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The Banhammer and You: A User's Guide to the Forums

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The Banhammer and You: A User's Guide to the Forums

Introduction

Taking your first steps into a new forum community, like any real life community, is a tough one. You don't know what to do, what to think and who to model yourself as in the eyes of others, but you do know that first impressions will influence the way people judge you later on in the life of your pseudonym. The amount of enjoyment you receive here is dependent on many factors of your environment, including people's opinion of you.

However, one of the many factors that people appear to forget is The Escapist's moderation system, the Mr. Fixits that clean up our society, making this forum a great place to waste spend your time in. The mods set the example that we, the community, follow; a thankless job that requires dedication and discipline at all times. Most of our moderators consist of the staff, who can be found easily by golden letters on their name, but the main ones of note are our voluntary 'Red Guards', the users:

  • Scde2
  • NewClassic
  • Caliostro
  • maddawg IAJI
  • sky14kemea
  • Marter
  • TimeLord
  • DigitalSushi
  • Eleuthera
  • TopazFusion
  • EscapeGoat
  • These people keep the hamsters running and as such, their word is law.

    Just as important as the moderators are the Forum Guidelines, the rules as to which this community is founded upon. Take them into consideration, and you will not regret it.

    However, the guidelines are rather vague, and don't precisely outline the general rules or reasons why one would receive a ban. That is why I created this thread; to show, from an observer's perspective, what to do in a post/thread and, more importantly, what not to do in a post/thread.

    In this piece, I will be discussing the many forms of moderator wrath that one will encounter, as well as why people receive them. I will also discuss what should (and shouldn't) consist a thread, and why certain ones become locked.

    Firstly, I will explain the lowest form of moderator wrath:

    Warnings: Tier 4

    Warnings are not a form of Moderator Wrath, as such, but a warning that is placed on your user record for further reference, should you break said rule you were warned about again. This can happen on the thread in which you have posted on, or via PM - be advised that these are generally given if the crime was not intentional, or merely an obvious mistake (in judgement or otherwise) made by the user.

    Be reminded that, if you've been around long enough (or, conversely, if your post count is significant enough to prove you've been around the Forums), you may not receive a warning as you should already know what to do and what not to do (and be assumed to have read the Guidelines, linked to at the bottom of this post.

    Also remember that once you have received a warning, the Mods will not be so merciful on your next offense.

    Probations: Tier 3

    Probations are the lowest form of moderator wrath. They do not hinder your posting ability whatsoever, but merely serve as a warning to a user not to repeat a particular offence.

    Due to the revised Moderation system, Probations no longer appear under the users name. It will also only be removed after 6 months with no further infractions.

    Here are some of the main reasons why people receive probations:

  • 'Report and Move On' - Underneath every users' avatars on their posts, a red 'report' button resides. Click on the button if you believe the post to be demeaning, rude, stupid or an advertisement. However, some people do not report, but persist in messing up the community by posing (mostly) equally stupid replies instead.
  • Flaming: Sometimes an argument can become heated enough to bring one or both sides of the argument to breaking point. It is expected of all users not to contribute to (let alone start) flame wars, and so anyone who decides to take things to such a level will receive a warning in order to prevent them from making such a mistake as well. You can tell when a flame war is about to begin by keeping an eye out for personal comments or unrelated arguments to support their opinions. Use of caps lock is also a widely known indicator.
  • Offensive Comments (Tier 3): Did you just make a racist/sexist remark or post something that may offend someone, even if it wasn't intended towards the rest of the community? Well, you might be in the running to receive one Grade A probation, courtesy of our friends the Mods! Seriously, if you know it might hurt someone's feelings, then don't post it. Probations are mostly given to those who laugh at another's tasteless or derogatory jokes, and a taboo rule on The Escapist is not to feed the trolls, let alone egg them on.
  • Pointlessness: Did you post just to say something stupid, such as 'FIRST' or an internet meme with no relevance? Maybe just posting to up your post count (and, by default, your inflated ego)? Well, we don't like that. Forums are all about discussion, and non-contributions such as these are not liked here.
  • BB Code Abuse: Sometimes people like to post pictures to express their feelings on a certain subject (most of the time being 'Fail' pictures, 'In Before The Lock' gifs and lolcats) without contributing a single word to the discussion. Sometimes people get angry and start using caps lock without remorse. Sometimes people stage rickroll links on other members of the forums. BB Code is a useful tool, used to help people express themselves easier without needing to explain themselves; it is not a tool that you should abuse at the public's expense. It is strongly advised that when quoting a person who has posted a picture, replace the picture with the word 'snip' so that it doesn't clutter up the page. Sometimes people tend to quote peoples' pictures with other pictures, starting a chain of eyesores. The moderators will warn you not to do this, but will ready their maces if the problem has already come to a point of no return. Thankfully, BB Code Abuse happens rarely.
  • Suspensions: Tier 2

    Suspensions are the next level of moderator wrath, a politically correct term essentially meaning 'You've been banned, but only for a while'. This essentially means that the user will be unable to post on the forums for the alloted amount of time given.

