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We got two questions today https://workplace.stackexchange.com/q/82396/3192 and https://workplace.stackexchange.com/q/82410/3192.

It appears as though two people involved in the same issue posted two separate questions, which, as one user pointed out in comments, is "too much of a coincidence". Another user quickly jumped on the bandwagon and called the user a "troll".

The OP repeatedly commented that he had read the FAQ and posted what he thought was a question on a Workplace issue. Overall, for a first question, he did a fairly good job of following the guideline. (I will excuse him for the "what to do" tone of his final sentence, because that is not really his point.)

It appears that he also saw a message that the question was a duplicate of the other question, which made no sense (to me, anyway).

Questions:

  • Do we now define a threshold for how much of a coincidence is "too much"?
  • Does coincidence automatically make a user a "troll"?
  • We close down newbie questions aggressively because they do not follow our guidelines. When a newbie comes along who tries to follow the guidelines, we call them "trolls" and slam the door in their face. Does the community consider this hostility to newbies acceptable?
  • Is calling a user a "troll" without substantial evidence a violation of the Be Nice policy?
  • Why does the user see the Duplicate notice when his question clearly has noticeable differences?
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    There is a... high percentage of similarity between those two questions. – enderland Jan 4 '17 at 19:18
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    The "Be Nice" question has been asked before: "Is calling someone a “troll” against the Be Nice policy" – David K Jan 4 '17 at 19:23
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    I deleted my comment. That said, we've seen this before with that "poonjay" character who's broken English was a bad imitation of someone with poor English. – Old_Lamplighter Jan 4 '17 at 19:36
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    He sees that message because somebody voted to close as a duplicate. When there are pending dupe votes the OP (only) sees the link and is asked if he concurs (did that solve your problem?). – Monica Cellio Jan 4 '17 at 19:52
  • @MonicaCellio I know we want to strike a balance of assuming good intentions and keeping out disruptions. I'm uncertain as to how much slack to cut someone. – Old_Lamplighter Jan 4 '17 at 20:21
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    wouldn't be the first time stuff like that happens, see prior similar discussion about "coincidental" pair of questions – gnat Jan 4 '17 at 21:13
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    Both questions should be deleted, IMHO. – Joe Strazzere Jan 4 '17 at 21:51
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    @JoeStrazzere you can cast delete votes on both, I believe. – enderland Jan 4 '17 at 22:15
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    I have voted to delete both. – Old_Lamplighter Jan 5 '17 at 13:22
  • The second OP could be the same person as the first. They could also easily be anyone from random non-SE person to a workplace power user deciding to riff on this question. – Myles Jan 5 '17 at 19:47
  • MaskedMan: if you actually want to discuss the follow-up questions irrespective of the specifics of this particular situation it would be better to create a new question for them. Though the question linked by David covers most of it I believe. – Lilienthal Jan 6 '17 at 11:38
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    @JoeStrazzere Final delete votes cast. Questions are gone. – Lilienthal Jan 6 '17 at 11:39
  • Questions / Threads such as these can be observed on other sites and areas of the internet. I remember a fairly funny running joke about a guy reading out his viewers' comments, the first being someone complaining about them being hit by a car whilst riding a bike, the second comment being 'from the driver' about hitting some annoying cyclist, the third 'from the passenger' and so forth. Point is, it's not a rare occurrence and I think these questions need closing to keep SE a productive and genuine site. Even if it does mean that sometimes a genuine question is closed due to trolls. – lewis Jan 6 '17 at 12:27
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    @Lilienthal That is one of the problems with this meta that puts me off. When someone posts a question about a general problem, they are asked for examples illustrating it, but when the question includes examples to begin with, people discuss only that example rather than look at the general problem. Notice that my list of questions (except the last one) are fairly general in nature, but (nearly) none of the answers or comments address those, and are fixated entirely on the specific example. – Masked Man Jan 6 '17 at 13:13
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I think this particular instance is far more than simple coincidence.

The choice of working and phraseology are nearly identical, as is the tone. A supposed "newbie" on a guest account is somehow well versed in the FAQ and then starts calling people on it.

We saw this before with the supposed manager posting that his employee had chosen an unfortunate user name, and then we have the supposed employee posting in a kind broken English, which I have never seen anyone with a poor command of English ever use. (omitting articles and prepositions, but not confusing tenses or other indications that he was having an actual difficulty)

It's almost certainly someone trying to jerk our collective chain.

