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I recently noticed a joke post; a user intentionally asked and answered a question that was a very subtle mockery of research-level physics papers and had no application as an actual question on this site. I've got a sense of humour, it was pretty funny, so I thought "we can let this slide. Close the question, but enjoy the joke while it's here" But I checked out his account anyway. It seems this user (not going to name names for privacy's sake, and [redacted] other reasons) has maybe 1 or 2 out of about 40 posts that are remotely serious. All of his posts are "jokes" aimed at intentionally misleading, asking nonsensical questions, or generally mocking physics in some way. If reading one of his answers, it is important to keep in mind the entire time that it is a joke. Some answers can seem very sane an reasonable because of his ability to use jargon. The important thing is that upon closer inspection, many of them say nothing or say the wrong thing seemingly intentionally. Granted, some of them are pretty funny, but the fact remains that it's damaging to have someone running around giving false facts or generally making us look bad/disreputable.

Thus, I'd love to have the discussion about at what point we decide something should be done and what to do in the case that they are way out of line.

To start it off, obviously we're all a big fan of something that's funny. So I assume it goes without saying that if you want to throw some jokes into a question or answer, feel free. I just think there should still be some serious content. Sometimes, an answer can be entirely silly and still be acceptable, an example being https://physics.stackexchange.com/a/70851/23473 where the top answer is entirely silly. But I think it becomes unaccpetable when, instead of a one-time thing, a user is constantly posting questions/answers that do more harm than good.

As for what to do when one is found, to that I have no answer. What would you say would be the appropriate action for an intentionally disruptive user?

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    $\begingroup$ It would be helpful if you could provide links to some of the problematic questions. $\endgroup$ – EnergyNumbers Aug 13 '13 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ I'm surprised you missed this answer to the same question. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Aug 13 '13 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ physics.stackexchange.com/a/38998/23473 and physics.stackexchange.com/q/70386/23473 and physics.stackexchange.com/q/72659/23473 are a few examples. They look at first glance like completely harmless posts, but I feel these are a few examples that could mislead and/or misinform $\endgroup$ – Jim Aug 13 '13 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty I did see it, liked it too. Point was top answer is silly and that's an example of when it's OK $\endgroup$ – Jim Aug 13 '13 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ "How to weigh your own head" was hilarious. But what makes you think that [redacted]'s posts are jokes? Seems to me more like [redacted] is dead serious but has been struggling and failing to formulate, filter, and express ideas. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Aug 13 '13 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @BenCrowell [redacted]'s does have a sense of humour, But at heart serious and interested. I don't know if he has any clue that this discussion is happening. If you would express what you feel directly to him, I think it would be sufficient. Saying that, I find most his questions to be unreadable, and that is perhaps not intentional. $\endgroup$ – Prathyush Aug 14 '13 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Qmechanic you are aware of Barbara Streisand and her story, right? $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jun 7 '16 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Emilio Pisanty: Yes. $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Jun 7 '16 at 19:49
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Wrong answers and bad questions are supposed to be dealt with using downvotes. Antisocial behavior is AFAIK supposed to be dealt with by moderators using measures like warnings and suspensions. These measures aren't always effective, but from what I've seen, the cases where they don't work commonly seem to involve people who are persistent posters but don't seem able to recognize the limits of their own expertise. I haven't seen much evidence that the system's failures include a lot of people who are trolls or merry pranksters.

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    $\begingroup$ Definitely true, though I would add that the first line of defense against antisocial behavior should be comments from the community (including moderators). In cases of extreme or persistent rudeness, then sure, we'll issue warnings and suspensions as needed, but other cases a friendly comment like "Hi [user], it would probably be better if you [X] instead of [Y]" is often enough. $\endgroup$ – David Z Aug 14 '13 at 21:01
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All of his posts are "jokes" aimed at intentionally misleading, asking nonsensical questions, or generally mocking physics in some way. [...] The important thing is that upon closer inspection, many of them say nothing or say the wrong thing seemingly intentionally.

This is precisely what downvotes are to be used for. Note that the criterion for downvoting an answer is "This answer is not useful." It's not only based on correctness. So if an answer (or question) is obscured by jargon, that alone could be sufficient cause to downvote it even if it's technically correct.

If an account has a large proportion of highly downvoted questions or answers, that can lead to moderator action.

