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What do you do about your annoying members?
The ones that never break any rules but annoy everyone nonetheless

 4:06 am on Sep 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Every forum has them - an "Annoying John" or "Annoying Jane". Those members that make you inwardly groan everytime you see another post. Whether they are high and mighty, or just need to contribute two cents - or worse, a "me too" - they seem to be everywhere without really contributing much of value in the grand scheme of things

You have checked with others to make sure John just doesn't rub you the wrong way, but the sentiment seems to run among other members too. The problem is, Annoying John never seems to (or very rarely) break any rules.... they are just darn annoying.

Unfortunately, any action taken can be a double edged sword for moderators or administrators.

If you kick John or Jane out, you could face a possible backlash that this "poor member" was kicked out for "no reason" - because in actuality, there were no real violations of any of the rules. They were just too darn annoying ;) But then other members could begin to worry that they too will be kicked out for "no reason".

On the flip side, John or Jane could annoy some of your much valued and contributing members enough that they finally up and leave - which results in Annoying John or Jane sticking around while all your good members go and find another forum to call home. Particularly if your good members have complained privately to you about John or Jane's actions on the forums, non-action on the admin/mod part can look bad.

Whenever I have been faced with this kind of situation I usually go on consensus - either all the admins agree if it is a small scale member, or if the member has a definite presence on the forums, I will open it to all of the main moderators to get their opinions and see if everyone is feeling the same way. Even then, I tend to hold off and see if the situation improves or ends up self-resolving with the member losing interest.

What does everyone else do when faced with Annoying Jane or Annoying John? Maybe there is a fabulous solution I haven't thought of ;)



 11:44 am on Sep 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

That sounds like an excellent idea - presumably he'd notice if he ever "logged in" as a guest though, which might be a little dangerous.
They don't notice it immediately but yeah, if he went to a thread he'd posted in, as a guest, he would see "the administrator has decided John should be quiet for a while" in the place of his post. I wouldn't say it's dangerous though. In most cases, the member just needs to cool off a bit and you can remove them from the tacky list later it doesn't have to be permanent.

 2:56 pm on Sep 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

however his posts are invisible to all but himself

Shouldn't be much to make a hack that would make posts invisible to regulars (the ones who would be most annoyed) but visible to the member in question and guests, because it is a danger if he ever happened to check out his threads as a guest (or send his unregistered buddy to check it out)


 3:53 pm on Sep 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think the general assumption is that in many cases the penalized member will catch on to his invisible status in a day or two, but that even then it reduces the moderation load that might occur otherwise. With conventioal banning, seconds after being banned the member will probably either re-register or mass-mail mods and admins.

MarketingGuy makes an excellent point - just because a poster comes across as annoying doesn't mean they will remain so forever, particularly if you provide them with guidance.

Every forum is different, and members may come from a background of USENET or forums entirely different than your own. When they arrive, they may violate your TOS, be aggressive/combative in dealing with your other members. Or, they may simple exhibit annoying habits that were fine in their other forums. Sometimes, perhaps often, most of these can be rehabilitated into good members.

I've definitely seen posters who seemed like the most annoying people in the world develop into solid contributors - it's usually a good idea to be slow with "ban" button, whether a member is violating your TOS or just proving to be an annoyance.


 3:58 pm on Sep 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

"Sometimes, perhaps often, most of these can be rehabilitated into good members"

Definitely true. But sometimes, they can simply be one of those types that need attention and purposely "raise hairs" in an attempt to get it. I've seen a few of those before and those types usually aren't "redeemable".


 5:12 pm on Sep 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

Webwork's suggestion is a good one.

A classic classroom technique to deal with a pupil who is disrupting or annoying others is to give them some responsibility. Often the pupil is disruptive because they are bored, feel underchallenged or need attention and badly need to get a reaction out of other people (any sort of reaction).

By giving them responsibility and some status you are making them "more important", giving them something else to occupy their time and, as webwork points out, giving them experience of what it's like to be working on the administration end.


 5:50 pm on Sep 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

I agree with Webwork 99% of the time, but this one falls into the 1%. I'd be very reluctant to make an annoying member a moderator in the hope of straightening him out. The risks include,

1) Long-term members who think Mr. Annoying is a jerk will view his appointment as questionable at best, and a sanctioning of bad behavior at worst. You can't very well inform everyone else in the forum that you are doing this to curb annoying behavior. ;)

2) Letting Mr. Annoying have access to moderator discussions of other members or sensitive forum topics could have negative repercussions. (Most forums have a mod area where mods can seek input from other mods or request admin help.)

3) Good people skills are the #1 requirement for mods (in my book, anyway), and handing the keys of even a small forum to someone who has demonstrated a lack of people skills isn't a great bet.

4) Making a person a mod may not change their personality for the better at all. Take me, for example. ;)

I admit I really do believe in the "give the class cut-up some responsibility" approach, but I'd want to try something less than appointing him a moderator. Perhaps if there were a "forum specialist" or "forum monitor" level such a technique might work.


