You asked me once if there was anything going on that I'd like to talk about.

One of your moderators just banned me on Stack Overflow for a month, telling me that my edits for this question are "entirely out of line", adding that they "have no time for my games". Probably they got confused with this edit of mine. In that edit, I wasn't masking the OP, but just copy-pasted their comment (now removed).

So, there is one thing that I'd like to talk about.

I am not asking about the alleged possibility to do anything "out of line" to a question that is already off topic. Neither is the question itself, which sounds just horrible to any PHP-er, my concern, but prejudice.

It is not a secret that I am not the most adored person around, thanks to my attitude towards the greed of rep-whores, the mindless ignorance of wannabe helpers and a vanity of all sorts. Given gamification is a religion, I am a sinner who spoils other people's game, judging their contribution not just by their sincere desire to help, but by the actual value.

Besides that, I am a pain in the back on Meta.SO, asking harsh and awkward questions there, making people think I am a black-hearted person who is deliberately spoiling their happy and cheerful existence.

So there are people who hate my guts. I was foolish enough before, not watching my tongue and giving them an easy cause to report me. I've learned not to engage in an argument since then. One of these people went so far as to follow after me on Reddit, and tried to slander me there. But anyway, I don't care for these people either.

In the end, a hater's report ends up on a moderator's desk. So my question is: what is the moderator's moral code (if any)? Should they act like an ordinary human, guided by hate, prejudice and slander? Should they act swiftly, taking no time to consider the situation? Should they be driven by a mere jealousy, thinking "Whaat?! That rabble dared to revert an edit that I, a powerful mod, bothered to make? Ban him!"?

I know, they've got not much time to waste: the requests are plenty, the mods are few, while everyone has a family, a job, a life. But if one does not understand the problem and has no time or desire to dig in, why intervene at all? If one is prejudiced towards someone else, why not rein that feeling in, if you act not as a private person but as an official?

I have been a faithful volunteer for Stack Overflow for many years, trying to make this site better; namely, trying to make it stop spreading wild superstitions and outdated practices; editing questions to make them relevant for Google searchers; awarding bounties for the questions that otherwise won't get any attention. For all that everyday work I was offered a pack of a penny-worth stuff which I didn't bother to order. So here goes my question: can I swap this offer for a right to be judged with little less brutality, prejudice and haste?

If (as I suppose) the answer is negative, then I've got only one thing to ask. There is a question I set a bounty for, which ends tomorrow, and now I am unable to award it. If there is a way to make it awarded fully, I'll be very grateful. There are so few worthy questions on SO, and even fewer worthy participants, that I don't want them to be discouraged.

  • 11
    Your edit was completely correct. The OP obviously wanted the code to be rewritten and that is what the answers provided. I would reject Martijn Pieters's first edit as conflicting with author's intent and subsequent rollbacks as vandalism. The moderation actions taken are blatently based on prejudice against YCS rather than the context of the question. Even if he completely misjudged the author's intent (he didn't) and made a horrible edit then rolled back to it, only YCS would have gotten a month-long suspension over it.
    – bjb568
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 0:50
  • 8
    I have to agree with @bjb568 here, even though many times I don't really agree with the aggressive approach used against newbies on SO. But in the end of the day, moderators are those who call the shots, and it's unwise to fight them, to say the least. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 6:11
  • 10
    Engaging in a rollback war with a mod isn't exactly the smartest thing you can do. I can't say exactly why Martin was editing the post in the way he was, but to me it appears that he was attempting to salvage the question to the benefit of the asker and those who spent time answering it. Is that really worth engaging in an edit war over?
    – user1228
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 15:11

6 Answers 6


It's not your job to punish people; I can't find any other words but those to explain that to you.

I am the Director of communities here at Stack Overflow because I quite deeply care about what the site means to, and has done for the world's developers. I care very deeply about how the site is perceived and regarded, which is why I find the events leading to your suspension positively, absolutely and unprecedentedly distressing.

We are a site that strives to maintain a very high standard of quality. We are not a community that rubs people's noses in their messes. I'm fine with people saying those stiff-necked jerks put my smelly question on-hold because it didn't meet their standards, as long as it's clear that the standards being upheld are in fact attainable by a beginner.

I am not fine with people saying that they were bullied, brow-beaten or ridiculed *with proof*, and that's what you did. Whether or not the author of that question was looking for free programming labor quickly becomes irrelevant - you, as a very high rep user with the highest level of privilege that the system can give to a non-moderator ridiculed that user with a pejorative edit, and then you insisted on keeping it.

