You probably looked at that and thought “is he crazy? Banning is half the fun.” While I agree that sometimes banning can seem like the only job you’re doing as a forum administrator, there are better alternatives to it. This article is about those alternatives, and when they are more appropriate than a ban.
There are some very valid reasons to ban people on forums, but most reasons people receive permanent bans are unnecessary and could be avoided very easily. People like trolls and pot stirrers can be dealt with in a better way than being permanently banned. If you’re patient enough, they can possibly be reformed into productive members of your community. It’s highly unlikely that the majority of trolls can change their ways and become productive members, but the very thought of a productive member can make a good admin go the extra mile.
These rules don’t really apply to spam bots. Those should be banned after their first message to make sure they do not flood your forum with spam. It’s impossible to reform a piece of software into becoming a productive member of your community. A good rule with banning is, if your member can’t contribute anything positive to your community, they should be banned.
Moderator approval/queue is my favorite alternative. Whenever you add a member to moderator queue, they can’t post until a staff member has approved their posts. This is a great reform action. The member you have now put on moderator queue knows that he/she must have moderator approval to post. They will learn rather quickly that they can’t get away with breaking the rules of your forum any more. This helps set good habits for your troublesome member to get use to. The idea with setting good habits is that the troublesome member will remember exactly what the rules of the forum are. Then, if they can remember the correct rules of the forum, and they know that your staff will enforce the rules, their behavior will start to trend in the positive direction. I’ve figured out that after a troublesome member has been on moderator queue for a short while they will learn that they can no longer get away with breaking the rules.
The unfortunate side effect to using something like moderator queue is it will infuriate the member. If you suspect this member is just here to troll, this will likely drive your member away for good. You’re probably asking, “why is this better than banning?” Using a resource like moderator queue will benefit you later on because if the member decides to come back and be a productive member of your community again (or even for the first time), they will still have the option to come back and be able to post immediately. If you just use the ban hammer, they’re banned forever. Most forums don’t have a ban appeal system that very good at all. Even if your forum receives a good number of ban appeals, appealing a ban is a hassle for both the member and your ban appeal team. If you just use moderator queue, all that has to happen is for the member to submit the post, then a staff member approve the post. Then, if the troublesome member decides to come back later on down the line, they’ll be able to post immediately. If you were to use the ban hammer, they’d have to go through the hassle of a ban appeal.
Suspensions are also a good option. If you’re not familiar with the suspension option, they’re like a ban. However, they’re not a true ban. The member will be automatically unbanned after a set amount of time. The member being suspended should be included into the banned user group until their ban has expired. Generally, suspensions go in weeks. The more severe the offense, the longer the suspension is. When you give a member a suspension, it gives your member a good, solid “cool down period” where the member can decide if they truly want to be a part of your community. I generally put a previously suspended member directly on moderator queue after they’ve been unbanned. That will show if your member has actually put any effort towards becoming a valuable, rule abiding member who wants to be valuable part of your community. Suspensions save you valuable time as a forum admin. Whenever you suspend someone, you place a set amount of time for the member to be banned. Whenever you permanently ban a member, you have to spend the time to unban the member.
To conclude: there are better options to banning a member. Especially if the member has contributed something positive to your forum. Things like suspensions and moderator queue are better alternatives, whenever possible. Unfortunately, some people do not actually learn their lesson, even if you give them multiple chances to get their act together. Banning is still a tool that should be used, but should rarely, if ever be used on real people.