After a year of waiting I am finally able to ask a proper question here and I do expect a reasonable answer.

I am a 30 year old Java developer suffering from a brain tumor and the after effects of 2 surgeries. I have just found out that I am due for a third surgery within 2 weeks.

In 2011, I was in a fragile state after surgery and on chemo. I asked a single off topic question here and was subsequently banned for a year. I was cut off from the main site related to asking questions on how to answer correct questions in the array of sites here. I admit the question was terrible and I have located a link to the deleted topic.

Because of this I often was penalized on poorly formatted questions in addition to trying to format what the community determines to be on par questions for these sites.

This has resulted me in tripping the suspension on being able to ask questions on SO and has made it difficult at times to continue with studies and work.

On several occasions I attempted to contact the powers that be of this site and received a poor response.

I would like to ask how it is fair for an algorithm to decide to ban me with little understanding of what I am going through? In my opinion the community here has not been very supportive in trying to read information I posted on myself where it may be clearer on the issues I am facing.

I am not sure I will be needing this site in the future as I may have to give up my career now due to my new scheduled surgery, but perhaps for future people with similar issues it would not be advisable to have a algorithm decide when to suspend people unless it has a built in AI to cater for handicaps that people may face.

At the same time I express thanks to all those who are bothered to read more about me and have offered assistance and offer apologies for any negative contributions here.

  • 65
    I am hard-pressed to believe that a single off-topic question caused a ban for a year. And no matter how much I wish you well and hope you'll overcome all the difficulties you face, I'm not sure there is a point to start making exceptions for such situations. It would set a dangerous and unverifiable precedent.
    – Bart
    Aug 23, 2012 at 11:01
  • 5
    And as a quick heads-up, since it seems this is your first Meta SO contribution, downvotes here are often used to indicate disagreement.
    – Bart
    Aug 23, 2012 at 11:04
  • 13
    The suspension system is not automatic, it's manually done by moderators. And the automatic ban system is not time-based, it's until your posts improve (as evidenced by votes). It's really hard to tell which happened from your post
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 23, 2012 at 11:13
  • 1
    I asked a way off-topic question. I have the link still: [link]meta.stackexchange.com/questions/103599/… Aug 23, 2012 at 11:16
  • 1
    I was under the impression that these forums may be connected with people in charge of Tomcat mailing list (I was not in very good mental health back then). Aug 23, 2012 at 11:18
  • 4
    I can't see the question (>10k only I guess) but from the title it seems off-topic indeed. I don't know of course whether or not this caused the ban and do feel for you. Nor can I comment on the (lack of) response to your attempts to contact people. I just don't think we should change the automatic banning algorithm to account for all this. Timed bans (as Ben explained) are a different matter altogether.
    – Bart
    Aug 23, 2012 at 11:22
  • 1
    @Bart It's just that being cut off from this site severely degrades a users options of where to turn to to ask for help and I am certainly someone who needed help at the time. I managed to learn how SO works, but I just don't think being banned for asking server related questions in SO because of downvoting is reasonable when a user can't ask on where to ask the correct question even. Aug 23, 2012 at 11:29
  • 21
    Maybe you should just refrain from asking question if your health prevents you from asking good question. I don't see how your health has to influence anything about how a community should work.If you really only asked one bad question I got banned (which I doubt) it may be a bit harsh.However I still stand by my suggestion that if you aren't able to ask good question (whatever the reason) then please don't ask. As you stated you still aren't healthy so I am worried you aren't able to participate in a normal way since you mentioned your health was the problem. P.S.sorry hear your health sucks.
    – PeeHaa
    Aug 23, 2012 at 13:12
  • 3
    SO is not the only place on the Internet to get help, so getting banned here isn't the end of the world. It might even be easier for you to use a conventional programming forum where the rules aren't as strict and communication between discussion participants might be easier.
    – JJJ
    Aug 23, 2012 at 13:52
  • 6
    Are you still asking about a ban on the Tomcat Mailing lists? If so you are in the wrong place.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Aug 23, 2012 at 13:54
  • 25
    Having over 10k rep, I can see that deleted question. In short, the OP was banned from Tomcat mailing lists, and asked on MSO to be unbanned. He knew MSO wasn't related to Tomcat, but assumed that some influential Tomcat list people would also be MSO users. I agree that it's incredibly off-topic, but also that a year ban seems excessive, unless there's more to the story. In any case, @thejartender, welcome back!
    – Pops
    Aug 23, 2012 at 14:39
  • 3
    @Purmou Yes! We demand it's head!!! Or maybe let's start with a leg or an arm just to set an example to the other mods. Something must be done! ;-)
    – PeeHaa
    Aug 23, 2012 at 17:43
  • 9
    I love how people are like "Yeah, a year's a lot, but what's done is done, so have fun from now on!" He was banned for one freaking year. :P I couldn't believe he was still inclined to post here...
    – Someone
    Aug 23, 2012 at 19:25
  • 8
    Just following up, how are you doing now?
    – Tim Post
    Dec 21, 2012 at 18:33
  • 15
    @TinyTimPost Wow! Thanks for asking. So nice of you honestly. I am in good spirit and health. Recent surgery went well and I unfortunately lost 50% of my left peripheral vision, but on the positive side, it was revealed that I no longer have a grade III glioma, but only a grade II. I have not had to undergo any follow up treatment this time round and the reality of finding work in 2013 and finally getting to use my education after four years looks as though it will materialize. Have an aesome Christmas if you celebrate it and an even better 2013. ☺ ☻ Dec 22, 2012 at 13:12

