I’ve noticed a trend over the past several months where we get new accounts making questions and then just deleting their accounts (or maybe their account are terminated by admins). This leaves questions unanswerable and no further clarifications may be obtained from the question asker.

Is there a reason for this phenomenon? Is there anything we can do?

  • Sidenote: if the questions are unanswerable and nothing can't be done by the community, then please flag/vote to close them. – Andrew T. Jun 21 '20 at 13:41

Yeah, we have a sudden influx of sockpuppet accounts being used to inflate one's own reputation. The community managers have been informed, and are assisting us in dealing with these accounts network-wide.

Unfortunately, this does cause orphaned questions and bounties, but thankfully, we don't technically need the asker to checkmark an answer in order for the rest of us to know which answer is best. Upvotes do that.

If the question is orphaned, but valid, good answers will still be credited justly.

As for orphaned bounties, that's a question that's still up in the air. At least for me. The community managers mentioned that they can be refunded, so they don't create clutter, so we'll see what that comes to.

  • I just wonder what the real purpose behind these sock-puppet accounts is. On two or three occasions, a large number of my answers were up-voted within a matter of minutes—in the order of 10 or 15 questions in 20 minutes. It would be nice to think that someone just appreciated my answers that much, but it is rather bizarre behaviour. And of course, they were automatically reversed. Why up-vote some random contributor's responses? – POD Jun 27 '20 at 8:34
  • Yeah, whoever is behind these accounts seems to be a secret admirer of yours. If I didn't know any better... :D – Alec Jun 27 '20 at 14:54
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    I started with the opposite problem, being trolled with down-votes constantly—hence one of my past questions. But more recently, a spate of up-voting. Overall, it doesn't seem to make much difference—the system corrects it—but the frustration is just to the integrity of the forum. Like the OP, I have recently found myself thinking, “Is this a genuine question?” “Is anyone really reading this?” It seems as though there are a handful of regulars, and a lot of one-timers who never return, apparently even to read the responses. There are a lot of ‘junk’ questions being thrown about. – POD Jun 27 '20 at 16:20
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    I've been thinking the same thing, but at the same time, one-off users are even more common on the larger sites, so I don't necessarily see it as a bad thing (unless they're sockpuppet accounts, of course). Thankfully, we don't need to worry ourselves too much with the legitimacy of the accounts. If the questions asked by new accounts are valid questions, then the content it creates (including answers) will serve as good content regardless. And good answers will still be rewarded with upvotes, though perhaps not with the coveted checkmark. – Alec Jun 27 '20 at 17:59
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    That said, I think most of us know at this point that the checkmark is a very secondary piece of validation, compared to upvotes. A heavily upvoted answer is likely better than a checkmarked answer with fewer upvotes. The checkmark is pretty much a subjective "thanks" from the asker. – Alec Jun 27 '20 at 18:01
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    Bottom line: I think as long as we stay on top of filtering out bad content, and engaging positively with good content, then it doesn't matter if the content is written by bad actors. – Alec Jun 27 '20 at 18:03

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