When should you hit that Red-Flag so hard it makes your finger bleed?
Well - there are no hard and fast rules, but these might be a good start...
(People who've been here a while may recognise some of these posts...)
The Stray Cat: A member is totally unqualified to be a member but you feel sorry for them and give them an answer. The next day and the next day they come back again and again and again... The problem with answering them in the first place is they are like a stray cat who gets fed. Not only do they come back, but they bring all their friends. Don't think twice - go get 'em.
Star Nuts: You see another member helping end-users in the "easy" PC desktop forums racking up hundreds of stars. The members they help are obviously not professional, but you see them "robo answer" and rack up stars like crazy. You'd like to red flag the unprofessional end-user "homees" but you feel bad about having that other member lose their stars. The problem here is not whether to Red-Flag but who - the asker who can't be bothered to open a help file or the Star-Tart who just can't resist it... Your choice.
Drowning Man: You jump out to help someone with an answer and quickly realize they are in way over their head. And, because you're not trained to life save they jump on you and end up drowning their saver. They start posting your handle in the forums and you end up being their tech support monkey. The problem with this scenario is you never asked them a couple qualifying questions in the beginning about their problem and what they've done to help themselves -- you just jumped right in. Well - you did it now....
Planes on a Runway:You help someone, they say thank you. You help them again, they say thank you. This goes on for 10, 20, 30 posts and you realize they have no learning trajectory. They're like a plane going down the runway and never going fast enough to take off. The problem with this scenario is we never know who the learners are, and who will grow into a helpful member when we start helping them. So be patient, for a while at least.
Bread Crumbs:You answer someone's question. The next day you answer their next. Then you answer the next and the next. At the end of their series of questions you realize you've just completed THEIR project! You've just done THEIR job! You feel used like they've been putting out bread crumbs for you to eat as you go down their path. The problem with this scenario is you don't know you've been a victim until it's too late. When you do realise though - go for the button
Sorry Wrong Number:You're reading a new thread and about halfway through you're thinking "Huh?". The problem isn't making any sense and then you suddenly realize that they are posting in the wrong forum.
Elvis Has Left the Building:You and a few other members are posting away on a thread giving different solutions to the problem and what are the benefits or restrictions of each. About 20 posts later, it finally dawns on someone that the OP is nowhere to be found (and usually never heard from again). This is sometimes such a marked effect it's funny - tens of posts and they Original Poster hasn't been back to the site since they asked, 3 mnths ago.
Cheerleader: This is a variant of Bread CrumbsMembers are posting some suggestions and a few snippets of code for a problem. The Original Poster is praising their efforts with "Awesome!", "Way to go!", "You people are the Greatest!". But right after those words, they always have something else they want or need, and invariably they aren't doing any work on the problem themselves... they're just sitting there with their Pom-Poms yelling, "Give me a 'T'!", "Give me an 'e'!", "Give me a 'k'!"...etc. Don't put up with this.
Infected and Contagious: A member starts a thread that is convoluted, off-topic, and/or inappropriate somehow. Other members post to the thread and it isn't red-flagged or removed for some days. All of a sudden another thread appears that is also convoluted, off-topic, and/or inappropriate somehow (same way as the first though). Then another, and another... they begin to pick up steam. You're thinking "Has the entire forum gone nuts?", this is when you lose patience, red-flag everybody, and then TT management shows up with the antidote.
Hey, don't I know you?: You're answering a question for a member that has just shown up on the scene. The next thing you know, you get an email from them telling you how much they appreciate your help, what their life story is, and wondering whether you'd like to correspond with them now that you're such good firends. Errmm, what are you doing giving your email address out anyway?
Snake Oil Salesman: A member who's every post somehow finds a way to mention their book, website, or product as the cure for whatever is ailing the OP. "Well, in my book 'Blah Blah Blah' on page 23 you'll see the solution to your problem. It's available at http://www.imjustheretosellsomestuff.com" You have to be careful with this one. Once might be ok, twice? Maybe... Three times? No Way.
Help Wanted The people that either 1) admit "I'm taking a class and..." they proceed to describe their class assignment with which they need your help, or 2) they pose a scenario that either involves tables named COURSE, CLASS, STUDENT, and GRADES or MOVIE, VIDEO_TAPE, and RENTALS. Don't give it a second thought, we're not here to help people cheat.
Tourette's-Syndrome sufferer: For whatever reason, the poster becomes p***ed off at someone or some response and lets loose with a lesson in mule skinning, F-bombs and other unsundry colourful expressions...
DTja vu all over again: Thinking that we don't cross-read similar fora or that it will someone generate a quicker response, the OP posts identical threads in the Oracle 5,6,7 Forum, then the Oracle 8i Forum, then the Oracle 9i Forum, then for good measure in Oracle 10g Forum. This is really annoying as people never think to check all the places they've posted for answers.
Hey, Can I Come To Your Party?: As if it will either "save someone some money" or lend credibility to her/his question, they "shirt-tail" a not-similar-enough or even a totally different question on the end of someone else's thread.
Never mind, I Figured It Out Myself: Don't you just hate this? Someone posts a question, either fascinating or stupid, then the very next post is from the OP saying, "Never mind, I Figured It Out Myself", with no indication of what they did and certainly no value added. Doh!!!!
The Contradictor: They post a question. You answer it. Instead of taking time to try that solution, they tell you: "That can't be right!" *sigh* fine...
The non-swimmer: In the gene pool of life, this guy is at the shallow end.
Symptoms: One paragraph that lists every problem in the world covering multiple issues and clearly has no clue what is going on. Any form of sentence structure is omitted so you can get a headache just looking.
Last line is always: Can you help me?
Pile Jumper: My personal favourite.. Jumps in on the end of every thread that's already been answered. Usually gives a correct answer, that's the same as someone already gave, about four posts ago. Sometimes, and entertainlingly, misreads the question so completely s/he seems to think it's something about aardvarks... Occasionally these are funny enough not to Red Flag, just leave 'em there if they make you laugh.
And Finally, some other popular ones
--The subject line says "Helpppp I'm Totally Lost". Yup, very likely.
--Their greeting says "Hey all you gurus" Puleeze
--Their question ends with "Please mail me with the answer at firstname.lastname@example.org" Errmm no, actually
--They post "Can someone mail me the files" No again
--They post their hi-jack log and want you all to "look at it". Nope
These are all warning signs. Use your judgement *smile*...