 8:20 pm on Sep 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

Forum monitor. I like that >;->


 3:14 am on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Actually, in another thread a WebmasterWorld member described a forum where some members were semi-officially moderator helpers - if they spotted a problem, they would notify a mod. With a little formality (like a plastic badge? ;)), maybe an annoying member could get the responsibility/ego boost needed to become a better member.


 4:31 am on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I agree with Webwork 99% of the time, but this one falls into the 1%.

Arrgh! I agree with both Webwork and RogerD 99% of the time, so that puts me squarely in the camp of -- it depends.

Webworks solution works well in the second grade, putting a somewhat troublesome student in a somewhat responsible position, say clapping the erasers at the end of the day (if anybody here rememebers "black" boards).

In the second grade you at least have the teacher to say, "Roger, Jeff, it's time to take the erasers outside. Everybody else, start cleaning up around your desks." Whoa! I'm going outside, and I'm not everybody else. I have an important job!

Sure, half of the other kids would say that they're glad they don't have to clap erasers; the other half would be jealous of the two that do.

How would you translate this into an Internet forum? Would you pin the plastic badge on in public, in that way making another level of admins/mods and maybe alienating long time contributing folk who think they deserve it more?

Or do you do it privately? "Hey, Jeff. I need a little bit of help. The mods are stressed out, and I know you're on the board a lot. Can you keep an eye out for me?"

And it comes down to -- it all depends. The smaller the board the more chance for disruption by one person, but the better argument for making the one person a solid member for the future.

Ya' know, now that I look back on this thread there's a person I agree with 99.9% of the time, Marcia. Honesty, communication, no beating around the bush or deception, a spoonful of sugar when she think it's necessary. Heck, she might make a good mod or admin one of these days :) Out of everything said here, probably the most solid advice anybody can take.

I've quibbled enough for now. Time to go clap the erasers.


 11:27 pm on Sep 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yeah i have a somewhat similar problem, i have a very small forum, only about 60 members, very few of whom post. We are still in the growing phase, hopefully. I have 1-2 members who have been there since the beginning, but are starting to spam and get just annoying in general. Although i like these members, i find it inceasingly hard to put up with them. I know i can't ban them, it would make me look bad as they havent badly broken any forum rules yet. I guess i will have to put up with them, unless anyone has any suggestions :-D


 1:41 am on Sep 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

Sometimes even good members cross the line in some way - I find the most direct approach is the best. Tell them what the problem is, ask them to alter their behavior, but also be sure to commend them (as appropriate) for their contributions to your forum.

If some long term members are "spamming", it's time to rein in that behavior! Good luck.


 6:29 am on Oct 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

< -- annoying forum member

Thats's cause a lot of forums i've been on are immature, the mods jerks and the members clannish. I'm a free person, and always seem to "upset" the culture of the forums. I don't leave! I just pipe down. lol lol.

I've been good on webmaster world though. Very mature Mods, a WORLD of good information. Mutual respect by members. No obvious, sub-clans that dominate the forums and set the forum status quo.

When forums are hijacked by cliques, the "annoying-johns and jane's will appear and flourish.

BTW, does webmaster world have a huge problem with annoying members?

Somehow i doubt it.


 5:03 pm on Oct 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

does webmaster world have a huge problem with annoying members

I don't think we can go too far with this specific without violating either the site TOS or the forum charter, but it's safe to say that EVERY popular forum will attract members who annoy others with their behavior.

What separates the good forums from the rest, IMO, is how these annoying members are handled. If the behavior is addressed promptly and in a professional manner by mods, it can often be curbed. Let the behavior issues slide for too long, and existing members will be unhappy and leave. Ban the offender too quickly, though, and the contributions that might have been made by that member are lost forever. (And, perhaps, you have someone who will badmouth the forum for years to come.)


 8:30 pm on Oct 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

I agree with rogerd 100% of the time . . . except not always. . . ;-P

The simplest solution is likely an 'ignore' function that keeps you from viewing posts from annoying members x,y,& z. Yahoo has one on its Y finance boards.

How about a trainee for cleaning up posts from new members that don't quite conform to the rules? Sort of a new member mod for new members who don't have immediate posting rights? Of course, maybe the noodge will scare off all new members?

Maybe try making him/her the spam police? Give him the power to impound spam. Maybe he'll grow tired and leave? Maybe the spam and flaming police? Limited authority to impound, not delete or modify, spam and/or flames?

Maybe you could find out what his/her greatest interests are .... and then have someone else post a thread about great forums that relate to his/her interests? You can lead a horse to water and away from your hay, you know?

Okay, how about making him/her a flag thrower? He/she has the job of flagging new threads or posts that might flaunt the rules? But......he/she might take on that job with zeal. Then again, policing has to be a bore, so why not give that one up in a limited way?

Well, if the noodge is a regular, has the time and interest, and therefore - if transformed - might just provide some valuable service ..... could someone pick up the phone and spend a few minutes talking to him/her? Get a better feel for who he/she really is? (Maybe it's a kid or a senior citizen. Maybe you just don't get that info from posts. Maybe it's someone homebound with a handicap. Maybe a phone call changes someone's life? But who has the time or money to make calls, unless, of course, you are otherwise spending more time addressing the issue in other ways?)

