The new Code of Conduct outlines and clarifies a number of our rules. But it also includes a section on how violators of those rules will be punished. I don't want to discuss particulars of the CoC itself. I want to investigate the structure of sanctioning for such rules.
These rules apply to everyone. That's their purpose; to outline how we should and should not interact with other people. No one should be exempt or immune, and all should be bound by these rules equally.
But sanctions for rule violations inherently matter to established users more than newer ones.
There are several reasons for this. Newer users are less engaged on the site than frequent users. As such, they will simply have fewer chances to break the rules. A one-and-done account may only make 5 comments, and even then only on their single question. A sub-50 rep account is limited solely to comments on their questions.
By contrast, established users see many questions. They seek them out. They comment on them, as a part of trying to keep the site clean, to rescue bad questions from the scrap heap. Per unit time on the site, an established user will make more comments, and therefore have more chances to fall afoul of the rules.
Additionally, regulars and veterans spend a significant amount of time on the site. So not only will they have more comments per-unit-time than a newer user, they will have a longer time to make those comments.
Coupled with that is the fact that regulars and veterans are tasked with keeping the sites clean and functional. Whether through review queues or just from reading the site, these diligent people will see the absolute worst the site has to offer. While this is no excuse for being rude, it's hardly surprising that, after dupe-closing the same question for the tenth time, one's patience has worn rather thin.
But the big reason why rule violations matter more to established users than newer ones is because the accounts of regular users matter more to them than the accounts of new users matter to those users. If a new user gets banned for saying any of these things, meh, no big deal. Even if they don't just create a new account (which may or may not go undiscovered), not being on SO does not matter to them. They don't care about the ban status of their account that much. They may complain about it on Twitter or some random blog post, but their interaction with their SO account is over.
By contrast, regular users are heavily invested in their accounts. We attach reputation and so forth to it. We associate your questions and answers to it. To abandon your own account would be painful for a lot of users.
The ability to comment or post is really important to such people. Take that away, even temporarily, and you impact them far more than you impact newer users. Give a new user a 3-day ban, and they probably won't come back. Give an established user a 3-day ban, and odds are good they probably will.
Not only that, there's the whack-a-mole factor. Every day, hundreds of new users show up. A non-trivial number of them will have a bad attitude and quickly run afoul of our CoC. And they will be sanctioned. But how you sanction them is irrelevant, since most of them won't be coming back. Even if you perma-ban them for a single infraction, just as many such users will show up tomorrow. And the next day. No matter what sanctions you impose on an individual bad-acting new user, there will be another to replace him tomorrow.
So the number of rude comments from new users will not be significantly addressed by sanctioning them.
By contrast, regular users of SO are a finite resource. Ban one, and there won't be a replacement. Or at least, not for quite some time; it takes a while to create a quality user of the site.
Now, I'm not saying that established users should be exempt from the CoC, or that they should be given leniency. What I'm saying is that whatever sanctioning procedures exist need to take the above factors into account. Not merely that the punishment fit the crime, but that there should be some recognition for how many good interactions such a user had before their bad one. New users have few interactions either way. Established users have many.
That is, a blanket policy of instituting a ban for making X number of CoC-violating comments would not be reasonable. Such a policy doesn't take into account the difference between a user with only 10 comments and a user with 1000.
The concern I have is that a sanctioning policy will be either mechanical (X number of infractions = Y punishment) or too subjective (always chosen by community moderators, who naturally have their own biases and blind spots). The mechanical one will catch far more of our established users while doing little to nothing about bad behavior from new ones. And while bringing CMs in on the process can certainly ensure that punishments fit the crime, that opens up an entirely new issue: how much you trust your CMs.
It's important that the CoC is genuinely enforced. That "slipping up" is not OK and won't just be brushed aside (thus dealing with people who "slip up" much more than acceptable). But it's just as important to realize that "slipping up" is a lot easier when you make 3,000 comments every year or so than when you only make 3.
How exactly do we create that balance going forward?