This question was closed a few days ago: How is click-fraud detected?

I'd welcome some discussion on whether questions such as that should be closed. In my mind it's a question regarding a software problem, which has a software solution - and therefore anyone interested in developing a software solution would be entitled to ask a question on SO.

If you think its not a valid question for SO, it might help if you specified where such a question would better belong.

Adding a bounty, because I think this hasn't got a conclusive answer yet. Most of the comments suggest its off-topic, but the question is now open and highly upvoted. Further if SO isnt the most relevant place, then lets have a conclusive answer on where these questions can go.

  • It might have been better if [the author] had stated that [they] were developing software to detect click fraud, and had a specific question about Google's methods. [The] question attracted some good answers in any case.
    – user102937
    Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 18:42
  • 2
    @Robert - note that PaulG isn't the author of the original post.
    – user27414
    Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 18:44
  • @Robert: A question about how to implement a method would likely have been on topic. Similarly, I'd consider a question on how to best code a depreciation formula to be on topic, but questions about depreciation formulas themselves would be off topic. Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 21:22
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    Well, the question has been reopened. Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 21:38
  • @David, If you think changing the question from 'how do companies detect PPC fraud' to 'how would I detect PPC fraud', would make it go from off-topic to on-topic, then maybe edit the question rather than close it? Or is your complaint that it was too general?
    – PaulG
    Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 21:46
  • @PaulG: The question was about certain activities involving an application. It wasn't about writing the application, or writing software to detect certain patterns. The closer it gets to writing software, the more on-topic. A more specific question might have gotten into algorithm design, which is at least marginally on topic and is likely to be allowed. Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 14:23

5 Answers 5


I want to know which methods Google ( and other PPC companies ) use to prevent click fraud.

Simple curiosity.

As it was worded, this was just too general. The phrase "Simple curiosity" doesn't help, either. SO is for specific answers to specific questions for professionals. I think this question - as worded - falls outside of that realm.

I would however support a more specific question about the practical application of click fraud prevention.

  • 1
    this question invites the answer "do your own research" Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 20:38

You might find the Software Engineering proposal on Area 51 interesting.

Currently at 58% commitment, so it wouldn't take too many more higher rep users to get it into beta.

Start promoting!

  • 2
    Interesting. Not sure how clear the line between software development and software engineering is though, especially with a question such as this. Maybe you could add the question as an example and see what the community thinks of it there.
    – PaulG
    Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 19:05
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    That proposal (mine ^_^) is for non-programming related software engineering questions, emphasizing requirements, design, testing (minus test implementations), maintenance, configuration management, management, process models and methods, and software quality. The question linked to here wouldn't be on-topic there. Commented Sep 1, 2010 at 20:59

If it requires a list for an answer, then that's a good indication that it's not specific enough of a question. It also isn't about a specific programming problem, which is what Stack Overflow was designed for.

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    The SO FAQ mentions that questions related to software algorithms are on topic. It would arguably fall under that definition? If its not suitable for SO, where/who else (other than software developers) would answer such a question?
    – PaulG
    Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 18:58
  • @PaulG, I think specific software algorithm questions are great, dealing with how to program a specific algorithm or something like "What does a threshold logging algorithm do?". SO isn't really for High Level Design or Software Engineering, I think @ChrisF had the best option for it. Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 19:24

Wrong. It is not a question about a software problem. It is a question about detecting patterns of behavior. The fact that the behavior is expressed through software is, in my opinion, irrelevant.

The solutions as given are not software. They may be specs for software, but there's a whole lot out there in the world that I could say the same of. Not all of it is on topic for SO.

SO works partly because it has some sort of focus. It isn't a general discussion group; it's a discussion about programming. When I look at the front page, it should have programming questions. The intention is to attract the best programmers, or at least those most able to write good answers, and without focus they are likely to drift away.

I believe there's a Stack Exchange site for web apps. That may be more suitable.

  • The PPC question is not that different in style to this one you answered in Feb: stackoverflow.com/questions/2219821/…
    – PaulG
    Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 21:59
  • @PaulG: That question was about the profession. People's opinions differ about that, but my rule of thumb is that the question should be specifically appropriate to programmers. The click fraud question does not appear to me to be specifically appropriate to programmers. Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 14:25
  • @David: Well, if you don't detect click fraud with software, what would you detect it with?
    – user102937
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 2:51
  • @Robert: The use of software is not itself on topic in SO, but rather the production of software. Topics that might become software specs are off topic, since they're so wide-ranging. (We make something of an exception for mathematical algorithms.) I can easily see this turning into a question of how to write some software, but until it at least gets close to that it's off-topic. Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 14:16
  • Presumably a question about link-fraud detection is asked on SO so that the OP can get an idea on how to write their own click-fraud detector, not to get advice on where to find a shrink-wrapped click-fraud detector.
    – user102937
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 14:41
  • @Robert Harvey: If we could assume that, since somebody posted on SO, they must be asking a programming question, there would be no need for an "off-topic" close reason, or for that matter migration. In that question, the OP asked how Google detected click fraud. There was no intimation that the OP was a programmer or actually wanted a working solution. The only possible reason for assuming it on topic was that it was asked on SO, and that circular reasoning is not good enough for me. Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 15:07
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    That's a bit of a straw man, but OK.
    – user102937
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 16:21

I completely agree with PaulG. This question is related to software development as the question asker wanted to know the algorithm or software methodology used to prevent click-fraud.

Stackoverflow is for algorithms and software methodologies, right ? Or should we limit ourself to answer what is regex to find this? kind of questions ?

  • Actually he wanted to know multiple algorithms involved making it a discussion. Commented Sep 3, 2010 at 7:34
  • I think some discussion/advice style questions are on topic though (so long as its possible to select a most useful/informative answer). Here is another recent example: stackoverflow.com/questions/3634901/…
    – PaulG
    Commented Sep 3, 2010 at 11:46

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