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On Banning Readers

I am sorry for the light posting today.  I honestly just don’t have it in me today.  Some people don’t seem to be happy that I banned a reader.  I’m kind of curious what people think:

Is banning readers something a blog needs to do? Or is it never called for?

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I do promise I’ll tire of my new polling plugin eventually.

46 Responses to “On Banning Readers”

  1. RAH says:

    Banning comments by readers is Ok. The blog has to have some decorum. Banning a reader? Does that mean he can’t access the blog to read? Never heard of that before.

  2. He may be rude, he may be annoying, but if he isn’t trolling, if he is just taking an uncouth and spirited disagreement with you, it is better to let him rant, respond politely, and he will expose himself as he is.

  3. Sebastian says:

    That was my attitude for a long time. One can only take so much.

  4. Sebastian says:

    Banning comments by readers is Ok. The blog has to have some decorum. Banning a reader? Does that mean he can’t access the blog to read? Never heard of that before.

    Right now if he accesses it will redirect him to NRA. If he wants to accuse me of being a mouthpiece, surely he can get his information directly from the source in that instance.

  5. I guess I take a more laid back approach, more of a “OK dude, you’re unhinged, whatever”, but I can understand how someone could get damned annoying after a while.

  6. Joe Huffman says:

    I think I have only deleted one (non-spam) post. I’ve never blocked anyone. But I haven’t had anyone like straightarrow hang around either.

    I probably wouldn’t block them from reading, just block them from commenting. But it’s your sandbox and I don’t find your actions “out of bounds”, just pushing the envelope a little bit.

  7. Dave thA says:

    Its your blog.

    Whatever you says goes.

    I mean you are doing this for fun, heh?

  8. BobG says:

    Your blog, your rules. If someone doesn’t like it, they can start their own blog.

  9. rev214 says:

    don’t even feel guilty…

  10. Sebastian says:

    I agree with “your blog, your rules”, but I’m more interested in the philosophical issue of what “your rules” should be.

  11. My two cents…

    I’m OK with banning folks, as long as it is a last-resort measure. It is your sandbox, but we have to be careful not to fall into a Brady-esque style “Reasoned Discourse”… even between the inter-pro-gun warring factions.

    Personally, what I would have done is first warn him that his conduct is not appropriate (which I assume you did.) Second, do a search-and-replace on foul language… replace naughty words with funny words. Auto-append a note to each of his posts stating that your code is doing this. I figure that is enough to dissuade someone like him from posting things of that nature. If it isn’t then ban them.

    I kinda like your idea of auto-forwarding him to another site. It seems to me that if he isn’t interested in what you have to say, then why is he here? On the other hand, if by running a blog your intention is to provide not only public information and commentary, but a public forum to discuss your thoughts… then banning should be out of the question, except for the most heinous of trolls.

    You might consider making the comment boxes collapse-able and auto-collapse boxes containing profanity, or posted by certain users. That makes it easier for the rest of us to ignore them, but without an actual ban. I don’t know how tweakable wordpess is… I’m sure this could be accomplished pretty easily by someone who has a good understanding of the internal workings of the wordpess code.

  12. Sebastian says:

    The profanity doesn’t bother me, it’s the repeated insulting tone.

  13. Well, if that is your biggest issue, you might want to consider that you are being a little sensitive about it. I don’t mind when people insult me, because I either deserve it, or I can counter it effectively, or more often than not I can ignore it.

    Once again, consider figuring out how to auto-collapse his posts, then just ignore him.

  14. Bitter says:

    Gregory,
    Have you read straightarrow’s posts? I don’t mean the last couple, I mean the scope of them. Honestly, the guy is unhinged.

    I think it’s also important to note that the rant about assuming us to be anti-freedom and then wanting to meet us followed a post in the last few days he put up endorsing the use of violence against anyone he perceives to be “trespassing” him. His definition of trespass seemed pretty damn low from his example with a boss.

    In other words, there’s a long history of this kind of stuff. He said stuff to purposely set people off (bloggers, or mostly other commenters) and then hurls all sorts of personal attacks at them. I’m amazed he waited this long to actually make a veiled threat. I don’t think that waiting for that moment after a very long history of the guy calling Sebastian stupid because he’s young (on his better ranting days) just because they have different perspectives is a situation where Sebastian was being too sensitive.

  15. I have read many of his other posts, on many blogs and forums, and he has also commented on my blog. I also agree with him on a number of issues, and disagree with him on a more than a few. He acts trollish more often than not. Just to make sure I’m being clear: I’m not in any way supporting his insulting words here. (In fact, I’d even go as far as suggesting that he might possibly be JadeGold’s evil twin… but thats another topic.)

