For the past few years, since they started the question ban, we've been getting lots of questions from users (usually new) asking why they can't ask questions, and what the error dialog means. Unfortunately, instead of helping them to understand the problem, the question is usually closed as a dupe of this question (and similar ones on the site-metas).

That question is a very general description of their problem, with it's best feature being the links to the questions that show how to write good questions. The problem is that it doesn't (and can't really) give specific instructions on what the problem is. Instead of continuing down this path, that obviously doesn't work that well, let's find a way to give some specific input to each user.

The message that comes up could have a link to a user-specific page that shows that user their questions (including deleted), and the ratings associated with them. It would have a short explanation of the ratings so they would be able to study and understand which questions are causing the problems. It would also have the link to the generic question-ban question.

This method would also give them feedback, as they try to ask another question, they can then go back to that page and see what scores improved. We could even add a permanent link to that page from the user profile, so any user can go look at the rating of their questions.

Instead of just blaming the users, lets find a way to better educate them.

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    It's been specifically stated that the criteria for the algorithm are going to stay private, and aren't going to be made publicly available. – Servy Jun 16 '15 at 15:48
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    You have a habit of not fully reading posts. I'm not stating that they put out the criteria, just the final rating number on each question. – Lance Roberts Jun 16 '15 at 15:50
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    Which is providing a lot of information about that algorithm, at a much smaller granularity than it is currently available. – Servy Jun 16 '15 at 15:53
  • This might be a good idea (with some modification)... but it's important to note that there were rolling rate limits added to the system to teach the user that such questions/answers aren't what we accept here. Perhaps if a list of those questions/answers negatively received were shown with the rate-limit block/warning, it would help? – hichris123 Jun 16 '15 at 16:31
  • I don't understand how showing algorithm numbers instead of the vote count for each question necessarily helps the user. they can then go back to that page and see what scores improved - If we're showing them the ratings for their past questions then those ratings wouldn't change. – BSMP Jun 16 '15 at 18:34
  • @BSMP, we don't know what composes the ratings, score is probably just part of it. I'm sure if the score improves the ratings will, but other factors might help also. – Lance Roberts Jun 16 '15 at 18:38
  • I still don't understand how this is guidance though. How would seeing those numbers help people ask better questions (or write better answers)? – BSMP Jun 16 '15 at 19:51
  • @BSMP, it's direct feedback if their work on any particular questions did any good. – Lance Roberts Jun 16 '15 at 21:04
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    But don't votes already do that? – BSMP Jun 16 '15 at 21:10
  • @BSMP, if the question is voted on, but if it doesn't get votes one way or the other, and there is some other factor playing into the ratings, then it will be a better form of feedback. – Lance Roberts Jun 16 '15 at 21:11
  • and there is some other factor playing into the ratings - But doesn't that then lead back to what Servy said about not exposing the criteria for the algorithm? If someone, for example, edits their question and gets no new votes on it but still sees the system ranking improve, wouldn't it expose that just editing the question is one of the factors? If there are other factors, then this is going to help people guess what they are. If there aren't other factors, then this doesn't change anything. – BSMP Jun 16 '15 at 22:06
  • Yes, but the details won't be known. They will have learned the lesson we want them to learn, that editing helps. To be honest, I'm not hung up on showing them a precise number, it could be a "word" rating that has a range attached to it behind the scenes. It would actually be a huge step to show them the exact questions that are causing them the trouble. – Lance Roberts Jun 16 '15 at 22:17
  • It's been stated several times that they don't want problem users focusing on just barely getting above the bar. They keep the algorithm deliberately vague so that users don't just focus on one or two questions, but everything that they've done. Make it less about specific questions, and more about overall behaviour. – fbueckert Jun 16 '15 at 22:32
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    They learn better overall behavior by fixing specific questions. Making a user guess what he has to do is counterproductive, and why we get so many pleas for help. Making people guess is not teaching. – Lance Roberts Jun 16 '15 at 22:52
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    The algorithm isn't making people guess. It's forcing them to improve for the privilege of asking questions here. Either way, teaching isn't, and never has been, the primary goal of SE. So it's a pretty weak argument. – fbueckert Jun 16 '15 at 23:12

The message that comes up could have a link to a user-specific page that shows that user their questions

This makes some sense. I don't know how many people hitting this aren't aware that they have a profile where these are listed, but reminding them couldn't hurt.


