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A version of my question was asked here: Give better explanations when accounts are blocked . However, the status complete on that question resulted in the message I am taking issue with.

Another related question: Clarify "no longer accepting questions from this account" error closed as a duplicate of the aforementioned question is answered with the statement that the ban is permanent. Seeing as how this is no longer the case (and the post was 3 years ago) I find this to be deprecated.

It seems there are a lot of angry users who get hit with the question ban. The most recent being this situation from only 15 minutes ago: http://meta.stackexchange.com/q/211132/178816. If you were inclined you could choose from dozens here to examine as well.

I think part of the problem is a misunderstanding of new users. Users seem to consider this message

"Sorry, we are no longer accepting questions from this account. See the Help Center to learn more".

to imply that they can never ask a question again.

It could benefit users hit by the question ban to see a slightly more descriptive message indicating that there is possible redemption. It could also benefit the overall content of low quality questions. Perhaps by taking a quote from the help center, the message could be a little more helpful:

"Sorry, we are no longer accepting questions from this account. The only way to end a posting block is to positively contribute to the site. You may begin by fixing your existing posts. See the Help Center to learn more".

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Well, as was stated in previous discussions, the general expectation is that if you've hit the q-ban, you are very unlikely to be someone that the community would want to have as a contributing member due to significant and repeated negative behavior with little or no positive contributions. While avenues of redemption exist, for those rare exceptional cases, they are just that, exceptional cases, not the expected cases. Good contributing members of the community simply don't get to the banned stage in the first place. –  Servy Dec 11 '13 at 18:21
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site without new users indicates the end, don't ignore even a single user- this is what mentioned in the above message indirectly, please add the above message effectively :) –  Bala Dec 11 '13 at 18:23
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Servy explained it well; users who manage to trip the question ban are unlikely to ever reform, regardless of what information you give them. –  Robert Harvey Dec 11 '13 at 18:23
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IOW, the Q-ban is there to simply get rid of users that SE doesn't want. Simple as that. Harsh? Definitely. Does it work? Yes. –  Mysticial Dec 11 '13 at 18:23
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@Mysticial: Is that a bad thing? Should I feel remorse? Is my heart two sizes too small? –  Robert Harvey Dec 11 '13 at 18:24
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I think these comments may be missing the point of the question. He's not asking why users get banned. He's just asking for a wording change in the ban notice. To me it makes sense. While there is a link to the help center, the notice now definitely makes it sound permanent. –  Geobits Dec 11 '13 at 18:28
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TBH, I think the Q-ban was "intended" to be permanent. But that doesn't sound very nice to someone who gets the ban. So it was worded in a way to somewhat emphasize the fact that it is possible to get out of it - by simply no longer meeting the criteria to be banned. (which was never meant to be easy in the first place) –  Mysticial Dec 11 '13 at 18:34
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Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/210996/… –  Shog9 Dec 11 '13 at 19:12
    
meta.stackexchange.com/a/211146/244294 the answer here feels related. –  Alec Teal Dec 11 '13 at 19:14
    
@Shog9 - I saw that when it was posted and had already upvoted it. I think that is a good idea. –  Travis J Dec 11 '13 at 19:15
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Not true, @Bala. Have a look at "A Group is its Own Worst Enemy", and search for the paragraph that says "shut off the new user page". –  Josh Caswell Dec 11 '13 at 19:21
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Almost always I see the following Comment when someone opens a support Question: The only way to end a posting block is to positively contribute to the site. You may begin by fixing your existing posts.. Yes, why not have it directly in the message? –  brasofilo Dec 11 '13 at 19:44
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What is the disadvantage of making the message a little less bleak? I'm not saying encourage people to try answering questions - that will likely only end up with a lot of bad answers to follow the bad questions - but encouraging people to edit their own questions into something a bit higher quality? The people who are unsalvageable will, by and large, not bother, and vanish like they do now. The people who, presented with such a page, respond by editing their questions to improve them seem like they'd be on the road to recovery. –  Ben Barden Dec 11 '13 at 20:13
    
@Shog9 If possible, I'd like to see some numbers, like how many users hit the Q-Ban, how many recover from it, and how many are still active (cast votes/suggest edits/answer questions)... Without such numbers, I can't judge if this is a serious problem or not. - BTW: you do a great job with the numbers and graphs. –  Johannes Kuhn Dec 12 '13 at 9:14
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@JohannesKuhn: Numbers. –  Josh Caswell Dec 12 '13 at 19:48

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted
+100

The behaviour of the ban is well designed

The objective of the question ban is to protect the network from a stream of bad questions. This can be done in two ways;

  • By improving the question asking behaviour of the people asking the questions
  • By permanently preventing those who can't improve their questions from asking more

The actual behaviour of the ban achieves this very well, much better than a timed ban would.

