of Stack Overflow we will react. If you continue to do so, we won't be so nice.

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I have an edit ready to this post in another tab right now that anonymizes the user, ready to hit "OK" - what should I do: hit "save" or don't worry? –  Wesley Murch Mar 24 '12 at 5:46
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@WesleyMurch - don't worry, please leave as-is...this is very unwanted behavior and you're right to point it out. –  Nick Craver Mar 24 '12 at 5:49
    
Thanks. I honestly don't wish the guy any harm and don't think he means any, but in reality this is probably a much better deal for him - he will have to work on his own coding challenges without being able to (ab)use this wonderful resource for extreme hand-holding every step of the way, which will eventually teach you nothing. And if nothing else, it will save many SO users a few grey hairs, myself very much included. –  Wesley Murch Mar 24 '12 at 5:53
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Nick, "There were another 3 accounts I found by IP sharing as well, same treatment" - but what about fair play for different users with shared IP. Except NATs and proxy I can imagine my wife here from my host, when I'm offline –  Lazy Badger Mar 24 '12 at 12:15
    
@Lazy: It's not the mere presence of multiple accounts with a shared IP that's the problem, it's trying to abuse the system by using those multiple accounts. You're allowed a wide range of latitude unless and until you try to exploit it. That's what happened in this case. I don't expect you or your wife fall into that category, so you should be fine. –  Cody Gray Mar 25 '12 at 8:39
    
@LazyBadger - you would not be treated like this at all, these accounts were very obviously the same person (and all blocked from asking questions). We don't merge based on IP alone, absolutely not...that would be mass chaos and totally incorrect...it's just an avenue of investigation to see if there are other users we missed when cleaning up this sort of thing, or sock puppets, etc. –  Nick Craver Mar 25 '12 at 11:18
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@NickCraver: I think he means blocking the wrong person because they are both on the same IP. For one example, what if this guy's roomate is a respected member and uses the site regularly? Isn't it unfair? I was sure I remember reading sob stories on meta from accounts that were IP blocked at work because co-workers screwed it up. –  Wesley Murch Mar 25 '12 at 17:36
    
@NickCraver: I found a new account: stackoverflow.com/users/1333299/user1333299, same terrible questions. If you want to get crazy with it, just look for accounts that post the string kansasoutlawwrestling or kowmanager. –  Wesley Murch May 3 '12 at 0:03
    
Here's another: stackoverflow.com/users/1296102/user1296102 –  Wesley Murch May 3 '12 at 0:13
    
Hey @NickCraver, got another one for you: stackoverflow.com/users/1406861/user1406861 –  Wesley Murch Jun 19 '12 at 11:23
    
@WesleyMurch - Thanks, seems he didn't get the point of a suspension. Unfortunately for him, that means we will no longer be accepting any requests from any of the IPs he was using. –  Nick Craver Jun 19 '12 at 11:57
    
@NickCraver: The guy is not the sharpest bulb in the bunch. To be fair - did you guys send him a personal email about it? Does he even realize what's going on and why his accounts are getting nuked? –  Wesley Murch Jun 19 '12 at 12:01
    
@WesleyMurch - Yup, we actually don't allow suspension without a contact email anymore, part of the process...he was contacted back when his main account was suspended, no response though. –  Nick Craver Jun 19 '12 at 12:28
    
LOL I know this guy personally.. I've tried to school him on proper question ethics, and conduct, even tried screening his questions before he posted the for a while.. But theres no getting through on this subject. The problem is he's superbly familiar with what he's trying to develop, but doesn't take into context that just cause its php or CI or whatever that everyone will understand his code out right or directly just cause of the language used.. Also for some reason insists on being kinda rude, thinking that will help his question along. Hes also on about 15 different forums the same way –  chris Aug 31 '12 at 20:01

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