2 Answers 2


I purposefully waited a little while prior to answering this, and the tl;dr; version of this is I'm a sympathetic ear that thinks the question block worked in your favor. I'll address the suspension at the end of this post.


Some years ago while our daughter was still quite small, she developed a hell of a fever. It was 108 (F), we took her straight to the E.R. and were sent home with antibiotics and other things. A few days later, it was still really high and our digital thermometer died. I went to the drug store and bought a replacement, but the only thing I could find was the old style mercury type, it had to do.

It broke, quickly, and I had a mercury spill on my hands. I cleaned it up properly, but I wasn't sure how to dispose of it, so in my desk drawer it went wrapped in cellophane until I could figure that out. It went there because it's one of the few things I can lock. Months went by, and it spilled, again.

I am a smoker. I'm not proud to admit it, but I am, and I'm cutting down to the point where I can go cold turkey (again) successfully without blowing my top ten times a day due to nicotine fits. I know there are 'quit helpers' that will do the same thing cigarettes do, supply me with a calming amount of nicotine for a price, I choose not to use those. Due to a very unfortunate chain of events, I ended up smoking mercury vapor because I am quite careless when it comes to where and how I store things.

I went bat s*** nuts for weeks, so did Qun Shi Huang (but longer) due to the effects of mercury poisioning. Inside me, I knew something was wrong, yet I could not stop irritating and confusing everyone that I could with inane, irrational ramblings. One day I woke up and everything was back to normal. I then endeavored to explain myself to all I had befuddled (mostly) and those that I offended.

Why the ban worked in your favor

The question block prevented you from having to do what I did on a larger scale, and I think you should actually be glad that it kicked in. I'm contemplating a feature request that would raise moderator flags when a user is acting 'uncharacteristically' based on their previous history so we could intervene on the occasional (breakdown | tumor | too many beers | etc) but I'm not yet sure that such a thing is necessary. You regained reliable cognitive function and the ban quickly went away. I'd call that status-bydesign. It's an algorithm that examines a specific set of data, it has no concept of tumors, mercury poisoning, intoxication or terminal apathy. It just takes action on what it's fed, and you can't take that personally.

Regarding the suspension

Given the data available to me as a moderator, I consider your suspension to be extremely excessive, I would not have made the same call. However, it's done .. and can't be retracted, so we may as well move on. A discussion among us has been raised regarding the length of your suspension. Yet, it did prevent you from typing in a text box once again while not quite cognisant of your actions. In other words, that complaint has been heard.

What to walk away with

We can appear to be a bunch of insensitive clods, but in fact we're just endeavoring to keep the quality of the resource that we created high. Every user that cast a down or close vote, or even the mod that suspended you was just trying to protect the resource that we created. Please don't infer malice, at best it may be confusion and misunderstanding. At the time, you were quite difficult to figure out.

