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  5. What is Spam?


What is Spam?

This question may surprise you and encourage to press the downvote button, but I have recently come along examples in Duolingo that have made me ask questions about what Spam exactly is on Duolingo. (Note: Do not worry, I am not going to critisize anyone). I enjoy going to the 'discuss sentence' when I have finished translating a rather comical sentence, and then I mostly see a comment which is totally irrelivant to the subject of language, but focusing only on the funny thing of the sentence. For example, for the sentence 'L'éléphant est propre', the first comment said 'This elephant doesn't have drugs, that's for sure'. No worries, I'm not critisizing, but this comment was upvoted really, really much, although it had nothing to do with the french language, let alone language. At the same time in the discussion streams, comments irrelivant to the subject of language are downvoted and hidden. I am not moaning but talking with a happy voice, I would just like to know the precise difinition of the word Spam in Duolingo. Thanks!

October 24, 2017



Jokes are good for learning a foreign language.
You will really appreciate this kind of comments, when you are doing "reverse trees" and are going to use this kind of comments to improve learning your target language.

You are doing the course "French for English speakers"
Your reverse tree is "English for French speakers".
In this reverse tree you will translate much more from English to French, and you can improve you French by reading and writing in the French forums.


High quality humor in a sentence discussion that is not overly full of it can be a nice boost for learners. So, moderators leave a very small amount of it for a period of time.

It is amazing how many people think they are funny but have made the same joke or same kind of joke that 100 people have written and that mods have deleted. I see strings with hundreds of comments in grey text (How mods refer to deleted comments, because it appears to us in light grey text.) One of my least favorite sentences to clean, for this reason, is in the Spanish course. The sentence is "She is a person" and its mirror sentence "Ella es una persona." People will say stupid stuff like "Oh, I thought she was a banana/turtle/elephant/alien/etc. (to infinity)."

However, every time I go to lock it, someone has made a sincerely valuable, non-redundant comment, either in the form of a question or explanation. If I ever quit moderating on Duolingo, it will probably be because of this sentence. (I am joking, but, only slightly ^_~)


Honestly, I'd define spam like a lot of other users: useless posts that aren't related to Duolingo or languages.

A post linking to a language related article is not spam.

A post asking for help with a feature on Duolingo is not spam.

A spam post would be something like "GIMME LINGOTZ OR I WILL EAT U XDDDD", because it's ridiculous. Also, asking for lingots is frowned upon by the community.

I hope I explained it well.


Yes you did. Thanks!


You did, very well. :)


I totally subscribe to your doubts about what is spam or, better, what is considered worthy of being left in the forum and what is not.
Especially in the 'Sentences' section, many topics are there only because a witty user left some kind of pun about the sentence.
I consider myself far from being a boring highbrow intellectual, and in several discussions I too indulged in joking with other participants. But only when a serious discussion about the topic had already started.
Instead, these totally useless topics keep jamming the forum, and are a nuisance especially when using the search engine, as they show up mingled among other valid topics. I barely ever downvote them, because I don't think this would prevent new ones from appearing.
I would understand how this can happen if the forum was left unattended. But this is not the case, because at least a couple of discussions I was taking part in suddenly vanished, likely because someone posted something that was considered inappropriate, and moderators did well in promptly taking action (I wonder why they removed the whole discussion though).
This is why I fail to understand why the 'spam' topics are left there, instead of being removed, as well.


Thankyou, I didn't think about this.


Is there a straightforward definition of spam? In short, no.

The sentence discussion forums are much more straightforward. I've created a guide called Tips for using the Sentence discussion forums. Sometimes, if something is particularly awesome but off topic according to those tips, it might be allowed to stay for a small amount of time after it is posted, if it beloved by the community. But, eventually it will be deleted. (If straight up useless spam has been hanging around for a while, please forgive us. With 200,000,000 users, that is a lot of cleaning to do and only a limited number of people to clean.)

In general though, spam in the other forums can be a hard one to pin down. Moderators communicate with staff from time to time to get guidance on staff's interpretation of what counts as spam on Duolingo.

For instance, because posts about lingots became so numerous, ~staff gave moderators permission to leave or remove lingot posts at will. This made lingot posts simultaneously count as both spam and not spam.~ Then, there was an update: all posts with the main purpose of giving, receiving, or exchanging lingots now count as spam.

Generally, posts related to language and Duolingo are considered "on topic", so long as they are not casual chatting (in any language) and do not violate the Community Guidelines

However, if a person is creating numerous posts in one day, that can be considered as "spamming the forum". The exact number of posts until a person is considered to be "spamming the forum" is not set. But, generally, two posts a day is a safe limit.

Have you created more than one XP contest post this month? If so, all of your posts beyond the first are spam.

Do you have a club that is making a new post every day? You'll probably get a moderator advising you to observe the limit of one club post per week instead. (This is based on a comment staff gave to a Duolingo book club a couple of years back.)

If a person creates more than one copy of the same post, or creates a new post with the sole purpose of advertising and/or linking a previous post, these are spam. (Some exceptions apply to moderators who are making PSA's and posts to help with onboarding. Though, that is very rare for moderators to even do so. They try to keep to the same norms as everyone else, even when they don't have to.)

Posts created for the purpose of casual conversation (aka chats), in any language, are considered spam.

Posts that are intended for "only members of x group" are spam.

Gibberish? Yup, it's spam.

Using Duolingo to advertise products is considered spam. However, this one has some nuance. Community members are allowed to suggest learning resources, so long as those resources follow the Community Guidelines and the Terms of Service. If a moderator suspects that you are intending to advertise, rather than share a resource, they can remove your post. You're likely to get up to two warnings max. After that, advertising will lead to loss of ability to access discussion spaces on Duolingo and possibly the deletion of your account.

If you're worried about whether or not your post is spam, ask yourself, "Is my discussion related to language or the Duolingo community?" Next, take a look around, have a lot of people made the same kind of post recently? (for example, have 2 people already created an XP contest today? It might not officially be spam, but the community might down vote it. Or, has the website acted up? If every post or every few posts is reporting that same thing, mods can remove the excess posts and redirect traffic to a single post about the issue.

Spam is a surprisingly nuanced matter on Duolingo. It'll help if you're considerate of limited space on the "front page", stay on topic, and stay within the guidelines.

This post could go on for miles. Basically, moderators strongly prefer for non-mod community members not to go about telling each other that their posts are spam. More often than not, those folks are wrong. Seasoned moderators have spent time in meetings learning the finer points of "what is/is not spam" and have had one on one email conversations with staff. Newer moderators are encouraged to seek out mentor ships with more seasoned mods.

I hope this helps!


Thankyou, Usagiboy7!


Does a lingot contest count? Like I will see posts just about writing contests. That the person who writes the best story will get lingots. To further clarify with an example:


[In a Greek from English forum]

Whoever writes the best story IN GREEK will get a prize of 100 lingots!



I don't think it would be considered as spam because it's helping people practice the new language they are learning, however it is mostly centered as what you said earlier in this post:


"all posts with the main purpose of giving, receiving, or exchanging lingots now count as spam."


Language Contest Posts are centered around giving/receiving lingots, but aren't they also educational? This is where I am confused.


Thank you for taking the time to read this!


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