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I have a feeling this question will get a lot of downvotes... Here it goes.

The other day, I received an e-mail from moderation saying that my account had been suspended for seven days. Because of long discussions.

Hello,

I'm writing in reference to your English Language & Usage Stack Exchange account:

https://english.stackexchange.com/users/231780/edna-mode

We've noticed that you have a pattern of engaging in lengthy discussions in comments, frequently consisting of responses involving multiple, back-to-back posts. Comments are intended as brief messages to provide feedback, add minor information, ask for clarification, or discuss the content of the post. Lengthy clarifications should be edited into the post itself or posted separately as a new question or answer, and extended discussions should be taken to chat. Extensive comment threads tend to be a distraction for other readers. These lengthy discussions are often hard to follow, and can easily hide critical information.

Preferring to argue with other users in comments over revising your questions and answers to address their concerns is a red flag to moderators, indicating you may not fully understand the purpose of Stack Exchange: our goal is to provide readers with expert questions and answers, not host discussion or debate. If you desire conversation, stop into the site's chat room.

We hope that you can work with the community on achieving our goals by:

Asking specific, researched, relevant, on-topic questions Providing clear, useful, accurate and well-researched information in answers Treating others with respect and civility We have temporarily suspended your account; you may return after 7 days.

Regards, English Language & Usage Stack Exchange Moderation Team

Come on, a week for that? And the second slap in the face was that moderation ignored all messages I sent.

Yep. I sent three e-mails using the contact form and two messages replying to the moderator messages they sent me, which means I spent seven minutes of my life talking to a brick wall.

Situations that I think immediately qualify for 7-day suspensions:

  1. Inappropriate/rude answers and comments.

  2. Pattern of low-quality answers and questions.

  3. Negatively argumentative users.

  4. Serial-voting, whether they be ups or downs.

The reason was for my suspension was totally accurate, but seven days? An hour to a day would be more appropriate. Hopefully I'm not alone.


EDIT: I'd like to bring up another example.

Hello,

I'm writing in reference to your English Language & Usage Stack Exchange account:

https://english.stackexchange.com/users/231780/sebastian-pojman

I wanted to let you know that we've observed some rudeness in your latest activity. We get it; anyone who's ever tried to engage with others online has probably been tempted to lash out at someone else. This is just a friendly reminder that we require all participants to act in a professional and civil tone when using these sites. If another user has wronged you in some way, please do not respond in kind. Simply flag the content for moderator attention and move on.

If this is a simple misunderstanding, no harm done. Sometimes it is helpful to remind ourselves on occasion that keeping things friendly and constructive doesn't have to be at odds with being right — so enjoy the site, bring your sense of humor, and please be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know.

We have temporarily suspended your account; you may return after 7 days.

Regards, English Language & Usage Stack Exchange Moderation Team

Okay, so you think I'm being rude. Any examples? Nope. Any warning e-mail? Nope. Oh! Well how about a response to my messages? Nope.

This is downright insane. I just don't understand this kind of logic.

