One of the fundamental leadership tactics that I continue to hear from mentors is “Praise in public, scold in private”. However, I continue to see examples of community moderators that break this rule, yet continue to remain effective and popular. A perfect example of this is one of the communities that the Discourse team looked at during its early R&D, the Elitist Jerks forum.
Like many other online communities, they have a clearly documented set of guidelines to follow. If a user chooses to ignore these rules, they are issued a temporary ban and issued a warning, which is sent to the user via private message. Permabans act the same way: the rule that was violated was included in the message, to provide the user with context, re-assuring them that what they did was inappropriate. All of which makes perfectly logical sense.
Where things get interesting is the Banhammer forum. Here, every warning issued, and every ban deployed, is listed in plain view for the EJ community to consume – a veritable cornucopia of offenses, nicely organized in a single list. What I learned today was even more interesting; EJ uses their twitter account, tied to a bot, which automatically copies these Banhammer entries to Twitter, for even more folks to see (convenient link back to the offense included!)
I’m very curious about this, because it seems to go against the rules we’ve been taught to build and foster strong communities (and EJ can’t be the only ones doing this). What makes this certain type of Schadenfreude effective without ostracizing the community itself?
In short, when is it ok to publicly humiliate your users in order to enforce your guidelines?*
(*humiliate is such an awful word – let’s just all say ‘point and laugh’)