When I see questions that are obviously going to be closed due to explicit off-topicness that are honest mistakes on the part of the no-rep new user, I try to inform them about the question ban, and suggest they self-delete before their question is closed/negatively voted.

i.e. enter image description here

I was just now told that self-deletions play into the question ban algorithm, which I already knew; but I was assuming it played in as:

A negatively voted or close voted question still applies the black mark to your question ban possibility regardless of deletion.

Having worked under this assumption I figure there's a simple "fairness" loophole in the algorithm that allows people to not get such black-marks on their record when they realize their mistake and self-delete to correct before getting significant enough views to acquire a negative score or closure.

Though this is merely an assumption, and after speaking with a mod I am given the impression it may be inaccurate; though the mods frequently have no real clue what goes into the q-ban algorithm. I understand many things are kept secretive to avoid people abusing the systems, but I was hoping someone in the know could inform at least this little piece to help me not mis-inform site users:


Is there a "fairness" loophole in the Q-Ban algorithm wherein users who unknowingly post low-quality content may quickly correct their mistake and avoid a black-mark on their record by self-deletion before downvotes or closure gather, or is a -5 scored self-deletion equal to a 0 scored self-deletion in the eyes of the q-ban algorithm?

  • They can flag one of their own posts and ask a moderator to undelete the others, if that's what you're asking Sep 24, 2013 at 17:09
  • As far as the q-ban algorithm is concerned, a bad question (== downvoted) is a bad question, deleted or not. And no, it doesn't matter who deleted it.
    – Oded
    Sep 24, 2013 at 17:11
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    Another part of the goal here is to keep people from deleting their questions after they get an answer, as they're not allowing the content to be useful for future visitors, which applies even if the question isn't downvoted. Obviously it would count against you more if it was downvoted as well.
    – Servy
    Sep 24, 2013 at 17:13
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    @Oded which is my understanding; however if a bad question is self-deleted before downvotes or closure, does it still lead toward q-ban? Sep 24, 2013 at 17:13
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    @JimmyHoffa Regardless, if the question is deleted the OP has no avenue through which to learn how to improve the post. It needs to be kept visible for them to learn what they did wrong, allow users to edit/comment on the post to provide feedback, etc. It worries me greatly that you're telling people to delete their content, even if it is bad, before they have had an opportunity to get that feedback. If they take the time to learn from that feedback they won't be q-banned. It's only if they make the same mistakes that they'll end up banned.
    – Servy
    Sep 24, 2013 at 17:15
  • @Servy I generally try to provide the feedback that instructs them on why it's not going to work and usually give a link to FAQ, perhaps the example I gave just now wasn't ideal; I'll keep in mind in the future that I must be informative for such reasons as you point out if I suggest self-deletion. Sep 24, 2013 at 17:16
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    @Servy as far as I know, all users have such an avenue at respective site meta. "What was wrong with my question?" And, well, it is worth keeping in mind that per recent feature changes, deleted questions are visible to their authors, regardless of those authors' reputation
    – gnat
    Sep 24, 2013 at 17:17
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    @JimmyHoffa Which then means that they get your feedback, and only your feedback. If others don't agree with your analysis, have other changes/problems to address, etc. then the user can't get that information. All of these mechanisms are in place for a reason, and as long as a user is willing to learn from them, they're much better of actually leveraging them.
    – Servy
    Sep 24, 2013 at 17:19
  • @gnat Sure, but I'd much rather see someone simply leave their question open for long enough for it to get comments then to see them delete the question after 30 seconds because it got one downvote and post on meta asking for an explination. I would respond to such a question with, "Why didn't you leave the question undeleted so the user(s) could inform you themselves?"
    – Servy
    Sep 24, 2013 at 17:20
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    @Servy what about when they accrue a -3, a vote closure, and no comments? People are free to downvote and close vote without commenting, and frequently do. Sep 24, 2013 at 17:22
  • @JimmyHoffa I find it rather uncommon for a post to get more than one or two downvotes without comments indicating the problem. Close votes do come with an explanation, and frequently I see additional comments posted when it may not be clear. In the rare exceptional case where a post has collected quite a few downvotes and still has no comments indicating it's problems, and at least some time has been given for them to be posted, then a meta question asking for help would be appropriate. There would be no need to delete the question before posting on meta either.
    – Servy
    Sep 24, 2013 at 17:27
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    @Servy for SO (Trilogy?) your reasoning makes certain sense. As for Programmers and smaller sites, this looks like you prefer question to stay there, consuming down- and close-votes and polluting site front page. Being regularly out of both kind votes, and seeing regular complaints about too-much-closed-questions shown, I am not sure I agree
    – gnat
    Sep 24, 2013 at 17:28
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    @Servy I understand that and, as I already mentioned I understand how this might work at SO, where there's plenty of down- and close-voters and where questions roll off the front page quickly. But, as I explained, at smaller sites things just don't work that way. What you get there is a polluted front page and questions stuck at 2-3-4 close-votes... long enough to additionally get crappy answers which only add bad taste to site image
    – gnat
    Sep 24, 2013 at 17:36
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    @Servy a 1 rep user who posts a question here often times doesn't even realize that a closure or deletion could possibly occur; They just think they're casting out a question on some forum where the worst case scenario is their thread gets ignored. If they get the idea they should self-delete then they've often learned enough: That they need to inspect the FAQ and site and be more careful about the posts they write here. That's a valuable first step, and often likely enough for a user to not post low quality content in the future. Sep 24, 2013 at 17:43
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    Please remember that a question ban can take effect for a new account in as few as 3 questions. For someone who doesn't realize what that SE site (I've seen this happen from SO 1k+ users showing up on P.SE thinking it was all about discussion) is about initially, that can be a very abrupt happening that is very difficult to recover from (especially with very wrong/off topic questions being asked).
    – user213963
    Sep 24, 2013 at 18:05

3 Answers 3


There are a few things we know for certain about the question ban algorithm.

