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It seems to me there is a huge spam-hunt happening recently. I see members that go back to 2009 suddenly have almost all their answers flagged as spam. The latest victim is Hasan. His crime : posting links to his own blogspot in many answers he gave, but the links appear to be remotely related to the question (I'm no expert on PHP, so I can't judge that very well).

His answers get downvoted, but it looks as if they're downvoted while flagging. I could practically witness his reputation go down (101 when I saw his account first, half an hour ago, 1 now.) He has a few answers that apparently make sense. So it's not really a spam account. Yet, his account is very likely to get blocked after such an outburst of flags and downvotes.

/onsoapbox

To me this starts feeling like a witch hunt driven by the flag weight and deputy badge. If one person decides to flag the whole set of answers, definitely a few others will chime in and get that person in huge trouble.

/offsoapbox

So I wonder : is this what is intended to happen to such answers?


EDIT :

As the account apparently got deleted (automatically due to the heavy flagging/downvoting? ) I like to stress a few points :

  • the user had some OK answers that were voted up and accepted by the OP of those questions
  • the user had quite some answers that were added late to a question, and contained little more information than a link to a relevant article on his own blog
  • some answers were posted the same date as the blog article, indicating he looked here for questions to add a link to.
  • quite some other answers were posted quite later than the blog article, indicating he really just added it to the answer.
  • his blogspot was free of ads, and there was no commercials whatsoever. It was a personal xxx.blogspot.com, so in that respect completely harmless.

The way this gets handled on SO seems a bit off the hook to me. I can't pinpoint how it came about, but this looks pretty much like a witch burning to me...

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Related, for this specific user: Are answers that just contain links elsewhere really “good answers”? –  Arjan Apr 12 '11 at 10:21
    
@Arjan : thx for the link. –  Joris Meys Apr 12 '11 at 10:25
    
Victim? No. If you'll enter with shoes to mosque praying hall you'll also get banned from there. "In Rome be a Roman". –  Shadow Wizard Apr 12 '11 at 10:27
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@Shadow see my answer. This is a dumb witch-hunt, and whoever is running it, should stop it right now. Linking to blog posts is common practice on SO. –  Pëkka Apr 12 '11 at 10:49
    
@Pekka when it's done sometimes, not when each and every answer (as far as I could see) is actually pointing to external resource. –  Shadow Wizard Apr 12 '11 at 10:52
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Now the user account was deleted. WTF? –  Pëkka Apr 12 '11 at 10:59
    
@Pekka : I guess that went automatically due to the heavy downvoting/flagging ? –  Joris Meys Apr 12 '11 at 11:04
    
@Joris good catch by the way. The user will thank you for having brought it up here :) –  Pëkka Apr 12 '11 at 11:05
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@Pekka, you aren't honestly saying that bare links to a blog post should be accepted? While a witch hunt might be a bit overkill, I consider a stricter enforcement of requiring quality answers (just as with questions) a good thing –  Ivo Flipse Apr 12 '11 at 11:06
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@Ivo I'm not saying that links are okay on their own as a rule. But this is a user acting in good faith, adding meaningful, quality and even original(!) contributions, and he should be educated by the community or a mod into posting more than just links. No need for the kind of hostility displayed. –  Pëkka Apr 12 '11 at 11:09
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Also, for the record, while this can of course change at any time, at this moment, the linked blog is completely free from advertising. –  Pëkka Apr 12 '11 at 11:15
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I flagged this question to have a moderator look at the deletion of Hasan's account. –  Joris Meys Apr 12 '11 at 11:22
    
@Joris there is not automatic account deletion, it's done manually by moderator. Judging from his answer, it was done by Bill. –  Shadow Wizard Apr 12 '11 at 13:03

7 Answers 7

up vote 10 down vote accepted

If an account exists for the sole purpose of promoting a blog, it is a spam account and will be removed. A user who posts a link to their blog on every single post that they make (and sometimes only a link) already knows they are spamming.

the user had some OK answers that were voted up and accepted by the OP of those questions

Some people buy Viagra from spammers too. That doesn't make spamming okay.

the user had quite some answers that were added late to a question, and contained little more information than a link to a relevant article on his own blog

This is the main problem. He was simply using SO to drive traffic to his blog.

some answers were posted the same date as the blog article, indicating he looked here for questions to add a link to.

Or he looked here, found a question he could answer, then posted the answer on his blog and a link here to drive traffic. Either way, he's simply driving traffic.

quite some other answers were posted quite later than the blog article, indicating he really just added it to the answer.

Does it matter which came first?

his blogspot was free of ads, and there was no commercials whatsoever. It was a personal xxx.blogspot.com, so in that respect completely harmless.

