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Anyone who has spent any time on meta will have experienced a user who has been question or answer banned and is looking for help. Often letting them know how to improve is what they need to move forward, improve their existing posts and get unbanned. Usually what I like to do is review each downvoted post individually and give specific advice on each post.

However; deleted questions are a major part of the question ban algorithm and so the post usually goes as follows:

Banned-user: Unfortunately I've been post banned, but I can't work out why.
High rep user: Your profile looks ok, do you have any deleted posts.
Banned-user: No, I don't have any deleted posts.
High rep user: [Awkward trying not to accuse the user of lying sentence in which we say they must] + instructions on how to access deleted posts.
Banned-user: I still can't see any deleted posts.
High rep user: They must be old, only recently posted deleted posts can be seen. We'll have to wait for a mod.
[Several hours pass, hopefully a mod turns up]
Mod: yes, you have deleted posts: link, link, link + advice on how to improve.

A perfect example of which happened just a few minutes ago: http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/222617/i-am-a-serious-programmer-and-i-may-not-ask-questions-on-stack-overflow

The mod's involvement is hoped for as there is obviously no flag used for this. While a mod usually does stop by there is no guarantee. All this takes longer than necessary and shift too much responsibility onto mods.

Feature Request

Allow very high rep users (10k+ or 20k+) to view deleted posts from the profile, this would cut out the need for mod involvement completely as users could be given links to their posts and if improved high rep users could vote to undelete.

This would allow high rep users to give specific advice on specific posts in addition to the general advice they are already given automatically.

This would be in the same way users access their own deleted questions; through a "deleted questions" link at the bottom of the questions page so deleted posts would not be "in your face". Optionally this link could only be available for post banned users further increasing privacy except when you really need people to see your deleted posts1.

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1 Although only showing the link for post banned users might actually inadvertently mark out post banned users which may not be desirable.

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Seeing deleted posts in the summary when visiting a user's profile is actually kinda depressing. –  Undo Feb 23 at 15:39
@Undo I do agree and I'd want this as hidden away as possible (under a "deleted questions" link) but several times I've seen a post banned user who seems keen to improved basically left to their own devices because no one could access the questions which were actually the problem or give them any advice on how to improve them (except generic advice) –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 15:41
@Undo, What is even more depressing is when you come across a user that is lashing out at experienced SO members, and you look at their profile and see a lot of downvoted/closed questions. –  Sly Raskal Feb 23 at 15:43
Is there any data on how widespread this problem is? –  Andrei Volgin Feb 23 at 15:49
@AndreiVolgin It's not the sort of thing you can really write a query for. I have seen it happen over and over and have provided an example but I'm not sure I could provide statistics on it –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 15:50
It does happen frequently enough to be annoying, and maybe moderators actually want 10k+ users to be able to help those users out. –  Pëkka Feb 23 at 16:00
@RichardTingle - yea... removed my comment... –  Lix Feb 23 at 16:27
Two alternatives for those not comfortable with showing deleted posts to so many people: 1) Allow users to see their own old deleted questions. 2) Display only the count of deleted questions/answers to high rep users, instead of the actual links. –  CodesInChaos Feb 23 at 16:44
@CodesInChaos (1) I'm enclined to agree, but as SE seem pretty set on having only recent deleted posts visible to users I'm proposing this as an alternative (2) that only allows us to say why a user was banned rather than help them improve their posts and get unbanned –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 16:47
I sort of agree, but isn't there a risk that this will lead to something of a "bandwagon" problem for the users that don't ask on meta? –  Flexo Feb 23 at 17:50
@Flexo Do you mean that users will be more likely to ask on meta if they get banned? I must admit that as long as they've already read the advice in the link (ha!) that I don't really object to that. I'm not sure many Q-banned users are avid meta uses anyway though so how "I'm Q banned" posts are responded to is unlikely to affect future "I'm Q banned" posts –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 17:53
Kind of, but I was more concerned about the effect on users who don't ask on meta when banned, the ones (who do exist) who only get slightly banned and then recover. If it becomes easier to spot those accounts will we see more people voting on the person rather than the content? (That indirectly makes it much harder for the people who react best to the Q-ban). –  Flexo Feb 23 at 18:03
@Flexo hmm, that is a concern, that while they are banned people pile on the down votes just because they are banned and people "believe they deserve a kicking". However, manually checking a user's deleted posts just to see if they have a lot of them (everyone has some, largely self-deletes) seems like a lot of work. Having the link appear only if the user is post banned (as suggested as an option in my question) would actually inadvertently mark them out as post banned which is possible not a good idea. Perversely having this link always visible might be better from that point of view –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 18:13
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3 Answers 3

Here is my counter argument for this.

  • If a user deleted a post, it usually means they are ashamed of it. Deleted content is often considered private information by the person who deleted it. It often contains posts users explicitly don't want others to see.
  • This feature requests will allow shaming of users by high rep users. Any high rep user.
  • The reason mods get to access this information is because we trust them and we elected them as a community.

Imagine somewhat problematic users that like power given this power. They can now shame low rep users and mock them. Giving users access to anything that relates to a specific user and not content requires trusting that user. I wouldn't trust most 10K or 20K rep users with mod tasks or this information.

So what do I do when I see a meta post with a user complaining about a Q ban?