The wording isn't

However, the existing wording adds a third, in my opinion irrelevant, effect

  • Permanently preventing those who are easily disheartened/afraid of further criticism from asking more questions, irrespective of if they could improve

This is because the message suggests you are likely to find reasons why you were banned rather than ways to improve in the provided link. Presented with that I'm not sure I'd follow the link either.

For that reason I support a change in the wording to make it clear that (with a lot of work) the ban can end

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I'm not actually opposed to changing the text to something a wee bit more encouraging, but I've noticed that a significant portion of users who trigger the ban exhibit a serious inability to

  • read and comprehend what they have read

and/or to

  • take advice that is offered them

The current situation serves to filter these users because they find it difficult to learn what they need to do because of these twin dysfunctions.

I'm not sure this is a bad thing: until they overcome these barriers to positive participation I just don't expect them to have much to offer.

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Actually, I strongly disagree with this. The statistics which were just pointed out to me indicate that many users do recover from a question ban, and ergo have likely read the advice they have been given. –  Emrakul Dec 16 '13 at 1:43
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@Emracool What? These statistics? They show that roughly one person in twelve overcomes the ban which I would say leaves a "significant portion" of the offenders still banned. I think I'm sticking with my position. –  dmckee Dec 16 '13 at 2:40
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One in twelve is significant in that one and twelve people can be helped. –  Emrakul Dec 16 '13 at 2:43
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I have not claimed that an insignificant number of banned user can be helped, I claimed that a significant number can not be helped. –  dmckee Dec 16 '13 at 2:44
    
Ah, yeah, fair enough, sorry. –  Emrakul Dec 16 '13 at 2:45

Sorry, we are no longer accepting questions from this account...

Sounds rather permanent, especially when considering that users may be used from other sites, that this is the case.

Maybe rephrasing it into someting like ...

For now you can not post any new questions until...

... takes the sting out of it, because this gives the user an immediate feeling that he can do something about it, while the first version sounds to me like the typical Big Company response, trying to load you off at their anonymous Hotline which will not really help you.

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Why on earth do we want to "take the sting out of" a message to someone who has repeatedly shown disregard for the standards of the site? The message is a bare statement of fact, not a castigation. It even says "Sorry" at the beginning! –  Josh Caswell Dec 11 '13 at 19:33
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@JoshCaswell Have you read the context of the question? The why should be clear then, so I take your comment as rethorical. –  Devolus Dec 11 '13 at 19:49
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Do I look like a person who asks rhetorical questions?!1! –  Josh Caswell Dec 11 '13 at 19:52
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@JoshCaswell that "sorry" isn't a real one. It's like when Don Mattric said he was sorry for those without Internet connections and explained how they have a product for them, the 360 (I really hate the xbone btw, so much fail) - his sorry was like salt into the wound, this sorry - IF THE PERSON IS GENUINE - is artificial, right up there with "u mad bro?" - I am not against permabans btw, before somebody twists this, but some good will be caught in this huge net, I want that to stop –  Alec Teal Dec 11 '13 at 20:02
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I should add by the way that new users are the ones I fear for. Not the experienced serial offenders, the ones who don't really know what this whole thing is and like everyone else ignore the help pages until absolutely necessary (if we read the help pages we wouldn't discover new things our IDEs can do every week would we? :P) –  Alec Teal Dec 11 '13 at 20:05
    
It's certainly not an apology, @AlecTeal, but it is "real" in the sense of being a polite acknowledgement of potential disappointment. –  Josh Caswell Dec 11 '13 at 20:19
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«the ones who don't really know what this whole thing is and like everyone else ignore the help pages until absolutely necessary» Who are these poor innocent little lost lambs getting question banned without doing anything, @AlecTeal? Do you actually have any examples or evidence? Have you read the background info I linked you earlier? –  Josh Caswell Dec 11 '13 at 20:20

Well, as was stated in previous discussions, the general expectation is that if you've hit the question ban, you are very unlikely to be someone that the community would want to have as a contributing member due to significant and repeated negative behavior with little or no positive contributions.

they can technically still post answers but in my experience the types of users who tend to hit this filter are .. unlikely .. to produce an upvotable answer. They are free to try but it's not a situation where I think it would be helpful to encourage them to start "answering" things.

-Jeff Atwood

While avenues of redemption exist, for those rare exceptional cases, they are just that, exceptional cases, not the expected cases. Good contributing members of the community simply don't get to the banned stage in the first place.

Because these users are so unlikely to post valuable answers/edits, going out of our way to encourage them to continue contributing is simply not productive, either for them, or for the rest of us. Those few users truly interested in improving and putting solid effort in are those willing to spend the time to, for example, read the links provided to them containing more information about their situation.

Users who aren't willing to put in that effort are equally unlikely to read, or benefit from seeing, such information in that error message.

