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I ran in to a very unfortunate issue recently on Video Production. We had a new user who asked a question regarding a problem they were facing. A high-reputation user asked for a full log in a comment. Since the user couldn't fit the log in the question due to the character limit, he decided to improvise and split the log up over part of the question and four answers. The user had never posted any question or answer before.

At this point I came on and saw the confusion, so I helped the user out and moved the log over to a pastebin, linked the pastebin in the question, and deleted the answers.

Everything seemed fine until a couple days later when the user managed to figure out their own problem and tried to share his solution with us. It turned out they were answer banned due to the four deleted answers (all of which had zero score and no other bad marks on them) and one question which was open and had no votes.

Since they had no answers that they could improve and have upvoted in order to lift the ban, they were pretty stuck and ended up having to try to share their answer in the comments.

I was able to manually resolve this issue by editing and undeleting one of the deleted self-answers, and then upvoting both the question and answer in order to get the answer ban lifted, but this seems like a really bad situation to trigger the answer ban in the first place.

In this case, all indications are that this is a helpful, responsive user who is interested in sharing knowledge. In other words, he's exactly the kind of user we want to have. He made one simple error that a new user could easily make and ended up with a horrible initial experience as a result. Fortunately, the user seems to have been understanding about it, but I can see how many potentially great users would simply walk away in frustration.

Please fix the answer ban so that it doesn't trigger in the cases of deleted self-answers with zero score to help avoid penalizing people who make a one time error of not understanding how to deal with exceeding the post length limit.

  • I'm also open to any alternate ideas that would avoid this kind of situation triggering an answer ban as it seems like cases like this are very much not a situation where we want to block a user for a single honest mistake. – AJ Henderson Oct 22 '17 at 4:52
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    In theory, he could have edited one of those answers into an answery answer? – Journeyman Geek Oct 22 '17 at 5:02
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    @JourneymanGeek yes, but that would have been non-obvious too since the answers were deleted. – AJ Henderson Oct 22 '17 at 5:04
  • they can always see answers to their deleted questions and their own deleted answers. – Journeyman Geek Oct 22 '17 at 5:04
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    I mean that I wouldn't think to edit an answer that is deleted since nobody will see it. As a new user, he probably wouldn't even know undelete is a thing. – AJ Henderson Oct 22 '17 at 5:05
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    Moderators should be able to manually lift post bans. When they do so (like in this case), they probably have a good reason. I don't see why they shouldn't be allowed to do so. – Donald Duck Oct 22 '17 at 10:23
  • @donaldduck that's probably worth making an answer as another alternative. We currently can't lift it, but if we were a) notified when an action we took triggered a post ban and b) able to remove it or even if we were just able to mark a particular instance as not contributing towards a bad that would be an acceptable fix as well. It might even be preferable since it would handle any situations that don't fit the expected cases. Moderators are the human exception handlers after all. – AJ Henderson Oct 22 '17 at 12:58
  • @DonaldDuck on the other hand 90% of the time when I'm asked, its not necessary to lift/and or the user's kind of a pain. And I'd much rather the system be designed to stop people shooting themselves in the foot, than let us instamiracleheal said bleeding perforated appendage. – Journeyman Geek Oct 22 '17 at 13:38
  • It's an "honest mistake" to ignore the "Your Answer" headline and "Post Your Answer" button caption? I would call that "explicitly ignoring site rules". – Tom Oct 23 '17 at 16:55
  • @Tom but at the same time, a high rep user asked them to provide a specific set of details that wouldn't fit. They were improvising for sure, but how are they supposed to know the correct course of action when the system doesn't seem to allow them to do something that a high reputation user is asking them to do? It's a catch 22. I would tend to listen to the well established human over the generic automatic warning too. – AJ Henderson Oct 23 '17 at 16:58
  • Would you break into a house through the window, because the door jams or would you ask how to open the door correctly? Even if that person doesn't know how to provide such long log files/data, ignoring where they post it, isn't a honest mistake. They could easily ask that other commentator how to provide the information. – Tom Oct 23 '17 at 17:02
  • @Tom I wouldn't break the window, but I might ignore the no trespassing sign to go around back when I know they asked me to come over. – AJ Henderson Oct 23 '17 at 17:05
  • Then beware the dog ;P (or answer ban script) – Tom Oct 23 '17 at 17:11
  • @Tom sure, but it would have still been an honest mistake and it would be worth figuring out a way to prevent the dog from attacking people I invited over if possible. There's a difference between honestly taking an ill-advised action and being a problem user. It would have been preferable that they ask what to do sure, but that takes time and either way the answer ban didn't kick in until after they got the answer of what they should have done and there's no reason to expect that the problem would repeat at that point since they are clearly attempting to follow instructions. – AJ Henderson Oct 23 '17 at 17:15
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    @Tom I respectfully disagree, and appreciate AJ's initiative in helping/recognizing effort on behalf of new OP's. Even after some time on SE, I wouldn't have known to resurrect a deleted answer.,, Presuming malice is unfair to a new OP, and, in my opinion, a disservice to SE. – theNamesCross Oct 27 '17 at 3:59
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I kind of suspect this is a mix of the system working as designed, and some degree of getting used to 'how we do things' compared to a forum. And really what the user did makes complete sense on a forum.

Your user could and should be able to see their own deleted posts, so editing them one of those into a working answer would have been the 'right' thing to do in these circumstances. Incidentally a comment might have worked, or an invite to chatroom. I think its one of those situations that mentorship might help with?

While the system does ask you if you're sure that you you want to post another answer maybe it should be more insistent, and stop you before you hit the qban threshold. Which is nice since this is one of those situations where a new user could get ensnared and not being able to post a second or more non-answer is better than getting answer banned.

On the gripping hand, this is kinda the scenario that answer bans are designed to handle - people not quite getting how stuff works so I think things worked as intended. There's just room for it to be potentially friendlier.

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    Except is this really what the answer ban is intended for? My impression was always that it's there to catch people making a lot of low effort, low quality answer pollution. Hitting it on one occurrence with your own question seems... extreme. The suggested way out of it also indicates it's designed to prevent many low quality posts on different questions as it asks you to improve your existing answers and get upvotes to have it removed. – AJ Henderson Oct 22 '17 at 5:45
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    Well, by one occurrence, you mean 4 - and 4 deleted answers is quite a lot. That said, warning users when they do that, and stopping them from posting more of their answers on a specific question feels friendlier than a-banning. – Journeyman Geek Oct 22 '17 at 5:56
  • Yeah, preventing new users from answering a question multiple times would be a great improvement in general and sidestep this issue entirely. – AJ Henderson Oct 22 '17 at 6:09
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    Also, by one instance I mean one situation, not one action. If the system either stopped it without mod intervention it would be great, but it didn't. The problem is the system stepped in to prevent an action that it only could detect after the situation had been resolved. Answer banning this situation gains nothing as it stopped none of the initial answers and after dealing with the situation the op wouldn't repeat the mistake anymore so the ban serves no useful purpose, so I still think this is an exception case to the answer ban logic. – AJ Henderson Oct 22 '17 at 6:17
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This is pretty much exactly what the answer ban is intended to do: block further posts from an account semi-permanently once they've demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to post acceptable answers. The common scenarios here are spammers and folks who repeatedly insist on posting comments as answers.

The unusual part of the scenario you describe is that the author managed to get banned by answering his own question due to the length restriction. I doubt this is common.

...And if it is common, the proper solution is to expand the length limit so folks can edit requested information into their question, not split it across multiple answers which then have to be moved off-site and deleted.

  • That's a great point, or possibly a file attachment option. – AJ Henderson Nov 18 '17 at 18:30

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