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Another "miséricorde": Can you please review my ban?

Consider this comment (emphasis added):

I think its okay, please dont take any efforts for me. I personally do not feel the system helps ask good questions. I dont know why asking for a software in this case is bad. Basically I needed a command that would give me this data. There is no other way I could have asked the question. I could have changed the question just for the sake of changing. I feel I am better off elsewhere. Thanks for your very very prompt responses. Regards. Bye. – user1744649

We just lost another user due to inadequate guidance on what questions are allowed. The assumption that every post-banned user is aware of the rules and quality standards by the time they are banned has been proven incorrect.

Given that hand-holding every new user is infeasible, we need a better way to make sure that users can understand how to ask good questions and what types of questions are allowed.

I suggest that we warn newcomers, in a clear but positive tone, when one of their questions has been closed, downvoted (to a score of -2 or lower), or deleted, so that they don't repeat the same mistake. This is probably best done the next time the user asks a question, and should appear as an "interstitial" page prior to reaching the actual Ask Question form. The page should only appear to users with less than 50 (or perhaps 75 or 100) reputation, and should not appear if the user has asked a good question since the last downvoted/closed/deleted question, or if said question has been fixed and reopened/undeleted/upvoted. The content of the page should be adapted based on the specific problem with the previous question. I would imagine something similar to the following (example for a question closed as off topic on Super User):

Before you ask another question...

One or more of your previous questions have been closed as off topic. The scope of on-topic questions is defined in the FAQ, as follows:

What kind of questions can I ask here?

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users. If you have a question about …

  • computer hardware,
  • computer software, or
  • personal and home computer networking

and it is not about

  • programming and software development,
  • video games or consoles,
  • websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress,
  • electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer,
  • issues specific to corporate IT support and networks,
  • asking for a shopping or product recommendation,

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

Please make sure that the question you are about to ask is on topic as described above. If you need help determining whether your question can be asked on this site, you can ask for advice on Meta Super User or chat. You may also want to edit your previous question to address any problems associated with it.

To ensure a high standard of content quality and prevent disruption to the community, users who repeatedly post low-quality questions may be blocked from posting further questions.

Continue

The question EULA doesn't address this issue as it is shown only to users with 10 reputation or less (rather than up to 50 and possibly higher) and does not address the specific problem with previous low-quality questions. The point of this feature request is to provide a easily understood targeted message that actually teaches the user about what happened with the previous question he or she asked. The EULA is generic and may not have conveyed the intended message clearly if the user still asked a low-quality or off-topic question. For reference, this question-banned user currently has 143 reputation and the proposed message would probably have been shown after the first closed or deleted question.

I know this can be a complex feature to implement, since it needs to be adaptive, but this should help eliminate confusion on what the rules are and minimize the incidence of good-faith users getting post-banned.

share|improve this question
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Why would this be more effective than the page which is already shown to all new users, under which you must click I understand to continue? As a side note, I appreciate the efforts to help make new users better. It's just very difficult to do so beyond what we have already done; however, convince us your ideas are novel and not already covered, and I stand behind you. –  Emrakul May 5 '13 at 6:20
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How many of you read EULA and don't click I Agree. So is the case here. –  Anoop Vaidya May 5 '13 at 6:28
    
The question EULA isn't always shown. This test question (soon 10k only) went through without an EULA being shown. –  DragonLord the Fiery May 5 '13 at 6:31
    
@DragonLordtheFiery: I meant for every software installation. No one reads this as bypasses it by clicking I Agree. –  Anoop Vaidya May 5 '13 at 6:34
    
