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I have done about 20 reviews today and didn't fail a single one. How can it happen that I'm banned for 7 days? Have the criteria changed somehow? Sometimes the review audits are not 100% clear (there is not only black and white but also gray).

EDIT: according to the very interesting discussion in the comments below I seem to have been manually banned from reviewing. There seem to be a lot of unwritten rules about the rewiewing process which should be made publicly known in some help text (an answer with these rules would be helpful).

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I suppose it's possible that shog banned you from reviewing for doing something that you shouldn't have that isn't handled automatically. –  Servy Jul 22 '13 at 20:54
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In that case, the user should probably have received a mod message though. Some explanation should be provided –  Pëkka Jul 22 '13 at 20:56
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It could be your votes in the Re-open queue, you have a tendancy to be the sole "Reopen" vote in a number of votes: 1 2 3 4 –  LittleBobbyTables Jul 22 '13 at 20:58
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What @LBT said; you have some really odd reviews. You may not have failed any audits, but your reviews are... strange. –  Andrew Barber Jul 22 '13 at 20:58
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And then there's something like this. –  Bart Jul 22 '13 at 21:00
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Nope @slfan. If it's not a minor typo correction within an answer, leave code alone. That is too substantial an edit. –  Bart Jul 22 '13 at 21:10
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@slfan - No, that should not have been approved. Suggested edits that change code are generally bad ideas, because they can change the intent of the original poster and their correctness is very difficult for reviewers to judge. Instead, that person should leave a comment and allow the author to alter their code if they find it to be necessary. In this case, given that the author rejected that enhancement, we can see that it would not have been a desired improvement. –  Brad Larson Jul 22 '13 at 21:11
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Also, this is very clearly spam: stackoverflow.com/review/late-answers/2495093 . –  Brad Larson Jul 22 '13 at 21:14
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When in doubt, skip the review. –  Bart Jul 22 '13 at 21:17
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@Bart et al. No, it's perfectly fine to edit code in an answer if that fixes a bug or (as is the case here for the first part of the edit) adds something that was missing. If folder.ServerItem needs to be equal to serverPath (I haven't read the context to check), then the edit should definitely have been accepted. –  Gilles Jul 23 '13 at 0:07
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@Gilles The problem with this is that it is very difficult to verify whether a suggested edit that changes code is fixing a bug or creating one, without mentally parsing the code (assuming you have the requisite knowlege) and reading the question. To my mind, when you're on edit probation, you should stick to safe and easily verifiable edits like typography, spelling etc. –  Asad Jul 23 '13 at 4:17
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@gnat: After looking into this more: failed audits from Reopen Votes, Close Votes, and Suggested Edits do show up in the user's activity history; failed audits from Low Quality Posts, First Posts, and Late Answers do not show up in the user's activity history. –  animuson Jul 23 '13 at 5:38
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if I have a different opinion than others, I must be wrong. No. In this case, it's not a matter of opinion. However, please understand the criteria for closing and reopening a question before using the queues. Sometimes the suitability of a question is a matter of opinion as the rules give some leeway for that. But in this case, that post is blatantly off topic. If you disagree with the policy, try to get it changed by posting on meta. Voting against current policies in the queues can easily get you review banned. –  Manishearth Jul 23 '13 at 6:04
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Oh wow: 8 down votes and 5 upvotes so far. The voters don't seem to agree with each other. I wonder: is this a reasonable question or not? It attracks a lot of discussion but no answers. I've invested a lot of my time in Stackoverflow and would like to know why I'm banned without visible reason. I got a lot of info out of the comments. –  slfan Jul 23 '13 at 6:05
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Well, effort is not really enough @slfan. It needs to have become an actual good question for it to be reopened. No matter how often people may have told us that there is no such thing as a bad/useless question, let me burst that bubble: there is. And there are tons of them. –  Bart Jul 23 '13 at 7:41

2 Answers 2

up vote 26 down vote accepted

There seem to be a lot of unwritten rules about the rewiewing process which should be made publicly known in some help text (an answer with these rules would be helpful). The general text on a failed review is not always helpful.

Yes, two of them:

  1. Don't repeatedly goof up and make the wrong call.

  2. When in doubt, skip the review and let someone else handle it.

In case that's not good enough, there's also this.

I found the following rules, which where new to me:

  • Do not correct code samples, even if your solution runs

This is what we call common sense. It's not about whether your solution runs. If you think you have a better solution, then post a new answer along with a full explanation of how it solves the problem being asked in the question.

Leave other people's answers alone. They wouldn't have posted them unless they thought they were correct. It is more likely that you are misunderstanding what their code is supposed to do or how it is supposed to be used.

