Recently, as you may have noticed a user has been posting lots and lots of questions about Laplace transformations and has provided little to no work of his own. Is this, in some way, considered spam and if so, what can be done about it?


I am in no way trying to defame the user (I am merely using them as an example and seeing how they have shown improvement, they are not and were never in question), I am more curious to have some debate about the nature of spam, for example, is it only considered spam when there is financial interest? Or, can we consider spam to be also along the lines of continuously and within short intervals posting questions without showing work? And if that is the case then what are the necessary steps that we can take?

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    $\begingroup$ He supplied his work in the three newest questions, all three before you posted this question. Thus, I have downvoted this question as unnecessary demonization of a user who's showing definite signs of improvement. $\endgroup$
    – user5501
    Apr 5, 2013 at 3:39
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    $\begingroup$ Why would it qualify as spam? Do you suspect a financial interest in the promotion of Laplace transforms? Really useless and numerous questions might be some other kind of abuse, but spam doesn't seem to be the word you want for this. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Apr 5, 2013 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ @hardmath Of course, there isn't any financial interest in posting questions about laplace transformations but I was interested in knowing if this is considered some kind of spam. The way I see it, spam, is when you continuously post questions. Seeing how the user hadn't shown signs of improvement for quite a few questions, could something be done other than posting comments and encouraging the user to show work? $\endgroup$
    – Jeel Shah
    Apr 5, 2013 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ @hardmath: Maybe the user got the copyrights for the name of the Laplace transformation in some country, and whenever someone from the same country opens up a page discussing this topic, they have to pay royalties? :-P $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Apr 5, 2013 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ @gekkostate There's no harm in your having asked this question, here! Better that than making the assumption that it is spam. Yet spam is a serious problem for many websites, and can be associated with security issues etc. I am the last one to encourage paranoia, or troll inquiries on Meta Math SE, but I don't think an occasional inquiry like this, i.e. your question, is unreasonable nor that you deserve chiding. Repeat behavior will probably require that you answer all said user's Laplace transformations Q's though ;o) <tiny humor> $\endgroup$ Apr 6, 2013 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ @FeralOink As this could be understood as a retort to my comment (whether it was meant as one or not), I feel obliged to elaborate. If the user that this thread is about was someone posting under an obvious pseudonym, as for example I am (although I've was using my real name some time ago), I wouldn't felt so compelled to write what I did. But this is someone who (it seems) uses their own name -- I know I would be very embarrassed if I was personally accused of spam on a site I'm trying to learn something, and where are many people that I admire. $\endgroup$
    – user5501
    Apr 7, 2013 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ The word "spam" to mean annoying repetition of low-quality information of any form (e-mail, posting, etc.) not only predates the concept of making money from the web, it predates the web itself. I first saw the word "spam" used this way in the late 80's on a dial-in bulletin board system. So in my mind calling any annoying repetition of anything online "spam" is fine. N.B.: The Internet predates "spam", but the web (HTML & HTTP) does not. Subtle difference. $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2013 at 18:30

1 Answer 1


Regarding email, the term "unsolicited bulk email" is often used besides or as a synonym for spam. Nevertheless, it is distinguished from a "denial of service" attack by mailbombing: the latter tries to make the mail system unusable, whereas the former is still interested in selling blue pills or penny stocks.

Transferring these ideas to MSE, I think that simply posting a large amount of mathematical (!) questions, even though the quality is low because no own effort is shown (though the question itself may very well be intelligible), does not constitute spam. In a way, the flagging oiption It is not welcome in our community might apply, but that refers rather to the effect of mass submission, not the questions themselves.

I suggest that the usual "What have you done so far?" questions should suffice, maybe getting more insisting over time "This is the 20th question of this kind today where you have not shown your own efforts! Please bear in mind that we are not your homework slaves and please do show that you are interested in the problem by sharing your own efforts!"


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