In Jeff's Penalty box blog: he listed reasons for getting suspended:

No effort to learn and improve over time

  • This user does not put reasonable effort into the questions they ask of the community.
  • There is little or no evidence of this user learning over time, either in the topic itself or in the community norms on the site.
  • This user intentionally spams the site with the same question or very similar questions, over and over.
  • The user never gives anything back to the community, but only takes.

What is the criteria for "The user never gives anything back to the community, but only takes."? Does a user with 1785 questions and 7 answers(non of them have positive rating, and two negative) fit to that definition?

I remember I saw a user with 0 answer being suspened, but does really answering one answer with negative rating save him?

I didn't linked to that user profile because it's not personally against him, but a hint: this is the user with the most questions in SO.

  • 2
    I think this, like other limits on the sites, are closely guarded secrets. Were such a limit exposed to the general public people would be able to game the system. In any case, I'm looking forward to see what people have to say about this....
    – Lix
    Jun 20, 2012 at 13:45
  • 10
    The difference is between help vampires and people that ask constructive, well written questions. Do the 1785 questions show a lack of effort, failure to learn over time or other abuses of the system? If so, that's the problem, the question count is a bit suspicious but not problematic on it's own.
    – Ben Brocka
    Jun 20, 2012 at 13:50
  • @BenBrocka. Fair point!
    – user173320
    Jun 20, 2012 at 13:51

5 Answers 5


Does a user with 1785 questions and 7 answers(non of them have positive rating, and two negative) fit to that definition?

Possibly, but not automatically. The consensus is that asking good, well-researched questions is a way of "giving back", so asking only questions is not a bad thing per se. (Example) However, they are expected to be decent to good quality questions.

A user consistently asking poor questions may find themselves in hot water eventually. If the quality filter doesn't catch them, I distinctly remember Jeff encouraging us to flag users with exceedingly poor track records (can't find the link right now). So if you feel the user is misusing the site, try that (although I guess your mileage could vary depending on who handles your flag.)


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    @Arjan ahh, great, thanks! (It's not a new business though; I sold the account on Ebay to a shifty-looking bag salesman.)
    – Pekka
    Jun 20, 2012 at 16:39
  • "If the quality filter doesn't catch them" You mean the automatic filter? Won't just down voting their posts cause an eventual question ban?
    – Raedwald
    Sep 23, 2019 at 10:36

I think a user can contribute a lot without having to answer questions. A user that asks questions and supports the answers they receives is definitely contributing. If they accept and upvote good answers then they are contributing. However a user that asks questions only but never accepts or upvates any of the answers is a user never gives anything back to the community, but only takes.


There are several ways that a person can help, or give back to a community other than writing good questions and answers.

  1. Editing. On some sites, there are people with a weak knowledge of the subject, but a strong knowledge of English that are quite welcome on the site, because of the contributions that they make toward imbuing posts with clearer, more effective prose. Their very lack of knowledge of the subject is an asset, or at least not a liability, because they make a number of "no brainer" fixes that everyone else misses.

  2. Commenting. Sometimes people with too weak a knowledge of the subject to write good answers will have the germ of a good idea that they communicate by commenting. Thus, they provide inspiration to others that can take these ideas and run with them. Helping (or encouraging) others to write good answers is almost as good as writing a good answer yourself.

  3. Voting. Vote for posts that you genuinely like, downvote (and comment) on posts that you honestly think need work, and accept the better answers to your questions. All these actions add points to the system (except for downvotes and comments, which supposedly add wisdom).

  4. Flagging. Sometimes spam, or even the routine low-quality question or answer is posted on the site. The sooner it is caught, the better. "Citizen patrols" can greatly help this process by flagging such posts for moderator attention (the mods can't be everywhere at once). Flagging can also be used for more positive purposes. I've made (accepted) suggestions that a question that was off topic for SE site A might be a good fit for SE site B.

The spammers and other undesirables do not (generally) make the above contributions, but operate in a hit-and- run fashion. Every situation has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but a person that exhibits the above good behaviors on a consistent basis "gives back to the community and not only takes." That could represent "payment" for the privilege of asking a lot of questions, and not providing a lot of (good) answers. The above "citizenship" measures are also good for differentiating people with weak but well- intentioned questions or answers from the "trolls."

People's records on the site are totally public (more so than I'm comfortable with). But they do give alternate ways to measure someone's overall contributions, other than others' up- (and down-) votes on answers (or questions) that may or may not exist.

  • Hi Tom, since you're doing a bunch of editing and putting together a really awesome post, I'd suggest making sure you do address the ultimate question: What is the criteria for "The user never gives anything back to the community, but only takes."? Does a user with 1785 questions and 7 answers(non of them have positive rating, and two negative) fit to that definition? You're sort of hinting "no, they don't fit the definition", but I'd suggest being really explicit with that so folks know exactly where you stand. Hope this helps! :D)
    – jmort253
    Sep 29, 2013 at 1:44
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    @jmort253: I did what I could to follow your suggestion. Thanks for the heads up.
    – Tom Au
    Sep 29, 2013 at 1:52

As long as the questions are good, the user is actually giving something to the community (high quality, interesting questions in this case). You won't get suspended just for only asking questions, and never answering.

The cases I've seen where users where suspended for that reason, or where I have done that myself were always users with a significant number of downvoted and closed questions. Also remember that you don't see deleted questions, users that are suspended for low-quality contributions very often have lots of those.

For the specific example, I'd look at a representative example of his questions and check if he's making some reasonable amount of effort before asking. If he's just dumping question after question without thought onto SO, this might be reason for suspension.


I don't believe that question/answer ratio is a useful measure of a user's contribution to SO.

Without questions there can be no answers, so good questions are more important than answers. It takes a great question to generate great answers, the answers cannot exist alone. Therefore, it could be argued that the user you use as an example is contributing more than anybody else.

Obviously the quality of the questions is important, but, hopefully, you see my point.

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