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A certain valuable contributor in this community has been suspended for a month, partly because it was his second warning, perhaps there were other factors unknown to the rest of us. It's my hope that he won't have this second suspension hanging around his neck for the whole time while he's on here, since another outburst is almost inevitable sometime in the future.

So how long must a user be on good behaviour before past suspensions are wiped clean, and the user can start afresh with zero suspensions against their name?

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Suspensions are never wiped clean in the sense that I think you mean. In other words, when moderators are determining how to handle some situation, we are not required to ignore suspensions older than X for any length of time X. We can and generally do take into account a user's entire history of activity on the site.

When I say "entire history," that means good behavior too, though. The next suspension after, say, a 7 day suspension doesn't automatically have to be a 30 day suspension. We use common sense. If a user has consistently exhibited good behavior for a long time, then the moderators can always downgrade a suspension from the length that would be recommended based on the number of prior suspensions.

Let me also mention that there is no public record of suspensions. The information about a user's suspension history is not visible to anyone except moderators. So for any purpose other than future disciplinary action, a user's suspension history is wiped clean the moment their suspension is up.

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    $\begingroup$ We use common sense. If a user has consistently exhibited good behavior for a long time, then the moderators can always downgrade a suspension from the length that would be recommended based on the number of prior suspensions. Sad that this was not applied in Ron's case. On the contrary, he and many other people were driven away from the site. Ron's immensely valuable contributions and his importance for the site have been completely neglected by the people in charge. There are already questions that find no (good) answers because of that now. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Dec 15 '12 at 10:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Nemo I would still like you to prove conclusively that people have been driven away to never return. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Dec 15 '12 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 they were not forced to keep away by banning them too or deleting their accounts (as far as I know), but they were driven away by the bad things that happend. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Dec 15 '12 at 11:46
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    $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 There is Dilaton, who has stated explicitly here in meta that he would not participate, and Arnold Neumaier who has not been seen since december 8 In truth I am waiting out to see whether Ron will cool off and reconsider his participation. $\endgroup$ – anna v Dec 15 '12 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Nemo if you're going to make the accusation that common sense was not applied in Ron's case, you need to back it up with evidence. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 15 '12 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ As can be seen here many Physics SE people disagreed with (such a long) the suspension. So in my opinion it would have been fair and reasonable (as you mention in your answer it in principle can be done) to shorten the time, such that Ron could have come back before Christmas for example. In particular since people have expressed how important his contributions are for the site. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Dec 15 '12 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Nemo but that's your opinion. Please realize that you don't have access to the information that is used to determine suspension lengths. Neither do any of those other people who were calling for a reduced suspension. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 15 '12 at 20:17

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