Handling an Intellectual Bully

That is one of the most useful and insightful posts that I have read in recent times. Thanks for sharing your feelings and motivations so honestly.


Wow, See this is why I brought this up! I knew there was someone like G who I have been dealing with and I desperately needed and wanted that perspective.

Now how do I let him know what you were insinuating? When I “lift” the ban on Monday, perhaps I can send him a message and bring up some points you mentioned?

I know he cares about our community, probably too much :wink: I really want to figure this out for him so he can continue to be a part of our community.

Maybe I should just show him this thread and say - SEE! You are Valued! Let’s figure this out.

You’ve reached out and he said he isn’t going to stop. That is very telling.

I recently bought a site with a forum and it was notorious for bullies and trolls. I stopped using it for a while because of all of the fighting. It started to get cleaned up but there is still a troll population.

After much internal debate, advice from others, etc. I came to the conclusion 98% of the people coming to the site aren’t looking for a debate/fight/sparring contest. If I privately reach out to give a troll a warning and they tell me off or say they don’t have to change and they have a history of negativity and I’ve received complaints about them, I ban them. End of subject. It’s not going to get better.

Believe or not, the other trolls are reforming and behaving better because of the new approach. The rest of the members are super happy they are coming to a more supportive and helpful environment without fear of being told off for a typo or if they are inexperienced. If you don’t take care of the trolls, you will lose a large audience over time. Don’t protect your trolls. They aren’t worth it no matter how loyal they are.


That is in direct correlation to @codinghorror’s 98% vs 2% on his blog. In fact, I mentioned this to someone when discussing a very similar subject:


I have a further question for you if that’s cool.

What do you think would happen if members felt enabled/empowered to confront [people that behave in the ways that you describe]? What if one or several members banded together – perhaps organized by the community manager – to do this? Do you think that a community uprising would be effective, or just cause more antagonism?

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The best thing to do is write down (either mentally or transcribed on paper or keyboard to screen) what outcome you want. And your user? Ask him the same. Meet each other half-way. Seriously write something down, don’t broach it with a fluid train of thought. Taking the time to do this shows your want to be an equal on that fundamental level (even though you are the admin and he’s a user). You are responsible for the site so obviously any of his outcomes that relate to his continued abuse are right out.

Here’s some points to mentally keep note on:

A. If the user falls back into his habits but immediately steps away, that shows he is attempting to truly be mindful of what he’s doing. That shows he does care. Don’t see mistakes as bad. Mistakes mean he tripped but he standing back up. The same as a kid learning to ride a bike without the training wheels. It takes a few times and that’s normal.

B. Please tell him if he cannot willfully back away from a heated conflict then you will have to suspend him for a few hours to days or a week. It’s not only for your benefit but his too. And it is. Because I can tell you this this is stressful for him. Like a dog needing to be in that fight and he has to be forcibly removed because this is his nature (at least right now). Honestly? It’s an addiction. When I realize that I drop the conflict like a hot pan and I will about-face just as swift.

C. Give a kinda-fuzzy date on when you think he should truly show signs of improvement. It’s gradual and it’s difficult to truly quantify. This requires intuition. Thankfully for Discourse it’s easier because you have the likes and flags, ect. Agree on a fuzzy date with your user. It’s like a “regroup”. Come back after to this fuzzy time and reassess everything. This sounds like a lot of work but it truly isn’t. It’s doing as it was before but now words have been exchanged, things laid out, communication paramount and to the forefront. There’s no uncertainty or passive aggressiveness able to shine. You and he lay it all out. Because if one of you doesn’t then from my personal perspective there’s not much willfulness to truly make things work. Nothing with Human nature is easy but being able to do these little extra bits and pieces makes a world of difference. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And this “group and regroup” can be applied to any serious problem user who has accumulated a lot of flags and complaints.

If you treat this guy as a fundamental equal then he should turn around a little. Patronization is a deep trigger of mine. If I feel someone thinks of me as a mediocre pleb, I will drop everything and leave. It’s not running away. This is me knowing my personal value and worth and that they don’t see it at the core, despite whatever the conflict is there. Deep down and through all the so-called “intellectual clap-trap” I am a person who truly likes to be treated as an adult and I will give that in like kind easily. It’s like getting that ‘Faith in humanity restored’ feels.

If he continues to escalate even though you tone yourself to humility first to lower his proverbial hackles, then I think that is the cue he needs an extended leave effective immediately. He has to sort himself out then. That’s not your problem, concern or profession.


No worries! Asking questions means you resonate on this. I am no professional, I have just lived with this for so long, both online and off. (That’s my disclaimer of ‘take my words as you wish and I take no responsibility after the fact’. Heh.)

What you describe happened to me recently. It depends on the individual that the community wishes to drive out. Any kind of community uprising not publicly (as in, some kind of announcement, even if temporarily posted) sanctioned by the community owner (and an owner that treated the dissident with some kind of compassion that was the drive to remove them) will cause so much strife down the line that the community probably gave itself its own death sentence. It also depends if the user has a polarizing personality. I am this to the core and I have been told this many times by different people (either friends or third parties that have no empathetic connection to me). For communities I was heavily involved in and helped, my sudden leave from a community (where an upheaval happened from a group that despised me) leaves a kind of buzz in the air. It’s jarring. It makes some wonder “huh, maybe something is going on here…” and that sticks somewhere in the recesses of their mind. It becomes the hindsight they exclaim when something big happens that directly relates to why I left in the first place.

People like me will either write things against that community elsewhere (like a blog or writing into other sites as editorials). I always say “they may have won that battle, but I will win this war”. Or they may do other highly nefarious things if they are not to a level of self-moderating maturity such as myself. Like cracking and Denial of Service attacks. If there’s a will? Oh yes. People like me find a way. I consider myself a benevolent psychopath in an attempt to describe what kind of mental problems I face. Of course, my views and thoughts cannot be taken as a constant and applied to every scenario. As before: Human nature is so varied and that depends on levels of extremism percolating under someone’s placid surface. I would like to think I am on the right track based on my life experiences.


Thanks. So taking that further – how do you think it would go down if the community did it of its own accord? ie not a sanctioned move, but something organic that happened if one person of standing in the community had clearly had enough and expressed that, which caused others to jump on board?

Lots of underground rumor mongering. Rhetoric becomes a weapon to gain more into a group so that jarring effect is lessened. After I left one place, I found out I was the talk of the entire community the entire time I was there (when I suddenly became a ‘somebody’ with my outpouring of help and confidence). If the group that hates me is at a higher social standing than myself (like a kind of fiat) then it makes it much easier to use technical rules to out someone like me since the staff is more inclined to listen to the old hats. Or, they can use my sense of wanting to help against me. That plays into rhetoric. Pick any fallacy from that particular toolbox and now you have a kind of ‘groupthink army’ that wills itself to be quiet to push me out.

There’s two ingredients to a good non-sanctioned out: followers and restrictions. Get more people to think I am an asshole despite my help. Then, find technical ways (either by rules or anything else) to silence me, stunt my ability to speak on the community or have any power to do my original intention: help.

That is a very potent cocktail.


Didn’t see this until now. There’s never ‘too much’. It’s only ‘the wrong kind’. Someone who is so passionate about my project or words to go lengths to help like I do? Like a diamond in the rough. But there’s different kinds and different people. They have the energy, passion and tenacity. But it’s misguided for different reasons. Again, the 98%. If they are having their own personal problems, that’s just how life is. The 2% are the ones you truly should be worried about with ‘too much’ because 99% of the time it’s always ‘the wrong kind’.

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