What do you do about legitimate questions from the Python Newbie guy (for those who don't know)? Should I flag them as spam and downvote them, or should I leave them alone?


4 Answers 4


If it's a legitimate question, it shouldn't matter who asked it. Don't worry about who's asking the question, judge the question on its own merits.

As such, if the post isn't spam, I say it shouldn't be flagged as spam. If it's a good question, it probably shouldn't be downvoted (Of course, your votes are yours to do with as you will). As others have stated, however, flagging the post for moderator attention to let them know that the troll is circumventing post bans is perfectly legitimate. I just don't believe that a good post from a bad user should suffer for the actions of the asker.

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    This ^^^^^^^^^^^
    – user50049
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 16:21
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    I sense a Reversal badge coming, and it's only been 20 minutes! +1
    – Doorknob
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 16:35
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    Every saint has a past; every sinner has a future. (but on SE, the past is tracked, so really only the second part of that applies!)
    – A.M.
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 16:41
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    I generally would agree to this. However for this type of user, leaving "legitimate questions" like this will only cause more problems down the line. What if there is an explosion of activity for this question? That will provide the user rep which grants privileges which could lead to even more headaches. If he gets 50, he'd be able to comment anywhere making tracking all the more difficult. If he gets 100, he could associate accounts on other sites and wreak havoc there. Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 17:21
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    @JeffMercado Deleting the user's account, or otherwise applying punishments to it, as a result of bad activity unrelated to this post would be fine. Banning the account because it's ban evading, for example, is fine. Flagging the post because it's ban evading, or because it's simply the first question you found when you wanted to report behavior that can't be flagged, would be fine. None of that would justify downvoting the post, voting to close, etc.
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 18:51
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    @Servy: The wording of this answer suggests that nothing should be done about it which I would strongly disagree with which is what I'm addressing. Flagging this sort of question when the problem user has been identified should be the only necessary action here. Other actions to do is up to the flagger's discretion. It's their votes to cast and they don't need to justify their reasoning to anyone. Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 19:08
  • @JeffMercado That's fair. I'll edit the answer to reflect my stance on that.
    – StephenTG
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 19:09

I've dealt with many of this user's accounts, and tried to figure out a way to handle them, so I can explain my approach so far. First, I should comment that this user has been an ongoing nuisance since the start of the year, and we've probably deleted something like 100+ of their accounts since then. They've worked around IP bans and other extreme measures to continue to post here, and have posted some rather odd content. I seriously think this is a person who needs real psychological help, from other things I've found out there by them.

They generally follow a pattern of posting decent or borderline questions for a little bit, then flipping out and posting diatribes about the FBI or a Google robots.txt conspiracy (among the more tame things they've posted). Because they aren't here to contribute positively, and show no signs of improving, I typically delete their accounts on sight.

However, I leave any good questions alone. I do not destroy their accounts (which automatically removes everything posted by a user) and instead simply delete them. Unfortunately, even the latter has the consequence of triggering a deletion of downvoted content by that user, so sometimes acceptable but downvoted questions get removed at that point.

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    Oh yeah, we have a deletion reason for accounts created to circumvent bans now. I forgot about that. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/192820/… Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 17:04
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    @BoltClock'saUnicorn - I hope that will come in handy for cases like this, where I'm now tagging the deleted accounts with the person's name. I can imagine SE setting up an easy query for their deleted accounts and patterns they exhibit for designing more interesting countermeasures. Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 17:08
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    arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/08/… "Changing your IP address or using proxy servers to access public websites you've been forbidden to visit is a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a judge ruled Friday"
    – ale
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 18:11

In general, judging a question only on its own merits, as StephenTG answered, seems the right thing to do.

An argument against that, though, would be for extreme cases of a troll playing a long game and posting good questions in order to ultimately cause more damage.

Someone with a set of good questions could decide to use the power of their ownership of those questions to delete them (temporarily damaging SE, at least until someone restores them), or to maliciously alter them so that their answers no longer match (causing confusion and damaged SE while it is figured out).

Not judging the user is probably the best policy, and sticking to it might be good just for consistency, but we should keep in mind what could be done by a troll owning a set of good questions (or answers). Their questions might end up being more trouble than they are worth.

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    And yet trying to punish them for posting good content in anticipation of them trying to use it maliciously later would still be wrong. If the user needs to be banned for malicious actions that they've performed, then that's fine. If a user is ban evading then you could flag a legitimate post to indicate that to a moderator, who will take the appropriate action.
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 17:02
  • In fairness, I am really describing a kind of incorrigible, patient super-troll that may not even exist in the wild. I agree with you, though I would like to know how well positive reinforcement fares with even garden-variety trolls. By the way, might making long-time trolls' good questions community wiki be a way to protect against the worst future damage while not losing out on having their good questions?
    – A.M.
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 17:07
  • If the account has performed highly improper actions outside of the scope of this one question (clearly the case here) then deletion of their account is appropriate. The account can be deleted without deleting all of their questions. The questions are then disassociated from the account (which is still different from being CW).
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 17:09
  • Actually that sounds perfect...even better than CW. The only thing to worry about would be someone pulling the trigger on their long-term troll plan before being detected. At this point, though, I am pretty sure I am giving trolls too much credit!
    – A.M.
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 17:14

The answer: Don't help them. Questions about keyboard automation and logging into a remote server without needing to type a password? He must have been laughing his head off every time someone wrote his trolling tools for him.

  • I doubt any of this is stuff he's actually used. He's been trolling in the same manner since at least January here, and he's been a persistent troll on other communities since 2007 or so. I don't think people have handed him anything that he didn't already have. His patterns haven't changed much over time. Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 17:53

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