Over the last few days, I've noticed that a few members of Writers have mysteriously gone missing, their names being replaced with 'user:##'. One of those members is what, as I found out from this answer.

Why is this? I don't recall hearing of SE having a 'banning policy' or anything similar, so I'm wondering what happened to what and the others who have gone missing (whose names I cannot remember).

3 Answers 3


Moderators sometimes delete accounts where the entire participation has been abusive (spammers, sockpuppets committing voting fraud, etc). Outside of those fairly narrow bounds, if a user is deleted, it's because the user requested it. Even in the (rare, on this site) cases where we need to suspend somebody, we don't go deleting accounts.

I'm always disappointed when users who've contributed a lot to a site choose to not only stop contributing but actually delete their accounts. But they don't have to share their reasons publicly if they don't want to. (I happen to know that for a high-participation or high-rep account, SE does try to talk with the person before pulling the trigger.)

In the case of what, he posted a farewell in 2015 and was inactive for a while after that. I was happy to see him return more recently, but it seems he didn't find what he was looking for here.


For those interested, here's a list of all 666 posts by what? :


With a reputation of 29,974 (as of May 3, 2024), nine years after he left he would still be the sixth highest ranking user.


I deleted my account because I felt irritated by Mark Baker's dominance of the site.

If you run a query for the most active users in the StackExchange Data Explorer, Mark Baker appears as the most active user, with an average of 2.5 activities per day since the time he joined:

enter image description here

Given the comparably little activity of most other users on this site, the intense activity of a single user becomes problematic, in that most answers, comments, edits, and votes are by that person and the site in its entirety begins to reflect not the answers and opinions of a community, but turns into something like Mark Baker's personal site.

Here is the same graph for Stack Overflow, with five activities (twice as many as Mark Baker) represented by a horizontal red line):

enter image description here

My interpretation of this second graph in relation to the first as well as further important arguments are in the comments below.

I have recently created this new account, because I am writing my dissertation and need something to procrastinate on. I will delete this account again when I am finished with my thesis sometime around the end of September.

