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I stumbled upon a user with a record of popular and interesting questions to have been suspended because of low-quality posts for a year.

I find this drastic, in particular in view of the user's previous (imho) quite valuable activity. I wonder whether such suspensions are made by the system based on the mere number of closed or deleted posts?

Should all users be treated the same way, irrespective of their previous contributions? Suspension can feel as a very aggressive sanction, in particular as it is publicly visible and the user's rep is shown as 1. This would not make much of a difference for a low rep spammer or a beginner, but for a loyal contributor it must be very frustrating.

Have attempts been made to introduce some less fierce sanctions, such as limiting the number of allowed posts per week/month tacitly for a while, and allowing mods to modify the sanction for low quality posts on a per case basis? Would this be feasible? What do you think?

Edit: I came to the conclusion that a suspension can also be helpful when someone has got addicted to the site and started wild posting.

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    $\begingroup$ We can’t comment on individuals’ reasons for suspension. For any suspended user, the suspension announcement on the user profile page reports the reason. As a purely general matter, suspensions are usually graduated: 7 days for the first serious issue, 30 days for the second, 365 for the third. $\endgroup$
    – Sycorax Mod
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for explaining - I thought it was some automatic process going on. For the particular user's last questions, I did not have the impression that they were cleverly pastet together, though. I stumbled over another user who was suspended for 30 days only, system wide, without stating a reason. $\endgroup$
    – Ute
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, right, I forgot that there are a few narrow cases when no reason is reported. But to attain a system-wide suspension, the user would be engaged in contemporaneous bad behavior across multiple sites or doing things that harmed the network as a whole. $\endgroup$
    – Sycorax Mod
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds scary when this is a formerly 5k+ user $\endgroup$
    – Ute
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ @SextusEmpiricus, one could also ruthlessly tolerate the activity of patching together and embellishing old posts when they attract fantastic answers, for the sake of the resulting compendium. Dunno. It could be seen as a kind of community service even if it is fueled by gaming. SE manipulates us users with it's rep and badge system $\endgroup$
    – Ute
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ Another general idea to keep in mind is that the visible questions and comments are only a curated representation of a user's contributions. (If I recall correctly, only users with 10,000 rep or more can see deleted content.) Content can be deleted by robots, by the author, or by an elected moderator. Rarely, the CM team might step in for some reason, or a number of users with sufficient privileges vote to delete a question or answer with negative score. So what remains visible on the site might be a user's best contributions. $\endgroup$
    – Sycorax Mod
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ Re "formerly 5k+ user:" As a general proposition, insinuating nothing about the present case, one way to accumulate points here on CV is to ask a very large number of poorly researched questions ;-). The occasional random upvote (and there are many, because every few months a new user comes along who really, really, wants a badge for lots of upvotes) will accumulate over time and the downvotes won't compensate. (Some people have very successfully used this strategy with answers, too.) $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 12:57

2 Answers 2

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The moderators won't discuss individual cases. Although the person in question has not been identified, everyone in the thread knows who it is, which leads to an uncomfortable mix of discussion of general principles (which is surely fine) with particular comments that grow out of knowing about, or even participating in, that person's recent threads.

I don't think we should get closer to identifying that person, or be more precise about what they did (which I suspect is the major issue) or didn't do (which is germane also). So we should respect the moderators' restraint and indeed silence.

A while back there was general discussion arising from one particular user. Is it reasonable to downvote a fair fraction of one user's posts for lack of research? In that case, there was similarly some awareness in the Meta thread of who was implied. (I checked and they are no longer very active here. I don't think they were ever suspended, but from some rummaging around I think it's fair to say that they have various problems in understanding how SE best works, despite thousands of posts over many years!)

I want to make a further few generic comments.

First off, reputation is, unsurprisingly I hope, an imperfect measure of contribution to CV. I can't and won't offer alternative measures or criteria. But I imagine that long-term members like me privately think sometimes that a person has more reputation than they deserve -- and sometimes less. Other people can have such private thoughts about anyone's profile. On one level, no one should care one bit, but the point is still germane.