    On the other hand, how is he _actually_ hurting anyone? People are free to ignore his posts. If he sets someone off, then it is their fault for taking his bait. Period. Everyone one is responsible for themselves and their own actions, so you cannot blame SA for how others react to him. That’s my personal philosophy… feel free to ignore it.

    As I said before, I don’t hold it against Sebastian that he decided to ban a troll. Every responsible blog owner with a large enough readership does this at some point. However, I worry that banning him just because he is “being mean” isn’t any better than when an anti-gun blog bans/moderates folks for hurting their feelings. I’m not accusing Sebastian of that, but I also haven’t seen anything out of SA that couldn’t have simply been ignored.

  16. Bitter says:

    But where do you draw the line on veiled threats? Or does it have to be explicit like, “I want to hurt you and your girlfriend”?

    I’m just curious because it’s an interesting question of when you let it go too far. I know I’m far more likely to throw someone into moderation for launching personal attacks against other commenters than I am for those doing it against me. However, if I perceive something as a potential threat and think at least a few other reasonable people would as well, then I draw the line. In fact, they don’t even get moderated comments.

  17. IMHO, the only thing that StraightArrow represents a threat to is the unity of the pro-freedom movement espoused on this blog, and Sebastian regularly lays the smack down in that regard. I don’t think most people in this community appreciate his brand of divisiveness.

    SA has simply got an internet-ego (see: http://us.st11.yimg.com/us.st.yimg.com/I/yhst-34640480252896_1988_570855) I bet he’s nothing more than mouse fart in Real Life (pardon that terminology, just trying to keep the mood light…) My point is, I don’t believe veiled or implied “internet threats” are a real cause for concern. I fully and wholeheartedly support your right to disagree with me on that one, because I know I can be a little too “laissez-fair” about things like this. So if you and Sebastian feel he is a real threat, and that is the main reason he was banned, I’m OK with that. However, if you don’t believe he is an actual threat to you, why should his words concern you so much?

    Please keep in mind I don’t intend to cause Sebastian any additional heartburn over this, because I already know he’s not happy about it. I just think it is a worthy conversation to have. If my comments are not appreciated, please feel free to ask me to stop, and I will.

  18. Linoge says:

    First off, I am definitely a member of, “you paid for it, this is your turf, you set the rules.”

    As for what those rules should be… whatever you like! Since webpages such as weblogs are sometimes rather personal constructs, it is up to your own set of mores and ethics to determine what you should tolerate and what you will not. For instance, though I have a penchant for swearing excessively in the spoken word, I not only try to keep it at a minimum on my weblog, but tend not to tolerate that kind of language from commenters – a few instances is ok, but beyond that comes the warning, and the eventual ban if you do not shape up.

    As for the matter of personal attacks being a basis for banning someone… a commenter on a weblog is responsible for his or her own material, yes. However, the owner of the weblog has the whole “guilt by association” problem if he or she allows certain comments / commenting trends to continue. My litmus test is that if the person is still adding something to the debate, most personal attacks can be tolerated. However, if it has just devolved to the point of backbiting and bickering… just be done with it.

    All that said, as I alluded to before, I do believe in giving people the chance to change their behavior (assuming they want to continue commenting on your weblog), by way of dropping them a polite warning. After that… *shrug* Drop the hammer.

  19. Sebastian says:

    I don’t believe he is a real threat, but the fact that he thinks it’s appropriate to threatened the blog host.

  20. Sebastian says:

    I also think the conversation is a worthy one to have, which is why I put up the poll.

  21. Once again, I do not condemn you action in banning him, I’m just playing devil’s advocate. Were this a party, and I had an unruly guest with SA’s nasty demeanor, his rear-end would be on the street before my other guests would have the opportunity to be offended.

    My question is this: does it really matter to you, or anyone else for that matter, what a troll feels is appropriate? If it does, then I’ll still argue that it is your choice, and therefore your fault, that you are upset with what he said. (Read Epictetus sometime to get a hint about where my personal philosophies come from…)

    Oh, and regarding your poll plugin… just a thought here… maybe take a vote on whether or not to kick someone off the island?

  22. Brad says:

    I think that a few things that people have to keep in mind here.
    1) The guy had a history of being humorless, pissy, and just plain weird.
    2) This kind of behavior can drive readers away.

