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This user appears to have been question banned because of two unpopular Meta suggestions. (He says so in Chat)

Look at the two contributions that appear to have gotten him banned. Like those of many others, they may not be of perfect quality, but they are not actively harmful to the site, either. As it stands, you can get question blocked on Meta simply for asking questions that aren't popular with the Meta crowd.

Why does the team insist on keeping the question ban active on Meta?

Why can't real problem users be dealt with through manual moderator action? Don't tell me it's a problem of scale; as far as I can see, actually toxic users are very rare on Meta.

People will frequently complain that Meta actively discourages the expression of unpopular viewpoints and suggestions. With the threat of question bans in place, I find those complaints difficult to refute. I hate that.

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Actually, not just 2 questions, but probably it is because of his 2 recent suggestions that it hits the threshold. 5 of 16 of his questions are heavily downvoted (one -7, the other below -10). meta.stackoverflow.com/users/183189/… –  nhahtdh May 5 '13 at 11:10
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@nhahtdh But then I thought downvotes on discussions/feature requests express pure disagreement. If so: the "reason" I'm banned is completely unjust. If not: people should stop downvoting discussions. –  MDeSchaepmeester May 5 '13 at 11:11
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Another user that (used to? said he was in comments on Apr. 29th) be Q-banned here: meta.stackexchange.com/a/172312/158667 –  Mat May 5 '13 at 11:12
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@Bart: I know one of his questions got downvoted into oblivion, but it wasn't a rant or particularly "disruptive". Just a really strange proposal. Not sure if there's other stuff in that user's past, but if there's only that that doesn't seem right. –  Mat May 5 '13 at 11:19
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In an ideal world, a planet far removed from meta, there would be an option to appreciate a suggestion but have a way to cast a "let's not do that" vote. This separate voting mechanism does in fact exist, it just isn't visible enough. It would also avoid the repetitive "voting is different here" comments, the astonishment suffered by first-time meta visitors and some likelihood for more accurate representation of dis/agreement. –  Uphill Luge May 5 '13 at 12:41
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for the record, it was already discussed here. –  Shadow Wizard May 5 '13 at 13:23
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For the record, the user is not banned because of those two questions... –  Sklivvz May 5 '13 at 13:36
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@MarioDeSchaepmeester: No, disagreement can be a factor. Downvotes do not equal disagreement. (Sorry, I just hate when people throw out the "it means disagreement" thing.) Relevant information: [1] [2] and maybe [3] –  animuson May 5 '13 at 15:23
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I would like to add that I've also never received a warning about the imminence of my question ban. Just boom, there it was and it left me completely stumped. If you're going to do something as relatively serious and radical as this, at least you could warn me that it could happen if I don't make better posts. –  MDeSchaepmeester May 5 '13 at 15:57
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@DragonLordtheFiery Curious though. Where do you get your "this really should not have happened" from? Are you aware of the particular history of that case? Or do you simply mean that Meta bans should not happen? –  Bart May 7 '13 at 14:56
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So I'm a troll, @RobertHarvey? Look at stuff I've posted, do you REALLY think I'm a troll? And I am definitely question-banned. –  Johnny Bones Aug 19 '13 at 16:15
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@JohnnyBones: My overriding impression is that you spend much of your time here on meta complaining, especially about other users hijacking your answers (whatever that means). That kind of complaining doesn't go over well here. –  Robert Harvey Aug 19 '13 at 16:17
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@Johnny ... and enjoy downvoting to assert their power. I fail to see how "power" plays into this - the way I see it, people will simply downvote what they don't like. It's part of how the place works. But clearly, people shouldn't be shut out because of that –  Pëkka Aug 19 '13 at 16:49
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@ColeJohnson - I felt like I was being 'power pummeled' with my very first question and then my first answer (here below). That is until you specifically asked everyone in this thread, "seriously, why are people down voting this?" I noted your Rep was well above my then paltry 6 or 8 and felt like there was hope. However, I still wonder if the very nature of binary up or down voting inherently steers people towards polarization. It'd be different if up/down really meant (on Meta) " I approve/disapprove " of the suggestion instead of it feeling (to us noobs) like you and your idea is 1/0! –  Howard Pautz Aug 23 '13 at 16:16
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"Why does the team insist on keeping the question ban active on Meta?" Because even though they like to say that votes on Meta are different, they really aren't. They are exactly the same in every way that matters. –  John Dibling Aug 23 '13 at 16:29

7 Answers 7

[EDIT - see modifications (@ post end) based on Bart bringing this to our attention again.]

