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This user joined two days ago, and in that time has posted two answers. Both are late answers to old topics. The text of the two answers are word-for-word identical:

I don't know if it can be useful for you. There is also another library, which is called the Blah Blah Library, freely available at http://blahblah.sourceforge.net...

The text of the answer is a detailed description of a project on sourceforge. The first name of the contact for that project is the SO username of this poster. Poster's profile page points to this project as website.

The posts are not really off-topic, I will grant you that, but the motivation of the poster is clear.

I flagged this situation as Other, describing it as spam/astroturf:

This user has two answers; they're both to old questions, and the text of the two answers are identical. The post recommend a product which is marginlly --but not exactly -- on topic. I say both answers are spam.

The flag was declined. Personally, I think this is incorrect, but I'd love to hear some other opinions. Is this kind of mining for excuses to post advertisements tolerated?

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I would close both these questions as not constructive... –  animuson Jun 14 '12 at 4:26
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@animuson -- there is that, too. But they've survived a long time, so that wasn't the first thing that came to mind. –  Ernest Friedman-Hill Jun 14 '12 at 4:28

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

This is one of the reasons why recommendation-style questions are not appropriate on Stack Exchange. Both of these answers are "acceptable" by the criteria of the question. Even though we highly discourage posting exact duplicate content across multiple questions, there's not a whole lot we can do about this specific case aside from just delete one of them, which won't really achieve anything here.

Normally, when a single answer answers two (or more) questions, we would want to find the better question, close the other(s) as a duplicate of it, and delete the answer from the duplicate question(s). However, in cases of recommendations like this, the questions are nowhere near duplicates of each other. They have very different criteria for what they're looking for, and the answer happens to fit them both, however remotely.

I believe a better option for the moderator would have been to just close both of these questions as "not constructive" (as they should be) and then dismiss the flags as helpful since action was taken, even if it wasn't on the answers themselves. Unfortunately there's nothing that can be done about the flags now. However, the attention you've brought to both questions via meta has gotten them both closed; so just sit back and wait for the moderation process to work. Eventually they'll get deleted, the answers with them.

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-1 I believe it is generally bad advice to rely on eventual deletion of closed questions, especially when this concerns spam answers. Closed questions can be improved and reopened; there is even a guidance on how to salvage shopping type questions at SE blog –  gnat Jun 14 '12 at 6:48
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I wouldn't agree that these answers are actually spam, just duplicates of each other. –  animuson Jun 14 '12 at 6:50
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well "I don't know if it can be useful for you..." makes a pretty bright red flag to me. Combine that with an unregistered account and it gets really ugly. When I chatted about answers like that with moderator they mentioned "Anything that blatant just flag as spam." –  gnat Jun 14 '12 at 7:01

The answers aren't that horrible considering their format and what they are answering. The questions definitely need to be closed as not constructive.

The real question is, "when a question is closed because it requests recommendations and/or links, should all answers to those questions be deleted?"

AFAIK there isn't an official rule on this. I usually look at the answer and determine if the user is a spammer, and only delete if the user fails a sniff test. This guy, he fails my sniff test. I'll leave him be for the duration.

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