Yesterday a new user came asking a question about evolution in a very aggressive and belligerent way. That question was closed, but then a new question was opened by the OP (https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/19202/was-there-a-last-common-ancestral-species-between-humans-and-chimpanzees) which was edited several times (on its 16th revision atm), by several different users, including mods in order to improve the question.

Despite a fairly large effort from the community trying to drive the question in one direction the OP kept refusing the changes, rolling them back and writing comments that tried to prohibit editing, even after it was explained to them that according to the policy of the site they can't prohibit edits on their question. The same happened with all the questions (total 4) posted by the user. The difference between this question and the other three, is that this is the only question which is on-topic.

What happened eventually is that currently the user is suspended, and the question became a community wiki question.

Here is my question:

What is the best course of action when a good question is hiding inside a bad question yet the OP refuses to let the edits happen and keeps rolling them back? Is the best course of action is to keep fighting with someone who refuses to accept the community's leadership, guidelines and/or advice? Wouldn't it be better to close the original question and to post a new question in its "good form" where they can't disrupt?

  • @Paul, you are right, I rephrased the question.
    – SIMEL
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 9:28
  • Are you dissatisfied with the way the situation was handled? It seems what you described is the answer to your question, unless you have a complaint about that process...
    – Flimzy
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 0:33

3 Answers 3


I think that when users refuse to obey the rules that have to be punished. But I think we have to give them a lot of leeway and we should be as polite as it is possible to be so we don't leap to excluding questions and exposing the site to any possible accusations of bias.

This is a site for skeptics not for people who already know the answer to every question. So we need to fall over backwards to demonstrate due process. Doing so will make us a more reliable source of good answers.

There is a danger when discussing topics where there is something approaching a scientific consensus exists (ranging from creationism through climate science to smoking) that potentially good questions are rejected because they are so far from accepted knowledge. I think the right answer for these is to demonstrate that the question can be asked in a way that follows the rules and allow the site to build definitive answers that politely and clearly explain the evidence for the consensus (I see no problem with well-formed creationist questions and it would be doing the internet a favour to record definitive answers to them; nothing breeds creationist belief like a sniff of a conspiracy to exclude them from argument annoying though it can be to deal with them).

So the right approach is to politely and patiently explain how to pose their questions in rule-abiding ways. I think we mostly did this in the examples that triggered this debate, but we sometimes react impatiently and impolitely to new users asking fringe questions and this is best avoided if we want to have the definite answers here.

  • The problem in this case, is that although people did try to salvage the question and explained politely to the user what are the problems in his post, they refused to acknowledge the proposed changed, and acted in a rude manner. I've seen many times when a new user comes with a not-so good question and is helped by the members of the community.
    – SIMEL
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 20:55

The minimum amount of force should be used to defend the collection of questions and answers from vandalism and inappropriate conduct.

The actions taken may have met this standard. This is intended as praise.

I say 'may have' because I don't know all the details, and this standard is pretty high, actually.

It is necessary to slow down a user who posts a lot of questions while being opposed to, or angry about, the community guidelines on questions.

A new user is not a child (not usually), an employee or servant, or a criminal on probation. Therefore, they should not be subjected to an arbitrary scheme of punishment for minor misbehaviors. Such tyranny sounds more like an elementary school, a bad workplace, or jail than a Q&A site. All of those places share one thing in common with Stack Exchange: unequal power relationships. But it won't be like that here if people remember not to let a little power go to their head.

Moderators do a great deal of (thankless?) janitorial work that we don't see after the fact. Offending comments or postings are deleted or cleaned up, and it is easy for a subsequent viewer to mix up the timeline and imagine a more heavy handed approach than actually occurred.

As to good questions from annoying users, it is not the questions fault.

Someone else can always repost good questions inspired by annoying users. This can be done at a time and in a form more compatible with the community.

New users are customers, though. We should try not to be mean to the customers...

  • I took notice of the migration and I think you are right about the comments as I was not around for that. I'll edit my response.
    – Paul
    Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 19:04

If there is a kernel of a good question in someone's post and they refuse that kernel to be excavated, a possible good solution is very simple: Fork.

More specifically - unless the original post already has a great answer answering your kernel, post a new, refined version of the question. Give attribution in comment and a brief explanation why the fork was necessary.

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