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I'm part of the private beta for Mental Fitness SE. While MFSE is probably going to be closed after private beta anyway (let's be honest, good answers are hard to come by about mental performance), I've noticed a particular problem user, and I believe this is an issue which may have affected and/or will affect many other private betas in the future.

I'd just like to say that this isn't a plea for retribution against said user. I'm just curious how the community should respond to such users and address their behavior in future private betas.

I'm going to use MFSE as an example, but I intend to inquire about the generic case: What do we do when there is a problematic user poisoning the environment of a private beta? This user's activity composes, I'd estimate, at least 30-40% of the site, and most of it is poor quality content.

This user doesn't break any rules, but their behavior is actively harmful to the community. We are three days into private beta.


Meta activity:

  • They've posted nine meta questions with scores 0, 0, -1, -2, -2, -3, -3, -4, and -4.
  • Their nine meta questions are among fourteen
  • They've posted three meta answers with scores -1, -2 and -3
  • They do not listen to user feedback about the quality of their answers

Meta comment activity:

User 1: If you would like the site to succeed, take into the account the excellent advice you are getting from Shog and Abby here, and most of all please read some of the documentation thats present, and follow it.

Problem User: naw i dont do demands

During a discussion prompted by a user saying "We need to address these concerns" without specifying what they are:

enter image description here

While a user was trying to explain why their posts are received negatively:

User 1: I think you should listen to the feedback you're getting from users. Your meta posts are all at zero or below, and you have quite a number of answers receiving heavy downvotes.

Problem User: funny would you like your posts to be called spam [User 1]?

User 1: If my posts were being called spam, I would consider why people think them to be spam, and then reconsider the way I ask questions.

Problem User: listen to our feedback as we cuss you...good luck with that

Main site answer activity:

  • Answer scores: 4, 4, 3, 1, 1, 1, 1, 0, -1, -1, -1, -2, -2, -2, -4 (15 of 32 questions answered)
  • Consistently posts questions which are entirely composed of (relevant) copy/pasted (but properly cited) research
    • Much of which consists simply of wikipedia links
  • Upholds the philosophy that answers do not typically need properly-cited or valuable works

Main site comment activity:

yeah this is a great answer

Or:

ok as long as you like it (repeated multiple times on different answers)

Under an answer that consists of two massive blockquotes and links to an abstract and Wikipedia article:

User 1: It would be super helpful and make this answer much better if you summarize key points from the block quote. Thank you!

Problem User: naw a sentence is enough and if they want to know more they can read the abstracts.

They have been asked to stop asking for upvotes on posts, asking if people have downvoted their posts, etc., but continue to do so:

enter image description here


Anyway, I could go on, but I think you get the point. The user is not receptive to feedback from other users, and doesn't seem to respond to polite requests. Additionally, over the past three days, this user has turned slowly more hostile and unengaging.

Here's the problem, though. While this user has not broken any rules, they are still poisoning the formative stages of a private beta.

The fact of the matter is, we need to deal with this user somehow. The normal advice in a situation like this is "ignore and move on," but we don't have a user-base large enough to feasibly do this. Additionally, the poor quality answers do occasionally receive upvotes, which disrupts the community's still-undeveloped conception of a good answer. For this beta, and in the future, how do we handle users who are actively harmful to the formative stages of a private beta?

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That site is in deep trouble anyway, just the meta activity alone is a terrible sign. There are only 8 questions on meta, three of them closed. The big problem are not the three crappy, closed questions, but that there are only 5 real meta questions at all, and one of them is by an SE employee. As a comparison, I asked more questions alone on Skeptics meta during the first day of the beta than are open on MF meta right now. –  Mad Scientist Mar 28 at 7:46
    
You, sir, have read my mind with regard to the user I think you're on about. –  michaelb958 Mar 28 at 10:36
1  
Given the subject matter, can you tell me you didn't honestly expect a few mentally unfit activities on the site? ;P –  Yannis Mar 28 at 12:36

1 Answer 1

This is not a problem with that user. Yes, he posts a lot, and yes, it can be annoying. But the typical reaction to things you disagree or find annoying on meta is downvote. I don't think he is actively harmful, he just tries to do what he (and probably only he) thinks is correct.

The problem is somewhere else: there's very little activity in that private beta. That makes possible for single user to dominate the site.

In my opinion, having bad questions and answers in private beta is generally not a bad thing. You just downvote that stuff and show other people, what is accepted and what is not. Borderline questions are defining the topic.

But something else is crucial: to have a lot of good stuff. Mental Fitness, as for now, is missing that stuff. Maybe, if there were more activity on both main site and meta, that problematic user would limit his activity. Because there's a great void, he feels irresistible need to fill that void, even if his method of feeling it is, well, imperfect.

So my advice: just use "regular" means to deal with it. Use upvotes. Flag or vote for close if you feel it's necessary. If the community is active enough, the problem-makers will be overruled. If the community cannot cope with single user, it's a bad sign for the chances of the site to survive.

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