Do you know, or even care, what that does to the site's reputation?

You had every opportunity to think about what you were doing and why people were reacting to it the way that they were, you chose to continue, you wanted to make fun of that person.

The suspension stands. Be Nice, or get the hell out.

I'm not going to lift the suspension, however I'm solidly convinced that the edits made were not in fact a deliberate attempt to shame the user that asked the question. Please see my comment regarding this. I can't describe any error here that could have been avoided by the mods - it really looked like you had an axe to grind.

What I can't get over is the rollback war. You simply can't get that angry or frustrated given the level of access that you have, and continue here.

  • 3
    Can you elaborate on this "punishment" thing please? You take it as an unquestionable premise and then go on explaining how bad it is. But I don't quite understand what this alleged punishment is in the first place. I think that this "punishment" is no more than a speculation. So please ground it a bit. To clarify: I don't feel that I punished someone with my edit or had an intention to. All I wanted is to make the title and tags more relevant. So I am really wondering where did you get that idea of punishment. to me it's too heavy an accusation to be left unfounded. Thanks. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 8:57
  • 1
    I don't think trying to blame YCS in such an angry manner makes much sense. The "Be Nice" you point at is supposed to address the questions , which are welcome at the site, or at least show a detail which could set editors on the right way (or my mistake?). Experienced users know that Stack Overflow isn't a code-writing service, the problem here is with the question page, and the fix is to do something with that page.
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 13:33
  • 2
    It is not such edits that could harm "the site's reputation", but mostly such questions, like the one YCS linked; and the absence of meaningful guidance on the said page. But you are targetting a user who made a single edit and got it rolled back. Anyway, the linked question deserves to be deleted, and this will definitely "punish" OP more than such an edit, since OP will no longer have an ability to get the answers.
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 13:43
  • 5
    @nicael 1. the paragraph I added to the question is an exact copy/paste from the opening poster's own comment, now deleted. 2. As I said above, this question is not about mysql_connect function at all. The only question where this tag could be relevant is one contains an explicit attempt to use this function accompanied with explanation why it doesn't work for the OP. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 14:31
  • 4
    @TimPost, it just occurred to me that the OP's own comment you took as my attempt to mock them? Makes sense. It wasn't my intent though. All I wanted to do is to endorse my edits with the comment from the OP. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 14:39
  • @YourCommonSense Oh, that's legit indeed. I stated that because was still trying to find a reason for Tim being so harsh. Then I see no visible reason behind such an anger against you at all. You may want to mention that in your question.
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 14:41
  • 1
    @YourCommonSense Btw, to avoid such confusions, maybe you shouldn't leave the "revision summary" field blank.
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 14:54
  • 2
    It's hard to be fair when on one side of the scales is a whole bunch of authorities and on the another is just a known disturber of peace, so I am forgiving you in advance. I came here not for the suspension removal but for justice, curious whether the mods of Stack Overflow ever able to admit their mistakes. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 15:03
  • 21
    @YourCommonSense you've been around long enough to see mods admitting and correcting mistakes many times.
    – user1228
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 15:14
  • 5
    The fact that this revision is a copy-paste from the OP's own comment is vital information here, @YourCommonSense. It's pretty much an indefensible edit otherwise, and yes, I imagine that's a large part of the reaction. I wish you had mentioned that earlier.
    – jscs
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:07
  • 6
    I'll be posting an update to my answer tomorrow (I'm headed out for the day). As for the bounty, if I don't reduce the suspension, I will refund it so it can be placed again (the question seriously deserved it). This could be a case of someone wearing a ski mask because it was cold that just happened to pick up the gun that someone dropped by the door of the bank before going in.
    – user50049
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:17
  • 2
    @Josh (ironically) I edited the question per YCS's comment.
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:25
  • 1
    You were going to update the answer.
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 7:24
  • 1
    So your mods can get that angry or frustrated given the level of access that they have. O.K. Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 9:12
  • 1
    @YourCommonSense Continuing this conversation in comments means bringing up your past account history, and that's not something I want to do. If you really feel like I haven't heard or understood something important, you can email me at [email protected] and we can have that conversation.
    – user50049
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 17:59

A question you deem of low value on Stack Overflow should be handled with comments and down-votes. Your edits were inappropriate and further degraded a low-quality question into a worse state.