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    $\begingroup$ I strongly disagree with downvoting correct answers generally and always counterupvote when I am getting aware of such a thing. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 14 '13 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ Note that I'm talking about downvoting answers that are so obscured it's almost impossible to tell that they are correct. But in any case, how you vote is your business. Except for counterupvoting - that is very much frowned upon. $\endgroup$ – David Z Aug 14 '13 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton That is severely harmful behaviour, and you're basically giving up your own opinion by thinking "aww, that poor chap doesn't deserve the downvote, and even though this post doesn't deserve an upvote, I'll do so just to make the score non-negative". If you saw such a post before the downvote, what would you have done then? Will you spend half a day on such a post to see if it gets a downvote that you consider worth countering? THIS behaviour is one of the reasons for the state of this site that your profile description complains about! $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kienzler Aug 15 '13 at 6:35
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    $\begingroup$ @TobiasKienzler about the particular issue in the question I have no strong opinion, I just thought this is a mathematician overdoing it a bit with the formalism and moved on. Concerning downvoting correct answers, there are people who persue in my opinion really off putting downvote strategies, others downvote correct answers because in their opinion they are too technical for the OP, which is some kind of patronizing the OP etc ... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 15 '13 at 11:28
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    $\begingroup$ @TobiasKienzler It is this kind of downvoting correct answers I personally dont approve and I liked Manishearth and Shog9 saying that even in a simple way formulate questions can legitimately have more technical answers too, which are of potential interest to other readers than the OP. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 15 '13 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton The strategy you link to is severely flawed - there should be no strategy involved in voting at all. One is supposed to upvote posts that one considers helpful for oneself and downvote those not helpful. So when you upvote a downvoted question, you may call it countering, but in fact you are indicating that post is helpful in your opinion. What I am saying is, your vote should be history-independent - just as the second throw of a coin doesn't suddenly have a different probability of outcome. $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kienzler Aug 15 '13 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ How helpful a post is to you does not depend on someone else's mere opinion expressed in a vote - a valid comment pointing out non-obvious flaws (or brilliancy) may however do so. Well, at least that's how I handle it: I vote up when I consider an answer helpful, I vote down if it's passively harmful (actively harmful is flagged) and in other cases I simply don't vote at all... While I agree that downvoting a correct answer (matching the question, not the level of its asker) is absolutely stupid, I disagree in countering other's votes for the sake of "righting their wrong" $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kienzler Aug 15 '13 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ @TobiasKienzler: Many people downfvote because they can't understand the answer, they don't bother to read it, etc. If it's obviious, I see no problem with counter - upvoting . $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Aug 17 '13 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Dimension10 Maybe "they" spotted a flaw - though if it is not so obvious, as in your example, they should point it out by a comment. Anyway, you should not let others' votes let influence your vote. Not even me by suggesting you shouldn't countervote - that's up to you, but to me that means you're giving up your own opinion $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kienzler Aug 17 '13 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ @TobiasKienzler: If it's really obvious? Like it's the same as that in a very reputable source ? . ' $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Aug 17 '13 at 10:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: I don't downvote over-technical answers, but I do find it ridiculous when people come on and invoke QFT in order to answer someone's colliding billiard ball question. Answers like that might be "correct" but they will almost always obscure more than they reveal. $\endgroup$ – Jerry Schirmer Aug 24 '13 at 20:55
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In this case, I think you did the right thing by posting here.

The user [redacted] has either been trolling the site, or has written a lot of posts that are unintentionally very low quality (as someone mentioned elsewhere - any sufficiently advanced ignorance is indistinuishable from trolling); either way, it's time for that to stop.

Having drawn it to the attention of general posters like me, I hope that the bad questions and answers will continue to receive downvotes - and that's down to people reading this, to review the user [redacted]'s Q & A, and upvote or downvote (not in batches, as serial voting will get reversed automatically) as appropriate.

And I trust that the moderators will take appropriate action against the user.

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    $\begingroup$ Really? What's so bad about [redacted]? $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Aug 20 '13 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ To me, it rather seems like [redacted] is getting serial downvoted at present, so maybe these serial downvoter(s) need some moderator attention too? BTW you yourself should probably be careful too, since I am not sure if calling on people for mass downvoting another user of the site, what you are in fact doing by this answer (-1!), is allowed ...! In fact, what you are doing here goes near mobbing another user, not cool and as a moderator of another site you should know better :-/! $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 20 '13 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ I have just looked at the accused user's post and comments. To me, it seems he is just trying to learn as most people here, gratefully accepts hints and help in doing so, is thankful for getting misconceptions corrected, etc. So in my opinion there is really no need to lance a which hunt against this user. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 20 '13 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Dimension10 You did read the question, right? $\endgroup$ – EnergyNumbers Aug 20 '13 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton thanks for the threats, but really, if you don't understand what this user is doing wrong, please feel free to refrain from commenting. $\endgroup$ – EnergyNumbers Aug 20 '13 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ @EnergyNumbers: Yes, I did. And his posts too. They're perfectly fine, except for the scary notation. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Aug 21 '13 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ @EnergyNumbers: Threats?! I didn't see "kill", or any such a word. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Aug 21 '13 at 2:00
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    $\begingroup$ In general, it's a bad idea to call someone out as "trolling" on meta as that involves guessing their intentions (You haven't exactly done that though since there's an "either/or"). I don't really agree that we should meta-vendetta the guy (or that it needs mod attention -- I had a look but didn't see anything actionable), but the basic advice such situations is to downvote away. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Aug 21 '13 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton He's not calling on people to mass downvote. He's saying that community members should have a look and downvote/upvote if necessary. The serial voting comment was just to prevent people from going and downvoting all his posts. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Aug 21 '13 at 12:08

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