There is a user who seems to be (systematically?) asking a series of basic questions and then, apparently as soon as someone answers them, deleting them before they receive an upvote (or, obviously, accepting the answer).

I only noticed this because I voted to close one of their questions after it had received an answer (classic typo: [$arg) and then they reasked the question in a slightly modified form, armed with the information provided by the previous answer. I tried to mark it as a duplicate only to find the original was gone...

This strikes me as the worst type of help vampirism: poster gets what they need and then leaves nothing for the community.

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    It's already done, immediately any answer is accepted/upvoted the question can't be deleted. – Braiam Nov 14 '15 at 20:47
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    @Braiam yes: but I am referring to answers that haven't been upvoted or accepted, and hence the question (and answer) can be deleted. – jasonwryan Nov 14 '15 at 20:57
  • I have not taken note of the user, but I could swear I saw that happening with more than one question today too. – Rui F Ribeiro Nov 15 '15 at 13:41
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    If the question isn't garbage, this is self-vandalism. Alert a mod and they'll restore the questions if needed, and deal with the user (assuming you know their username). – thirtythreeforty Nov 15 '15 at 18:24
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    Too much is too much, but it doesn't have to be draconian... Sometimes users ask questions that they later realize were really stupid or already answered elsewhere only after they receive an answer, and might delete it after getting an answer to stop an onslaught of downvotes or negative answers. Cases like this should be dealt with by moderators, if every question they deleted was for a fair reason, I don't see a problem. And help vampires don't exist, if you didn't notice that thing you linked to is a joke. What sort of motivation would the guy have for doing this anyways? – Cestarian Nov 16 '15 at 7:18
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    @Cestarian that thing I linked to is definitely not a joke... – jasonwryan Nov 16 '15 at 7:19
  • Yes it is, it's loaded with nothing but sarcasm, and it's funny too. It obviously wasn't written with serious intent. What is actually being referred to are people who aren't tech savvy enough to yet realize that they should troubleshoot, google, and rtfm before asking questions, and then the occasional one that's too lazy to rtfm and just asks instead... It's like calling old people leeches for taking up space, eating food and consuming energy without working to give anything back. The proper word would be newbie. IT newbie. Sounds like this guy just has mental problems though. – Cestarian Nov 16 '15 at 7:28
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    @Cestarian it was written by a woman; which just underscores the quality of your analysis... – jasonwryan Nov 16 '15 at 7:31
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    @Cestarian it is a fact: Amy Hoy is a woman. A very smart woman. She knows a lot about open source communities; you would do well to learn from her. – jasonwryan Nov 16 '15 at 7:34
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    @Cestarian I haven't advocated "crucifying" anyone (look it up, it is a very unpleasant way to kill someone). And, I have no desire to continue to argue with someone who writes as sloppily as they think. – jasonwryan Nov 16 '15 at 7:47
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    @Cestarian actually, help vampires are indeed a very real problem and depressingly common on SE. The post that Jason linked to is one of the first (or the first) usages of the term but it has since been widely adopted. It is also very common jargon in the SE communities. I suggest you re-read that post more carefully or even do a google search for "help vampires" to understand the problem better. Newbs are fine, we've all been there. HVs are a different beast. They don't want to do any work themselves and believe it is your obligation to pander to their laziness. – terdon Nov 16 '15 at 14:09
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    @Wildcard if so then that's just fine by me. And "never progressed past being a noob" and "being a noob" where exactly is this "HUGE" difference of yours in there? And I can understand this to some extent too, manuals are for the modern youth a thing of the past, we have google now, and other search engines. Generally people born in the mid 90s and grew accustomed to google right from their early computer use at ages of 5-10, these people are extremely unlikely to ever use the "man" command, because they prefer google. If google fails to answer a question, they will ask the question. – Cestarian Nov 17 '15 at 14:53
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    @Wildcard (continuation) luckily these search engines often find these answers in the manuals of software and neatly refer searchers to said manual which is significantly nicer to read from a browser than from a terminal. But when the answer in the manual is too complicated or hard to find, I can understand them just going ahead and asking, and then the next "never progressed beyond being a noob" person is looking for that same answer, they will find the question left behind by the former one. That's progress. From my perspective the only way to be a help vampire, is to not use search engines. – Cestarian Nov 17 '15 at 14:57
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    @terdon that's the thing, even with search engines, one doesn't always find the clear cut answer one is looking for, no noob is going to read through a whole specification of an API just to find an answer to their question... People often get labeled as help vampires for asking common questions when the reality of it was that they didn't know what keywords to search, as a result paraphrasing a common question unknowingly. I don't know if this is common on stackexchange (maybe the linux community is just brutally toxic) but people are often too quick to call people out as this or that. – Cestarian Nov 26 '15 at 4:50
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    @Cestarian you still misunderstand but this is not the place to have this conversation. Poor Jason is getting notified of every comment we leave here. Come join me in the main chat room and I'd be happy to discuss this further. You are misunderstanding what we mean by help vampire. It has absolutely nothing to do with newbies; it's a pattern of behavior, not lack of knowledge that characterizes HVs. – terdon Nov 26 '15 at 9:34
up vote 21 down vote accepted

In general, yes, users shouldn't be deleting their questions once they get answered (which is why the system tries to stop them). There is an automatic flag if the user deletes too many of their own posts, but I'm not sure exactly what triggers it (they might need to be upvoted posts or the deletions might need to be in a short amount of time).

In this particular case, only one of the user's 5 deleted questions actually has an answer. I don't know why they keep posting and then rapidly deleting their questions before getting any feedback; possibly they figure it out on their own or decide the question is incomplete. I undeleted the one question that had an answer, since the answer also included a useful shortcut for what the user was trying to do.

  • Are any of the other deleted questions cross posted to the SO or elsewhere on the web? A check for deleted posts on his SO account might help. – Caleb Nov 16 '15 at 5:34
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    Looking at the user's currently-visible questions, things like "command line argument with usage message", "test expression--usage message", "SED with shell script giving error", "Using awk to sum the values of a column, based on the values of another column", etc. makes me think the user is posting homework. Their deletions may be (a) a recognition of that fact, and an acknowledgement that the very-specific basic questions they're asking are not of general interest, and/or (b) attempts to hide this fact from whoever will be grading said work. (Cynical me leans towards the latter.) – FeRD Nov 27 '15 at 8:35

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