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It turns out that if you start on the 'newest questions' page and start using Google on my SO user name (Gayot Fow) and then you Google on some of the results, and then you go to the third or fourth level of Google enquiry... You will ultimately get my private email address. It's out there for any determined person to obtain if they keep trying. And you can use that address to reach my desktop email.

Yesterday marked the fourth occasion where this has happened. Three instances have basically the same characteristics...

  • the person apologizes for reaching me privately
  • they ask a question that they were too embarrassed or too bashful to ask here
  • they want to know the answer
  • in two cases, they offer payment

The fourth was about something unrelated and doesn't count.

I don't accept any sort of payment because it's illegal for immigration questions (Sections 84 and 85 of the Immigration Act 1999) and unethical for other questions. Plus my activity on TSO is purely recreational. Plus I don't want to go through the rigmarole of VAT and so forth.

In all cases when I tell them the answer people were profusely grateful. Over the top gratitude. I am not the sort of guy who needs the 'glow from within', so I just wish them good luck.

When you look at the questions themselves in a dispassionate way, they are totally normal issues and have no grounds to be bashful. The person just feels bashful or afraid that public disclosure would lead to them getting arrested and prosecuted (or in some other way compromise their personal safety).

Two questions would easily get up voted and attract some really good answers. Plus the UK police don't care about people asking questions as long as they do not violate the Harassment Act 1997 or the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (or the previously mentioned Immigration Act). Nobody has EVER EVER been arrested or prosecuted for asking a normal question about overstaying or their illegal work situations on the net. They don't have the resources to go around and arrest the people they KNOW about, much less monitoring the net. Plus they do NOT trace IP addresses on forums or SO unless the RIPA Act 2000 is engaged. Honestly. Sometimes it's ridiculous what people think will happen.

Question: what are other people doing in these situations? I'm not asking what you WOULD do because that invites question closure on 'primarily opinion based' grounds. But rather what you actually do when it happens. There is probably some overriding policy on the family of SO about it, but clearly that doesn't work, so I wouldn't find that helpful either.

Question: Yesterday I just turned around and asked the question myself. As though I were the OP. I think doing that follows the site rules, does it?

  • It was easy finding your real identity... Real name, Email and phone! – Nean Der Thal Apr 3 '15 at 22:48
  • You don't strike me as the bashful type. – Gayot Fow Apr 3 '15 at 22:54
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    @Gaoyt can you try finding my real identity? – Nean Der Thal Apr 3 '15 at 22:57
  • @MeNoTalk, I'm not going to try, but you've left more trails on the SE sites to make it simple. Not to mention a fairly distinct pattern in posting time of day to help resolve ambiguities. Nobody's really safe :) Also, there's about 7 people with my name, but you probably found me among those – Gayot Fow Apr 3 '15 at 23:22
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    Whoooosh! That's the sound of a dozen people off to check MeNoTalk's posting times :) – Gayot Fow Apr 3 '15 at 23:26
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    Just point them to Jon Skeet's solution – Raystafarian Apr 6 '15 at 13:24
  • @Raystafarian, as a Skeet idolizer I'm surprised to have missed that. Thanks! – Gayot Fow Apr 6 '15 at 13:44
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    I get a lot of excel/VBA requests through LinkedIn and email, I always just tell them to post it publicly so everyone can benefit. Monetary offers get the same response. – Raystafarian Apr 6 '15 at 14:03
  • I might put on my LinkedIn that I do not want people contacting me. Including agents or companies or whatever. I'm doing fine without it. – Gayot Fow Apr 6 '15 at 14:07
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    Please don't share any person's personal details on this site if they haven't shared it on their own profile. Sure there details may be easy to track down online but that doesn't mean anyone should post them here. – Ankur Banerjee Apr 8 '15 at 15:43
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To the first question, I get it a lot too - I've got my blog/site in my profile, so quite often get contacted through that. Depending on the question I might answer it, and then usually encourage them to ask on the site in future where many more knowledgeable people than myself might have better answers for them - why email just one person when 20k people a day visit this site!

To your second - yes, that's totally valid, provided you don't include their personal details, I'd suggest.

  • Would you please include your personal policy on payment? Even if you haven't been offered, you HAVE been approached so someone will offer compensation eventually. – Gayot Fow Apr 3 '15 at 17:33
  • Yeah there've been a few offers of payment, I tend to ignore those, it's far too messy. I don't do it for the money. – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Apr 4 '15 at 1:49
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I haven't got it in relation to any questions on Travel (but then I'm just a keen enthusiast here) but I get a lot of requests for LinkedIn connections or for questions on security, career guidance etc.

I don't have a problem with this - I have a very public online persona - for my work with ISACA, IISP and other professional associations it is rather useful.

For questions which aren't useful on the site, I may answer them or point them in the right direction. And for ones which would be useful on SE I point them at the relevant site.

Don't think I've ever been offered money for questions - although I did dabble with the Maven network a while back, but the business model seemed screwy so I gave up without having been paid anything.

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