What remains is you're back for now, and that's a good thing. On a personal note, good luck with that surgery. I can't begin to imagine letting a doctor do stuff to my brain, much less the possibility that I'd lose the ability to do what I love doing.

  • 16
    So that explains some of your irrational moderator activity. :P Unfortunately, I have no excuse.
    – user102937
    Aug 23, 2012 at 18:45
  • 4
    @RobertHarvey Unfortunately, no .. that was years before SO was born.
    – Tim Post
    Aug 23, 2012 at 18:47
  • 19
    I knew something was wrong, yet I could not stop irritating and confusing everyone that I could with inane, irrational ramblings You mean you stopped? :D
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 23, 2012 at 18:50
  • 25
    @BenBrocka I love you too.
    – Tim Post
    Aug 23, 2012 at 18:50
  • 8
    The lesson here? If you're gonna buy some damn cigs, keep them away from leaky mercury thermometers. (Love the whole post, by the way. Great anecdote.)
    – Someone
    Aug 23, 2012 at 18:55
  • 11
    "I'm contemplating a feature request that would raise moderator flags when a user is acting 'uncharacteristically' based on their previous history so we could intervene on the occasional (breakdown | tumor | too many beers | etc)" Good thing I'm always a dick then
    – PeeHaa
    Aug 23, 2012 at 19:01
  • 7
    @PeeHaa, for you it kicks in when you start acting nice, I guess :)
    – Benjol
    Aug 24, 2012 at 9:39
  • 5
    I still want to know more about this "very unfortunate chain of events". Dec 19, 2013 at 8:32
  • 5
    I have an awful feeling the OP is no longer with us, is there any way we can find out?
    – user310756
    Apr 6, 2017 at 14:46
  • 2
    This is an incredible story, both hilarious and painfully sad at the same time in the way that stories about mental illness often are. I'm sure that afterwards you rightly felt like a damn idiot for keeping the mercury around instead of promptly finding out how to properly dispose of it - and that only adds to the tragedy of it all. I'm glad you were okay in the end.
    – Mark Amery
    Apr 10, 2017 at 20:09
  • 4
    I did some digging around, regrettably I do not believe he is. @YvetteColomb
    – Albzi
    Jul 24, 2017 at 10:54
  • 4
    By the way, when our science teacher broke a mercury thermometer, she soaked it up with (powdered) sulphur.. Just in case you have some kicking around, might be worth trying that to mop up with before a pack of Marley's ? :)
    – Caius Jard
    Oct 10, 2017 at 10:06
  • 2
    Is it just me who thinks the OP is... hopefully in a better place?
    – 10 Rep
    Jun 4, 2021 at 2:59
  • 3
    @10Rep The OP and I kept in touch loosely for a while after this was written, and I am sad to say the point where they stopped responding passed some time ago. I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer that had spread to my brain in 2016 (which I beat!) and reached out again - they were gone. People come and go for so many reasons so it's hard to say for certain but I don't think that's at all an unreasonable assumption, at this point, given the context.
    – Tim Post
    Jun 4, 2021 at 15:41
  • 3
    @TimPost That just makes me feel awful :(. Also, congrats for beating the lung cancer!
    – 10 Rep
    Jun 4, 2021 at 17:41

On several occasions I attempted to contact the powers that be of this site and received a poor response. I would like to ask how it is fair for an algorithm to decide to ban me with little understanding of what I am going through?

Unfortunately there is no way for any algorithm to account for serious illness or any other real-life circumstance.

We've tried to help you with getting the Stack Overflow question ban lifted, and I'm sorry if we didn't come off as helpful as we'd tried to be. However, it does look like you're no longer blocked from asking questions on Stack Overflow, so something must've worked out right. :)

I hope you find Stack Overflow helpful for as long as you use it.

Regarding your ban here on Meta Stack Overflow... I personally think a year was way overkill, but I wasn't aware of it at the time. That was before my time as a moderator/employee here. For what it's worth, the meta suspension wasn't automatic, but at least it's done now. You're free and welcome to ask questions about Stack Overflow (but not Tomcat :)) here.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .