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As recent events showed, there is a need for a mechanism that allows a ban of a very active community member to be reversed if it is deemed important by enough community members

In a comment to https://physics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2716/7924, bmike asked me:

I'm asking for where you'd draw the line when someone repeatedly and vocally attacks another person (clearly making it about them and not their actions). Also - I'm not saying you are wrong until I hear what you propose. I'd like to know where you would draw the line. Do you vote on who gets to ignore the rules? Do you set it at a certain reputation? Do you give someone a free shot at a different person for each 1k reputation? Make a proposal we can debate if you'd like to change the rules.

Here my request (slightly modified compared to my reply there):

It should be possible to undo a ban upon the intervention of 5 users with enough reputation to merit the privilege of reversing a ban. This could for example taken to be at the level of 250 reps where one earns the privilege of voting to close, or at 2000 reps where one also earns the privilege to vote on edits; any other threshold would be ok, too.

Alternatively, the ban should be undone if 5 people pay a ransom of perhaps 500 reps (or any other reasonable amount, perhaps an amount proportional to the banning time) to show that they are serious about the need to have someone back. This would mean that the sin has been paid for, so justice has been done, as in ordinary life. If less ransom comes in, the ban time should be shortened according to the fraction received.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Arnold. Viewpoint of community members should of course be respected. $\endgroup$ – user10001 Dec 6 '12 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks Arnold for fromulating your reasonable suggestions in this questions, wise decision to post it here and NOT on the stack overflow meta ... However, be prepared that the same will happen to your post as did to mine: it will be flooded by random non physics people who come here to downvote this question and any postitive answer and upvote everything rejecting and disagreeing with what you have written. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Dec 6 '12 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ If you're posting this here, then I take it as you mean it for PSE only: what is the rational for making PSE an exception? If you don't want it to be an exception, then it should be on MSO. $\endgroup$ – Alenanno Dec 6 '12 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with you. It is a reasonable proposal because we have all seen people who should be banned for the good of the community, but there should be a leniency clause for the community. $\endgroup$ – anna v Dec 6 '12 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Alenanno It's perfectly fine to initially voice a more global request first at a local level. It can be elevated to a global evaluation after determination of the local thoughts on the matter, or just handled if it makes enough sense from just the local opinion. $\endgroup$ – Grace Note Dec 6 '12 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ Can the non physicist people who do neither care about our site nor about our community PLEASE STOP DOWNVOTING Arnolds question and more generally STOP COUNTERVOTING the opinion of our community? This feature request concerns only our site and therefore only members of physics SE. Your behaviour is really kindergarten and very destructive ... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Dec 6 '12 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton You don't know who is casting what votes. You simply don't. Do you really think the least hypothesis is that people who don't bother with Physics.SE are hanging around here waiting to cast votes you don't like? $\endgroup$ – dmckee Dec 6 '12 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Alenanno: I post it here because it is needed at_least for PSE. If it is wanted elsewhere, this is fine but not of immediate concern to me. $\endgroup$ – Arnold Neumaier Dec 6 '12 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton - you need 125 reputation to be able to cast a down-vote even on a meta. That means that you have to earn some reputation on the site in order to do that. The 100 point association bonus isn't enough. So anyone casting a down-vote is a user of Physics and hence part of the community. $\endgroup$ – ChrisF Dec 6 '12 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ @dmckee Anna v noticed this independent from me too; it is obvious and Shog9 almost admitted it, please have a look at the corresponding discussion somewhere in the discussion between him and Anna below my latest meta question. It is obvious from the huge number users suddenly commenting and answering here who have no or an almost negligible amount of rep on Physics SE and did not participate in any constructive way in our community before. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Dec 6 '12 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ What you both noticed is that not everybody agrees with you. Neither of your--nor me for that matter--know who those people are or how much time they spend on Physics.SE. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Dec 6 '12 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton No, mods have extra powers in their own site and chat only. In the rest of the network they're normal users. $\endgroup$ – Alenanno Dec 6 '12 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ @EugeneSeidel: One doesn't need a forced suspension to quit temporarily from a site. And an addict wouldn't ruin voluntarily his venue of addiction. $\endgroup$ – Arnold Neumaier Dec 6 '12 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Arnold: if he'd asked for it explicitly, I wouldn't have given it (I generally suggest other ways of temporarily revoking your own access). I think what Eugene is suggesting here is something vaguely akin to suicide by cop - I don't really buy into that theory however; it does not seem quite in keeping with what I've seen of Ron's philosophy. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Dec 6 '12 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ I like Arnold Neumaier's proposal very much. $\endgroup$ – Diego Mazón Dec 6 '12 at 20:42
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With all of the other vote-controlled mechanisms on SE, you have every bit of information you need to vote. For example, wrt closing and reopening, you can see the post and all the comments. You're not making a blind decision.

