It's striking to me that people can be banned from asking questions so seemingly trivially by an apparently dumb algorithm with no review, yet other, less important moderation functions need several actual humans to agree to the action.

I know that the Stack Exchanges are originally a programmers' site, and programmers think programming solutions are great, but I'd like to put forward that certain permanent moderation actions (such as banning users from participating) should be done by actual humans, especially since the post-ban algorithm is broken (as explained below).

A much more sensible solution is use some sort of pre-question ban queue.

  1. A user passes a threshold which bans them from posting for a week or what have you. They are put into a moderation queue.
  2. Other users have a week to vote / agree to make the ban permanent.
  3. After a week is past, the user is banned or not.

As for why I think the question ban algorithm sucks, it has blocked me from asking questions on SuperUser after only two questions--one with no votes, another question with a single downvote, and my answer to my own question with a single downvote on it (after noone answered it). By any reasonable tally, I think that a user being banned after 3 posts with two single downvotes on them is outrageous.

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    The 'review' took the form of regular community voting on the content of the banned user. – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 0:23
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    @AndrewBarber I wouldn't call two downvotes a quora, exactly. Even still, people may downvote a post but not be thinking "this user should never post again". Even if you are willing to trust a ban metric, I'd think basic human decency calls for a human review before a permanent ban. – j.i.h. Jul 31 '13 at 0:28
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    It's not possible for two down votes to cause a question ban. Not possible at all. As for human review - again, that's what the voting is - human review of the content. – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 0:30
  • @AndrewBarber It is because it did. User j.i.h. - Super User Going to revise my OP, but actually I didn't even delete a comment. (I put the answer to the question once I solved my issue in my question body) – j.i.h. Jul 31 '13 at 0:36
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    @j.i.h. I bet you have at least one deleted question. (assuming you really do have a question ban) – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 0:37
  • @AndrewBarber Well nothing shows up in "recently deleted questions" for me, and I don't remember posting any other questions. I'd show you a screenshot of the question ban screen but you'd probably just say it's photoshopped. – j.i.h. Jul 31 '13 at 0:43
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    What makes you think I would say you photoshopped the screen? How is that even relevant? And what if your questions were not deleted recently? Your account is over two years old. – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 0:53
  • It's just too easy to never address "the question ban algorithm is out of whack" by saying, "No! The algorithm must be right! He doesn't remember his posting history correctly!" People aren't even considering that the algorithm may just be wrong. – j.i.h. Jul 31 '13 at 1:00
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    @j.i.h. You have to provide proof that it's wrong, because I think it works pretty well. If it errs at all, it allows some people to skirt the line a little too closely a little too long, in my opinion. And your question is not about a "bug" in the algorithm, is it? Because that's not how it's worded. You cannot be question banned for just two down votes - only one of which is on a question. If that is truly what has happened, it would be a bug. But again: I bet that's not what's happened at all. – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 1:04
  • @AndrewBarber My proof is my posting history and my memories. I think it's ironic that you're asking me for proof when your crutch is invisible posts. – j.i.h. Jul 31 '13 at 1:12
  • @j.i.h. Once again, you don't seem to have straight whether you are talking about a bug or about the intended behavior. I've described the intended behavior; your question is about the intended behavior. If what you described has truly happened, it's a bug. – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 1:16
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    I stand corrected, but I still hold that 3 downvotes and a deleted question is a low threshold. Why users can't see their own deleted posts when it's still on the system is beyond me. (an oversight / low priority feature maybe) – j.i.h. Jul 31 '13 at 3:45
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    -1 score, but you're right downvotes != score. – j.i.h. Jul 31 '13 at 3:53
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    @j.i.h. Okay; there is a factor I was forgetting: (and am bashing my head over right now).. are there any other users at your location? (That is; who could be at the same IP address.) – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 4:10
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    @j.i.h. I've spoken to a Manager about your QBan. You'll need to contact them about it. You can do so here: meta.stackoverflow.com/contact Be sure to link your SU profile when you do. Good luck! – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 13:54

In fact, 'moderation' is done before the question ban kicks in, by community voting.

People rate the content of the asker (since we're talking about questions here). If the content is consistently bad, as judged by the accumulated voting, then the question ban kicks in. By the time the 'automated' ban is live, the community has already said that the poster has regularly made low-quality posts.

Keep in mind that we get lots of new content here every day... and lots of new users every day. And yet, we do have a system that is triggered by manual action. Adding another layer wouldn't be helpful - it would take time away from the community and the diamond moderators who have so much else to do. Including ask and answer questions.

If someone has been question banned and truly wishes to improve, they can. And there are people here who are willing to help someone who expresses a true desire to improve. That's where the manual 'labor' should be here: spent on those who have shown they are ready and willing to improve to remove the ban.

Addendum about your specific question ban:

If you only have two down votes across three questions (including the one deleted), that does not seem obviously like a situation that should have caused a question ban for you. I have verified that you are indeed question banned, though. It may be worth a contact to the team to inquire about it.