Today, having watched my first question (a feature request) here on Meta drop to -6 with no bottom in sight, I immediately got discouraged. Then a kind comment mentioned that downvotes meant mere disagreement about using or implementing the suggestions.

And then I found this thread.

Scary.

As a noob, having read many of these related posts, I'd say there is a large elephant in the room with 'double standard' painted on its side. (If you want to shoot a newly arrived messenger and ban me for "whining" or "complaining," or down vote me to heck, so be it.)

You got problems here. Problems that need human, not robotic, intervention, with human compassion, not bull-headed, superficial statistical analysis driving a robot. (Gads MDeSchaepmeester had TWO -12 voted questions and he was tossed? I read them - they were not dangerous or mean-spirited, not even annoying. In fact, what happened to him makes me want to Self-Ban.)

How can people be banned for "bad" (*) ideas on a site that is intended for meta-level discussions? Moreover, unless the FAQ is hypocritical and Meta is not really "run by the community," how can robotic blacklisting be tolerated? Worse, the posts I've read indicate the one banned has no recourse or appeal - other than making comments as here.

(*) "Bad" is a fuzzy logic concept, "Up or Down" votes are only binary. Therefore the existing voting methodology cannot possibly encompass meta-level questions, which by their nature must be more sophisticated than fuzzy logic.

Commentators should be can be constructively critical [if they want] and say WHY an idea is bad --- which is what happened in my case (the idea would be too heavy data-wise, it could be done better in other ways, etc.) [EDIT: searches show the sub-topic of requiring comment on down vote has been discussed to near beat-the-horse-dead status]

[EDIT 23AUG13 - side discussions lead me to withdraw the sub-suggestions of a down vote requiring a comment. Ditto a sliding vote scale (which I might suggest in the future): ]

I'd say, ***only here on META***, unless you are a moderator, or posting-god/-goddess you should not be allowed to down vote without a small comment as to why. OR the up / down voting should be changed to a sliding scale of 1 to 10 ... seriously, how can a Meta discussion be pidgin-holed into yes-no tallies?

As others here have voiced, banning should only be done by real people - and more than one ... perhaps at least three, high-level moderators - and only with due cause. And there needs to be an appeal mechanism. Otherwise "by the community" is mere double speak.

[ Edit after a day of comments below] Why no technical solution ? If there is some robo-banner banning people automagically, it does so using a threshold.

Simply replace:

if (threshold > bad) { ban_em ; }

with

if (threshold > bad) { notify_review_board ; } // clearly the mechanism is there already with flagging.

@random & Bart: by high-level or posting-god/-goddess, I mean at least a trusted user. Perhaps a good review board could be composed of a true cross sampling of the user community. An SE employee (in rotation, if need), at least two trusted users, two moderators, and two or three users below 500 - even include a near-noob like me (level allowed to up-vote and down-vote). When they get notified, they decide by equal-weighted majority, one person, one vote. This seems to me to be the only fair way to ban someone.

And if that seems like too much work for everyone, merely set the bad threshold higher. Notifying the board less would not thereby cause more bad posts from getting through, because the community can still bring nasty stuff to the proper attention via the flag mechanism.

I agree with notPekka - more human intervention. Consider it this way: when a human being's free actions are to be hindered, judgment should be passed by his fellow humans. If the speed trap's radar catches my car, photographs my license plate, then generates a ticket mailed to me, I still have the right to contest it in front of real people. We will rue the day when the speed trap sends us fine notices that are incontestable.


[ EDIT 16 SEPT 13 ] - With Bart resurfacing this issue and comments since I posted this answer, my suggestion warrants an addition.

This improvement is also simple, extending the earlier version.

Merely add in another threshold variable to prevent valuable contributors on StackOverflow (or any Stack Exchange site) from being "auto-banned" while still bringing "questionable" posts to the appropriate attention without the need of users' flagging.

As an example, the version below - compared to the previous version - is rendered in a stricter fashion on the low side and more permissive on the high. In other words, (auto)-watch newer users closer, but normal ethical users get a free pass from auto-banning. HOWEVER, if any post has "excessive" downvoting, then bring it to Moderator attention, just don't auto-ban willy nilly. Clearly such simple rules could be tailored easily to find the right levels.

