I've recently made a question at SuperUser about the intentions and security risks of AIM bots and it was downvoted and closed as Not a real question. I've browsed the site guidelines and I'm not really sure about which one I've violated.

What is the possible reason?

(I suppose it's not because instant messaging is considered a web service.)

  • IMO, the question is overly broad. There is not much concrete information to go on, e.g. on the bots' behavior . Everything can be a security risk, in a way. You see this in the range of results the accepted answer provides. It's basically a guess about what could happen.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Aug 30, 2011 at 10:24
  • The title could be a lot better. 'What are all those bots that write you through AIM' implies that you're asking an opinion poll - refer @slhck's answer for a better title and nice answer
    – Sathyajith Bhat Mod
    Aug 30, 2011 at 12:02

1 Answer 1


I think this is a borderline case. I probably wouldn't have voted to close. It apparently doesn't violate any rule, as far as I can see.

But, in some way the question is very broad (you could talk forever about online security risks), and at the same time it can be answered in one sentence, as the consequences for you are the same, regardless of the background (which we can only guess about).

Your questions were:

So, where do these users come from and what's their goal?

I don't think this can be reasonably answered. Does it matter where the users come from? Can you know it for sure?

What's a bit more important is the question about what's their goal. Well, obviously to sell you stuff in the long run or to harm you in any other way. This is what spam is all about. Does it matter what they're really up to? Would you react differently if you knew?

And, do they pose a security risk?

This might be answerable, but as Daniel said, in some way everything is a security risk. As a cautious user, you should know that you shouldn't click on anything a total stranger on the internet (or a spam bot) sends you. And that's the answer.

Maybe the question would be a better fit for Security.SE.

For Super User however, I guess if your question were …

What should I do if an AIM bot contacts me?

… this would have been fine.

  • 1
    Thank you. I see it's a combination of poor wording (with "where do they come from" I was expecting something like "botnets of compromised computers that crawl for accounts in the AOL site" rather than "Amarillo, Texas") and lack of precise focus in the question (with "is it a security risk" I was expecting something like "there's a known bug in the AIM protocol but it only affects the official client"). I'll try to ask better questions in the future. Aug 30, 2011 at 11:22
  • You can always edit your question and "flag" it for reopening — that would be a possibility! I know it's hard at the beginning, but you'll develop a sense of which kinds of questions the community likes and which ones it doesn't :)
    – slhck
    Aug 30, 2011 at 11:50

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