I cannot put it more eloquently than Lasse did:

Why aren't the users who get suspended notified of the reason for this? I mean, if the purpose of the suspension is to get someone to improve their behavior, isn't this like every other comment asking why people downvoted their post? If the purpose is to get people to improve, you need to tell them what they did that was wrong.


I agree with this in principle, and have made the following change: From now on, when a user is suspended, the "this user is suspended" message on the user's chat profile will include the reason for the suspension; it's one of these three possible reasons:

  • The user is suspended on the parent site (this suspension carries over to chat);
  • the user has posted something that was flagged as spam etc. by enough users to be deleted and was thus automatically suspended;
  • a moderator has manually suspended this user (communicating the reasons for this to the user, and how publicly that's done, is totally at the discretion of the moderator).

That said, let me add this:

For one thing, no matter how many people claim the auto-suspension is new, this isn't true. This feature has been in place ever since the public beta; the possibility of this happening was in the FAQ even during the three-day preview. And there's a good reason to it: The real-time nature of the chat makes it necessary to stop misbehaving users quickly, so they don't destroy any possible conversation before a moderator has a chance to step in.

Secondly, you have written this in a comment:

In the past we have used flags to remove posts that were not spammy, but we didn't want in the transcript (like someone's email address), and this didn't happen.

I consider this abusive behavior. You are using a community moderation feature (that you know has the side effect of deleting messages) to get around the fact that for good reasons, deleting messages outside the two-minute edit window is not allowed.

It's called "flagging as spam, offensive, or inappropriate", not "vote to delete", and if you abuse it as the latter, you're certainly not in the place to complain that it does more than just deleting. In the future, please use flagging for its intended purpose only.

  • I have seen several messages flagged and deleted in the C++ chat room without the user being banned. In fact, one of my messages (a picture of a dead kitten.) was once deleted. I just took the pain and looked up that incident. This is the message immediately preceding the one that got deleted. From what I remember, the message was deleted within minutes. As you can see from the transcript, I kept participating without being banned. In fact, I have never before heard of someone being banned for that. How come? – sbi Jul 31 '11 at 19:46
  • @sbi: After chat.stackoverflow.com/messages/284399/history was deleted at 18:21:07 (a whole day after you posted it), you were suspended for precisely 30 minutes until 18:51:07. – balpha Jul 31 '11 at 19:50
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    Wow. Human memory is a weird thing. Anyway, I take this as a hint to that this must be communicated to the banned ones, or it just doesn't make sense. What good for is banning when 1) I don't even noticed I was banned, 2) those who notice being banned don't know why they are banned, and 3) those who do something that gets someone banned don't know about that outcome? – sbi Jul 31 '11 at 19:55
  • 1) You just weren't active then, 2) is fixed with the completion of this very feature request, and my answer to 3) is in this very answer. – balpha Jul 31 '11 at 20:03
  • 1) I could have been informed anyway. 2) Fine. 3) Please add a note to the "do you really want to flag this?" dialog box saying that the user will be suspended if enough flags are amassed to really delete the message. – sbi Jul 31 '11 at 20:16

Actually, I'm in favor of much more "telling the users" about these things.

First, as noted by Tim in his comment on an answer in this question, balpha is open to suggestions about how to improve how flags are being (a)bused.

One of the things that I see, that is troubling me, is that the system seems to evolve new features daily, without actually telling most people about them.

Then, when the system suddenly burps, for some apparently random reason, people are clueless as to why it did that.

Take this thing about being suspended for 30 minutes in chat, if chat messages you have are removed because of flags.

The very first thing to do to avoid people wondering about why it happened is to tell those that were suspended exactly the reason. The system does not have to tell them the exact heuristics, nor specifically which posts that caused this, but it needs to tell them that because of people flagging their posts to such a degree that the system removed those messages, they were suspended for 30 minutes. That user can then disagree or not, but if he has an idea about which posts that was flagged, he'll hopefully try to improve.

Secondly, if people are flagging for the wrong reasons, make it clear to those flagging that the people that they are flagging will get suspended if the flags ends up causing the messages to be removed. Even Rebecca suggested that in a comment on balpha's post.

But these are not isolated incidents. The system is gaining new features at an alarming rate, and many of them seem to be aimed at improving the signal-to-noise ratio.

At the very least, then, I would expect those same features to gain sub-features ensuring that the users those features are inflicted upon doesn't cause more noise, when asking why the system did what it did.

In other words, improving signal-to-noise ratio in one part of the system seems to cause noise in another part of the system.

For instance, people have been asking why their answers were automatically moved to a comment. Why not just tell those users when it happens why it was done?

Why do we have to treat users like dogs, hoping they'll react to random shock treatment in the correct way?

End of rant, I suspect this answer will get flagged. At least I won't get suspended for 30 minutes because of it.

  • Side note: With respect to the automatic answer conversion notification, since that's now status-completed you do get a pretty clear signal that it happens (I had it happen to me once on Meta). But I agree, there are various other instances where you might not. – Tim Stone Jul 29 '11 at 21:55
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    Flagged as overly cogent and sensible. – Josh Caswell Jul 29 '11 at 21:59
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    I fully agree with the principle that, when a system exhibits non-obvious behavior, the user should get a brief message at least acknowledging that something non-obvious happened. – Robert Harvey Jul 29 '11 at 22:18

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