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I disagree with your premise. If you look at users who asked questions on meta about the question ban, given time to learn proper technique, they do contribute. stackoverflow.com/users/355722/jatin-ganhotra, wordpress.stackexchange.com/users/7990/sagive-seo, stackoverflow.com/users/675462/papaiatis . These people are confused, they are not malicious. Those users were from the list of users who posted questions that I linked in my question above. Perhaps you should do some research yourself before condemning people who are getting used to the approach used here. –  Travis J Dec 11 '13 at 18:50
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@TravisJ Those few examples are the reason the ban isn't strictly permanent, and why it has support for those few exceptional cases where a user is willing to reform and take the significant steps needed to turn around the ban. That those exceptions exist doesn't make it the expected workflow for most question banned users. –  Servy Dec 11 '13 at 18:53
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@AlecTeal Yes...as I said, for virtually everyone that reads the message, they're not going to be unbanned. For those few truly interested in reforming and contributing, it seems reasonable to expected them to be interested enough in to "read more" about the subject. For those not interested in learning more, they are indicating that they aren't interested in improving. Having an error message indicate that they should actively go try to get unbanned is likely to be more harmful than helpful, given that most of those users won't be capable of doing so. –  Servy Dec 11 '13 at 19:08
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@AlecTeal And given their history of significant negative contributions we don't want them to come back. They have a proven history of not only not providing good content, but of providing significantly negative content. Why would we want them to come back, unless they are willing to take the initiative to show that they are willing and able to reform their content? –  Servy Dec 11 '13 at 19:15
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@Servy do you read how horrible you sound? When I was 16 I posted things I regret now and got bans I deserve but I grew up! Permanent bans should be a last resort. Get more moderators rather than blanket-ban people more likely to be negative! –  Alec Teal Dec 11 '13 at 19:16
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Are we paying by the character now, how exactly would a clearer message hurt? –  Richard Tingle Dec 11 '13 at 19:18
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@RichardTingle That's what I spent an answer stating. Consider re-reading Jeff's quote. You're asking to change the message to encourage the user to continue contributing in other ways; we don't want them to do that. They've shown that they're not capable of providing quality content. Telling them to go and start posting answers is likely going to result in them posting bad answers. –  Servy Dec 11 '13 at 19:20
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@AlecTeal Yes. I fail to see how it's relevant here. We're not punishing users for things they might do, we're punishing them because they have already made significant and repeated negative contributions. Or are you saying that nobody should ever be punished for anything, ever, because past behavior is never an indication of future behavior? –  Servy Dec 11 '13 at 19:23
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«Permanent bans should be a last resort». Do you have any idea of the numbers involved, @Alec? They are a last resort. There's a lot of users on SO, and so far as I know, not very many of them get q-bans. –  Josh Caswell Dec 11 '13 at 19:30
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@JoshCaswell I do not know of the numbers, and I am guessing with some of this. I am only commenting because this site can be really cruel and those without a thick skin do nothing to deserve being hurt by it. If being banned like it says above happens to one person who doesn't know why, or who can't (or doesn't know how) to contact people to find out why, I am against it. People should be treated like people, not sausages in a sausage factory. –  Alec Teal Dec 11 '13 at 19:33
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@AlecTeal That doesn't really have anything to do with this particular suggestion. Clearly you have major problems with the q-ban system that go way beyond just the error message shown. This post isn't suggesting changing the way users get feedback on why they were banned. –  Servy Dec 11 '13 at 19:34
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The other people on the site do treat people like people, @AlecTeal, but after the tenth or so flaming pile of dog poop on the doorstep, maybe we need to call the cops to treat the person leaving them like the nuisance that she is. –  Josh Caswell Dec 11 '13 at 19:35
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@Servy actually the big one no one realises pre ban is that deleted questions count really heavily. So easily done; to try to clean up your bad questions and bam you're banned –  Richard Tingle Dec 11 '13 at 19:37
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Perhaps I am just new and eager and nice and not jadded old and bitter, but honestly SO as a community sucks, you have the old-member circle, and the fragmented line-segments of the others. Anyway @JoshCaswell I agree in that case, but this problem has been solved, IRCops usually increase the ban-time, 30 minute cool off -> 2 hours -> day -> week -> month -> 6 months... if the user even comes back they tend to be good, doing something REALLY REALLY bad though deserves right-to-a-long-ban, there is no blanket policy though, it's not one size fits all. –  Alec Teal Dec 11 '13 at 19:37
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@Servy it's not stringing them along if we say "You're cut off, but you can recover if you do this difficult and effortful thing." and make it clear enough that it's going to take work. Those that are not willing to put in the work will quit. Those who decide they are willing to put in the work should have a pretty good chance of recovery - and it would cut down on the number of meta posts from question-banned users. –  Ben Barden Dec 11 '13 at 20:42

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