Credit: mario) (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: mario) (CC BY 2.0)

A few months ago, there was a conversation on one of my communities where members were talking about other forums that they participate in. This is a natural thing, and it crops up every so often.

Rather than being afraid that members will leave for these other communities, I embrace these types of discussions because I believe in the atmosphere we’re creating. I’m secure in what we are and don’t feel the need to block other forums from being mentioned, simply because we both focus on the same topic. It’s not my job to monopolize the time of our community members.

That said, one of the tools that I have in my arsenal is the ability to block specific websites from being mentioned. We use our word censor in a proactive way, and it covers URLs. This has come in handy time and time again. I’m very judicious how I use it – mostly, it’s utilized to stop persistent spammers.

A Site Blocked Long Ago

Back to the thread about other forums, I noticed that some members had mentioned an abbreviation for a particular community (we’ll refer to them as CommunityX) that has been blocked from being mentioned for 12 years or so. Normally, we would remove the posts mentioning the site. However, as I thought about it, I decided it was time to lift the ban.

The story, of how CommunityX came to be blocked, has a lot to do with a former moderator, who was once a great member. Let’s call that moderator Hank. Unfortunately, at some point, Hank began to treat members poorly. I tried to guide him back to being a productive moderator, but he became offended and resigned. Almost immediately, he wanted to come back, and I decided that was not for the best.

Hank didn’t like that, and he said a lot of nasty things to me. However, once he left our team, he began to take it out on members of my staff, which is something I don’t tolerate. He would post in public, criticizing the moderators in a silly, immature way.

Eventually, after so many chances (really, a crazy amount and probably more than I would give someone today), I banned him. My moderators at the time were happy that I finally did so. They had wanted it to be done earlier, but I resisted because I wanted to give this once great member every opportunity to maintain his place in the community.

Hank joined CommunityX. He started emailing members of my community, telling them to visit CommunityX and feeding them a story about how badly I had mistreated him, which led to more abuse directed my way, from those that believed him. Over at CommunityX, he posted really nasty, personal things that he made up about me and even my family. It was pretty cruel. As I recall, I had to ban a handful of members over it. He even tried to recruit one of my moderators, who was offended that he would even try.

Meanwhile, the leadership at CommunityX was, for the most part, pretty happy to have new members thanks to these tactics and other spamming. They were very small at the time, and it gave them a substantial boost.

Due to this, I blocked them from being mentioned on my community, to at least cut off our forums as a promotional avenue. Members from CommunityX were recruiting people with spam and the leadership at that time just didn’t care. As such, I put a stop to it by blocking their URL.

What Has Changed

Flash forward to now, 12 years later, as I am reading the thread about other forums.

This whole situation is one that none of my current staff members even know anything about. That’s a good thing. We put it behind us and continued to build a great community. Clearing those people out was for the better. Furthermore, when I look at the staff list on CommunityX, all of the members who were involved – even the administrator – are no longer there. Most of them, if not all, probably have no recollection or first hand knowledge of what the people before them did to our community.

CommunityX may have a suspect past. It may be partially built off of the back of our community (and probably others). But the people that wanted to harm us have seemingly all moved on. It’s ancient history at this point.

I thought about the posts on that thread that mentioned CommunityX, and I didn’t really want to remove them for a simple reason: it no longer served our purposes. As such, I unblocked the link and brought the story to a close.