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On Stack Exchange, there is no rule against a user having more than one account so long as the extra accounts aren't used to cheat (sockpuppet voting and the like). In fact, on some sites it might be a good idea to create a separate account to ask a question that you don't want to have linked to you directly. That's all fine.

On a site I moderate, we have a user who has created several accounts, each of which has been used to ask several low-quality questions. A single account asking that many low-quality questions would have been suspended, but these are distributed so no individual account has reached the threshold. If those questions were all piled up on one account then the pattern would also be more obvious to community members, but what usually happens is that people see a poor question from a "new" user, try to help out with edits, tutoring, and even answers, and later realize their effort was ill-spent. In one case an active user seems to have figured out that two different users are the same person, but mostly this isn't discussed.

I'm pretty sure that the user is quite intentionally spreading the questions among accounts; this isn't a case of accidentally creating new accounts. As a moderator I can see private information about the accounts, which is how I know (99.9%) they're the same person, but site rules forbid me from publicly identifying the group as the same person.

We have spoken individually with some of these accounts about quality, but the quality has not improved. We have not, so far, spoken with any of the users about the multiple accounts.

This person isn't technically breaking any rules, but is nonetheless becoming a small drain on the community. How should I and my fellow moderators respond to this before it becomes a big drain? Should we try to talk with the users, be more aggressive in deleting poor posts from these users (where others would get more leeway), something else?

I'm aware of How to handle a disruptive user who doesn't break the rules? but the disruption there is more evident so the answers are probably different.

  • Not sure how to turn this into a full fledged answer for you yet, but it seems this person is bordering on spamming behavior. Any idea of their motivation for doing this? – Greg Chase Apr 9 '16 at 17:45
  • Tricky problem this. Also it's potentially going to be tricky to talk about possible solutions without giving trade secrets away. – ChrisF Apr 9 '16 at 20:27
  • Is there any particular reason to avoid simply merging all those accounts, and changing the rules to prohibit creation of new such accounts going forward? 99.9% certainty, combined with overall poor quality, should be enough to warrant that solution - it harms nobody. – DVK Jun 15 '16 at 21:00
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Are the accounts new enough to be rate limited when asking questions (as discussed here on Meta Stack Exchange)? If they are, does the combined rate of posted exceed this limit?

If so they you can suspend or even delete the accounts using this reason:

This user was created to circumvent system or moderator imposed restrictions and continues to contribute poorly

If they are doing with three accounts what they can't do with one, then that's against the rules and can be dealt with.

  • Good thought. In this case the accounts haven't posted 50 questions collectively at all, let alone in 30 days. No single account has triggered a question-block either; I suspect that they would have if all the activity were on one account, but the details of that algorithm are intentionally kept secret (as you know), so I'm only guessing. – Monica Cellio Apr 10 '16 at 1:37
  • @MonicaCellio SE tean sure has acces to block heuristics, have you considered asking them to help check this account-pack? (via "contact us" channel, to keep things private) Since you mention low quality I also wonder why unilaterally closing and deleting such questions from suspected accounts is not an option – gnat Apr 16 '16 at 9:50
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While this approach may not necessarily be popular, one possible solution is to do what communities used to do, before the newfangled things like urbanization and scale and modernity interfered: public shaming.

  1. If the site has an "about the site" area, like SE's meta, publicly post a discussion, explaining all the details.

    This partially addresses what seems to be your main concern, warning users about a help vampire and preventing them from wasting time trying to help it.

    It also MAY influence that user into stopping such activity. Public shaming is not always effective, but is quite effective nonetheless.

  2. If possible change the site programming to automatically mark the posts from such user(s) with a note explaining their status.

    This is even more effective in preventing help vampire from draining user's resources.

    Downside is that if you can't fix your site to do so automatically, it will require effective and effort consuming effort to manually attach such notes.

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Change the site's rules, to lower the limits imposed on low-quality posting, in case where such posting occurs from the same IP address (I'm assuming that you are basing 99%+ certainty on that).

Basically, cap the poor quality posts NOT based on user account, but based on IP or any other heuristics you have that identifies someone as "same user" even if using multiple accounts. You can even make it a bit subjective and go full Roth rule (I know it's same user when I see it on moderator's part, of course based on several objective criteria but still a judgement call in exceptional circumstances in the end).

If so, you can then:

  1. Ban the user, or their duplicate accounts, for violating said policy

  2. Or, use the policy as a reason to merge such accounts, for a less drastic first step before the ban.

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