What about a "ticketing" system for suspensions?

I am not a big fan of negative incentive systems but I think we might be able to build one into Discourse in a way that is positive and works well with the existing trust level promotion system.

As of a few weeks ago, when you send a PM as a staff member, there is a checkbox to make the PM an official warning. These warnings show up differently than regular PMs and are counted as distinct messages with a red message icon.

So now you can keep track of “official tickets” you send to community members (as PMs), rather than the de-facto, indirect count of how many mod-agreed flags have been applied to their posts, how many of their posts have been deleted, and so forth.

But what if we did a bit more…

  • A customizable “ticket book” of common PM warnings

    e.g. sexism, attacking staff, double posting, low quality posting, trolling, hey-look-a-banana … whatever the mods and community think makes sense. A nice, patient explanation of the problem behavior, what it means, and why it isn’t wanted here.

    This ticket book can be invoked on any post via the admin wrench, or before deleting a post (as part of the delete flow), or in a PM. Staff can select from the “ticket book” and peel off whatever fits the situation and customize the text if needed, or just send the ticket as-is.

  • Optional numeric point value associated with each ticket

    Value can be zero, infinity or anything in between… whatever mods want it to be. The sum ticket point value will be stored and calculated per user.

  • Series of up to 3 timed suspensions associated with ticket point levels

    These suspensions will automatically kick in when you reach a certain level of ticket points.

    Each suspension is for longer and longer times: maybe 24 hours, then a week, then a month? If you reach beyond that your suspension is forever. After returning from each suspension your trust level is reset to zero.

  • Ticket points will automatically decay over time

    Every 45 days (configurable) your ticket points go down by one.

The tickets will be sent as warning PMs so you can view the archive of all your tickets as a sub-tab in your private messages.

What I like about this approach is two things:

  1. It makes moderation easier – when mods delete topics or posts they’re not bothering to inform users because that takes too much time. With the ticket book, you have prefab, nice, friendly, patient explanations for why things are being deleted (if you want to use them) … just click, click, click and make it happen.

  2. It helps users – rather than just seeing their content disappear and wondering what happened, users get a nice, patient explanation of the rules in their ticket warning PM. It helps educate your users so they can become good citizens, and hopefully without feeling offended or violated.

I totally support mod deletions. But I think this might be a way of addressing the “why” part of deletions and helping reach those community members who can be reached.


It occurs to me that there is some overlap here with the idea of custom flags. For that matter, I think this could fit very well into the flagging workflow in general.

Perhaps (the option?) to expose or link PM warning to custom flags should be considered as well.

For instance, if “Low quality posting” is something that the moderators want to help discourage, then it’d be helpful to make that visible in the Flag modal as well.

Then, agreeing with a flag, could be part of this new workflow where the moderator would be able to easily “Agree and send warning”.


There are few enough post deletions happening on our forum that I don’t think I’ll be needing this. I’d prefer it to be a plugin. For small to medium sized communities I fear it’ll come off as over-engineered and impersonal.

1 Like

I don’t know. Did many vB users feel that way about it being a part of vB moderation?

I know I did. VB always baffled me with its plethora of moderation options, especially when plugins like Reputation were thrown into the mix. There was no telling what affected what.

It’s been years since I had to suspend (or ban) a user on my forum. I don’t want to spend time understanding how these (Yet Another) values work and how to tweak them to suit my needs.

Also the “ticket book” could easily be kept separate from the rest, as its own plugin. That one I might use.

To be clear, I think these features would be immensely useful for large forums.

At vB we used to have a “Canned Replies” that some used. But I think most of us (Mods) used the Clippings browser plugin.

This may also a way to customize the flag reasons… as @mcwumbly pointed out, there’s not a ton of difference between these tickets and normal flag reasons, other than specifying that the community is allowed to cast these flags, versus only moderators.

You may not ever need to customize the flag reasons, either, and that’s fine. You can just use the solid out of box defaults.

(You also don’t want to give the community too many flag choices or it quickly becomes overwhelming. One thing I learned at Stack Overflow, the more subtle and grey the decision you ask the community to make, the worse the results are, and it falls off a cliff rapidly. Spam? The community is awesome at this. Black and white, cut and dried. Overly negative? Uhh, yeah, only a moderator should be making that call.)

