It is clear that Stack Overflow is a community driven network that encourages users to actively answer or ask questions, flag and/or edit them.

If a user registers interest in a SE site- answers a single question or two and then loses interest, inherently it means they have no more interest in the particular community.

I think there should be an inactive flag. (just like in golf and a golfer's handicap) If you do not participate actively in the community (no points what so ever) you should not have full rights in that community anymore, until you show particular interest again. (for example - earning another 150 reputation to become active again)

I would like to discuss the feasibility of implementing this sort of system.

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    Accounts having certain inactivity characteristics are already automatically deleted. See blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/02/when-is-an-account-abandoned – user102937 Aug 8 '12 at 18:39
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    I see no value in this. – spring Aug 8 '12 at 18:39
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    Given this and your previous question, it seems like you've got a very specific problem in mind and you're (attempting to) addressing it indirectly. What's the "root cause" for these questions? – Mat Aug 8 '12 at 18:44
  • Yes there is a larger problem- but SE rules say a question must adress a single problem at a time.. So here we go.. -10 and I did not even have a chance to discuss anything. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 18:46
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    You do realize that downvotes here on Meta are often used to express disagreement, right? – Bart Aug 8 '12 at 18:46
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    Yes that is fine- People strongly disagree. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 18:47
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    Just discuss the main issue you want to discuss. Beating around the bush with fluffy questions like these will only leave you disappointed. Even if you intend to use them to build your case. – Bart Aug 8 '12 at 18:48
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    @ppumkin Even if you get to -100, no one is stopping you from discussing the issue. Forget about the down votes, it's just a number, if you have something to say, well, say it ;) – yannis Aug 8 '12 at 18:49
  • I just believe such account can be used to in undesirable ways.. boosting other peoples points by upvotting one another cross site, participating in voting and singling out other active members. How can it be justified that I get goodies for Home Imporoovements for my outstanding work.. but then get outvoted by 55votes?! Am i relly that crap or did i just not promote my self well enough – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 18:54
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    Tadah. So you lost in an election where you think the winners unfairly promoted themselves and actively requested votes in a way you find inappropriate? Why don't you ask that question? – Bart Aug 8 '12 at 18:55
  • Oh this is an election not an answer we are talking about? Ok, I see it now. – Aaron Bertrand Aug 8 '12 at 18:56
  • I did ask that question and yet to post my findings. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 18:57
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    You know I have been actively involved in your questions. And NO, you did not ask that. We figured out that was implied. Focus on that question. Compile whatever findings you have. Keep emotion out of it. And post it when you're ready. That's far more constructive. – Bart Aug 8 '12 at 18:58
  • Where did you ask that question? – Aaron Bertrand Aug 8 '12 at 18:58
  • This question is about something else... – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 18:59

I'm strongly disinclined to implement a feature like this for several reasons.

  1. If a user only asks two or three questions on a site (let's use Home Improvement as an example) and receives really excellent responses, but then goes inactive for six months, why would deactivating their account help? This is a user who is more likely to go out to his friends/neighbors and tell them about the site, how much it helped him/her, and how fast/good the responses were. These are all our core competencies, and creating a punishment for this user would create a certain amount of negative dissonance. I don't like making barriers to entry for a user who could "pay it forward" and thus help us out long-term.

  2. Take a user like Karl Katzke, a 5k+ user on DIY who's been largely inactive for the last year or so. He's mentioned that his lack of activity is entirely due to the demands of his real-life job. Users like this are the ones we want to come back and be welcomed. Forcing him to take on a penalty for his absence -- which was by no means voluntary -- isn't fair and doesn't breed goodwill with our community.

    I'm all for encouraging our top users to stick around -- but that's what the Fanatic badge is for. Forcing a punishment for not showing up to a volunteer internet site feels mean-spirited.

  3. Tracking this would be a pain. What would be a "fair" deduction? What period constitutes inactive? Activity levels vary by communities, due to their nature (Gardening and DIY are seasonal, SO and SF are not, academic subjects and Academia.SE have a 75/25 split in their activity over the course of the year) and tracking these would have to be custom per-site. That's taxing on our system.

ppumpkin, sure, this election is over. But that doesn't make you powerless as a user. Bmitch and Tester101 were flagging, answering well, submitting great edits, and doing all the same things a moderator does even before they had diamonds. You're not exempt from this. Continue to be a star! There will be other elections, and there will be other chances to prove yourself, I can assure you of that!

