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While post bans help protect the Stack Exchange network from harm caused by repeated low-quality posts, they deny all further opportunity for the user to post questions or answers, even if there is a constructive intent. Lifting the ban through editing of low-quality posts may not be feasible because there is often no reasonable edit that can make a bad post acceptable; for example, it may not be possible to edit an off-topic question to bring it on topic without dramatically changing the intent of the question.

Instead of fully blocking questions or answers from users who have repeated posted low-quality content, I suggest that they should be placed into a moderation queue, and the question or answer is posted only if at least three users with at least 2000 reputation approve it (the post is rejected if three users vote no). The queue should be accessible from the /review page. If (and only if) the user fails this moderation process, say, three times in the previous five submissions, should the user should be post-banned as currently implemented. If the user posts enough high-quality content to bring the user back on the "OK to post" side of the post ban threshold, the user's posts should no longer be subject to moderation.

To reduce the impact of this process on the community, such "moderated users" should be rate-limited to one post per hour, should not be allowed to submit another post until the the previous post has been moderated, and should be subject to a four-hour (or possibly longer) penalty period if the previous submission was rejected. The threshold for moderation should be set slightly lower than the current post-ban threshold, so that it "kicks in" a bit earlier than the post ban currently does. Just like the current post-ban implementation, the moderation requirement should apply independently for questions and answers. To protect against users gaming the system, there should be a longer-term limit such as five rejected posts per 6 months before the account is fully blocked from posting questions or answers, and moderators should have access to each user's post moderation records so that they can suspend users that have a continued record of abuse of this process.

A correct implementation of this process should send a clear message that the user's posts are of consistently low quality and require improvement, without totally denying them the opportunity to post better content. This ensures that users have some usable mechanism by which they can improve their overall post quality and avoids the issue with having to edit previous (often deleted) posts to remove the post ban.

I understand this means more moderation work for the community to do. But we should not rely primarily on automation to protect against low-quality posts. The community, including moderators, must do its part to maintain content quality. I understand that Stack Overflow alone gets about 2000 flags every day and we want to reduce the moderation workload, but there is no substitute for human intervention.

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I'm of the opinion that low-quality questions should already be making it into the review queues. How would the community be able to moderate an account who is repeatedly making low-quality contributions to the site without figuring out the barriers/trips for question/answer bans (since that's what will happen eventually)? –  Makoto Dec 31 '13 at 1:24
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IMO, this review is already being done on the individual posts-it takes multiple close votes to close them, which means the post is already receiving 5 reviews prior to closure in most cases. Users able to review questions like this can already do so by reviewing the close vote reviews (currently at 99K+ posts pending review). What purpose does providing yet another level of review serve? Users don't get post-banned for one or two bad posts alone. –  Ken White Dec 31 '13 at 2:05
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My apologies. I have once again forgotten that we have already taken steps recently to make things easier to understand for beginners, including a reworked close system and a new help center. I think I'm getting carried away with helping post-banned users... –  DragonLord the Fiery Dec 31 '13 at 3:42
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Also remember that not everyone who is post-banned should come back without significant improvement. Not long ago I watched a new user go from account creation to question ban in an hour and 46 seconds, by posting a terrible question, having it closed, then repeating the process a few times without having learned much of anything in the process or taking any of the hints repeatedly given. I expect it will be a very long time before that person does the necessary personal self-improvement to become a useful contributor of either questions or answers, if ever. –  Michael Hampton Dec 31 '13 at 3:55
    
@MichaelHampton: The key here is whether the feedback is actually understandable to the user. Does it appear that the user isn't a native speaker of English? If not, then our feedback process may need improvement. If so, it is out of our hands... –  DragonLord the Fiery Dec 31 '13 at 3:57
    
@DragonLordtheFiery Oh, he was fluent enough. He just really wanted us to give him teh codez. –  Michael Hampton Dec 31 '13 at 3:58
    
@MichaelHampton: Did the closure include the following text? Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results. See also: Stack Overflow question checklist –  DragonLord the Fiery Dec 31 '13 at 4:02
    
@DragonLordtheFiery Ours on Server Fault is only slightly different: Questions must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results. See How can I ask better questions on Server Fault? for further guidance. –  Michael Hampton Dec 31 '13 at 4:20
    
@MichaelHampton: Okay, it's obvious that the user wasn't really trying. Oh well... –  DragonLord the Fiery Dec 31 '13 at 4:23
    
+1 this would help people who just plain old screwed up get out of their bans. Idiots, the lazy, help vampires, and other scumbags will remain banned. –  Won't Dec 31 '13 at 18:36

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I tend to think the bans are already set a pretty generous place.

Users who get to the point of being question/answer banned have already had a number of opportunities to see that their content isn't being well received: long lists of comments, downvotes, close votes, and occasionally mod messages... When a user chooses to ignore all of this negative feedback and continue to post bad content, a ban is the last line of defense.

Posting on SE isn't a right, its a privilege. If a user, after being warned several times, continues to abuse the privilege, its only logical that they should loose it.


I understand this means more moderation work for the community to do. But we should not rely primarily on automation to protect against low-quality posts. The community, including moderators, must do its part to maintain content quality. I understand that Stack Overflow alone gets about 2000 flags every day and we want to reduce the moderation workload, but there is no substitute for human intervention.

The bans are a direct result of an awful lot of human intervention... Like I wrote above, question and answer bans are a last line of defense. A user's posts will have been reviewed and down-voted/close-voted a whole bunch of times before they are "automatically banned".

Why should lifting a ban on a user be easier than banning them to begin with?
And more importantly why should the community be putting in the effort, rather than the offending user?

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I think the post ban is a good idea, but should be softened. Perhaps we should throttle the rate at which banned users could post, starting with something like 1 question a day and 5 answers(depending on which ban they have), and decreasing that until complete banning if they show continuing destructive behavior.

Each time they post during their throttle, however, a pop-up box should show up at the side with a few essential questions, and they should have to check off each that each one is true before posting. They could obviously still post a terrible question and check off each box, but it would cause them to look at their post a second time and possibly improve things.

Things that could be in this box are

  • Is your post properly formatted?
  • Is every piece of code shown as code?
  • Does your question have a clear question line? (AKA is it clear what your question is)
  • Have you shown what you have tried previously?
  • Have you shown what your expected output is?
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"every time a user is banned, there is a meta post about it" - Not every time. Most of these users either give up, or they do actually read it. We only get a few of these posts a day on meta. But there are thousands of people hitting the ban every month. –  Mysticial Dec 31 '13 at 1:31
    
@Mysticial that was an overexaggeration on my part. I didn't realize there were so many people getting post-banned –  scrblnrd3 Dec 31 '13 at 1:34
    
Anyway, that paragraph is irrelevant –  scrblnrd3 Dec 31 '13 at 1:35
    
That doesn't quite address the issue described in the question and is likely to end up allowing more low-quality content to be posted. It also doesn't send a clear message to the user that his or her posts need improvement. –  DragonLord the Fiery Dec 31 '13 at 1:38
    
@DragonLordtheFiery I think I have addressed this now –  scrblnrd3 Dec 31 '13 at 1:42
    
This is a good idea, but not because the post ban is too "harsh" - see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/210996/… –  Shog9 Dec 31 '13 at 3:00

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