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Today I noticed several questions by the same user along the lines of 'What is the best...' or 'What are some hidden features of...'. Looking at the user's history I noticed that most of his questions were rep-farming questions along those lines and many answers appeared to be cut and pastes from other answers, sometimes with a dash of URL referencing thrown in. Is there anything to be done about this other than 'Hope he gets his rep voted down more than up?'

EDIT: Re: commentary on 'calling the user out on meta'. I specifically avoided naming the person because I don't want it to be an issue of mob justice or a huge drama intensive issue. Pointing fingers in online communities tends to generate more heat than light.

On the downside that means that others can't look at the same information I looked at and comment that they don't feel this particular instance does or does not rise to the level of taking some sort of action.

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Mentioning it here on Meta is a good start, but you should provide some links to confirm your claims. –  Ladybug Killer Nov 2 '09 at 20:57
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@John: I disagree. This should be handled with the mods privately. –  GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 21:05
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The site is intended to be self policing by the community. I can understand bringing a few egregious offenses to the moderators, but they can't take care of the 'big' offenses unless they are freed from the smaller, more frequent problems. So bringing it to the community's attention here on meta (since there's no other official unified channel for the community to use to self police) sounds like a reasonable solution. –  Adam Davis Nov 2 '09 at 21:08
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@Adam: He is not talking about small issues, he is talking about a large pattern of abuse. That should not be handled in public, since we should stay away from targeting users on meta. This leads to a lot of butthurt and fighting. –  GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 21:11
    
@Rich B: I understand your concerns, but wouldn't it make it more obvious, what kind of behaviour is tolerated and which not? –  Ladybug Killer Nov 2 '09 at 21:21
    
@John: This sort of thing is never obvious. And calling out a user on meta instead of speaking to the mods is only going to end up with someone losing an eye. –  GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 21:24
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I gotta agree with Rich here... Calling someone out on Meta should be your last resort - it's one thing to point out a specific question and ask the community what the appropriate action should be, but coming here to effectively demand mob justice could just as easily end with the user renaming himself after a Russian serial killer and continuing to ask stupid questions. Leave it to the moderators unless they're also unable to act or unsure of what the action should be. –  Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 21:33
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Farming is not the correct word for this practice. It's called repwhoring. Learn it, know it, love it. –  belgariontheking Nov 2 '09 at 21:33
    
@Rich B: You can take all the fun out of this game ;) @Jherico: No pillory today. Flag for moderation attention. Jeff's archangels will do the job! –  Ladybug Killer Nov 2 '09 at 21:34
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+1 for resisting the urge to start a witch hunt against specific individuals. –  ire_and_curses Nov 3 '09 at 3:30

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If there is a clear pattern, report the questions to the mods with the flag button. They should be able to take action from there.

If you want to add more evidence and build a better case against the user, an email to team@stackoverflow.com can help.

As for the down voting, do not hold you breath. Down voting is largely ineffective.

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What kind of action could a mod possibly take? Close a question because "well, the question itself is not so bad, but when I look at your other questions..."? You're totally right about down voting, unfortunately. –  innaM Nov 3 '09 at 9:53
    
The mods can (and have) warned, suspended and deleted users for this behavior before. –  GEOCHET Nov 3 '09 at 14:52
    
Downvoting is often counter-effective. I've downvoted bad questions and answers and shortly thereafter seen them back to 0, net result +8 rep to somebody who wasn't being helpful. There's too much sympathy upvoting out there, and I don't have any good idea what to do about it. –  David Thornley Nov 3 '09 at 15:55
    
The only thing you can do about is to leave a comment that clearly explains why the answer or question is bad. Still, one single upvote will cancel the effect of five downvotes. On the other hand, real rep-whores don't calculate like that. To them, every single downvote is a major offense. –  innaM Nov 3 '09 at 16:40

Rep Farming as Abuse

I don't understand the question's premise.

What is the difference between "rep farming" and "posting interesting questions that meet the requirements of the website"?

Are the questions harming the website?

Does it hurt you, others, or the website that this person is gaining reputation?

If the question is 'bad' then it'll be closed and eventually deleted and upon a rep calculation (happens at least once a year) the rep will disappear.

But if the question is deemed useful by the community, they why is it a bad thing based only on the intentions of the OP?

Why should the intentions matter?

Why can't the question be judged on its own merit?

Rep Farming vs Real Abuse

However, you go further to mention that the user is also copying content from other questions/answers. If the question is duplicate, or the content is being 'stolen' from existing questions and answers, then that should be dealt with as per normal rules (closed as duplicate, for instance) or flagged for moderator attention.

This may be done for 'rep farming' but the reality is they are abusing SO by committing other rule violations. These should be dealt with using the normal channels - the rep farming itself isn't the issue.

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That's why: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1326/… –  Ladybug Killer Nov 2 '09 at 21:12
    
I don't see that as a problem. If the community doesn't value their contribution, they won't get rep. Likewise, if the community deems their contribution, as abhorrent as it may be to you personally, then the community also gives them the power to moderate. The system works well as-is. –  Adam Davis Nov 2 '09 at 21:24
    
Also, the user in question has nearly 50% of his questions closed for migration or relevance. This is moderator attention that's better spent elsewhere, imo. –  Jherico Nov 2 '09 at 22:30
    
I agree; simply trusting "the Invisible Hand" of upvotes and downvotes is a little too idealistic. –  Ether Nov 3 '09 at 0:09
    
So if they aren't rep farming, then you have no problem with "question asking ... without regard as to whether the question is appropriate or whether the question has been asked before to be objectionable."? You are making my point - if the question is a bad question then it should be punished regardless of the intent. However, if the question is a good question, and not a duplicate or obvious copy of an existing question, then does it matter that the intent is to boost one's rep? I'm not arguing about any specific cases, I'm arguing against implying that rep farming is bad in and of itself. –  Adam Davis Nov 3 '09 at 2:18
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At the end of the day, if you remove "rep farming" from your arguments, you still have a valid complaint against the user. If you remove all the other bad things except rep farming from your argument, then you have no standing complaint. Why are you going on about rep farming when it's obvious the questions are bad, and the system has ways to deal with them already? –  Adam Davis Nov 3 '09 at 2:20

Flag it for moderator attention, or if you don't want to go quite that far vote it down.

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Close 'em all as duplicates. If anyone argues, flag for moderator attention. Once they've been closed for two days, delete them - normally, I don't care for deleting duplicates, but if they're blatant rip-offs then why not...

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I'd say: keep an eye on that user and flag anything that breaks the rules. Other than that, there isn't anything you can do.

It's amazing just how much rep you can earn in very little time even if you don't know anything. Asking questions that are tailored to certain characteristics that make them popular, answering by using Google plus cut and paste, removing anything that gets downvoted quickly, micro-editing your questions and answers so they get more attention. It's ugly, but I guess we just have to live with that.

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