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We get tons of posts from users asking about bans, perhaps assuming that their case is somehow different from the others, or that the ban was incorrect, or that they need to ask a question now, etc. Of course, the intent of the ban is to get those who just want to post crap to leave the site, and to get users who genuinely want to learn the guidelines to know the only way out of a ban is to improve their existing posts and have them upvoted. Also, for question bans, users are given the opportunity to ask one new question six months after the ban.

The wording of the ban message, "we're no longer accepting new [questions/answers] from this account", is very contradictory to the above, and seems to encourage people to bypass the block. Let me break it down for you:

We're no longer accepting new [posts]

This wording, by itself, implies that the decision is final, irrevocable, and will not be considered further, which directly contradicts the truth. We are willing to reconsider after they have improved their posts so they're well-received. (But not otherwise, but it still contradicts the truth.)

from this account.

This part, especially the word "account", encourages users to create new accounts and change their IP addresses to keep posting their crap. As the anonymous editor, I was susceptible to getting my IP banned just for submitting one edit that tripped a filter, and I used a VPN to successfully bypass those blocks. I imagine that the post ban IP filter is probably that easy to bypass as well.

Anyway, to summarize, that text implies that the block is final, and the only way to get past it is to create another account. We don't want those users to keep posting crap after having been warned and rate-limited; we just want them to either just leave or learn how to make good posts. For this reason, I think the ban message should be reworded. I'm not quite sure what it should be, but here's one suggestion:

Your ability to [ask/answer] questions has been revoked. For more info, see [help].

That refers to "you" as a person, not a specific account.

If the message can be longer, here's another suggestion:

Your ability to [ask/answer] questions has been revoked, because your past posts were not received well by the community. You must improve those posts before you can post again. For more info, see [help].

Let me cite some example users who recently posted about their bans here on MSE: one user came out to us that they had used 30+ different accounts to keep posting crap after getting banned 30+ times. Another user's more recent questions were very well-received, but their past posts were very negatively received, and even after posting good questions once every six-month allotment a few times, were unable to get out of the ban. Thus, I think it's important that our ban message refers to "you" as a person, not a specific account, and includes instructions on how to get out of it (if they're willing to follow them, of course).

Thoughts?

  • Edit bans are something different though, and someone posting edits anonymously isn't exactly 'normal'. Having ownership of actions is a good thing. Those IP bans are probably a bit more strict in those situations. – Journeyman Geek Feb 3 '18 at 6:12
  • the problem with "temporarily" is that people post saying they got this message, and they've waited a day/week/month and it hasn't changed (meanwhile they've done nothing) and how much longer will it be? – Kate Gregory Feb 3 '18 at 17:22
  • @KateGregory See the edits. I removed "temporarily". – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Feb 15 '18 at 1:42
5

This is the message you see if you hit the comprehensive question ban:

That links to this page: https://meta.stackexchange.com/help/question-bans

...which explains in detail what the message means and how you should go about getting it lifted.

Now, you might think that the goal here is to get people to read that page and do something about their ban... You would be wrong. The goal is to get them to leave the site and never come back. That doesn't always work, but it has a reasonably good success rate.

For those cases where it doesn't work, there are two options:

  1. The asker figures out how to work around the ban.
  2. The asker reads the help center article and fixes their posts.

Both of those require a bit of work. Which works in our favor, since for anyone to get to that message in the first place, they have to have ignored a huge whopping pile of guidance and warnings thrown at them repeatedly in the past: first from the warning system, and then from the rolling rate-limit system.

In short, there's a really good chance that folks who see that message aren't willing to edit, read, or even click a link. The other measures present in the system exist solely for those vanishingly rare cases where this assumption doesn't hold.

  • 2
    Wouldn't "your ability to ask questions has been revoked" also carry the same connotation as the existing message, but not encourage sockpuppetry? – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Feb 3 '18 at 20:18
  • "Leave the site and never come back." Let's say that I join a site, and ask a few bad questions on it, and get banned. I then leave the site. Four months later, I have a rather important question to ask. I log in, but notice the ban message. What do I do? I think that my question is important, I need to ask it now, and as the ban message says it applies to my account I create a new one. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Feb 3 '18 at 22:27
  • As opposed to what, @sonic? Read the instructions? Like what didn't happen the last few times you were warned, temporarily blocked, warned again? – Shog9 Feb 4 '18 at 0:15
  • Is there a good reason why this particular wording is the best, and that the ones I suggested are bad in some way? – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Feb 4 '18 at 0:19
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    Magic words are something folks chase after with a/b tests, combinatorial tests, endless iteration. If you're Facebook and willing to piss away millions literally just to mess with your own users, then you can probably do that sort of thing on messages only a tiny fraction of people see... Our time is better spent trying to find ways to catch folks before they ever get close to that message - by then, they're mostly lost anyway. – Shog9 Feb 4 '18 at 1:59
  • Alright, just to be clear here: if this were phrased as a feature request, you would status-declined this? – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Feb 4 '18 at 2:34
  • @Shog while I somewhat agree with the general idea here, why bother in the first place and create that help center page? Just write directly "You're not welcome to post here anymore", no links, nothing, and be done with. No? – Shadow Feb 4 '18 at 15:41
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    As I implied, it exists for the minority of folks who are willing to work out of a ban, @shadow. Also reduces the number of ban questions on meta and support emails. – Shog9 Feb 4 '18 at 17:15
  • Um, don't we get a lot of questions about the ban applying to other accounts, since the message says it only applies to that account? Shouldn't it instead say "you", since that implies that it applies to the person, not the account? – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Feb 4 '18 at 17:55
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    Define "a lot". – Shog9 Feb 4 '18 at 18:16
  • By the way, I thought of something new: isn't it possible that someone who hits the rate limit just doesn't think of asking a new question until after the rate limit has already expired, so they don't end up seeing the rate limit message? – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Feb 14 '18 at 8:29
  • That's not just possible, the rate-limit actually relaxes the longer you wait before trying to ask your next question, @Ano. You'll still get warned if your previous questions were dodgy though, even if you're not blocked. – Shog9 Feb 14 '18 at 15:27
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    Please see my edits to the question. I still think the message should be reworded, even after thinking about what you said (that in most cases, we just want them to leave the site after ignoring several warnings). – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Feb 14 '18 at 16:00

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