I am fairly new to programming, and I quite often require help. Being only 15 and inexperienced, I often cannot phrase questions accurately or adequately, as with my age and experience comes naivete. Four downvotes (two or three bad questions), and you're down and out for good - absolutely no coming back until you're knowledgeable enough to help other people (I am not).

This happened before, and a nice person upvoted one of my questions to get me back in again. I tried a lot harder this time to ask good questions. But then, one night, at 4:00 AM when I was tired and frustrated, I asked a question that had no example of an attempt (at that, I had absolutely no idea where to even begin and that was my question) and it got downvoted once and I was banned from asking questions. Period.

For about five days now, I've been searching desperately for questions I'm able to help with to appeal my block, and I can't find anything. This system absolutely hates beginners. It's very, very, bothersome. I, in my mediocre opinion, think that it should be nicer to newer users. Maybe a warning, an actual explanation on the algorithms, or whatever.

Sorry about the fact that I'm hating on the system, as I know so many do. But it seems to filter out anyone that isn't a bloody elitist programmer.

  • This system is in place for a reason; the tide of low quality questions we recieve. That said, your profile doesn't look that bad, have you got any deleted questions? Oct 27, 2013 at 23:08
  • you need to edit the questions you have. People will help you with this if you can set your frustrations aside. Oct 27, 2013 at 23:09
  • @Aaron Bertrand You're right, it is a possible duplicate. Sorry.
    – IHazABone
    Oct 27, 2013 at 23:10
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    The issue is not a new concern. See related questions such as Could we please be a bit nicer to new users? It worries me that the concern for 'quality' means that newcomers can't safely ask questions. Oct 27, 2013 at 23:10
  • Problem is, if I edit them, they often don't take back their downvote and I'm still blocked.
    – IHazABone
    Oct 27, 2013 at 23:10
  • @Jonathan Leffler Yes, the quality standard is quite high, I think.
    – IHazABone
    Oct 27, 2013 at 23:11
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    @IHazABone The people who downvoted are very unlikely to come back, but someone else may see the improvement and upvote Oct 27, 2013 at 23:11
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    @IHazABone don't apologize, that was as much to prevent duplication of effort as it was to provide you information about what the community has already spoken about this.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Oct 27, 2013 at 23:14
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    It’s hard to say something. Maybe the existing criteria for question bans are slightly too strict, but… read the help center and don’t ask questions at 4 AM.
    – Ry-
    Oct 27, 2013 at 23:16
  • Hehe, I wouldn't ask questions at 4:00 AM if work deadlines didn't exist.
    – IHazABone
    Oct 27, 2013 at 23:17
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    The problem is not with the quality standard's height. The problem is that because of the volume of questions we get, nobody can devote enough attention to actually fixing questions and helping new users learn. I hang out at RPG.SE, and we get lots of terribly worded questions. On SO, these would be downvoted and forgotten. But, on RPG.SE, people have time to handle them, and so they get help. Ergo, the problem is not with the quality standards, but with the volume of questions.
    – user206222
    Oct 27, 2013 at 23:18
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    @IHazABone I'm in my early 20's and I find myself having to tread very carefully when I'm interacting with SO too. Emrakul hit the nail on the head (I'm an avid user of RPG.SE too). There's an enormous amount of community moderation from a community that's big enough it finds it hard to agree on how to moderate a question, and hardly has the time to do so given the quantity. That, and people possibly have very little reason to be interested in particular questions, unlike RPG.SE: they're all very specific to solving one person's problem, and there's not necessarily much to learn from them. Oct 27, 2013 at 23:20
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    FWIW: due to the response from this question, it appears that you're no longer blocked. You're still right on the cusp - so do what you can to improve your existing questions and answers, and don't hesitate to continue sharing what you've learned with others.
    – Shog9
    Oct 27, 2013 at 23:34
  • 5
    And don't delete anything! Deleting questions will only push you further into the ban.
    – Doorknob
    Oct 28, 2013 at 0:33

3 Answers 3


The system doesn't hate new users. It doesn't even mistrust them. You can ask questions as a brand new user and for many new users, that all goes really well. Every one of those people who downvoted you started as a new user and got through that phase.

But some people happen to ask poorly their first time. And they get some downvotes, but they don't do anything about it. They don't learn what they're doing wrong or they don't change what they're doing. And after a while, the ban kicks in. You could argue that it is set too sensitively, that you should be able to ask more bad questions before you're stopped, but it was set up after analyzing a lot of bad posts and my guess is that the overwhelming majority of people who asked 5 terrible questions in a row went on to ask 5 or 10 or 20 more - that if you're not going to change your ways after 1 or 2 downvotes, you're not going to change them.