The rest of what you're suggesting is mostly already there, with the exception of the list of deleted stuff. With a handful of exceptions, deleted posts either do not contribute to the ban or are unlikely to be salvageable by the author. The biggest exception is authors who delete their questions immediately upon receiving an answer - and they're already warned about this when they go to delete.

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  • users/current hmm interesting. One can refer folks to their private stuff this way, correct? "Think twice before you cast a downvote." – gnat Jun 17 '15 at 1:01

Instead of just blaming the users, lets find a way to better educate them.

There's lots of information out there for anyone who's even remotely interested in learning how to ask a good question, how to improve content, etc. The reason that these users are banned in the first place is because they chose to actively disregard all of that information, continued to make mistakes (despite warnings that they will have received telling them that they're contributing problematic content and that there will be consequences), and refused to improve.

The whole reason that they're banned is because they've worked very hard to prove to us that they're not willing to let us educate them. Continuing to waste more time of them at that point is simply throwing away your own time on the people least likely to actually benefit from it.

Instead spend your time helping people who are actually trying to learn and improve, who are willing to look at the resources provided to them before contributing, and who are spending the time and effort needed to provide quality contributions.

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    Wow, you really have no mercy in your soul. – Lance Roberts Jun 16 '15 at 15:53
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    @LanceRoberts The fact that I don't feel everyone deserves mercy no matter what they've done doesn't mean that I have no mercy. And it's not like they're permabanned, they simply don't merit continued considerable time and effort on our part to help them. If they want to help themselves, and are willing to do what it takes to improve, they already have the tools available to them. Why you value the members of the community who have proven themselves to be repeatedly and significantly harmful to the community more than those that have proven themselves beneficial is beyond me. – Servy Jun 16 '15 at 15:56
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    @LanceRoberts - it's not a matter of mercy. If you have a driver going down a closed road with a broken bridge, and they ignore all the warning signs, lights, and the people in the car telling them they need to stop and turn around, you can't stop them from driving off the edge. Pretty much everyone I've met on the SE network is willing to educate and help, but people have to be willing to accept said help and education and not just blindly charge ahead. – JohnP Jun 16 '15 at 16:35
  • @JohnP, incorrect analogy. This situation is more like hitting a few bumps in the road, then going off a cliff. Analogies beside, the proof is in the pudding, people keep coming to ask for help on this and we have nothing but generalities to give them. They really are given very little specificity in what exactly their problem is. The fact that people don't want to help them solve their problem is really just a smaller subset of the problem of people helping newbies at all. Writing questions is a skill that takes time and patience to teach, and teaching requires specificity... – Lance Roberts Jun 16 '15 at 17:34
  • A true teacher wouldn't just say the problem is wrong, they'd show how to do the problem right or show exactly what was done wrong. – Lance Roberts Jun 16 '15 at 17:37
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    @Servy, what you state is true for some users but not for others. In my case I get my account in troubles, a substantial percent was due to my poor english in the past, it was a pain for me to compose quality questions expressing the problem. Not the case today but my account is q-banned and I fill at lost about what to do. – E-Bat Jun 16 '15 at 18:20
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    @E-Bat So you didn't ask quality questions because it was just too much of a bother, and then you're surprised when the system eventually stops letting you ask questions? It seems that the solution is rather obvious; take the time to ask quality questions. It's not easy; it takes a lot of work. Nobody's saying that it isn't. – Servy Jun 16 '15 at 18:31
  • @Servy don't go so fast and so far, I had put lot of effort, so many than today things are different, I don't ask many questions don't measure me from my points, the ban does not hurt me in any ways but it does to others, btw you have to put a lot of effort in being gentle. – E-Bat Jun 16 '15 at 18:36
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    @E-Bat You were the one who said that it was too much of a pain for you to ask quality questions. If it's not worth your time and effort to ask good questions, then so be it, just don't expect the rest of us to spend considerable time and effort helping you out when you can't be bothered to take the time to help yourself. You're the one who's saying he can't be bothered to follow the rules, so you just don't, and then complain when there are negative consequences. I have no interest in coddling such a person. You need to accept the consequences of your actions. – Servy Jun 16 '15 at 18:39
  • @Servy, I just mentioned that the problem I faced in the past to ask quality questions are not related to be unwilling to follows rules. Do you read to the end of the posts? Who says I need you to help me? – E-Bat Jun 16 '15 at 18:49
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    Y'know, casting people that don't agree with you as bullies doesn't really reflect well on the accuser. Nor their argument. I'm with @Servy on this one; put in the work, and you'll be rewarded. Asking is a privilege, not a right. – fbueckert Jun 16 '15 at 22:28
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    @fbueckert, sorry you don't like bullies being called out, I've been fighting them all my life and have little tolerance for them. They only seek to make themselves look good at another's expense. – Lance Roberts Jun 16 '15 at 22:54
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    @LanceRoberts Well, you can call them out if you want. I'm merely pointing out that doing so weakens your own arguments by casting them as a personal attack, as well as reflecting badly on yourself. So, hey, continue doing so, but name calling has no place in a debate. You're shooting yourself in the foot when you do. – fbueckert Jun 16 '15 at 23:11
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    @E-Bat The fact that you're taking downvoting personally shows that you don't understand the purpose of the site. Downvoting is not, and never has been personal. It's about voting on the content. At no point is asking on SE a right; by removing people's capacity to do so, you show them that fact. SE doesn't want you when you've demonstrated your incapability of adhering to and following its standards. There is no misbehaviour here. Just truth that users, when they've demonstrated it, to not be welcome. I support that wholeheartedly. – fbueckert Jun 17 '15 at 2:39
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    @LanceRoberts No, and you know it. What's happening isn't evil. Preventing someone from asking a question isn't life and death, so comparing it to such is hubris of the highest order. – fbueckert Jun 17 '15 at 2:40

