Public Humiliation in Community Management

I was reminded this evening of a practice that I thoroughly detest – publicly humiliating banned users on a community.

I’m really speaking of the most common way that I see it done, which is to ban the user and then to make their rank title display “Banned” or an equivalent. I am also seeing the facilitation of a public “Ban List” which will display all of the banned users for a given site. This is just as bad.

What can be gained by doing this? Nothing. It’s inflammatory and will only make the user that you banned angrier. When I ban a user, I ban the user – that’s it. Usually the user has been warned multiple times and/or has chosen to mock my staff, our guidelines or me in some way or another. I don’t give them user titles and I sure don’t have a list where people can call up every user I have ever banned.

To me, this shows a lack of professionalism. I have an unwritten policy that I will try not to discuss private issues (including the banning of members and the specific circumstances and messages that prompted the action) publicly or with anyone outside of my staff whenever possible. If I am forced to reveal the truth in public in order to defend an action, so be it, but I have no desire to try to continue the issue or hurt someone’s reputation by making it easily known that they are banned.

I can only think of three specific communities that utilize these practices, at this time, but there are many, many others out there. I’ve even been banned by one of them. For no good reason, obviously. Just an administrator who knew about as much about managing a team of people as I know about cricket.

Patrick O'Keefe

Managing online communities since 2000, I publish a collective of websites known as the iFroggy Network. I wrote the book Managing Online Forums and, as a public speaker, have presented for organizations like CNN, institutions like Australian National University and conferences like SXSW. More about me.



about 16 years ago


IMHO, it is likely that the user is going to be uncovered as banned (by an administrator) in time, anyway. This simply removes work on his part. If I were a banned person, I'd like to let others know what I did that was so horribly wrong. In many cases, it is pettier than the administrator lets on, but people could still learn from it.

I also know what you mean about being banned by someone such as that...and whom you refer to. Personal feuds have no place in community management, perhaps less of a place than "public humiliation" (ala "Do you want to be the next [username here]? If not, pack it in.")




about 16 years ago

Hey AJD,

Yeah, it is generally easy to presume, at least, that a user is banned if they go for awhile without making a post. As an administrator, I am not personally concerned with informing people as to just what a user did to get banned because everything comes back to our guidelines and that is why they exist. If a user operates within our guidelines and does not scoff at warnings, they won't be banned.

I don't believe you know whom I refer to (whom I was banned by)... it was a site I was at for years. New administrator came in... wam bam... there you have it. :)

As far as personal feuds... one problem that arises is that some users that are banned like to (or choose to) believe that there is some sort of personal issue at work, where in fact there isn't - at my sites, anyway. As I say, it always comes back to our guidelines and how you respond to warnings.


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