Ability to block / mute / ignore another user

(Iszi) #11

Your arguments make sense, and I do agree in principle. However, I think there needs to be a certain amount of flexibility on this to allow the communities (and community owners) to make this decision for themselves - make the option available at least, so that it can be enabled/disabled to suit each community’s culture.

(F. Randall Farmer) #12

There are a lot of priorities for the core development team, and client-side per-user post-muting shouldn’t be one of them. Data has already been presented that this is a rarely used, non-critical item:

This feature does nothing to help improve user behavior (since it typically doesn’t let the muted user know that anyone is muting them) and has been proven to cause confusion in threads because people aren’t responding to the same conversation.

Lastly - would this plug-in also mute quoted replies? Man, that’d be awkward to read/understand. A real mess. :tongue:

This looks like an excellent candidate for the “please, feel free to build it yourself…” category of request.

(Adam Davis) #13

I used to wonder what the purpose of ignore was. Then I got to the point with a certain user where I could not resist his trolling - I felt I had to respond to his idiotic remarks every time he posted. At that point I realized ignore, for me, wasn’t so I didn’t have to hear his ranting and raving, it was so I wasn’t tempted to respond to his baiting.

I think the poll is slightly flawed in the gap between lots and rarely. I would be interested in seeing a different poll, “is the ignore feature necessary, or would I be happy visiting this forum if it did not have ignore?”

The two concepts we’re discussing, though, should be considered separately.

Yes, the are trouble users that should be identified and somehow dealt with. If someone is consistently reported for trolling, either the system needs to take care of that automatically (their posts are lighter than other posts, for instance, encouraging people to skim them) or they need moderator action.

However, there are situations where two users simply rub each other the wrong way. The phrasing one uses just makes the other user’s skin crawl because they can’t overcome their assumptions and take the posts at face value. Whatever the reason, these two users will clash and clash again over semantic issues, baseless assumptions, and personal history with each other, where if they never read each others posts they’d be great contributors.

So there is a compelling need for ignore beyond the simple “some users are bad”.

It may not be necessary for the initial release, however I don’t believe it is something that people will be willing to forego for very long.

Note that the above is something I wrote many months ago right after I had started muting this individual. I recently unmuted them and have since had no issues. Looking back on things I note that I went through an experience I didn’t realize was having such a negative impact on me, and it was likely that nothing about this user had changed, but I could no longer handle them due to changes in my own life. The mute actually enabled me to continue to come to the forum, wheres I was seriously considering leaving it. That would have been bad, though, as, again, looking back that forum provided a tremendous amount of support to me during that difficult time.

The reason I suspect the survey is so skewed is because the feature is not advertised. Every time it’s brought up in forums I’ve participated in a number of users are obviously surprised that such a feature even exists, and more than once has it caused a discussion about the merits and ethics of such a feature.

I believe that well-implemented such a feature could actually result in a happier forum, but it would have to be, to some degree, advertised or more frequently suggested as a solution for some moderation issues. In fact it would be interesting to give some thought to using it as a tool of moderation. Rather than a ban, block the two problem users form each other for a period of time and see if that cools things down. Not applicable to most moderation activities, but I can see certain situations where we wouldn’t have to lose users because of bad blood.

Mute may not be a first class feature, however I don’t believe it should be low on the priority list, particularly since it touches so much on the whole system. It should be tackled early.

(jon) #14

This issue came up for recently. This forum has several users who don’t violate the TOS but can be very opinionated or disruptive. I think some rethinking of this might be in place. What about a spoiler wrapping their whole thing? Or a collapsed box similar to when something has been flagged as offensive.

(Kane York) #15

[Warning, this is a slightly sarcastic post. I don’t really support this feature, and this is a very awkward and inflexible way to do it. It will work, though, and some people will want it enough to do it like this.]

Sure, you can do this with user styles!

Install Stylish (chrome | firefox), then go into the settings and start “Writ[ing] a new style”.

Find the user ID of the person you don’t like, and put this in the CSS box:

article[data-user-id="4612"] {
  display: none;

Then set the website that the style “Applies to”, and save, and you’re done!


(Jeff Atwood) #16

I think mute / ignore is actively dangerous, and here’s why:

  • It allows you to ignore bad behavior. If someone is a jerk, why complain? Just mute. No more problem. Except for everyone else that gets to see a person being a jerk to another human being in public. Which means you are now sending a message to all other readers that this is now something that is OK and accepted in your house. Hint: it shouldn’t be.