If you feel very strongly, you could always post a comment to their answer, explain why you think their code is wrong, and make some suggestions on how to fix it. This way, the person can either say "oh you're right, I goofed up!" and fix the post themselves, or "no, you're doing it wrong; here's how you're supposed to use this code". Now you learned something!

And you especially should never change code in questions, because doing so is almost guaranteed to obscure some sort of problem. Even if you don't think it's the source of the problem discussed in the question, it's still something that answerers might want to comment on (and may already have done so). Silently fixing it doesn't help anyone because it doesn't explain why it was wrong and why your fix is better. If you don't have an actual answer to post, leave this information as a comment to the question.

  • all questions about password recovery are SPAM, because they could attract SPAM

By virtue of the use of the word "all", this statement is basically guaranteed to be wrong. I assume it's hyperbole, but hyperbole is a poor way to establish the types of rules that you seek.

The truth is, whether something is spam or not is often a judgment call. Experienced users can often make this judgment rather quickly and accurately, based on their experience. If you aren't sure, refrain from making a judgment.

And as for your particular example:

  • The answer is spam because it consists of little more than marketing text and a link to a third-party tool. We don't welcome these on the site. Worse, it violates the clear rules in the FAQ about self-promotion and how to write a good answer.

  • The question is not spam, it's just extremely poor. It should be closed for any number of reasons, but not deleted or flagged as spam.

  • if I have a different opinion than others, I must be wrong

Hyperbole again? Not constructive.

Brace yourself, though: what you're about to hear may come across as harsh… Yes, in general, if your opinion differs from the commonly-held consensus of others who have been active on the site for a long time, you are probably wrong.

It goes without saying that this doesn't mean you aren't allowed to have your own opinion. You're even allowed to share it. There's nothing wrong with being wrong, per se. Just keep in mind that you're not likely to carry the day unless you can provide a very compelling and persuasive argument in favor of your unique perspective. You've got a lot of expertise and experience to overcome, and you need to articulate why that should be dismissed out of hand. As they say where I'm from: you've got some 'splainin' to do!

Besides, by design, lots of things on the site are vote-based (e.g. question closures and re-opening, and suggested edits). This is inherently a majority-rules system, and there's good reason for that. There are times that I'm convinced I've made the right call based on my experience, but yet I get overruled. Sometimes I remain convinced that I'm right and everyone else is wrong. But I'm a radical.

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thanks a lot for your great answer. Just one point: @Will says in his comment the question is spam, not the answer (I could agree with you for some of the answers). I voted to reopen the question (I did not review the answers) and still cannot see how this should be closed as off-Topic. I'm annoyed that I'm banned without telling me why. It's like putting somebody in prison without proving his crime. –  slfan Jul 23 '13 at 8:43
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@slfan Yes, people have a fairly strong bias against questions that appear to be promoting spam. Take it as a sign that people hate spammers. That doesn't make the question itself spam, and that's not what Will is saying. He's just saying that the question should be closed because it is attracting spam answers. Also, comparing a ban on reviewing suggested edits to being put in prison is a bit strange, if not borderline offensive. They're not the same. Reviewing edits is a privilege. Perhaps the system could be improved to give you more information, but that's not really a good comparison. –  Cody Gray Jul 23 '13 at 8:46

My question had a lot of response, mainly in comments. Therefore I summarize the results in my answer.

It is possible that a moderator bans you from review, even if you don't fail any audits. In my case the reasons were probably the following (I never got a proper answer):

  • I tended to reopen questions after they have been edited and improved, even if the question is not perfect yet.
  • I accepted a corrected code sample.

I learned the following lessons:

  • before you review, read this. It contains a lot of useful information which is not mentioned in the help.
  • do not edit code (unless minor fixes) to improve it, add a comment for the author or write your own answer
  • check from time to time how other people vote. If you are the only one voting for or against, there might be something wrong.
  • and not to forget: when in doubt, skip the review (of course I knew that before)
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Nice summary. And thanks for the constructive attitude. :) –  Bart Jul 24 '13 at 20:08
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And if reviewing is not your thing, no worries! There's many more ways to contribute, and many more things to get addicted to ;-) –  Arjan Jul 24 '13 at 20:19
    
"when in doubt, skip the review" -- the only think I dislike in this statement is that it's not written in bold font :) –  gnat Jul 24 '13 at 22:49
    
"I voted to reopen a question which could attract spam" <- that link refers to a Late Answers review. –  Old Checkmark Jul 25 '13 at 12:04
    
@OldCheckmark you are right. The answer has been deleted in the meantime and I misinterpreted the closed question. –  slfan Jul 25 '13 at 12:21
    
No worries, I got confused too because all I see was the question. –  Old Checkmark Jul 25 '13 at 12:22

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