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A different proposal in response to the problem documented in Warn new users when they ask a question after a previous question is closed, downvoted, or deleted.

After a user has had a first or second question closed and furthermore has demonstrated recalcitrance to improvement per our question ban algo, they should be displayed information on how they should improve:

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 […]

and it is not about […]

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

Then given a review quiz showing three successive questions, two good and one failing, which the user must accurately assess.

  • This solves the problem of making sure they actually process our FAQ's information. I'm opposed to throwing more text and a continue button at users but wish there were a way we could inform them between "here's more text" and "you can't ask questions, sorry," which is what I'm trying to accomplish here.
  • This may need to wait until we refactor NC/NARQ questions so that user's previous mistakes can be better aligned with audits. Consistent with "lean startup" approach just hand-pick these questions at first and use the same ones each time. If it has any positive impact, then worry about automatically curating a set going forward.
  • During beta testing and possibly long term, it's fine to show same user same audit - if they pass the set the next time then great, they at least processed the information enough to remember which one was right and actually have a chance of asking a better question this time around. This is already an improvement.
  • And question ban if they still ask awful questions.

Anyway, I want to emphasize: the point of this is last-measure attempt at user education and retention, not another way to punish users on the initial learning curve. The nuisance will be as opposed to a question ban. I don't know the specifics of our question-ban algo (which are obviously kept secret) but I feel this measure should happen after we know the user has demonstrated some inability to improve, so that we don't annoy an existing user on the usual learning curve, but give another resource to users who we more or less were confident were going to fail the learning curve.

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As with DragonLord's post, while I agree with your principle, I'm not sure this would be at all appreciated by the user. Imagine going to ask a question, and then being asked to stop and take a quiz first. –  Emrakul May 5 '13 at 14:10
    
I will switch to some other QA site, I guess there would be StackUnderflow too, if not, then soon someone will create...if you have to win a quiz. –  Anoop Vaidya May 5 '13 at 14:12
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@KnightswhosayNi yes, as opposed to not being able to ask a question at all because we were going to question ban you. –  djechlin May 5 '13 at 14:13
16  
@AnoopVaidya sure, there can be a StackUnderflow where users who were going to be question banned on SO can post. I'm sure it will be very successful. –  djechlin May 5 '13 at 14:14
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@KnightswhosayNi: I don't know if this proposal is a great idea or not, but I don't understand your comment at all. This is for users who have repeatedly not followed the "rules" on SO. They've given us "bad UX" several times. Surely a few minutes of their brain time isn't that much of a problem? –  Mat May 5 '13 at 14:21
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Honestly it might actually be just as effective to give users a temp question ban to jolt them awake a bit before giving them a permanent one. Anyway this suggestion stands; this is what split-testing and analytics are for. –  djechlin May 5 '13 at 14:25
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Oookkkk. You've both completely lost me there. A short ban is better experience than a few questions? And a few questions is worse than letting the user ban themselves outright? Sorry I'll... go back to candies. That seems to make more sense right now. –  Mat May 5 '13 at 14:37
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@Knight: revenge? Seriously? We're trying to get them not to ban themselves here, not trying to get them banned quicker or ignoring them altogether. –  Mat May 5 '13 at 14:37
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@Knights: hellban == revenge. Trying to get someone to think for a few minutes before they shoot themselves in the foot != revenge. –  Mat May 5 '13 at 14:40
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Okay, Knights has a very good point. Our standards for UX shouldn't completely drop out the window when we deal with the special class of users we regard as problematic. I think there is room for more haptic and hence annoying user education along the road to a Q ban, as evidenced by the significant # of users who complain about their Q ban surprisingly cogently. (There are also many who complain in confused rant form.) This suggestion is only good contingent on it passing testing and passing analytics. We shouldn't have a bunch of failed, bad UX surrounding the "bad new user" experience. –  djechlin May 5 '13 at 14:41
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Isn't a question ban itself already bad UX? I don't see how a 3-question quiz in order to be allowed to continue posting questions is worse UX than simply not being allowed to post at all. We've already lowered our UX standards to "worst possible user experience" for those users who are banned. This is an improvement for those users IMO. –  Bill the Lizard May 5 '13 at 14:47
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@Anoop A picture's worth a thousand words, obviously! ;) –  AndrewC May 5 '13 at 14:55
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@djechlin That analogy doesn't really make any sense. These aren't users who are close to receiving no UX, they're users who are close to receiving the worst possible UX. We don't have the "no UX" option if they keep coming back to try and post questions. –  Bill the Lizard May 5 '13 at 14:58
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@djechlin ok let's use that analogy. you go on a date with someone and they spend the evening on their phone, ignoring you, or generally rude. You go on a second date, same thing. third, same. Then you are asked out again. You could just say NO or you could say "only if you behave better." Normally saying "I will only date you if you meet these conditions" is rude. But when you have the start of the relationship, establishing conditions to continue is less rude than just breaking up. –  Kate Gregory May 5 '13 at 15:06
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+1 great suggestion. It would also take any remaining power out of the "why was I banned" question, since we would know the user was explicitly warned. –  David Robinson May 5 '13 at 18:47

2 Answers 2

up vote 19 down vote accepted

I support this and I think it should be implemented as follows:

  • once a user meets whatever the secret requirements are for the post ban, their next question gets this dialog. It includes warnings chosen from a selection of sentences that might apply to the user such as "deleting your own questions", "asking questions that were closed by the community", "asking questions that received more downvotes than upvotes" and so on. The text must be customized to the user, not be vague, and not involving guessing whether it applies or not. Not "may" or "perhaps" or "in some cases". Lots of "you". If this particular user never deleted any of their own questions, then there's no mention of that. Perhaps it goes so far as to summarize:

    you have asked 10 questions. You have deleted 4, the community has deleted 4, the aggregate score for these questions is -22.