For example, some people here make comments that are often worth as much or more as accepted, upvoted answers. To the point, anyone active with many questions and/or answers can often acquire moderate reputation because their posts look interesting or entertaining to upvoters. This can occur despite, not because of, a string of poorly researched or duplicate or near duplicate questions, whereby a member is using CV as a helpline or their version of Google; or despite, not because of, a string of idiosyncratic or intriguing answers that seem deserving of upvote, despite being often irrelevant or even incorrect. (I won't downvote an answer as being poor, and we are not expected to.)

So reputation is not even an especially good measure of contribution. What's more, reputation is not a guarantor of good behaviour. Some of the longest suspensions that I have witnessed have been of users with 4- or 5-figure reputations. Manifestly, I have not been and am not a moderator, and I am breaking no confidence in discussing some history in abstraction. My impression from a close or moderate distance -- either engaging directly in threads with such people or just observing from what remains of answers and comments (and noting comments posted in anger but later removed) -- is that long suspensions typically involve one or more of

  • Just not regustering repeated advice intended to be in everyone's best interests. Repeating closed questions and ignoring previous comments is one such behaviour.

  • A pattern of disrespect for community norms, including the principles behind moderation, voting, editing and commenting.

  • Personally directed abuse of various kinds.

It's also my strong impression, based mainly on moderators' own statements here, that decisions in difficult or challenging cases always involve discussions between moderators, to the extent that drastic action always requires a consensus. A moderator won't act alone unless a particular action seems obvious, e.g. deletion of spam or filth. Also, moderators need to be patient, but not infinitely patient, and they need not accept abuse.

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  • $\begingroup$ Oh you're right, Nick. I've tried to remove traces in the question and will see what I can do about the comments :) $\endgroup$
    – Ute
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think your posts say too much. I am just underlining that no-one should say more specifically. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 9:21
  • $\begingroup$ Fine. I leave it in the more generic version - other newbies could have the same concerns later and I think it is very enlightening so far what has been said. Still I think just slowing a user down could be helpful in some cases, too. $\endgroup$
    – Ute
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 9:25
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    $\begingroup$ +1. But I want to make it clear that readers should draw no inferences about the reasons for any specific suspension from the list given here. Not all suspensions are for overt or willful misbehavior, for instance; and often we are reluctant to issue suspensions at all. $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 13:05
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Echoing what Sycorax noted and what has been explained in this Meta post:

How long do suspensions usually last for?

It really depends on the mod or the user, but usually, via the system-recommended suspension lengths, the first will last for 7 days, the second 30 days, and the third 365 days.

From that same post,

A network-wide suspension ... can be longer than 365 days.

[There can be bans for longer (way longer) durations for drastic cases, for instance, a temporary suspension ending in the year of $2292, $ mainly due to the absence of any feature akin to permanent ban.]

Suspension is imposed when all other reasonable options have been exhausted. It's not that the OP is not made aware of the consequences of their deeds.

There can be varied reasons to invite the spectre of suspension but broadly speaking:

[...] an account can be suspended for a protracted amount of time when all other attempts at reasoning have failed when it comes to a certain type of behavior. ...

Also as has been noted in this Overflow blog, these can be primarily due to tue user showing no effort to learn and improve over time and involving disruptive behaviour.

Related post: What kind of suspensions are there on Stack Overflow?


$\bullet$ You claimed:

Should all users be treated the same way, irrespective of their previous contributions? Suspension can feel as a very agressive sanction, in particular as it is publicly visible and the user's rep is shown as 1. This would not make much of a difference for a low rep spammer or a beginner, but for a loyal contributor it must be very frustrating.

Again, I would like to allure your attention to that old blog (emphasis mine):

Our general strategy is to discourage specific problem behaviors, not individual users. But sometimes you just can’t seem to reach people, and it becomes necessary to place accounts in timed suspension. ... We don’t hold grudges. The point of all this is to address the behavior. If the behavior improves, you are welcome back.

I don't view suspension as a means of public shaming; this is a derogatory term that should not be synonymous to suspension. It's one of the last resorts that attempt to provide room to the said user for retrospecting and being pensive over their actions/behaviour.

Enforcement of norms and standards in this community driven site should be the foremost priority if it needs to flourish in a sustainable manner. There is no two tier system for users with high reputation and for those who are newbies - if they persistently break the rules and engage in a way not warranted, proper actions should be taken by the moderators. Recently, for instance, in our sister site, Maths, on account of constant influx of low quality homework/assignment questions and subsequent answering by high rep users without bothering to find any possible duplicate or to flag/vtc, the mods have decided to amp up their involvement to avert this plague. Check their meta post: Enforcement of Quality Standards. This resulted in suspension of some very high rep users. This was not done to vilify them, shame/embarrass them publicly, but rather was a purportedly strong step to deter them from the activities that were considered to be hindrances for making the site a quality repository of good Q&As.