  • 3
    I get your point. But usual suspensions start from 7 days. Anything less than that won't feel like a suspension. It's a network wide thing. – NVZ Aug 13 '17 at 2:50
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    Could you edit to clarify what happened with the suspension? I'm a bit confused about the timeline. Has it started yet, is it scheduled to start at some specific time in the future, was it canceled early, or has the week already run its course? When I look at your ELU profile page, it doesn't look like you're currently suspended, and the most recent 7-day gap in activity seems to be from July 29 to August 5. Is that what you are referring to when you say "the other day"? – sumelic Aug 13 '17 at 3:09
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    Thanks for the clarification. The following post by Jeff Atwood from 2009 indicates how he envisioned the typical suspension process to work: What is the point of a 30 day account suspension? My impression is that the "stages" mentioned are not hard-coded into the suspension tools, so it is possible for moderators to use their discretion to make a suspension period shorter or longer, but probably they prefer to stick to these standard lengths in most cases. Did you get a warning email, and if so, how did you reply and react? – sumelic Aug 13 '17 at 3:13
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    I forgot. Removing answer. There's actually a 1 day suspension as well. – NVZ Aug 13 '17 at 3:14
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    I don't have access to the information that moderators do, so I'm kind of only hearing "one side of the story" here. I'm not ready to say if the suspension was warranted, or how long it should have been if so. I think that a warning email stage as described by the linked Jeff Atwood post sounds like a good idea, so I'm concerned that you say you didn't receive one. Did you at least get some kind of warning from the moderators via the site's comment system? Another thing about your post that concerns me is that moderation did not respond to your replies. When did you send your reply messages? – sumelic Aug 13 '17 at 3:23
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    @EdnaMode that's an important point. Warnings are usually sent to only first time offenders. Repeat offenders get straight to the suspension stage. – NVZ Aug 13 '17 at 3:29
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    By the way, my impression is that replies to moderators are processed completely differently from messages sent using the "contact" form. A reply to a moderator message should go to this site's moderation team; on the other hand, I think messages sent using the "contact" form go to the Stack Exchange team as a whole, and are not seen by the moderators. Contact support replies can sometimes take more than a week: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/284948/… – sumelic Aug 13 '17 at 3:35
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    I upvoted, back when I still had hope that it might encourage a moderator to post a reply. Currently, I'm thinking your best bet for getting an explanation is to leave a comment in chat "pinging" a moderator (or to use a custom flag) to make initial contact, then ask for the moderator to set up a private chat room so you can ask questions there. Apparently, moderators don't like to discuss these things publicly, and it seems like email isn't working for you. – sumelic Aug 13 '17 at 3:43
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    Something that occurs to me now is that, given the fact that you already had been suspended once before, it seems that a 7-day suspension is actually shorter than would be "expected" according to the standard progression mentioned in the linked posts (which say that a second suspension is typically 30 days). So while it probably doesn't feel like it, the moderation team may in fact be trying to avoid suspending you for excessive amounts of time (from their perspective). I don't know if that's any comfort. – sumelic Aug 13 '17 at 3:57
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    Hmm. There are many productive current members of this site who have been suspended at one time or another. That said, you are expected to make significant adjustments to your behavior after a suspension. You say "the reason was for my suspension was totally accurate" but do you think you can take it seriously and avoid using comments for discussion in the future? While it may seem minor, suspensions can be based on even minor things if a user shows a consistent pattern of behavior that is considered disruptive. – sumelic Aug 13 '17 at 4:05
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. – sumelic Aug 13 '17 at 4:08
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    The contact form goes to the SE community team (who are employees of SE) and replies to the moderator message go to the elected volunteer moderation team for ELU. The contact form is for issues that can't be resolved by the site's mod team, and because of the overwhelming number of messages they get it can take a long time for anyone to get a response. As J.R. has said, replies to the mod message are often intentionally left unanswered, particularly if they are just a complaint about the length of the suspension or requests for specifics. – ColleenV Aug 13 '17 at 12:06
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    @BlackandWhite - If you were polite in your response (polite by everyone's standards, not just yours), you might have received a response. My guess is that you weren't, but that's only a guess. – anongoodnurse Aug 13 '17 at 12:54
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    @BlackandWhite Just to be clear, I am against suspending at all. The fact that one is suspended leads me to believe that the real reason was something else. – Mitch Aug 13 '17 at 15:44
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    OK -- I've noticed that your comments have a split personality. Good to know why. Ask how to deal with him on Interpersonal Skills interpersonal.stackexchange.com. :) – ab2 Aug 13 '17 at 20:57
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NOTE: I am not a moderator on ELU, but I do moderate on another Stack Exchange site.

Your question about harshness might be better asked on the overall Stack Exchange meta site.

Seven days might seem overly harsh, but it's actually the recommend suspension length for first-time offenders.

suspension length menu

As for the reason you got suspended, that's one of the standard template reasons for suspension:

subset of suspension reasons

So it looks to me like the moderation team noticed you were being too chatty in comments, picked that reason from the menu, picked the default suspension length, and sent you the boilerplate text.

Whether or not 7 days is reasonable or "insane" recommendation for first-time offenders could be put up for debate, but, considering these are network-wide (not site-specific) menus, that's more of an SE issue than an ELU issue.

Are you alone? I don't think so. The few times I've had to suspend users, I've often overridden the 7-day recommendation with a 2- or a 3-day suspension for first-timers instead. But I wouldn't begrudge or chastise a moderator who merely followed the prompts.

