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We all are aware of the many questions we get on automatic post-bans. Often we simply close them as a dupe of "What can I do when..." because the OP simply did not read it. On rare occasions however, the OP did.

Take for example this case (though I've seen similar cases before) where the OP is asked if he read the specific FAQ. His answer is:

"Yes I read that:

The only way for the ban to be lifted is for you to convince the community that they should give you another chance

So here I am"

Of course, the FAQ goes on to state what to do. But I can see how this sentence is somewhat misleading. After all, you don't have to come to us and try to convince us to unban you. You can argue until you're blue in the face, but that's not the point of that sentence. I can however see how one could make that mistake.

So, should we perhaps make a modification to that sentence which clarifies this? Something along the lines of

The only way for the ban to be lifted is for you to positively contribute to the site in ways still possible to you, gaining reputation in the process

or something similar. I think this is a more fair representation of the actual situation. That this implies convincing the community is fair enough, but it avoids the "here I am to state my case" scenario.

Examples:

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Maybe ditch the part about reputation, as it may also mislead people into thinking having enough reputation will get the ban lifted (even though that is never implied in your suggestion). –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 6 '12 at 16:14
    
@BoltClock'saUnicorn Yeah, I was thinking about that. But should there not be something to indicate that we need to see a positive change (in upvotes/reputation)? After all, that is what (I can only assume) influences the post-ban. –  Bart Oct 6 '12 at 16:17
    
It kinda-sorta does, yeah. Just a thought. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 6 '12 at 16:18
    
@BoltClock'saUnicorn Any alternative phrasings (from you or others) would be welcome though. –  Bart Oct 6 '12 at 16:19
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Well, seeing how well-received this was, I just might try it again ;) –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 6 '12 at 16:24
    
Also, though it was added by the community coordinator (revision 9): is it really true to "Before you do anything else, fix your existing posts!"? Is that really more important than the other way, that is: start answering questions instead? (For a question ban, that is.) –  Arjan Oct 6 '12 at 17:51
    
@Arjan Not sure if it's "more important". But I don't think it's a bad idea to tell them to fix what got them into trouble to begin with. –  Bart Oct 6 '12 at 17:52
    
"may also mislead people into thinking having enough reputation will get the ban lifted" -- but that is the case, isn't it, @BoltClock? –  Arjan Oct 6 '12 at 17:53
    
If the edits would improve things, sure. But I've seen many edits that are hardly improving anything, and after that folks state "I've done everything, now what?" –  Arjan Oct 6 '12 at 17:54
    
@Arjan: As far as I've seen, it doesn't appear to be the case (getting good rep through answers alone won't save you from asking poor questions). I can't confirm anything, though. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 6 '12 at 17:55
    
@Arjan Yeah, I know. Though the faq does go on to state other things to do. With the vague "definition" of what exactly gets you banned its pretty difficult to clearly describe what to do anyway. :s –  Bart Oct 6 '12 at 17:57
    
Just a note: Even if this wasn't a highly visible faq, you still couldn't do the edit yourself as the answer is locked (for good reason). –  Yannis Oct 8 '12 at 8:26
    
@YannisRizos d'oh, of course. –  Bart Oct 8 '12 at 9:22
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I made the requested verbiage change. –  Robert Harvey Dec 10 '12 at 19:36
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@Asad: Done.... –  Robert Harvey Dec 10 '12 at 22:55

2 Answers 2

up vote 25 down vote accepted

I find our post ban workflow quite ineffective, for a variety of reasons:

  1. The damn shortened URL

    Replacing the shortened URL with a real link has been proposed before, and declined. Waffles asks:

    Should we invest any time in giving suspended users a smoother user experience?

    And I say no, absolutely not. But you certainly need to invest time in giving users that aren't suspended a smoother user experience, and not have us deal (mostly clean up) with "unban me pleaz" questions on MSO every day (including code questions posted on MSO to circumvent the ban).

    URL shorteners are poor form, and the message itself can be easily1 confused for a system error message. Let's fix that first, make it crystal clear that the ban is not an "error", but something you brought upon yourself.

