People post questions on Meta that should really be on SO. (Latest example that'll doubtless be deleted momentarily.) They've been doing this for ages and the problem's been brought up on Meta at least a couple times.

In at least one case, now long deleted, a mod indicated that the poster was asking on Meta because they were blocked from asking questions on SO. Yannis alluded to that happening in a recent discussion, but didn't include any numbers. How common is this?

Those off-topic questions are generally very quickly downvoted, flagged, closed and deleted to oblivion, so they're not a (big) problem, but I'm curious as to whether it's usually an issue of genuine confusion or also frequently an ineffective attempt at avoiding a ban.

Does anyone with access to that info care to share hard data or even just their own impression?

  • 1
    I think the move to Meta Stack Exchange as well as a lay-out change together with that will benefit this as well. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 19:50
  • My impression is that there're at least half a dozen of these every day. As a mod, I don't have access to question ban data though. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 19:57
  • In a quick count, I see 42 programming-related questions that were incorrectly asked on Meta over the last week. Based on my experience, most of these tend to be from question-banned users on Stack Overflow. It's common enough that we have a dedicated suspension reason on Meta for this now. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 20:10
  • However, that's just a handful of questions every day, and these are destroyed within minutes, so this isn't a huge problem right now. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 20:11
  • @NullUserExceptionอ_อ You mean you can't see past ban data? From Brad's comment it sounds like the info's at least available in the immediate.
    – blahdiblah
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 20:37
  • @blahdiblah Only SE employees (devs, community team) can see if someone is question banned. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 20:38
  • Too many. ;) Although some people seem to just confuse SO with MSO. They have brand new SO accounts and yet post here anyway.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 20:41
  • @BradLarson Are you sure about who's banned, or just going on clues like those Martijn gives below? It does seem like it would be important to know if a ban's being handed out because of it.
    – blahdiblah
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 21:28
  • 2
    @blahdiblah I asked for hard data on SO questions ban with this question and... didn't get any ;) It appears that question bans aren't tracked the way suspensions are, and it's not that easy to get data on them.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 21:33
  • @blahdiblah - As stated above, only SE employees know for certain, but there are some pretty easy signs. If they have a boatload of heavily downvoted, closed, and deleted questions on SO, it's pretty clear they're question banned. We have the advantage of being able to see all of their deleted questions, which makes it a little easier to assess. Still, it's only an educated guess on our part unless we confirm with an employee. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 21:35
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    @Yannis: Regarding SO-banned people asking on Progse, I've looked this up before for someone, and since I was pulling some numbers for that other post I ran them again - 38 in the past 30 days. It's really not something I would get too concerned about.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 2:01

2 Answers 2


These numbers probably don't mean what you think they mean! See below for more...

In the past 30 days, 3702 users have encountered quality bans on Stack Overflow.

In the past 30 days, 104 of these users have posted here on Meta Stack Overflow.

Now, keep in mind: quality-bans are not a fixed state on an account the way that, say, suspensions are. They're based on the current state of a given user's account on a site, which is calculated when they try to post - so someone might be q-banned one day, and fine the next if (for instance) they get a few up-votes in the meantime. So out of those 3.7K users, some might currently be able to ask questions - and there are almost certainly other folks who can't, but haven't tried recently.

In the past 30 days, only 1769 users have encountered quality bans for the first time on Stack Overflow...

Also, the number I calculated for MSO is based on the IP addresses used on SO - this should catch folks trying to circumvent the ban by creating new accounts, but also means the number might actually be a bit high.

Regardless, the number of people who've encountered q-bans on SO asking questions here is almost certainly a tiny fraction of the total population.

Aside: another avenue for support involves using the "contact us" link at the bottom of every page. In the past 30 days, we've fielded 63 emails regarding quality bans. We analyze each account, and offer advice and - in those cases where the ban isn't clearly warranted - assistance in correcting the problem (this often involves undeleting posts from someone who was doing some over-enthusiastic spring cleaning on their account).

  • This might be a bit off-topic, but there have been some MSO posts on allowing users to see their deleted posts in their history. If we did show those posts, the advantage is regular MSO users can help handle these cases by providing guidance, instead of pulling moderators away from flags and SE employees away from their duties. I don't know what the disadvantages would be though, but other mitigating alternatives can include allowing only 10K users to see a user's deleted content, and then allowing them to vote to undelete posts when necessary. There are enough MSO regulars to help. :)
    – jmort253
    Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 2:58
  • 2
    @jmort253: to be honest, I don't feel too strongly about hiding deleted posts from their authors - however, the argument that showing them would mostly just increase the amount of drama is pretty strong - remember when we inadvertently rubbed folks' faces in this a while back? Assuming most deleted posts should be deleted, keeping them hidden is an unfortunate necessity. A compromise might be showing only self-deleted posts.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 20:52
  • 1
    Yes @Shog9, I do remember that. I have to say I'd prefer the occasional "help, I'm question banned" post over a repeat of that time period.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 2:08

It's the first thing I look for when I see blatant off-topic SO-topic questions being posted here. The clues to look for:

  • Age of the account; if it is more than a few days old, they probably know better.
  • Number of questions and their quality. A low number of 0-score questions could mean there were more that have since been deleted.
  • Number and quality of answers. Sometimes the answers that are there are going to be indicative of the overall language and coding skills of the person in question.
  • Badges: Questions, but a lack of a student badge? None of those questions ever reached a score of 1 then. Peer pressure badge? Big red flag, where there is one there could have been more.

In such cases, I have my Pro-forma comment script at the ready to post:

I suspect you have a SO question ban; if so, this is not the place to then post your questions. Please review What can I do when getting "We are no longer accepting questions/answers from this account"?

And yes, it happens from time to time, maybe two or three times a day perhaps. Not so often that it's a problem though; the questions in, ahem, question, get voted off-topic and closed before you can say Jeff Atwood.

  • 5
    Two or three off topic questions on MSO a day are not a problem when it comes to maintaining MSO, but it is a strong hint that our current post ban workflow is not working, as people are doing exactly what we specifically ask them not to do to reverse the ban. I'm assuming that having a post ban workflow, which includes an excellent answer, means that we want to help people overcome their troubles. If we honestly want that, then we have a problem, the workflow isn't working.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 0:18

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