    'SUSPENDED' appears underneath the username, and;

    'User was suspended for: X. (Y Days)' appears on the bottom of every post that the user made.

    An example of a suspended post can be found here.

    Here are the most common suspension times that people receive:

    (3 Days)
    (7 Days)
    (14 Days)
    (30 Days)

    As with Probations, sometimes the Y value can be filled with an obscure number. However, these are uncommon.

    Here are some of the main reasons why people receive suspensions (disregarding topics for probations, which also apply):

  • Repeated Offences: One may notice that the more times they get probations/suspensions for a similar/the same reason as an earlier time, the number Y increases. This is due to the perpetrator not taking the hint the first time, and the Moderators have decided to step the punishment up a notch.
  • Offensive Comments (Tier 2): When an offensive comment is so bad that a mere probation won't suffice. Applies to the 'Repeated Offenses' Category.
  • Multiple Accounts: Some people like to troll. Most trolls like to get away with it, even if the banhammer has struck. The staff have their ways of finding people who have created a second account for this very purpose, and if the offense is repeated once too often then a Ban is in order.
  • Bans: Tier 1

    Chances are that if you have received one of these, you won't be reading this. Bans are the moderator's last resort, a way to eliminate a user's foul activity on the forum for good, by going so far as to ban the very IP where the user came from (and thus preventing them from creating a new account). Better known as the Perma-Ban.

    An example of a ban can be found here.

    Here is what a ban looks like:

    'BANNED' appears underneath the username, and;

    'User was banned for: X. (Permanent)' appears on the bottom of every post that the user makes.

    For bans, Y comes in only one flavour: (Permanent).

    Few people receive bans, but they are mainly given to people for these reasons:

  • Spambots: Annoying little programs that are designed to advertise to forum communities by posting in threads, much like our own. Some are obvious, creating a new thread to advertise, and get banned quickly. Others, however, are more insidious; posting innocent-seeming posts in random threads to escape moderator attention and trick users into clicking the links. However, most of them are still obvious spambots anyway, so if you see unusual activity by a particular user (one that necroes long-dead threads and says similar things in every post), then the 'Report' button is your friend.
  • Offensive Comments (Tier 1): Used scarcely when a user is dumb enough to say something so rude, so awful, so derogatory that the moderators decide that they are of no benefit to the community. This kind of ban has been known to have been used when users threaten the users, moderators or staff, mostly by PM, but sometimes by thread.
  • Repeated Offences: Karma Houdinis, as any TV Troper out there knows, exist plentifully in the world, and The Escapist is not exempt. Some users only cause light offences, but regularly enough to build a rather substantial ban record. Eventually, someone has to say they've had enough. These people never learn and are a cancer on our beloved site; they will receive a ban once the moderators have concluded so.
  • Locked/Deleted Threads

    This kind of moderation is probably the most common on the forums, but has no effect on the user themselves (unless coupled with a probation/suspension/ban). What it does is prevent a thread from being replied to, thus letting it sink down through the pages to a point of obscurity.

    There are two kinds of locks out there:

  • The normal lock, as described above; or
  • Thread/Post deletion, used to eliminate posts or threads that would be better off not seeing the light of day.
  • Here are some thread categories that are sure to receive a lock:

  • Vs. Threads: Who would win in a fight: A or B? Which is better: X or Y? These are dull, repetitive, and are surefire ways to start a flame war. All three things that The Escapist does not wish to be recognised as.
  • Advertisement Threads: Maybe a spambot has left its dung on the sidewalk for the mods to clean up, or a user just wants to show off his new site. Either way, it's an unwelcome advertisement and will be locked.
  • Pointless Threads: When someone makes a thread with little way for discussion or little substance whatsoever, it gets locked. The forums are, after all, discussion boards.
  • Trolling:When someone creates a thread just to be a dick. Attempts to start flame wars for the OP's* amusement are a likely cause for a thread like this to appear. Needless to say, it will be locked.
  • One Word Threads: Some people seem to conclude that a title is merely enough. Why are you posting the thread? How does it apply to you? Add a little bit of substance before you hit Post.
  • Misleading Thread Titles: I really shouldn't need to say this, but unfortunately some users don't get it. When you create a thread, give the title an actual relevance to the topic at hand. Give it a catchy, memorable and attractive title, by all means but don't use something controversial and unrelated to draw in the pageviews. An example would be to have a thread about relationships with 'I Hate [INSERT ETHNIC MINORITY HERE]' for a title. Please also note that frequent abuse can result in a Probation/Suspension.
  • Here are some threads that may or may not be locked, depending on the circumstance:

  • Controversial Threads: Controversy attracts attention. Attention means more posts. More posts mean more badges. This simple formula is devised by several people to make yet another thread about religion, sexism, homosexuality or events of the time (such as Swine Flu). These are intended to make people argue their way to a better post count but not necessarily to create a flame war, so some make it past the bar.
  • Repeat Threads: I'm sure that many users (particularly the newer ones) are sick of the term 'use the Search Button' being flung around on their new thread. Well, there's a good reason for that: your thread isn't the first of its kind, and it certainly won't be the last. On these forums, it is unspoken law that Thread Necroing > Repeat Threads, but many new users don't know that and put up whatever was in the back of their heads. Some repeat threads do get past the bar, however, but my advice would still be to search for a thread resembling your idea first (between you and me, use Google; the Escapist's search feature is renowned for not being as great as it should be).
  • Badges and Bannings

    Of the many badges you can receive, three of them are dependent on how your actions have reflected on the community:

    image
    Notable Poster: Known to many as 'Trinity' for obvious reasons, this badge requires that you make 100 posts without incurring any moderator wrath (whether it be Tier 1, 2 or 3), but the badge may only be granted 2 weeks after you join.

    image
    Epic Poster: Known to many as 'Morpheus' for obvious reasons, this badge requires that you must make 1000 posts without incurring moderator wrath. This badge will only be available 2 months after you join.

    image
    Real Ultimate Poster: Known to many as 'Neo' for obvious reasons, this badge requires that you must make 5000 posts without incurring moderator wrath. This badge will only be available to you 6 months after you join; it is an absurdly hard badge to get, and very few people on The Escapist have acquired it to my knowledge.

    Please note that once you receive any form of moderator wrath, then these badges will be unavailable to you. Harsh, but fair.

    Also note that having a thread of yours locked does not result in your inability to receive the badges.

    Trolling

    Trolling And How To Deal With It:

    'Trolling' and how to deal with it

    What is a troll?
    Troll is a derogatory term used to describe a poster with intent to offend, whether it be by posting offensive images, starting flame wars with other users, or just insulting another user.

    Needless to say we don't need them tarnishing our pretty little forum, so how would we go about dealing with these unsavoury characters? The fool-proof way is to just ignore the troll.

    How will ignoring the problem work?
    To answer this we must first explain the term 'Feeding the Troll'.

    What's 'Feeding the troll'?
    This is a term used on the internet to describe the action of responding to a troll. Remember that a troll only gets his/her kicks by getting a reaction out of you, so by reacting you are effectively feeding the troll. By doing this you are just causing more problems by giving it a chance to continue trolling.

    So what's the advantage of not responding?
    Think of the troll as a fire. A fire needs oxygen to burn as a troll needs someone to offend. By ignoring the problem, you effectively deprived the troll of oxygen. After all, who's he going to troll if there's no one to troll?

    I see, but apart from ignoring the troll, what else do we do?
    Well the most important thing to do is not to post anything and I can't emphasise this enough. The next step would be to use your friend the report button and/or contact a moderator.

    Report button? How does it work?
    If the offending post is reported twice (That is, the report button has been clicked twice.) the offending post is sent to a queue known as the 'mod queue'.The more reports it gets the higher up the queue it goes and the moderators will pick it out and hand out the deserved wrath.

    Also, how do I contact the moderators?
    You can send them a private message either in the forums or through IRC.

    So are there any pre-emptive measures I can take?
    Sadly when it comes to trolls, there really isn't anything we can do apart from deal with the problem as fast as possible and not add to the problem.