Move along. A mod will come and reply. If anything - close as duplicate. This sucks, but the only alternative I see is something like a meta tag called that would be hidden by default from most users to reduce the clutter.

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Imagine a potential employer or recruiter going through your deleted questions history - you don't want them to go through that. Mods are a selected group and people generally trust them and SE staff too. You shouldn't have to 'pay' for everything you might have done. I'm sure I'd have a really embarrassing delete history had I started using this site earlier in my life. I'm sure many great programmers would too. –  Benjamin Gruenbaum Feb 23 at 21:20
I very much agree. Stack Overflow is most useful when people feel free to ask questions (or post answers) without fear of embarrassment. Exposing past intransigences to a wider audience could possibly have the negative consequence of people self-censoring themselves. The fear that future-employers could see that you haven't always been a super A+ brogrammer deluxe is a real thing. People feel safe when they feel like they have some control over the privacy of their information. Infringing on that sense of privacy (however slight such an encroachment it may be) should be considered carefully. –  rdlowrey Feb 23 at 21:41
I'm not sure I disagree with any of this, it is a balance between all the very true things you've said and helping users who are banned. However; I would love to know what neal has done to earn your ire –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 22:05
However we have no problem shaming users who's terrible questions get upvoted answers which is much more public –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 22:06
@RichardTingle countless trolling posts, yelling at new users, trolling meta, making 'funny' posts in meta. Abusing high rep to spread misinformation about JavaScript while not being the least competent in it, degrade and mock new users in chat etc (you can read the comments on his election post in the past mod elections). On the up side Neal has changed accounts and has taken a turn for the better with his new account - he has (mostly) refrained from his abusive behavior with his new account and is actively trying to make a change for the better. –  Benjamin Gruenbaum Feb 23 at 22:24
@RichardTingle true. That's a solid point. That said, users can (and do) ask for disassociation from helpful but down-voted bad questions but they think deleted answers are gone for good. –  Benjamin Gruenbaum Feb 23 at 22:27
I'm not sure how many times a moderator does actually come along and do this. Often They get closed pretty quickly as duplicate of meta.stackexchange.com/questions/86997/… before getting anyone assess the individual claims about number of deleted answers. –  Martin Smith Feb 24 at 0:30
@Martin which I'm not a huge fan of. Question reviews are much easier to post as answers –  Richard Tingle Feb 24 at 0:35
I have no memory of downvoting this. I think I misclicked. If you feel like editing the answer to unlock it I will remove it –  Richard Tingle Apr 3 at 9:41
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I don't personally see a need for this; 10k users aren't supposed to be able to target individuals.

I've always drawn a distinction between high-rep users and moderators: High rep users deal with problem content, moderators deal with problem users.

Being able to see a users history of deleted posts would encourage 10k users to start acting against a user because of their history, instead of dealing with a given post exclusively on its own merits.

Yes, it's nice when we can provide feedback to a specific user, and yes being able to see all of a users deleted posts would be nice, but the potential for abuse is too great IMO.

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I'd like to put forward my counter argument for this feature request:

10K users can get involved in deleting posts by other users. They can cast their votes and if enough of them agree, action will be taken on the offending post. This is why 10K users are able to see deleted content if they are already viewing the selected post.

10K users can be involved in this process because they are trusted to have an acceptable grasp on what content is allowed on the site. Reputation is a rough estimate of how much the community trusts a user.

This is not the same for banning. 10K users have absolutely zero input when it comes to banning users (other than flagging to draw the attention of a mod). Only diamond mods and SE staff are able to enforce a user ban (and yes, SE staff wrote the auto-ban script so they are enforcing it).

Even when voting to delete content, the users involved are (or should be) concentrating only on the content. It doesn't matter if a >100K user is the OP - bad content will lead to delete votes.

Allowing anyone else other than diamond mods and SE staff to see deleted content per user would allow people to consider content in direct relation to the user that contributed that content - this is not the way voting of any sort should occur.

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You are talking about timed suspentions, but post bans are automatic and applied purely on the basis of post content. As such it makes sense for trusted users to advise on improving post content –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 16:15
@RichardTingle - I don't see how timed suspensions comes into the mix here... –  Lix Feb 23 at 16:16
the section regarding flagging to diamond moderators etc. As far as I know a post ban is never applied by diamond moderators (except as their capacity as normal users casting votes). Everything I'm suggesting here is to advise a user on how to improve their content –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 16:17
I could be wrong.. But I remember hearing that question/answer bans can also be manually enforced. –  Lix Feb 23 at 16:18
"Reputation doesn't equal Community Trust", but you don't seem to explain it further? –  3ventic Feb 23 at 16:18
@3ventic ~= usually means approximately equal. –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 16:19
@Lix You may be right. Regardless; all i'm suggesting is enabling high rep users to give advice on how to improve their existing content –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 16:20
@RichardTingle - perhaps a counter to only show the number of deleted posts... –  Lix Feb 23 at 16:22
@RichardTingle Damn lua breaking my standards. –  3ventic Feb 23 at 16:24
@Lix That however only allows us to say "NO! YOU DO HAVE DELETED POSTS!" whereas what I want is "In post [link] you xyz but try to abc to improve it. In post [link] you yza but try to bcd to improve it etc etc" –  Richard Tingle Feb 23 at 16:24
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