Ads can be added at any time, but I don't think it really matters if the person is making money off of it or not. It doesn't matter if you're promoting your company, your personal blog, your open source project, or your conference. If your only contribution is to drive traffic to another site, it's a spam account.

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Chances are that this user was acting in good faith. Shameless plagiators get warnings and timed suspensions, but somebody posting blog links gets their account deleted without even a chance to defend themselves, or to fix their posts? How is that fair? –  Pëkka Apr 12 '11 at 12:46
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@Pekka: If an account was used 100% for plagiarism, I'd delete that too. If someone is looking for questions on SO, posting answers on their blog, then links on SO, I don't see how that's good faith. Spammers know they're spamming. –  Bill the Lizard Apr 12 '11 at 12:52
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@Bill I see your point. Still, in my eyes this user would have deserved a warning, and the chance to edit their answers to comply with the rules. The content quality of that blog was okay, and with no visible nefarious intent (like farming traffic for ad impressions). –  Pëkka Apr 12 '11 at 12:54
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@Bill : Thx for the extensive answer, but not all his answers had a link to his blog... That's why I believe that he at least deserved a warning first. Well, a mods word is law, so I guess that's bad luck for Hasan. –  Joris Meys Apr 12 '11 at 13:00
    
@Joris: Did you happen to save a link to any of his posts that didn't link to his blog? I didn't see any. The majority of the ones I looked at were only a link to his blog. –  Bill the Lizard Apr 12 '11 at 13:04
    
@Bill : alas not, and it weren't many. But I am positive I saw them. –  Joris Meys Apr 12 '11 at 13:06
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@Bill, there were only two answers on the first page of his profile that were not spammy. I happened to leave it open overnight so I could witness the carnage in the morning. There were perhaps 3-4 more on the second page, which is no longer available due to the deletion. (Yes, this means that I participated in the flag-as-spam-fest, though I didn't downvote any of the answers.) –  Charles Apr 12 '11 at 15:03
    
@Charles: Thanks for posting those. I guess the guy's posts were only 90% spam, which makes this much more of a borderline case in my opinion. I could have attempted a warning. –  Bill the Lizard Apr 12 '11 at 16:24
    
@Charles : thx for the links. @Bill : well, that's what they call collateral damage ;) –  Joris Meys Apr 21 '11 at 8:10

The downvoting spree this user is getting seems like a pretty mean-spirited witch-hunt, or organized abuse of the system by someone who has something against the user. I've never seen anything like it.

While it can be debated whether it's okay to post links to blog posts - it's surely not okay as a general practice as seen from this user -

  • A lot of people are doing this every day without repercussions

  • The blog posts are perfectly pertinent to the question

  • The blog posts seem perfectly fine contributions, and even original work - at least I can't find any plagiarism

the guy needs to be nicely educated about etiquette, and told that he should post complete answers on SO proper. Nothing more.

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Maybe the downvote volume is bigger than usual, but still.. some of his answers do deserve flagging in my opinion. Anyway it's not like he's suspended or anything.. I believe he can keep promoting his blog for long time unless moderator sends him to the suspension box, which is unlikely. –  Shadow Wizard Apr 12 '11 at 10:50
    
@Shadow the answers are perfectly fine contributions to each question. There is no reason for this kind of downvoting. –  Pëkka Apr 12 '11 at 10:50
    
There are some points to be made, as JohnP wrote. He is abusing it a bit, although I do agree that the downvote vulcano that bursted is definitely not in proportion. –  Joris Meys Apr 12 '11 at 10:51
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it's all his original work. He seems to be writing blog posts as answers to the question and linking to them. This seems to have pissed someone off. I've flagged an answer of his for mod attention, he's definitely getting bullied –  JohnP Apr 12 '11 at 10:56

The majority of his 25 "answers" are in this form:

This is a custom code, in PHP, which keeps track of currently logged in and active user. Hope it helps :)

http://example.blogspot.com/title-here.html

Here is a PHP script for creating animated GIF's dynamically:

http://example.blogspot.com/2011/02/title-here.html

Besides the "I'm gonna spam my blog in the answer to every question" problem, these also have the rather serious problem of not providing context. We frown on link-only or nearly-link-only answers here, and for good reason.

On the whole I see very little about this user worth retaining, and I believe this user was correctly flagged and deleted.

Can we save the hand-wringing for users who are ... worth saving?

