So this is probably the first instance what I can only describe as user spam. Unfortunately, non-mods won't be able to see the answers since they've been deleted, but user mouton, who joined just today, posted 5 answers in quick succession, none of which made any sense and were immediately flagged by users.

I (somewhat unilaterally) decided to use the SE email mechanism to email the user, in which I explained that their answers were repeatedly being flagged for low quality, and issued a warning that if this activity continued, they would be suspended for two days.

The question I have is: is this a reasonable way of dealing with such cases ?

Since it will be hard to discuss this out of context, below are examples:

On this question about infeasibility of AC^0 problems: these answers:

  1. "I guess the Gödel's incompleteness theore mis quite enough to give you a proof on the quid of your question. In addition, I guess that you're not believing in any mathematical demonstration of the "universe"?!"
  2. "(sorry, the arithmetic hierarchy made me thinking about some Bourbaky languages.. :)"

On this question about provable statements about genetic algorithms:

  1. "my only comment would be that genetic is so complex (it is the same dimension as our society, let's say...big factories) that you can't really put a fixed value on the effect of genetic (it's not the only one which is a factory: search at different scales)so I would suggest you to go more on the geometry philosophy to get an answer to your problem. Maybe also on some orientation and symetry like theory... "

On a question about a graph transformation preserving isomorphism:

  • "Isomorphic means that you have a function f such f(G1+G2)=f(G1)+f(G2) and solve some algebraic properties. Please look in wikipedia to look which one, and define your "+" and check if all the properties are correct regarding to your isomorphism"

On a question about proofs that reveal a deeper structure:

  • "I met a stat teacher a few days ago. Wanted to ask him some stat question, 'cause I find that math stat is quite abstract. He told me that, yeah, indeed, you should look in some applied statistique to find some concrete example on the stat methodology (test to modelling). If that can help you..It is also for some biological concern."

There were also two answers in French, whose quality I can't ascertain.

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    $\begingroup$ The French answers were also junk. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke Feb 21 '11 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ The one about isomorphism is actually kind of meaningful, if not very helpful. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 21 '11 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Dave: Your succinct comment made me laugh. :-) @Suresh: I think you dealt with the situation perfectly. $\endgroup$ – Robin Kothari Feb 21 '11 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ They almost look computer generated. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Feb 21 '11 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Joe: I felt the same thing, but I am wondering if this feeling is related to the fact that I recently read the story about Watson beating champions in Jeopardy. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 21 '11 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ I can assure you that it's not computer generated, since I got a response from the individual involved. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Feb 21 '11 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ And the response was not computer generated? :) $\endgroup$ – Radu GRIGore Feb 25 '11 at 10:59

Your actions were perfectly reasonable. The user in question surely knew (s)he was posting junk, so would have expected such a response. I would not necessarily email such offenders – presumably the consequences of their actions is not entirely unexpected, and an email gives more recognition of their actions than a silent ban.

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    $\begingroup$ I would not ban immediately. Let's give new users the advantage of doubt: maybe (s)he was making serious posts, that happened to be inappropriate. I think an warning is the proper response, since if the behaviour is then repeated we can assume purpose. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 21 '11 at 11:32
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    $\begingroup$ As with all these cases, it depends on the content (or lack thereof). $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke Feb 21 '11 at 11:51

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