This (now deleted) user clearly wants his account deleted and everything he ever posted to vanish off of SO. He's non-stop erasing the contents of his questions, even after we rollback. It's getting so silly that some of them have been made CW.

Should we be stopping such cases? If so, is flagging for moderator attention all we should do? Should there be a method in place to auto-detect such vandalism?

Yes, we did try tell him to stop his madness (link requires 10k of reputation on Stack Overflow).

The user has been suspended for 7 days. This ordeal lasted about 90 minutes and resulted in an average of 50 revisions to all 42 of the user's questions. Each edit bumped the question, forcing needing questions off the front page.

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    It would be cherry to box the user for a year with their account info rolled back not allow hiding behind anonymous account info after such vandalism – random Jan 22 '11 at 1:33
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    @random +1 Seeing this rant he posted 2 days ago would make that even sweeter. :) – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 1:36
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    Not that he isn't right about PayPal though... – Pekka Jan 22 '11 at 1:41
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    Yeah, I've never seen someone so persistent. Still, you can't go vandalizing a site just because you didn't get an immediate resolution to a request. We own that content just as much as he does. – Tim Post Jan 22 '11 at 1:45
  • @Tim absolutely. The content isn't his any more at all. He licensed it to SO, Inc. and as far as I know, it can't be revoked just like that. There will come the day when somebody will challenge that in court. When that happens, there will be a live feed from the courtroom, and we will watch it in chat :) – Pekka Jan 22 '11 at 1:52
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    @Pekka - Yes, you basically do grant SO a royalty free irrevocable license to whatever you contribute, but you do retain copyright. So, someone could publish their contributions on their own site without attribution, but you can't 'just take it back' from SO. – Tim Post Jan 22 '11 at 1:55
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    Have you seen his username? – Benny Jan 22 '11 at 2:06
  • @Benny That's what made me look past the single question of his I found in the "DELETE ME" state. – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 2:16
  • LOL Navajo Codebreakers. I'm going to try and work that into MY next rant. – robert_x44 Jan 22 '11 at 2:36

Just out of curiosity, and forgive me if I make an incorrect assumption... but after a couple of rollbacks undone by the problem user... wouldn't it be best to flag the question for someone with the power to step in and actually end the madness, rather than wage a long back and forth battle with someone who is determined to continue. Yes it won't be instantly solved, diamond moderators have lives too - assumption? :). The worst case scenario is that the content will be 'in limbo' until a high level moderator can step in and lock out the user, right? It's not as if the content is permanently lost, and we only have X minutes to save it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to all of you who expend the effort to clean up entries, and show a passion to make this community function. Thank you very much! When I get enough points to help more, I'll lend a hand... but if I encounter a user like this, I'm not going to spend 90 minutes fighting a war of attrition. I'll call in air support ('big bad diamond moderators') that have the tools necessary to do the job. Oh, and I'll help with problems of a lesser nature to free up their time to deal with these issues :)P

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    We did flag his posts, but it took 90 minutes for a mod to step in. The rest of your post falls under the "is flagging for moderator attention all we should do?" So yes, I'm unsure we did the "best" thing. – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 2:11
  • @marcog I understand, but I guess my point is "is it worth it to sit there rolling back old questions while waiting for a mod?" My gut tells me no, but that's just my opinion. Also keep in mind, that the rollback to undo the user's rollback is also pushing the question to the top of the questions page :) If his handiwork is just left until the mod shows up, this vicious cycle would have stopped. – robert_x44 Jan 22 '11 at 2:12
  • @RD01 I asked because I don't know. I do agree with your opinion, but are there side-effects of leaving them in a poor state for over an hour? – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 2:15
  • @marcog It's a good question. Obviously it's not a good idea to let a user leave a rant in place of the question, or something harmful, but perhaps just replacing the question with a 'deleted - waiting for moderator action' in the question's place would have appeased the problem user long enough to get locked out (and let the mod rollback the true content). I just hate to see passionate/helpful people like yourself get stuck in one of these internet battles with idiots. – robert_x44 Jan 22 '11 at 2:19
  • @RD01 - Unfortunately, as @marcog said, the diamond mods were (likely) busy clearing the many flags that the current election tends to generate. – Tim Post Jan 22 '11 at 2:19
  • @tim True, but I don't think waiting a couple of hours for a permanent solution is that terrible of a thing. Obviously roll-backs weren't accomplishing the community's need. – robert_x44 Jan 22 '11 at 2:21
  • @RD01 Editing to something like that could work. It would prevent other rollbackers from stomping over the question again. I prefer that idea over letting the user have his way for 90 minutes. – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 2:22
  • @marcog Also, I don't disagree with the possibility of adding some kind of auto-tracking :) Just adding my two cents. And thanks for showing a passion for the community! – robert_x44 Jan 22 '11 at 2:24
  • @RD01 - I really did think about it as we were in the process of rolling back the vandalism, but it is vandalism none the less. We would have shown the same diligence against a zealous spam bot that was smart enough to beat the system. Still, if the system could intervene instead of humans, that would always be preferable. In cases like this, I think it could :) – Tim Post Jan 22 '11 at 2:38
  • @Tim I agree completely. It shouldn't be a difficult technical fix... just don't expect to catch it all :)P Wikipedia is the best example of an online vandalism target. Also, I can't help make my only marginally-appropriate xkcd link: xkcd.com/386 :) – robert_x44 Jan 22 '11 at 2:41
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    I do agree with this - even though it looked the only option at the time, persistent rolling back is not really the optimal reaction, as the resulting questions probably need to be fixed by a developer. Those present were acting with the best motivations, but in hindsight, it might have been better to let them stand until a moderator came by. Maybe really more (e.g. 20k+) users need the right to lock, or even deactivate an account for thirty minutes or so. – Pekka Jan 22 '11 at 10:33
  • @Pekka +1 to your brief account deactivation idea – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 13:22