    That's all there is to know about the elusive troll species, when you do see a troll I'm sure you'll be able to make the right decision following this guide. Once again, please do not post as it just makes the problem worse and some people have reacted in very silly ways to trolls and have been punished themselves. Surely you don't want to lose the chance of a shiny 'Neo' badge because of a troll do you?

    This section is courtesy of Sevre90210 and Higurashi

    Other Stuff

    If, by any chance, you receive a ban, you shall receive a 'Forum Ban Notice' via PM. Inside, it will contain the details of which post was moderated, why and what will happen to your account as a result of the moderator action. Remember that you may appeal to the moderators, but your sentence will likely be raised should you have an irrational tantrum in their presence.

    If you have any qualms about the topic of moderation, contact Red Guards such as wilsonscrazybed, nilcypher and Alex_P for answers and resolutions.

    Con-clue-shon

    In the end, the moderators are the people that keep the Escapist a great place to be. Don't make their lives harder by causing trouble; embrace the community for what it is (freaking utopia), contribute and participate. We aren't a totalitarian empire, we're a friendly message board devoted to the gaming industry.

    Moderator Edit: This is not the official rules, but it a damn fine user point of view look and guide to the rules (which can be found here).

    User was banned for this post.

    How very helpful of you.
    If you are so inclined, you should contact Inverse_Skies to have him put this in his thread of threads.

    Pretty interesting, but the actual "User was banned for" is made using [small][/small] tags,
    i.e. User was banned for this post.

    Very interesting and helpful, so well done :) I found this very useful to be honest :D

    Very nice,hopefully this will stop the threads about how tough the moderators are.

    This is correct in everything but I would disagree on the Necro thread > Repeat thread, in any case I would say new users should be refered to this.

    Thanks for the info, this will save lives. Or accounts atleast.

    Very helpful, thanks!

    Huh. I came in here expecting to get some use out of the shiny red button, but you foiled me! Oh well, I'm sure I'll find a time to use it eventually.

    Anyway, this wasn't really news to me, but it's still nice to see it all there in writing. Thanks for taking to time to craft such an in-depth post on the subject. Hopefully this will put an end to the recent wave of "banhammer" threads.

    This wasn't helpful at all
    User was banned for this post.

    Oh noes! D:

    So far the only moderator wrath I have ever incurred was a locked thread.

    This information was helpful.

    This will help give trolls and troublemakers new goals to reach. New lines to dance around. Maybe even force them to be more creative with thier drollings. We'll just have to wait and see.

    Hah, an enjoyable read even after all the time I've been here!
    This should hopefully save someone's account one day. Good work.

    neuromasser:
    This wasn't helpful at all
    User was banned for this post.

    Oh noes! D:

    I think letting me know how to use that was probably a bad thing...
    But love the thread, trying to keep my slate clean. So far so good.

    'tis brilliant.

    Also posts such as this:

    traceur_:

    Here is your solution:

    got me a probation for 1 day because "Low content post: Pictures aren't substitute for content."

    Most of this is pretty common sense stuff, but considering how the internet is an arena where common sense seldom rears its pretty little head this is a pretty good thing to have around. Nicely formatted as well.

    Great format, my friend. This is a very useful guide indeed. When Inverse comes back, he'll probably add this to his thread. In the meantime. Here's for hoping it does some good

    i'd like to say that it is perfectly doable to spout your opinion of things here so long as you restrain yourself from flaming. many of my comments have been borderline offensive to a broader audience, but not to a single person at a time. it's the difference between an attack and a belief.

    I understand the desire to create a thread like this and maybe it's just me, but am I the only one who thinks putting the word "Banhammer" anywhere in your thread (especially the title) makes me think it's going to be completely worthless no matter how much actual content it contains? It makes it seem juvenile to me, and honestly the only reason I looked at it was because I half expected to see something I would deem worth reporting.

    In any case, it was at least well organized and thought out. I still have this instinctual reaction to ignore everything you say in the post though...

    Of course, that will lead to previously delimited consequences.

    Very informative, I thank you for the clarification on these things

    This is very useful..I always wondered exactly what was required to get a T2 or 3 ban, specifically. Very nice, Krunk.

    This should be starred on the front page along with the Forum Guidelines, seriously.

    I was ready for a horrible post about how horrible it is not knowing why a thread got locked, but good job.

    can we sticky this.

    neuromasser:
    This wasn't helpful at all
    User was banned for this post.