  2. The answer shouldn't be hosted on Meta

    The ban is automatic, and there's nothing the SO community can do about it. Host the answer under stackexchange.com, give it an air of officiality, after all it's not enforced and can't be reversed by the community, it doesn't really have a place here. Add a form to it, so people can easily1 contact Stack Exchange directly if they want to contest the ban.

    I wonder how many banned users first found out about Meta through that answer, and later thought: "Oh, I'll just post all my coding questions here from now on...".

  3. The answer itself should be simplified

    It's a stellar answer, beautifully written by Arjan and amended by the community, but it's a relatively long answer targeted at people who probably failed to read / comprehend or completely ignored shorter / more important documents, like the FAQ and the How to Ask guidelines. Case in point that it might be a bit inaccessible for users that aren't native english speakers is this question.

    The style adopted in the AskPatents about page would be far more efficient1, imho.

As you may have guessed already, I don't have much hope that we will come up with better wording for that phrase. We might, but I'm afraid the new phrase will confuse someone else, and we will be back where we started.

And before anyone mentions it, I'm fully aware that sometimes our post ban workflow works wonderfully, but I'm afraid that's more of an exception than the rule.

1 Considering the target audience of the message.

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I agree with the first two points, but disagree with the third. Do we really want someone back who is not able to read and understand that awesome answer? I'm all for removing that shortened link (obviously) and hosting it directly on SE is a very good idea...but "making it easier to understand" should not happen in this case. That question/answer is there to tell those people who recognize that they've done something bad and screwed up and show them the way back, it should not be a step-by-step tutorial for the "ohmygods, why you me banned!" crowd. –  Time Traveling Bobby Oct 8 '12 at 9:13
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@yannis As much as I agree with what you say, perhaps this is not the most effective place to say it. What you have so nicely written up sounds like it should be more of a feature-request/discussion on its own. I'm not sure the content does itself justice as an answer. In any case, I still think it's not bad to update the current article. It's not perfect, but it's what we have. And all you suggest is excellent and some suggestions are desirable, but (I think) not going to happen really soon. +1 Though, because I largely agree. –  Bart Oct 8 '12 at 9:16
    
@UnicornifiedBobby It would be a shame for that answer to go to waste, but I'm hoping that for at least some of the people banned, the main reason was the language barrier. There are a few success stories out there, people who came back from the ban and contributed valuable (or at least bearable) posts. There was this one guy that managed to get himself banned twice on ProgSE, and at least once on SO, and it was clear that language was a big part of the problem. Right now, he's doing just fine in a few SE sites... –  Yannis Oct 8 '12 at 9:22
    
@Bart It does read a bit like a long comment, and I did debate for a few minutes whether I should post it here or not. My last point, that changing the phrase won't really do any good, is what I think makes the answer (barely) on topic. In any case, you tagged this [discussion], big mistake ;P –  Yannis Oct 8 '12 at 9:24
    
Haha, fair enough. But do consider making a (perhaps modified) version of this a feature request at some point though. I'd support it. Feel free to leave it here as well. –  Bart Oct 8 '12 at 9:25
    
@Bart Related: How many people are asking SO questions on Meta because they're question-blocked? - Unfortunately I don't think we'll get hard data on this one, check my comment on the question. –  Yannis Oct 9 '12 at 0:12
    
I don't like the short URL much either. As to your other two concerns, I address one of them here and for the other... There are many excellent resources for folks motivated to learn how to ask good questions, several of them linked to on the Ask Question page. By the time you get question banned, you've ignored all of them, repeatedly. If you still can't be bothered to read and learn, perhaps its best you don't get any further help. –  Shog9 Jan 1 '13 at 1:56

That answer is pretty good, but I'm not quite sure it covers all bases. Particularly if you read the section on "How long do I have to wait before I can post again?", which seems to imply that simply fixing your posts will by itself reverse your ban. It won't, unless people get interested in your stale old negative score post again, and what are the odds of that happening?

I agree that an extra sentence that highlights the importance of gaining reputation and contributing in the ways still available to you would not be misplaced. It is never going to solve the problem entirely though. An angry person can't be angry at a computer screen, so you'll still have people coming here to vent.

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