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When reviewing and even when I'm just looking for info, I eventually stumble on to a post that isn't only bad its mindbogglingly awful and out of morbid curiosity I check the user profile.

Not only is this post awful but the user habitually posts garbage.

Under the usual run of things with new-ish users the post bans kick in and they get the good old "We are no longer accepting questions/answers from this account." but with users who have been around a while it looks like a few highly upvoted old posts can more or less inoculate them from post bans.

Maybe I'm missing something... But is this really possible/intended?

For a little more context, these are often older accounts with literally hundreds of questions.

Is there anything that can be done about these cases?

  • You can't go through and downvote - Serial vote reversal will kick in.
  • You can't flag - Most moderators won't go through a few hundred questions.

I know someone will say "Just let it go, don't be a stalker" - that doesn't seem like a solution at all...

Perhaps some will say "If they're posting enough good content to offset the bad, what's the problem?" How many pages of bad does it take to be a problem?


I just put together a query that may shed some light on the issue.
This was my first attempt at building a Data Explorer Query, feel free to fork it and tweak it if needed.

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    Interesting. Though I honestly haven't seen such a case before. – Mysticial Feb 10 '15 at 21:28
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    @Mysticial here's one example if you're interested. "The history of Goma is long and tortuous..." – gnat Feb 10 '15 at 21:30
  • Ah. I don't hang out on Software Engineering... – Mysticial Feb 10 '15 at 21:32
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    I usually run into this situation on SO, but I assume it happens on most of the established sites. – apaul Feb 10 '15 at 21:34
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    Positive contributions (i.e. upvotes) push you a lot farther away from a ban than negative contributions bring you towards it, so while one or two highly upvoted questions doesn't mean you can't be banned, it means you'll need to post several times as many posts with an equally negative contribution (or contributing to a total negative weight of several times the positive contributions) which, for all practical purposes, means they won't get banned. If you see someone post one viral question that gets say 30 upvotes, they'd need to have many dozens of bad questions to get banned. – Servy Feb 10 '15 at 22:08
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    @Mysticial another example, from Stack Overflow. They say gold can't have rust but this proves it wrong... ;) – Shadow The Princess Wizard Feb 10 '15 at 22:25
  • @ShadowWizard Oh wow. Clearly I haven't been looking hard enough. – Mysticial Feb 10 '15 at 22:31
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    @Mysticial If only you could see their 292 deleted questions... – animuson Feb 11 '15 at 0:23
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    I should point out that on Stack Overflow, this most often applies to users "grandfathered in" before the question bans came into effect. Some of them shotgunned enough questions before that that some percentage got upvoted and effectively made them immune to question bans. I don't see this very often with users who joined after that point, short of those who've used sock puppets or voting rings to artificially prop themselves up. – Brad Larson Feb 11 '15 at 4:08
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    To the query you added, the fact that data explorer doesn't show deleted content more or less makes it impossible to query for many of these problematic users. They're in a position to be able to delete even hundreds of bad questions and still not get question banned. Realistically one would need an SE employee to do such a query, and they likely wouldn't want to share the specific names of the results of such a query. – Servy Feb 18 '15 at 17:42
  • @Servy Ya, I ran into the deleted post issue when I was writing it... Still, some of what it does return is a little alarming. – apaul Feb 18 '15 at 17:44
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    I guess the question ban algorithm uses averages rather than medians then. – ben is uǝq backwards Feb 18 '15 at 17:56
  • "You can't go through and downvote - Serial vote reversal will kick in." That might not be true if you downvote, say one post a day. If MULTIPLE people did this, the problem might be solved. – Tom Au May 4 '15 at 1:33
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Yes it is possible. There will always be the corner cases.

Fortunately, there's an easy solution - suspension. We do have a moderator message template for "consistently low quality questions over time" and users can be suspended for it if their post quality doesn't improve. In fact, there are some users who have received one-year suspensions for their low quality contributions (some even multiple times).

Most of these cases come to our attention through the automatic flag that gets generated when a user has multiple closed questions back-to-back, or custom flags from concerned users such as yourself that have glanced at their profile and noticed a very troubling pattern. Though if you do custom flag, only do so if all the crappy questions are recent and unlikely to have been taken care of by moderators previously.

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    Should this ever come up, what's the clearest/most useful way to word this flag for you? Is a bunch of links to the most egregious recent posts helpful? – Josh Caswell Feb 11 '15 at 20:34
  • Does this help? data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/query/274749/… – apaul Feb 18 '15 at 17:39
  • I tweaked the query a little, to show more info on recent questions. – apaul Feb 18 '15 at 19:33
  • Does this mean suspension may be carried out if a user isn't automatically post-banned when they should? – iBug says Reinstate Monica Dec 28 '18 at 12:44
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The automatic question ban is not designed as a complete solution to users asking bad questions. It is a way to deal with those users without requiring a huge amount of moderator time.

On most SE sites the question ban is not even enabled, and we have no problem dealing with such users. As long as the volume of problematic users isn't too high, it is pretty straightforward to just deal with them manually as a moderator. There is even a template for low quality questions that mods can use to warn and/or suspend a user.

On SO the volume of problematic users is too high to deal with each case manually. The question ban hits a large number of those cases, but it can't it all of them. And I wouldn't want SE to tweak it to hit even more users, it is a rather stupid and blunt instrument, and all the more complicated cases should be handled by an actual human. As long as the automatic question ban handles most of the cases, the moderators should be able to keep up with the few that escape the ban.

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