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Why do high rep users answer bad questions?

Most (all) of us were so-called "rep-whores" in our early days. And that's fine IMHO, because as a new user:

  • You aren't familiar with the site.
  • You don't know what questions are repeatedly asked.
  • You want to gain privileges in order to help out with the site.

The problem starts when you are no longer a new user.

I have seen high reputation users (10k-40k) answering obvious help-vampires, with answers which were already given on a duplicate question.

These users are actively, and knowingly doing damage to the site.

Instead of helping to moderate the issue, they simply create more answered duplicates, more noise, and legitimation to ask more silly, non-researched questions on the OP's side.

I want to discuss how to deal with them.

It's obvious that you can't just tell the guy "Please stop answering questions", but if a high reputation user answers a multitude of questions which gets closed/deleted, I think some sort of flag should come up, a notification to the user, or a private message, with a link to a meta page perhaps?

What do you think?
What's the best course of action?
Should we do anything at all?

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marked as duplicate by Yannis, Michael Mrozek, animuson, Toon Krijthe, jonsca Oct 13 '12 at 23:07

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Some related reading with regard to handling duplicates - Dr. Strangedupe –  Lix Oct 13 '12 at 21:49
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@Lix: I have read that in the context of a different question (regarding reference questions), if talking specifically, I'm talking of the php tag on Stack Overflow, which has thousands of duplicates, which are answered, daily. So I'd have to call invalid on that argument this time :) –  Second Rikudo Oct 13 '12 at 21:51
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In our early days? No, I'm still a rep-whore 3 and a half years after first creating my SO account. –  Yannis Oct 13 '12 at 21:51
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Don't upvote their posts. :/ –  Robert Harvey Oct 13 '12 at 22:10
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This is really ground-breaking; we've never had this conversation before –  Michael Mrozek Oct 13 '12 at 22:16
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@YannisRizos: Not exactly, he's asking Why, I'm asking What should we do about it? –  Second Rikudo Oct 13 '12 at 22:31
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@MadaraUchiha Well, if you think someone is whoring for rep, joke is on them. Rep isn't really worth anything outside of SO. They're not exactly gaming the system and getting rep points unfairly, so is this really that big of a deal? –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 13 '12 at 22:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Do your part to close and delete posts that don't meet the site standards. Vote to close, vote to delete, or use your moderator flags.

Posts that are on-topic, clear and constructive don't generally get bikeshed upvotes.

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It's the systematicity that drives me mad. To see the same name over and over and over again on the same questions. –  Second Rikudo Oct 13 '12 at 22:25

Keep in mind that there are currently 3,817,437 questions on Stack Overflow and growing. While we do expect question askers to search for their question before posting it, we generally haven't ever asked that answerers search for duplicates before posting, at least not that I'm aware of.

We sort of assume question askers are doing their due diligence.

With that said, many users will search for duplicates if they see something that looks obviously familiar, but that generally means the questions have been asked again and again and again to where even in a sea of 3.8 million questions, it's still clear that there are duplicates.

Keep in mind that not all duplicates are harmful. The interlinking does help with SEO efforts and help more people find answers to the problem. If duplicates really are close enough to where the answers would all be most helpful in a single post, moderators can, and do, merge them.

Therefore, if you see a well-written duplicate, I wouldn't necessarily suggest closing it as a duplicate and downvoting it, especially without asking the asker if he/she could edit and clarify what's different about his or her question, as there may be something unique that actually warrants having a second question.

Of course, if it's a poorly-written duplicate, by all means, comment constructively, vote to close, and downvote with extreme prejudice. Just remember to be nice -- not weak -- just nice. :)

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This discussion isn't about when and when to not closevote. I do my fair share of closevoting (maxing my votes on many days of the week), the discussion is about those who don't. About those who take advantage of these very easy to answer question in order to gain reputation. I wouldn't mind, but that indeed does damage to the site. About loving duplications, as I've stated in a previous comment, look at the php tag, it has question with thousands of duplicates. That's not SEO helpful, that's absurd. –  Second Rikudo Oct 13 '12 at 22:28
    
Sure, I get you @MadaraUchiha. As part of this discussion, I'm simply pointing out that duplicates aren't necessarily a bad thing and that answerers generally don't search for duplicates. This likely contributes to why you're seeing a lot of people answering questions that you've voted to close. Hope this clarifies! :) –  jmort253 Oct 13 '12 at 23:37

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