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    Honestly in such a borderline case the OP should contact the community team. Looking at their content on SU doesn't make it apparent why they'd be banned. – slhck Jul 31 '13 at 6:40
  • @slhck I'm not inclined to disagree here. From what I've seen of the number of DV's, it seems like he perhaps should not be QBanned. Adding a note about that now. – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 13:42

From what I understand, automatic post bans are not permanent. You can salvage your questions through editing, and possibly get the ban lifted. You may even be able to lift the ban by answering questions and receiving up-votes on your answers.

I suspect that you've likely got a few deleted posts as well, it sounds odd that you managed to receive a ban with only one down-voted post.

As for your proposal, I think Andrew Barber has a good point, the vote system is human review of your content, users may not have specifically motioned to have you banned, but apparently enough of them found your content objectionable enough to down-vote it, close it, and or delete it.

My advice: take a day, cool off, come back and salvage your existing posts, and try to answer a few questions.

Chances are good that you'll regain your question privileges in short order if you don't aggravate the mods too much between now and then.

  • Two things--how many SE users even know there's an automatic ban system at such a low threshold? It's not exactly transparent, I didn't know of it until today. It depends on how often users go to the meta SEs I suppose. Mixing the "make post go away" and the "ban user" functionality is troublesome because I don't know how clearly voters are thinking of banning, nor do people feel the same about one or the other. – j.i.h. Jul 31 '13 at 0:50
  • @j.i.h. I doubt that it is at "such a low threshold". Do you have any deleted questions? – apaul Jul 31 '13 at 0:58
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    @j.i.h. users usually come complaining about a ban after several down-voted questions and or several deleted/closed questions – apaul Jul 31 '13 at 1:00
  • I don't know any other way of saying that I'm highly certain that the only posts I've ever made to SuperUser were those three. I'll be generous and say that maybe I deleted a question, even though I only remember ever asking those 2 questions. Does that sound like a reasonable ban, a deleted post and 2 downvotes? What about two deleted posts and two downvotes? Still seems flimsy...Is it even reasonable that I'm being held to account for invisible posts? – j.i.h. Jul 31 '13 at 1:06
  • @j.i.h. I can't say for sure, but I would guess that it's a ratio issue, if you have 5 posts and 4 of those are either deleted or down-voted, that gives you pretty bad ratio. I doubt the algorithm just looks for users that crossed a threshold of x bad posts, it seems more likely that it would look for users that post more poor content than useful content. – apaul Jul 31 '13 at 1:15
  • It might be a problem of lack of statistical balancing for sample size. A bad ratio at low postcount varies wildly from the "true" good/bad ratio. – j.i.h. Jul 31 '13 at 1:44
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    @j.i.h. If you truly are question banned for just a single question with just a single down vote, then no; that is not reasonable. Nor is it intended. That would be a bug. You can use the New User tool to easily find people with a single down vote on one question who are still happily posting questions. That said... every single time someone has come here complaining about a ban, and claiming they had no deleted questions... guess what? They had deleted questions. And yes, those should count against you, too. They are still your content. – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 2:00
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    @AndrewBarber thanks for fielding this one. So much for don't aggravate the mods too much... – apaul Jul 31 '13 at 2:07
  • hehe... well, we all (including the OP here!) sign up for some level of 'aggravation' when we decide to come to Meta and post! ;) – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 2:09
  • @AndrewBarber perhaps you could contact a mod over at superuser and get the rest of the story. Do you all have like a diamond shaped bat signal? – apaul Jul 31 '13 at 2:15
  • @apaul34208 Sometimes I can be really thick-headed. Lighting up the bat-signal now! (We have a network-wide mod chatroom)... – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 2:16
  • @AndrewBarber: As a moderator, don't you have the ability to see whether j.i.h has deleted questions or not by looking at his profile? ETA: Ah, I didn't see he was referring to being banned on Super User. (So why didn't he post on their meta?) – David Robinson Jul 31 '13 at 2:22
  • @DavidRobinson Right on that (I initially thought he meant SO, too). I figure he's posting it here because of the network-wide nature of things. I think he might have been able to have gotten better help to get out of it there, personally... – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 2:35
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    @apaul34208 Mods can migrate to any site, but in this case it could be that he really wants to discuss the network-wide policy. Besides, I don't think this would get a good reception there (and they wouldn't appreciate us dumping it on them in this state, anyway). And no; seems the SU mods are asleep. Those SuperUser slackers! All probably playing MMORPGs and sharing torrent files! ;) – Andrew Barber Jul 31 '13 at 2:48
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    I stand corrected. So let's do the final tally: deleted -1 question, -1 question, neutral question, -1 answer. Pretty trivial. Anyways the reason I asked here was because it's applicable to all sites (and I don't have the rep for meta SuperUser) – j.i.h. Jul 31 '13 at 3:49

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