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So came across this question today, as it happens I had (IMHO) a decent suspicion of the solution so posted an answer and moved on with my day.

Returning to the question a few hours later to see if there had been any update I see a comment from regular user Solar Mike pointing out.. well odd posting patterns from the user. The pattern is basically the same as described in a 2+ year old meta post here, the user has a generic user name "userXXXX" and posts a series of questions all in the same format of an OBD error code for a whole host of different makes and models of car and different error codes. Regardless of whether they get a response or not they never interact with the question again.

Clearly there's some shenanigans going on here - most likely a bot of some description, although I can't really work out what they stand to gain from it (maybe scraping to build some sort of OBD-II database for a scanning tool or app??) but that's neither here nor there I suppose. Ultimately this is bad faith use of the stack and of people's time.

I admit I'm p####d off here - I get that the SE model is to help subsequent visitors as much as it is to help the OP so there is still the potential for answers to this junk to help genuine Mechanics SE visitors in the future but I don't think this redeems such a dishonest start. Even if this is being done by a bot the bot has clearly been directed by somebody and that somebody is wasting my time (and that of others).

Is there an "official" stance on these? Do we just VTC? Flag for mod attention or should I just ignore?

  • deduplication ? – user2284570 May 25 at 9:29
  • Vocational school homework questions? – SteveRacer Jul 10 at 3:24
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NOTE: This is a moderator's stance ... if the user base here feels the same, please let us know in the comments.

I believe I can talk for all of the mods here when I say we agree with you. Completely. We don't like these kinds of questions, as I believe it wastes everyone's time and energy. As you can tell from the string of questions the user has posted, they are all about the same and really don't amount to much.

There are three things which should help with these types of questions:

  1. Downvote them. You are not penalized for downvoting questions. It's not the same as when you downvote an answer. Put a comment on the question as to why you downvoted it, if you'd like to be fair about it (don't be mean, just say what you need to ... being snide or rude is considered mean as well).
  2. Vote to close (VTC). I wouldn't suggest you flag it for moderator attention, because that may take a while, whereas five VTC's will close it just the same.
  3. Realize what it is and don't give the individual the satisfaction of getting an answer.

Please realize, this isn't a mandate from the moderators, but suggestions on how to handle such things. You can take it or leave it as you please.

Personally, I don't believe it's a bot. The questions are just specific enough, I'm thinking a bot would have to be pretty well constructed in order to actually pull it off. I think it's someone, with some kind of agenda or nothing better to do. Whatever the case, I feel it's a waste of time, both mine as a moderator and yours as someone who likes to see good questions with strong answers.

I'm updating my answer. If we can prove it's a bot, I'll destroy the account.

Please do as you feel is right, however, we must remember to be nice, even to people who'd do this kind of stuff.

UPDATE:

The account has been blocked from asking new questions. If we see there is another account created through the asking of the same types of questions, then we can deal with that then. If you're wondering, when an account gets a question ban, it's for life. I cannot lift it. Only a Community Manager (CM) can do anything with it. Then they have to be asked to do it. I'm not going to ask the CMs ... are you?

  • I am confident that those questions got generated by a bot. The titles are identicaly formatted: mechanics.stackexchange.com/users/23840/user23840 – Martin May 15 at 20:42
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    @Martin - Well, since I don't have the experience you and a lot of others on here have in that realm, I'll bow to your wisdom. If we can prove it's a bot, we can kill the account. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 May 15 at 21:29
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https://mechanics.stackexchange.com/users/23878/user23878

There is another one. I'd say we try to find out about his goals and then succesively block him. Perhaps ask staff to include a pattern filter.

Reasons: It doesn't bring the site forward: Mister Bot just asks unripe (the question only includes fault code and make, never any other syntom/observation) questions. He never interacts, clarifies nor confirms an answers. In sum the site gets spammed with garbage questions

  • Thanks for being "on" it, and I agree with you and @Paulster2 – Solar Mike May 25 at 8:11

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