We've had a few questions like Why do "data types" in computers exist, if it's really all just bits? lately where the question is ranty, but not anything some editing couldn't fix, but in the comments the user who asked the question is arguing and soliciting debate and discussion. Pretty much the textbook definition of "not constructive" except it's the user that's the problem more than the question itself. Sometimes the lengths they go to in defending a specious argument makes me wonder if the asker has some sort of mental illness.

I think the worst of these cases end up getting purged from the system. At least I couldn't find more examples when I looked just now. In nearly all cases the question quickly gets closed. I've even voted to close after answering some of them myself. However, it sort of seems a shame we can't lock out the original asker but keep the question after some editing. Is there some sort of standard way these situations are supposed to be handled? Normally I'd encourage editing and reopening, but if it's the user being intentionally argumentative it seems a quick delete would be a better course of action.

There's a backstory there that unfortunately I can't share in public. All I can say is that the user in question is currently suspended. –  Yannis Rizos Feb 28 '13 at 4:57
FWIW, I have edited out the ranty part in order to create a more constructive question. Yes, I know it was troll bait to begin with, but I think there may actually have been some merit to this question. –  GlenH7 Feb 28 '13 at 14:39
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1 Answer

up vote 9 down vote accepted

This was somewhat exceptional, as a few weird things were at play. I'd like to answer your question twice, first speaking to this specific incident, and then in a more general sense.

The question was originally asked on Stack Overflow (now deleted) and migrated here, then rejected as folks were working on it and then finally unlocked (but closed) which is its current state. As Yannis indicated, there's also some private administrative history which we really can't go into - but suffice it to say that suspending the user as was done was the fastest way to stop the disruption while the other factors at play were resolved. It was a perfect miniature storm.

Now - a more general answer.

In general, yes, we should definitely separate content from contributor when determining what adds to or detracts from the value of the site. A good question asked by a rather disagreeable user is still a good contribution, especially if it has attracted useful and well written answers. Sure, sometimes users get upset that their question wasn't as well received or understood as they hoped it would be, but seldom do you see these frustrations manifest themselves so intensely or vehemently. We also should assume that questions are asked in good faith unless it becomes blatantly obvious that they were not. So yes, in general, always try to salvage good and helpful content, unless doing so costs more than it's worth - at which point a moderator may need to be involved.

This brings us back to the case at point. When actions seem a little strange, you can generally rest assured that the moderators are taking past history into consideration, even if that history is not immediately evident. This usually means handling things a little differently than usual, on a case by case basis.

If the situation were any less complicated, the question would simply have been edited into shape, received the answers that it did and settled into an uneventful existence. This was really an exceptional case.

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