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I've participated in many Q&A boards for years. Have asked and answered many questions.

I just got "we are no longer accepting answers from this account", and I'm confused, because I try to be a conscientious participant.

I could go back and review my prior posts, but like most people, i'm a little busy, and prefer to focus my energies on new stuff, not old stuff. I could dig into the meta forum to read more discussions on this issue. Sorry, I mean "Questions and Answers"-- apparently "discussion" is not allowed here (a policy which seems appropriate to the Q&A boards, but a bit severe for the meta).

So, I think I'm a valuable member of the community, but your algorithm (or moderators) don't think so.

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Actually, discussions are just fine on meta - that's why we have discussion as one of the required tags at all. There is some Q&A spirit on our meta sites, of course, but it isn't exactly enforced like it is on our main sites. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jul 21 '12 at 17:00
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Uh, going over your undeleted answers, only one of those is actually an answer. 1 actual answer for 9 posted answers is...not good. I agree maybe you should have gotten a warning earlier, but I think it's pretty clear why we do this. All of those non-answers are more work for moderators and more noise for those looking for answers. –  Ben Brocka Jul 21 '12 at 17:24
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@MarkTrapp this is the answer ban actually. Which is probably about as old but I don't know, it comes up a lot less –  Ben Brocka Jul 21 '12 at 17:38
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We really, really, really, really need to start warning users about this better. There are far too many meta posts about this. –  Adam Rackis Jul 21 '12 at 18:02
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@Adam Rackis: Agreed. I feel like the error message is becoming more and more of a slap in the face. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jul 21 '12 at 18:05

2 Answers 2

It looks like a good portion of your answers (more than half!) were deleted by moderators because they weren't really "answers" by the definition of the word. They were replies, or comments, that didn't seek to answer the question at hand but to seek clarification on matters that were possibly relevant. That is the most likely reason for your answer ban.

From the FAQ:

Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. This includes answers that are …

  • commentary on the question or other answers
  • asking another, different question
  • “thanks!” or “me too!” responses
  • exact duplicates of other answers
  • barely more than a link to an external site
  • not even a partial answer to the actual question

If you wish to improve an existing answer, click edit. For additional guidance, see How to Answer.

To be fair, a number of them were from a few months to more than a year ago. However there isn't a whole lot you can do at this point, save from participating in other ways to make your presence known and, hopefully, receive votes on your other actual answers that would possibly restore question-answering privileges to your account. Nobody knows the exact numbers required, and I wasn't yet a moderator myself for much of the time your account was around, so I can't comment on this myself.

For more information about the automatic ban, see What can I do when getting "We are no longer accepting questions/answers from this account"?.