//  Quality of activity thresholds 
//
//    First If block = a simple "high-pass" filter
//    Second If bloc = high value trigger  
//

SE_REP_THRESHOLD = 500  // community or SE owners pick appropriate Rep value.

//
// Modified version of previous suggestion
// 

// Get user's highest rep across all the Stack sites the user participates in. 
// This info is already in our profiles.

usersHighRepScore = get_UsersHighestRepScore (allStackExchageSites) 

if (downvote_threshold > bad) AND ( usersHighRepScore < SE_REP_THRESHOLD ) { 
    // next could be optional 
    ban_em ;             // LOW BLOCK - auto-ban prevents spam too 
    notify_moderators ;  // notify also optional, if we want to be " nicer " & unban later
}

// *Optional* High trap filter - high down vote AND high rep 
//  = post is "provocative enough" - someone should see what's up.

if (downvote_threshold > bad ) AND ( usersBestRepScore > SE_REP_THRESHOLD ) {   
   notify_review_board ; 
} 
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When you say high level moderator, you mean paid, employed staff of SE? –  random Aug 22 '13 at 4:21
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What is a "posting-god/-goddess" and by what criteria would they be excluded from having to leave comments? (P.s. the whole comments for downvotes idea is a tricky one. Even on Meta). –  Bart Aug 22 '13 at 8:08
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Seriously, why are people downvoting this? –  Cole Johnson Aug 22 '13 at 8:10
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I'd say because they disagree with some of the proposed ideas/changes/functionalities @ColeJohnson. –  Bart Aug 22 '13 at 8:12
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I agree, just one note: profiles with question bans usually have deleted questions on them. The visible track record isn't usually all of why a user got banned, which is why it's misleading to look only at that. –  Pëkka Aug 22 '13 at 14:27
    
@Howard you can add more comments here - the chat room thing is just a recommendation. –  Pëkka Aug 23 '13 at 2:22
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I agree with your "speeding ticket" analogy - as long as it's about Meta. On the main site, with its 7,000+ new questions a day, the question ban is essential to keeping us all sane. It's more like a ticket barrier there - if you haven't bought a ticket, the system won't let you in. If you think that's happened in error, you need to walk to the booth and speak to the attendant. –  Pëkka Aug 23 '13 at 16:07
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For the record, MDeSchaepmeester is not currently banned from asking questions on Meta. I believe the three downvoted and deleted questions may have worked against them, in addition to the several other downvoted questions they had. Aside from that, I have had my problems with the question ban on Meta, too. –  Brad Larson Aug 23 '13 at 16:29
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@WillNess I disagree. No one has a right to do anything, it is neither school nor a military academy. SE can set its own rules. Part of the reason for those rules is to help keep the site clean. I support some manner of changing the ban on Meta, but it has to go beyond personal attacks and spamming. But there are people that don't do their research or continually post nonsense feature requests, or continually post completely wrong answers. Why should they be allowed to continue and possibly annoy your loyal users. So a ban must be implemented, but I'd support modifying it in some manner. –  psubsee2003 Sep 17 '13 at 9:03
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I think the "get a pass" comment is really telling here. The prevailing premise in the MSO culture/system is that opinions that a lot people disagree with are "bad". Rather than allowing ideas that are crazy, impractical, or have some horrible side effect to be viewed as potentially constructive contributions to the process of brainstorming and problem solving, such ideas invoke the machinery (downvoting) of devaluing, silencing and banning. As in any oppressive society, conversation gets driven underground - in MSO's case to the world of comments. –  Peter Alfvin Sep 17 '13 at 14:29
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@Shog9 (and all) my suggestion is intended to do two things: eliminate incorrect / unjustified auto-banning and bring to attention posts that may (or may not!) be problematic. On the hotter political aspects being voiced here, the definition of what constitutes "problematic" is a matter for the community to decide. Personally, and as I said in my answer, I think we should err on the side of openness. But in sites like SO, we can set more gatekeepers to reduce the moderator workload. Gates again meaning "control of out-of-norm" posts ("norm" too is to be decided and would probably be site ... –  Howard Pautz Sep 17 '13 at 15:39
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Just to be clear: no one gets banned for posting an unpopular post. A history of badly-received posts may get you banned (although the threshold on MSO is pretty high/low/lax - your stuff can't just be a little bit unpopular). In some cases, the folks hitting the ban have been outright abusive, but in almost all cases they've at very least been wasting the time of the folks who review feature-requests, analyze bug reports, and attempt to provide feedback. At some point, you gotta draw a line and say, "there are other folks who need to use this site, stop hogging the commons with your crap" –  Shog9 Sep 17 '13 at 15:47
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The only purpose of the ban is to remove the need for individuals to micromanage these things - there&#39;s a pretty big group of us who can already handle them manually if/when we have the time and inclination to do so. Take away the automation, and we might as well just disable it entirely. That said - it's not like there aren't Real People involved, from the folks voting up to those of us who can review individual blocks; the system exists to assist. –  Shog9 Sep 17 '13 at 16:42
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Developing an entirely new form of suspension for the sole benefit of meta probably isn't going to happen, @Howard. That said, see my answer here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/179093/… –  Shog9 Sep 17 '13 at 22:09
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Fair enough I suppose, I just remember really liking this answer before and I feel like I could really like it again. It has a real feel of "Time" at the moment though, like it was written as several different points (which of course it was) –  Richard Tingle Oct 15 '13 at 17:32

