Torley Troll Doll pet (wear)
Creative Commons License photo credit: Torley

“I just banned that guy,” you say to yourself. “For the sixth time.”

In my experience, the vast majority of banned members will stop coming back once their second account is banned, if not for their first. But, once in a while, you get the real special ones. These people are none too pleased with you banning them. Maybe they regret their errors or, perhaps more likely, they just want to wreak havoc. What can you do?

Well, you can report them to their ISP, for one. What else? This question has plagued man and woman since the dawn of online community. Some effective solutions have been offered through technical innovation.

In vBulletin, there is a  well known feature called Tachy Goes to Coventry. My friend Ted Sindzinski tells me that this marks every post a member has made as private, so that only they can see it, and the same is also true for any post they make from that point forward. So, they are able to think that they are actually posting, but no one is actually seeing their posts. Since this would only be applied to accounts created specifically to troll or to get around a ban, this type of Global Ignore function works well.

There also exists, for vBulletin and phpBB, what is referred to in some cases as the Troll Hack. In so many words, this is simulated downtime. The member you select will face bouts of slowness, non-responsiveness, 404 pages and all that jazz. The site will work… sometimes. Their posts won’t go through. The site will act like you’re having problems staying online.

Maybe your chosen community software has a function like this, or a hack that can be installed – perhaps not.

I like the idea of these functions and I think they are appropriate, when used judiciously. In the world we live in, protecting our community is paramount. Though you’d like to just ban someone and have them go away, that won’t always be the case and when that time comes, you need to be able to pull out something else from your bag of tricks.  Once someone demonstrates that they will not respect your ban, you become free to protect your community through any means possible (within reason – i.e. without damaging that person’s computer or affecting anything other than access of your site).

Gun, Blackwall, E14
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ewan-M

The question now becomes, when to use these. Do you whip them out for every spammer that rolls down the block?

I believe that, generally speaking, you want to try to ban someone straight up at least 2 or 3 times. More if you’re comfortable with it. Give them a couple of times, at least, to respect your ban. Unless, of course, they join once, PM spam 100 people, then join a second time and do it again. In that case, please feel free to unleash your full arsenal.

These are valuable weapons, but you do not want to overuse them. You want to save them for the people who really deserve it and give the rest of the people the opportunity to simply leave with dignity, rather than you having to put up obstacles to get them to go away. You can’t pull out the big gun for every rough customer who stumbles onto your block. But, keep it at the ready for the ones who just won’t leave you alone.