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I was suspended for 10 days beginning March 31st at just after 2pm. My 10-day suspension ended a few hours ago. The alleged basis for my suspension was that I made the following comment under this recent question: -

To the OP: before you purchased the so-called voltmeter, did you read the data sheet to see what the input impedance is? Would you buy curtains because of the colour or because they are the right size?

The mods also said this: -

  • Your recent interactions cross a line and need to stop because they affect others negatively.
  • "Others did see it as condescending and flagged it" from a comment under the question by Sam Gibson (a moderator).

Therefore, my question is this: -

Why was I suspended for ten days for making this comment?

And, my point is this: -

If I make a genuinely honest comment that is seen by "others" to be condescending then, why should I be suspended because "others" chose to read "badness" into what I wrote. I'm the only person who has a window into my brain and, I'm the only person who can say whether I was being condescending/snide or, trying to be helpful.

Let me state this: I was trying to be helpful.

So, on the say-so of some nameless people who incorrectly judged my intent, why should that result in any punishment at all?

Other information:

I appealed the suspension via the normal route and was told this: -

At your request, an employee has been assigned to review the case. If they find any evidence of malicious behaviour, they will take appropriate action to correct the problem. However, we are not able to provide details of that review nor will you receive further responses about this issue.

So, it's not much of an appeal-system if you don't get any further feedback hence, why I have posted this question on meta.

I want feedback and I deserve feedback. I did not deserve to be suspended for any length of time.

Image of PM from mods should it be of any interest: -

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ You often fall into giving condescending comments but I hadn't seen this one before. I am guilty of doing the same thing. I think it is because we get so frustrated at questions that show a serious lack of critical thinking or significant effort on the part of the OP. It's possible that relaxing educational standards during COVID lead to a generation of learners who expect to be spoon fed everything. Try being an instructor... reddit.com/r/professors is full of these stories. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11 at 10:21
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @ElliotAlderson it's not condescending - if an EE newbie buys stuff from eBay believing that what is shown in the advert is all they need to know then, they need a healthy reminder that buying anything that is important needs research (whether it's a module or some curtains or shoes or whatever). I am reminding them that EE stuff is just as likely to be inappropriate for their needs when bought from eBay as curtains or shoes. It's important that what you buy is "well defined" and, you consider your purchases carefully. I was being helpful; I was trying to save them money on their next shop. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Apr 11 at 17:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am not sure if professional teaching was/is part of your job. For me, it isn't. But I regularly work with students and the more experienced I get, the more I feel that I can't communicate with newbies properly. I understand the frustration, but I know that metaphorized snappy comment are a step in the wrong direction, and patience is needed. If you don't feel like giving patient advice, it is maybe good to take a breath and move on. At worst impatient comments sound mocking. At best, they are rather useless to the OP, even if they are upvoted by experienced site members \$\endgroup\$
    – tobalt
    Apr 12 at 4:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka - Your use of inflammatory bold text (which could be trying to imply that mods are/have been stupid) means that I won't be replying to this, as there is no sign that further replies will be constructive. You are, of course, entitled to your views. However if someone breaks the Code of Conduct (whether they agree with it or not) then the consequences are explained near the bottom of that page. I had planned a different update, but I'm not going to be harassed. You can contact SE staff if you want to discuss further. \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 14 at 17:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka your request to do a line-by-line review of your flags is not reasonable nor is something that we will consider. A CM has reviewed your suspension and found it to be warranted. Furthermore, you can see by the signature that it came from the Community Team. Your recently deleted answer from 03/30 is another good example of behavior that "cross a line and need to stop because they affect others negatively". Regardless of intention, we need to moderate based on the negative impact your interactions are having, so we recommend that you review the CoC, our guidance, and adjust accordingly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bella_Blue StaffMod
    Apr 14 at 19:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka "my comment is ... certainly not seen as rude/problematic to an older generation of people" I'm in my 60s and I'd like to disassociate myself from the idea that I don't find this comment condescending. Both the curtain analogy and preceding voltmeter with "so-called" seem unhelpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham Nye
    Apr 17 at 20:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka I don't disagree with the technical content of your posts; indeed I often find them instructive myself. But the comments from a number of people above suggest that you could be more tactful when phrasing your advice especially, it seems to me, when answering questions from less experienced posters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham Nye
    Apr 17 at 21:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka Describing a voltmeter as "so-called" suggests it isn't actually a voltmeter. The reviews for the voltmeter in the original question suggest that it does work. It's basic but cheap so is cost-effective. Sometimes you just need a basic meter. I have a 2½ digit voltmeter in my car to keep an eye on the battery during lockdown. It's fine for that job. Also in context "so-called" is another layer of condescension. \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham Nye
    Apr 18 at 0:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka in the last year or so I have come across dozens of your comments that struck me as hostile, dismissive or gratuitously mean in tone, as if you were personally angry at the OP. I'm sure you don't perceive yourself that way, but I do think you have an issue with how you communicate online. \$\endgroup\$
    – DamienD
    Apr 18 at 12:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Among other things, you keep pointing out mistakes by asking rhetorical questions where the only possible answer is "because I'm stupid". \$\endgroup\$
    – DamienD
    Apr 18 at 14:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka You asked why you were suspended for making a particular comment. A moderator has provided an answer explaining that multiple comments flagged by multiple people were regarded as problematic. But instead of considering why multiple people find your posts can be rude you are continuing to put forward technical arguments to me trying to justify your original comment. You claimed "I was trying to be helpful" but you also wrote in a comment (14th 17:09) "it only seems fair that the ... younger generation should be punished...". 1/2 \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham Nye
    Apr 18 at 15:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka What sort of an attitude is that to approach questions with? It's hardly surprising that people can find your posts rude if that's your underlying thought process. Surely you should be writing answers on a Q&A site because you want to help the questioners, not punish them? 2/2 \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham Nye
    Apr 18 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka How do you expect to write polite, constructive answers if your underlying attitude is looking for ways to "punish" the "younger generation"? Rather than learning from your suspension and looking for ways to make less abrasive posts you seem determined to defend your existing posting style. If you carry on without making changes you'll presumably face further suspension and an eventual ban. It would be a shame to lose your technical expertise so I hope you are able to post in line with the CoC. \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham Nye
    Apr 18 at 18:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka - We saw that you had flagged comments, but here is the problem: (a) You asked a question where behaviour is clearly going to be "on topic". (b) You have given your justification for your behaviour. (c) But when someone criticises that behaviour (or the stated justification for it) you have flagged their comments. That doesn't seem fair & equitable - deleting those critical comments would prevent other site members from reading a counterpoint to your statements. || Currently, those flags have been denied. I am seeking further advice from other people on this. \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 19 at 17:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka - Re: "It appears that one of my replies to Graham Nye has been removed, possibly by mods" None of your comments have (so far) been removed by mods. The only one of your comments which has been deleted is a much earlier one, which you deleted yourself (and then replaced with a modified version). \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 19 at 17:46

