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Questions like this are fairly common. New users sign up, treat Stack Overflow like a forum, and wind up with a suspended account. They then post here for help, and a moderator ends up writing the same explanation that was written the last time this came up.

Can we do a better job about warning users that their behavior is starting them on the path toward Trogdor? After, say, their first two posts are flagged and deleted can we throw up a red warning banner at the top, linking to a page describing what kinds of posts are acceptable (and unacceptable) here, and warning that they're on the verge of being suspended?


Similar to how can you know that you are quite close to losing your account?

and probably a duplicate of Give better explanations when accounts are blocked

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  • 4
    You know how they say: "Prevention is better than cure." +1!
    – Alenanno
    Feb 21, 2012 at 18:32
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    See the image (and its caption) at kevinmontrose.com/2012/02/01/…
    – balpha Staff
    Feb 21, 2012 at 18:34
  • @BoltClock - very similar (and slightly different imo) - I added a link to it Feb 21, 2012 at 18:34
  • @balpha - which image? this one ?? Feb 21, 2012 at 18:36
  • What part specifically do you think is different? I note that neither of them carry the [feature-request] tag, so right now, both of them are just opening up a discussion about whether or not this is a good idea. I think the answers to the other question concluded that it is. I suspect it hasn't been done [yet] because this is a specific case of the more general policy of optimizing for pearls, not sand.
    – Cody Gray
    Feb 21, 2012 at 18:36
  • @Cody - the only different part I thought existed was that I was offering a specific, simple idea that I think would ameliorate this problem Feb 21, 2012 at 18:38
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    A depressing thought: I doubt (many of) the people for whom this would apply would bother to read such a warning. Feb 21, 2012 at 18:38
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    @Andrew - for some trolls, sure. But I think there are plenty of people who would absolutely click on a red banner at the top to see what the problem is. Feb 21, 2012 at 18:41
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    I don't think it's just "trolls". Ignorant people aren't necessarily trolls. Feb 21, 2012 at 19:18
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    @AdamRackis, there are many people who would see a red banner, but how many of them would actually read it? Just about every "question" on M.SO saying "halp i cant ask questions" copies the "error" text, word for word, including the goo.gl link. How many of them actually bother to read the linked post? I bet it is a small % that do, and an even smaller % that understand it.
    – tombull89
    Feb 21, 2012 at 20:31
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    To be fair, I don't click on obfuscated URLs. I'd come here asking what it meant, too. Rage against the machine; support this feature request.
    – Cody Gray
    Feb 21, 2012 at 20:35
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    Due to the nature of the timing of posting/flagging/mod action I suspect that this would just convert "Eek why was I banned" to "Eek why was I banned without a warning" Feb 21, 2012 at 20:37

1 Answer 1

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I'm not opposed to this, but I also agree with Andrew:

A depressing thought: I doubt (many of) the people for whom this would apply would bother to read such a warning.

The post you linked to is discussing an error message that has a "learn more" URL right there in the error message, and the user clearly never bothered to visit it, and that's not exactly an isolated case. People can't be bothered to learn about quality rules after they've already been banned; why would they bother beforehand, when they can still ask questions? Between this and the fact that Jeff doesn't even want to try helping banned users, it seems unlikely that more features will be added for these types of users

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    Even if they read it some will not act on it. Certainly when I've written comments to users suggesting that they are heading down a bad road and likely to get sanctioned they've generally lashed out at me rather than taking the advice. There have been exceptions but they were generally only marginal rather than outright bad users in the first place. Feb 21, 2012 at 19:17
  • There are some unwanted activity we don't explicitly point out (like deleting too many posts) so I don't think it's entirely a case where the problem users are just dumb and or jerks.
    – Ben Brocka
    Feb 21, 2012 at 19:30
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    Unfortunately I think you're right. Still though, an automatically triggered red banner with a link to a helpful page would be easy to implement and would, I think, help some people. A pretty marginally improvement though, and I suspect Jeff's team has higher priorities than to help the few posters of crap capable of being helped. Feb 21, 2012 at 20:05
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    Typically these people don't read, don't care or don't read and don't care. If there is some data that would support the notion that this kind of user would contribute past meeting their own need quickly, I might get behind this :) I'd be rather surprised if there were.
    – Tim Post
    Feb 21, 2012 at 20:51
  • @Tim - I suspect you might be right. I'm usually always so cynical about other people...not sure why I have such an optimistic streak here. Maybe I just haven't seen the horrors you mods have :) Feb 21, 2012 at 21:35
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    I share the same fear. I get comment notifications for What can I do when getting “Sorry, we are no longer accepting questions from this account”? and then on that very FAQ see comments like "hello i have same problem i can't ask a question on stackoverflow how to resolve?"...
    – Arjan
    Feb 21, 2012 at 23:04

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