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I don't know if schadenfreude would be an appropriate tag, but if it were, this question deserves it.

Background

I was strolling through [Meta] Stack Overflow today and had remembered that there was some discussion about who has been in the penalty box and how many times. Well, I came up with an easy way to determine that (non-programmatically). I haven't sat down to make it into a Greasemonkey script, but I'm sure someone out there will.

Who's been in the penalty box?

To figure out who has been in the penalty box, type the following into Google:

site:stackoverflow.com/users/ This account is temporarily suspended.

This query has problems. It shows up every time Google spiders the page, so if it is spidered multiple times for the same infraction, it may appear to be multiple suspensions until you look at the time and date of the spidering of the page.

Like so:

User XXXXX This period of suspension ends in 9 hours
User XXXXX This period of suspention ends in 4 hours
User XXXXX This period of suspension ends November 30

Question

In the spirit of competition:

  • What ways could you programmatically determine which users are in the penalty box?
  • How could you determine (accurately) how many times they've been there?

Rules

  • It must be a program (that includes scripts)
  • It can be in any language
  • It must accurately determine how often a user in in the penalty box (through methods such as grabbing the time/date stamp of the spidering, etc)
  • It must not get someone banned from Stack Overflow (Nothing that scrapes every user on the site once a day)
  • The information used to create the program must be publicly available
  • Any solution should address this point forward. Extra points if you can accurately determine who's been in the penalty box in the past
  • More rules will be added (or taken away) as needed.
  • The answer with the 'best' method will be chosen (very subjective, I'm sure there are objective criteria for them, and much like Pornography, I'll know it when I see it)
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It's schadenfreude (e and u swapped) by the way. –  Ludwig Weinzierl Jul 26 '09 at 20:57
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+1 as it is our business. –  RSolberg Jul 27 '09 at 3:45

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I agree with the comment made by yshuditelu. Namely, I think it's intentional that ordinary users don't have access to this information, as it's really none of their business. Moderators already have a way to see who's in the penalty box, and I don't think that there are any other people that need to know.

In fact, I'd be supportive of removing the red bar indicating the user is under suspension in favor of simply locking the user out of their account for a while.

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As someone who was in an organization (the US Army) where the whole 'punish privately and reward publicly' was the mantra, I can say that it's not always a good idea for no one to know that you've been punished. It reinforces good behavior and discourages bad behavior if people see there are severe consequences for their actions and that others will see that this user has been cast out. –  George Stocker Jul 26 '09 at 20:33
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In some organizations, such as the Army, I can definitely see the need for making a public example of misbehavior. On this site, however, the misbehavior is reversed by moderators and the community, and as such all that would be left is the fact that someone was banned, but no evidence of why. –  Kyle Cronin Jul 26 '09 at 20:51
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I really don't see why you need to know who got a penalty, it doesn't concern you. –  Ian Elliott Jul 26 '09 at 21:38
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@Ian Elliot Indeed; the same defenses have been brought up by authoritarian societies. The 'it doesn't concern you' defense doesn't hold up. It's far better for the community to know than not know. How else can you determine if someone in authority is overstepping their bounds? I could think of a million reasons why it ought to be known, but only a few as to why it shouldn't. –  George Stocker Jul 27 '09 at 1:26
    
It's important to those who have control over it. I don't believe that there needs to be transparency in this, and I have faith that the people who have such privileges have earned them. This isn't the military, this isn't a society, this is a website. If you feel someone was mistreated then email team@stackoverflow.com, otherwise stop looking for problems where problems don't exist. –  Ian Elliott Jul 27 '09 at 1:34
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@Gortok: Your argument falls apart on two things: 1. This isn't a government. You're completely free to go to another site. 2. As much as can be done to keep SO clear of "SWEET LORD BRING SO-AND-SO BACK PLEASE!", I'm all for. I used to run a forum, and we had more self-righteous proselytizings over a banning of a user than I care to remember. I don't wish that on anybody, especially not the SO team. –  Eric Jul 27 '09 at 1:41
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Why is it nobodys business when this is a commi ity? Why the secrets? What are we hiding? Your actions are public, why not the penalty box. I dont see that much value in this compared to other requests, but it is our business. Quit being a bunch of whimps. –  RSolberg Jul 27 '09 at 3:44
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@RSolberg: I would hope that the penalty box is more for rehabilitation than for public humiliation. Also, instead of singling these individuals out, it's better to forgive and forget once the temporary ban is over, something I don't think would be possible if there were a public record of the people that spent time in the penalty box. –  Kyle Cronin Jul 27 '09 at 5:41
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I'm also concerned that any sort of public attention to the users in the penalty box might backfire and result in more misbehavior geared towards getting into the box themselves. This is the reason why we only have badges that encourage positive behavior, and I think it makes a lot of sense. –  Kyle Cronin Jul 27 '09 at 5:49

I understand why it should probably be private, but I think there's something powerful about a public caning that deters future offenders. See, Michael P. Fay as an example. I would not mind seeing a banner announcement "So and so is put in penalty box for 2 days."

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Better idea, why not have a View that shows it on the SO side? I don't know if I'd use it, but that would be better than a script.

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I don't think having a view that shows this from the engine would be a good idea. I don't see a reason we should draw attention to people who have been put in the penalty box. –  Timothy Carter Jul 26 '09 at 20:06
    
Actually a little shame and public humiliation isn't a bad thing. After all, they are only on the box for their own actions. –  RSolberg Jul 27 '09 at 1:12
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@RSolberg, I agreed a little shame and public humiliation can perhaps be helpful, which is why I think I'd be against removing the banner and showing their account as suspended while the user is in the penalty box. But I think if you get too aggressive with the publicizing of people in the penalty box you could be in danger of setting up a negative reward system; where even though it's not a good thing, people start to take pride in the time they've spent there. –  Timothy Carter Jul 27 '09 at 5:34

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