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ISN Guide to Forum Banning


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#1 Shelley Ensz

Shelley Ensz

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 10:46 AM

Here are some tips about banning, what it is, why it occurs, how to avoid it, and what to do next.

First of all, we seldom ban anyone without discussion between the administrators nor without considering ways to avoid it. It's not an easy decision to make. We know how much our forum means to people. We're not just staff, we're members as well and all of us are dealing with illness. It means a lot to us, too, so we don't deactivate posting privileges willy-nilly.

It is very rare (almost unheard of) for well-established forum members to be banned. We also never make decisions based on personalities or whether we like or dislike a member. Our decisions are based only on forum policies and guidelines.

Banning means that we have, somehow, permanently lost the privilege to post messages in this forum, and that, more than likely, all of our prior messages and topics have been erased from the forum database.

Most of the time, we can avoid being banned by reading and following all the guidelines. Which is sometimes easier said than done. We can keep our posts honest and helpful, and preferably not hysterical or displaying possible symptoms of mental illness. There are millions of people who like to just "play games" with online forums. Sometimes their art is elevated to the level of "forum trolls" and sometimes they are just troll-wannabes. (See What are Internet Trolls?)

We have a fairly well-developed radar for inconsistencies, gross exaggerations, and such. We carefully consider whether or not posting privileges should be continued, or not, in light of the guidelines.

So, let's say we messed up <sigh>, which could even happen to the very best of us, and we managed to get ourselves banned. What happens then?

What happens is, there will be no warning at all. One minute we'll be merrily posting, but the next time we log in, we will get Error Message #1000: You are not authorized.

But we shouldn't panic, yet. This might mean we entered our username or password wrong. Or it might not. Have we really read the guidelines? Were we dishonest (and thus possibly inconsistent) in any of our messages (such as, saying we have a broken leg one day and then saying we danced all night, the next?) Are we a forum troll? Were we over-the-top emotional, or ranting on about something? Well, if so, there's a clue as to the possible reason for loss of posting privileges.

If not, we can inquire with one (count 'em, ONE) message sent to "forums@sclero.org", reporting that we are receiving Error Message #1000 and asking if it is correct or if there was a database error. Rest assured, we have made database errors! Once we banned all AOL members by accident. Someone could have easily been banned with an IP address similar to ours, which knocked out our posting rights, as well.

We will investigate and reply to banning reports in a reasonable time frame. If it is found to have been a valid ban, we will issue a brief (and unfortunately, stern) email to the effect that posting privileges have been discontinued. It will NOT mention the reason for the ban. It will also give a Legal Notice not to contact any forum administrator or members, period. This means, that the recipient should not reply to that email, in any way shape or form. It does NOT mean that forum admins or members don't like or care about us, and it is NOT an ordeal so serious that we need to have a panic attack, call an ambulance, or threaten revenge, suicide or lawsuits in return.

Most unfortunately, forum admins are not allowed to explain banning decisions at all, because of the rare but really weird psycho-stalker-crazy people. Those sort don't take kindly to any sort of rules or consequences, and no explanation is ever sufficient or understandable for them. We're positive that you'd be happy and truly even welcome a reasonable explanation...but those really weird psycho-stalker-crazy types refuse to take anything for an answer!

Anyway, someone who is banned isn't allowed to post messages in Sclero Forums anymore, but they are not totally without information or support, either. We still heartily encourage everyone to read the forum messages as well as all the information available on our whole main www.sclero.org website. And luckily, there are thousands of other online support groups for all sorts of arthritis, undiagnosed, or chronic illnesses.

Can banned members try to re-join the forum? It's possible to reapply with a different computer, ISP, username, and email address. But we also track favorite topics, spellings, expressions and general attitudes of those who were banned, for security purposes, and as soon as we identify a previously banned member, our policies force us to ban the user again, only because banning decisions are permanent. So our banned posters would be a zillion times better off on another forum, one with fewer restrictions, perhaps an unmoderated one.

In fact, due to this tracking, it IS possible for us to ban an innocent bystander who accidentally emulated one of our old banned users by using similar spelling, favorite topics, similar username or IP address (for example.) Sadly, the trolls have ruined it so that we can't even discuss it enough to figure it out, as the whole time, we might be dealing with another time-wasting troll who is gleefully draining resources from our nonprofit agency. We are supremely sorry if that is what has happened in your case.

In all, we do our best to make and keep this a stellar support forum, which we can all be proud of. We are sorry for whatever happened to instigate a banning, but please remember we are only one in a zillion support forums, not the be-all and end-all of support venues. And that just because our policies prevent us from discussing some matters with people who have lost posting privileges, doesn't mean we don't care about them, or that we don't want to explain it.

We can all try to avoid this awful predicament in the first place, by reading and following the forum guidelines. We can be honest in our posts, so that we don't accidentally contradict ourselves. We don't need to exaggerate because everyone already knows how bad scleroderma can be. And if by some awful chance we do lose posting privileges here, we should keep in mind that worse things have happened in the history of the universe and that many other support venues are still available for us.
Warm Hugs,

Shelley Ensz
Founder and President
International Scleroderma Network (ISN)
Hotline and Donations: 1-800-564-7099

The most important thing in the world to know about scleroderma is sclero.org.