There are a few users on SO for whom I've answered questions with a less than pleasant experience. Be it active ingratitude, repeated cluelessness, a "biting of the hand that feeds [you]", etc. In some cases I simply do not want to answer questions for these people again. Rather than have to remember these few people out of the thousands of people -- some of whom may have the same user names -- I'd like the ability to flag such a user so that when I go to answer a question from that user I'm forewarned that I've had a bad experience in the past.


6 Answers 6


It's an interesting idea, but I think it could be extended further. Rather than just "people I've had a bad experience" you could take general notes:

  • This user is interested in academic issues of correctness (e.g. the .NET memory model details), not necessarily best practices for simple coding
  • This user uses term X to mean Y
  • This user is a newbie to C#, but knows Java


You could get prompted with that information when you choose to answer, or have it as an expandable box below the question or something similar.

Aside from anything else, this is a bit more of a positive way to think about such a potential feature, rather than it just being related to troublemakers :)

  • 4
    Jon Skeet would use his super-powers for good, not evil. Nov 15, 2009 at 16:28
  • +1 - Perhaps the notes (visible only to the person who made the annotation) could be visible on user profiles, and a little "note" icon could show up on their mini-profile (for both OPs and answerers). This could help avoid comment flame-wars.
    – TrueWill
    Nov 15, 2009 at 17:38
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    Yes, there's have to be appropriate "note management" tools. A fair amount of work, all told... I like the idea, but I don't know what the cost/benefit ratio would be like...
    – Jon Skeet
    Nov 15, 2009 at 17:49
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    +1 - I'd love to avoid interacting with the person who asked this question: stackoverflow.com/questions/1641585/converting-dll-to-so again .. two months from now, I'll have forgotten his name. Just see the comments in my answer, ugh..
    – user50049
    Nov 15, 2009 at 18:07
  • @tinkertim: Great googly moogly... just reading the list of questions from that bloke is deeply disconcerting. And yeah, the comments on your answer... "clue vacuum" barely scratches the surface.
    – womble
    Nov 15, 2009 at 18:50
  • @tinkertim: I love how his profile says "I am a self motivated software engineer." Whahahahhaa.... Nov 15, 2009 at 19:20
  • Actually I had written the question from both perspectives, but hadn't thought about it from the perspective of just general notes. I changed it because I felt that, while not answering a question to avoid a bad experience was ok, paying special attention to a question based on the OP would be wrong. Using it for general notes to customize answers, though, seems like a good idea.
    – tvanfosson
    Nov 15, 2009 at 21:52
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    +0: I would be content with a jerk flag. Nov 17, 2009 at 7:08
  • @Stu Thompson: I'm generally against such things, since it would certainly be mis-applied, but I have to agree that even a jerk Badge is sometimes deserved. Nov 23, 2009 at 15:47
  • @Jon Skeet: I get the sense you might already have a spreadsheet of user notes like this somewhere. What is my entry? :)
    – Kip
    Nov 23, 2009 at 18:50

If you have to be "prompted" that you didn't like someone, do you really need to be reminded about that adversity by a computer?

One thing you should remember about the purpose of Stack Overflow -- It isn't primarily to answer a question for a specific user. In reality, you are talking over their shoulder to the rest of the community; to contribute to an archive of knowledge for the benefit of programmers that follow.

Your personal history with a particular user should be somewhat irrelevant.

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    I respectfully disagree. I'd rather not use brain cells to store the handles of argumentative trolls.
    – TrueWill
    Nov 15, 2009 at 17:41
  • @Henk Holterman: I've answered some very thoughtful questions, that sparked awfull trollish discussions.
    – perbert
    Nov 15, 2009 at 21:08

I don't know if this is such a good idea. It would allow you to hold a grudge forever. Even if this person matures and starts behaving properly at some time in the future, you will avoid participating in any question posed by them because you'll always be reminded about what a jerk they were on that one question posted N years ago.

Let bygones be bygones. If the user is really that much of a jerk that you need to avoid them forever, I would hope that they would eventually be banished from the site.

  • So, you would be OK with repetitive bad experiences instead from the same user? Nov 15, 2009 at 19:12
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    This is why I would rather have a reminder rather than an outright ban on seeing questions from the user. It allows me to use my judgement over the course of time -- and choose to answer a good question despite the author.
    – tvanfosson
    Nov 15, 2009 at 21:43
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    @raven - your logic escapes me. Because I've been helpful, I'm obligated to be helpful even when a person has demonstrated that they don't appreciate my help or is unable to profit from it? I have two examples that I'm thinking of. Both have basically asked unfocused, random questions on just about every topic under the sun. I'm just tired of having to ask them for more information on their vague questions only to find out that it's the same clueless people who don't appreciate my help when I give it and can't seem to understand my answers in any event.
    – tvanfosson
    Nov 15, 2009 at 23:59
  • ...on the other hand, there are people who have been very grateful or helpful and I do appreciate @Jon's idea that one would be able to note this as well in case I wanted to customize my answer based on previous interactions.
    – tvanfosson
    Nov 16, 2009 at 0:01
  • @raven: So you prefer banning over flagging? The SO team should provide us with a global, public banishment mechanism, but not a personal, private 'jerk' flag? That seems overly draconian on your part. Nov 17, 2009 at 7:06

I think it would be taking things a bit far. Are such levels of social elements relevant in a QA site? I would like to see each question as a new one.

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    in a perfect world, this would be acceptable.
    – monksy
    Nov 15, 2009 at 16:03

You should totally drop this and use jQuery.


I think most of this could be solved by awarding temporary "black" badges to those who exhibit less desirable traits in the community providing more statistics about a user's behaviour tendencies*, so that the community itself can naturally weed them out. This has been discussed lots before but sadly nothing has come of it. :(

The greatest "less desirable" trait I'd like to see more easily displayed against a user is a high number of downvotes on questions and answers, but other things would be useful too, like a large number of their edits being subsequently rolled back and having been put in the penalty box.

*I like the temporary "black badges" too; it may be a more concise way of summarizing the statistics, but I'd rather just see all the stats on the user's profile page. Such statistics could include:

  • question/answer ratio
  • average question score
  • total score amassed from questions
  • total score amassed by answers
  • average answer score
  • percentage of answers accepted
  • percentage of questions answered
  • total number of comments left
  • total score of all comments
  • Problem there is that what one person finds objectionable behavior, another does not. If a users post does not merit being properly flagged, then a common black badge system would be meaningless. The OP's proposal is very individual, as is the what people find objectionable. Nov 15, 2009 at 19:00
  • @Stu Thompson: well, you might think this guy has only one black badge, he might not be that bad compared to this guy has more black badges than Jon Skeet has rep points, I'm out of here before it's too late
    – perbert
    Nov 15, 2009 at 21:10
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    The problem with this is that we try to encourage good behavior with positive badges. We don't want to award black marks that the entire community can see because we want people to have the ability to change bad behavior and not be affected by it too adversely. That's the main reason why bad behavior is handled by a trip to the penalty box, which is temporary. If you give someone a permanent black mark on their record, it really doesn't give them an incentive to change. They're already labeled. Nov 16, 2009 at 0:52
  • Sorry, I neglected to include the key word: TEMPORARY. (I should have also linked to the previous dicussions on this.)
    – Ether
    Nov 17, 2009 at 3:43
  • It sounds like you are assuming we are all still on the same scale, but have different pain points. No. We have different metrics. What Bill the Lizard might find objectionable, I would not even notice or care about. E.g.: Pseudo-swearing, abrasive questioning, or lack of up voting correct answers. Whatever. Other people's opinions are not relevant in this context. Nov 17, 2009 at 7:13

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