Over the past few days, I have come across multiple posts from a particular user that are questions from ongoing contests. On both, I have commented this fact on both the question and the answer, and it seems as if this user is relatively quick to delete a question once this fact is pointed out.

However, my question is as follows: What if this keeps happening? I have clearly pointed out to this user that posting current contest problems is not okay, and it doesn't seem to be having an effect. Is there any further action that can/should be taken to prevent this user from posting such questions (one of which had a fair amount of work shown as well, which would be likely to prevent it from being closed for lack of context) in the future?

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    $\begingroup$ You should flag it for the moderators, with a brief explanation in the free-form section. Would you mind linking to one of the questions? $\endgroup$
    – user296602
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 5:48
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    $\begingroup$ @user296602 Both of the questions have been deleted (after I commented on them saying that they're from ongoing contests, and after I flagged them for the mods). For those of you who can see deleted questions, however, here's the link to one. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 6:07

1 Answer 1


In the past we agreed on a policy to not allow questions from on-going contests. This is enforced. With zeal. Personally, I shoot first (=lock/delete), and interrogate survivors afterwards.

The one piece of advice I want to give is

Flag it for moderator attention. Explain the problem. Ideally with a link to the website of the contest (more often than not they have one) as well as the deadline date of the contest.

IIRC you are already following that piece of advice. A few isolated related thoughts:

  • In spite of the policy, posting a contest problem is NOT against the site rules. Therefore I think I don't have a license to suspend such a user. I guess I could send them a private mod message, but I don't usually do that either. I think Public Shaming by means of a comment, possibly containing the dirty word cheater suffices.
  • Contest questions and their answers quite often make good content for the site (YMMV). Therefore we unlock and undelete soon after the deadline. Daniel Fischer created a mod-only chatroom for the sole purpose of listing links to threads to be undeleted. I may forget to visit that room often enough. So if you think your answer should be undeleted as the deadline has passed, just flag the question or @-ping me. I may have simply forgotten about it.
  • The moderator agreement makes it plain that I cannot disclose any personally identifying information about the cheater (such as their e-mail address). But, I don't recall contest organizers ever having asked for such information. The reason is that they have no trouble whatsoever identifying copy/pasted answers as such. One organizer told me so :-)
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer! One more question: I remember reading something about the prerequisite that contests need to be publicly viewable. One of these contests was not (it was part of a program students pay for, and are expressly forbidden from disclosing outside of that community). What should happen in this case, if the user does not delete the question as has occurred in the past? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 6:16
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlSchildkraut Those are trickier. Ideally we should be able to verify that a question is from an on-going contest. For otherwise the policy could be abused. Say, if somebody wants a question locked and deleted, they could just yell "a contest problem!" I don't know what is best. May be you can "unaccept" my answer? Just to increase the likelihood of more eyes seeing this thread. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ if you're locking or deleting posts, you're enforcing site policy. There's no fundamental difference between that and suspending users. Either both are justified or neither is. $\endgroup$
    – user9733
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist not necessarily. We can low quality posts be deleted. Furthermore, prove the user is actuallly someone trying to cheat and isn't just someone asking a problem similar to the contest problem. The purpose of the delete is merely to prevent cheating not say that a person necessarily is trying to cheat. $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 23:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Typhon, I agree with you, but Mad Scientist has a point if as is the case here the behavior is repeated, not accidental. In particular, if it continues after a direct warning from the moderator, a suspension could definitely be appropriate. $\endgroup$
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Wildcard Give me anything legally that indicates it is at all a ban worthy offense to ask that question. The delete is to prevent others from cheating. It is the contest's business to deal with cheating, not this site. If they actually are cheating then the contest site should be the one to ban the person, not MSE which is only a Q&A site. Questions are not copyrighted nor trademarkable. We only delete the question out of courtesy. IMO, a mod could ask them to desist, but the consequences of failing to do ss shouldn't be felt here. If it is a good question and properly cited, then why ban? $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Typon raises an important point: suspension of accounts is only a useful deterrent for those who have the intention to be "good citizens". For users willfully ignoring site policy, it is probably safe to assume that they will also liberally make use of sockpuppet/throwaway accounts. For violation of network-wide policy (spamming etc.) there is the option of IP-banning individuals, but even that can be worked around for the truly persistent. I'd like to think that was why in this faq document only questions, and not users, are discussed. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlSchildkraut: I don't know how another answer could be better than this one; if I were you, I would accept it. $\endgroup$
    – Alex M.
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexM. I had accepted it, and then I unaccepted it at the request of the poster. As long as the question is still generating traffic, I would like to keep the question open; once it stops getting new views I have no issue accepting it. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexM. I urged Carl to unaccept.1) Our policy may be unclear for the type of contests he had in mind, when moderators are unable to verify the origin. 2) While Mad Scientist doesn't really haunt Math.SE at all, they have extensive knowledge about how things get done elsewhere in SE network. Such pieces of feedback (that might or might not have come if the question were closed) are enlightening. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 11:02

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