I would be curious of what percentage of people who receive a question ban actually go through any effort to read those pages, edit their questions, and eventually get the ban lifted. I suspect the number of people who are "saved" from their bad-questionness to be very, very low.

In my experience the number of users who take interest on just one question that gets closed and actually try to edit/fix it when comments are on it is pretty low. Normally one of the following happens:

  • Nothing (user posts and never edits/returns)
  • Arguing with "this isn't bad!" types of perspective

Rarely is it:

  • Asks "how can I make this better?" and then edits

This is even lower when users post multiple questions. People on SE overall are generally very receptive to "how can I make this better?" when asked in humility and sincere manner. Ask in a defensive or argumentative fashion? You're get hostility - go figure.

While I don't think it's good to just ban people who are poor contributors, I do think it's ok to acknowledge that Stack Exchange isn't a site for everyone, it's a site for people who are able to ask good questions.

Stack Exchange's goal is to make the Internet a better place, not to be a rehab program for people who don't want to read or seek help. That meta post has a lot of great content. It should be a good starting place, if someone wants to improve. If not... well... I don't have a lot of sympathy.

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  • And of course those people that actually try to figure out what they did wrong and how to improve are people that don't get banned in the first place because they learn from their mistakes and don't keep making them over and over again. – Servy Jun 16 '15 at 17:04
  • @Servy You mean the system is designed to enforce the bolded text? PERFECT. – enderland Jun 16 '15 at 17:05
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    To your first question, see Shog9's stats here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/172300/… – Brad Larson Jun 16 '15 at 17:13
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    "a good starting place" - yes. A good place for help? Mm, maybe not. Telling someone "hey, go read this meta post and maybe some of it applies to you" is a lot less helpful than saying "Your question was closed for being primarily opinion based -- please note this isn't a forum yada yada yada". – hichris123 Jun 16 '15 at 17:13
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    @hichris123 keep in mind that someone hitting a Q-ban has probably ignored multiple comments/etc on their closed question(s) about how to improve them. If that isn't helpful enough... again, I don't have a lot of sympathy. – enderland Jun 16 '15 at 17:16
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    On smaller sites, yes. On sites like Stack Overflow... probably not. – hichris123 Jun 16 '15 at 17:22
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    @hichris123 unless a user had downvoted questions that were not closed, everyone who hits a q-ban gets some indication as to how to improve their question. – enderland Jun 16 '15 at 17:24
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    @hichris123 Even on SO most bad questions are going to have indications as to what's wrong with them and how to improve them, particularly when they're so bad that they get lots of downvotes. As has been mentioned, any closed question is going to have info on what the problem with the post is and how to address it. Repeating that information is only wasting everyone's time. And, after having spent a lot of time looking at a lot of low quality posts, I find that most posts that get more than a few downvotes have one or more comments explaining the problem(s) with the post. – Servy Jun 16 '15 at 18:34

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