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HedgeMage
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Hellbanning, slowbanning, etc. are counterproductive. Yes, they can be very effective at frustrating and isolating problem users, but at a cost: Legitimate users expend energy and may become frustrated trying to figure out whether they are hell/slow/error-banned or experiencing technical difficulties. Users accidentally caught in these types of restrictions feel duped and cheated, because they couldn't be immediately sure of the problem and address it in an immediately obvious way. You can't legitimately penalize ban-jumpers (even intentional ones) because the system is designed so that the feedback to banned users is ambiguous -- they (theoretically) aren't supposed to know whether or not they are banned. Someone (legitimately or otherwise) restricted in this way and his/her friends and sock puppets will often take the action to be a particularly manipulative form of censorship, which will lead to ban jumping in an attempt to circumvent it (it's easy to counter, but not before it starts drama among other users) or lots of meta-discussion in other places that nonetheless raises drama in your community. None of these problems are insurmountable or intolerable. However, they *do* seem to generate more noise for community members, and more work for moderators than straightforward, transparent bans do when implemented properly. "When implemented properly" is the key phrase here, of course. It's hard for moderators not to have the last word -- we naturally want to be seen as fair, want people (especially the one being banned) to understand the actions we take, and so the natural reaction is to feed the drama beast. Minimizing ban-related drama involves: Having a clear, subjective moderation policy (objective ones are too easily gamed) that is easy to reference and to refer users to when you explain the reason for moderation actions on their user account and/or content. Knowing when to disengage from the meta-conversation about bans, etc. Including not just *procedures* in the moderation policy, but *goals* as well. When the motives behind moderation actions are well understood, there's less fuss and rules lawyering from the productive users. (The problem users will always generate noise -- that's how they came to be called "problem users" to begin with.) Blowing people off (on the occasions that blowing them off is called for) with an action they can take, e.g. "This is how this forum is run, if you are looking for something different, I encourage you to found your own according to your own standards." or "Foo.stackexchange.com is a democracy; if you disapprove of moderation policies here you are encouraged to nominate yourself in our next moderator election." Either they choose to do nothing (most do) and it's not your fault, or they choose to take action and their forum/nomination flops (also not your fault). Maintaining a policy of never discussing discipline of any user with any other user. These tips won't *end* the ban-related drama -- nothing does that -- but they can help *mitigate* it. Rather than avoiding the issue with hellbans and the like, dealing with it directly and moving on quickly won't let things fester. More importantly, the direct approach prevents legitimate users from interpreting every lag or lack of response as a possible reprimand or an attempt to manipulate the voice of the community.
Toggle Commented Jun 5, 2011 on Suspension, Ban or Hellban? at Coding Horror
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Jun 4, 2011