  • 4
    Interesting. The distribution is just what one would expect based on the 1% rule: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1%25_rule_(Internet_culture) It is also a classic long tail distribution. So if it was not me who was most active (which it may not be much longer) then it would be someone else, and the distribution curve would be pretty much the same. Is your objection to the distribution, or is it specific to who happens to be the most active in any given time period?
    – user16226
    Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 13:48
  • @MarkBaker I have never felt as irritated by anyone else's answers and comments as I have felt by yours.
    – user26338
    Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 13:58
  • 1
    @MarkBaker While I've found several of your answers to be very helpful, I have noticed a trend where you open an answer by explaining how the OP is wrong, and how he really needs to be asking a different question, which you then answer. This might be what what finds irritating. I know I do. You might try considering what the OP is really after, before providing an answer to a question he didn't ask for. Again, several of your answers have been immensely helpful. I would like to not feel the sense of dread I get when I see one of them, though. Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 15:42
  • 2
    @what I'm sorry you feel that way. Mark is one of several active users, not the only one, and I suspect that query would produce different results if it only looked at activity in, say, the last year. (The query naturally biases toward newer accounts.) At different times we've had different "most-active users", but I haven't seen any of them crowd others out. Obviously you're seeing something I'm not, and I'd like to understand what it is you're seeing. I was sad when you deleted your account because you, too, have a long record of contributions to this site. We need more folks doing that. Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 2:13
  • 1
    Also, those activities include votes, not just posts and comments, and we need more voting in general. Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 2:16
  • @MarkBaker There is some empirical contradiction to the 1% rule-of-thumb. But that is irrelevant here. If you look for example at the same graph for the users of Stack Overflow, you will notice that the one thousand most active users each are active twice as often as you are. As a consequence, there is enough activity on the site that contributions by a single user do not as massively skew the content as on Writers.SE.
    – user26338
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 7:57
  • 1
    An evolving community certainly needs active users, but it needs balanced activity. I have seen many small communities that were dominated by single users. The problem with that is that almost all reactions that you get are by one person. This becomes problematic when the opinion of that user is very distinct and you don't agree with it. It means that whatever you write you will be told that you are wrong, and that is tiresome, so you go elsewhere.
    – user26338
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 8:20
  • 6
    So, it is the distribution that bothers you. It bothers me too. I would love to find ways to increase participation, particularly by experienced professional writers. However, that distribution is virtually universal.And I don't see how the growth of the site is helped by active users reducing their activity. When you stopped posting, that made the situation worse, not better. I will probably be tailing off my activity for much the same reason you did: I am finding myself answering the same question again and again.
    – user16226
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 12:30
  • 2
    But re growth, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that writers prefer smaller communities to larger ones. Writing solutions are not transferrable like programming solutions, and the basic principles are not so numerous that it takes a huge site to discover and express them. Individual relationship rather than bodies of knowledge are probably more valuable to the development of writers, particularly in the arts side of things. This site might actually have a better chance of growing and attracting more active users if it was more focussed on business writing than on fiction.
    – user16226
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 12:35
  • 1
    @MarkBaker First of all I am quite impressed by the way you react to my criticism. And I do agree with a solid proportion of everything you have written both on Writers and on Meta Writers. But to the point: I do not think that any online community will manage to attract high level professional fiction writers. We have speculated on the reasons elsewhere. What I vehemently agree with is your notion that writers are interested in individual (and I would like to add, personal) relationships. Writers want writers groups. Local or regional communities.
    – user26338
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 12:51
  • 2
    Personally I think that this site is not right for professionals, nor for complete noobs, but for those that have achieved some higher level of knowledge and ability, similar to the students and young researchers that make up the majority of users on the natural sciences sites. You don't find professors of psychology on CogSci.SE, either (with one or two exceptions), but rather graduate and doctoral students. That is who we must get here: earnest writers on the verge of publication or after their first amateur publications.
    – user26338
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 12:55
  • 5
    Well, you didn't actually criticise me. You said I am the most active user, which had been true for the last year or so. You said you disagree with a lot of my answers, which is true. (I disagree with a lot of yours too, though I also agree with many of them.) You said that you find this annoying, which is about you, not me. You didn't once says that I was doing anything wrong, so I have no reason to be upset. You and I are outliers. I come from the classical tradition that sees art through a moral lense. You are (in many of your views) a post modern. As such, we are bound to disagree....
    – user16226
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 14:52
  • 2
    The majority here are (as far as I can tell) moderns. As such you and I sometimes answer questions by challenging the premise of the question, which tends to annoy some people. But part of the point of SE is that the answer is not supposed to be just for the person who asked the question, but for many other people who have the same question. Challenging the premise of the question is therefore essential to giving an honest and full answer (according to the best lights we have) and therefore annoying people with answers is inevitable. (Though we should try not to annoy them in other ways.)
    – user16226
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 14:58
  • 1
    @MarkBaker While I agree about challenging the premise (if necessary), I think more time could be spent on determining exactly what the OP is looking for, rather than what he should be looking for. A lot of your answers, Mark, lose me in the first paragraph where you explain why I'm looking for something I have in fact already researched, and come to a conclusion about. It's not the disagreement in itself that I find annoying. It's the fact that the answers usually compound the problem rather than solving it. (Again: some of your answers have been extremely helpful.) Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 15:39
  • 3
    @ThomasMyron Not every answer is going to be the answer you want or expect. And remember that the format here is to answer the question so as to serve many readers with the same question. The answer is not just for you. It is for everybody. An answer that challenges the premise of a question may well leave you with a bigger problem than you thought you had when you asked it. Writing is hard and many writing questions are naive. Accepting the premise of a naive question simply perpetuates the naivete. Not to say every answer is on the money, but that is why you get lots to choose from.
    – user16226
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 17:03

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