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On a rather small Stack Exchange site, we have a certain user whose answers are almost always completely wrong, often peppered with a bunch of terminology said user had just learned recently. The entire community seems to be rather tired of him, but moderators don't do anything about it (which makes sense, given that no rules have explicitly been broken). Looking through their profile, their most recent posts are currently -2, -1, 0, 0, 1, -3, -1, -1, -2, and -1. Even the posts without a negative score have at least one downvote. Suffice it to say, this user is giving the site a bad image.

I harbor no ill feelings towards this individual, but this particular site does not involve any subjectivity where a controversial or unorthodox opinion might be valid. Answers are either correct or incorrect. As such, a person who constantly peddles snake oil is doing nothing but causing harm, and quite a few people would rather get rid of him (or at least his answers). So that brings me to my question...

Is there any way for a moderator to adjust the heuristics for the automated answer bans? While some larger sites may be fine with a very relaxed policy, downvotes on smaller sites with fewer users should absolutely carry more weight. If there is no such way for moderators to adjust the heuristics on a per-site basis, is this a feature which could conceivably be added in the future?

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    There's really no reason to do this. The answer block is not designed to judge massive amounts of content for overall quality. If a user isn't getting blocked and continues contributing poorly, moderators can always suspend them for consistently low quality contributions. There's a canned message for it, and no one should be afraid to use it when someone always posts terrible content. – animuson Jul 6 '18 at 2:45
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There are already tools in place for this.

"Consistently low-quality contributions over time" is one of the "canned" suspension reasons that moderators are presented when communicating privately with a user.

If you feel this user's consistently low-quality contributions are harming the site even while diffuse enough to have avoided triggering an auto-ban, consider flagging one of the user's posts with a custom message to moderators asking them to look into the user's contributions as a whole.

This process will likely go the way you seem to think best if there have already been conversations--on your site's meta, particularly--about some of the things you say here:

[These posts] give the site a bad image  

the entire community seems rather tired of them  

a person who constantly peddles snake oil is doing nothing but causing harm

Conversely, if you haven't had those conversations as a site, please consider raising these issues on your site's meta, developing consensus, and linking the offending posts to those discussions before flagging a single user.

  • The issue has been brought up multiple times on the meta (e.g. in regards to whether or not we should delete the really bad answers such as crazy conspiracy theories or just let them accumulate downvotes). I think this is what I'll do, thanks. – forest Jul 6 '18 at 3:01
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If this individual is always/often writing answers that are not useful then, even in a smaller community, I would have expected that they would attract enough downvotes to receive automated answer bans.

I think the solution for your site should be to educate your fellow users that if they see answers that are not useful then they should downvote them.

At all times focus on the content of the answers themselves and not on who wrote them.

If the user is posting a mix of high and low quality answers then an alternative to wanting the answer ban heuristic to be adjusted may be to vote for the Roomba to be extended to cleaning up very poorly received answers - see Why aren't old, abandoned, negatively-voted answers auto-deleted, like the questions are?

  • Of course, I always only ever focus on the content (and have even upvoted this user's posts when they are good). Is there anywhere I can learn about the heuristics? Keeping them secret does not protect from someone dedicated to learning them for nefarious purposes, and only makes it hard for honest users to make decisions. – forest Jul 6 '18 at 2:49
  • Sorry I won't even share what I think I may know about the heuristics because I think that it is important that no one but their authors actually know them. – PolyGeo Jul 6 '18 at 3:03
  • Security through obscurity never works (see: Shanon's Maxim). This just means getting the answer requires either semi-invasive procedures (which I currently don't have the time to perform) to test, or asking some well-known trolls about their experiences. I mean some of the heuristics for vote fraud was published publicly by some guy who just wanted to learn how they worked. Nothing bad came of it. – forest Jul 6 '18 at 3:04

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