I flagged a question from our resident troll and noted that it was a duplicate of another question*. That other question was closed as Not A Real Question and deleted, because it was posted by a sockpuppet. “Not a real question” is entirely apposite; it was posted purely to goad the community.

It appears that the policy has changed...

Current policy is to delete NS socks and let the question stand (or fall) on its own merits.

Surely — as a duplicate — this newest example must also be NARQ? I actually pointed out the link in my flag.

When did the policy change, and why? And what do we do with questions which are duplicates?

This change wouldn't have anything to do with ELU's perceived closure rate, would it?

* 10k only, the question has been deleted.

  • There are several resident trolls! Two are not sock puppets. I misspelled that as suck poppet, with apologies to @T. Christ for the use of ```. This is a comment, and intended for entertainment purposes only, rather than as a challenge or with any confrontational intent, although it is factually accurate. Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 2:18
  • +1 My comment is off topic, but I don't care because I learnt a new meaning of sockpuppet, which I love! The Wikipedia entry makes fascinating reading.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 6:45

3 Answers 3


As for what we should do with questions coming from our "resident troll" on their own merits, all questions I’ve seen should be closed Off Topic (out of scope). Questions generally include a link to a page published on the Internet, an excerpt, and a proposed correction. The question is whether the excerpt should, as the OP thinks, be corrected or what the text would mean if corrected as proposed. The proposed correction is usually unnecessary. Sometimes there are multiple proposed corrections. Sometimes there is no link. Sometimes there is an indication that a general reference was consulted before asking.

“Are you coming to bed? —I can’t. This is important. —What? —Someone is -wrong- on the Internet.”

Per the FAQ, literary criticism and critique requests are Off Topic (out of scope). Proofreading is also Off Topic (out of scope) unless the source of concern is clearly specified and unless the question is based on an actual problem that the OP faces.¹ Proofreading other peoples’ published works does not qualify, especially when there is no real problem.

Arguably there are more close reasons which apply on the merits. Too Localized (“the Internet is fine” is unlikely to help anyone, not even the poor OP). Exact Duplicate (when applicable). Not A Real Question when the question is unclear or incomplete (lacks context and prior research). The only close reason that applies less to the merits and more to the troll is Not Constructive.

Many of these questions are also cross posted without attribution to other non-SE fora such as EnglishForums.com, WordReference.com, and UsingEnglish.com, the BBC Learning English Message Board, and Yahoo! Answers. When this occurs, the question should also be flagged for moderator review, as that creates a legitimate concern about copyright.


It's not to do with our perceived closure rate, but is rather a shift in standard SE policy for handling sockpuppets.

By deleting puppets, users who answer the question are not unfairly punished. Account mergers are reduced in number, and shifted to the devs and autobots.

Also, content is judged on its face, rather than by who posted it. If a question is good, it remains without rewarding the puppet. If it is not, it is closed or removed. That's for the closevoters to decide (again), without concerning themselves about whether the OP is a puppet or not.

For duplicates, you should do what you always do with them. In this case, you can't because it is a duplicate of a closed question.

  • Sorry, but this is completely ridiculous.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 13:57
  • @Andrew How so?
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 13:59
  • Because it allows the site to be swamped.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 14:00
  • Only if the community doesn't vote.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 14:01
  • Perhaps you could expand your answer to include why the policy has changed and what we are supposed to do with duplicates? Presumably a mod could merge open duplicates, if they were so inclined?
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 14:02
  • OK: if content is closed and removed because it is not good, what are we to do when it is reposted? Why do we need to go through the whole process again, when it has been reposted simply to provoke?
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 14:12
  • 1
    If you downvote it before the puppet is deleted, it will be removed automagically.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 14:16
  • 1
    How long is it between posting and removal of the puppet? And see my other question: it's actually difficult to find deleted questions to be sure the question is a repost. Perhaps a downvote on a sockpuppet question could work even after the account is deleted?
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 14:21
  • Also, because sockpuppet accounts are removed rather than merged, it becomes even more difficult to search for duplicate questions because a subtle difference in the title will render them undetectable; at least if the accounts were merged we could search for the user's questions (which would be likely to find duplicates). But we do need to be able to search for deleted questions.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 14:30
  • 2
    The length of time is variable, dependent on when mods are sleeping or eating or working, etc. Also, the whole point is that you don't judge the questions based on the user. And subtle differences in titles shouldn't stop you from finding dupes; we find them all the time when the title is completely different.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 14:34
  • 1
    Where the user is a troll or is banned, I consider that is a valid criterion for judgement. Otherwise, there is no point in suspension at all.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 14:37
  • 1
    The identity of the user is surely a very important factor in NARQ, let alone 'based on a genuine problem you face'. Is the policy now to let every single variation of 'which of two prepositions do I use here' clog up the page until downvoted all the way to oblivion? Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 23:48
  • @Tim Only if that's how the community opts to handle them. I'm pretty sure that won't actually change, since the community right now downvotes, closes, and deletes most of these questions before I have my first cup of coffee in the morning. It really shouldn't matter who is posting them.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 1:00
  • 1
    "Punished" is an odd word. If I'm duped by the troll, just delete the question – no skin off my back. I'd rather see it removed, even if it means I lose 10 or 20 rep points. Just my take on the matter.
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 9:33

The change of policy about handling sock-puppets is a consequence of another change: Moderators cannot anymore merge user accounts. (I checked on the site where I am moderator, and the menu item which allowed that is not shown anymore.)

As for voting to close a question as not a real question because the duplicate question was closed for that reason, you should ask yourself: Would you have closed the first question as not a real question? If you would not close the first question as not a real question, then you should not close for that reason another question that is essentially duplicating the first.
Probably, you would find the question closable as general reference, if it can be answered looking at a resource thought to give answers to that type of questions.

  • 3
    I did wonder whether this had happened: however, another unintended consequence is that it's no longer possible to have a transparent record of a suspended user's sockpuppetry. At least, I hope that's unintended. One does wonder whether there is any point in having suspensions any more, as they certainly seem toothless now. [And yes, I would close any suspended user's question as Not A Real Question. The question is not a real question, it's a question designed to goad the community and flout a ban.]
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 19:55

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