First off, an explanation of the two status tags:

  • Declined: We won't remove the q-ban entirely. See below.

  • Completed: We already suspend actively harmful users manually, and will continue to do so. In addition, we've modified the score threshold for q-bans (again) based on a fresh analysis of the data - at this point, it is low enough that it should be extremely difficult to hit "accidentally" - if you're able to contribute to the community here in any consistently constructive fashion (for instance, providing helpful answers to questions), you can get away with posting the odd unpopular . In a sense, you can earn the right to be occasionally annoying by being generally helpful. In no cases will expressing an unpopular viewpoint block you from further participation, unless you do it repeatedly and that's the only thing you do.

Community service vs. imprisonment

For as long as MSO and MSE remain the same, this site continues to serve as the "nation's capitol", and as such there are many people here from many different backgrounds and with many different concerns - concerns that deserve to be heard and addressed. It is important that dissenting viewpoints can be expressed, but it is also not fair to give anyone with a bone to pick an unlimited soapbox on which to stand and shout.

As I said, we do and will continue to issue suspensions for users who are abusive or disruptive to the communities here. If you're being overtly offensive to others - or even just an overly-disruptive nuisance - you'll get at least a short time-out.

However, suspension is a much more blunt instrument for dealing with folks who, for whatever reason, simply cannot seem to ever post a useful question. Unlike suspensions, you can "work your way out" of a q-ban: just post some helpful or insightful answers. The vast majority of people who use this site are in no danger of ever being blocked from posting a question because they've taken the time to participate constructively in the past, but even for those who start off on the wrong foot and... follow up by jumping up and down on that foot... it's not too late to reverse the trend: take the time to learn about how this network of sites work, share your knowledge with others, and you'll be automatically granted permission to post questions again. No need to wait out a suspension or try to bargain with a moderator - earn the privilege and it's yours to use.

Philosophically, I like this sort of merit-based restriction a lot better than suspension. Even if in practice both mean than someone can't post questions for a few months, the former puts this decision squarely in the hands of the participant themselves and the community they wish to be a part of.

Big thanks to everyone here for their input, and to Anna Lear, Tim Post, Jon Ericson and Grace Note for taking the time to sanity-check the data and talk over the philosophy behind this internally.

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upvoted not because I agree with your reasoning (I agree but this doesn't matter here) but for making a fantastic case of a feature request having both status-completed and status-declined –  gnat Sep 17 '13 at 22:33
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In theory, users can work themselves out of a question ban. In practice, for whatever reason, I suspect that they seldom do. The ones that do get themselves out of a ban sometimes use techniques that... let's just say are not representative of reform. Automatic bans, while appearing to be fair in the sense that they can be worked out of, are not only of indeterminate duration but (because we don't state the rules due to gaming reasons) appear somewhat arbitrary in execution. –  Robert Harvey Sep 18 '13 at 2:15
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All that said, since quality filters were put into place, I seldom find a need to suspend anyone, and since the process is free of human decision, it should be a fairly impartial process, since the rules are presumably applied equally to everyone. –  Robert Harvey Sep 18 '13 at 2:20
    
