So I see that this website is tolerant of people (which I choose to call "crackpots") which have links to their own dubious work in their profile. These people even have thousands of points of reputation, but the minute you check their profile, you're baited to go to "CrackpotLandia" (such as academia.edu).

Is this OK with you, having reputable physicists (like Cosmas Zachos and Valter Moretti or Urs Schreiber to name a few) alongside crackpots? On Physicsforums, they would be banned (or at least the links in their profiles) the next second after joining.

P.S. It doesn't mean that all content posted on personal accounts on academia.edu is junk, but some of it sadly is.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related: physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/5754/2451 $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic Mod
    Dec 14, 2017 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Qmechanic. Thanks, but not quite what I asked. $\endgroup$
    – DanielC
    Dec 14, 2017 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ That's what "related" implies, though I agree it's fairly tangential. $\endgroup$
    – tripleee
    Dec 14, 2017 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps you should read Be Nice before you start throwing unsubstantiated accusations around. $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2017 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ Presumably you mean academia.edu instead of academia.org? (Though in any case, academia.edu is not really what you'd call a predominantly-crackpot site, and it has a nontrivial userbase in serious academia. It does provide a platform for so-called "independent researchers" to pose as serious scientists and to whitewash the fact that none of their publications stand up to scrutiny, but that doesn't mean that all users of the platform fit that pattern.) $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2017 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty, I corrected and added a P.S. Thanks for that! $\endgroup$
    – DanielC
    Dec 14, 2017 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidPostill, yes, I know about that, but my presence here is not to be nice, when reading junk instead of physics, but be right. $\endgroup$
    – DanielC
    Dec 14, 2017 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ see the philosophically knotty problem of "demarcation" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarcation_problem + dangers of psychological labelling en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labelling and also social stigma en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_stigma & dont forget namecalling en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Name_calling another helpful concept the "graham hierarchy of disagreement" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… and policy physics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4538/… $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Dec 14, 2017 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn, to quote, "frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn". Sometimes stupid people diserve name-calling, labelling, for I am not really the kindest person... $\endgroup$
    – DanielC
    Dec 14, 2017 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ "Never argue with an idiot, onlookers wont be able to tell the difference." - Mark Twain; "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." - Oscar Wilde $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2017 at 20:16

3 Answers 3


Is this OK with you, having reputable physicists (like Cosmas Zachos and Valter Moretti or Urs Schreiber to name a few) alongside crackpots?

That's the wrong question. Let's suppose I'm not "OK" with that. What can we do? By SE policy (cf. e.g. this and this), you can pretty much link to anything you want in your profile as long as it's not egregious hate speech, porn, or something like that.

Generally, it is not the moderators' task to judge the competence of users or the correctness of answers. If you don't like people whose ideas about physics are utterly wrong having thousands of reputation and running around, then I suggest that you downvote non-mainstream content whenever you see it. Leave comments on their answers and questions pointing out why they's wrong for all the world to see - preferably without calling them crackpots, see also this old discussion about the word, and without engaging in lengthy pointless discussion afterwards.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes. But also make sure not to downvote answers from the same people that are not wrong or unsupported by established evidence. A stopped clock can still be right twice a day and furthermore many "crackpots" are not entirely stopped clocks, even if they're flakier than we'd like them to be. (They may "just know enough to be dangerous" - have enough knowledge that they could actually answer some questions legitimately, but for others, have wild speculation that is not a legitimate answer.) In other words, downvotes should be based entirely and solely on answer content and its veracity.(cnt'd) $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2018 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ (cont'd) Which also answers the original question - the reason that "crackpots" appear here is because the site judges content based on its merit. And the reputation score of an individual user is the sum-total of all merit and demerit obtained by their content, given primarily by votes thereon (upvotes for positive, down for negative, acceptance of answers for more positives, and answers worth more than questions). Which, I'd contend, is what really matters in the end - the content, since that's what's actually useful, what people come here for, and the reason the site exists. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2018 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ So your answer is right as to the solution - I just thought I'd add some extra points that I felt needed to be in there to clear it up more and highlight the underlying problem. Make sure the reputation score accurately reflects the content posted. So if there's a lot of crackpot content then flag it down, but don't let that go to prejudice where you flag everything down without checking its veracity (which is also a logical fallacy). That would also be making the score inaccurate but in the opposite way. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2018 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ @The_Sympathizer you're absolutely correct - downvoting content because of the author instead of the actual content is serial voting and will be reversed in cases where it is detected, and can even result in a suspension for the voter. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Jan 9, 2018 at 7:44

Users are allowed to put what they want in their user profiles, within reason.

Generally speaking, users are allowed to put whatever the heck they want in their user profile. This includes links, images, text... as long as they stick with two guidelines: It should be SFW, and has to be non-offensive to people.

This means: No naked pictures, but a picture of their kid is fine. No links to porn sites, but a link to a site that promotes non-mainstream science? Fine. The user profile reflects on the one who wrote it, not the site as a whole. What you put in your user profile reflects on you.

I'd advise checking out this Meta.SE post, which explains what is acceptable for user profiles, generally. To sum it up, I'll take the first two bullet points:

  1. Generally speaking, your "about me" is just that—what you want to share with the world, and we try to allow users a good bit of freedom there.

  2. However, in the rare cases where what's there is likely to be truly offensive to large groups of seemingly reasonable people, we may not allow it.

And this handy image guide:

So, you state:

These people even have thousands of points of reputation, but the minute you check their profile, you're baited to go to "CrackpotLandia" (such as academia.org).