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it would help if the system would show me in my profile, or when i receive the banned message, exactly which of my questions or answers are the source of the problem. How can I participate if the system will not allow me to ask or answer? –  user153505 Jul 21 '12 at 16:49
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The fact that something like this already triggers the ban is a bit worrying, seeing as this clearly is a productive user. –  Pëkka Jul 21 '12 at 16:50
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I don't think a moderator should build a list of the posts that are a problem. Partly because it would give folks an idea of what the rules really are (and those are guarded for a reason), and partly because it would allow you to do the absolute minimum amount of work to escape the ban. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 21 '12 at 16:51
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FWIW, the answer-ban is very conservative. If you encounter someone answer-banned who you don't think should be, up-vote something they wrote - it doesn't take many to get past it. –  Shog9 Jul 21 '12 at 16:57
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Are we looking at the same user, @Pekka? I see 15 activities in 32 months. But given those numbers and BoltClock's "more than half ... were deleted" , I guess about 5 or 6 answers were deleted, that's indeed not a whole lot in absolute figures. –  Arjan Jul 21 '12 at 17:00
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i think it's bizarre for a website to have secret rules. If people find ways "around" them, then there should be better methods for dealing with that-- not secrecy. Why would people want to go "around" a ban, unless they want to participate intelligently in an intelligent community with relevant posts. In which case, why are they banned? Do you mean spammers? Seems other Q&A sites and forums somehow manage to eliminate all or most spam without banning good members or secret rules. Maybe SO could use similar methods. A risk w/ secret rules: mods can ban people they simply dislike w/ no explanat –  user153505 Jul 21 '12 at 17:14
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@user153505 "Security through obscurity" is a common tactic for dealing with potentially weak or fragile systems. Consider it a security smell for substandard controls. –  CodeGnome Jul 21 '12 at 17:20
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@user153505 uh, we don't really have secret rules. Stuff like the fact the answer ban exists is published freely, but not posted in the FAQ/etc because a vanishingly small % of users ever have to deal with it (usually ones that are...problematic). And this is hardly "security through obscurity". If you had DDoS protections with a set timeout do you really think you need to publish publicly exactly how many attempts per IP per second are allowed? –  Ben Brocka Jul 21 '12 at 17:23
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@user153505 - at least for the question ban some users really would try and get around them and not care that they're asking terrible "do my job for me" questions. –  Flexo Jul 21 '12 at 17:24
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You didn't post spam - you posted things like "does anyone know of any links to X?" "how do I X?" and random thoughts... you say you've been participating in Q&A sites for many years, surely you know those aren't answers by the definition of the word? –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jul 21 '12 at 17:32
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Here's an example, with a comment left by a community member prior to its deletion. stackoverflow.com/questions/2616985/… Indeed SO is for tech questions, but many of the questions you posted were in the wrong place (i.e. the answer field, not the question field). That is why you have an answer ban as opposed to a question ban. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jul 21 '12 at 17:35
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How can i see my own deleted posts, so i can better understand the problem? Bolt did not show me any example of "random thoughts". Bolt showed me a request for clarification of the OP, which should have gone into the comment section, not the answer field. Not deserving of a ban. Deserving of a nice, friendly email: "Dear Valued Member, you posted a comment in the answer field, here's the link, please correct it, repeatedly doing so could get you banned. Thanks for being a member." Not finding out by surprise that I've been banned, with no explanation, and no way to find the offending posts. –  user153505 Jul 21 '12 at 18:02
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Where do you see this discussion going, johny? You're repeating your points. –  Michael Petrotta Jul 21 '12 at 18:05
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@user153505 - If you want to see your own deleted posts, perhaps you should pose a separate, constructive, feature-request. Other than that, I think it should now be clear to you that you posted questions in an answer field, which is just not how Stack Exchange works. In short, you don't need to see your other deleted answers to really understand what you need to do to fix this. As others have told you, make some edits to your existing posts to improve them. Make suggested edits to other posts to regain rep. Perform activities on the site that are positive, and the ban should be removed. –  jmort253 Jul 21 '12 at 18:27
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ok, will do. Thanks to everyone for the comments and the votes! Will do my best to be a good member. –  user153505 Jul 21 '12 at 18:30

To answer the question in your title: yes, it's possible.

But in order for that to happen, you have to get off to a really bad start. There are two forms of quality bans on SO:

  • Question bans have a fairly complicated set of rules, all unpublished. You have to really dig to get yourself into a question-ban, but it exists because there are a lot of folks who show up on SO who are better at digging than they are at asking questions. Its very existence is pretty much a direct response to the proliferation of a certain sort of person who will literally work through an entire project by pasting code into a question, asking why it doesn't work, and then taking the answer and repeating the process.

  • Answer bans have a very simple set of rules (still unpublished though), and if you show up and are able to post one answer that actually solves the asker's problem there's a pretty good chance you'll never hit it. It exists as a direct response to folks who come from traditional forums and use answers to ask follow-up questions, ask for clarification, or pretty much anything other than answering the question they're responding to. Most folks figure this out after their first or second non-answer is deleted, but there's always a chance that someone with knowledge to share will, instead of looking for a question where they can share it, instead spend their time posting non-answers until the system locks them out. It's not very likely, but it is possible.

FWIW: these were implemented after it became apparent that the moderators on Stack Overflow would never be able to handle the load. It is still possible for moderator - or anyone else - to leave a comment explaining the problem with an answer, and moderators additionally can send private "moderator messages" that go into more detail. But only when they're made aware of the problem and have time to do so.

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ok, thanks for that. –  user153505 Jul 21 '12 at 18:31

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