In this case, the suspension details (the warnings, the exact offence, etc) are private and only viewable by moderators (and the suspended party). Due to the moderator agreement, this information cannot be released by the moderators.

Without full knowledge of the situation, an un-ban would be a blind decision. Moderators are human exception handlers, they're the ones meant to deal with this. And they already have. There is no point (IMO) asking them to undo this, the ban was enacted by a community team member (according to Ron), and it was regarding network policy--upheld by the moderators.

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    $\begingroup$ But this bruhaha happened on meta.Physics.SE, let the ban hold for meta>Physics.SE since it in no way represents the physics.SE community as it so amply has been displayed for all to see. It is a free for all for all moderators of SE. The community will not care if he/she is banned on meta as long as the behavior has not appeared in the physics community. $\endgroup$ – anna v Dec 6 '12 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ @annav - unfortunately some of the behaviour did spill over to the main site. $\endgroup$ – ChrisF Dec 6 '12 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ @annav - Basically, Ron defaced some of his own posts. Vandalism - even self vandalism - is not allowed anywhere on the network. $\endgroup$ – ChrisF Dec 6 '12 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ @annav, see physics.stackexchange.com/posts/45672/revisions for one specific example. For all of them, see physics.stackexchange.com/users/4864/… $\endgroup$ – Colin McFaul Dec 6 '12 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ @annav Yes, Ron put political commentary at the top of (at least one of) his regular physics answers, a very silly thing to do. $\endgroup$ – Eugene Seidel Dec 6 '12 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ The rules on SE seem to be much worse than that in real life, where only the worst offences cannot be challenged before a court, and where offences of etiquette can always be redeemed by paying something in the accepted currency. One doesn't have to know everything about the law or the particular incident to do that. $\endgroup$ – Arnold Neumaier Dec 6 '12 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ @dushya: I strongly urge you to take a look at the activity history of both your three current elected moderators and the candidates in this current election. I suspect you do not realize just how much work they put in here. Everyone loves to complain about moderator actions when they blow up, without bothering to note all of the little fires they put out before they spread. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Dec 6 '12 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ @ColinMcFaul I never saw those flags so ofcourse they did not bother me. I do not call them vandalism since it was in his own answer. Vandalism is against other people. It is a political statement and he obviously felt strongly about this and wanted to alert the community. I do not know how I would have reacted had I seen the series. $\endgroup$ – anna v Dec 6 '12 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ @dushya: (1) It was a conglomeration of many offences in the past two days. Defacing his posts on main, disrupting meta by posting effectively the same thing over and over again, and disrupting a chat session. The entire bundle is a serious offence. (3) The "other guy" didn't say "bad words" about him. Or if he did, he only did so once (though the link to the crackpot site seems more like an ill-timed joke). Ron did so repeatedly, even after repeated warnings. Clear difference here. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Dec 6 '12 at 20:53
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    $\begingroup$ Have you ever asked yourself why Ron chose to behave like this? Do you think he didn't know he was going to be suspended? Of course he knew! He's been suspended plenty of times, here and on other sites... IMO he deliberately provoked his own suspension in order to provoke the strongest possible reaction during election. This is what I mean when I say he's disruptive and damaging to the community. $\endgroup$ – Sklivvz Dec 6 '12 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Arnold: here's perhaps a lesser-known tidbit about the length of suspensions: it's mostly irrelevant. The original expectation was that accounts would be deleted after the first suspension if the problem wasn't corrected, but that was later dropped in favor of increasingly-lenthy periods. A message is sent along with every suspension, and a private channel visible only to moderators and staff provided for the suspended member to respond. If the moderator and suspended member can come to a resolution, the suspension can be lifted at any time... Sadly, this does not often happen. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Dec 7 '12 at 1:05
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    $\begingroup$ The problem was not the election. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Dec 7 '12 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ Anyway, I now understand the way this site is governed. I decided that I don't want to continue to nurture a site that values strict rules over the subject matter, and imposes unduly draconic punishments en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draco_%28lawgiver%29 on unsubmissive but valuable people. I will use it in future just as a potential source rather than a place to spend my time. It will free me at least 15 hours a week that I can invest in a more science-friendly environment. $\endgroup$ – Arnold Neumaier Dec 7 '12 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Arnold: I think it's always important to use the right tool for the right job. If, for instance, one cannot keep their composure in an environment that allows others with whom they disagree to enter, a mailing list is probably the better tool. I like the Stack Exchange system, but it is not the be-all and end-all of Internet communication. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Dec 7 '12 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ You sound bitter, @Dilaton. I recommend a nice cup of tea. Then, if you have a constructive suggestion or complaint to make, I'm easy to get in touch with. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Dec 7 '12 at 18:10
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Suspensions are private, and in some cases like vote fraud most of the details have to remain private at all times. The users voting to undo a suspension don't have access to all the information about the incident, how are they supposed to make a reasoned judgement without knowing what exactly happened?

