282/365 - Forbiden
Creative Commons License photo credit: EcoVirtual

If you run a search on Google, it’s easy to find people who have been banned from forums. Because they’re talking about it. Many are trying to figure out how to get around the ban or how to change their IP address.

But changing your IP address isn’t the best way to go about it. Not if you really enjoy the forum and want to return. If you are reading this and this describes you, my intent is to help you to get back onto this forum in the best manner possible, if that is what you are after.

I know this sounds crazy and it might not be the most popular answer, but the first step is that you should accept the ban and move on, even if they are being unfair to you. I have been on all sides of this and have been banned myself. Let me explain.

They Banned You

I have been managing online forums for 14 years. I have banned a lot of people. Beyond simple spamming, many of them violated conduct related policies tied to respect, inappropriate content, etc.

If you were to go ask them, chances are, a majority of them would tell you they did nothing wrong. But they all did. All of them earned the ban. They banned themselves.

When someone bans you, you should look at it in a similar manner to if you kicked someone out of your house. I know that analogy doesn’t hold 100%. But even if you leave the door wide open, you can still kick people out of your house. Do you want them sneaking in through the bathroom window? Probably not.

If They Banned You Unfairly

That’s not to say there aren’t bad community managers or forum administrators out there who ban people unfairly. There definitely are.

Years ago, I found myself in a situation where I was banned unfairly. I had been a moderator on a community for a period of time and I had a disagreement with an administrator. I resigned from the staff. I didn’t mention our disagreement publicly or bring any negative attention to them. I quietly went away. They did not ban me.

Then, one day, after being logged out for quite a while, I logged in and found I had been banned. I had not posted for a long time. They had not contacted me. I was very surprised. Furthermore, they used their word censor to change the name of my company to something derogatory. I was amazed by their complete lack of professionalism.

I thought about what I should do, if anything. Should I circumvent the ban and sign up for a new account? No, that would only make me look bad and once they find out, they’ll ban me again and have a good reason (creating multiple accounts). It would be hypocritical on my part. Do I want to make it a public issue by writing about it on my blog? I decided no because they weren’t worth it. “A wise man told me don’t argue with fools, ’cause people from a distance can’t tell who is who,” Jay Z once rapped.

Their community operates in a space where I have some influence, where I have contributed. Banning me is a knock against them and their credibility, far more than it is against me.

Life is Too Short

In either scenario, banned rightfully or unfairly, life is too short to waste on people who don’t want you.

If you were banned rightfully, they don’t want you. If you were banned unfairly, why would you want to go back to them? Because you enjoy the community or have friends there. I understand. But if the people running the show are that bad, it’s not worth your time.

I know that people make connections in online forums and there are people you may miss. Try to contact them directly or find them on another forum. Maintain those individual connections.

I regularly have conversations with members of my community basically telling them that life is too short to stay in a community that doesn’t match your goals. There is a lot of variety in the world. There is a forum that will give you what you need. That’s where you should be spending your time.

Circumventing Bans

Just a quick word on ban circumvention. It’s obviously not hard to do if you know how. But when people do it on my communities, they pay a penalty because they completely lose their status on the community. Not only do they lose their post count, but they have to give up their identity and act like a different person.

The moment they slip up, the moment they share an email address that has a similar username to the one on their banned account, or they post from the same IP, or they mention some sort of identifying information, they are banned again. Not to mention that creating multiple accounts will often make someone look guilty.

When people circumvent the ban, it’s not a huge deal to me. We don’t go on witch hunts or get stressed out by it. But the moment someone slips up – and, trust me, most people do – they’re back to square one.

For these reasons, if you actually want to be unbanned (and you aren’t simply wanting to cause trouble or operate in bad faith), circumventing an IP ban is a waste of time.

If You Really Want to Be Unbanned

If you really want to be back on that forum, there is really only one way to go: contact an administrator, moderator or community manager. There is probably a contact us page or an email address somewhere.

Email them, ask them what happened and express some remorse for anything that occurred. Do not say something like “I was banned for doing nothing wrong. Unban me!” Chances are, you did something, even if it seems benign to you. The question is: what? Find out and try to see it from their perspective.

If you want to be back, apologize and pledge to improve. Be sincere. If they say no, you can always ask again in the future.

If the reason they banned you doesn’t sit well with you and you feel it is unfair, thank them for letting you know and go on your way. Again, you shouldn’t want to be around people who treat you unfairly.

I hope this helps. Best of luck.