Inspired by Konrad's last post I would like to start a discussion thread on some possible aspects of long time/permanent suspensions.
"Konrad" is a pseudonymous name for a long time suspended user. It is near one year that the original real-name account of this user is closed. I don't want to discuss on the reasons of such a suspension here. I think we have qualified moderators and surely they had some reasonable reasons to put such a suspension on a user. The only subject which I want to talk about, is the possible negative consequences of these type of suspensions for suspended users, moderators and our community.
- The main philosophy behind a permanent suspension is that you are banned to use MO forever but unfortunately the anonymity rule in MathOverflow allows users to have several anonymous accounts and as a trivial consequence it is obvious that banning somebody form using MathOverflow loses its meaning and usefulness under this condition. This could encourage users to have several accounts which could be an ill-founded tradition in a professional community and a real treat for the quality of votes and reputations.
- Long time suspensions can encourage suspended users to show unnatural behaviors because they are expelled from community and they have no particular real-name account to improve. Their point of view is very different from a regular or short time suspended user. They may feel and act like a stranger in a xenophobic society. They may feel little responsibility on the quality of their posts and comments.
- Based on their responsibility, moderators should search for any abuses of anonymity rule and delete the corresponding accounts. This Tom & Jerry game on finding/hiding pseudonymous identities takes too much time and energy of both moderators and long time suspended users specially in the case of permanent members of community who show a special enthusiasm on contributing in MO.
- In some cases I saw that moderators deleted a wrong account just because it had a similar subject or writing style to the posts of a suspended user.
- Answerers will be hesitated to add high quality answers to posts of new anonymous users because it is possible that post belongs to a suspended user which will be deleted by a moderator very soon so the answerer will not receive an accept by poster or enough comments to clarify the question.
- Frequent account production of a long time suspended user can increase the number of low reputation accounts which is not a positive parameter in MO public communications particularly in the point of view of those who are not completely familiar with this forum and are deciding to join or ignore us.
As the consequence of above facts it seems long time/permanent suspensions don't help moderators to manage the contributions of an enthusiast permanent user. Allowing such users to have their own real-name identity on the site and managing domain of their contributions and possibly restricting it to mathematical subjects by more soft moderating tools and polices prevents the above problems and makes things more clear particularly when the user had a long time suspension before and have an invaluable set of experiences now. Naturally such a users reach a degree of professionality in their contribution style.
Furthermore adding a "new chance" option to our moderation polices associated with some sort of "public apologies tradition" will help both moderators and users to deal with a wider range of situations and build a new level of communication culture which doesn't consider an insult or suspension as an unsolvable taboo. I am sure this will produce a natural indirect moderation system which helps the community to improve the level of its meta discussions to more serious and less familiar subjects like suspensions.
Question: Which one do you prefer as a community member? A permanently suspended user who lives into the shadow of anonymity and appears everywhere and adds many posts with low quality and responsibility or a real-name user with a mathematical domain of activity and a supervised moderated behavior who tries to improve his/her own profile using good questions and nice answers?
Suggestion: Should we have a "suspension" tag specially for suspended users, moderators and other members of the community to discuss on suspension reasons and policies in a friendly noise-less way?