As for those seven minutes that you felt were wasted, I probably wouldn't have responded to your emails, either. Moderators often feel it's best to simply let a matter rest than engage in protracted or emotional debate. I only have a small pool of examples to draw from, but I'd guess that most replies back to a moderation team go unanswered. (This doesn't mean that they are left unread or ignored; they are simply left unanswered.)

Anytime the number of comments under a question or answer reaches a certain threshold, a flag is automatically generated for the moderation team. My guess is that this happened on multiple occasions, and, when the mod team went to investigate, they found a large number of comments from you. Eventually, someone decided it was time to get your attention, and simply followed the prompts.

As for suspensions, I've always appreciated these remarks by SE Founder Jeff Atwood (emphasis added):

At the end of this timed suspension period, your reputation will be recalculated, and your account will resume as normal. We don’t hold grudges. The point of all this is to address the behavior. If the behavior improves, you are welcome back.

I'd suggest that, when the suspension ends, you leave fewer comments on the main site and frequent the chat rooms more.

  • @J.R. Not bad! I agree. – Black and White Aug 13 '17 at 20:48
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    I'm surprised that 'excessive comments' is a reason for suspension, but I appreciate you telling us about it. If you wouldn't mind, could you also say whether the "Preferring to argue with others" part is also in the boilerplate? I'm not saying this is what the OP did, but I wonder whether 'unproductive arguments' (not merely the comment count) motivates this class of suspensions. – Lawrence Aug 14 '17 at 1:35
  • @Lawrence - well, there is the "something else" option that leaves room for whatever mods think may call for a suspension leaving them a fair degree of discretion in deciding what should also be "on the boileplate". – user66974 Aug 14 '17 at 6:19
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    @Lawrence - "abusive to others" is indeed a separate reason with its own boilerplate. (I modified the image so that not every reason is listed.) – J.R. Aug 14 '17 at 8:29
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    @Lawrence "preferring to argue with others" is in the "excessive comments" template. – Monica Cellio Aug 21 '17 at 13:12
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The length of suspension is determined by guidelines, as J.R. kindly elaborated on in his answer. We sometimes make suspensions longer than the initial 7 days, but did not feel that your case warranted a longer suspension. Suspensions shorter than 7 days are non-disciplinary (e.g., user suspects their account is hacked and needs time to regain control). Suspensions are progressive, although sometimes a user will have two 7-day suspensions for infractions of two different rules or because they had suspended accounts that were merged into one.

We do not issue a first-time suspension without a warning to the user, either via mod message or in comments, except in very rare cases where behavior is so egregious it must be immediately and swiftly ended.

It is also important to note that while deleted content is not visible to community members (with the exception of 10K+ users' ability to view deleted posts), all deleted content continues to be visible to moderators.

Finally, with regards to your concerns about communication with the moderation team:

  1. When you use the contact form, it goes to the community managers. It does not go to our local EL&U moderation team. I cannot comment on what happened with those messages, but I can ask the CMs to look at your post here, if you want.

  2. I'm not sure why it took you seven minutes to write "Fuck you" and I also don't know what response you expected from us when you wrote it.

Long story short, we aren't changing the suspension guidelines locally, so if you want to suggest new guidance, you should post it on Meta.SE, not here.