$\bullet$ You asked:

Have attempts been made to introduce some less fierce sanctions, such as limiting the number of allowed posts per week/month tacitly for a while, and allowing mods to modify the sanction for low quality posts on a per case basis? Would this be feasible? What do you think?

Now, my quick search didn't land me to any post that proposed any alternative route advocating less fierce sanctions (I am not saying there are none). If you want to suggest some, I would urge you to ask this in Meta.SE.

Remember as this post notes:

... we once didn't have suspensions, the thinking was that if a user was that much of a problem, they should probably just leave the site. That thinking changed quickly as we learned that very awesome people sometimes just have difficulty controlling their emotions, or folks learn that using sock puppets was a pretty bad idea and just participate honestly.

When used correctly, suspensions should just freeze the action, let us inform the user of what's wrong, how they might fix it and lift automatically after a short time. Using them for anything else is generally a bad idea, and we've moved away from that over the years.

Suspensions aren't imposed hastily. Rather it involves detailed scrutiny of the activities of the said user, their failure to respond to any possible warning etc. So, imo, I don't think there is any necessity to moot about any alternative. Dire situations demand dire actions.

Lastly, throughout the post, I have tried to articulate my opinion as well as the established facts here and tried to explicitly discern the two. However, I think I am in full agreement with the other.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your effort, User1865345, I really appreciate that! I have read all these suspension blogs also on SE meta and was wondering if it was possible to just cut down on the number of posts per week or month. In the particular case that triggered my question, I became aware of a high number of questions coming from that user and already there I started to wonder if there was no daily limit on questions given there is less capacity to answer. All of a sudden, the flood stopped, so I looked them up... I wondered if others also would think this could be a good instrument to have $\endgroup$
    – Ute
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 4:34
  • $\begingroup$ We really won't be doing of much worth if we delve in speculating what triggered the suspension of the said user, but looking at their posts, I agree with Sextus. If you ask me personally, I have no qualms with how many questions a user can ask in a certain period provided those maintain the quality. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 4:40
  • $\begingroup$ Secondly, I am not sure how exactly the number of such posts would trigger a possible suspension. More importantly, I am not knowledgeable about this matter so any more experienced user/mod could shine light on this. In any case, if changes are needed, they have to be raised at Meta. SE. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 4:41
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, clear that changes need to be raised there. But if cv community does not care about that, I would for the time being not care about suggesting that on the whole network, that is why I am trying to take the temperature ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Ute
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ As I am not aware of the specifics, I would leave a general comment: the community cares about the quality of the posts that are apt for a good repository. If someone consistently deviates from that coveted aspect, then the mods acting for the community have to take some actions. Suspensions are not dealt with iron fist. But they are not casual either. The said user needs to take a step back and ponder about the actions. I appreciate your concern though. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 4:51
  • $\begingroup$ Ps to my last comment: SE has other more leisurely, casual or opinion based sites that do in no way compare to cv with inversly proportional ratio of answers to questions. That is why this questions in the first place belongs here, not on meta SE. $\endgroup$
    – Ute
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 4:53
  • $\begingroup$ To your last comment: 365 days to ponder is long, but I admit I don't know the history, having only been active for three months now. This site can be addictive, maybe it is actually a good deed for the user to set them on cold turkey. Need to impose this on myself... $\endgroup$
    – Ute
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 4:56
  • $\begingroup$ I am not active in other SE sites, so won't be able to comment on that. As for the one year suspension, again since we won't be knowing exactly what happened, and having justified faith on the mods, I would say the magnitude of the action was tantamount to suspension of that number of days. Now whether that amount of action needed that number of days of suspension, this is a debate that is better left for a Meta.SE post if others are also of the same opinion. Personally, I don't have too much of an inclination to argue either for or against it. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 5:04
  • $\begingroup$ To your last statement, check Am I the only one getting addicted to this site? How do you manage time doing other things?. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 5:06
  • $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$
    – Ute
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 5:09

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