As @Mittineague pointed out, if you send a lot of PMs you may like a canned PM system, which is what this also is – you could easily leave all the ticket scores at zero and just have prefab warning PMs that you send. We ended up building this system at Stack as more and more newbie moderators came on, because their, uh, non-optimal choice of warning PM text (only mods can message people at stack, and a message is always because something bad happened) was sometimes causing a lot more problems than solving them…

Maybe you never send PMs to users about behavior issues. That’s fine, just ignore this feature.

The utility of the feature definitely correlates to how many deletions and PMs you have in your community.


Okay, so I sort of laughed when I first read this, as this is exactly what we had in vB. However, in vB, because of this and the canned messages/rules we had in place, our community felt we were “over-moderating”. By design, I personally believe point based systems lead you to over-moderating (especially when combined with canned responses).

Why? Because you see the canned responses, you get used to them, and then you nick users who may be in a gray area, or are not really causing harm to the community because you have such messages in place, and those messages happen to carry a set of points with them.

What is really funny is we moved to Discourse for two reasons, 1) it’s Ruby based (Yay!), and 2) its moderation process is entirely different, forcing us to leave our old ways behind and adapt to a better suited process for the community as a whole (yep, you get this credit).

I’m not against the feature, I think it can be used correctly, but from past experience, it would be hard for me to want to use it (even on a good size forum). Granted, we could always make the points associated to each ticket 0, and just use it for canned messages (that’s always an option).


We get a lot of drive-by n00bs visiting my forum who violate various rules w/o realizing it, and having template messages would be very useful as it’s just easier for the mods…

The way I envision this now, Warning PMs can be sent a number of ways:

  • when a moderator Flags a post
  • when a moderator agrees with a Flag
  • when a moderator Deletes a post
  • when a moderator sends a PM

I also think there is overlap with flags, not just as far as workflow is concerned, but insofar as how various demerits are factored into calculations for Trust Level acquisition / demotion and automatic suspensions.

Flag counts are currently used now in the case of trust level calculations, but you suggest using ticket points for automatic suspensions. While flags are all equal, ticket points are finer grained.

So it probably makes sense going forward to eliminate using flag counts directly and instead assign a certain number of ticket points to each flag. That way all the calculations based on “demerits” just use Ticket Points going forward.

Then, (and this is slightly off topic, but I do think its related):

In the Flag dialog, it would help to clarify to users how flags do or don’t blemish the user’s reputation. Does it immediately have some demerit? Or must a moderator first agree with the flag?

I bring this up because I noticed this on the site point forums banner (emphasis mine):

The choices are fairly well explained and if you’re not sure, click anything, it honestly doesn’t matter. If two of you flag the same post it will be hidden and the person that wrote it will be given the opportunity to edit it. You can’t break the system and flagging is anonymous so the poster will not know that it was you.

It makes me think that users are hesitating to cast flags because the consequences are not clear. I know I’ve hesitated in the past, and I know there was an earlier discussion that resulted in the addition of the text “does not cast a flag” to the “Notify user ‘flag’”.

1 Like

This caught my attention. I ended up reading this forum to find out if flags were anonymous or not. Most (almost all) members are not going to go through that much trouble. I think if members were somehow made more aware of this then they may be more likely to flag offending posts knowing that the offender would not be aware it was their action which could cause them ‘backlash’. Our forum can get emotional fairly quickly.

Sending PM’s that are official warnings.
I noticed that as a mod if I add user (the owner of the site) to be included in the PM that the ‘official warning’ box disappears.

The flag dialog has the word “privately” in the title and the flag button tooltip explains using the word “privately” as well. I am curious how this can be made clearer?

The word anonymously isn’t really correct as the mod can see who flagged the post.

1 Like

Can you confirm something for me? Does the warning checkbox simply get used to show the warning count on a user’s profile? Does it impact TL 3 or anything else yet?

Yes, that just makes it an official count. Only flags affect TL3, not warning PMs.

1 Like

Thank you. The question has come up on our forum if we want to adapt our guides to utilize the new Warning option, but I wanted to make sure I fully understood what effect (if any), they had to the system as a whole, at this point in time (realizing it may change in the future).

1 Like

Just as an aside, found this on a different forum:

The verified account bit is interesting, as well as having one central place for “account management” though it does feel a bit like entering a prison building to get there…