What I've learned:

Obviously, I take SO too seriously and I don't always act in its best interest. For every useful answer or question I've contributed, I've fired off two community Wiki this or God, your statistics suck or not programming related or any other of the cornucopia of community cop bullshit that really detracts from my (and others') experience.

Nerds like us are very hardheaded people, and we will stand our ground on an opinion. I haven't learned yet to know when to let go of my side, and concede. I've gotten in enough arguments on SO to know that this shouldn't be how I contribute, and I've actually been thinking about it since this whole affair.

This time, it bit me, which I probably needed. The loss of rep was worth that, in itself.

Going forward, this learning experience will hopefully remind me that it's just a question site for God's sake. The StackOverflow Police Force is already doing fine on its own, and I don't need to make things any better worse. I am still relatively new to an (granted, relatively new but) established community forum, and my opinion of best practices for it do not necessarily mesh with what's really best for it.

That said, I think the cops in the community are an implicit response to the site being treated with a "everyone should know how to behave on a forum like this, we're all professionals" -- the sad side of that is that not everyone is a professional, and I feel some in the community may feel that they have to rise to the occasion and keep SO clean. I'm not sure what can be done about that frivolous attitude, but I think given SO's size an attention to policy might be important at this point (FAQ and favorited questions on meta only go so far). I don't see a lot of "that's against the rules," I see a lot of "I don't feel like that's important," or "this should happen"...and that can't last, in my opinion. I really don't think that will scale.

I think there's a crowd psychology element at play here, given the lack of commandments set in stone. The entire site is driven, policed, and maintained by opinions (am I wrong?).

Anyway, I'm gutting the original question because it's been resolved, but I hope that a few cops will learn from my experience, relax, and learn.

I take offense with the user Mask on StackOverflow. Here's why.


6 Answers 6


I'm going to take issue with several of your points:

He has asked 167 questions and in that time contributed 2 answers. One of the answers is an answer to his own question, and the other answer is an unhelpful "Please rephrase your question!".

So? Repeat after me: there is no requirement to answer in order to ask questions and frankly I find this attitude from some people to be elitist and obnoxious.

In all of that time he has only cast ~20 legitimate votes. (The big jump is his voting record is explained shortly.)

So? There isn't any requirement to vote either.

He posted a question which is blatantly homework, and did not tag it as such

So? Homework or not, I don't really care. If you take offense to it, that's your problem. It's not against SO's guidelines.

When confronted by several users in the aforementioned question, Mask threatened to get on another account so as to try to have his abuse go unnoticed.

So? Most of the time when these things blow up you should just walk away from them. On rare occasions, for example, I've had a poster or an editor be an ass about an answer given in good faith. You have a choice about whether or not to get into a slapfest. 99% of the time it's better to either ignore it or delete your answer and forget about it.

When I was a bit of a jerk to him in another question (in light of all of this),

So far the only observations that holds up is that both of you have been jerks. Are you sure you want to ban him? What's good for the goose...

Mask went on a serial downvote of all of my questions and answers

The vote anomaly system will catch this. If it doesn't, the SO team can deal with it. No further action is required (by you).

This person obviously has nothing to contribute to StackOverflow

Not to sound like a broken record but... so? 90% of the users just come here to read questions. Many more just ask questions. That's fine. Get over it.

I'm of the opinion that there is no rehabilitation for such a person

Bit overdramatic don't you think?

but is there perhaps a way to make a user only able to post answers?

No, for two reasons:

  1. There is no requirement to answer questions and as soon as it is then I, for one, am gone; and
  2. Such a system just isn't feasible. What exactly prevents someone from just starting a new account?

As someone aptly commented, "he's not here to give, he's here to take".

So? Answer his questions or not. The choice is yours.

He is perhaps guilty of three things:

  1. Being a jerk;
  2. Asking low quality questions (arguably); and
  3. Using a sock puppet downvoter.

(3) is perhaps a bannable offense. (2) can be if sufficiently egregious. (1) has to go pretty far (like really attacking someone personally or using certain so-called "hate speech" or slurs) to warrant action.

