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I never RTFM on Stack Exchange and got myself trapped in limbo on AskUbuntu:

After sifting though similar questions about this happened, I'm guessing that I have a few deleted posts. In an effort to help others I left some quick, unpolished answers (that ideally would have been comments, but I didn't have enough rep points to leave one), and most recently an incorrect answer.

I honestly didn't think I needed to manage my account because I didn't find participating in up and down voting to be of much interest, and I assumed my consistent attempts to help others by posting my own solutions to problems would eventually result in some rep points.

Moreover, in the early days of SE, while I was using blueobelisk, that exactly how my accounts (one of which seems to be gone forever) were treated. Thus, I was totally caught off guard when I found I had been banned from answering questions on AskUbuntu.

Anyway, I read through the guidelines on how fix an answer lock and it says to "Begin by fixing your existing posts" and then it gave some advice about how to post better answers. Unfortunately, all of my posts were deleted, and since I am banned from giving answers, I can't provide new answers as a way to contribute positively. Moreover, it claims that commenting privileges don't change, but I never had the rep points to comment with, so I can't contribute that way either. Thus the only way I'm allowed to contribute to AskUbuntu in a positive way would be to ask a question, correct?

Based on this conclusion came across quite a paradox. I was searching for solution to question that someone else had asked. Several people had answered the questioner, but none had solved the problem for the questioner or myself. I needed more clarity from one of the answerers and wanted to let others know that this was not an isolated problem. Yet, even before my answer ban, I could neither up-vote, nor comment. And thus would be left in the unsatisfactory position of either putting this information into an "answer", or be forced to duplicate question to add in my tiny insights.

To me, this indicates a flaw in the efficiency of the system that could potentially be corrected if:

  • "Me Too" was metric decoupled from up votes and could be set by any user and up votes would be just a type of moderation about the quality and uniqueness of the question.
  • A "Request for clarification" is an actionable item that to make answers better, and as such should be decoupled from a "comment", and have a very low rep limit, or none at all.

Anyway, partially because I know it's a Stack Exchange rule, and partially because it's a pet peeve of mine, I decided it would be better to try to fix my rep score than ask a duplicate question. I incorrectly assumed that bringing my Stack Exchange account into good standing by answering as many questions as I could on other Stack Exchange sites would help. However, after acquiring a fair amount of rep points, I went back over to AskUbuntu and found my ability to ask questions there was still locked.

Shocked that my account was still stuck in limbo, I began trying to think of other ways I might be able to gain rep points. I realized that if I decoupled one of my launchpad identities, I could use it to answer questions on AskUbuntu. And since I seemed to be able to uncouple and recouple identities with out problem, I assumed (again incorrectly) that any rep points I might acquire while working under this user ( http://askubuntu.com/users/224641/user224641 ) could be transferred back and unlock my account.

It quickly became clear I really had no other but to ask a question in hope to restore my answer blocked account. However, while formulating the question, I came across an insightful answer to my question for a specific subset of other users that I hadn't seen elsewhere, and thus decided to post that question instead, hoping that I'd be at least allowed to answer my own question (as I'd seen others do). But this, of course, also did not work, and rather than risk wasting someone else's time on an answer I already knew I guiltily my other account to answer it.

While I could continue down this path, it seems incorrect. Indeed, while searching questions about multiple accounts, I inevitably came across complaints of users doing similar things.

Thus I'm now here asking your opinion:

  • Should I just continue to try to game the system and ask dumb questions that I could easily google the answer for, possibly wasting someone else's time?
  • Should I duplicate questions that were answered unsatisfactorily?
  • Is there a better way to structure privileges or give warnings to user so things don't get so out of hand that users feel forced to consider how to game Stack Exchange? And
  • Exactly where am I suppose to send requests to merge my duplicate accounts?:


(sorry this was so long)

share|improve this question
You can ask a moderator to undelete answers for you if you can no longer see them (answers deleted in the past 60 days are linked in your Answers tab, at the bottom is a link to an overview of recently deleted posts). –  Martijn Pieters Dec 12 '13 at 17:46

1 Answer 1

That is long. But thanks for being honest.

For now:

I've merged your accounts. This will cost you a little bit of reputation, since you accepted your own answer (which is ok) and got a bonus for it (which isn't ok).

Since your newer answers were well-received, you're no longer answer-banned. Keep it up!

For future reference / others reading this:

You can view recent, deleted answers by going to the Answers tab on your profile and clicking the "deleted recent answers" link. You can then edit them, and either undelete them yourself, or flag them for moderator attention requesting undeletion (if they were deleted by mods / high-rep users).

Other ways to demonstrate that you can contribute positively to a community and potentially get a post-ban lifted:

  • Edit! Anyone can suggest an edit that substantially improves the readability of a post, and if it is approved you'll earn 2 reputation points for it.

  • Ask! (if you're answer-banned; answer if you're question-banned) Demonstrating the ability to write clearly is just as possible with a question as with an answer.

Things the system could do better

It would probably do an awful lot of good if we gave folks like yourself, who've gotten off to a bad start, a warning coupled with a bit of advice before banning them completely. This is on my list to work on once 2014 starts.

How to get help if you run into problems like this

There's a "contact us" link at the bottom of every page on every site. Click it, and you'll find a form that'll let you get in touch with A Real Human Being™ who will help you get things sorted out.

share|improve this answer
+∞ on the automated warning. We've needed that for some time now. Automated banhammers need automated warnings. –  Robert Harvey Dec 12 '13 at 18:01
@Shog9 - One other thing that could be improved would be to include your pointer about where to find deleted answers (or questions) in the stackoverflow.com/help/answer-bans page because at the moment it does not mention deletions at all in there and I keep seeing deletions referred to as a major factor in the ban. –  Travis J Dec 12 '13 at 18:06
You're working on a warning system?! Thank you! People have been asking for that for some time. I'm very happy the idiotic mantra of NOBODY WILL EVER READ THE WARNING EVER EVER SO WE SHOULDN'T DO IT is being taken less seriously now. –  Adam Rackis Dec 12 '13 at 19:55
Probably human. –  Anna Lear Dec 12 '13 at 21:26
@AdamRackis: It's more along the lines of "You can't say we didn't warn you." –  Robert Harvey Dec 13 '13 at 1:12
@The - no question. This'll help get rid of low-quality users more easily (we warned you, now bugger off) and also help the sincere ones. –  Adam Rackis Dec 13 '13 at 1:24
what about association bonus? Assuming that banned user had somehow acquired enough rep for that at some other site, what could be consequences at the site they're Q-banned? Would they get +100, and if yes, what else would change to them? (note OP mentions their efforts at "other Stack Exchange sites") –  gnat Dec 19 '13 at 13:55
@KateGregory also, meta.stackexchange.com/q/211450/225745 - not yet old enough to be called ignored, but I think it's on the right track to be ;p –  Mołot Dec 19 '13 at 14:08
Re: warning on deletion... That's exactly what I want to avoid. "Hey, you're doing something antisocial again, but THIS TIME it might have consequences!" There are ways to do this that don't implicitly encourage folks to walk JUST this side of the line; it's tricky, but I'd rather put the time in and try to get it right than make what we have now worse for a simple solution. –  Shogging through the snow Dec 19 '13 at 15:21

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