What is motivating people who clearly have little to no understanding of anything related to computer science, programming, or general use of computers to ask dozens of completely vague, unrelated questions? There are several of these "users" on SO (I won't point any out; if you use the site regularly, you probably know a few). They will ask questions covering four different languages, platforms, databases, technologies, etc., etc., within a couple hours. It seems as though they are bots just randomly reposting questions found elsewhere on the internet. It's bizarre. These users also almost never accept answers, and their posts have a third-grade spelling/grammar level (even for an ESL person). Why are people answering questions from these users? They clearly do not even have enough contextual knowledge to know what they are asking... it's just annoying.

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    +1 I have been meaning to ask this for days, but couldn't come up with good wording. – Pops Mar 25 '10 at 13:29
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    At some point in my travels on MSO since the last time I was here, I came across a related topic: the Dunning-Kruger effect (link goes to Wikipedia). – Pops Mar 29 '11 at 17:36
  • -1 For being too general. Certainly the type of behavior which you reference exists out there (in great numbers) and I get frustrated at times too but this post degenerates from question to rant as the question in the title mismatches the question asked later on which is the gist of the argument. – demongolem Sep 27 '12 at 17:37

It's simple: the more questions you pump out, the higher the chance of getting upvotes, the higher your rep becomes. They either:

  1. only do it for the rep (eventually it adds up until you're well over 3k; that's why the new question vote rule was applied) or
  2. they are so completely devoid of any programming knowledge, that they need to be hand-held while programming. It's almost unthinkable, but some users have basically outsourced their projects to Stack Overflow, one problem at a time. They don't care about marking answers as accepted since they already got the info they needed.

Regarding the poor spelling/grammar, why bother? Someone's going to clean it up anyway? Why learn English or use a spell-checker when Stack Overflow has a built-in spell checker (2k+ users and moderators)?

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  • @SLaks I wrote my answer with that user in mind. I think it's just sad, really... – alex Mar 25 '10 at 13:45
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    @STingRaySC Let's not be so dramatic about it. The question pumps will never learn, let's agree on that, but they are a minority. There are users who ask a lot of questions because they want to learn. They'll also improve their knowledge of English by simply observing the edits made on their questions. In the end we should help them, we don't know what their motivation is. The language barrier is, sadly, quite a large problem. Some will simply fail to understand the rules of SO because of this barrier. – alex Mar 25 '10 at 14:06
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    we have a spell checker on SU, it's called "Eight Days of Malaise" :-] – Gnoupi Mar 25 '10 at 17:01
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    please flag users who are particularly problematic -- we do actively ban users who ask tons of questions without ever improving or seeming to care. – Jeff Atwood Mar 25 '10 at 20:19

I have always attributed this to people who are desperately trying to teach themselves a language, but lack any sort of willingness to learn. I suspect some are also programmers who are totally unqualified for their jobs, and are trying to get the community to write their code one function at a time.

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    For some, the language they should be trying to learn is English... – Teddy Mar 25 '10 at 14:09

I've seen a couple of cases where the user posting the questions seems to have been doing so on behalf of a group: maybe the whole company, maybe a number of colleagues or classmates. This may have been due to the other members of the group not being fluent in English.

I know of at least one SO member who has posted 476 questions in 425 tags and has 64 badges, including a Famous Question.

Only one answer, though.

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  • +1 just because that's a scenario I'd never considered – Pops Mar 26 '10 at 18:11

Whether they are real users or bots, I say let them pump. They are a veritable gold mine of interview weed-out questions.

I understand and agree to an extent about them wasting community resources, but unless that waste is significant - to the point where they're competing for front-page space with "good" questions - I see them as being mostly harmless. And, as stated above, they do have a certain value, even if it's not the kind of value that the author expects.

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This is hardly unique to the SO family. I've been on numerous other forums where users ask very basic (or scattershot) questions that could usually be easily answered with some searching. I suspect that posting a question is the first thing they think to do, either due to ignorance or laziness.

Granted, sometimes it is legitimately tricky business to find the information you are looking for, so posting the question to a forum or the like will be more likely to produce results.

Also, the site's primary language being English may cause difficulty for those who are not native English speakers. Not being well versed in the language can result in somewhat broken text that is sometimes difficult for native English speakers to comprehend - it does go both ways.

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Are there question-pumping bots out there?

shifty eyes




walks off hurriedly...

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