I have mixed feelings on the issue of banning users. On one hand, I don’t like to censor. Period. On the other hand, why should someone be allowed to drag down an otherwise healthy learning environment?
When I first “threatened” Ted with banning today after he hinted at violence and called Jason some childish names, I had to ask myself over and over “what constitutes a good reason for banning someone from such an otherwise open-to-conflict forum?” And I decided that petty and obviously personal name-calling really has nothing to do with the spirit of this forum. I thought “this behavior is just destructive when everything else on this forum–conflicts included–feels constructive.” So I decided to wave my ban stick around.
It seemed to have an effect for a while. Ted stopped being as petty in his argument style while still expressing his feelings–negative and otherwise. “Great,” I thought. “It’s just like animals. A little bit of posturing goes a long way to preventing the extreme by merely pointing out the extreme.”
Then Scout and I discussed our feelings about banning via email and telephone, deciding that we could explore other options like the conflict continuum Scout posted. But that the ultimate extreme of someone threatening someone else via the forum should be considered immediate grounds for banning. When we discussed this, I don’t think either of us expected it to come to that. Ironically, it was probably happening on the forum at that very moment that Ted was making serious threats.
It really hurt and pissed me off. I felt like I had extended a lot of latitude to Ted to share his sentiments, express his anger, continue the conflict–in a constructive manner. But he took it back to pettyness and then escalated into outright threats. I gave him a lot of opportunities to rise above his personal vendetta against Jason, but he spurned the opportunities.
I don’t feel bad for banning Ted. I do feel bad that the situation escalated so quickly–that we really didn’t have much time to discuss anything before it turned super ugly and reached what Scout and I had discussed as the worst possible extreme (threatening to physically harm someone).
So I propose a modified conflict continuum:
- Self-policing (don’t insult others)
- Report insults to moderators.
- Publicly ask for conflict to end. (no more posts)
- Lock thread
- Ignore any posts by abuser.
- Temporary Exile (ban user for a set period of time [3 days? 5 days? 7 days?]) and allow the community the opportunity to discuss the merits of the ban.
- Permanent Exile (ban user, email, IP indefinitely)–again, allowing the community do discuss the merits of the ban.
I don’t like that the admin option falls into a few hands–namely that my hands are among the few–who can possibly make rash decisions that affect the cohesiveness of the community. So I guess I want to temper that aspect by stating that I welcome any discussion and criticism from the community concerning my actions as a moderator and administrator. I hope that Willem and Scout and anyone else who might come into the position feel the same way.
I try to act with the community’s interests at heart whenever I have to take action like this. I think Willem’s last post expresses the sentiment very well. Which is why I like the option of a temporary ban that allows the community to respond to the situation and then to re-welcome the banee should the conflict pass. Now, the question remains: how long should a temporary ban last?