I'd love to see some of the practical outcomes of this regarding previously banned user (some of whom I really think shouldn't have been), but I guess we'll see that if then end up participating again. But overall I can live with this if it's indeed as "reasonable" in practice. –  Bart Sep 18 '13 at 5:44
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@Robert: the vast, vast majority of banned users don't even try. Of those who do make any effort, a depressingly large number don't want help asking better questions, they want the ban lifted so they can ask more crappy ones. URGENTLY. Of the few that remain, the recovery rate ain't bad. I agree we could stand to improve the guidance for this though. –  Shog9 Sep 19 '13 at 16:37
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"In no cases will expressing an unpopular viewpoint block you from further participation, unless you do it repeatedly and that's the only thing you do." - In other words: someone with an off-mainstream opinion better say something that the majority wants to hear from time to time. Isn't this a ridiculous view even if in practice it might work to some extent? I always say that you can very well see how liberal a community is by analyzing how it treats those who think differently. –  Trilarion Jul 18 at 7:59
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Some of us take the occasional time-out from expressing our opinions to help others learn to use the site effectively, @Trilarion. Helping your comrades is an excellent way to avoid ostracization. Incidentally, when someone on meta tells me I should be doing more to help new users I always check their profile - if they haven't touched the support tag, I laugh at their hypocrisy and move on. –  Shog9 Jul 18 at 14:52
    
Don't misunderstand me - Helping others is an excellent idea and I support it a lot. Only connecting it to allowing expressing unpopular viewpoints just seems like connecting two things that have no real connection. Just in case someone had a very unpopular view he better hope there is also somebody who needs help. If not it might be just bad luck. I don't think there is any good reason to punish unpopular opinions other than suppressing them. –  Trilarion Jul 20 at 17:13
    
It's not just an excellent idea, @Trilarion - it's one of the underpinnings of a healthy site. If someone is not here to seek or provide help, then they really don't need to be here at all. Again, no one gets blocked for one or two mistakes... But if their participation here over time is relentlessly unhelpful, then they're just getting in the way of the folks who actually want to use the site for one of its intended purposes; neither the rest of us nor the system itself are under any obligation to continue providing them with a soapbox. –  Shog9 Jul 20 at 19:43
    
Being unhelpful can mean that 40% of readers liked your idea and the rest not. I think you mix two things that aren't related and come up with a recipe (unpopular opinions are allowed but only to some extent) that cannot be clearly motivated and is easily attackable. Since noone else did it, I stepped in and provided the main counter arguments. You only achieve less unpopular opinions with it. In my eyes this is not helpful since the score already gives a measure of unhelpfulness, no need to ban anyone. I downvoted because I think it effectively just punishes minority opinions. –  Trilarion Jul 21 at 7:44
    
It can also mean you're bad at searching or persistently ask programming questions here, even after multiple suspensions, @Trilarion... But ignoring practical matters, this idea that we should be providing a perpetual soapbox for anyone with an axe to grind is, IMHO, just silly. I repeat: anyone can post here, and most of the time we'll hear them out even if we disagree; everyone gets multiple chances to make a compelling persuasive argument; no one has infinite goodwill. If you honestly believe I'm wrong about that last point, propose this in your own discussion - I'll tell you a story... –  Shog9 Jul 21 at 15:54

As the person whose question prompted Pekka to put a bounty on this, I can say that it IS frustrating when you spot improvements or errors and are not allowed to contribute this information.

By nature, I'm a helper. I spend HOURS a day on this site in the MS-Access, VBA and SQL portions of SO answering questions. I received the Tenacious badge because I continue to answer questions even when some people would have gotten frustrated. No "thank you", no points, no checkmarks... and still I answer questions because I know what it's like to be a n00b.

Once in a while, I get frustrated too, and I construct a poorly worded question on Meta. It wasn't harmful, it wasn't offensive, it was just maybe too much of a "b*tch session" and got hammered. So now I can't ask questions? The system is broken if that's the current way to handle it. And I don't know how to, or if there's even a WAY to, get un-banned?