  • It puts the burden on the user. A kind of victim blaming – if someone is rude to you, then “why didn’t you just mute them?” The solution is right there in front of you, why didn’t you learn to use the software right? Why don’t you take responsibility for the person abusing you?

  • It does not address the problematic behavior. A mute is invisible to everyone. So the person who is getting muted by 10 other users is getting zero feedback that their behavior is causing problems. It’s also giving zero feedback to moderators that this person should probably get an intervention.

  • It causes discussions to break down. Fine, you mute someone, so you “never” see that person’s posts. But then another user you like quotes the muted user in their post, or references their @name, or replies to their post. Do you then suppress just the quoted section? Suppress the @name? Suppress all replies to their posts, too? This leaves big holes in the conversation and presents many pretty hairy technical challenges. Given enough personal mutes and ignores, all conversation becomes a weird patchwork of partially visible statements.

  • This is your house and your rules. This isn’t Twitter or Facebook or some other giant public website with an expectation that “everyone” will be welcome. This is your house, with your rules, and your community. If someone can’t behave themselves to the point that they are consistently rude and obnoxious and unkind to others, you don’t ask the other people in the house to please ignore it – you ask them to leave your house. Engendering some weird expectation of “everyone is allowed here” sends the wrong message. Otherwise your house no longer belongs to you, and that’s a very bad place to be.

Mute is a deeply unhealthy thing to allow in your community. Of all the Discourse communities we host and know of, none of them have “needed” mute. And if they told me they did, I’d give them the same explanation.

Feature Request: A Civilized Mute for Users
(Lowell Heddings) #17

I agree that Mute is a bad idea on a forum.

What I would like to see is a way to flag a user with “I really dislike this user”. Enough of these flags from many people would trigger a notification to the moderators to maybe have a talk with that person.

Because that is the behavior that is annoying and hard to stop… Users that are following the rules but are just really annoying and frustrating.

(Bill Ayakatubby) #18

What alternative solution do you two propose for the situation of an abuser tracking down and harassing a victim on your forums, e.g., by baiting the victim openly or sending a barrage of PMs?

Make block/mute a flag against the user that a mod will see.

So do a lot of other actions/features in Discourse that are all answered in the FAQ/welcome PM or that you’re happy to let victims users figure out for themselves.

See block-as-flag concept above.

All this says to me is, “We don’t want to have to put thought into this, so here are some questions that might be hard to answer.”

That only works when the user wanting to perform the block or mute action runs the forum. Otherwise, they either have to continue seeing the abusive posts or leave the forum.

See block-as-flag concept above.

[Edited first paragraph for clarity of intent.]

(Dave McClure) #19

Most of the conversation to date has been about users who people just find kind of annoying. It seems like you have a very different use case in mind. Perhaps that should be discussed separately and specifically?

If someone is really harassing and abusing someone, shouldn’t the “Inappropriate” or “Notifiy Moderators” flag handle that?

I think this idea has some merit, but I think it would have to be done with care. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I have some worry that it could be abused or have unintended consequences if not implemented very thoughtfully.

(Lowell Heddings) #20

Those people should be reported and probably banned immediately.

(Ricky Bobby) #21

As an ordinary user, I’d love to see this feature. I eventually got here from Googling how to mute a user in Discourse.

After reading the thread, I would offer these comments…
I’m not a site admin or moderator, so I should only have only limited input on whether or not someone is banned or counseled. I agree with a lot of what @BhaelOchon said:

  • let admins see who has been muted & by how many (anonymous or not, but why bother making it anonymous if only admins and/or mods see it);
  • like @timpone said, make their posts a collapsed line, a place holder, like some news sites do in the comments of an article… “$muted_user posted here, click to expand and view”
  • no reason to block quotes when another user replies, including the quote does give context. (Heck, maybe if people stop quoting and replying to the muted users, they’ll get the hint all on their own with no need for mod intervention.)

Flagging the post isn’t the same thing, it isn’t the solution to the problem. The hover help balloon on the flag says, “privately flag this post for attention or send a private notification about it”. So, to me that says flagging is for a single post that is offensive. If I don’t want to see any of a specific individual’s input/commentary, flagging isn’t going to buy me anything. There is not necessarily a single message that is offensive/annoying, that’s not the problem. And, it would be inappropriate behavior for me to flag everything that user posts, creating headaches for the mods and potentially imposing my preferences on others.