That's perfectly fine. You don't choose to put that stuff in your profile; that's fine. But it's perfectly within the rules to put links to your work in your profile - there's even a special field for including a link to your site.

Also, may I point out that calling people 'crackpots' may be a violation of 'Be Nice'? I'd advise always sticking with this line from the chat FAQ (emphasis added):

We expect community members to treat each other with respect … even when they don't deserve it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, but who are you? I don't want to be harsh, I really don't, but this answer would only carry real weight when written by someone that has demonstrated that they understand the issues laid out in the question. The answer ultimately does default to the SE-wide party line you expound here, but there are nontrivial site-specific issues at play here. If you don't understand them, then how can you be sure that there isn't nontrivial background that needs to be factored into how the answer is phrased? $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2017 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty - Other than this seemingly affects a site you participate on, how is this different from skeptics.se, academia,se, workplace.se, etc etc? It's not a site specific thing, so the "party line" you casually dismiss as irrelevant is quite relevant. People can put what they want in their profile. It only diminishes you if you let it. $\endgroup$
    – JohnP
    Dec 14, 2017 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ This is basically the answer I would have written if I'd gotten here first. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Dec 14, 2017 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnP Indeed, there are other SE sites that are subject to similar pressures, but neither you nor this answer's writer appear to have sizable participation in those. This answer isn't wrong, but I would much rather that we solve this as a community instead of by dictate of people with no stake in the matter. I am genuinely curious, though - what is it about this thread that pulled in not one but two people with otherwise no involvement in this site to inveigh on site issues, without waiting to see if this didn't get resolved internally first? $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2017 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty That's a good question. The answer is that some folks with network-wide interests watch the "spam" tag. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Dec 14, 2017 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ And as for the claim that I dismiss the party line as irrelevant - I very much don't. But, as I said, a statement of the party line is much stronger when it is written by someone that has demonstrated that they understand the concerns at hand and goes on to explain how the party line still overcomes those. Or, put another way, I'd much rather @rob had written this. $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2017 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Emilio - I personally saw it because it was tagged [spam], and I follow all questions with that tag on meta sites all over the network. $\endgroup$
    – Mithical
    Dec 14, 2017 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithrandir That only answers half the question. That's how you saw it, yes. What is it about this thread that made you disregard the possibility that this might be resolved inside the community, and you just felt that you had to weigh in, without waiting the fifteen extra minutes it took for a response from within this community? $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2017 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty - You're a physicist (presumably). Extrapolate. Look for a common factor among the people weighing in. As for the why, while it's on a single site meta, it is a subject that has system wide implications. Just because you view it through a narrow lens, doesn't make it a narrow subject. $\endgroup$
    – JohnP
    Dec 14, 2017 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty It sounds like you know of a site-specific policy that overrides the network here, or of specific differences that change what the policy should be. Could you post those? Meta-process arguments are fun, but often aren't useful. $\endgroup$
    – Undo
    Dec 14, 2017 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Undo This. $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2017 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ That's still a process argument, @Emilio. Disregard the author for a moment - is there anything wrong with the text of this answer? $\endgroup$
    – Undo
    Dec 14, 2017 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ There's a very meta-question feeling to this comment discussion. The reason that we don't ban users who post links to non-mainstream physics in their profiles is that we don't care what our users do with their lives outside of SE. If I have some question about moments of inertia, and you answer it, your paper on viXra asserting that Mars is made of strange matter and the first sample return mission will destroy life on Earth doesn't matter. Likewise, it doesn't matter that Mithrandir's contributions to SE are mostly on other sites --- this is a good answer to the question at hand. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Dec 14, 2017 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Undo I don't understand your question. The byline is part of the text. This answer is displacing an equivalent community response and that does devalue the response. This thread informs adjacent ongoing and emerging site issues that the party line either doesn't touch or explicitly fails at (including, say, the access to the 3k queue of users with a disastrous track record of pushing pseudoscience) and therefore also forms part of that conversation as well. This answer barges in on that - though I'm sure Mithrandir was perfectly aware of that when they posted this? $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2017 at 16:05

I'm not going to bother going over the SE network policy on profiles again, since two answers already have.

Is this OK with you, having reputable physicists (like Cosmas Zachos and Valter Moretti or Urs Schreiber to name a few) alongside crackpots?

What's your criteria for judging this?

It's entirely possible someone believes in some non-stream ideas; but are also perfectly capable of mainstream physics on other topics. If answers are good, who cares what the person has linked in their profile?

This is a question and answer site. We should care about questions and answers; not personal ideologies. If personal beliefs make the answers incorrect or questions off topic, then address those problems with your voting. That should be the primary feedback mechanism here; not over-policing the personal aspects of the site.

Also, I don't really get how you're "baited" to their personal sites. You make the choice to check their profile and then click a second link when there. No one is really forcing you to look at their links; it's your own curiosity.

  • $\begingroup$ I see where you're coming from but I don't agree. Pseudoscience should not be promoted and if this community accepts the at-a-click-distance pseudoscience, then let me express my strong disagreement. Thank you all for your input, I decide to remain on this website at the risk of being suggested to read crap, if, out of curiosity or out of a mere desire to know to whom I should thank for teaching me something, I open some user's profile. Frankly, I would rather find photos of naked women. :) $\endgroup$
    – DanielC
    Dec 14, 2017 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielC I disagree that this site is even promoting it. Individual users are promoting it in their personal space. Just because the site and network allows a bit more freedom in that area, it's not the same as actually promoting what is said by anyone. Some profiles just say odd things in general; but it's all irrelevant to the actual stack exchange process. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Dec 15, 2017 at 0:24

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