Continuing the discussion from Description of various user states in Discourse:
Has there been any thought about a second type of staff initiated suspension? Right now, a user is either “normal”, blocked (which I believe cannot be done manually), or suspended. Suspension does not allow the user to log in, and thus also prevents communication with the user, even by mods/admins over PM. It would be helpful to have a method to “partially-suspend” a user where they can log in, but cannot make any topics or posts, except in a PM with staff. This way mods/admins can talk to the user about what is going on, while still preventing them from making new posts that could cause issues.
I have 2 examples of where this could be useful.
The first example did happen about a month ago. A new user created an account with a completely inappropriate username (it included a swear). We (the mods) sent an “official warning” PM asking the user to change their name before posting, or we would be forced to suspend their account. We would have liked a method to temporarily block public posting so we could discuss the new name. Fortunately, the user sent an appropriate name before making any posts, we changed it and had no issues. However, had the user posted, we would have suspended the account and thus have had no method to communicate further.
The second example has not happened on a site I moderate, but I have heard of it from a friend. Let’s say a user starts creating creating controversial posts. They might fall into a “grey area” of the rules, and thus not be 100% clear that they are violating anything. The mods PM this user to explain the situation (whatever the issue might be), and feel that an understanding is reached. However, the user posts something controversial again. The mods have now received many reports (this wasn’t a Discourse site, so no flags) about the content, and don’t want the user posting anything else until they are sure there is an understanding. If this was to happen on a Discourse site, the mods would not have many options here, as they would either have to watch for new posts by the user and delete them while discussing things, or suspend the user and lose the ability to communicate further.
Both of these situations are ones where suspension might be too harsh, and communication (discourse!) is what is necessary. In both of these, suspension might have been warranted if the user appeared to be doing things on purpose, but in many cases there is a lack of understanding, a maturity difference (we have lots of younger users on our site), or a language barrier. In the first case, the “partial-suspension” is preemptive, making sure the change is made before any posts happen, in the second, it would be reactive, helping to prevent further issues. In both cases, I think it would be a useful tool for moderators to have.