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You will get unbanned by gaining rep other ways (this answer for example, and other meta answers) along with suggested edits. If you have questions that were downvoted not for disagreement but for poor quality, you could try improving them in the hope of the downvotes being removed. –  Kate Gregory Aug 23 '13 at 15:58
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I think the questions were kind of dogs to begin with. They were early in my Meta career. In retrospect, they shouldn't have been asked at all. But there's no way to go back and undo them. –  Johnny Bones Aug 23 '13 at 16:49
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@KateGregory is the algorithm for this process posted anywhere ? Are you saying that simply gaining rep will cross the bad-now-good threshold and the question-banned user automagically can post questions again? Are they notified via email - or do they just have to poll-hack every once in a while to discover they're not robo-fodder anymore ? –  Howard Pautz Aug 23 '13 at 20:22
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no it is deliberately not posted. Some folks have drawn some conclusions from observations, mostly on SO. You might be interested in meta.stackexchange.com/questions/172300/… –  Kate Gregory Aug 23 '13 at 20:41
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Since posting this, you've "worked your way out" of the ban - thanks to well-reasoned answers such as this one. If we had suspended you, that wouldn't have been possible - answers such as this would've gone unposted. I'm happy to have a system that lets folks such as yourself participate in constructive ways - enjoy the privileges you've earned! –  Shog9 Sep 17 '13 at 22:31
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@Shog9 - Yes, I HAVE worked my way out of it. But, if anything, that shows the flaw in autobahns. The questions I got downvoted on could easily have been questions that people didn't agree with. 19 downvotes and you're screwed. But 19 out of however many total participants here is a MINISCULE percentage. I still contend there needs to be some manual intervention because downvotes on Meta are supposed to be agree/disagree, and not good question/bad question. –  Johnny Bones Sep 18 '13 at 11:42
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It took a lot more than 19 downvotes, @Johnny. I see -19 followed by -17 followed by -3, -3, +7, -3, +1, +1, -20 - not a good average over a pretty decent-sized sample. At that point, it took about a month to recover, during which time you posted most of your answers. With yesterday's changes, it'd take you longer to hit the block (even if your initial pattern continued) and less time to get out of it - but even as things stood a month ago, I can't really say the results were bad. –  Shog9 Sep 18 '13 at 16:19

While I agree with and have upvoted this proposal (this site is different and low-traffic enough for it to work), perhaps it's a reasonable idea to consider an alternative as well, in case this turns out to be a no go. Primarily because Meta SO is also a place for support questions, having a couple of bad feature requests or not constructive posts should not exclude you from help or reporting bugs.

In that light, perhaps only ban users from question which do not have the or tags. This would still allow them to report issues and get support, perhaps giving them an additional option to redeem themselves.

Of course, if users were to abuse this privilege, they could be put on a suspension from the site. Maybe even through an automatic moderator flag were one of their posts to be retagged to something other than the aforementioned tags.

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A user may make 20 suggestions with -40 score, and still be able to make his next suggestion something completely brilliant that changes the entire SE network to its very core, granting him eternal fame. Unlikely of course, and I've definitely no ambition to do so myself, but you get the idea. –  MDeSchaepmeester May 5 '13 at 11:45
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@MarioDeSchaepmeester As you say, unlikely. Several poor suggestions, especially when made within a short span of time, seems to be more indicative of the user not taking the time to look through the history of and reasoning behind features that make up the site. But you will most likely have read that I agree with the proposed feature at the beginning of my answer. Though I think it's unlikely to be implemented. But maybe I'm a pessimist. –  Bart May 5 '13 at 11:51
    
I do know the reasoning here more or less, and I admit that I would not have posted some of my questions when viewing them a couple of days later. And indeed, I already suspect that some of my suggestions will be downvoted before I post them even, but I'm usually too optimistic about them. But then again I wonder: does that even bother people? It's not as if there's a steady stream of new questions on meta every minute, that people are already too busy handling all bad suggestions. I am entitled to share my idea, even if people aren't like-minded. That's what downvotes are for. –  MDeSchaepmeester May 5 '13 at 12:19
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Sure, no argument there. And if we have users ranting over and over again, adding nothing constructive to the site, they just can be suspended for a while to cool off. So I agree with the request here. My answer is more of an alternative if the response would be "not gonna happen". –  Bart May 5 '13 at 12:22
    