    Sebastian has worked awfully hard at building his readership, and it only take one or two fools, not necessarily trolls, to drive a lot of them away. Don’t expect Snowflakes in Hell to become a place for Reasoned Discourse (TM), but don’t expect him to take his readership lightly either. Like everything else in life, it’s all about finding that correct balance.

  23. Rob K says:

    In all the places I’ve ever read his comments, straightarrow never to me seemed to add anything to any debate. He’s not really informative, he doesn’t ask probing, thought provoking questions, and he doesn’t elaborate effective arguments. When you agree with him, he pats you on the head, and when you disagree he just sorta’ spews “your opinion differs from mine so you’re wrong and part of the problem!” That has been my impression, at least.

  24. Ace says:

    I’ve not run into this sort of thing yet over at my place so I can’t really speak from experience (a few spam comments).

    But I lean toward the “your house, your rules” position. As Gregory pointed out above, had this been a party and SA got unruly, time to hit the road, son.

    As for the philosophical aspect of “your rules,” I think it’s exactly that: they’re your rules. You decide what you will and won’t tolerate on your blog. It may differ from the rules on other blogs. But they’re your rules.

    I’ve encountered similar situations on various forums that I’m on. Belligerent behavior typically gets that user banned.

  25. Alcibiades McZombie says:

    I’m sure he can still use an RSS aggregator, but I don’t know if linked images will load.

    He could go through a TOR proxy in order to comment, though.

    I like Penny Arcade’s original comic better than the shirt:
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19

    (Note to self: Remember not to post comments when my blood sugar level is low…)

  26. David Codrea says:

    Your blog, your rules.

    But then proceeding to to insult a man behind his back and allow others to do the same when he can’t see what’s being said or respond to defend himself is not something to be proud of. He at least had the guts to do everything to your face, against all comers, even though he knew he’d be outnumbered.

    And contrary to what some have said, I’ve found the guy to be not only genuine, but incredibly insightful at distilling articles I’ve linked to down to the core foible or principle.

    The guy started out asking legitimate questions and was ridiculed, and being the type not to suffer fools lightly–because he knows in real life there are consequences to talking to someone that way–he responded as he would in real life.

    Now you can then go ahead and justify it by saying there’s a pattern of conduct from before and this was the final straw–but you know what? You don’t have to. Your blog, your rules. Still, you’re not owning up to what you or others contributed to those prior confrontations either–it’s all bad-old-crazy-must be a troll-threatening Straightarrow’s fault.

    As I said–your blog, your rules. But talking about someone behind their back does not reflect well on you, on your supposed “high road” approach, and on any credibility I’d assign to anyone who wants to publicly diss someone while keeping them from knowing about it or defending themselves. I find nothing admirable or moral in that.

    I told SA I wouldn’t get involved in this because we’re all grown ups and shouldn’t need others to fight our battles for us–but this and many of the preceding post comments on this subject are inexcusable, and every damn one of you participating in the one-sided mudslinging ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

    Every damn one of you.

  27. Peter says:

    Can you tally the number of redirects to the NRA homepage?

    You might qualify for an extra wheelbarrow full of cash.

  28. JNS says:

    David Codrea: I’m not surprised that you find him genuine and insightful, as you basically agree with him. When he disagrees with someone though, he is entirely different. It’s very easy for you to praise him when you’ve not had to put up with him being an utter asshole.

    His questions were not legitimate, and if you’ve paid any attention to his repeated attempts to put down in insulting terms anyone that disagrees with him, you’d know that. You’d also know that he had no interest in actual rational responses when they were given to him, and would ignore them in order to just keep insulting people.

    As for talking about him behind his back, I’m pretty sure I said upfront exactly what I think of him, to him, in no kind words, and a lot of other people expressed their annoyance with him after I did. If you think me telling him to his face that he’s an unintelligent liar is keeping him from knowing about it, and never noticed what an asshole he was on a regular basis, perhaps you have a perception problem.

  29. Sebastian says:

    Sorry David, I’ve tolerated far too many insults and vitriol from him to care about fair play at this point. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so accommodating of it for as long as I was, but often did because he had long periods of being a reasonable, albeit often crotchety commenter. It’s not like there’s things here that folks haven’t said to him before. I had been down this road more than once.

    I did not intend this to be a “beat up on straightarrow behind his back” session, but to see how readers felt about the banishment of another reader, which is a genuine concern I had about having to do something like this.

  30. RAH says:

    Sebastian,

    After reading David’s post I decided to go back through various threads comments to see the back-story. I have to say that from what I saw that straight arrow had justification for getting angry. Now I don’t generally look at comments all that much, so I have not seen a pattern that many of you say is there. But JNS comments toward straight arrow are classified in other blogs as “hitting”.