@DragonLordtheFiery: Did you try the same experiment on Stack Overflow? You can't post without an account on Stack Overflow. It would be worth considering the SO case where such a page is already shown (and we still get poor questions). In general I still like the idea, but just be aware that for SO, it's not like users haven't been told already. –  Jon Skeet May 5 '13 at 6:37
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@AnoopVaidya: I understand not often. I do read most EULAs if they're new or have recently changed (the check box accompanying them often say something like "I have read and agree to these terms" and checking the box without actually reading the EULA would constitute breach of contract [IANAL]). To address this issue, inserting a 15-second delay before the Continue button is enabled can encourage users to read the page. –  DragonLord the Fiery May 5 '13 at 6:38
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@DragonLordtheFiery: You read, that's impressive. Not All. Even I don't read. –  Anoop Vaidya May 5 '13 at 6:41
    
@DragonLordtheFiery: make that 15 minutes and it might be worth it. 15s isn't enough to read half the blurb you posted, let alone following any if the links, even assuming perfect English skills. Actually increasing the rate-limiting and showing that type of message when a user tries to post while rate-limited with "bad karma" might actually help a bit. –  Mat May 5 '13 at 6:44
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@Mat: 15 minutes? I'm going to close the tab and go to some forum if the registration takes that long. It doesn't worth it. –  nhahtdh May 5 '13 at 6:47
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It's important to note that this page is only to be displayed if the user is new but has previously had a question deleted, closed, or downvoted. –  DragonLord the Fiery May 5 '13 at 6:49
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@Mat: Obstacle may make people read it, but the number you gave (15 minutes), is not a practical number - people will mostly just close the tab. There is no compelling reason why they need to ask their question here, if it takes so much trouble to do so. 1 minute or less is somewhat acceptable, but quite irritating already. –  nhahtdh May 5 '13 at 7:11
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I'm not assuming that "every post-banned user is aware of the rules and quality standards." I simply don't care about post-banned users who can't or won't make themselves aware of--and make efforts to abide by--said standards. Stack Exchange isn't for everyone, and there are lots of other sites on the internet. –  Jack Maney May 5 '13 at 7:31
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You make quite some assumptions there. What is your proof of inadequate guidance? Given that this is your third question along similar lines, I know you're assuming the best for every user, but how about reality? Could it possibly be that the user did not look at the information provided to him? And how would presenting the user with the exact same information already shown to him before help? While I will never state that the system is perfect, at some point we'll have to admit that we can't help every user. The site is not for everyone. –  Bart May 5 '13 at 9:05
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If you want to try something radical, give them an easy, hand-selected review audit corresponding to their close reason, and 24 hour ban until they can pass it. –  djechlin May 5 '13 at 13:40
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@DragonLordtheFiery After all the information already given to the user? 4 closed questions lead to 4 explanations and links. And then the user goes on to ask whether or not to delete the questions, indicating that the ban message link was not read either, even though the user claims he has. I'd say you're not losing a user due to inadequate guidance, but due to the user not bothering to read and understand the ample information out there. I don't have high hopes for such users with the feature you suggest either. –  Bart May 5 '13 at 16:14

5 Answers 5

up vote 65 down vote accepted

Starting today, we are going to show a warning to folks who are about to post a question or an answer when they already have a track record of ... suboptimal questions:

question warning

or answers:

answer warning

The specific criteria for these aren't public largely for the same reasons the quality block criteria aren't public, but let's just say that folks who are nearing hitting a block will be getting a heads up and some instructions first.

share|improve this answer
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Awesome! Might I suggest making your past questions/your past answers a link to said posts? –  mhlester May 6 at 19:18
    
Presumably this will be on all sites where the question block is active? –  ChrisF May 6 at 19:18
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@ChrisF It will be on all sites regardless of whether blocks are enabled or not. –  Anna Lear May 6 at 19:19
    
@AnnaLear - Even better! –  ChrisF May 6 at 19:19
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@mhlester Not a bad idea, but I'd rather not draw attention away from the other links that actually provide some instruction. It's not that hard to get back to your profile and question/answer lists. –  Anna Lear May 6 at 19:20
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Good point. I agree with that decision –  mhlester May 6 at 19:25
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Yay, now can we get this for suggested edits? That would be AWESOME! –  ɥʇǝS May 6 at 19:33
    
This is great stuff. I have as little patience with the 'but people should just know' brigade as I have with the help vampires... –  Benjol May 7 at 5:23
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@ɥʇǝS We're still looking at doing something similar for suggested edits; that just wound up being trickier than we expected it to be, so we have to rethink our plan a bit. –  Laura May 7 at 17:01
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From my own observances there are two types of banned user.

