Somebody asked the following “question”:

screenshot of question

Clearly this is just a troll post so I (and other users) flagged it as spam. The spam flag was subsequently disputed (which I think simply means that a moderator rejected it):

screenshot of flag

Huh? Puzzled, I took another look at the list of possible flagging reasons:

I am flagging this question because

  • it is spam
    This question is effectively an advertisement with no disclosure. It is not useful or relevant, but promotional.
  • it is offensive, abusive, or hate speech
    This question contains content that a reasonable person would deem inappropriate for respectful discourse.
  • it is a duplicate...
    This question has been asked before and already has an answer.
  • it should be closed for another reason...
    This question does not meet this site's standards and should be closed.
  • it is very low quality
    This question has severe formatting or content problems. This question is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed.
  • other (needs ♦ moderator attention)
    This question needs a moderator's attention. Please describe exactly what's wrong.

Of these, only a few are applicable at all: “spam”, “should be closed for another reason”, “low quality” and “requires moderator attention”.


  • it shouldn’t be closed (it has no value – it should be deleted),
  • it’s not “low quality” (the description seems to fit actual, albeit bad, questions), and
  • it doesn’t require moderator attention (I certainly didn’t want to bother a mod with this worthless post).

So I still think “spam” is the most fitting reason. Maybe it would help to have a more apt reason “troll post”, or maybe we could explicitly subsume this under one of the other points?

  • 3
    What's your goal? Get an academically water proof taxonomy of unwanted posts, or point out a problem with /this moderator's rejection of a spam flag/? Frankly, I can see how "it's not spam/because it's not advertising", so "very low quality" or "other (needs mod attention)" would be my goto choices.
    – sehe
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:40
  • 6
    Probably add "It is not an attempt to ask a question" to the definition of the Spam flag? Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:41
  • @sehe I was going to ask the same question. I want to know exactly what constitutes spam. Because until my flag got rejected I was sure this fit the category.
    – Borgleader
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:42
  • 6
    This is not spam, period. Spam is when someone advertise something, usually with link, email, phone number etc. There used to be "It is not welcome in our community" reason which fits perfectly, but can't find it anymore. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:43
  • 7
    How is this not "very low quality," though? "The question has severe formatting or content problems" - it has severe content problems that can't be resolved by editing. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:44
  • @jadarnel27 "very low quality question" but this is not really a question, it's just a random rant so IMO this doesn't catch either. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:45
  • 10
    Screw it. Use the offensive flag. It's offensive to whales. :P
    – Mysticial
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:47
  • 2
    @ShadowWizard every dictionary I checked said that electronic spam is usually or often or commercial nature so it seems it is not a requirement. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:47
  • 3
    @ShadowWizard There are clearly several different definitions of spam, and one common definition definitely includes all kinds of nuisant communications, not just advertisement. Your definition may not be wrong but your insistence that it’s the only true definition is. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:47
  • 1
    I would agree - I've flagged "questions" that were actually just gibberish as spam a few times, and they've been accepted. It is perfectly reasonable to treat a post consisting of, for instance, "asdfasdfasdfasdfasdf" as spam, even if it isn't advertising anything.
    – neminem
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:51
  • 1
    OK, it's trolling. And trolling might be related enough with spam to justify such flag since we don't have any better choice. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:57
  • 1
    This and similar questions should be flagged for moderator attention: it's a troll. As evidence I tender the amount of time and effort that has been expended here. The OP must be laughing their troll head off. A moderator would have saved a lot of effort.
    – andy256
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 1:56
  • 2
    @andy256: I would only note that this particular question was disposed of swiftly and properly without a mod getting involved.
    – user102937
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 3:23
  • 1
    Although it's not commercial advertising, it's annoying in much the same way that spam is. Maybe we need a broader term, like "junk" (that's what Apple Mail calls the folder it puts spam-like email in, for instance).
    – Barmar
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 20:06
  • 1
    @Barmar That term would be "spam", according to the dictionary. ;-) Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 20:31

4 Answers 4


Flag it as...

offensive, abusive, or hate speech

Not only is this slightly more accurate than "spam", it will feed into the same automated systems that track spam to slow the rate at which malicious noise-makers can make noise maliciously.