    Most chat rooms and blogs have a no hitting rule in order to maintain a rational discourse. Once you allow insults from one commenter to another like “You are so dumb” Generally the tone degenerates from there.

    So since you have asked for comments about the banning, I agree that you have the right to ban straight arrow. I do actually agree with some of his positions but don’t see why he could not allow others to have a slightly varied position.

    You might institute a no hitting rule and say that personal insults are not allowed and that comments have to stay on the topic.

    You don’t have a lot of comments unlike Free Republic, which will get hundreds of comments, and people go off topic often. So that may not be as much as an issue.

    This is your blog and you make your own rules. I would not put up with that level of invective. However he was baited on many occasions. It might be better to stop that in the beginning.

    If your blog gets really successful you will have to manage the arguments in the comments like other large blogs.

    Just a mild suggestion so you don’t have to go through this again. On the good side it means you are generating a lot of interest.

  31. BadIdeaGuy says:

    Your blog, your rules. Now I’m going to have to go back and read past comments. I’ve been working too much lately, blogreading too little.

    Can you set it up so that if JadeGold ever comes back, s/he will be redirected to DPMS’s website or something?

  32. Sebastian says:

    I have the technology, but it turns out this method doesn’t work.

  33. Sebastian says:

    err… doesn’t work well. The problem being you get other people on the same subnet.

  34. I think we all agree (even SA would agree) that Sebastian makes the rules here. Most of us have our own blogs if we have something to say, and for those who don’t, it takes about 2 seconds to set one up. The question I was trying to ask isn’t whether or not Sebastian was justified in banning SA, but what his rules should be. We know how he feels about this conduct in particular, but all of us insist on some type of consistency in how rules are defined and implemented (blogs, government, library late-fee policies, etc.) Were I Sebastian, I would write up rules right now on proper conduct, and the consequence for breaking them. I’m sure he feels that banning someone is something he would only reserve for extreme cases (or at least cases he felt to be extreme.)

    On another note, I partially agree with David Codrea… JNS and others have indeed baited SA on numerous occasions, just as SA baits others. The difference is that when the vitriol is aimed at SA, nobody cares, but when it is aimed at Sebastian (or Bitter), suddenly there is a problem. If you want to make the rule “No hitting your host”, that’s fine. But frankly it seems to that SA’s biggest “problem” is his (mostly unfounded, IMHO) no-compromise policy which translates to hatred of the NRA. Since Sebastian happens to be one of the more vocal NRA supporters in the gun-blogosphere, this site becomes a natural target. However, as it has been said, it isn’t his difference of opinion that got him banned, but rather his conduct. I do think it would be worthwhile to ask some other questions such as “If ~kelli~ were making offhanded comments on my blog, would I ban her?” What about Peter Hamm? What about JadeGold… well, never mind, I know the answer to that one… Jade probably holds an internet record for being banned from sites.

    As for “what the rules should be”, I suggested some technical solutions I thought were appropriate. Allow me to suggest one more “less-lethal” solution that would not require any changes to the code: a temporary/probationary ban. Instead of just “you’re out for life”, make it “you’re out for a month”. If he doesn’t come back after the month expires, so be it. If he does, and continues his profane tirades, then make the ban permanent. I know wordpress doesn’t really support doing that automatically, but this doesn’t seem to be a big enough problem at SIH to make case-by-case management a problem.

  35. Sebastian says:

    Jadegold came very close to getting banned, but disappeared before it came to that. As far as probationary bans… I’m not going to treat readers like kids to be punished. If someone crosses the line, that’s going to be it. I kind of feel the same way about rules, but if I can condense something down to a one liner, that could work.

  36. Well, back to the question then… what is “crossing the line”? Personal attacks? You certainly tolerate them with a great deal of patience. How do you define a pattern of abusive behavior? What if another one of your readers is the subject of the attack?

  37. Sebastian says:

    I think the general rule needs to be “don’t be a dick” and if you are a dick, then you’re subject to my whim as to your continued ability to publish here.

  38. David Codrea says:

    JNS, straightarrow has disagreed with me vehemently before, several times. We’ve had an ongoing disagreement, a very fundamental one, for going on two years now. But I never insulted him for it so he never replied in kind.

    What you say to him directly is no concern of mine, nor is Sebastian’s banning him. I thought I stated that clearly, but that seems not to have registered, as you think it is me who has the perception problem.

