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Some time ago I had the unpleasant surprise to see that some valuable users like Bernard were suspended for 1 year for "low quality contributions".

  1. What does (I mean "low quality contribution") mean?
  2. On which basis do the mods decide such a long suspension?

Btw, why we don't have a set of transparent rules on such important matters and the mods can decide the suspension of an 100k+ user on their own?

I'm aware of this question, but here I'm going farther, asking the mods to make public the rules (if there is one) on which they decide the suspension. @quid's answer in the liked post doesn't clarify what I'm asking here.

Edit. I have checked the last answers of the above mentioned user and I can see no low quality contribution in these. Now I am more puzzled than before.

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    $\begingroup$ "I have checked the last answers of the above mentioned user and I can see no low quality contribution in these. Now I am more puzzled than before." What you are not seeing (and neither am I) is whether the user posted answers to questions that have since been deleted. I think that's the way users who answer questions get into trouble – they choose to answer questions that other users choose to close and delete. If they do enough of that, they're considered in breach of the quality standards, and are subject to suspensions. (continued) $\endgroup$ May 13 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ (continued) So, while only the moderators have the power to levy suspensions, every user who has earned the close-vote privilege has the power to take actions that may expose another user to suspension. $\endgroup$ May 13 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ Another user wrote elsewhere, encouraged by my comments here, that [his] "answers are suffering retaliatory serial downvotes." Serial downvotes are caught by the software, and reversed automatically, so this shouldn't be a problem. And if other users are doing malicious edits to your posts, flag the posts for moderator attention, explaining what you think is happening. $\endgroup$ May 14 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ It seems like my previous comment dissapeared for some reason, along with some other comments by other users. So instead I'll post a link to a sede query: data.stackexchange.com/math/query/1490577/… . Hopefully sede queries are not against the rules. $\endgroup$
    – Asinomás
    May 16 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Asinomás That is fine. For clarity, let me note here that there are suspension reasons in that list other than LQC. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander Gruber Mod
    May 17 at 5:29
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson We can't see deleted content, but what you can see is all the high quality, helpful content that a user has produced (well, everything we didn't collectively delete, to teach the asker and/or answerer a lesson). As usual, it depresses me when I think about where this site's priorities lie. $\endgroup$ May 18 at 5:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Asinomás thank you for the query. If I understand correctly, that is a rolling list of currently suspended users (at least, as SEDE sees it). Hence, most people I mentioned earlier are not on the list, and those that are there now will eventually leave it. (I also don't get why Jose is on the list) $\endgroup$ May 18 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ @TheoBendit Do you have some alternative possible actions for this situation? $\endgroup$ May 18 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ @VeronicaR.M. Have you been here before EoQS? If yes, then you can remember that the site have worked well. If look back, say 7-8 years ago, can notice that good mathematicians have answered questions which nowadays would have been closed within an hour after posting. Should we suspend them? The downvoted answer to my question pointed out the most dramatic consequence of this new set of rules: the users who use to ask questions are punished by suspending prolific answerers. But who cares? $\endgroup$
    – user26857
    May 18 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ @VeronicaR.M. user26857 got in before me, but I was going to say, repeal EoQS. Go back to simply closing and/or deleting "low quality" questions. If someone asks a question that is unclear, manages to get help anyway, but the question won't help others in the future, then close it and delete it. The person asking for help gets their help, the repository of questions remains untarnished, and, if this is something important to you, the person who answered the question won't get reputation. It seemed like a fine compromise. Also, I also like the idea of rep for finding duplicates! $\endgroup$ May 18 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ I closed as duplicates hundreds of questions, and I was also annoyed by duplicate answers, but it seems that this is not the main issue here. LQC is perceived by the mods in a different way which I still try to figure out. $\endgroup$
    – user26857
    May 19 at 6:00
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    $\begingroup$ As I mentioned at the top of this comment trail, 26857, it's users with points who decide on the quality of questions, not moderators. $\endgroup$ May 19 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ When contributors of the calibre of Hagen von Eitzen fall foul of the rules, it is time to reconsider the rules. $\endgroup$ 2 days ago
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson If an user rated 2k can decide this, and an user rated 300k+ is supended on such decision, then let me say that something must be very wrong! $\endgroup$
    – user26857
    2 days ago
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    $\begingroup$ Just throwing this in here: I've scanned through the question list down to 7 pages deep, and the vast majority have no upvotes; even more have no answers, and it appears that more questions have downvotes than upvotes. While it may be considered of greater importance to maintain the quality of the q/a database than to provide teaching assistance to struggling students, those contributing questions can't help but feeling disheartened. Are there any websites out there for helping self-learners, by the way? MSE has started to suck big-time recently. $\endgroup$ yesterday

3 Answers 3

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I think this is a good question. There is definitely a capriciousness to EoQS, that does not seem to be acknowledged by Moderation:

EoQS: The goal is to have a repository of high-quality answers to good questions. So post answers only to good questions, we don't want to encourage a barrage of low-quality questions on here, that's bad for the site!

EoQS: By the way, duplicates should not be re-answered.

Many A User [certainly myself, and going by what I have seen on here, other people]: Wonderful, so we are going to be doing more to stop the barrage of remedial 'hold-my-hand'-type questions we see at the heart of every semester? As you can see from my last thread on here, I'm tired of seeing yet another question coming on here and asking, say, why $\{(x_1,x_2) \in \mathbb{R}^2; x_1+x_2=8\}$ is not a vector space!

EoQS: No MSE is for questions of all levels. The person asking just needs to provide context. You elitist.