  • I am concerned about the fact that out of 4 votes i know who votes 2 times for me.. and the winner had 55+ votes. I did not see 55 members during our election talk..I never see more than 4 members chatting in meta.. and i certainly do not know 95% of the people that voted and never bothered to congratulate the winner. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 19:34
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    "Continue to be a star!" This! The mods on low activity sites want and need your help. Bring it on! – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 8 '12 at 19:34
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    @ppumkin So, you are confusing participants in an election chat and those on Meta with voters? You do realize only a small number of people take part in those things, right? – Andrew Barber Aug 8 '12 at 19:36
  • Yes I realise. But I did not realise that elections are broadcase across all networks.. I only noticed a message on the community baord because I come to those site everyday. How would somebody know its time to vote .. if they do not visit. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 19:38
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    @ppumkin Users who are eligible to vote in an election receive a notification in their global inbox letting them know it's voting time. If a user visits any Stack Exchange site, and it doesn't even have to be DIY, they'll be made aware of the election. – Aarthi Aug 8 '12 at 19:39
  • @Aarthi That is interesting. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 19:44
  • Karl Katzke, Who? Ok he has rep in thousands. Obvious and clear a brilliant contributor.. So he has to work. Me too.. you too and the guy with 151 rep who voted and asked 1 question 15 months ago. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 20:06
  • @ppumkin I agree that the "upset about.." part was not necessary for the post to make its point about the feature request, so I've edited it out. – Jeff Atwood Aug 9 '12 at 0:09
  • @JeffAtwood, ack - missed that you'd already fixed. Apologies. – Jaydles Aug 9 '12 at 0:14
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    @Jaydles I DEMAND AN EDIT WAR! – Jeff Atwood Aug 9 '12 at 0:14
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    @JeffAtwood While I really don't mind if you edit my post, do take care not to alter my meaning too much? Thanks~ :) – Aarthi Aug 9 '12 at 0:30
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    @Aarthi noted. Can you also take care not to use odd, unnecessarily emotionally loaded terminology that sends users into a comment response frenzy? Just the facts, ma'am. Thanks. :) – Jeff Atwood Aug 9 '12 at 21:11
  • @JeffAtwood salutes 10-4! – Aarthi Aug 9 '12 at 21:19

What I don't understand is what's the harm of having a few "inactive" user accounts laying around? They may have lost interest, or real life got in the way, or whatever, why would we want to put a wall up for them if they decide to return at some point?

Sorry to put it bluntly, but this doesn't make any sense at all.

  • So how else would you call such an account.. If not inactive. Please suggest a few synonyms. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 18:50
  • @ppumkin If you want to call it inactive, that's fine by me, but I thought we were discussing a deeper issue, not terminology. – yannis Aug 8 '12 at 18:52
  • Fine you admit there is no harm having inactive accounts. I just think they should be flagged and well spotted during meta/community meetings- Not block them from answering/editting/ or anything else but actaully encourage people to come back and post a question and answer another one once in a while.. it boosts activity not hinders it – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 18:55
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    For a good example: one of DIY's top users is Karl Katzke, who has said that he would like to participate more, but real life got in the way. I'm strongly disinclined to create a barrier to entry for a user like him just because his analog life became more demanding. – Aarthi Aug 8 '12 at 19:02
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    @ppumkin I have no clue where you get the idea that an account being stamped "Inactive" would boost activity. It would likely have zero effect, on balance. Most would not care. Those who were 'affected' by it would be slightly discouraged from returning. – Andrew Barber Aug 8 '12 at 19:03
  • If my account became inactive and I wanted to contribute to SE I WOULD CARE and I would take time to get back in. If somebody does not care about their account.. then they wont contribute any way – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 19:06
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    @ppumkin You can't generalize the entire SE user population based on your own personal feelings. I agree with the others that this is a bad route to take. For instance, I notice you have no activity on META before today. By your own logic, we probably shouldn't let you post two questions in a row because you are just now getting interested in the site, so your opinion/contributions are less valuable, right? – JNK Aug 8 '12 at 19:10
  • @JNK You make a great point. But if i had 25 anaoymous accounts and voted for my self in an election today. It would have made a significant impact. Possibly there is a greater technical issue at hand. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 19:19
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    I'm not sure how you potentially having 25 anonymous accounts (which would still need 150 rep to vote, BTW) is relevant do disabling privileges for inactive users. – JNK Aug 8 '12 at 19:20
  • What kind of users instantly get 100rep for joint another SE site? – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 19:21
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    @ppumkin Those that are registered and linked to another SE account with a minimum rep (200 I think) – JNK Aug 8 '12 at 19:22
  • So if 1 account earns 200 rep on a site like SE he can easily link to another and only have to earn 50 for votting. Brilliant he earned that privilege for being active. So it makes it 85% easier to earn the privilege to vote on that site, even though earning upvotes on a new SE site can be really difficult. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 19:28
  • @ppumkin So? Do you have any actual evidence that's harmful? Or, to make this more specific, how do you know the people that voted for you weren't actually semi-inactive 150 rep users? – yannis Aug 8 '12 at 19:30
  • The low rep restriction exist to (1) give users some time to learn before they get access to all the tools and (2) put barriers in the way of certain classes of attacks. Users with 200 rep on another SE have (1) already learned and (2) have something to lose if they misbehave. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 8 '12 at 19:31
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    @ppumkin "We all upvote each other and we primed for voting." You left out a couple of steps: (n-1) the vote fraud script notices this nonsense and revokes all the votes, (n) lack of profit! – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 8 '12 at 19:50

If your goal is to generate more activity, this is a major fail. Removing rep, privileges, or anything else will only prevent people from participating.