    Oh noes! D:

    That was excellent

    Good guide, not that I ever needed it...

    *smugly indicates his coveted Neo Badge*

    User was banned for this post.(Permanent)

    well damn...

    This thing needs to instantly be made into a permathread. Everyone go spam the thread about that, quick! (Note: thread-spamming is still bad :D)

    Only thing I would have like to see would be a little more info/discussion on necroing(and when it is/isn't appropriate), especially since a wave of necroed news threads seems to have been popping up recently. Also, a mention of BB abuse would likely be appropriate.

    User was banned for this post.(Permanent)

    Well, there goes my chances at the Neo...

    Helpful in a sence that it should be common sence not to be a prick in the forums

    MaxTheReaper:
    If you are so inclined, you should contact Inverse_Skies to have him put this in his thread of threads.

    Thanks, I'll do that.

    Lukeje:
    Pretty interesting, but the actual "User was banned for" is made using [small][/small] tags,
    i.e. User was banned for this post.

    Yeah, I sort of didn't know what to do there; should have researched Forum Markup first.

    Thanks for the help, I'll add the small tags in.

    scotth266:
    This thing needs to instantly be made into a permathread. Everyone go spam the thread about that, quick! (Note: thread-spamming is still bad :D)

    Only thing I would have like to see would be a little more info/discussion on necroing(and when it is/isn't appropriate), especially since a wave of necroed news threads seems to have been popping up recently. Also, a mention of BB abuse would likely be appropriate.

    Excuse my uninformed-ness, but what does BB stand for?

    And as for necroing threads, I am not too sure how to say when it's good and when it's bad. Really, I deem it to be good until a month after its connception, but others (like PurpleRain's Quote Thread) tend to survive.

    Thanks for the feedback though; I'm glad that these few hours of work wasn't a waste of time on my part.

    MaxTheReaper:
    How very helpful of you.
    If you are so inclined, you should contact Inverse_Skies to have him put this in his thread of threads.

    What, like a meta thread?

    I shall be keeping this thread bookmarked so that I can refer others to it whenever needed. Luckily, I already follow all these rules, so that Neo badge is as good as mi--

    User was banned for this post.(Permanent)

    WHAT!?

    People just have to realize that, if they arn't stupid, they won't get banned

    Ouch. Lots of words make my brain hurt.

    I hate to be such a lazy peeve, but I'll just skim read it. Very indepth though. Good job.

    bitzi61:
    People just have to realize that, if they arn't stupid, they won't get banned

    It's not that simple. Far from it. I was once banned for laughing at someone's joke, which I didn't think actually fitted the forum rules.

    But lo' and behold, after I re-read them, I actually came to the conclusion I that the moderator was right to put me on probation (However, it was still quite harsh).

    If I've read it right, this thread is trying to help people find the where the line is, inbetween voicing your opinion, and being a ban-able jackass.

    its the Escapists edition of the Wasteland survival guide! :D

    oh by the way, one thing i've noticed is that people who put the first posts on Yahtzee's video - related threads (the official "thread to go with the video" stuff) tend to be on probabtion or suspended... yet when I check why they've been put on probabtion/suspension (maybe even ban?), a lot of the time the posts are completely innocent... they just happen to be some of the first posts on a yahtzee-video thread.

    does anyone know why this is? just a curiosity

    Well made and concise. Also like the poll option to see how many people just can't help themselves. I can happily say I wasn't one of them :)

    iain62a:

    MaxTheReaper:
    How very helpful of you.
    If you are so inclined, you should contact Inverse_Skies to have him put this in his thread of threads.

    What, like a meta thread?

    its a thread designed to direct people to some of the best threads on the forums. It's great because rather than needing to bookmark a million threads, you only need to bookmark the one.

    I learned a long time ago (thankfully through others' rather than my own experience) that if someone makes a tasteless racist or sexist joke, it is perfectly OK to laugh at it, but to quote the post and let someone know you laughed at it? Verboten.

    Like most of the Internet, the Escapist falls into the trap of politically correct bigotry---it is perfectly fine to rip Acceptable Targets, but go after a pet liberal cause (with a "kitchen/sammich" joke or anything that's racist toward any race other than white people) and you're up a creek.

    It's not as bad as some sites (I once got a three-day suspension from GameFAQs for---I am not making this up---stating I planned to vote Republican), but it is still ultimately a tilted playing field that makes it a lot less shocking that sites like Conservapedia and Metapedia exist.

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