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I recently noticed a question, its title was "norm of the operator". I wanted to know what the question details were. To my surprise, I found this:

Dghggfssrrrrtiij Ffhjhhh ggssfvg guijvcd

I decided to see to see what the question's revision history was, and I saw a completely out of control behavior by the user.

Many experienced users have edited and corrected this question posted by the user. I noticed that all of the edits were changed by the user, back to the initially obscure format of the question, and now, the question looks completely out of context. I haven't flagged the question, because it has a well received answer, and the question keeps changing from time to time.

Shouldn't this question be deleted? Can such users be blocked? What can be done to prevent these edits?

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    $\begingroup$ I've rolled it back. You can always rollback to the last sensible edit, and flag the post for a mod to look into it. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is not a mathematician May 18 '17 at 9:15
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    $\begingroup$ OK.But from the log I've seen that the user repeatedly taking it backwards again. Can something be done by the moderators so as to block the user from editing it? $\endgroup$ – Ananth Kamath May 18 '17 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ Rollback wars raise automatic moderator flags. Even if they don't, you can flag the post for moderator attention and ask a mod to lock it to prevent further vandalism. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ May 18 '17 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ OK. I have flagged the Question for moderator attention. $\endgroup$ – Ananth Kamath May 18 '17 at 9:20
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    $\begingroup$ As an only slightly unrelated reminder: in my experience, some users intentionally vandalize their questions since they find that they are unable to delete their question. This is related to the feature that a question with an upvoted answer cannot be deleted by the one who asked the question. You can derive your own corollaries from this... $\endgroup$ – J. M. is not a mathematician May 18 '17 at 9:25
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    $\begingroup$ Did the answerer also deface their answer? It looks all messed up now too. Like someone distorted all the formatting? $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck May 20 '17 at 5:08
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    $\begingroup$ Not that it makes much difference in how we handle this, but has it occurred to anyone that maybe the actual user didn't bother to log off and maybe his kids thought they were being funny? $\endgroup$ – Robert Soupe May 20 '17 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ @RobertSoupe It could be. Or it could even be some hacker having a game with the user's account. You have correctly pointed out that there are huge differences in how this issue is handled. Without knowing what the case is, the only first thing that we can do is to block such edit's. If these still does'nt stop, we have to take action against the account itself, like many have pointed out. $\endgroup$ – Ananth Kamath May 22 '17 at 3:15
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    $\begingroup$ Haha cool: 1. ask question 2. get answer 3. rewrite question so that the answer looks really really stupid. Never thought of this one... $\endgroup$ – jjstcool May 28 '17 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ You're just plain evil, @jjstcool. Hah! $\endgroup$ – SDsolar May 29 '17 at 5:03
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    $\begingroup$ When I do reviews of first questions from new users I have found some that are VERY offensive or obscene. So I change the title to and text to "Please delete me" and flag it. I never get credit for the edit and the questions disappear. That's the way it is supposed to work. $\endgroup$ – SDsolar May 29 '17 at 5:04
  • $\begingroup$ (My) related question on Meta.Physics.SE, regarding this issue of self-vandalism of posts $\endgroup$ – 299792458 May 29 '17 at 16:19
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Next time just flag the post for moderator attention.

Site moderators can "lock" the post, which will prevent any and all further edits by normal users. It has already been temporarily locked once, and I have just put it in a longer lock. The user may give up after this, but if not the site moderators can take preventive measures against the user instead of the post.


It is unfortunately not altogether unusual to see questions defaced in this manner. In my opinion, the user would prefer to see their question deleted, however since it has an upvoted answer the system prevents them from doing this themselves. I presume that the next best thing in their eyes is to simply remove all meaningful content from the question, and hope for its eventual deletion by others.

I suspect that often a sufficiently privileged user simply rolling back the vandalism and commenting on the unacceptability of that behaviour is sufficient to deter future attempts. Sometimes — as in the current case — things have to be brought to the attention of the diamond entrusted users.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think they are unjustified in attempting to remove the question if others don't allow the question to stand as it was asked. For anyone not digging too deeply it does create the appearance that the original user asked a question other than the one they meant to ask. So the original question author would be right to be frustrated at having something written in their name when they feel that they wanted to ask something entirely different. $\endgroup$ – g------ May 28 '17 at 4:37
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I am almost certain this is a frustration on the part of the user at having someone try to change their question to something other than the question which they asked. This is a perfectly understandable reaction, in my view, by the way. A sensible response to it would be to delete one's own question. But that's not possible after a question has been answered.

While community standards may dictate that a question, as it was asked, merits modification, a user may feel that all proposed modifications were defacing their question. For example, they may think that the newly formed questions are too trivial. And yet they can do nothing to remove their name from the authorship of the question.