The "I probably wouldn't have supported my own request after a couple days" remark is the nail here. You really just need to bring that sort of thing to a happening SE chat somewhere and open a dialog with others, rattle the cages so to speak, and see what is left at the end of the discussion. That is how I do most of my FRs, and as you can see, a lot of them are actually downvoted, or at least not heavily upvoted, so it's fair to suggest that maybe you just need more maturity on the network. But I do agree with the OP here on we should abolish that on meta.se –  jcolebrand May 7 '13 at 0:42
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@jcolebrand -- I don't follow what you are saying. Just because someone changes their mind doesn't make the original suggestion bad for Meta. Even if the suggestion is bad that doesn't hurt Meta. For a counter-example, my own mostly highly-upvoted meta question is a proposal that I changed my mind on with a couple days, and now (a year later) I fully disagree with my former self. But that doesn't change anything about the usefulness of the question itself being on meta. –  Ben Lee May 9 '13 at 19:57
    
Point taken, and well made. –  jcolebrand May 10 '13 at 0:43
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-1. you have no right to silence me on any tag on meta, except for spam postings or making personal insults . Anything else is a discussion, made in good faith, on a discussion site. If I see something that I consider a grave problem I may even come out as uneasily grating and "offensive" to some; that's my right in the discussion, as long as it's not personal, i.e. name calling, but rather about merits of the issue at hand. –  Will Ness Sep 15 '13 at 7:11
    
You did of course read my answer and subsequent comments stating I fully agree with the idea proposed by the OP @WillNess? And that my solution is merely meant as an alternative in case it is decided to decline the request? –  Bart Sep 15 '13 at 7:18
    
No, I didn't. I saw that you allow for bans for reasons other than spam or extreme rudeness. I see your proposal as allowing the abuse to continue but at the same time try to find ways to use the abused (i.e. autobanned) more efficiently. –  Will Ness Sep 15 '13 at 8:00
    
From my comments @WillNess "My answer is more of an alternative if the response would be "not gonna happen"." –  Bart Sep 15 '13 at 8:03
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I'm downvoting this since I don't think you should be subject to question bans on any tag. Posting feature requests or discussions where people happen to disagree with you doesn't mean you should be question banned. –  doppelgreener Sep 17 '13 at 0:26
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@JonathanHobbs @ notPekka's OP points to the problem being automagic banning, not banning per se. It's like Arnold Schwarzenegger slamming the door in your face, saying "I won't be back!" I also disagree with Bart's suggestion here, because it does address a specific aspect of the problem, but IMO doesn't go to the root issue. (And, no, I didn't downvote his answer - though I could, I feel obligated to recuse myself due to my own answer. Bart's a good enough guy that he'd award me the bonus if he thought it a better answer despite a downvote from me :)) But this problem needs a solution! –  Howard Pautz Sep 17 '13 at 1:22
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What's this crazy talk about me being a good guy @HowardPautz? Just the thought of it! ... :) But yeah, I can see where you're coming from. Like I've said before, this is at most an alternative to at least be able to still get support. But only if the actual proposal does not get through. –  Bart Sep 17 '13 at 5:48
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as one data point, I'm no longer q-banned. –  Will Ness Sep 18 '13 at 7:22

I think this phenomenon is a case of the MSO design telling us it has a problem. In particular, I think the use of downvoting for disagreement as well as quality is inconsistent with various aspects of SE, including the automatic question ban. If we work around this with manual intervention for the question ban matter, we'll just be putting off dealing with the underlying issue.