  1. The overeager deleter who happens to hit the ban somewhere between 100 and 600 rep, for deleting too many questions.
  2. The person who simply hasn't bothered reading anything about what might be appropriate for the site they're on.

The user you're talking only has 143 reputation because they won a bounty. Reading slhck's answer they definitely fall into the second category:

Of the six questions you've asked until now

  • four have been closed
  • three are now deleted
  • none have received a single upvote

However plaintive or eloquent the meta post afterwards there is still one inescapable fact: the user doesn't care about the community enough to bother to read and understand anything. They have had the FAQ and about page linked prominently at the top of every single page they've visited. Before asking their first question they will have been instructed to read the FAQ. On each closed question they were instructed to read the FAQ.

This person simply doesn't care about the community which they are expecting answers from at all. Will forcing them to read the FAQ once more really help in this specific case?

I don't think this is a bad idea; I just think we're talking about about minorities of minorities of minorities who this might help. The chances are that the reason they're in danger of getting banned is that they don't understand what's happening.

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Added a rationale for the post ban in the message: "To ensure a high standard of content quality and prevent disruption to the community, users who repeatedly post low-quality questions may be blocked from posting further questions." –  DragonLord the Fiery May 5 '13 at 15:38
    
As I say I don't disagree with you @Dragon, just that I think you're over-estimating the number of people this will "save". I've advocated something like this before and think we should be attempting to save as many people as possible; IMHO, most, demonstrably, don't want to make the minimal amount of effort necessary to save themselves though. –  ben is uǝq backwards May 5 '13 at 17:22
    
The user in this case claimed to have read the post that explains question bans, but clearly didn't understand the part about deleted questions. If it's a language issue, I don't think additional messages will help. –  Ward May 5 '13 at 18:15
    
Both the OPs and my point is that it's too late by that point @Ward... if they're reading that post then they're already banned. –  ben is uǝq backwards May 5 '13 at 19:51

I'm not going to vote on your OP because I agree with you in principle, but not in practice.

While I would absolutely love to help new users improve the relevance of their questions and set them on a path towards good question-asking (and I know most others would want this too), I'm not sure it's reasonable to any extent beyond what we have already done.

Remember that these are users' questions - they're likely to be following them rather closely. They will already have seen the close reasons, and it it's being downvoted, it's very likely somebody has commented on the post. However, I think the problem you're trying to address is better addressed in a less circuitous way, and here's why:

For users' first few questions, they are redirected here instead of the normal ask page. While this page could probably be reworded, as it's a little obfuscating, the points there are clear.

Remember, whenever a user complains about a question close or ban, they are frustrated. When someone is upset at me, of course I have to evaluate whether or not my behavior is upsetting them, but I also must bear in mind that frustration is a feedback cycle. A frustrated and irate user is not going to be thinking clearly about what they need to improve, and will become more frustrated when we tell them they're doing it wrong.

That's why there are so many of those "relieve me from my ban" posts - most users who come here are too upset to learn anything about what they're doing wrong. Most people I know will refuse to admit they are wrong when they are upset. There are outliers, though, and I appreciate them when I seem them.