That said, I can see your point.

I don't know if we should just stomp down on an obvious troll, or give him enough rope to hang himself.

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    does the moderators have the tools to see if two accounts are linked by something like the IP ? Or only SE staff ? – Walfrat Jan 5 '17 at 12:01
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    I really hope it's only SE staff, as they have legally binding contracts which will result in a ton of bricks being dropped on their head if they reveal the kind of personal information they could glean from IP addresses. – Philip Kendall Jan 5 '17 at 15:20
  • @PhilipKendall IP addresses don't reveal nearly as much as they used to, now that fixed IPs are pretty much a thing of the past. Not to say that you still can't wreak buckets full of mischief with one, because you can. – Old_Lamplighter Jan 5 '17 at 16:27
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    @PhilipKendall moderators are bound by the moderator agreement. We are not allowed to share any PII we might come into contact with, and if we did a "ton of brick" would be dropped on our heads too. – Monica Cellio Jan 5 '17 at 16:50
  • @Walfrat To actually answer the question, yes they can.. – Lilienthal Jan 6 '17 at 11:36
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    @Walfrat unfortunately a lot of these questions can be from someone picking a completely valid and genuine question, and then creating a joke question / thread based on an alternative view point they can find in the original. Because of this there may be no link and one of the two may be completely innocent, trying to get an answer to a serious question they've asked. – lewis Jan 6 '17 at 12:31
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    @lewis as said the others, it is not only the same story but also the same way of writing that seems too familiar. – Walfrat Jan 6 '17 at 12:32
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If I thought that there was even a chance that this was a genuine coincidence and the question was asked in good faith, then I would try to be more helpful or at least stay out of it. However, if this were true, then that would mean that

  • OP1 created a sock account to ask whether to exact revenge
  • Despite being told by everyone not to do anything, they call out OP2 in meeting.
  • OP2 somehow discovers Stack Exchange for the first time, creates an account, becomes well versed in the rules, and posts their first question.
  • All of this happens in the span of four hours.

Aside from that the two posts have very similar phrasings and writing styles, and the final question for both asks what plan they should use to exact revenge. It is plainly clear to me that both questions were posted by the same person.

I don't care if the question meets the technical guidelines for posting here; the question is not in the spirit of the Stack Exchange community. We are a site about helping people answer genuine questions that will help them in the workplace. It would have been fine if the user had been upfront in saying "I asked question A, but I'm curious what would be the best way for my accused colleague to respond if I do?" That would have been fine and I wouldn't have cared (though it would probably be a duplicate). Instead this person chose to fabricate a question and lie to us either because they feel slighted that their first question was not well received or just to get a reaction. That is not welcome here.

Edit: lewis made a good point in his comment on Richard's post.

unfortunately a lot of these questions can be from someone picking a completely valid and genuine question, and then creating a joke question / thread based on an alternative view point they can find in the original. Because of this there may be no link and one of the two may be completely innocent, trying to get an answer to a serious question they've asked.

There is a chance that OP2 is not the same person as OP1 and that OP2 created their question after reading the first. This takes the blame off of OP1 but does not change the fact that the second question has been completely fabricated and should be removed.

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  • You are once again assuming that both accounts are handled by the same person. The only basis for this claim is you "clearly" know it because it is "too much of a coincidence", which again comes back to "coincidence = troll". Don't you think there is a miniscule possibility that your "feeling" is wrong, and OP2 genuinely posted a separate question? – Masked Man Jan 5 '17 at 16:20
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    @MaskedMan It could be two people yanking our collective chain, but I'd bet a month's salary that the person or persons involved were not acting in good faith. – Old_Lamplighter Jan 5 '17 at 16:29
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    @MaskedMan It's kind of worrying either way, we could never prove it was the same person, two people working together or two legitimate questions. However, as David K said, the number of coincidences counting together seems a bit too much. This is why I'm erring on the side of not believing. However if there was some proof handed out (But we could never asked that nor prove the proof is also real) I would be swayed. Alas, for now, my time on the internet has made me skeptical. It also seemed funny the user wasn't phased about being show the question of the person having ill intent – Draken Jan 6 '17 at 8:55

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