(3) can usually be dealt with by simply flagging the post for moderator attention. The mods will typically just delete OT comments (offensive or not). Problem solved.

  • 2
    Where are those super mega upvotes when you need them? Perfect response.
    – John Rudy
    Commented Nov 29, 2009 at 14:48
  • 2
    I actually agree with all of your points -- as I said to GMan, I was playing on full tilt last night, and I lost a couple of hands I shouldn't have. I still don't like someone who obviously only takes from the community, but I've taken your more veteran suggestions into account for the future (honestly).
    – Jed Smith
    Commented Nov 29, 2009 at 18:21
  • 2
    What's he taking from the community? It may be he's benefitting from the community and not giving back, but that's not quite the same thing. We don't have a clearly bounded number of bits or good answers. Commented Nov 30, 2009 at 18:29

In order:

  • it is OK to ask more than answer; some people have questions
    • but lots of poor quality questions can (and has in the past) lead to suspension
  • it is OK (within reason) to answer your own question
  • the pointless question / answer has been deleted
  • voting is appreciated but not mandated
  • reasonable questions that come from homework are OK - I'm not going to try assessing this one
  • the downvote attack isn't OK, but will almost certainly be rolled back automatically by the system shortly (it has defences against this) - I'm investigating...

Update: yes there is clear evidence of a co-ordinated downvote attack from 2 accounts (which have been noted); I'll check back a little later to check that it has been automatically undone. There was a lot of silliness on both sides here, but we will keep an eye on the accounts in question.

  • Thank you, Marc. Will the system recalculate my reputation automatically, as well? The votes went away from my recent, but the reputation stayed where it was.
    – Jed Smith
    Commented Nov 29, 2009 at 18:21

He has asked 167 questions and in that time contributed 2 answers

I heard this sentiment before, but there are also users who just answer questions. If this site would just consist of users answering questions, I think it would become a very boring place.



If nobody asked anything, nobody could answer. A lot of people just answer questions, he's the flipside that makes that possible. Yes, he sounds like a little bit of a dick, but that's not grounds for banishment. If his questions are poorly worded, make them better. He is giving to SO, just not in the same way as you.


If he hasn't been previously, he should probably be suspended. He should be contacted if possible with the same suggestions as earlier.

I just want to make sure people don't dislike people for the wrongs reasons. I agree users that only ask questions aren't as useful as those who answer them, but it is a site for questions, though this side of the debate has been brought up many times elsewhere.

Now, going on a rampage down-vote spree is very wrong and immature, and that alone should have him suspended. But I think that combined with his less-than-impressive question history definitely warrants a talk-to and suspension.

Just makes sure we actually look at the bad things in fair light, and not overgeneralize.

  • I agree. It's 5 in the morning for me, and I wanted to go to bed a while ago -- not an excuse, just aware that I'm playing on tilt.
    – Jed Smith
    Commented Nov 29, 2009 at 10:02
  • I understand completely. :)
    – GManNickG
    Commented Nov 29, 2009 at 10:05
  • 2
    Wow, a talk-to? Like a ermm.. reprimand? I will like to see how that is done, and make it public? :P
    – o.k.w
    Commented Nov 29, 2009 at 10:23
  • @o.k.w we prefer to keep that off-forum Commented Nov 29, 2009 at 10:41
  • @Marc: okie, understood. :)
    – o.k.w
    Commented Nov 29, 2009 at 13:07

While I do have a list of people I think the sites would be better off without (and I suspect that many other folks do as well), consider:

  • You don't want it to be easy to implement such a decision. You really don't. That would let politics drive the site. Yuck.
  • A banned user might be malicious or not. If they're malicious they can just start a new account and continue with their attack. If not, you've just driven off an innocent in need of help because they need help. Neither outcome is very good

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