Giving a suspended user a second chance

I have a user that was repeatedly insulting other users (mainly using below-the-threshold passive-aggressive barbs). After about 2 years of practicing “respond to the content not the tone”, I decided to suspend him indefinitely after a particularly bad episode.

Fast forward a month to now, and I get an email from this user with a long apology giving hard life experiences as the cause for his behavior. He ends the email with a request to be allowed to participate once more.

I suppose my options are:

  • Un-suspend his current account.
  • Let him create a new account for a fresh start with no past.
  • Refuse the request.

Does anyone have any advice or experience with this kind of situation? I want to give him a second chance but I must admit that I’m a little apprehensive but that might just be due to my lack of confidence in these matters. I guess I just want a second opinion because even though I am the owner of a (quite active and diverse) forum (thank you, Discourse!), I constantly feel like I have absolutely no qualifications for the job especially at this level. Discourse moderation should be taught in schools! :laughing:

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A user actively apologizing and asking for a second chance is quite rare in my experience, and a positive sign, so I recommend giving it a try.

If it does not work out you always have the old status quo to fall back on.

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I agree with Jeff. It is rare and I reckon it’s worth a shot.

Reinstate his existing account (he should still be accountable for his past behaviour and you don’t want your other members to feel tricked or let down if it goes south again), keep a close eye on him but don’t pre-emptively judge him.

I’ve done this a few times – sometimes it’s been a huge success, sometimes it’s been a success for a while and then gone downhill again, sometimes it’s been a failure. I learned something every time, so no regrets.

You’re human and that qualifies you. Over the last 20 years (jay-sus) I’ve transitioned from community member to volunteer moderator to volunteer admin to paid CM to better paid community consultant to managing a team of some of the smartest community professionals I’ve ever met and I’m not qualified. Don’t fall victim to impostor syndrome.

If you have questions, ask them here. It is literally our job to support you in this stuff.

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Just to add to this, I’ve found a big factor in the successful reintroduction of an excluded member is the context. If they’re just allowed to return as if nothing happened then they can quickly fall into old habits, assuming that their behavior may now be excused because it’s “understood”. You may also find that their previous victims reach out to object to their return.

A simple post explaining that they are being given a rare second chance, asking the community to respect their decision, and to come to you privately with any comments has worked wonders in the past.

@hawk is right in that the technology is only part of the solution, we have some members from some pretty incredible communities lurking here, learn from our (many many) mistakes!

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Thank you, Jeff, HAWK, and Stephen. :exploding_head:

There are so many eye-opening statements in your posts. They just feel right as soon as you read them. So what I have understood so far is:

  • Apologies are rare, so let’s respond positively when we get them.
  • Make people accountable for their past behavior by keeping account history untouched.
  • Monitor but don’t preemptively judge a user who is getting their 2nd chance.
  • Provide context to the community; publicly announce that a 2nd chance is being given.
  • Don’t expect a 100% success rate.
  • If you are human, you are qualified to moderate a forum. (Hehe. :smiling_imp: I’m still suspicious of this one.)

Did I miss anything?

This really resonated with me. I can see how this helps from many angles. If anyone has a link to an example of such a post, I would love to see it for guidance! Either way, I will definitely be doing this.

Thank you. I had no idea actually because I assumed (without reason) that this forum was purely for technical matters. :open_mouth: Posting here was a whim and I’m glad that I did!

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Haha, that’s fair. What I meant was there are no formal qualifications and your obvious empathy makes you as – if not more – qualified as anyone.

Glad you did too. It was my goal when I started in this role several years ago to build out this part of the forum – and more specifically this part – but other things always seem to take priority. You’ve given me a new focus. :slight_smile:

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Yes! How about asking O’Reilly to fund a book project on the topic of forum moderation (that hopefully prioritizes meaningful interaction and depth over growth and activity, pretty-please-with-a-cherry-on-top!). I need that much more than another book on Python or How to Grow Your Web Site.

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Sadly not enough people will pay for the former versus the latter.

It is my feeling that the software should be providing most of the real time, interactive guidance in this area.

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You are right on both counts, of course.

Perhaps the advice that I received here, could be integrated into the un-suspend UX along with a template announcement post? :smiling_imp:

Either way, I look forward to seeing what you come up with! :bowing_man:

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Or perhaps included in the Moderator’s Guide and the Guide for Administrators. Sometimes Admins - especially of smaller forums - are also Mods from time to time. And if not, this type of advice helps also.* Gentle reminders can be a good thing both on our forums and in the real world. :wink:
I’m curious to hear how your user’s behavior turned out. Hopefully for the best.