Plus, I’m not out to ruin his day. I feel no need to ask the mods to deal with him, which seems to be part of the intent of flagging. If they see a dozen other people have muted him, they can decide if and what to do.

The poll results seem to indicate that 54% of respondents did find the feature useful. So what if they rarely use it? They don’t hate the world… that’s a good thing, and to be expected if they’re participating in a forum of people with the same interests or hobbies. It says that they don’t think many people are worthy of ignoring, but that they have, on occasion, encountered exceptions.

Different real world example: There is a forum for the neighborhoods in my area. The only thing we all have in common is the area where we live. There were some pretty unpleasant flame wars until a post went up mentioning that the mute feature is available when the site is accessed from a PC rather than on phone apps. After that, the forum got a whole lot more pleasant to frequent, and the mods spend a less time keeping the peace – mostly just a few gentle reminders periodically.

(YCH) #22

They are not actually,

  • violating forum rule
  • insulting someone
  • rude

So, I can’t report them as abuser or whatever. But, just sooooo annoying! Even worse, these people have tendency that posting so many!

How am I supposed to as regular user?

(Jeff Atwood) #23

I would PM the moderators. A party full of annoying people isn’t going to remain a party for long. All it takes is a few persistently annoying folks at high volume to drive the rest away.

And in that case, a personal mute just fixes it for one person, does not address the problem for everyone else.

(Jeff Atwood) #24


(YCH) #25

You are right. But problem is I cannot be sure other people would also feel annoying about them. If even I decide report them, how can I describe this situation in logical? Only I know is I just annoying about their speaking style or subject. Mostly speaking style.

In real world, like school or workplace, I’ve met this situation time to time. Best
solution was just keeping away from them. They are not doing any harm to others. Just mismatch in personality.

(Adam Capriola) #26

I like this mentality, but I feel awkward banning someone or asking them to leave solely because they don’t vibe with the community. I’ve encountered users who have an opposing viewpoint and aren’t necessarily being disrespectful, but they post mostly for the sake of being contrarian. I’ve also had to deal with users who simply do not add very insightful content. (They are eager to engage in discussion but are not well versed on the subject matter.)

Both parties are bringing down the quality of discourse in small ways, but individually none are doing anything blatantly wrong. Add all their posts together to create a mega subpar user and I’d ban them instantly though.

It would be nice if there was a way for the community to help usher these problematic users to the door or to shape up rather than have me as an admin look for the right moment to pounce on them.


One possible idea would be to add a “dislike” function to posts. I know the flagging system kind-of not-exactly lets users do this, but a way to clearly let a user know “Hey, your post was not well received” and leave an optional comment explaining the dislike, all without derailing the conversation, could be very helpful. Maybe limit disliking to TL2+.

I think many users are hesitant to flag posts because they don’t understand the terminology and flagging seems to be conveying to my offenders that “You messed up but have a chance to do right; no biggie!” It’s too amicable. Positive punishment in the form of a dislike probably has a better chance at changing behavior.

Secondly, a display of user reputation (which could be an amalgam of trust level, likes, flags, dislikes, and whatnot) along with posts would go a long way. I’d hate to add clutter to the post display, but simple bar or meter underneath the avatar might work:

Full reputation (a sage contributor):

Half rep (pretty smart guy):

Negative rep (don’t listen to him!!):

What this does is not only make it clear to other users whose opinion should carry the most weight, but also make it clear to the poster where they stand in the community. (It’s embarrassing to post when you have little or negative reputation; it makes you want to either become a better poster or leave.)

Not every community needs these types of features, but I would enable them if made available.

Show a user's reputation/user level next to their name
Reputation Spec: Proposal and Critique
(Dave McClure) #27

Some pretty good ideas and insights here. I like the mockup for dusplaying reputation, but I don’t think negative rep should be displayed. May be better to have ‘dislikes’ or whatever they are (some special flag?) just make it more difficult to gain reputation / lose reputation already gained…

Allowing staff to see how many demerits have accrued should be enough to let them intervene when necessary to take the problem user aside and say something about it / show them the door.