If they can't insist that the question retains the original form in which it was asked, it should be possible for them to delete the question. Now that we have "community" user (who seems to edit so many question), maybe we should have the option of surrendering the authorship to the "community" instead of deleting a question. Or, at least, we should have the option of surrendering the authorship to "community" under any circumstances under which one cannot delete a question which one asked.

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    $\begingroup$ Your claim has no basis in facts. Looking at the full revision history of the post, the question was posted at 17:10, the OP made a fairly major change to the question at 17:24, the answer was posted at 17:39, and then at 18:16 the OP totally defaced the question for the first time. This is before any other user made (or suggested) any edits to the question. $\endgroup$ – user642796 May 28 '17 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ @arjafi, here's a quote from the question posited here: "many experienced users have edited and corrected this question posted by the user. " Your comment would be more appropriate for the question itself rather than for my answer. I answered the question as it was asked. And I still think that not being able to disown one's own questions is a huge problem. Just because a question attracted an upvoted answer, doesn't mean that the person who asked it should not have the ability to change their mind about having their name publically associated with the question. $\endgroup$ – g------ May 28 '17 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ Edited and corrected in this instance meant that the posts was reverted to the state it was after being defaced not that it content has been changed. Other then that there is a option to make your post community wiki if such post gets changed too much the ownership transfers, anyway the link explains it way better. $\endgroup$ – kingW3 May 28 '17 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @kingW3, thank you for the community wiki link. It was interesting. But, as you can probably guess, someone frustrated with a community to the point where they want to erase their own question is not likely to seek community guidance on how to best follow its practices. The option to disavow one's own question should be presented as a possible alternative in the same notification which mentions the reason why a question cannot be deleted. I think that would be more helpful to community building than all the suggestions on how to take punitive measures towards those acting out. $\endgroup$ – g------ May 28 '17 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ @g------ You must note that there is a well recieved answer to the question in this case. It would be unfair to the answerer If the question was deleted, i.e, the time and effort spent by the answerer to put up that answer would go waste. $\endgroup$ – Ananth Kamath May 29 '17 at 7:04
  • $\begingroup$ @g------ Also note that by "edited and corrected", I meant that the question was restored to the initial format posted by the OP themselves: Thee content and meaning was not changed. You can see that from the revision history. $\endgroup$ – Ananth Kamath May 29 '17 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Ananth Kamath, I did take into account that it would be unfair to the person who answered the question and have that answer go to waste. This is why I didn't propose that the person asking the question must be allowed to delete their question regardless of circumstances. I proposed that they should be allowed the option of disowning the question by reassigning ownership to the community user (in any circumstances in which they are not allowed to erase their own question). $\endgroup$ – g------ May 30 '17 at 7:44
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    $\begingroup$ @g------ If you dearly want your name disassociated from a post, it can be done. But not by us diamond moderators - you need tools only SE staff has access to. Use the "Contact Us" -link. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen May 31 '17 at 9:43
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    $\begingroup$ Also, the poster does not own the post. By posting you implicitly agreed to the license term that can be found in the Help Center. I realize that most cannot be bothered with such legalese, but it is there. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen May 31 '17 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Jyrki Lahtonen, you are speaking to me as if I were the person who tried to deface their own post. I am simply answering the question posited here. In the spirit of "what can be done to improve the site", I made a suggestion. Everyone seems to look for ways to punish the person who did the defacing. And I am simply suggesting that when anyone takes such an extreme step, it should be taken as a hint that something very wrong is going on here. And I am trying to suggest how to address it. $\endgroup$ – g------ May 31 '17 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Jurki Lahtonen, by the way, I view the number of downvotes on my answer as a confirmation of the fact that the community is having troubles dealing with constructive suggestions. My clear suggestion on how to further improve experience of user of the community is being taken with a dismissiveness because I am against knee-jerking into punitive measures. This is a clear indication that the community is pro-knee-jerking into punitive measures towards anyone dissatisfied with their experience here. But that is the surest way to cut off any paths to improvement. $\endgroup$ – g------ May 31 '17 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ @g------ Your suggestion is appreciated, regardless of the incident. But I would like you to clarify once again, since I could not understand the conversation above very well, why this person who defaced his/her post would not just have been a troll, one who wants to take out personal frustration on the website in the manner suggested above. If you can assure me of this, I will up vote your answer. $\endgroup$ – астон вілла олоф мэллбэрг Jun 1 '17 at 6:55
  • $\begingroup$ @астон вілла олоф мэллбэрг, I don't know that it isn't. It could also be some grad student, or an advanced undergrad, who is afraid of being discovered after posting a hw question and wishing to eliminate any trace of the answer (in the hopes of using it without attribution). But that is somewhat besides the point. Someone with proverbial "skin in the game" cannot withdraw a question with an upvoted answer. Even if they decide that the question is embarrassingly simple. There is real-world reputation risks for anyone associated with such questions. It forces self-censorship of good questions. $\endgroup$ – g------ Jun 1 '17 at 7:40

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