To address this particular post specifically, users who cause these problems are unlikely to read through this message in any significant detail. They've already been given plenty of reading material, which they have ignored. I'm not sure this would change much.

share|improve this answer
    
Then why did the question EULA not appear when I made this test post on Super User? –  DragonLord the Fiery May 5 '13 at 6:52
    
@DragonLordtheFiery: Your rep is too high. It is only shown to <= 10 rep users. (It is in the meta post you linked to). (Actually I don't know - did you create a new account to test?) –  nhahtdh May 5 '13 at 6:53
    
@DragonLord I'm not sure why that isn't enabled for posts on SuperUser. It could also be IP-based? This is more with regards to the general case, though. I suggest posting that on SU's meta - that should probably be shown there. –  Emrakul May 5 '13 at 6:54
    
@nhahtdh: I did this in a Private Browsing window in Firefox, so my session wasn't retained when I posted the test question (which is now 10K only). –  DragonLord the Fiery May 5 '13 at 6:54
    
@DragonLordtheFiery: I mean did you create a new account with separate email, or did you use the same email? The assoc bonus will boost you up to 100 rep, way over the threshold –  nhahtdh May 5 '13 at 6:55
    
@DragonLord Do it behind Tor and I would expect a different result. –  Emrakul May 5 '13 at 6:56
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I'm actually surprised the EULA is not shown; that is a bug. I've tested it before & the EULA is definitely shown. –  Sathya May 5 '13 at 6:58
    
Besides, the EULA is only a generic page which does not address the specific issue with the user's previous question. –  DragonLord the Fiery May 5 '13 at 6:59
    
@Dragon But if they do not listen to general advice, why would they listen to specific advice? –  Emrakul May 5 '13 at 7:00
    
Also, to echo what @KnightswhosayNi mention, you can shove in any number of warnings and messages, people will toss them all aside and just post it. You don't believe me, take a look at all the programming questions here on meta or the poorly formatted questions despite excessive "do this, do that" tips on the editor when a question's being asked. –  Sathya May 5 '13 at 7:02
    
@KnightswhosayNi: The EULA page does not directly address what questions are on topic, providing only a few links, and as before, is not specific to a particular problem. A single targeted message is much more likely to be understood than several tips. –  DragonLord the Fiery May 5 '13 at 7:02
    
@Dragon I must sleep. I will think about this more tomorrow, but I think an edit to the ask advice page may be helpful. –  Emrakul May 5 '13 at 7:03
    
In addition, the maximum rep for the proposed warning would be much higher, at least 50, rather than 10 for the EULA. –  DragonLord the Fiery May 5 '13 at 7:11

As I said in a comment, I don't think that adding another warning message will help much. Most of the posts I've seen where someone is asking/complaining about being banned include a claim that "I've read the FAQ and my question is fine (and/or) I've read the information on bans and none of it applies to me." And most of them, like the example linked in the OP, either didn't read the existing information or didn't understand it.

One thing that might be worth considering would be rewording the very first section of the answer to "What can I do when getting “Sorry, we are no longer accepting questions/answers from this account”?" That section is written with the topic sentence at the end, so maybe it would be clearer if that were put right at the top:

Why am I getting this message?

You are getting this message because you have posted too many poorly-received questions or answers.

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+1 As harsh as it is, being blunt and straight-to-the-point gets the message across when all else fails. Unfortunately, this does nothing to people who know they are abusing the site. But for them, they should be banned anyway. –  Mysticial May 5 '13 at 18:28
    
I agree that's clearer. @Mystical: Not every user who is post-banned is acting in bad faith, but those who are simply won't care about the messages. This feature request is not intended to address these pathological cases. It is meant to reduce the number of good-faith users getting post-banned. –  DragonLord the Fiery May 5 '13 at 18:37

We should stop throwing more text at users, especially until we do something akin to split testing or real data work to show text does anything. I don't think it does anything other than make us feel morally smug that we gave user on the ice more things to click through (but hey they brought this on themselves), then feel we've tried everything when they make the same mistakes, so therefore they are hopeless.

If you want to try to something more radical that stands a chance of being effective give them an easy, hand-picked review audit corresponding to their close reason. If they fail, 24 hour ban.

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I think I'm going to post this as a separate thread. Same problem, but different enough solution. –  djechlin May 5 '13 at 13:43
    
hand-picked --> How is this going to work? –  nhahtdh May 5 '13 at 13:50
    
@nhahtdh meta.stackexchange.com/questions/179106/… –  djechlin May 5 '13 at 14:35

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