  • Is that exactly what the OP wrote in 7 minutes? – NVZ Aug 14 '17 at 15:41
  • I'm not sure, but it was the end product. OP is the one who said it took seven minutes. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 14 '17 at 15:42
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    I get it. I'd not know how to respond to that either. Ignoring it was the best option. – NVZ Aug 14 '17 at 15:43
  • A reasonably good response to that would be a longer suspension, but as I said elsewhere, this is not an uncommon response to a mod suspension letter. Not that the user admits to it in meta when they complain about not hearing back.. – anongoodnurse Aug 15 '17 at 2:02
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    It's not the first time we've had that kind of reply and I doubt it will be the last. People are often upset when they get suspended and they react out of anger. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 15 '17 at 2:05
  • @KitZ.Fox Don't worry, I've already put in a request to delete my account. I'll be leaving pretty soon. – Black and White Aug 15 '17 at 2:18
  • @BlackandWhite You had trouble with the process last time. Did you find how to delete your account in the Help Center this time? There are also a whole bunch of Meta questions regarding account deletion if you need help. You can also deactivate your account for a period of time if you don't want to delete it. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 15 '17 at 11:25
  • @KitZ.Fox I did? Well heck, I don't remember having to delete my account before. I regret sending a profile delete request as I would prefer just to deactivate it, but it's too late now. – Black and White Aug 15 '17 at 11:47
  • @BlackandWhite You don't remember your Meta post of Aug 6th? How peculiar. Did your account get hijacked? Also, it's never too late. The instructions that you were sent explain your options. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 15 '17 at 11:48
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    @KitZ.Fox Ibleifijfij, what! What were the contents of the post? Was it a large rant with 5 or 4 sections? – Black and White Aug 15 '17 at 11:49
  • @KitZ.Fox Oh thank god. I kind of like this site, even though I lashed out in the moderator message... – Black and White Aug 15 '17 at 11:50
  • If you look in your post history, you will be able to see it. Do you know how to do that? – Kit Z. Fox Aug 15 '17 at 11:53
  • If you select your name, or click on your name at the top of the page, it takes you to your profile. A list of your questions and answers will be on it, and it should include the ones you've deleted. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 15 '17 at 11:55
  • @KitZ.Fox LOLOLOL! Yeah, I remember posting that, but I totally forgot about it. It wouldn't let me just say something simple because of lack of characters, so I had to add a bunch of random sentences. Oh, good times. – Black and White Aug 15 '17 at 11:56
  • @BlackandWhite Are you like, two or three persons using the same account? Something is fishy about your responses. They're often inconsistent or something. Anyways. I wish you would just forget the issues you had, and move on, and be a good contributor to the community. – NVZ Aug 17 '17 at 3:29
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A logical reason for fixing the second suspension period at 7 days would seem to be that any subsequent period of suspension is not expected to be shorter than the earlier period, which I suppose was 7 days. Again it was less harsh than it would appear because the second suspension could easily have been for a month according to the network pattern.

I myself came perilously close to suspension a month back (I now realise, from your case) for excessive discussion in comments, but got a series of fair warnings in comments from moderators and managed to restrict the activity before I ran into any sanctions. Thus I 'lost myself' the habit of engaging in discussion in comments, though I still feel that comments section rather than chat is the more useful place for multiple-member on-topic discussion pertinent to a specific question or answer (while chat is certainly more appropriate for a more general discussion.)

So why did I give up extended discussion in comments? Because I got a hunch that continuing in this vein would get me suspended, which is the last thing I want to happen. Also, I got sick and tired of arguing contentious points and trying so hard to convince people who have well-defined ideas about English language and usage.

The thing is that Stack Exchange is scrupulously fair and liberal -- even an apparent punishment such as a suspension is only meant to 'guide' us to conform to the rules, which are the same for everyone. And let's face it: it's not my site or your site, but an online community with established rules of engagement and codified expectations of behavior -- in fact we new members are 'guests' here and need to follow the 'house rules', although by spending a few years here and accumulating a few thousand more reputation points, we could graduate to the role of 'hosts' (senior members and moderators.)

Meanwhile, we need to 'play by the rules' in order to contribute anything here and also derive any benefit from the interaction.

  • There can be any number of chat rooms, not just the main chat room. So you can 'move comments to chat' under a post and then continue the discussion in the chat, until the end of time. It doesn't have to be a general discussion. (btw, +1) – NVZ Aug 13 '17 at 19:45
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    @NVZ the problem is that the general user reading the particular question or answer is quite unlikely to look at the chat page at the same time. I should like all members reading that question to be able to contribute to the discussion. You might recollect this is exactly what happened with the notorious 'swedish ax' and 'covfefe' questions where extended discussions in comments by a huge number of members was 'allowed' due to the popularity. The same level of participation could'nt've occurred if the discussions had been deleted or repeatedly moved to chat. (But this is now a moot point.) – English Student Aug 13 '17 at 19:53
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    Thanks for understanding, @Black and White, and with your passion for the language I am sure you will become a regular member at ELU and make significant contributions here. – English Student Aug 13 '17 at 20:31

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