Albert Pennyworth: With respect, Master Wayne, perhaps [the Joker] is a man you don’t fully understand, either.
A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anyone who traded with him.
One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.
Bruce Wayne: So why steal them?
Alfred Pennyworth: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
In addition to the closing lines of “The Dark Knight,” this conversation between Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth caught my attention as having direct relevance to community management.
It is good to give people the benefit of the doubt and expect the best of them, which means that they will be reasonable. But it is important to understand that you will be let down, that no matter how hard you try to help someone to participate within your community in an appropriate way, that some will choose not to. Some will do awful, mean, horrible things. They will do them because it is who they are and they do not wish to change. They will do them because they want to harm you. They will do them because they want to provoke chaos and dissension among members. They will do them for other reasons, too.
That’s why you have guidelines and moderators who fairly and evenly apply them. That’s why the ability to ban people is important. The simple act of having goals, standards and focus is exclusionary in nature and invites others to circumvent them, to prevent their realization. Of course, to have no goals or standards is also exclusionary because those who seek something more specific will go elsewhere. No matter who you are, no matter what you do, there will be those who participate with the intent to cause destruction.
The truth is, some of the people who violate your guidelines aren’t looking for anything logical. They don’t want to simply be heard or to offer feedback. They don’t want to change their behavior or go to a community where their needs might be better met. They can’t be reasoned or negotiated with.
Some people just want to watch your community burn.