Just because the question might be substandard doesn't give you the right to deface it. The best thing you could have done is actually answered the question, pointing out the flaws and bad practice and offered a solution that follows the best practice or correct procedures. If the question is beyond answering, leave a comment with constructive feedback so the OP can revise the question. What you did does not help teach the original poster, or those who land on the question from Google, anything useful.

In my opinion, you deserve your ban. And I'm not saying that to be mean. I really hope you take this time to see the other possible avenues for handling situations such as this in the future. Everyone on SO is human. Everyone has different skill levels. Everyone has different exposure and experience. Help teach. Save your edits bad grammar or run-on sentences, not for malice.

  • Thank you for your reply. However I disagree with your argument, I am open to this kind of answer. Where I given this kind of explanation, I wouldn't have posted this question probably. Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 17:22
  • 4
    And, to anyone who is under the same delusion: I didn't "deface" this question. The guy asked for a code rewrite, and got it. The current title has nothing to do with what they wanted. Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 18:17
  • 13
    @YourCommonSense you didn't do yourself any favours in your reply to the mod message - if you want to disclose such details, feel free (it's somewhat disingenuous to lead the public to think you've been "put upon") , as the mod team won't because we don't wave things around in public. Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 19:19
  • 1
    "The guy asked for a code rewrite, and got it. The current title has nothing to do with what they wanted." If that is what they wanted, they should go somewhere else. It was edited by Martijn into something that may be appropriate for the site, yet doesn't stray too far from the intended question.
    – Bart
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 22:12
  • @JonClements Sorry but I am not sure I am getting your comment. Can you rephrase it please? Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 9:17
  • 3
    @Bart Martijn didn't edit it, but just reverted to the original state. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 9:20
  • Yup, you are right about that.
    – Bart
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 9:27
  • 4
    The solution to someone posting an inappropraite question on SO is not to answer the inappropriate question. It's to work to fix the question into an appropraite state, and if that is done, then it can be answered. Your assertion that everyone should strive to answer questions that aren't appropriate, as per the site's guidelines, is, by definition, false. As for defacing the post, you have in no way supported that assertion? How did he deface the post?
    – Servy
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:00

I am not aware of suspension details, nor I am qualified to judge technical details of the question. Because of that I will only lay out how this looks from a perspective of an editor ("tech writer" if you wish).

Per my reading of revisions history and specifically change done in rev 2 you got engaged in an edit war and your position in this war looks quite weak.

Change in rev 2 looks like an attempt to make question title better fit its text. This is generally a good idea and overall attitude over here seems to be that such edits are important and much in need, see eg How to save the world... One question title at a time

But because of that very importance an editor better be prepared for stricter scrutiny of the changes they make to the title. In particular, they better be ready to offer a solid, strong proof (proof) based on original version that their change indeed reflects what asker had in mind.

In the case you refer to said proof appears to be lacking. As far as I can tell you have fallen into a popular trap of inferring most probable intent of the asker instead of preserving it fully, including even possible ambiguity. This is a clear road to fail strict scrutiny mentioned above (for the sake of completeness this is sometimes less of an issue in edits intended to salvage closed questions but this is a different story).

Specific assumed intent revealed by your edit is that asker wanted someone to plainly rewrite their code. To me it really looks like they wanted just that but unfortunately question text doesn't seem to provide sufficient evidence to prove this.

For example, someone skeptical may argue that asker simply forgot to mention that code in their question is only an example and that they added it only to show typical usage examples they want to learn about how to handle in general. This looks like a weak assumption but still seems sufficient to complain that your edit failed to preserve possible asker's intent.

After your suspension is over consider abstaining of edits like this. Do title edits only when you believe that you can present a very solid proof that it correctly matches asker's intent. It helps to imagine that your edit will be reviewed by some skeptical / biased observer who will try their best to prove you wrong.

On a related note, try to avoid edit wars. If you feel strongly about someone rolling back your edit, bring your concern to meta. Or flag for mod attention if you believe that you can clearly defend your edit within 600 char limit of mod flag message.

Rolling back to your version is an unreliable approach if you consider that your "opponent" can easily counter this with their own rollback to the version they like. Meta effect or mod intervention really help to firmly set things in cases like that.