  • A scorecard makes it very clear "dude, you suck at asking questions right now."
  • the audit should be clearly labelled as a test to see if the user will be allowed to ask this question

    You must pass this test in order to ask another question. If you fail, you will be blocked from asking any more questions until you improve your existing posts

  • fail, you're question-banned and you fall into the same pit of despair as they currently do today - and you are told so. You got it wrong and you will not be asking more questions

  • pass, you can ask this question. If it happens to score well and you lift away from the requirements for the ban, perhaps you'll never experience this again. If this question is as crappy as previous ones, then when you ask again, you'll get the test again.
  • pass n times but still stay in question-ban-earning territory, ban you anyway - and don't tell anyone what n is, but I'm thinking 3 is fair

This will make people feel a little better about the "I was never warned" crowd and provide a way for a last chance for those who were slow to learn. It should reduce the number of people who ask on Meta how to get out of their ban.

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Might make this kind of thing more common, but at least that sounds pretty sane (if expensive to implement). –  Mat May 5 '13 at 21:00
    
Note the use of the word "blocked" instead of "banned". The word "blocked" fits better in this context, since "you will be banned from asking any more questions" sounds rather awkward, and "banned" often implies no recourse at all, which isn't true. –  DragonLord the Fiery May 5 '13 at 21:03
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@DragonLord: don't forget a lot of the crowd on Stack Exchange aren't native English speakers. You shouldn't rely too much on language subtleties. (Or should that have 'the crowd ... isn't...' - I don't know, not my language :-) ) –  Mat May 5 '13 at 21:33

I feel this should be a supplement to my earlier feature request. I can see this assessment being shown if the user has less than 50 (or 75 or 100) reputation and at least 2 of the 4 previous questions have been closed, deleted, or downvoted to -2 or lower. As such, this would appear if the user had clicked through the initial question warning but asked a poor question anyway. This definitely should not be the first thing shown to a potential problem user; rather, it should serve as an additional layer of protection against a post ban for users who haven't fully understood the rules and quality standards.


Edit

To expand upon @KateGregory's answer, if this is to appear when the user crosses the post-ban threshold, I suggest something like the following text (for a user who has repeatedly asked off topic questions on Super User):

Your questions need improvement

Most or all of your previous questions do not meet our quality standards, as indicated by closures, deletions, and voting. This is primarily because they are 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!

Your question record is as follows:

  • You have asked a total of 10 questions.
  • You have deleted 4 of your questions, while the community and/or moderators deleted 4 of your questions.
  • The combined score of these questions is -22.

Because of your poor record, in order to determine whether you can continue to ask questions, you will be given a test to assess your understanding of what questions are acceptable and what questions are not acceptable. You must pass this test in order to ask another question. If you fail, you will be blocked from asking any more questions until you improve your existing posts.

Begin Test

For not constructive:

Your questions need improvement

Most or all of your previous questions do not meet our quality standards, as indicated by closures, deletions, and voting. This is primarily because they are not constructive. A question is likely to be nonconstructive if it falls under one or more of the criteria for nonconstructive questions as listed in the following FAQ entry:

What kind of questions should I not ask here?

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here. However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain ______ to me”, then you are probably OK. (Discussions are of course welcome in our real time web chat.)

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “______ sucks, am I right?”

Your question record is as follows:

  • You have asked a total of 10 questions.
  • You have deleted 4 of your questions, while the community and/or moderators deleted 4 of your questions.
  • The combined score of these questions is -22.

Because of your poor record, in order to determine whether you can continue to ask questions, you will be given a test to assess your understanding of what questions are acceptable and what questions are not acceptable. You must pass this test in order to ask another question. If you fail, you will be blocked from asking any more questions until you improve your existing posts.

Begin Test

Text similar to the above can be used for not a real question.

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1  
and if they were mostly Not Constructive, or mostly Not a Real Question, you would adjust the text accordingly? I think this is a little too long. The people who are hitting the ban have already demonstrated an unwillgness or inability to read and comprehend the FAQ and How to Ask. Short pointed sentence about what is wrong with THEIR questions might get through. Long descriptions of what makes a good question - they've had that already many times. –  Kate Gregory May 5 '13 at 21:07
    
I disagree @Kate; if people are in danger of hitting the ban and haven't been bothered to read anything up to that point and don't read something like this then I don't think we should care that much about them being banned. It should be about saving the people who are worth saving not everyone. It might be worth making the "you will be blocked from asking any more questions" more prominent at the top but otherwise, meh. If people aren't willing to attempt to save themselves so be it. –  ben is uǝq backwards May 5 '13 at 21:10
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+1 for the effort of compiling this text, which is obviously required if TPTB decide to go forward with this. But I do think Kate is right this has to be specific, crisp and biting. –  djechlin May 6 '13 at 0:53
    
I agree with Kate, the FAQ isn't clear/concise enough for this. I'd drop "community and/or moderators", pick one name or the other no point in being pedantic here. The first sentence of the last paragraph "needs work" IMO - remember not everyone is fluent in English. The more complex the sentence structure, the less likely you'll get your point across. –  Mat May 6 '13 at 5:59

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