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Over on Stack Overflow a user asked this question:

How do I read cells of another program's TStringGrid control?

And then a day or so later asked the same question again. I voted to close it and it has now been deleted. I'm not sure whether it was deleted by owner or community.

Just now the user asks the exact same question again:

Extract Cells From TStringGrid Control

The user has asked for help via Skype and even e-mailed my company's general mailbox asking for help. Perhaps I should remove the link to my company website from my profile!

My question is to ask for the community's opinion on how such a user should be treated. Is it enough to keep on closing the questions? Or should we leave comments for the user? Should I do that or should I ask a diamond moderator to do so (via a flag)? I'm slightly reluctant to leave comments myself given that the individual has attempted to e-mail me.

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14  
I don't know. Post the same question again and let's find out. –  Chris Gerken Dec 30 '12 at 19:59
    
Waiting for Pekka to post a "burn them all" gif. –  Oded Dec 30 '12 at 20:01
    
Are you able to find the question that you voted to close, which has since been deleted, in your votes tab? If it is there, then you know where to look in the future ;) (FYI it was deleted by owner.) –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Dec 30 '12 at 20:24
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@BoltClock'saUnicorn Mortals can't see deleted posts in the votes tab. –  Mysticial Dec 30 '12 at 20:26
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@Mysticial: Not even with 10k? That sucks :( –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Dec 30 '12 at 20:27
    
@BoltClock'saUnicorn I can't see the post in there. –  David Heffernan Dec 30 '12 at 20:27
3  
Downvote, close and delete. Question ban is pretty quick to kick in these days especially when downvoted questions are deleted. For the record, we can see deleted questions only in the favorites tab so just for sake of keeping track you can add such questions to your favorites. –  Shadow Wizard Dec 30 '12 at 20:43
    
Note that stackoverflow.com/questions/13347275/… is pretty nearly the same thing with a slightly different data source. –  Rosinante Dec 30 '12 at 23:34
    
@Rosinante That question asks about SysList32 for which it is easy to suck out the contents. For Delphi TStringGrid it's almost impossible. It's beyond the reach of mortals. But the SysList32 was probably a mis-diagnosis. It probably is the same problem, just before he realised that the control was not SysList32. –  David Heffernan Dec 31 '12 at 8:56
    
Adding a company link to your profile seems like a bad idea to me –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 1 '13 at 19:18

3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I'd consider that to be abusive to the community. I would downvote, vote to close, and flag for moderator attention explaining the behavior. Additionally, you can leave the user a comment if you wish.

Moderators can contact the user privately and explain that question repetition is not acceptable behavior. There's even a template ready for such cases.

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2  
And now I can't help but wonder what the first option is! –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 1 '13 at 19:17
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@LightnessRacesinOrbit The first option is ████████████████. You should see the template! –  toscho Jan 2 '13 at 18:30
    
@toscho: Well then I look forward to receiving such an address :D –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 4 '13 at 18:18

Flag one of his posts for moderator attention and explain that he repeatedly asks the same question. That is not proper behavior and will have consequences if he keeps it up. If he deletes questions and then reasons them, it is hard for regular users to follow that, mods can still see all the deleted posts in the users profile.

Or just wait until the question ban kicks in, if he has mostly low-quality content.

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In addition to the other answers, I also suggest leaving a nice, polite comment letting the new user know that this behavior isn't welcome, so that we'd only need a moderator to get involved if the situation escalates. As regular users, we have the power of our words and influence to help correct the majority of issues we come across on the sites.

Most new users just need a friendly pat on the back and a "heads up" that what they're doing isn't really helpful. I make it a point to mention that, when they edit their existing posts to add more details, the post is automatically bumped to the top, so double-posting just makes it harder for the new user to get good answers. :)

This tends to work out a lot better than "HEY YOU! STOP DOUBLE POSTING OR ELSE!"

However, the other issue you mentioned that hasn't been addressed yet is the user privately contacting you. This doesn't happen to me very often, but when it does, I usually reply with something like:

I'm not 100% sure I'm the right person to answer your question, but your best bet is actually to post your question on Stack Overflow, where millions of other expert users could potentially see your question and provide answers. Since I'm just one person, I might not be able to help you as quickly as a large pool of users can.

If it is something I'm actually interested in, I might add:

If I come across your post and there are no answers, I might see if there's some information I can provide, but again, the best bet is to let the crowdsourcing powers of Stack Overflow help you.

And I also add the following:

Additionally, you should use caution when contacting users privately, many people may take offense to you reaching out to them directly, as opposed to just posting on the Q&A site. Since SO reaches the widest audience, I'd strongly suggest that over trying to contact a single user. Hope this helps!

While it seems obvious to most of us that there's more help in larger numbers, it's not obvious to everyone, and a positive message such as this may actually help modify the behavior much better than a rude response would.

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