  • 2
    ..."popular trap of inferring most probable intent" -- I often vote based on such an inference. But voting is different than editing. Votes are mine and I have a right to vote as I wish (except for serial voting on user) and I use that right of mine and it's nobody's business how I vote. But edits... edits are whole different game
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 4:19


I look forward to having you back in a healthy and well-balanced position. Encourage you to reflect on the past and carry positive vibes into the future here.

We know you have a lot of strengths. That would be an understatement. Just have some more patience; get a breath of fresh air now and then.

Tap your own self on the shoulder now and then and say "Hey YCS here you go again." You think I don't need to do that daily. Oops <ENTER>. Better: delete.

The community is not stacked against you. Most of the time people are bewildered how to get an error to go away and just want to take the normal train home on time. We get frustrated. You get frustrated. We all can at times. Maybe there was an over-reaction but there was a history.

I look forward to you coming back in a few days. Reflect on it a bit and talk to people more openly. That is just constructive criticism.


  • 5
    My position is healthy and well-balanced. I am doing a lot of work improving questions and answers and trying to educate the poor PHP folks. Nobody have a complaint for that. Out of a thousand improved questions there is only one which a hater comes across, slandering me for doing a honest job. And this single issue brought up to the public makes an impression of me as a public enemy. That's inevitable and I can't help it. So I'll jut let it go. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 8:04

Only just spotted this. I am happy to state that it was me who reported you twice - once to complain about your initial rollback, and the second time when I noticed you'd rolled back a moderator edit. Please take all the following as helpful feedback, and note that nothing in this reply is intended to hurt your feelings.

We have crossed swords before, which I suppose is why you were happy to throw away my case, formatting and paragraph fixes in rev 4. You know that rollback wars are firmly discouraged here, but you did that twice - once to me, and then once to a moderator. From here, fortunately for the community, you have already lost any grounds for a legitimate complaint. You already know not to engage a moderator in a rollback war, and I am surprised - even taking your history into account - that you feel you have a case worth appealing.

I do agree that sometimes an "honest" title amendment can be useful, so if someone wishes to cheat at their homework, or obtain free work, then making the author's intention stark can be helpful (depending on how it is worded, of course). However, I felt that your amendment would give the OP the impression that it is acceptable to nakedly ask for free work, so I rolled it back. I also felt, given your history of antagonism, that it was an edit not made in kindness.

You have identified the person who raised flags on your actions as a hater, and part of the reason I am motivated to respond is to set the record straight. I am not motivated by hate, or any of the other powerful aggressive words you have used in this Meta question. Like you, I care about teaching developers, and I care about how we appear to beginners. It is a hard balance to get right, whilst at the same time chasing away the help vampires.

I have several times appealed to you to tone down your language, and thus far it does not seem to have worked. There is no "hate, prejudice, brutality, jealousy and slander" here, either in the current ban, or indeed the two one-year bans that preceded it. Your analysis of "the greed of rep-whores, the mindless ignorance of wannabe helpers and a vanity of all sorts" is the fire-and-brimstone spouting of a street-preacher, not a community member looking to build bridges in an amenable fashion. If the network is "disgusting", as your current MSE profile states, why put so much effort into it?

I understand you have a long-running complaint about quality on Stack Overflow, and it is perhaps this theme that motivates your actions and complaints generally. Perhaps with the advent of the Documentation feature, we will see quality improve across the board, and you'll be happier here, whilst understanding that quality and beginner education are always in need of improvement.

Thus, your assessment that your actions have merely been misunderstood is incorrect. Ultimately there will always be disagreements about quality, and I myself have several times had to give way to a Meta or moderator decision that I have not liked. However, we need to tackle these things as a community, and so once again I would appeal to you to maintain a calm and amenable demeanour on the network as much as possible - your edits and your answers have great value, and should not be marred by these outbursts of anger.


I can plain and objectively tell you why your first edit was wrong: you removed relevant information/context from the title. And you also introduced a major fluff word: "please". Fluff has no place in a question or answer (or comments, except the lack of editing is limiting).

The title is what everyone sees first. That's why the Help Center puts so much weight on it:

Write a title that summarizes the specific problem

The title is the first thing potential answerers will see, and if your title isn't interesting, they won't read the rest. So make it count:

Pretend you're talking to a busy colleague and have to sum up your entire question in one sentence: what details can you include that will help someone identify and solve your problem? Include any error messages, key APIs, or unusual circumstances that make your question different from similar questions already on the site.

