Have you managed an online community for three or more years? Does it have 50,000 or more posts? Do you have guidelines of substance that you fairly and evenly apply to contributions?

If the answer to all of those questions is yes, there is a fair chance that someone has lobbed the word “Draconian” in your direction, in reply to a contribution being edited or removed.

I have to be honest. Until recently, I did not fully understand the definition of this word. I had always thought that it meant that they thought I was being unfair or too strict.

It turns out: I was right. Just not to the extent I had thought.

Dictionary.com, pulling from the Random House Dictionary, provides these definitions for the word “Draconian”:

1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Draco or his code of laws.
2. (often lowercase) rigorous; unusually severe or cruel: Draconian forms of punishment.

What, you might be wondering, is characteristic of Draco or his code of laws? What is a form of punishment under Draco? Dictionary.com answers this, in the very next definition on the page (emphasis mine).

1. of or relating to Draco, 7th-century Athenian statesman and lawmaker, or his code of laws, which prescribed death for almost every offence.

So then, this goes back to the whole Hitler, Stalin and Gestapo thing. When I didn’t allow you to use that profanity on my community, when I didn’t allow you to hotlink to that server, when I didn’t allow you to post the same thing five times – that was similar to if I had sentenced you to death. Good to know.