Every situation is likely different so there's likely dozens of approaches and this thread has done a nice job of outlining possible approaches.

[edited by: Webwork at 8:36 pm (utc) on Oct. 7, 2004]


 8:34 pm on Oct 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

The simplest solution might be an 'ignore' function that keeps you from viewing posts from annoying members x,y,& z.

That's an excellent idea. If members know that such facilities exist, maybe they'd be less likely to make the idiotic postings in the first place for fear of everyone "muting" them.

I think something similar exists for a lot of newsreaders.



 9:42 pm on Oct 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

An "ignore" function is a staple of chat environments, which usually can't be moderated in real time. I like the idea, though I wonder how many people would really use it. One issue I can think of: a post by an annoying member may well create a flurry of posts by other members commenting on it; reading the thread would be difficult if one or more members had been ignored.

Interesting idea... it seems like this should exist somewhere. Perhaps it could tie into a "member reputation" scheme.


 1:34 am on Oct 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

Roger, if you post on the Yahoo finance boards you'll see that, upon reading someone's post, there is an option within the post window to "Ignore this user". Whence you next logon the system remembers your settings and the none of the posts associated with the IDs on your ignore list show up in the running post headings.

Now, Yahoo's BBS is somewhat different than most. You don't actually see the running threads when you logon to any sub-forum, you just see the headings of the post and the ID of the poster, but I guess if your forum is run off of a database it probably isn't that hard to configure. Flat files? Eh, maybe not.


 3:50 am on Oct 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hmmm, I've clicked on everything in sight, Webwork, and I still see your posts. ;) Guess that's one feature we don't have here.

I'm sure you are right about the ease of implementation - vBulletin already has a hack that puts posters on ignore mode for everyone else, so making it selective probably wouldn't be incredibly difficult.


 5:44 pm on Oct 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

An ignore function is definitely nice to have on a forum. I will be implementing the following ignore functionalities in my forum:

1. Each user will have the ability to ignore a certain number of users. I'm not quite sure what that number will be, but I will limit it. Because if there are rampant ignores going on, I have a much bigger moderation problem. But hopefully users will only have to ignore particular people they find annoying, but aren't rule breakers. Rule breakers will be moderated.

2. Threads with an ignored user will show a specially colored table row with simply the message: "Post from ignored user." This way it might be clearer when other users respond to the ignored user's post.

3. The moderators section will contain a table of users ignoring each other, so moderators can perhaps step in and solve the problem... "I see that you've ignored user MeanGuy after he flamed you for loving brand-x widgets. I would like you to know that the inflammatory post has been removed and he has been asked to review and follow the forum rules. Please use the ignore option only as a last resort. You can always ask a moderator for help in keeping decorum in our forums. Blah blah blah..."


 3:15 pm on Oct 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Actually, in hunting around, I find that vBulletin has an ignore function.

I still favor dealing with problem members more directly, as many members won't bother to "ignore" the culprit, even though they are annoyed. (Or, they won't figure out that the feature exist or how it works.) New visitors, too, will be subjected to the full measure of irritation.

For minor annoyances or in particular for personal disagreements (e.g., Member A thinks Member B is a total idiot who continually speaks rubbish), using the ignore feature might work well and even avoid nasty exchanges in the forum.


 5:53 pm on Oct 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Roger, are you telling me you've never put your wife on 'ignore' or that she has never admitted doing the same to you?

I rest my case.

Don't tell me never or I'll have to cannonize you.


 11:49 pm on Oct 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Mrs. rogerd would insist that I have her on ignore mode most of the time... totally untrue, of course. ;)


 3:44 pm on Oct 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Haha. Webwork, you crack me up. I've been known to ignore my girlfriend, but only when she disregards my brain's away message.

Away working, or away watching tv, or away playing a video game, or away watching a victoria's secret commerical.


 7:28 am on Oct 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

I use a BB that has an "ignore user" facility, (strangely it's a Finance BB too, they get a high percentage of ramper/derampers..)

Thought it was a great idea in the beginning, I don't like it now. One reason being yes it's hard to follow a thread, even respected posters will sometimes answer and it's easier to use your own judgement and skim a trashed thread than to read a fragmented one..

The other being in a strange kinda way I think it tempts the "AJ"s into seeing how many people they can annoy, creating a "sub" community? What I see now is that there is a lot of 'bragging' going on.. "I'm not listening to you!" kinda posts.. it's actually made it worse, I think anyway

Publishing a list, "top ten" of ignored posters might help newbies differentiate between who's good/bad is one helpful thing that could come out of this, but.. hmm.. possibly only in certain communities would this work,

Perhaps in more subtle community a silent "report this post" feature so that it would flag to Admin if "AJ" was consistently coming up on the radar cross commnity/forum, as in 3 strikes and you're on probation kinda thing, but still giving Admin/mods time to step in and try changing said members ways.. Admin can use their judgement as to who's doing the reporting (they might decide to re-educate the reporter ;))

interesting though I don't think any one solution would be right for all


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