(Joseph Lee) #28

I am a user of @AdamCapriola’s website and recently asked him if the bbs included a “Block” or “Ignore” feature; in fact it was a few hours before he posted to this thread. The short version is that not only do I and another forum member disagree… we don’t really communicate in the same manner. While we are both native English speakers, our approaches are polar opposites in terms of length, formality and detail. I struggle to decipher his comments and can’t tell if he really understands what it is I write. Attempts at resolving this on our own have merely resulted in more hurt feelings. We are both overall conforming to board rules and trying to contribute to the discussions at hand; banning either of us would be excessive at best.

What at least I want is a tool to aid in tolerance. Tolerance doesn’t mean I agree with someone; in fact by its nature it implies we disagree on something or else there would be nothing to tolerate. Comparing and contrasting to the real world, it doesn’t magically make people invisible… and in fact it doesn’t really do that in most of the online message boards I frequent, at least not anymore. Instead a Block (or Ignore) user function means I have to actively agree to listen… which is a bit more like a real world conversation.

(Jeff Atwood) #29

Invisibility as a tool of tolerance? Strange approach.

(Joseph Lee) #30

Not really, though you are making me glad I didn’t accidentally refer to the difficulty in maintaining proper netiquette (in light of someone to whom I respond poorly) as “my struggle”.

I think it helps if we can separate “physical” reality from “message board” reality. I refer to both as reality because they are; my words here are real even if they are being presented as text under a screen name and by an avatar and not being spoken by me. I’m not a character in an elaborate computer game. :wink:

The earlier comic strip and the book you cited disregard this. The comic strip intentionally does this as a joke, or else is referencing an experience that doesn’t match most of the message board interfaces I’ve dealt with: “chat functions” are another matter. In a message board setting, when one user chooses to Block or Ignore another user, the only things prevented are direct contact methods like Private Messages. The Blocked Users posts are still visible in discussions, however the actual text of those comments are not; instead the message board will ask something akin to “Would you like to see this comment?”. Even if that were to be the comic strip author’s own experience… it wouldn’t be as funny so artistic license allows it to be disregarded to make a joke. Here… it seemed almost presented as if it were actual evidence of the initial justifications for not including this feature,

Pointing out how actual tolerance works out in day to day living gets me linked to a novel meant to depict intolerance blended with indifference. Was this a joke? It certainly is discouraging to know that when I take the time to join this discussion and present my concerns, one of the co-founders is already mocking or trying to brush aside my concerns by painting me as a racist.

The reasons giving for this feature being intentionally left out… do they need discrediting again? If so, I guess I have to decide whether its worth spending anymore time on this here. I mean, some were really, really easy to obliterate:

It allows an individual to miss rules violations made after the person had been Blocked. Anyone that hasn’t Blocked the user should still notice and report the offense. If other users are not reporting such offenses, that would be a separate issue. Even if most users have someone Blocked, there is a reason message boards have moderators. While I don’t want to give such people an additional burden… I’m not; its already one of their functions, if not main functions.

Empowering the user is victim blaming? Like the last point, it seems to misunderstand why the Block user feature exists. It isn’t so that someone breaking the rules can continue to do so without you seeing it. It does provide a victim a tool to minimize injury; while waiting for a moderator to take action, the victim can take some measure of control back and shield his or herself from further injury. Again, this in no way removes the need to report such things.

If you have to mute someone, in a sense the discussion has already broken down. This is why such features allow you to allow individual posts; if someone you have blocked is actually making a salient point you are able to enable that particular comment. If they are not… you know to ignore that aspect of the conversation (since its people responding to something irrelevant, its not a significant loss). Part of the reason this is a technical issue is how this particular bbs works; not a criticism, just a fact. There are things this system handles better and things it handles worse.

If the blocked user does not make a worthwhile point… then there won’t be any worthwhile responses referencing it. Well, barring certain rare circumstances like in a discussion where it somehow becomes relevant, like how the comment itself is actually irrelevant. sigh Yes that gets a bit confusing.

I am one of the nearly half of users that do make use of a Block feature. I don’t use it all the time, and even when I do I often read the Blocked users comments… the difference is that because it was blocked I am making a conscious decision.

Since we are discussing users and not site owners or administrators… this doesn’t apply.

It is so much better to drive off or force agreement between those in the community than to learn to live and let live? No, not really. It once again is important to recognizes the differences between an online discussion and forum and physically interacting with others.