  • A user can be question banned for deleting their own questions. This is by design. Users should be banned for, for example, repeatedly deleting and re-asking the same question in order to keep it on the front page.

  • Heavily downvoted questions count more towards the question ban than questions that have only a few downvotes.

Given these two facts, it stands to reason that even though deleting your own question does count against you, it's not as bad as waiting for it to accumulate more downvotes before getting deleted by the community.

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    This is likely as complete of an answer as I'll get regarding the mechanism of that algorithm, thanks! It will have to do. Sep 24, 2013 at 22:57

I think this will defeat the entire point of the ban. Users who keep posting bad content should get banned (preferably have them learn from their mistakes instead, but we don't want them around if they don't show a particular attempt at doing so).

Ask bad question -> gets downvoted / closed -> learn from it -> don't ask bad question again.

That's how it's supposed to work. The learn from it step is often missing from questions that only get downvoted, not closed, since there's no explanation. It might be a good idea to have some (automated?) mechanism in place help users learn, such as (off the top of my head) an auto-generated comment giving or linking to generic advice for how to ask properly if a question is severely downvoted.

Though even users that ask questions that gets closed (with the correct close reason) or are given extensive comments explaining what's wrong may still not learn from it, but, if they don't, it's their own fault.

By the way, "do us all a favor" and the "you will be punished" tone in your comment may come across as very negative, although you probably wanted it to sound constructive.

Something I quickly put together:

Welcome to StackOverflow! Unfortunately asking for project suggestions doesn't conform to StackOverflow guidelines. (For this reason, this question is likely to be received negatively, so you may want to consider deleting it.) You can go here...

Text in () is optional and ... is the rest of your comment. Actually I'd prefer not to tell users to delete their question at all, since you're only one user, you have no idea how the question will be received by the community, you may have an incorrect belief about the site scope, and this could result in you leading many users and possibly good questions away from here.

The other solution for this is just:

Learn the rules of the site -> ask good questions.

Maybe focussing more on this model would help.

  • 1
    Part of the problem is "Ask 3 bad questions within a few minutes of each other -> get downvoted / closed -> ??? -> can't do it ever again." its that they've already committed to 3 bad questions before one has the opportunity to learn from one.
    – user213963
    Sep 24, 2013 at 18:08
  • @MichaelT Fair point, but "new users cannot ... ask or answer questions too rapidly". I'm not sure how long exactly this is, but, if it's less than 5 or 10 minutes, maybe it should be made longer. Sep 24, 2013 at 18:14
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    I appreciate the risk I run in suggesting deletions, though have a look here and note that currently (as is usually the case) 9 of the 15 front page questions are negatively voted and likely to be closed. What if my comments help occasionally make that 8 or 7 of 15? Is that not good for the site? There's risk that the question would actually be good and I was wrong, but based on those odds there it's about a 1/3 chance, and that's if I post it on every question rather than those I strongly believe will be closed... Sep 24, 2013 at 18:15
  • @MichaelT "can't do it ever again" ??? Aren't (most, initial) bans temporary? Sep 24, 2013 at 18:16
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    @Dukeling the question ban isn't that temporary (requires significant good contributions - there are anecdotal stories of one or two people reversing it on SO), can't be undone by a mod, and may be at a lower level (IP?) than the account itself (new account doesn't get around it from what I understand).
    – user213963
    Sep 24, 2013 at 18:19
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    @JimmyHoffa Well, ok, Programmers might be different. Currently the first page contains 8 hours worth of posts. StackOverflow? Currently 3 minutes. By the time it gets deleted, it been off of the front page for a while already. For Programmers, I honestly don't know whether it's good or not, for StackOverflow, it probably doesn't really help the site, unless it's an unpopular tag, in which case it might take quite a while to get closed. And you can firmly believe the wrong thing, I've seen many erroneous off topic votes with incorrect site suggestions on StackOverflow. Sep 24, 2013 at 18:30
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    Don't even get me started on incorrect site suggestions from SO :| At P.SE, we know all too well about that... and yes, unfortunately there's no "SE" meta, so I'm asking it here though my question and approach has zero to do with SO, I would never do this there. Sep 24, 2013 at 18:33

Is there a "fairness" loophole in the Q-Ban algorithm wherein users who unknowingly post low-quality content may quickly correct their mistake and avoid a black-mark on their record by removal before downvotes or closure?

There is no "loophole", but there is a mechanism. That mechanism is the fact that it takes quite a few low quality posts to trigger the ban, and there has to be very little to no positive contributions to offset them as well.

That a user removed the question quickly doesn't change the fact that they're contributing low quality content and consuming resources from the site. Possibly less than others, and the algorithm may well take that into consideration (after all, I don't know the details).

If the user is able to learn from their mistakes and post content of higher quality, or make other positive contributions to the site, then they won't be banned. If they make a pattern of asking poor questions, deleting them quickly, and never posting content the site considers "valuable" then it's a good thing that they are being banned. If they get banned then the system is working correctly because the user didn't learn from their [several] mistakes and start posting more valuable content.

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