  • Spelling, grammar and punctuation are important! Remember, this is the first part of your question others will see - you want to make a good impression. If you're not comfortable writing in English, ask a friend to proof-read it for you.

Titles should be as specific as possible without being too wordy. This is good advice for ALL sites, actually. The majority of bad titles are vague (and may include irrelevant noise), using words and phrases like "need help", "issues", "doesn't work", "it", or the very word that you added: "this".

A better title may have been: How to refactor mysql_connect query to mysqli in PHP?

Remember, the point of editing is not to cause a flurry of close votes or down votes; it is to improve the post. We cannot expect new users to know all the rules immediately, and our edits help to teach them about how Stack Exchange sites work. Otherwise, we are leading them in the wrong direction.

None of this is relevant to your ban, however. The first edit wasn't good, but it certainly wasn't what the ban was about. It was the fact that, after making the first bad edit, you went back, reverted a good edit, and in the end just made a passive aggressive stab at the OP. Yes, I know those were the OP's words, but it had no place anywhere in the question, especially in its current state.

You should know how to "Be Nice" (so I'm not going to explain it), and the excuse of "what the guy wanted" or what they said is really flimsy.

If you cared about the OP, the site, or editing for quality's sake, you wouldn't have undone halfer's edit (especially not twice), and you certainly wouldn't have added something hardly viable as a comment, especially with such poor grammar, no matter if it was a direct quote.

All of these conclusions were based off of the edits, with some supplementary information from this meta question. It doesn't really matter who you are; I too will aggressively protect the "Be Nice" policies our site attempts to embody.

  • 1
    YCS hasn't removed any relevant information. There were no other edits which were good in particular, since the question is off-topic. What YCS did is clarified the question both times, and then suddenly was met with the resistance and, moreover, the ban. Also, in case you missed this comment (I agree, it's difficult to notice it since YCS hasn't mentioned it in their question).
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 15:52
  • Some of the aspects you mention are not really true, other have been mentioned already. Some are not even relevant to the suspension. All in all, sorry, but I'm not sure what particular purpose this answer serves.
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 15:55
  • @nicael Clearly, it removed the fact that "this code" was a mysql_connect query from the title, as I said. Personally, I found it much more clearer when it specified that it was about mysql_connect not just "this code". And I did catch that bit of information, but that comment should never have been more than a comment. I included more info so my answer stands on its own. I feel that the harmfulness of these edits was worth comment. The quality of the site matters to me.
    – Laurel
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:03
  • 1
    The "passive aggressive stab" and anything related to it, including references to the "Be Nice" policy, are not true and hence not relevant. Regarding that and the title, this.
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:06
  • 2
    @Laurel The fact that some particular detail is removed from the quesiton, when it's still in the body, is radically different from your assertion of removing relevant information entirely. The information was not lost.
    – Servy
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:06
  • I believe the title edit YCS did is a pretty good one. The question is indeed asking for code and YCS clarified the title by explicitly stating that.
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:10
  • @Servy You could make the same argument to say that every title should be "Please help me" or "Write me code". Titles are such a fundamental part of things that they need to be as precise as possible.
    – Laurel
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:11
  • @Laurel If you feel that the new title didn't convey information as well, then say that's, that's something you can argue, but saying it's removing relevant information from the question, when that information is still available, isn't correct.
    – Servy
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:13
  • @Servy My wording was ambiguous, so I edited it. I DID mean that the information was removed from the title, and I apologize if that was not clear enough. Do you feel it's clearer now that I have edited it?
    – Laurel
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:14
  • The sad fact is that such questions are off-topic, with no matter how you're trying to think of a title that makes the question not look like the code-request. But it's still a code-request, and because of this, YCS does a straightforward edit.
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:15
  • @nicael I never made the claim that the question wasn't off topic, but the fact is that edits should help bring a question closer to being on-topic. The easiest way is not the right or good or nice way most of the time, otherwise we would still have this tag
    – Laurel
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:21
  • This applies to some code requests, but certainly not that one.
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:23
  • @nicael Can you explain to me what value was added to the question with these edits? Clearly you're seeing something I'm not.
    – Laurel
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:40
  • I can: with the YCS's edit, it becomes even clearer from the frontpage that the question is the code-writing request. Right?
    – nicael
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:43
  • @nicael Does that help others find it in the future? Also, you should look at the later edits. The grammar was fixed in another edit that kept on getting rolled over by YCS's edits.
    – Laurel
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:48

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