I recently got banned from SoftwareEngineering.StackExchange.com. The point of this post is not to get the ban lifted, or to argue with the negative scores of my posts. It is to discuss the ban system and whether or not it could be improved.

The thing is, that even though I recently got the ban, the two posts that (most likely) caused the ban are more than three years old (see the screenshot). According to the guidelines the ban can be lifted by improving the score of negative received posts or simply by waiting six months. Since the posts are so old that no one will ever see them, the only real option is to wait for six months.

So here are my two points:

  1. Could the system be improved so that the ban occurs sooner after the negative received posts. Improving the feedback loop, would (probably) lead to faster reactions improving poor questions, leading to higher quality content. I am aware that this might be a technically difficult thing to implement though.
  2. Make the ban period start from the date, where the users latest poor post was submitted, rather than the users latest post (even if that was well received). This would seem like a more "fair" way of doing things, but it would possibly prevent a more poor questions, as the "time-to-think" period would occur immediately after the problematic post(s) and not years later, where the quality of the posts already increased (at least in my case).

And again, I have no hopes or expectations for my own account with this post. It is meant to discuss the system, not me personally.

What do you think?

Question scores

  • 10
    Editing the post will bump it to front page, so if you improve your old questions they will be seen. Nov 4, 2019 at 12:18
  • 28
    @ShadowThePrincessWizard that's kinda the whole point: the OP is suggesting that age should be relevant and that it isn't fair to give a ban to a user who's been posting decent content for years, based on bad content they posted many years ago. Kinda looks like you got most of it wrong ;)
    – terdon
    Nov 4, 2019 at 12:24
  • 3
    Actually "ban" is no longer a fitting word for it. It's just rate limit over the amount of questions one can ask, which in its lowest allows one question per 6 months. Nov 4, 2019 at 12:24
  • I wonder what shows if you click the link in the bottom left of your screen. As that might be more relevant then the list you show here.
    – Luuklag
    Nov 4, 2019 at 12:26
  • 4
    Have you deleted downvoted questions? they also count. Yep, there's the link at the bottom of the page. How many posts did you delete? Nov 4, 2019 at 12:26
  • @Mari-LouA I have no deleted posts. Also I have no negative scored answers, only questions. Nov 4, 2019 at 12:28
  • 6
    the only real option is to wait for 6 months. No, it is not. You need to look for options to make quality edits to all of your question, both visible and deleted. If done correctly they might get an upvote by a users that watches the active tag.
    – rene
    Nov 4, 2019 at 12:57

3 Answers 3


It's because you have two more questions that have been deleted that also have scores of less than zero.

Deleted questions contribute to the automatic question ban. If they didn't then users could ask bad questions, delete them and carry on asking bad questions without stopping.

However, it does seem harsh in this case as your other questions are generally not bad and the questions that were deleted were deleted by the system back in 2017 as they were considered abandoned (i.e. no recent edits).

You can see recent deleted questions (i.e. questions that you have asked recently) by ticking the box on your profile page, but it wouldn't have helped you in this case as the questions were asked and deleted so long ago.

  • funny that those deleted posts don't show up in the SEDE query here: data.stackexchange.com/programmers/query/1099620/…
    – Luuklag
    Nov 4, 2019 at 12:45
  • 1
    @Luuklag - I wouldn't know about that. They are definitely there and they were definitely deleted by the automatic clean up process in 2017
    – ChrisF Mod
    Nov 4, 2019 at 12:48
  • 7
    I cannot figure out how to see those two deleted questions. But even so, if they were deleted so long ago, that they can no longer be edited/fixed, shouldn't that also mean that they don't get considered in the ban-calculations? Nov 4, 2019 at 12:48
  • 5
    @Noceo You won't be able to see them without the URL. I agree that questions that old shouldn't contribute to the question ban, but not able to answer that.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Nov 4, 2019 at 12:49
  • @Noceo on SO the mods accept q-banned users to flag one of their own posts and ask for links to those older deleted posts so you can have a look at them again and if possible revitalize them. Not sure if ChrisF offers that service on SE.SE.
    – rene
    Nov 4, 2019 at 13:00
  • @Luuklag SEDE is not using the data dumps, afaik, SEDE can't know if a question is deleted. (unless SEDE wasn't yet updated so it's still showing, of course.) Nov 4, 2019 at 13:04
  • @ShadowThePrincessWizard There is a table with deleted posts, but apparently it doesn't contain all deleted posts. Perhaps only those visible in recently deleted posts...
    – Luuklag
    Nov 4, 2019 at 13:48
  • 1
    @Luuklag The deleted posts table is complete, but anonymized. There's no way to search for old deleted questions by user.
    – Erik A
    Nov 4, 2019 at 16:09
  • "If they didn't then users could ask bad questions, delete them and carry on asking bad questions without stopping." - Do we not want bad questions to be deleted. I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing.
    – Luck
    Nov 4, 2019 at 19:38
  • Just FYI, the fact that a question is deleted doesn't count toward a ban if the question was deleted more than 30 days after it was asked. Nov 4, 2019 at 19:48

The only major flaw in ban system is that you cannot see all your deleted questions.

That creates several problems

  • Users don't see their low scored deleted questions and their perception of the ban justification may be flawed because of that

  • Users cannot fix their deleted questions without asking for help in finding them

  • Users don't know they have deleted questions, because they cannot see them, so they don't even know they should ask for help in the first place

Besides the above, ban system works as intended. You get your chance every once in awhile to ask good question. It is up to you to make that question count in positive way.

  • Doesn't this simply stimulate sock-puppeteering?
    – Mast
    Nov 4, 2019 at 19:37
  • @Mast Probably. But SE has means to deal with sock puppets, too. Also, nothing can ever discourage using sock puppets, and on the other hand if you don't rate limit users that ask poor questions it is just as bad as allowing them to create and use sock puppet accounts. With rate limiting (ban) you at least send the message that posted content has to satisfy some quality standards and some users will improve because of that. The others are lost cases anyway. Nov 4, 2019 at 19:54

I recommend to add an automated rule similar to the statute of limitations on disciplinary actions applied to old questions and answers. This suggestion is in addition to (and not to replace) the suggestions from the OP and others, for example @ChrisF.

The Stack Exchange statute of limitations should be much shorter than the one commonly used in law. Apply a single time period to all types of rule violations, for simplicity. alternatively, apply different time periods, depending on the level of violation. In any case, the rules should be consistent with the primary goal, which is to provide within reasonable time feedback to the users about improving their questions and answers, not to punish for old offenses. The best feedback is the one given sooner, rather than later.


Statute of limitations - Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_limitations

A statute of limitations is a law passed by a legislative body in a common law system to set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. When the time specified in a statute of limitations passes, a claim might no longer be filed, or, if filed, may be liable to be struck out [...]

Most [civil statutes in the United States] fall in the range of one to ten years, with two to three years being most common.

  • 2
    I like this. It is consistent with our strategy versus e.g. suspensions (we don't hold grudges), and congruent with the right to be forgotten, which is an attempt to alleviate the "Internet never forgets" phenomenon. A couple of bad questions asked years ago should not prevent you from posting now that you are a good citizen. And I don't think much harm would come out of this, even if it gets "abused" somehow, given the delay. Nov 4, 2019 at 19:43

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