I’ve never really liked temporary bans. When I ban someone, it means something. It’s not easy to be banned. My philosophy is that, as long as someone appears to be trying to follow our guidelines, we shouldn’t ban them.

That’s why I don’t like infraction systems and have never used them. Though I understand they are an invention of scale, if at all possible, access to a community shouldn’t be decided by an accumulation of points.

When it comes to being banned or not, it’s the member that really makes the choice. We just push a button.

For this reason, when I ban someone, they are almost always banned forever (for the life of the community). But there are cases where I have unbanned members. It only happens when the banned member contacts me and makes it clear that they understand that what they did previously was not acceptable. I don’t want them to beg to come back or anything silly like that – I just need them to accept responsibility for their actions, understand they were wrong and express that they want to come back and participate in the community in a respectful way.

There are other factors, as well. Specifically, what they did that earned them the ban and how long it has been since the ban occurred. I would say that almost all bans are reversible with enough time, change and personal accountability from the banned member.

An Email from an Old Member

At the start of June, I received an email from someone I had banned more than 7 and a half years ago. I recognized the username immediately as they were once among the most active members within the community. He was emailing to let me know that he had signed up for a new account but, before using it, he wanted to make sure it was alright with me. If it wasn’t, he wouldn’t use it.

Creating additional accounts doesn’t change the fact you are banned, but I appreciated that he had asked if it was OK before using the account. This demonstrated respect for the community which, looking back on why he was banned, is what led to him losing access in the first place.

I reviewed the documentation for the member and, like many who are banned, it was due to continual, repetitive violations of our guidelines. This was coupled with some condescending remarks toward staff, ending finally in a disrespectful message sent to a staff member, which is something I don’t have much toleration for.

But there was nothing there that you couldn’t come back from and the fact that he had contacted me, in a respectful manner, demonstrated that the passage of time may have helped matters. I responded, informing him that a new account wouldn’t be permitted, but explaining why he was banned (in his message to me, he said he had forgotten why). I ended with:

“That said, it was 7 and a half years ago and bans don’t have to be permanent. I guess the question is, what has changed between then and now? Our moderation is the same, our guidelines are applied the same. If the same type of posts are made again, it’ll just bring about the same result. Thoughts?”

Welcome Back

He responded and took responsibility for what he did, apologized for what he had said to my staff member and indicated that, if he came back, he would contribute in a more respectful manner. That was really all I wanted to hear. I unbanned him and we happily welcomed him back to the community. I’m confident he will once again be a great member.

Most of the messages you receive from banned members, after you have banned them, won’t be worth responding to. Documenting, yes. Responding to, no. But I think you have to be open to conversations with members who have seen the light. I enjoy a good redemption story.