  • 10
    How exactly is this abusive? Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 0:17
  • 21
    You don't see dumping nonsense onto the site as abusive? Ok...
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 0:20
  • 9
    It would be nice to explicitly specify troll posts under that point then. Because as I said in a comment, for most people, trolling falls under “spam” and apparently more so than under “abusive” (when parenthesised by “offensive” and “hate speech”, “abusive” clearly implies meaning 2, not meaning 1 so it doesn’t fit troll posts). Especially considering Stack Exchange’s own Tim Posts thinks the same. Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 0:22
  • 7
    I thought "abusive" means toward a person. So you say it can be interpreted as "abusive to the site"? Anyway totally agree about "Inappropriate", not so much about offensive or abusive. Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 0:23
  • 21
    Considering abusive is listed in between offensive and hate speech. I always assumed it was used as: "using harsh and insulting language" (even if it can also mean: "characterized by wrong or improper use or action"). Maybe that should be cleared up? (Merriam-Webster)
    – Borgleader
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 0:23
  • I agree it was more abusive than anything else (although I also see the points made here in comments about if it is supposed to be used for abuse towards users or features/site). For someone with such low rep, this user sure seems to understand the system. Is it possible this user is some sort of a sock puppet? Recently this type of activity was condoned (re: meta.stackexchange.com/q/216166/178816)
    – Travis J
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 0:25
  • 2
    Uh, no, no one "condoned" writing nonsense posts.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 0:48
  • @Shog9 - Heh sorry, not the nonsense posts, that wasn't what I was trying to imply. The "new user experience" part. As this user states, their "1-ling"ness. It seems all of their comments are trolling in nature. (i.e. What does console.log("!") do?) -stackoverflow.com/questions/21444254/…
    – Travis J
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 0:50
  • 2
    This flag shows up as "Offensive" in the moderator tools, doesn't it? I generally decline those unless the post actually contains material that a reasonable person would find offensive. Am I doing it wrong? "Offensive, abusive or hate speech" seems like a pretty high bar, higher than the one the cited question is raising.
    – user102937
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 1:08
  • Note that the OP did post an actual question before getting frustrated and defacing his question.
    – user102937
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 1:15
  • 1
    Not gonna speculate on his rationale, @rob - frankly, he shot himself in the foot here and wasted a lot of other folks' time. That's unacceptable.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 1:25
  • 2
    Well, fine, but I didn't find it offensive or inappropriate (in the sense of polite discourse) at all, just amusing. Someone should have just rolled it back, and told him not to do it again.
    – user102937
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 1:35
  • 4
    @RobertHarvey No, the OP posted the actual question afterwards. Well, Stack Overflow doesn’t keep logs for the first five minutes of edit history but by pure coincidence I saw this question pretty much immediately after it was posted and I saw no evidence of there ever being a real question – the initial post was spam. Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 8:04

I follow the last saying of Tim Post with regards some trolling out there:

It should go without saying that you should definitely not flag something as spam that is not a blatant advertising or purely nonsensical trolling attempt of some sort, and not flag something as offensive unless a reasonable, non-technical person would find it offensive as well. These flags carry serious weight, so use them wisely.

Apparently the spam flag is incomplete, so maybe it should be reworded to fit its use.

  • It was obviously purely nonsensical trolling though. Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 0:01
  • 4
    @LanceRoberts I'm not discussing that, but the current status-quo of the flag usage. IMO, SPAM means unsolicited messages, not advertisement. Maybe we should reword the flag usage to fit the current definition
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 0:05

If you look at the question review, you'll see that the question got closed, then the user edited in a real question. I would think that the mod looked at the question after it had been edited and so didn't see the spam.

  • That may be the case but the question got multiple spam flags and the question history clearly shows it was originally spam. Normally spam flags don’t even require moderator intervention so somebody (not necessarily a moderator) must have actively chosen to disagree with the flag. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:55
  • Perhaps this raises a question about how flags are handled. It seems unfair for a user to be penalised because he is raising flags that are rendered moot.
    – thecoshman
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:55
  • @Konrad, So maybe a normal user saw the flag after the question had been edited and disputed it. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 23:55
  • @thecoshman, that idea has been discussed on meta several times before. And those are just the first three examples I found, I recall there being even more focused discussions around that point in particular.
    – Ben Lee
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 17:02

I don't think it's spam, but I also don't think it matters. For someone to reject this flag seems baffling given the obviously unsolicited nature of the question.

In fact, if you look at this user's posts from the 2 days he's been on Stack Overflow, though some are cleverly disguised as real questions, obvious similarities between them make it pretty clear, I think, that this guy is trolling. Therefore perhaps the "moderator attention" flag is more appropriate.

  • 4
    It does matter. It matters for the same reasons that the "minimal understanding" close reason was removed: Spam means spam, not ham or sam.
    – user102937
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 1:10
  • @Robert: The end result is the same, though? Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 10:08
  • 2
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Sure. So what does it matter whether we kill old people in their beds or they die on their own? The end result is the same, right? Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 15:19
  • 4
    @GeorgeStocker: You, sir, are a most fine weaver of anthropomorphic cereal statues. Yes, clearly, murder is the same thing as flagging posts on Stack Overflow. Marvellous logic from a moderator. Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 15:21
  • 1
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit What does it matter whether I use a hyperbolic example or the real example as to why we want you to use the right reason -- the result is still the same, right? Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 15:40
  • 2
    @GeorgeStocker: I can see that this is destined to be a highly constructive discussion. Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 15:46
  • 2
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit I guarantee you'll never forget this conversation, or why we want you to use the correct reasons when flagging. To that end, I consider it quite constructive. Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 15:49
  • 2
    @GeorgeStocker: You haven't explained those reasons. You have only engaged in trolling. For that reason, I've already forgotten about it and you've accomplished nothing! Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 16:05

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