Sometimes we suspend after only two consecutive closed negative score questions depending on if they seemed to acknowledge our feedback.
Hm, no we don't, unless I missed a memo or something. Mod messages may carry a suspension or be just warnings, and that's no immediately clear from, let's say, the list of recent mod messages. We typically go with a warning first, and suspend only if the behaviour is repeating.
The typical dance is:
- A mod message warning for first offenders,
- Suspension for a week for second time offenders,
- Suspension for a month for third time offenders,
- Suspension for a year or more for the absolutely nefarious ones.
Of course that may vary a bit per offence, and you're right, our "policy" is mostly a mixup of instinct, looking at past mod messages, TL chats. Generally I go for:
Consistently low quality questions over time
The most common abusive pattern, and the one where we've gone with the typical warning/suspension dance almost every time. I don't think there's need for a change in policy here, warn first, suspend if the behaviour persists.
This is mostly a noob mistake, and I don't think it's worth a mod message, it's easily resolved with a comment (or two). I'd go for a suspension only if the user blatantly ignores the comments.
Although I haven't had to deal with this one yet, I'd say it makes sense to skip the warning and suspend all participants.
Abusive to others
Per case, and I'd prefer if there was some mod discussion before a warning or a suspension, this one almost always demands a second set of eyes.
The last time I mod messaged someone for revenge downvoting, I went for just a warning, and regretted it a week later when he did something else, equally suspension worthy (this time, I pulled the trigger). I wouldn't mind if we skip the warning for revenge downvoting in general and suspend on first offence, but I also wouldn't object to warn first timers.
Self-destruction of own content
Also a common noob mistake, that's rarely repeated. Warn, and only suspend if (s)he does it again.
Using signatures or taglines
I'm only mentioning this one because there's a template for it. The time to edit out the signature or tagline is less than mod messaging the user...
- If the only contributions from the user is spam, destroy the account.
- If there are non spam contributions, delete the spam ones and warn or suspend.
Excessive discussion in comments
My favourite one. Warning the first time, and possibly the second time, not necessarily via a mod message, a comment on the post the discussion is going on or a superping in chat would be enough (imho). For people who keep pestering others with borderline rude comments, a suspension should be considered even for first time offenders and especially if they've already ignored a comment by a mod asking them to calm down and be nice (which is what all of us go for at first).
Strictly per case, obviously.
If an issue can be discussed publicly, a comment or a superping in chat is preferable and if not, there's always the option of a private chat, a completely tedious and cumbersome process that doesn't however leave a permanent black mark1 on the user's record, the way mod messages do.
1 Worth noting that SE takes the black mark thingy seriously, I got in trouble for suspending a fellow SE mod and a user who volunteered while testing a rather obnoxious bug. Apparently for science isn't a good reason for a suspension, even for a day.
To clarify for non mods:
If a few of your questions get closed / down voted, an automatic mod only flag is raised. The first time that happens, you may get a mod warning (or not), but a suspension is unwarranted (imho), unless of course the questions are of the "how is babby formed" variety.
The second time the flag is raised you will be suspended for a short time (week or less) or you may get by with a warning, if we forget to send it the first time.