When I talked about how I don’t tell people to “grow a thick skin” and “ignore the trolls,” Regina Buenaobra left a great comment.

“You can’t effectively manage a community or ask your members to report problem users if you also tell them to ignore trolls,” she wrote. “Sure, advise members not to antagonize problem users themselves, but they definitely should not ignore troll comments – they need to be brought to the community manager’s attention. It takes collective effort to ensure a safe and friendly community environment, and ignoring trolls is not a great way to cultivate that environment.”

This is a fantastic point. “Ignore the trolls” is kind of like saying that trolls must have a place on your community. They are inevitable, they will have their space, so please just stay away from them. But that’s not how it has to be. It reminds me of a general policy that we have on the communities that I manage. I refer to it as “report, don’t respond.”

Report, Don’t Respond

I don’t want my members to respond to violations of our guidelines, especially when the person they are responding to is being vulgar, inflammatory, disrespectful – or worse. They can’t ignore it because they’ll have already seen it. What I want them to do is to not respond to it.

When members respond to guideline violations – no matter what they are, from the harmless to the scum of the earth – they often make the situation worse. If it’s spam, you bring more attention to the spam. If it’s an inflammatory comment, you bring more attention to the comment. If it’s a troll, you encourage them to troll further. And then you have the fact that many members will respond to a violation with another violation, furthering the downward spiral.

However, if a member sees a bad comment and takes the time to respond to it, that also means they have the time to report it. Reporting it helps a staff member to see it faster, which means that any problem issues are taken care of faster.

Encouraging Members to Help, Not Hurt

For this reason, if a member of the community responds to an obvious violation of our guidelines (usually blatant spam or a  clearly disrespectful comment), we’ll send them a short message just to let them know that we removed their post because they responded to a violation. We ask them to please report these violations in the future. It looks a little something like this (including BBCode):


Thank you for visiting KarateForums.com.

Unfortunately, I have had to remove your post quoted below as it was in response to a post that had to be removed as it violated our [url=http://www.karateforums.com/userguidelines.html]User Guidelines[/url].


In the future, if you feel a post may be against our User Guidelines or may otherwise require some sort of attention, you should always report a potential violation by clicking on the exclamation point button ([img]http://www.karateforums.com/templates/subSilver/images/report.gif[/img]) next to the appropriate post. After you have done so, forget that the post exists (do not reply to it further, even to say that you have reported it). We will then handle it appropriately.

We appreciate when members inform us of violations to our User Guidelines, rather than responding to them and making the situation worse.

Thank you for your time and cooperation.



Setting Standards

This serves an additional purpose, as well. When people see a post that is currently in public, they will often assume the content of that post is OK, since we haven’t removed it. Even though that is a bit misguided. But when we let them know to report those types of comments, they get a clear message the post was a violation.

I believe that these efforts are worthwhile and help set the tone for your community. Your members can be a great resource to help you protect the great environment that you all contribute to and enjoy. If you invest in them by explaining these issues, they’ll invest in you by trusting you to deal with these issues.