    What I clearly said is that dissing someone behind their back, which is what has been going on in this and the last post, when they have no way of knowing they are being talked about and no way to defend themselves, is not honorable.

    And Sebastian, you have devoted two posts now to straightarrow since the banishment. If you just wanted to find reader reaction to the concept, that could have been done without mentioning him at all. My vote, since you asked, is you’re the guy who puts the blood , sweat and tears into this, so whatever you want is the way it ought to be, and your readers will react accordingly. That this devolved into what it has was predictable.

    Like I say, your blog, your rules. That’s not why I weighed in. But when I see people ganging up on someone who has no way of fighting back, I will speak my mind and weather the consequences. And I won’t hide behind an alias.

    If anyone is interested in seeing another dimension of straightarrow before judging and writing him off based on what has transpired here, he’s a frequent commenter over at WoG. For what it’s worth, I learn from him all the time.

  39. Sebastian says:

    I’ll admit, I probably shouldn’t have handled it this way, but what’s done is done. I was, and still am, a little pissed off.

  40. Well, my “temporary ban” idea was meant simply as a way to calm down and decide if you are positive you want to do it… but I understand your feelings on that.

    David has a point about talking behind his back… You don’t have to let him talk here, but if people were talking about me on a very public, and relatively high profile blog, I’d want to know about it. You don’t have to let him talk, but you might consider at least letting him respond in his own space. Once again, your prerogative.

    I have to admit, I’ve never really thought much about this entire concept much until now. I don’t allow myself to get flustered and say mean or abusive things, and thus I’ve never been banned myself. The biggest reason is because I blog under my own name, and I know I have to be willing to live up to anything I say. I’ve never had to ban anyone on my blog either (because I also don’t have the volume of traffic that you do.)

  41. JNS says:

    RAH: The problem with the no “hitting” rule is that, taking the analogy further, Straightarrow basically was “spitting” at people. He wasn’t “hitting” them, but on a very consistent basis was purposely baiting them, often in overly polite terms with double meanings, in order to fall back on pretense of innocence. A great example was in his final comments, where he asked a stupid question that anyone over the age of 13 should know the answer to, and even when Bitter gave a response actually explaining it to him and telling him he really should know better, he used it as an opportunity to attack her and claim that he was just asking a simple question. He would set up situations where you couldn’t win; answer his question and he’d just send some more veiled insults at you, don’t answer it and he can defensively claim that he was just asking a question.

    It just so happens most people turned the other cheek to his constant “spitting.” I don’t know about you, but I only let someone “spit” at people, including the host, so many times before I’m going to step in and “hit” him in the face. I will fully admit to “hitting” him, but I also feel it was completely justified, as it was just finally prodding an antagonistic, negative presence into showing his true colors. Some people, Sebastian included, are too gracious for their own good, and sometimes someone with a little less tact needs to kick the asshole in the nuts when everyone else is just turning the other cheek.

  42. JNS – so what exactly did you accomplish by provoking StraightArrow? Instead of having an occasional troll who butts in on conversations just to say “I hate the NRA” and “You guys don’t have pure enough views” (which, looking through his older posts here and elsewhere, that’s a pretty good synopsis of his “spitting”), you escalated an otherwise benign, albeit annoying, situation. If you accuse Sebastian of being too gracious, then I will posit that you are too quick to anger. Sure, there should be a limit to what people put up with, but in my opinion SA generally stays below that level.

    The reason blog comments and internet forums get out of hand is that people refuse to simply ignore people like SA when they are clearly attempting to bait you into an argument.

  43. Sebastian says:

    You’re right about the no feeding of trolls Gregory…. but it’s difficult with a reader who doesn’t completely fit that mold. You’re stuck with a scenario where you don’t want a certain point of view going unchallenged because you worry about people coming in fresh to the blog thinking that is the kind of view that predominates in your forum. So you feel compelled to add some dissension.

  44. That’s a good point… but I personally think you do a great job in the actual posts of making it clear that this is not the home of no-compromise anarchists. This site is a reflection of your views, but I think most people realize that blog comments are not necessarily endorsed by their author. Besides, I don’t think your comments are usually rife with extremist views.

  45. Voolfie says:

    Just like with the scum-waffles who go into schools and malls, I want my 15 minutes of fame…so I’m going to get myself banned from your site…you’re a jerkface poophead! Hurray! I’m famous now! Actually, while this ass clown (A.C.) straightarrow deserves what he’s gotten, you are right to be circumspect about any application of a “ban”.

  46. JNS says:

    Gregory Morris: Basically, I accomplished removing the annoying situation. :)

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