1 Answer 1

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Since I'm currently online, I'll give a partial reply. At this stage, I'm deliberately not responding fully to your questions, for the reasons I explain below.

Why was I suspended for ten days for making this comment?

You weren't suspended lightly and you weren't suspended for only that comment, but I see that the suspension message only mentioned that one and perhaps this has caused some misunderstanding.

Actually that comment you wrote was just "the final straw" and it was the ongoing flags received on several of your comments, from different site members over recent weeks, and the events even before that, which led to that suspension with that duration.

So, on the say-so of some nameless people who incorrectly judged my intent, why should that result in any punishment at all?

Your intent is irrelevant since, as you said in another point, that cannot be known by others, with certainty. In general terms (and not referring to you) unfortunately some people lie, including about their intent when writing. Therefore relying only on what anyone says about their intent, would be untenable for moderation purposes on any internet site.

Instead we respond to how someone's words and language (which they chose and they have to take responsibility for) come across to other people, primarily through flags. This is why the Code of Conduct says, among several other points:

Unacceptable Behavior

No subtle put-downs or unfriendly language.
Even if you don’t intend it, this can have a negative impact on others.

It is the language chosen and how things come across to (and affect) other people, which is acted upon by moderators and SE staff - not the intent behind the writing, as we cannot judge that. Multiple people assessed that certain comments you made over recent weeks, continued to come across as being put-downs / unfriendly / patronising / condescending etc. when they flagged them.

It's the same when you flag someone else's comments. Your flags indicate that their words and language have come across to you in a way that breaks the Code of Conduct, even though you cannot know their intent.

In the part of your comment which you quoted, you said:

Would you buy curtains because of the colour or because they are the right size?

Considering the original question was about the behaviour of a voltmeter, that comparison with buying curtains came across, to multiple people, as unfriendly i.e. a condescending mocking of the OP.


For the reason below I cannot say more publicly at the moment, even though it would help to better explain the lead-up to this current situation and therefore to explain the context to your questions.

If you really want us to copy into the public domain here, each of the flags leading up to that suspension and relevant previous history & communications with you (without mentioning other site member's names e.g. who raised flags) in order to give context and explain why it was a 10-day suspension as you asked above, then please say so.

Then we can discuss between the moderators how to handle this (I've never seen someone want to discuss a suspension in public before) and one of us can contact Stack Exchange staff to confirm that they are also OK with us posting your private flags and communication history here. (Normally, we wouldn't disclose this sort of information publicly, of course.)