When a user is suspended, a lot of the information that is based on is not available to regular users. This are e.g. deleted posts (which are available, but you can't find them easily), deleted comments, annotations about previous behaviour and information related to the vote fraud and sock puppet detection tools. You need all this information to judge whether the suspension is warranted, and most of this information can't be made public.

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    $\begingroup$ No the only thing that counts to decide if the ban should be undone is the importance of the user to the local community. It is only about being able to contriute to the LOCAL site so undoing the ban should be the business and judgement of the local community and its mods alone. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Dec 6 '12 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ Users have all the details needed to judge that a member is essential for the community. This should be enough to redeeem a member when it fell into disfavor at superior instances. $\endgroup$ – Arnold Neumaier Dec 6 '12 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ Does anyone know why suspensions are private?? I mean shouldn't it bother the user of a SE site to know what made a person pariah? A citizen has every right to know who did what and how to avoid it!! $\endgroup$ – Vineet Menon Dec 6 '12 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ @VineetMenon: The rules of the site are all public. Read them, you shall know how to avoid it. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Dec 6 '12 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ Suspensions are private to avoid sticking someone with The Mark of Cain for a mistake they've later corrected, @Vineet. Of course, well-meaning colleagues repeatedly bringing it up in public sorta works against this, but... $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Dec 6 '12 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Shog9: Then the reasons for the mark of Cain should be removed after the suspension is over, but not during suspension where the mark of Cain is very visibly imposed anyway $\endgroup$ – Arnold Neumaier Dec 6 '12 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Arnold: that is indeed how it works for the effects shown on the profile page. Removing all auxiliary discussion is not so easily done (moderators will tend to remove unconstructive or obsolete discussions over time, but ideally folks would be encouraged to participate in more general, constructive discussion of policy that can inform and guide others in the future instead). $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Dec 6 '12 at 18:54
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Bans and suspensions need to be carried out by moderators.

There's no correlation between someone's ability to answer/ask physics questions and their social intelligence. Moderators, on the other hand, are usually judged by a community over a long period of time as possessing a character which enables them to consistently deal with people in a calm, fair and detached manner.

There is nothing stopping a person on the receiving end of abuse to appeal for the suspension to be lifted or reduced using the meta page anyway.

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    $\begingroup$ When a person is suspended, they can't post on meta either. Their recourse is to appeal to the moderators by responding to the message that's always sent along with the suspension or contacting us (the Stack Exchange team) by email. $\endgroup$ – Adam Lear Dec 6 '12 at 18:01
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In order to avoid the problem that voting users don’t know why a person was banned, I would suggest giving the banned user a possibility to ‘Appeal to Community’, which would make the details of the ban public (at least to the users eligible to vote on the appeal).

One could take this a little further by first requiring one of these users to vouch for the banned person and then giving the banned person a choice to appeal publicly, appeal without making details public or not appeal.

I would suggest the reputation threshold required to vote on such appeals to be at least 2k.

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    $\begingroup$ Aah thanks Claudius, this is a really helpful and constructive answer +1 $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Dec 6 '12 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ So you think there's a link between someone's knowledge of physics and their social intelligence? $\endgroup$ – Physiks lover Dec 6 '12 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ No, but there is a strong correlation between someone answering/asking many good questions (i.e. the work they put in PSE) and their good-will regarding the community. Someone who himself spent a long time here will be very careful not to let someone he perceives as a threat to the community come back and has a genuine interest in keeping such people at bay. $\endgroup$ – Claudius Dec 6 '12 at 17:56

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