MaU: So, if the student just says the question is for class and provides an attempt at a proof that is really just word-salad, that makes the question OK?

EoQS: Sure. Isn't it clear, they provided "context". I don't know if anyone has really defined it, but it's like pornography, you just know it when you see it. Right?

MaU: But...those questions are really duplicates too. There were some otherwise much more interesting questions that were shut down for being duplicates you know.

EoQS: Well just answer in the comments. As everyone else is doing. Can't you see, the goal of MSE is to have a repository of good questions with high-quality answers, and a bunch of lesser-quality questions with answers hidden in a confusing stream of comments is totally in keeping with this.

EoQS: Oh yeah, I saw a bunch of your past answers. Just last week you answered a question that turned out to be a duplicate of a question that was asked and answered in 2014. You also answered a couple other PSQ. You know, questions without that 'context' thing.

MaU: But, I spent a lot of time on my answer to the question that turned out to be the duplicate, and I thought it was well-written and provided a slightly different take. And besides, at this point isn't about every question a duplicate really? I came here to do math, not chase down references. The other questions were just sitting there with upvotes and no votes to close and a bunch of comments, and so it looked like the question was sticking around, I answered it, thoroughly and cleanly too. I thought the goal was a repository of high-quality answers to good questions?

MaU: I also have a lot of well-written answers to a lot of questions on here that turned out to be non-trivial too.

EoQS: Doesn't matter. Into the corner, you Low-Quality Contributor!

Too much truth in the above indeed. There is too much ambiguity--and nonsense--into what constitutes a good question on here. And then besides that, there is nonsense in how a supposed low-quality question is supposed to be handled. Which makes me think that EoQS as is right now doesn't seem to do much, except weed out some really smart users who have contributed a lot to this forum. If I am wrong, then answer me this: Is anyone not a moderator that happy with how EoQS is going?

I'm NOT implying that Moderation is evil or incompetent, I can imagine running this site is actually quite a challenging and oftentimes thankless job. No matter what you do, you're bound to get some heat for that on here, especially because human nature being what it is, people speak up more when they are disgruntled than they are when they are satisfied. I do think it is hard to strike a good balance between quality-control, and having a lot of activity on here. BUT, the current EoQS does seem to have consequences--unintended or not--that many of us find problematic. I do hope that some things about that are being rethought.

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    $\begingroup$ You said “…at the heart of every semester” Did you mean “…at the start of every semester”? $\endgroup$
    – Scott
    May 18 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Scott I meant "heart" actually, as in the barrage of questions seems to peak in April or October/November--as opposed to February/September. But I suppose "start" would work as well. $\endgroup$
    – Mike
    May 18 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ There is some disagreement in your detailed answer. Currently, there are -5 to 5 votes on it. $\endgroup$ May 19 at 1:13
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    $\begingroup$ I think there may be some valid complaints here...but the (presumably intentionally) unrealistic dialogue between a reasonable "Me" and the ludicrously obstructive "EoQS" is obscuring them. Maybe the object was a rhetorical exaggeration of the problem, but I personally find it a bit too difficult to figure out from this what the actual scale of the problem is. $\endgroup$
    – Brian Tung
    May 19 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianTung well but that is the point. EoQS has ended up created on here some absurd conclusions on what constitutes a valuable contribution, and what is a low-quality contribution. And this has led to some long suspensions for some prolific contributors who provided great answers to a lot of questions on MSE. $\endgroup$
    – Mike
    May 19 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I suppose...but it doesn't work for me. Anyone who paints themselves as "the good guy" and the other side as "the baddy bad" makes me feel like I'm being manipulated, and I'm less inclined to take it seriously. Maybe that was your intention, or maybe it's an acceptable degree of collateral damage, but I don't care for it. (And I'm definitely receptive to the idea that EoQS is rigid and arbitrary by turns.) $\endgroup$
    – Brian Tung
    May 19 at 22:09
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianTung I think the socratic dialogue with EoQS (Eoqsthenes?) is a good addition to the discussion. Policy necessarily ventures out of mathematics into the real world, and in such a situation drama may encapsulate things that are harder to express in direct words. I think we can at least take it as a description of how Mike has experienced the EoQS. Of course, anecdote is not data, and we shouldn't try to figure out 'the actual scale of the problem' from this. But data is yet to be available. $\endgroup$ May 20 at 4:30
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    $\begingroup$ This canny and felicitous Socratic dialogue is both hyperbole and verisimilitude, haha. It resonates at the frequency of this sentiment. $\endgroup$
    – ryang
    May 20 at 8:30
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"Low quality contributions" usually signifies a suspension for disregarding the guidelines for asking good questions, either on the asking side or answering side (EoQS). It can also be given out for question repetition.

Users are progressed through a sequence of escalating suspensions before reaching a year long suspension, and typically at this level the suspension is confirmed by several moderators in an internal discussion. Low quality contributions rarely reach this point, as the user is often just uninformed, so early interventions tend to be effective at correcting their behavior. Progressing to a year requires deliberate noncompliance in spite of repeated warnings.

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    $\begingroup$ This does not prove that the EoQS isn't capricious though. Nor does this show that good posters who produce a lot of brilliant content aren't being caught in EoQS. From the above set of comments, good users are being caught in EoQS, and in a way that does not serve MSE. $\endgroup$
    – Mike
    May 18 at 23:06
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There have been certain categories of questions which have been decided by certain users of the site to not be engaged with answers. The users you've mentioned have not paid heed to such policy shifts induced by those initially mentioned users, and hence, were punished by having their privilege to answer on this site revoked.

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