As a genuine concern: Once the (normally private) information is put here and indexed by search engines etc., then I believe it would be very difficult for you to fully remove it from the internet, if you decided later that you wanted to do that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes please, I want to see each of the comments in public that I made that raised flags. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Apr 11 at 9:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Whether it's public or not, I never really understood why stackexchange never provides detailed info regarding the offending comments to the suspended users. How can you improve your behavior if you aren't even told what's wrong? I guess it's to avoid creating drama, but now, there's more drama because users get suspended without realizing they crossed the line multiple times. Users don't know how far or close they are to a suspension before it happens. I've never been suspended, but maybe I'm one rough comment away from it... Who knows? \$\endgroup\$
    – dim
    Apr 11 at 10:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dim absolutely correct. Without feedback how can anyone know until it's too late and then it's proper drama. This cloak of secrecy has to stop. It's like going to court and being convicted of a series of multiple offences (witnessed by people who shall remain anonymous) where only the most recent "offence" is available. In my case, the reading of my latest comment by unnamed people is at fault - I thoroughly question their judgement. It's almost pythonesque in its ridiculousness. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Apr 11 at 10:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dim - Hi, "stackexchange never provides detailed info regarding the offending comments to the suspended users" That's an incorrect statement about the lack of feedback. Before there's any suspension, there has been lots of feedback (with the exception of instant suspension for bigotry etc.). "users get suspended without realizing they crossed the line multiple times Not true, as the message history with a suspended user will show. After warnings have not improved things, suspensions follow. || However more info in this suspension message would have helped, but you are missing context. \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 11 at 10:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka - Thanks for confirming about putting your previous comments here. However you did not reply about the second part, of including "relevant previous history & communications with you". So please give permission for that to be made public too, as other users like dim are missing the context from previous private communications, leading to an incomplete picture. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 11 at 11:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok. As I said, I never experienced this, so I wouldn't know. But I remember seeing quite a few users suprised to become suddenly suspended (in the past, and possibly on other sites), but maybe the full picture is never quite clear to us people not directly involved in the matter. \$\endgroup\$
    – dim
    Apr 11 at 11:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dim If a user does something egregious like directly insulting another user, they may get suspended without warning, but in most cases users receive one or more warnings before a suspension, which can thus rarely be considered surprising. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11 at 12:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka - You truncated what I said. Then you said: "Regarding my previous suspensions (three?), they are irrelevant to this current suspension" No, they are not irrelevant. Previous communications (including, but not limited to, warnings before those suspensions) give necessary context & background to answer your question. The reason this suspension was this duration & was handled in a different way, was directly because of what has happened previously. As I said, dim (for example) has incomplete context as they have not seen all the previous warnings leading up to this suspension. \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 11 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka - "what led to my suspension (this time) was a series of flags raised against me yes?" Not exactly - it was a series of flags in the context of previous warnings. A user who hadn't received previous warnings, would (if it was up to me) have received a warning, rather than being suspended. Context and history is everything to your question of why you were suspended, rather than warned. "I am objecting to this suspension (not the length of it)" That's not clear from your question, which asks "Why was I suspended for ten days for making this comment?" (my bold). \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 11 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ (continued) Anyway, since you haven't agreed to (what I believe) is giving necessary context from previous events in order to answer your question, I have escalated this to Stack Exchange staff for advice about what I am allowed to say / disclose. I plan to update things here after they reply. \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 11 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possibly it would be useful if users could notice if their own posts were flagged. That way, one could get immediate feedback like "maybe I crossed a line here" regardless of whether it leads to a mod action. And one could adapt oneself better. \$\endgroup\$
    – tobalt
    Apr 12 at 4:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @tobalt - Hi, FYI I have spent some time researching this, and found 3 Meta.SE posts with relevant previous discussions here, here & here. As far as I can see, there are reasons for not doing this and I see no plans to introduce that feature. You can raise it again on Meta.SE, if you want, but I don't expect a different conclusion. || Except in extreme cases, before a first CoC suspension, a site member will be warned with examples of what has broken the CoC. \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 14 at 17:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ (continued) If they want more details or to learn more, they should reply constructively to that message since site members can only reply once per message from mods. However not everyone replies constructively, and some members squander their one reply by sending us anger and abuse after their warning. In those cases, we typically don't reply further - it would be pointless anyway, if they didn't want to learn how to change their behaviour to comply with the CoC. Some relevant advice in this Meta.SE question. \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 14 at 17:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @SamGibson I read some comments there and understand the issues with such a feature. \$\endgroup\$
    – tobalt
    Apr 14 at 20:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka - I have done what I believe is appropriate (with advice from others) to keep things calm and provide appropriate advice. You have had plenty of opportunity to say what you wanted to say. After almost 50 comments under your question, someone had to make a decision about the value of carrying on - so I did. You are welcome to escalate to SE staff who, as you know, are already involved. That is your escalation path for what you claim is my unreasonable behaviour. I will be happy to follow whatever recommendations SE staff make. Do not try to harass me further here, you have had your say \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 20 at 10:33

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