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Is there any reason you couldn't have just sent him a message telling him to put the content on SO instead of just his blog, and maybe deleted only the answers that had the links? –  Gabe Apr 21 '11 at 8:00
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@gabe so you mean delete ALL his answers, except for 1 or 2? That's kind of the problem. Sorry if I wasn't clear about that. –  Jeff Atwood Apr 21 '11 at 8:04
    
That would have been possible, as at least two of his answers did NOT contain a link to his blog. But well, that's all afterthought I'd say. Thx for the answer anyway. –  Joris Meys Apr 21 '11 at 8:11
    
@joris I didn't find the one or two sentence answers in those particularly compelling versus the twenty-three other egregiously blog-link ones. –  Jeff Atwood Apr 21 '11 at 8:20

I'd say it's OK to link to your blog with a fuller explanation as long as you actually answer the question in the space too, i.e.

You solve this by setting property X to Y,

 foo = new Bar();
 foo.X = Y;

However if you're in corner case Z then there are some nasty gotchas. I've had to deal with this recently on our live servers and I wrote this up on my blog. http-blogspot-etc.

but

Check out this link! http-blogspot-etc.

isn't really OK. That said, if he's done it more than once then it's harsh to downvote them all at once: someone should reply in a comment explaining what he should do, or edit a section from the linked blog into his post (? might be on shaky legal grounds unless the blog is explicitly CC), and let him to fix all the other posts before smacking him down completely.

Some of his answers e.g. his latest one are adding his blog link to a set of existing answers, which I guess would work as a comment on one of those but not an answer in itself. I've left him a note on his latest answer - hope that's about right.

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He's hit 1 rep now :/ –  JohnP Apr 12 '11 at 10:13
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Quoting a sentence or two should be OK if you clearly mark it as a quote and leave the reference link in. –  ChrisF Apr 12 '11 at 10:17

Is it spamming to link to relevant sections in your own blogspot?

I don't think as long as it is related to topic IMHO, but Some of his posts are like this, It would attract flags for sure and I did flagged it.

enter image description here

But following have some explanations, but still low quality answer, personally I don't flag it, will let others to judge.

enter image description here

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Yeah, some of the flags are a bit harsh. I think a few people may have noticed his trend and tracked back downvoting his answers. –  JohnP Apr 12 '11 at 10:12
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The "But this" in the second example would still make me flag it, or at least downvote it (and leave a comment, of course!) because it still requires one to first read the blog. That makes it a very bad answer, in my opinion. –  Arjan Apr 12 '11 at 10:17

If you look closer, you'll see that while his blogposts may be related to the question there are 2 problems with these.

  1. SO is meant to be a resource. It's generally preferred that the answers be on SO itself so that people don't have to click through to go look up the answer.

  2. A lot of his answers linking to the blogposts seem to be posted recently. Some questions are quite old and some others are recent, but all the blog posts are recent. This could indicate that he's answering on the blog post and just linking there (or not)

It's ok to link to a blog post as long as you put in an explanation as well. I've done it many times and I've never been flagged (touchwood). The main point is that you have to give some context. No need to copy paste the whole content of a blog post into SO.

EDIT :

While some of his answers are debatable, he's definitely getting the short end of the stick as well. The following answers are marked as correct and have some substance, yet still garner downvotes

Placing a dot over an existing image in PHP

Using json and ajax together

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Also, just wanted to add that if it's a concerted attack, it'll likely be picked up by the vote fraud script –  JohnP Apr 12 '11 at 10:08
    
Fair enough. Indeed, the time of posting the link and writing the answer on his blog coincide pretty much every time. So spam account it is. –  Joris Meys Apr 12 '11 at 10:09
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@Joris Meys But he seems to be getting attacked on his more acceptable answers as well though. Somebody has noticed him –  JohnP Apr 12 '11 at 10:19
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That's what got me to start this discussion. I've seen it happen a couple of times already, but in the other cases it was really only spam for some tool. This is - as I see it - some Indian guy that wanted to get a bit more hits on his blogspot and chose the wrong method. But he's not gaining anything from those hits: no ads, no sells, nothing. –  Joris Meys Apr 12 '11 at 10:22

It's a very complicated corner case. As Rup mentioned, it's of course not okay to just provide one link without further explanation or help. But it is good practice to link against the original resource and provide a summary of this. In that case it doesn't matter if it is written by you or someone else.

But...and that's a big one, there are several conditions to it:

  • Their answers aren't helpful, off-topic or one-link-only.
  • They have no 'normal' answers, only posts linking back to their blog.
  • They have Google Ads or another Ad-Service on their blog which provides them with money for every click.

For me, only two of this conditions must apply to receive a flag for spamming (especially the last one). If only one condition applies, it's a comment with an explanation, and maybe a downvote.

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