How can we deal with disruptive people on Area51. It seems that one person, if determined (or simply incompetent) can derail a community.

For example see these two questions on the Firearms community.

This is really frustrating because the same user has contributed some good content, but also derails discussion and turns away other users.

How can I address this? Is there any way, short of flagging for a moderator?

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    While it scares me that he's involved in a proposal about firearms, he does make a few good points in his comments, especially in the second example. – Jon Seigel Jun 26 '10 at 21:31
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    @Jon he can also cast a vote that summarizes his feelings on the topic. Getting into a protracted debate in comments over a simple technicality is just being disruptive, especially since it was an EXAMPLE QUESTION. In this stage, the question is either good, good, or not good. He knows that. – Tim Post Jun 26 '10 at 21:35

Flag a moderator. This particular contributor has a long and storied history of attracting moderator attention.

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    His Meta account is frozen until 2037 or so. – Pekka Jun 26 '10 at 20:18
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    I was really excited about the firearms proposal, shame some people with issues can ruin it. – C. Ross Jun 26 '10 at 20:22
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    @C.Ross Doesn't that apply to firearms in general? :) – Pekka Jun 26 '10 at 20:51
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    @Down with, I find it applies to most things worth doing. – C. Ross Jun 27 '10 at 23:06

Wait, you found those threads troublesome? They have six votes between them - two of which are "meh". There are bigger problems...

  • The person who originally proposed the site, and who was actively planning a publicity campaign for it on established firearms forums, left in disgust when the voting system changed.

  • They appear to be struggling to identify legitimate on-topic questions. A comment from a gun enthusiast on another site I frequent, upon visiting Area51 for the first time: "I went to the Firearms section, and all they seem to be able to do is argue about whether ammunition questions are appropriate to the forum."

IMHO, heated discussion is entirely appropriate for the definition phase of the site: it shows that there are users who are actually invested in the topic. You don't separate gold from dross by putting it in a freezer...

Personally, I deeply regret not being a bit more active and abrasive in the discussions on Food and Cooking: the current status has two questions on food substitution showing up as examples, and I've found myself becoming an apologist for it when trying to get non-SO people to take an interest. How do you get serious people interested in a site that looks like "Q&A for arrogant programmers?"...

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    That still doesn't excuse starting a very pedantic argument in comments that raged on, when you could have just cast a vote that said "Not a good question". He knows how the system is supposed to work, and he delights in disrupting it. I'm sorry, but he's being disruptive, again. Imagine what happens when the proposal (and him) reach beta. – Tim Post Jun 26 '10 at 21:38
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    It is one thing to have an expert that argues technicalities. It is another to have someone who just wants to argue for the sake of arguing. Note, arguing this point is not a technicality, there's a very good reason why he is suspended from SO & meta. – Tim Post Jun 26 '10 at 21:44
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    @Tim: I think it's safe to say that, at the time the second question linked above was asked, no one knew how the site worked. And those that thought they did would have found themselves wrong shortly thereafter, as the entire voting system changed. But that's beside the point, which is: I have my doubts as to whether that proposal, or anyone in it, will ever make it through the "commit" stage, assuming it even gets that far... – Shog9 Jun 26 '10 at 21:52
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    @Tim: and as for your other comment... People have been whining about GeoChet for a long, long time now, and I have a hard time taking it seriously. It takes two to tango... – Shog9 Jun 26 '10 at 22:05
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    @Shog9 - at that point I simply look at the instigator. In his case, that behavior appears to be perpetual. Maybe a squelch button might be better? However, the fact remains, he continues to cause disruptions. – Tim Post Jun 26 '10 at 22:10
  • @Shog9 - it is conceivable that someone is of appropriate maturity to participate in a consistent productive manner, yet lacks the discipline to deal with someone who is hell bent on disrupting them. I'll agree with that. Yet, the problem appears to persist. This is something we inherited from Usenet and it needs to be solved. – Tim Post Jun 26 '10 at 22:14
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    @Tim: Again, I note you've ignored every part of my replies that doesn't allow you to comment on the individual rather than the behavior or the site. So I'm gonna be blunt: I don't care. There's nothing said in that thread that's so bad it demands outrage; heck, I've been called worse on SO just for explaining close-votes. Everyone involved was an adult, and should know how to conduct themselves. Wanna know how to deal with someone who steps over the line? Read TheHurt's comment, the one with 6 up-votes. Incidentally, TheHurt is the guy that left when the voting system changed... – Shog9 Jun 26 '10 at 22:20
  • @Shog9 I agree about TheHurt, and it's a shame all around. Still Geoff needs to realize the difference between deciding whether a question is good and debating the answer. I also agree that the other people involved basically allowed themselves to be trolled. That doesn't make him not a troll though. – C. Ross Jun 27 '10 at 23:08
  • @C. Ross: I can't really comment on the legitimacy of his arguments - I have little or no interest in Firearms, or knowledge of its technical or cultural aspects. So if this is the weaponry equivalent of "vi vs. emacs", I wouldn't know - that's something you guys absolutely should be hashing out on your own, within your own community. Remember: the questions you decide represent the boundaries of your site will be the first ones potential new users see during the commit phase... The opinions of your average Meta user don't matter in the way the opinions of random gun enthusiasts will. – Shog9 Jun 27 '10 at 23:45
  • @Evan: Believe it or not, I'm actually curious about that. Moved to CO about 6 years ago, and still haven't gotten a straight answer as to why the locals pronounce the town's name that way... As for that answer... I didn't even vote on it. – Shog9 Jun 28 '10 at 4:34
  • @Shog9 Really... It's because a lot of the locals aren't the brightest. Having gone through the public school system here I'm not surprised why. It takes a certain level of personal drive to go above and beyond to get a decent education to get an adequate education. – Evan Plaice Jun 28 '10 at 6:11
  • @Shog9 My mistake, I just though you were being a d*** ;) – Evan Plaice Jun 28 '10 at 6:12
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    @Shog9 If someone causes at least two interested users to leave in commitment phase, how is he expected to play well in beta or the open site? As others have pointed out, he doesn't exactly play well on the rest of the trilogy sites. – C. Ross Jun 28 '10 at 17:11
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    @C. Ross: that's a decision you should be making for yourself. If you absolutely can't stand to be a part of the same site as another user, then one of two things must happen: he must leave, or you must leave. Ideally, you could work that out between yourselves... But failing that, a moderator must step in and decide whose absence will hurt the site more. No one wins in a stand-off like that, though sometimes it's necessary for the good of the community. But, if otherwise-uninvolved Meta users decide who can be a part of Firearms, then that community is doomed from the start... – Shog9 Jun 28 '10 at 17:20

In my opinion it is essential to keep in mind the original goal of the definition phase. It's a meta-discussion about a future Q&A site.

The users that discuss spent cartridge ejection mechanisms are most clearly off-topic. They are on the wrong semantic level.

I would choose to use comments to educate the users about the goals of the definition phase and possibly flag for moderator attention.

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