This is somewhat orthogonal, but I think this case amply demonstrates that there should be some rate limiting on the number of edits or rollbacks that a user can perform per minute, or per hour.

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    Yes, this falls under the "should we auto-detect" aspect. I'm sure wikipedia implements rate-limiting like this. – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 0:53
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    I don't think rate limiting is the answer here. This clearly need intervention by some moderator to be stopped, no matter how fast or slow this user can edit. Automatic detection and flagging for mod attention could be a good idea, since manual action is needed anyway. – sth Jan 22 '11 at 1:17
  • @sth Give a valid use case for ~50 edits of each of 42 posts within an hour? – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 1:19
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    Automatic locking is necessary, as the edit war is harming the content. – Pekka Jan 22 '11 at 1:20
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    And thinking about it, how often does this happen? Is it often enough to be worth it to implement special features for it? – sth Jan 22 '11 at 1:20
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    @sth but when it happens, it's damaging. As you can see right now. It's happening, and there is no mod present to stop it (which is why flagging won't help). Tons of useless stuff gets bumped to the front page non stop – Pekka Jan 22 '11 at 1:21
  • @sth That's not so clear. I haven't been active enough for long enough to know how much of a problem this really is. – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 1:22
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    Ah, the insanity is over! Somebody has stepped in,. – Pekka Jan 22 '11 at 1:22
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    Another point @TimPost raised here: "@BalusC - This is why I'm in favor of letting locking become a 20k + tool. You could have ended this an hour ago." – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 1:30
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    I thought about it, but what if the system stopped rollbacks at the vandalized revision? How could it tell what revision was benign? @Pekka @Ether – Tim Post Jan 22 '11 at 1:47
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    @Tim How about locking edits from sub-3k users after X edits, sub-10k after Y edits and so on? Or reverting to the content before the edit war if there's a clear start? Or assuming a higher rep user is likely to be the one in the right? – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 1:49
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    @marcog - I think that would work well. I guess it's conceivable that a 20k user could go bat crap crazy like this user did, but the possibility is remote enough to ignore :) – Tim Post Jan 22 '11 at 1:57

This is why I am in favor of letting 20k+ users have access to the locking feature. BalusC could have ended this ordeal (close to) when it started. Instead, around five of us sat with one tab per question open to each revision history while cycling through and hitting F5.

This is a community site with community content. Nobody likes a front page full of "DELETED BY POSTER" any more than they like to see a page full of answers to a question that says the same.

Incidentally, this appears to be what sparked the whole ordeal.


I have 2 ideas both good.

  1. Delete or suspend his account for six to twelve months and make sure he cannot edit so much.

  2. Make users 15k+ rep close questions for edits.

  • He's on a seven day suspension now, I'm quite sure that will be time spent productively arranging for the moderators to make his contributions anonymous and remove all traces of his account. – Tim Post Jan 22 '11 at 2:20

I think this guy should get his wish. Delete his profile and associate all content with some userXXX account for anonymity. I think the user just should've flagged one of his own posts and explained why and that's what he'd like.

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    There's already a process for this. Put "please delete" in your profile and email team@stackoverflow.com And we mentioned this to him, but he's ignoring it. – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 0:57
  • Well, he put please delete me. I guess that means mods can clear it once they're aware of him then. Who knows why he is ignoring their email though. – Earlz Jan 22 '11 at 0:58
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    He still had no right to vandalize a site while waiting for a moderator to act on his request. – Tim Post Jan 22 '11 at 1:44
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    Plus, he has no right to get his content deleted. His personal info, yes. But not the content. – Pekka Jan 22 '11 at 2:01

The user has been suspended for a week... for the time being.

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    I hope a mod contacts him to discuss account anonymisation. – marcog Jan 22 '11 at 1:24

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