In the past week, we've seen a few (three? maybe more?) completely, blatantly off-topic IT support questions. The most recent is Tool to fix Corrupt OUTLOOK PST file, and I've seen at least two more in the past week, although I can't find them now, maybe because they've been deleted.

For what it's worth, here's the content of that most recent post:

I have a corrupt OUTLOOK PST file that is rather large and needs fixing. I ran "scanpst.exe" and it fails. I have looked for a tool to fix, and every tool fix's the file then wants either money or a key (money) to fix the file. Does anyone know of a totally free tool that is capable of fixing large and corrupt PST file. Thanks

This isn't even arguably on-topic. It's just nothing to do with photography whatsoever, and the others have been equally off-topic.

What's going to with these questions? Are they bad setups for a spam answer ("Download it from mydodgysite.com" will get posted in a day or so if we don't close/delete it) or something else?

Update 2015-08-16: the most recent ones of these (that I've seen anyway) have all been from user(s) with the name "MaryTate". There's obviously something more than just ignorance going on here.

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    I came here to ask exactly the same question. I wonder could there be something confusing about the StackExchange interface (maybe the mobile interface?) that leads people to the incorrect forum for their question.
    – osullic
    Aug 10, 2015 at 21:22
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    Kind of hard to say without knowing the person asking, but we get them pretty regularly to be honest. I delete lots of off-topic (this one has since been deleted) questions every month from people who see marginally similar questions (e.g. corrupt JPG) and think their's is close enough.
    – Joanne C
    Aug 11, 2015 at 0:14
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    Oh, and many of them are unregistered and are very unlikely to actually come back.
    – Joanne C
    Aug 11, 2015 at 0:15
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    JoanneC: Hmmm; the spate of questions about outlook and so on seems to be a new thing. Unless you've been super-super quick about deleting these in the past and it just happens a few are lingering longer now.
    – mattdm
    Aug 16, 2015 at 19:09
  • @mattdm - not sure I guess. I didn't seem like the off topic volume has been especially high, but I also am a bit slower these days since I switched jobs.
    – Joanne C
    Aug 16, 2015 at 20:55
  • The current batch is actually coming from the same user and actually seems innocently done. Not sure why she is doing it, but I don't think it's actually deliberate spam.
    – Joanne C
    Aug 16, 2015 at 21:00

1 Answer 1


My best guess is spammers. You sometimes see questions like this appear and a few days later, another "helpful" user comes along and answers the question (with a link to the target product or site). It's a form of seeding to try to get around the promotional restrictions. They hope that the smaller sites might be more likely to let it slip through. I've seen similar things on other SE sites before. Doesn't guarantee that is what is happening here, but it's a fair possibility.

Another possibility is that sometimes people will be searching Google for a result to something they don't really understand. They end up on something unrelated and don't bother to look at where they are and repost something completely unrelated because they somehow think it was related to whatever they had previously seen. Maybe there was some type of answer about an issue in some photography software that they stumbled on and just hit Ask A Question.

I'd give it a 50/50 chance between those options.

  • In this case the latter option got my vote, though in general the both of your options seem equally likely. :) Aug 17, 2015 at 16:36

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