Creative Commons License photo credit: elbragon

I have this member on, who has been with us since 2005. That year, he pushed against our guidelines so persistently and badly that I banned him. He didn’t like our guidelines, he didn’t like that we didn’t let him treat people in a certain way. After I banned him, he emailed me and asked me to give him another chance, pledging to do better.

I very rarely unban anyone. I don’t treat bans like a game, I don’t have temporary bans. We’re flexible, we’re reasonable, we try to work with you. When you have been banned, that means you’ve demonstrated a lack of caring and it’s time to go. But in a very small percentage of cases – a fraction of a percent – I will unban someone if they take responsibility and express a genuine desire to participate in good faith and do better. I felt that this member’s message to me was genuine and I unbanned them.

To his credit, he actually did go on to become a better member and, over the years, he has made many great contributions to our community. But, 4 years after I unbanned him, in 2009, he was at it again. Pushing against our guidelines. He made a snide comment to me and disappeared for a long time. The snide comment wasn’t enough to ban him, in consideration of the bigger picture, but it was disappointing.

Recently, he resurfaced. And, again, he had a post removed because he was being rude (or, as I prefer, “inflammatory”). And, again, a snide remark about how we keep the community too clean, too respectful and that was a shame (he said it in a different way).

I found this situation funny because there is a lesson here that the member is missing. has been around since 2001, when I launched it. More or less, it has been moderated the same way, when it comes to how people treat one another. We place a premium on respect and defend it vigorously. When this member joined, in 2005, we had already done it this way for 4 years. He didn’t like it and he was banned.

When he was let back in, he participated in good faith for a while, but 4 years later – in 2009 – he made the same sort of complaint. He didn’t like that he couldn’t treat people a certain way.

Now, another 4 years later, after disappearing for a while, he’s back again and he has the exact same complaint.

He doesn’t like how we moderated in 2001, when we launched. He doesn’t like how we moderated in 2005, when he joined and was banned. He doesn’t like how we moderated in 2009. He doesn’t like how we moderate in 2013. We’ve always done it the same way. It is what makes us unique, it is what draws people to us. And yet, each time he is reminded that this is a truth, he blames us for his transgressions.

The lesson here is that the community will not change for you. You can’t just join an online community, do things that are against the guidelines or social norms, make a stink when you are told it isn’t OK and expect people to change to accommodate your behavior. In almost all cases, they will not.

During the last 8+ years of interacting with this member, we have been nothing if not direct, honest and consistent. And yet, when he is reminded of these policies, he acts as if he is not the issue. He acts as if we or the community is the issue. And it’s kind of funny and kind of sad because you run into people sometimes who just don’t get that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

If you complained about how our community was moderated in 2005, in 2009, in 2013 and if the community was moderated the same way this entire time, since four years before you arrived, you have to think about what that means.

At some point, you have to stop blaming the community for not changing for you, and how you wish to speak to people, and instead accept personal responsibility for your actions.