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The voting system is somewhat awkward and inconsistent. But I really don't think we need something else, other than a revision of the Meta ban. The big "problem" is a feature-request in this case. And if the community's votes had any direct influence on the decision of whether or not a feature is implemented, then I'd argue that we'd need a good voting system for it. But while we can have our say, and put in our yays and nays, it's ultimately the higher-ups within SO/SE who decide. So I personally think a simple revision of how we ban users (or if whether we ban them at all) should suffice. –  Bart Aug 26 '13 at 15:34
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@Bart Thing is, it's not just bona fide "feature requests" that are getting downvoted. It's any question that includes any idea/opinion that the most active MSO users don't "like" (or are tired of hearing about). This has the effect of driving people away or at least keeping them from asking questions with ideas which might challenge the status quo, and I don't think that's good for MSO and ultimately SO. Also, and I could be wrong about this, my understanding is that there is no "top down rule" and the the key decisions are indeed made by the "community" (i.e. based on votes). –  Peter Alfvin Aug 26 '13 at 15:41
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As far as feature request are concerned, I don't really have that impression. We can make a good case for it, but to say we make the decisions, nah. As for downvotes because we're "tired of hearing about" it, that pretty much falls under the "no research" clause. We're not tired of hearing about good questions. We're tired of seeing the exact same discussions pop up time and time again. The research requirement holds on Meta as well. If that drives users away, I'm not sure I can sympathize that much with them. I do however sympathize with those unlucky feature requesters who got banned. –  Bart Aug 26 '13 at 15:44
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my favorite is this one. With only first trolling comment remaining (further trolling comments from both sides are removed / visible only to mods), it makes a great example of senseless voting: "How dare you ask a question when you are supposed to whine about an issue" –  gnat Aug 26 '13 at 16:47
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@gnat That is classic. And it's interesting how often the same names show up lecturing if not ridiculing people that seem like they're honestly trying to understand and operate within the system/culture. –  Peter Alfvin Aug 26 '13 at 17:12
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yet another example - try to guess why this answer has got two downvotes. I expect usual gang to pop up with their usual cliche don't-whine-about-downvotes, but that's hardly an explanation of why –  gnat Aug 28 '13 at 13:51
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@gnat I would guess they're taking issue with the premise that new content should never be added, but who knows. I do find it a little odd that when I attempt to add a new answer I get prompted with "are you sure don't want to try and make the existing one better"? if the expectation is that only inferable improvements should be made, that seems a little odd. –  Peter Alfvin Aug 28 '13 at 14:18
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@gnat I've been struggling to find a physical analogy for downvoting something that isn't a bona fide yes/no proposal. I recently came up with "electric shock from an unknown source". It's not fatal, but its painful and it's completely counterproductive for shaping behavior in any kind of constructive way. –  Peter Alfvin Aug 28 '13 at 14:21
    
@PeterAlfvin regarding editing approach, you have an interesting note here. I would rather rephrase to "only inferable improvements are safe", meaning that practically, anything can slip through the system, it's not perfect; "inferable" stuff is just safer and guaranteed to feel right by the vast majority (myself included)... –  gnat Aug 28 '13 at 14:31
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@gnat :-) It's going to take me a while get the notion of "should" out of my system when it comes to MSO. This truly is a "lawless" place. You've got the SE/MSO software, free will, moderators doing what they think best and "documentation" which tries to characterize what group behavior will be in response to various actions. No stinkin' policies. ;-) –  Peter Alfvin Aug 28 '13 at 14:38
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lawless places are fertile ground for pack mentality. When community norms are shaky, many feel unsafe; this makes them wish to join a pack. Pack members have to give up part of their identity and reason "in return" (this seems to be typically obscured by vomiting anonymousvoting slogan over and over and over again) but for some, this probably is an acceptable compromize –  gnat Aug 28 '13 at 14:58

I'm giving my small contribute on StackOverflow from some years and I really love this community. I come on meta for the first time to complain about some behavior in which I saw some contradiction. I just wanted to express my point of view.

I did a big effort to detail my opinion very deeply, referencing also books of eminent psychologist, because my opinion were against the tide. Dale Carnegie said that to increase your popularity, increase your influence, your prestige, to achieve all this objective he explains that:

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.

So it's really easily to get downvoted when you try to go against the tide, unless you are a great communicator. And I'm not.

In meta people use to downvote to express disagreement. So a lot of disagreement, which can easily be achieved expressing impopular ideas, will lead to a ban. This makes also hard not only to express opinions, but also to put the ligth on issues in meta.

For sure I could express better. I got upset when I started to see very hurried downvotes. But what happened is that I got largely downvoted and I was banned.

I've documented all the happening in a chat: http://chat.meta.stackoverflow.com/transcript/693

In that chat I've tried to document the contradiction I see in some of our guidelines and the issues that are the logical consequence of these.

SE meta is doing a great work. I hope I will be able to contribute to this community.

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I agree. A lot of times, voting on Meta is about opinion, even in questions, which can lead to warnings about question bans.

Since Meta SE (as of the split) is really is about opinion, we don't want to block people from asking questions if they are legitimate requests and follow the guidelines, even if not well received.

Take for instance my show vote buttons question. At the time (I don't now), I thought it was a good idea to show the vote buttons on these posts. It wasn't well received, and got downvoted a few times. Same thing with the home page question. Now I have a warning on questions that I might get question banned.

It doesn't seem like it'd be that much work to ban the occasional troll/flamer/whatever. They'd most likely troll the main site, not the Meta.

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