It is possible to recover from the ban. It's hard work, but it's possible. See What happens to folks who get question banned, by and large? for examples. You need to edit as many of your questions as you can in the hope of earning upvotes from those who read this post, or those who just come across them. Once you understand how to write a good question, you might further need to undelete some of your deleted questions and edit those too. And it might help to provide good answers and to suggest good edits. And yes, all this is a lot to ask from someone who is just getting started. It would have been easier if you'd looked for help after the first few downvotes. But what's past is past, look forward.

  • but they don't do anything about it. Yes! That's the thing - many get their answer, and don't care about the down-votes. If they start with 1 rep then they don't even see how it affects them. The first we hear about it is when they inevitably ask how to get un-banned.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Oct 27, 2013 at 23:57
  • After a while? On my second question I got the ban for the first time. I've been more careful about it now, but I asked one ignorant question and down came the hammer the second time.
    – IHazABone
    Oct 28, 2013 at 0:56
  • Someone downvoted once of my much older, inactive, and resolved questions... Two of them. Blocked again. Why do people do that? Is there a way that the asker can "lock" a question once it's been answered to avoid these things?
    – IHazABone
    Oct 28, 2013 at 1:57
  • I can't count how many people have said "I only asked one downvoted question!" and when asked, answered "no, I don't have any deleted questions" but when people looked, they would find 4 or 5 or more badly downvoted questions, most of them deleted. And then the person would say "oh yeah, I forgot those." Oct 28, 2013 at 12:38

There are half a million unanswered questions on Stack Overflow. If you really want to find somewhere to help, start here - I'm not saying it'll be easy, but it's a myth that all questions get snapped up and answered instantly. If a question is answerable but poorly-written, suggest an edit that makes it easier to read and understand. Don't forget to vote for good, existing answers you find in that list too...

Remember, this juggernaut depends on everyone helping out just a little bit in the areas where they're able to. If you can't answer, edit. If you can't edit, vote. Give a little bit back wherever you're able to, and the community - and the system driven by it - will be a little bit more willing to help you out the next time you need it.

As a bonus, I've found that the more I read, the easier it becomes to understand what folks expect from a good post. Spending a bit of extra time looking around at what others are doing can benefit you in ways you might never have expected...

  • 1
    Exactly. I can barely answer, but I can edit, so I edit. And I think I do that pretty well, too. I also upvote when an answer has helped me in the slightest, and downvote when something is wrong or doesn't even belong.
    – Jamal
    Oct 28, 2013 at 1:01
  • I liked you Shog9. Humanist and civilized. best regards. Mar 26, 2014 at 14:11

First off, 1 downvote is worth -2 reputation whereas 1 upvote is worth +5. In reputation terms, you'd need to be downvoted 3 times to outweigh a single upvote. If your question (or answer) is downvoted multiple times then it will almost always also have a comment or two about why it was downvoted; this is a clear sign that something is wrong with what you've posted, and this is your cue to amend it however necessary. Once amended you'll find that users will upvote.

In your example you claim you asked a question without demonstrating anything you'd attempted. Usually when this happens it's for one of two reasons:

  1. Because the user wanted other people to do their work for them.
  2. Because the user doesn't understand what they should be doing in the first place.

Your case appears to be the latter. The problem with this is that not understanding what you should be doing also implies that you're unable to craft a Google query well enough to generate decent answers. If you can't pull enough from Google to be able to attempt to solve your own problem, then chances are your question will not be decently comprehensible for anyone to adequately answer. Nor will your question likely be of any help to future users.

If you're inexperienced in a field you should do some prior research before asking questions, otherwise the answers to your questions will probably just lead to you having more questions. Chances are there are plenty of book chapters and blog posts which will help you with what you're doing.

Obviously though, people should be a bit lenient when it comes to helping new users, but that takes us back to the first point: two upvote will outweigh 6 downvotes, and it's up to you to turn your downvotes into upvotes by increasing the quality of your posts.

  • 6
    But this isn’t about reputation; it’s about being question-banned. (And upvotes are only worth +5 on questions.)
    – Ry-
    Oct 27, 2013 at 23:31
  • @minitech good point. I was simply using reputation as a way to determine when the quality of a post needs to be improved. Oct 27, 2013 at 23:33
  • I could not find anything on Google that I could 1.) understand and 2.) that could cater to my specifics
    – IHazABone
    Oct 28, 2013 at 0:58

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