If you're upset that a user didn't return to a question you answered to upvote it or accept it (which is what I strongly suspect is the reason for your request), then simply don't worry about it, this happens all the time. Other people will still benefit from your contribution.

Some people just want to use the site to ask a question or two, not become active members of the community, hang out in meta, edit posts, etc. This is great, and should not be discouraged in any way. We're very lucky to have such an active community.

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    There are also people who are active on one site in the network, but not so much others. This sort of thing would certainly discourage me from getting back into a site I haven't been on in a while (say, SF, for instance) – Andrew Barber Aug 8 '12 at 18:48
  • If somebody does not participe for months on end he is if free to come back to the account and carry on qnaswering 1 qeustion every 10 months. I Just do not think they should be allowed to participate in meta related issues- like voting in an election if they clearly are not commited to the meta community is self – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 18:48
  • Inactive does not mean banned. Your points are still cummulitive but surely you are not activly participating in meta issues in SF for example .. are you? Especially if your profile for SF suggest you were last seen 9 month ago – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 18:49
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    @ppumkin: Get to the point: why do you care? If a user isn't active, what makes you think they care about the election? And if they do care and meet the rep requirement, then aren't they automagically a part of the community? How much rep do you feel one should have to put their 2 cents in towards how the site is moderated? – user159834 Aug 8 '12 at 18:55
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    @ppumkin Are you addressing me? If so: If I chose to become active on SF (Meta or otherwise) tomorrow, there's certainly no reason I should not be allowed to. – Andrew Barber Aug 8 '12 at 18:56
  • What if a friend asked you to vote for him on that site even though you did not visit there for a while. Would you do it without considering or voting for other members of that site? – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 19:30
  • @ppumkin I would vote for who I wanted to vote for, or perhaps no one at all. It would be none of your business (or that friends' business) who I actually voted for, regardless whether you, he, or anyone else asked me to vote a certain way. And no - I see no problem whatsoever with anyone asking me to vote any certain way. – Andrew Barber Aug 8 '12 at 19:32
  • @AndrewBarber Yes- That is our right and freedom to vote for who we want. But maths and statistics do not care about such things and they tell us what is true. I have the right to question these things and nobody can stop me from analysing information in its free form. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 19:51
  • @ppumkin Ummm... what? Who said anything about stopping you from analyzing? I'm waiting with bated breath for the results of your 'analysis'... – Andrew Barber Aug 8 '12 at 19:53
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    @ppumkin: Did any of these answers or comments help you understand why your particular suggestion isn't desirable by the members participating in this discussion? Feel free to send some inactive users to this post to upvote your proposal if you believe it will be effective. If you're done with this idea, maybe we can move on. – user159834 Aug 8 '12 at 19:58
  • @WesleyMurch Thanks I already have- But I am greatly outnumbered by a very active community on a very touchy subject – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 20:00
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    @ppumkin: I find that posting here is more effective if you present the problem, then let the community present suggestions. In those cases, you can post one yourself as an answer so it can be voted on independently of the question. Of course, this is still subject to disagreement, but I find it's a better way to encourage real discussions and solve problems. Your issue may very well be relevant, but now it's buried under the terrible solution you're insisting on. – user159834 Aug 8 '12 at 20:02
  • I have no answer. I found what I believe is a fundamental problem and came to the busiest meta to see the reactions. It seems everybody is OK with the fact that there is potential for serious work around. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 20:13
  • "It seems everybody is OK with the fact that there is potential for serious work around." The network has a set of defenses--both fully automated and with moderator intelligence involved--against voting rings. A lot of low activity 150 rep users voting in the elections is by design. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 8 '12 at 20:20
  • @dmckee That is a much better answer than "it will stop generating more activity" . I am a curios mind and I shall continue to question that. – Piotr Kula Aug 8 '12 at 20:31

The discussion has led me to believe the following outcomes.

Such a feature has...


  • Needs extra policing and site by site scripting
  • Discourages users from coming back to site.
  • There are already very complex scripts protecting users.
  • Possible profit prohibiter
  • Can put very high contributors in an unsatisfactory position

PROS (Only my own- Nobody else mentioned anything good about it)

  • Clearly mark users that are inactive for long periods on profile and prevent community actions such as voting in elections.

Thanks for a great discussion.

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    This question was posted in response to this discussion thread: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/142757/… - you might find it of some interest – Ben D Aug 9 '12 at 5:56
  • I appreciate a completely independent point of view. Thanks for trying to understand mine. – Piotr Kula Aug 9 '12 at 9:16

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